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Monday, September 5, 2011

EDITORIAL 05.09.11

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 05, edition 000828 , 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. TURN THE CORNER
  2. TRANSFORM OR PERISH
  3. PLAYING THE WRONG GAME - BORIA MAJUMDAR
  4. 'A COMPUTER CANNOT MATCH THE NOVELTY AND WIT OF A TEACHER' - FIROZ BAKHT AHMED  
  5. GODLY GRAFT - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TAKE THE BULL BY ITS HORNS
  2. SAYING IT AS IT IS
  3. NEVER A PEOPLE'S PERSON - JAYATSEN BHATTACHARYA
  4. KEEPING A RECORD OF OUR PAST - SARATH S PILLAI
  5. AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB - SUMIT MITRA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. NO BLUSHING
  2. EASTWARD MOMENTUM
  3. SIXTH TIME LUCKY?
  4. A NEW NORMAL?
  5. SHADES OF HUMANISM
  6. DARK OCTOBER, BLACK NOVEMBER
  7. WHEN TELEVISION WAS REVOLUTIONISED
  8. LOOKING DC, TALKING TOKYO - ASHOK PARTHASARATHI
  9. HOW TO FIGHT AN IDEA - H.D.S. GREENAWAY

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. MY-DEFINITION WARS
  2. A TIME TO SPEND?
  3. EAT CAKE, PAY TAX - AMITENDU PALIT
  4. PRUNE THAT NEGATIVE LIST - M GOVINDA RAO

THE HINDU

  1. PRINT MEDIA DO BETTER THAN TV: COVERAGE OF HAZARE FAST
  2. U.N. CHIEF SOUNDS CLIMATE ALARM IN SOLOMONS VISIT
  3. CUBAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP OIL WASTE TREATMENT WITH BACTERIA
  4. BRIEF WORKOUTS COUNT
  5. SO, WAS THIS A WAR FOR OIL? - TERRY MACALISTER
  6. NEW CONSERVATISM IN EUROPE IMPEDES TWO OF ITS NATIONS - SUZANNE DALEY
  7. THE LOKPAL AND THE CBI - R.K. RAGHAVAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. USE COMMON SENSE,NOT TECHNICALITIES
  2. INDIA MUST BRIDGE THE TRUST DEFICIT - INDRANIL BANERJIE

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. DOWRY MENACE
  2. ON PRA
  3. TEACHING IS A MISSION  - BY DR (MRS) VISHIESH VERMA
  4. BUILD MORE POWER CENTERS  - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. IMPLEMENT POLICE REFORMS - BY JOGINDER SINGH

THE TRIBUNE

  1. BOOST FOR DELHI-DHAKA TIES 
  2. SIKH MARRIAGES
  3. ASS THEY SAY!
  4. INDIA, B'DESH MOVING CLOSER - BY MAHARAJAKRISHNA RASGOTRA & JOYEETA BHATTACHARJEE
  5. A RARE SCHOLAR  - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN
  6. FINALLY, AN UPRISING AGAINST GRAFT - S.L. SHARMA
  7. WE, THE PEOPLE, MATTER - MOHIT SHARMA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. TURKEYS DON'T VOTE FOR CHRISTMAS

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. WEAVING A FRIENDSHIP
  2. DOUBLE DIGITS AGAIN
  3. IS THE FEASIBLE ALSO REACHABLE? - SANJAYA BARU
  4. A PROMISE OF LIQUIDITY
  5. CHINA'S GREAT REBALANCING ACT - EVAN A FEIGENBAUM

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BLACK OUT
  2. TWEAK IT
  3. RAIL BONDS
  4. NO CHILD OR TEACHER LEFT BEHIND  - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
  5. RIDING ON INDIA'S AUTO BOOM
  6. GOURI AGTEY ATHALE
  7. A TRAIN OF THOUGHT  - RAGHU KRISHNAN

BUSINESS LINE

  1. TEA BADLY BREWED
  2. FEELING NEGLECTED
  3. REACHING OUT TO, AND WINNING OVER, PEOPLE - B.S.RAGHAVAN
  4. A MEET THAT COULD RAISE SAARC HOPES - ASHWINI PHADNIS
  5. LET GENDER JUSTICE PREVAIL - MOHAN MURTI
  6. A POLICY READING OF RBI'S BOOKS - K.KANAGASABAPATHY
  7. 'WE ARE PLAYING THE GAME OF LAST MAN STANDING' - RAGHUVIR SRINIVASAN

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. INDIA MUST BRIDGE THE TRUST DEFICIT
  2. USE COMMON SENSE, NOT TECHNICALITIES
  3. A LIBYAN PRISONER LIVES TO TELL HIS STORY
  4. GODDESS OF SMALL CHANGES
  5. LIVE, LOVE LIKE MOTHER TERESA

THE STATESMAN

  1. PAK-PIRACY NEXUS?
  2. RURAL MIGRATION
  3. TRUTH ABOUT SYRIA
  4. THREE CROWN JEWELS~II
  5. ART SHOW THAT'S DRIVEN BANSKY UP THE WALL
  6. THREE CROWN JEWELS~II

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. QUICK ACTION
  2. SMALL FACTS
  3. BALANCE OF POWER  - S.L. RAO
  4. LEARN TO FOLLOW - ARABINDA RAY

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ABUSING PRIVILEGE
  2. END THE TIFF
  3. LET GO OF SPORTS -  M J AKBAR

OHERALDO

  1. CELEBRATING TEACHERS' DAY
  2. JAN LOKPAL: IS IT THE ONLY WAY FORWARD? - SAIFUZ ZAMAN

HAARETZ

  1. A FAIR AGREEMENT
  2. TURKISH RED ALERT  - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  3. BETWEEN TWO LANGUAGES  - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  4. GASOLINE FUMES IN THE AIR   - BY SHAUL ARIELI
  5. WHICH PEOPLE, WHAT JUSTICE?  - BY SALMAN MASALHA

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. LABOR DAY, 2011
  2. LITERACY AND THE FUTURE
  3. U.S. GROWTH FORECASTS DOWNGRADED
  4. HEALTH CARE LAW THREATENS JOB CREATION
  5. BOGUS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS COSTLY

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. TURKEY, ISRAEL: QUO VADIMUS?
  2. INTO A FRYING PAN…
  3. FROM THE MAVI MARMARA CRISIS TO TODAY'S 'SAFETY OF NAVIGATION'
  4. THE ISRAEL-TURKEY CRISIS - SOLİ ÖZEL - SOZEL@HTGAZETE.COM.TR
  5. WHY ARE POLITICIANS GENERALLY LATE?
  6. A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE DISDAIN
  7. ALEXANDER COOLEY/LINCOLN MTCHELL

I.THE NEWS

  1. UMRAH FLIGHTS
  2. OBLIVIOUS TO PUBLIC OPINION  -  DR A Q KHAN
  3. LUNAR LEGITIMACY  -  IMRAN KHAN
  4. TAJIKISTAN SUMMIT   - DRAINING AWAY
  5. THE UNTHINKABLE  - CHRIS CORK
  6. SLIDE INTO KAKISTOCRACY  -  ASIF EZDI
  7. THE AFGHAN 'WAY FORWARD'  -  SHAMSHAD AHMAD

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

  1. GILANI'S DEEP CONCERN OVER LAND GRABBING
  2. MUSHARRAF-SINGH DEAL ON KASHMIR
  3. PLANNED UP-GRADATION OF TRANSFORMERS
  4. CREATING MORE PROVINCES! - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. MASSACRE IN INDIAN HELD KASHMIR - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. MANIPULATION OF KASHMIR DISPUTE - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  7. HIGHER THAN THE HIMALAYAS - MALIK M ASHRAF
  8. AFGHAN SOLDIERS DESERTING ARMY: NATO - JOSHUA PARTLOW

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. ONLY BIPARTISAN ACTION HAS A CHANCE TO STOP THE BOATS
  2. GOLDEN SALLY NAILS THE HURDLES
  3. DANGEROUS MOVE BY TURKEY

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. OTHER SOLUTIONS IN THE PACIFIC
  2. SILENCE HIDES SHAMEFUL NEGLECT OF MENTALLY ILL
  3. TAKE CARE IN LOOKING AFTER NO.1

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ISRAEL AND TURKEY: SAILING INTO CHOPPY WATERS
  2. HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE BILL: WORSE THAN NOTHING
  3. IN PRAISE OF… INQUEST

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. WORLD'S BIGGEST BLOG OBSESSION
  2. WORKING HOLIDAY ANNIVERSARY
  3. REVOLUTION NO BOON TO THE COPTS - BY DOUG BANDOW
  4. AMERICA'S SELF-INFLICTED ECONOMIC DECLINE - BY MALCOLM FRASER
  5. 'TOP GUN' BLAZED A TRAIL FOR WAR PROPAGANDA - BY DAVID SIROTA
  6. JOBS COULD REBOOT WORKING CLASS - BY HAROLD MEYERSON
  7. FORECASTS OF ROBUST MIDDLE-CLASS GROWTH ARE REASON ENOUGH FOR CHINESE, INDIAN OPTIMISM 0- BY RAMESH THAKUR

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE EASTERN LAGGARD
  2. THE PAPUANS' (IL) LEGITIMATE BATTLE FOR INDEPENDENCE - HARISON CITRAWAN
  3. BASEL III AND THE EMERGING ECONOMIES (PART I OF 2) - ANWAR NASUTION

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TURN THE CORNER

 

As the first strategic economic dialogue between India and China is due to launch in Beijing later this month, the confrontational incident in which the Chinese navy buzzed an Indian warship off the coast of Vietnam highlights the rough edges in the India-China bilateral relationship. It encapsulates the sense of distrust that exists between two of the fastest growing major economies in the world. At the same time, there is no denying that the scope for mutual cooperation is huge.

The challenge, however, is to get over the perception that the India-China engagement is a zero-sum game. Whether it is the land border issue, stapled Chinese visas or hindering Indian access to international fora (while throwing a diplomatic lifeline to Pakistan whenever it gets isolated on the terror issue), Beijing's approach has seldom been a cooperative one. It has, for example, settled disputes over land borders with 12 of its neighbours, India being the only significant exception. New Delhi needs to persuade Beijing that it is against China's own interest to continue placing most of its eggs in Islamabad's basket rather than New Delhi's. India offers a far bigger market for its goods while Pakistan is close to a failing state because of the indulgence it offers to terror militias. Indeed that problem has come to bite China itself, as it has to put up with Islamic insurgents in Xinjiang province bordering Pakistan.

If brinkmanship and belligerence are set aside from bilateral policy, there are significant areas of synergy. China is India's largest trading partner. Two-way trade stood at $61.7 billion in 2010. The figure is expected to touch the $100 billion mark by 2015. Areas of mutual investment include IT and ITeS, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, power, telecom and automobile. Given the economic slowdown in the West, such bilateral investments would indeed be prudent.

India and China together account for one-third of humanity and share a 3,500 km-long border. Geographical realities provide New Delhi and Beijing little choice but to engage each other. Besides, the shifting global balance of power presents a unique opportunity to both countries to influence key global decision-making on trade, climate change and international finance. The opportunity cost of not cooperating on these issues and promoting healthy bilateral ties is far too great for either country to incur. Instead of devoting their energies to petty maritime rivalry and quibbling over visa protocols, the two sides would do well to boost ties through trade, commerce and strategic exchanges and embrace the benefits that enhanced bilateral cooperation would bring.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TRANSFORM OR PERISH

 

This will offend party apparatchiks. But Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, former West Bengal chief minister and CPM's politburo member, has hit the nail on the head with his gloomy party prognosis. According to the latest WikiLeaks revelations, Bhattacharjee told US ambassador Timothy Roemer that communist ideology and his party needed to "either change or perish". His ominous prediction should be viewed in the context of Bhattacharjee's uneasy relations with CPM hardliners like Prakash Karat - especially following the Left Front's ignominious defeat in West Bengal two months ago. The CPM's refusal to reinvent itself programmatically and politically, even after so many years have elapsed following the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, is inexplicable.

Ostrich-like, the party has remained wedded to outmoded ideas and anachronistic programmes, even as communist parties elsewhere in the world have either transformed themselves into social democratic parties or found themselves reduced to minuscule groupings. A hallmark of this political obduracy was the CPM's 'historic blunder' in 1996, refusing to allow Jyoti Basu to head a coalition government in New Delhi. Bhattacharjee too had been a victim of his party's myopia. During his chief ministerial tenure he had frequently clashed with central party bosses over policies like FDI in retail, privatisation of pension funds, banning of strikes in the IT sector. On the one hand the CPM intoned its obsolete economic rhetoric, on the other it practised Stalinist tactics to suppress dissent. This regurgitation of outdated economic and political theories can no longer help Indian communists survive turbulent times. The party should seriously consider transforming itself into a more relevant social democratic entity.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TOP STORY

PLAYING THE WRONG GAME

BORIA MAJUMDAR

Sharad Pawar on losing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) presidential election to Ranbir Singh Mahendra in September 2004 had famously said he was helpless because "the bowler, umpire and the third umpire was the same person". He was referring to Jagmohan Dalmiya using the BCCI president's vote for levelling the poll count and subsequently using his casting vote to get Mahendra elected. It was, Pawar suggested, a classic case of conflict of interest.

Pawar is now one of the principal detractors of the National Sports Bill, which the government wants redrafted. As International Cricket Council president, he is an interested party and as Union agriculture minister and former BCCI chief, Pawar in this case is bowler and umpire rolled into one. His opposition to the Bill is a classic case of conflict of interest.

Cases of conflict of interest over the Bill don't end with Pawar. Farooq Abdullah as president of the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association and Praful Patel as All India Football Federation president are in the same league. It is natural they would want to sink the Bill; neither can debate it on merit as cabinet members. While their opposition as sports czars is understandable, their challenging the Bill from within the cabinet is untenable. If the Bill were ever placed in Parliament Arun Jaitley as Delhi and District Cricket Association president would be in a similar predicament.

Given the Bill's importance from an Indian sporting pers-pective it is now upon the prime minister to ensure it gets debated on merit. If that means asking some of his senior cabinet colleagues to abstain from such deliberations, so be it.

This is not an opinion in favour of or against the Bill. There is little doubt some of the concerns expressed by both the Bill's proponents and detractors are legitimate. But far more problematic and far more signi-ficant are the ego battles being fought over it, games of one-upmanship likely to adversely impact the fortunes of Indian sport in the immediate future.

There is little doubt the BCCI is the only success story in Indian sports administration: its splendid marketing has made Indian cricket the cynosure of world attention. At the same time, there's little doubt that the board needs to be made more accountable and there is an urgent need for transparency.

Unfortunately, the debate over the Bill isn't addressing these core issues anymore. It is now limited to the issue of the government trying to control BCCI and the latter doing its best to protect its autonomy. The central objective of sports reform has been sidestepped.

True, government control over cricket is unwarranted. Having read the Bill in its entirety and also during the various draft stages, one can say that it is not aimed at doing so. But with the sports minister and BCCI training guns on each other on a daily basis, the Bill is losing relevance.

If the BCCI is to organise a major tournament in India in the future, it has to approach the sports ministry for clearances on certain matters. In an ambience of hostility such clearances, it can be conjectured, will not be forthcoming. Things will get mired in red tape causing losses to the national exchequer and bringing shame for the country. It is of paramount importance to circumnavigate personal differences between the sports ministry and BCCI bigwigs for the sake of sports reform, a crying need in national sporting circles at the moment.

It is the same story with Indian Olympic Association (IOA) authorities. They have opposed the Bill citing the autonomy clause in the Olympic charter. However, if there's one body that desperately needs to be made accountable, it is the IOA. Its performance graph shows a consistent downward trend, natural in view of the gloom surrounding India's Olympic sporting scene.

Despite a good number of shooters having achieved success on the international stage over the last few years, India continues to rue the absence of a pistol coach, with the shooting federation and the IOA sidestepping such issues and focussing on protecting their auto-nomy. That the Commonwealth Games opportunity was lost was largely due to a dysfunctional IOA and an ineffective sports ministry. The Games, which could have been a game-changer for India's Olympic sport, are remembered more for scams and cases of malpractice.

Indian sport is in serious need of reform. Change is needed, both at the top and at the grassroots, especially with the London Olympic Games just 10 months away. It will be India's last opportunity to become a multi-sporting nation, an opportunity that's getting lost thanks to ego battles over the sports Bill.

Finally, it was interesting to note that the cabinet questioned the Bill's timing. Why such a Bill at a time the government is embroiled in so many controversies - that's the underlying assumption. This concern highlights the status of sport in India. Sport is still very marginal in our national imagination. Far more important than the sports Bill getting passed is a change of the kind of mindset that relegates sport to the backburner without realising its immense potential. To end on a pessimistic note: while there is crying need for change, the acrimonious debates centring on the Bill raise serious doubts about achieving the reform objective.

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.

 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                Q&A

'A COMPUTER CANNOT MATCH THE NOVELTY AND WIT OF A TEACHER'

FIROZ BAKHT AHMED

Eminent educationist Lata Vaidyanathan has been teaching for two and a half decades. Currently principal of Modern School, Delhi, she spoke with Firoz Bakht Ahmed on the occasion of Teacher's Day, explaining trends distorting education today, the imperative for more elite schools to reach out to less privileged students and why teachers, although less highly-regarded than before, are in fact irreplaceable:

What is the aim of education?

The aim of education is not merely the acquisition of information or technical skills - though essential in modern society - but the development of that bent of mind, that attitude of reason, that spirit of demo-cracy which will make us responsible citizens. The goal is commitment to knowledge and the advancement of learning.

The aim of education is to emphasise not really earning power but learning power.

What ails school education today?

Schools and colleges today are seen as transit camps to the workplace, instead of incubators for the transformation of the individual. This has resulted in a closing not only of the human mind but, more significantly, a closing of the human hearta¦ The intellectual cacophony we see around us relates to this. An education that ignores moral and spiritual values cannot qualify as a quality education.

What is the status of teachers today?

Indian society has always respected those called gurus. They were traditionally hailed as pathfinders because the gurus transferred the knowledge they held. Sadly, in modern times, we're seeing the dilution of the guru-shishya parampara. Basically, society has itself drifted from seeking spiritual satisfaction to material satiation.

Correspondingly, teachers have fallen from the high pedestal of the guruji to the mundane masterji levela¦In some television ads today, the poor teacher is even made the butt of students' sarcasm and subjected to mockery.

Despite this, what inspires someone to be a teacher today?

There's a tremendous sense of fulfilment in being able to touch so many innocent, young, wonderful lives. A teacher affects eternity because for a child, it is always, "But my teacher saida¦!" I have always believed that teachers, especially at the school level, must be the best minds of the country.

But is there enough money in teaching?

See, teaching is a mission. Teaching has always been a task that one carries on with full satisfaction and no grudges. Teachers may not be tycoons or celebrities but they are happy to carry on with their work because of the quiet satisfaction it gives.

It is felt elite educational institutions are a bane as poor students cannot afford them; what do you think?

I think they are a boon! These schools inspire a little something extra that sets their students apart. They can be recognised in any nook and corner of the globe by their confidence and leadership qualities demonstrated in diverse fields. And now, these schools have started admitting underprivileged kids as well. Talent cannot be suppressed and these kids certainly do make it to the topa¦ but the fact remains that talent, if not traced and taken care of at the right time, dies.

With innovations like 'Net' classes developing, do you think computers will eventually replace teachers?

Never, as the kind of novelty, wit, the innovativeness and the presence of mind a teacher has, a computer can't match. A computer doesn't have warmth of heart. It cannot be caustic, remedial or just plain angry. It cannot guide, reassure or advise for posterity.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                JUGULAR VEIN

GODLY GRAFT

JUG SURAIYA

As a small child i would sometimes accompany my mother when she went to the local temple just off Chowringhee Road in Calcutta where we lived. It was a small temple and stood in the middle of a road. Cars and cows used it as a traffic island which helped them navigate past each other. The devotees who visited it also used it as a navigational aid in getting past the problems and obstacles that life had placed in their path.

My mother wasn't a particularly devout person. I was too young to appreciate the finer points of theology, but it seemed to me that her attitude to religion was more in the nature of pragmatism than piety. She would buy a marigold garland and some small, sugary sweets from the salesmen who squatted on the pavements near the temple. The flowers and sweets would be handed over to the priest - a wizened man with shrewd eyes and an aura of tulsi paani - who in turn would offer them up to the resident deity.

Shut your eyes and say a prayer, my mother would tell me. What'll i pray for?, i'd ask. Pray to be a good boy and to do well at school, my mother would say. So i'd shut my eyes as instructed, put the palms of my hands together in the approved manner, and pray for goodness and scholastic excellence. They never worked, my prayers. I don't know about the goodness part of it, but certainly the bit about scholarly achievement fell far short of the mark. This did not surprise me. After all, what could you expect in return for a couple of stale flowers and a handful of sticky batashas. An eight-year-old Einstein in shorts? Get real.

Or maybe the problem was that what i was praying for was too general, not specific enough, for the Prayee - the recipient of my prayers, whom i thought of as a large, comforting, genderless Presence, rather like the cuddly teddy i used to sleep with till the previous year, except considerably bigger - to respond to. The Prayee must be getting thousands, maybe millions, of prayers all the time, from all over the world, in a host of languages, asking for all manner of things. So what were the chances of my prayers hitting the jackpot, so to speak? Pretty much as close to zero as the marks on my report card.

Sometimes, when something got misplaced in the house and couldn't be traced - a bunch of keys, a piece of jewellery - i'd be told to include the discovery of the missing item in my prayer list. This seemed to work better. More often than not, the misplaced keys, or bangle, or whatever, would be found, sometimes in the most unexpected of places. How the heck did the Prayee - also sometimes known as God - know where the darn thing was and locate it for us? Because God was everywhere and saw everything, like a Super Snoop?

That was one explanation. But what if there were another? What if it was none other than God - who was not only everywhere and saw everything, but could also pretty much shift everything about wherever and whenever at whim - who'd gone and put the bangle under the flowerpot, or the keys in the icebox? Why? Why else but to extract our votive offerings in the form of garlands and sweets? Holy moly. Was God demanding bribes?

I don't go much to temples these days, nor to mosques, churches or gurdwaras, at least not to pray, or make votive offerings. But a lot of people obviously do. Which might explain why religious establishments, of all religions, are among some of the wealthiest institutions in the country. Tirupati - which reportedly is a competitor of Fort Knox in terms of gold holdings - is only one example. As with everything else, inflation has caught up with prayers and votive offerings as well. A bunch of flowers and a fistful of sweets won't get you anywhere today. It probably takes an ingot or two of gold to do the trick.

To get to the ultimate root of graft, will the Jan Lokpal Bill include in its ambit the biggest graft generator of all, God?

jug.suraiya@timesgroup.com

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/jugglebandhi/

 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

TAKE THE BULL BY ITS HORNS

 

Sadly, designations and duties at the United Nations (UN) are long on symbolism and short on substance. Nonetheless, India has now been a Security Council member, having completed its first month as president of the same without any incident and can even claim some sense of accomplishment.

A series of thorny topics, led by Libya and Syria, and a set of less controversial ones like the partition of Sudan and peacekeeping operations in the Horn of Africa have been handled with some élan.

Crude assessments of voting patterns and resolution language in the UN assume it is about big powers getting, or not getting, their way. The assumption then is that India's own success must be measured in terms of the degree of defiance it shows. This is the policy of a nation on the fringes of global authority. But it is not that of an emerging power, one whose interest is in being part of international rules-making in a way that enhances its interests, influence and self-confidence.

The real measure of India's role in the Security Council, especially when it holds the chair, is the degree to which it is able to hammer out compromises and bridging language over issues on which there is no consensus. That can be easy when it comes to creating South Sudan. But it is very difficult when it comes to international responses to the present, violent phase of the Arab spring. Different schools will have different views on the UN's rulings on Syria, for example. What is crucial, as it is absurd to expect too much when even the Permanent Five powers are so bitterly divided over sanctions and intervention against Damascus, is that the UN should not be seen to be paralysed and incapacitated. This encourages governments to take unilateral action and generally delegitimise the United Nations and international law.

The UN's role is both more difficult and more important at a time when the United States, the sole superpower, is experiencing a period of economic crisis and relative military decline. And a lack of coherent domestic leadership is evident in almost every major region of the world. The organisation's expansion and reform is also on the backburner for now. That is to be expected. But it remains on the agenda and India needs to use the vacuum at the summit of global power to burnish its own credentials for a permanent seat — and learn how to be a constructive and responsible power on a level that it hasn't had to do for most of its independent history.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

SAYING IT AS IT IS

 

It seems to be pouring long and hard as far as the fate of the CPI(M) is concerned. Memories of the electoral debacle that the party suffered in this assembly elections are yet to acquire that sepia tint, when out comes even more damaging information from the WikiLeaks can of worms. The website

has revealed that former Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had, in 2009, stated that the communist ideology as well as his party needed to "either change or perish". This stunning lack of confidence was, of course, expressed in the strictest confidence during a conversation with then US ambassador Timothy Roemer.

To make matters worse, Mr Bhattacharjee did not stop with his articulation on the withering away of his party, which he attributed to a lack of technical expertise and ideas whose shelf life were long over. He went on to 'shower praises' on US President Barack Obama, recounted the benefits of Pepsico's Frito Lay factory to the potato farmers of Bengal and pointed out that several allies within the party have had education in the US. As anybody familiar with the anti-imperialism rhetoric of Indian communists would know, Mr Bhattacharjee had managed to praise almost everything on the shopping list of what the reds publicly profess to hate.

All of which makes one wonder as to why communist leaders wishing to unburden themselves or discuss their woes always choose foreign nationals as confidantes. In the run-up to the West Bengal polls this year, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat had reportedly expressed his apprehensions (subsequently denied by him) to British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm that the party would fare poorly in the elections. The WikiLeaks disclosures have also revealed that CPI(M) leaders from Kerala have been wooing US investments. Given the intensity of self-doubt when away from the public eye, we suggest the communist leaders undertake a full confessional to their party rank and file and be a vanguard of a different revolution.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NEVER A PEOPLE'S PERSON

JAYATSEN BHATTACHARYA

 

Whenever longstanding dictatorial regimes are threatened, the media's coverage is invariably peppered with images of angry citizens trammelling over busts and statues of dictators. We have seen this happening in Iraq, Egypt and now in Libya. Interest-ingly, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi overthrew a

king to come to power but then proceeded to breed sons who on a bad day would purchase nothing but Armani and Gucci products. So what is with these leaders who spearhead popular movements but later succumb to the same vices of the earlier rulers?

The fact is that people who grab power by a coup or with the tacit acceptance of some supporters have to become absolute leaders. To do so, they suppress opposing voices and depend on coteries, loosely-threaded factions, camarillas or military cliques. These groups then become the backbone of a pariah empire. Gradually, in a bid to remain at the top, the dictator realises that a larger-than-life persona would help him strengthen his position. So he starts doling out favours, ranks, land and scholarships. In return, he asks for nothing but the loyalty of his chosen few.

Next, he starts to refashion society. He pays people to suppress opposing voices. He controls the media, public welfare becomes non-existent. Those with voice, conviction and intelligence either flee the land of their birth or are silenced. The poor are deluded into thanking their oppressors because they provide them with their daily dose of free soup.

With opponents and intelligent thin-kers out of his way, the leader now needs more money: to perpetuate his ruling clique. The inevitable happens: their cronies start taking advantage of the situation either by force or fear.

In such situations, people need some kind of solace or something to latch on to for their survival. They look deferentially at things that are products of their dictator's profligacy: giant golden busts and statues of the leader. In Gaddafi's case, along with his busts and statues, there is the 'Green Book', a self-autho-red treatise that talks about how dictatorship is the logical precursor to genuine democracy. The Book became a mandatory reading for children, students and even civil servants.

Dictators need money to stay in power for two reasons: to repress opponents and reward loyalty. But after staying many years in power, a problem emerges. He begins to lose control over those he paid to gain information about his enemies. He pays more, only to have his enemies pose as his supporters. By now, his supporters start demanding more to get information about his enemies.

And soon enough, the golden statue is gone and his luxury villas are ransacked, perhaps by the same people who till recently were the beneficiaries of his ill-gotten largesse. And soon enough, they offer a hefty ransom on his head. Ironi-cally, the ransom money is part of the very dole he once handed out.

( Jayatsen Bhattacharya is a Kolkata-based advertising professional )

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

KEEPING A RECORD OF OUR PAST

SARATH S PILLAI

 

Private archives form an amorphous category of records in our archives. The Public Records Rules, 1997, defines them as those owned by individuals and non-governmental organisations. However, the easiest way to understand private records is to see them as 'non-public' in nature. 

The Public Records Act, 1993, considers a record as a public document if it's created by or related to the Union government, Union Territories' (UT) administration, public sector units, statutory bodies and corporations, commissions and committees constituted by the Centre or UTs. The records of a body/organisation funded by central or UT administration are also public in nature. Thus, it's clear that the single central archival law leaves the concept of private archives open-ended.

Private archives include private papers of eminent persons/families, business records, ecclesiastical records and even records of political parties. The modern approach to archival management has been towards the establishment of 'Total Archives', which means the coexistence of public and private records. Sadly, the concept of private archives is yet to catch up in India.

India being a democratic country where fundamental rights of the people are paramount, an institutional or legal mechanism for the acquisition and preservation of private papers of eminent persons/families may be a retrograde step. In India, unlike in the West, there is no desire to donate one's private papers. Countries like Argentina, Canada and France give tax concessions to the owners of private papers.

In India, most people are hesitant to part with their records, fearing that public access may hamper their image. Even after the death of individuals, their successors fear the same. But the only way we can preserve these records is by scientifically managing them, which is an expensive procedure.

However, the archives can't acquire these records by force. Most private records reach archives as gifts or by persuasion. Once the archives acquire private papers, they are bound to meet the restrictions imposed on the records by the donors. Beyond the 30-year rule, which the donor can insist, restrictions such as prior permission for consultation by research scholars, submission of excerpts taken by scholars for scrutiny and even closing certain documents up to a certain period for reasons of national or personal interests are normally followed.

Business records in India, which are technically private records, are also in dire straits. The concept came late to India and, therefore, its growth has been slower. India has about 9 lakh business houses. However, just 10-15 of them have shown interest in maintaining their records. There are no major guidelines for regulating business archives as of now.

Company laws, too, usually have minimal references to record-keeping while preservation is left out of the legal purview. The concept of business archives have caught on well in western countries. There, business councils work as facilitators between private business houses and the government to create and maintain a regime of records. We need the involvement of business councils in India too. While business houses have a right to privacy, it's about time they also manage their records scientifically. Business houses can also classify records, just as government records, and restrict access to sensitive records. But keeping the records away from public eyes is not in the public interest. The National Archives of India recommended to the finance ministry that business houses should be given tax breaks if they maintain private archives. However, nothing has come about so far.

We also need a culture of donation of these records to proper archives. Records, public or private, are important for the reconstruction and re-interpretation of a nation's past. They are a part of a nation's documentary heritage. A culture of archival consciousness must be inculcated in people in general and stakeholders of private archives in particular.

( Sarath S Pillai holds a post-graduate diploma in archives management from the School of Archival Studies, National Archives of India, New Delhi )

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB

SUMIT MITRA

 

From the bulldozing style of public affairs activist Anna Hazare, nobody will say that his methods are democratic to a T. Some called him a hick town dictator.   'I, the people,' reads the headline of a report in The Economist critical of his fast. Yet, he has been successful

so far because the government never took the corruption issue seriously, nor did it ever show any earnestness to liberate the anti-corruption mechanism from politicians' stranglehold. Instead, it got, as Central Vigilance Commissioner,  the official who orders corruption inquiries, a man who was himself facing trial for corruption.

It is in this context of the government's endemic failure to initiate corrective actions on its own that one needs to examine Anna's new challenge, which is to cleanse the electoral system. The system's deficiency lies not in the way it gets people to vote — like the British or the European — but in the very nature of our political parties, which are arbitrary, autocratic and unaccountable. Our Constitution and that of erstwhile West Germany were written around the same time. While ours hardly uses the word 'party', the Germans never ignored the elephant in the living room. Their Constitution read, "The parties shall help form the political will of the people... Their internal organisation shall conform to democratic principles."

Political parties in India, with no exception, are businesses run by powerful individuals or families. Each one of them is run by a 'headquarter' whose control and command system is as opaque as the castle in Franz Kafka's novel. With the exception of the communist parties, who have a system of regular voting, however stage-managed, no party has an annual schedule of internal elections. However, inside these arbitrary parties, the new development taking place is a sudden influx of some very rich people. A study by J Prabhash in Asia Pacific Journal of Social Science (December 2010) shows that the average declared asset of the BJP Lok Sabha members rose 288% from Rs 96.91 lakh in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004) to Rs 3.07 crore in the 15th (2009). The BSP got rich quicker, with the average asset rising 288.05% in five years.

But even more intriguing was the bizarre enrichment of the oldest and the largest party, the Congress, which still swears by Mahatma Gandhi and his minimalist philosophy. In the five years of UPA 1, its Lok Sabha members' average asset doubled (102.11%) from a high base of R3.10 crore to R6.28 crore. Significantly, during election times, a complaint that is heard off and on, though generally from unlucky ticket seekers, is that nominations are being 'auctioned'. One such complainant, Margaret Alva, presently governor of Uttarakhand, reportedly lost her cool because her son was denied a party ticket.

Entry into Parliament is surely becoming increasingly a family matter, with the parties ruling India becoming more plutocratic and dynastic after every election. Patrick French, in his recent book, India: A Portrait, has traced the roots of the political careers of winners in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections to check out how many of them had their family background as springboards to plunge into politics. The largest party, Congress, with 208 members, has 78, or 37.5% of the Lok Sabha members who owe their status in life to their moms, dads or grandfathers. For Ajit Singh's RLD, the ratio is a spectacular 100%, with all its five members belonging to what famous investor Warren Buffet described as the "lucky sperm club" — though it was in another context. But seven out of the nine members (77.8%) of Sharad Pawar's NCP are what French calls HMPs (Hereditary MPs).

The mushrooming of political dynasties, and increasing entry of rich persons into Parliament, show how exclusive a club it is in a country where 37% people live below the poverty line. It's corrupting public policies to suit the private ends of the plutocrats and dynasts. The talk that 'There Is No Alternative'  to so and so, and so let dynasty prevail, are all smoke and mirrors, reminiscent of US elections before Andrew Jackson (1830s) when the caucuses in closed rooms decided who'd stand as a party's presidential candidate. The subsequent changes were also liable to be torpedoed by powerful people. It was as late as 1972 that parties in the US were brought under electoral discipline, with candidates for all public offices being elected democratically by members through secret ballot.

In India, secret ballot for party elections holds the key to poll reform. The registration system of political parties under section 29A of the Representation of the People Act fails to bring them under the Election Commission's scrutiny of fairness of internal elections. Office bearers' election must be held under the commission's supervision and through secret ballot. Activists of many hues in India want parties to choose their parliamentary and assembly candidates not at their headquarters' diktat but through secret ballot by registered party members in the constituency, with the poll overseen by the Election Commission. Mayawati may be best qualified to head BSP, but let its members say so!

The connection between runaway corruption, and a Parliament which is representative only nominally, is obvious. It is as early as 1998, in the Vineet Narain versus the Union of India case, that JS Verma, then Chief Justice of India, drew the outline of a system by which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) could function as an anti-corruption police independent of politicians' interference. But that is water under the bridge and thanks to a Parliament with different priorities, the CBI is still the ruling party's 'seva dal'.

If Hazare's critics are champions of the parliamentary system, they should do something to safeguard its representative character.

( Sumit Mitra is a Kolkata-based political commentator )

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

NO BLUSHING

 

The CPM has many reasons to be mortified by the latest WikiLeaks disclosures — reports of conversations between US officials and senior leaders reveal the uncomfortable gap between party catechism and their own informally expressed opinions. The then West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tells the US representatives his party must "change or perish", the Kerala CPM dedicatedly chases after American investment even as it deplores US imperialism. However, despite all these revelations, the party seems unflappable. At a press conference, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat confirmed that these meetings had taken place, but pointed out that most of this WikiLeaks content was second-hand analysis by US officials that could not be taken as credible fact. "There are two aspects, one a factual report of what transpired and second, the observation and interpretation of US diplomats on these meetings, which need to be taken with a pinch of salt... we need not accept them,'' he explained.

That is a perfectly unobjectionable assessment, in line with what most people would say about the chatty, impressionistic diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks has raided, but where was the CPM's worldliness a few months back? When the first batch of WikiLeaks cables were outed, mostly to do with the UPA-US government interaction, Karat wrote an op-ed calling out the prime minister's claim that this information was unverifiable, as an attempt to "brazen out the exposures". The CPM didn't let the unreliability of foreign office gossip and the shallow readings of US officials come in the way of its sanctimony then, and every shred of damaging information was seized upon as the revealed truth. Karat dismissed the government's "pathetic excuse" saying that "everyone knows that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, herself had called the Indian foreign minister to warn about the leakage of these cables and the consequent embarrassment they may cause". WikiLeaks chatter on the "cash for votes" scandal was all the confirmation the CPM needed to attack the prime minister.

Now, Karat has swung around to the position that WikiLeaks must be read with editorial filters firmly in place. What's truly impressive is the conviction with which he and the party have espoused both positions. There's no outward trace of discomfort, or even the slightest flinching at having to make this sudden 180-degree turn. Or do Marxists just know how to deal with contradictions

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

EASTWARD MOMENTUM

 

In 1997, the Indo-Bangladesh treaty of friendship, peace and cooperation — which dates back almost to the country's foundation, as it was signed in March 1972 — was allowed to expire. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka, which starts September 6, should be seen as an occasion to finally renew those historic links, and particularly to emphasise the economic benefits that will accrue to both countries from a closer partnership.

This extends well beyond the advantages to India's landlocked northeastern states from access to Bangladesh's underutilised ports at Mongla and Chittagong, although that is possibly the biggest single idea on offer. What is needed is to ensure that there is considerable forward momentum on a range of bilateral projects, to demonstrate that economic partnership is a done deal. This momentum has been noticeably lacking of late on the Indian side; it appears, for example, that a 1320-megawatt coal-fired plant that NTPC was due to set up for Bangladesh might not happen in time due to, in part, the feasibility estimate from NTPC reportedly coming in months behind schedule. The most important location for an impetus to economic partnership will be in opening Indian markets more fully to Bangladeshi goods. This will involve two major pieces of effort: the first is in resisting lobbying from Indian domestic textile producers, and open Indian markets to garments from Bangladesh, which account for three-quarters of that country's exports. This step is overdue, and should be the centrepiece of the PM's visit. It will be meaningless, however, unless a corresponding effort is made to dismantle non-tariff barriers Bangladeshi business faces — particularly through inept, underfinanced and obsolescent border crossing infrastructure.

Border crossing infrastructure, after all, will also be crucial for India if transit agreements with Bangladesh finally work out as hoped. West Bengal and the Northeast will both benefit hugely from closer ties with Bangladesh; and upgrading that country's internal infrastructure is something that benefits India, too. Dr Singh is going to Dhaka with the chief ministers of the five states that border Bangladesh. That is a signal for hope.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SIXTH TIME LUCKY?

The Japanese, reflexively cynical about their politicians through long sufferance, can rattle off their country's problems, and yet only despair at the revolving door through which prime ministers come and go, as ineffectual as ever. Yoshihiko Noda, the new PM, is Japan's sixth since September 2006. But even for those who argue that the personality of Japan's PM doesn't matter, that government is run by pretty competent bureaucrats, Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan, was particularly disastrous. He couldn't stem his party's rebellion against him, lost the Upper House of the Diet, thereby failing to push through necessary reforms, and he shocked everybody by mishandling the aftermath of last March's earthquake and tsunami. Given Japan's dysfunctional politics, the Democratic Party of Japan, which scored a historic victory in 2009, squandered its goodwill in no time, although voters are reluctant to go back to the Liberal Democratic Party, which lost only its second election in a half-century.

The minefield that Noda walks into is formidable even by a developed country's standards: Japan's economy has been in "permanent" recession, a rising yen is harming Japan's export-oriented manufacturing sector, Tokyo has the biggest national debt in the industrialised world, a pension system unreformed for a decade, and an ageing society. To top it all, the natural disaster stalled discussions begun on restarting the stagnant economy. Post-Fukushima, the damaged reactors — yet to undergo a cold shutdown and still leaking radiation — led to a shutdown of other nuclear power plants.

Noda has picked an "unknown" Jun Azumi as finance minister, prompting speculation that he'll continue policies he had designed as FM himself. But his biggest challenge remains pushing reforms through a "twisted", uncompromising Diet — at a moment when Japan is arguably facing its biggest crisis, post-World War II.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A NEW NORMAL?

BAIJAYANT 'JAY' PANDA

 

For months, some politicians, media commentators and other opinion-makers had been dismissive of Anna Hazare, arguing that he is an undeserving hero, pitchforked into superstardom only by the government's repeated bungling. He and his team have also been depicted as demagogues, whose rigid approach defied rational discussion.

The reality is that "Team Anna" was never as intransigent as it was portrayed. There had all along been signals that they would engage in give-and-take; but as long as the government stuck to its unbending position, it made perfect negotiating sense for them to do the same. And although the government's mismanagement was a catalyst, it is equally clear that there is a substantial, simmering public anger that will not fade until concrete steps are taken against corruption.

Politicians have finally understood this. There appears to be genuine commitment to pass a tough Lokpal bill soon, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm, even if only to retrieve lost political capital. The government has suffered far more losses, but the opposition has not escaped unscathed. "There, but for the grace of God, go I" must be the relieved sentiment among many of the latter, who could arguably have been as prone to gaffes as the former if only they had been burdened with incumbency.

The challenge today is one of managing expectations until the nuts and bolts of the bill are worked out in the standing committee and subsequently in Parliament. The vast majority of the agitators were unfamiliar with the details of the Jan Lokpal draft, nor are most of them keen on the nuances. Suffice it to say that they've had it with corruption, are not going to take it any more, and fully support Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal version.

There lies the rub, with at least some parts of it being described by several experts of the highest integrity, such as Justice J.S. Verma, as contradicting the basic structure of the Constitution. But this is not an insurmountable hurdle. The discussion in Parliament — when both government and opposition showed flexibility in accommodating some of the agitators' key demands — has done more than defuse the immediate crisis. Besides buying time for the political class to do the right thing, the debate highlighted issues of genuine concern — such as federalism and the checks and balances of democracy — and also saw possible solutions being floated. This was a turning point, but it is crucial that the tempo be maintained.

There continues to be sniping about Anna Hazare's credentials, his non-democratic track record and the source of his funding. But what really matters is whether his cause has merit. That it surely does, irrespective of why he has not taken up on behalf of the tribals; or how he strong-armed Ralegan Siddhi (as long as he ultimately abides by Parliament's final act); or whether his acolytes have received funding from the Ford Foundation (which in any case has done much good work in India, and it's not as if the money is linked to drug trafficking or terrorism). With those caveats, there is nothing illegitimate about his tactics, which have bullied a recalcitrant system to the cusp of change.

Meanwhile, some good things have started happening. There is now traction for proposed Citizens' Charters and Right to Services acts, which stipulate time limits for officials to process files for such common services as issuing domicile certificates and releasing pension payments. For the first time, babus are to be held accountable for service delivery to common citizens. Even more importantly, the biggest cause of systemic, everyday corruption — the ability to cause delays — will now be under attack. Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab have already enacted such acts over the past eight months; now other states like Kerala and Orissa have announced they will follow suit. Surely Anna Hazare's obduracy and holding the establishment's feet to the fire have contributed to this.

While ending his latest fast, Anna Hazare caused a flutter by announcing that the next battle he plans beyond the Lokpal bill is electoral reforms, including the right to recall elected representatives. This has sent some detractors into a tizzy. But the fact is that the country desperately needs electoral reforms; not just the right to recall, but even more fundamental ones like cleaning up election funding and enforcing intra-party democracy. The longer the political class dawdles on such matters, the greater the possibility that someone else will step into the vacuum and take charge, perhaps an Anna or even an activist judge.

There are also other areas of pending reform that are long overdue, providing opportunities for would-be heroes. One such is judicial reform. India has an abysmally low ratio of judges for its population, variously reported as between six to 14 per million people. Either number is a fraction of that of developed countries, and even below Bangladesh. The Law Commission recommends that it be at least 50 per million, which would require thousands of additional judgeships to be created, along with the associated infrastructure and operating budgets. A long pending proposal to create an independent National Judicial Commission for this purpose has been gathering dust. Related bills on judicial standards and whistleblowers' protection are in the pipeline, but well behind schedule.

Anna Hazare's success would not have been possible without politicians abdicating their responsibilities. But Anna and his followers will find it difficult to forever keep pressuring the system from the outside. When the next election rolls around, they will need to participate to some degree in order to retain their newfound influence. They can do this either by fielding candidates or at least campaigning for or against some of the usual suspects. But opting out of the electoral process will be risky; whoever wins will acquire fresh political capital, and may not be as hapless as the present government in letting it evaporate.

The writer, a Lok Sabha MP, belongs to the BJD
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SHADES OF HUMANISM

TASNEEM ZAKARIA MEHTA

 

It is hard to imagine the Mumbai art scene without the frail, smiling Jehangir Sabavala. A painter of his reknown could well have stayed aloof, adding to the aura of fame, but his deep engagement with the art fraternity and in particular with younger artists, singled him out as perhaps the most remarkable humanist of his generation of artists.

Jehangir was always at the many art talks and discussions that have become so popular in Mumbai, till his health prohibited his attending. I met Jehangir at such a talk in the early 1990s when I moved back to Mumbai from London, fresh with a degree in modern art and an urge to explore India's yet nascent contemporary art scene. It was a discussion at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) on contemporary forms of representation, and I remember expressing a view divergent from Jehangir's. It was a cordial exchange and I introduced myself after the talk. A few days later, I received a handwritten note commenting on what I had said. Jehangir had thought about it and wanted to further the exchange. That's how our friendship began. I was young and green and he was by then famous and much-acclaimed. I was profoundly touched by his gesture. It did not matter that we disagreed. What mattered was his willingness to be open, to understand the other, to accommodate a different point of view, something that is increasingly unusual in our day.

I will not dwell on Jehangir's art and his career as much has already been said about it, except to say that the controlled precision of his line and the sometimes brooding, sometimes luminous, colours were an extension of the man himself. He stayed true to his inner vision even where many others were influenced by the changing times. I had presented him with a catalogue of avante garde Asian art at the Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane. In his letter thanking me, he wrote: "Whilst browsing through the catalogue — I came to a definite conclusion — that the 'Frame' is very far from dead, despite today's 'vogue' and what the 'elaque' both here and abroad have to say. My own beliefs and strengths (such as they are) were reinforced — and I felt that I was on the right track, always struggling to try and paint a 'fine painting'. To evolve in depth, and say what I have to say in my own way — irrespective."

The letter goes on to talk about his commitment to the "Desi" scene which brings me to another legacy that Jehangir left us that, sadly, unlike his art, has faded almost into oblivion — the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai. Built as the Cowasji Jehangir Hall by his maternal grandfather, Jehangir, along with gallery owner Kekoo Gandhi, was instrumental in giving Mumbai the much-needed place to showcase modern and contemporary art. Jehangir was a member of the committee supervising the makeover of the building and would spend many hours ensuring the finishes were right and the work moved on. It took almost 20 years for the NGMA in Mumbai to come up and it is a sad comment that in the city, where modern art was born, this legacy languishes unheeded. Jehangir was deeply troubled by the decay of the institution. Perhaps it would be a fitting memorial if the Mumbai art community could rededicate the building to those who struggled so valiantly to give it birth.

In the foreword to a 1972 exhibition catalogue, poet Adil Jussawala notes, "With Sabavala, the end of the journey is clearly in sight even as it is begun. Each of his paintings is a carefully worked out approach to a predetermined goal... Another goal lies beyond some of the paintings and it is not at all easy to define it. In part at least, it would seem to be metaphysical, with the paintings as steps in a difficult, highly formalised pilgrimage towards a metaphysical 'truth'." Jehangir Sabavala was a rare artist but he was an even rarer human being. As the colloquial goes, they don't make them like that anymore.

The writer is Honorary Director, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai and Vice Chairman, INTACH
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DARK OCTOBER, BLACK NOVEMBER

INDER MALHOTRA

 

After the massive Chinese invasion along the Himalayas, it was no longer possible to continue the farce of the border war being commanded from a sickbed in Lutyens' Delhi. Yet, General B.M. Kaul was opposed to any change and had the full backing of Defence Minister Krishna Menon. Even so, the change eventually came, but so fitfully and reluctantly as to make things worse. The shockingly inept performance of both the political and the army leadership cannot be explained without unveiling some ugly details.

Army chief Thapar's first impulse was to follow his profession's long-established norms and ask the divisional commander, Major-General Niranjan Prasad, to officiate as corps commander as well. But the orders could not be conveyed to Prasad for two reasons. First, the divisional commander — who had stayed on at his highly vulnerable headquarters at Zimithang all through the day and night despite the disintegration of 7 Brigade right before his eyes — decided the next morning to move southwards to Tawang or beyond. For him and his staff this meant a two-day march through treacherous terrain. Consequently, for 48 hours between Lucknow, where lived the GOC-in-C of Eastern Army Command, Lieutenant-General Sen, and the battlefield, "there was no one in command". Moreover, on high mountains and deep forests, electronic messages did not reach.

Secondly — and this was far more important as well as complicated — the selection of a corps commander was intertwined with a vital strategic problem. Some army leaders were having serious second thoughts about their earlier plan to make Tawang the base for Indian defence if Namkachu and surrounding areas were lost. Also the prevailing doctrine was never to withdraw from a position unless attacked and pushed back.

The administrative and political importance of Tawang was great. But, in the eyes of several experts, most notably the director of military operations, D.K. Palit, it had no tactical value. On the contrary, there were so many routes through forested mountains that the Chinese could easily bypass Tawang and box the Indian forces there.

Their plea therefore was that Indian defence line should be moved further south to the more defensible Sela Pass, with a back-up garrison at Bomdila 90 km to the rear. Those who opposed this idea were equally emphatic in arguing that the country wanted the army to defend every inch of its soil and never withdraw from anywhere out of fear that the Chinese would overrun it. Eventually, Nehru agreed that building up Sela and Bomdila was a better idea, especially because the army felt so.

At this stage, Thapar decided that he would announce all the changes in plans or personnel at Tezpur, and simultaneously directed Sen to temporarily take over command of IV Corps too. By the time the army chief, together with Palit and Intelligence Bureau Chief Mullik reached the IV Corps HQ, the situation had taken a strange new twist. Angered by Prasad's vacation of the divisional HQ without the Eastern Army Commander's permission, Sen had sacked him. Major-General Anand Singh Pathania was Prasad's replacement.

It was in this confused and confusing state of affairs that New Delhi finally appointed Major-General (later Lieutenant-General) Harbaksh Singh the acting GOC of IV Corps, and he was at Tezpur immediately. There are far too many accounts of the 1962 war by a large number of participants and equally numerous others. Inevitably, these differ from one another, sometimes widely. But on one point there is striking unanimity. Harbaksh's very presence, to say nothing of his brisk interaction with all formations under his command, boosted the sagging morale of the entire corps. (No wonder, this tall soldiers' soldier was to be the unquestioned hero of the war with Pakistan three years later.) Sadly, this was too good to last.

For, on October 28, Kaul, declared fit by army doctors, returned to Tezpur and reclaimed his command. Again, all accounts agree that this did not go down well with either the men or younger officers. In any case, it had no impact on the ground situation because, having achieved their immediate objectives astonishingly fast, the Chinese had halted the first phase of their assault by the morning of October 25.

As is well known, China's main purpose for this lull was to derive as much diplomatic and propaganda advantage as possible. On October 24, Zhou Enlai made a three-point cease-fire offer to Nehru that was totally unacceptable to this country. Beijing also issued an obviously pre-prepared note in which China told the world that on October 20, India had "started a massive offensive in both the eastern and western sectors of the Sino-Indian border. In these circumstances, the Chinese frontier guards had no choice but to strike back in self-defence". According to Dorothy Woodman, an eminent British scholar of that time, this Chinese claim was "obviously nonsense". In Nehru's words, the Chinese "posed that they were meek lambs set upon by tigers" — and therefore they "were devouring Indian territory". Ironically, China and its dutiful Western propagandists continue with the Chinese mythology to this date, but that is a separate story.

However, to go back to the lull in fighting, the Chinese also needed time for an operational design of theirs. Pursuing and ambushing the survivors of 7 Brigade at Namkachu, and outflanking Indian positions, they had arrived at Tawang by Octover 24. They had even blown up a vital bridge at a river crossing called Jang that Prasad was hoping to use to stop them, even if temporarily. Having done this, they immediately started constructing a road fit for the use of heavy trucks. Twelve years after the event, Mullik wrote in his book My Years With Nehru: The Chinese Betrayal that the Chinese built this road "with tremendous speed and completed it within two weeks, a really marvellous engineering feat, exhibiting a much superior road-building technique in this high plateau than that of our engineers".

Much has doubtless changed since those dark days, to our advantage. But with great reluctance and much greater regret, one has to admit that the gap between the Chinese skills and techniques and ours in the construction of the state-of-the-art infrastructure on the India-China border is not yet bridged.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHEN TELEVISION WAS REVOLUTIONISED

RAMESH SHARMA

 

The coverage of the Anna Hazare movement reveals a lot about our TV channels, and their newfound sense of power and omniscience. The phenomenal rise in Anna Hazare's popularity, especially between his fast in April and his arrest on August 16, can be largely attributed to the UPA's blunders, which persuaded even fence-sitters to throw their support behind Anna.

However, in spite of these mistakes, and for all that Anna managed to strike an emotional chord with much of the nation, his movement became a huge collective experience largely because of the electronic media. 24x7 TV channels were his constant cheerleaders, giving momentum to his cause. The Anna movement was, in fact, made for TV. After a season of scams, the image of a frail and simple 74-year-old activist pitting himself against a powerful and venal state was compelling. His lonely figure, wasting away on an indefinite fast, set against a large profile of Mahatma Gandhi, became an iconic TV image. It was a facile narrative of good against evil, a populist theme of a universal fight against corruption — and TV channels helped it take over the national agenda with the speed of a tsunami.

The movement was given relentless, wall-to-wall coverage, 24x7. Every press conference, every speech by Team Anna — even the theatrics of some of Team Anna's resident performers on the Ramlila stage — were covered live by almost all channels. The incendiary comments, the crude humour, all were fodder for the masses, helping create a distinctly anti-establishment, anti-Parliament mood.

For 24x7 news channels, the Anna Hazare coverage was much like a reality show. The hysterical reporting — mostly motivated by competitive populism — had been at times like an extended advertorial for Anna Hazare. There was no effort to separate the core issues from raw emotions. While there were some stories in the print media on how the movement was structured and the differences between key personalities, television coverage was jingoistic and almost reverential. Anna was seen almost entirely through this benign prism and became synonymous, not with the contradictions inherent in his Jan Lokpal bill, not as an unreasonable man, who in the early days of the agitation was attempting to push his version down Parliament's throat — not even as someone who posed the real threat to the delicate balance between the three organs of our Constitution — but only with the emotional resonance of an anti-corruption movement. It is another matter that his personal credibility factor made it easy for TV channels to package the messenger.

The Jan Lokpal bill has been sold to the Indian public as the ultimate panacea to end corruption in the country. One can grant TV channels the editorial right to decide what to feed their viewers. But the absence of any critical analysis of substantive issues, the reluctance to debate the import and repercussions of the Jan Lokpal bill or even alternative bills like the one proposed by Aruna Roy, was truly irresponsible. In the early days of the agitation, those who questioned Team Anna were ignored — and most anchors were reluctant to question Team Anna hard, for fear of being seeing as pro-corruption. It was only when the endgame neared that prime-time debates focused on the bill, but this too was distracted, with the usual suspects as speakers and the discussions quickly descending into slanging matches between the two principal political parties.

We can grant both Anna Hazare and the electronic media the distinction of having allowed corruption in daily life to occupy the centrestage of our public discourse. But by encouraging a lynch mob-mentality, by making the choices facile, in the "you are with us or against us" mode, viewers have been lulled into believing that Anna's formula is the only way to save us from a "corrupt " government and an impotent Parliament.

The truth is that there is no magic wand to end corruption, that the devil is actually in the details. That any legislation that challenges the basic tenets of our Constitution is inherently more dangerous than the solution it proposes. And that this legislation itself in any case, will only be the first step in a very long journey to eradicate corruption.

Now that Team Anna has won a moral victory and Anna Hazare has called off his fast it is imperative that both Anna and his partners in the electronic media educate their supporters on putting in place many other landmark legislations, including electoral reforms and funding of political parties in the coming months and years, if corruption is to be truly reduced. Otherwise, they both will only have used and abused the trust of hundreds of thousands who have marched behind the piper (as a UPA minister described it) with hope on their lips, singing and dancing to the seductive, sometime shrill, tune and the promise of instant moksha from corruption.

In his book Believing Bullshit, Stephen Law writes that there is a good chance if you apply control, repetition, emotional manipulation, — that is, tools of brainwashing — the focus group will eventually accept what you say. In recent times, we have witnessed this modus operandi being used quite effectively not only by Team Anna but also by the electronic media. But as the American comedian Jon Stewart says: "If we amplify everything we end up hearing nothing." An observation Indian news channels are well advised to pay serious attention to, if they are not to lose their own credibility and voice.

The writer is an award-winning filmmaker and media entrepreneur

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

LOOKING DC, TALKING TOKYO

ASHOK PARTHASARATHI

 

Towards the conclusion of the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, the Indian government issued letters of intent to the US, French and Russian governments for their companies to sell 10,000 MW capacity of reactors to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) over a period of time to be negotiated. The government of India (GoI) also allocated sites for those foreign companies to set up their reactors.

It is as a result of the above process that Russia was to set up four more 1,000 MW power plants at Koodankulam (where two such plants have been under construction for the entire past decade, one is to be commissioned this year and the other in 2012) and four additional Russian reactors of the same capacity are to be set up in Haripur in Bengal. Similarly, six 1650 MW reactors made by the French firm Areva are to be set up at Jaitapur in Maharastra, starting with two that will be operational by 2017-2018. As for the 1,000 MW reactors made by US firms Westinghouse and the US-Japan joint venture GE-Hitachi, all that has been agreed so far is that they will be set up in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. No specific sites have been decided on as yet.

And thereby hangs the following tale. Westinghouse is owned 100 per cent by the Japanese firm Toshiba and in the GE-Hitachi joint venture, 60 per cent is owned by Hitachi. Under Japanese law, such firms with majority Japanese equity can sell their reactors only to countries that have signed a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with the Japanese government, and after that agreement has been ratified by the Japanese parliament.

Accordingly, the GoI and the Japanese government have been negotiating for the last 18 months towards a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. As many as four rounds have been held, but practically no progress has been made.

Why? Basically, it is because of Japan's long standing anti-nuclear position (despite itself having set up 53 civilian nuclear power reactors), that any country with whom Japan signs a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement must have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It has been India's strong and longstanding national policy not to sign either of those treaties.

A consequence of this fundamental disagreement has been that the Japanese government has now indicated that it is suspending negotiations with the GoI. This is a very serious development for the US because it means both its nuclear reactor manufacturers, Westinghouse and Hitachi-GE, cannot get a slice of the potential $150 billion Indian nuclear reactor market, while its competitors, Russia and France, steam ahead.

Who is going to cut this Gordian knot, and how? That is the multi-million dollar question. It is ironic that while "American" nuclear reactor suppliers, that is, those operating from US soil like Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi, are unable to ship reactors to India, the US government is pressing the GoI to amend our civil nuclear liability law to give US reactor suppliers "a level playing field" vis-à-vis their French and Russian counterparts. When the US government is confronted by GoI with the fact that both the French and Russian governments and their companies have clearly informed GoI that they have no difficulty whatsoever with our liability act and do not require GoI to ratify the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) (which GOI has already signed), and the US government alone is pressing GoI to undertake such ratification, the US has no answer. When GoI reminds the US government that even if it were to ratify the CSC, the lack of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with the Japanese government would continue to prevent the sales of nuclear reactors by Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi, the US government has even less of an answer! It is time the GoI put the US government in its place, given this unreasonableness.

The writer was science and technology adviser to Indira Gandhi and secretary of several major scientific departments of the GoI

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

HOW TO FIGHT AN IDEA

H.D.S. GREENAWAY

Historians will label the events of that September morning 10 years ago as the most destructive act of terrorism ever committed up to that time. But I suspect they will also judge America's last decade as one of history's worst overreactions.

Of course, overreaction is what terrorists hope to provoke. If judged by that standard, 9/11 was also one of history's most successful terrorist acts, dragging the US into two as yet unresolved wars, draining the treasury of $1 trillion and climbing, as well as damaging its power and prestige. These wars have empowered our enemies and hurt our friendships, and have almost certainly generated more terrorists than they have killed. Like other victims of terrorism, the US believed somehow the answer could be found in brute force. But ideas seldom yield to force, and militant Islam is an idea. The result has been the militarisation of US foreign policy.

The brief war to topple the Taliban and rid Afghanistan of Osama bin Laden was admirably executed, using air power, Northern Alliance allies, and a few CIA agents on horseback to achieve a specific goal. The failure to nab bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, to let them escape from Tora Bora where they were cornered, was a spectacular failure.

Our 10-year occupation, and our off-and-on-again attempts at nation building, have been a disaster. At first Afghanistan was starved for resources, taking a back seat to the ill-planned, and ill-advised attack on Iraq. When, at last, Afghanistan became a priority, the moment for success had already passed.

Today the Afghan war has morphed into a war against the Pashtuns — perhaps the most war-like people on earth, whom two great empires before us, the Russian and the British, failed to subdue. One could not possibly find a worse place to fight, or a less likely people on whom to impose our will.

It is true that the Pashtun tribes and clans have traditionally been willing to switch allegiances when the incentives were sufficiently attractive, so the idea of winning over some groups who are now fighting against us was not totally out of the question. But so far it has simply not worked, and General David Petraeus fell into the trap into which so many generals before him have fallen: He believed that what he learned in one war, the Iraq war, could be replicated in the next: Afghanistan.

As for Iraq, if ever there was an intellectuals' war, it was Iraq. Neoconservative theorists, who knew nothing about Iraq , believed that the transformational power of democracy could change the Middle East — make Arabs more like Americans. But what happened was that Iraq became more like the Middle East, and, although violence has slowed, it has by no means been brought to any semblance of normalcy. None of the underlying questions, the balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites, what should be the relations of Kurdistan to the rest of the country, have been settled. In the meantime, the Iraq war has greatly empowered Iran, and the reaction of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in backing Syria's Bashar Assad at Iran's bidding speaks for itself.

The Bush-Cheney years saw a remarkable abrogation of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, and the descent into torture showed how easily fear can bring even a modern democracy over to the dark side.

Although al-Qaeda was remarkably successful at linking together so many of the Muslim world's pockets of grievances, mastering the techniques of the Internet, the fact of the matter is that most Muslims would rather not live under the extreme Wahhabism that al-Qaeda preaches. Bin Laden's ideas about his faith were to Islam what Pol Pot's were to socialism. But the sad and counterproductive rise of anti-Muslim attitudes in both Europe and the US since 9/11 testify that Bin Laden was not entirely unsuccessful in driving a wedge between the Islamic world and the West.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MY-DEFINITION WARS

If you thought Bill Clinton's "it depends what the meaning of 'is' is" was the ultimate in verbal pyrotechnics, there's something similar happening in the 2G scam case right now. The high voltage battle on what key terms might mean threatens to blow the case apart even before charges are framed by the court. In the absence of more than one money trail, this my-definition war, along with major policy flip-flops by the telecom regulator, is likely to play a vital role in which way the case goes—in an affidavit to the Supreme Court in March, Trai said it was not in favour of giving out licences in 2008 at 2001 prices, but in a letter to CBI in August, it said it was never in favour of hiking the entry fee! While law minister Salman Khurshid has said the CBI case cannot hinge on definitions given by his ministry, it is unlikely the courts will dismiss his ministry's opinion easily.

As part of its case against telecom firms Loop and Swan, CBI had alleged the two firms were associates of Essar and Reliance Telecom, respectively, and cited funds-flows to prove this. When the CBI asked the corporate affairs ministry to define 'associates', the latter said there was no definition other than that in Accounting Standards 18—this was meant to account for related party transactions and stated that if a firm has 20% or more voting rights in another firm, that is an associate. When this went to the law ministry, it did one better and said associate companies required one to be a subsidiary of the other or for a common parent to have more than a 50% shareholding in both companies—by this definition, Max New York Life, for instance, is not an associate of New York Life.

A parallel battle of definitions is that relating to what rollout means. Around eight months ago, Trai had recommended that 74 of the Raja licences be cancelled since they had not rolled out their networks on time, a pre-condition of the licence. The telecom ministry has not accepted this recommendation as it has a different definition of what constitutes a rollout. Perhaps, as happened in a recent judgment on OBC eligibility marks, the courts will take the definitions given in various dictionaries and then take a call.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A TIME TO SPEND?

The good news first: the US 2011 deficit is all set to fall to around a fifth lower than what was envisaged as recently as six months ago—from the February estimate of $1.65 trillion, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) now estimates it will be more like $1.32 trillion, or a fall from 10.9% of GDP to 8.8%. The bad news, and this list is much longer, is that unemployment will stay high, at 8.3% in the 2012 election year (it rises to 9% under a slower-growth scenario) and GDP growth estimates have also been lowered from 2.1% in June to 1.7% now. Apart from being a serious political issue—and it's not just about President Obama getting re-elected, the high unemployment has economic implications—how does consumer spending rise as long as unemployment is so high? According to the OMB report, while corporate profits rose from $906 billion in 2009 to $1,322 billion in 2011, employee compensation rose from just $7,812 billion to $8,264 billion.

Opinions vary across the US political spectrum, but Jared Bernstein, a former member of Obama's economic team, uses the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) latest figures to point out that the $787 billion Recovery Act created around 2.5 million jobs and shaved 1.5 percentage points off the unemployment rate. So it looks like it's time Obama came up with another big jobs push. We'll hear more of that on Thursday. Given how the Republicans are playing hardball—they even forced Obama to postpone his speech by a day—the chances of getting anything passed look difficult.

How does this square up with the task of cutting the deficit? And does a stimulus help when the real US problem is what's called a balance sheet recession—at 115% of disposable income, US household debt is better than the 130% it reached in 2007, but much lower than the average of 75% in the 1970-2000 period. There's little doubt the US cannot get back to robust growth till this is fixed, but right now the US is one push away from a double-dip. And, in any case, unless there is GDP growth, the deficit/debt situation isn't going to get better—as Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach points out, the CBO's deficit reduction trajectory assumes a 3.4% annual GDP growth; a one percentage point shortfall in GDP growth, he says, leads to higher budget deficits of around $3 trillion over a 10-year period. Immediately, the US has to make big structural reforms—according to Jon Huntsman who is running for President in 2012, complying with the 17,000-page tax code costs taxpayers $400 billion each year; former President Bill Clinton, just out with 14 ways to increase jobs, bemoans the sharp rise in rules and regulations that make getting things done tough. In the medium term, the US needs to make expenditure cuts, if need be on Obama's dream schemes, but it needs more jobs now.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAT CAKE, PAY TAX
AMITENDU PALIT

This year, the Chinese are not finding moon cakes as sweet as they normally do. Local tax authorities in Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing have decreed that the cost of moon cakes gifted by employers to employees should be added to the incomes of the latter for calculating income tax. In other words, moon cakes can no longer be treated as non-taxable gifts. They will be considered part of the allowances eligible for taxing, much like the housing allowance.

The decision has obviously not gone down well with the residents of the three cities. Yue bing or moon cakes mark a joyous occasion for the Chinese. They are consumed during the mid-Autumn (Zhongqiu) festival, which is usually celebrated during the months of August-September, and are considered essential in the lunar worship marking the festival. The cakes are usually made of sweet lotus seed or red bean paste, occasionally mixed with egg yolk, and come mostly in round shapes. Having yue bing and tea in the company of friends and family while watching the moon is the quintessential Chinese vision of celebrating Zhongqiu.

Over the years, moon cakes have contributed to the growth of local bakery and confectionary businesses in China. Much like laddoos and gujiyas distributed during Diwali and Holi in India, moon cakes are gifted by businesses and employers to clients and workers during Zhongqiu. Informal networks, or guanxi, are famous in China for shaping business strategies and decisions. Gift-giving is an integral of part of maintaining and sustaining these networks.

With both producer and consumer incomes increasing in China, the yue bing industry has moved upmarket. Gold-plated moon cakes are pretty common these days. The biggest innovations have come in the form of fusions attempting to blend Western elements into traditional moon cakes. Ice cream moon cakes made by Häagen-Dazs have become enormously popular, as have moon cakes with truffle, caviar and also whiskey and champagne.

But why tax these cakes? It is important to note that authorities were careful in not imposing excise duties on yue bing as that would have immediately resulted in an increase in their prices. With moon cakes becoming expensive now, inflation would have become higher, as would have popular discontent. The festive mood would have turned even sourer.

Rather, the tax authorities chose a route that was less confrontational, but more effective. Non-taxed gift allowance always offers employers and businesses the opportunity of incurring expenses that can be netted against taxable income for reducing the tax liability. There are several examples of reducing taxable incomes through generous non-taxable expenses. State-owned enterprises in China reportedly spend large sums on purchase of expensive liquor and also private cars for senior executives and declare the same as non-taxable allowances. By targeting a 'fringe' benefit such as expenditure on moon cakes for inclusion in tax calculations, authorities have sought to tap fairly large chunks of income that otherwise go untaxed.

Nonetheless, the tax has created considerable unhappiness. For residents of Nanjing, this is a double blow, coming on the back of another unpopular tax announcement. Adding spouses' name to a real estate property after marriage is now inviting contract tax in Nanjing. Nanjing is not an exception in this respect though. The cities of Chengdu, Qingdao and Wuhan have also introduced similar measures.

These innovative measures for increasing local government revenues are probably fuelled by steadily rising concerns over the high levels of local government debts in China. The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates aggregate local government debt in China at $1.7 trillion at the end of 2010. At its current level, the debt amounts to 27% of the country's GDP.

Not only is the size of the debt large, a large part of the debt is nearing maturity. According to the NAO report, 41% of the total debt will fall due by 2012 with almost half of it up for repayment in 2011. Though the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has allayed fears over debt defaults by provinces, it has also warned that some governments run the risk of bankruptcies if they don't do strategic planning.

In the future, the bulk of strategic planning by local governments will focus on disciplining the large amount of loans that they pick up from banks. These have not only complicated their own debt profiles, but have also generated humongous non-performing loans for banks, adversely affecting their balance sheets. Beyond thinking through these loans, more strategic planning involves identification of new sources of revenue. Moon cakes and property appear clear favourites in this respect. Neither is expected to experience lower demand and both are good revenue earning prospects for debt-ridden local governments.

The author is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) in the National University of Singapore (NUS). These are his personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

PRUNE THAT NEGATIVE LIST
M GOVINDA RAO

The concept paper on taxation of services released by the Central Board of Excise and Customs for public debate is an important initiative. The paper provides a way forward to expand the service tax base and make a transition to the Goods and Services Tax. The paper conforms to the finance minister's statement in the budget speech that he would initiate an informed public debate on comprehensive coverage of services in the tax, with a small negative list. The paper is opportune and the CBEC, after taking into account the comments from various experts and trade and industry associations, can finalise its approach to comprehensive service taxation in the forthcoming budget. Comprehensive coverage with a small negative list and adoption of common threshold and rates for excise and service taxation would transform the existing consumption tax at the Centre into a GST at the manufacturing stage.

The recommendation in favour of general taxation of services was made as far back as 2001 in the report of the Expert Group on Service Taxation chaired by me. The report recommended, "It is necessary to dispense with the present approach of selectivity in taxing in favour of a general taxation of all traded services with minimum exceptions" (page 3). According to the group, "Selective taxation of services is undesirable for, it violates neutrality in taxation, leads to inadequate coverage in addition to raising several avoidable procedural/legal complications". In fact, the expert group had recommended that after making the service tax general, the central government should move towards a common threshold and rates, and provide input tax credit to goods and services so that by 2004-05, the excise duty and the service taxes could be transformed into a general taxation of goods and services at the manufacturing stage. Of course, it is important to keep the negative list small.

There are a variety of reasons for preferring general taxation of services with a small negative list to the selective taxation prevailing at present. Even as the coverage of services has steadily increased to more than 110 services, the selective approach leaves out many identifiable and unidentifiable services, complicates administration— leading to a large number of litigations—and provides enormous scope for the special interest groups to lobby and keep some services out of the tax net. In the GST regime, the general approach helps to extend input tax credit comprehensively. Thus, from the point of view of broadening the base, ensuring greater neutrality and efficiency, general taxation of services is important. The general approach is preferred from the legal and administrative point of view as well. In this approach, it is necessary to define "service" and not each of the individual services. In fact, defining each of the individual services has been a major cause of disputes and litigation.

Most countries define transactions in services as a residual—all transactions other than goods or money. Some countries exclude the services rendered by the employee to the employer in the definition as well, whereas some others put this under the list of exempted services. The concept paper defines "service" as anything that does not constitute supply of goods, money or immovable property. It is useful to keep the definition simple and unambiguous and keep any specific item in the negative list.

For wider base and comprehensive input tax credit, it is extremely important to keep the negative list small. There will, of course, be pressures from various special interest groups to expand the list but it is important to keep the list to the minimum. The concept paper lists out nine categories of services in the negative list for administrative considerations, contractual obligations, welfare considerations, economic considerations and those that have been specified under the state list. The indicative categories of services in the negative list raise some issues of concern. First, there are too many items and it is necessary to prune the list in order to reap the advantages of general taxation.

Second, the list indicates that certain agencies other than the government such as RBI or the government regulatory bodies may have a list of exempted services. Indeed, the power to levy the tax or to exempt a service must be exercised by the taxation department and not any other agency. Third, it is clearly wrong to keep out the services based on their end use. Keeping the list based on end use will create a nightmare for administration and is a recipe for creating avenues for evasion of the tax. There is no need to keep the services used by agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and fisheries out of the tax net. For the same reason, it is inappropriate to exempt the construction sector for infrastructure works, government buildings or for any other purposes, however philanthropic the purpose may be.

It must be noted that the tax policy should focus on raising revenues in equitable and efficient ways and objectives like infrastructure building and looking after the homeless, orphanages, old age homes or building religious structures should be addressed by other policy instruments.

The concept paper has avoided controversies by keeping all education leading to a degree or a diploma out of the tax net. This is surely questionable, with the education sector having become a major investment option. In the case of the health sector, the paper provides two options. The first is to keep the services provided by the establishment with a turnover of less than R4 crore out and the second is to include the basic health services. Indeed, fees are not charged on basic healthcare provided by the government and there will not be any tax payable on it. Healthcare has become a big business and those who spoke of "misery tax" when the tax was selectively imposed do not think of the misery of the poor patients having to pay hefty fees for them! Nevertheless, it is important to tread carefully in dealing with this sector.

One notable omission in the negative list is the services rendered by non-profit entities undertaking research activities. In fact, there is a case for exempting research and training services sponsored by the government or its agencies. One has to make a distinction between consultancy services and genuine research. On the whole, this is an important concept paper and surely deserves to be discussed by all stakeholders.

The author is Director, NIPFP and Member, EAC to the Prime Minister. These are his personal views

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PRINT MEDIA DO BETTER THAN TV: COVERAGE OF HAZARE FAST

The second fortnight of August 2011 saw one of the largest mobilisations of people in recent years against corruption in India. The struggle led by Anna Hazare dominated the media all through the fortnight.

A new feature was the participation of the social media, which helped mobilise people in different corners of the country in support of the Team Anna. Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites, and blogs played a significant part in bringing people together in peaceful demonstrations, candle protests and so on. Team Anna may have been the first major beneficiary of the technology.

As for the performance of news television channels, public opinion seems divided. Those who supported or sympathised with Team Anna were naturally happy with the round-the-clock saturation coverage, which was overwhelmingly favourable to the movement. However, veteran journalist B.G. Verghese was quoted as saying: "The media has magnified the event beyond its worth. It has not at all been objective in its coverage." This only speaks to the low political stock of the government and its lack of credibility in the wake of a series of corruption cases and scams.

Print media coverage of this second phase of the Anna-led, fortnight-long agitation against corruption at various levels was clearly more balanced and insightful, reflecting various points of view, at least in the case of major mainstream newspapers with a long tradition. The editorial coverage critically addressed the core issues, including legal and constitutional issues and flawed notions such as the "supremacy of Parliament." To engage the more discerning readers, a few newspapers published articles explaining the legal, political, and social aspects of corruption.

The Hindu , which gave extensive coverage to the Team Anna's crusade against corruption and its initiatives to get legislation for a strong and effective Lokpal authority expedited, wrote four insightful and hard-hitting editorials between August 17 and 28.

The first leader ("Corrupt, repressive and stupid," August 17) was bold and strongly worded. It said: "A corrupt government devoid of moral authority is ill equipped to deal reasonably with legitimate public anger." The scathing editorial commented that through the illegitimate detention of Anna Hazare even before he began his fast and the arrest of peaceful protesters in Delhi, the central government "revealed its ugly, repressive face." It noted that the government missed several opportunities to arrive at a consensus with Team Anna on setting up an empowered Lokpal and instead attempted to push through a farce of a Lokpal Bill.

The next editorial ("Anna is not India nor India Anna") was published three days later, when Mr. Hazare won the first round, with the government yielding to his demand that he be allowed to go on an indefinite fast in Delhi to achieve legislation for a strong and effective Lokpal. "The wise course for the government," the newspaper advised, "is to withdraw the Bill, immediately, without standing on false prestige." The editorial took issue with the Prime Minister's contention that it was the "sole prerogative" of Parliament to make a law. This was true only in the most literal, superficial, banal sense, the editorial pointed out. It affirmed that in India, unlike the United Kingdom, Parliament was not supreme; it was the Constitution that was supreme. But the editorial criticised a prominent member of Team Anna for getting carried away and proclaiming, in a way that recalled an authoritarian era, that "Anna is India and India is Anna."

The third editorial, a single leader ("The way out," August 22), analysed the relative merits of key sections of the two Bills, the Lokpal Bill of the Central Government now before the Standing Committee and Team Anna's Jan Lokpal Bill. The fourth editorial, a single leader analysing the specifics agreed upon and the issues that needed to be settled ("Significant victory," August, 28), hailed Parliament's unanimous adoption of a resolution agreeing "in principle" with Team Anna's position on a few controversial points as a triumph for the anti-corruption moods in the country.

Besides these editorials, The Hindu carried four substantial editorial page articles during this period, when the fast by Mr. Hazare was entering a crucial stage. The articles, written by an acclaimed writer, two academics, and a political leader, were enlightening, each looking at the dramatic developments from different angles.

The essay "I'd rather not be Anna" ( The Hindu , August 22, 2011) by Arundhati Roy was highly critical of the Anna Hazare phenomenon and what it represented. In the writer's view, corruption in the society could not be seen in isolation from many other factors in the country. The article, which was widely circulated and won national as well as international attention, received a huge number of responses, especially at the newspaper's website.

The second article ("Ambedkar's way and Anna Hazare's methods," August 23) by Sukhadeo Thorat, economist and educationist, argued that Team Anna should use constitutional methods and enhance people's faith in them. "Otherwise," Dr. Thorat noted, "it will convey the message that only coercive and unconstitutional methods work." He recalled how coercive means forced Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to give up his demand for a separate electorate when Mahatma Gandhi was on a "fast-unto-death."

The third article ("Messianism versus democracy," August 24) by the economist Prabhat Patnaik contended that the substitution of one man for the people, and the reduction of the people's role merely to being supporters and cheerleaders for one man's actions, was antithetical to democracy. "Messianism substitutes the collective subject, the people by an individual subject, the messiah. The people may participate … in the activities of the people, as they are doing reportedly at Anna Hazare's fast… but they do so as spectators."

The fourth of the articles ("For a strong and effective Lokpal," The Hindu , August 25) by Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), observed that the attitude of the UPA Government and its failure to tackle corruption had fuelled public anger. He said that the government was seen as being complicit in corruption and this had been seen as the most corrupt government in the history of independent India. Since Hazare's first hunger strike in April, Mr. Karat noted, anti-corruption movement had gained momentum.

Together with the editorials, these assessments helped readers gain a critical perspective on the Anna Hazare phenomenon, the anti-corruption mood in the country, and the major issues at stake. On the whole, the coverage of the fortnight's drama not just by The Hindu but by several other dailies, including The Times of India, The New Indian Express, The Indian Express , and magazines, notably Outlook and India Today , reminded and reassured observers that for credible information, analysis, and diverse comment, it was the mainstream Indian press that still held the field.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

U.N. CHIEF SOUNDS CLIMATE ALARM IN SOLOMONS VISIT

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon says he has seen first-hand the need for urgent action on climate change after visiting the remote Solomon Islands.

During his one-night stay, Ban said rising sea levels are wiping out crops on low-lying islands in the Solomons and threatening the existence of the entire chain, located 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometres) north-east of Australia.

Ban said on September 4 that he's ready to "sound alarm bells to the whole world" over the dangers of climate change. He said the developed world has a moral obligation to help nations like the Solomons with financial and technological aid.

Ban was due to leave on Sunday for Kiribati, another island chain threatened by climate change. From there, he'll fly to New Zealand.

He is on a four-nation visit to Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati during which the issue of climate change will be a key focus. "My visit is to continue sounding the alarm about climate change; to get a firsthand sense of Pacific concerns, Pacific opportunities, Pacific hopes; and to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum."— AP

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THE HINDU

CUBAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP OIL WASTE TREATMENT WITH BACTERIA

Two Cuban research centres have started using bacteria to treat the oil contaminated water in several parts of the Caribbean island in order to reduce the presence of hydrocarbons in soil and water bodies in the country.

The Center for Environmental Studies of Cienfuegos (CEAC), in collaboration with the Center for Bioactive Marine (CBM) in Havana, is carrying out the process in the provinces of Cienfuegos, Pinar del Rio and Matanzas, according to CEAC Director Alain Munoz.

Munoz said the two centres expect the treatment procedures will be soon introduced in the southern Isle of Youth and the southern province of Holguin.

The process, which is known as bioremediation, consists of applying bacteria over the contaminated area to eliminate the chemical components of oil in a maximum of 180 days, he said.

The treatment can be used both inland as offshore. After analysing the physical, chemical and geomorphological characteristics of the area, the bacteria is inoculated in the contaminated area and is subjected to a process of growth called Bioil-fc prepared by the CBM. Cuba is attempting to achieve autonomy in meeting its energy needs using eco-friendly measures. — Xinhua

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THE HINDU

BRIEF WORKOUTS COUNT

"Idon't have the time" can no longer be an excuse for not exercising. According to a study reported recently in The Lancet ("Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study," by Chi Pang Wen et al .,), health benefits have been recorded even with 15 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily for six days a week. Mortality dropped by 14 per cent, and life expectancy was extended by three years compared with those who led a sedentary lifestyle. The authors followed up, over an eight-year period, more than 400,000 healthy Taiwanese men and women with varying levels of physical activity. Although the public health recommendation in most countries is physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for five days a week, brief activity seems to be better than no activity. This message was brought out by the 2008 U.S. physical activity guidelines, which observed that "even low amounts of physical activity reduce the risk of dying prematurely." A paper published recently in Circulation also underlined that the risk of coronary heart disease was "significantly lower" even when the physical activity was "lower than the minimum recommended amount."

Fifteen minutes should be considered only a minimum. As the Lancet study found, there were more benefits when the duration was longer. Every additional 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day reduced the total mortality by four per cent and cancer death by one per cent compared with people who were inactive. However, no additional health benefits were seen beyond 100 minutes. The work, however, has a major limitation — it was an observational study and not a clinical trial. Hence no direct link between health benefits and physical activity can be firmly established, as other factors would have played a role. Despite this limitation, the possible benefits of moderate-intensity workouts of shorter duration may encourage more people to abandon physical inactivity. There is also a greater likelihood of people increasing the duration once they start exercising. Those who intend to follow the public health recommendation of a minimum of 30-minute continuous workout a day but are unable to do so can take heart. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the benefits of 30 minutes can be reaped by working out for at least ten minutes thrice a day or 15 minutes twice daily. The World Health Organisation says physical inactivity causes six per cent of deaths globally and it has identified inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for mortality. Hence any programme that can motivate people to exercise daily should be strongly encouraged.

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THE HINDU

SO, WAS THIS A WAR FOR OIL?

TERRY MACALISTER

The Libyan conflict has been a war about oil if not "for" oil. The country's economy is almost totally dependent on hydrocarbons and a key objective for the transitional government will be to get the wells up and running again as soon as possible.

The British and French, meanwhile, are worried about future energy supplies. They are already pushing and shoving over who should get what of the energy proceeds before the political dust has even settled in Tripoli (just as BP and Shell are once again sitting pretty in Iraq following western military intervention there).

The U.K. government has been working hand in glove with parts of the oil industry to bring about regime change in Libya. London crude trader, Vitol, held meetings with Britain's International Development Minister Alan Duncan (a former consultant to the firm) and played a key role in keeping the rebels well-supplied with petrol while others tried to starve Muammar Qadhafi's troops of fuel. Was this a practical operation to undermine Qadhafi's military logistics or a potent symbol that western politics and oil are so closely intermeshed that the agendas of both are indistinguishable? Certainly the French blew the gaff on Thursday. Foreign minister Alain Juppe was trying to bury a story run in Liberation that suggested that Paris had tied up an agreement to be given 35 per cent of all the country's oil in future in return for military help. He said it was "fair and logical" to him that Libya's new interim government, the National Transitional Council would turn to France in the reconstruction of Libya.

The British have not been so public about their expectations but we know that BP has already held talks with the new opposition leaders and are preparing to re-enter the country. Clearly, the role of Vitol, never mind the RAF jets, will require some recognition in the new Libya that emerges — at least in the eyes of the U.K. political and oil establishment.

And the prospects look good. An executive from the rebel oil company, Agoco, has already said the interests of Britain, France and Italy will all be treated favourably compared with those who equivocated, such as Russia and China.

But won't the NTC want to reorganise its oil industry differently, and perhaps do without the West completely? Qadhafi originally kicked out western oil but then invited it back in after U.N. sanctions over the Lockerbie bombing were lifted. The problem for the NTC is that oil provides virtually all of the country's income. Even if nationalisation was their preferred option, getting production back up and running as quickly as possible is the imperative. Libya used to produce 1.6m barrels of oil a day — worth an almighty $1.3bn a week at today's crude prices, and money the NTC desperately needs, even if it means sharing the spoils.

Tougher terms?

Whatever deal is reached, it is unlikely to be all or nothing: nationalisation or capitulation. What the new government will certainly want to do is exact much tougher terms for western oil company involvement. The idea that a third of Libya's oil would be simply turned over to the French, as the Liberation story suggested, is surely nonsense. It would be political suicide for the NTC.

What happened in Iraq is instructive. Although BP and others have been given access to reserves in Iraq, they are not on the terms they would ideally have chosen. The auctions there have resulted in "technical service agreements", where the likes of BP act as contractors and get $2 on each barrel of oil produced but do not "own" the reserves in the way they do in the North Sea — or did in Iraq before they were removed by Saddam Hussein.

Western independent oil companies have the most modern technology, easy access to capital market money and a can-do spirit, but they are also on the defensive because they are being gradually muscled out globally by State-owned national oil companies in places such as Venezuela, Brazil and Russia.

The desperate — and now failed — recent attempt by BP to tie up a share-swap deal with Russian State-owned Rosneft, despite all the problems it has had in that country, was just another sign of this.

With the North Sea and other mature basins fast running out of oil and a failure to fully invest in lower carbon alternatives, western ministers are also desperately worried about future crude supplies.

It was a war around oil in Libya — but the new interim government in Tripoli could yet win that, too. ( Terry Macalister is the Guardian's Energy Editor .) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

The dust in Libya has not yet settled, but already the struggle has begun over who gets what.

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THE HINDU

NEW CONSERVATISM IN EUROPE IMPEDES TWO OF ITS NATIONS

SUZANNE DALEY

The infrared cameras here near Bulgaria's borders with Greece and Turkey are high powered enough to pick up rabbits scampering across farm fields in the dead of night.

But on a recent afternoon, the men inside the border station were focused on a car — moving a bit too fast along a country road. Maybe a smuggler, they thought. They called over their radios to have the car stopped. It turned out to be a false alarm.

Bulgaria and its neighbour Romania, which has spent more than €1 billion, or about $1.4 billion, developing an equally high-tech border operation, are hoping to join the European Union's visa-free travel zone this month. They also hope to take over guarding some of the union's outer borders.

A few years ago, such a move would probably have been routine, experts say, just another step in the European Union's continuing, enthusiastic expansion. But today, there is a new conservatism at work in the bloc.

The issues

Both Bulgaria and Romania were welcomed into the European Union in 2007, despite lingering questions about organised crime, corruption and an ineffective judiciary. Now, however, as Europe faces an economic crisis, fear of more immigration from Africa and growing nationalistic fervour among member countries, it is paying more attention to these issues.

"It is nice to have a machine to check if there is an illegal person in the back of a truck," said Karel van Kesteren, the Dutch ambassador to Bulgaria. "But if you can pay €500 to someone to look the other way, it makes no sense at all.

"When you give the key to your common home to someone else, you want to be sure that this person is 100 per cent reliable and obeys all the rules."

The Netherlands is one country likely to veto the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the free-travel zone, known as the Schengen zone. But others are likely to object as well, including Finland, Germany and France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy's re-election campaign has courted conservative voters who have been increasingly critical of the European Union's open borders.

Signs of corruption dot both the Bulgarian and Romanian countryside along the borders in the form of lavish villas belonging to border guards and customs officers. Dozens can be found here in Svilengrad, a town of about 20,000 on Bulgaria's southern border. So notorious is the behaviour of border guards and customs officers that they are the object of popular ridicule. "What do you give a border guard for his birthday?" goes one joke. The answer: "A shift on his own."

But a local taxi driver, who gave a tour of the villas on the condition that his name not be used, defended the border guards, saying that they brought wealth to the town. He also said that one customs officer, now the owner of a hotel and casino, had replaced the windows in the school and rebuilt the local church.

"When they have money, we have money, too," he said.

Trying to combat corruption, Bulgaria has started using computerised scheduling to assign its border guards to different posts randomly every few hours. Romania has taken steps, too. In the past year, it arrested 248 border guards and customs officers, some of whom were accused of collecting as much as €5,800, or about $8,240, in a single shift.

In the past, some experts say, the arrests might have been enough to win the European Union's approval. But no more.

"It is a moment of extreme conservatism, and Romania and Bulgaria are suffering from that," said Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society Institute in Brussels. "After the end of the cold war, people were looking at the big picture. Now everyone is looking small, rather than thinking big."

Some experts say the reluctance to admit Romania and Bulgaria is also to a degree a sense of buyer's remorse — a feeling that neither country was ready when admitted to the European Union.

EU lever

Holding out on entry to the free-travel zone is the only real lever the bloc has to force both nations to deal with multiple problems, including rampant criminal gangs and the treatment of the region's Roma population.

Even Bulgarian and Romanian officials no longer expect to get into the Schengen zone this fall. Most experts believe that, to soften the blow, the European Union will allow both countries to open their airports to visa-free travel, as a first step. But border control will rest elsewhere for some time to come.

Bulgarian and Romanian officials make no secret of their disappointment. They complain that they have met the requirements of the European Union but are now being held to new standards. Deputy Prime Minister Simeon Djankov of Bulgaria said those standards were not even clear.

"It would be simpler if they said, 'O.K., we have thought about it and the world has changed,'" he said, "'and therefore we think that there should be another three criteria — and here they are.'"

Instead, he said, his country is facing "vague" complaints about organised crime rings and border corruption. He added that those same complaints could be made about other European countries, including Italy and Greece.

Romania's Foreign Minister, Teodor Baconschi, concurs. "We are better equipped now than many of the member states."

As far as equipment goes, visits to the border seem to bear him out. In Bulgaria, border barriers that once existed largely to stop citizens from leaving the country during the communist era are now being retooled to keep immigrants and smugglers from coming in. The old electric fences and guard towers are rusting. But a line of freshly turned soil indicates where motion sensors are to be installed in the next few weeks.

At the Vaslui border station in Romania, guards patrol the river between Romania and Moldova in new speed boats. Trucks can be X-rayed, and there are wands that can measure whether there is too much carbon dioxide in the back of a truck — an indication that people are hiding inside.

But Gabisor Tofan, the mayor of a nearby village, said that corruption at the borders has been an open secret. "Every villager that passed into Moldova knew they had to give a small amount," he said.

There have been dozens of arrests of customs officers and border guards working at the Vaslui checkpoint, and there may yet be more, some officials said. The arrests drew attention to their fancy houses, including one belonging to a border guard, Sorin Bucur, that was pictured in several newspapers.

Mr. Bucur's wife, Marinella, said he had been questioned but not arrested. "My husband is very correct," she said. "They never found anything on him."

Geography

Geography is yet another factor in the lack of enthusiasm for letting Bulgaria and Romania into the free-travel zone. The two countries are paying a price for being close to Greece, which has done a poor job of controlling the flow of immigrants and illicit goods like stolen cars and smuggled cigarettes. In recent years, officials have estimated the influx of immigrants to Greece to be around 80,000 a year.

"Some E.U. countries are saying, 'Let us learn from the lesson of Greece,'" said Hugo Brady, a researcher at the Center for European Reform. "'Let us be conservative with Romania and Bulgaria.'" — © New York Times News Service

Bulgaria and its neighbour Romania are hoping to join the European Union's visa-free travel zone.

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THE HINDU

THE LOKPAL AND THE CBI

R.K. RAGHAVAN

It is a happy turn of events that there is, at last, a kind of truce between the Central government and the Anna Hazare Team on the Lokpal issue. Both sides have displayed a measure of maturity that augurs well for the future of public life in India. The stage is now set for some animated but objective discussion of the law that will concretise the idea of a strong ombudsman. It is not enough for the two sides to say that they are for a credible Lokpal. They need to go the extra length to accommodate each other's sensitivities. Otherwise things will be back to square one. This is why a lot of importance should be attached to the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee scheduled in the next few days.

The Anna Team's focus is rightly on the status of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the future scheme of things. With all its faults — some real and many imaginary — the CBI is still the best bet to strike at the venality that marks public life in India.

To say that politicians alone are guilty of corruption, an impression given by the Anna Team, is greatly skewed. Civil service misdeeds are equally enormous and cannot be ignored. Take, for instance, the recent arrest of a senior Income Tax Department official who allegedly demanded a sum of Rs.50 lakh to overlook the suppression of unaccounted income by a company. Instances are legion of top officials of enforcement agencies asking for a bribe without any sense of shame or fear. The magnitude of corruption in the Central government departments is mind-boggling, and this is why we first need an effective anti-graft machinery at the Centre, rather than in the States. The corruption in the States could be tackled subsequently. If the Lokpal is unable to cut at the roots of the civil servant-politician nexus in promoting dishonesty, it would have hardly justified its creation.

The ushering in of a Lokpal should in no way dilute the CBI's legal authority or its operational effectiveness. This should be the starting point for any discussions of the Standing Committee. A former Union Minister, referring to the plea for total autonomy for the CBI from the Executive, asked this writer some time ago as to who exactly the organisation should be answerable to if it wants to be autonomous — particularly when monitoring of all CBI cases by the judiciary was impractical. This query by an otherwise well-meaning public figure summarises the political perspective of the whole issue of the CBI's autonomy. It reveals the unconcealed desire of the average politician to somehow retain at least a semblance of control over the CBI.

It is generally known that the senior bureaucracy is also not exactly unhappy with the current state of affairs wherein the CBI is under the thumb of the Department of Personnel. Perhaps the most significant move that came in 2003 was the insertion of Section 6A in the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, making it mandatory for the CBI to get prior government permission before it can even proceed with a preliminary enquiry (PE) against an official of and above the rank of Joint Secretary. This was a dubious amendment to the Act, based on the specious ground of saving civil servants from needless harassment by the CBI. But it amounted to deliberate emasculation of an organisation that requires teeth to tackle public servant corruption. The provision has been questioned in judicial forums as violative of the fundamental right of citizens to equality before law. Let us hope that this issue is resolved soon in favour of maintaining the integrity of the public services.

It is against this backdrop that the Anna Team's demand to bifurcate the CBI, attaching its anti-corruption wing with the proposed Lokpal machinery, should be examined. This is ostensibly in order to remove the organisation from the clutches of the Executive. The rationale is unexceptionable. The practicality of the proposed arrangement is, however, highly debatable.

The CBI does not operate with any watertight compartmentalisation of its numerous wings. No doubt there is a distinct Anti-Corruption Wing functioning at its headquarters. In the field units the distinction is, however, blurred. There is a pooling of resources at all levels when a major case, invariably a sensational conventional crime, is investigated by the CBI at the request of a State government or on the orders of a court. This will no longer be possible if a large chunk of the CBI representing the anti-corruption staff is removed and tagged on to the Lokpal. The current top brass of the organisation are reportedly opposed to such an arrangement, which would deny them the substantial manpower needed for non-anti-corruption work. The CBI's resources are already quite slender, making it difficult to cope with the nearly 1,000 cases registered by it each year and about 7,000 cases that are on trial.

Following the Vineet Narain judgment (1997) by the Supreme Court, the superintendence of the CBI's anti-corruption work is with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). This is a nominal arrangement which has worked reasonably well, because we have had some non-interfering and mature Central Vigilance Commissioners, and an equally responsible and self-effacing CBI leadership. Under an aggressive and egoistic CVC this arrangement could have become untenable. If, however, you want to disturb this stable state of affairs with a view to yielding to the demand of the Anna Team, the whole process of transition will have to be carefully conceived and worked out.

As one who has headed the CBI, I am totally against any dismemberment of the organisation. That would cause more harm than good to the objective of rooting out corruption. If the Lokpal becomes a reality, the most sensible thing to do would be to transfer the existing authority of superintendence of the CBI from the CVC to the Lokpal. Any other arrangement would result in the creation of two separate investigating agencies, namely, the CBI, and the small unit envisaged for the Lokpal. That would lead to confusion and a clash of functions. Along with such empowerment, the Lokpal could be conferred the authority (that currently vests with the government) to sanction the prosecution of public servants. This can be done by suitably amending Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The power enjoyed by the government under Sections 377 and 378 of the CrPC to deny or accord permission to the CBI to go on appeal or prefer a revision petition against the orders of lower courts could also be vested in the Lokpal. It should be remembered that we have been witness to totally political decisions in such matters. Finally, the entire budget allocation for the CBI could be placed at the hands of the Lokpal, so that the CBI enjoys freedom from any tendentious holding up by government of sanctions of money required for its day-to-day running and implementing its long-term projects.

All these suggested moves may be viewed as being too drastic. But, then, without them the CBI will remain tied to the apron strings of the Executive. The former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, must be a disappointed man. His bold judgment in the Vineet Narain case was aimed at insulating the CBI totally from political caprice. If, however, in the public perception this has not materialised, both the organisation's leadership and the executive will have to bear the cross.

The opportunity that is currently available to improve the image of the CBI through a thoughtful fusing of the agency with the Lokpal should not be frittered away. A lot of magnanimity on the part of the current Executive is called for. At the same time, the role of the media and the citizenry at large in bringing enough pressure for a reform of the system can hardly be overemphasised.

( Dr. R.K. Raghavan is a former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.)

The ushering in of a Lokpal should in no way dilute the CBI's legal authority or operational effectiveness.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

USE COMMON SENSE,NOT TECHNICALITIES

Recent ecent events bring home to us that the functioning of our governance structures leave no stone unturned to cause dismay. It is evident that the emphasis is on woodenness and technicalities, not on getting to the nub of an issue, much less empathy for the context. These characteristics are not unique to the UPA-led system, but as the government loses its sheen, thanks in some measure to its attitude of not communicating with the people, the mud seems to stick more and more. Once your stock goes, nothing seems to go right. Such a juncture ought to dictate humility, and a sympathetic look at matters of concern to the people. But not for those who are running the show.

Take what's happened to Arvind Kejriwal, an Indian Revenue Service officer who has been out to slay the demon of corruption for some years, whatever the view some may take of the way he has gone about it. The case appears symbolic of just what the Anna Hazare campaign was all about — extraordinary delays in government, with the matter being settled through a bribe. There is evidently a dispute between Mr Kejriwal and the cadre he served on whether he has cleared his dues, and whether or not he remains on the rolls of the government. It is typical that the government should continue to write inane letters to him over a period of four years, the latest of which arrived when the anti-corruption activist was one of the key commanders of Mr Hazare during the recent Ramlila Maidan campaign — that is to say at the peak of his popularity at the head of an unprecedented anti-corruption movement. This letter was clearly calculated to create the effect that the government was being vindictive. Should the matter not have been settled by the government within six months at best of the officer putting in his papers, if necessary by taking recourse to the law?

The privilege notices to Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Mr Kejriwal are no less galling. True, the trio were not decorous with language when they denounced the class of our MPs, and might even have attracted libel had they named names. But in a raucous democracy, this ought to be par for the course. MPs cannot be allowed to act precious. The case of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court is different, but it too underlines technicality and foolishness, not the play of robust common sense. The man has resigned, but the shadow of impeachment is yet to lift fully. Isn't the purpose of impeachment to get the recalcitrant in high places to vacate office?

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INDIA MUST BRIDGE THE TRUST DEFICIT

INDRANIL BANERJIE

At the time when anti-corruption social activist Anna Hazare was captivating the country with his inspiring fast unto death, another equally distressing drama was being played out in the country's stock markets. The indices of most stocks, which had started declining from the beginning of August, sank to their lowest levels in 14 months, wiping out thousands of crore of investor gains.

The Sensex, which is considered the best barometer of the Mumbai stock exchange, hit its nadir just when it seemed that Mr Hazare's stand-off with the government would come to naught.
The diffusing of the political crisis coincided with a gradual rebound in stock indices. Since then the Indian stock market seems to be stabilising.

No stock analyst, however, attributed the Sensex drop to the political crisis engendered by the Anna Hazare fast. The markets, they claimed, had been spooked by the global downturn and US monetary policy. Indian brokers were watching US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's moves more closely than domestic developments. The world seemed to have become a little too interconnected for comfort.
While there could be no doubt that developments in the global economy, especially the developed ones, would have an impact on the Indian industry, few analysts admitted that a bigger factor could be the domestic economic environment.
A lot of companies witnessed losses in their share values primarily because stock analysts found that as much as 46 per cent of Sensex companies had underperformed. It was clear that foreign financial investors felt things were not going so well for the Indian economy and decided to book profits while the going was still good. A major cause of the August stock prices trough was the withdrawal of $1.6 billion from Indian markets by foreign investors that month. This made the Indian stock market the worst performer among emerging markets after Brazil.
The problem is not lack of money; there is, in fact, too much of it floating around the world. Global investors do not know where to park their cash and have been mopping up US Treasury Bills even though they give negative returns only because it is reliable. Money is also going into gold and silver, raising their prices to historical highs. The problem really is lack of confidence in business performance in the Western economies and uncertainties in the emerging markets. This holds true for India as well.
The Indian economy is beset with a host of fairly serious problems, all of which are making global as well as domestic investors apprehensive.
Every economic indicator suggests that the overall GDP growth is declining and economists feel it will be impossible to maintain eight per cent growth this year. Most predict the GDP growth this fiscal will be 7.2 per cent or lower.
The economic slowdown in the country has been attributed to various factors. A recent Morgan Stanley report blamed a combination of factors for lower growth figures, "including persistently high inflation, higher cost of capital, cut in the ratio of fiscal spending to GDP, a weak global capital markets environment and slow pace of investment".
One other factor that has been widely cited for the drop in growth and investments is the effect of scams and corruption scandals on the government's decision-making process.
A bigger problem is uncontrolled inflation that is eating into household incomes and triggering continuous hikes in the RBI's prime lending rate.
The real devil seems to be government profligacy. Ballooning subsidy bills, a slew of populist programmes and general fiscal indiscipline has thrown government finances out of gear. Government data released last week revealed some frightening trends. Despite promises to contain the fiscal deficit in a systematic manner, this gap more than doubled in the first four months of this fiscal year as compared to the same period last year.
The figures suggested that the deficit of `2.2 lakh crores during April-June this year is already more than 63 per cent of the budget estimate of `3.07 lakh crore for the entire year. The government is both sucking in funds from the system as well as spending it on non-productive heads.
This is irresponsibility at its worst during a period of high inflation. To make matters worse, the government has massively hiked procurement prices of foodgrains and has simultaneously held on to public grain stocks, thus aggravating food inflation. At the same time, high domestic inflation and economic uncertainties have kept the rupee down in relation to the dollar, leading to a failure to compensate for high commodity prices, especially that of oil and gas. Rising energy prices have further added to inflation, thus setting up a sort of vicious cycle from which the economy seems unable to fully extricate itself.
The government by failing to control its deficit is living beyond its means. This suggests it has learnt little from the crisis that has scuppered the world's largest economy as well as a number of smaller European Union countries that are today on their knees because of irresponsible government deficits and borrowings.
India desperately needs to pull in cash from the vast global pool of available funds for investment in infrastructure, retail and so on. To do that the economy needs to become and look like an attractive investment opportunity. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen unless the government gets its act together.

Indranil Banerjie is an independent security and political risk consultant

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DOWRY MENACE

 

In a Public Interest Litigation case seeking implementation of the Dowry Restrained Act 1960 in its letter and spirit and also formulate rules for the purpose so that proper enforcement of the Act could be ensured has been heard by the J&K High Court. The Divisional Bench issued notice to the State and others which was accepted by Advocate General. Divisional Board also directed to file objections in the PIL within four weeks.
Dowry system has been one of the scourges of the society since long. Social reformers in our country, one and all, strongly pleaded putting an end to this despised system. The foremost among great social reformers was Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Subsequent social reformers and public men also carried forward the campaign of eradicating dowry menace. Gandhi ji also exhorted his countrymen to reject this social evil eating into its vitals. But as the things are, though there has been some impact of the teachings of social reformers on the masses of people but there is still a very large number of people both in rural and urban India who observe the system knowing that it is of great detriment to the nation. Apart from the fact that most of the parents of girls getting married cannot afford the big dowry expected by the other party, they have to incur loans or cut short their urgent day to day needs to raise funds and manage the dowry for their daughter. This leaves a psychological scar on the mind of would be daughter-in-law and she is made a victim of bad treatment by her in-laws. Day in and day out, there are news of burning the daughter-in-law or abusing and maltreating her because she could not bring with her handsome dowry for her in-laws. There are innumerable cases of divorce on account of ill treatment of daughters-in-law. And more sadly, a large number of girls of marriageable age commit suicide because their parents cannot afford a big dowry for them.


This social evil has to be tackled through the force of law. The PIL case filed by a philanthropist is a timely service to the society in our state. There is a Dowry Restraint Act of 1960 which was passed keeping in mind the ramifications of the evil of dowry. But as we see, the enforcement of the law is too weak and almost non-existent. The brunt of dowry is generally borne by the poor and deprived segments of the society. Enforcement of the Act in letter and spirit would bring great relief to middle and lower classes of society and at the same time, it would save many precious lives from wanton destruction. The petitioner has submitted that he is a social worker and was highly influenced from the dowry deaths taking place throughout 0the State for the non-fulfillment of dowry demand. Obviously, the State is under an obligation to formulate rules for the implementation of Dowry Restrained Act in order to punish or panelize the persons who were abetting or committing the offences under the said Act. The non-implementation of Dowry Restrained Act and non-framing of Rules is violation of the legal, statutory and fundamental rights of the women, as they are facing gender inequality. The Government should waste no time in framing the rules for the purpose of Dowry Restrained Act so that proper enforcement of the Act becomes possible.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ON PRA

 

Police reform has been one of the hotly debated subjects in the State. Apart from civil society, the Government, too, has been expressing eagerness to introduce Police Reform Act in order to make police services more effective. The State police have been under much pressure owing to the rise of militancy and separatism. The department has made many sacrifices while serving the state. Experience gained from meeting the militantancy challenge has further reinforced the need for bringing in substantial reforms in police. A bill has been drafted which among other things, proposes to have two Police Commissioners for the two cities of Srinagar and Jammu because the population of both the cities has crossed ten lakh which is the criteria set forth for shift to Commissioners. The PRA was supposed to be tabled in March session of the Legislative Assembly but has been deferred till next session. The Government has a good reason to defer it. It would like to study the position of PRA in other states and obtain the feedback before it decides to table the bill. This is a sound decision because it will give a wider vision of the reforms intended to be proposed. At the same time the draft reforms have to be put on the police website for obtaining public opinion. That stage has not come as yet. In all probability the Government would make partial amendments to the proposed Act keeping in mind special situation of the State.
Apart from structural changes which the Act would envisage, the more important aspect of the reforms has to be the acknowledgement of the sacrifices of police personnel while tackling militancy, hooliganism or politically motivated public demonstrations which usually culminate in destruction of public property, vandalism and disruption of law and order. PRA shall have to take into account the aspects of relief and rehabilitation of the martyred police personnel in fight against militancy and separatism.


An important feature of the Act could be the question of whether more powers be given to the police or not in view of new forms of insurgency and mechanisms of forging disturbances. This is a critical legal question and shall have to be opened up for proper legal debate. We know that extra powers are given to police in case the Government declares a particular area as "disturbed". In normal course of things the police do not enjoy such powers as are conferred by "disturbed area" situation. Hence the PRA shall have to make the position clear on that count.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TEACHING IS A MISSION

BY DR (MRS) VISHIESH VERMA

 

Can anyone who has been fortunate enough to have a good teacher, deny the sweetness, tenderness, sense of divine blessedness in human relationship between the teacher and the taught. It in no way binds or seeks to possess. Its nature is to give without seeking return. When Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Principal Scientific Advisor to Govt of India was interviewed by Doordarshan soon after he was conferred the coveted honor of Bharat Ratna, he only recollected his humble teacher, Sri Sivasubramania Iyar, who taught him in elementary school in the third standard. This teacher instilled in young boy of seven years, the quest for scientific temper that catapulted him to the pinnacle as great scientist.


Since 1962, we in India, celebrate 5th September as Teacher's Day, the birthday of Dr Radhakrishnan a renowned Scholar, Orator, Philosopher, Teacher who was also President of India from 1962 to 1967. He said, "Education is a real glow and beauty of a person, it is the greatest hidden bank account fulfilling the needs of body, mind and spirit".


What illuminates education is character, which expresses itself through a virtuous life and upright conduct. The moral influence which builds up character is best communicated by the teacher through the persistent example of proper attitudes and conduct that he places before the young. Virtues are developed not just by knowledge of them on the academic plane but by a diligent practice of them. In this direction the teacher's guidance is absolutely necessary. Every culture in the world stresses the special relationship between the teacher and student, Socrates was loved by the youth of ancient Greece because he was a wonderful teacher. His disciple Plato described him "Wisest of men". 'Guru' the Sanskrit name for the teacher means the remover of darkness.
The teacher plays a significant role in education. Every country developed its system of education to express and promote its unique and socio cultural identity and to meet the challenges of time. There are moments in history when a new direction has to be given to the age old process. It is here that a teacher steps in. Whether one likes or not, teachers create future societies. The fiber of young individuals who shall become the citizens of tomorrow directly depends on the level of capability of their teachers. H.G Wells aptly said that the teacher is the zeal maker of history.
Dr Radhakrishanan said, "Until and unless we have dedicated and committed teachers who take to teaching as a mission in their lives, we can't have a good education system. Teachers should be best minds of the country. They should not merely instruct but gain true love of their pupils".
To him: …… the right kind of teacher is one who possesses a vivid awareness of his mission. He not only loves his subject, he loves all those whom he teaches. His success will not be measured in terms of percentage of pass students, not even by quantity of original contribution of knowledge- but equally through quality of life and character of men and women he has taught. Teachers have always to play a larger than life role in society because of their proximity to younger generation. The ABCD of a good teacher can broadly be classified into; accessibility, brilliance, communication skill and devotion to duty.
To Radhakrishanan, "A teacher must enter his classroom with the mind of a student eager to learn more and more, day by day." Hence everyday should be a day of learning for him. Besides, he said, "acquiring and imparting knowledge are two eyes for a teacher. His heart should be a lamp of knowledge, burning bright all the time; his conduct should be simple and his ambitions noble."
He adds, "Teacher's river of wisdom should flow like pure rain water. He should work hard, be broad minded and innovative". These were the ideals which the great philosopher suggested the teachers to follow.
A teacher has a most powerful influence on the lives of his students- more than parents. A teacher should not only love his students but his students should feel it in their hearts that their teacher loves them. A loving teacher will never feel any problem with students. Students learn much more by examples of their teachers than by any moral education lesson they may be given. A teacher need not be very poor he need not be very rich either. But he must be poor in wasting time and very rich in earnestness. He must combine the character with learning and conduct with personality.


In fact teaching is a noblest profession but a sorriest trade. It is a road that leads to the progress of the individual and to the society ultimately. A teacher is involved in personality building. A good teacher will make good student but it is the good student who becomes a good teacher. Teaching is not simply a profession or a vocation, but for some of the teachers, it is a rich source of satisfaction that not only joins under compulsion of circumstances but by thoughtful choice. A teacher finds peace in a classroom. The thrill in sharing the knowledge and wisdom one gains with those, who wish to gain, can't be described adequately. Teaching ceases to be a mechanical transfer of knowledge and turns into an experience of joy when teacher loses himself in the act of teaching and communicates his own zest and curiosity to his students, who are his alter-ego. The core of the process of one lamp lighting another, comes from the fact that teaching is in essence an act of joy. It is not chore imposed upon, on the contrary it is liberating and creative act, it releases something within the teacher and gives him feeling that nothing is more rewarding than to be able to give.


The present day portrayal of contemporary teacher is in stark contrast that Radhakrishanan had suggested. Where does the teaching profession stand today? Why have the teachers disappointed the society? On the occasion of Teacher's Day the teachers all over the country should sit and analyze the state of affairs of education prevailing in India and find the way out. Whenever the muscle power lakes the contrast of the situation, it is for the teacher to volunteer for bringing brain power. The mechanical equipment for teaching is incapable of adding sense of humor, witty behavior, and facial expressions in the classroom. As a result the students face psychological collapse due to the breakdown of the bicameral mind through the negligence of inner spiritual culture, which can be imparted only through the presence of an elevated teacher.
(The writer is a former Reader Coordinator of University of Jammu.)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BUILD MORE POWER CENTERS

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

The disconnect between the people and their representatives has become clearly visible, thanks to Anna Hazare's movement. People were on the streets demanding action. The MPs, on the other hand, were holed into their homes crying hoarse about supremacy of the Parliament. Needless to say, people were not convinced.
The fundamental basis of Parliamentary Democracy is that the MPs will work in the interests of the voters. In the present system, however, the MPs vote more on the basis of interests of leaders of their party. The great political thinker of seventeenth century Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote: ""It is the best and most natural arrangement that the wisest should govern the many, when it is assured that they will govern for its profit, and not for their own." Problem is that MPs are governing for their personal profit and not for profit of the people. They, therefore, lost people's sanction.
Supremacy of the MPs on the basis of the Constitution is meaningless. The Constitution, at best, reflects the will of the people at the time of Independence. Times have changed and the Constitutional arrangements have clearly failed to deliver. This great civilization has seen many constitutions come and go during the more than 5,000 years of its journey. This one too will pass. Crying hoarse about the Constitution is like a young man today demanding his rights as Zamindar on the basis of will of his Late Father.
The Constitutional system has deprived the people of their voice by instituting the system of whip. Leaders of a political party can require its MPs to vote in favour- or against a particular motion in the Parliament by issuing a whip. MPs who do not vote in accordance with the whip are disqualified and thrown out of the Parliament. The vote cast by the MP, therefore, is not according to the will of his voters or even according to his own conscience. The vote is cast according to the interests of the leaders. The voter can only determine who will cast the vote as directed by the leaders of the Party. They can elect Mr Ram Bharosey or Mr Mohammed Ishfaq. But whomsoever they elect will have to cast vote as per will of the leaders. Even otherwise the voter is irrelevant. MPs voluntarily toe line of the leaders in order to get the Ticket in the next elections. The people can vote one party in and throw another party out. But that is like choosing between the dacoit and the thief.
This disconnect between the people and the Parliament is not solved by the enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill. The MPs will continue to enact anti-people and anti-nation laws. Land of the poor farmers will continue to be forcibly acquired so that big land sharks can make huge profits. Poor Indian citizens will continue to die in clinical trials done by Multinational drug companies. People's health will continue to be compromised in order to provide profits to McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Rivers will continue to be killed to provide electricity for running air-conditioners of the rich. The country's sovereignty will continue to be pawned to provide profits to American nuclear goods suppliers. The Jan Lokpal Bill may somewhat reduce the bribes collected by the Ministers in enacting these policies, but the Bill cannot stop enactment of these anti-people policies.
It is also doubtful whether the Jan Lokpal Bill will actually be enacted in the form demanded by Anna. Government is hugely skilled in breaking the back of people's movements. My assessment is that the Government will not enact the Jan Lokpal Bill even after Lok Sabha has passed resolution in its favour. There will be another one- or two fasts. Ultimately, people will get tired and give in. Couple of years ago Dr Guru Dass Agarwal had to go on hunger strike thrice to save the Ganga from hydropower dams. Twice the Government went back on its assurance. Third time the Government scrapped the Loharinagpala hydroelectric project. But again it has gone back on its promise. Now it has come up with a scheme to kill the Ganga by making large number of small dams instead of Loharinagpala. The Government most likely will break Anna's movement by such stratagems. The Government will repeatedly agree to Anna's demands and then go back on them.
We need deeper strategies to overcome the basic problem of anti-people governance. It is seen that all governments exploit and tyrannize the people. This is common to India's Princely States, Arab monarchies, Communist Russia and modern Parliamentary Democracy. There is no difference among the two major parties either.
Prof Ila Ghosh, giving examples from the Ramayana, says that Kalidasa holds that the teacher, family priest, ministers and the public are various checks on the unrighteous ruler. One, these may censure the king. Public accusation unleashes a great power and keeps the king under check. Sri Rama, for example, had to expel Sita because of fear of public censure. Two, these may criticize the king. The people could express their anger and disagreement. Three, public can engage in picketing and protest. In the Ramayana a Brahmin whose only son had met an untimely death took the corpse and placed it on the ground before the doors of the palace. He started shouting laying the blame on Rama. That propelled Rama into action. Four, the public can pronounce a curse. Crying at the death of his son at the hands of king Dasaratha, Andh Muni hurled a curse on the king. This curse led to the disintegration of Ayodhya. Five, the fire of the ascetic can be unleashed. Peace loving ascetics are said to have all-consuming energy and fire just as the children of King Sagar were consumed by fire. Six, public can distrust the king. Sri Rama had to ask Sita to undergo fire trial again because the people of Ayodhya did not recognize the fire-test that she underwent at Lanka.
We need to invigorate these many systems of check on the government. Rousseau wrote it is best not to have interest groups. But, if they should exist, "it is best to have as many as possible and to prevent them from being unequal ..." This should be our mantra for securing good governance. Let us build many centers of power that continually censure, criticize, picket and protest, curse, unleash fire of the ascetic and distrust the Parliament. Only then the inherently anti-people character of the government can be kept in check. The fight between devas and asuras, or good and evil, is perpetual. There will be no quick solutions.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

IMPLEMENT POLICE REFORMS

BY JOGINDER SINGH

 

Whenever something goes wrong in life, we look for scapegoats. Depending upon a given situation, there is no dearth of scapegoats, which could be our friends, parents, government, teachers, or colleagues, or sheer bad luck. If nothing works, then we always can blame Providence. Everybody looks for, scapegoat. But the biggest scapegoat seeker unfortunately, in our country is the Government. It is a fact that scapegoats are handy, to cover a multitude, of its acts of omission and commission.
The Supreme Court on 12th July questioned the circumstances leading to the June 4, 2012 police action to evict people, who had thronged the Ramlila grounds to support yoga guru Ramdev pressing for action against black money.
Delhi Police's affidavit had justified the action, saying Ramdev breached rules by taking permission to conduct a yoga camp and then converting it to a satyagraha. It also, added, perhaps as an after thought, there were intelligence inputs about a threat to the yoga guru. Incidentally, all the papers filed in the Court are vetted by the Government, through its law officers.
The court also asked the Union home secretary and the Delhi chief secretary to file their affidavits explaining the reason behind the police action.
In a second incident, the police arrested a former assistant of an Influential MP in the cash for vote scam, The three MPs, Ashok Argal (Morena), Fagan Singh Kulaste (Mandla) and Mahavir Bhagora (Salumber), had alleged that they were offered Rs 1 crore to abstain from the 2008 trust vote. They had carried into Parliament wads of notes on July 22, 2008. During police interrogation, the PA admitted, that the money he passed on to three BJP MPs came from his boss, a former SP leader, and now a member of Rajya Sabha.
Even otherwise, it stands to no logic or reason, as to, why a PA or Private Secretary should be in interested in passing one Crores of Rupees, even assuming that he or she has it, to some persons, whom he did not know in the past.
Along with the PA, another conduit was arrested. However, the Police obviously delayed action against the MP, who provided Rs 1 Crores on the ostensible ground that Delhi police needed the permission of the Union Home Ministry.
However, the Home Ministry has clarified that no permission is needed to interrogate anybody. Even under the law, for arresting anybody for any cognisable offence, no permission of any authority is required. It is a strange logic that those on the periphery and at the best support staff, have been arrested, but not the source of money or the main actor. He might ultimately face the music.
The MPs had alleged that they were offered money to abstain from voting. A seven-member Parliamentary Committee, was constituted to probe the allegations. After the inquiry, the committee had asked Delhi Police Crime Branch to investigate the role of three persons. Nothing was done almost for three years, till the Supreme Court pulled up the local police, for its inaction.
The constitution enjoins on the Government to ensure justice for all. But the fact remains, that no political party, or Government, in power, wants to give even a modicum of independence to the Police in its functioning. There is a tendency in all parties, when in power, to use it, to further their interests.
Instead of reforming the criminal justice system, so that every body's case is decided within six months to one year, the Government seems, to be selective, in pleading the hopeless cases of the high profile accused politicians, sending a wrong message that if you have political clout, you will find supporters.
But for the monitoring of the 2G Scam case, by the Apex Court, it would not have even seen the light of the day. Incidentally, the case was registered in October 2009 and when left with no alternative the accused Minister, was forced to resign and was arrested after 14th months and a lady MP. After 17 months.
The Apex Court had appointed a committee, headed by a former Supreme Court Judge to review the State of Police Reforms in India, ordered in its judgement, dated 22nd September, 2006. It says in findings, there was a near uniformity among all the States in not following the Directive, which relates to provision for a fixed tenure for certain categories of police officers including DG, IGP, SP and SHO.
These findings suggest that the reform of the police is not a top priority for state governments. It is because, they are unwilling to relinquish the control they have over the state police in the normal course of governance. Bureaucrats also raise huge obstacles, as they too are averse, to let the police out from under their thumbs.
Professor David H Bailey, a British Expert On Police observed as under regarding the prevailing situation in India : "In India today, a dual system of criminal justice has grown up-- the one of law and other of politics. With respect at least to the Police, decisions made by the Police Officials about the application of law, are frequently subject to partisan review, or direction by the elected representatives.
The autonomy of the Police officials in specific and routine application of laws has been severely curtailed. This is not only true of law and order situation. People accused of crime have got into the habit of appealing to political figures for remissions from the sanctions of law. Police officials throughout India, have grown accustomed, to calculating, the likely political effect to any enforcement action, they contemplate.
The result of partisan interference is often reflected, in lawless enforcement of laws, inferior service and in the general decline, of police prestige followed by irresponsible criticism and consequent widening, of the cleavage between the police and the public in the integrity and the objective of the police force."
It is not something creditable to the rulers, that justice is sleighted in favour of the rich and powerful. The Government should remember, that where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be greater.

 

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

EDITORIAL

BOOST FOR DELHI-DHAKA TIES 

NEW ERA IN REGIONAL TRADE TO BEGIN

 

There could not be a better time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to undertake a visit to Bangladesh beginning on Tuesday. The two countries are ready to give such concessions to each other as were unthinkable a few years back, when BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia was in power. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League has always been a votary of close relations with India in the larger interests of Bangladesh and the rest of the region. She provided proof of it first by declaring that no territory of Bangladesh would be allowed to be used for terror-related activities against India. She went further ahead and handed over to New Delhi a few terror masterminds belonging to extremist outfits operating in India's Northeast. Dr Manmohan Singh, who will arrive in Dhaka along with the chief ministers of five border states, is expected to sign a number of agreements ironing out differences in approach between the two countries.

 

Besides an accord on sharing the Teesta and Feni river waters, India and Bangladesh are ready to swap some border enclaves for facilitating the entry of each other's nationals into certain areas where one reaches after taking a long circuitous route. In return, Dhaka also expects a lot from New Delhi. Indian generosity can be seen in many areas. India may liberalise the terms of payment relating to the $1 billion line of credit given recently to Bangladesh. New Delhi may also grant transit facilities to Bangladesh for doing trade with Nepal and Bhutan.

 

Besides these, Bangladesh is likely to get major concessions in the area of trade in textiles with New Delhi prepared to remove the limit on exports from the other side. Bangladeshi textile exporters will get unrestricted access to Indian markets without the imposition of duties despite the opposition from Indian textile manufacturers. All this will not only lead to a new era in India-Bangladesh relations but also in regional trade. There is the possibility of huge investment inflows into the region owing to the pro-growth atmosphere that is expected to emerge.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SIKH MARRIAGES

TIME TO CLEAR THE AIR ON POLICY

 

Law Minister Salman Khursheed has landed himself and his government in a soup after announcing that the proposal to amend the Anand Marriage Act to register Sikh marriages separately would be dropped. The minister had rejected a proposal which owed its origin to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice. It was in 1909 that the Anand Marriage Act was enacted by the British government in response to a widespread demand from the Sikhs. At that time, many Sikhs who were married according to the Anand Karaj rites faced problems because their marriages were not recognised. The amendment seeking registration of such marriages under the Sikh Marriage Act is a logical extension of the original sentiments, since now marriages performed under Sikh rites are registered either under the Hindu Marriage Act or the Special Marriage Act.

 

While the minister's suggestion of a national mechanism for registration of marriages, with codes for different communities, has some merit and sounds reasonable, it must be kept in mind that the Muslims, Parsis, Christians and Jews already have distinct Acts that allow for registration of their marriages, while the Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains all come under the Hindu Marriage Act.

 

Though the minister struck a conciliatory note a day later, his remark has triggered off a reaction in the Sikh leadership, both political and religious. There is now the danger of the issue becoming a political one. Many statements have been issued, which is only to be expected. The atmosphere in the state is surcharged and the timing of the rejection of the amendment is inopportune, given the impending SGPC elections followed by Assembly elections. Logical explanations are seldom effective in an emotional environment. Political leaders, both at the Centre and at the state level, need to take measures to address this issue effectively and within a reasonable time span.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ASS THEY SAY!

CRICKETERS NOW BEAR A DONKEY'S LOAD

 

For a few years, our cricket boys were on a winning spree and came to be regarded as a national asset. Who would have thought that the England tour would not only puncture their balloon but also put a hyphen in their stature turning them from "asset" to "ass-et". That did not happen only figuratively when they lost their numero uno position in the Test rankings. People actually said so, in literal terms. No less a person than former England captain Nasser Hussain threw the "donkey" epithet at them — that too for public consumption. The comments of Hussain, a member of the commentary panel covering the T20 International between Indian and England, came after Parthiv Patel misjudged Kevin Pietersen's catch off Munaf Patel's bowling. Hussain chewed the cud and said: "I would say the difference between the two sides is in the fielding. England are all-round good fielding side. I do believe that India have a few — three or four — very good fielders and one or two donkeys in the field still".

 

Now, being compared to any specimen from the animal kingdom is a big no no for anyone, whether an Indian or an Australian — ask Andrew Symonds who was the target of Harbhajan Singh's Monkeygate! So the Indian cricketing fraternity is bristling like a porcupine. There was a furore earlier also at the mere title of the film "Slumdog Millionaire". Those who had perhaps never heard words like "underdog" created a ruckus at the use of the word "dog". In the present case, the direct comparison with donkeys has got some people's goat. There is a clamour for not only an apology but also the removal of Hussain from the broadcasters' commentary panel.

 

Indians have an elephantine memory and may remember the snub for donkey's years. Thank heavens that the donkeys are colour neutral. Otherwise this might have also turned into a racial controversy. One thing is for sure. Nothing fails like failure. The cricketers have been cribbing that making them play matches back to back was donkey's work. Yet, they are loath to asinine remarks. One just hopes that the controversy does not generate more animalistic feelings. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

INDIA, B'DESH MOVING CLOSER

FORGING A MODEL FOR SOUTH ASIAN RELATIONS

BY MAHARAJAKRISHNA RASGOTRA & JOYEETA BHATTACHARJEE

 

It is a cardinal principle of good neighbourly relations that, differences notwithstanding, each neighbour should respect the other's interests and refrain, in particular, from actions which may cause security-related concerns to the other. In today's globalised world, in particular, honesty and candour, trust and transparency are the sine qua non of good international relations.

 

It was precisely the trespass of these principles by Dhaka's BNP governments that had soured India-Bangladesh relations for years.  Begum Khaleda Zia, leader of the BNP, as Prime Minister of Bangladesh was in un-abashed denial of ULFA's safe havens in her country from where they were launching terrorist attacks in Indian territory.  Pakistan's ISI was also operating to infiltrate arms and terrorists into India from Bangladesh. Naturally, during Begum Zia's rule Bangladesh-India relations sank to their nadir, and bilateral problems which could have been settled years earlier remained unresolved, causing much avoidable bitterness and mistrust between the two neighbours.

 

India-Bangladesh relations have undergone a sea-change since Sheikh Hasina Wajid's accession to power in Dhaka in 2009.  The catalyst of this salutary change was her statesman-like act to arrest and hand over to India the leaders of ULFA  — "chairman" Aurobindo Rajkhowa along with key figures like Raju Baruah, Sasha Choudhury and Chitraban Hazarika.  Out on bail in India, these gentlemen are now engaged in unconditional talks with the Union government. Antu Chaudang and Pradeep Chetia, Saurav and some other cadres were pushed back by Bangladeshi security forces from the border at Dawki. Anup Chetia is under detention and will in all probability be handed over to India.  ULFA's "commander-in-chief", Paresh Barua, is still at large and may have escaped to China, Pakistan or Myanmar. The message has gone out that Sheikh Hasina's government will not allow Bangladesh territory to be used for anti-India activities.

 

Prime Minister Hasina took this transformational action as a matter of policy, well before her state visit to India in January 2010 and without bargaining for a quid pro quo from India.  The action electrified New Delhi and invoked in our authorities a sense of obligation as well as responsibility to act likewise to settle, to Dhaka's satisfaction, long festering issues of sharing waters of common rivers, border management, dispute over a short stretch of the boundary, transfer of enclaves, the glaring trade imbalance and the maritime boundary dispute.

 

The 52-paragraph Joint Communique signed during Prime Minister Hasina's state visit in January 2010 has become the basis of a new, vastly improved and truly good neighbourly relationship between the two countries. Full implementation of the provisions of the communique will make Bangladesh-India relations a model for South-Asian relations. Even more importantly, Bangladesh, which lies at the strategic centre of two large regions of South Asia, and ASEAN will become a vibrant and prosperous hub of cultural, commercial and economic interaction between these regions with growing economies and a population of around 2 billion. It passes understanding that India's two major neighbours — Pakistan and Bangladesh — should have for so long allowed forfeiture of the enormous advantages of their geostrategic locations to unwarranted and unprofitable hostility towards India.

 

While Sheikh Hasina has been steadfastly implementing her part of the understandings reached in January 2010 despite the BNP's vociferous hostility, there have been complaints, in Bangladesh and in India, about the comparative lack of the requisite sense of urgency on India's part in doing its bit to implement the Joint Communique. However, in a recent visit to Bangladesh, we learnt that in intensive negotiations between the two sides at the level of ministers and senior officials in recent months, substantial progress has, in fact, been achieved in reaching agreed positions on a number of major issues, and agreements are likely to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's forthcoming visit to Dhaka.

 

We also found that the visit is awaited with much expectation, hope and enthusiasm. There is a palpable change in the public perception of India and because of this even the BNP, known for its traditional reservations in relation to India, has softened its stand: the party declared recently that it would not oppose deals with India if these are beneficial for the country. This is an additional reason for India, now, to go out of its way to show genuine interest in Bangladesh and resolve long-pending issues to the satisfaction of our smaller neighbour without pressing demands which might rile the Opposition — the BNP, for example, continues to oppose grant of transit facilities from mainland India to the country's Northeast. In inherently complex neighborhood negotiations, local sensitivities have to be borne in mind, and this mostly has to be on the part of the larger neighbour.  

 

The ticklish issue of sharing the waters of the Teesta and Feni rivers, considered unsolvable till now, appears to have been sorted out. We believe agreements are also likely to be signed on transfers of enclaves inhabited by nationals of one country in the territory of the other, on the 2.4 km disputed land boundary and on cooperative border management to avoid killings of trespassers. Some further reduction in the negative list of items for trade and enhancement of the textiles quota is also on the cards, which in our view is not enough.  Pakistan is a separate case, but with the rest of our South Asian neighbours we should be aiming at what Prime Minister Vajpayee had proposed a decade earlier for South Asia — "open borders and single market". We strongly recommend elimination of the negative list, removal of all customs and tariff barriers to allow free flow of goods and services between the two countries.

 

Fiftyfour rivers flow down from India into Bangladesh where they play a dominant role in the socio-economic life of the people. Bangladesh is bound to be impacted by the harnessing of these waters in upstream India. The needs and well-being of human beings on both sides of the border are involved. Therefore, a joint permanent machinery should be established to constantly watch the utilisation of these waters on both sides of the border and ensure equitable sharing and timely prevention of disputes.  

 

The opposition BNP, led by Begum Zia, has made a political issue of transit facilities for India across Bangladesh territory, regardless of the fact that India has granted transit across its territory separating Nepal and Bangladesh. This is a hangover from the past and it would be impolitic to press our request on the Hasina government at this stage. As confidence and the habit of cooperation grow, and public perception of India improves further, Bangladeshis will see the benefits of exploiting the advantage of their country's geographic location not only as a bridge between India and its Northeast but also as a vital (and profitable) meeting ground between South Asia and South-East Asia.

 

Finally, we recommend that during his visit to Dhaka Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should, as a gesture of goodwill and friendship, unilaterally offer to convert half of the $1 billion soft loan given to Bangladesh earlier into a grant and make the rest interest-free.n

 

Mr Rasgotra, a former Foreign Secretary of India, is the President of the Observer Research Foundation, where Dr Bhattacharjee is an Associate Fellow.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A RARE SCHOLAR 

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

He would feel pity at Gandhian Anna Hazare when the great social activist roared from Delhi's Ramlila Maidan to press his demand for a strong Lokpal Bill to eliminate corruption. His argument, unlike that of Anna, was that no law would be enough to stamp out corruption unless there was a broad-based social movement to change people's thinking. In his opinion, there was need to work for having a society in which the corrupt had no place to survive.

 

But Dr Kausar Yazdani was not a crusader against corruption. He was a journalist, thinker, scholar and litterateur. One rarely comes across a person like him. He translated a number of books from Arabic into Hindi. It is difficult to find a person who is well-versed in these two languages. He also translated into Hindi many books written in English and Urdu, besides having authored a number of books in Hindi and Urdu. He died last week in New Delhi soon after Anna Hazare ended his indefinite fast. That he was my close relative — father-in-law — is a different matter. 

 

Though he began his career as a journalist in Urdu, within a few years he shifted to Hindi with a purpose. He viewed Hindi as the fastest growing language, at least in the cow belt. His idea was that whatever he wrote in Hindi would attract a larger number of readers than Urdu, his mother tongue. Hence the decision to try his luck in Hindi. And this paid him rich dividends.

 

He became the founder-editor of a weekly magazine in Hindi in his early twenties, an age when most journalists start cutting their teeth in the profession of pen-pushers. He edited Kanti, a magazine respected for its authenticity, till he retired.

 

He combined in him two kinds of scholarship — religious (Islamic) and literary (Hindi). When he joined a college for doing his graduation, his classmates would laugh at him because of his being a maulana, a product of a religious seminary in Lucknow. But many of those who made fun of him became either his friends or admirers after the results of the fist semester were declared.

 

He not only did his graduation as a father of four children but also post-graduation in Hindi and then Ph.D. He got offers from universities in Delhi to join their Department of Hindi, but his reply was that he was fully contented as a magazine editor and author.

 

Dr Yazdani had a rare quality of inspiring people to take to journalism. I am sure I would not have been in this

profession had I not met him during my student days. He forcefully argued that there was no profession better than journalism if one aspired to bring about social change. Is Anna Hazare listening?n

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

FINALLY, AN UPRISING AGAINST GRAFT

THE ROOTS OF CORRUPTION LIE MORE IN THE DOMAIN AND DYNAMICS OF INSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURES, INCLUDING POLITICAL, ADMINISTRATIVE, KINSHIP AND CLASS, THAN IN THE REALM OF INDIVIDUAL MOTIVATIONS

S.L. SHARMA

 

Indian society is witnessing a wave against corruption the likes of which it has never seen in the past.  In fact, this kind of peoples' upheaval against corruption does not seem to have occurred in any other part of the world either.  Triggered by Anna's fast unto-death for pressurising the government to accept the Jan Lokpal Bill, the upsurge is gathering unprecedented momentum.  On the face of it, Anna's demand for the passage of the Bill doesn't seem to be such a big issue.  What is it then that accounts for the huge public support that it commands?  It is the cause at its core, i.e., the mission of combating corruption, a monster that has been bugging people for long, that explains the massive support of the people.

 

Corruption has grown in free India through two phases: a phase of proliferation (1960-90) and another of explosion of mega corruption (1991 onwards).  Corruption mushroomed during the first phase due to licence-quota-permit raj, among other things, and grew into mega corruption in the second phase following the economic reforms in 1991.  Its recent spurt is highlighted by a number of media surveys, research studies and, above all, the annual reports of Transparency International, a Berlin-based corruption watch agency which is known for its annual exercise of ranking various countries of the world on its Corruption Perception Index (CPI).  India has always figured among the "highly corrupt' countries, and at times even among the "ten most corrupt" countries of the world which is clear from the following table.

 

Scams Galore

 

This dubious distinction apart, Indian society had to hang its head in shame in 2010-11 when corruption reached at its blatant worst, nay its tipping point, with the stunning disclosures of CWG, 2G spectrum, Adarsh Housing and many more.  The public anger against it has been building all the while but could not find collective expression for want of a credible rallying point.  The political parties failed to provide such a platform, despite their occasional attempts to make corruption an election issue to serve their partisan interests.  Anna's noble move came a day not too soon to provide a much needed viable rallying point which is why it is receiving such a mammoth support.

 

The prevailing mobilisation signifies an event with a difference.  For one thing, led by a public figure known for his impeccable integrity and resolute commitment to social causes, the movement developed at the hands of civil society.  In the process it lent weight to the authenticity of civil society and its gathering influence.  Incidentally, the rise of civil society has been associated with the decline in corruption in many parts of the world, mainly in the developed nations.  Secondly, it is marked by an intense engagement of the urban, educated middle class which is rapidly growing bigger with its current strength of 22 million households in urban India, according to a report of the McKinsey Global Institute.  Thirdly, the movement is being carried forward by youth who have come forward in incredible numbers to lead it in numerous cities and towns.  It registers a new awakening of youth about their stake in India's future and hence their concern for a clean, transparent, accountable and responsive governance.  Fourthly, it reveals the immense power of social networking as a medium of civil mobilization, among other things.  Fifthly, the prominence of these sections notwithstanding, it grew into a mass movement encompassing people of all walks of life, all classes from corporate to domestic maids, all age groups and men and women alike.  Finally, it has earned acclaim for its enviable distinction of passing as a peaceful protest.

 

The only section of society which has raised a dissenting against it is represented by the 'Dalit' and the 'backward' lobby.  Their leaders contend that the move is unconstitutional, anti-reservation and it portends a dangerous development.  They have problems with the dictatorial and unreasonable stance of the civic leaders which tends to undermine the constitutional, institutions like the parliament.  Some members of the Parliament as well resent it.  The view is not altogether baseless and the civic leaders would do well to be civil in their conduct.  However, the question is: what do the people or the social activists do if the parliament sleeps over a public issue for as long as 42 years?  More importantly, the critical question is: in the event of a rift between the people at large and the parliament, which agency merits primacy?  The constitutional experts may advise.

 

Safeguarding quotas

 

At a deeper level, however, the opposition by the Dalit and the backward lobby seems to stem mainly from their perceived threat to the policy of reservation, just in case the civil society were to launch such an agitation against it.  Their opposition thus appears to be more of a pre-emptive action to safeguard their reservation benefits than to oppose the mission of the movement to curb corruption.  Some sympathizers of the present movement read into it the resonance of the traditional differences between Gandhi and Ambedkar.  Some others have objected to the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill and its contents.  Aruna Roy as well as J.P. Narayan of Lok Satta, for instance, find the Bill rather unwieldy and overambitious and for the same reason suspect its efficacy.  Alternatively, they have advanced their own separate versions. 

 

There is finally a more fundamental question that merits consideration: can the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill, all by itself, deliver liberation from corruption?  It doesn't seem likely.  The problem of corruption is far too complex and intricate to be tackled by a single piece of legislation, no matter how comprehensive and stringent it is.  Corruption is a hydraheaded phenomenon that takes various forms not all of which are amenable to be handled by legislative measures alone.  It warrants differentiated strategies to deal with different forms.  More importantly, the roots of corruption lie more in the domain and dynamics of institutional structures, including political, administrative, kinship and class, than in the realm of individual motivations, though the latter cannot be regarded as altogether inconsequential.  Given the structural sources of corruption, it warrants tackling strategies of institutional reforms as much as of regulatory ones.  Within the regulatory framework also, it calls for institutional reforms which may provide for independent and autonomous supervisory and investigative agencies.  Above all, there is an urgent need for strengthening our enforcement mechanisms too.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is right in stressing the need for judicial reforms.  No less important, if not more, however, is the need for reforms in our polity which constitutes the fountainhead of corruption from where it flows down to administrative and other domains.  It is interesting to note the omission, deliberate or inadvertent, of a reference to the need for political reforms in the Prime Minister's statement.

 

New awakening

 

Conceding all the limitations of the Bill, its sociological significance lies in generating new developments.  First, it has sharpened peoples' awakening about the gravity of corruption and stirred their conscience and mobilized them against it.  Secondly, it has lent voice to peoples' built up aggression against it.  Thirdly, it has changed their perceptions about corruption by debunking their smug belief that corruption has become a way of life and that it is a necessary evil with which they have to put up.  The movement has shown that evil it is, but not necessary.  At a time when people had ceased to react to it and even begun to see merit in it on the count that it at least gets things done, it is no small achievement.  Fourthly, it has also delivered a severe blow to the contention of a number of eminent social scientists who once contended that corruption has functional value, and that it promotes economic development rather than retarding it.  Like the people, several scholars have underscored efficiency value of corruption in getting things done.  Nathaneil H. Leff, an economist, states: "if the government has erred in its decision, the course made possible by corruption may well be the better one".  Further, Samuel P. Huntington, a renowned political scientist, observes, "In terms of economic growth, the only thing worse than a society with a rigid, over-centralized, dishonest bureaucracy is one with a rigid, over-centralised, honest bureaucracy".  Fifthly and finally, the movement has brought to fore the potential of peoples' power to rein in erring polity.  This shows maturity of our democracy and augurs well for future. 

 

Overall, the Jan Lokpal Bill is not so much about legislative enactment alone as about initiating serious measures to curb corruption.  It has emerged as a symbol of expression of peoples' anti-corruption sentiment.  Most important of all, it represents peoples' intense craving for a new public hygiene.  For sure, the Bill by itself, is not likely to root out the endemic and entrenched problem of corruption.  Nevertheless, it marks a significant beginning and represents an important milestone in peoples' fight against it.  It as well paves the way to the introduction of institutional reforms by creating the institution of Jan Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta at the state level.  

 

The writer, former Chairperson Department of Sociology, Panjab University is an eminent sociologist who has worked extensively on corruption. He is currently working on his book on "Sociology of Corruption".

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WE, THE PEOPLE, MATTER

MOHIT SHARMA

 

I think Team Anna has carried out a brilliant campaign. It was conceptualised, organised and executed brilliantly. Anna Hazare has an exemplary record in his fight against corruption and he was the irreplaceable beacon of hope around whom we all rallied. In him, we found an idol to our belief in austerity and a mirror to our frustration with corruption.

 

Team Anna, brought out a wel-researched and worded draft of a Bill which could serve as a solution that the government had to adopt. They propagated the contents of this solution far and wide using conventional media and social media tools. My more inspired peers chose to leave their facebooks and gmails for a while and join the protest. Every morning the Mumbai local greeted me with chants of "Vande Mataram" and "Inquilab Zindabad". Team Anna roused us all out of our indifference and inspired us to stand up for what we thought was right. In the end, if I dare to call it the end that is, the Team, joined by millions of protestors from across the country, were able to stare the Parliament into a submission of sorts and extract a promise.

 

One prominent issue throughout this interim was that of tactics employed by our government. The definition of democracy places the people of a State at its core. A government has to be of, by and for the people. The Constitution, for all the reverence that we have for it, is, at the end of the day, a document that provides for procedures which we follow so that we can ensure the same set of rights and duties uniformly to all citizens of our country. Should it happen that proper procedure inhibits its very purpose, the procedure needs to be cast aside so that the will of the people can be exercised.

 

With this background, it was sad to see our MPs talking of "due process" and "respect for the Parliament" in their defence against the agitation. In fact, the very Parliamentary and Constitutional procedure that our MPs sought to protect has been violated by them in spirit, if not letter, so many times during the tenure of the present government that it would have been laughable to see them take that stance. One has to accept that some of the government's arguments against the Jan Lokpal Bill have merit. Our country, or for that matter, almost any democracy, runs as a functional chaos involving the three branches of the government, all of whom have somewhat independent interests and powers. The constant conflict ensures that all three are bound by checks and balances and that no one group can take complete control of the nation. The Lokpal, in due course of time, runs the risk of mutating into a super-authority whose whims and fancies would be imposed on the rest of the country. In our effort to secure our system from one evil, we risk catapulting it towards another equally dangerous consequence.

 

The entire campaign is an expression of a people who have had enough of shame and scandal, enough to come out on the road and protest against it. The government made hollow promises to the people in April and tried to get away without fulfilling those promises. It should know better this time around..

 

—The writer works with Price Waterhouse Cooper, Mumbai

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

TURKEYS DON'T VOTE FOR CHRISTMAS

DID ANYONE EXPECT INDIVIDUAL MINISTERS TO SUPPORT A BILL THAT WOULD EFFECTIVELY CURTAIL THEIR OWN SPORTING INFLUENCE?


Ajay Maken's draft National Sports Bill has a historical lineage. In 1974, with Indian hockey plunging to dismal heights and the Indian Hockey Federation locked in politicking between rival factions, Indira Gandhi too issued a similar directive to sports bodies. Presaging the current public outcry about the BCCI, its conflicts of interest and its opaqueness, that circular cited as its justification, 'the growing criticism in Parliament, press and otherwise of the low standard of sports and games in the country and the manner in which they are organised.'

Just as the current draft talks of sporting bodies coming under RTI and fixed tenures for their heads, that circular too made it clear that governmental aid and recognition would accrue to sports bodies which fulfilled strict criteria: no person could hold office for more than six years and annual accounts were to be audited. This was made official in 1975 and with the Emergency on, accepted by many sports bodies, only to be dropped later. Few have followed them since.

 

There is another similarity. Article 8 of the International Olympic Committee's charter forbids any government interference in sport and the IOC reacted angrily in the 1970s to the regulations, with whispers of disaffiliating India. This is precisely the argument that has been used currently by many in the sporting establishment opposed to the spectre of checks and balances.

 

In a letter to the IOA's Randhir Singh on May 4, 2010, for instance, Sheikh Ahmad, the president of the Olympic Council of Asia, argued that statist regulations on age and tenure violate the IOC charter on autonomy of sports bodies.

 

So what has changed in the three-anda-half decades that separate the earlier guidelines and the current draft bill?

First and foremost: politicians, politicians and politicians.

In the 1970s, for example, the hockey federation was first led by a policeman, Aswini Kumar, and then rift asunder by factionalism between P N Sahni and M A M Ramaswamy. None of them was a senior politician, leave alone a minister. The BCCI and state cricket associations today, by contrast, are a virtual who's who of contemporary politics. So are most other sports bodies.

 

In the 1970s, the dispute was between an interfering state and associations still led by professionals from other fields, even if notionally aligned to political factions. Today, there is little difference between the real political elite and the sporting domain's leaders.

 

This is why it was unconscionable that at least four cabinet ministers with a clear conflict of interest were allowed not to recuse themselves from the Cabinet discussion on the bill.

 

With senior ministers deeply implicated in the sporting structure not doing the right thing themselves, the Prime Minister, who surely is no stranger to rules of corporate ethical behaviour, should have asked them to leave. Even if the rules of coalition politics bound his hands, at least the appearances of ethical conduct could have been maintained.

Coming barely a week after the political class became the object of such national ridicule, this was poor politics at best, and a sign that the political class has learnt precious little from the Anna Hazare upsurge, at worst.

 

As they say, turkeys don't vote for Christmas. All clichés have an element of truth and in this case, did anyone seriously expect individual ministers to support a bill that would effectively curtail their own sporting influence?

Even if the draft bill has flaws, there was a genuine debate to be had but by rejecting clauses on accountability, disclosure and tenure, the ministers concerned have given one message: they are still not open for transparency and for anything that would clip the unfettered control of political satraps over Indian sports.

 

The deeper question is: why do Indian politicians control sport like nowhere else? Most of our sporting bodies were initially founded with princely patronage before Independence. In the age of amateurism, this was necessary because only the princes and big industrialists had the money and the time to devote to sports. Dorabji Tata, who founded the Indian Olympic Association supported the candidature of the Prince of Kapurthala as a successor on precisely these grounds in 1927.

 

At its core, sports is about the nature of power in society and from the late-1970s-early 1980s onwards, as the licence-permit raj became all-pervasive, politicians gradually displaced older elites and took control. The reason was simple, as the BJP's V K Malhotra once argued, 'being a politician, helps get things' in governmental permissions, funding, organising events etc. It also opens up yet another avenue for influence and the limelight, of course.

 

What the politicians have failed to understand though is that the nature of societal power patterns in India is changing again. Just as the politicians in government can no longer get away with old-style despotism, squirming in the spotlight of accountability; so too the sporting netas will find it increasingly difficult to persist with an older world of closed doors, secrecy and whimsical leadership.

 

Sports Minister Ajay Maken expects the National Sports Bill to be passed soon

NALIN MEHTA

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

COLUMN

WEAVING A FRIENDSHIP

TRADE CONCESSIONS TO BANGLADESH ARE GOOD ECONOMICS AND DIPLOMACY

Coming after more than a decade, the bilateral visit of an Indian prime minister to Bangladesh is being viewed by many in both countries and the region as "important", perhaps even "historic". A clutch of agreements intended to benefit both countries, including territorial exchange of enclaves, providing India greater access to its north-eastern states and lifting the ban on India's exports of yarn and fabric, is in the works. India's decision to provide duty-free access to textile imports from Bangladesh, a long-standing demand from Bangladesh, will be an important concession, as an agreement on Teesta waters. Having taken tough action against anti-India elements in that country, including insurgents and terrorists, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hopes to get these concessions as a return gift. India should be generous, despite some grumbling by lobbies at home, since these gestures make both economic and diplomatic sense. The textile industry is Bangladesh's economic lifeline, comprising almost 80 per cent of its manufacturing and virtually all its exports.

The decision to provide duty-free access to Bangladesh textiles to a huge and rapidly growing market (India's market for readymade garments alone is estimated to be of the order of $25 billion) is bound to provide a shot in the arm to a country struggling to stay afloat owing to depressed demand for its products in its traditional export markets in Europe and North America. The decision has led to loud protests from domestic textile manufacturers, who fear being swamped by cheaper Bangladesh textiles, particularly knitwear and jeans. This argument is not without foundation: sharply lower wages will give products from Bangladesh an edge in the short run. However, the sooner Indian manufacturers realise that the key to sustained competitiveness lies not in hiding behind tariff barriers but in enhanced productivity, the better. With the World Trade Organisation rules – some of which are already in operation – and with a more stringent regime underway, protectionism may offer little respite in the days to come. Indian industry has geared up to face competition before: textile manufacturers only have to look to the domestic auto and white goods industries for inspiration.

The increase in textile imports from Bangladesh is unlikely to significantly alter a trade balance that is currently heavily in India's favour. While bilateral trade between the two countries is of the order of $4 billion, India's exports constitute $3.5 billion of the total. Also, investment relations between the two countries, mainly in the energy sector, are being steadily ramped up. NTPC's decision to construct a thermal power plant in Bangladesh, with a fixed quota being distributed domestically and the surplus being exported to India, is hopefully the first of many such investments. Moreover, the two countries are situating bilateral economic relations in a regional context, clearly manifested in chief ministers of five north-eastern states accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. With similar arrangements on the anvil with Nepal and Bhutan and the green shoots of serious economic engagement with Pakistan emerging, the possibility of a vibrant South Asian Free Trade Agreement is finally taking shape and this kind of give and take is part of the deal.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

DOUBLE DIGITS AGAIN

HIGHER FOOD OUTPUT AND LOWER DISTRIBUTION COSTS NEEDED

The sudden rise in food inflation last week, with the rate hitting double digits after many weeks, was caused by an episodic rise in onion prices as well as the sustained rise in the price of protein-rich and high-value foods. The data, however, suggest that perishable high-value foods are contributing more to the high inflation rate than protein foods, which have a relatively longer shelf life. This category of inflation-drivers includes fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, meat and fish but excludes protein-rich, relatively less perishable items, notably pulses, the main drivers of inflation till last year. This is borne out by the fact that the price of fruit soared during the week ended August 20 by 21.58 per cent and that of eggs, fish and meat by 12.62 per cent even as the price of pulses dipped by 4.16 per cent. The trend was similar to one in the previous week ended August 13 when fruit prices had risen by 27 per cent and those of eggs, fish and meat by 13.37 per cent even as pulses registered negative growth of 5.56 per cent. Pulses have, in fact, remained cheaper this year by 30 per cent from their last year's peak, even though the price of perishable protein and high-value foods has continued to rise unabated.

Two things are clear. First, the supply of non-cereal high-value foods has failed to keep pace with growth in demand, driven largely by a rise in income and changing food habits. Second, the post-production supply chain for these items is not efficient enough to deliver the available foods to the consumers in a cost-effective manner. Notwithstanding the seasonal factors, such as transportation disruptions during the monsoon, which create short-term shortages and push up prices, the wide gap between the farm gate price received by direct producers and the retail price paid by consumers points to persistent supply-chain deficiencies. Any strategy to ease food inflation should address both problems — production shortage and supply-chain rigidities.

Viewed from this angle, the Planning Commission's proposal – envisaged in its 12th Plan approach paper – to lay greater emphasis on raising the output of fruit, vegetables and protein-based items than on cereals is well founded. For this, it has mooted different growth targets for different food groups, with the lowest target of around two per cent growth proposed for staple cereals like wheat and rice, relatively higher goal of around four per cent for pulses, and the highest target of 4.5 to above five per cent for horticultural and animal husbandry products. Considering past production trends, the higher targets set for fruit, vegetables and livestock products are both desirable and attainable. This is because labour-intensive activities like horticulture and animal husbandry suit the Indian agricultural condition, which is marked by small farms and large families with ample domestic labour. However, unless the entire chain of post-production activities, including handling, storage, transportation and, most importantly, marketing of high-value agri-products, is suitably revamped to curb wastage, cut delivery costs and eliminate supply-chain rigidities and distortions, higher production alone would not bring down food inflation.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

IS THE FEASIBLE ALSO REACHABLE?

THE 12TH FIVE-YEAR PLAN APPROACH POINTS TO SOME 'OLD BLOCKS' TO A NEW, 'REASONABLE' GROWTH TARGET

SANJAYA BARU

India was one of the countries Walt Rostow was thinking of when he used the aviation metaphor to describe the growth process. After years of "taxiing" and building the energy to "lift off", an economy enters its "take-off" stage "when the old blocks and resistance to steady growth are finally overcome. The forces making for economic progress, which yielded limited bursts and enclaves of modern activity, expand and come to dominate the society. Growth becomes its normal condition. Compound interest becomes built, as it were, into its habits and institutional structure" (The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, W W Rostow, Cambridge University Press, 1960).

Most would agree an economy that grew at an average annual rate of close to zero per cent for half a century (from 1890 to 1940), then at 3.5 per cent (from 1950 to 1980) and 5.8 per cent (from 1980 to 2000), and more recently at 9.0 per cent (2004-08) has settled into a phase when "growth becomes its normal condition", as Professor Rostow put it.

The question is, has "compound interest become built … into [India's] habits and institutional structure"? That is the point, in essence, that India's Planning Commission has raised in its "approach" to the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17). *

After five years of 8.2 per cent growth in the 11th Plan period (2007-12), says the approach paper, "it is reasonable to aim at 9.0 per cent growth for the Twelfth Plan". This is "a feasible target from a macroeconomic perspective", the paper notes, "but it cannot be viewed as an assured outcome". Indeed, the paper adds that nine per cent growth over the next five years is an "ambitious" target.

Two caveats stand between feasibility and possibility: first, "global economic conditions" which are "very uncertain"; and second, the required "political will to do what is necessary". The term "political will" is as old as the word "planning" in development literature!

To achieve rapid growth, says the paper, "the economy will have to overcome constraints posed by limited energy supplies, increase in water scarcity, shortages in infrastructure, problems of land acquisition for industrial development and infrastructure, and the complex problem of managing the urban transition associated with rapid growth. Greater efforts also need to be made in agriculture, health and education to ensure inclusion of the most excluded and sometimes invisible parts of our population".

Global conditions are a given. India can, at best, take some proactive steps to ensure that they do not become more hostile. These would include making the G20 a more meaningful forum for global policy, working with other developing countries, especially Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, to ensure that global economic, trading and climate change regimes do not impose an additional burden on India and other developing countries, and the G7 economies do not become more protectionist.

But none of this is likely to alleviate the burden imposed by a slower global economy. The worst external constraint on growth is likely to be persistently high crude oil and food prices, but the solution lies in domestic "political will", to which the approach paper refers, and the ability to find domestic options in energy, food and key non-tradeables.

In the midst of three continuous years of nine per cent growth (2004-07), with rising foreign exchange reserves, rising exports, low current account deficit and rising foreign direct investment into India, an optimistic Prime Minister Manmohan Singh famously observed that the "external constraint" on India's growth process was probably a thing of the past and India's challenges lay largely at home.

India's planners used to talk of the "two gap" model — an external resources gap and a domestic resources gap. Many believed during the 10th and early 11th Plan periods that the former had been surmounted. The year 2008 and the global slowdown since have countered that optimism; the external constraint has returned.

However, the real policy challenges remain domestic, and the approach paper shows adequate recognition of all of them — infrastructure (urban and rural), agricultural productivity, energy pricing, finding the money to invest in health care and education, stepping up manufacturing sector growth and employment, ensuring that the growth process is ecologically sustainable and socially equitable, and making the government and public services delivery more efficient and less corrupt.

The chapter on innovation is an important reminder that India remains a laggard on new technology and new product development and in science and technology (S&T). The S&T foundations of the country's growth process require renewal and new strategies of public-private partnership, including with foreign firms and institutions. The modernisation of the human resources development infrastructure and systems and the integration of strategies to promote industrial development and S&T education and skills development are needed.

Some may regard a five-year plan an anachronism in the modern world. However, this thoughtful and comprehensive document shows why it is useful for a developing country democracy to have such a plan in the public domain. Development is a political process. Democratic governments have to make difficult choices with limited resources and within short time periods. The 12th Plan approach paper offers immense food for thought for an informed public debate.

The Planning Commission correctly notes that the "high expectations" of citizens are probably running ahead of the ability of both the economy and the institutions of government to deliver. "The Twelfth Plan has to meet the aspirations of millions of young men and women. This cannot be done by following a business-as-usual approach. All sections of society –  government, farmers, businesses, labour and concerned citizens –  have to adopt newer, more effective ways of pursuing their activities, so that we can collectively achieve our lofty goals." The challenge for all political parties is to be able to handle this "revolution of rising expectations".

*Available at www. planningcommission.nic.in/plans/planrel/12appdrft/appraoch_12plan.pdf

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

A PROMISE OF LIQUIDITY

WHILET THE FED HAS EMPHASISED THE NEED TO GET AMERICA'S FISCAL ACT TOGETHER, IT HAS NOT RULED OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF MORE MONETARY EASING

ABHEEK BARUA & SHIVOM CHAKRAVARTI

The pall of gloom that had shrouded global financial markets over the last few months lifted a tad last fortnight. Markets cheered statements made by the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggesting that more monetary easing was still on its policy menu. The focus over the last fortnight was on Bernanke's speech at a conference held at Jackson Hole in the US on August 26, 2011 as investors tried to gauge the Fed chairman's assessment of the economy and his policy prescriptions. Markets had been fretting over whether the US central bank remained willing to pick up the slack left by the impasse over fiscal policy that threatens to persist. Bernanke seemed willing to play ball. While he emphasised the need to get America's fiscal act together, he did not rule out the possibility of more monetary easing.

However, unlike last year's speech at the Jackson Hole conference where he laid out the contours of the second round of quantitative easing (QE2), Bernanke was a little more restrained this time. For one thing, he did not explicitly mention QE3. Neither did he lay out a timetable of what specific steps the Fed would take in bringing about liquidity expansion. All he said was that "the Fed is prepared to employ its tools as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in context of price stability". However, for the financial markets, battered by the flow of adverse data and peeved by the lack of even minimal consensus on the course of US fiscal policy, even this fuzzy commitment was good enough. Besides, the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held on August 9 and released on the 30th kept the market mood upbeat. The minutes showed that the Fed was actively considering more monetary measures and the degree of opposition to easing from the inflation hawks within the Fed was far more muted.

When do we expect the next round of heavy-duty monetary easing? One key difference between the macro-environment last year and now is the threat of rising inflation. Last year, deflation was the critical risk and made a strong case for quantitative easing. Inflation has queered the pitch. Thus, it's unlikely that the Fed will inject large doses of dollar liquidity into the system when "core" consumer price inflation is close to the Fed's tolerance threshold of two per cent. If the Fed is interested in resurrecting quantitative easing, the likely date for QE3 is early 2012 once inflation pressures subside in response to subdued economic growth. Remember that Japan's attempt to ease fiscal stimulus in 1997, less than halfway through its recession, resulted in five quarters of negative growth and triggered a deflationary spiral. The US might meet the same fate as it withdraws fiscal support.

However, while QE3 might take some time to come, the Fed could introduce a series of measures to assure the market that it is doing all that it can to revive the economy. One measure that appears to be on the cards is referred as "operation twist" or OT (how central bankers love jargon and acronyms) that was introduced for the first time in the 1960s. This involves the Fed selling short-term securities but purchasing long-term treasury securities. Such a measure would alter the composition of the balance sheet, and flatten the yield curve by lowering long-term yields and raising short-term yields. It would at the same time ensure that the size of the Fed's balance sheet remains constant and, thus, technically not lead to monetary expansion.

Our reading is that OT is unlikely to have much of an impact on the real economy as US long-term yields are already at a record low but have not done much to revive leveraged spending. However, the medium might just be the message. OT would be yet another reiteration of the Fed's commitment to monetary accommodation and could help revive risk appetite in the markets. The other measure that the Fed could announce is a cut in the interest on excess reserves from 0.25 per cent to zero per cent to encourage banks to increase lending. This again might not have a dramatic impact on actual credit creation with companies and households still in the process of repairing balance sheets and paying down debt.

However, the Federal Reserve will not be the sole Western central bank injecting liquidity. The EU crisis is far from resolved since concerns have shifted from the periphery to some of the bigger regions such as Spain, Italy and even France. Besides, the Euro seems grossly overvalued, especially when it is measured by the Real Effective Exchange of the peripheral economies. Thus, from both perspectives of providing liquidity support and the imperative of getting the Euro to depreciate, large-scale liquidity infusion might be the only way out. The European Central Bank might be forced to step up its own asset purchases programme and leave the purchases unsterilised before the US does.

The writers are with HDFC Bank.
These views are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CHINA'S GREAT REBALANCING ACT

ITS CAPITAL-INTENSIVE, EXPORT-ORIENTED APPROACH IS DELIVERING DIMINISHING RETURNS AND THREATENS TO BECOME A MAJOR POLITICAL VULNERABILITY FOR THE GOVT

EVAN A FEIGENBAUM

or decades, China's blistering growth has depended on exports and investment. The country has become the world's workshop, lifting millions out of dire poverty. And for the first time in nearly two centuries, China has returned to a position of global power and influence.

But this growth model is no longer sustainable and its savvy leaders know it. They are committed to rebalancing the country's economy because their capital-intensive, export-oriented approach is delivering diminishing returns and threatens to become a major political vulnerability for the government.

Why is China's growth model delivering diminishing returns? The global economic crisis provided clear evidence that China's export-driven economy was vulnerable to dips in demand in the rest of the world. Meanwhile, its dependence on investment has introduced distortions and imbalances into the economy. China's rebalancing agenda is not merely about economics but, ultimately, the political viability of the Chinese system. Beijing has delivered economic prosperity to many Chinese citizens. But those very successes have yielded numerous problems which could undermine the regime's legitimacy if left unattended.

In a comprehensive new report on the future of China's political economy, "China's Great Rebalancing Act", my colleagues and I at Eurasia Group examined the maladies that confront Chinese leaders and the solutions they have prescribed to remedy them.

Their blueprint is the 12th Five-Year Plan, a set of strategic goals and binding economic targets through which they aim to alter China's macroeconomic landscape in far-reaching ways, with effects likely to be felt for a decade to come.

What are those maladies? We identified four. First, China's economy is overly dependent on fixed asset investment and exports. Consumption is about 35 per cent of GDP, a figure well below that of developing countries such as India. And the perpetuation of a production-intensive economic model owes much to inefficient capital allocation.

Second, companies – and the Chinese government – have captured much of the enormous wealth generated in the last three decades at the expense of Chinese households. And this dynamic is not only exacerbating an already yawning gap between the government and business elite on the one hand and average Chinese citizens on the other, it is also repressing consumption.

Third, vast regional disparities mean that policy makers in Beijing face the unique problem of having to deal with issues typical of both 21st-century middle-income countries and 20th-century developing countries. And these inequalities play out across a continent-sized economy: the wealthy coast contrasts starkly with the continental hinterlands.

Fourth, capital-intensive growth has exacted steep environmental and resource costs. Subsidised energy and land prices have encouraged companies to exploit China's natural resources and ignore debilitating energy inefficiencies.

The good news is that China's leaders have correctly diagnosed many of China's underlying economic challenges and have, at least on paper, prescribed many of the remedies required. These include the following:

One, the Plan aims to transfer wealth from producers to households in the form of continuous income hikes or forced dividends from firms. Beijing will consider spending more to repair China's frayed social safety net and expand social housing. And it emphasises human capital "software" through job creation, education reforms and innovation incentives.

Two, the internal migration of more than 300 million people from rural areas to cities over the next several decades will, Chinese leaders hope, generate investment and a natural "consumption windfall", driving economic growth.

Three, the Plan targets virtuous investment cycles as Beijing seeks to develop a more robust services sector to absorb new urban residents, while supporting the development of higher-value-added and high-tech industries, especially in sectors such as clean energy, high-speed rail and civilian aviation.

Four, Beijing will consider making capital more accessible to both average citizens and the private sector, as well as raising the cost of inefficient investments.

But here's the problem: Chinese politics simply won't permit many of these reforms. Entrenched bureaucratic, industrial and financial interests will resist everything from forced dividend payments to real financial reform. As a result, our Eurasia Group report argues, China's economic landscape will not change as fundamentally as the plan designers – and many foreigners – hope. That, in turn, means that China in five years will be more brittle and beset by social difficulties.

Although China should have little trouble muddling through until then, Chinese leaders are likely to face starker choices when the Plan has run its course in 2015 than they do today. They can double down on rebalancing — creating a more sustainable (long-term) growth model, but exacerbating (short-term) economic pain. Or, they can continue their attempt to muddle through and risk heightened political instability as a result of the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Put bluntly, our report is not optimistic that China's cautious leaders have the stomach for bold reform. The next decade is likely to be more fraught than conventional wisdom suspects.

The author is head, Asia Practice Group, at Eurasia Group, and is also adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations Washington, DC

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BLACK OUT

THE BULBS ARE FLICKERING IN THE POWER SECTOR; IT'S TIME TO ASK HARD QUESTIONS

 

 State-owned NTPC, India's largest producer of electricity, has slapped BSES, a private power distributor, with a notice saying that it'll cut off supply if the latter doesn't cough up money due to NTPC. Delhi is one of the few places in India with private power distribution: nine years after what started out as a bold experiment, the effort seemed to be paying off. The summer of 2011 saw fewer power cuts and the theft of electricity has dropped from more than 50% before privatisation to about 12% now. Yet, suppliers and distributors are at each other's throats, wrangling over unpaid dues. It is time now, to start a wideranging survey of the power sector in India. Other than a few cities — Calcutta (now Kolkata) always had private power distribution; Mumbai and Delhi have now had it for just about a decade — the power sector is still overwhelmingly dominated by state and central government entities. Transmission and trading are near-monopolies with PowerGrid Corporation and Power Trading Corporation lording it over smaller rivals. Generation is still dominated by NTPC, though the private sector's share will grow once the giant ultra mega power projects start kicking in. After nearly 20 years of reform, has India achieved enough?


First, whatever happened to open access, the idea that consumers could shift between rival distributors? Open access could have led to tariff competition in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, which have more than one distributor. That would have ended the wrangling over tariffs, something that plagues regulators, distributors and consumers. Second, we need to ask why tariffs always head north. After all, if power theft has come down from over 50% to 12% of all the electricity generated, shouldn't that be reflected in lower prices for paying customers? Three, how is it that with all the frenetic buzz around the sector, it'll still miss its 11th Plan growth target? And finally, how shall we sort out issues like access to domestic coal and overseas equipment purchase in a climate where one arm of the government doesn't know what another is doing, and all other policymaking organs seem cryogenically frozen? The answers have to come soon; otherwise the growth story will plunge into darkness.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TWEAK IT

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT MUST DO TO MAKE NEW PENSION SYSTEM MORE ACCEPTABLE

 

The recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance to devise a mechanism to ensure a minimum assured return to subscribers of New Pension System (NPS) flies against the raison d'etreof the NPS, to reduce the burden of pension on government finances. The entire rationale of the shift from the pre-NPS defined-benefit pension scheme (where pensioners are assured of a specified pension) to the defined-contribution NPS (where there is no such assurance) is to rein in the government's growing pension liabilities. That will be defeated if the government gives an assured return, as the parliamentary panel has suggested. Yet the panel is right to point out that in the absence of a guarantee, the NPS cannot claim to provide old-age income security. True, most countries have moved from defined-benefit to defined-contribution pensions. But there is usually some minimum social security either in the form of a Pillar I pension or some other form. In contrast, NPS subscribers in India have no such cushion. So, the panel's suggestion that the minimum rate of return on NPS contributions should not be less than the interest rate on the employee provident fund scheme and any shortfall should be made good from the Budget, has merit. In practice, this should not be very difficult. As long as the EPF rate is not way off-market, there is no reason why fund managers can't be asked to match it.
After all, pension reform was never meant to be only about reducing the government's burden. It was also meant to extend the coverage of a formal pension scheme to the vast majority outside the privileged class of government employees. For them, the NPS opened a new option; especially when beginning early 2009, the scheme was opened to the non-government sector as well. But if the scheme has found few takers to date, despite having close to 85% of the working population without any formal pension scheme, it is because it falls short on the single-most important criterion of any pension scheme, one that offers old-age security: certainty. Till then, the NPS will not find many takers, especially among those who need it most — the less well-to-do.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RAIL BONDS

ARE BOTH JAMES BOND AND INDIAN RAILWAYS REFORMED RAKES?

 

 Railways minister Dinesh Trivedi must be complimented for insisting on a unique bond in lieu of permission to shoot scenes for the latest 007 movie on Indian trains: that the British spy should become the railways' brand ambassador. But will the rest of the government — and indeed, the political class — approve of paeans to anything Indian from a notorious employee of a foreign power, albeit a fictional one? More so since the average (or potential) Indian train passenger may be more inspired by desi daredevil heroes such as Rajinikanth or Salman Khan? Still, an endorsement from Daniel Craig may dispel the bogey of scepticism regarding Indian Railways among some foreign travellers at least, not to mention the small but presumably significant band of Bond aficionados in this country. Trivedi's insistence that there be no cliched scenes of people riding on rooftops as Bond leaps from carriage to carriage is also commendable. After all, trains have come a long way since Gandhi — the man and the film — and Indian Railways can do without a Bond version of the recent YouTube video showing two men doing dangerous stunts atop a local train in Mumbai.


More tricky, though, is the condition that India cannot be shown in a bad light, as Trivedi obviously doesn't mean smog. Imagine if someone had thought of such a caveat for foreign film crews before. Then Slu m d o g M illi o n a i r e would never have made it to the bylanes of Dharavi or T h e C i t y o f J o yto Trivedi's k a r m a b h o o m i, Kolkata. An earlier Bond would have happily settled for more salubrious surroundings as he wanted nothing Moore than palaces and Octopussy the last time he was here. But as his battle-hardened current avatar is licensed to thrill with gritty realism, this condition could derail the plans of the film and the minister.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NO CHILD OR TEACHER LEFT BEHIND

THE INCREASE IN SCHOOL ENROLMENT IS POINTLESS UNLESS MATCHED BY MORE, HIGH-QUALITY TEACHERS

MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH


Do a Google search for 'Missing girl child in India' and the Internet throws up 1,810,000 results. Now repeat the search, this time for 'Missing teachers in India' and the Net throws up an astounding 54,800,000 results. Hardly the kind of statistic you'd want to wake up to on Teacher's Day!


Yet, that is the harsh reality today. Minister for human resource development (HRD) Kapil Sibal estimates the shortage at 1.2 million; enough to prod the HRD ministry into addressing the problem on a war-footing.
But more than a year after we passed the Right to Education Act, making free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children between the ages of 6 and 14, studies show no improvement or only a marginal improvement in the all-important pupil-teacher ratio (PTR).


How do we deliver on the promise enshrined in the Act if we don't have enough teachers? The Act sets the PTR at a maximum of 30:1 while the actual ratio in primary schools [39, according to the just released PROBE Re-visted report and 33, according to National University of Education Planning and Administration, (NUEPA)] is well above that. It is certainly well above that of our bête noir, China, at 18.


'Across the world, the best minds opt for the teaching profession; but this is not happening in India, so we need to give more incentives,' said the HRD minister some months ago. But is it only a matter of incentives? How does one ensure accountability? Teaching is a vocation, not a 9-to-5 job; a good teacher has to be passionate about the job and cannot look at it only as a means to earn a livelihood.


It is for this reason that any attempt to tackle the shortage of teachers must address both the quantity and quality deficit. Each calls for a different approach. Merely increasing the number of teachers is of no use if, as repeated studies have shown, children are 'educated' only in name. At the same time, given the scale of the shortage, it is necessary to think of practical rather than ideal solutions, and most importantly, tailor them to suit local needs.
The latter is important because the shortage of teachers is highly skewed. While urban areas are relatively better off — in fact, there is a surplus in some areas — the picture is quite different in rural India. Here again, the picture is not uniform. You have states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu where schools in rural areas are far better served than in Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the need is the greatest, given low literacy levels in these states.


This is where a more imaginative approach could help. For instance, it is absurd to insist on the same minimum qualification for a primary school teacher as for a secondary school teacher. So, one way of addressing the shortage could be to specify sufficiently differentiated standards, keeping in mind both the need and the availability of suitable manpower. Another could be to employ parateachers, or teachers (often untrained) hired on short contracts to work in primary schools. This has been tried by a number of states and with considerable success. In their May 2010 paper, Esther Duflo, et al point to how para-teachers are not only more accountable but also respond better to incentives. Unlike, government teachers, they are not part of an entrenched-forlife constituency. They have a job as long as their performance is up to the mark, and since there is usually a long queue of job aspirants waiting to step into their shoes, they are kept on their toes.


    Not surprisingly, states that went in for parateachers in a big way show a dramatic improvement in their PTRs. Unfortunately, despite this evidence on the ground, the Right to Education Act has virtually sounded the death knell to this tried-and-tested (and eminently practical) answer to the numbers deficit. It specifies a centrally notified acceptable level of qualification that all teachers will have to acquire within a maximum period of five years, failing which they will no longer be qualified to teach. This is clearly a case of the good being the enemy of the best. Insistence on centrallyspecified qualifications when we have almost six lakh under-qualified teachers in the school system is downright short-sighted. Remember what Deng Xiaoping famously said about not caring about the colour of the cat as long as it catches the mice. So too with para-teachers! If they are able to deliver (admittedly, the para-teacher model is not without flaws such as political influence in their appointment, elite-capture, etc) then nothing else should matter, neither degree nor pedigree! Distance education could also be an answer. So far, it has been used to impart training to teachers. But it could be used equally effectively to impart education to school children. As broadband connectivity improves, it may not be necessary for teachers to be physically present in schools. Another issue that is no less important is to free teachers of non-teaching responsibilities such as census surveys, election duties, household surveys and supervision of midday meals. The PROBE Re-visited report quotes a primary school teacher in Bihar saying, "First three teachers have to teach five grades and on top of that the authorities keep calling us to the office." This must change. The heartening increase in school enrolment consequent on the National Education Policy, 1986 and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is pointless unless it is matched by efforts to improve the PTR and the quality of our teachers.
'Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more,' said Bob Talbert, the iconic Michigan journalist. On Teacher's Day, we need to chew on that

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

RIDING ON INDIA'S AUTO BOOM

GOURI AGTEY ATHALE


Diane H Gulyas has been with DuPont, the third biggest US chemical maker, for more than three decades. She handled a variety of portfolios spanning from sales, marketing, technical to systems development, mainly in the DuPont's polymer business during her initial years. "It is a lot easier being a women engineer today than it was 20 years ago when the profession was dominated by men," says the chemical engineer.


Gulyas, who has been visiting India for over a decade now, also chose to be the 'champion' for the country on the board of the giant company. "The chairperson asked us to be the champion of any one country and I chose India. I could have chosen Russia, Brazil, Korea, China or Mexico. I believe India has a great potential," she says. Clearly, the fast pace of growth in India's auto sector is making it an attractive destination for allied sectors.
DuPont's global head of performance polymers played a proactive role in setting up the company's first innovation centre in India. The company also has a knowledge centre in Hyderabad — which is one of its seven global research and development centres outside the US — besides manufacturing facilities in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. "We do not have all the expertise in one place. Each innovation centre specialises in a specific area. For instance, our global air-ducts specialist is in Geneva. Therefore, if anyone needs help on this subject, even in the US, they can get in touch with him. The innovation centre in Pune is focused on the automative sector where the trend is towards making vehicles faster, lighter, safer and fuel-efficient. We will work with our customers in half a dozen areas including sustainability, lightweight, improved performance, alternative drive, safety, and comfort and design," she says.


While the Pune centre is the last one to be set up in Asia this year, Gulyas says the next centre will be either in Brazil or Mexico. And even as she talks of other centres, she admits that another such innovation centre in India is not off the table: it is under discussion. As India Champion within the company, what she says counts.
The automotive segment contributes about half the revenues for her division and about a fifth of DuPont's revenues. "So, this is a focus area, though issues such as sustainability pose a challenge." She refers to a change in the use of raw material from those that are derived from non-renewable fossil fuel sources to those that are sustainable — extracted from a renewable source. For instance, carpeting within the entire innovation centre is made from a DuPont patented product, Sorona, that has its origins from corn and is a replacement for products derived from a petrochemical base. "We are looking at developing applications for Sorona, for the apparel sector and have people working on it in Surat to use the material for sarees," she says.


How would she handle the food-versus-fuel debate on the risks of diverting crops for biofuel production to the detriment of food supply on a global scale? Gulyas maintains that the company is dedicated to working on non-food sources for polymers. "We have an ongoing research, for instance, on cellulosic ethanol where the raw material is castor seed and agri-waste. Now, castor seeds are not food and they grow in large quantities in India. We don't want to compete with food as that is unsustainable."


She argues that there's no one-size-fits-all approach and the need is to develop solutions that are unqiue to a country. "India is investing in railways and, therefore, it needs stable rail systems. In the US, we are no longer investing in rail systems. India can take the lead in solar power or in becoming a hub for small cars. These will be fuel-efficient small cars and the rest of the world will have to learn and catch up. Moreover, smaller, lighter cars will use less material and less fuel, leading to lower emissions, while being more affordable."
While the automotive segment contributes to half the revenues for her division, the balance comes from railways, transportation and two-wheeler segments. "For us, two-wheelers are not automotive! Among these businesses is the Kevlar, the material that forms bullet-proof jackets used by the military. "We are working on armoured vehicles and have extensive experience in this segment. We are excited about the opportunities for this in India. But there is also the business that we have in Brazil of providing this for personal vehicles," she said. Emission norms, which are getting stringent across the world, are seen to be driving several of the issues on which the DuPont innovation centre will work, specially on light-weighting. The performance polymers division, has offerings in this segment, starting with Kevlar products that can be used to reinforce tyres, she says.

 

DIANE H GULYAS PRESIDENT DuPont Performance Polymers

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

A TRAIN OF THOUGHT

RAGHU KRISHNAN


If external affairs minister S M Krishna's suggestion to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and railway minister Dinesh Trivedi (in letters dated August 1) is acted on, the Malgudi Express could become India's first train to take you to a place which does not exist.


Malgudi, as fans of the late Indo-Anglian writer R K Narayan will tell you, is the imaginary town he created near the imaginary river Sarayu and inhabited by ordinary people who live forever in books titled The Vendor of Sweets, The Financial Expert, The Painter of Signs, The Bachelor of Arts, The English Teacher, The Guide, and, first and foremost, Swami and Friends which the young author sent to publisher after publisher in distant England until Graham Greene read the manuscript in 1934 and perceived in it a rare and original talent which reminded him of the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov because of the touch of gentle sadness which suffused the story of a schoolboy growing up in colonial India.


That gentle sadness would be even more evident in The English Teacher where Narayan, drawing from his own life, tells the story of a young lecturer whose wife dies of typhoid, leaving behind a little daughter. Another perceptive female critic felt that the real significance of The English Teacher was the author's ability to communicate to the reader "the extraordinary ordinariness of happiness", derived from first a shared life and then the memories to which the lecturer dedicates the rest of his existence.


India and the world, of course, remember Narayan more for The Guide. Not just because it won him the Sahitya Akademi Award but because of the movie made in English and Hindi (the international version produced by Nobel laureate Pearl Buck), with the debonair Dev Anand playing the role of a tourist guide who, much against his will, becomes a spiritual guru who ends up fasting to death because the simple rural folk (with whom he lives after serving a jailsentence for forgery) believe that the prolonged drought will end and the rains will come once a saint stops eating.


In India, saints are not born but happen like the weather, a reviewer of The Guide quipped in Time magazine.
Narayan's own life was equally inspiring. In a biography published some 15 years ago, Susan and N Ram reconstruct the life of a young writer who falls in love with a girl he meets on a Coimbatore street and then tells her father that he plans to dedicate his life not to the pursuit of wealth but to writing and wants to earn the barest minimum required to look after his wife and family. A far cry from today's world of mega literary awards and bookadvances running into seven figures!


So if S M Krishna's suggestion is acted on, the next time you buy a ticket on the Malgudi Express, remember to take with you copies of Swami and Friends, The English Teacher, The Guide and The Dark Room (the story of an abused wife who tries to break free and finally goes back to her tyrannical and philandering husband).
The literary rail coach-car could even carry copies of Narayan's books so that the reader could go to Malgudi even if the train never stops there on the journey from India's Silicon Valley of Bangalore to the Jasmine City of Mysore. Jasmine is the flower which the English teacher buys for his wife on the last walk before she contracts typhoid.


Today's Mysore, where multi-storeyed apartments sprout every day and are advertised every moment on the SMS, has little in common with the Mysore which Narayan lived in before and after marriage or with the Malgudi described in The Guide where the protagonist, when asked by tourists about a prominent monument to one Sir Frederick Lawley, either enthusiastically goes into great fictitious detail or, if he's in a bad mood, simply says, "Great man. Hence statue."

 

The same guide also wonders why tourists should put in so much of effort to visit the source of the Sarayu when the river has taken all the trouble to come down!


As a journalist who has driven down from Bangalore to Mysore at least twice a year in the last two decades, smaller towns like Mandya (in S M Krishna's constituency) keep reminding me of Malgudi.


Life in Mandya — even when glimpsed on brief stopovers to cover electioncampaigns — seems to flow at the same unhurried pace as in Malgudi to an extent where I find myself trying to identify the vendor of sweets, the financial expert, the painter of signs, and even a Narayan to write about it all!

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

TEA BADLY BREWED

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has hit the bull's eye in its findings on the Tea Board. Dwelling on the "Role of the Tea Board in tea development in India", the CAG has found the board ineffective in exercising its role, be it as a regulator or in research, marketing and promotion. The findings come at a time when exports from the country are down nearly 18 per cent in the first half, despite a 3 per cent drop in global production. The lack of efficiency in the functioning of the Board has led to a situation wherein Indian tea is realising lower prices in the global market than its competitors. This is primarily because of the inferior quality of Indian tea and the adverse price mix. In terms of volume, too, the production of orthodox tea has not increased. In fact, it has dropped below the target levels set by the Government. One of the key findings of the report is the failure of the Board to stipulate an increase in the production of orthodox tea as a condition for eligibility of subsidy. Unfortunately, in what could amount to a scandal, the Tea Board has been found to have extended subsidy to units that have not submitted proper documents, and without proper verification of factory records.

The Board has also been pulled up for repeatedly ignoring small tea-growers. The CAG has found 80 per cent of small growers still outside the ambit of regulation. Though the Board has been talking of a separate set-up for the small growers for over a year now, no progress seems to have been made. More worrying is the audit body's finding of declining productivity, with a substantial increase in the commercially unproductive area. The only way out that it sees is a replantation/rejuvenation programme. But the target set for such a programme is, according to the CAG, abysmal and it will take nearly 150 years to clear the backlog in replanting! The Tea Board is also lagging in fixing targets for its subsidy schemes. Most importantly, it has not laid down any mechanism to measure the impact of various development schemes. Nor has it conducted regular studies to identify components that can reduce production costs, which are among the highest in the major tea-producing countries. Clearly, the institutional role of the Board as a facilitator of the industry's interests in production and trade, in the post-reform environment, has been found wanting.

The CAG calls for a major restructuring of the Tea Board's policies. As mentioned in the report, it is time the Government reviewed the entire functioning of the Board. If the case of coffee is anything to go by, it would be hard to argue that the Tea Board is not required. The Centre would do well to start by first nominating a chairperson, as the Board has gone without one for the past few months.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

FEELING NEGLECTED

The Indian Ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar's initiative to organise a business meet on Information Technology — without keeping the Commerce Ministry in the loop — has not gone down well with its officials. Since the objective of the meet is to boost exports from India to China, they feel that they could have given some valuable inputs had they been informed about it by the Indian Embassy in China.

Ganesha overrides Telangana

While the Telangana issue has over the months threatened to distance people from the regions of coastal Andhra/Rayalaseema and Telangana, the Ganesha festival has come as a welcome departure.

The giant laddu in the palm of the tallest Ganesha at Khairatabad in Hyderabad has been prepared by an entrepreneur from Tapeswaram in East Godavari district of coastal Andhra.

The laddu weighing 2,400 kg has been made with 1,000 kg sugar, 360 kg ghee and 150 kg of dry fruits and elaichi in Tapeswaram where making sweets is a cottage industry.

Hopefully, Lord Ganesha, who is believed to remove all obstacles and help people, would take care of the interests of people of both regions.

 Say it with baingan bharta

One thought the only form of protest the country would see henceforth would be fasts. But, no, the green lobby wants to cook up a storm of protest and stir up a cauldron of controversy in a novel way — by preparing a humungous dish of baingan bharta. The grilled and mashed brinjal dish is the Greenpeace way of protesting against the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRA-I) Bill.

Fancy dress protests 

Protests appear to have come of age. Earlier people came out on the streets dressed in their usual attire. At the most you would find the hard core activist sporting a kurta and jhola. But not any more.

If the Anna Hazare supporters turned out in tri-colour tee shirts and the Gandhi topi, those against genetically modified Bt Brinjal turn up in the fancy dress of a Brinjal. The Bhagat Singh supporters wear bright yellow turbans and those against cruelty to animals, garlands and headgear of vegetables. It's obvious why protests need such a strong visual element — the 24X 7 TV channels are only waiting to lap them all up. Especially if they make for visually interesting footage.

Louts Valley?

There is simply no let-up in the flurry of property-related SMSs that arrive with irritating regularity. A colleague recently got one which exhorted buys in 'Louts Valley'. It was for Lotus Valley.

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BUSINESS LINE

REACHING OUT TO, AND WINNING OVER, PEOPLE

B.S.RAGHAVAN

The former Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Mr N. Vittal, in his article "Will a miracle occur at the end of double foolishness?" published in The Hindu of September 4, has undertaken what he calls "an exercise in double foolishness".

One type of foolishness is offering sound and sensible advice when no one has asked for it, and the other is offering it knowing full well that it will not be heeded by those for whom it is meant.

Since I am going to strongly endorse the suggestions coming out of Mr Vittal's undertaking of such an exercise, I suppose I shall be quadrupling the foolishness, but without the least hesitation on that score.

In that article, Mr Vittal exhorts the Government of India to regain a modicum of credibility, in the wake of the Anna tsunami which swept it off its feet, as a regime which will really and effectively fight corruption, essentially a Frankenstein monster created by itself.

To that end, he proposes that within a week after the end of the current Parliament session, the Government should issue five Ordinances providing for the following:

the prohibition of benami transactions;

confiscation of the illegal wealth of corrupt public servants;

protection of whistle-blowers;

barring persons against whom courts have framed criminal charges from contesting elections until he is acquitted or honourably discharged; and

making it mandatory for concluding the trial of persons charged with corruption within six months, and completing the appellate process also within a similar period, allowing for only one appeal.

In keeping with the principle of preserving "the institutional integrity" enunciated by the Supreme Court in setting aside the appointment of Mr P. J. Thomas as the CVC, Mr Vittal argues for replacing, in cases involving corruption, the "holy slogan" of presumption of innocence until proved guilty by presumption of guilt until proved innocent.

STILLBORN

It is worth mentioning here that there is already a law passed in 1989 prohibiting benami transactions, and there are recommendations by the Law Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission for the other purposes mentioned by him which have been embodied in draft Bills, languishing in the various Ministries. Mr Vittal calls his proposal "simple", but considering that each one of the measures will hit the political class where it hurts the most, we can take it that the brainchildren of his 'double foolishness', further doubled by my endorsement, will be still-born.

Anna Hazare is shrewd enough to realise this and that is why he has begun talking of subjecting the Government to "repeated shocks" as the only way of jolting it to face realities on the ground.

One wonders whether the Government is aware of the hundreds of fiery messages circulating among netizens on the Internet round the globe giving vent to their utter contempt for India's political class and their condemnation of the "dirty tricks" played by the Government.

It is significant that they emanate from young professional groups such as IIT-alumni associations and enlightened persons who normally keep their cool and do not jump into any fray unless deeply stirred by patent acts of venality and oppression. One such message doing the rounds and making a powerful impact is an imaginary statement which a young IIT-alumnus claims he would make in Parliament if he were Om Puri or Kiran Bedi replying to the Privilege Motion.

NEUTRALISING THE LOATHING

Going by the reactions of Team Anna, there is every chance that the Privilege Motions will boomerang in a big way, and the situation, from the perspective of the Government, will be worse than before.

It is time younger (say, between 40 and 55), leaders of political parties took a serious view of the deepening alienation and devised a method of neutralising the loathing associated with the way India's democracy functions. It is advisable for the Speaker/Chairman to take the advice of a confidential Working Group which, in turn, can take the help of a highly reputed public relations consultant, on how to reach out to people and win them over.

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BUSINESS LINE

A MEET THAT COULD RAISE SAARC HOPES

ASHWINI PHADNIS

"Have you seen the reference paper on telecom?" the Brazilian diplomat at the WTO asked his Indian counterpart.

"No," was the prompt reply, because in 1995-96 landlines were predominant, and the Indian Government's instructions were to first "protect landlines" and only then think of making commitments on mobile telephony.

However, the Indian delegate got his hands on the reference paper. He then put it through to the Indian Government to decide on the country's stance on mobile telephony. The rest, as they say, is history.

SOUTH ASIA FORUM

Now, the Governments and billions of people of the eight SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries are hoping for more such out-of-the-box ideas, as the first meeting of the South Asia Forum (SAF) to be held in Delhi from September 7-9. SAF is an initiative that emanated from the Silver Jubilee Declaration of the SAARC Summit held in Thimphu, in April last year.

Billed as a meeting of business, think-tanks, academia, media and civil society, the main thrust of the three-day meeting will be to generate ideas, which could eventually lead to greater integration of the regional grouping, and help the region in moving towards an economic union. The regional grouping includes India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh. SAF is also being seen as a unique concept, because even though Track-II processes and people-to-people contacts are underway in the region, this is a first-of-its-kind forum, to be formally endorsed by the SAARC Summit.

It is not as though the SAARC regional grouping has not achieved much in its 25 years of existence. For example, starting from an intra-regional business of approximately $150 million, the last five years have seen the business go up to $5 billion.

Now, many hopes are being pinned on the SAF meeting, because even though the need for intra-regional economic integration is greater than ever before in the present competitive environment, a 2006 World Bank report shows that South Asia is the least integrated region on the globe.

FIVE-PRONGED STRATEGY

The figures speak for themselves. During 2009, with a total trade volume of $628.9 billion, intra-regional trade in South Asia was a mere 5 per cent. In comparison, East Asia's regional trade constituted 32 per cent of its total trade in 2006. To make matters even worse, a Ministry of External Affairs concept paper points out that as much as 55 per cent of the intra-regional trade potential remains largely untapped.

The Governments in the region have now realised that the SAF initiative will be largely driven by the industry or business. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the industry organisation, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), has been roped in for the Delhi event.

There is also a realisation that in the changing environment, it is services that will play a greater role in integrating the economies of the region, instead of manufacturing. Hence, intra-regional trade in services, which was absent under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), is now being considered.

To take this path of cooperation forward, the Indian industry body has suggested a five-pronged strategy — providing freedom to trade without barriers, freedom to invest across borders, freedom of seamless travel, connectivity across the borders and creation of South-Asian brand equity.

ECONOMIC INTEGRATION

While cynics point out that given the precarious state of relations between India and Pakistan, the two largest economies in the region, the SAF will be a non-starter, the region has a lot more to offer this public-private partnership. Take Bangladesh, for example. It has leveraged the international system and now has access to all international markets. So much so that 'Made in Bangladesh' labels are common everywhere in Europe or America.

The Indian business community is also enthused by the business prospects that it sees in many of the SAARC countries. At the top of the list is Sri Lanka, which not only provides a lot of business potential, but also has a Government that is keen to work with Indian companies. These are small but significant steps. However, the best thing for the SAF initiative is that it is now recognised all across the globe that economic integration in this region will be an important factor for global stability.

What the Forum now needs to do is to generate ideas which could be taken up by the Governments, so that the future of the people of the region can be changed, much in the manner that a chance meeting between Indian and Brazilian diplomats changed the lives of the people in India more than two decades ago.

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BUSINESS LINE

LET GENDER JUSTICE PREVAIL

MOHAN MURTI

Earlier this year, when I was at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, one of the interesting sessions I attended focused on pursuing policies that would allow more women to enter the workforce, occupy positions of decision-making in the government and other related positions of power, across the world. 

The session titled Six Global Challenges, One Solution: Women arrived at the consensus that one of the most effective ways of combating unbridled global problems, such as illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and economic recovery, was by bridging the gender gap.

Rightly so, as women make up over half the world's population. And their participation in and contribution to the political process are both imperative and indispensable. In fact, it is a fundamental right.

Gender Equality

In this context, the nations of the European Union are striving incessantly to realise the very values upon which they were founded: Democracy, equality between women and men and an undivided, progressive Europe.

These values constitute the backbone of Europe's social democracy that, in turn, not only provides the rational foundation for its survival but is also accepted as a way of life.

Indeed, the increased representation of women in the European Parliament has raised the level of democratic representation of the citizens of the EU and helped Parliament incorporate a gender perspective into all areas of its work.

in European Parliament

In 2010, the balance between the sexes in the European Parliament and at other legislatures around Europe reveal that women make up around 53 per cent of Europe's population and occupy 35 per cent of the seats in Parliament.

According to a report by the European Commission, 20 countries around the world had 35 per cent or more female MPs. Among those, eight are in the EU — Sweden (47 per cent), Finland (44), the Netherlands (40, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Austria (all, around 37 per cent).

India's ranking

The Davos session that released the annual Global Gender Gap Report 2010, issued by World Economic Forum, indicated that India stood at 112 among 134 countries worldwide. Despite the fact that India has women in leading positions in politics, this has not really heralded a new age of gender equality.

Iceland topped the Global Gender Gap rankings showing greatest equality between men and women, followed by Nordic countries Norway, Finland, and Sweden.

The WEF's annual Global Gender Gap Report assesses 134 countries on how well they divide resources and opportunities amongst male and female populations. Gaps are measured in the areas of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.

The report and the discussions that ensued in the session sounded the alarm for India and similar laggards to take urgent steps to make women as equal partners in the society and eliminate gender inequality. A strong message from the world community, not to be ignored.

Gender imbalance

It is a fact that many countries of the world, hitherto ruled by men for centuries, have been going through a period of political and economic turmoil.

India is no exception, thanks initially to the Muslim rule, the British colonisation and the post- Independence male chauvinism. The Arab countries primarily, and India in particular, need special mention in this context.

In India, degeneration has set in and is so deep that many people have started asking for a women-takeover. The Anna Hazare movement, (may his tribe increase!) highlights how cruel and cold-blooded male administrators of the country are.

Motherly care

I am of the view that it is high time for countries like India, Pakistan and much of the Arab world to be administered at least in the higher political level and at the bureaucracy by women for some time till men re-invent some equanimity and level-headedness.

People of these countries, especially the poor need 'motherly concern and care', which only mothers can give. While men think with their head, the women do it by the heart. And, this makes for a lot of difference.

Now is the time for the women in India to demand an end to their unjust marginalisation and deprivation, be it the girl child in the womb, or at any level of schooling, housewives or office-goers.

A change cannot come about by relying on the lip service of men and their pseudo condescending exclamations. One look at the Women's Reservation Bill which has been hanging fire before Parliament for years, or the selection of candidates at election time by the political parties, is convincing enough to show the hollow intentions of the men.

Even Ms Sonia Gandhi, labelled as one of the most powerful woman in the world, is unable to get the Women's Reservation bill through because of objections from her male counterparts in Parliament in all the parties. A change can only come through an Anna type movement involving a large number of women. After all, reforms do not rain from heaven. They are grown in mother earth.

So, women have to snatch every inch today, here and now. And, sans affirmative action, India's gender gap will not significantly decrease in the years to come.

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BUSINESS LINE

A POLICY READING OF RBI'S BOOKS

K.KANAGASABAPATHY

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)'s annual report released in the last week of August for the year 2010-11 (ending June 2011) shows that its total income increased by Rs 4,186 crore or 12.7 per cent to Rs 37,070 crore, from Rs 32,884 crore in 2009-10.

This is indeed a heartening development after the Bank's income sharply fell by Rs 27,848 crore or by 45.9 per cent in 2009-10. The two major components of the Bank's income are earnings from foreign sources and earnings from domestic sources.

The report adds that the increase in income from domestic sources by Rs 8,138 crore more than offset the decline in income from foreign sources by Rs 3,953 crore.

As a matter of fact, the income from foreign sources declined over the last three years since 2008-09. It will be of interest to examine how the income of the RBI behaved over the decade beginning 2001-02, distributed as between domestic and foreign sources.

Domestic, Foreign Sources

One factor that determines the income is the asset base. The other factor is the return available from these assets.

While the domestic assets comprise mainly central government securities, the foreign assets comprise foreign currency assets and gold.

The return is mainly a function of the level of domestic and international interest rates. India does not have a fully open capital account and, overall, domestic interest rates were ruling generally higher than international interest rates over the decade. The balance-sheet of the Reserve Bank expanded significantly during 2010-11, mainly reflecting the impact of liquidity management operations undertaken by the Bank.

There was a significant increase in Bank's portfolio of domestic assets in the form of government securities on account of open market purchases, repo purchases and disinvestment of Government of India's surplus balance parked with the Reserve Bank. The increase in foreign currency assets mainly reflected the valuation effect on the portfolio.

The annual report rightly claims that the assets and liabilities reflect the outcome of its operations, guided by the overall policy objectives relating to the economy and the financial system, and not by commercial considerations. Two such important developments in the policy in the recent period affecting the income of the Bank need to be highlighted.

First, the RBI has not been actively intervening in the foreign exchange market and has stopped significantly accumulating foreign currency assets since late 2008. There is, therefore, a perceptible shift in asset holding in favour of domestic assets.

While domestic assets increased by 38 per cent in 2010-11 on top of a 104 per cent increase in 2009-10, the foreign assets depicted an overall decline since 2008-09. As a result, the share of domestic assets increased from 11.2 per cent in 2007-08 to 29.7 per cent in 2010-11.

Second, is the strategic changes that have been introduced in the operating procedures of monetary policy.

One significant element of this policy has been the decision to keep the system generally in deficit mode to achieve a better transmission of policy rate signals of the Bank. This precludes the need of the Bank to absorb enormous surplus liquidity at a cost, and conversely enables the bank to earn on its liquidity management operations.

These two changes in a nutshell would also mean that the sterilisation costs are minimised. In fact, the level of market stabilisation securities has been reduced to zero currently.

The Decadal Trend

The income of the Bank showed volatile movements. On a cumulative basis, since 2001-02, the income increased only by Rs 15,221 crore, the domestic sources contributing Rs 4,156 crore and foreign sources Rs 11,065 crore (Table). For policy reasons and because of the interest rate differential, the return on domestic assets had generally been higher than that of foreign assets, barring two years, 2004-05 and 2005-06. The return on foreign assets touched its lowest in the last two years.

Foreign sources contributed to larger share of income, not because of higher return but because of the predominant share of foreign assets in the RBI's portfolio, touching as much as 89 per cent in 2008-09.

The counter-factual is that, perhaps, in the place of these assets, domestic assets would have earned a higher income.

But, what needs to be kept in mind is that overall policy considerations required the RBI's asset management policy to keep that level of foreign assets during the critical years that helped tide over the crisis situations smoothly. The RBI's operations and policy should, after all, never be viewed from a commercial angle.

The operating procedure of monetary policy in India has witnessed significant changes since the beginning of the 1990s, thanks to developments in the money market and changes in liquidity conditions brought about by financial sector reforms.

In this process, the LAF, introduced in June 2000, emerged as the principal operating procedure of monetary policy, with the repo and the reverse repo rates as the key instruments for signalling the monetary policy stance.

LAF, supported by instruments such as the CRR, OMO and MSS, had served the Indian monetary and financial system well.

Large volatility in capital flows and sharp fluctuations in government cash balances, however, posed several challenges to liquidity management by the Reserve Bank.

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BUSINESS LINE

'WE ARE PLAYING THE GAME OF LAST MAN STANDING'

RAGHUVIR SRINIVASAN

He spent 12 years at EasyJet when it was growing at a scorching pace and later helped start up low-cost Middle-East carrier, flydubai. Yet, for 40-year-old South African Neil Raymond Mills, this could be his toughest assignment.

He moved in as CEO of SpiceJet last October, just as the airline was flying into difficult times. Challenged now by high fuel costs, mounting losses and competition that is bent on taking fares to unsustainably low levels, Mr Mills has to leverage all his financial training and skills to help SpiceJet fly out of turbulence.

Business Line caught up with him at Toronto soon after SpiceJet took delivery of its first Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft. Excerpts from the chat on a tour bus headed towards Niagara Falls:

You said today that SpiceJet is not a regional carrier. Can you elaborate?

Regional carriers have certain characteristics if you look at them worldwide. They usually have poor volumes, the utilisation of the aircraft tends to be quite low and they don't tend to make any money. On all three aspects, we don't fit at all. We will want high volumes; we will have high utilisation of assets and we will make money. So we are a low-cost carrier that happens to be flying into regional markets. That's the difference.

If I could have flown into some of these smaller markets with a Boeing and kept the business simple, that's exactly what I would have done. I can't because of the infrastructure constraints and the need for a different machine.

With oil prices projected to remain strong, what are the options for airlines?

The option we have is obviously to manage the asset as best as we can. So even a 1 or 2 per cent reduction in fuel burn is important and we are doing everything we can to fly the aircraft as smartly as we can, to keep the fuel burn as low as possible. We are looking at revising our tankering policies, single-engine taxis. None of these will make you rich, but every bit will help.

There is no silver bullet in the low-cost business. But each little thing you do adds up, and over time, the solution is found.

You have been quoted as saying that competition is dropping prices to unsustainable levels. How do you cope with this kind of irrational competition?

We are trying to keep our cost base as low as possible. We are the operator with the lowest cost in India today and as you would see in our last published results, we have brought our cost per seat down by 5 per cent.

Pricing will be dictated by the market and we can survive in the short term to medium term with a few bad quarters. But, really, the game we are playing is 'last man standing' and we are okay with it.

And our promoter is okay with it as well, as you can see from the announcement today that he is picking up another 5 per cent in the company at a price of around Rs 36 a share, when the market price is Rs 22. He is actually paying a premium to get a preferential allotment. That's because he has confidence in the business and confidence that the money he is bringing into the business is good investment.

So what you are essentially saying is that you will keep bringing in capital to sustain the business…

Yes, and it is not a bottomless pit. I'm not going to keep asking him for money because we are inefficient or we don't make money. But this is really a time when the promoter is showing confidence in the business model. May be some of the other promoters should be looking to do the same thing.

Given the bad balance-sheets of some of your competitors, do you see a shake-out in the offing?

Whether there will be consolidation post the collapse, I'm not sure. Should there be a collapse? Well, some of the balance-sheets are horrible, absolutely horrible. I'm a finance guy and having any part of that balance-sheet would really scare me. Some of them are at the point where even servicing the interest bills is difficult. One of them has an interest bill that needs a 12-per cent margin to service; in the airline business, during the best of times you get a 4-6 per cent margin. How are you going to service that load?

Is the government making your job more difficult with some of its regulations, such as no extra charge for preferred seats?

It is not appropriate for me to have a go at the government when it is going through tough times.

Okay, what would you look for as help from the government at this juncture?

I would prefer to see the government step out of the industry; just leave it alone. Let the free market economy do its job. Don't overtax the industry, don't over-regulate it. Let us get on with it. If we kick the hell out of each other, that's fine. That is what free market is all about. The consumer does well because the pricing would become lower, particularly in the short to medium term, and we will all become better businesses by having to deal with competition. The government should be involved as regulator to make sure we remain honest, to make sure that we stay safe.

When do you think the new Q400s will start paying back? Are margins on the regional routes better than on the trunk routes?

Competition dynamics will be different here, so we may be able to achieve better pricing just because the level of head-to-head competition will be different. Even if we have head-to-head competition, the product is not comparable.

The Q400 is a very good machine and if you put it against the ATRs, especially the very tired machines that you have in India today, it is very superior.

So we should have better margins and I think it will start paying back from sometime in the middle of the second year of operations. That, any way, depends on the pricing we are able to get in the market.

What is the outlook for the next couple of quarters?

It's a tough environment and the only comfort, hollow comfort, is that our losses in the last two quarters are relatively less than that of competitors. Even on a proportional basis, we seem to be doing okay and that's all we will try to do.

As I said, it comes back to the 'last man standing'. It's a game I don't particularly want to play, but am quite happy to play considering the relative position that we have. If I have to play this game, then I'd rather have the balance-sheet that I do rather than that of my competitors.

SpiceJet seems to have vacated the space of being a sought-after low-cost carrier to Indigo… what is your take?

Indigo is a good competitor. The fact that SpiceJet is now smaller than Indigo is SpiceJet's fault, and not Indigo's.

SpiceJet went through too many management and shareholder changes in too short a time. It lost focus in delivering as a business. But the focus is back now — in the last four months we have grown 42 per cent. Are we trying to play catch up? No. We'll make sure that we are competitive.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA MUST BRIDGE THE TRUST DEFICIT

 

At the time when anti-corruption social activist Anna Hazare was captivating the country with his inspiring fast unto death, another equally distressing drama was being played out in the country's stock markets. The indices of most stocks, which had started declining from the beginning of August, sank to their lowest levels in 14 months, wiping out thousands of crore of investor gains. The Sensex, which is considered the best barometer of the Mumbai stock exchange, hit its nadir just when it seemed that Mr Hazare's stand-off with the government would come to naught. The diffusing of the political crisis coincided with a gradual rebound in stock indices. Since then the Indian stock market seems to be stabilising. No stock analyst, however, attributed the Sensex drop to the political crisis engendered by the Anna Hazare fast. The markets, they claimed, had been spooked by the global downturn and US monetary policy. Indian brokers were watching US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's moves more closely than domestic developments. The world seemed to have become a little too interconnected for comfort. While there could be no doubt that developments in the global economy, especially the developed ones, would have an impact on the Indian industry, few analysts admitted that a bigger factor could be the domestic economic environment. A lot of companies witnessed losses in their share values primarily because stock analysts found that as much as 46 per cent of Sensex companies had underperformed. It was clear that foreign financial investors felt things were not going so well for the Indian economy and decided to book profits while the going was still good. A major cause of the August stock prices trough was the withdrawal of $1.6 billion from Indian markets by foreign investors that month. This made the Indian stock market the worst performer among emerging markets after Brazil. The problem is not lack of money; there is, in fact, too much of it floating around the world. Global investors do not know where to park their cash and have been mopping up US Treasury Bills even though they give negative returns only because it is reliable. Money is also going into gold and silver, raising their prices to historical highs. The problem really is lack of confidence in business performance in the Western economies and uncertainties in the emerging markets. This holds true for India as well. The Indian economy is beset with a host of fairly serious problems, all of which are making global as well as domestic investors apprehensive. Every economic indicator suggests that the overall GDP growth is declining and economists feel it will be impossible to maintain eight per cent growth this year. Most predict the GDP growth this fiscal will be 7.2 per cent or lower. The economic slowdown in the country has been attributed to various factors. A recent Morgan Stanley report blamed a combination of factors for lower growth figures, "including persistently high inflation, higher cost of capital, cut in the ratio of fiscal spending to GDP, a weak global capital markets environment and slow pace of investment". One other factor that has been widely cited for the drop in growth and investments is the effect of scams and corruption scandals on the government's decision-making process. A bigger problem is uncontrolled inflation that is eating into household incomes and triggering continuous hikes in the RBI's prime lending rate. The real devil seems to be government profligacy. Ballooning subsidy bills, a slew of populist programmes and general fiscal indiscipline has thrown government finances out of gear. Government data released last week revealed some frightening trends. Despite promises to contain the fiscal deficit in a systematic manner, this gap more than doubled in the first four months of this fiscal year as compared to the same period last year. The figures suggested that the deficit of Rs 2.2 lakh crores during April-June this year is already more than 63 per cent of the budget estimate of `3.07 lakh crore for the entire year. The government is both sucking in funds from the system as well as spending it on non-productive heads. This is irresponsibility at its worst during a period of high inflation. To make matters worse, the government has massively hiked procurement prices of foodgrains and has simultaneously held on to public grain stocks, thus aggravating food inflation. At the same time, high domestic inflation and economic uncertainties have kept the rupee down in relation to the dollar, leading to a failure to compensate for high commodity prices, especially that of oil and gas. Rising energy prices have further added to inflation, thus setting up a sort of vicious cycle from which the economy seems unable to fully extricate itself. The government by failing to control its deficit is living beyond its means. This suggests it has learnt little from the crisis that has scuppered the world's largest economy as well as a number of smaller European Union countries that are today on their knees because of irresponsible government deficits and borrowings. India desperately needs to pull in cash from the vast global pool of available funds for investment in infrastructure, retail and so on. To do that the economy needs to become and look like an attractive investment opportunity. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen unless the government gets its act together. Indranil Banerjie is an independent security and political risk consultant

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

USE COMMON SENSE, NOT TECHNICALITIES

 

Recent events bring home to us that the functioning of our governance structures leave no stone unturned to cause dismay. It is evident that the emphasis is on woodenness and technicalities, not on getting to the nub of an issue, much less empathy for the context. These characteristics are not unique to the UPA-led system, but as the government loses its sheen, thanks in some measure to its attitude of not communicating with the people, the mud seems to stick more and more. Once your stock goes, nothing seems to go right. Such a juncture ought to dictate humility, and a sympathetic look at matters of concern to the people. But not for those who are running the show. Take what's happened to Arvind Kejriwal, an Indian Revenue Service officer who has been out to slay the demon of corruption for some years, whatever the view some may take of the way he has gone about it. The case appears symbolic of just what the Anna Hazare campaign was all about — extraordinary delays in government, with the matter being settled through a bribe. There is evidently a dispute between Mr Kejriwal and the cadre he served on whether he has cleared his dues, and whether or not he remains on the rolls of the government. It is typical that the government should continue to write inane letters to him over a period of four years, the latest of which arrived when the anti-corruption activist was one of the key commanders of Mr Hazare during the recent Ramlila Maidan campaign — that is to say at the peak of his popularity at the head of an unprecedented anti-corruption movement. This letter was clearly calculated to create the effect that the government was being vindictive. Should the matter not have been settled by the government within six months at best of the officer putting in his papers, if necessary by taking recourse to the law? The privilege notices to Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Mr Kejriwal are no less galling. True, the trio were not decorous with language when they denounced the class of our MPs, and might even have attracted libel had they named names. But in a raucous democracy, this ought to be par for the course. MPs cannot be allowed to act precious. The case of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court is different, but it too underlines technicality and foolishness, not the play of robust common sense. The man has resigned, but the shadow of impeachment is yet to lift fully. Isn't the purpose of impeachment to get the recalcitrant in high places to vacate office?

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A LIBYAN PRISONER LIVES TO TELL HIS STORY

 

He was my confidential source in the Libyan military this spring, an officer who passed on secret information about disaffection in the ranks of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. And then as the Libyan revolution spread, he made bombs and smuggled weapons into Tripoli to help overthrow the Gaddafi government. But then Salem al-Madhoun, 47, was arrested three weeks ago, captured after the Gaddafi forces detected his Thuraya satellite telephone transmissions. I received an urgent message about his capture, and I assumed that by now he must have been tortured and executed. On arriving here in Libya, I set out to comfort his widow. That proved unnecessary. When rebels liberated the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, they found Madhoun: skeletal and tortured, but alive. Now he is the hero of Tajoura, the suburb outside the capital where he lives, and in long conversations in his office and home he recounted the full story of how he came to help overthrow the government. Madhoun as an engineer he rose in the ranks of the Navy. When the Libyan revolution began in February, his ship was ordered to attack Benghazi, but he, instead, plotted to defect and sail his ship to Malta. Through an intermediary at that time, he asked me whether he could get American protection while the ship was at sea. I'm not in the business of providing air cover, but I wrote a blog post then urging the Obama administration to create a safety corridor to protect Libyan ships seeking to defect. Then Madhoun heard from fellow officers that he was about to be arrested, and he changed plans. He recorded a video on board his ship, announcing his defection and calling on other military officers to join his mutiny. I was in Cairo then covering the revolution at Tahrir Square and received a frantic call: Would I put the video online? I agreed to do so but asked about Madhoun's family. He was in hiding, but what if the government took revenge? I didn't want that on my conscience, and I suggested that Madhoun think it through carefully. He consulted with his wife, Samah, who was outraged at the way he was placing his family at risk. Somewhat sheepishly, Madhoun sent word that I shouldn't mention his name after all, and we dropped the idea of showing the video. He disappeared into hiding, along with his family, and began to help organise the underground resistance in the Tripoli area. Working with a force that he says consisted of around 1,200 underground rebels, he smuggled weapons in by boat and bombed security offices. He sent targeting data to French government contacts so that Nato could bomb military sites. Libyan women have received little attention in the uprising, but, behind the scenes, they played a significant role. Even Madhoun's daughters, ages 11 and 14, volunteered to sew rebel flags, which other family members then hung from mosques and schools to spread the message of resistance. "This is the time to fight Gaddafi," Madhoun's 18-year-old niece, Rehab, remembers telling him, and she pleaded for any assignment in the underground. An engineering student who speaks excellent English, Rehab also began painting dramatic anti-Gaddafi graffiti around Tripoli — sometimes in English so that foreigners would know that the opposition was alive. She also used her engineering skills to tap into the Internet, which the government had blocked, to send messages to the outside world. In May, Madhoun was picked up in a routine police sweep, but he lied about his identity and claimed to be a vegetable seller. After four hours and a beating, he was released. But then, on August 10, police found Madhoun's hide-out, and his world collapsed. "When they arrested me, I knew I was going to be killed," he recounted. He was subjected to horrific electric shocks in interrogations overseen by Seif al-Islam. "What helped me endure torture was reciting the Koran," he said, adding that he never gave up names. After less than two weeks, rebels stormed the prison and named Madhoun the military commander of the newly liberated Tajoura area. He now has an escort of bodyguards as he strolls through the neighbourhood — rapturously greeted by neighbours. Americans are wondering and worried about who Libya's new leaders are, and whether they can knit the country together. In truth, these new leaders include all kinds, but I'm reassured and inspired when I meet those like Madhoun. It's impossible to know what lies ahead for Libya, but Madhoun's story is a window into the grit and vision that made the entire Arab Spring possible, from Tunisia to Syria. Yes, the movement was facilitated by Facebook and Twitter, but so many people lost lives or limbs. This was no armchair revolution. Madhoun acknowledges that the hard work is only just beginning. Yet he is guardedly optimistic that Libya can build a modern multi-party democracy — and he hopes that US President Barack Obama will soon come to Tripoli so that the Libyan people can thank him and all Americans for their support. "My death was inevitable," he said, "but I am alive thanks to God and Nato."

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

A LIBYAN PRISONER LIVES TO TELL HIS STORY

 

He was my confidential source in the Libyan military this spring, an officer who passed on secret information about disaffection in the ranks of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. And then as the Libyan revolution spread, he made bombs and smuggled weapons into Tripoli to help overthrow the Gaddafi government. But then Salem al-Madhoun, 47, was arrested three weeks ago, captured after the Gaddafi forces detected his Thuraya satellite telephone transmissions. I received an urgent message about his capture, and I assumed that by now he must have been tortured and executed. On arriving here in Libya, I set out to comfort his widow. That proved unnecessary. When rebels liberated the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, they found Madhoun: skeletal and tortured, but alive. Now he is the hero of Tajoura, the suburb outside the capital where he lives, and in long conversations in his office and home he recounted the full story of how he came to help overthrow the government. Madhoun as an engineer he rose in the ranks of the Navy. When the Libyan revolution began in February, his ship was ordered to attack Benghazi, but he, instead, plotted to defect and sail his ship to Malta. Through an intermediary at that time, he asked me whether he could get American protection while the ship was at sea. I'm not in the business of providing air cover, but I wrote a blog post then urging the Obama administration to create a safety corridor to protect Libyan ships seeking to defect. Then Madhoun heard from fellow officers that he was about to be arrested, and he changed plans. He recorded a video on board his ship, announcing his defection and calling on other military officers to join his mutiny. I was in Cairo then covering the revolution at Tahrir Square and received a frantic call: Would I put the video online? I agreed to do so but asked about Madhoun's family. He was in hiding, but what if the government took revenge? I didn't want that on my conscience, and I suggested that Madhoun think it through carefully. He consulted with his wife, Samah, who was outraged at the way he was placing his family at risk. Somewhat sheepishly, Madhoun sent word that I shouldn't mention his name after all, and we dropped the idea of showing the video. He disappeared into hiding, along with his family, and began to help organise the underground resistance in the Tripoli area. Working with a force that he says consisted of around 1,200 underground rebels, he smuggled weapons in by boat and bombed security offices. He sent targeting data to French government contacts so that Nato could bomb military sites. Libyan women have received little attention in the uprising, but, behind the scenes, they played a significant role. Even Madhoun's daughters, ages 11 and 14, volunteered to sew rebel flags, which other family members then hung from mosques and schools to spread the message of resistance. "This is the time to fight Gaddafi," Madhoun's 18-year-old niece, Rehab, remembers telling him, and she pleaded for any assignment in the underground. An engineering student who speaks excellent English, Rehab also began painting dramatic anti-Gaddafi graffiti around Tripoli — sometimes in English so that foreigners would know that the opposition was alive. She also used her engineering skills to tap into the Internet, which the government had blocked, to send messages to the outside world. In May, Madhoun was picked up in a routine police sweep, but he lied about his identity and claimed to be a vegetable seller. After four hours and a beating, he was released. But then, on August 10, police found Madhoun's hide-out, and his world collapsed. "When they arrested me, I knew I was going to be killed," he recounted. He was subjected to horrific electric shocks in interrogations overseen by Seif al-Islam. "What helped me endure torture was reciting the Koran," he said, adding that he never gave up names. After less than two weeks, rebels stormed the prison and named Madhoun the military commander of the newly liberated Tajoura area. He now has an escort of bodyguards as he strolls through the neighbourhood — rapturously greeted by neighbours. Americans are wondering and worried about who Libya's new leaders are, and whether they can knit the country together. In truth, these new leaders include all kinds, but I'm reassured and inspired when I meet those like Madhoun. It's impossible to know what lies ahead for Libya, but Madhoun's story is a window into the grit and vision that made the entire Arab Spring possible, from Tunisia to Syria. Yes, the movement was facilitated by Facebook and Twitter, but so many people lost lives or limbs. This was no armchair revolution. Madhoun acknowledges that the hard work is only just beginning. Yet he is guardedly optimistic that Libya can build a modern multi-party democracy — and he hopes that US President Barack Obama will soon come to Tripoli so that the Libyan people can thank him and all Americans for their support. "My death was inevitable," he said, "but I am alive thanks to God and Nato."

`          

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

GODDESS OF SMALL CHANGES

 

Raj bhavan jinx Since governor Prabha Rau's demise in April 2010, the Rajasthan Raj Bhavan has been eagerly awaiting a full-time governor. It's been more than a year and yet no one has been appointed. Or is it, as some whispers in sarkari corridors seem to suggest, that "koi Raj Bhavan jane ko raji nahi hai"? "You know, netas believe so much in the auspicious and the ominous that they became cautious after the death of the governor here," a politician said. Before Rau, S.K. Singh passed away while serving as governor. Late Nirmal Chand Jain spent only a few months here before he died. Late Darbara Singh, too, had a very short innings, less than a month. Last year the Congress high command offered the governor's post to an ailing, aged farming community leader of the Shekhawati region, but he refused to grace the Raj Bhavan. The only hope now seems to be Punjab governor who may take additional charge of Rajasthan. But the Raj Bhavan jinx is not confined to Rajasthan. Former chief minister Shiv Charan Mathur died while serving as the governor of Assam; former minister Govind Singh Gurjar passed away while he was working as the lieutenant governor of Puducherry. In politics it seems the only thing greater than power is life. Hazare to Hazarika At first many thought it could be one of those things — a mere slip of the tongue. But it is now clear that Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi habitually mixes up names. At his press conferences, journalists engage in a mind game, trying to figure out who the chief minister may be referring to. The latest casualty of Mr Gogoi's erring tongue was Anna Hazare. Mr Gogoi, while congratulating Mr Hazare on his crusade against corruption, repeatedly referred to him as "Anna Hazarika". Earlier, too, while congratulating West Bengal chief minister on her victory, Mr Gogoi referred to her as "Mamata Goswami". His aides see nothing very serious in these mutations as long as, they say, Mr Gogoi does not mix up the names of the Congress president and the Prime Minister. Lighter loads In the past, reporters on the West Bengal Assembly beat used to look forward to and also dread the day they would be given copies of the state annual budget, budget speeches of various government departments as well as fat volumes of CAG reports. This year too, after Mamata Banerjee took oath, reporters have been grumbling about having to lug the tomes again. But reporters were in for a surprise on September 1 when they were handed the budget speeches of three dozen departments and four volumes of CAG reports neatly packed in simple but attractive cloth bags which they could comfortably carry to their offices. "Another manifestation of Didi's paribartan," was how one scribe described it. Didi really is the goddess of small but sweet changes. Careful in Karnataka Now that it is almost certain that former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is headed for judicial custody for the misdeeds of his sons and son-in-law, his successor is not taking any chances. Ever since he took over as chief minister, D.V. Sadananda Gowda has been a very cautious man, especially vigilant about the "activities" of his son Karthik, who runs a real estate company. Not one to take chances, Mr Gowda has drawn not one but many lakshman rekhas around him. The chief minister has told son Karthik not to entertain his friends and, in particular, not to bring any projects to him for clearance. Gowda junior is reported to have told some of his friends that he hardly gets to spend any time with his father and now he has to restrict his interactions with them as well. Better safe than sorry, son, appa seems to be saying. A pledge of honesty Shortly after the Anna fever swept across the country, senior IPS officer Asim Arun, at present posted as deputy inspector general of police, Agra, rounded up all his subordinates and made them take a pledge that they would not accept bribe or indulge in any corrupt practices. While the initiative drew rounds of applause from anti-corruption activists, it has put the state administration in a quandary. Most of the top officials in the state remained tight-lipped when asked to comment on the initiative but some admitted that the episode had brought on considerable embarrassment for the Mayawati government. "This means that the police personnel were taking bribe till now and would stop indulging in corrupt practices after taking the oath. The officer in question should have given the issue some thought before indulging in such a childish act," said a senior IPS officer. But the naysayers seem outnumbered by Anna fans in the Uttar Pradesh administration. Lawyers in Agra have decided to take a similar pledge, and many other sections of "public servants" are also contemplating an honesty pledge. At this rate the Mayawati dispensation may well be the first to succumb to the Anna effect.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LIVE, LOVE LIKE MOTHER TERESA

 

The 101st birth anniversary of Mother Teresa was celebrated in many parts of the world, and especially at the Mother House of Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, on August 26. According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, however, one usually observes feasts in honour of saints or the "blessed" on the day they left the world to live in total communion with God forever. Thirteen years ago on this date (September 5), Mother Teresa left the millions who adored her, mourning. Either way, it is worth remembering why the "saint of the gutter" continues to disturb the conscience of the world. Once when her biographer — Navin Chawla — asked Mother how her work would be different from other Catholic Orders, she replied, "As long as we remain committed to the poorest of the poor and don't end up working for the rich, the work will prosper." It must be elucidated that it is not just her work for the poorest of the poor that distinguished Mother from the rest of the social workers and NGOs. The reason for Mother to reach out to the "scum" and poorest of the society was the love she had for Jesus and she wanted desperately to share this love, especially with those who she thought were completely deprived of it. Spirituality for her was to impart that love to those who had all but lost human dignity. She always said, "Each one has a right to die with dignity, with the feeling of being loved and that God has not abandoned him/her." She did not ask people to do mighty acts of charity but to do what they did with great love. That is why she used to say to people, "Let us do something beautiful for God." Mother never glorified poverty nor did she curse those who caused destitution and human sufferings to the masses. One of the human right activists once asked her, "Mother you do so much for the poor but you never raise your voice against the social structures that cause such privation?" That was not the first time she was asked that question and knowing that it would not be the last time, she answered, "That job is left for others like you. My call is to bring smiles on the people's faces by letting them have the little of what God has given us in abundance." Mother drew her strength to perform this daunting task for years on end because her life was founded on her unflinching faith in Jesus which received its daily refuelling from the hours she spent praying, becoming thus a real example of St. Benedict's rule, "Ora et Labora".

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PAK-PIRACY NEXUS?

THOROUGH PROBE NEEDED


DISTURBING, and of ominous international dimension, are reports from Porbandar that the questioning of apprehended Somali pirates points to their being trained in Pakistan. Not only does that confirm suspicions that the division between piracy and terrorism is being blurred, but also that Pakistan's providing training to terrorists has spread far beyond traditional jihadi zones. Given the implications of that possibility, Indian security and investigative agencies must lose no time "checking out" the conclusions of the authorities in the Gujarat port. They are drawing their conclusion after questioning the pirates captured when the Indian Navy rescued a hijacked Iranian vessel, MV Nafis-1, off Mumbai a fortnight ago. Since a number of other Somali pirates are already in custody ~ including the shipwrecked groups washed up on the north Gujarat shore ~ a wider and deeper round of interrogation is extremely important: in fact it might be advisable at a later stage to involve investigators of other nations since Somali pirates have scant regard for the flags flown by the vessels they hijack. Conversely, it is possible that the local police/ customs authorities in Porbandar are propounding theories on flimsy evidence, allowing traditional bias to come into play. Either way, the truth must be established. Given the reality that India's coastal defences are porous ~ the defence minister has made his displeasure evident on at least two recent occasions ~ the possibility of terrorists operating under the guise of pirates has raised the threat threshold.


Maritime security monitors will be awaiting feedback on the success ~ or lack of it ~ of the government's permitting Indian-owned vessels to embark armed guards when traversing pirate infested waters. While a number of regulations have been imposed, of critical importance will be professional training of those guards and the level of coordination attained with the crew of the merchant vessel. As a follow-up, fresh legislation to give anti-piracy operations sharper teeth must be enacted quickly. Yet there is a flip side. By upping the ante it is inevitable that Indian vessels will become "trophy targets" for the pirates. And some will fall into the pirates' hands. In such situations the resolve of the civilian crew taken hostage, and that of their families in India, will be put to test. The government will then be subjected to severe pressure to back off and negotiate the crew's release. A policy mismatch could be on the cards.



RURAL MIGRATION

NREGS & THE CHARTER OF REFORMS

THE Union rural development minister's statement of intent to tone up the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme comes more than seven years after this flagship programme was introduced. Jairam Ramesh's "charter of reforms" only iterates the obvious when he avers that it ought to be "demand driven and rights based". Wasn't that the guiding principle when Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurated the scheme in 2004? It has since been embellished with the name of the Father of the Nation though the reach and impact hasn't quite matched up to the tag. In the net, the "charter" comes in response to a gigantic public sector failure. Mr Ramesh needs to go beyond theory and focus on a more critical issue ~ the reality of rural migration in the absence of "guaranteed" jobs. The target, therefore, has in certain states ceased to be a quantifiable factor. Indeed, the mitigation of this phenomenon called "distress migration" is one of the primary objectives of the scheme aside from the much-publicised 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year. At the root of the crisis is the mechanics of the labour budget which itself is unscientific. The outlay is projected on the basis of the previous year's estimates and worse, speculative calculation. The hypothetical projection has had a disastrous effect, with prospective workers not assured of work. Hence the migration from one village to another, a phenomenon that has made work projections go haywire.


Not that the "charter of reforms", released by the minister last Thursday, hasn't taken note of the problem. Belatedly again, the minister has advanced the budgeting date to 15 August from the present 2 October, Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary. It has eventually been realised that the NREGS budgeting need not be an annual document to celebrate an anniversary. The timing has been awfully delayed, precisely after the fiscal year has lapsed. At any rate, it has proved to be too late in the day to prevent rural migration. The other issue that needs to be addressed is the obvious co-relation between wages ~ Rs 110 per day ~ and inflation. The "charter of reforms" must translate to tangible improvement in a crucial segment of public policy.


TRUTH ABOUT SYRIA

AND THE DEFECTION FROM WITHIN

ON the face of it, the defection of Syria's chief legal officer might appear to be the belated revolt of a disillusioned individual. But the provocation behind the switchover of Adnan Bakkour is an indictment of the Assad regime. Most importantly the siege of Hama, the bastion of the rebels, and the spate of killings in the town last month. In a video statement, the attorney-general has cited evidence of crimes against humanity ~ 70 executions and rampant torture ~ perpetrated by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. As expressions of human rights violation in Hama, the details are chilling. No fewer than 420 victims of the crackdown were buried by pro-government militia in the city's public park and another 320 had died under torture. The repression has been relentless despite calls from the US urging Assad to step down and the withdrawal of several Arab ambassadors. The President's withers have remained unwrung despite the diplomatic isolation. It might be tempting to draw a parallel with Libya; on closer reflection, the nature of the defection is both similar and different. Unlike in Tripoli, which had since April witnessed high-level defections from the Gaddafi regime as a mark of protest against his repressive rule, President Assad had thus far succeeded in keeping his administrative flock together. That commitment to the President can no longer be an asset, however spurious.
Adnan Bakkour has informed the world about the horrendously stepped up repression over the past month. And the world is unlikely to be convinced of the regime's claim that the video is "another dirty game by Al Jazeera". The details of the crackdown might never have been known were it not for the attorney-general's defection and the subsequent statement. The government has banned foreign media from entering the country. Bakkour's exposure is in accord with the findings of the United Nations, notably that more than 2,000 people have died since demonstrations against the Assad regime began in March. The defection and the video statement have dealt a further setback to the tottering regime. And this time around, it is from within.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

THREE CROWN JEWELS~II

A Book That Defines Celebrations

RABINDRANATH'S Gitanjali poems, both the Bengali book as well as his English rendering, form the core of the "Tagore myth". It is a lucky coincidence that this myth is being corrected and put into perspective in this jubilee year by a book which may well be remembered as the one book defining our celebrations in India. (Rabindranath Tagore: Gitanjali, a new translation by William Radice. Penguin Books India, New Delhi 2011).
Between the two covers we really have two books. The first is the English translation in verse of all those poems culled from the Bengali Gitanjali as well as from several other collections of poems and songs which Rabindranath himself translated into lyrical prose in 1912 and then  collected and organised into the English Gitanjali. For the first time a translator has the guts to publish his own translation side by side with Tagore's iconic translation. William Radice himself calls it "audacious", fully conscious of the fact that his translation may go against the grain of many a Tagore-lover. It needed an experienced translator-poet like him for such an experiment to succeed. He did it, obviously, not to devalue Tagore and upstage himself, but rather to give to his readers a taste of the original poems and, at the same time, to record what Tagore had done to his poems in his own English paraphrases.

All along it had been a matter of speculation whether the Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, had a hand in the brushing up of Tagore's English text or not, and if so, how much he had changed. Some scholars asserted that Yeats's textual contribution was minimal, others that he needlessly anglicised and even distorted the text. Yet, no comprehensive proof of either assumption had so far been offered.

Radice is the first researcher who put two and two together and carefully compared the so-called "Rothenstein manuscript" of Gitanjali with the printed version. The Rothenstein manuscript, which is preserved at Havard University, was the one Tagore's British artist friend William Rothenstein submitted to Yeats and from which Yeats effected his alterations. Radice's findings are astonishing and will slowly, as they sink into public consciousness, revolutionize the view that is held on how Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize.
The "second book" combines an 84-page Introduction and several Appendices, running into 113 pages, which minutely and, I should say, passionately show how Yeats altered the original English Gitanjali ~ the "real Gitanjali", as Radice perfers to call it, and thus twisted the original intentions, the mood and the literary quality of the book. Yeats, in fact, did not merely correct or change the wording of the text and the punctuation. He also deleted the paragraphing of many texts and, indeed, totally shook up their sequence.

William Radice emphasises that by deleting the break-up of the texts into paragraphs their rhythm is altered, and rhythm is the forte of Rabindranath's English Gitanjali. It holds the texts together and gives them their soul. Radice takes pains to show that Rabindranath's sequence added up to a deliberate composition and amounted by no means to a haphazard heap of texts. Yeats misunderstood or disregarded this, or vainly wished to improve on it. Yeats veered towards an orientalising vision of Tagore: "...in Tagore, Yeats found what he wanted to see." Radice draws up elaborate charts in which he tabulates and evaluates these changes and adds long notes with his own views. Some may reject this as a school-masterly way of dealing with Yeats. However, this critical corpus needs to come into the public domain so that a comprehensive discourse may be initiated.
Yeats himself exaggerated his changes in a letter, calling them "exhaustive", while Rothenstein, among others, played them down.

Tagore, initially unsure of his English, probably had to give in to many changes of which he was not convinced. Rabindranath, who "believed that the poems he selected for translation represented his deepest self", (Radice), must have felt betrayed by the form in which Gitanjali was finally published. Its immediate success and the "rapturous reviews" may have numbed that feeling, but not forever, and later it gave way to a sense of disenchantment and disappointment. The poet lamented in a letter: "I am convinced that I myself in my translations have done grave injustice to my own work."  In the translations that followed Gitanjali, Tagore managed to extract himself from the suffocating influence of Yeats, but fame made him hasty and careless; the result were translations, starting with The Gardener, which were, in Radice's words, "increasingly slipshod".
Whoever does not understand Bengali but wishes to enter into the spirit of the one book which made Tagore a Nobel Laureate, may now read these translations and compare them with Tagore's prose paraphrases. Faithfully imitating verse and rhyme and emulating the "musicality" of the originals, Radice wants to bring the non-Bengali readers as close as possible to the experience of the "poetic reality that the poems have in Bengali". Others will be interested in the historical processes which allowed an Irish poet to meddle with the award-winning literary creations of an Indian poet. This book feeds the interests of both groups. At a later stage, Penguin may possibly sever the Siamese twins and publish two separate books.

By presenting his translations, Radice takes up a delicate fight against numerous English phrases which, whether poetically meritorious or not, ring in our ears since our adolescence. "Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure" ~ becomes: "You've made me limitless, / it amuses you so to do". Improvement? I wonder. "If it is not my portion to meet thee in this my life..." ~ becomes: "If in this life I am never to see you, lord..." Improvement? Yes, certainly. The popular "Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?" ~ becomes: "Prayer and worship and rite ~ / cast them aside. / In a nook of the closed temple, / why hide?" This is crisp and has punch ~ a clear improvement. Or, a last sample: "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free; where the world has not been frittered into fragments by narrow domestic walls; …". This is rendered: "A fearless place where everyone walks tall, / Free to share knowledge; a land uncrippled, / Whole, uncramped by any confining wall; / …" This, too, has a form firm and strong. But, I wonder, is "a fearless place" proper English? Maybe it is. Radice has moulded Rabindranath's somewhat arcane use of language into modern, more dynamic English, apart from presenting a faithful verse-translation of the original. Of course, every reader will discover his or her likes and dislikes in both versions. I personally regret that Radice did not, as in his earlier poetry translations, add annotations for each poem. For me they had been a distinguishing feature of his Selected Poems of Rabindranath Tagore. I am also not totally convinced by his method of including all the repetitions in the song-texts.

There are many which read well as poems; in that case reading the repetitions (of the singer) disturbs. Other song-texts do not really read well, they sound vapid and bland ~ they unfold their essence only as songs. Well, this is my personal stand. This book is a watershed in Tagore studies and must inspire a debate. Seminars should be held on it. It deserves praises and prizes.

 (Concluded)

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THE STATESMAN

ART SHOW THAT'S DRIVEN BANSKY UP THE WALL

GUY ADAMS


NEW YORK, 4 SEPT: When is a Banksy not a Banksy? That is the million, or rather $ 450,000 question facing bonus-fuelled New York collectors who are beating a path to a new, and unsanctioned, exhibition of work by the world's most famous street artist.


The Keszler Gallery in the Hamptons, Wall Street's favourite holiday destination, is facing stern criticism from Banksy representatives and his fans after attempting to sell two high-profile works of public art, which were originally intended to brighten up the streets of Bethlehem.

 

The pieces, referred to as "Stop & Search" and "Wet Dog", were stencilled on to prominent walls in the West Bank city during a visit by the British artist in 2007. They disappeared shortly afterwards, only to re-emerge at the Keszler Gallery in Southampton Village late last month. News of the sale has angered Banksy enthusiasts, who argue that the works were meant for public consumption. They argue that street art is meaningless ~ and therefore value-less ~ outside of its original context, and say that foreign art dealers had no right to participate in their removal.

 

The gallery takes an opposing view. It insists that the pieces, among seven large Banksy works in its new show, were legitimately purchased and exported from the Palestinian territory. If left unprotected in their original location, they were in severe danger of deteriorating, and by now would almost certainly have been vandalised.
Fuelling the controversy is Pest Control, an organisation that is the nearest thing the reclusive British artist has to official representation. In a statement to Artnet magazine, it claimed that only one of the six pieces in the Keszler show had been formally authenticated as Banksy's work, and admonished the gallery for removing them from their original setting.

 

"We have warned Mr Keszler [the gallery's owner] of the serious implications of selling unauthenticated works, but he seems to not care," read their statement. "We have no doubt that these works will come back to haunt Mr Keszler." The debate highlights the problems that emerge when the soaring contemporary art market turns what some view as petty vandalism into a prized commodity. These days, Banksy pieces can fetch as much as $1.9 million, meaning that his public works are often thought to be worth more than the building they originally graced.


the independent 

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

THREE CROWN JEWELS~II

A Book That Defines Celebrations

RABINDRANATH'S Gitanjali poems, both the Bengali book as well as his English rendering, form the core of the "Tagore myth". It is a lucky coincidence that this myth is being corrected and put into perspective in this jubilee year by a book which may well be remembered as the one book defining our celebrations in India. (Rabindranath Tagore: Gitanjali, a new translation by William Radice. Penguin Books India, New Delhi 2011).
Between the two covers we really have two books. The first is the English translation in verse of all those poems culled from the Bengali Gitanjali as well as from several other collections of poems and songs which Rabindranath himself translated into lyrical prose in 1912 and then  collected and organised into the English Gitanjali. For the first time a translator has the guts to publish his own translation side by side with Tagore's iconic translation. William Radice himself calls it "audacious", fully conscious of the fact that his translation may go against the grain of many a Tagore-lover. It needed an experienced translator-poet like him for such an experiment to succeed. He did it, obviously, not to devalue Tagore and upstage himself, but rather to give to his readers a taste of the original poems and, at the same time, to record what Tagore had done to his poems in his own English paraphrases.
All along it had been a matter of speculation whether the Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, had a hand in the brushing up of Tagore's English text or not, and if so, how much he had changed. Some scholars asserted that Yeats's textual contribution was minimal, others that he needlessly anglicised and even distorted the text. Yet, no comprehensive proof of either assumption had so far been offered.
Radice is the first researcher who put two and two together and carefully compared the so-called "Rothenstein manuscript" of Gitanjali with the printed version. The Rothenstein manuscript, which is preserved at Havard University, was the one Tagore's British artist friend William Rothenstein submitted to Yeats and from which Yeats effected his alterations. Radice's findings are astonishing and will slowly, as they sink into public consciousness, revolutionize the view that is held on how Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize.
The "second book" combines an 84-page Introduction and several Appendices, running into 113 pages, which minutely and, I should say, passionately show how Yeats altered the original English Gitanjali ~ the "real Gitanjali", as Radice perfers to call it, and thus twisted the original intentions, the mood and the literary quality of the book. Yeats, in fact, did not merely correct or change the wording of the text and the punctuation. He also deleted the paragraphing of many texts and, indeed, totally shook up their sequence.
William Radice emphasises that by deleting the break-up of the texts into paragraphs their rhythm is altered, and rhythm is the forte of Rabindranath's English Gitanjali. It holds the texts together and gives them their soul. Radice takes pains to show that Rabindranath's sequence added up to a deliberate composition and amounted by no means to a haphazard heap of texts. Yeats misunderstood or disregarded this, or vainly wished to improve on it. Yeats veered towards an orientalising vision of Tagore: "...in Tagore, Yeats found what he wanted to see." Radice draws up elaborate charts in which he tabulates and evaluates these changes and adds long notes with his own views. Some may reject this as a school-masterly way of dealing with Yeats. However, this critical corpus needs to come into the public domain so that a comprehensive discourse may be initiated.
Yeats himself exaggerated his changes in a letter, calling them "exhaustive", while Rothenstein, among others, played them down.
Tagore, initially unsure of his English, probably had to give in to many changes of which he was not convinced. Rabindranath, who "believed that the poems he selected for translation represented his deepest self", (Radice), must have felt betrayed by the form in which Gitanjali was finally published. Its immediate success and the "rapturous reviews" may have numbed that feeling, but not forever, and later it gave way to a sense of disenchantment and disappointment. The poet lamented in a letter: "I am convinced that I myself in my translations have done grave injustice to my own work."  In the translations that followed Gitanjali, Tagore managed to extract himself from the suffocating influence of Yeats, but fame made him hasty and careless; the result were translations, starting with The Gardener, which were, in Radice's words, "increasingly slipshod".
Whoever does not understand Bengali but wishes to enter into the spirit of the one book which made Tagore a Nobel Laureate, may now read these translations and compare them with Tagore's prose paraphrases. Faithfully imitating verse and rhyme and emulating the "musicality" of the originals, Radice wants to bring the non-Bengali readers as close as possible to the experience of the "poetic reality that the poems have in Bengali". Others will be interested in the historical processes which allowed an Irish poet to meddle with the award-winning literary creations of an Indian poet. This book feeds the interests of both groups. At a later stage, Penguin may possibly sever the Siamese twins and publish two separate books.
By presenting his translations, Radice takes up a delicate fight against numerous English phrases which, whether poetically meritorious or not, ring in our ears since our adolescence. "Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure" ~ becomes: "You've made me limitless, / it amuses you so to do". Improvement? I wonder. "If it is not my portion to meet thee in this my life..." ~ becomes: "If in this life I am never to see you, lord..." Improvement? Yes, certainly. The popular "Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?" ~ becomes: "Prayer and worship and rite ~ / cast them aside. / In a nook of the closed temple, / why hide?" This is crisp and has punch ~ a clear improvement. Or, a last sample: "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free; where the world has not been frittered into fragments by narrow domestic walls; …". This is rendered: "A fearless place where everyone walks tall, / Free to share knowledge; a land uncrippled, / Whole, uncramped by any confining wall; / …" This, too, has a form firm and strong. But, I wonder, is "a fearless place" proper English? Maybe it is. Radice has moulded Rabindranath's somewhat arcane use of language into modern, more dynamic English, apart from presenting a faithful verse-translation of the original. Of course, every reader will discover his or her likes and dislikes in both versions. I personally regret that Radice did not, as in his earlier poetry translations, add annotations for each poem. For me they had been a distinguishing feature of his Selected Poems of Rabindranath Tagore. I am also not totally convinced by his method of including all the repetitions in the song-texts.
There are many which read well as poems; in that case reading the repetitions (of the singer) disturbs. Other song-texts do not really read well, they sound vapid and bland ~ they unfold their essence only as songs. Well, this is my personal stand. This book is a watershed in Tagore studies and must inspire a debate. Seminars should be held on it. It deserves praises and prizes.

    (Concluded)

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THE TELEGRAPH

QUICK ACTION

A certain newspaper had good fun on Monday at the chief minister's announcement three months ago of her intention to appoint an expert committee on floods. It remains unappointed. But on Wednesday she announced the appointment of a committee on the rise in the prices of fruit and vegetables. Flood waters cannot be substituted for fruit and vegetables; but floods in the growing areas are widely blamed for the shortage of fruit and vegetables. So the committee will find it difficult not to address the issue of floods. The despatch with which the chief minister appointed this committee demolishes a number of preconceptions about her, for instance, that she promises and does not perform, she gets many ideas and forgets them equally fast, she talks and does not listen, and some less flattering ones. Let those who flaunt these prejudices put them behind for now.

The composition of the committee is, however, curious. It is headed by the secretary for agricultural marketing. He will be assisted in his labours by the chief manager of marketing in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, the deputy commissioner of police in the enforcement branch, the deputy superintendent of police from the same branch, and representatives of wholesalers and retailers. The committee has already been provided with expert guidance; the chief minister said after raiding a few markets that black marketeers were responsible for the price rise. So its first task would be to unearth these black marketeers. Once they are found, the police officers will be available on the spot to take them away. There is no law to punish them, for the prices of fruit and vegetables are not controlled. But such trivial objections cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the higher purpose of bringing down prices for the common man.

He may, however, be inclined to ask: why cannot fruit and vegetables be imported from other states? West Bengal is already getting over a third of the supply of fish from outside, chiefly from Andhra Pradesh. Fish is far more perishable than fruit and vegetables; why cannot they too be brought in from elsewhere when there is a shortage? The answer may well lie in transport facilities. Fish can be brought in by boat; when fish prices are high, even flying them in would not be too costly. Vegetables cannot bear such high transport costs, though apples and pears already come to Calcutta from New Zealand. But improving roads would by itself do much to stabilize prices. Prices in North Bengal are a fraction of prices in Calcutta; all that stops vegetables from being brought in is the poor roads. Even those that are normally good crumble in the monsoon. Somehow, they do not do so in Kerala or Goa, which get as much rain as West Bengal. However, the committee of bureaucrats is unlikely to look at such remote issues.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

SMALL FACTS

Better can sometimes be just not good enough. A recent study on global neonatal mortality from 1990 to 2009, spearheaded by the World Health Organization, shows that in India there has been a 33 per cent drop in deaths of babies of not more than three weeks old. Even then, nine lakh babies, less than a month old, died in India in 2009, and this is the highest figure in the world. The context will indicate the enormity of this failure for a nation supposedly growing into a powerhouse. In the last 20 years, the global neonatal mortality rate has declined, but more than half of all such deaths occurred in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Africa as a continent is not doing well in this regard anyway; in some places, newborn babies are dying in greater numbers than before. But comparisons with African countries cannot provide excuses. The report shows that four per cent of all babies born live in India in the last 20 years died within a month.

Experts have recommended three simple ways to reduce neonatal deaths by one-third immediately — improved hygiene at birth, breastfeeding and keeping the baby warm. In India, access to basic health is still poor in vast rural tracts. Added to this, drinkable water may be scarce, nutrition poor — especially for women, deliveries at home quite common, and education regarding the proper protection of mother and child pathetically lacking. Government intervention in health services delivery has simply not been aggressive enough. Then there is the dominant mindset to contend with. Indian society has traditionally been callous to both women and children, and the neonatal mortality rate, just like the imbalance in sex ratio, is another outcome of that. The disgrace of this is not felt strongly enough. The report also raises a question. Is the calculation correct? Can it have taken into account the thousands of newborn girls quietly killed at birth?

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

BALANCE OF POWER

ANNA HAZARE'S AGITATION HAS SET AN EXAMPLE FOR THE FUTURE COMMENTARAO: S.L. RAO

Jayaprakash Narayan's movement in the 1970s was met by Indira Gandhi with mass arrests and the Emergency for two years. Anna Hazare, a much less educated leader with a record of successful anti-corruption fasts in Maharashtra, got the Central government to recommend his suggestions to Parliament. Manmohan Singh appears meek compared to Indira Gandhi. He does not have a loutish Sanjay Gandhi to egg him to strong reactions. But he did have two distinguished lawyers as cabinet ministers who want initially no, and then tough, government responses to Hazare. This led to harsh comments from Hazare and his associates, but no violence, and delayed the settlement for many days. The Emergency made harsh reactions to public non-violent agitations unacceptable. Hazare's agitation will, over the years, spawn many similar local, and some national, agitations to redress specific public grievances about which there is widespread discontent.

Some say that Hazare has diminished Parliament and democracy. I think he has restored the right relationship between government, legislature and the people. If many people who feel strongly about an issue are led with determination and single-minded objectives, and agitate non-violently, it will be difficult in future for any Indian government to refuse to consider their demands. This has lessons to the public for tackling all kinds of issues, from unchecked inflation, to security — physical and social — and problems in Manipur and Kashmir. If the Maoists evoke little sympathy, it is because of their brutality and violence. People also distrust governments that meet Maoists with matching brutal responses. But a non-violent mass movement on issues that will attract broad support, led by people who also understand mass communication and the media, will draw others in the country into its fold and more nuanced responses from governments.

Is this a negation of democracy? Such mass movements are not easy to mount. Anyone can fast (as in Manipur, for ten years) and even die (like the swami protesting against sand depredations on the Ganga), but with no influence on outcomes. The one who fasts must be a person with a public record of service, having a team of dedicated planners, communicators, organizers and volunteers to keep order and cleanliness, and for a national movement, many such people spread across the country. Such teams will come together for a few national causes; not for every local problem. However, local issues could have similar local teams being formed. What such teams do is expand democracy by taking public opinion (now called civil society) to the law-makers and forcefully pushing their points of view. They must be highly disciplined and completely non-violent if they are to be effective. The additions today are mass media support and the use of social media.

Legislatures are the final authority for the enactment of laws. However, public opinion has rarely participated in formulating them, except in instances like the Right to Information Act. Specialized and less controversial legislation like those on independent regulatory commissions have little response from government to suggestions made by public opinion, even by experts. The Anna Hazare movement has demonstrated that mobilizing concerned citizens and the media can compel government response to public concerns. This gives life to the phrase in the Constitution, "We the People", as being the supreme authority under the Constitution, whose will has to be expressed through the various arms of government. Parliament and legislatures are supreme in that only they can pass laws, but proposals can come from anywhere.

The primacy of the executive and the legislature in formulating appropriate legislation now has two additional actors in tandem — public opinion and the media. This is all for the good since we have wrongly taken it for granted that it is the prerogative of the executive and the legislature to formulate laws and others have no role. We now realize that public opinion has had no role because bureaucrats and powerful ministers have denied it that role. Public opinion must now educate the more open-minded members of the legislatures, saturate the media and get the legislature to consider changes in legislation. Competition among news media is a new factor. However, the media must be careful to not take positions themselves.

Hopefully, members of the legislature, at least some of them, will do more homework on the legislation they pass, so that they have considered all aspects before passing them. Our legislatures have many members who have criminal charges against them, are accused of corruption, have served terms in jail, and then are free to express themselves and vote against institutions like the lok pal being created with strong powers.

The Hazare movement raises serious doubts about the dynastic leadership in the Congress and the separation of political power from the leadership of the government. The dynasty, and especially the young successor, had a great opportunity in this political crisis. It was handled for some time as a legal and bureaucratic procedural challenge. The absence of any political sensitivity and the depth of feeling in urban India led to the shameful spectacle of the government changing its position every day and sometimes twice a day. The dynasty was deafeningly silent.

A striking feature was the old age of ministers in government and the youth of most of the agitators led by Hazare. It is time that this age disparity is removed and we get ministers closer in age to the people they govern.

The experience also underlines the need for the leader of government to either be leader of the main party in government or the dominating figure in that party. This has not been the case with the Congress for the last seven years. An economist-turned-bureaucrat-turned-prime minister was more comfortable with the sharp legal minds that dealt with the issues procedurally, and made a huge mess of it. As Arun Jaitley perceptively remarked, he cannot conceive of the Bharatiya Janata Party in government being led by someone without political authority. There was no coordination within the government and the Congress, and conflicting messages kept being given until an experienced politician (the finance minister) and a Marathi-speaking former chief minister facing corruption charges himself were brought in.

The main Opposition party, the BJP, tried to gain political advantage out of the Congress's and the government's embarrassment. It did not succeed because of its own involvement in corruption and reluctance to accept a strong lok pal that could turn against it when it came to power. Their actions in Karnataka, where the Lokayukta was not given prosecuting powers and in Gujarat, where the government has stalled for 7½ years in appointing one, did not leave the BJP with a strong anti-corruption record.

Hazare himself was fully focused and determined. He was a powerful negotiator who showed flexibility only when he was sure that he had the government on its knees. His core group frittered away Hazare's clarity and simplicity by making wild charges against government, with their insulting language and intemperate reactions. The experience will become a classic of political negotiation and lead to many other such movements.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

LEARN TO FOLLOW

ARABINDA RAY

Leadership is the cornerstone of many management courses. We, however, generally overlook the fact that a necessary corollary to leadership is what I would call 'followership'. We take it for granted that a strong, charismatic, intelligent leader will naturally gather around him adherents who would follow him devoutly. This is, of course, correct but not complete. If that 'followerism' is to grow roots, certain basic principles of followerism need to be understood and inculcated.

In this country, we are not short of examples of worthy institutions and activities that flourished when the founder was active and then gradually withered away. Equally, there are institutions and beliefs that have continued to flourish after the departure of the founder. We obviously have enough case material to draw general conclusions.

The core belief upon which the founder built his life's activities is, of course, the key factor. Does it get transmitted so that it can adapt with the times? Can it break out of rigid dogmas to an understanding of the essential message? Could it be that the message is best interred with the bones of the protagonist? In many variants, we see the Ramakrishna Mission move from strength to strength. Others, like the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, have fallen back on State support for survival. Obviously institutes like these should wind up or develop a new band of devotees who would return to the core concepts the continuity that was broken by the lack of intelligent followerism.

If a movement has to outlive its pioneers, we must identify the features that would have to be inculcated in the retinue. The objective of academic research then will be to formulate the education that will be necessary. First and foremost is the need for discipline. By discipline, one does not mean strict codes. Discipline here refers to the readiness to discuss an issue before taking action. This discipline has to be based on a set of shared values that can be transmitted to the next generation.

Shining example

Next in importance is the sharing of the founder's dreams, and ensuring that they survive and flourish. The sad state of Visva Bharati today is a glaring example of the failure of Tagore to make his followers understand and share his objectives. Loyal successors have used generous funds to copy other universities, but have failed to infuse in the succeeding generations the lofty ideals of Tagore.

It is imperative that succession does not cause strife. A policy that is acceptable to all must be laid down. Moreover, the institution must move with the times. The country and the world are full of rumps of institutions proudly promoted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Finally, a follower needs to be taught to accept the leader for the quality in the person that is worthy of emulation. No man is perfect; if certain qualities have made a deep enough impression to merit followership, it is useless to feel bad about failings or listen to canards.

While thinking on this subject, I tried to refresh my mind with readings on Vivekananda. One cannot stop marvelling at this young man who, automatically, became the head of a small band of disciples who were the followers of their departed spiritual master. He prepared himself by detaching from the followers and, upon his return, built with the help of those very disciples in the five years that were left to him an institution of multi-faceted service to humanity. This remarkable institution has set up several other institutions across the world that are considered to be models of spirituality, education, healthcare and community service.

If, as I suggested earlier, followerism becomes a subject of academic study in management education, surely Vivekananda will be a prominent case study.

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

EDITORIAL

ABUSING PRIVILEGE

''INDIA HAS NOT CODIFIED THE PRIVILEGES OF PARLIAMENT.''


The privilege moves initiated in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha against Prashant Bhushan,   Arvind  Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, and actor Om Puri are wrong and unjustified. They show not only the intolerance of criticism on the part of politicians but also a lack of understanding of the idea of parliamentary privileges. The civil society activists had criticised and lampooned members of parliament and the political class in general from the charged rostrum of the Anna Hazare agitation.  There are many who might feel that the antics and some of the words used by Bedi and Puri lacked taste and decorum. But there is no issue of parliamentary privilege involved in them.


Criticism of parliament and its members cannot be equated with a breach of parliamentary privileges. Some MPs have said that the remarks made by the two are derogatory and defamatory. They have the right to initiate legal proceedings under the relevant laws relating to defamation if they feel their reputations have been tarnished.

But there is no reason to invoke parliament's extraordinary powers of privilege to punish critics. The idea of privilege rose and evolved during the struggling days of parliamentary democracy, to protect members from threats to their independent functioning. The freedom and immunity they enjoy for their actions and words within the House are a part of that. But once the parliamentary system is established, there is no case for being overprotective about privileges. They should not be used as a shield and weapon against free speech and criticism. Many advanced democracies have codified the privileges of parliament. Indian parliament has not done so, though there is long-standing demand and need for it. There will be less room for invoking the power if the privileges are codified and made clear. Assertion of this power is in fact rare in many democracies.

It takes time for parliament to decide on a privilege issue. The motions are now under consideration of the presiding officers. The move should altogether be dropped at this stage. Democracy can only gain strength with free and open criticism. Rather than trying to come down on critical views with a sledge hammer, politicians should consider why there is so much criticism and distrust of them among  the people. It was the negative sentiment about them that gave strength to the Hazare movement. A privilege action will now be considered as the revenge of bad politics against the people.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

END THE TIFF

''BOTH ISRAEL AND TURKEY MUST END THEIR TIFF NOW.''


Israel is in danger of losing one of its closest allies in the Muslim world – Turkey. Bilateral relations have been deteriorating since the Israel-Gaza war in 2008, particularly since May 2010 when nine pro-Palestinian Turkish nationals participating in an international protest against Israel's blockade of Gaza were killed by the Israeli navy while in international waters. Soon after the Gaza flotilla incident, an angry Turkey called back its ambassador in Tel Aviv and suspended military co-operation with Israel. It has now expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara and threatened to appeal to the International Court of Justice for an investigation into the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.



The latest move by Turkey is in response to Israel's refusal to apologise for the deaths of the Turkish nationals. The Turkish government has rejected the findings of a UN probe into the flotilla incident that described Israel's naval blockade as a "legitimate security measure" and that it "complied with requirements of international law".

The tough posturing on both sides has its roots in domestic politics. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's constituency is a conservative Muslim one that is strongly sympathetic to the Palestinians and talking tough to the Israelis goes down well with his supporters. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopts a combative tone, he strikes a chord with his hardline supporters. Thus both sides are reluctant to speak the language of compromise. Combative rhetoric may provide the two leaders with improved poll ratings in the short run; in the long-term confrontationist diplomacy is mutually harmful.


Israel's strategic partnership with Turkey is a highly lucrative one as Ankara has been a major market for its weapons. This could now be in jeopardy. As for Turkey, it likes to believe that its dependence on Israel is far less today than in the past. Its own economic success and improving relations with its immediate neighbours — Iran, Iraq and Syria – have contributed to this perception. Besides, its Islamist government is eyeing leadership of the Muslim world; hence its fierce espousal of the Palestinian. However, the Turkish government appears to have not factored in the impact of the Arab uprisings on regional politics and the changing political landscape in its immediate neighbourhood in Syria. Both, Israel and Turkey must end their tiff immediately. Should it escalate, regional security and stability — already precarious — would unravel.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

LET GO OF SPORTS

 M J AKBAR


Praful Patel had a good point to make. ''If such a bill is passed,'' the former Union minister for civil aviation and present Union minister for some portfolio which escapes my memory, said, ''bureaucrats like a joint secretary will be running the sports federation. What is their competence in sports administration?''
Absolutely right, Prafulji, with one minor caveat, if commoners are permitted the indulgence of raising their eyes before the majesty of cabinet ministers. Why did you appoint a series of joint secretaries as chief executives of Air India for all these years?


Were they competent to run an airline? They were terribly proficient at awarding lifelong travel privileges for themselves, of course; but between joint secretaries and politicians they managed to devastate an airline that was once the pride of India. Make that two airlines, even if Indian Airlines was more often a source of hypertension than national joy. Still, it worked. It could buy its own fuel and pay its salaries. Its merger with Air India turned a sick man of the skies into a terminal patient. It is now sustained by massive drip feeds from a treasury that treats thousands of crores with the insouciant indifference that Ali Baba would accord to a bit of brass in his cave of endless wealth.


Praful Patel would probably respond by blaming the System. Yes. In the last two decades the Indian bureaucracy, trained to maintain the now heavily rusted iron framework of public administration, has expanded its remit and seized direct control of public sector companies that were once run by professionals, but this has happened with the willing consent of politicians who are far more comfortable with bureaucrats than professionals.

Praful Patel may, in fact, be the least guilty in a group that stretches across political parties and spans two generations. This bloat began as bearable adipose during Indira Gandhi's second term as prime minister, in the 1980s; under her successors it has become a life-threatening disease. The bureaucracy acquired the public sector as its private realm. Today, it does not even pretend to look outside its own corridors for management even when it has run vital institutions to the ground — a very apt metaphor for what happened to Air India.

The one exception is all the more notable given the disaster that followed. When the late Madhavrao Scindia was given charge of aviation, he brought Yogi Deveshwar from ITC to head the airline. Deveshwar served his contracted period, handed the government a large cheque as profit, and returned to ITC. Since then, more or less, it is the government which has been handing out cheques to Air India.


So perhaps the powers that be will permit a sardonic smile at the angry determination with which cabinet ministers are protecting their control of sports bodies from intervention by the same joint secretaries. Ajay Maken, the sports minister, is only trying to do unto the cash-rich BCCI what other ministers have done to an assortment of industries: grab perfectly healthy organisations in the name of the public good.


I agree fully with Praful Patel and Farooq Abdullah, who can still deliver (as he puts it) at the age of 74, and Rajiv Shukla, who wants to run IPL when he has time to spare from running parliament, and Sharad Pawar, the new father of Indian cricket, that vermin like joint secretaries should be prohibited from entering their domain. There are, of course, a few of you who wonder why politicians who have never held a bat, or scored a goal, should control cricket or hockey, but we will leave that argument for another day. Pawar and company have, at least, been elected to their posts by committees who have the right to choose who they will.

But this is the perfect moment to raise a supplementary. The cabinet has asked Ajay Maken to re-draft the proposed National Sports Bill. Why should there be a sports ministry in government? If the English Premier League has become indispensable to international football, or BCCI turned into a fabulous success story, it is precisely because they were never burdened with unwelcome help from government. At best a sports department could be a minor wing somewhere to channel the odd bit of help to a limping sport, a job the finance ministry could do in a few minutes every year.


Why should, by the same token, there be an information and broadcasting ministry, particularly when Doordarshan is meant, theoretically, to be autonomous? The only temptation an I&B minister has is to wave an increasingly impotent stick at private sector media. The very existence of a ministry, and a minister, is an invitation to control. A ministry never diets. Its culture demands obesity. It treats putting on weight as part of its moral responsibility.


Praful Patel has asked a brilliant question. He knows the answer as well. It is time to take the answer to its logical conclusion.

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

CELEBRATING TEACHERS' DAY

 

When Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was elected as the first Vice President of India in 1952 and subsequently went on to become the second President of India for a five year term from 1962 to 1967, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday on 5 September, during the sixties. His polite answer was "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers' Day."


Ever since then, Teachers' Day is being celebrated  in our country today and although World Teachers Day is on 5 October, it is celebrated on different dates in many countries around the world.
There is a striking resemblance between distant Argentina and India when it comes to celebration of this auspicious day on different dates. The occasion is the same although the dates are different. Teachers Day in Argentina is on 11 September while India observes it on 5 September. There were two men involved in this exercise that fashioned celebration on these auspicious days. Both come from similar backgrounds. Both were Presidents of their respective countries. Unlike Dr Radhakrishnan on whose birthday, India celebrates Teachers Day, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the seventh president of Argentina, had to undergo a political life of turmoil, having been in exile in neighbouring Chile. The scribe in Domingo Sarmiento championed intelligent thought—including education for children and women. This is the crux for a profession like teaching. Sarmiento took advantage to modernise a comprehensive education system and travelled abroad frequently to examine other educational systems. Teachers Day in Argentina – 11 September – is the day when Domingo Sarmiento passed away, and is in recognition of his work to promote education in the latin american country.
It must be said that Teachers Day in India is an auspicious occasion. Teaching is a very noble profession. It is a dream of every aspiring teacher to ensure that the needs of future generations to come will continue to be met by those in the business..


There have been great teachers over the passage of time. In India they are known as gurus. In the contemporary world, there were many geniuses. Some delivered lectures around the world, where they taught evolution. Charles Darwin is a classic example. Some teachers dole out instructions and guide one on to the path of self realisation. This is spiritual teaching. Collectively speaking, the spectrum of teaching oscillates around a very wide axis.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have gone a step further. It states that education can be used to promote international collaboration to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights. This has been proclaimed in the UN charter. According to UNESCO, World Teachers' Day represents a significant token of the awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development.


Although over 100 countries observe World Teacher's day, it is the efforts of an organisation called Educational International (EI) and its associates that have contributed immensely to this widely spread recognition. EI's public aware campaigns to highlight the contributions of the teaching profession, has been lauded.
As we celebrate this momentous day here in Goa, let us remember this indubitable fact. Had it not been for education would you or I possess the necessary skill to churn out words in appreciation for making us what we are, in today's knowledgeable world? Some book for thought!

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

JAN LOKPAL: IS IT THE ONLY WAY FORWARD?

SAIFUZ ZAMAN


Winds of revolution blowing across the middle east have reached India. After having being failed by the political class, Indians have rallied behind Anna who see him as the Messiah to lead the fight against the malady of corruption. Youth's attachment to the movment has further invigorated Anna and his team. Seldom do we see twitter and facebook youths of India participating in social causes in such large numbers. Students rallies in Goa is testimony that Goa has not been left untouched by this movment. And why not blessed are they who would inherit this malady. But will only the ''Jan Lokpal" solve the issue. Anna himself says it wouldn't root out corruption completely.
Taking a holistic view would certainly deal with most of the symptoms(evils) which have become the order of the day. The panacea lies in reformation of our educational system. How can we expect to get rid of this symptom(corruption) when our system trains students like ''milch cattles'' and expect them to be "Gandhis'' and promotes educational institutes like factories which manufacture ''well trained'' products and not ''well educated individuals.
Education aims to gain knowledge not only of events but also of values. A campus is a most basic unit in nation building. Its real responsibility is to create educated human beings and not only slaves of market economy.The hours at school are the best time for learning. The child needs the best and most stimulating environment and mission oriented learning with a value system. If the child misses the value based education of the school campus, no government can establish a society with integrity. If the child misses this period of learning, the nation loses an enlightened citizen. Well let's hope that the ignited minds of our country take this message forward and we see a revolution in soul and soil.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A FAIR AGREEMENT

THE RESIDENTS HAVE RECEIVED A REAL PAY RAISE: AN INCREASE OF 47 PERCENT ON AVERAGE, TO BE PAID OVER A PERIOD OF NINE YEARS, NOT INCLUDING ADDITIONAL PAY FOR SENIORITY AND PROMOTIONS.

In the wake of the Labor Court decision that the medical residents' collective resignation is illegal, the strikers have gone back to work. However, they are disappointed and promise to petition the High Court of Justice. They claim their work resembles slavery, and that they work consecutive shifts yet do not earn enough. The residents also claim the agreement that has been signed barely improves their pay. This is an imprecise claim, which wrongly dismisses the Israel Medical Association's achievements in the negotiations.

The residents have received a real pay raise: an increase of 47 percent on average, to be paid over a period of nine years, not including additional pay for seniority and promotions. The bulk of the sum - 70 percent of it - will be paid in the first three years.

Indeed, the agreement does not give identical raises to all doctors. It gives the bulk, and rightly so, to doctors in outlying areas and to doctors who choose specializations in which there is a shortage. However, it also gives raises (though lower than the average ) to doctors in the center of the country who do not engage in those specializations. Thus, in effect, the original intention of IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman has been fulfilled.

Eidelman set the line in the negotiations, whereby the ills of the system had to be dealt with first: the shortage of doctors in outlying areas and in certain specializations that are suffering from a real deficit. The agreement that was achieved, therefore, is a just agreement both economically and socially. This is also why the residents and the specialists in outlying areas are pleased with it and have not threatened, like their colleagues in the center of the country, to resign.

The agreement also establishes that specialists who have seniority of up to 10 years will do shifts, which will improve the care at hospitals during the evening and nighttime hours, and will also increase their pay considerably. Moreover, the agreement adds 1,000 new job slots to the system, with the aim of reducing the burden on all doctors.

The sweeping understanding with which the public accepted the strike has proved that it respects doctors and values their work. The same public also now understands that the doctors have received a far larger raise than any other group of workers in the public sector.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

TURKISH RED ALERT

THE CRISIS IN RELATIONS WITH TURKEY IS A RED ALERT OF THE ATTACKS WE'RE IN FOR ON THE DIPLOMATIC, SECURITY AND ECONOMIC FRONTS, AFFECTING THE LIVES OF 450,000 PROTESTERS, DEMANDING SOCIAL JUSTICE.

BY AKIVA ELDAR

 

What's the connection between the masses demanding social justice Saturday night and the worsening relations with Turkey and the expected recognition in the United Nations of a Palestinian state? What does Tel Aviv's Kikar Hamedina have to do with Istanbul's Taksim Square and Ramallah's Manara Square? What does the debate between supporters and opponents of shattering the budgetary framework have to do with the Palestinians' budget deficit or the downgrading of relations with Ankara? The return of the ambassador and his deputy to Israel will save the state two fine salaries and make a little more money available for free education for toddlers.

With all due respect to Turkey (we haven't shown any; remember the low-chair affair ), the Israeli people will survive even without an ambassador and deputy ambassador in Ankara. No disaster will happen if the United Nations we so disparage throws the Palestinians a bone and a few young men march toward the settlements. Our highly trained soldiers will charge, the settlers' dogs will jump them and all will be well.

Right? Wrong. The crisis in relations with Turkey is a red alert of the attacks we're in for on the diplomatic, security and economic fronts. It will affect the lives of 450,000 protesters and many more people who demanded social justice from their living room couches.

Government spokesmen went from TV studio to TV studio over the weekend to explain that the avalanche between Ankara and Jerusalem has nothing at all to do with the apology affair, but rather with the type of regime Turkey has. That could be. But if the Netanyahu government had thawed the negotiations on the end of the occupation and prevented the crisis that led the Palestinians to the United Nations, Turkey might not have had to make such a major issue out of the flotilla.

When Turkey called its ambassador home, it showed the way for the ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan in Israel, and that's just the beginning. After the United Nations fulfills the Palestinians' request for a state, the Palestinians won't be able to consider themselves a temporary entity called the "Palestinian Authority." How will the French react to Israel's refusal to allow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return from an official visit to Paris with a passport from independent Palestine?

Abbas is 76 yeas old. His close associates are certain that since the United Nations will show Israel the way out of the occupation, Abbas will find his way out of the Muqata. The veteran Fatah activist Jibril Rajoub recently told a group of Israelis visiting Abbas' office that sitting in front of them was the last partner to a two-state solution. Indeed, it's hard to find a Palestinian leader who is prepared to state publicly that his presence in Ramallah is also an expression of the fulfillment of the right of return. (Hamas websites have excoriated Abbas for saying this. )

The young people from Rothschild Boulevard should keep their tents handy. They will need them soon, when they're sent to guard their brethren, the settlers. Those who don't want to deal with the occupation today will be dealt with by the occupation tomorrow. And if protesters don't have the time to address marginal issues like universal justice, they should ask their economists how much the looming international crisis will cost us.

Turkey's threat to confiscate Israeli goods is only the first step. In the first quarter of the year Turkey imported around half a billion dollars in goods from Israel - only two other countries import more.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz might remember the anti-Semitic statement by Gen. Evelyn Barker, the commander of the British Mandate forces in Palestine, that the way to punish the Jews was by striking at their pockets. Steinitz is threatening to freeze the Palestinians' tax money as punishment for their move in the United Nations. Last week he threw the Palestinians down the stairs, and after them the American ambassador, along with their request to expedite the transfer of their money - yes, theirs - so they can pay their salaries early because of the holiday. That's what is done to bad children.

Not even a doctor of philosophy can answer the question of who will pay the salaries of the Palestinian teachers, police and doctors after the PA announces it is disbanding and the donor countries turn off the faucet ($1.5 billion a year ). Will Steinitz send tax clerks to collect money from the merchants of Hebron to cover the Palestinian deficit (about half a billion dollars )? From what budget provision do the social protesters propose funding the damage from the diplomatic and security tsunami?

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BETWEEN TWO LANGUAGES

WOMEN BEGAN THIS PROTEST, BUT VERY QUICKLY, THINGS CHANGED - AS THEY ALWAYS DO, AND CERTAINLY WITH MUCH "SUCCESS": THE WOMEN "SANK" TO THE BOTTOM, TO BEHIND THE SCENES, TO DOING THE DIRTY WORK.

BY MERAV MICHAELI

 

The commentators who make a distinction between National Union of Students chairman Itzik Shmuli and protest leader Daphni Leef are right: They truly are worlds apart and striving for different objectives. Not for naught are pundits anointing Shmuli as a true leader and showering him with praise. He does indeed want to improve and rectify things, but he wants to do so from within the existing order, the old order. He wants to preserve the capitalism, to preserve the hegemony, to preserve the male dominance and language. And not for naught are the same commentators trying to send Leef home: She wants to change the system, to replace the old order with a new one that is less hierarchical, more egalitarian and enabling. An order in which all those who wield power will have less power to wield.

Leef speaks in a different tongue. She speaks openly about all she is going through personally, and also about what "we" are going through - combining the emotional with the ideological, the political. She doesn't talk about "a moment in time" or "a final verdict," but about a process; she remembers all the types of "we" and speaks about the ability to incorporate differences, multiplicity and conflict, and she is teaching the public sign language.

Leef allows herself to be photographed shaving her legs in her tent, or crying, and is demanding direct and public negotiations with the prime minister. Hers is a candid language, direct and inclusive; feminine language at its very best.

Not for naught is this protest so nonviolent: Those who started it and are guiding and leading it are women. Leef, Stav Shaffir and many more fine women like them have brought us this new language, which is not only nonviolent, but is also a language that brings people together, a language of dialogue, an accommodating language.

Leef and Shaffir aren't the only ones speaking this language. Medical resident Dr. Shiri Tannenbaum, Rachel Yosef from Netanya and Meital Mamo from Kiryat Malakhi, who all addressed the protest rally in Tel Aviv, are speaking it, too. Yonatan Levy, Barak Segal and Regev Contes, who are leading the protest with Leef, and Dror Foyer, who worked with Leef on her speech, are speaking this language. In other words, there are men, too, who speak this language. In other words, men, too, can learn to speak this language.

The language is not a new one: It is the language feminism has been speaking for many years, the language of the world that feminism wishes to mold. For the public, however, it is a new language, because this is the first time it is getting such amplified exposure. Usually, the wielders of power do not allow this language to be heard. And indeed, this time, too, a senior commentator, in a gentle mocking tone, termed Leef's speech "too long," and the two main television channels interrupted it to allow singer Eyal Golan to shoot the breeze, and to continue with the old-language chitchat in the male-dominated studio.

For its part, during its Friday night news magazine, the Channel 2 studio was also filled only with men - seven of them. However, Shmuli's address on Saturday was aired in full, without interruption, and he was also anointed by them as "the most serious" of the protest leaders. He speaks a language that they understand. He's the man - the "reasonable" man.

Nehemia Shtrasler went even further in Haaretz on Sunday when he wrote - about Manuel Trajtenberg and Shmuli - "it appears that if any two people can close a deal, they can." Again, a deal. The kind of deal struck between parties with vested interests in the good old world. Shmuli will arrange a deal that will restore the good, old order to its rightful place. He does not threaten them with a change in the world order, a change that will mean that all the suits of wealth, media and government have a lot to lose.

Women began this protest, but very quickly, things changed - as they always do, and certainly with much "success": The women "sank" to the bottom, to behind the scenes, to doing the dirty work. Meanwhile, the men sprouted up like mushrooms and "floated" to the top. Suddenly, most of the speakers at the press conferences and protest rallies were men.

This dynamic cannot be allowed to take over yet again. Real change will oblige the wielders of power to understand that they must "make room" for many more women in key roles and positions of power - many more women who will be able to bequeath this different kind of language, who will make a world more equal for us, inclusive and embracing. The public understands this new language very well. Not for naught does it cheer enthusiastically for Daphni Leef and Stav Shaffi

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HAARETZ

OPINION

GASOLINE FUMES IN THE AIR

THE UPGRADING OF THE PALESTINIANS' DIPLOMATIC STATUS AFTER THEIR APPLICATION TO THE UNITED NATIONS, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF A DIPLOMATIC PROCESS, ISRAEL MIGHT FIND ITSELF FORCED TO DEAL WITH NEW AND PROLONGED WAVES OF PROTEST.

BY SHAUL ARIELI

 

The deteriorating relations with Turkey due to the Palmer report and Egypt's reactions to the events on the border should have signaled to the government that a nonrenewal of the talks with the Palestinians risks losing our strategic alliances with Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

It will be sad for Israel to discover that the stasis stemming from Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to accept the 1967 borders as the basis for talks on the grounds that they are indefensible will lose Israel the diplomatic depth it won in the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

With the upgrading of the Palestinians' diplomatic status after their application to the United Nations, and in the absence of a diplomatic process, Israel might find itself forced to deal with new and prolonged waves of protest. These protests are liable to degenerate into uncontrollable violence. Almost certainly these events will be ignited in the squares of Cairo, Amman and Istanbul as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians. Then the shock waves will set in motion the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, even if the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas believes that violence and terror harm the Palestinian interest.

The pictures these events will yield will serve the religious-diplomatic worldview of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who against the backdrop of the rise of Iran and the decline of Egypt and Saudi Arabia is steering Turkey toward taking positions in the conflicts in the Middle East. If he has taken a stance on President Bashar Assad's regime in the bloody events in Syria, he will definitely do so on Israel in its conflicts with the Palestinians in the territories, which the whole world defines as occupied and where it wants to see a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Egypt, under Mohammed Tantawi's temporary leadership, as well as Jordan and King Abdullah, will not be able to withstand for long the masses' pressure for demonstrations of Arab solidarity with the Palestinians. This pressure will increase many times over when Egypt has an elected government, which will include the Muslim Brotherhood, and when Abdullah's attempts to contain the Arab Spring by joining the wealthy and beneficent "Gulf front" fizzle out.

Egypt and Jordan, even though they are up to their necks in domestic problems and dependent on American aid, will find it hard to ignore the tweets on Twitter and the Likes on Facebook that will inundate the Arab world with impressions of the clashes between Israel and the Palestinians. Though all the parties in Egypt signed the Al-Azhar agreement, which included the provision honoring the peace accord, the accord is liable to become de facto nonbelligerency, and the recall of the last Arab ambassador from Israel will be only a matter of time.

The renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians with a view to reaching an agreement based on U.S. President Barack Obama's speech will not transform the Arab world into Zionists. But it will dilute the gasoline fumes that could spark a conflagration that could damage Israel.

Renewing negotiations would indicate Israel's willingness to distinguish between the good guys who favor a compromise and the bad guys who reject one and are coalescing against it. It would also enable the United States and Europe to act against Iran's intention to obtain a military nuclear capability. This capability would entail an arms race and a change in the regional balance of power that would undermine the stability Israel so badly needs.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WHICH PEOPLE, WHAT JUSTICE?

WHO DOESN'T WANT "SOCIAL JUSTICE"? OR "PEACE" OR "EQUALITY"? BUT UNDERNEATH THESE PRETTY SLOGANS, THINGS LOOK DIFFERENT. WE FREQUENTLY COME UP AGAINST EXAMPLES THAT REVEAL THE LIE BEHIND THE WORDS.

BY SALMAN MASALHA

 

Even if the slogan uttered by tens of thousands in the streets of Israel of late is pleasant to hear, it is the greatest of lies. Were its users asked to explain which "people," demand what "justice" for which "society," the slogan would crumble.

The state and all its institutions have never acknowledged the existence of an "Israeli people." It is doubtful that the demonstrators recognize its existence. Therefore their lofty cry of a people demanding "social justice" cannot be put into practice, in light of the absence of the existence of said "people."

There is no shortage of nice-sounding slogans. Who doesn't want "social justice"? Or "peace" or "equality"? Who doesn't long for "coexistence"? But underneath these pretty slogans, things look different. We frequently come up against examples that reveal the lie behind the words.

Take, for example, this example of someone who was certainly raised on the principles of "social justice" and Zionist "equality" - Modi Bracha, a resident of Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael and deputy head of the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council. As he explained last month in a Haaretz story about opposition to expanding Jisr al-Zarqa, "No one needs to teach me about socialism, but if a farmer received land then why should he relinquish the asset that is supposed to provide him a living?"

To spell it out to the champions of "social justice," Jisr al-Zarqa is the only Arab community that "socialist" Zionism left along the coast. The community is trapped between the sea and the coastal road, between Caesarea and Ma'agan Michael. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics can surely add to the explication: The population density in the village is catastrophic, 7,730 people per square kilometer, compared to an average density of 321 per kilometer for the whole country.

In order to ease the overcrowding, the Haifa District Planning and Building Committee seeks to to implement a plan under which land from the neighboring communities of Ma'agan Michael, Beit Hanania and Caesarea would be expropriated to Jisr al-Zarqa and the coastal highway would be diverted to the east. It turns out that residents of the three communities are fiercely opposed to the "social justice" reflected in the plan.

They are, of course, in favor of lovely slogans about coexistence and the like: "We are in favor of coexistence and peace. Despite the differences in mentality, we are doing a lot in this regard," said Beit Hanania Councilman Arieh Freedman in the same article. "We are not opposed [to the scheme] because they are Arabs; they are good neighbors and we have no beef with them," Freedman emphasized.

Later on his worldview was revealed in all its glory: "... but from a national perspective, too, I am opposed to the idea of taking land from a Jew to give to an Arab ..." He even warns the authorities: "If the plan is approved, there will be a mass departure: People will sell their homes and the existence of the community will be threatened."

Freedman and his ilk, who are "in favor of coexistence and peace," in favor of "social justice" and the like, must be told that European Zionism searched for a place in the Middle East, and there are many Arabs who live there. One must cope with this fact of life.

So it's nice to wave the flag of the social justice that the people demand, but it seems that first of all the people must demand a clear definition of justice, and of a people.

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

EDITORIAL

THE MILITARY AND THE DEATH PENALTY

 

Racism in the application of capital punishment has been well documented in the civilian justice system since the Supreme Court reinstated the penalty in 1976. Now comes evidence that racial disparity is even greater in death penalty cases in the military system.

 

Minority service members are more than twice as likely as whites — after accounting for the crimes' circumstances and the victims' race — to be sentenced to death, according to a forthcoming study co-written by David Baldus, an eminent death-penalty scholar, who died in June.

 

The analysis is so disturbing because the military has made sustained, often successful efforts to rid its ranks of discrimination. But even with this record, its failure to apply the death penalty fairly is more proof that capital punishment cannot be free of racism's taint. It is capricious, barbaric and discriminatory, and should be abolished.

 

The number of capital cases in the military system is small: of 105 cases in which the death penalty might have been applied between 1984 — when the military revamped its death penalty process — and 2005, 15 defendants were sentenced to death. (Another capital case in 2010 was not included in the study.) Eight have since been removed from death row because of various legal errors, and two were granted clemency.

 

In its analysis, the new report found a significant risk that minority service members would be given the death penalty in cases in which there was at least one white victim, while a similarly situated white defendant would more likely be spared.

 

This connection between race and the death penalty is notably different from the results found in state criminal courts. A landmark study of state cases by Mr. Baldus and others in the 1980s showed that a death sentence often hinged not on the race of the defendant, but on the race of the victim. People accused of killing white victims were four times as likely to be sentenced to death as those accused of killing black victims.

 

Clearly, the military has not succeeded in keeping racial bias out of its judicial process. The broad discretion of judges and jurors in military tribunals and the system's lack of transparency may make it harder to root out discrimination.

 

Still, the number of military capital cases has dropped to roughly one every two years since life without parole became a military option in 1997, far fewer than in the previous decade. Military courts now generally avoid seeking the death penalty when the crime is no different from crimes handled in civilian courts except that the defendant is in the military.

 

Almost all the capital cases involve victims who were American troops on duty or otherwise significant to the military. The reversal rate on these cases has been shockingly high: eight out of 10 death sentences have been overturned, compared with a reversal rate of 3 to 8 percent in military non-capital cases. An important reason is inadequate counsel: the military often assigns inexperienced military lawyers incapable of mounting a strong defense.

 

The last military execution was in 1961. The de facto moratorium has not made the country or the military less secure. The evidence of persistent racial bias is further evidence that it is time for the military system to abolish the death penalty.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SORRY, WRONG IN-BOX

BY FRANK BRUNI

 

The other night I did something silly. In a hurry to reach my friend K., I made the mistake of calling him on his mobile phone.

 

"You should have texted," he chided me the next morning, when he finally heard the voice mail I'd left. "You know that's the fastest way."

 

It's hard to keep track. Because my friend A., who frequently sends text messages, somehow fails to recognize that she might receive them as well and almost never checks. With her, I'm supposed to call.

 

But not with my friend D. Between his two mobile phones, two office phones and one home phone, you can never know which number to try, and he seems never to pick up, anyway. E-mail is his preference. He has three e-mail addresses, at least that I know about, but I've figured out the best one. I think.

 

You hear so much about how instantly reachable we all are, how hyperconnected, with our smartphones, laptops, tablets and such. But the maddening truth is that we've become so accessible we're often inaccessible, the process of getting to any of us more tortured and tortuous than ever.

 

There are up to a dozen possible routes, and the direct one versus the scenic one versus the loop-de-loop versus the dead end changes from person to person. If you're not dealing with your closest business associates or friends, whose territory and tics you've presumably learned, you're lost.

 

There are some people partial to direct messages on Twitter and others oblivious to that corner of the Twitterverse. There are some who look at Facebook messages before anything else, and others whose Facebook accounts are idle, deceptive vestiges of a fleeting gregariousness that didn't survive their boredom with Rebecca's bread dough ("It isn't rising! Tips?") or Tim's poison ivy ("Itching and itching! Remedies?").

 

I know only a handful of people with just one e-mail address, but I know many with three or more, and not all of these people understand automatic forwarding. My friend M. was recently reacquainted with an in-box unattended for a year. It was stuffed with hundreds of unread messages — some, remarkably, from people flummoxed by her aloofness.

 

During a cyberbinge a few years back, I set up three new, uncoordinated e-mail accounts, though I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe I had some vague notion that I'd be a subtly different person with a subtly different life on each. In fact, I remained the same person with the same life on the same two e-mail accounts I was already using, and that person couldn't remember the passwords or user names for the additional ones. My debit-card P.I.N. is challenge enough.

 

Recently, I missed an interview because I was 20 minutes late and the subject assumed I was a no-show. I'd been texting her about my delay because we'd communicated that way before. But it turns out that she has two mobile phones, and was monitoring the one whose number I didn't know. Meanwhile, she was sending me e-mails, but it didn't occur to me to look for those.

 

Speaking of interviews, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, arrived for one two years ago with four BlackBerrys. Maybe it was some elaborate anti-hacking system, a Murdoch Defense Shield.

 

Communication can become a multistep, multiplatform process. My friend J. and I like to talk on the phone, but only after she has sent me a gmail to propose a gchat, during which we determine if a call is actually warranted and whether I should use her home, mobile, main office or satellite office number. By the time voice meets voice, we're spent. There's a lot of heavy breathing; none of it the fun kind.

 

To her egalitarian credit, she gives out all of her contact information freely. Others use theirs to create castes of acquaintances: those with only an outer layer of business coordinates; those with "private e-mail" penetration; and those with the vaunted home phone. I'm no longer sure why I have a home phone, whose voice mail I neglect. A message from my friend L. languished there for two weeks. She really should have e-mailed.

 

Newly minted relationships come with operating instructions.

 

"Try his cell first, then shoot him an e-mail," says a bigwig's assistant. "Or circle back to me. Here's my cell, and my e-mail, and ..." Contact information is now contact exegesis.

 

And contact itself is subject to infinite vagaries. An e-mail can go to spam. A call can bump up against a voice mailbox not taking new messages. Its owner, managing too many mailboxes, has let it fill.

 

My friend E. just texted, two days after my text. "Didn't see it," she reports. "On this new phone, I can't figure anything out."

 

In this new world, neither can I.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

'THANK YOU, AMERICA!'

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

TRIPOLI, Libya

Americans are not often heroes in the Arab world, but as nonstop celebrations unfold here in the Libyan capital I keep running into ordinary people who learn where I'm from and then fervently repeat variants of the same phrase: "Thank you, America!"

 

As I was walking back from Green Square (now renamed "Martyrs' Square") to my hotel on Wednesday morning, a car draped in the victorious Libyan flag pulled up and offered me a lift. "I just want you to feel welcome here," explained the driver, Sufian al-Gariani, a 21-year-old salesman. He beamed when he heard where I was from and declared: "Thank you, Americans. Thank you, President Obama."

 

The hard work in Libya is only just beginning, and it'll be a Herculean challenge to knit together tribal divisions and nurture democracy in a nation where all civil society has been squelched. The Libyan experiment could yet fail. Yet let's also savor a historic moment: This was a rare military intervention for humanitarian reasons, and it has succeeded. So far.

 

President Obama took a huge political risk, averted a massacre and helped topple an odious regime. To me, the lesson is not that we should barge into Syria or Yemen — I don't think we should — but that on rare occasions military force can advance human rights. Libya has so far been a model of such an intervention.

 

I drove to Tripoli from Tunisia, and the roads in some places are still insecure. Nervous rebels — occasionally child soldiers — operate frequent checkpoints, and there are long lines for gasoline.

 

Yet there has been great progress in the last few days. More roads and shops are opening, and Tripoli now feels reasonably safe. The biggest menace comes not from Qaddafi militias but from rebels firing automatic weapons into the air in celebration.

 

Most strikingly, there has been almost no looting, and little apparent retaliation against the families of loyalists to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. People have grabbed grenade-launchers from arsenals, but they haven't helped themselves to private shops or homes (with rare exceptions, such as the homes of the Qaddafi family).

 

Pro-Americanism now is ubiquitous. I was particularly moved by a rebel soldier near Zuwarah in the west who asked me if New York City was safe. When I looked puzzled, he explained: "Irene. The hurricane." And he asked how he could help.

 

"Without America, we would not be here," Ismael Taweel, a businessman, told me as he stood by Martyrs' Square with a huge grin on his face. "I hope there will be more relations between Libya and America now," he added. That's a common refrain: Libyans are hungry to rejoin the world.

 

Belgassim Ali, a petroleum engineer, told me: "I would thank America for the stance to protect my people." Without America, he added, "we would not be celebrating. We would be in the cemetery."

 

I told him that many Americans criticized Mr. Obama for the Libyan intervention, arguing that America should solve its own economic problems first. He looked pained and said: "Your money, we will give it back. We are a rich country." He added that without American military backing, vast numbers of Libyans would have been massacred — that should count for something, he pleaded.

 

Some Libyans told me that they initially had distrusted the American intervention, fearing that it might turn Libya into something like war-torn Iraq. And Haithem Ahmed, a 24-year-old student with bullet wounds in his stomach and arm, disputed that the intervention was primarily humanitarian: "They didn't do it for us," he said. "They did it for oil."

 

But, in his next breath, he added: "I love America so much. It's the land of freedom." That warmth toward the United States seems to have replaced the early doubts. It's coupled with huge appreciation for other foreign supporters such as Qatar, Tunisia, France and Britain.

 

We Americans have seen military interventions go awry — we are still seared by Vietnam and Iraq — and caution is worthwhile, for the end of the Libya story has yet to be written. We can't avert every atrocity, and there are legitimate arguments for investing in nation-building at home rather than abroad. In any case, our use of force will inevitably be inconsistent.

 

Yet to me Libya is a reminder that sometimes it is possible to use military tools to advance humanitarian causes. This was an exceptional case where we had international and local backing. The big difference with Syria and Yemen is that Libyans overwhelmingly favored our multilateral military intervention, while Syrians and Yemenis mostly don't.

 

The question of humanitarian intervention is one of the knottiest in foreign policy, and it will arise again. The next time it does, let's remember a lesson of Libya: It is better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT TO DO WITH QADDAFI

BY DAVID KAYE

 

Los Angeles

LIBYA'S rebel leaders say they want to try Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, 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, based 1,400 miles away in The Hague, has already issued arrest warrants for Colonel Qaddafi, his son and second-in-command Seif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. The United Nations Security Council, recognizing that Colonel Qaddafi's alleged crimes were not just against Libyans but against humanity, asked the I.C.C. in February to investigate the situation in Libya. Now the I.C.C. 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 Colonel Qaddafi and his associates to The Hague. Others argue that the I.C.C. must defer to Libyan authorities if they are willing and able to try Colonel Qaddafi fairly in their own courts. A better option should satisfy both I.C.C. partisans and the new leaders of Libya: allow the I.C.C. to try those indicted, but to do it in Libya.

 

As important as national trials are, post-Qaddafi 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 I.C.C., 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. I.C.C. 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 I.C.C. 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 I.C.C. greater access to victims and give young Libyan lawyers and other professionals experience with a modern system of justice. It would give the I.C.C.'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 favors 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 Colonel Qaddafi themselves for the crimes of the past four decades.

 

An I.C.C. 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. The I.C.C. itself 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 authorizing 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 I.C.C.'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 I.C.C. in Tripoli should be a bridge toward taking ownership of their future.

 

David Kaye is the executive director of the International Human Rights Law Program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ISOLATING ASSAD

 

As the killings mount in Syria, the United States and its allies are not the only ones declaring their revulsion. A number of President Bashar al-Assad's longtime apologists have decided that they can no longer stand mute.

Over the weekend, the Arab League finally urged Syria to "end the spilling of blood and follow the way of reason before it is too late." Foreign ministers agreed to send the group's secretary general, Nabil el-Araby, to Damascus with proposals to end the conflict. According to Al Jazeera, those include holding presidential elections, withdrawing the army from cities, releasing political prisoners and forming a national unity government.

 

Set aside the obvious fact that Arab League members are not strong on democracy. They are right to worry that Mr. Assad's murderous behavior could destabilize the region by fomenting all-out civil war between Syria's ruling minority Alawites, a Shiite subgroup, and the majority Sunnis. Even Iran, in the height of hypocrisy, is urging Damascus to be more "patient" with its people — a sign that it, too, is worried about the instability spreading.

 

The Arab League can certainly give it a try, but Mr. Assad has promised reforms before and kept on killing. On Tuesday, his forces killed at least seven people as protesters left mosques after prayers at the end of Ramadan. The Arab League needs to impose tough sanctions, now.

 

Turkey is also speaking out — but not as clearly or forcefully as it should. On Sunday, President Abdullah Gul said he had "lost confidence" in the Syrian government, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was still giving Mr. Assad a lifeline by exhorting him to "listen to people's demands." Turkey, which does $2.5 billion in annual trade with Syria, needs to take an unambiguous stand by imposing economic sanctions.

 

The Obama administration has frozen all Syrian government assets here and banned American citizens and corporations from doing any business with Damascus. But Washington has limited leverage. The European Union, a major importer of Syrian oil, could have a far greater impact. The Europeans announced last week that they would impose new sanctions, but members are still squabbling over details. An oil embargo is essential, but sanctions should also be imposed on Syrian banks and energy and telecommunications companies.

 

And Mr. Assad still has a few, far too powerful, protectors. Russia and China, along with India, Brazil and South Africa, are blocking a United Nations Security Council resolution that could impose broad international sanctions on Damascus. Their complicity is shameful.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A BLOCKAGE ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS

 

New York and its teachers' unions acted in the best interest of the state's children last year when they agreed to replace a useless teacher evaluation system with a rigorous process that takes student achievement into account and provides clear sanctions for ineffective teachers. But a dispute over regulatory language has landed the two sides in court. Last week, a state court ruling unwisely blocked a crucial part of the plan that could label as "ineffective" teachers who do a particularly poor job of improving student performance. The state should appeal that part of the ruling.

 

Under the old system, teachers were observed haphazardly in the classroom and given glowing ratings even when their work was abysmal. Under the new system, scheduled to take effect this school year, teachers will be evaluated partly on student achievement and partly on classroom performance, and categorized as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Those who need help will be given coaching. Those rated ineffective for two straight years could be fired in an expedited process.

 

The court battle is over whether regulations issued by the New York State Board of Regents comply with the law that authorized the new evaluation system. Under the law, teachers would be subject to a 100-point evaluation system, with 60 percent of their score based on various measures of teacher performance and 40 percent based on student achievement. Of the student achievement portion, the law says, half should be based on state tests and half on locally selected measures.

 

In last week's ruling, a state judge said districts may not choose for their local measure the same indicator of student improvement provided by the state. But they have the option to create a different local measure using state tests. The court went on to invalidate a rule that would label as "ineffective" teachers who got the lowest ratings on both the state and local student performance measures. That would gut the new regime, which aims to make sure that ineffective teachers improve or leave the system.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

LABOR DAY, 2011

It's a bit difficult to get excited about Labor Day this year. The state of labor -- the working men and women in the United States -- is too precarious to elicit anything other than concern. Couple that with the fact that most Americans now consider the holiday an end-of-summer ritual marked by a day off from school or work, by going shopping, and by sports contests and social events rather than a celebration of America's workers and it is easy to understand the pervasive pessimism that is the hallmark of the contemporary labor movement.

There are, of course, legitimate reasons that the gap between the official and unofficial observance of a day created to honor the nation's workers is so wide. The domestic economy, the global marketplace imperatives of the 21st Century and partisan politics have diminished the role of U.S. workers and completely altered the image of a a day that once saluted their service.

The labor movement pushed for the holiday in the late 1800s as a highly public way to salute the men and women whose work indisputably was the major factor in the United States' impressive rise to the pinnacle of the globe's industrial powers. When the holiday received legislative approval in 1894, it was natural that the labor movement would celebrate it with parades, oratory and festive gatherings that praised the dignity of hard work and the livable wages and benefits that toil provided.

In some places, but not many, that tradition is still followed, but the crowds are considerably smaller and the enthusiasm muted. That's hardly surprising. The role, power and influence of the labor movement has declined precipitously as the nation's workforce has moved from one that mostly made products from raw material to one that provides services. The resulting shift from blue-collar to white collar workers was the initial force for change in the labor movement. The anti-union sentiment of the conservative element in American politics and businesses accelerated it.

The result is a labor movement that is almost moribund. The percentage of American workers in unions continues to shrink and union-busting efforts at all levels is at an historically high level. Even high unemployment -- around 10 percent here and in double digits in many places around the country -- and the continued erosion of workers rights, pay and benefits have failed to galvanize organized labor or improve its acceptance with the general public. No wonder today's celebrations pale in comparison to those of the past.

Still there is reason to remember the labor movement and its role in the nation's history. Without unions, the U.S. workplace would resemble the horrors described by 18th and early 19th century muckrakers and novelists. Overtime pay would be a novelty rather than a requirement and there would be no age restrictions for workers. Working conditions, without a doubt, would be far more dangerous. The benefits earned by the labor movement decades ago now accrue to all workers, not just those with union affiliations.

The standards of fairness and safety now taken for granted at the nation's plants and businesses are hard-won. Men and women in the labor movement challenged prevailing opinion to win fair wages and safe working conditions. Those victories should and will be remembered today, but that's not enough. There is a pressing need for Americans to look to the present and future state of working men and women as well. They will find that those who must work for a living are in trouble, beset by problems of all types.

The types of jobs that made he United States the envy of the world -- ones that paid decent wages and provided benefits so workers could adequately support their families -- are growing rare. Service jobs that offer low pay and no benefits have taken their place in many instances. The result, encouraged by rapacious businessman and by fiscal and political policies put parochial interests above the common good, is a nation where a smaller and smaller group grows richer and richer while the larger population becomes poorer and poorer.

Correcting that abuse of American principles is proper reason to commemorate Labor Day. Perhaps the working men and women of the past can inspire the America of the present to resurrect a society and an economy in which the worker once again has an honored and useful place.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

LITERACY AND THE FUTURE

As was often the case, Dr. Seuss got it just right. "The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go," he memorably wrote in 1978 in "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!" The author understood and wanted others to understand the integral and complex link between literacy -- the ability to read and to write -- and an individual's capacity to lead a meaningful and productive life. That's a connection that still has special resonance today.

Dr. Seuss, or Theodor Seuss Geisel, grasped the essential truth that there can be little freedom -- personal, economic, religious -- without literacy. That's never been more true than the present. At a time when America and many Americans continue to struggle in an economy and society radically different than that of just a few years ago, the inability to read and to write hampers the ability to pursue the life, liberty and happiness central to the American experience.

Many things have changed in recent years, but the fact that reading and writing are central to individual progress and freedom is constant. No man, woman or child can be free if they are shackled by illiteracy. There is no guarantee that reading and writing will bring a lifetime of benefits, but there is growing certainty that the inability to do so is an almost insurmountable handicap in seeking those benefits.

Youngsters who are unable to read or who read poorly almost always fare badly in school. Children who fare poorly in school -- especially if they do not earn a high school diploma -- increasingly find it difficult if not impossible to find fulfilling employment. Adults who are unemployed or underemployed quite often discover that it is almost impossible to partake in the American dream. The lesson, as Dr. Seuss knew, is that reading (and writing) are essential skills in the contemporary world.

Once, physical strength and agility coupled with a strong work ethic were enough to provide a man or woman with a job that could provide a modicum of comfort and an accepted place in society. No more. Now, even the most basic jobs require the ability to add a column of figures, to read a diagram or use a computer or other electronic device. Those who are unable to do those and other basic tasks will be left behind in the increasingly competitive and technological workplace where literacy is no longer an option but a necessity.

There is a remedy to the issue of illiteracy, but implementing will require patience, skill and money. The problem is more common than many people know. Some surveys suggest that as many as 20-25 percent of U.S. adults have reading and writing deficits so great that they are unable to get or hold anything other than a menial job. Another 15-20 percent are estimated to have basic skills, but still have problems in reading and writing at the level required to participate fully in contemporary American life.

The corrective starts at home, continues in schools and extends to adult education. Children who are exposed to books at home before pre-school generally read and learn at higher levels than those who are not. There are public and private initiatives that encourage home reading and that provide books to parents who can not afford them, but their reach should be extended.

Educators work diligently to teach literacy skills, but success is not always certain. It is true that the number of American schoolchildren who read at grade level or above is slowly improving on the whole, but progress is not uniform. Proven programs that provide a stronger connection between public schools and homes where literacy is not a given are scarce. So are in-school programs dedicated to improving literacy skills.

Lack of funding always has been a problem for many reading-specific programs, but current economic conditions have made appropriations from federal, state and local governments even more scarce. The programs, even in troubled times, deserve more meaningful support.

As individuals and a nation, we increasingly will be gauged by our ability to interact with a knowledge-driven world in which only the truly literate will be able to compete. A revitalized national commitment to provide every American with functional literacy skills would go a long way toward safeguarding the United States' place among the globe's economic and educated elite. It also would give credence to Dr. Seuss's belief in the power and benefits of reading.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

U.S. GROWTH FORECASTS DOWNGRADED

The Obama administration harshly criticized Standard & Poor's recently when S&P downgraded the United States' credit rating because of our nation's out-of-control debt.

But S&P's negative outlook sadly was far from isolated. The well-respected agency Egan-Jones Ratings Co. had previously dropped the U.S. bond rating from AAA to AA, and both of the other major rating agencies -- Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings -- have expressed serious concerns about our debt load, too.

Credit-rating agencies are not the only organizations issuing grave warnings about our economic future, though.

Both Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase have lowered their forecasts of U.S. economic growth.

The United States' gross domestic product -- the total of everything our nation produces in a year -- will grow only 1 percent in the fourth quarter of this year, JPMorgan Chase predicts. That is sharply down from the 2.5 percent growth it forecast earlier.

And Citigroup reduced its projection of growth for 2011 from an already weak 1.7 percent to 1.6 percent. For 2012, Citigroup has slashed its growth projection from 2.7 percent down to 2.1 percent.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley said the United States is "dangerously close to recession" sometime within the next year, Reuters news service reported. With high U.S. unemployment already affecting millions of people, the specter of another recession is frightening, to say the least.

In the midst of all this dire news, President Barack Obama wants to increase federal spending, hoping that will somehow "stimulate" the economy. But that obviously hasn't worked with the $862 billion stimulus that Democrats in Congress passed in 2009. The money is gone, our debt is much bigger, and millions still cannot find work. So it seems absurd to bloat our catastrophic debt even further by hoping against hope that even more federal "stimulus" is the answer.

In addition, increased regulations and the president's and Congress' constant threats of higher taxes are paralyzing investment. Rolling back excessive regulations on everything from health care to the environment, as well as ending the threat of tax increases, would give businesses the certainty they need to invest in ways that would create jobs.

Instead, the president is spending his time attacking organizations that rightly point out our country's extremely precarious economic situation.

That criticism won't put anyone to work, and it will not reduce our debt by one dime.

Instead of blaming the messenger, the president should start listening to the message.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

HEALTH CARE LAW THREATENS JOB CREATION

One of the most painfully counterproductive provisions of ObamaCare socialized medicine is the penalty it imposes on companies when they exceed 50 full-time employees.

Consider this hypothetical.

Suppose you own a small business with 40 employees. You pay them reasonable salaries for the work they perform, but tight budgets prevent you from being able to provide them health insurance, too.

Under ObamaCare, if your business expands and you pass the 50-employee mark, you must start to offer health insurance approved by the federal government. If you do not offer that coverage, you must pay an annual fine of $2,000 for every full-time worker you employ -- excluding your first 30 employees.

So if you want to hire, say, 20 employees -- raising your total number of workers from 40 to 60 -- you will either have to start offering health benefits that you may not be able to afford, or you will have to pay fines totaling $60,000 per year!

For a small business operating on limited finances to begin with, that's a massive new tax.

What will the result be? Many small businesses will "do the math" and discover that with all the costs and penalties imposed by ObamaCare, it's just not worth it to expand to 50 or more employees. That means they will not be hiring the new workers they might otherwise have employed.

In effect, ObamaCare will put the brakes on untold numbers of small businesses that would like to get bigger and contribute to our country's economic growth.

President Barack Obama has said again and again that we need more jobs -- and we do. But the policies he supports are going to have the opposite effect.

It's not so much that he and Congress need to "do something" to create jobs. They need to "stop doing things" that prevent job creation.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

BOGUS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS COSTLY

If you have any doubt about the trouble that unjustified medical malpractice lawsuits can cause, just consider the findings of a recent study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found that a settlement or other payment occurs in only one in five malpractice suits. In other words, physicians -- or their insurers -- are not ordered to pay in 80 percent of the cases brought against them.

And yet, one in 14 doctors is sued every year, according to the study. In fact, almost all surgeons and a majority of doctors are sued at some point.

That means not only damage to doctors' reputations but major legal and malpractice insurance costs for physicians -- even if they perform their duties with total competence. Those costs add massively to the sky-high cost of health care.

There is, of course, no question that doctors -- like people in any other line of work -- sometimes may not perform well. It is proper for patients who are harmed by a badly performing doctor to be fully compensated for their medical expenses and actual costs such as lost wages, and for them to receive reasonable damages for pain and suffering.

But when a lawsuit is frivolous, it exacts a high price from all of us.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

TURKEY, ISRAEL: QUO VADIMUS?

Turkish-Israeli relations are likely to hit rock bottom with the steps that Ankara is planning to take this week, breaking the record of 1980.

In 1980, just two weeks before the military coup on Sept. 12, Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel in protest at Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem and then transferring its capital to the ancient city.

It took 12 years for the two countries' relations to recover. The rhetoric was always there that Turkey and Israel were two Western-oriented democracies in the region and should support each other.

Turkey had been the first country with a Muslim population to recognize the state of Israel when it was established in 1948. Overtly and covertly, Israel and the international pro-Israeli lobby had provided – at that time – much needed financial, technical and political support for Turkey, whose recognition had been invaluable in breaking the psychological-political barriers in their neighborhood. That was one of the factors, almost as important as sending troops to the Korean War in 1950, in Turkey's admittance to the Western defense organization NATO, together with its eastern Mediterranean rival, Greece.

The relations were back on track after 1992, yet the track has always been a bumpy one; the Palestinian problem has always been a hindrance to further cooperation between the two countries.

Turkish governments have always asked Israel to be more respectful of the rights of the Palestinian people and reacted – more effectively than many Arab countries and even the Arab League – especially when Palestinian civilians were under fire.

This is not something particular to a political party or ideology in Turkey. For example, in April 2002 social democratic Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit had claimed that Israeli army attacks on Palestinian civilians resembled "genocide." The word was too heavy to use, so Ecevit then corrected it to "tragedy" following reactions, and everything was back on track once again when Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, took power a few months later.

But it started to go sour gradually from 2005 on when Israeli operations against Hamas-led Gaza began to escalate. There was the Lebanon intervention in 2006, more Gaza in the meantime, the "One minute" affair in 2009 where Israeli President Shimon Perez was grilled by Erdoğan and then the flotilla affair, in which nine Turks were killed on board the Mavi Marmara ship as they were trying to carry aid to Gaza and break the Israeli blockade there.

The diplomatic relations will be downgraded to their lowest possible level with the steps to be taken today; more to the point, Turkish Navy boats are likely to get orders Wednesday to patrol more "visibly" and "aggressively" in the international waters of the Mediterranean – most probably closer to Israeli waters. The reason is that Turkey wants an apology and compensation for the loss of civilian lives from Israel, who has refused to deliver on such a request, claiming that the raid was self-defense.

The relations are not going to get any better with the current stances of the governments. Furthermore, with the current stances – and please do not forget about Syria – there is likely to be a greater escalation of the tension in the eastern Mediterranean region in the coming weeks.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

 

INTO A FRYING PAN…

With the release of the U.N.'s Palmer Report, Turkey has been effervescing like sour vinegar or fuming like an angry bull. Israel meanwhile shyly accepted – with some reservations – the report on its deadly raid more than a year ago in international waters of the Mediterranean off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The eastern Mediterranean has turned into a frying pan...

In a qualified contradiction of the so-called "zero problems with neighbors" policy of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu declared a set of punitive actions against Israel, headed by a downgrading of diplomatic relations to second secretary level. The Turkish measures included a total halt to military and defense-industry cooperation as well as a vow to enforce the security of maritime traffic in the eastern Mediterranean – a declaration that indeed aimed to give Israel the strong message that its bullying in the area is over.

It is of course Turkey's legitimate right – which it withheld for more than a year since the May 31, 2010, attack on the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid ship, in anticipation of a diplomatic resolution of the problem – to demand compensation for the Turkish victims of the Israel's high-seas piracy and brutality. Therefore Turkey saying it would now take the issue to international courts should be no surprise to the Israelis. Yet the decision of the Turkish government to challenge the legitimacy of the Gaza blockade – despite the Palmer Report vindicating Israel's self-imposed blockade as a national defense right – and to take the issue to the International Court of Justice must be taken very seriously by the Israeli state.

Last time Turkey downgraded relations with Israel to such a level was in 1980 and it took 11 years to restore them, until 1991, when Turkey upgraded the Palestinian representation in Ankara to "ambassador" level. This move alone demonstrates what serious straits Turkish-Israeli relations are indeed passing through.

It is a fact that relations with Israel deteriorated steadily after the AKP, a party with an Islamist background, came to power in Turkey in 2003. It might be said that with a Turkish government that might have approached the Middle East developments with less emotionalism and non-religious perspective, ties might not have deteriorated to the current level. Indeed, many Islamists in Turkey started preaching that were "Kemalists" in power in Turkey, ties with Israel would have been much better. If we are to be realistic, there is sense in the saying "it takes two to tango." With the Benjamin Netanyahu-Avigdor Lieberman coalition in Israel, the Mavi Marmara incident and Israel's adamancy in rejecting a simple apology and acceptance of paying compensation, no government in Ankara could have waited as much as the current AKP to downgrade ties and expel the Israeli ambassador. Therefore, the crisis at hand is one demanded and bought by Israel at a very high price.

Even on the eve of the release of the Palmer Report, Turkey – which flatly refused an earlier Israeli request for a further six months' delay of the release of the report – had agreed to an American request for a one-month delay of the report's release. Of course the Americans were trying to salvage relations between their two key allies in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, by accepting the American request, was trying to build pressure on the Israeli government to apologize to Turkey and agree to pay compensation to the victims, something that would be a first in Israel's short history. Who leaked the Palmer Report to the New York Times, and why, at a time when Turkey reported to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton its acceptance of delaying the report's release by one month? Israeli hawks who were against their state apologizing and paying compensation to Turks?

The development has turned the eastern Mediterranean – which was already hot anyhow – into a frying pan. Turkey will demonstrate that when it says something it means it, and I am afraid Israel will try to test Turkey's resolve...

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

 

FROM THE MAVI MARMARA CRISIS TO TODAY'S 'SAFETY OF NAVIGATION'

The latest phase in the rapid decay in Turkish-Israeli relations was in the headlines in every newspaper Saturday.

It is necessary to examine the background as to why these two countries, who were "strategic partners" up until very recently, have come to the point where they act as if they were at war… The main factor that is damaging relations between the two is actually mutual mistrust in one another. In other words, the two countries used to be much closer yet they never, in fact, trusted each other.

Turkey was trying to reconcile Israel and Syria and was hosting indirect talks with this goal in mind. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came and had talks with our prime minister that lasted hours; next day, however, Israel attacked Gaza.

***

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was very angered by this situation because he had hosted a man he called "his friend" in his office just one day before the attack without hearing even a hint about the operation. After that, we easily came to the "one minute" outburst.

The transition from "one minute" to the Mavi Marmara is more complicated…

It was no secret that the relief agency that organized the flotilla, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, had an ambition to break the blockade and deliver aid to Gaza. This charity leased the Mavi Marmara in Turkey, refurbished it, filled it up with activists and set sail.

While the fleet was proceeding in the eastern Mediterranean, both Turkey's and Israeli's foreign affairs staffs were out of the country. As a matter of fact, it was even a possibility that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Washington at that time, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was in New York on his way to Brazil, might meet up to break the ice in Turkish-Israeli relations.

Turkey was constantly providing the advice that the fleet should sail as if it were going to Gaza before steering to Egypt at the last minute. Finally, those in the ships had accepted this and had said, "Do not worry; we will steer toward Egypt at the last minute."

Turkey notified Israel of this message from the ship through American diplomatic missions. There was no expectation of such a crisis as you would understand.

But, whatever happened has happened, the Israel army attacked the fleet that was preparing to reroute to Egypt at a location that did not require any rerouting, in international waters, in the middle of the Mediterranean. Whether the attack was carried out by Israel's "deep state," or was intended to specifically make an enemy out of Turkey, is speculation; but you know the outcome of the attack: nine dead.

When this point was reached, the Netanyahu-Davutoğlu meeting was not held and Turkey did not stay quiet at what Israel had done. In fact, it is saying now what it has been saying from the beginning: Apologize, pay compensation and ease the blockade on Gaza.

Israel has not come close to doing any of these. As time passes, the crisis actually gets deeper, Israel is losing Turkey; Turkey is also losing Israel.

Recently, the same Netanyahu, while asking for another six months from Turkey, mentioned his wish that, "maybe something could happen in the meantime." The same Netanyahu also said, "67 percent of my people are against an apology."

Yes, but that population assumes that Israel was right in the fleet incident and that is the reason that they are against any apology.

At the point we have reached, Turkey is talking about the "safety of navigation" in the eastern Mediterranean and is, in a way, becoming a guarantor of freedom of travel.

I wonder what else we will see.

Who leaked the UN report to the New York Times?

Turkey wanted the U.N. Commission's report on the Mavi Marmara incident to be published when the time came: Israel wanted to postpone it for six months. U.S. Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton mediated for Israel's demand while she met Ahmet Davutoğlu in Paris recently; Davutoğlu, in fact, gave in to a certain extent. But, right on that day, the report was leaked to the New York Times' website and was posted there.

Now everybody is saying that it was Israel that leaked the report to the NYT because of its closeness to the Jewish lobby and that its owners were Jewish, but I have difficulty understanding this: If Israel had wanted the report to be publicized, it would have done so months ago. On the contrary, Israel did not want the report to be publicized.

Well then, who leaked the report to the NYT?

My guess is that the leak is of U.N. origin. In the previous postponement, U.N. personnel were angry, so they leaked a large amount of the report's content. The same thing happened this time, too, I think.

*İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared on Sunday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

 

THE ISRAEL-TURKEY CRISIS

SOLİ ÖZEL - SOZEL@HTGAZETE.COM.TR

Following the statements Friday by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – who emphasized specifically that they were against the current Israeli government – Turkish-Israeli relations are now charting a previously uncharted course. In the light of the third article about the sanctions referring to freedom of navigation, a serious hardening in the style of Turkish foreign politics has been introduced.

When Turkey says it will take all the precautions it deems necessary for the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean, it is obvious that these are not words that will hang or should not hang in the air. Consequently, we may just as well witness a chain of developments that may cause even clashes between Turkey and Israel starting next week.

 No doubt this warning, which confirms Turkey's regional power status, will also be noted cautiously by countries in the region and in the rest of the world. It will seem as if Ankara is trying to obtain a result it was not able to within the U.N. system by using its military power whereas up until today it was trying to expand its sphere of influence through its soft power.

The result Turkey was aiming for is the international system's acceptance that the Israeli barricade against Gaza is against international law. From the moment the Mavi Marmara attack took place, Ankara was looking to protect the rights of its eight citizens (Furkan Doğan was a U.S. citizen) who lost their lives. Israel did not recognize the U.N. Human Rights Council as legitimate. In the end, with pressure from the United States and a call from the secretary general, the Palmer Commission was formed.

According to an article by Deniz Zeyrek that best summarized this development in those days, Israel only accepted such a commission due to Turkey's persistence. But again, from the beginning, the U.S.'s and Turkey's expectations of the commission were different and Ankara provided a member for the commission, accepting these circumstances. As a matter of fact, despite the reservation he affixed to the commission's report, retired Ambassador Özdem Sanberk has not rejected the report. When seen from this point of view, for Turkey to disregard the report of a commission that Turkey itself had asked for – in addition to providing a member to the commission and failing to oppose the framework of the task that was determined by the U.S. – cannot be considered a very consistent stance.

The report of the Palmer Commission, at its worst, is a time-serving report. Some sections of the report give the impression that it was written by the same person who wrote the Israeli national report. In the analysis of what the Turkish side has done, some mind reading, subjective assessments and skipping are all evident.

 In the report, Turkey's basic argument that the blockade is against international law has been rejected. Not only that, the acts Israel may exert to sustain this blockade are considered legitimate. But there is no assessment where the border of the blockade exertion starts.

Even so, in this case, despite the fact that excessive force used in the attack that is 72 miles away from Israeli shores, without making a last warning, without exercising other lighter methods before the raid, before the sun has risen and was condemned, the raid was declared to be self-defense because resistance was encountered on the ship.

The report cannot make a choice between Turkey's argument that "there was an agreement reached with Israel" on the issue of rerouting the Mavi Marmara and Israel's "there was no such agreement" argument. Also, in this case, the subject of who exerted how much effort to prevent a clash hangs in the air. In short, while it whitewashes Israel, it leaves those topics that frustrate Turkey obscure.

The fact that the report is bad does not change the truth that Turkey has posted a loss in this diplomatic contest.

The Israeli government, by taking the decision not to apologize, has made a strategic decision that risks severing relations. The Turkish government, also, with the measures it announced, has reciprocated in a similar way. The two governments have conveyed the message to the world public that the interests of their countries conflict extremely.

In light of all these developments in the region, it is highly probable that those two decisions will damage both countries to varying degrees, at different time frames and in different forms.

*Soli Özel is a columnist for daily Habertürk in which this piece appeared on Sunday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

 

WHY ARE POLITICIANS GENERALLY LATE?

Being late is a chronic behavior of some people. Lot of friends, relatives, colleagues and others make us nervous and even angry because they can never be on time. We accuse them of having no respect for other people's time.

But if this behavior is a psychological deficiency, it is not proper to blame them. It is better to take this behavior into account when making common arrangements and be patient with these people if we still appreciate their companionship.

Unfortunately it is not easy to have such tolerance for politicians. When they are late to make necessary decisions in the event of an emergency the result is generally a disaster. The best example is the crises we have been facing.

Politicians naturally reject all these accusations and to defend themselves they generally mention the difficulties of making a sound decision in an emergency situation. They even use the same words in order to explain their difficult position: "What would you do if you were in my place?" The problem is we are not in their place and we elect them to these places to make necessary decisions. So it is their job, not ours, to act without delay during critical times.

For politicians there might be several motives behind being late. For example the political risk of making a decision instantly to solve a newly emerged problem is generally greater than that of transferring it to the hands of future politicians, even if the cost of that instantly made decision might be smaller than that of a delayed one. Maybe this is the reason why the United States and some European countries have been facing huge deficit and debt problems.

Another important point is that even if wise politicians or groups of rational politicians are aware of their present duties and responsibilities it might be difficult to convince the others of a decision that must be taken instantly. Then waiting for the emergence of another serious problem might become necessary to convince their short-sighted colleagues. Whether the story is true or not, a famous example of this is U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's patience in not declaring war against Japan until the Pearl Harbor catastrophe. It is still being debated whether the Pearl Harbor attack might have been prevented if Roosevelt had convinced Congress to declare war against Japan beforehand.

The most important issue is whether politicians have the ability to diagnose the signals of an approaching crisis. It is not right to generalize this accusation for all politicians without testing their reactions against serious crises. However most of them failed this test during the recent crises.. It is generally believed that in the United States some big and important institutions deceived the authorities quite easily, including politicians. Financial markets have become so complex that it is really difficult to follow every act in detail, even for a professional. And to be fair it must be accepted that politicians are not professionals. However what about institutions such as the Federal Reserve Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission?

In Europe the story is quite different. Nobody deceived governments into irresponsible spending and borrowing. Politicians might defend themselves by saying the people insisted on extra public spending and as a result they are the real ones responsible for deficit and debt problems. However anybody who knows how a democracy works cannot accept such an excuse.

In short, for politicians being late is a fact of life. The people who elected them unfortunately have no power to control them directly in most democracies. Indirect relations are also not very fruitful. It also must be remembered that people generally have a short memory. They quickly forget and forgive.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

 

A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE DISDAIN

ALEXANDER COOLEY/LINCOLN MTCHELL

Last Friday, voters in the Georgian breakaway territory of Abkhazia went to the polls in a presidential election that was broadly ignored by the United States and its European allies.

There were no international observers, no stern warnings to Abkhaz leaders about the rule of law, no Western congratulations to the winner – Alexander Ankvab, who had been acting president since Sergei Bagapsh, the twice-elected Abkhaz president, died suddenly in May.

In fact, many Western organizations, urged by Tbilisi, condemned the polling. Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said the EU "does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which these elections have taken place," while NATO declared that the alliance "does not recognize the elections."

The main reason for these reactions is that while the people of Abkhazia view themselves as an independent state, the world's governments, with only a very few exceptions, consider the territory as an integral part of Georgia. Only a few weeks ago the U.S. Senate passed a resolution describing Abkhazia as "occupied" by Russia.

Still, condemning political processes in the breakaway territory damages Western credibility and influence in the South Caucasus in a number of ways.

First, by the standards of the South Caucasus, the elections seemed reasonably competitive. Ankvab, with 54 per cent of the vote, bested two other candidates – the former prime minister and one-time Moscow favorite Raoul Kadjimba, as well as the current prime minister, Sergei Shamba. Though the election was probably far from perfect, all three candidates openly courted voters during the campaign and all were granted equal time by state television. The same cannot be said of national elections in Georgia, which is regarded by Western governments as a model democracy that Abkhazia should aspire to join, which for years now has been dominated by the United National Movement of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Second, there was little evidence to suggest that Moscow predetermined the Abkhazia result. Yet the West's open hostility to the polling unintentionally reinforced Russia's growing influence.

Since recognizing Abkhazia's independence in 2008, after the brief Georgia-Russia war, Russia has effectively taken over a number of Abkhazia's critical functions and economic sectors under the mantra of pursuing "bilateral cooperation." Rather than push the Abkhaz government and public to accept reintegration into Georgia, the West's policy of isolation has driven Sukhumi even further into Russia's embrace and reinforced the local notion that the West acts as a proxy for Georgia.

Third, by showing no interest in this election, the West further entrenches the counterproductive position that nothing that happens in Abkhazia, or even the views of the people there, have any bearing on any potential resolution to the conflict.

Right after the election, NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen said that "the holding of such elections does not contribute to a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia."

The West selectively engages with a number of unrecognized states and disputed territories. It promotes a variety of economic links and projects in the Moldovan breakaway territory of Transnistria, and both the United States and Britain accept passports from residents of the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Ultimately, the West's stance has no immediate consequences for the newly elected Abkhaz president, who must somehow bolster Abkhazia's weak economy, court investors to upgrade its decimated infrastructure and carefully navigate its dependence on Russia.

But it does keep the West marginalized in that part of the Caucasus precisely at a time when Washington and Brussels should be promoting alternatives to the all-too-familiar system of great-power clientele-ism and competition.

*Alexander Cooley is Tow Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. Lincoln Mitchell is an associate research scholar at Columbia University's Harriman Institute. This article was originally published in the Khaleej Times online.

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I. THE NEWS

UMRAH FLIGHTS


The last of the Pakistani umrah pilgrims who were stranded in Jeddah arrived home on Saturday, after a delay of five days. Several of them said that it was PIA's mismanagement that had kept them from celebrating Eid with their families. Indeed, records show that PIA flights to Jeddah are being delayed regularly and the five daily flights to Jeddah are late as a matter of routine. Aviation sources say that one big reason for this is the appointment of pilots in management and executive positions. When these pilots are away on international flights or on vacation, there is no one to perform the administrative duties and the vacuum upsets the entire system.

Aviation authorities have also cited a number of other factors as having caused the delay: increased air traffic at Jeddah Airport in the umrah season; lack of commitment to return dates by umrah performers; non-compliance with instructions and regulations for weight and size of luggage; and the rush of some pilgrims to travel without reservations. While it can be admitted that unforeseen circumstances do occur, it is also important that airlines make special arrangements for the provision of food and accommodation to passengers in the event of delays. During the current episode, arrangements that could have made things slightly easier were missing. Indeed, whatever the reasons for the delay, what was most shocking was the insensitivity of airport and airline authorities to the plight of the passengers.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OBLIVIOUS TO PUBLIC OPINION

 DR A Q KHAN

 

In our country rulers and politicians lie and make false promises to people to fool them, without caring what people say about them in private. In the olden days, kings, emperors, qazis, prime ministers, etc., used to go out in disguise to see and hear what the public had to say about them. The most important incident in this regard is that of Hazrat Umar (RA) who assisted a helpless woman with hungry children. He brought them food, served them and cried about the fact that this could happen under his rule. The Begums of Bhopal were famous for roaming the city at night disguised as men. They would sit in teashops and listen to public views.

At KRL, my senior colleagues and I used to have lunch together. The atmosphere was quite relaxed and we used to discuss any topic under the sun. When Gen Zia-ul-Haq took over in July 1977, started telling lies and manipulating politics, we were quite critical of him. In our group there were also some serving military officers. I guess one of them informed "somebody" who in turned informed Gen Zia. One day Gen Syed Zamin Naqvi and I were meeting Gen Zia when he suddenly said, in a light vein, that he had heard that we were very critical of him. I answered in the same tone that we scientists and engineers were under tremendous pressure to deliver and that the only time we could discuss anything and everything close to our hearts was over lunch. It was all a totally harmless discussion. Harmful and dangerous are those who feign to be harmless and are sycophants.

Since the beginning of the present oppressive, inefficient, corrupt and so-called "democratic" system, we have been hearing and seeing nothing but bargaining and the formation, break-up and subsequent re-formation of alliances. All this horse-trading, manoeuvring and manipulation have nothing to do with public interest and public wellbeing. It all centres around pure hypocrisy and self-interest.

The Pir Sahab of Pagaro recently made a most apt comment. He said that the public squabble between the PPP and the MQM is nothing more than a fixed bout. This comment exposes the true faces of the two parties. We know that the Nazim system was introduced in 2001 by Pervez Musharraf. It was a God-given opportunity and the MQM made the most of it. And why not? Billions of rupees were made available and most of this money was spent on showcase flyovers, bridges and expressways.

Unfortunately, civil works are the worst of developmental works, with almost 50 percent of the money being misused. I was very well aware of this, and when we started construction work in Kahuta, I purposely requested Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to give me a team of engineers from the army and asked Gen Zia, who was then army chief, to be responsible for their conduct. We never had any complaints.

The PPP government now wants its share and consequently brought in the commissionerate system. This was a bitter pill for the MQM to swallow, hence the "great war" Between the two parties. The new system was cancelled and the old system reintroduced in the fertile cities of Karachi and Hyderabad.

While Altaf Hussain spewed fire and flame, the MQM, most diplomatically, refrained from taking a single step against the PPP government, either in Sindh or at the centre.

The support of the Q-League has strengthened the hand of President Asif Ali Zardari but, cunning as he is, he is in no mood to break with the MQM. If Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan could be appointed professor of Eastern music in the USA and Japan, then why don't they consider appointing Mr Zardari professor of political science at Harvard? He truly deserves it. Let's not forget how he dethroned Musharraf.

Political analysts and commentators, within and outside the country, all hold the president, the governor and chief minister of Sindh and Altaf Hussain responsible for the mess in Karachi. They all give kudos to Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik for getting the whole nation into yet another controversy to divert the attention of the public (and that of the Supreme Court) from other pressing problems. Forget about such important issues such as the NRO, NICL, the Steel Mills, the National Accountability Bureau, NLC, the container case, the Railways, Thar Coal, Reko Diq, load-shedding, unemployment, inflation, etc, etc. The fact remains that neither the National Assembly nor the Sindh Assembly has any say in the affairs of Karachi. It is all "in the family" and public interest is nowhere on the agenda.

Even though these assemblies, and both federal and provincial governments, are run by so-called "democratic" representatives, the fact remains that the whole country is hostage to four or five people. New ordinances are issued, modified and/or cancelled, but they have no value. Nothing is done through the elected assemblies. They are just rubberstamps. There is no law, only the law of the jungle. Murder, extortion and blackmail are the order of the day. There is pure anarchy.

There is widespread belief that mutiny, uprising and lawlessness spread like wildfire at a speed similar to that of a tsunami. Our younger generation may not be fully aware of the painful and disgraceful end that befell the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), etc., but they have definitely seen the recent tragic end of Saddam Hussein, Zein al-Abedin ben Ali of Tunisia, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, Hosny Mubarak of Egypt and, most recently, Col Muammar Qaddafi of Libya.

This curse of lawlessness, suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism are all a result of the US aggression in Afghanistan. The Americans will leave, sooner or later, but before doing so they will have destroyed our national fabric, our cohesion, our harmony. Call it terrorism, jihad or whatever you like, it is going to destroy our country.

Our former rulers ignored events developing in East Pakistan and the country had to pay a heavy price. Now the current rulers are ignoring Karachi, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, all the while enjoying feasts and foreign trips. The reaction to this callous and deliberate negligence is furious and devastating. All the given warnings and the blame and curses of the affected people will have a backlash. In the famous fable it was the last straw that broke a camel's back.

NOTE: I am extremely grateful to everyone who remembered me on the auspicious occasion of Eid and who sent their best wishes. I am sorry that I cannot respond to each of you individually as I am not well.

Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

LUNAR LEGITIMACY

 IMRAN KHAN


Having grown up in Peshawar, in an extended family comprising both Barelvis and Deobandis, I can hardly remember a time when the whole family celebrated Eidul Fitr on the same day. The annual spoiling of Chhoti Eid is not a small loss, especially when a government body exists for the sole purpose of ensuring a single Eid. This problem has persisted for quite some time now, and its solution is stalled by completely wrong perceptions about its true nature.


A common mistake is to term the separate Eids as an expression of Pakhtun nationalism that is limited to a few towns and cities. The fact of the matter is that Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti's decision to celebrate a separate Eid in 2009 was no different from that of Aftab Sherpao of the PPP during his tenure back in the 90s, Akram Durrani of the MMA took a similar line during his time. It is evident that the support for a separate Eid has come from all sorts of political quarters in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and not just nationalist ones.


Another mistake is to explain the separate Eids in the light of the stereotyping of Pakhtuns. You come across prejudiced text messages and politically incorrect newspaper cartoons that cite "Pakhtun stupidity" as the main reason. While the stupidity of the Pakhtun gene remains to be proven scientifically, it is definitely moronic to actually believe that a whole ethnic group can be "stupid."


It is true that the Eid disagreement manifests itself in ethnic terms, but its real source lies in the rivalries between Deobandis and Barelvis. These rivalries are annually reignited after the apparent discrimination faced by Deobandi witnesses in the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. At times the committee adjourns too early for these witnesses to present themselves and sometimes the witnesses are rejected, supposedly unfairly. Deobandi complaints are mostly centred on the negative role played by the chairman of the committee, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who happens to be a Barelvi.


The resulting Deobandi defiance is then announced through loudspeakers across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and it is here that the issue takes on an ethnic tone. These Eid/Ramazan announcements that are usually made pretty late in the night give details on how Pashto-speaking witnesses were rejected by a committee that is dominated by non-Pakhtuns. Thus, the announcement becomes a rallying cry, and the separation from the rest of the country becomes a show of defiance against the discrimination exercised by a federal committee. That said, it is important to highlight the fact that many devout Barelvis and Shias in Peshawar follow the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, and similarly some mosques in Lahore are reported to follow Masjid Qasim Ali Khan.

An ideal Eid/Ramazan announcement should have two attributes: First, astronomical legitimacy and, second, its having legitimacy among its intended audience. The Pakistan Meteorological Department (MET) has enough capacity to ensure the astronomical legitimacy of an announcement, but as this is a matter of faith the verdict of scientists is bound to have lower consideration than that of the clergy. It is this particular fact that lies behind the existence of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.

But year after year, the committee's decision has been rejected by a sizeable number of Pakistanis. It is amusing to hear Mufti Muneeb explain the legitimacy of the committee's decision by citing the MET department. If astronomical validity is the only thing that matters, what exactly is the need for the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee? Equally bewildering is the chairman's proposal for Eid's "enforcement." Here again, the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee becomes needless, as the enforcement can also be done for announcements emanating from the MET department. The good mufti needs to realise that instead of blaming dissenters, the need is to contemplate on this: why has the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee failed in building a consensus?

The structure of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee allows for the needed consensus building as it has the representation of all the sects. But the main reason put forward by its dissenters is the apparent arrogance of Mufti Muneeb. These allegations were corroborated by the Mufti's behaviour on talk shows this year, as he flared up and stormed out of most of them when he was confronted on this issue.

But even if one disagrees with the allegations against Mufti Muneeb, it is important to consider the fact that this is his 10th year of the committee's chairmanship. It is obvious that if the representative of one of school of thought or sect gets 10 continuous years of leadership, then technically the committee ceases to represent all the others. In this scenario the legitimacy of the Ruet-e- Hilal Committee can be bolstered substantially if the chairmanship is rotated between the various schools of thought on an annual basis.

Choti, or Meethi, Eid is one of those very few occasions that is not exclusive to any particular school of thought or sect. Considering the fact that we have lost thousands of lives to sectarianism, this day needs to be leveraged to build bridges. But as things stand, it is instead magnifying differences of religious interpretation into ethnic ones. In this situation, raising the credibility of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee is crucial in halting the deepening of these fissures, if that raised credibility comes at the price of a few hurt egos, then that is a price worth paying. The reward is in terms of much needed national cohesion.

The write is a freelance contributor.Email: iopyne@gmail.com.

Blog: iopyne.wordpress.com

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I. THE NEWS

TAJIKISTAN SUMMIT


An important four-power summit concluded in Tajikistan on September 2 where Pakistan, Tajikistan, Russia and Afghanistan agreed to work closely to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime, and stressed the importance of linking their countries through modern highways and railroads. Significantly, Russia lamented the lack of progress in Pakistan-Afghanistan energy projects that could help bring stability to the volatile region. "There's a whole range of projects that have been on the table for a long time which have seen no movement forward and which should be implemented," the Russian president said, referring to the transnational gas pipeline and the CASA-1000 through which power will be sent from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Indeed, like previous years, this year too there was talk of Central Asian electricity, and like previous years, the transport infrastructure needed to be able to achieve this continues to be missing. Given that Pakistan has been consistently looking to Tajikistan to strengthen its national power grid and Tajikistan has been eyeing Gwadar for an outlet to the sea through Pakistan, it is important to correct this infrastructure deficit and aim for the early establishment of air, road and rail links from Central Asia to Pakistan. In this regard, the road link from Dushanbe to Chitral in Pakistan and through Iskatul Gulkhana in Afghanistan is a welcome idea. It will also link the ports in Gwadar and Karachi to Dushanbe and onwards to Russia.

In Tajikistan, the leaders also stressed cooperation to fight and eradicate terrorism and extremism. Most important in this regard was the Russian and Pakistani suggestion that the Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan step up training of local security forces as it completes its phased withdrawal so that the new Afghan force is able to independently provide for the defence capabilities of the state, and combat extremist groups and drug traffickers. Russia is most keen to demonstrate it is playing a constructive role in improving security in a region where it has had a major influence historically and where it now wants to expand its footprint, especially as relations between Islamabad and Washington plummet. The thrust of the Tajikistan summit, as of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, is to replace terrorism with trade as the mode of communication between states. Indeed, if Pakistan wants to become a player in the Central Asian region, it is essential to establish trade and trade routes and stand firmly against the export of extremism from non-state actors. For decades, Pakistan has been quietly supplying the food markets of Central Asia through smuggling. The Pakistani potential for growing food crops can only be realised if it becomes a permanent source of supply to the region through secure and formal trade routes.

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I. THE NEWS

DRAINING AWAY


It is no exaggeration to say that our future – and the quality of life of all of us – is inextricably linked to water. We are becoming a water-poor state on top of all the other iterations of poverty that we endure, and we are about to be considerably poorer of this diminishing resource. Our old adversary India needs water as much as we do – if not more. India has a burgeoning and fast industrialising economy that has a raging thirst, and dams are the way to slake it, thereby maximising output. Both India and Pakistan have the misfortune to share several major river systems, and the sources of most of the rivers that water our land lie on the Indian side. Unlike Pakistan where there has been wrangling for decades over dam construction, India has been building dams hand over fist, with the latest to give us grief being the 330MW Kishanganga hydropower project. We had the right of appeal against this project, but true to form we have fumbled the opportunity.


The International Court of Arbitration sitting in The Hague has disallowed our inexplicably delayed request for a stay order against the building of the Kishanganga project (which is anyway now far advanced and due for completion in the next four years.) The villain of the piece appears to be the special assistant to the prime minister, Kamala Majidullah, who has been leading the legal team pleading our case. The competence of Majidullah for this task has been questioned in the past by experts and researchers who have had something to say about the environmental impact of the Kishanganga dam on our own Neelum Valley project. The COA raised the highly pertinent point to Majidullah as to why he did not raise objections to Kishanganga when he had the opportunity to do so back in January this year – to which there was no satisfactory reply. In other words, for lack of a little fast footwork, Pakistan had missed the window of opportunity to register an objection to an Indian project that is clearly to its detriment. The COA has questioned why Pakistan failed to register objections in January but was putting it forward now. It now seems inevitable that we are going to lose the legal battle. We could have won a better result for ourselves if we had picked the right person to plead our case, but instead a political placeman got stood up for it and we are the losers. Again.

 

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I. THE NEWS

THE UNTHINKABLE

CHRIS CORK


It was difficult typing the title and is going to be no easier to write. So here is the question. Is Pakistan so broke that we can't fix it; and alongside that is a constructive option state failure?

Let me say firstly that I do not have the answer to either, but also feel that we need to be asking ourselves some fundamental questions about where we are now, how we got here, and where we go next. And for those of you raising an eyebrow at my use of 'we' can I say that this is my home, it is where my family are and it is where I will die, hopefully at a ripe old age. On that basis I feel able to use 'we' – because I have a stake in the future of Pakistan. But what the shape of the future might be I have little inkling.

Bottom line – it may all be the fault of Britain. When Pakistan was carved out of India in two halves that were never going to be one whole; it got the bad end of the deal. This was not in the minds of those who created modern Pakistan, I am sure. I do not believe they set out to create a state that was doomed to failure. They had never heard of global warming and could not have predicted the ballooning of the population to its current unsustainable levels. They could not have foreseen the death of Jinnah though they knew he was a sick man, nor could they have predicted that politics would fail as comprehensively as it has.

But the British were aware that Pakistan came into the world without the silver spoon in its mouth that India had; acutely aware also the UK was virtually bankrupted by the Second World War and as desperate to divest itself of its colonies as the colonies were for independence.

So from the outset the retreating colonial power left poisonous unfinished business in Kashmir and a newly-minted state that was bereft of resources, largely illiterate and with a tenuous hold on democratic process. In that sense it is the fault of the British, but blaming the British forever gets us nowhere, and at some point the fault has to edge towards a mid-point and then become the responsibility of us, not in whole because we are not responsible for history, but in part because we own the state we live in.

Today we really do teeter on the edge. We have in the past as well, but never this close. A tanking economy, many millions too many mouths to feed and a political structure riddled with corruption and mediocrity to the point at which it is dragging the state further down by the day.

The battle against extremism is not lost because it was never fought in any meaningful sense; and an already radicalised society is only going to get more radical. Such moderates as there are more closely resemble neo-cons than an active left-wing, and they occupy no political and very little social space.

There is nothing to suggest that an even more radical society would be any more likely to fail then a less radicalised society – either way the structural problems remain the same and just as intractable. The state is as likely to fail if there was a moderate revolution tomorrow.

The unthinkable is acceptance of state failure, an end to efforts to fix wheels that perpetually fall off. And a lot more effort and time going into how we will re-boot post-fail Pakistan. Time, in short, for Plan B.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

SLIDE INTO KAKISTOCRACY

 ASIF EZDI

 

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan foreign service.

Pakistan has acquired a well-deserved reputation for being one of the leading kleptocracies of the world. A lot of the credit for this distinction goes to Zardari. As first husband in the two prime ministerial tenures of Benazir, he did more than any other person to put Pakistan firmly in the league of the most corrupt countries of the world. Starting from a rundown cinema business in Karachi and a small landholding in Sindh, and armed with little more than a sharp nose for dirty money, he rose within a few years to become the second richest man in the country, with fat bank accounts in foreign countries and overseas properties scattered across the globe.

Zardari has continued this fine tradition since he moved into the Presidency in 2008. In many cases of mega corruption being pursued in the Supreme Court, the trail leads to persons in the highest echelons of government. The scrapping of the infamous NRO by the Supreme Court has done little to stop Zardari from his ways or to hold him answerable despite voluminous evidence. Protected from prosecution by the constitutional immunity conferred on the president and installing a spineless puppet as prime minister, he has successfully defied the judiciary's efforts to enforce accountability laws. The complicity of the federal authorities in this exercise was recorded graphically in television footage showing documents on the Swiss money laundering case against Zardari being carted away from Geneva to an unknown destination.

In an otherwise dysfunctional government, if there is a single overarching theme which runs through its policies, it is to make Pakistan safe for corruption and the corrupt. Having been stopped by the Supreme Court last March from appointing Zardari's handpicked choice to head the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the government has refrained from appointing anyone else. The post has effectively been lying vacant since the resignation in June 2010 of its last hapless occupant, who in any case did not distinguish himself with any particular zeal to uncover graft in high places.

Instead of seeking convictions of the corrupt, the government seems to be more interested in getting their acquittal. The new accountability bill drafted by the government is toothless and full of loopholes. Its purpose is not to check corruption but to promote it by making the investigation, prosecution and conviction of the corrupt more difficult.

But Zardari has not been content with making Pakistan the kleptocrat's dream. He is also bent on making the country the world's leading kakistocracy. If that is a rarely employed word these days, that is because the phenomenon is disappearing in the rest of the world. It was applied in the past to Marcos' Philippines, Mobutu's Zaire and Somoza's Nicaragua. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "government by the worst men". The term is derived from the Greek words kakistos, meaning worst, and kratia, signifying government. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it, somewhat euphemistically, as government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

Pakistan under Zardari clearly fits the description eminently. In ordinary countries, a person accused of involvement in criminal or shady activities is considered to be disqualified from holding public office as long as he does not clear himself of the charge. But under Zardari, having a tainted past is an added qualification for the most important jobs; and even conviction is not enough to make a person ineligible for high office of state. On the other hand, people of integrity and character who could uncover the misdeeds of those in power face victimisation.

The appointment of Buland Akhtar Rana as the new auditor general, an office with responsibility to flag corruption and malfeasance in the use of public money, is the latest example of Zardari's determination to make Pakistan a kakistocracy. In a letter to Zardari, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court pointed to several charges of misconduct against Rana. These allegations were contained in reports prepared by the ISI and FIA at the court's request. Predictably, Zardari remained unmoved.

Rana boasts two "qualifications" which in a well-governed state would rule him out for the job but which in Zardari's eyes make him just the right choice. First, he is believed to have affiliations with the party that Zardari heads; second, his past record in service has not been exactly spotless. Among other things, he was accused of sexual harassment of a junior colleague, but was cleared of the charge in a departmental inquiry. Rana also holds Canadian nationality. This does not technically disqualify him for the post of auditor general. In fact, the constitution does not stipulate any qualifications for the job, not even Pakistani citizenship, and gives the prime minister unfettered power to appoint any person of his choice. Zardari would therefore not be acting in breach of the constitution even if he were to appoint Jens Schlegelmilch, his lawyer in the Swiss money-laundering case, or even an Indian business partner, as the auditor general.

There is clearly a loophole in the constitution. An adviser to the prime minister, which is a constitutional post, also does not have to be a Pakistani citizen. Most governments would close such loopholes through appropriate legislation. But with Zardari it is different. He would rather exploit them for his political games.

Holders of dual nationality are also not barred from joining government service; and a civil servant who applies for or acquires the nationality of another country is not even required to inform the government. In reply to a question in the National Assembly last February, the government named a couple of dozen civil servants, including Rana, who hold the nationality of foreign countries. The actual number is believed to be much higher. So if Rana has a Canadian passport, or took leave of absence to fulfil the residence requirements for acquiring the citizenship of that country, he may not have broken any Pakistani law.

But this is not just a question of legality in the technical sense. Citizenship of a foreign country involves much more than the possession of another travel document. It implies, first and foremost, allegiance to the state, including the obligation to defend that state with arms. A person with dual nationality is a person with divided loyalties. It is deeply troubling that our government allows such persons to remain in government service, even in very senior positions where they have access to sensitive information having a bearing on national security.

While there is no law that allows the government prohibiting servants from holding foreign nationality, the constitution unambiguously disqualifies holders of dual nationality from getting elected to parliament and provincial assemblies. Yet, whether by design or not, the government and the election commission have failed to enforce this ban. According to one estimate, holders of dual nationality and the US green card number up to one-tenth of the total membership of parliament. The government has failed even to answer parliamentary questions for information on MNAs and senators holding foreign nationality. They clearly have powerful allies in the government.

If we had a government which had any respect for the constitution, it would have enforced the ban on dual nationality for our lawmakers and adopted legislation to bar government servants from acquiring foreign citizenship. But our government and "elected representatives" have other priorities. They are there mainly to protect their own privileges and those of the corrupt ruling class to which they belong. They steal public money, cheat on taxes, and deny education and other basic services to the common man. Through their ruthless plunder and the exploitation of the poor hardworking masses, they bear the main responsibility for breeding terrorism in the country and are the main cause of its slide into kakistocracy.

Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

THE AFGHAN 'WAY FORWARD'

 SHAMSHAD AHMAD

 

Throughout the ongoing Afghan war, now in its tenth year, the fundamental issue has been not so much how this war was being conducted but how it will end. A basic lesson of military history ignored in this case is that you don't start a war unless you know how to end it. At least till now, Washington doesn't seem to have any fresh thinking, much less a dialogue strategy to end the Afghan war that in the first instance was a wrong war to start.

It has been the costliest conflicts in America's history and also one of the longest ones which has been prolonged not for national interests but by its own inertia. No wonder people in the US and its allied European countries are sick and tired of this unwinnable war and want their troops back from Afghanistan as early as possible. President Obama who wasted two years in an ill-advised surge operation has been facing public as well as congressional pressure for a speedy pull out.

With his eyes on next year's presidential election for a second term, Obama has been seeking to redress the situation to avert the repeat of popular backlash his party suffered in last year's mid-term elections. He recently announced a troop drawdown involving phased removal of 33,000 US troops from Afghanistan by summer next year to be followed by a "steady pace" of reduction until 2014, when under a transitional process, the Afghans are expected to take "full control of their own security".

War wary sentiments has been reinforced all over the world by the argument that if Osama bin Laden was officially declared dead there was no excuse or rational left for the US to continue this war in Afghanistan. Even in Washington, political thinking across the party lines looked at Bin Laden's death as a "game-changing" opportunity to build momentum for the beginning of the endgame in Afghanistan.

Logically therefore, once he over-ruled the predominantly militarist approach and announced the troop drawdown, President Obama should have moved ahead more vigorously with a sustainable peace process in Afghanistan. By now, he should have drawn a clearer blueprint for negotiations with the Taliban as an essential part of his Afghan strategy that would have helped him not only reduce the US military footprint in Afghanistan but also prepare the ground for an honourable US exit from this costly war.

In the absence of a coherent strategy, Washington's haphazard approach has not gone beyond tactically-motivated perfunctory contacts with so-called Taliban 'representatives' under German sponsorship. Even these contacts seem to have run into an early cul de sac after they were leaked to the media prompting an abrupt Taliban denial of any talks with US officials. No meaningful dialogue can take place in an environment of mutual mistrust and suspicion.

The foremost requisite for any dialogue in a conflict situation is to hold fire and not to let military means disrupt the political process. Before sitting together for a genuine peace settlement, both sides need to do lot of confidence-building and also develop a mutually agreed framework of modalities for the conduct of their dialogue. They will have to come out of their straight-jacketed mode to be able to have enough flexibility for a political settlement.

Given the intensity of deeply seared trust deficit on both sides, the UN alone can provide a neutral ground and credible mechanism for the main players to negotiate the Afghan peace. Once the rules of the game are established in good faith, instead of aimlessly pursuing further tactical objectives, it would be advisable for both sides to move into serious talks through a credible intermediary, preferably a special representative of the UN Secretary-General, who will lead the mediation phase in evolving broad parameters of an eventual political settlement.

Neither side should have any problem with this UN-led approach which has already been tested in the 1980s Geneva Accord leading to the Soviet exit from Afghanistan. There are no longer preconditions for the talks to begin. The US already recognises the Taliban as part of the Afghan "political fabric" and is ready to negotiate with them a political settlement leading to a complete withdrawal of foreign troops in return for Taliban's acceptance of a constitutional set up in Afghanistan and severance of links with Al-Qaeda and any other terrorist networks.

According to Henry Kissinger, for any negotiations to turn into a viable US exit strategy, four conditions must be met: a cease-fire; withdrawal of all or most American and allied forces; the creation of a coalition government or division of territories among the contending parties (or both); and an enforcement mechanism. The first step in any roadmap to peace in Afghanistan has to be mutual cessation of hostilities, especially prior to the upcoming two Afghan-related conferences, first in Istanbul in November and the other in Bonn in December.

Since both these conferences are aimed at charting out Afghanistan's post-transition future, it would be all the more propitious to have Taliban included rather than excluded from these events so as to provide them an opportunity to be on board with a direct stake in the future socio-political dispensation of their country. On their part, the Taliban must also demonstrate their goodwill by associating themselves in good faith with these conferences as part of the larger Afghan contingent. If properly choreographed and skilfully steered, these events could serve as a timely springboard for an eventual political settlement in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government must also reset its functional mode and improve governance, limit corruption, and augment the rule of law to sustain Afghan public support for the political process. On its part, the US must overcome the 'trust deficit' it now faces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the very premise on which the proposed transition is based. It is important that the transition process does not ignore the Afghan demographic realities and is not weighted in favour or against any particular ethnic group. Durable peace in Afghanistan will come only through genuine reconciliation of all Afghan factions with no selectivity or exclusivity.

In its essence, the Afghan peace process will involve two tracks: one addressing the Afghan domestic governance issues, and the other dealing with guarantees on its non-aligned status and regional security situation addressing the security concerns of the states in the region and the broader international community. On core domestic issues, Afghans alone are the final arbiters and should be resolving them in keeping with their own culture and tradition through a multi-tiered national dialogue under UN auspices.

No reconciliation imposed from outside will work in Afghanistan, not even in the name of a regional approach. As the Afghans approach an agreement on their governance arrangements, the UN should directly engage the neighbours in the region and broader international community in a parallel track on guarantees for regional security, economic cooperation, and post-conflict peace-keeping operations.

The Kabul Declaration of December 22, 2002 on Good Neighbourly Relations signed under UN auspices by Afghanistan's six neighbouring states, namely Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, provides the most appropriate multilateral basis for these guarantees on Afghanistan's independence and non-interference in its internal affairs.

And lastly, Pakistan has direct stakes in the Afghan peace as it is in its interest to have an independent, friendly and united Afghanistan. For Pakistan, to play its indispensable role effectively in the peace process, its legitimate concerns will have to be addressed by ensuring that the Afghan soil is not used for undermining its security and territorial integrity.

The writer is a former foreignsecretary. Email: shamshad1941@ yahoo.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

GILANI'S DEEP CONCERN OVER LAND GRABBING

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has ultimately taken notice of land grabbing and gave an ultimatum to those occupying the state land to vacate it within a month otherwise action would be taken across the board. Though a belated notice of the festering menace by the Chief Executive of the country, one expects that the Government would go all out to recover the grabbed land of trillions of rupees value from the land mafia.

The fact is that land mafia is active all over the country particularly in major cities of Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta and taken over the prime land under different pretexts. The situation in Karachi is particularly very worrisome as thousands of acres of land has been illegally occupied by the land grabbers and at a number of sites, they have completed construction. This was done in complicity with those who were responsible to look after and protect the area from unauthorised use by anyone. The issue had been raised in the media several times in the past but regrettably the concerned authorities and even the then sitting governments did not pay the required attention to it. There could be many reasons behind this including political influence of the land grabbers and the grafts paid to the officials. It is a fact that the woes and problems of all sorts in Karachi including law and order and target killings are due to unchecked activities of criminals, drug and arms mafias and land grabbers besides its political contours. These mafias have established their States within State and people in Pakistan and abroad are questioning about the capacity of the elected government, which has miserably failed to bring normalcy in the commercial hub of the country. Pakistan Army which has so far kept its silence over the law and order situation in Karachi has also called for an even handed and across the board action by the civilian LEAs against all terrorists and law breakers. Turning back to the land grabbing, we may point out that it has spread like an epidemic across the country and even the capital city of Islamabad is not immune. The Supreme Court had to take notice of the matter to get vast and prime lands vacated. We would point out that the land grabbers have links with key political personalities and would resist the move, but if the Prime Minister takes his decision to logical conclusion, it will be a great service to the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

MUSHARRAF-SINGH DEAL ON KASHMIR

 

WIKILEAKS which has shaken the world by making public secret US diplomatic cables has now disclosed that India and Pakistan had through back channels agreed to a solution of the long standing Kashmir dispute. According to US embassy cable dated 21st April,2009, Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh confirmed this to a visiting US delegation led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman in April, 2009.

As the full details of the reported deal have not come into the open, one cannot comment on the merits of the deal but one thing is certain that former President Pervez Musharraf had the will and capacity to settle issues within Pakistan and in the region and particularly the Kashmir dispute. Manmohan Singh stated that he and Pervez Musharraf had made great progress prior to February 2007 and reached an understanding through back channel diplomacy. We differ with those elements who criticise Musharraf that he could bargain and barter away Pakistan's interests. Pervez Musharraf, though took over the affairs of the country through illegal means, yet he was very vocal and took stand to secure Pakistan's vital interests. This was amply demonstrated at the historic Agra summit when he did not budge in to the Indian demands and stated that it was in the interest of the two neighbours to resolve outstanding issues including Kashmir for peace and development in the South Asian region. He even suggested different options to resolve the issues to enable the two countries to spend their resources to eradicate poverty. Anyhow we would impress upon the incumbent government to prioritise the Kashmir issue because without its solution sustainable peace cannot be established in South Asia. We would also urge the Indian government to pursue the issue with sincerity as it has lingered on for over six decades and if remained unresolved, it would have serious consequences for peace. The Indian military and the establishment had always opposed result oriented dialogue with Pakistan in the past, but we expect the political leadership including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to continue his policy of engagement with Pakistan and exercise his influence to reach an understanding, as he did with Pervez Musharraf, to settle Kashmir dispute because it would not be good for the present leadership to leave the issue for coming generations.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

PLANNED UP-GRADATION OF TRANSFORMERS

 

THE critical issues, which have crippled the whole of the country, have many dimensions and each one needs to be dealt with on urgent basis to get out of the mess. Being a developing country, Pakistan has to utilize the limited resources judiciously and with utmost care to cure the ills in the system and move on the path of recovery.

One of the issues is power shortage which has paralysed the economy and affected every individual. Besides additional power generation, line losses, which are presently around 30% of the generation, are the major factor in the ongoing load shedding. A report in this newspaper on Sunday stated that the government is all set to go for the augmentation of 500/200 kw and 220/132 kw transformers in National Transmission Dispatch Company System at a cost of Rs 3.9 billion. There is dire need to replace the existing overloaded transformers with higher capacities at various locations to check the line losses. One expects that with the installation of new transformers, the line losses would be cut down significantly. However we think that a reassessment of the power generation houses and distribution system is demand of the time. The aged thermal powerhouses are consuming more oil and gas and generating less than half of the installed capacity thus making the electricity costly for the consumers. Also transmission lines, grid stations and connection cables have obsolete equipment and wires, which also lead to wastage of power in addition to theft which is common all over the country. Therefore we would urge the Government to pay urgent attention to upgrade the entire system in a phased manner as that would help a great deal to overcome the power shortages.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

CREATING MORE PROVINCES!

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

 

The movement for creating more provinces is a brain child of the PPP and it moving spirit is the Prime Minister himself by sponsoring creation of Sraiki Province. In other countries politicians have discussions on such ticklish matters by their Think Tanks, consult intellectuals and experts. Here, in the Party which has sponsored this move there is paucity of intellectuals and learned experts. Where agitational politics is the order of the day, absence of a Think Tank is natural. In the erstwhile Communist countries proposals for changes were placed in the offices of the Party through out the country for one year eliciting nation-wide debate and thereafter the proposed changes were discussed in the Party and then placed in the National Assembly for approval Here the more important the proposed change in the Structure or System of the State the quicker the Political bosses want the proposal to become Law.


There are two aspects of this proposal which need to be given serious consideration: One, can Pakistan afford the cost of creating new provinces? Two, will creating new provinces not finally be pitting ethnicity against Pakistanism promoting divisive forces challenging country's existence? that is will creating new provinces not tear asunder Pakistan's unity like it did in Yugoslavia in the eighties. As a student of political science and seen ethnicity destroying Yugoslavia there- I witnessed Yugoslavia's disintegration when I was Ambassador to Yugoslavia for four years. It is not easy to dismiss the apprehension of such a possibility. Ethnicity has already steeped in Pakistan through naming of a province on Ethnic Identity. One should not dismiss these apprehensions without having a national debate on the proposal Discussing this topic, it is necessary to recall what Chief Minister of Balochistan has said, with which I entirely agree, that this scheme can be very dangerous for the country. I would go a step further, it can be so dangerous that to spell out the consequences better be avoided Three- is it not an extreme exaggeration to claim that creating new provinces is required for development of those "backward areas. Could some body recall how utterly backward these areas were when Pakistan came into existence and what they are today, even Balochistan.


I consider it necessary to draw attention to the following points: The examples of creation of new provinces in other countries cited by supporters of this scheme- do they have any relevance in support of the proposal; Will the demand for creation of new provinces stop at creation of Sraiki Province or will it not lead to a number other such demands , where will it stop? Will a series of such demands not be dangerous for the country; Will creation of such new provinces not lead to the bankruptcy of the country? How much expenditure more will be required to run these new provinces? Who will pay for these new provinces? Will it not leas to Pakistan's bankruptcy?

What are politicians' real intentions in demanding new provinces? They have citing examples from India, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan- and even France- thinking that their case for creating several new provinces in Pakistan will be strengthened But obviously they do not know what is a "province" in a federal state and what it is in a unitary state. In federal system –which Pakistan is- a "province" has a Governor, Cabinet, a Provincial Assembly, a Government paraphernalia, such as a Secretariat etc. In unitary system administrative units even if called Province have nothing more than an Administrator even if the Administrator is called a governor like in Turkey "Willayat" whose head is Wali but he is merely an administrative head of the "wilayat" or district. He does not have a Chief Minister a cabinet and its own Legislative Assembly and its Members, etc. Same is the case with Afghanistan , Iran and France .I had been what is called Deputy Ambassador in Turkey for three years, and in France for one year to learn French as a Foreign Service Probationer .My knowledge is not based on superficial hear say that a Provence in France is the same thing as Province in Pakistan Only India is a Federal State and its 'States' are similar to Pakistan's Provinces. Javed Hashmi an MNA from Multan presented India's example which added many new provinces to its structure after Independence. His reasoning is faulty as it is based on lack of knowledge of increase in India's area after independence by one third of what used to be British India I do not correctly recall the number of India's provinces before independence but my recollect is that there were 16 provinces in British India including three Chief Commissioners provinces. Prior to 1947- there was a Princely India of Indian native state about one third in area to India a whole. After these states acceded to India and were merged in India, India increased in size by one third of "India" as a whole. Out of this addition , in post Independent new India, many new provinces were created from the added territory. In India the population of only Utter Pradish is more than the entire population of whole of Pakistan. One should study the facts before making claims on superficial similarities. He omits to take note that after India got new one third part of Princely India THEN the enlarged India made new states or provinces. It so happens that I was on post as a junior diplomat in New Delhi when the new states were created. They were of course made on linguistic basis except Punjab for which the Sikhs were demanding Punjabi Suba. Government of India feared that Punjabi Suba was another veiled name for Sikhistan. And therefore turned down the proposal to name it as Punjabi Suba and divided into three States (on two of which my father-in-law has been the Governor, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab). It requires some reading and research before one should make assertions lest they are proved hollow, as they are in this case. Any way India is five times bigger than Pakistan in area. Naturally it would have far more provinces than Pakistan.


India is based on geographic nationalism, in Pakistan's case ethnicity is anti-thesis of Pakistan's nationalism. I can say so with confidence as I was in student leadership of Pakistan Movement in Aligarh University and Delhi University. With due apologies, it seems that PPP is promoting ethnicity the first manifestation of which was creation of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, in which Nawaz Sharif joined hands. If the move to make new provinces catches roots, Pakistan would be de novo decimated into several petty ethnic provinces. Every frog will raise its paw and ask to put naals on it as is th saying in Urdu. A proposal has been made that Punjab should be divided into three/four provinces. Then there should be at least two provinces in Balochistan, in Sarhad there should be a Hazara Province also, another province of Bahawalpur also , and if Bahawalpur then Kalat and other Balochi states may also demand that they should be made new provinces, and if old extinct states are revived then the old ruling houses would demand to be restored, in other words Waderaism will return with a vengeance

Surely, if the " new provinces" are asked to raise the funds locally they will find the Governor would have to live in own house, use his own car, etc. The worthy TV anchors perhaps take for granted that that financing so many new provinces is no problem? Why do they not ask some ex finance Secretary who have had the experience of Budget making from where such grandiose schemes be financed ? Any body who thinks that the question of financing new provinces is a minor problem or irrelevant matter is being highly unrealistic.

In small perspective, the demand for Saraiki Province is mainly to cut Punjab to size .The question is that if PPP really thinks that creation of new provinces will make Pakistan stronger then why Sind should not be divided into two or three provinces , on the lines of the three "Divisions" which existed even during early days of Pakistan There are only two possible motives for this scheme: To create cushy jobs for sons of the waderas in the Saraiki belt, Potohar, etc, and to deny Punjab the major part it plays in Pakistan politics and in the immediate future to cut Nawaz Sharif to size . But this scheme financially is a pipe dream and in essence destructive to Pakistan's solidarity. It will be worst than creating a Bangla Desh and destructive to Pakistan's unity. It will breed virulent ethnicity. This is a scheme fraught with grave consequences. After such detailed analysis of the scheme to create new provinces, it will be seen that the proposal would damage Pakistan eventually and not just Nawaz Sharif. Personal politics should not be taken to the extent of destroying the country.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

MASSACRE IN INDIAN HELD KASHMIR

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

 To divert attention from the recent discovery of killing fields in Indian held Kashmir (IHK), Indian intelligence agencies are working overtime to spin the stories linking Somali pirates with Pakistan by stating that Somali pirates are being trained in Pakistan to carry out a proxy war against India! To support the fantasy, evidence was 'obtained' from nine foreign nationals caught from a hijacked vessel "MV Nafis-1". Gujarat customs officials claim to have seized a large quantity of food items from the vessel which bore names of Pakistani companies with addresses written in Urdu. "On several (earlier) occasions we seized weapons that bore the stamp of Pakistani ordnance factories." said a senior customs official.


Such gimmicks cannot overshadow the fact that thousands of bullet-riddled bodies are buried in dozens of unmarked graves across IHK; most of them are likely to be of those civilians who went missing during a peaceful political resistance movement that erupted in 1989; which was brutally suppressed by Indian security forces. These security forces enjoy impunity under several protective laws. There are reports that mass graves contain a large number of bodies of innocent local residents, who had been shot and killed by the Indian security forces in fake encounters to win cash awards, gallantry citations and promotions. Atrocities such as mass disappearances, torture and killings not only add to the public anger, these are also violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law set out in a number of multilateral treaties to which India is a party. To clear its name of the charges of genocide in Kashmir, it has to ensure that independent and impartial investigations are initiated on all such reports.


Recent discovery of 38 unmarked graveyards by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) all across Northern Kashmir, containing unidentified bodies of over 2, 000 persons is appalling. SHRC report is based on the verified findings by its professional investigators; this leaves nothing to question its authenticity. SHRC has called attention towards unrestrained resort to draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA) and Disturbed Area Act (DAA). These laws have indeed evolved a culture of impunity leading to extra-judicial killings on an alarming scale. Custodial killings continue unabated, innocent citizens continue to be imprisoned under discriminatory laws and the culture of impunity and unaccountability continues to flourish with active political patronage.


The United States' Department of State, in its 2010 Country Report on Human Rights Practices says, "The Public Safety Act which applies only in Jammu and Kashmir, permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for as long as two years. During this time family members do not have access to detainees, and detainees do not have access to legal counsel." SHRC has refuted the Indian official stance that the discovered bodies were those of militants. Commission maintains that a sizeable number of bodies, handed over by police to locals for burial, were identified by people as their relatives. SHRC findings point to the probability of more such unmarked graveyards in other parts of Kashmir. The commission is yet to conduct similar search in remaining areas of IHK.


No civilised country can afford to condone such shocking revelations brought into limelight by its own institutions. Thousands of families of persons who disappeared during the last three decades have been running from pillar to post to locate their missing ones, after they were whisked away by the security agencies of the state. Now, one after the other, aggrieved families are coming forward with more details. SHRC has done immense good to its own credibility by preparing a comprehensive report that goes to prove what was, otherwise also, known to the people in Kashmir and even beyond. Whether the Indian government will ever have the political will and moral courage to implement the findings of the Commission remains an open question. This episode reminds us of Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, who killed thousands of innocent civilians and buried them in shallow graves in the countryside. SHRC report asserts that the Indian security forces have been killing innocent local civilians, labelling them as "cross-border terrorists", and dumping their bodies in the mass graves all along the Line of Control (LoC).


Setting up of SHRC was the outcome of a concerted campaign launched by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) that released a chilling report in 2008, revealing the presence of mass graves in areas along the LoC. Report identified 1,000 unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore Handwara etc. Commission has confirmed the presence of 2,156 unidentified dead bodies that had been buried at 38 sites. There were 21 unmarked mass graves at Baramulla, three each in Bandipore and Handwara, and 11 in Kupwara. According to the report, all bodies carried bullet wounds, corpses were disfigured, had mutilated faces, and some were even partially burnt. In December 2009, 'International People's Tribunal on Human Rights' had released a report, confirming the presence of mass graves containing the bodies of those killed in "fake encounters, and extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions." SHRC report stops short of identifying the bitter and brutal truth that innocent locals had been killed to enhance the Indian government's hypothesis of cross border terrorism; "there is every possibility that…….various unmarked graves at 38 places of north Kashmir may contain dead bodies of locals," it says. The Board of Directors, Kashmiri American Council (KAC), has commented that 'it is appalled at the recent gruesome report'. This blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life is just another reminder of the tremendous sacrifices which the people of Kashmir are enduring. KAC has called upon the international community to condemn these atrocities and constitute a UN tribunal to ascertain the gravity of the tyranny and allow the will of the people of Jammu & Kashmir to be ascertained in a free and fair plebiscite to decide their future.


KAC has requested the Chairperson-Rapporteur of 'United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances' to conduct an independent investigation. To make the process credible, all discovered sites need to be secured through neutral observers to ensure that the physical state of evidence is not tempered with by the strong and powerful segments of the Indian military apparatus. Mass graves revealed so far, account only for about 20 percent of the number of missing persons compiled by the APDP. Many more graves are yet to be pinpointed. Related investigations need to be conducted by forensic experts in line with the UN model protocol on disinterment and analysis of the skeletal remains. During the ongoing session of the UNGA, Pakistan needs to highlight the matter and launch a diplomatic campaign to harness international support for the constitution of an 'Independent Inquiry Commission' under the auspices of the United Nations to unearth all such mass graves in IHK; this commission should oversee the handing over of the mortal remains to their near and dear ones through DNA matching.


—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

MANIPULATION OF KASHMIR DISPUTE

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

 

Now once the independent and neutral human right activists have found out thousand of mass graves in various parts of Indian Occupied Kashmir, it is essential to know the background story of this massive human rights violations and entire manipulation of Kashmir issue by India. In mid 1940s, when Pakistan was becoming a reality, the leadership of Indian National Congress started manipulation on Kashmir. Among those included leaders of such eminence as the Congress President and the super-leader of Hindu, nationalists Mr. Gandhi, who was conniving with the Maharaja even before the Boundary Commission's decision was known? Evidences, which became known subsequently, clearly reveal that they had received assurances for a manipulation on Kashmir even before the Boundary Commission was appointed.


As per the manipulated scheme, the Gurdaspur district of the British Punjab that had an over-all Muslim majority but included a Hindu-majority Tehsil of Pathankot, could be, and would be, so divided between the two prospective Dominions as to give India at least a limited and technical contiguity with Kashmir in the shape of a few miles of common border. Historian like Alastair Lamb and Victoria Schofield strongly believe that Lord Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy, who presided over the proceedings to transfer of power to the two successor dominions, influence the chairman of the Boundary Commission, Sir Cyril Radcliff. Radcliff was staying at Delhi to change his original plan in favour of India by giving it three tehsils of Gurdaspur district.

A few days before the date fixed for the independence of India and Pakistan the Maharaja of Kashmir entered into a "Standstill Agreement" and temporized his position with the prospective Government of Pakistan. The agreement was to come into effect on August 14, 1947 i.e on the date of formal assumption of Dominion status by Pakistan. It provided that for the time being all facilities of trade and departmental services (Postal, Telegraph etc), previously available to Kashmir would be continued. With the Government of India, the pretext made was that India wanted more time to examine its implications. This was, however, eyewash, intended to gain time. The Maharaja was acting in collusion with the Indian leaders. The Agreement was undoubtedly designed to persuade Pakistan that no action was immediately anticipated.


On the legal aspects, Article 7 of the Indian Independence Act very clearly states that from 15th August 1947, "the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian states lapse and with it lapses all treaties and agreements enforce at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian states". Consequent upon this, all powers and functions, which were exercisable by the British Government in relation to the Princely States, also ceased. All agreements of British governments with either rulers or states also lapsed on 15th of August 1947. Since the state of Jammu and Kashmir was a Princely State with a special autonomous status, therefore, it can be very conveniently said, that on 15th day of August 1947, the Maharaja Sir Hari Singh was not the permissible ruler of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as all his treaties with British India lapsed on that day. Once he was not a ruler of the state, he had no right to sign the instrument of accession (if at all he has signed that) with the new Indian dominion.


Besides, on July 25, 1947 in his address to special full meetings of the Chamber of Princes held in New Delhi, Lord Mountbatten categorically told all princes of Princely States that they were practically free to join any one of dominions; India or Pakistan. He however clarified that, while acceding to any dominion they could take into account geographical contiguity and wishes of the people. In case of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, either of the above factors was favouring state's accession to Pakistan, but Maharaja Hari Singh did not accept this basic precondition of accession.


On 24 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh sent his deputy Prime Minister Mr. R.L. Batra to New Delhi for Indian military assistance. The Indian government instead sent its special representative Mr. V.P Menon to Kashmir to assess the situation, who flew back to New Delhi on 26 October 1947, together with Kashmiri Prime Minster Mr. Mahajan, who met top Indian leadership, seeking military assistance. As stated by Mahajan, the Kashmiri Prime Minister, that V.P. Menon accompanied him to convince Hari Singh for accession of the State with India on October 27, 1947, which he signed on 27 October 1947 and later signed by Lord Mountbatten on the same day (27 October), which was practically not possible. V.P. Menon, however, states that all these formalities of signatures were completed on 26 October 1947, which too is impracticable.


There is yet another version that; Maharaja Hari Singh was not in favour of State's accession to Indian Union therefore, he only requested the Indian government for military assistance without any pre-condition of accession. Indeed, the accession documents and letters to Lord Mountbatten were initiated through the Joint efforts of V.P Menon and pro India Kashmiri PM Mr. Mahajan, as wished by Indian Government and Hari Singh was forced to sign it after October 27, 1947, whereas, Indian forces landed on Srinagar airport on the early hours of 27 October 1947. As indicated by Historian Alastair Lamb, the time calculation of Mr. V.P Menon's to Srinagar, Delhi, Jammu and vice versa does not fit in with the concocted story of the signing of the Instrument of Accession. Another significant fact is that, had there been any accession treaty between the state of J&K and the Indian govt, why it could not be published in the Indian White Paper of 1948? This has left a great disbelief regarding the conclusion of any such agreement. Yet another very serious reservation arises, had Kashmir been part of the Indian Union, why it was given a special status under the provision of internal autonomy through Article 370 of the Indian constitution? It is momentous to mention that the Indian government did not accord a similar status to any other princely state under this provision.

The IHK Assembly resolution calling for the accession of the state with Indian Union has been rejected by two UN resolutions (No.2017 of 30 March 1951 and S.3779 of January 24, 1957). Both resolutions says that; any action which Kashmir Constituent Assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape of state or any of its part would not constitute the disposition of the state and that election of State's Constituent Assembly cannot be a substitute for plebiscite.


The meticulous and level-headed analysis of the Indian manipulations, UN mandate, the Indian Independence Act and ground realities clearly indicate that the Indian claim over the state of J&K is completely illegitimate and unsubstantiated. It is high time that Indian leadership should realize its global and regional obligations and adopt a realistic approach for the solution of this outstanding issue to give Kashmiris their right. The world community does have a role to persuade India for the implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir to give Kashmiris their birth right. After the discovery of mass graves in Kashmir, international community should carryout probe of this human rights violation and through a UNSC resolution declare India as the world biggest human rights violator.


—The writer is an International Relations analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

HIGHER THAN THE HIMALAYAS

MALIK M ASHRAF

 

To say that relations between Pakistan and China are deep-rooted, would be an understatement. They are vibrant, ever growing and perhaps indescribable by any word in the diplomatic parlance. Therefore the correct expression would be to term them as 'Higher Than The Himalayas' This friendship is underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Close identity of views and mutuality of interests remain the hallmark of the bilateral ties. China over the years has supported the Kashmir cause and extended liberal economic and military assistance to Pakistan.

When Pakistan was abandoned by its ally US during the 1965 war with India, China was there to help Pakistan as it did in each and every subsequent crisis. An assistance of well over US$ 42 million for the recent flood victims adequately reflects the strength of friendly sentiments. In this time of crisis China is the only country which has expressed solidarity with Pakistan, supported its counter-terrorism strategy, called upon the international community to support her and reiterated respect for its national sovereignty at all times. Pakistan has also been supporting China on all issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to the question of China's sovereignty over Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other sensitive matters such as human rights. The Chinese leaders do appreciate Pakistan's steadfast and unqualified support on issues of concern to her.

China has also played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan. The construction of KKH Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila and Chashma Nuclear Plant are the monuments of the ever-spiking relationship. In the backdrop of US-India deal for transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regards as discriminatory act, China again exhibited the prowess of friendship between the two countries by agreeing to set up two nuclear units at Chashma, notwithstanding US concerns, for which an agreement was signed on June 8, 2010 during President Zardari's visit to China.

Although the curve of relations between the two countries has always been moving upwards irrespective of who was in power in Pakistan, yet it is a reality that it has soared to dizzying heights during the present regime. President Zardari has been to China five times and is poised to embark on another visit shortly. Prime Miniser Yousaf Raza Gilani visited China in the recent past. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Pakistan last December accompanied by a large delegation of Chinese businessmen and investors. Our Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has just concluded two-day visit to Beijing. These interactions have produced very positive results in the domain of expansion of economic cooperation between the two of them and also strengthening the process of consultations regarding security issues of the region and efforts to jointly quell terrorism. Currently China is working on a plan for the up-gradation of KKH at an approximate cost of $500 million and in building 165 Km Jaglot-Skardu and 135 KM Thakot-Sazin roads in Gilgit-Baltistan at a cost of Rs.45 billion. China would pay 85% of the cost while Pakistan will contribute 15%. A rail link between the two countries is also envisaged to be built.

Besides these monumental projects, China is also helping Pakistan to tide over the energy crisis. It is working on 17 mega projects in the energy sector in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. A very significant project in hand is the upraising of the Mangla Dam reservoir by sixty feet. As part of resettlement of the dam affectees, the Chinese firm, International Water and Electric Corporation (CIW&EC) is also working on the construction of a bridge over Jhelum river in the same area. Another very vital project is Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Power Project which aims at diversion of the water of Neelum river through a tunnel into Jhelum river, at a cost of US$12.6 billion. The Chinese are also entrusted with the responsibility to commission Kohala Power Project at a cost of US$ 2.155 billion with a capacity to generate 1050 MW of electricity. China's Three Gorges Project Corporation is constructing Diamir-Bhasha Dam on the Indus River with a total investment of US$ 12.6 billion.

The participation of China in exploiting copper reserves at Sandak and the development of Gawadar Port in Balochistan, though not liked by some regional and international powers, are also undertakings of immense economic benefit to the people of the province and the overall development of Pakistan. The trade between the two countries has also been expanding. China is the fifth largest source for Pakistani imports. The bilateral trade between the two countries touched US $7 billion mark in 2008. Under a five year programme lunched in 2006 this volume is proposed to be enhanced to $ 15 billion by 2012. In the past few years, the Chinese have made an investment of US$ 1.3 billion in Pakistan. A number of Chinese companies are working in the oil and gas, IT, Telecom, Engineering, power generation and mining sectors.

The new dimension imparted to the bilateral relations between the two countries by the present government reflects a marked departure from our perennial propensity to look up to the West, particularly US for our security and economic progress. The enhanced economic, political and strategic cooperation between China and Pakistan will contribute immensely to warding off the lurking dangers and consolidating the gains of the efforts made for changing the economic situations of the people of both the countries. This renewed and vigorous engagement between the two countries is an encouraging development as it will greatly benefit Pakistan by re-invigorating commercial and industrial activities and creating new jobs. This might also restore the confidence of the international community in Pakistan as a safe place to invest.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

AFGHAN SOLDIERS DESERTING ARMY: NATO

JOSHUA PARTLOW

 

At least one in seven Afghan soldiers walked off the job during the first six months of this year, according to statistics compiled by NATO that show an increase in desertion. Between January and June, more than 24,000 soldiers walked off the job, more than twice as many as in the same period last year, according to the NATO statistics. In June alone, more than 5,000 soldiers deserted, nearly 3 percent of the 170,000-strong force.

Some Afghan officials say the figures point to the vulnerability of a long-standing Afghan policy that prohibits punishment of deserters. The rule, issued under a decree by President Hamid Karzai, was aimed to encourage recruiting and allow for some flexibility during harvest time, when the number of desertions spikes. "I am personally in favour of removing that amnesty," said Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the chief of staff of the Afghan army. "We cannot turn a blind eye on the individuals who are doing something wrong.'' As recently as September 2009, more Afghan soldiers had been quitting than joining the army, but that trend had been reversed by aggressive recruiting, salary increases and guarantees of regular leave. Afghan and coalition military officials said they believe they can continue to make progress toward expanding the army to about 200,000 soldiers, despite the recent increase in desertions. But they acknowledged that it will be important for Afghanistan to reduce the dropout rate as the number of US soldiers in the country begins to decline and as more of the security burden begins to shift toward the Afghan army. "The army has got to figure out how to get their attrition down," said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who oversees NATO's efforts to build up the Afghan security forces.

The attrition statistics since 2010 were provided by NATO's training command in Kabul in response to a request by The Washington Post. The Afghan ministry of defense keeps its own statistics on attrition that are generally slightly lower than NATO's but hew to the same trends. The Afghan government's tallies include soldiers who return after being gone long enough to be considered deserters; NATO's stats at this time do not.

Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said he doubted that dropouts would be a problem as Afghan forces took more responsibility in coming years. "We have accelerated in a way which we have never accelerated before," Wardak said in an interview last month, referring to the growth of the army. "In the beginning everybody was having doubt that we will not have recruits. But till today ... there has been no problem with recruitment at all."

Afghan and coalition officials said the soldiers who leave often complain about poor living conditions or commanders who do not allow a regular vacation schedule. But Afghan and US military officials also said poor leadership is a main reason soldiers desert the ranks. Those commanders who are corrupt or fail to ensure proper pay, food or vacation for their subordinates have higher attrition. These problems have been around for years, however, and coalition officials did not offer specific reasons for the rising attrition this year. "We're not seeing any linkage to the amount of fighting they're doing," said one US military official who works with Afghan security forces. "It really boils down to leadership." Four months ago, Enayatullah, a 35-year-old soldier based in Kabul, traded in his $350-a-month salary to flip burgers at a high school cafeteria. Trained as a wrestler, he had been a member of a unit whose soldiers played for the army's sports teams. When a new commander arrived and cut the daily food stipend and sent the soldiers on more missions to Wardak province, which is far more dangerous than Kabul, Enayatullah grew disgruntled. He quit, along with eight of his friends and fellow soldiers, he said. "He made us all very disappointed," Enayatullah said of the new commander. "I was happy with my profession. If they offered us what we had before, then we would be happy to go back."

At one point this summer, the pace of desertions climbed to an annualised rate of 35 percent, though it has since declined. NATO's training command has developed an extensive plan to attempt to lower attrition further, saying an acceptable goal would be 1.4 percent per month — or about 17 percent a year. July's attrition rate was 2.2 percent. "If we're in the same situation in 3.5 years" — when Afghans are scheduled to be in charge of their security — "then we have a problem," said Canadian Maj. Gen. D. Michael Day, a deputy commander in NATO's training mission in Kabul. — Courtesy: The Washington Post

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ONLY BIPARTISAN ACTION HAS A CHANCE TO STOP THE BOATS

AFTER four years of botched policies that helped draw 12,000 asylum-seekers to Australia on 240 boats, the Gillard government's options for deterring the loathsome people-smuggling trade have been severely curtailed.

Last week's High Court ruling that the so-called Malaysia Solution was unlawful, reinforced by the advice of Solicitor-General Stephen Gageler released yesterday, leave limited room for manoeuvre. The toxic mess has become a lawyer's picnic and a potential gift for people-smugglers, but not necessarily for the desperate people who would risk their lives, or those of their children, in leaky vessels across treacherous seas.

If the government is to reclaim any semblance of direction it has three options. Firstly, it could cave into Labor's Left and the Greens and abandon offshore processing, further increasing the "pull" factors that encourage people-smugglers. Secondly, it could pursue the opposition's policy of offshore processing on Nauru, which might be feasible after the tiny island nation becomes a party to the UN refugee convention later this month. Or, thirdly, it could work with the Coalition to change the Migration Act to deal with the issues identified by the High Court and follow through with offshore processing on Nauru or Manus Island.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was not ruling anything in or out yesterday. But the government's wisest course would be to ignore Labor's Left and accept Tony Abbott's sensible offer of bipartisan support to alter the Migration Act to put the legality of offshore processing beyond doubt. Not unreasonably, Mr Abbott would only support changes to the act aimed at resurrecting the Nauru and PNG Manus Island centres, but not the discredited Malaysian deal.

Time is of the essence if people-smugglers are to be prevented from capitalising on the High Court ruling. Amending the act would be the quickest option, which is apparent from the Solicitor-General's warning that even after Nauru has joined the UN convention, it would need to be able to demonstrate to an Australian court that its treatment of asylum-seekers complied with UN standards. This would not be guaranteed if the issue was contested.

Accepting a huge slice of humble pie in the form of the opposition's offer would be deeply galling for Julia Gillard, who is mired in a deep political trough amid leadership speculation. Tensions inside the ALP are likely to increase following today's Newspoll, which shows that an overwhelming 78 per cent of Australians, including 64 per cent of Labor voters, believe the federal government is doing a bad job on the issue of asylum-seekers. Just 12 per cent say it is doing a good job, which is no surprise after the East Timor non-solution, the Malaysian debacle, riots and fires in overcrowded detention centres and, worst of all, the tragic loss of 50 lives in a boat dashed on the rocks near Christmas Island in December.

With the next election scheduled for August 2013, the short- to medium-term political opprobrium of the Migration Act being amended and the media coverage of one of the Howard government's processing centres reopening would do Labor less harm in the long run than another 5000 boatpeople arriving over the next two years, which in the absence of offshore processing would require more detention centres in Australia to add to those already bursting at the seams.

Labor's stocks have fallen a long way since it declared the Howard government's expanded Christmas Island facility an "enormous white elephant" and scrapped a stern border protection regime that worked. Whether or not the party can recover from the mess it has made will depend, in part, on how pragmatic it is prepared to be.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GOLDEN SALLY NAILS THE HURDLES

GOLD Coast hurdler and sprinter Sally Pearson blitzed the field by 2m in Daegu, South Korea, on Saturday night, adding the 100m hurdles world championship title to her Commonwealth Games gold medal.

As Pearson streaked ahead - gulping air, arms and legs pumping, and her blonde ponytail flying - she showed the world's best that she means business about bettering her Beijing Olympics silver medal with a gold in London next year. Her latest time would have won every Olympic race in history.

At 24, Pearson has already tasted sweet success and bitter disappointment in her career, but the best should be ahead of her. Nothing is certain in sport, as her disqualification after winning the 100m sprint in New Delhi showed, an incident bungled disgracefully by officials.

But Pearson is a tough, resilient character who has put in the hard yards since her talent was spotted at school. So has her mother, Anne, who worked two jobs to fund her daughter's dreams. They're shining examples of ambition and perseverance bringing rewards.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

DANGEROUS MOVE BY TURKEY

BY expelling Israel's ambassador, downgrading diplomatic relations and terminating bilateral military ties, Turkey has responded irrationally and potentially dangerously to the report of the special UN commission probing last year's Israeli raid on the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Certainly, the report of the commission headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer makes it clear Israel has hard questions to answer. It concludes the force used by Israeli commandos boarding the MV Mavi Marmara was excessive and unreasonable, pointing out that eight Turks and one Turkish-American killed were shot multiple times.

But on the critical issues of Israel's legal justification for enforcing a naval blockade of Gaza and the right of Israeli commandos to defend themselves against organised and violent resistance from passengers, there was unequivocal vindication of Israel's stance. So, too, is there clear backing for another key Israeli contention that some passengers made preparations to violently resist any boarding, arming themselves, as the commission says, with iron bars, staves, chains and slingshots, and there is some indication that they also used knives. Two soldiers received gunshot wounds.

The context of the Israeli raid is important: the Gaza blockade was imposed in 2009 at a time when Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists were raining down rockets, missiles and mortar bombs on Israel. The commission pointed out that 5000 were fired between 2005 and 2009. A reception for the Freedom Flotilla was arranged by Hamas. So much, then, for the reporting at the time by all the usual hysterical and naive suspects who made out that the Mavi Marmara's passengers were sweet innocents unjustifiably set upon by the Israeli commandos: the Palmer commission leaves no doubt that much of the reporting was plain wrong.

So, too, most importantly, does the commission point out that Turkey failed to warn flotilla participants of the potential risks and dissuade them from going. Ankara may not wish to be reminded of this, but it is something it has obviously taken on board, given what it has done to thwart the launch of this year's version of the flotilla from Turkish territory.

Despite this, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding an apology from Israel, a concession that would be tantamount to Israel apologising for defending itself against terrorism. Legitimately in the light of the UN report, the question that arises is who really owes whom an apology?

Unfortunately, Mr Erdogan appears more intent on playing to the Arab/ Islamist gallery -- seeking to impress Hamas patrons Iran and Syria -- than building on good relations with Israel that have until recently seen Israeli warplanes training in Turkish air space and major bilateral arms deals and exchanges of military intelligence.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has grandiloquently proclaimed that if the world is on fire, Turkey is the firefighter. Turkey is assuming the leading role for stability in the Middle East.

The tub-thumping truculence in Ankara over the Gaza flotilla ill serves that aspiration. It's over the top. Turkey is uniquely positioned to help achieve stability in the Middle East. Mr Erdogan needs to think again in the light of the facts now revealed in the UN report.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

OTHER SOLUTIONS IN THE PACIFIC

NOT even the smallest of countries can escape the embarrassment coming with the flood of secret American diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks. The politicians of tiny Nauru were reported to be on the payroll of Taiwan to ensure continuing diplomatic recognition, or at least they were some years back (all this has stopped, Taiwan officials insist). So there will be plenty of material around at this week's annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland to make the region's leaders squirm.

Even the biggest participant, Australia, has learnt that its major ally, the United States, thinks its eight-year, billion-dollar effort in the Solomon Islands is a waste of time since the government will fall apart when the intervention ends. It will be irked also to have one of its diplomats in Port Moresby quoted as saying it was a ''false hope'' to expect better governance in Papua New Guinea after the departure of its longtime leader Sir Michael Somare.

We think that despite many messy situations, the prospects in the Pacific region are much better than they might have appeared to diplomatic newcomers three or four years ago. PNG recently came under Peter O'Neill's new government that includes some of its most capable and honest politicians in key portfolios. While Somare's most recent tenure did see a growth of cronyism and made little progress in delivery of government services to the population, it maintained the fiscal stability restored after the much-worse governance of the late 1990s. Some infrastructure constraints were broken, notably through mobile telephony, and the $14 billion Southern Highlands liquefied natural gas project was launched.

The darkest spot in the region remains Fiji. The WikiLeaks revelations about the brutality and crudeness of the methods by which the army cows the population, under a leader said to be mentally imbalanced from threats to his life, have a plausible ring. Indeed, in recent days the regime has banned a conference of Fiji's strongest religious community, the Methodist Church, and barred its leading clerics from travelling or convening except in Sunday prayers. For an army that professes to be moving towards open elections in three years time, there is little sign of readiness to move back to the barracks.

The challenge for the Forum leaders is to maintain pressure for a return to democracy without unduly punishing a Fiji population whose prosperity and welfare already lag far behind their potential, and with the least disruption to the region's education, medical and transport resources centred in Fiji.

 ALL LEAKS ARE NOT OF EQUAL VALUE

ABC television's Media Watch program generally does a fine job of taking to task journalists, editors and broadcasters - including the ABC itself - for excesses, mistakes and shortcomings. That said, the Herald has a quarrel with the program's presenter, Jonathan Holmes, over his, we think, unreasonable criticism of our handling of certain diplomatic cables that were acquired by contributing reporter Philip Dorling through WikiLeaks. A report that Australia had colluded with the US to weaken an international treaty banning cluster bombs, published in May in the Herald and our fellow Fairfax newspaper in Melbourne, The Age, was based on these cables.

Holmes has accused us of acting like hypocrites by "hoarding", instead of immediately making available on our website, the leaked US embassy documents on which Dorling's report was based. He contrasts our approach, unfavourably, with that of other newspapers, including The New York Times and The Guardian.

Some points need to be made. First, whatever arrangements other publications may have with WikiLeaks, Fairfax has no obligation, contractual or otherwise, to make available every document on which we and Dorling have drawn for our many revealing reports over the months. It is up to us - not WikiLeaks - to decide how and when we publish material. In fact, we have subsequently released much of the source material in the public interest.

Second, crucially, the material we publish is first subjected to rigorous professional editing to ensure as far as possible that our reports are accurate, fair and backgrounded, and also to remove references that might endanger individuals, particularly in countries with authoritarian governments.

We do not subscribe to the hacker's view that all leaked material should be published, regardless of whether it is true or false, benign or malevolent, enlightening or dangerous. To accept that governments tend to be addicted to secrecy - and that the WikiLeaks saga has done much to cast a cleansing light on how politicians and officials behave - is not to embrace the deeply pessimistic, indeed anarchic assumption that all government is corrupt or evil.

It is just that sort of thinking that seems now to have led those who run WikiLeaks into the irresponsible folly of releasing its full archive of 250,000 leaked secret US diplomatic cables in unedited ("unredacted" in the current jargon) form. Potentially, this move - condemned by WikiLeaks's original media partners in the US and Europe - puts many individuals at grave risk. The moral? Publishers owe a duty of care to their readers, and to whistleblowers.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SILENCE HIDES SHAMEFUL NEGLECT OF MENTALLY ILL

WHENEVER a child in the care of the state dies - from whatever cause - there is an inquiry and the findings are documented. The aim is twofold: to ensure high standards of public accountability and to promote a critically reflective culture in Victoria's child protection services. By contrast, deaths of people being cared for by the state's psychiatric services are too often shrouded in secrecy.

This neglect occurs despite a growing awareness of the prevalence of psychiatric problems and a general acceptance by governments and the community of the need to invest in care for the one in five Australians who will at some stage suffer a mental illness. Last year, Professor Patrick McGorry was named Australian of the Year in recognition of his advocacy for mental health reform, an indication that the problems would no longer be considered insoluble. Serious attention was at last being given to his plea for early intervention to ensure that young people, in particular, did not spend years fighting demons before dying too early.

In this context, it should be obvious that, as the poet John Donne observed, ''any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind''. Yet the response to an alarming number of deaths has been silence. Hospitals have been reluctant to acknowledge that the standard of psychiatric care may need improvement or to investigate cases with tragic, and often avoidable, endings. That people are dying is no secret - Department of Health statistics show that between 2006 and 2010, 975 people under the care of Victoria's mental health service suffered unnatural, unexpected or violent deaths. Not all of these occurred in psychiatric facilities - some mental health patients under the external care of the state committed suicide; others died in car accidents and house fires or drowned. But 36 died suddenly while they were patients in psychiatric wards and the conditions that contributed to these deaths appear not to have been thoroughly inquired into.

An Age investigation has raised serious questions about the ability of the system to properly care for patients. Of enormous concern are allegations that hospital staff may have contributed to unexpected deaths and that health professionals covered up or failed to collect important information about the deaths, possibly preventing a proper examination of their causes. Some deaths are alleged to have resulted from the careless prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs, violence by security guards and a lax approach to visitors, making it easier for patients to obtain illegal drugs.

Practices from a previous age appear routine in some hospitals: threatening patients with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) if they refuse to take medication; locking bathrooms to prevent patients drinking water, which would negate the effect of the ECT; and imposing a form of solitary confinement as punishment for improper behaviour. Such attempts to subdue and control patients are disturbing enough in fiction such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; they have no place in hospitals in 21st century Australia.

There are no easy answers to this complex problem, but without genuine review, the system, which is clearly under stress, will not improve. In a comment piece in today's Age, Chief Psychiatrist Ruth Vine acknowledges that the law requires her to be informed of the death of anyone receiving treatment from a mental health service. She says there are processes so that staff can ''learn from any adverse event and make improvements in the system''. While processes are important, they will only be effective if all staff are obliged to follow them.

Psychiatric hospitals were once known as asylums. It is regrettable that this has now become a pejorative term, as asylum - in the sense of a refuge or protection - is what the increasing proportion of people who suffer from mental illnesses desperately need.

 

TAKE CARE IN LOOKING AFTER NO.1

THE news that Melbourne had finally nudged Vancouver off its perch as the most liveable city in the world was greeted with trademark exuberance last week by lord mayor Robert Doyle, who cheekily threatened to call his counterpart in Vancouver to rub it in. Cr Doyle gloated that he was ''the leader of the world's most liveable city'', which, we presume, also includes its growth and fringe suburbs, not just the lively, affluent and well-endowed core.

After almost a decade, Melbourne is back in top spot in the Economist magazine's biannual survey of liveable cities (Melbourne was equal first with Vancouver in 2002). While this is great cause for celebration, complacency should be avoided. Committee for Melbourne chief executive Andrew MacLeod was right to caution locals from gaining a ''false sense of security''.

Liveability is in part a measure of luck - but good governance and planning ensures that a city's fortunes are safeguarded not squandered. It is no accident that seven out of the top 10 liveable cities are Australian and Canadian: what they have in common is wealth and relatively low population densities, which, according to the liveability survey, ''can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure''.

In the Economist's survey, Melbourne scored a perfect ''100'' for healthcare and infrastructure. But anyone who has sought medical care - be it urgent or elective - at a Melbourne hospital, knows waiting times are far from ideal. It is highly unlikely, too, that commuters would give public transport a perfect score.

Melbourne's fast-growing population constantly presents new challenges. A recent VicHealth survey identified a high rate of hospital admissions for breathing problems among people in growth areas - which is likely to be related to air quality. Denied adequate public transport, people living in these areas are reliant on cars.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL AND TURKEY: SAILING INTO CHOPPY WATERS

Once again Israel has chosen a tactical victory over a strategic relationship

What happened when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla aimed at breaking the Gaza siege, cannot be undone. But the diplomatic consequences of the assault that killed nine Turks were far from predetermined. Negotiations took place over the next 15 months between Turkey and Israel. Suggested phrases went back and forward, but each time the two sides came close to an agreement, it was leaked. The talks were considered so important that the publication of the UN investigation, chaired by Geoffrey Palmer, a former New Zealand prime minister, was delayed for three months.

In the end, that report, which criticised Israel for using excessive force but upheld its right to blockade Gaza, was itself leaked. In offering regret and compensation but refusing to apologise, Binyamin Netanyahu's government made a conscious decision: once again Israel chose a tactical victory over a strategic relationship. At stake was more than an important military association, more than trade and tourism. It was Turkey's decision to waive its veto that allowed Israel to join the OECD. Turkey is an increasingly important interlocutor in an Arab world that has lost the certainties of its dictators, the Mubaraks, Gaddafis and Ben Alis. You may disagree with the line Turkey takes, but there is not a country in the region, including Iran and Syria, that has not used its services.

Israel will be able to do so no longer. Where the Mavi Marmara went, Turkey will follow by challenging the Gaza blockade in the international court of justice. And rightly so. The Palmer panel's finding went against every statement the UN secretary general has made about Gaza, the Goldstone report and a report by the UN human rights council in September. If, as Palmer found, the siege is legal in international law, the occupation is too. This must be challenged in court.

The Israeli-Turkish rupture will bear on the next instalment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the attempt by the US to forestall a general assembly vote on Palestinian statehood this month. A proposal for new peace talks is being circulated to dissuade the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, from pressing the vote. This would elevate the Palestinians from observing entity at the UN to observer state, enhancing its representation and its ability to pursue cases such as the Mavi Marmara in the international criminal court.

The problem with US attempts to restart negotiations is that even if a path could be found through the thicket of Israeli settlements, Mr Abbas would still end up at the table with an Israeli premier who has repeatedly shown an inability to see the wood for the trees.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE BILL: WORSE THAN NOTHING

This is a tale of bad process, bad faith and bad policy, and the result fails the Clegg test

After being battered in May's elections, Nick Clegg squared up to the Conservatives on health and declared: "No bill is better than a bad one." Tomorrow, the legislation returns to the Commons and, for all the real and claimed concessions, the house will consider shambolic plans that ought not to be dignified with the term "reform". This is a tale of bad process, bad faith and bad policy, and the result fails the Clegg test. It is decidedly worse than nothing.

To recap, Andrew Lansley's blueprint for an NHS market was penned in opposition, when expenditure was still rocketing. It was always dubious, but became more so as old Tory research documents were hastily cut and pasted into a command paper, with no adjustment for the reality – the onset of the most sustained financial famine in NHS history. After Mr Clegg breezily agreed to the plans, Lib Dem peers and activists began to realise that the prospective new providers would not be opening glitzy new facilities so much as putting old ones out of business. We then had the extraordinary spectacle of the legislative assembly line halting in full flow, so the bill could be rewritten. Hapless health managers were left steering a ship being rebuilt in line with constantly changing plans. Now MPs – distracted by a whipped-up row and retreat on abortion – are to consider around 1,000 amendments in 12 hours of discussion.

This is no way to make law, and it could be the point where bad process blurs into bad faith. Both Mr Clegg and David Cameron proclaim that there will be "no NHS privatisation", but of course a Tell Sid-style flotation was never on the cards. Many Lib Dems reasonably took this slogan instead as a promise to avoid wholesale slippage into an unplanned mixed healthcare economy, which is what existed before the NHS, and what Tony Blair recreated around the margins. Tweaks hailed by Mr Clegg, such as the taming of the regulator's duty to promote competition, appeared to justify their hope.

But now other nips and tucks have come to light which work the other way. Asymmetric restrictions on anti-competitive as opposed to anti-collaborative practices remain, and there has been a sneaky move to strengthen the duty on commissioners to promote choice at the same time as qualifying it for the regulator. In this context leaked emails which show officials discussing handing 10-20 hospitals' management to the German firm Helios are damning. They suggest Whitehall is working to an agenda which ministers are not frank about, owing to, in the official's words, "political constraints".

There are serious arguments for a measure of choice, and the alarm sounded by the British Medical Association, many of whose members already work privately, reflects self-interest as much as values. But the delicate balance between competition and planning ought to be settled by clear arguments, plainly expressed. Instead, lines between purchasers and providers are blurred. Senates and patients' committees get piled on to an already incomprehensible organogram in a pure political fix. Thick fog surrounds all crucial questions – about the reach of EU competition law, the secretary of state's duties and his ability to push the commissioning board towards private options.

Already, waiting times are creeping up, and the former NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp last week identified the next challenge: closing hospitals. Nasty work, but, if it is the only way of sustaining tolerable services, ministers would do better to get on with it than to imagine they can leave the dirty work to fuzzy market forces which they dare not describe as such.

This legislation has forced a popular service up the agenda at the very moment it is about to get worse. That has to be bad politics. There is no satisfactory way out of this pass, but by amending or rejecting this bill, Lib Dem MPs can at least turn a plan which was always another party's idea into another party's problem.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… INQUEST

It is an organisation that shines a light into the state's darkest corners, often on behalf of society's most vulnerable people

"Working for truth, justice and accountability," says the logo of the campaigning outfit Inquest. Which is exactly what it has done since it was set up 30 years ago, after the death of Blair Peach. Deaths involving the police and public authorities remain its particular concern. But its remit includes all sudden death, whether a suicide in a young offenders' institution, a police shooting or a work accident. It is there first and foremost to give free advice to bereaved families. But the organisation – just a handful of staff led by the inexhaustible duo of Helen Shaw and Deborah Coles, supported by a group of lawyers – also draws on its casework to campaign for changes in the law. Last week it celebrated a victory: the implementation of the part of the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act which extends the legislation to deaths involving public authorities, including in custody. The change will transform accountability, and at last allows the possibility of criminal prosecutions. The next fight – battle resumes in the Lords this week – is to protect the new role of chief coroner, intended to safeguard standards in coroners' courts, from government plans for abolition. When Inquest won the Longford prize two years ago (an accolade that followed its 2007 human rights award from Liberty) the citation commended "remarkable perseverance, personal commitment and courage". To that should be added a readiness to shine a light into the state's darkest corners, often on behalf of society's most vulnerable people.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

WORLD'S BIGGEST BLOG OBSESSION

Internet users in Japan spend more time reading blogs than any other country in the world, according to a recent study from comScore, a research company measuring the digital world. The average Japanese user spent 62.6 minutes reading blogs during June of this year, when the survey was conducted.

That was far more than second-place South Korea with an average of 49.6 minutes and third-place Poland with 47.7 minutes. Japanese may appear busy and overworked, but they manage to squeeze in a lot of blog time.

The survey also found that 80 percent of Japan's entire Internet population, 59 million people, visited a blog site sometime during June. More startling perhaps is that these figures do not even include blog readers from Internet cafes, mobile phones or PDAs; they are only for home and work computers. With those other sources included, the blogging numbers would be even higher.

Japan is not alone among Asian countries in its blog obsession. Of the top 10 countries for blog time, six were from Asia: Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The reasons for reading blogs are as varied as readers' interests, but the chance to interact anonymously at a safe distance must rank near the top.

Blogs offer a sense of community, long important in Asian cultures, by allowing anyone into ongoing discussions. They also offer the chance to rant or rave on highly specialized topics.

In the 15 or so years since their inception, blogs have become so varied that the term itself covers as much diversity as the term "novel" or "film." Blogs run the gamut from political commentary to diaries of a pet, photos of desserts, complaints about work, and exchanges about scientific research.

Whatever their focus, blogs allow a degree of self-expression and exchange unimaginable even a few years ago. They supplement traditional media and text formats like newspapers, magazines, journals or books, by expanding and detailing important, and sometimes not-so-important parts of life. Their influence and effect have expanded tremendously.

Blogs are an important means for Japanese to make sense of their lives and the world. The good side of blogs' popularity is that reading is clearly just as important as ever. The downside is that blogs lack immediacy and face-to-face interaction.

Are blogs a powerful enough force to change Japan or are they just a way to kill time?

Time will tell, but you may have to read a blog to find the answer.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

WORKING HOLIDAY ANNIVERSARY

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the working holiday system in Japan. The program has enabled 20,000 young Japanese a year to live and work abroad, gaining valuable experience and broadening their point of view, but that number should be more. The re-energized attitudes and global outlooks that people acquire on working holidays are just what Japan needs to build a better future.

The working holiday program began with Australia in 1981, and now comprises agreements with 11 countries, including Britain, Canada, France, New Zealand and Taiwan. The agreements allow those aged 18 to 30 to work and live in other countries for one year. Many who go abroad want structured programs, while others are adventurous enough to explore on their own. So, instead of one size fitting all, the system accommodates people in search of many different experiences.

In the past, most participants just went to work, but recently, more and more young people are reported to be acquiring licenses, certificates or work experience that will help them in their careers. Volunteer programs have expanded as well. As the working world globalizes, a certificate of proficiency in English will look better and better on job applications. Practical skills and real-world experience will be increasingly needed. Working holidays help many young people develop those assets.

Perhaps chief among the acquisitions is the ability to interact with people of completely different backgrounds, cultures and ways of thinking. With the scarcity of jobs and an uncertain economy, taking off for a year may seem risky. But living outside Japan's sheltered and lockstep educational and employment systems can help young people find their own sense of purpose. Young people in Japan are often criticized for lacking initiative and a can-do spirit. A working holiday is one good way to discover the best way to build a good life and contribute to society.

Leaving aside the comforts of home is always difficult, but sometimes getting away is the best tactic for reconsidering how to study, work and live. Of course, there are many ways to do that by staying here in Japan. Young people, though, need a chance to form their values in their own experiences, rather than in what they are told. For many young Japanese, the chance to work and study abroad will transform their lives and guide them back home with the energy and insight for the future.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

REVOLUTION NO BOON TO THE COPTS

BY DOUG BANDOW

WASHINGTON — Ugly reality has dashed the high hopes of the "Arab Spring." In Egypt the fall of Hosni Mubarak has encouraged religious intolerance and persecution, especially against the Coptic Christian community.

Mubarak ruled for three decades. Among his victims were Coptic Christians, who make up around 10 percent of the population. They predate Islam, but today are a disadvantaged and increasingly threatened minority.

While the "government does not actively persecute or repress Christians, a prejudicial legal framework has created a permissive environment that allows Egyptian officials and private individuals to discriminate against Christians freely and with impunity," noted Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The U.S. State Department reported that the regime "sometimes arrested, detained and harassed" those "whose beliefs and/or practices it deemed to deviate from mainstream Islamic beliefs and whose activities it alleged to jeopardize communal harmony."

Government-controlled media and government-funded mosques have encouraged violence. Converts are at particular risk.

Noted William Inboden of the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, "Egyptian converts from Islam to Christianity, though very few in number, have suffered particularly heinous treatment — including imprisonment and sadistic torture."

Equally disturbing, warned the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), "violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians remained high." The Mubarak government rarely punished the attackers. Indeed, International Christian Concern noted that it was common for the government to arrest "Coptic victims alongside the perpetrators of the violence."

It's no surprise that failing to exact a penalty for murder and mayhem led to what the Hudson Institute's Nina Shea called "pogroms and acts of terror."

Dina Guiguis of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told a recent congressional hearing that "the Egyptian regime is fully responsible for creating the fertile ground on which pernicious and egregious sectarian violence has become routine." Those who hoped the Egyptian revolution would better protect Christians and other religious minorities have been disappointed. To the contrary, violent attacks on Copts have been increasing.

As of June, 24 Christians had been killed, more than 200 had been injured, and three churches had been destroyed. Muslim mobs beset Coptic churches, businesses, and homes. Well-armed thugs also have attacked Christians who were protesting against earlier attacks. Few perpetrators have been arrested, let alone punished.

Noted Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute: "As under Mubarak, the authorities' refusal to punish attacks on Christians has led to more attacks."

The army even has assaulted two Coptic monasteries, supposedly to enforce discriminatory zoning laws (which prohibited walls erected for protection from attacks).

Complained the Commission: "Since Feb. 11, military and security forces reportedly have used excessive force and live ammunition targeting Christian places of worship and Christian demonstrators. Implementation of previous court rulings — related to granting official identity documents to Baha'is and changing religious affiliation on identity documents for Christian converts — continues to lag.

In addition, the government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media."

Islamic extremists are responsible for what increasingly looks to be a campaign of intimidation. The World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission explained that the attacks have been "mostly incited by conservative Salafi Muslims," who are using violence to mobilize Islamist support.

Nina Shea fears "what we're seeing in Egypt today — namely, a reinvigorated effort by some of the country's more radical Islamists to establish Egypt's identity as a thoroughly Islamicized and Arabicized state." The Copts "are the most visible bloc standing in the way of impatient jihadists and violent Salafis," who are accelerating their attacks.

The future looks bleak. Although there has been some pushback — Muslims rallied to help rebuild one of the destroyed churches — the vast majority of Egyptians express intolerance toward minority faiths. Shea worries about "a mass exodus" of Copts from Egypt if existing trends continue.

Unfortunately, international influence is limited. The USCIRF recommended that Washington designate Egypt a "country of particular concern, which, if adopted by the State Department, could lead to a variety of penalties. Religious liberty also should be part of the U.S. government's official dialogue with Egyptian authorities.

Religious extremism acts as an efficient incubator for violence. If the radicals grow in influence, they might destroy any new democratic political system.

As Georgetown's Thomas Farr recently testified before the U.S. Congress: "There will be no real freedom in Egypt — period — and there will be no real stability in Egypt — period-unless there is full religious freedom in Egypt, not only for its Coptic minority but also for moderate and reformist Muslim voices."

The Arab Spring risks turning into the Islamist Winter. The willingness to safeguard religious liberty has become a proxy for measuring the impact of the ongoing revolution. As go the Copts may ultimately go the rest of the Middle East.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the senior fellow in international religious persecution at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of "Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics" (Crossway).

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THE JAPAN TIMES

AMERICA'S SELF-INFLICTED ECONOMIC DECLINE

BY MALCOLM FRASER

MELBOURNE — If the broad post-World War II prosperity that has endured for six decades comes to an end, both the United States and Europe will be responsible. With rare exceptions, politics has become a discredited profession throughout the West.

Tomorrow is always treated as more important than next week, and next week prevails over next year, with no one seeking to secure the long-term future. Now the West is paying the price.

President Barack Obama's instincts may be an exception here, but he is fighting powerful hidebound forces in the U.S. as well as a demagogic populism, in the form of the Tea Party, that is far worse — and that might defeat him in 2012, seriously damaging America in the process.

America's friends around the world watched with dismay the recent brawl over raising the federal government's debt ceiling, and the U.S. Congress' inability to come to anything like a balanced and forward-looking compromise. The outcome represents a significant victory for the Tea Party's minions, whose purpose seems to be to reduce government obligations to a bare minimum (some object even to having a central bank), and to maintain President George W. Bush's outrageous tax breaks for the wealthy.

America's current fiscal problems are rooted in a long period of unfunded spending. Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the manner in which he conducted the "global war on terror" made matters much worse, contributing to an unsustainable situation. Indeed, Obama inherited an almost impossible legacy.

In the weeks since the debt ceiling agreement, it has become increasingly clear that good government might be impossible in the U.S. The coming months of campaigning for the U.S. presidency will be spent in petty brawling over what should be cut. The example of recent weeks gives us no cause for optimism that partisan U.S. legislators will ask themselves what is best for America.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that financial markets have returned to extreme volatility. The expenditure cuts mandated by the outcome of the debt-ceiling debate will reduce economic activity, thereby undermining growth and making debt reduction even more difficult. Providing further fiscal stimulus to boost economic growth would carry its own risks, owing to the debt ceiling and another, more ominous factor: America is already overly indebted amid signs that major holders of U.S. government securities are tired of being repaid in depreciated currency.

Most importantly, China's call for the introduction of a new reserve currency stems from its frustration with the failure of major governments — whether in the U.S. or Europe — to govern their economic affairs with realism and good sense. China recognizes that America is in great difficulty (indeed, it recognizes this more clearly than the U.S. itself), and that, given the poisonous political atmosphere prevailing in Washington, there will be no easy return to good government, economic stability and strong growth.

America's leadership in world affairs began to weaken with the unilateralism of Bush, and today's economic problems are reinforcing this tendency. To reverse U.S. decline, Obama needs bipartisan support for his (quite mainstream) policies, but so far the U.S. Congress has shown no stomach for a principled approach to its legislative duties.

If Germany's halfhearted efforts to stabilize Europe somehow turn out to be successful, America's position will be further eroded, and central banks around the world will begin to regard the euro once again as a reliable alternative to the dollar as a reserve currency. The alternative, as China has suggested, would be to develop a new reserve currency.

These realities represent a power shift of a kind that we have not experienced in our lifetimes. China's economic power over the U.S. is now substantial, and will limit not only America's influence in the financial markets, but also its capacity to use military power.

If this forces America back toward what international relations scholar Joseph Nye calls "soft power and multilateral diplomacy," it may well be a good thing. But such approaches are anathema to the U.S. Republican Party, and to its Tea Party faction in particular, and they might unnerve the many Asians who are nervous about China's growing military might.

The counterargument — that any sell-off or failure by China to continue to buy U.S. government securities would hurt China as much as America — is not valid. As each year passes, China's markets expand worldwide, and its domestic market comes to represent a greater percentage of its own GDP. As a result, China will not need a strong dollar in the long term. Americans need to get their economic house in order before China loses its incentive to support the dollar.

On several occasions in the post-WWII period, the U.S. has learned with great pain that there are limits to the effective use of military power. American objectives could not be achieved in Vietnam. The outcome in Iraq will not be determined until the last American troops have been withdrawn. In Afghanistan, where withdrawal dates have already been set, it is difficult to believe that a cohesive unified state can be established.

As the efficacy of military power is reduced, so the importance of economic power grows. Recognition of these central realities — and bipartisanship in addressing them — is critical for America's future, and that of the West.

Malcolm Fraser is a former prime minister of Australia. © 2011 Project Syndicate

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THE JAPAN TIMES

'TOP GUN' BLAZED A TRAIL FOR WAR PROPAGANDA

BY DAVID SIROTA

 

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Americans are souring on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget is under siege as Congress looks for spending to cut. And the army is reporting record suicide rates among soldiers.

So who does the Pentagon enlist for help in such painful circumstances? Hollywood.

In June, the Army negotiated a first-of-its-kind sponsorship deal with the producers of "X-Men: First Class," backing it up with ads telling potential recruits that they could live out superhero fantasies on real-life battlefields.

Then, word leaked recently that the White House has been working with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on an election-year film chronicling the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

A country questioning its overall military posture, and a military establishment engaging in a counter-campaign for hearts and minds — if this feels like deja vu, that's because it's taking place on the 25th anniversary of the release of "Top Gun."

That Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, made in collaboration with the Pentagon, came out in the mid-1980s, when polls showed many Americans expressing doubts about the post-Vietnam military and the constant saber-rattling from the White House. But the movie's celebration of sweat-shined martial machismo generated $344 million at the box office and proved a major force in resuscitating the military's image.

Not only did enlistment spike when "Top Gun" was released, and not only did the navy set up recruitment tables at theaters playing the movie, but polls soon showed rising confidence in the military.

With Ronald Reagan wrapping military adventurism in the flag and the armed forces scoring low-risk but high-profile victories in Libya and Grenada, America fell in love with Maverick, Iceman and other silver-screen super-pilots screaming about "the need for speed."

Today, "Top Gun" lives on in cable reruns, in the American psyche and in how it turned the Hollywood-Pentagon relationship into a full-on romance that ideologically slants films.

The 1986 movie, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, was the template for a new Military-Entertainment Complex. During production, the Pentagon worked hand in hand with the filmmakers, reportedly charging Paramount Pictures just $1.8 million for the use of its warplanes and aircraft carriers.

But that taxpayer-subsidized discount came at a price: The filmmakers had to submit their script to Pentagon brass for meticulous line edits aimed at casting the military in the most positive light. (One example: Time magazine reported that Goose's death was changed from a midair collision to an ejection scene because "the navy complained that too many pilots were crashing.")

Although "Top Gun" wasn't the first movie to exchange creative input for Pentagon resources, its success set that bargain as a standard for other filmmakers. By the time of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Phil Strub, the Pentagon's liaison to the movie industry, told the Hollywood Reporter that he'd seen a 70 percent increase in the number of requests from filmmakers for assistance — changing the way Hollywood works.

Mace Neufeld, producer of the 1990 film "The Hunt for Red October," told Variety that studios in the post-"Top Gun" era instituted an unstated rule telling screenwriters and directors to get military cooperation "or forget about making the picture." Time magazine reported in 1986 that "without such billion-dollar props, producers (have to) spend an inordinate amount of time and money searching for substitutes."

Emboldened, military officials became increasingly blunt about how they deploy the carrot of subsidized hardware and the stick of denied access. Strub described the approval process to Variety in 1994: "The main criteria we use is ... how could the proposed production benefit the military ... could it help in recruiting (and) is it in sync with present policy?"

Robert Anderson, the navy's Hollywood point person, put it even more clearly to PBS in 2006: "If you want full cooperation from the navy, we have a considerable amount of power, because it's our ships, it's our cooperation, and until the script is in a form that we can approve, then the production doesn't go forward."

The result is an entertainment culture rigged to produce dozens of blockbusters glorifying the military.

For every "Hurt Locker" — a successful and critical war film made without Pentagon assistance — American moviegoers get a flood of prowar agitprop, from "Armageddon" to "X-Men." And apart from the obligatory thank-you to the Pentagon in the credits, audiences are rarely aware that they may be watching government-subsidized propaganda.

This "Top Gun" effect seemed set in stone, until now. A quarter-century after that hagiographic military tribute, an odd alignment of partisan interests has prompted some in Congress to question the arrangement.

Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, recently sent letters to the CIA and the Defense Department demanding an investigation of the upcoming bin Laden movie. He criticized granting access to government property and information only to ideologically compliant filmmakers, arguing that the "alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history."

Considering King's previous silence on such issues, it's unclear whether he's standing on principle; more likely, he's trying to prevent a particular piece of propaganda from aiding a political opponent. Still, his efforts make possible a broader look at how the U.S. government uses taxpayer resources to suffuse popular culture with militarism.

If and when King holds hearings, we could finally get to the important questions: Why does the Pentagon treat public hardware as private property?

Why does the government grant and deny access to that hardware based on a filmmaker's willingness to let the Pentagon influence the script?

And doesn't such a practice violate the First Amendment's prohibition against government abridging freedom of speech?

David Sirota is is a syndicated columnist, radio host and author of "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now."

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THE JAPAN TIMES

JOBS COULD REBOOT WORKING CLASS

BY HAROLD MEYERSON

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — In the week since he announced he was stepping down as Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs has been accorded the kind of demigod status that Americans bestow on the handful of their countrymen who invent, manufacture and market the goods that change their lives for the better.

Jobs has been compared to any number of iconic American innovators, but most tellingly to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

"Like Edison," wrote the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, Jobs "accomplished his imaginative feats without the crutch of survey results," because, like Edison, he was imagining products unlike any that had previously existed. "Like Ford," wrote The New York Times' Joe Nocera, who "built the first automobile the middle class could afford," Jobs brought out a line of inventions that Americans could buy even as their incomes flat-lined.

It will take some time and perspective before we can judge whether the mouse (which Jobs popularized), the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and pixel animation measure up to Edison's electric light, the recording of sound and motion pictures as seminal human creations (although with his invention of motion pictures, Edison created the technology for an entirely new art form — an achievement for which I can think of no modern parallel). It's not too early, though, for a more definitive comparison between Jobs and Ford.

The father of the assembly line and the Model-T is celebrated (and occasionally condemned) for expanding mass production and mass consumption, for quickening the pace of life and enlarging the scope of cities. Like Edison, Jobs and any innovator whose creations lead to increases in productivity, Ford made his nation richer. In the process, though, he did something that Edison and Jobs didn't do: He created a new socioeconomic formation — a decently paid working class.

Ford began producing his Model-T's at his Highland Park, Mich., factory in 1913. One year later, he realized that he could expand his market by paying his workers enough that they could afford to buy the cars they produced. With that, he raised the pay of Ford assembly-line workers to an unheard-of $5 a day.

Ford didn't just build the first car the middle class could afford; he built the middle class itself. The creation of the world's first majority-middle-class nation was hardly Ford's handiwork alone, of course. It took the involvement of people he viewed as his adversaries — business rivals, union leaders who got beat up by Ford's goons but nonetheless organized industrial America, Franklin Roosevelt and the coauthors of the New Deal — to create the broadly shared prosperity that America enjoyed for the three decades that followed World War II.

Steve Jobs, by contrast, has worked wonders for American consumers, but like many of his business rivals he has abandoned nonprofessional American workers. It wasn't always thus.

In his first stint at Apple, in the mid-1980s, he built, with Jobsian attention to form and function, a heavily automated factory in Fremont, Calif., that employed hundreds of workers to turn out personal computers. But the Macs didn't sell fast enough, Jobs was fired, and, in 1992, the factory was closed.

Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, and within a few years, the company began turning out its now-legendary product line. But its pods, pads and phones are all assembled in China by Foxconn, a Taiwanese-owned contractor that employs close to a million people, at least 250,000 of whom work solely on Jobs' creations. Until last year, when a wave of worker suicides and labor unrest forced Foxconn to raise wages and cut hours, the men and women who make the stuff America loves worked 60-hour weeks at roughly 50 cents an hour.

Apple's American employees are well paid. Stateside, Apple employs designers of hardware, software and packaging; marketers, managers, supply-chain gurus and financial whizzes — a very talented crew. But not a very large one: In its most recent annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple said it directly employs 47,000 people worldwide — perhaps 30,000 of whom work in the United States. It employs no U.S.-based production workers.

Which is why Jobs' elevation to our national pantheon is premature.

Bringing some of those production jobs home while holding down the price of his products probably would require devising factories so automated that they wouldn't employ all that many workers.

Then again, Apple is sitting on $76 billion in cash, and Jobs is still Apple's chairman. Devoting a few billion to reshape and restart American manufacturing, even if it employs fewer people than in Henry Ford's time and narrows Apple's profit margins, could work wonders for exports and, just possibly, lead to Jobs' most amazing invention of all: a newly vibrant American working-class.

In America, we celebrate our great industrialists. We're not likely, some years hence, to celebrate our great offshorers or the guys who built the companies with the most unexpended cash.

Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of American Prospect.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

FORECASTS OF ROBUST MIDDLE-CLASS GROWTH ARE REASON ENOUGH FOR CHINESE, INDIAN OPTIMISM

BY RAMESH THAKUR

Special to The Japan Times

CANBERRA — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted recently that if present trends continue, India will become the world's third largest economy by 2025.

Most major global corporations have a presence there with substantial expansion plans, and many Indian corporations are expanding their footprints abroad through investment, mergers and acquisitions. India's growing economic weight is being translated into increased political clout.

All the major indicators are trending in the right direction: gross domestic product, literacy, life expectancy, infrastructure, etc.

India's GDP has quadrupled since economic reforms in 1991 and per capita income has doubled. With GDP growing at 8 to 9 percent annually and population increasing at 1.7 percent, real GDP/capita will double every decade.

The doubling of the middle class to between 600 million and 700 million will have profound political consequences for India's quality of governance, determining the fate of governments and domestic and foreign policy parameters.

The economic and foreign policy implications for Japan and the West are largely positive.

Like China, India was able to ride out the global financial crisis with the help of substantial currency reserves, limited leverage and low debt levels.

The economic performance of both countries changed dramatically when they abandoned socialist dogmas, liberalized and deregulated economies by adopting market principles, and embraced and engaged with the international economy. China managed to do this earlier, and its growth has been the longer and its share of world trade is the bigger.

India's reforms followed 12 to 13 years later, and its deepening engagement with the world economy still lags behind China by a decade. But for all of China's vaunted advantages — allowing for the 12-year lag — India's performance is comparable.

Therefore, assuming the same trajectory, India's growth over the next decade will have the same stunning impact as China's in reshaping economic and geopolitical maps.

In a followup article I will note the qualifications and hence the need for cautious optimism rather than triumphalism. Just-released figures show that India's GDP grew at an annualized rate of 7.7 percent in the April-June quarter, down from 9 percent for the same period last year. The industrial sector performed particularly badly.

For now let me note six drivers of the destiny of nations that will work to India's comparative advantage over China: demography, domestic demand, the private sector, democracy, rule of law and civil society.

While China's population profile matches the graying phenomenon of most Western countries, half of India's population is under 25. This demographic dividend will give India a tremendous advantage with a far bigger cohort of workers and consumers who will also anchor the economic prospects of many Western countries.

Compared with China, India's economic performance is rooted in indigenous funds and enterprise, and is therefore likely to prove more resilient and self-sustaining. India's success is built primarily on domestic rather than export market demand, domestic savings rather than foreign investment, high-tech services more than low-skilled industry, and rising productivity more than increased labor, land and capital inputs.

Most important, at the heart of Indian success is the private entrepreneur, not the state. Domestic entrepreneurs have been pushing at the bureaucratic and political gatekeepers in New Delhi to step aside and let a thousand flowers of commerce bloom.

Decades of communist rule have left a legacy of constraints on China's domestic entrepreneurs and checked their ability to compete with state enterprises. India's private sector fares more efficiently in the utilization of capital. Hence the belief that India's economy grows mainly at night, when the government is sleeping.

The Indian entrepreneur is backed by a thriving stock market, a disciplined financial sector, and more efficient and transparent capital markets and legal system. While markets ensure efficiency, democracy ensures that reforms have a human face.

India's two main parties, Congress and the BJP, differ on the pace, sequencing and social safety nets, but agree on the goal of rapid and sustained growth by unleashing the productive genius and energy of the Indian businessman through reforming the tax structure and lowering tax and tariff schedules, dismantling state controls and monopolies, promoting and investing in infrastructure, softening labor market rigidity, curtailing subsidies, and generally adopting business-friendly policies.

The existence and growing role and impact of an active civil society, which has just flexed its muscle and forced the government to confront the menace of corruption, also puts limits on governments' ability to ignore citizens and damage consumers.

Finally, as India changes its attitudes toward its own sprawling diaspora, it might further reinforce the country's comparative advantages in professional, managerial and entrepreneurial skills.

China's diaspora has helped to make it the world's factory. India could become the world's technology lab with the help of overseas Indians.

A word of warning: Some of India's long-standing advantages over China are eroding or becoming less relevant. For example, as part of their longer-term strategic vision, Chinese leaders have been promoting English-language and information-technology skills, backed by the necessary telecommunications and power infrastructure.

There are vigorous shoots of civil society in China from the bottom up alongside the continuing control of the single political party at the peak national level.

The police can be as brutal and corrupt in one country as in the other. China may lack democracy, but it also lacks India's dynastic and imported leadership.

Most critically, while China is closing the education gap with the West, India is falling further behind. In the 2011 university rankings, India has only one in the world's top 500 universities compared with mainland China's 23. Thus China will pull rapidly ahead on science and technology.

More positively, robust and sustained growth in China and India is likely to be mutually reinforcing. Who would have foreseen the time when the annual increase in bilateral China-India trade would be equal to or bigger than the total trade between Japan and India?

Both China and India are sizable enough that the rise of large and affluent middle classes in the two will provide almost unlimited growth potential for the rest of the world.

Ramesh Thakur is a professor of International Relations at Australian National University and adjunct professor in the Institute of Ethics, Governance and Law at Griffith University.

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THE JAKARTA POST

THE EASTERN LAGGARD

Ten years after the launching of new laws on regional autonomy no significant improvements have been made in the capacity of the bureaucratic and physical infrastructure in Indonesia's eastern region to accelerate its economic development so it can gradually catch up with the western region — Java and Sumatra.

A macroeconomic analysis presented at a seminar in Denpasar recently by Jeffrey Kairupan, the chief of Bank Indonesia's regional office in Denpasar, which covers Bali and the two provinces in Nusa Tenggara, showed how Indonesia's eastern region has remained the laggard in the national economic development process.

The economy of eastern Indonesia — Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and Papua — grew only 5.34 percent in the first half of this year, much less than the 6.5 percent experienced by the nation on the whole.

Yet more discouraging is that this region's economy remains dominated by the primary sector (agriculture and mining) accounting for a 40 percent share, while the manufacturing ( secondary) sector, which is supposed to add value and generate jobs, contributed only 14.8 percent, way below the national average of 32.61 percent.

It is thus not surprising that while the eastern region accounts for almost two-thirds of Indonesia's territory, it contributed only 19 percent to the gross domestic product, way below the 23 percent from Sumatra and 58 percent from Java.

The main problem was an acute lack of infrastructure and the inadequate institutional capacity of local administrations.

These barriers not only discourage investment from overseas and the other parts of the country, but also hinder the economic linkages (connectivity) between regencies within the eastern region and between that region and the rest of the country.

The islands in that region cannot supplement each other's local resources (comparative advantages), as can
be seen in the wide disparities in prices of goods and commodities.

It is quite unfortunate, therefore, that the other islands east of Bali (the country's main destination for domestic and foreign tourists with up to 4 million arrivals a year) are not able to tap into the multiplier impact of the booming tourism industry in the resort island. Tourist hotels in Bali still depend mainly on imports of fish, meat and other basic goods for tourists.

Whatever investment projects the central goverment is now preparing for the eastern region under its Master Plan for the acceleration and expansion of the national economic development until 2025, basic infrastructure should be the key. Without adequate infrastructure, the various islands in the region will never undergo the process of economic integration with themselves and the rest of the country.

The government should develop at least four major seaports in eastern Indonesia into efficient and well-equipped hubs for inter-island and international trade in efforts to stimulate private investment in sea transport services.

We don't believe we will be able to lift our national economic growth to between 8 and 9 percenta a year, the target set in the 15-year Master Plan, without a much bigger contribution from the resoure-rich eastern region.

Persistent massive gaps in infrastructure, which hinders economic-connectivitity between the western and eastern regions, could render the Master Plan targets as daydreams.

We need strong leadership to push through public-private partnership projects in infrastructure to jump-start the development of several growth centers in the country's eastern region.

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THE JAKARTA POST

THE PAPUANS' (IL) LEGITIMATE BATTLE FOR INDEPENDENCE

HARISON CITRAWAN

Papua has once again come under not only the national but also the international spotlight. The situation was exacerbated by a leaked document about the Indonesian Army titled Autonomy of Papuan Separatists, on the Internet.

Many human rights activists were quick to voice criticism over the report. E. Pearson from the Human Rights Watch, for instance, wrote a subtle piece in the Huffington Post on Aug. 20, in which he clearly argues that the acts of some international supporters of Papuans are legitimate and lawful as they were not intended to harm Indonesia's national integrity.

Certainly, in terms of human rights protection, an international cooperation should be deemed legal and legitimate, as in no matter what circumstances, human rights should be protected.

Nevertheless, the current discussion over the situation in Papua would not be sufficient to answer another significant issue in Papua of whether or not a group of indigenous Papuans, such as the Free Papua Organization (OPM), could take up arms and wage a lawful "battle for self-determination".

The OPM's prolonged battle, not to mention the current situation on the ground that could be described as armed conflict, is mainly based on the group's demand to exercise their right to self-determination.

By doing this, I presume, a group of people should have the privilege of taking up arms to fight for "liberation". It is of course undeniable that one may find such demand in any other part of the world.

Last week, the Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), to name a few of those so-called "self-determination groups", filed a case against the European Union (EU) with the European Court of Justice. By banning the organization, through putting them on the EU's terrorist hit list in 2006, they argued that the EU had violated international law.

In an interview in the magazine International Justice Tribunal, the attorney for the LTTE, Victor Koppe, says that in the pursuit of self-determination, the LTTE consequently has both the right to resistance and to use arms as it is in an armed conflict. He mainly based such understanding on the UN Charter.

Of course, the situation in Sri Lanka might be quite different from the one in Papua, but can such reasoning be applied to the OPM's battle for self-determination?

The right to self-determination is indeed tricky in terms of legal terminology. The unclear parameter of the right is as old as the application of the right and dates back to the decolonization era in the 1960s up to late 1980s.

In discussing the legitimacy of the battle for this right, initially, I would convey several norms acknowledged in the United Nations (UN) practice.

It is clear, that within the ambit of the UN Charter, all member states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Nonetheless, one possible lawful exemption on the prohibition of use of force is the act of self-defense.

In its Resolution 3070 (XXVIII), 1973, the General Assembly: "reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples' struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle".

Furthermore, in the General Assembly Resolution 2625 about the Declaration on Principle of International Law, it solemnly proclaims at least two important principles related to this issue.

First, the principle that states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and second, the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

Based on the aforementioned laws, it can be concluded that states have the duty to refrain from the use of force upon people exercising the right to self-determination. It is also important to note that in international law discourse, the right of peoples to self-determination is today a right erga omnes (right toward all).

Thus, in order to gain legitimacy, one possible legal argument of the "self-determination groups" would be the act of self-defense. However, there is yet any exact answer for this as the international community is still divided on this issue.

On the one side, some countries, mainly Afro-Asian countries, affirm the right to use force on the basis of that the colonial or suppressive power aggression itself is a violation of the UN Charter, therefore any counter attack against it should be deemed legitimate. On the other side, some countries, mainly the West, argue that peoples do not have the same status as the states enjoy in international law.

Therefore, any privileges or rights in international law are not applicable to the peoples.

To conclude, back to the OPM's battle, it is not always clear whether it should be deemed as legitimate under the current international law. One thing for sure is that the laws do not specifically rule such possibility of using arms and the states, presumably, will not grant an international legal status over them on their struggle for statehood.

Consequently, in terms of concept, it would be intractable for the OPM to struggle for statehood, following J. Crawford who opines that "a state is not a fact in the sense that a chair is a fact; it is a fact in the sense in which a treaty may be said to be a fact: that is, a legal status attaching to a certain state of affairs by virtue of certain rules".

The writer is a staffer at the Human Rights Research and Development Agency under the Law and Human Rights Ministry. The opinions expressed are his own.

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THE JAKARTA POST

BASEL III AND THE EMERGING ECONOMIES (PART I OF 2)

ANWAR NASUTION

The G20 Summit in Seoul from November 11 to 12, 2010 endorsed the Basel III Accord as the core elements of the new financial regulatory framework. The accord was mainly designed for banks in advanced industrialized economies with mature and well-developed financial markets in response to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-9.

It has not, however, addressed the needs of emerging economies that are increasingly playing a prominent role in global finance.

The accord is the basic foundation for transforming the global financial system, coordinated by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), into a safer system and to ensure its resilience to periodic stress tests.

Basel III was developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and adopted by the Group of Governors and Heads of Supervisions of member countries of the Bank of International Settlement (BIS), in July 2010. A higher global minimum capital standard for commercial banks was then agreed upon on Sept. 12, 2010.

Basel III primarily covers standards and regulations on shadow banks and complicated derivatives that do not exist in the emerging economies. The core of the financial system in emerging economies is the banking system that still relies on deposits and loans. The banks are owned either by the state or business conglomerates.

The state uses its banks as an instrument to pursue its industrial and development policies. Non-bank financial institutions, such as insurance and pension funds, the main components of shadow banks, are still in the early stages of development.

To build an effective and efficient financial market, Basel III strongly recommends the use of credit-rating and credit-scoring systems and stress testing. These tests better capture tail events and incorporate the systemic risk dimension in banks' risk management to supplement the shortcomings of the VAR (Value-at-Risk) model that uses the assumption of normality.

The VAR and other tests, however, are difficult to implement in emerging economies. This is because of the weakness in market infrastructure in the developing economies due to a combination of relatively weak legal and accounting systems, limitation in data availability and the dominant role of state-owned enterprises, including in the financial system. The weak market infrastructure cannot protect property rights well, enforce contracts or seize collateral pledged by credit defaulters.

In underdeveloped economies, it is also difficult to enforce laws and regulations against the public sector and politically well-connected business groups. The governments use their banks to finance its industrial policies. Meanwhile, private banks are intertwined with their business affiliates, which are prone to insider trading and principal agency problems. This is because interconnected banks tend to evaluate loan applications from affiliates less rigorously than those from unaffiliated credit applicants.

Credit insurance companies and inter-agency financial stability forums have been established in many emerging economies to preserve financial stability and address financial crises. Nevertheless, state-owned banks and companies in these countries are implicitly guaranteed by their owners.

Basel III comprises three areas to strengthen regulation and supervision of the banking system. First, to improve the banking system's ability to absorb shocks arising from financial and economic distress. The focus on common equity mitigates the "too big to fail" problem and forces banks to bear the cost of failure they have been imposing on society. Second, to improve the risk management and governance of the banking system and, third, to upgrade its transparency and disclosure policies.

The Basel III framework covers both the micro as well as macro prudential regulations. The micro type of regulations help strengthen the resilience of individual banking institutions. The macro prudential regulations address wider risks that can be built up across the entire banking system and the whole economy.

Basel III is not only a firm-specific risk-based structure, but also a system-wide and systemic-risk-based framework and it upgrades standards relating to capital, liquidity and leverage of the banking system. The combination of new micro- and macro-prudential reforms addresses both institution- and system-level risks. Basel III is more specific in defining the capital adequacy ratio: the capital ratio itself, the numerator of the solvency ratio or the capital and the denominator or risk-weighted assets.

To mitigate the "too big to fall" problem, Basel III focuses on common equity, the highest quality component of a bank's capital. This forces bank to bear the costs of failure they have been imposing on society.

In addition, Tier 1 also includes other instruments, such as retained earnings, other reserves and certain preference shares, which have a loss-absorbing capacity on a "going concern" basis or solvency of the bank. Innovative capital instruments that are currently permitted in limited amounts will be phased out. Tier 2 capital will be simplified.

This typically consists of subordinated debt, and provides loss-absorbing capacity on a "gone concern" basis following insolvency and liquidation. Tier 3 capital uses to cover a portion of bank's market risk capital charge is to be phased out and deductions from capital will be harmonized.

Basel III adopts a stricter definition of core capital and simplifies and harmonizes deductions and filters that are applied to its calculation, particularly in calculating Tier 3. Stricter criteria are now applied for other qualifying financial instruments that can be included in the calculation of capital and certain types of assets of questionable quality are excluded from these calculations. Basel III corrected the complex set of minimums and maximums of various elements of capital (Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3) in Basel II.

Before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-2009, for example, global banks raised their leverage by investing the Tier 1 component of their capital in debt-like or hybrid "innovative" instruments.

The stricter definition of capital level under Basel III upgrades the quality of capital and significantly raises the level of required bank capital, improves its transparency and disclosure and makes the capital adequacy of global banks comparable. The higher capital quality banks would make banks stronger, improve their loss-absorbing capacity and allow them to withstand periods of stress.

The writer is a professor of economics at the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java.

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