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media watch with peoples input an organization of rastriya abhyudaya
month september 06, edition 000829 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
- REDDYS IN THE DOCK
- YELLOW FEVER
- A TALE OF TWO MOVEMENTS - AMITA BAVISKAR
- IT'S THE PRACTICAL APPROACH
- IT IS HARM CONTINUATION - JAY KUMAR
- A FISHY AFFAIR - V GANGADHAR
- NOT THE BEST IN THEIR CLASS
- KEEPING A TAB ON TABS
- THE BUZZ
- STILL AT SQUARE ONE - SITARAM YECHURY
- THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND - JOYEETA BHATTACHARJEE
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
1. LEGISLATIVE OVERREACH
2. BEING MAMATA
3. BOLT ON BOLT
4. A CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY - MAHFUZANAM
5. THIS SYRIAN SUMMER - ALIA ALLANA
6. 'CIVIL SOCIETY MUST REALISE THAT BY HAVING AN ACT, EVERYTHING IS
7. NOT GOING TO BE GUNG-HO' - SHEKHAR GUPTA
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
- DETAIL OF RETAIL
- JAILHOUSE REDDY
- A $31-BN LOSS CREATES THE BIGGEST TEA PARTY - WILLIAM PESEK
- RULES OF ENGAGEMENT - SHINJINI KUMAR
- SEN AND SENSIBILITY
- ARE LIBYA'S FRIENDS FOR REAL?
- BOMBING OF LIBYA MOST ACCURATE EVER: NATO
- WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS SHOW THAT GOOD HIGHER EDUCATION CAN BE A BARGAIN - ANNA BAWDEN
- PAKISTAN: UNDOING A COLONIAL LEGACY - ANITA JOSHUA
- INDIA-BANGLADESH TIES A MODEL FOR SOUTH ASIA'
- WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY?
- FAKE CURRENCY NOTES
- LEGISLATORS VERSUS LAW - BY B L SARAF
- WHERE DOES THE CIVIL SOCIETY STAND? - BY LALIT SETHI
- NATURE'S WAY OF DEMOCRACY - BY O. P. SHARMA VIDYARTHI IFS
- INDUSTRY'S OBJECTIONS
- GROWING URBANIZATION
- BANGALORE BY NIGHT
- THE CHANGE IN NEPAL - BY S.D. MUNI
- KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOUR - BY SURESH CHANDER
- MEMORIAL MUSEUM ON GROUND ZERO - GEORGE JACOB
- WHAT DOES BCCI HAVE TO HIDE?
- THE REDDY LAND MINE
- SAFEGUARDING BPO
- FROM BANGLADESH TO BIMSTEC – N CHANDRA MOHAN
- NOBODY'S BABY: THE OFFSET ORPHAN - AJAI SHUKLA
- TO BUNDELKHAND'S RESCUE - SURINDER SUD
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- TO DHAKA, WITH LOVE
- A WELCOME MOVE
- MONEY FOR NOTHING
- ANNA MOVEMENT: OTHER FACETS
- THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
- FOR A 'ZERO PROBLEMS' SOUTH ASIA - SREERAM CHAULIA
- FARM UNCERTAINTIES
- FOR A NEW CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY FRAMEWORK
- EXTERNAL SECTOR RISKS CANNOT BE IGNORED - R. K. PATTNAIK
- WAITING FOR THE NEXT MESSIAH - RASHEEDA BHAGAT
- HIGHER EDUCATION AND EXPECTATIONS - C.P.CHANDRA-SEKHAR
- THE GOLD RUSH ENDURES
- INDIA NEEDS A 360° TERROR APPRAISAL
- TEESTA SOURS PM'S HISTORIC DHAKA TRIP
- THE COLOUR CODE
- WHY ARE WE CORRUPT?
- AMERICA'S FATAL DISTRACTION
- THE RIVER ROARS
- BARUA MATTERS
- ZARDARI'S DREAM...
- RAJINDER PURI
- WALK THE TALK - MANASH GHOSH
- 28% OF WORLD NEWBORN DEATHS IN INDIA: WHO
- FROM THE UN
- 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
- NEWS ITEMS
- TESTING WATERS
- JUST LOVE
- REDUNDANT BUDGET
- NOT FOR THE PEOPLE - MALVIKA SINGH
- TO GET THE QUESTION RIGHT - IRON HAND
- ERIOUS CHARGE
- CAUTIOUS MOVE
- THE SECRET MISSION - BY M K BHADRAKUMAR
- AFTER REDDY, GOA'S ILLEGAL MINING DONS SHOULD GO TOO
- GLOBALIZATION DOWN THE AGES - TEOTONIO R. DE SOUZA
- WHERE HAVE ALL THE BANDITS GONE? - BY AMIR OREN
- ARABS MAKE THE DESERT BLOOM - BY OUDEH BASHARAT
- A FAIRER DIVISION OF THE PROFITS
- THE UNFORESEEN RISKS OF PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD - BY LOUIS RENE BERES
- WHO'S THE GUY DRIVING AGAINST TRAFFIC? - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
THE NEW YORK TIMES
- WHERE THE JOBS AREN'T - BY DAVID BROOKS
- THE LAST MODERATE - BY JOE NOCERA
- YES, WE NEED JOBS. BUT WHAT KIND? - BY PAUL OSTERMAN
TIMES FREE PRESS
- SECURITY STEPS APPROPRIATE AFTER 9/11
- TAX INCREASES, MORE 'STIMULUS' WON'T WORK
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
- IS THERE A WAR TO WIN?
- THE UNMOURNED VICTIM OF NEW YORK'S '9/11'
- SEEING THE GLASS HALF FULL IN TURKISH-ISRAELI TIES
- WHERE WERE WE?
- A MISCONCEIVED PANEL
- NOTHING NEW AT THE BDP CONGRESS
- AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ: CAMPAIGN OF 100 ATTACKS - KENAN ENGİN
- JUSTICE FOR KARACHI
- NEED FOR DIALOGUE
- LOST GLORY
- FLYING INTO LYARI FOR EID - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
- CENTRAL BANK INDEPENDENCE - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
- THE ENDGAME? - IKRAM SEHGAL
- WHY THE COMMON CITIZEN MATTERS - DR QAISAR RASHID
- THE LIBYAN INTERVENTION - DR MALEEHA LODHI
- GILANI'S DEEP CONCERN OVER LAND GRABBING
- MUSHARRAF-SINGH DEAL ON KASHMIR
- PLANNED UP-GRADATION OF TRANSFORMERS
- CREATING MORE PROVINCES! - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
- MASSACRE IN INDIAN HELD KASHMIR - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
- MANIPULATION OF KASHMIR DISPUTE - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
- HIGHER THAN THE HIMALAYAS - MALIK M ASHRAF
- AFGHAN SOLDIERS DESERTING ARMY: NATO - JOSHUA PARTLOW
- ONLY BIPARTISAN ACTION HAS A CHANCE TO STOP THE BOATS
- LABOR LOOKS FOR MESSIAH INSTEAD OF LIGHT ON THE HILL
- AUSTRALIA'S LUCK IS EBBING AWAY
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- O'FARRELL TRIPS ON HOTELS' STEP
- 50 MILLION CARDS GOING NOWHERE
- PRODUCTIVITY IS EVERYTHING, NOT JUST ABOUT IR
- WORLD ECONOMY: ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
- RENDITION AND THE UK: HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
- IN PRAISE OF… UNDERSTANDING A LITTLE MORE
THE JAPAN TIMES
- PREPARING FOR THE NEXT CATASTROPHE
- PINNING A TALE ON THE CANDIDATE - BY GEORGE WILL
- INSTRUMENT OF LOVE IN LIBYA - BY GWYNNE DYER
- WILL THE IMF STAND UP TO EUROZONE OFFICIALS? - BY KENNETH ROGOFF
THE JAKARTA POST
- MUHAIMIN CORRUPT?
- ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! - HS DILLON
- TIME FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT IN HEALTH CARE - SAMLEE PLIANBANGCHANG
- BE WARY OF NORTH KOREA'S CHARM OFFENSIVE - BRUCE KLINGNER
- BASEL III AND THE NEW ECONOMIES (PART 2 OF 2) - ANWAR NASUTION
THE TIMES OF INDIA
REDDYS IN THE DOCK
The law finally seems to be catching up with the Reddy brothers. Following CBI raids - which led to the seizure of over 30 kg of gold and cash worth Rs 4.5 crore - mining baron and former Karnataka minister G Janardhana Reddy was arrested yesterday along with his brother-in-law and managing director of Obulapuram Mining Company B V Srinivas Reddy. The duo faces a slew of charges relating to their mining operations in Andhra Pradesh. Apart from illegal mining of iron ore, this includes criminal conspiracy, theft and corruption. The arrests come on the heels of the recent Karnataka Lokayukta report, which severely indicted former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers for rampant loot of Karnataka's natural resources.
Hitherto the Reddy brothers had used their political connections as a shield. In Karnataka two of the brothers - Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy - till recently held important cabinet posts. It is no secret that the Reddy brothers were key supporters of Sushma Swaraj when she contested the Bellary Lok Sabha seat in 1999. When chief minister Yeddyurappa attempted to cut the Reddy brothers down to size, it was he who had to eat crow.
It's a giveaway that Karnataka's BJP government, till date, refuses to give permission to the CBI to probe the Reddy brothers' activities in the state. Even though the BJP pitched for strong measures to check institutional graft during Anna Hazare's recent protest against corruption and attacked the government at the Centre for presiding over a series of scams, it continues to back the Reddy brothers to the hilt.
In that context it's commendable that the UPA government at the Centre, by permitting the arrest of the Reddy brothers, has been seen to be moving against corruption. It comes on top of several other moves, such as the sidelining by the party high command and subsequent prosecution of party members and allies in case of the Adarsh housing society scam in Maharashtra, the 2G telecom scandal or Commonwealth Games-related corruption. After all the Reddys had been thick with Congressman Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's erstwhile chief minister, as well. But following YSR's death the Congress cut off his son, Jagan, who inherited his fortune and made a bid to inherit his political legacy as well. When it comes to the Reddy brothers and their peddling of influence, the Congress has a much cleaner record than the BJP. It hardly sits well with the BJP's professed nationalism to collude with the plunder of the country's natural resources that's been documented in the Lokayukta report.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
The global economy is still wobbling. That explains why everybody's been making a beeline for gold - from householders to central banks. The world's biggest consumers of the yellow metal, traditionally gold-loving Indians are stocking up to such an extent that April-June's imports rose a whopping 60% from a year ago. The gold rush here has had some economy watchers worried. Gold is held to be a non-productive, static asset as opposed to financial assets that keep money circulating in the system. Hoarding of gold, economists therefore say, might be denting growth. However, it's only one side of the story to say that assets shouldn't lie idle at a time we need boosted spending. To search for safe parking zones for money is a natural reaction to economic uncertainty. If anything, high inflation - combined with the authorities' inability to tackle it - is pushing more and more people to hedge against risk with gold.
To those trying to protect themselves, gold's shine won't dim unless the alternatives look good. Chairman of the PM's Economic Advisory Council C Rangarajan has rightly said financial savings must be made more attractive. While instruments like gold exchange traded funds or mutual funds can do with popularising, more should be done to spread financial literacy so that increasing numbers of Indians view the stock market with confidence. As for non-productive assets' effect on growth, land is surely a bigger concern. Huge amounts of state-owned land are dead assets for being kept out of the market even as land mafias grab property dirt-cheap. Even more troubling is persisting official timidity on reforms. If the economy is made more open and its structural weaknesses removed, the results will show in higher growth. People - salary-earners, industrialists or bankers - get less risk-averse the more business-friendly an environment is. That goes for gold buyers too.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
A TALE OF TWO MOVEMENTS
The agitation for the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) is being hailed as 'unprecedented' and as a 'second freedom struggle'. More grounded analysts have likened it to the Navanirman movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s. However, a more apt comparison lies closer at hand.
Less than six years ago, Parliament enacted a national Right to Information Act. This was a major victory for the RTI campaign which aimed to empower people to fight corruption and malgovernance. It mobilised a nationwide network of support, bringing together activists, NGOs and ordinary citizens, and effectively using media and middle-class interlocutors. India Against Corruption (IAC), the coalition leading the present campaign, shares the goals and the networking strategy of the earlier campaign, and its leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Anna Hazare were closely associated with it.
Yet, the differences between the two campaigns are striking as well as instructive. The RTI campaign and the JLB campaign both strive for greater government accountability, but their ideologies, modes of organisation, support base and strategies diverge in important ways. Understanding these differences is crucial if the Lokpal Bill, once enacted, is to achieve its stated goal.
The RTI campaign grew out of the experiences of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), the jan sangathan (people's organisation) in rural Rajasthan which had, for two decades, fought corruption in village development works. The MKSS pioneered the use of jan sunvai or public hearings as a technique to empower villagers to 'speak truth to power', challenging an opaque, oppressive and corrupt system of governance. The jan sunvai's success depended on systematic preparation to mobilise people to testify, collect information and check its accuracy. The groundswell of public anger against abuse of public funds was harnessed to create a coordinated campaign led by trained local activists.
From the villages, MKSS took its campaign to the district and state level, staging determined demonstrations that attracted the middle classes and intellectuals, before leading the national RTI campaign. The national network was more eclectic; it included not only jan sangathans like the MKSS, but also individual anti-corruption activists like Anna Hazare and Shailesh Gandhi. Notably, the RTI campaign aligned itself with the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, sangathans of the rural and urban poor fighting against dispossession. This organisational base gave the RTI campaign a solid political credibility.
The JLB campaign shows a distinctly different trajectory. Even though Kejriwal's Parivartan, which battled corruption in ration shops in two Delhi slums, was a jan sangathan, its base was too limited to launch a nationwide campaign. The other campaign leaders - Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Hazare - also cannot muster a trained cadre of activists. The JLB campaign has mobi-lised participants in two ways: through social networking and the media; and via regional chapters of Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's congregations.
The coming together of a predominantly young, white-collar constituency that communicates through text messages and Facebook, lower-middle-class followers of Baba Ramdev, and the professional classes that practise the Art of Living gives the JLB campaign the strength of numbers as well as the image of appearing all-inclusive. However, this strength may dissipate once the Bill is passed. Mobilising crowds for a successful agitation is one thing; having a committed and trained activist base to convert that success into long-term institutional change is quite another.
If the RTI campaign embraced sangathans with an Independent Left ideology, the political beliefs of the participants in the JLB campaign are harder to pin down. Eight of the 20 founders of India Against Corruption are religious figures, of whom only Swami Agnivesh can be described as a champion of jan sangathans. The rest voice patriotic sentiments and anti-government hostility without a clear analysis of how the systemic problems that plague public affairs will be tackled. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's previous social initiatives have been of doubtful value (cleaning the sewage-laden Yamuna by picking up garbage from the riverfront) and marked by dubious claims (11,000 Naxalites 'converted' to the Art of Living).
While other founders like Hazare and Bedi have a reputation for personal probity and courage, they endorse a form of individualist authoritarian action that's applauded by a public hungry for vigilante heroes. The JLB thus represents a shift in the political spectrum: from the left-of-centre democratic decentralisation of the RTI campaign, to the right-of-centre legal-technical-fix of India Against Corruption.
The test of any law lies in its implementation. Much disquiet has already been expressed about the overly-centralised design of the JLB and the impracticability of the mammoth bureaucratic machinery it demands. However, making a law work also requires a mobilised public, a dedicated and organised network at every level that will keep up the pressure on public institutions. The ideologies, organisational structure and support base of the JLB campaign do not indicate that it is capable of such long-term and systematic social action.
The RTI campaign's activist base has allowed it to sustain an arduous struggle against corruption, but the challenges have been formidable. It remains to be seen how the JLB campaign will equip itself to walk the talk, and translate strident demands into effective action.
The writer is a sociologist at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
IT'S THE PRACTICAL APPROACH
The government has begun to look for alternate ways to deal with drug abuse, and little wonder. With an estimated 7.5 crore drug addicts in India at last count - that's just the formal figure - it isn't a problem that's going to go away soon. Neither has legislation providing for harsh punishment succeeded in preventing the growth of the problem. That's the reason the government is preparing to change the way it addresses the issue. The new approach will acknowledge that controlling the harmful consequences of drug use rather than putting an end to drug use altogether is a more realistic approach. This is a paradigm shift that has already taken place in Europe - and it is much needed here.
Absolute abstinence is a utopian ideal; this is something we have seen with other substances that can have harmful effects, from alcohol to tobacco. The problem is even more acute with regard to drug use where existing legislation can be counterproductive, lumping non-criminal, non-violent users with hardened criminals, effectively criminalising them and perpe-tuating the problem. Harm reduction can go a long way in mitigating negative effects of drug use by providing clean syringes, thus reducing the risk of HIV infection.
Given how emotive the issue is, there is bound to be criticism with the government labelled as enabler. But a pragmatic approach is more likely to yield positive results, encouraging drug users to come forward for help. Programmes that require verifiable use of detoxifying drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine can then target the addict population with increased effectiveness. Such a policy, utilising government hospitals and centres, would have to be crafted with care. But if done right, there is no reason it should not see the same positive results many European countries have.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
IT IS HARM CONTINUATION
In an unfortunate move, the government has decided to shift to harm reduction from abstinence as its strategy against drug abuse. Under the new policy, the government will become an enabler. Its hospitals and drug rehabilitation centres will provide needles and syringes to addicts, hoping to eventually switch them to detoxifying drugs and medicines. More baffling is that the policy shift is coming at a time governments and medical personnel across the world who earlier advocated the harm reduction strategy have developed doubts about it. We should take a cue from the unsuccessful experiences of the UK and Scotland, where it's been practised as an official policy since the late 1980s.
As a treatment strategy, harm reduction enables continued use of toxic, psychoactive drugs, which is against the basic principle of any drug control policy based on prevention and treatment. Its emphasis is on reducing the risks associated with drug abuse rather than completely eliminating them and putting the addict back on the path of complete health recovery, both physical and psychologi-cal. It places a misplaced faith on the ability of the addict to come to terms with the reality of his condition. While doing so, it conveniently ignores the fact that most addicts have lost control over their consumption, which can be controlled only through abstinence.
Studies show reduction in drug use is a temporary phenomenon.So, the chances of recovery are not only less, but maintenance-based treatment may also lengthen rather than shorten the period of drug addiction. The unsuccessful rehabilitation and recovery of addicts may further act as a socially destabilising factor. No wonder many anti-drug activists and experts describe it as 'harm continuation'.
THE TIMES OF INDIA
A FISHY AFFAIR
Scene at the immigration counter, Wellington Airport, New Zealand:
Immigration Official (IO): Good morning, sir, i see you are from New Delhi. May i ask what brings you to New Zealand? Sightseeing, mountain climbing or fishing?
Indian Passenger (IP): Good morning, i`m on an urgent mission looking for Shaggy and Daphne.
IO: And who are these Shaggy and Daphne? Your relatives? Are they long-term settlers?
IP: Actually, they are your goldfish. We need to study them urgently. In fact, it would be wonderful if the New Zealand government would loan us Shaggy and Daphne. The future of Indian democracy depends on them.
IO: Hey, mate, are you okay? A bit too much to drink on the flight? What is all this about democracy and a pair of goldfish?
IP: Unlike Indian politicians, our civil society is well informed. One of our members told us that Shaggy and Daphne, who were kept in a Christchurch aquarium, were found alive 134 days after an earthquake struck the city. One hundred eighty one people were killed in the quake, but workmen who entered the aquarium building found the fish alive. Obviously, they had nothing to eat, but they survived and looked in good shape. That is exciting news for us.
IO: In what way? What has a pair of New Zealand goldfish to do with Indian society?
IP: Indian civil society is going to change the world, root out corruption. Our leader, Anna Hazare, will lead us to this goal by frequently going on `fasts undo death`. Just now, he completed a 12-day fast which forced the government on its knees and made it agree to our terms for destroying corruption. We in civil society are quite impressed with Shaggy and Daphne surviving without food for 134 days. If we found out how this happened, our great leader could follow their example and go without food for similar long periods when he undertakes future protest fasts. What an impact it would have on the media!
IO: Our nation is rated pretty low on corruption, i don`t know much about it. You Indians are crazy, how can you fight corruption on empty stomachs? And are you sure this bloke will go on fasts again?
IP: Indians love fasting. We make a festival out of it. The best way to become a hero is to fast in public. Our Anna has a fast schedule for electoral reforms, right to recall members of Parliament and so on. Or he could lump all his goals together and plan one single, long fast! If he achieved so much with a 12-day fast, think how much more he could achieve with a 134-day fast!
IO: How do Shaggy and Daphne figure in all this?
IP: Hopefully, our team of marine biologists and nutrition experts would be able to examine your goldfish and find out how they survived so long without food. In fact, we demand that our prime minister take steps to import Shaggy and Daphne to India. Or Anna could fast for this cause too!
IO: You guys do whatever you want. Let me tell you that while Shaggy and Daphne survived, three other companion goldfish in the same bowl disappeared. Do you know what that means?
IP: Hush, not a word of this to anyone. How much to buy your silence? This is not a bribe but a contribution to a great cause. We need the goldfish, our entire movement depends on their fasting techniques. Lead me to your aquarium!
NOT THE BEST IN THEIR CLASS
The season of university rankings has begun. The QS World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities have been among the first off the blocks. But an array of others will come out before the West's academic year begins.
Along with these two surveys, the Times Higher Education list will also be watched closely. There is rarely much change in the top 20 institutions. And even less controversy — these are the reigning academic brands of the world. The real churn lies in the 200 institutions that follow.
But one thing does not change: Indian universities and institutions of higher education never make it to the top 100 and rarely even the top 200.
The latest QS ratings are no different: the highest rated Indian university is the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi and comes in at a lowly 218. It is telling that almost all the dozen or so ranking systems agree on the mediocrity of Indian universities.
University ratings, it is sometimes said, are like making lists of the best works of art. Educational institutions are each unique and, more importantly, the requirements of the students who attend them are highly personal.
But the rankings use indices that are commonsensical — reputation among academicians, student-faculty ratios, infrastructure, quality and quantity of publications.
Similar measures are used by the Indian government to determine accreditation of domestic institutions. The human resources development ministry is known to criticise such ratings.
But its grumblings are probably driven by an unwillingness to accept that the ministry's tertiary education record has been mediocre and its mindset regarding this crucial area parochial and unimaginative.
Indians take pride in their best universities, especially the IITs and the Indian Institutes of Management. There are now a number of outside assessments which argue that their greatness lies mostly in their ability to select the best and the brightest of India's student population.
More telling is that their productivity is almost criminally low — the IITs collectively graduate less than 3,500 students and do almost no original research.
The number of universities who achieve even IIT levels of quality should be expanding by leaps and bounds to keep up with India's rising student population.
If anything, many universities seem to be regressing thanks to poor administration, faculty who cannot be dismissed, social engineering demands and political interference.
World class tertiary educational institutions are more than a matter of pride. Without them India's hopes to maintain high rates of economic growth, to sustain its accomplishments in the field of technology, produce a competitive manufacturing base and cash in on its "demographic dividend" will be impossible.
Rankings are not everything. But they are a signal that there is something rotten in the state of higher education in India.
KEEPING A TAB ON TABS
After a free sarkari 'bungla', sarkari gari and sarkari travel allowance, it's now free tablet computers, aka tabs, for our Members of Parliament.
But don't think these tablets will be some low-end tacky stuff developed by our hugely talented bunch at public sector info-tech companies.
Each of our 790 leaders — many of whom are not even tech savvy — will get Rs 50,000 to buy either a (now, don't break your cheap, black keyboard) cool Apple iPad or a snazzy Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Apparently, the Parliament's secretariats thought about this scheme because they reduce paper usage and also to help the MPs access past debates and question lists effortlessly.
The money earmarked (Rs 50,000 per tab) is at least Rs 10,000 more than the price of the best-available tab in the market. We don't know yet who decided on the allocation amount and why no special Buy-a-Tab discount was arranged for our special leaders. Or why they can't go for cheaper versions available in the market.
Even at the risk of sounding jealous, we still don't understand what these tabs will achieve when some MPs don't even want to touch computers.
Now do you really see one of those voluble MPs (you know the types we are talking about) come to Parliament carrying a tab in their starched kurta pockets and then looking at it gravely and reading out their questions from it or wave it at the Speaker and treasury benches during debates after making their point?
Or, who knows, this could be a lollipop to make the House proceedings attractive and ensure attendance? If that is the case, the gift is a mighty expensive and juicy one at that.
And why stop with normal proceedings? We want to see the finance minister reading his budget speech from a tab and the Prime Minister making his August 15 speech from from it at Red Fort.
As you have got it now, we will keep a tab on your tabs.
Roemer with (many) views
As the latest round of WikiLeaks reveals, former US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer was a prolific writer of diplomatic telegrams, faithfully reporting his meetings, lunches, banquets and chit-chats with even journalists to his bosses in Washington.
He had another trait: giving gratuitous advice to Indian politicians even when it was not sought. When US deputy homeland security secretary Janet Lute met home minister P Chidambaram in Delhi last January, the latter briefed her on Pakistan's support to terror groups targeting India and the involvement of the ISI in the 26/11 attacks.
Even before Lute could react, Roemer butted in and told Chidambaram that this was the precise reason why Washington wanted India to talk to Pakistan. Without batting an eyelid, Chidambaram asked Lute to ask her boss, homeland secretary Janet Napolitano, to drop by at Islamabad and collect voice samples of the 26/11 accused before she came to India for a dialogue later in May 2011.
This bit, of course, doesn't turn up in Roemer's cables.
Viva la WikiLeaks!
Several US cables spoke at length about India's communists. But a July 28, 2005 cable couldn't help but mention a sidelight of a meeting with the CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury.
While terming Yechury as articulate, obstructionist and anachronistic, the cables said, "Beyond the Che [Guevara] poster, the map of the USSR, and the cheap gifts from visiting Chinese delegations, the funniest moment was when we arrived. The CPI(M) greeter asked us, "You're with the Cuban embassy?" Guess they see a lot of them.
In NYC or DC?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave for New York on September 21 to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting.
By the time he reaches New York, United States President Barack Obama would have finished his United Nations address, which is scheduled for the same day, and returned to Washington. The United States and Indian governments are now working on how to organise a meeting between the two.
Will Singh make a trip to Washington or Obama come across to New York again? Watch this airspace.
What's in a NAM?
When foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai took over from Nirupama Rao last month, he came with the reputation of being quiet and docile. But officers at South Block have now realised that Mathai is certainly not docile when it comes to professional matters.
Last month in a meeting to decide the Indian position on Libya, Mathai sternly told a secretary in front of other officers that due diligence had not been done on the Libya paper prepared by his division.
The foreign secretary was hinting that India was still stuck in the old 'non-aligned' position of supporting demagogues like Gaddafi while other major powers such as Russia and China had adopted a more pragmatic approach. Some old habits die hard.
Cold warriors still
Talking about old habits, the Soviet Union ceased to exist 20 years ago, but New Delhi still keeps a Cold War mindset warm within the UPA political leadership.
Despite the assertiveness of China in the South China Sea, defence minister AK Antony smells a rat in maritime security cooperation with the United States. He even has issues with trilateral maritime exercises with countries like Japan or Australia.
When Washington proposed that the US defence secretary be part of the bilateral strategic dialogue last April, Antony parked himself in Kerala citing the assembly elections. Perhaps the image of USS Enterprise being sent to the Bay of Bengal in the 1971 war is etched in his memory.
Science and technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has never felt so good since he was asked to resign as chief minister over the Adarsh Society scam. Playing a key role in getting Anna Hazare to call off his fast, Deshmukh finds his senior Congress colleagues to have suddenly re-discovered him.
Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni got Doordarshan News to run a lengthy interview with him. Deshmukh got to have a full say on what he thought about the scam, without any uncomfortable questions too.
STILL AT SQUARE ONE
Has the 'global war against terror' changed the world to make it a safer place? During this decade, US and Nato forces had militarily intervened, in a significant manner, in various parts of the world on 12 occasions.
The most blatant, of course, is the war against Iraq and its military occupation. The US's ongoing military intervention in Afghanistan has already claimed the lives of 2,702 Nato soldiers.
As of August 30, 2011, according to Associated Press, at least 4,474 US military personnel had died in the Iraq war. Put together, these numbers are more than double of those hapless innocents who perished in the attacks on the twin towers.
A worse crime against humanity is reflected in the death of innocent civilians. Over a million are estimated to have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan alone during this decade.
In other words, over 300 times as many people have been killed in these battlefields than those who perished in the 9/11 attacks. The US state department maintained data that was available in the public domain in 2004 shows that more than 130 times as many people have been killed in these two wars than those whose lives were claimed in all terrorist attacks in the world from 1993 to 2004.
Given the sharp rise in these numbers, post- 2004, the state department statistics have remained 'classified'.
This reality at ground zero resoundingly testifies, once again, that State terrorism unleashed by US and Nato and terrorism perpetrated by individual fundamentalist organisations only feed on each other.
Apart from Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of civilians have become casualties in this so-called war against terror. US estimates suggest that over 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed between 2004 and 2010 and over 40,000 grievously injured.
We can only share the agony of our brethren across the border, with the unqualified opposition to all forms of terror.
Has this global war against terror led to a 'peace dividend'? On the contrary, US military spending has exponentially increased since 2001. It spent an astounding $698 billion on its military in 2010 alone, an 81% increase over the last decade, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
Its overall military spending more than doubled during the last decade. According to Brown University's estimates, in 'costs of war', the US could have spent as much as $ 4.4 trillion in these military interventions.
This does not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the combined costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan surpassed $6 trillion.
Far from a 'peace dividend', which expected such resources to be spent on people's welfare, the entire burden of these high military expenditures, financed by borrowings are being borne by these very people through severe reduction in the quality of life.
On top of this, we now have the global recession which is imposing another round of deprivation on people's livelihood. The manner in which the crisis is sought to be overcome has resulted in staggering amounts being spent to bail out corporates.
The capitalist State, thus, is converting corporate insolvencies into sovereign insolvencies. The net result is that in order to finance such huge borrowings, severe austerity measures are being imposed across the developed world leading to a further erosion on the quality of life of millions.
Notwithstanding such a balance sheet of developments, the US-led Nato forces have now embarked on their latest military intervention in Libya. By the end of this September, it is estimated that the US would have spent at least $844 million in this war on Libya.
Is all these happening because of a criminal inhuman dispensation of the political leadership or is there a pattern that remains masked behind these developments?
As has been with Iraq and Afghanistan, so is this war on Libya dictated by the interests of the US and the West to control the oil and energy resources of the region. About 95 % of Libya's territory is covered by desert.
Technology made it possible to discover vast fields of excellent quality light oil, currently providing 1.6 million barrels per day (with the potential of producing much more) and abundant natural gas deposits. Further, its harsh desert lies above an enormous lake of fossil water making it a place of unique natural resources. Therefore, the military occupation of Iraq, founded on by now proven utter falsehoods, is directly related to the quest to control the oil resources.
Afghanistan is absolutely crucial for multi-billion dollar profits that can be generated if the US can secure the safety of pipelines from the Caucasus and Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. Control over Afghanistan is, thus, crucial.
So, whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya today, these military interventions are triggered by the need to generate massive profits. This is all the more necessary for the US in the background of the current global recession.
Thus, far from abating, US-led military interventions may well increase in the coming days.
President Obama, notwithstanding his universally acclaimed announcement to shut down Guantanamo Bay, has chosen to maintain it. The extraordinary rendition and military commissions conducted by US and Nato earlier in Libya are now set to continue.
President Obama may have presided over the execution of Osama. But the world, a decade after 9/11, is neither free from terrorism. Nor has it improved the livelihood of the vast millions of our people.
(Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal)
THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND
History is all set to be created with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh on September 6. While there are quite a few bilateral issues to be addressed, a hallmark of the visit will be the proposed signing of the land swap agreement.
The agreement will not only put an end to the sufferings of the people living on those tracts of land but will also secure our borders.
However, some political parties, mainly the BJP and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), have expressed their reservations to such a move on the ground that India will be a loser. Though transfer of territory to another country tends to be a sentimental issue, we have to be pragmatic and focus on the gains.
By signing the land swap agreement, India will gain more than it loses.
India and Bangladesh share 4,094 km of land border. Major border disputes involve the delimitation of the 6.5 km boundary, enclaves and land in adverse possession (LAP).
The land border agreement between India and Bangladesh signed in 1974 could not be implemented due to the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the first prime minister of Bangladesh. Occasional negotiations on this issue yielded no result.
Delay in resolving issues, particularly the enclaves and LAP, not only affected the people living in those areas but also emerged as a source of conflict between the two countries. In total, there are 162 enclaves — 111 belonging to India but inside Bangladesh and 51 belonging to Bangladesh but within India — with about 54,000 people living in them.
In the case of LAP, 34 pieces of India's land are under Bangladesh's control while 40 pieces of Bangladesh's land are under India's control.
Living in areas totally detached from the mainland and impossible to administer, the people are almost stateless. Worse, they were landlocked, their small patches of lands surrounded by foreign territory.
Absence of an administrative mechanism make these areas susceptible to regular crimes. They also emerged as a major gateway for cross-border crimes like narcotics, arms supply, fake currency, flesh trade and even illegal migration.
Occasionally, these disputed tracts led to violence along the border, with people clashing over conflicting claims to these lands. The problem escalated when border guards would get involved, resulting in cross-border firing. Due to lack of clarity about the border, people entered foreign territory by mistake and became victims of firing by border guards.
The death of their nationals in the hands of the BSF gets regular attention in the Bangladeshi media, leading to increased antagonism towards India. In fact, the anti-BSF sentiment is so strong in Bangladesh that the issue is constantly raised in all bilateral forums.
The swapping of land will bring clarity to the border, which will eventually lead to improved border management that will have ramifications for overall security. This initiative will also help in controlling illegal migration.
Besides, the move will help gain the confidence of the people of Bangladesh. Giving away around 40 sq kilometres of land will show that India is not only a big neighbour but also a large-hearted one.
A change in India's attitude will reduce scepticism in Bangladesh and lead to a sense of optimism all around.
(Joyeeta Bhattacharjee is associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal)
T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".
Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."
No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.
Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Nine MPs, from several parties, have filed notices with the presiding officers of their Houses accusing various people associated with Anna Hazare's agitation of violating the privileges of Parliament. Those named in the notices include Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and even actor Om Puri. While many would agree that much of what was said from the stage at the Ramlila Maidan was disrespectful of democratic politics, serving breach-of-privilege notice on those saying those words does not reflect a mature, liberal polity. At this time of strain, especially, Parliament must be seen to be above petty point-scoring with those who would seek to demean or undermine it. It is fortunate, therefore, that the presiding officers of both Houses have not chosen to act on the petitions, immediately; it allows tempers to cool. Nor does it appear the petitions are more than a few individual, offended MPs: political parties have not thrown their weight behind them, and the BJP, at least, has chosen to prudently dissociate itself.
This moment should therefore be viewed as an occasion to examine the very nature of parliamentary privilege itself. The time has come, foreseen by the framers of the Constitution — and reiterated at the time of the 44th Amendment, in 1978 — to clearly codify what privileges members of Parliament enjoy. When the Constitution was adopted, the appropriate articles chose to refer to the (largely unwritten) privileges enjoyed by members of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom; an argument that this would be inappropriate for a free country's constitution was shot down by the point that similar articles existed in the laws of Canada and Australia. Since then, however, the discourse, codification and jurisprudence on privilege has moved on in the rest of the Commonwealth. The time has come for India, too, to take these steps.
Historically, parliamentary privilege existed not to exalt but to protect MPs; not to insulate them from words, but to secure them from external efforts to prevent them from performing their functions as representatives. To persist with an interpretation that prevents MPs from being the subject even of ill-informed criticism is illiberal. Parliament should, once again, restore to itself the status of being above the fray — by finally discussing, and setting in stone, its own privileges.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
The fact of India-Bangladesh ties coming up to a new level is set to paradigmatically change the economic geography and political face of the eastern subcontinent. This is the broader context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh. Not only incremental regional economic integration but also big-ticket ideas such as a trans-Asian road and rail network have been on hold because of the hitherto inability of India and Bangladesh to qualitatively change their bilateral dynamic. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's initiatives came at an opportune moment when global perceptions about Dhaka's economic prospects have become distinctly optimistic. But Bangladesh's plans of becoming the subcontinent's economic bridge, tying it to Southeast Asia, would have gone nowhere without substantially improving ties with New Delhi. For the promise of restored connectivity between the Indian mainland and its landlocked Northeast and mutual prosperity, Delhi had agreed to move ahead with the Teesta and Feni water-sharing agreement besides sorting out the border demarcation issue.
Which is why, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's last-minute threat to refuse to accompany the prime minister to Dhaka, over the very issue of water-sharing, is disappointing. While three other border-state chief ministers — Assam, Tripura and Mizoram — will be in Dhaka, this was also meant to be a big moment for Bengal in particular, to get over the disruptions of Partition. Granting Banerjee the right to disagree on river water in her capacity as the chief minister of an affected state, water-sharing is after all only one issue, albeit very important for both Bangladesh and West Bengal. But to haggle over a few cusecs of water therein is to miss the larger picture, which is precisely what Banerjee's latest tantrum amounts to. Instead, as the chief minister of West Bengal, Banerjee needs to be more pro-active in encouraging Delhi and Dhaka on the integrated river management projects, in order to move ahead and not back.
For now, the Union government will not move on Teesta waters without consulting Banerjee. Nevertheless, this turn still shows how pertinent local feedback and involvement are in dealing with subcontinental neighbours. The effort should be to make these factors facilitators and not obstructions.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
BOLT ON BOLT
A week after showing that currently the only man who can upset his plans is he himself, Usain Bolt anchored Jamaica to a record-breaking 4x100m relay at the World Championships in Daegu. The Sunday before he was called for a false start in the 100m final, forcing the International Association of Athletics Federations to re-examine their new and stringent rule for disqualification. Such is the power today of Bolt, who once aspired to be a cricketer and who hummed and hawed about running the 100m in the Beijing Olympics almost to the moment he actually did and shredded the existing record. After sprints' bad stretch of doping scandals — and some of the guarded acclaim for Bolt draws from this background — he has managed to re-position track as the main event.
This weekend too, Bolt ran the fourth fastest 200m in history, behind himself (Beijing 2008 and the 2009 World Championships at Berlin) and Michael Johnson (Atlanta Olympics). And then, he actually meditated on how he did not run his fastest — he ran a technical race, he said, the lane wasn't ideal for him, he did not "run a perfect corner". The message from Bolt is that the "legend" of Bolt will be written in the coming months, presumably concluding with the London Olympics.
The prospect is bracing. Because Bolt doesn't just attack world records, he crushes them, and he manages to find enough flaw in the record-breaking run to suggest further scope for improvement. Could that have been the problem with the 100m false start? Bolt, at 6 ft 5 in, is not the quickest of starters. He did say later that he was actually anxious. Howsoever he plans to rectify that, the coming year has just become that much more interesting.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
A CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY
Will Prime Minister Manmohan Singh make history during his trip to Bangladesh starting today, or repeat the tragic record of missed opportunities and mutual suspicion that marked the Bangladesh-India relationship, since the murder of Bangabandhu in 1975, but set on track by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit in January 2010?
The last-moment obstacle to the Teesta water-sharing treaty during Manmohan Singh's visit comes as a great shock to the people and government of Bangladesh and raises the vexed question, are we going to miss another opportunity to mend our bilateral relationship? It has undoubtedly cast a shadow over the trip. However, we are still hopeful that this last-moment let-down notwithstanding, the trip will produce some historic results.
It is perhaps not the occasion to look into the past, but it is definitely the moment to learn from it.
The lesson on our side is that, having made Bangladesh-India relations a near-compelling domestic issue, our politics, more or less, became defined by it. While a section of our leaders found India-bashing a cheap political ploy to mask their failure to address development challenges, their opponents became much too afraid to call the bluff of a mythical vote-bank politics that corroded our secular traditions and fanned a latent fundamentalism. Thus our vital bilateral relation with India became a prisoner of domestic politics that fed on a myopia and threatened to jeopardise our economic growth prospects.
The Indian failure has been both generic and specific. It was generic to the extent that in India's Pakistan-centric approach to the region she ignored all her smaller neighbours. The specific fault was India's failure to comprehend the negative impact of Farakka on our relations that mainstreamed anti-Indianism in the 1980s, till then a peripheral phenomenon in Bangladesh. For 18 unrelenting years, the economic and ecological devastation that Farakka wrought on large parts of Bangladesh remained unnoticed in India. Unbelievably, no mainstream Indian newspaper, magazine or TV station bothered to cover this great human tragedy occurring just next door.
Thankfully, Sheikh Hasina had both the courage and the vision to take considerable political risk and bring us out of a relationship frozen in suspicion and prejudice. The question is, will the Indian PM show the same courage and vision? There is no question that the moment is now for a historic breakthrough in Bangladesh-India relations. Public opinion here is far more open to regional connectivity than it has been for a long time. In India also, there is a new and healthy interest in Bangladesh and a desire to help us move forward.
As we understand, India's overwhelming concern is insurgency-cum-security in the northeastern states and their econo-mic development.
On the insurgency issue, Sheikh Hasina's government has taken the sternest of measures against Bangladesh's land being used in any way for that purpose. In a dramatic confidence-building measure, Bangladesh has responded to the full litany of Indian concerns. This we have done at considerable risk of exposing ourselves to the insurgents' wrath. All their clandestine outposts have been destroyed and their local links unearthed. As for good-neighbourly relations on insurgency, India really couldn't have asked for more.
On the related issue of tackling extremism within Bangladesh, once again, Sheikh Hasina's government has been extremely proactive. Here, she has moved more from Bangladesh's own future perspective than from India's concern, yet the importance and relevance of this move cannot be lost on her policy-makers.
With significant progress on transit, India's development concerns for these backward states have also been largely addressed. With details being worked out and gradually put into practice, transit will provide India the connectivity that she has been desiring since the birth of Bangladesh. However, India must see connectivity not only from the perspective of its northeastern states but also in the context of greater linkages with Nepal and Bhutan.
As for Bangladesh's issues, we feel that the ball is in India's court. In contrast to Bangladesh having already delivered on India's demands, namely security and transit, India's delivery remains in the realm of the future. A treaty on Teesta water-sharing, which was promised since Sheikh Hasina's visit 20 months ago, is now up in the air. I cannot overemphasise the set-back that Teesta may bring to our relationship if it is not solved at the earliest. India cannot make it a part of its domestic politics.
Work on an overall agreement on the sharing of all common river waters must be completed in the shortest possible time. Worry over Tipaimukh Dam remains. Here, the Indian PM's earlier assurance that nothing will be done to harm Bangladesh's interest must be adhered to in both letter and spirit. However, we are aware that contending interests and conflicting viewpoints will remain on this increasingly scarce resource. As long as a win-win formula guides our every action, we can solve all problems that may confront us.
However, it is in the area of trade that India can really open its door to us and go the extra mile that we expect her to. The one step that will do wonders is to give duty-free access to all Bangladesh's export, which amounted to a mere $305 million in 2010 and $512 million last year.
According to 2007-2008 estimates by the Centre for Policy Dialogue, the premier think-tank of Bangladesh, if India gave duty-free access to all the 480 items on its present negative list, the loss of revenue would be approximately $5 million. Do we need to argue any further? By contrast, this will dramatically impact Bangladesh's growth. With the prospect of duty-free access to the Indian market, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs and non-resident Bangladeshis will expand their domestic investment spurring growth and employment.
Indian companies can also be persuaded to invest in Bangladesh for entry into the Indian market, greatly expanding our economy and also helping to reduce our trade deficit. Indian companies will also feel more confident in investing in Bangladesh if they have an assured market in mind. Investment in the infrastructure of Bangladesh will receive a great boost leading to greater connectivity both in Bangladesh and beyond.
In the case of all developing economies, the fundamental spur to growth has been, and continues to be, market access. India can give us that vital access. Will she? Indian leaders, especially Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, never tire of saying that India cannot grow in isolation. Without her neighbours participating in Indian advancement, her growth will not be sustainable, speeches reiterate. If India truly believes this to be true, then there is no better way of proving it than giving Bangladesh duty-free access to her market.
Bangladesh provides India a genuine opportunity to be the "Caring India" that can be its destiny. Will Manmohan Singh, for that matter the Indian leadership as a whole, have the vision to go for it? The moment is now.
The writer is editor of 'The Daily Star', Dhaka
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
THIS SYRIAN SUMMER
No one knows who wrote the lyrics to "Yallah Erhal Ya Bashar" but the thousands who chant this song of sedition have made their message explicit: "Come on Bashar, Leave." In their chanting, despite the possibility of bullets and bloodletting, they call for an end to Bashar al-Assad's 11-year regime. They chant: "Bashar stop hiding/ You're a wanted man in Hama/ Your mistakes won't be forgiven."
Six months into the Syrian uprising, those on the streets scored a victory late on Wednesday night. The attorney-general of Hama quit the government, the first high-level official to do so, and he departed only after he smeared the government. His message has gone viral on social network sites. He talks of the atrocities of the regime: mass graves in public parks being just one.
You ask, what sort of state does this? What sorts of people leave their country's most renowned political cartoonist with a broken hand on a side street to bleed? Ali Farzat was just doing his job: he published a cartoon showing Bashar al-Assad hitching an out-bound ride with Colonel Gaddafi. Farzat paid the price.
With at least 2,200 dead (UN figures), it is still not clear how the Syrian awakening, a product of the Arab Spring, will go. Despite calls from the international community for Bashar's exit, he refuses to surrender power. Bashar maintains he was elected to power in 2007: he secured 97 per cent of the vote. He was also the sole candidate in the election. Even Iran's Ahmadinejad has spoken out, calling for Bashar to head to the negotiating table: you know that when Iran speaks for basic freedoms something must have gone terribly awry in its ally's political landscape.
Hama encapsulates the struggle and the city is not without history. In 1982 the elder Hafez al-Assad carpeted the city, choked the uprising and killed at least 10,000. Hafez was the engineer of the current political system and his son, Bashar, built upon it and how.
There is complete centralisation of power with the Assad clan: Maher al-Assad is the head of the Presidential Guard, an elite group of security forces. Bashar's brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, heads the military intelligence and they all come from the small Alawi sect — 12 per cent of the population. Crafty alliances, however, are the regime's lifeblood: it is by capitalising alliances with the well-to-do Sunni majority that Bashar rules. But Syria is also a country where sectarian tensions are easily aggravated.
Again, Hama is an exemplary example. On the eve of Ramadan, the Syrian army raided Hama. Many died in the predominantly Sunni town and provoked ever-threatening sectarian repercussions. The Muslim Brotherhood accused the regime of "sectarian cleansing" and then news reports detailed attacks by Sunni extremists on Alawites. This retaliation enables Bashar to rule: it is either he (who can tame the minorities) or chaos.
This is not Egypt or Tunisia where the people spoke with one voice. The Sunnis themselves are divided. The wealthy Sunni merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo has the capacity to change the direction of this protracted revolution but thus far they have not joined others rising in the smaller, poorer locales. These gamechangers have sat silently on the fence, for life under Bashar is one of privilege. But this might soon change.
With the hard-hitting Western-imposed sanctions, the lives of the privileged are being threatened. A ministry of finance employee says the economic repercussions of the conflict are evident:
"I can't spend on my Visa or MasterCard outside of central Damascus." Lives were being disrupted: Syrian Airways has come to a halt due to an oil embargo, she explains. "Who is suffering, the politicians or the people?" she asks.
But she won't take to the streets. In another conversation the Damascus interpretation of the struggle is laid out: that this is an engineered revolution by extremist elements who want to overthrow the state, cause chaos, incite rebellion. Susanna, a bank employee, explains how her small local supermarket owner was offered $500 to protest. "This is not a real revolution," she says, but adds that reform is needed.
Syria faces another problem: the absolute absence of a genuine opposition. With membership or allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood punishable by death, the once powerful party can't organise within the country. Most of the other would-be opposition leaders are in exile and despite the attempted formation of a national transitional council; there is an absence of a coordinated view on a post-Assad Syria.
As the feel-good phase of the Arab Spring ends it ushers in the second phase. A longer, protracted struggle and a slow degradation of the Syrian regime.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
'CIVIL SOCIETY MUST REALISE THAT BY HAVING AN ACT, EVERYTHING IS NOT GOING TO BE GUNG-HO'
I am back with my favourite guest, Deepak Parekh. Welcome to Walk The Talk. When we spoke on this show last time, you were very worried about the state of the economy and decision-making.
I am extremely concerned that investment is not happening in India—both our local entrepreneurs as well as foreign entrepreneurs have both turned their backs on India. They are not investing because of the uncertainty, because of the corruption, because of the time it takes. A very senior industrialist told me, 'I cannot invest in India because if I start a project, I don't know what it will cost me and I don't know when I can start producing, because of all the permissions you require.' Now if that is the state of our affairs, how is India going to grow in the future years?
Somehow the view in Delhi seems to be that things are not so bad. Because 8 per cent (growth) is taken for granted.
I don't think so. I think we need to do something. We have been preoccupied in the last six months with different things—scandals, corruption, court cases, imprisonment of people (bureaucrats, businessmen) and the latest Anna Hazare issue...and we've just been shooting ourselves in our foot. We've messed up so many situations. What is wrong with all of us?
What is your top listing of the situations we've messed up?
We have messed up the handling of this civil society thing. Parliamentarians are the supreme bodies that make laws. They are our elected representatives. They have to debate draft Bills and discuss them. On Day 1, the government could have said, let us discuss both the Bills. Nothing would have happened. And Parliament—in which case there will be Opposition members, the Communist members—will debate and what they decide will finally become a law, will become an Act. Instead of one party or the ruling party saying we don't accept it or we don't accept part of it, they could have debated both. Anyway, it is with the Standing Committee, which can review it. The Standing Committee, as you know, has members of all political parties.
The Standing Committee can completely rewrite the law.
Yes. They could rewrite and then if parliamentarians take a view jointly, civil society has very little to oppose. You can oppose too, saying I don't like some tax laws, I don't like some company law. What do I do? I stand outside Parliament and shout? I can't change it. I think it has gone a bit too far and sometimes I feel it has become disruptive.
You have the other side also saying nothing should go to the Standing Committee, it's not needed.
We are getting such bad press internationally. People are laughing at us.
What is the nastiest thing somebody said to you lately?
The most nasty thing is, you are always on take-off stage, but the plane never takes off in India. For instance, the government has to get out of some businesses. What are the two major concerns today? One is high inflation, fiscal deficit. I don't believe in these rating agencies because they have misled the world—whether it is the sub-prime crisis, where they gave everyone an AAA rating, or India's BBB- rating. I don't accept (India's rating). I think we are a fast-growing economy, we are the second fastest growing nation. Why should we be plugged and be in the same bracket as Portugal and Iceland?
Then why do we get such a bad rating?
We have no influence in S&P, we don't sell our case properly. We always have some issues, fiscal deficit is one. Because domestic debt to GDP, our figures are lower than that of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece. But it is the fiscal deficit that causes inflation.
Also our basic notion of instability.
That's true, but high fiscal deficit means living beyond your means. So, how do you contain fiscal deficit? We need to spend more on social sectors, the national employment guarantee scheme, giving money to the poor, food subsidy, etc, but ultimately, the government has to sell businesses. Why should we fund Air India's losses? It's Rs 55,000 crore, the loss and debt put together. BSNL is equally large. Hindustan Aeronautics is going that way. Why don't we spend our money on improving our railways or on improving our infrastructure, instead of putting Rs 30-40,000 crore into one company? The government needs to improve agriculture, judiciary. What reforms have we done in the judiciary? We have massive outstanding cases. India has 10.5 judges for a million people. In America, it is 100 for a million.
Do you get the sense that anybody has the time to focus on these things or is the government going from crisis to crisis?
The government is going from crisis to crisis. There are so many inter-ministerial conflicts I can talk about but which never get solved and things never improve. There must be someone, the Cabinet Secretary or the PM's office, who must take a quick decision. They are all complex issues, there are no easy solutions, someone will not like it and someone will win. But it's not about victory and loss, the country has to move forward.
But what do we do, short of fresh elections and a new government?
Well, this government still has about three years to go. They have to get their act together, I guess. Reforms have to be the first priority but we can only do that after we solve the civil strife that is happening. This is rapidly growing across the country and we have to put a stop to it. CEOs and chairmen of foreign firms that have invested in India have called me in the last two weeks and asked me if it was time to pull out of India, is this like the stir we saw in Egypt, in Tahrir Square? This year, from calendar year January to August 23 or so, only $400 million has come in FII money; last year at this time, $14 billion had come in. And in the last two weeks, $2 billion has gone out.
So how does everybody get out of this jam? First of all, civil society versus the government?
Parliamentarians have to find a solution. It has gone to such extremes that even if a comma is changed by parliamentarians and the Standing Committee or if they add a full-stop, it won't be accepted. What the civil society must realise is that by having an Act, everything is not going to be gung-ho. Corruption is not going to go out. These are larger corruption issues, but look at the common man, the difficulties he has to go through on a daily basis. To get a passport, you have to bribe, to get a driving licence, you have to bribe. In Bombay, if you don't have a liquor permit in your wallet, you can't go to a bar. Besides, the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) of India who have to handle service tax, excise, octroi, sales tax, income tax, corporate tax, company tax—it is a nightmare for these people.
Would you say tax departments in India are more corrupt than they were 10 years ago?
I think everything is going down. You ask a common man, you can't get a driving licence or a passport without bribing. And ration card. But the Lokpal Bill is not going to take care of that. What we need is a bribery Act which the UK has implemented.
How does that work?
The UK Bribery Act has got the attention of international companies because you need not have an operation in England and yet you can be in deep trouble. The Act (takes care of) four things: Bribing someone, being bribed, bribing a foreign national or if the company has bribed somebody but the CEO or the chairman is not aware of it. For individuals, directors and managers, the fine is one million pounds and 10 years of imprisonment. For companies, 10 years of imprisonment for the directors and a fine and they won't be allowed to bid for government contracts for some years. If this is enacted and implemented, it will reduce corruption in our country because of the fear of going behind for 10 years. This should be introduced in India so even in a passport office, the man knows the risks, the consequences. If he is caught, he is in deep trouble. We need something like that.
Not a Lokpal sitting in Delhi.
Not a Lokpal sitting in Delhi or having regional Lokpals who will look at high-level corruption—the 2G scams of the world, Commonwealth Games...
So what are the 10 reforms that can be carried out in governance that reduces corruption and reduces citizen-state friction?
There are many things, like inflation. I think our biggest problem in inflation is food inflation. Now, we have to get out of these APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) laws, they are antiquated. We have to increase yields for our crops. Then we have to spend more money on the backend. Improve the supply chain, improve logistical deficiencies.
Fast-forward FDI in retail.
I would say FDI in retail, defence, insurance all that must be done because that's how investment comes in.
And we should look at that as not just economic reform but governance reform.
Yes, governance reform. Judiciary reforms, land acquisition. All infrastructure projects are at a standstill because land acquisition is one big issue. Now there is an amendment Bill on land acquisition in Parliament. Whatever the consequences of it, people may not agree or accept some of the clauses, let's get a new land acquisition Bill passed. It's in Parliament. It says, if you deprive someone of land, he should get annuity for 26 years. This is one of the conditions. Annuity is a small amount of money they get on a regular basis.
So what reforms can be carried out, say, in the interface of citizens with tax authorities?
We have some very old (tax) Bills with some amendments here and there but we need to take a holistic view of all these Bills. Then, I mentioned judicial reforms, I mentioned FDI, fiscal deficit. We have to contain fiscal deficit. Our rating is going to be reviewed in November. If we do not contain our fiscal deficit, our rating will come down to junk. The disinvestment programme is on a backburner. I still believe that if Indian public sector companies go to the market even in this day and age—though the markets are bad—Indian PSUs will still do well. You may not get the highest price.
Our finance minister seems to be saying: markets are volatile so we will not go to the markets.
We are not selling the whole PSU; we are selling 10 per cent, 15 per cent. That's how they increase revenue. Similarly, if they stop putting money in BSNL, Air India, HAL...they have to find ways of stopping otherwise, we will just feed the public sector corporations. Indian nationalised banks will need capital next year. From where are we going to get the money? Are we ideologically ready to come below 51 per cent (government holding in PSU banks)? No. Do we have money in the Budget? No. Last time, when banks needed capital, we got a 2 billion dollar loan from the World Bank to recapitalise Indian public sector banks. World Bank money should go to villages, upgradation of irrigation, roads and these types of projects, not for bank capitalisation.
One thing I want to ask you since you are in some ways the first citizen of Bombay. You don't find anger on the street as severe anywhere as in Bombay. Is it because, as a common friend of ours once said, Bombay has now become the world's most expensive slum? People are so disgusted with the state of their city that they blame everybody, particularly the political class for it.
No, we have got a new chief minister and we all expect a lot from him. He is trying to cleanse the system but the witchhunt in the past has been so severe. We had this Adarsh issue. Two-three people from the Urban Development department have been taken in and all they did was put up the paper as they were told. The mood in the government bureaucracy, not just in the IAS but even below them, is so low that they don't want to take any decisions. Today there are 200 cases pending on environment control with the state government. Now these are housing projects. What environment is a housing colony going to impact? It's not a factory or a chemical factory. Why can't we do this? It will give employment, it will use cement, steel and that's how the economy grows. There is a high-rise committee which is not taking any decisions so no high-rise buildings are getting approved for the last 12 months.
So the decline of Bombay is massive.
Yes, the decline of Bombay is a major, major issue.
So is it something that the chief minister needs to address or do you think the Prime Minister should also get seized of it as Bombay is the angriest city in the country?
The Prime Minister has to get involved. I'll give you an example. The Urban Land Ceiling Act was repealed in 2007 in Maharashtra. Maharashtra was one of the last states to do so. But today, if you go for a plan approval for a building, they will still ask you to get an NOC of Urban Land Ceiling (ULC). Even today, no one will look at a file till you get a ULC, so you have to pay money.
Are you losing hope or are you optimistic?
You have to be optimistic, you can't lose hope in India. We have enormous problems but that is our strength, how to convert problems into opportunities and take advantage of them.
Do you see the civil society movement as a negative or do you see it as a positive?
I saw it as a positive when it started, but with time and with the demands raised by civil society, I think now they are overdoing it. And you know they are self-appointed. There has been no referendum or no selection, election or whatever it is of individual citizens from across the country. One of the MPs mentioned in Parliament and I read that, 'What kind of a committee is this? There is no Muslim, no Christian, no Dalit, no Scheduled Caste, no Sikh.'
So in conclusion, what would be your advice to civil society and the government in dealing with this crisis of corruption.
To civil society: You made the point very strongly and everyone has been shaken up from their slumber and they will do something to bring the anti-corruption Bill into Parliament. It may not be 100 per cent of what we want, but it will be 95 per cent of what we want. So let us accept it as a good beginning, a very good beginning.
And your advice to the Government?
The government has lots to do. Pending reforms in judiciary, pending reforms in financial sector, PSU. Please contain fiscal deficit. Agricultural reform, infrastructure projects. Black money is also the concern of civil society. A lot of that comes out of land, real estate. Our business is reasonably clean now. Even in lending, I can tell you 90 per cent of all flats sold in India are full cheque payments. It was 10 per cent some years ago, so there has been a huge improvement.
So now there is huge amount of work that needs to be done.
Huge amount of work needs to be done as we have lost six months due to 2G and CWG. We have to catch up and we can catch up.
So essentially, what you are saying is that if you focus now, you can still be optimistic otherwise the state of India's economy will begin to look like the state of India's cricket—junk.
We still have the one-dayers, we have not lost that.
Transcribed by Arun Subramanian
(This interview was recorded before Anna Hazare broke his fast)
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
DETAIL OF RETAIL
The organised retail industry has been following a cyclical pattern in the country, albeit by default. If the period between 2006 and mid-2008 was marked by huge growth, the next year saw a slowdown that all entrants utilised to restructure their businesses. Some even collapsed, like Subhiksha and Vishal Retail. FY 2009-10 again saw growth, but the pain points hadn't exactly been cured, with debt and losses high on virtually every retailer's balance sheet. Opening up multi-brand retail to foreign investment is expected to solve some of these problems. Foreign retailers, faced with a slowdown in most of their home bases, are keen to tap the rising middle class population; buying stakes in domestic retail companies will pump in money to cut debt and help build up effective supply chains. But while the government has moved in the right direction with an inter-ministerial panel giving a go-ahead to 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, the delay in Cabinet approval means the plans are still only on the drawing board. Meanwhile, the global and domestic slowdowns mean that the approvals could mean little when they come through.
Kishore Biyani's Future Group, India's largest retailer, is saddled with debt of around R4,000 crore—the largest among the retail firms. Vishal Retail's debt is also high, at around R700 crore. Companies like Shoppers Stop and Tata Group's Trent also have debt in excess of R200 crore. Figures of Reliance Retail and Aditya Birla Retail are not in the public domain, but they too have problems. Worse, the companies are posting losses in their current operations, too. Therefore, instead of waiting for the opening up of the sector to foreign investments, the retailers need to restructure their business now. Rising interest rates are pulling back growth in sales—from cars down to inexpensive biscuits—so domestic retail firms have to reexamine which format suits them the best. Despite the opening of the FDI window, this period of weak growth will persist for some time. Companies need to balance their debt overhang with growth.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
The arrest of G Janardhana Reddy—former tourism and infrastructure minister in the Karnataka Cabinet, and one of the three eponymous brothers in the Bellary mining scam—by the CBI is a welcome development. It is a step in tune with the larger picture developing in India of the prosecuting agencies moving against the large business-political nexus. The iron-ore mining scam has been one of the largest to have rocked India, featuring in the league of the 2G and the Commonwealth Games scandals. But the critical missing element in the picture is the former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde's report. The current case, which led to the arrest of Janardhana Reddy and his cousin BV Srinivas Reddy (the director of the family-held Obulapuram Mining Company), is based on a complaint filed by CBI in Andhra Pradesh. The Hegde report, which is easily the most damning part of the entire saga, does not feature in the CBI action and will also not be a part of the CBI chargesheet. Since that report was filed by the Lokayukta to the Karnataka government, unless Bangalore impleads itself in the case, the CBI investigation would be partial.
The meat of the accusations against the Reddy brothers relates to their illegal exports of iron ore and sale to domestic steel industry from mines in Karnataka during 2006-10. The value of the scam estimated by the Lokayukta is R12,228 crore. The report had said that the Obulapuram Mining Company, in which the Reddy brothers were promoters, was simultaneously exporting ore extracted from Andhra Pradesh through the Chennai port. It is these consignments that the CBI is investigating. While it is eminently possible for the CBI to use the Hegde report as a template to develop a similar case in Andhra Pradesh, the Lokayukta report shows that a sort of foolproof piecing together of evidence is extremely difficult. In the process, the accused could get plenty of leeway. But it is here that the BJP, if it is keen to show that it also means business against corruption, should step in to direct its government in Bangalore to cooperate with the CBI in its investigation. Otherwise, it will be shocking if, despite a brilliant report at our disposal, it becomes impossible to convict those responsible for the scam. It is also necessary for the CBI not to get distracted by all the red herrings—which is what is happening in the 2G scam—and instead go for the jugular. With the two political parties ranged on opposite sides in this scam, the investigating agency has begun on a weak note by going to Andhra Pradesh, ruled by the Congress party, instead of launching its investigation from Bangalore. Let's hope the subsequent proceedings in the trial court are more aggressive.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
A $31-BN LOSS CREATES THE BIGGEST TEA PARTY
Few people in their right mind would find any good in a $31 billion loss. In India's case, it may just be the best thing that has happened in a very long time. Let's flash forward 20 years to what school kids will learn about recent events. Sure, they may hear about Anna Hazare, the anti-corruption activist whose hunger strike shamed a government. More than anything, they may learn than Hazare was a symbol of the national sense of disgust over an opaque phone-licence deal that squandered $31 billion. While that's a big figure anywhere, it's appalling in a nation in which 76% of its 1.2 billion people live on less than $2 a day. As public anger soars, history will probably record this loss as the proverbial last straw.
Walking the streets of India's cities, I can't help but feel the biggest democracy is seeing its own Tea Party movement. Only unlike America's, which is fiscally conservative and libertarian in nature, India's is about the government doing more—ending the stifling bureaucracy and offering better services. This could just be the Indian turning point for which investors have waited. "I think a genie has been let out in India that won't get back into the bottle," said Jesse Lentchner, Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific chief executive officer for BTIG LLC, a broker dealer. "It all started in 1991, and what we're seeing now suggests reform is accelerating."
Now is also an apt time to look back two decades. It was then that Manmohan Singh brought free-market reforms to India as finance minister. He scrapped red tape and removed the state-enforced restraints on various industries, paving the way for today's 7% growth. Yet as Prime Minister since 2004, he and his government have dragged their feet on attacking the rampant corruption that leads to too many Indians being mired in poverty. There is a sense that his failure to use the rapid growth of the mid-2000s to upgrade the economy was a huge missed opportunity.
Last year's humiliating Commonwealth Games in New Delhi should have ended the complacency. The international media were aghast at shoddy construction, work delays, claims of tainted swimming-pool water that some athletes say caused "Delhi belly", a dengue-fever outbreak and 100-roll packs of toilet paper going for $80. The phone-permit sale predates the Commonwealth Games, though a steady diet of disclosures emerged in recent months. In November, telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja resigned amid allegations that a 2008 auction of phone licences was rigged and cost the state tens of billions of dollars. The audacity of the alleged fraud, the dollar amount and the government's tepid response outraged the nation. With each passing month of inaction by Singh and the president of his Indian National Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, public ire grew. Things began reaching a fever pitch in June, when police used teargas and batons to break up an anti-graft protest in New Delhi and evict yoga guru Swami Ramdev, who had joined the movement. Hazare's hunger strike got more attention, partly because of the government's ham-handed response. Arresting Hazare was just plain nutty. So was Singh, once a highly respected development economist, in attacking anti-graft protests as a danger to India's democracy. Singh showed that he had missed the point completely. The whole reason for the public anger is that India's democracy is failing the masses.
The parallels between the Indian and US Tea parties reflect public anger at elites, rather than the substance of their grievances. Most Indians don't want the government out of their lives—they want it to do better by them. Indians are less antagonistic toward public spending than their American counterparts and instead demand that it benefit the broader economy.
As in the US, India's version of the Tea Party seemed to come out of nowhere to alter the political landscape in sudden and unpredictable ways. For too many years, politicians pooh-poohed the need to clean up India. In 2010, the nation ranked 87 out of 178 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, tied with Albania and Liberia. India needs change, and the grass-roots fury coursing through New Delhi and Mumbai shouldn't be downplayed. It's real, it's raw and it's set to explode anew if politicians renege on their pledge to tackle graft. On August 27, as both houses of Parliament passed a resolution to do just that, one could sense the electricity in the air.
"We're seeing history in the making here," Adi Godrej, the billionaire chairman of Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, told me in Mumbai. "Whatever happens from here, our economy will be better off for it." Added Krishnamurthi Venkataramanan, head of engineering and constructions projects at Larsen & Toubro Ltd in Mumbai: "Indians have had enough, and these protests mean the government can no longer ignore corruption."
Observers are free to quibble with the details. Some worry about creating a massive new bureaucracy that merely centralises corruption. Others claim it's better to enforce graft laws already on the books. There's also concern that this is all window dressing. Once the crowds disperse, nothing will change in Asia's third-biggest economy. They are missing the point. Indians are fed up with how prosperity is eluding so many of them. They are disheartened to see China racing ahead while they walk past shantytowns and child beggars every day. And now India's brand of Tea Party movement has had a taste of success. If you think this genie is going back in the bottle, you're dreaming.
THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
The euphoria surrounding the draft guidelines released by RBI for licensing of new private sector banks is justified given the anticipation and the opportunity. The guidelines provide a fair degree of clarity on critical issues such as capital, shareholding, listing, governance, eligibility criteria, foreign equity, connected lending and other stipulations. Many of these are in the tradition of earlier guidelines for private sector banks, the notable differences being in the area of foreign bank/NRI participation and additional requirements imposed on the proposed banks.
But despite the painstaking detailing of the regulatory thought process in the discussion paper and in the draft guidelines, there is not enough clarity on certain key areas. Unlike the 2001 guidelines, the current guidelines are not specific on the number of licences to be given over a time horizon, composition of the high-level advisory committee or application processing time. Which is just as well, since there will be enough time for RBI to make such preparations between the draft and the final guidelines, while the all-important amendments to the Banking Regulation Act are carried out.
Interestingly, the draft guidelines do not mention the recommendations of the working group report on the introduction of financial holding companies (FHCs), even though the report had stated that RBI would frame a suitable regulatory framework for FHCs in consultation with other regulators, pending enactment of a separate FHC Act. The guidelines seem to settle this issue by mandating that applicants need to incorporate a non-operative holding company (NOHC) and register it with RBI as a non-banking finance company (NBFC). This presupposes that the FHC regulation of RBI will be ready before the final guidelines are published, giving RBI the ability to exercise the desired supervisory authority over FHCs and promoters at large and adapt the NBFC framework to accommodate the needs of the NOHC.
Regarding the number of licences to be given, there are clear pointers as to the number being small. Given the changes in the Indian economy in the last decade, it is to be expected that RBI will find many worthy applications. In addition, the inclusion of industrial houses will throw up applicants that were outside the reckoning in the past. The draft guidelines are keen to establish tenets that will help sift through this long list of worthies. Hypothetically, the merits of the process will be in rewarding the best, soundest set of well-diversified promoter groups with the best track record, who demonstrate the ability and willingness to create well-capitalised, financially-inclusive banks that are profit-making and run on exemplary principles of governance and disclosure.
What is going to complicate this exercise is the fact that the applications and business plans are going to look very similar. Apart from statutory pre-emptions, and priority sector requirements, the new banks are also supposed to maintain a 12% CRAR, draw up commercially viable financial inclusion plans and open branches in the 3:1 ratio. This imposes upon the applicants something of a 'cookie cutter' business plan to take to RBI with minor variations in size or delivery models. On the other hand, applicants will invariably be diverse on subjective criteria such as promoters' background, group businesses, income streams, global presence, track record, corporate governance and such. Needless to say, the element of subjectivity in the selection process cannot be eliminated.
What helps in this scenario, to give a degree of comfort to decision makers, is clarity on rules of elimination. This was already set in motion in the discussion paper, which almost certainly eliminated aspirants with a significant interest in real estate. Although not as specifically as in the 2001 guidelines, non private sector applicants appear to be excluded. The draft guidelines introduce another rule of elimination—brokerage income. This comes as a surprise, since broking is not a prohibited activity for a banking group. As a matter of fact, many existing banks own significant broking businesses. It remains to be seen whether the inclusion of brokers in the list of ineligible promoters is a first sign of a major policy change or merely a convenient rule of elimination.
While the ten-year track record is an objective rule of elimination, it needs to be defined what RBI will consider to be 'successful'. Similar would be the case with 'diversified' ownership or 'good' corporate governance. It is likely that the final guidelines will contain or be complemented by internal guidelines that will help operationalise these rules through the use of benchmarks such as rating, financials, net worth and such.
This brings us to the most ticklish rule of elimination—integrity of promoters. The central bank, with its past experience, cannot be expected to be enthusiastic about this selection criterion. After all, despite the rigorous process, there have been many misses and near misses in the past. Here comes the idea of checking with other regulators and investigating agencies. While it is to be applauded that these reports are not being collected in secrecy, but with open knowledge of the applicants, given the track record of our investigating agencies, this will call for some dexterous handling by both applicants and the central bank.
The last, but not the least interesting, rule of elimination could turn out to be the sharing of the applications on RBI's Website. This is in keeping with the times in which we live, but who knows what enthusiastic interest groups and assorted godmen with views on banking may come up with!
The author is director, tax & regulatory services, PwC
SEN AND SENSIBILITY
Impeachment is not merely a cumbersome business. It could also have divisive and other unintended consequences. This explains the sense of relief that Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court resigned on the eve of his certain impeachment by the Lok Sabha. It is welcome that there was a political consensus that the proceedings had become infructuous after his resignation had been accepted by the President. To have pressed on with impeachment, as Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati reportedly advised, may be justified on an interpretation of the law relating to Parliament and its functioning. But in a situation without clear precedents, it was far better that robust common sense prevailed, leading to the conclusion that it was unnecessary to impeach a person who has already demitted high office. Why Justice Sen did not see the light earlier and submit his resignation well before the Rajya Sabha voted overwhelmingly in favour of his impeachment, only he can explain.
This is the second time Parliament has grappled with the challenge of impeaching a judge. But the circumstances relating to Justice Sen are strikingly different from those that saw Justice V. Ramaswami let off the hook in 1993, when the Congress abstained from voting on the motion. Although the power to impeach vests with Parliament, the move was kick-started — unusually and extraordinarily — by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan. He had recommended to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that impeachment proceedings be initiated under Article 124(4) of the Constitution against Justice Sen on the basis of an in-house inquiry, which declared him guilty of financial misconduct. Another unusual aspect is that the charges relate to a period when Justice Sen was a lawyer (he became a judge in 2003) and a case in which he was made a court-appointed receiver in 1984. Even though he was absolved of "misappropriation" by a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, there is no doubt that he had acted with gross impropriety. He had mixed the funds entrusted in his capacity as a receiver with his own, failed to prepare and file accounts as required, and repaid the money with interest in 2006 only after he was directed to do so by a judge of the Calcutta High Court. Disgraced he might be, but anti-corruption campaigners will contend that he has got away lightly. There are two key lessons to be learnt from l'affaire Sen. The first and obvious lesson is that only those with impeccable integrity must be appointed to the higher judiciary. The second is that legislation for a Judicial Conduct Commission with a strong mandate has become an urgent imperative.
ARE LIBYA'S FRIENDS FOR REAL?
Suspicions grow about the motives of the United Kingdom and France, the primary international patrons of Libya's interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), in enabling the almost-completed overthrow of Muammar al-Qadhafi. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was not short of fine words in his March 19 statement that his country was protecting the civilian population of Libya against the "murderous madness" of a regime which, by assassinating its own people, had "lost all legitimacy." But substantial evidence is already emerging of extensive links between major oil corporations and the British and French governments in supplying the rebels and in the reconstruction of Libya's only large-scale industry, which is oil production. An analysis in TheGuardian mentions meetings between Britain's junior Minister for International Development, Alan Duncan, and the crude-oil trader Vitol, with whom Mr. Duncan had previous business connections. Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has tried strenuously to rebut allegations in a letter obtained by the daily Libération to the effect that the NTC had promised French companies 35 per cent of future Libyan oil production. Prospective western attitudes towards the government-in-waiting are thrown further into question by The Independent' s revelation, based on documents formerly possessed by the Libyan defector and former security boss Moussa Koussa, that Britain and the United States offered prisoners to Libya under the rendition programme in the so-called war on terror, and that the British intelligence service, MI6, provided Mr. Qadhafi with information on exiled Libyan opponents and dissidents.
Once in office, the NTC will desperately want to revive oil production as a prerequisite for further economic development, but the conditions under which it can do so will not be in its hands. It may find that the terms of new contracts are imposed by foreign companies, and that if it attempts to favour western firms over oil industries in Russia, China, and India — all of which abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote authorising military support for the uprising — then it might incur lasting opprobrium from those potentially important partners. Further complications for the new government in Tripoli could arise from the fact that its patrons, the U.K., France, and the U.S., were not nearly as hostile to Mr. Qadhafi as they would have the rest of the world believe. In addition, if the NTC goes about nationalising the country's oil industry as part of a programme of economic reconstruction, it could end up at the receiving end of western-induced regime change.
BOMBING OF LIBYA MOST ACCURATE EVER: NATO
NATO's top official says the bombing campaign against Libya is unique due to the unprecedented precision of the alliance's airstrikes.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that no air operation in history had been so accurate and so careful in avoiding civilians casualties. NATO has conducted 22,000 sorties, including over 8,000 strike missions, since the first attacks were launched in March.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance had degraded a war machine built up over more than 40 years, and that the airstrikes would continue until "the threat is over for good."
NATO has been criticised for overstepping its limited U.N. mandate to enforce a no-fly zone and protect threatened civilians. — AP
WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS SHOW THAT GOOD HIGHER EDUCATION CAN BE A BARGAIN
British students looking for any way to avoid £9,000 tuition fees payable at most U.K. universities and still attend a top-flight institution could do worse than look at Trinity College, Dublin. The 400-year-old institution, ideally located to enjoy the "craic" of the fair city's nightlife, is ranked 65th in the world — just behind the London School of Economics — in the latest league table of the world's top universities, published on Sunday. But it does not charge tuition fees to students from the U.K.
QS, the international career and education network that compiled the latest world rankings, has for the first time compared tuition costs for all 600 universities. And in the top 200, many have fees below England's top whack of £9,000 a year.
So what are the realistic options for students willing to pack their trunk to save on the debts? Dutch institutions are worth a look. Amsterdam university (ranked 63rd), offers numerous undergraduate degrees taught in English, and charges EU students just €1,713 a year in tuition fees. Also among the top 100 universities in the world are Utrecht (80th) and Leiden (88th).
For those happy to go further afield, Hong Kong has three universities in the top 50, all offering a good range of degrees taught in English. The University of Hong Kong is impressively ranked at number 22, with the Chinese University of Hong Kong at 37 and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at number 40. Fees at the University of Hong Kong are £5,480 a year and £7,829 at the other two, and all three offer a variety of scholarships.
Outdoor types may find Nordic institutions attractive. But the universities of Copenhagen (52nd), Helsinki (89th), Uppsala (83rd) and Lund (86th) do not offer degrees taught in English. Though any would-be undergraduate who happens to be bilingual in Danish, Finnish or Swedish could be laughing in both their languages. ETH Zurich (18th) and Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (35th), overlooking Lake Geneva, are among the cheapest fee-charging institutions in the league table and are a good option for those interested in studying for an English degree (other subjects are taught in German and French respectively). Fees are just 580 Swiss Francs (£435) a semester for both bachelor and masters degrees — foreign students pay the same as domestic undergraduates.
In contrast, U.S. universities, which dominate the top 20, are likely to be beyond the reach of most students, unless they're lucky enough to get a scholarship. Most of the U.S. universities listed charge $38,000-$40,000 (£23,400-£24,600) a year, which does put the £9,000 fees of many U.K. institutions in a different light. "At undergraduate level, all of the U.K. institutions listed are comparatively good value," says Ben Sowter, head of research at QS.
U.K. universities fare well in this year's QS rankings, with 54 in the top 600. Of these, over half are ranked in the top 200 and there are nine in the top 50. The rankings are based on research quality, graduate employability, teaching and how international the faculties and students are.
Cambridge this year pips Harvard to the top spot for the second year in a row, while Oxford, Imperial and University College London come fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. U.S. institutions continue to dominate, with six universities in the top 10 and 20 in the top 50. But whereas U.K. institutions, including Cambridge, tend to do well in terms of how international their students and faculties are, Harvard, like most U.S. universities, "struggles to compete" in this respect, Mr. Sowter says.
However, the tables show that if the listings were ranked according to employers' preferences, Harvard would come top, Oxford second and Cambridge third. In fourth place, come Manchester (29th in the overall table), Warwick (50th) and the LSE (64th), in equal place with Melbourne and the American Ivy League institutions MIT, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011
PAKISTAN: UNDOING A COLONIAL LEGACY
At best they are baby steps towards changing a colonial hand-me-down, but by virtue of being the first change ever to be made in the 1901 vintage Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), the recent amendments are being billed as a "New Deal" for the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) which, as a collective, are seen as the epicentre of global terrorism.
Even these tentative steps towards mainstreaming FATA — where most of the laws of the land do not apply — took a while after the Pakistan People's Party-led dispensation at the federal level announced them on the eve of the 2009 Independence Day. They were finally signed into effect by President Asif Ali Zardari on August 12 this year; signalling a softening in the military's opposition to these reforms.
But this shift in the military's position came only after the federal government issued two identical notifications — Action (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011 — for FATA and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) that give unprecedented powers to the armed forces combating terrorism in these areas with retrospective effect from February 1, 2008, and also allowing them to detain terror suspects for 120 days.
Human rights activists and aid agencies working in the area fear this would again lead to misuse of power and nullify the dilution of some of the draconian provisions in the FCR. "If these fears turn out to be real, the FCR amendments will be like giving rights with one hand and taking them away with the other," wrote veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai in The News .
Given that FATA is a much-talked about but little known area, first a bit on the FCR. When the British annexed these areas in 1848, they sought to use the fiercely independent tribes to act as a bulwark against "Russian expansionism in Central Asia" by allowing them their writ over internal affairs, according to tribal codes, while retaining control on matters of security of British India.
With this quid pro quo arrangement under constant challenge — as per one account there were 62 military expeditions in the area between 1849 and 1889 — the British imposed the first incarnate of the FCR prescribing special procedures for the tribal areas distinct from the criminal and civil laws in force elsewhere in the subcontinent.
When these regulations — based on the idea of collective territorial responsibility and dispute resolution through a jirga (council of elders) — failed to subdue the region, the British expanded the scope of the FCR in 1901 to give powers, including judicial authority, to administrative officials.
The institution of the "political agent" was created and each of the four agencies — Mohmand, Bajaur and Orakzai were added to FATA after 1947 — was administered by such a government appointee with wide powers and funds to secure the loyalty of influential elements in the area. The "maliki" system was developed to allow the colonial administration exercise control over the tribes, with "maliks" acting as intermediaries between members of individual tribes and the British authorities.
Still, the British control over the area remained tenuous and the regime persisted after the various tribes in the region entered into an agreement with the Government of Pakistan following Independence through as many as 30 instruments of accession. And, this troika of political agent, malik and FCR — which arguably is based on the Pathan tribal code "Pakhtunwali" — had no room for "appeal, wakeel or daleel " (engaging a lawyer or reliance on reasoning).
The penal provisions were harsh and included rounding up an entire tribe for a crime committed by one member, demolition of hamlets, villages or towns on the frontier, removal of persons from their places of residence and confiscation of property without compensation. Though these provisions violate basic human rights and the Constitution, that very corpus of law mandates in Article 247 (3) that no Act of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) will apply to FATA and PATA without a special directive from the President.
Ironically enough, the FCR regime — recognised and denounced as a bad law from the early days of Pakistan but retained for political/strategic expediencies — survived the various political upheavals the country faced through its 64 years. Out of sight, out of mind, the ban on political activity kept the tribal areas cut off from national discourse, though FATA served as the backyard of the security establishment's policy of attaining strategic depth. Together with red tape endemic to the bureaucracy, the delays in justice delivery and the ban on political activity created a vacuum that the Taliban found easy to fill with speedy and cheap delivery of justice through shariah courts when they took refuge in these parts following the U.S.-led international onslaught on Afghanistan, post-9/11.
The Global War on Terror brought the spotlight on an area that was used by the British in the first Great Game against Russia, and the U.S.-Pakistan nexus during the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan as a staging post for the mujahideen. According to Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar and someone who was involved in the policy formulation that introduced adult franchise in FATA in 1996, the Americans, British, Germans, Norwegians and Dutch spent considerable time and resources in researching the area and acting as a catalyst for these reforms.
What has been introduced is generally described as "good but insufficient," "too little too late," "the minimum that could be done," and "better late than never." Cynicism apart, just the fact that even the bare minimum took so long makes this "no mean achievement." Though limited in scope, the reforms in FCR seek to grant some basic rights to the tribal people who, according to various analyses, want a repeal of FCR or a comprehensive overhaul while factoring in some traditions.
Indefinite detention will no longer be possible and people can now appeal before the FCR tribunal. Cases have to be decided within a time frame and arrested persons can be released on bail. The collective punishment provision cannot be applied to women, children below 16 and men above 65, and property cannot be confiscated without compensation. Also, a degree of fiscal accountability has been introduced as the use of government funds by the political agent will now be scrutinised by the Auditor-General of Pakistan.
With the extension of the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 to FATA, people can participate in political activity, and political parties can function in the region without being penalised. Though FATA has a dozen members in the National Assembly and eight in the Senate, laws they make are not applicable to the area they represent as the writ of Parliament does not extend there. Neither does the writ of the Supreme Court or the High Court in Peshawar.
The extension of PPO to FATA has been hailed as a measure that would introduce bona fide political activity in the area and provide a counter-narrative to the one established by the Taliban but the Oslo-based academic from the area, Farhat Taj, argues otherwise in an article in Daily Times .
"Anti-terror political parties, like the Awami National Party (ANP), the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and PPP, will not be able to freely operate in the area. The political will of the tribal people will remain under siege of terror and the people may have to withdraw from the political process or align themselves with the religious parties as a means to escape the deadly anger of the Taliban and the state security apparatus behind them.
Thus, while theoretically the extension of the PPO is a giant step forward, practically it would take no less than the total shift in the military-controlled security policy regarding Afghanistan to make terror-free political participation for the tribal people an attainable civil rights entitlement," is her contention.
While these reforms have across-the-board political support, the ANP hopes that it will pave the way for wiping away at least one artificial division created by the British among the Pukhtoons; the Durand Line being the other major fault line. Though it remains a contentious issue — with some leading lights from the tribal areas like the former Ambassador, Ayaz Wazir — advocating provincial status to FATA on the lines of Gilgit-Baltistan, the ANP's ultimate aim is to merge it with Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa (formerly the North West Frontier Province).
As a first step, the party has proposed representation for FATA in the provincial assembly so that the tribal people can have a say in decision-making on infrastructural development in their area as the Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa government is responsible for some of the developmental work in these agencies.
But, like Mr. Zardari said, after signing the reforms package, the ANP is also treading carefully, maintaining that the door has been unlocked and it is for the people of the region to decide their future course. How that will be possible without weeding out terrorists and fanatic elements from the area is a question that begs an answer and beyond the realm of the political class.
Recent amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulations are being billed as a 'new deal' for the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, seen as the epicentre of terrorism.
INDIA-BANGLADESH TIES A MODEL FOR SOUTH ASIA'
Political scientist Dr. Gowher Rizvi , who is the International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, has been widely engaged in managing conflicts and strengthening democratic institutions and processes in Asia. A former director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation and former director of contemporary affairs at the Asia Society in New York , he has taught for nearly two decades at several British universities, including Oxford, and served as the Asia-Pacific head for the Oxford Analytical Daily Brief, a think-tank. His publications span the disciplines of history, politics, international relations and development economics. Dr. Rizvi shared his thoughts on India-Bangladesh relations with Haroon Habib in an interview in the context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh starting on September 6. Excerpts:
How do you see the visit of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh?
The visit, by all accounts, is truly historic. It will build on, and take forward, the vision and the transformative agenda charted by the two Prime Ministers during their New Delhi summit in January 2010. The joint communiqué spelled out as many as 46 areas of cooperation that are aimed to wipe out the hostilities and misgivings that previously characterised relations between the two countries. The visit will not only enable the two Prime Ministers to address some of the key outstanding issues — water, power, border disputes, trade and investment — but also spell out the direction and focus of the relations in the years ahead. The two Prime Ministers will seek to expand bilateral cooperation to incorporate sub-regional collaborations that would involve India's northeastern States, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal in the future, and especially to address the problems of water, power and connectivity.
What are the two countries going to achieve out of the summit meeting between Sheikh Hasina and Manmohan Singh, who have jointly initiated a new phase of bilateral relations following the Bangladesh Premier's landmark visit to New Delhi in 2010?
The two Prime Ministers have a large agenda to cover. The entire gamut of the relationship between the countries will be discussed. The Prime Ministers will take stock of the progress of implementation of the agreements outlined in the Delhi summit of January 2010, including the questions of boundary disputes, Teesta river water-sharing, power purchase agreement, trade liberalisation and the modalities for making connectivity more effective, environmental and cultural issues…. They will also look ahead and explore new areas of cooperation to address the many challenges facing the two countries, including poverty, terrorism, and the adverse effects of global warming.
What are the main issues that need to be addressed for a durable relationship?
There are some longstanding issues that date as far back as 1947 and have not been resolved till today. The most important issue concerns the land boundary between the two countries. This includes about 6.5 km of border that has never been demarcated; a large number of enclaves that belong to India and are located in Bangladesh and vice versa; the vexed issue of adverse possession of land where Indians and Bangladeshis are occupying land in each other's country; and the pressing demand for Bangladesh to have access, through Tin Bigha, to its enclaves in Angarapota and Dhahagram.
Second, it is expected that the two Prime Ministers will sign a framework agreement for development cooperation and an interim agreement to share Teesta river water; finalise the operational modalities for the use of transit facilities through Bangladesh; revisit the question of allowing Bangladesh manufacturers access to the Indian market tariff-free; the connection of the Indian power grid to that of Bangladesh; the power purchase agreement between the two countries; joint exploration of energy resources in the Bay of Bengal; joint conservation of the Sunderbans and the tiger reserve; coordinated and cooperative management of the rivers that are shared by the two countries; and a number of other issues. All in all, the meeting between the Prime Ministers is expected to raise the level of cooperation between the two countries to new heights.
Can the present phase of Dhaka-New Delhi relations influence a greater South Asian understanding on ways to achieve peace, stability and development in the tension-torn region?
I think it would not be a great exaggeration to claim that the forging of relations between India and Bangladesh is an exemplar for the region. The experience of the last half a century has shown that the challenges and problems facing the South Asian countries are transnational and transcend the boundaries of the state — poverty, environmental degradation, terrorism, food security, water scarcity, trafficking in women and children, public health epidemics and so forth — and are incapable of being resolved within the jurisdiction of a single state.
Confrontation and force will not resolve these crises. These issues can only be addressed through cooperation and collaboration.
Here, Bangladesh and India have charted a new course and their cooperative approach offers a model for other countries to resolve their problems with their neighbours. India is rapidly emerging as an economic super power and its neighbours can confidently look forward to partaking in its prosperity, trade and technological innovations.
Will the transit facility to India harm Bangladesh's interests in any way, or is it going to open up a new horizon in the region? How do you assess the development in the backdrop of a strong political opposition to providing transit facilities, including the use of Bangladesh's seaports by India, Nepal and Bhutan?
There appears to be a deliberate attempt to spread disinformation to confuse the issues and create an environment of fear and suspicion by those who are opposed to good relations between the countries. Connectivity is considered as one of the yardsticks or indicators for measuring the development of a society. To the extent that Bangladesh is seeking to improve its connectivity with its neighbours — India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar — it will be wholly beneficial. It should also be pointed out that connectivity is nothing new. In the pre-1947 period, the entire region of Bengal, Assam and the northeast were connected by integrated rail and river services. Much of the transport network survived Partition (of 1947) and was only interrupted during the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
Thereafter, the Pakistan government deliberately uprooted the railroad connections, closed many of the border-crossings and imposed restrictions on transport and movement between India and [the] then East Pakistan. However, connectivity was immediately restored after our War of Liberation, and in 1972 Bangladesh and India signed the Inland Water Transport Agreement that provided for multi-modal transportation — rail, river and road — between the two countries. A further effort was made to strengthen connectivity in the 1974 Indira-Mujib accord under the clause for strengthening the bilateral trade.
Sadly, the 1974 Accord was never implemented fully as Bangabandhu [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] was assassinated in 1975, and the agreement was stalled but not repealed or rescinded. Our effort today is to make this agreement operational through improved and expanded rail, river and road infrastructure.
The ability of India now to transport goods and passengers to its northeast through the much shorter route, via Bangladesh, is clearly a great boon — it will cut down distances, time and costs and speed up the development of the region. For Bangladesh also, this is a complete win-win situation. The country will not only earn a significant fee for the use of its transit facilities and infrastructure, but also improve its domestic transportation, stimulate domestic trade by between 3 to 5 per cent annually, and make Bangladesh an attractive destination for Indian and foreign investment. It will create a large number of job opportunities as new industries are set up to take advantage of the large Indian market. I believe connectivity and transit will have a transformative impact for all the countries of the sub-region — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.
The political opponents of the Sheikh Hasina government, including those who preach extremism and support militancy, are strongly opposing the deals with India signed in recent times or are likely to be signed soon. Do you subscribe to their views?
It would be fair to say that the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), and its Jamaat allies, have considerably toned down their anti-Indian rhetoric and have voiced support for improving relations with India. In large part, there is a growing realisation throughout the country that the path of confrontation is barren and counter-productive. There is also a realisation that India is our closest and biggest neighbour, and the earlier policy of hostility is futile in a rapidly globalising society. But more importantly, all parties understand that the people of Bangladesh overwhelmingly support an improvement in the relationship with India. Interestingly, the anti-Indian bogey failed to garner votes for the BNP.
However, the opposition will not spare any opportunity to embarrass the government and will look for areas of vulnerability. It is, therefore, important to manage the relationship and move away from a 'zero-sum game' mentality, to recognise that peace and cooperation create a positive-sum, win-win situation for all.
What are your perceptions of advancing democracy, development and cooperation in South Asia, the challenges of extremism and militancy, and the removal of distrust and colonial shadows?
Democracy lies at the core of peace and prosperity in the region. For the first time in the history of the region, all the eight South Asian states have democratic governance, albeit in varying levels. And so long as governments are accountable to the people, they will be obliged to move away from wasteful confrontation and focus their resources on development.
All South Asian states, in varying degrees, have been the victims of political and religious extremism and terrorism. Bangladesh has been subjected to terrorism since 1975, when the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu, was assassinated by a bunch of terrorists. Since then, different extremists have resorted to political terrorism to undermine our democratic, secular and plural society. Most recently, in August 2004, the present Prime Minister was the target of an assassination attempt by her political opponents, who have not reconciled themselves to an independent and secular Bangladesh. We also have a history of cross-border terrorism of which every country has been a victim. It is, therefore, in the interest of Bangladesh and India to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. As a result of this cooperation, both countries have been saved from the scourge of terrorism.
Interview with Dr. Gowher Rizvi , Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
We are not sure whether the anti-corruption movement led by civil society stalwart Anna Hazare has had any impact on the administration or the civil society in our state. Apparently, we don't find any unusual movement anywhere within the realm of state administration that would account for an impact. Or is it that the coalition is in power and everything is right with the people?
State Roads and Buildings Department never had very clean reputation. Even the ministers holding the charge of the department were not reported to be above board. But now the Chief Minister is its boss. It should be possible for him to stem the tide of malpractices heaped over this crucial department. The damage caused to recently constructed two vital vented causeways due to one heavy rainfall of the monsoon has raised many questions about the functioning of the Roads and Buildings Department. With a combined length of over 250 meters, one vented causeway is connecting twin pilgrimage spots of Utterbehni and Purmandal in Samba district while as another one is linking Bandhu Rakh with Bishnah in Jammu district. Both the vented causeways, which were constructed in the recent past at a collective cost of over Rs 2.50 crore, could not withstand the first heavy rainfall of the monsoon on August 11, 2011 and suffered damages to such an extent that the administration had to declare them out of bound for the public. This is a glaring example of inefficiency and corruption on the part of the government functionaries who manned this project. What has followed is the classical laconic approach, a time consuming process in which inquiry becomes hazy and manipulations shelve the case. Appointment of a retired Chief Engineer to conduct an inquiry into the happening is all right, and he may even try to present an unbiased report, but the real question is of fixing responsibility of the mishap and taking punitive action against the defaulters. Is the Chief Minister inclined to hold a person or persons responsible and then punish the culprits? As the portfolio of this department is in his charge, it should be possible for him to take corrective decision and implement it forthwith. Charity should begin from home.
This is not the only instance that has come to our notice. The alleged substandard work of Kishtwar Municipal Committee (KMC) got exposed when rain water Saturday night entered residential areas in many wards of the town and damaged lanes and drains. Department of Housing and Urban Development through KMC, under City Development Program, executed the works of lying tiles and covering drains at a cost of 1.25 cr. Though the contractor was to use 4 kg pressure pipes, only 2 to 2.5 kg pressure pipes had allegedly been used while executing the work in all the 13 wards of KMC. While the cost of 4 kg pressure pipe was about Rs 2,500 that of 2 to 2.5 kg was between Rs 1,250 to 1,400. The money was alleged to have been drawn against the laying of 4 kg pressure pipes, according to official sources. Also, substandard material was used in executing the works. Using sub standard material for construction, poor skill and haphazard management and delay in procurement of essential material, all combine to help corrupt officials enjoy a field day. This endemic corrupt practice cannot be arrested unless there is strict accountability. The government is empowered to call the concerned officials to explain why a bridge, a culvert, a causeway, a flyover or any other construction should give in within few months of construction. Once, the responsibility is fixed and punishment given in accordance with aw, it will go a long way in preventing recurrence of such incidents. People in the State have high expectations from the Chief Minster to be able to deliver the goods because he has proved himself above board and that is what makes him popular with the masses of people.
It is many years that circulation of fake currency notes especially of five hundred has come to light. In the beginning sleuths believed that there were home-grown anti social elements engaged in forging fake currency notes. But deeper enquiry into the case revealed the link between the terrorists from across the line and their local moles. Then it dawned upon police as well as enforcement department authorities that it could be a larger network with activists on either side of the border. Police also apprehended some persons coming as visitors to India from Pakistan carrying with them wads of fake Indian currency notes. The purpose was to wreck the Indian financial market and thus create economic problem for India.
Recent revelations made by some militants arrested by the security forces are startling. They have said that the Government of Pakistan has set up fake Indian currency manufacturing unit somewhere in Peshawar. The reports categorically accuse ISI of sponsoring the fake currency unit because the type of paper used in manufacturing the fake notes is thin and expensive and only a government could manage it. Fake notes have already caused us much loss in financial and economic terms. Besides, it is an international heinous crime to tamper with the currency of a sovereign country. It would be in fitness of things if New Delhi lodges a strong protest with the Pakistan government, and at the same time take up the issue with the International Court in The Hague and also with the UN Security Council. At the same time, India could make an air surveillance to ascertain where the alleged factory in situated in Peshawar. It has to be remembered that ISI has tried to derail Indian economy in a number of ways in the past. The Mumbai Stock Exchange was once destroyed as part of her anti-Indian economic campaign. Fortunately the Reserve Bank of India has awoken to the threat at proper time and has taken some preventive measures to check the inflow of fake currency notes but more is needed to be done.
BY B L SARAF
To conceive a situation where the legislators are pitted against the law is , surely, not a pleasant prospect . It will be the height of incongruity where the creator is seen unabashedly disowning his own creation . But then we are living in a very complex world where contradictions rule supreme . So , any thing is possible - criminals making the law and the honest facing the criminal charges . Oddness has become order of the day . The case in point is the role of our honorable legislators on the recent Anna Hazare movement to have a strong watchman on the erring politicians and the public functionaries ; and their behavior on the death sentence awarded by the Apex Court to some convicts .The whole Indian political class ranging from the extreme right to the extreme left - centre including -ganged up against Anna Hazare , alleging that he was bent upon to demolish the parliamentary form of democracy . That his Jana Lok Pal movement was a camouflage for the substitution of mobocracy for the democracy . Each political party and every politician went hammer and tongs against his campaign for a clean and honest governance. They had no courage to confront him on the merits of the issue , but went on to malign him on totally extraneous and flimsy considerations .
See the other face of the law makers .The Tamil Nadu Assembly a few days ago adopted a unanimous resolution asking the President to reconsider the mercy petition of the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case . Moving the resolution , Chief Minister Jayalalithaa appealed to the President to commute the death sentence of Muragan , Santham and Perarivalan into life imprisonment . She said that the people of the state were ' saddened ' by the fact that the death sentence to the accused was to be executed soon . Reacting to the resolution , the union law minister Salman Khurshid said that the resolution would be considered at the appropriate level . Back home ,Chief Minister Ommar Abdullah raked up the issue of equating the case of Rajiv Gandhi's assassins with that of Afzal Guru . He remarked on the TN Assembly resolution that a similar move of the J & K Assembly on Afzal Guru would not have been taken lightly and the response wouldn't have been muted . The statement is heavily loaded and needs to be examined in a proper context . Not to be left behind , the Punjab government and nearly all the Punjab politicians are up against the death penalty awarded to Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar , facing gallows for 1993 bomb attack on MS Bitta - the then president of the youth Congress and others , wherein number of innocent persons lost their lives . Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has written to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in securing clemency for Bhullar .
Speaking mainly from a legal perspective , though not overlooking the political angle to the issue , such developments would set a ominous trend, with the state Assemblies concerned passing similar resolutions . It amounts to passing a vote of no-confidence in the law , brought on the statute book by the very legislative bodies. Most certainly , it won't be a good thing for the rule of law , which is the hallmark of a democratic set up of the governance . There can be an honest debate on the efficacy of death penalty being a deterrent for the prospective criminal , particularly in the cases which have political consequences ingrained in them . At times clemency proves more effective than putting a convict on the cross . In this view of the matter some may find merit in the statements of the three Chief Ministers mentioned herein , when they speak about the sentiments of the respective populace on the issue . But can they , as the elected law makers , afford to canvass a point which essentially militates against the letter and the spirit of the law , of which they have been the makers -most particularly when it has had the imprimatur of the highest court of the land ? When they take up selective cases for leniency , their motives become suspect . Please note , all the three CMs speak purely from the regional considerations , with an eye on the respective vote banks ; meaning thereby that the petty political calculations weigh more heavily with them than the word of the written law .Why blame these three only. See how West Bengal CM, Mommota Banerji , ordered her MPs in the Rajaya Shaba to abstain from voting in the impeachment process of a fellow Bengali Judge of the Calcutta High Court . That shows how concerned our legislators are for the Parliament and the Democracy ?
For Omar Abdullah it would be better if he doesn't make it a provocative issue with the national and state opposition parties . His tweet has started to raise questions on the legality of the order of conviction of Guru . Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP is reported to have said that there was hardly any substantial evidence against Guru to warrant his conviction . Mirwaiz Umar Farooq f eels that injustice has been done to him . Well , after the Apex Court has settled the issue of conviction it would not be proper for any one to question it . Moreover, these statements are bound to evoke a strong reaction from this side of the Banihaal tunnel . Thus blurring the real issue . The chief Minister should well avoid an occasion for disruption of the regional and social harmony . Yes , he as an administrative head of the state has a duty to ensure lasting peace and tranquility in the state . He may well give vent to the general public mood on the issue . But that has to be on the relevant considerations , germane to the conditions available in the state . Why raise passions on the irrelevant analogies ? Afzal Guru's case for mercy may or may not have the merit . Surely ,there can be two opinions about it . But why make it dependent on what happens to other similarly sentenced convicts . Omar Abdullah can't be precluded from raising them at the forum concerned , in a most dispassionate way and without drawing parallels from else where . No two situations compare well with each other . Till then , let Omar use his minor blogging site for ameliorating the miserable plight of his subjects and avoid making comments which he has to withdraw later on .
[The author is Principal District & Sessions Judge (RETD)]
BY LALIT SETHI
How does the civil society move ahead of the present moment? How does it make its presence felt? Is it at a crossroads? Is there a political dimension to it? Do some or a number of people have political ambitions? Are they denying it honestly or hiding them? Will these ambitions manifest themselves at the appropriate time or when the time is ripe? Right now, is it time to gloat over some kind of a success? But perhaps a bigger battle lies ahead. Who will galvanize the next protest and how will they be sustained with crowds as large as the ones from mid-August to the near end of the month? Will the young people respond in the same measure?
Has there been a victory in spite of the India Gate celebrations in New Delhi and the euphoria generated at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday, August 28? Is it a new August Kranti or revolution going by the August 15 date of Indian Independence? That was neither Kranti nor revolution. Anna Hazare has discounted the talk of victory; half a victory, he insists. A long battle lies ahead even as the 74-year-old rests in hospital and hopes to be out soon and recover from his fast somewhere outside. Parliament may have adopted a resolution by voice vote. Will it be translated into a law or a Bill that the civil society desires? Or will it be a half measure?
Anna Hazare is quite obviously not interested in words like civil society that the sophisticated elements use in western style. He might be called a crusader and his word for it would be "andolan"-a movement. He would like to test the waters or the ground by going on a countrywide tour of India to assess the mood of the people at first hand, perhaps in a small way like Mahatma Gandhi did when he returned from South Africa in a very early decade of the 20th century, but he refuses to be called a new Gandhi even as words like India's second Independence movement are being invoked.
How long will the new laws on Lokpal and Lokayuktas in the States take to be brought on the Statute book? There are Lokayuktas in19 of the 28 States and seven Union territories, but almost all of them are said to be ineffective, except the sole example of Karnataka where a Chief Minister has had to resign after years of work. Is that sole achievement good enough? There have to be judicial reforms and new systems and procedures to ensure that the Lokpal and the Lokayukta model works? Is it feasible in the present dimension? Is it possible to change the hearts and minds of well-entrenched people in positions of power and authority regardless of their political and professional persuasions? Is the Indian ethos of "chalta hai" style so deeply ingrained that almost nothing can uproot it? Will a citizens' charter be of help?
There are indeed big signboards outside a few offices telling the people about their rights to certain services and informing that if anyone in an official capacity demands a bribe, he should be reported to a certain vigilance officer. But procedures require that a certain service is available rapidly if speed money is paid. That is not considered a bribe. There are facilitators of all kinds outside offices, who get things done for a service fee. Many people are willing to pay it rather than going on endless rounds. Then there are lobbyists at various levels, whose fees range from fairly big to huge amounts and lobbying is legal because it is an American system. What is good in America is good for an emerging country like India if it has to be liberated and globalized in economic terms.
The Right to Information Act is believed to have ushered in a new environment in government offices to enable the people to access information about their rights to public service. There are information officers in every office and there are Information Commissioners at the top level to invoke the right if not available at the lower level? But the set-up is so overworked that even as a large majority of people would not know how to use it. Of course, the civil society is expected to help out the poor people with their grievances, but the civil society has its own limitations of manpower and capacity to help people. If indeed, the right to information and vigilance was effective, where would there be need for a movement like Anna Hazare's? It would be redundant.
The political dimension and business dimension of civil society cannot be overlooked. Without it at times, it may not be able to mobilize resources. It is known that business entities promote them through dummies to engage in public interest litigation to keep rivals at bay or frustrate competition. Certain political outfits try to cash in on the groundswell of public discontent. Did this happen in the most recent case of Anna Hazare movement? Did some organizations see an opportunity if the government of the day was in a corner, if not in deep trouble, in the face of protests, widespread and substantial?
The saffron parent organization was believed to have sensed such an opportunity, but was it really able to send volunteers to join the protests? There is no evidence to suggest this because the largely middle class look of protesters suggested that the twittering classes spontaneously entered the movement, besides the mobile short messages or what are called the SMSs, even though farmers from neighbouring States besides Ralegan Siddhi, Anna Hazare's village moved in. How much enthusiasm was triggered by TV new channels and print media?
The Government was active at many points to allow the protest after the reported fiasco of Anna Hazare's arrest on August 16 and remand to judicial custody in Tihar.
When the tempers were running high, Arun Jaitley, leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said at the start that even though he did not agree with the draft of the civil society Jan Lokpal Bill, he would concede their right to protest. That was quite a clincher.
Towards the end when Anna Hazare asked the BJP to clarify its stand on the Jan Lokpal Bill, the party president, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, came out in full support. The resolution that was finally adopted by voice vote had to be fine-tuned with skilful inputs from Mr. Jaitley. (NPA)
BY O. P. SHARMA VIDYARTHI IFS
Human being is considered as most intelligent and highly evolved species .He has mastered extraordinary control over other species existing on this earth. His progress in various fronts of development is awesome, he has set foot on moon, he has cracked human genome, engineered genetically modified organisms , revolutionized information technology , and put his footprints every sphere of life .
Despite all these achievements ,man could not control his greed and remained selfish throughout .In contrast to wild creatures which remained confined to need based survival instinct , man nurtured greed and remained selfish throughout recorded history . He did good innovations as well but could not wash his hands of greed and as a result he plundered nature ,exploited poor and downtrodden ,played mischief ,prioritized material gains and patronized corruption in almost all the spheres of development.
Democracy wherever and whatever form exists,is not based on ideals in practice,rules and regulations are violated in broad day light , honesty and sincerity of purpose gets bogged down in materialistic greed and monetary progress,there are vested considerations at the level of discharge of justice,equality of justice is eluding each one of us unlike wild denizens who are on the age old path of existence as designed by almighty god and seldom resort to undemocratic way of existence.
In today's world, democracy has not been able to check corruption whcich has become more rampant in modern times . The corruption has flourished at all levels of governance ,it has taken deep roots at a faster pace and the moral values have taken back seat in the society. Over the years, man has turned more and more materialistic, he has focused more and more on individual progress and materialistic prosperity. By and by corruption has entered into man's psyche and system has stopped criticizing such people who were earlier looked down upon and not tolerated . Corrupt people has outnumbered honest in all the spheres of life including pious professions like education ,health ,and trend of wanton loot has continued unhindered ,Laws and law implementing agencies have struggled through quagmire of corruption and at occasions have succumbed to the vested allurements andin most cases,it is evident that they have become party to the designs and motives of corrupt bureaucrats, politicians, police officers and others.
Scourge of corruption has percolated down to all levels of functioning ,all institutions, all public servants and common man is helpless before the unscrupulous, dishonest mafia who is hell bent to distort all the rules and regulations and allure all those who are supposed to enforce anti corruption laws in the country . Now we have reached at such a stage where corruption has become a frightening monster challenging all those who dare to raise voice against corruption, The example of large scale bungling in organization of Commonwealth Games in the country is an eye opener , it proves our commitment for more corruption and not to weed-out corruption and such corrupt individuals have no shame in refuting the charges leveled against till they are handcuffed under pressure of the media and society .Unless ,we overhaul our educational system and devise means to inflict exemplary punishment to offenders , connect corruption with religious ethos and preachings and reward honest people for their selfless contribution and moral virtues , nothing can be expected of feeble fight against all powerful and omnipotent corruption .It is not easy to find honest persons in the history like Lal Bahadur Shastri who being a Prime Minister of India never thought of misusing power to his advantage and remained unscrupously honest despite of his high position .We need to inculcate such virtues and values within each Indian citizens before it is too late .Latest initiative by a NGO of Hyderabad in floating zero currency campaign and an individual like Anna Hazare for drafting Lokpal Bill need to be appreciated and widely supported to have desirable purging of the society in getting rid of corruption. Latest protest against corruption led by social activist Anna Hazare is an eye opener , 13 days fast proved a turning point in galvanizing mass support for eradication of corruption from the society by adopting and implementing a strong Lok Pal Bill by the Parliament. Anna team comprising of Arvind Kejriwal ( Ex IRS Officer and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee),Kiran Bedi ( First lady IPS Officer and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee ),Prashant Bhushan (Lawyer and strong supporter of clean Judiciary ) , Manish Sisodia ( RTI Activist ) provided the needed support to the cause.
Man has to turn towards nature and its wild creatures in imbibing the ideals of need based democracy and shun the greed based undemocratic materialistic approach . By spoiling nature and its life support systems , man is digging his own grave without realizing that earth and its processes all coexist and are intricately connected with eachother , harm at one level is going to harm various other levels in the harmony of nature. James Lovelock 's Gaia theory highlights this interdependence of nature and signals warning to human beings to mend his ways if future survival is to be sustained on this earth .This cannot be accomplished in the prevalent atmosphere of materialistic greed and early we get rid of corruption menace, better it is for our collective survival .Let us not eat to the vitals of our interdependent cosmos where all energy is constant and running not only through our bodies but also through various other systems in the delicately balanced biosphere of nature.
Nature's way of democracy teaches interconnectedness with fellow companions ,it nurtures need based existence exemplifying no to exploitation of under-prievelged , discrimination of poor and downtrodden ,rampant corruption at all levels and greed based democratic setup . Let us go back to nature to learns ideals of true democracy.
LAND BILL SHOULD STRIKE A BALANCE
Industry has sought some changes in the Union draft land Bill released for public comment on July 30. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry says the proposed land law, which sets terms for relief and rehabilitation of displaced land owners, should apply only if companies buy at least 500 acres for a project against the 100 acre-limit set in the draft Bill. This means firms with smaller projects should not be forced to meet the conditions like payment of twice the market value for urban land and six times for rural land. FICCI's second objection is to the need for consent of 80 per cent of the land owners. It suggests the consent requirement be diluted to 50 per cent. This would be unacceptable to farmers and their representatives.
From industry's point of view both conditions make sense. But the government has to take farmers along. The Bill has emerged in the backdrop of protests in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. Since farmers constitute a major vote bank, politicians, small and big, take up their cause, right or wrong. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi played an active role in the agitation at Bhatta Prasaul with an eye on the coming UP elections. Obviously, politics should not dictate legislation, which should be fair and reasonable, and in the larger interests of the country.
The country needs industrial expansion for future growth and employment. Agriculture-industry linkages can be encouraged for mutual benefit. Land is the only source of livelihood for farmers, who cannot be fobbed off with paltry compensation for a "public purpose". If farmers have a stake in an industrial project, their opposition would be minimal. To boost industry the Gujarat model seems ideal. States should build land banks, especially buying non-cultivable, barren tracts, for industrial use. The draft Bill protects farmers' interests but it needs certain changes. If passed as it is, the law would halt Punjab's industrialisation, which already is terribly slow, since the Bill rules out the acquisition of multi-crop irrigated land.
TIME TO END URBAN-RURAL CONTRAST
Migration is an age-old phenomenon and migration from rural to urban areas is nothing new. In fast developing India, where a majority of people live in villages, the population outflow to cities has been increasing steadily. Still, the latest census figure that cities in Punjab are growing four times faster than rural areas does call for urgent attention, if not alarm. The higher urban population growth vis a vis rural growth is an indicator of both dwindling opportunities and lack of proper amenities in our rural areas.
Urbanisation, an integral part of growth and development, can't be wished away. Yet both state governments and the Centre have to meet the challenges that it brings in its wake. Urban congestion which often translates into traffic congestion and thus increased rates of road accidents is one of the many ills that afflict urban India. While the rural urban divide in terms of infrastructure and facilities, be it education or health, continues to grow, even in urban India, few cities, especially metros, are growing at a faster rate, which creates enormous pressure on them. The fact that in Punjab every fifth urban dweller lives in Ludhiana, that by 2030 India will have six megacities with populations of 10 million are both a reflection of skewed urban growth.
While there is an urgent need to develop smaller urban centres and towns, which sadly as of now end up being poor cousins of mega cities, some out of the box solutions too need to be mulled over. Proposals like shifting of government offices away from capitals to smaller towns in the hinterland can help mitigate urban congestion. The contrast between urban and rural landscape too needs to be bridged by providing educational and health facilities to rural India. Development and benefits of modernisation cannot be an a monopoly of only a few megacities. If India's dream of a developed nation has to be realised all of it has to grow at a steady and uniform pace.
BANGALORE BY NIGHT
IT WILL BE A DARK PLACE MINUS ITS LEADING LIGHTS
Bangalore, like several other Indian towns, does not boast of much of night life. The recent influx of IT whiz kids has livened things up, but only marginally. However, things seem destined to change now. Former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, illustrious son of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, pepped up the situation considerably when he called to question the "night life" of none other than retired Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde. Now, the irrepressible member of the Anna Hazare team, who is known to down a peg or two along with his nephews at the city's watering holes, is not the one to take things lying down. He hit back in style.
The import of his comment ("I have one wife and one home where I go back after work. Where do you retire for the night?") was not lost on anyone, at least in Bangalore. The verbal skirmish is certain to light up Bangalore for quite some time. Don't be surprised if OB vans follow Mr Hegde when he goes for his sundowner, and Mr Kumaraswamy is out, ahem, home-hunting with a glad eye. The latter has not acknowledged that he has got the worst of exchanges, and has threatened to make public the documents he claims to have to prove his allegations. The contours of the counter-attack are likely to be even more interesting.
But the showdown may not actually come, if the senior Deve Gowda has his say. Even otherwise, the night birds may also pipe down, now that the Anna Hazare agitation is no more on the front burner. Whatever be the other consequences, it has at least killed the rumours of a "hidden nexus between Hegde and Kumaraswamy", which were doing the rounds ever since Mr Hegde's report into illegal mining mentioned the out-of-turn help extended by Mr Kumaraswamy to a mining company as Chief Minister, but did not make any recommendation against the JD(S) leader.
THE CHANGE IN NEPAL
WILL IT LAST AND DELIVER?
BY S.D. MUNI
The Maoists in Nepal have again come to lead the new coalition government. Despite being the largest elected group in the Nepal Constitutional Assembly-cum-Parliament since 2008, they have been forced to cool their heels on the margins of the power structure for the past more than two years. They had quit the government following their rash decision in May 2009 to remove the then army chief on the question of civilian supremacy. Their return to power as the dominant partner in the government has been possible as a result of shifts, first in their own approach towards the issues of peace and constitution making process in Nepal, and then in the attitudes of Nepal's Madhesh parties and India towards their share in power.
The shift in the Maoists strategy was indicated on two counts. One was the person chosen for parliamentary leadership, Dr Baburam Bhatarai. He has been most successful as the Finance Minister in the first Maoists-led government. His integrity and commitment towards peace and democratic transition of the Maoists is well regarded among other political parties and the international community. The Maoists have come out of serious internal churning on the question of leadership responsibilities where its chairman, Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, was forced to share power within the party with his other senior colleagues, Dr Bhattarai and Mr Mohan Baidya 'Kiran'.
On the other, a far more important, count, the Maoists have decided through their internal debate to give priority to the completion of the peace process by hastening the process of 'integration' of their armed cadres. They came with time-bound steps to regroup these cadres, integrate 8000 of them in the security forces and send the rest back home with adequate compensation (7 to 10 lakhs of rupees). This whole process has been set to be completed within a period of 45 days. This was done in response to the repeated demands of the other political parties and the international community that Maoists cannot be welcomed in the national mainstream without dissolving their instruments of power and force such as the armed cadres and the militant Youth Communist League.
India's policy calculations in Nepal had been seriously disturbed by the results of Nepal's Constituent Assembly elections in April 2008 which brought up Maoists as the largest single group. With some difficulty, India accepted their leadership of the government in 2008, on the principles of democracy. However, soon, within a period of eight months, the suspected Maoists attempted to dominate the army; through the sacking of the then army chief, Gen Katawal, and the prospects of Nepal opening up to China by encouraging frequent and high-level exchanges at various levels rattled the strategically oriented mandarins in South Block.
The Maoists increased their trust deficit with the Indian policy makers by falling short of their promises, on a number of sensitive issues, to India, including Indian business and security interests. India accordingly backed and encouraged all possible non-Maoist political formations and coalitions to retain power in Nepal. In the process, the Indian approach even resulted in the fragmentation of Madhes political groups and legitimacy to the anti-Indian rhetoric in Nepal raised by the Maoists and other vested interests.
There came a time in 2010-11 when the Indian Ambassador became the most unpopular diplomat in Nepal coming under an unprecedented situation of being hurled shoes and stones at. This Indian policy significantly contributed to the deepening stalemate on peace and constitution making process in Nepal and none of the long-term national interests of India could be pursued smoothly. The indication of a shift in India's policy can be discerned in the way all the Nepali Madhesi groups have forged an alliance with the Maoists and accepted them to lead the government. Even if India did not engineer this alliance, a slight reservation on India's part towards the Maoist-Madhes coalition could stall it from taking shape.
The new government in Nepal has aroused great hopes and expectations and the new Prime Minister has been widely acclaimed. But how long the government will last and whether it will be able to deliver on the promise of peace and constitution will really depend on a couple of critical factors. The very first and most decisive is, of course, the fact if the shifts in the positions of the Maoists and Indian policy underlined above are strategic or only tactical. One hopes that the Maoists have not changed their stance just to come to power, and would carry the process of peace and constitution making through a broad-based consensus to its logical end.
One also hopes that India is not just interested in letting the Maoists' armed cadres dispersed, or make them unpopular through failed governance, but is, in fact, looking forward to re-establishing a sincerely working rapport with the Maoists to push them constructively towards building a new Nepal and promoting India's long-term national interests in this sensitive neighbourhood in challenging times. Instabilty and chaos is Nepal cannot serve India's interests, particularly when there are powerful forces both within and outside Nepal to exploit this chaos and India's flawed policy moves to India's detriment.
If both the Maoists and India are serious about what is being stated by them, they would do well in directing their efforts towards broadening the present coalition into a government of national consensus. The new Maoist Prime Minister, Dr Bhattarai, has done well to reach out to the main opposition parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist party- United Marxist Leninist (UML) for national consensus immediately after his assumption of office. As the new Prime Minister pushes on the agenda of integration of the armed Maoists cadres, the trust deficit between the Maoists and the other political groups narrow down nudging these political parties to come forward to build a broad national consensus on critical issues, even if their internal contradictions do not allow them to join a Maoists-led government.
The Nepali Congress must, however, recall that it was their understanding and cooperation with the Maoists that initiated the great transition in Nepal from a feudal to a progressive democratic order through Janandolan-II in 2005-2006. The aspirations of the Nepalese people aroused by Janandolan-II cannot be fulfilled and there cannot be any lasting peace or a credible democratic constitutional system in Nepal until these two main political forces cooperate with each other.
The Nepali Congress owes it to the Nepali people and their own political future to respond to the call of the hour. India enjoys considerable goodwill and influence among the democratic political forces in Nepal, particularly the Nepali Congress, and it should gear its diplomatic energies softly towards bringing Nepal's decisive and critical future makers together. This is in India's lasting interests as well.
The writer is Visiting Research Professor, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore.
KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOUR
BY SURESH CHANDER
I love the army stories, Nana." That was the youngest of my grandchildren interrupting my narration of events when we were surrounded by 20-30 elephants near the foothills of Bomdilla, a few months after the Chinese war. Our grandchildren were listening to every word with rapt attention. I continued with details that are likely to tickle the imagination of the children.
"I turned down the hurricane lamp and tucked in the mosquito net to sleep for the night. Just then the sentry on duty shouted that our camp of about 70 men was surrounded by elephants. There was massive trumpeting and the elephants menacingly kept coming closer. The brave jawans promptly lit five-six stacks of fire that kept the elephants at bay."
The little ones are fascinated by these stories and want to know every detail - including uncomfortable information. Their favourite was: How many enemy had I killed in various wars? I skirt these as skillfully and truthfully as I can and explain that most battles and skirmishes take place at night and with bullets flying all over, it is difficult to tell who hit who. Some times my wife plays the spoil sport by saying that Nana has never even fired a shot in anger. They are, however, too engrossed to pay attention to such comments. At the end of each story, they make me feel as if I am the most decorated war veteran to have graced their young lives.
Growing children love guns, tanks, horses and outdoor activities. I have been taking them to regimental get-togethers. They are thrilled by the tank rides, or merely feeding carrots to the horses and watching the training of dogs. There are, of course, stories of my army life connected to each activity that I am delighted to tell them that they never tire of listening . Their Nani keeps accusing me that my tales keep getting more and more colourful. She is obviously jealous of the attention that I get. Anyone will tell you that the real life happenings can hardly be interesting unless peppered and padded at the right places.
My daughters, having been brought up on similar fodder, mostly set the children up to tell the various stories: How I shot the neighbouring battalion's mascot in the wilds of Nagaland , mistaking it for a genuine wild boar; or when I was trapped with six Jat jawans in a blizzard at 16000 ft. It was then up to me to make some faux pas into a heroic deed — somewhat like slaying a dragon by default.
In due course the inevitable happened. The Growing joy of our lives were sold on the Army. I too was convinced that I would again join the Indian forces if I were to re-live my life again - a far cry from my earlier shaky conviction. Imagine if I were to tell my grandchildren in their tender years that I was an investment banker at Wall Street and narrate stories of my encounter with financial gurus like Warren Buffet or Carl Icahn or incidents of financial upheavals and meltdowns and millions that I made. No sir, I would never get the attention of the little ones and the feeling of having been a "knight in shining armour".
MEMORIAL MUSEUM ON GROUND ZERO
THE MUSEUM ON GROUND ZERO OFFERS DIFFERENT WAYS IN WHICH 9/11 WAS EXPERIENCED AND INTERPRETED; THE VIOLENCE AND VICTIMISATION, HEROISM AND STEADFAST PERSISTENCE OF THE WORLD COMING TOGETHER AND OF THE WORLD COMING APART.
In the cavernous gaping hole at the 8-acre memorial site of the 9/11,2001, attacks in New York that killed 2,974 people from 70 countries, a 120,000 sq.ft. museum is in the making underground symbolising rebirth, resilience and remembrance.
Scheduled to open in September 2012, the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center will enshrine the traumatic and transformative event experienced around the world affirming triumph of human dignity over depravity. Witnessed by an estimated one-third of humanity, the attacks are sure to trigger strong opinions and conflicting emotions in virtually everyone who comes to the Museum. While the meaning of 9/11 will continue to influence the American way of life for many years to come, the world continues to grapple with its rippling implications even after the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed in a daring, swift US Navy SEAL covert commando operation inside Pakistan's hamlet of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
Memorial rests on unanswered questions
In its function as a memorial, it will offer comfort and finality to loss. As a museum, it will embody the reality of this tragedy in perspective. There are no simple answers and no single redemptive narrative. Its conception required ongoing consultation with survivors of the attacks and families of victims, as well as with the larger public that felt its impact. This has taken many forms, one of which is a formal conversation series engaging family members, survivors of the attacks, and communities around the World Trade Center. Their comments have substantially shaped the exhibit experience through a sustained dialogue raising and resolving extremely contentious issues pertaining inclusion or exclusion of particular artefacts, the way sensitive material should be presented, and the depiction of perpetrators. There has also been an ongoing conversation with religious leaders affecting a range of decisions in the way matters of faith are referenced in exhibits and where to locate the New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner's repository of unidentified human remains at the Memorial site- inaccessible to the public but designated as a place of respect.
How it manifests into the design of the exhibit experience is of vital significance to millions who will visit the museum. Three principles, in particular, have shaped the exhibits. First, people who come to this museum will bear within them their own experience of 9/11. This needs to be acknowledged and utilised as an essential part of their experience, and incorporated into exhibits and programmes. Second, people arrive with varied expectations and needs- some have been severely traumatised by 9/11 while others will feel the need to experience 9/11 as an event that reshaped their world. Third, it is arguably the most documented event in modern history with countless photographs, videos, recordings of spoken witness, digital reconstructions and other electronic and material evidence that speaks for itself- devoid of the need for any curatorial interpretation.
To incorporate these principles into the design, the curatorial and design teams first developed a sequence of experiences through which people descend 70 ft to the Bedrock level. This descent begins from a subterranean overlook onto the north and south volumes created by square depressions of the memorial pools at the surface. These voids become volumes, the size of the fallen towers. It allows people to orient themselves prior to entering the narrative of 9/11. An introductory exhibition is situated on a long, descending ramp that zigzags its way through an open space. The exhibit begins with voices of people recalling the moment accompanied by their words projected in many languages as a map of the world. The exhibit then moves from the perspective of a global witness, to photographs of local witnesses.
On site are in situ remains of the towers as well as artefacts that have been re-introduced to it: large pieces of steel, a segment of the enormous antenna from atop North Tower, a half- crushed fire truck, windings of a huge elevator motor bearing a silent witness to the enormity of destruction. An adjacent space holds the re-erected "Last Column"- the final piece of steel to be removed in the recovery effort bearing graffiti and memorial photographs from the different recovery agencies and workers.
A square inside a square
Beneath the architectural volume of the south pool is a memorial exhibition that honours the lives of those who were killed in the attacks on 9/11 and in the bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993. Like the memorial pools at ground level, it is a square within a square, forming a perimeter and core. The perimeter makes reference to "the many" through photographic portraits of all of the victims of the attacks and a changing display of personal effects. The core speaks to "the one" through a succession of individual portraits composed of photographs projected onto its smooth walls and remembrances spoken by friends and family members. Situating it on the archaeological site is a glass floor through which a large section of original foundation's concrete bedrock is visible.
The narrative exhibition beneath the North Tower volume contains the most sensitive material in the Museum. Its first part, which deals with the day itself, is designed with three distinct paths that enable people to seek out what is important to them, and avoid what is intolerable. The central path is a journey through the day as it was experienced and witnessed by those in the vicinity and the millions watching in horror as the day unfolded. The perimeter path presents a more ordered account of the day: a timeline of the events on the ground and in the air, as well as quotes from official responders from around the country that convey their subjective experience as they went about their work throughout 9/11. At the central core of the exhibit path is the most difficult material in the Museum, partially sheltered from view and hearing. This includes painful, first person accounts from the Trade Towers and the hijacked aircraft, recorded by 9/11 operators, on answering machines, cockpit flight recorders and air traffic control frequencies.
The core also includes photographs of people who jumped from the burning towers before they collapsed. After lengthy discussions about these images with family members, some of whom felt these were essential to showing what happened that day, others preferred they not be shown, it was decided to make a discrete, straightforward presentation of still photographs standing as witness to the hard choice that some had to make. The final descent to the base of the site will take visitors alongside the Vesey Street Stair remnant - also known as the "Survivor Stairs," which was used by hundreds to escape the destruction of the Towers on 9/11.
Visitors select their own narrative
Of importance to people's ability to choose their own path and formulate their own experience is the
simultaneous presence of many different narratives. These are not simply multiple accounts or stories but fundamentally ways in which 9/11 was experienced and interpreted including narratives of violence and victimisation, of heroism and rescue, of steadfast persistence, of the world coming together and of the world coming apart laced with audio recordings, text quotes, video, photographs and artefacts. The Museum is a "here-and-now" experience in the first person, a present-tense encounter with the evidence of the events; a kind of pilgrimage to the still-raw site of the attacks. The historical 9/11, as it is depicted through objects and narrative, is meant to be felt as "there and then;" a distinct, past-tense reality that is experienced in the second or third person through the materials that have been assembled by the curatorial team.
The design team, which included a consulting psychologist, found that their own intra-team dynamics at times revealed gaps in their approach to the exhibit experience. In one design review, for instance, a series of heated exchanges led to the realisation that explicit expressions of the violence of the attacks were left out of the design in an attempt to avoid re-traumatising visitors, ignoring the essence of the story. This enabled a vocabulary for violence, coded in thrusting and scattering exhibition forms, that both filled the gap in the exhibition narrative.
Museum Director Alice Greenwald firmly believes that by demonstrating the consequences of terrorism on individual lives and communities, human beings as a society can rise above the vortex of violence.
The author is a Smithsonian trained museologist whose work spans 11 countries.
WHAT DOES BCCI HAVE TO HIDE?
LARGER DEBATE ON ACCOUNTABILITY IN INDIAN SPORT HAS BEEN OVERSHADOWED BY HOW THE NEW SPORTS BILL WILL AFFECT CRICKET
For too many years, Indian sportsmen from other disciplines have been complaining that they get no attention because of cricketers. The rabid ones take this quite personally, and hold cricket responsible for why Indian sport has not grown as a whole. The more liberal ones lament that their federations don't give them the support that the BCCI provides to its players.
It's a chicken-and-egg problem: only when you win will you get sponsorship, and only when you get money for training, travelling, equipment, and general peace of mind, will you be able to consistently win. Caught in this strange quagmire, several urgent measures are needed to get Indian sport back on track, of which more accountability and better management are the logical first steps.
This month, at long last, the government decided to come up with a National Sports Development Bill that would address some of these issues by advocating a time-limit on the tenures of officials, on monitoring spending, and on bringing them under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. It was a bill aimed at getting the old fogeys who've been sitting with their feet up to do some work, to stop them from using grants for their own private swimming pools, to force them to hold elections, and to tell them that anybody from the general public had the right to scrutinise their oftenfudged accounts.
The move by Sports Minister Ajay Maken, however, has fallen flat. And for once, the sportsmen who blame cricket for all their ills have a point because the larger issue has been overtaken by how this Bill would affect cricket. In the frantic political lobbying that took place, the real targets:x Vijay Kumar Malhotra (Archery federation, 39 years), Yaswant Sinha, (tennis, 12 years) S S Dhindsa (cycling, 16 years), and others with similar long-term ambitions, managed to escape unscathed.
These politicians, who've flourished while their athletes have suffered, hid behind cricket, which in turn decided to hide behind a technicality.
Things start getting a bit complicated, for a number of reasons, the moment cricket is included in the larger Indian sports umbrella.
First, the Indian cricket board is a private society that is not funded by the government (though tax exemptions amounting to a few hundred crores, and the use of 'Team India' and not 'Team BCCI', must count for something).
Second, it is robust and financially self-sufficient. It takes care of its players – pays them well, flies them firstclass instead of packing them in unreserved train compartments, and puts them up in five-star hotels instead of dharamshalas.
Third, whichever sport the government touches turns to ash. Though this may not be the best time to bring this up, the Indian cricket team wins matches regularly. So why run the risk of completely destroying something that has small cracks, especially when there is no evidence that you know how to fix things at all?
But there is another aspect to this discussion that is being glossed over by most experts (even those who're not on the BCCI payroll). Should any body that performs a public service, especially a 'non-profit organisation' such as the Indian cricket board, have a problem with the RTI Act? If anything, the BCCI, which projects itself as a beacon of hope at a time when other sports are dying, save for a few gifted athletes here and there, should volunteer to be open to public scrutiny.
Taking control of cricket and putting it under the RTI are two mutually exclusive ideas; while the first would be disastrous, the second is necessary. This is not about invading your space, it's about transparency. Why so resistant, if you have nothing to hide?
But the members of the Cabinet, some of whom are BCCI office-bearers, managed to successfully muddy the waters when the Bill was tabled before them. In order to save themselves and their cushy 29-member cricket club, they defeated what was perhaps the first genuine attempt to rescue Indian sport.
KUNAL PRADHAN LOOKS AT THE FLIP SIDE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD OF SPORT
THE REDDY LAND MINE
BUT THE LAW MUST BE QUICK TO TAKE ITS COURSE
A favourite phrase of Indian politicians who wish to demonstrate that they are not using their political power to influence the judiciary and law enforcement authorities is: "the law will take its own course." True, the law must take its own course, all the more so in the cases involving the infamous Reddy Brothers of Karnataka. The arrest of the state's former tourism minister G Janardhana Reddy and his brother-in-law B V Srinivas Reddy, managing director of the Obulapuram Mining Company, is only the first step in the "law taking its own course". Though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has shown uncharacteristic courage in recent months in arresting powerful and influential people, it has not shown equal evidence of competence in gathering data and defending its case. Thus, in Hyderabad, where the two Reddys have been taken after their arrest, industrialist Ramalinga Raju has been languishing in custody as an undertrial for over two years, with no court willing to grant him bail and CBI still struggling to put together a defence of its actions that would enable the "law to take its own course". In Delhi's Tihar Jail several politicians and corporate executives are in custody as undertrials in cases related to the allocation of 2G telecom licences and the Commonwealth Games scam, with CBI not ready to file charges and the law is taking its own time to take its course!
Given that CBI took its time in making the law take its course in the case of both Suresh Kalmadi along with his associates and the Reddys of Karnataka, one would assume that adequate homework had already been done. However, given the delay in granting bail to the detainees, who are still undertrials, it would seem as if CBI starts its investigation after it has arrested the "suspects". If this is not a fair view of CBI, then it is incumbent upon the investigation agency to prove its innocence in this regard. Otherwise, the opinion will gain ground that more often than not CBI first arrests suspects and then begins its investigation to gather evidence against them. This is not fair practice.
In the present case involving the Reddy brothers and their brother-in-law, CBI must move quickly, as in other pending cases, to seek prosecution of the accused, so that these arrests do not appear vindictive and politically motivated. Coming as they do so soon after the administrative actions taken against some of the associates of Anna Hazare, it is easy for many to believe that a hidden (perhaps not-so-hidden) party political agenda is being pursued by the ruling dispensation in New Delhi. This is not necessarily true. It is entirely possible that CBI has felt emboldened to act and is doing so, while the central government sits back and watches the action, partly with concern (since some of its own are in jail) and partly with glee, watching a former minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party get picked up. The mining scam involving both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka was a huge blot in the realm of public policy in recent years. It is just as well that some action has finally been initiated. The law must now take its own course, but speedily.
POLICY MUST PROTECT LOW-SKILLED JOBS IN THE HIGH-TECH SECTOR
The prospects for India's export-oriented information technology and services industry can only get more daunting, given the current global economic trends. At present, 18 per cent growth has been projected in the current financial year, the same as last year, but a lot can change quickly once the steady stream of bad news from the developed countries has its inevitable fallout. Within this sector, the odds are stacked even higher against the business process outsourcing (BPO) players. What happens to this space is important for the country because it is an employment-intensive sector, with wage rates lower than in IT proper. Over the last decade, the acute problem of the educated unemployed in India has been partially addressed by BPO jobs (835,000 direct ones in financial 2011), which have played their part in reducing social tension. It can be argued that were it not for sectors like BPO, India would have faced the kind of social discontent that recently led to rioting in several British cities.
The challenges before the BPO sector are manifold. Poor global economic prospects have exerted pricing pressure on vendors from all geographies, but India faces the additional challenge of low-cost competition from the Philippines, which is able to offer better value for money in communication skills. On the other hand, India-based operations face severe skills shortage and do not receive the kind of government support available in the Philippines. The industry has faced up to this challenge in two ways. It is going up the value chain by getting out of low-value, voice-based services and is moving to tier-two and tier-three cities, where both wages and infrastructure costs are lower. In the last five years, the share of non-voice business has gone up from 52 per cent to 58 per cent. In terms of specific sectors, revenue share of finance and accounting services, knowledge services, business analytics, data management and legal services has gone up. In particular, analytics and legal services are set to grow at 25 per cent per annum or more, well ahead of the overall sector. The firms, for their part, are travelling up the technology ladder by offering more platform-based (industry-specific proprietary processes) and cloud computing (hosted outside) solutions.
Though the government has only played a marginal role in growth of the BPO business, this role should not be underestimated. Basic educational skills cannot be extensively provided by the private sector, though firms spend a lot – which they should not – to make their new recruits job-ready. Also, infrastructure costs have to be kept low, otherwise industry players will find it impossible to keep their costs competitive. Adequate power at affordable rates and public transport to ferry large numbers of workers are uppermost in the list of what is lacking. Much can be achieved by simply making Indian cities more liveable. That will also help the BPO sector.
FROM BANGLADESH TO BIMSTEC
CLOSER INDIA-BANGLADESH TIES WILL HELP IN THE CREATION OF A BAY OF BENGAL COMMUNITY
N CHANDRA MOHAN
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's maiden foreign tour seven years ago was for a summit meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation (Bimstec) in Bangkok. That tour has a connection with his visit today to Bangladesh. This trip bids fair to become a game-changer for two ideas whose time hasn't come yet: a larger Bay of Bengal grouping and South Asian regional integration which has only animated endless rounds of summitry.
India had sought to participate in regional groupings like Bimstec since the 1990s owing to the frustratingly slow progress over the South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation (Saarc), thanks to tensions between India and Pakistan. This necessitated a highly innovative bit of strategising that got over the sticky problem of including countries like Nepal while excluding Pakistan. Bimstec, thus, equalled Saarc minus Pakistan with Myanmar and Thailand thrown in for good measure!
But this Bay of Bengal grouping hardly made any progress. An important reason was the absence of connectivity, among other factors. Unless the various member countries were linked through road, rail, air and shipping services, freer trade would be sub-optimal. Connectivity meant providing landlocked Nepal with transit facilities to use the ports of Mongla and Chittagong in Bangladesh. Connectivity with Thailand entails establishing road, rail and other linkages traversing Bangladesh and Myanmar.
India will now have better access to its north-eastern states, where south-east Asia really begins. It has proposed to Myanmar that it would rebuild the Sittwe Port and make the Kaladan river navigable to provide alternative access into Mizoram and the north-east. Dr Singh's visit is expected to result in a forward movement in all these aspects since Bangladesh has agreed to provide seamless connectivity between Nepal, Bhutan and India and to extend it to Myanmar and the other countries rimming the Bay of Bengal.
If all this can help Bimstec become a reality, a far bigger outcome of the visit is to ensure that south Asian integration, too, sees the light of day. To be sure, over the years India tried to get the neighbouring countries on board by accepting asymmetrical responsibilities in opening its market. As the dominant player, India hoped that through unilateral trade liberalisation they would acquire a greater stake in its prosperity. But this was in vain since politics cast a shadow on this effort to integrate the region.
The neighbours only deepened their resentment at India's dominance. As if all of this weren't enough, each one of Saarc members persistently registered massive trade deficits with India and they began to clamour for India to further open up its market. Until recently, the most vociferous demand for such a unilateral opening up of India's market came from Bangladesh which registered a deficit of $1.5 billion in 2005-06, which widened to $3 billion in 2010-11 vis-a-vis India.
The big factor of change that made a difference to the strained bilateral relationship was the Awami League regime coming to power in Bangladesh in December 2008. There has been a flurry of high-level visits by Cabinet members of both governments since 2009. The high point was the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January 2010. The joint communiqué stated that the recent elections in both countries presented them with a "historic opportunity to write a new chapter in their relationship".
The prime ministers of both countries also underscored the role of Saarc in promoting regional co-operation and agreed to work together in making it a far more purposeful organisation oriented towards implementation. Interestingly, they also welcomed the various steps taken to strengthen regional co-operation under Bimstec. Bangladesh requested India to support its aspiration to host the Bimstec Secretariat in Dhaka. Getting Bangladesh on board clearly makes the Bay of Bengal grouping possible!
In this milieu, India has also made a difference in redressing Bangladesh's sensitivities so that it acquires a greater stake in India's rise as a global economic power and benefits from it. India has been accused of being miserly in its unilateral trade liberalisation measures. But given its determination to fix the problem with its neighbour, it is now ready to provide much greater market access for Bangladesh's textiles such as readymade garments, in which the country has become a much bigger global player than India!
Getting it right with Bangladesh has also entailed making cross-border supply of power a reality. South Asia's diverse topography lends itself to greater cross-border power trade, but political inhibitions have so far ensured that actual progress is less than the potential. If economic efficiency were the yardstick, Bangladesh should be trading in power with India. The least-cost short-term option is to import power from West Bengal, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, according to a study by Mahendra P Lama.
Getting it finally right also involves sharing rivers, as the lower riparian Bangladesh needs a guaranteed flow of water throughout the year. To ensure such a regular flow of the Ganga, both countries concluded a historic 30-year Ganges Water Treaty in 1996. A similar effort is needed to share water of the Teesta and other common rivers. It entails promoting greater border trade with the north-east and settling disputed patches of territory and other security-related matters on the long border that both countries share.
Clearly, building the long road from Bangladesh to Bimstec depends greatly on Dr Singh's visit. Even as Pakistan still drags its feet on extending the most favoured nation treatment to India, south Asian regional integration is an idea whose time has come. Towards this end, India should provide greater market access for goods of other Saarc members so that they also benefit from its rise as a global economic power. All of this will contribute to greater flows of trade within south Asia so that intra-regional trade exceeds the current low levels of five per cent of total exports.
NOBODY'S BABY: THE OFFSET ORPHAN
As this newspaper reported last week, the ministry of defence (MoD) is backtracking from its defence offsets programme. Its resolve to jump-start indigenous defence production through offsets has been broken by a cartel of foreign arms merchants. The vendors' specious argument, which the MoD has inexplicably swallowed, is that Indian defence companies cannot absorb the billions in offsets that will arise from our weapons purchases over the coming decade, the biggest overseas arms buying spree in history. Indian defence companies have protested otherwise, but the MoD is not convinced. The inevitable speculation that the MoD has been bought over is too charitable. The reality is even more damning: rather than seizing the opportunity that offsets provide – which would require clear thinking and the setting up of functional structures – the ministry would rather neuter offsets to the point of irrelevance.
Defence offsets, for latecomers to this debate, are a form of counter-trade in which global vendors who win Indian defence contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more must invest 30 per cent of the contract value into India's defence industry. From 2011 onwards offsets can also be discharged in civil aerospace and internal security.
Offsets are almost universal, with over 130 countries demanding offsets in overseas defence purchases. Most of these, notably Israel, Turkey, Malaysia and South Africa, have well-established offset authorities that articulate exactly what they expect from an offset programme. But India's MoD is unique in leaving it all to the vendor. The Defence Procurement Policy of 2006 (DPP-2006), and its subsequent amendments, does not enjoin the MoD to specify the offsets it wants; or to nominate an Indian company as an offset partner. The foreign vendor decides whether to buy cast iron pipes from India (passing them off as battleship components) or high-end software engineering. South Block's only demand is: please tell us how you will discharge your offset liability.
This appalling disinterest stems from a fundamental flaw in our approach to offsets. The first is the view, rooted in years of technology sanctions, that anyone who sells India high-tech weaponry is actually doing us a kindness. Flowing from this deeply subservient perspective is the notion: don't make specific demands; whatever those kind people give us is good enough. Consequently, nobody has ever enunciated the aim of India's offset programme. Is it to boost defence manufacture; or to get access to high technology; or to ensure life-cycle support for the weaponry that we buy? Your guess is as good as mine.
This fatal flaw can be redeemed in the forthcoming amendment to the offset policy, which the MoD has almost finalised. Introducing a one-sentence objective – "the aim of India's offset policy is to…" – would introduce clarity that is sorely needed.
Without an articulated aim, it is unsurprising that no MoD department takes ownership of offsets. The Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA) is a man-and-a-dog backwater that denies responsibility for anything more than "facilitation". Justifiably so, for it does not have the staff, the wherewithal, or the mandate to examine offset proposals, scrutinise their financial viability, audit their discharge or endorse their successful completion. That leaves to the Acquisition Wing the key decision about whether an offset proposal is acceptable or not. As this newspaper's recent reporting on offsets has highlighted, the Acquisition Wing takes the approach: don't let offsets derail procurement; accept whatever offset proposal the vendor offers.
Take a look at the opportunities that are being lost. It is projected that India will spend $45-50 billion (Rs 2,07,000 - 2,30,000 crore) on overseas weaponry this decade, with offset requirements of 40 per cent (the MMRCA contract is actually 50 per cent). That means $20 billion (Rs 92,000 crore) worth of offsets must be discharged over the next 15 years or so, which is the period in which these contracts will be discharged. Indian industry must, therefore, absorb $1.33 billion (Rs 6,100 crore) in offsets each year. To place that figure in context, Peugot will invest Rs 4,000 crore in its automobile factory in Sanand, Gujarat. Over the next decade, the IAF's 10-year modernisation programme will see the production in India of the MMRCA; the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and multi-role transport aircraft (MRTA); the medium transport aircraft (MTA) that will replace the Avro; Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd's intermediate jet trainer (IJT), the Sitara; National Aerospace Laboratory's Saras light transport aircraft; the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) and Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA); and a range of new helicopters being developed by HAL, such as the light combat helicopter (LCH). Setting up each of these production lines will take tens of thousands of crore, including the R&D base, the testing facilities, and the ancillary suppliers that come up. And this is just in aerospace. Indian CEOs wonder: where is the difficulty in absorbing Rs 6,100 crore a year?
The MoD also seems to have forgotten that Indian companies exported over $60 billion (Rs 2,76,000 crore) worth of engineered goods last year to the US alone (commerce ministry figures).
The MoD has much to learn from developing countries with far less clout than India, who have translated offsets into huge strategic leverage. Turkey used technology obtained from offsets to develop a component for the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, eventually becoming the sole source for that component. When the US cut back Turkey's role as a supplier, Ankara – in a riveting David-and-Goliath struggle that caused a 17-month delay to the F-35 programme – halted supplies until Washington came into line. Ankara demonstrated how offsets could translate into a critical role in a global supply chain.
TO BUNDELKHAND'S RESCUE
THE PARCHED REGION FINALLY GETS SOME ATTENTION
Bundelkhand, a rain-starved and backward region that falls under Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is ill-famed for a spate of farmers' suicides owing to repeated crop failures. The region has indeed been a victim of unfavourable natural conditions and administrative neglect. Despite being a highly drought-prone zone, the available river and groundwater resources have been largely untapped owing to lack of development initiatives.
The British deliberately neglected this area because of its role in the 1857 revolt. But successive governments after Independence, too, did not pay due attention to it since no IAS officer would want to be posted in the region for extended periods because of its harsh living conditions.
In recent years, the region has seen hundreds of farmers commit suicide because of droughts, which spurred the Centre to come to the region's rescue. The special Rs 7,266-crore Bundelkhand drought mitigation package that was approved in November 2009 and is being implemented since 2010 is expected to change the face of this parched tract. J S Samra, chief executive officer of the National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), who had chaired the inter-ministerial central team that had devised the Bundelkhand package and is also involved in coordinating development activities, seems confident of achieving good results. The changes being brought in the farming and animal husbandry systems will improve people's living standards.
Paradoxically, contrary to the common practice of large-scale planting in the kharif (rainy) season than in the relatively rainless rabi season, Bundelkhand farmers sow only 30 per cent of the crops in kharif and 70 per cent in rabi. This is despite the fact that much of the region's arable land is totally rain-dependent. The reason for this is perhaps the prevalence of "ana pratha", a local tradition in which cattle are left to graze freely during a certain period that normally coincides with the kharif season. This leads to widespread destruction of crops, deterring farmers from seeding their farms in this season. Kharif sowing is now being encouraged so that farmers can take advantage of the rainwater available during the monsoon months.
The highest priority under the Bundelkhand package has naturally being given to water management — both rainwater harvesting and better exploitation of existing water resources by developing canal systems and constructing dug wells. Simultaneously, efforts are on to improve the breed of cattle so that livestock husbandry can supplement household incomes and serve as a cushion against crop failures.
Construction work on the Kutni dam on river Ken's tributary – which had been on since 1978 – was completed thanks to this package in just 18 months. Water storage has begun in this dam and it will supplement the flow of the canal system fed by it to irrigate crop fields. Similarly, attempts are being made to expand the canal network based on the Beriarpur Weir on the Ken to irrigate more areas in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Weir was constructed in 1903 but had remained under-utilised for a want of water-distribution channels.
A unique feature of the available groundwater in Bundelkhand is that it can be accessed only through dug wells; tube wells do not normally work in the region. Interestingly, a large number of dug wells were constructed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), but most of these were unused for lack of water-lifting devices. Small diesel-operated pumps are now being provided to harness water from these wells. New wells are being dug by converging the resources available under the MGNREGS and the Bundelkhand package. Forest development funds are also being used for rainwater harvesting.
Given that most cattle in the region are small and poor milk yielders, attempts are being made to improve their breed through artificial insemination (AI). Non-government organisations with good track records are being involved in providing AI facilities. Several milk collection and chilling centres have come up in the area. A dual-purpose (milk and meat) breed of goats, Barbari, has been introduced to supplement the incomes of landless people.
However, the duration of the package, in its present form, is for three years only and will end in March 2012. There is a need to extend it so that the good work being done under it gets completed and begins yielding enduring results.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
TO DHAKA, WITH LOVE
INDIA MUST MAKE BOLD, UNILATERAL CONCESSIONS TO IMPROVE CRUCIAL TIES
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Bangladesh visit, the first by an Indian premier in over a decade, needs to break new ground and take the bilateral relationship to the next level. Cross-border trade between the two countries is just $4 billion, with the trade balance heavily in India's favour. Which is why New Delhi needs to genuinely improve trade access for Dhaka, including for textiles and readymade garments. India's offer of duty-free annual imports of readymades, now reportedly raised to 10 million pieces, is much too low, given that the market size for such garments here is estimated at $25 billion. India must encourage imports of Bangladeshi readymades. It would suit local consumers, incentivise improvements in local production, for instance exploration of scale economies across the border, and also be of much benefit to the exporters, in the bargain. Note that textiles account for over three-fourths of manufactures in Bangladesh, and much of its exports. And with demand likely affected in its traditional export destinations in the West, stepped-up offtake here would be a win-win situation for the region. It would make sense to aim to remove volume restrictions on imports of readymades from Bangladesh, subject to the usual rules of origin requirements. The opening up may have to be phased over a period of time to be politically acceptable, and also for practical reasons such as the need to harmonise customs norms and nomenclature. It is in New Delhi's interest to make bold, unilateral concessions.
There is also the need to streamline transport and logistics linkages between the two countries. The proposed linking of Indian and Bangladesh railways by completing just 13-km stretch between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura across the border, the key to connecting the north-east with the rest of India, brooks no further delay. The train link would also provide connectivity from the north-east to the Chittagong port. End-to-end rail and truck connectivity will boost trade and friendship. Sharing of river waters must be taken up in earnest, with clarity and transparent negotiations with all stakeholders as the antidote to the task's complexity.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
A WELCOME MOVE
THE CBI ACTION ON ILLEGAL MINING, EVEN IF BELATED, IS A GOOD START IN A LONG BATTLE
Neither the Congress nor the BJP comes out smelling of roses but the arrest of Janardhana Reddy and his brother-in-law B Srinivasa Reddy by the CBI is welcome. It suggests that the government has finally gathered nerve to act on India's biggest scam. The Reddy brothers allegedly used their proximity to the BJP and Congress governments in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to mine vast amounts of iron ore in Bellary and Rayalaseema and export it, illegally, to China from private ports like Krishnapatnam on the east coast. They bribed and threatened officials, subverted local administrations and literally, bought into the Karnataka BJP. The brothers could browbeat chief ministers like Yeddyurappa, and reportedly counted the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajashekhara Reddy as well as BJP's Sushma Swaraj as their political mentors. They held posts in the Karnataka government and, once, succeeded in pushing the state border of Andhra Pradesh, where a large mining operation was in progress, into neighbouring Karnataka. For about a year, the government in Delhi has been paralysed by allegations of graft and wrongdoing, and after the Anna Hazare anti-corruption fast, polls suggest that its popularity, at least in cities, has plummeted. The arrest of the Reddy brothers (and in-laws) is a signal that it is willing to crack down on graft.
Yet, the arrest by itself, is not enough. The investigation has to be thorough. Prosecutors cannot cut corners, nor can they blink if politicians get dragged into the case. Their case should be watertight. These are things that the CBI, unfortunately, has been unable to achieve for a long time. It cannot complete investigations on time, it presents hurried charges and accusations which then fall apart under scrutiny in court. As recently as July, Karnataka's anti-graft watchdog published a powerful indictment of illegal mining carried out by the Bellary brothers, which led to the eventual resignation of chief minister Yeddyurappa. There is plenty of stuff for the CBI to proceed on, but it must have the will and tenacity to do so. It has a long way to go.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
MONEY FOR NOTHING
WHY THE PENTAGON CAN STILL WRITE THE RULEBOOK ON SCAMMING TAXPAYERS
Fed up with corruption in India? Wearing a Hazare topi to work? Don't despair too soon, because things can get worse. In fact, they already have, in the world's biggest economy and its sole standing superpower. There was a time when the Pentagon, America's gigantic defence establishment, used to spend about . 28,000 to buy a single toilet seat. These days, it's busy all over the world and its activities have got more diversified. In Afghanistan, for example, to win over hearts and minds, it decided to use militias of local warlords to drive supply trucks. The warlords pocketed 20% of the cash. In Afghanistan, it built a 102-km road at a cost of $1.7 million dollars — per kilometer. American defence forces believe that it makes sense to splurge money with locals in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, around Kabul and elsewhere, it spent $119 million to rent about 3,000 cars from locals, when it could have run the same number of selfleased cars for less than $60 million. But such frugality would go against a doctrinal paper called 'Money As a Weapons System,' that the Pentagon apparently takes very seriously. The jury is still out on the efficacy of this policy, of course.
If you're hassled about issues at the workplace, you'd do better than to work with SABRE, a Pentagon security contractor in Iraq. The government paid SABRE $1,700 for each guard it got. The company paid its overworked Ugandan employees $700 and kept the rest. But of course, the biggest scammer is the giant contractor Halliburton (now called KBR) formerly headed by exvice president Dick Cheney. It's been paid more than $36 billion in Iraq, of which it could have salted away as much as $300 million. Clearly, when it comes to graft, wily old Uncle Sam and his Pentagon could still teach us a few tricks.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
ANNA MOVEMENT: OTHER FACETS
IN THE MEDIA FRENZY, IT HAS BEEN FORGOTTEN THAT CORRUPTION HAS MANY VARIANTS THAT NO SINGLE LAW CAN END
Much has been written about Anna's pals (Team Anna), people (the "movement") and people's pal (civil society) — as also a semi-translation of the last: Lokpal. However, some facets have not evoked the depth of attention that they deserve. Certainly, Anna was little-known outside his home state when his protest began at Jantar Mantar; nor is he a particularly charismatic leader or a great orator. What, then, accounts for his — or the movement's — appeal? Corruption itself — especially the type that affects the "common man" on a day-to-day basis — is, after all, not a new phenomenon in India. So, was it the timing: the fact that "nothing can stop an idea whose time has come"?
Many have looked at the sociopolitical and economic factors that triggered the movement, and these are undoubtedly major contributors; but, was there also an underlying psychological element? For many years now, across divides of caste, class and community, the commonest "other" — disliked, distrusted and perceived as being corrupt, if not criminal — has been the politician.
So, an agitation directed primarily against the political class, was bound to evoke support. Also, to a vast number of people — possibly a majority — the State (identified mainly as politicians in or out of government, and the administration) is perceived as being exploitative and often oppressive. This image of politicians and officialdom, even if it is an exaggerated caricature, is probably the conducive psychological soil within which the agitation took easy root and flourished. Ominously, this is also a nurturing environment for both anarchism and fascism.
Arguably, this was India's first media-fuelled movement, through wall-to-wall 24x7 coverage (one estimate was that it made for over 80% of content on TV news channels). The known (but little discussed) agenda-setting power of the media was amplified by the positive feedback cycle between coverage (drawing crowds) and crowds (getting coverage). The mindset of the TV editors, in an intensely competitive media market, ensures that most channels cover the same issue, enforcing a common agenda on a very diverse audience. If the issue to be covered has visual dimensions, that seems to immediately add to its news-worthiness; and, if it is easily accessible, so much the better.
Avisual spectacle in the cities was certainly a god-send for TV. The key players making statements that could be from the pen of a Bollywood dialoguewriter not only added to the audio dimension, but provided grist for the shouting matches (outdoing Parliament) that masquerade as "panel discussions". The media was, clearly, amajor factor and an amplifier. In fairness to TV, despite some anchors being blatantly partisan — participant, rather than moderator — almost all channels gave a fair airing to different shades of opinion. Yet, one pined for a genuine public-service broadcaster, as counterpoint to the all-powerful market-driven media.
Unfortunately, the issue of corruption itself received short shrift. In the now-standard knee-jerk reaction to any transgression, a new law with harsher punishment — overseen by a saintly big brother super-cop — is the prescription. There is little focus on systemic issues, on better investigation or on ways of speeding up the justice system, and no attempt to differentiate between coercive corruption and collusive corruption. Coercive or extortionist corruption — a common experience in daily life — is what affects and irks most people, especially the poor and powerless. Faulting the bribegiver in such cases is akin to punishing the victim of a crime. Reducing this form of corruption requires tighter supervision, automation, transparency and overhaul of procedures, more competition in goods and services, and certainty of quick punishment for the bribe-taker.
Collusive corruption, on the other hand, is a "joint venture" between bribegiver and bribe-taker; a transaction in which both benefit, at the cost of the public exchequer or of third parties. This can extend from petty corruption (bribing the ticket-checker when you do not have a ticket) to really big-ticket items (multicrore procurement deals, or sanctioning mining rights). These are inevitably difficult to prove — especially in a court of law — as neither giver nor taker is likely to complain, Such instances, therefore, require intelligent and painstaking investigation; something for which the agencies concerned will require considerable training, especially in understanding complex financial transactions and tracking money trails.
There is a third form of corruption: a variant of coercive corruption, with the roles reversed. In this, "don't-youknow-who-I-am" mode, power —not money — is used, and the law-breaker (or queue-jumper) uses his position or contacts to have his way. Asymmetry of power and a feudal mindset ("the king can do no wrong") facilitate such corruption. For both forms of coercive corruption, greater social and economic equity are the best longterm preventive.
Choking the supply-side of corruption necessitates high standards of corporate governance and tight auditing. A tough stance on corruption by industry associations will add peer pressure. Strangely, the Anna movement chose not to take on the major source of bribe-giving: the corrupt corporate. The next movement may not be so kind.
India's statute books are full of laws for practically everything. The problems lie in their strict and fair enforcement, preceded by good investigation. The popular perception is that the powerful — politicians, top officials and the rich — are able to subvert the law. Another law and another agency may only be marginally more effective; worse, it may paralyse governmental decision-making while driving up the cost of corruption. The gains of public awakening should not be frittered away through tokenisms.
INDEPENDENT POLICY & STRATEGY ANALYST
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
We have heard about birdwatching. Now over to crisiswatching! At the height of the government-Team Anna standoff, TV news channels suddenly started 'breaking news' about how the so-called Congress 'Young Turks' have dived into the crisis-management front. This made many wonder why the Congress leadership was keen to deploy these political greenhorns into something that has already burnt the fingers of many senior leaders. But were told that these young Congress MPs/ministers were actually on 'crisis-management watching' as they were told to closely watch how Congress managers led by Pranab Mukherjee were trying to defuse the crisis. So these MPs/ ministers were constantly hovering around the residences and offices of many senior leaders to get a first-hand feel on the skills of crisis management. Hopefully, these 'young leaders', who have inherited their places in Parliament/ministry, will now, for a change, 'acquire' some skills by watching these practical classes.
You cannot blame Prithviraj Chavan for being more nervous these days. We were told that the Maharashtra CM had made panic calls to Delhi when it was initially suggested the Delhi Police ferry Anna Hazare from Tihar Jail to somewhere in Maharashtra. Chavan then pleaded with his Delhi bosses not to transport a first-rate problem from the national capital to his home state. But ever since Vilasrao Deshmukh took an active role in ending Anna Hazare's fast, the Congress CM's worries have touched a new high. Post-crisis, the Maharashtra state government is busy ensuring Anna has the right kind of security cover at his Ralegaon Siddhi campoffice. The Congress circles here say that hopefully, someone will also ensure the CM too has the right kind of political security given the post-crisis upswing in Deshmukh's profile both in Delhi and Mumbai.
Man at Work
Well, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari is increasingly proving to be quite a game-spoiler for many BJP leaders. If Gadkari has already ruined the peace of mind of many party leaders by announcing the BJP will not project a pre-poll prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 polls, his next plot, we were told, could be a real bouncer. Who does not know that at least two senior BJP leaders are waiting eagerly to take over as the BJP chief when Gadkari's term ends in 2012-end. After all, the BJP constitution bars anybody from holding two consecutive (three-year) presidential term. So, Gadkari is, one thought, bound to make way for someone who, in turn, gets a chance to project himself as the 'real captain of the BJP' when it goes into the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. But afly on the walls says Gadkari and his RSS mentors are now looking at the possibility of amending the BJP constitution to make it a five-year term for the party president. In short, it is time to watch intensifying 'Gadkari-shelling' from within the party.
The Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha constituency in Old Delhi has overnight witnessed a large-scale mushrooming of posters and wall-papers featuring Team Anna member Kiran Bedi. It is a classic case of 'wherever you see a wall in Kapil Sibal's constituency, think of Ms Bedi and the next Lok Sabha polls'. This should not bother Smriti Irani, as she is now happily in the Rajya Sabha and, is unlikely to be asked by the BJP to burn her fingers again by contesting against Sibal for the second time. Ms Bedi insists that she will never join the BJP. But, then, nobody has ever heard her rule out the possibility of contesting as an independent candidate whom the BJP is free to support.
Politicians are quick learners. No wonder, the latest rounds of WikiLeaks have not triggered exactly the same kind of aggressive responses from leaders who had used the earlier WikiLeaks dispatches to hit right and left at the 'exposed lot'. Learning from their past, there is a realisation among leaders that the WikiLeaks could swing either way, anytime, as some leaders learnt the hard way last time. Since the latest WikiLeaks revelations have already hit the Congress, BJP and the Left alike and have travelled from Delhi to Srinagar to Kolkata to Thiruvananthapuram, leaders are cautious in their mandatory responses. Many of them are now in agreement with what Prakash Karat's said in self-defence — 'take it with a pinch of salt'. Call it WikiGuard.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
FOR A 'ZERO PROBLEMS' SOUTH ASIA
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh on September 6 and 7 is unlike routine diplomatic events. The showpiece item of this tour is the signing of a historic pact involving territorial exchanges of enclaves disputed between East Pakistan and India from 1947 to 1971, and carried forward by independent Bangladesh and India over the last 40 years. By finally demarcating and solving the claims over these enclaves in a mutually agreeable manner, the two countries are setting a new standard in regional cooperation that can become the template for other prickly bilateral relationships in South Asia.
What is refreshing about this agreement is that India has been magnanimous with Bangladesh in the territorial give-and-take. The deal will result in a net loss of 4,200 hectares of land for India, which will gain 2,800 hectares but cede 7,000 hectares. For two neighbours to bury the hatchet in an arrangement where the more powerful country is relatively more generous is a rare occurrence.
Had the pro-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) still been in power in Dhaka, the chance of a landmark resolution to the boundary niggles would have been close to zero. The fact that the ruling Awami League is a true friend of India is paramount for trust to have built up since 2008 and culminated in this marquee accord. India has sent out a signal to its other South Asian neighbours through this process that if they address Indian concerns of Islamist fundamentalism, harbouring of militants and Chinese encroachment, then they too can expect munificence in return.
There are lessons for Indian diplomacy from the way Turkey has developed the socalled 'Davutoglu Doctrine' of "zero problems" in its neighbourhood. Named after the creative Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, this doctrine has guided Turkey to mend fences with all its squabbling neighbours in the Middle East, and then to leverage the peace dividend for an unchallenged claim to the status of regional great power. Even a historically poisoned relationship like the one between Turkey and Armenia has been softened through this doctrine, which prominently features opening of trade routes and economic opportunities with Turkey as the hub for the entire region.
The dream of a South Asian union that derives benefits from and also fuels India's economic growth eludes us because of the military's de facto control over politics in Pakistan. The adversarial stance, most notably through sponsorship of cross-border terrorism, that emanates from Pakistan is the main obstacle to India enjoying its own "zero problems" milieu in South Asia. India's western neighbour has to eschew securitised lenses and put on liberal ones that harness the potential of borderless trade and movement of skilled personnel.
Despite the Bangladesh-India relationship hitting new highs this week, thanks to the domestic political stars being favourably aligned in both countries, India will have to curb widely derided 'big brotherly' condescension towards its smaller neighbours. Manmohan Singh's remarks in July this year that 25% of Bangladeshis were followers of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and "very anti-India", produced predictable petulance. But what really riles many Bangladeshis of even liberal persuasion is India's repeated crowing about the $1 billion credit line it has offered for infrastructure projects to the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the implication that Bangladeshis are being ungrateful. Many moderate, pro-India Bangladeshis argue that the credit line carries an interest rate higher than what Dhaka could borrow from alternative capital markets or donors. Well-wishers of India in Bangladesh also recount bitter experiences of being denied visas or subjected to humiliating treatment at the hands of boorish Indian consular officials. The Indian media is quick to latch on to slights suffered by Indians at the hands of immigrations officials around the world, but we tend to be oblivious to resentments in our own neighbourhood on the same grounds. An attitude change which displays greater courtesy and respect to bonafide applicants of visas from Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia will cost us nothing. India must sternly prevent the flood of illegal migrants from Bangladesh who are alarmingly reshaping the demography of our eastern border areas, but we cannot carry that grudge on to legal channels of people-to-people contact. Warts and all, India's mature handling of the border issue with Bangladesh is a harbinger of a more hope-filled South Asia. Just as China and Russia settled their tense border a few years via a broader geopolitical concord against the US, India and Bangladesh have shown that land can be bargained for peace, provided governments coalesce politically against religious fundamentalism, terrorism and undue Chinese penetration of our region.
(The author is Vice Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs)
With food inflation climbing once again above 10 per cent, it has become even more urgent for the government to provide a a clear mandate in terms of policy support, the technology options and requisite investment for domestic agriculture. Output growth, especially of proteins, has been decisively trailing burgeoning demand, and the case for boosting farm production and productivity and cutting costs across the supply chain cannot be overstated. As a primary source of livelihood, agriculture is becoming increasingly unremunerative and unsustainable; the economic and social consequences are there for all to see — agrarian crisis, large-scale migration to the cities, farmers' suicides and the like. In some essential food products, such as pulses and edible oils, our import dependence is well-established, and in rice, sugar and coarse cereals it is a matter of time before regular imports become inevitable.
Admittedly, we have almost all that it takes to be an agricultural superpower — abundant sunshine, adequate rainfall, varied agro-climatic conditions and biodiversity. That said, several simultaneous steps are necessary to strengthen domestic agriculture to ensure sustained output growth, lower losses and decent farm incomes. The policy focus in the last ten years has been so diffuse that there is a discernable wariness in the flow of investments to the farm sector; thus the seed companies' trepidation over investment in technology. The policy environment is confusing. No one is sure whether science will prevail over populism. As if to confound the confusion, the Centre has directed seed research companies to obtain permission from State governments to conduct field trials.
As different States take conflicting or contradictory stands on the subject, there is further uncertainty. In recent months, there have been more than 100 applications seeking regulatory approvals to conduct field trials for genetically-modified crops. Effective regulatory oversight and strict compliance with research mandates is another area that deserves attention. Bio-safety and related issues have to be addressed with utmost care and commitment. The uncertainty over adoption of agricultural biotechnology as a way forward is in no one's interest. Under the Constitution, agriculture is a State subject but, strangely, New Delhi seems to have discovered this only in June, when it asked research firms to obtain clearance from the respective State governments. It is critical that the Central government takes a clear stand on the future of the use of biotechnology in agriculture. Otherwise, the country faces the daunting challenge of pursuing non-technology options.
FOR A NEW CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY FRAMEWORK
Corporate social responsibility or CSR, and 'Giving' are being discussed more today. There are reports that the Government is even considering making CSR compulsory.
We in India are enjoying a high rate of GDP growth for some time now and are producing more billionaires than most countries. Yet, ironically, there is a disconnect between GDP growth and rate of poverty removal. May be it is this realisation that is making us talk of CSR and giving more than ever before.
Liberalisation has certainly rapidly increased the divergence and rent-seeking corporates, and with it the levels of corruption. We, in the corporate sector, have to take our fair share of blame. CSR has to be viewed in this context, and not merely in terms of giving back.
Clearly, most corporates look at CSR as a post-profit activity. In order to get a better understanding of CSR, a few years ago CII Tamil Nadu had a discussion with three panellists: a senior Government official and economist; a senior executive of a very large professionally managed company; and a senior member of a very large family-owned business.
The views were expectedly different. The Government functionary said that CSR is complying with the legal, social and environmental rules and conducting business in a fair manner.
The professional was of the opinion that CSR should be strategic in nature and it should help in corporate image-building, and anything purely charitable in nature should be left to the individual shareholders.
The family manager said CSR is an extension of family values and a portion of profits should be spent on charitable projects.
In fact, the western model of CSR is similar to what the professional in the panel articulated. Mr Bill Gates and Mr Warren Buffet are contributing to charity from their personnel wealth. The CSR models followed by Mr Azim Premji and Mr Shiv Nadar are also similar.
Most family-managed companies have been traditionally giving from their personal wealth and from the companies they control.
More recently, Mr Mukesh Ambani referred to a CSR model based on our traditional values going far beyond the Western and the family-owned business models.
While in the licence regime it was the permits that gave the privileged few the opportunities to prosper, in liberalised India we have created two enablers to take the place of licences.
These enablers have prevented the trickle-down effect from happening. What are these enablers?
Tax rebates, duty exemptions, income-tax exemptions, land at deeply-discounted prices, power tariff subsidy, preferential allotment and scarce resources at lower prices , interest subsidies — all in the name of industrial development and, through it, creating greater social good than social costs.
Once a sector gets these benefits, even companies that do not wish to avail themselves of these 'gifts' will be forced to take them in order to remain competitive.
Several such gifts that are being sought and readily given; most of them have either outlived their utility or are uncalled for. Hardly 25 per cent of these gifts can be justified as creating a greater social good than their social costs.
Getting higher than required import duty levied to protect our pricing power including anti-dumping duties, resisting signing FTAs (even when we know that as a nation we will benefit a lot) if it is perceived to affect our pricing power, getting BIS protection to effectively prevent imports from taking place even if the product we make is not a critical one and getting a much higher DEPB rate than warranted to earn higher sales realisation on our exports.
Through these enablers we directly impact inclusive growth by overcharging our customers and actively taking taxpayers' money and national wealth into our balance sheets.
These enablers, wherever they do not produce the necessary social good to justify their existence, helps us 'capture wealth' and not 'create wealth': large-scale corruption is directly linked to 'wealth capture'.
Not seeking or using these enablers and voicing opinions against these enablers are the first step towards becoming responsible corporates. If we can avoid the two enablers and also actively participate in improving the system of delivering social good to the people at the bottom of the pyramid, then the need to give itself will come down drastically.
Even though giving is welcome , the recipients certainly will feel their dignity and self-respect hurt. Hence everything possible must be done to minimise the need to receive.
Coming now to what Mr Ambani was talking about: Consider 'service to mankind as service to God' at all levels, be it at corporate or at individual levels. Appreciation of the statement is born out of deeper understanding of the ultimate truth according to our scriptures that the Creator is not different from the creation. The Creator is not only the intelligent cause behind the creation, but is also the material cause.
This profound understanding will also make us realise that the corollary of what Mr Ambani said is true.
'Disservice to mankind is disservice to God' and an understanding of this will prevent us from even articulating non-inclusive policies and prevent us from seeking benefits under Enabler 1 or 2 unless we are more than 100 per cent sure of delivering greater social good than social cost.
Every organisation needs to evolve in its CSR. The more economically and socially empowered the organisation becomes, the more it must vociferously campaign against the enablers and, at the earliest, stop taking advantage of them, even if they exist for the industry as a whole.Inclusive growth that will result out of not seeking these enablers will enlarge the market for us and lower taxes, for the industry and service as a whole.
The more efficient among us will grow; the entropy that is a consequence of supporting inefficiencies will be reduced . Economy will grow much faster and in a harmonious fashion. If political corruption is the fire that is engulfing our nation, corporate greed is the fuel and apathy or endorsement by the society is the oxygen.
CSR in our context should be much more to do with the process of wealth creation even as individuals and families continue to make their own contributions to society, in their own ways, as they have done for generations. Elimination of the need to give even as we continue to give should be the bottom line.
EXTERNAL SECTOR RISKS CANNOT BE IGNORED
R. K. PATTNAIK
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its bulletin issued on August 11, had published the detailed analysis of Balance of Payments (BoP) for 2010-11, along with Q4 data and the outstanding external debt position for that period.
One of the important features in the BoP article is that the data were presented in conformity with the latest Balance of Payments Manual 6 (BPM 6) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This development is an important milestone in the history of BoP compilation, as India's BoP data dissemination is now in line with international best practices.
Against the above backdrop, here's a look at some of the features of the new method, followed by downside risks to the external sector.
Two important features of the new method are (a) the discontinuation of the concept of 'Invisibles' in the Current Account and (b) the introduction of Financial Account and a new concept of Capital Account (instead of the old Capital Account). The Current Account now covers Goods and Services, Primary Income and Secondary Income. It may be noted that Goods in the new method corresponds to Merchandise in the old one. Items under Services mostly remain unchanged. The Transfer and Income categories were discontinued, and two new concepts — Primary Income and Secondary Income — were introduced.
The former covers mainly investment income and compensation to employees, which were included under Income in the old classification. The latter covers mainly private transfers (primarily workers' remittances).
While the Finance Account mostly covers the old Capital Account, the new Capital Account includes credit and debit transactions under non-produced, non-financial assets and capital transfers between residents and non-residents.
Thus, acquisitions and disposals of non-produced, non-financial assets, such as land sold to embassies and sale of leases and licences, as well as transfers which are capital in nature, are recorded under this account.
Two erstwhile Capital Account items — External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) and Non-Resident Indian (NRI) deposits — were included under Finance Account, under the heads Loans (other sectors) and Currency and Deposits (deposit-taking corporations, except central banks).
Apart from providing details in Finance Account, it helps in better compilation of national account statistics, with the help of more disaggregated items in the external sector accounts.
The RBI is one of the few central banks that has been compiling BoP since 1948; as such, its expertise is beyond question. However, here are a few suggestions for the RBI's consideration.
First, the RBI may revisit the figures and concepts set out in Table 10 of the BoP article under the head 'Details of Other Receivables/Payables (Net)'. In this category, for the financial year 2010-11, the amount of net funds held abroad, at $4 billion, is not in conformity with the conventional wisdom of fund management, in keeping funds abroad at very low interest rates.
Similarly, the advances received, pending issue of share under Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), at $9 billion, is inconsistent with the FDI regulation of investing within 182 days.
Furthermore, items such as Derivatives and Hedging were shown as zero in their respective places. Therefore, it could be assumed that there is no figure under these heads. More important, items such as Migrant Transfer and Other Capital Transfer could now well be covered under the new head Capital Account. The RBI should avoid mechanical postings of these figures.
Second, the gap in the import data between the Directorate-General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S - Customs data) and RBI (banking channel) is alarmingly large, at $28.3 billion. The data gap was also higher during 2009-10 and 2008-09 at $12.2 billion and $9.7 billion, respectively.
Third, the leads and lags in export data mainly represent the gap between data reported by the RBI and DGCI&S. These leads and lags need to be bridged during a year. But their continuation for a longer period has implications on the magnitude of current account deficit, which is a policy variable for economic growth.
The data released by the RBI reveal some downside risks for the external sector. First, there has been a slowdown in the FDI net flows.
Second, the debt component of capital flows (net finance account) has increased.
Third, higher imports have resulted in higher trade credits.
Fourth, increased share of local withdrawals of NRI deposits has potential for lower share of family maintenance and slowdown in workers' remittances.
Fifth, the increased share of short-term debt, at around 42 per cent, needs to be monitored.
Sixth, according to the World Bank, the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, China and India) were the highest externally-indebted countries in terms of absolute levels. As a proportion of national income, India's external debt was 18 per cent, compared with 9 per cent for China in 2009.
The above developments suggest that India's external sector has the potential for further deterioration. The foreign exchange reserves have been built with more debt flows.
In the present milieu of lower interest rate abroad, the net investment income from foreign currency assets (FCA) has been negative. The tendency to continue acquiring FCA at a higher cost and investing the funds at rates that yield lower return has obvious downside risks.
In view of the foregoing, it may be concluded that the build-up of foreign exchange reserves does not guarantee sufficient insurance. The downside risks of the external sector should not be ignored.
WAITING FOR THE NEXT MESSIAH
Watching events unfolding in Egypt in early 2011, I had noted in "Euphoria of a winter revolution" ( Business Line, February 15) how through "their peaceful, but determined and dogged protests", young Egyptians had got rid of a dictator whose family fortunes were estimated at around $70 billion. And added that it had been "a winter of discontent for Indians" with each passing week bringing "news of scams and scamsters… How long will a billion-plus people continue to remain proud of a democracy which only fattens the chosen, or elected few? How long will the masses watch helplessly the shenanigans of the extremely corrupt amassing wealth, while their own lives remain a struggle, with only their once-in-five-years-vote as a brahmastra?"
Well, the Anna Hazare storm against corruption, strengthened by disillusioned, frustrated and angry Indians, has already rocked the Monsoon session of Parliament and jolted the politicians. Sure, it's going to be a long, long fight against corruption which has firmly spread its tentacles across the political/ sarkari fabric of this country.
One may question the means employed and raise questions on the personal credentials of some members of Team Anna. (That right has to be respected because Caesar's wife should be above suspicion and, hence, Anna Hazare's belligerence on that count is indeed puzzling.) But there is no doubt that the popular uprising against corruption was badly needed.
Corner for the privileged
Is corruption among our ruling classes — from the topmost echelons in New Delhi to the dusty environs of a sarkari daftar in the Indian interior — the only disease plaguing us? Not really. What about the widening divide between the rich and the poor? Isn't that as, if not more, disturbing an evil? Or the kind of opportunities that are available to different sections of society to make it to the small corner reserved for the more privileged Indians?
In a recent freewheeling chat with the RBI's Deputy Governor, Dr Subir Gokarn, who was in Chennai to address a huge gathering of students at the SRM University in Chennai for a BL Club event, I quizzed him on how he saw the future of India's future — youngsters — panning out.
His take: "What I am most worried about is that the employment opportunities are just not there for the large number of youngsters coming into the workforce every year." Giving the example of business education, he said only a minority of students could afford it, either through their own resources, loans or scholarships. "Most people are not able to transit from school to higher education. Unless we deal with this by giving them not only skills but also upward mobility in terms of income, and so on, we are not really delivering on the development commitment. I am not very happy, at this point, at the pace at which this process is going on. Of course, we have good economic growth, which is fine, and opportunities have increased, which is great. But the backlog, to my mind, is getting problematic."
He thinks better progress on the economic reforms agenda, more vigorous and labour-intensive manufacturing activity, as this is "the natural absorber of people", are required. Also "we need to skill people differently" by moving away from the one-size-fits-all schooling system. "I'm not an expert in education, but think we need to create employable skills at a much earlier age," he added
Then, of course, there is that section which doesn't even get close to the aspiration stage of a higher education for their children. For them, mere subsistence with two meals a day continues to be a grim challenge.
Dr Gokarn favours NREGA as a safety net framework as it is "addressing an absolutely basic buffer between just subsistence and destitution. We need to expand this because when you reform the labour market and talk about flexibility and the freedom to hire and fire, which is a requirement for generating jobs, then you need a safety net too."
On the allegations of leakages and siphoning of NREGA funds, and why the banking system can't be mobilised to put money directly into the beneficiaries' accounts, he says, "Benefits moving through the banking system is clearly the central objective of the financial inclusion scheme." Once the benefit system is plugged into the UID (Unique Identification) scheme, it would automatically connect with the banking system.
This debate brings us back to the most crucial issue: Will our governing classes be able to do all this quickly enough to at least check, if not reverse, the growing restlessness and sheer anger of the disadvantaged and underprivileged classes? Surely, just like those among us who have the means and the money to become victims of the greed and graft of our netas and babus, and hence found it so easy to rally around Anna Hazare's call against corruption, their patience must be running out too. Actually, their forbearance levels should be much lower, as they have got nothing… absolutely nothing… from this country's so-called growth and development.
So they too must be waiting for a messiah to launch an agitation for them… an agitation to ensure the most modest of rozi-roti for them. While they await such a messiah, here is a snatch of conversation a colleague overheard the other day in a bus as it went past the glitzy Express Avenue, the most happening mall in Chennai. Watching some youngsters swagger into the mall, one passenger told another: "Where do these people find the money to spend in a place like this?"
Being a patron of this mall herself, she cringed at the truth of this observation and felt a sharp stab of guilt.
HIGHER EDUCATION AND EXPECTATIONS
Things seem to be improving in education in developing countries, at least as far as enrolment is concerned. Across the world, literacy rates have gone up, school enrolment rates are rising and dropout rates are falling. Much of the improvement has taken place in the regions that most needed it, in relatively low-income countries that previously had very low enrolment ratios. Improvements in educational outcomes have been particularly marked for girls and young women, so gender gaps are falling.
In some regions, gender gaps have even been reversed, even in tertiary education which was traditionally the hardest gap to bridge.
This is clearly good news, even if critics can point out that in several parts of the world these improvements are still nowhere near fast enough. And of course, the bare fact of enrolment tells us very little about the quality of education and its relevance for both those being educated and for the society. Even so, increasing enrolment is an important first step.
What is particularly interesting in several developing regions, including the most populous parts of the world, is that there has also been significant increase in tertiary education. Once again, this is good news. But it does have implications for the future that are still inadequately analysed.
UNESCO data on enrolment in education provide some relevant indicators. Chart 1 shows the enrolments in tertiary education by region. The first point to note is that while globally tertiary enrolment rates have been rising, regional differences still remain dramatic.
These spatial variations are possibly even more marked within the developing world than globally. Thus, tertiary enrolment rates have been rising fairly rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as East Asia and the Pacific, but much more slowly in the Arab States and in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the recent increases in such enrolment in east Asia (and to a lesser extent South Asia), higher education enrolment in these regions still remains at less than half the rates achieved in Europe and North America, and also still well below other developing regions such as Latin America. What that in turn suggests is that – especially in the more rapidly growing regions – higher education enrolment rates will increase even more sharply in the near future.
This is significant simply because these are the regions with very large populations and especially with large (and mostly growing) numbers of youth. This in turn will affect the regional distribution of those in higher education quite significantly. This has already happened to some extent over the last decade, as Charts 2a and 2b indicate. In 1999, North America and Western Europe accounted for nearly one-third of the numbers of those engaged in tertiary education; by 2009 the proportion had fallen to just above one-fifth. Meanwhile the share of East Asia increased from one quarter to nearly one-third.
This tendency is confirmed by looking at the increases in enrolment numbers in Chart 3. In the decade until 2009, the total number of those enrolled in tertiary education across the world increased by more than 70 million, of whom nearly 60 per cent came from Asia. 42 per cent of the increase came only from East Asia and the Pacific (driven by significant increases in China). The other regions with demographic structures tilted towards the young are South Asia and West Asia – together they accounted for only 16 per cent of the increased enrolment in the past decade, but this is likely to be greater in the coming period, given increases in secondary education in these regions.
Since Asia and sub-Saharan Africa continue to have much lower average tertiary enrolment rates (averaging 10 to 20 per cent compared to more than 60 per cent in the advanced countries), this proportion is likely to increase even further in the near future. So the bulk of new entrants into higher education will come from these regions in the coming decade.
Progress of women
It is noteworthy that the number of women in tertiary education has increased at a much faster rate than for men, as shown in Chart 4. Globally, women now outnumber men in tertiary education! In some regions (like North America, Western Europe, Latin America and Eastern Europe), the ratio is significantly above half. This too is a process of great significance, because it is likely to bring in its wake all sorts of social and economic changes and hopefully a much greater degree of gender equality in other spheres of life as well.
The increase in tertiary education in the developing world is clearly a positive sign and obviously there is much scope for substantially more such increase in the coming years. But, like all positive changes, it also brings forth challenges, and many of these are still not recognized in full. The most obvious challenge is that of ensuring enough productive employment to meet the expectations of these new graduates.
This issue of ensuring jobs for the young are going through more levels of education than the previous generation has several inter-related aspects. The first is that of sheer quantity of available jobs. Even during the phase of global boom, the most dynamic economies in the world were simply not creating enough paid employment to meet the needs of those willing to supply their labour. In some countries this reflected in rising rates of open unemployment, especially among the youth; in other countries with poorly developed social protection and unemployment benefits, disguised unemployment was more the norm. But this was during the boom – obviously the Great Recession and subsequent continuing uncertainty in global markets have made things a lot worse. So in most economies, there are simply not enough jobs being created, even for those who have received higher levels of education.
The second aspect is that of quality, of matching education and skills with the available jobs, or what is often described as the "employability" of the labour force. This problem of skills mismatch is a problem even in growing economies, which face severe labour shortages for some kinds of workers and massive oversupply in others. Often this is not in spite of, but because of, market forces, because markets and higher educational institutions tend to respond with lags to the demands of employers for particular skills, and then to oversupply certain skills.
This can have troubling social implications. Simply because of the shortage of higher level jobs, many young people are forced to take jobs that require less skills and training than they have actually received, and are of lower grade than their own expectations of their employability. This in turn can create resentment and other forms of alienation that get expressed in all sorts of ways.
The third aspect – and one that we all ignore at our peril – is related to the second, but reflects a slightly different process. The recent increase in tertiary enrolment across the world is certainly to be welcomed, but it should be noted that a significant part of that has been in private institutions with much higher user fees. As public investment in education has simply not kept pace with the growing demand for it, there has been in many societies, a mushrooming of private institutions many of whom are designed to cater to the demand for supposedly more "marketable" skills such as in technology, IT and management.
This is especially true in developing countries where private institutions charging very high fees have in some cases come to dominate higher education. In India, for example, around two-thirds of such enrolment is now estimated to be in private colleges and universities and similar institutes.
Even in countries where public education still dominates, there are moves to increase fees. This creates another complication around the issue of employability.
Many students, including those coming from relatively poor families, have invested a great deal of their own and their families' resources in order to acquire an education that comes with the promise of a better life.
In the developing world, this hunger for education is strongly associated with the hope of upward mobility, leading families to sell assets such as land and go into debt in the hope of recouping these investments when the student graduates and gets a well-paying job.
But such jobs, as noted earlier, are increasingly scarce. And so these many millions of young people who will emerge with higher degrees, often achieved not just with a lot of effort but a lot of financial resources, are likely to find it even harder to find the jobs that they were led to expect. This does not augur well for social and political stability. Policy makers across the world, and particularly in developing countries with a demographically youthful society, need to be much more conscious of this challenge than they seem to be at present.
THE GOLD RUSH ENDURES
That Indians love gold is no secret. The fact that the largest amount of the yellow metal in private hands is in this country — an estimated 18,000 tonnes, and counting — is sufficient proof. Nor have high prices deterred us from buying it, not just as an investment but also as security. Now economists and policymakers are beginning to fret at this irrational love for gold. It is dead wealth, they say, and the money locked in it could have been better used for other, more productive uses, and given a boost to the Indian growth story. But maybe the Indian housewife does know something that Mr Economist with his fancy degrees doesn't. The handsome returns over the past few years vindicate the faith that the average Indian family has in gold. A bar or a biscuit bought even at high prices at the beginning of this year has still given a yield far better than that of equity or property. The world, which is making a beeline for gold to hedge against the tottering global economy, has figured out what we knew many centuries ago: money loses value, gold doesn't. So come this festival season, there will be a huge rush inside gold shops, notwithstanding the absurd prices. Jewellers are already rubbing their hands with glee. After all, which other asset gives good returns and also looks good when worn around the neck?
INDIA NEEDS A 360° TERROR APPRAISAL
The highly surcharged political drama around Anna Hazare's fast at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi came to an end on August 28, though with what substantial results is yet to be seen. But the country needs to remember that on the midnight of 19/20 August, even as Delhi was focused on the hectic political negotiations between Team Anna and the government, young Lt. Navdeep Singh was killed and two of his soldiers injured near Bagtor village in the Gurez region of Kashmir when they intercepted a group of heavily armed militants attempting to cross the Kishenganga river in a rubber dinghy, killing 12 of them in the process. This was reportedly the eighth such attempt in the region. Gurez in north Kashmir is very far from Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, but given Mr Hazare's tremendous pride in his personal background as a soldier, he would have been proud of his brave comrades. Throughout the summer this year there have been persistent reports in the media about major attempts by Pakistan to infiltrate into Kashmir, both across the Line of Control as well as Jammu's international border. Tribal and other proxies created for this purpose (including some within India itself, like Simi and the Indian Mujahideen) are strategic assets under the direct control of the Pakistan military, acting through well established front organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed. It is clear that notwithstanding the numerous peace conferences at various levels between the two countries, Pakistan's exploitation of covert war as an instrument of policy against India will always remain a constant in India-Pakistan equations. In this context, Al Qaeda and its emerging connections in Yemen have become very relevant for India. Yemen's predominantly tribal culture and harsh inaccessible terrain create an inherent insularity which, in many ways, makes the country an ideal sanctuary for terrorists. Yemen has, in fact, reportedly become the principal new destination for Pashtun and Punjabi Taliban fleeing intensifying attacks by American drones. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has gradually established itself here through a web of alliances with the local tribes, including some by intermarriages, particularly in the inaccessible mountains of the Shabwa province, and has now become a strong presence within the country. There is every likelihood that Pakistan's ISI has established contacts with the AQAP, though the organisation has been targeted by Saudi and Yemeni intelligence and military who consider Al Qaeda a threat to the ruling establishments. Yemen was in the news because of reports that the AQAP was attempting to procure large quantities of castor beans for manufacturing ricin powder, an extremely lethal poison; it's swiftly fatal if inhaled in even the most minute doses. These were then to be packed into small explosive dispenser packages and smuggled into the US and Europe, and exploded in crowded places like shopping malls, aircraft or subway stations. It would be a dirty chemical bomb from ingredients freely available in the open market, comparatively cheaper and much more accessible than even the smallest nuclear equivalent. Of course, there is much scepticism about the very feasibility of developing such a project in the primitive environments of Yemen, which is where the significance of a possible Pakistani connection with the AQAP comes in. Consider this. Pakistan has already given a Dr A.Q. Khan to the illegal nuclear market. Given the jihadi influence within the Pakistani scientific community, it is not at all impossible that another similar figure may emerge in that country in the illegal bio-chemical field as well. The AQAP has demonstrated the capability to devise imaginative and ingenuous plans to carry out attacks in the heartlands of the US and western Europe, and some were even put into operation, but detected almost at the last minute. In the past, numerous jihadi attacks have originated from Yemen, including suicide bombing of the US Navy warship USS Cole in Aden harbour in 2010, the attack on the French tanker Limburg, the failed attack on another US Navy warship The Sullivans in 2002, besides the attempted assassination of the Saudi anti-terrorist chief Prince Mohammad bin Nayef. There was also the more bizarre case of an African passenger of Yemeni origin with plastic explosives sewn into his underwear who boarded an American commercial flight flying from Amsterdam and Detroit but failed to set off the explosive when over American airspace. But fanciful or not, the US for one is certainly taking seriously the capabilities of the AQAP as a potential threat. American military aid and intelligence activities in Yemen, including strikes by American aircraft and drones, have been ramped up, and there are reports that a new American airbase for this purpose is under construction in a yet unspecified country in West Asia. Threats to India's national security can build up in any quarter, from any region of the world. India should have no doubts that it is very much on the AQAP's target list, through local proxies like the LeT in Pakistan, including possible "ricin bomb" operations. So even as Mr Hazare wrestles with the threat of corruption to ensure good governance, India must take due note of other threats as well and exercise the requisite caution. Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament
TEESTA SOURS PM'S HISTORIC DHAKA TRIP
It is a pity that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Bangladesh, beginning Tuesday, which otherwise has the makings of a point of departure, may just get marred on account of insufficient domestic political sensitivity shown by New Delhi, unless last-minute repair work by the Centre can meet the justified concerns of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The chief minister appears to have declined at the last minute to be a part of the team of five chief ministers accompanying Dr Singh to mark a pathbreaking occasion in relations between the two countries. Ms Banerjee is said to be disturbed that India has agreed on a formula to share the waters of the Teesta river with Bangladesh without factoring in the preference of West Bengal, the Indian state most affected by the sharing formula that has been advanced by India. The Trinamul Congress president, a significant UPA-2 ally, is reportedly unhappy with New Delhi for agreeing on a 50:50 allocation for the neighbouring country. It is argued that such a division prejudices the interests of several North Bengal districts, in which popular anger could break out. This is a part of the state where Ms Banerjee's base is not as solid as elsewhere. New Delhi has given indications that it would eventually not make an agreement with which West Bengal is dissatisfied. With hardly any time left for the visit to begin, it is not clear what remedial steps are at hand. But for this unhappy aspect, the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Dhaka in 12 years is geared to set the stage for a qualitative change in bilateral relations. Under a framework agreement, it envisages the resolution of the long-pending boundary issue by ending the regime of "adverse possession" of enclaves by the two countries, the offering of customs duty relief to Bangladesh trade that has long been an irritant, a broad opening up of trade and transit to facilitate business and people-to-people contacts, and providing for the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports by India. The changed mood in India toward Bangladesh began with the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to New Delhi in January 2010, during which far-reaching changes were envisioned, underpinned by an impressive line of credit not extended by India to any other country. This was followed up in quick order by the government in Dhaka seeking to checkmate anti-India Islamist and other terrorist outfits on its soil. The effort marks a new turn in subcontinental politics, and underlines the contrast with our Pakistan equation. New Delhi must do all it can to bring Kolkata on board when the prospects otherwise look so good.
THE COLOUR CODE
Indira Gandhi didn't have a nose job done when a heckler's stone hit her in Bhubaneswar in 1967, but even if she did — as some claim — it would be for reasons of pardonable personal vanity, like breast augmentation and liposuction in the United States. The increasing popularity of efforts to blur racial characteristics like dark skin, crinkly hair, snub noses and slanting eyes is a different matter indicating that thousands, perhaps millions, of Afro-Asians are eating their hearts out because they don't look Caucasian. Those who think they do preen themselves on their good fortune like an Indian journalist's smug reference in his memoirs to being "fair" which means light-skinned in Indian English. (Fair in English English indicates light eyes and hair.) Colour is Afro-Asia's great fantasy: the warring Whites and Reds in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop were both really Black. Nor would the US accept that Bhagat Singh Thind, an early Sikh migrant, was entitled to citizenship because he was "a descendant of the Aryans of India, belonging to the Caucasian race (and, therefore) White." Jawaharlal Nehru complained bitterly that Anglo-Saxons crown the global pecking order with Latins and Slavs below them, and Indians and other Asians following in the distance. Africans bring up the rear. Nehru was reiterating Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau's basic concept of a hierarchy based on colour that spawned eugenics and the Nazi master race concept. But while an Indian's yearning to be taken for a European, however pathetic, might be blamed on colonialism, it's surprising that China, boasting of 5,000 unbroken years of civilisation and proud that the Celestial Empire treated other nations as vassals, should betray a similar sense of inferiority. An elderly Chinese woman, rich, highly educated and Western to her fingertips, told me how astonished she was in New York of the 1930s where she got married to another Chinese when eyebrows were raised in the registrar's office because she entered "white" in the column for colour. "What else could I write?" she asked puzzled 60 years later. I couldn't tell her that Americans of that age would have called her "yellow". Logically, the Chinese should be as proud of their physical appearance as they are of the tea-drinking ceremony or their stranglehold on American federal reserves. But the booming trade in plastic surgery indicates otherwise. On the face of it, a Reuters report that "a generation of young Chinese are growing up better-looking than their parents" because of cosmetic surgery sounds like Western arrogance. It takes for granted that Aryan noses and eyes are the pinnacle of beauty. But this isn't only the subjective view of Reuters' European or American journalists. It reflects Chinese opinion. A girl who paid approximately Rs 40,000 to acquire double-fold eyelids exulted that her "eyes would be bigger and more lovely". With a record three million aesthetic procedures last year, China ranks second to the United States. Students make up 80 per cent of the patients in Beijing because parents want their daughters to be beautiful to find husbands or jobs more easily. Most operations are scheduled for the summer holidays before college or high school opens. Westerners must find this effort to copy them by correcting nature's handiwork an amusing compensation for being forced to defer to China's rising might. But we can't crow for India's demand for "wheat-complexioned brides" and the skin lighteners which even educated young men seek suggests that the journalist I cited is just one of the herd. According to one version, the craze killed the beautiful Hollywood actress, Merle Oberon. Born Queenie Thompson of Anglo-Indian parents, she paraded as white by habitually using a poisonous skin-lightening cream. Merle passed off her mother, who was too dark-skinned for any magic cream, as her maid. After her mother's death, she commissioned a painting of her from an old photograph, instructing the painter to lighten the complexion. Social attitudes often manifest themselves in public life. Loy Henderson, an early American ambassador, thought Nehru aspired to lead "a global union of coloured peoples". Richard Wright called his account of the Bandung conference The Colour Curtain. The fashionably aggressive "Black is Beautiful" cult was one response to white supremacy, leading in turn to the contrived "Brown is the new Black" slogan. As someone observed, all that this means is that "Brown is the new black is the new white." White still reigns supreme in the Afro-Asian consciousness. Some trace India's colour fixation through varna, caste, to the Aryan-Dravidian divide. The philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, argued that "the highest civilisation and culture, apart from the ancient Indians and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmans, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands." But I would be surprised if British rule and domination by a visibly different colonial elite didn't also have something to do with modern preference. What about the Chinese then? Have they nursed a secret sense of physical inferiority ever since setting eyes on the first European, probably the 16th century Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci? And did unequal treaties, foreign concessions and the Opium Wars compound their agony, with Prince Philip's "slitty-eyed" remark turning the knife in the wound of centuries? Now that China is America's match, a fiscal, manufacturing and military power with the world's second largest economy, nothing is beyond its reach. If God didn't give the Chinese sharp noses and straight eyes, they themselves will, like Napoleon taking the crown from the Pope's hands and placing it on his own head. Sunanda K. Datta-Ray is a senior journalist, columnist and author
WHY ARE WE CORRUPT?
The report released by Transparency International ranks India as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. No Indian is surprised at this because we don't need an international agency to show us a mirror to our own reality. We live with this pain daily. One of the biggest causes of corruption is greed and power which usually thrive in societies where ethical and moral standards are weak and where punishment is lenient (punishing authorities play an important role in perpetuating or discouraging corruption). We can't get rid of corruption without a clear vision. We are only treating the symptoms without going to its causes. Poverty may be one of the causes, but it's not the only cause. What, for example, compels rich people to amass money by foul means? Can corruption be eradicated? Yes, if the mind is more evolved, more mature than it is right now. If we ask the enlightened masters, they have a different take on the issue. Osho cites the story of Chinese master Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism. Lao Tzu was made the chief justice of the Supreme Court of China. He pleaded with the emperor that he is not the right man. But the emperor knew that Lao was the wisest man alive, so he wanted to benefit from his consciousness. Lao Tzu said, "My judgement will come from my wisdom. Your judgements cannot be adjusted to my judgements." The emperor remained stubborn. The first case came. A thief was caught red-handed in the richest man's house. Lao Tzu listened to both the sides, pondered for a moment and then gave his verdict: "Both of you, you and the man whose house has been rolled, are criminals. The rich man has collected so much money that almost 50 per cent of the wealth of the city is in his possession. This situation creates the possibility of stealing. This thief is in fact a victim; you are the criminal. But I will be just: six months of jail for both." The emperor said, "This is a very strange judgement." Lao Tzu said, "It is not. If people were living in harmony with nature, if people were compassionate to each other, if they felt a certain brotherhood with each other, how could there be rich people and poor people? There should only be people." — Amrit Sadhana is in the management team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad.
AMERICA'S FATAL DISTRACTION
Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, "My God, what have we done?" One of these numbers was zero — the number of jobs created in August. The other was two — the interest rate on 10-year US bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result. Ever since the acute phase of the financial crisis ended, policy discussion in Washington has been dominated not by unemployment, but by the alleged dangers posed by budget deficits. Pundits and media organisations insisted that the biggest risk facing America was the threat that investors would pull the plug on US debt. For example, in May 2009, the Wall Street Journal declared that the "bond vigilantes" were "returning with a vengeance", telling readers that the Obama administration's "epic spending spree" would send interest rates soaring. The interest rate when that editorial was published was 3.7 per cent. As of September 2, as I've already mentioned, it was only two per cent. I don't mean to dismiss concerns about the long-run US budget picture. If you look at fiscal prospects over, say, the next 20 years, they are indeed deeply worrying, largely because of rising healthcare costs. But the experience of the past two years has overwhelmingly confirmed what some of us tried to argue from the beginning: The deficits we're running right now — deficits we should be running, because deficit spending helps support a depressed economy — are no threat at all. And by obsessing over a non-existent threat, Washington has been making the real problem — mass unemployment, which is eating away at the foundations of our nation — much worse. Although you'd never know it listening to the ranters, the past year has actually been a pretty good test of the theory that slashing government spending actually creates jobs. The deficit obsession has blocked a much-needed second round of federal stimulus, and with stimulus spending, such as it was, fading out, we're experiencing de facto fiscal austerity. State and local governments, in particular, faced with the loss of federal aid, have been sharply cutting many programmes and have been laying off a lot of workers, mostly school teachers. And somehow the private sector hasn't responded to these layoffs by rejoicing at the sight of a shrinking government and embarking on a hiring spree. Okay, I know what the usual suspects will say — namely, that fears of regulation and higher taxes are holding businesses back. But this is just a Right-wing fantasy. Multiple surveys have shown that lack of demand — a lack that is being exacerbated by government cutbacks — is the overwhelming problem businesses face, with regulation and taxes barely even in the picture. For example, when McClatchy Newspapers recently canvassed a random selection of small-business owners to find out what was hurting them, not a single one complained about regulation of his or her industry, and few complained much about taxes. And did I mention that profits after taxes, as a share of national income, are at record levels? So short-run deficits aren't a problem; lack of demand is, and spending cuts are making things much worse. Maybe it's time to change course? Which brings me to US President Barack Obama's planned speech on the economy. I find it useful to think in terms of three questions: What should we be doing to create jobs? What will Republicans in Congress agree to? And given that political reality, what should the President propose? The answer to the first question is that we should have a lot of job-creating spending on the part of the federal government, largely in the form of much-needed spending to repair and upgrade the nation's infrastructure. Oh, and we need more aid for state and local governments, so that they can stop laying off schoolteachers. But what will Republicans agree to? That's easy: nothing. They will oppose anything Mr Obama proposes, even if it would clearly help the economy — or maybe I should say, especially if it would help the economy, since high unemployment helps them politically. This reality makes the third question — what the President should propose — hard to answer, since nothing he proposes will actually happen anytime soon. So I'm personally prepared to cut Mr Obama a lot of slack on the specifics of his proposal, as long as it's big and bold. For what he mostly needs to do now is to change the conversation — to get Washington talking again about jobs and how the government can help create them. For the sake of the nation, and especially for millions of unemployed Americans who see little prospect of finding another job, I hope he pulls it off. By arrangement with the New York Times
THE RIVER ROARS
DELHI TO DHAKA VIA BENGAL
INDIA has responded to Mamata Banerjee's objections and Bengal's sensitivities. By that token, the Chief Minister can be said to have scored an achievement with her intrepid and somewhat unexpected stand on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit to Dhaka. The draft treaty with Bangladesh on the sharing of Teesta waters has been cancelled in the immediate aftermath of Miss Banerjee's decision to pull out of the Indian delegation. A Centre-state showdown has been averted for now though the road from Delhi to Dhaka has been scuppered by the swirling waters of the river. The possible euphoria over such agreements as may be forged this week will be hopelessly neutralised by Monday afternoon's developments in Delhi. On the face of it, some may argue that the Chief Minister is playing hard to get at the eleventh hour. Yes and no. Others may cavil over a provincial spin to the bilateral water-sharing proposal. Yes and no. Yet others may blame her for reducing a diplomatic issue to a Centre-state kerfuffle. Yes and no. Whatever the perceptions, indubitable is the fact that the fiasco is testament to the Centre's political mismanagement, indeed its utter failure to prepare the groundwork (or ratio) on sharing the Teesta waters in consultation with West Bengal. The conduct of the United Progressive Alliance government compares poorly with that of the central dispensation in 1996 when the agreement on Farakka was concluded. It bears recall that the CPI-M government ~ and Jyoti Basu personally ~ was consulted at every turn. As a former High Commissioner to Dhaka has remarked: "The state government was completely on board." Was West Bengal's present dispensation consulted at any stage this time around? Was the National Security Adviser sent to meet the Chief Minister to present a fait accompli? Answers to these questions may not be available anytime soon. Of course, Pranab Mukherjee, the trouble-shooter for all seasons, is theoretically right when he asserts that foreign policy comes within the Centre's domain. Theoretically once more, the sharing of river waters with Bangladesh doesn't come under the state's remit. Yet the finance minister's reported spat with Dinesh Trivedi makes it pretty obvious that the state was given the short shrift.
Bonhomie with Bangladesh may be the flavour of the season, reinforced with last weekend's supply of hilsa. But a core issue must transcend culinary diplomacy. The draft Teesta agreement had envisaged the sharing of waters on a 50:50 basis. Admittedly, the agreement had the potential to be a watershed document in India-Bangladesh ties, a profound forward movement in bilateral dealings. Equally must it be accepted that the risk of water scarcity and popular unrest in North Bengal ~ where Trinamul has recently made a dent ~ would have been substantial under a 50:50 ratio. The rustic folk need water for agriculture; Mr Mukherjee's take on the "clause, section and sub-section" of the draft verged on almost unintelligible jargon.
Despite the abrogation of the draft, relations between the two countries will have to move forward after a spell of tension and stagnation during the previous regime in Dhaka and the periodic military interregnum. More's the pity that the significance of Dr Manmohan Singh's mission stands denuded as his government stumbles from Ramlila Maidan to the river bank skirting the border. The Teesta remains ever so contentious, its course unpredictable in terms of subcontinental geo-politics.
KASHMIR WILDLIFE IS HURTING
TRANQUILITY is a pre-requisite to flourishing wildlife. As much as the traditional human-induced shrinkage of forest area and encroachment on the habitat of the fauna, war-like conditions in the neighbourhood have taken a toll. Decades of fighting in Afghanistan is one reason why birds from Siberia and Central Asia no longer "winter" in Indian wetlands ~ their flight-path is turbulent. Prior to the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir, the daily fire assaults ~ artillery, mortar, intense small-arms action ~ had impacted the local fauna. A declining trend in breeding was noticed. Hence, hopes were raised when a ceasefire was announced, some positive signs were visible in that animals were frequently sighted in the lower reaches. Yet almost simultaneously was a new man-made threat being put in place: the border fencing and the landmines along it that have proved somewhat successful in curbing infiltration. For while the well-trained terrorists attempt to "dodge" the fencing at selected weak spots, innocent, guileless animals wander into the danger zone: the larger ones setting off landmines, some hurting themselves when brushing against, or getting entangled in the razor-wire. Wildlife officials point out that apart from physical injuries, the fencing has also curbed free movement.
After all, the fauna cannot be expected to "recognise" Lines of Control, Ceasefire Lines and even formal International Borders: for them the barriers are what nature determined, courtesy changed topography and vegetation. Their "corridors" are now blocked. Affected are monkeys, black bear, leopard, musk deer, pigs, samba and several species of reptiles. "Many ground nesting birds have also come under the impact," an official said. The increasing cases of animals "raiding" farmland was a result of restricted movement. There was other evidence of animal discomfort too, bears were not hibernating for as long a period as when the freedom of the forest obtained. To be fair, local army officials admit that animals have got hurt, they try to drive them away. And even helped fit an artificial limb on a deer that lost a leg after treading on a land mine. So, it's a tough call: checking infiltration pitted against allowing animals free movement. Maybe there is need for revised terminology ~ humans, not animals, are "wild".
A PEACE BOAT WITHOUT A PADDLE
NOW that the Ulfa is negotiating with the Centre as "captives" there is a reasonable basis for success in the on-going peace process. They themselves have admitted as much in stating their problem cannot be solved militarily. The suspension of operations signed by the Centre, the Assam government and Ulfa last Saturday was obviously intended to create a congenial atmosphere and was in response to Ulfa's earlier unilateral declaration of a ceasefire. Their cadres will continue to enjoy the facilities made available by the government. Since they felt that it is beneath their dignity to stay in designated camps, as other militant cadres do, they will be camping in "Nabanirban Kendras". If the Ulfa refused to part with their arms, which they described as humiliating, so be it, because it is very much in consonance with what was stipulated for Mizo rebels and the NSCN(IM). In any case, there was no need to make a fuss over it because the Ulfa overground are not known to have possessed the kind of arsenals that would let them stage a volte-face as they did in the aftermath of the 1991 Operation Rhino. If they are allowed to retain arms it is for self-protection. Justice will take its own course if the Centre secures the custody from Bangladesh of Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia whose presence, the leaders feel, will help speed up the peace process. But if he is so influential a person, why not the elusive self-styled Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua? There are disconcerting reports that he is teaming up with the Khaplang faction of the NSCN and some organisations in Manipur. No matter what it is, Barua still holds the key to lasting peace.
... COULD WELL BECOME INDIA'S NIGHTMARE
ONE of the most eminent celebrity journalists in the country answers questions from readers on his blog. One reader asked: "Rajinder Puri says Pakistan can save itself from balkanization only through a federation with India where we have common defence including nuclear defence with Pakistan. I am sure you must have read about it, what's your take on this?" The celebrity replied: "Was this a satirical piece? Or was he being serious?"
Chastened by this contemptuous dismissal, I had to reappraise my view. The eminence of the celebrity journalist, his access to information and his interaction with top leaders both domestic and international, left me with little choice. My bleak view of Pakistan's future arose from the simmering protest in Baluchistan, the virtual breakdown in its north-west region, the rising terrorist insurgency that has infiltrated sections of the army, the separatist sentiment growing in its insurgent regions, its growing alienation from the US which threatens curtailment of aid, and its woeful domestic economy. There were also voices close to the Pentagon advocating a restructuring of the Middle East including Pakistan. I thought that Pakistan would best stabilize by arriving at a close economic and defence relationship with India and Bangladesh. It seems I was wrong. There is another option open before Islamabad that would allow Pakistan to survive, if not in substance, certainly in name.
Visiting Xingjian in China after recent criticism by Beijing about Pakistan-based Uighurs spreading terrorism in that province President Zardari told a Chinese TV channel: "I have a great dream that Chinese can travel to Pakistan without passports. We are looking at energy coming to China through us." He explained that Pakistan wants to be the connecting route for crude oil supply to China from across the world. The only common border between China and Pakistan is through the disputed territory of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The northern regions of POK are adjacent to the southern part of Muslim dominated Xingjian. Indian objections against Chinese activity in this disputed territory are dismissed by Beijing with contempt. China continues to furiously invest in developing infrastructure and transport communication in POK to integrate it with China.
President Zardari's dream opens the possibility of Pakistan becoming a de facto colony of China. Doubtless there are powerful elements in America that would encourage this dream. These are elements that have subverted America itself in order to make it hostage to Beijing. The global corporate lobby, which I have frequently described as the real axis of evil, refuses to factor into its calculations political empathy among different peoples. It seems obsessed with expanding markets it can exploit. It ruined the European Union by destroying De Gaulle's original concept of banding together 15 mainly Catholic European nations that shared history and geographical contiguity. The mindless expansion of the European Union creating larger markets has destroyed that concept leaving just Germany and France as the core of a fragile arrangement.
Simultaneous to President Zardari's dream is the reported proposal by the government appointed interlocutors in Kashmir to restore the pre-1953 autonomy of the state in order to stabilize it and help settle with Pakistan. This would be very welcome if the Pakistan army would fully cooperate with India. Instead the overall context suggests that such autonomy would be under the shadow of Pakistan sucked in by China as President Zardari seeks. Interestingly enough, many Pakistanis among the ruling elite oppose similar close ties with New Delhi for fear of being gobbled up by India. The prospect of close ties with people having the same language and culture terrifies them. They seem to feel more comfortable being propped up by the Chinese who have never historically had close cultural ties with the subcontinent. But with China as the Big Brother, Pakistan with encouragement from corporate America might countenance close ties with India. There is no dearth of Indians who would welcome China, Pakistan and India as one economic block. Among them are Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who dominate the UPA government and alliance.
At the heart of this arrangement is the great ideological divide about the kind of world order we want. Globalization has rendered the eventual emergence of a world order inevitable. The dream of one world order goes back to the 1930s when Wendell Wilkie espoused "One World". After he lost the 1940 Presidential election to Roosevelt he was appointed ambassador at large to propagate this view as an antidote to imperialism and war. The question is whether the eventual world order should be imposed by a centralized economy at the cost of political sentiments as the corporate world wants, or should it evolve through a federal approach which respects nationalism and cultural differences. The former would rely on imposition, the latter on evolution.
By the manner in which New Delhi is seeking closer economic ties and even a strategic economic alliance with Beijing, even as the People's Liberation Army continues to bully and threaten India on the Line of Actual Control and on the high seas, suggests that through actions rather than words Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is furthering the Indian chapter of President Zardari's dream. A union comprising China, Pakistan and India would of course ensure stability and peace. It is just that India would cease to have any real independent role globally and become along with Pakistan a vassal state of China. Perhaps the government and many other Indians would consider this a small price to pay for achieving peace and prosperity. There would be no dearth of businessmen encouraging them.
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist
WALK THE TALK
MANMOHAN SINGH WILL BE THE FIRST INDIAN PRIME MINISTER SINCE INDIRA GANDHI IN 1972 TO LEAD SUCH A HIGH-POWERED ENTOURAGE TO DHAKA. WHILE SHEIKH HASINA IS DOING HER BEST TO STRENGTHEN RELATIONS WITH INDIA AND BANGLADESHIS HAVE NEVER BEEN SO FAVOURABLY DISPOSED TOWARDS HER EFFORTS, NEW DELHI MUST HONOUR ITS NEIGHBOUR'S ASPIRATIONS TOO, WRITES MANASH GHOSH
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Dhaka will not just mark another Indo-Bangladesh summit held in the neighbouring country. What will distinguish this trip undertaken along with a group of Indian chief ministers is its singular importance. Dr Singh will be the first Indian head of government to lead a high-powered delegation since March 1972 when a similar visit was undertaken by Indira Gandhi for signing the historic Indo-Bangladesh treaty of peace and friendship. But while several Indian Prime Ministers have visited Bangladesh in the interim, it was more to honour India's South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) commitments and to participate in peace conferences than to build bridges with Dhaka. There was a lack in initiative because those in power in Bangladesh were not considered either legitimate rulers or with whom India could do serious business.
The Prime Minister's visit is crucial in both geo-strategic and political terms for both countries because it is going to address concerns that have troubled the two neighbours for too long. Fortunately, the two PMs have almost identical mindsets and vision which have helped them reach unanimity on vexed issues. Whether in the matter of exchanging enclaves or adverse possessions or making Bangladesh the connectivity and growth hub of four neighbouring countries, both Prime Ministers have walked the extra mile to look for acceptable solutions. They are also going to discuss China's decision to build a dam on the Brahmaputra for diverting water to irrigate Gobi desert, a definite concern since this will turn vast tracts of India's North-east and north Bangladesh into a desert if Beijing has its way.
The circumstances of Dr Singh's high-powered visit are entirely different from those in 1972 when Indira Gandhi visited Bangladesh ~ then referred to as an "international basket case" desperately seeking New Delhi's help to rebuild its war-ravaged economy and communication lines. Dr Singh's Dhaka visit is taking place at a time when Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has decided to make India a durable partner in economic development and also in erasing the last vestiges of Partition hangover. His trip coincides with Sheikh Hasina's ongoing operation against terror groups and Indian insurgents and their transfer to Indian custody at a great personal risk. Her singular gesture of allowing India use of Bangladesh's sea and river ports for transhipment of goods to and from North-east has brought about such a sea change in the dynamics of Indo-Bangladesh relations that now is the time for the two closest neighbours to seize the opportunity for building a lasting, mutually-beneficial relationship. Missing this opportunity may cost both the countries very dearly. Fortunately, the two Prime Ministers, both at personal and government levels, have been able to revive, to a large extent, the spirit of 1971 that until the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, had bound the two countries closely. The same spirit can again act as a driving force so that positive results are delivered.
The timing of Dr Singh's visit, at a time when Bangladesh's perception of India is changing fast, is equally significant. A belief is fast gaining ground among ordinary Bangladeshis that their homeland stands to lose more from Begum Khaleda Zia and her Jamat's brand of blind anti-Indianism. Continuing with such a negative strategy would lead neither the Opposition nor Bangladesh anywhere. Fifteen years of BNP rule, led by Begum Zia and marked by strident anti-India posturing, bear ample testimony to this. Even the coups staged for the installation of an anti-India military junta did not produce the desired result. This change in perception on the ground has come about largely because Begum Zia and her Islamist partners have so over-played the anti-India card that they have lost much of their appeal among young Bangladeshis (comprising 41 per cent of the electorate) and hardcore anti-India groups. It is mainly this reason that BNP leaders, despite having planned to greet Dr Singh with a hartal in Dhaka, backed out, knowing well that this would evoke a poor or no response from the masses. This political faux pas caused such embarrassment to Begum Zia and other BNP leaders who were forced to make loud pro-India noises to save face.
That Bangladesh's perception of India had changed in a big way became apparent in the last parliamentary poll when the BNP-Jamat's joint tirade against India evoked such a negative response that Sheikh Hasina's Awami League-led coalition posted a landslide victory. Voters have not forgotten Begum Zia's highly-inflammatory and irresponsible utterances suggesting that India would annex Chittagong Hill Tracts and Noakhali and that "all mosques would be converted into temples" following the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts accord. Even the five path-breaking bilateral agreements that India and Bangladesh signed last year, including the one on making Bangladesh a connectivity hub ~ something the country's Press hailed as "historic" ~ were vehemently opposed by Begum Zia and her Islamist allies. Their refrain was: "Too much has been conceded to India for too little because Delhi got what it wanted by arm-twisting Dhaka."
The average Bangladeshi thinks that the days of blind anti-Indianism are over. The Bangladeshi perception that Dr Manmohan Singh has to address, rightly and adequately, is that close ties with India will have beneficial spinoffs. Bangladesh's changing mindset was noticed by no less than India's national security adviser Mr Shiv Shanker Menon during a visit to Dhaka last week. During his interaction with a cross-section of Bangladeshis, including editors and reporters, he was not confronted with the kind of questions and issues he'd faced two years ago when he had visited Dhaka as India's foreign secretary. He candidly narrated this welcome experience to Mr Tarekul Karim, the Bangladesh High Commissioner in New Delhi.
For instance, the five agreements that Sheikh Hasina and Dr Singh signed in Delhi last year evoked so much hope in that country's business community and a large section of the intelligentsia that many began to believe that India held the key to shared prosperity and well-being. The bilateral agreement on power, for example, has evoked so much positive response that ordinary Bangladeshis believe their country's chronic power shortage, which results in long spells of load-shedding, will be greatly minimised once 500 MW start flowing from the Indian grid and the National Thermal Power Corporation's (NTPC) thermal power plant at Bheramara gets operational.
In fact, Bangladesh's leading chambers of commerce want India to promote power plants in Balatona in Tripura and Katwa in Pashchimbanga, to augment at-home generation. In fact, Bangladesh's bureaucrats and businessmen want Balatona's reduced generation capacity of 700 MW to be scaled up to its original 1,000MW. "Our industry is willing to invest in Indian power plants provided we get a steady and uninterrupted supply from them. If Bangladesh derives benefit from such tie-ups and joint ventures, there would be a sea change in our relations," the Bangladesh High Commissioner said. "Both countries can do a lot together. (The) power sector is just one area which holds great promise for both of us," he said.
Dr Singh's visit will also give a shape to the idea of turning India's eastern and North-eastern region, along with neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, into a regional economic and connectivity hub, with Dhaka as the pivot. That is why chief ministers of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram are part of the Prime Minister's official delegation to Dhaka. These states are not only contiguous with Bangladesh but, like their next-door neighbour, are looking for markets for their goods and services, as well as other economic opportunities across the border. Dr Singh knows both countries have a convergence of interests in promoting and developing this regional connectivity and growth hub as benefits flowing from it will be incalculable and varied.
Sheikh Hasina has kept her part of the bargain by allowing India the use of Chittagong port and riverine and road routes for transporting giant boilers and turbines of the Balatona power project in Tripura. If Bangladesh were not to provide this transit facility, construction of Balatona would have been difficult because transporting heavy and highly-sensitive equipment by road in India's North-east would have been nearly impossible.
Dr Singh's visit will be historic as one of the agreements to be signed by the Prime Ministers of both countries will do away with a particular baggage of Partition ~ the Radcliffe award that led to the division of Bengal. The enclave and adverse possession issues couldn't be resolved so far because of the arbitrariness of the award.
There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 55 Bangladeshi enclaves in India whose population of 53,000 is stateless and live in perpetual misery and uncertainty. They enjoy no rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of either country. The 1974 Indira-Mujib boundary agreement had sought to resolve the issue, but without success. The Manmohan-Hasina
entente will finally deal with this post-partition hangover.
The new boundary agreement envisages the exchange of enclaves without traumatising and dislocating their residents. As part of the accord, 55 Bangladeshi enclaves will come to India while 111 of India will go to Bangladesh. A joint boundary commission, while surveying the enclaves last February, was told by the residents that "we are happy wherever we are." They do not want to move out of the places they have inhabited for generations. Once Dr Singh and Sheikh Hasina sign the accord, 20,000 Indians will embrace Bangladeshi nationality and about 35,000 Bangladeshis will become Indian citizens.
The writer is Editor, Dainik Statesman
28% of world newborn deaths in India: WHO
FROM the UN
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a new study released in New York, has revealed that fewer newborns are dying worldwide but progress is too slow and Africa in particular is being left further behind. The study shows that 99 per of newborn deaths occur in the developing world, with more than half taking place in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). India has more than 900,000 newborn deaths per year, nearly 28 per cent of the global total, WHO noted.
"The first week of life is the riskiest week for newborns, and yet many countries are only just beginning post-natal care programmes to reach mothers and babies at this critical time," the WHO said in a news release. The agency said that newborn deaths decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009, and fell slightly faster in the years since 2000. The study was led by researchers from the WHO, Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in the medical journal PLoS Medicine.
The study, that covered 20 years and all 193 member states, found that newborn deaths in the first four weeks of life (neonatal period) accounted for 41 per cent of all child deaths before the age of five. Nigeria, the world's seventh most populous country, now ranks second in newborn deaths ~ up from fifth in 1990. Africa has seen the slowest progress of any region in the world, with a reduction of just 1 per cent per year, the UN agency said.
Of some 15 countries with more than 39 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births, 12 were from the WHO African Region ~ Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone plus Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. According to WHO, at the current rate of progress, it would take the African continent more than 150 years to reach US or UK newborn survival levels. The agency noted that an increase in investment in health care for women and children in the last decade contributed to more rapid improvement of the survival rate of mothers and that of children under the age of five than for newborns. It added that three-quarters of neonatal deaths around the world were caused by pre-term delivery, asphyxia and severe infections, such as sepsis and pneumonia.
WHO pointed out two thirds or more of these deaths could be prevented with existing interventions. "Newborn survival is being left behind despite well-documented, cost-effective solutions to prevent these deaths," Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director-general for family, women's and children's health, said. "With four years to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, more attention and action for newborns is critical," she said.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, Mr Panos Moumtzis, arrived in Tripoli accompanied by an inter-agency humanitarian team to re-establish UN presence in a country where essential services have been disrupted by the recent conflict. "It is critical to ensure an immediate and effective UN presence on the ground to help identify and assist vulnerable people who have been affected by the conflict and the disruption of services," Mr Moumtzis said. "We are here with a strong team of professionals, who will work closely in support of local partners to speedily assist them," he said. He stressed his concern over humanitarian needs in places where fighting has occurred. The mission will assess and provide assistance in restoring the water supply to Tripoli and surrounding areas and will look into the protection of civilians and assess the food situation.
The team includes officials from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN spokesman's office said in a news briefing. OCHA said in a news release that given the evolving situation in Libya, there were concerns about vulnerable people who lacked safe water.
Unicef, in coordination with Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), continues to procure and distribute bottled drinking water to residents. The bottled water distribution effort is to reach 500,000 people in two weeks. There is no piped water running in Tripoli owing to lack of fuel and malfunctioning of the pumping system 1,000 km south of the city ~ security concerns have made the area inaccessible. Unicef is providing technical support to the NTC in its efforts to re-establish running water for domestic use.
On protection of civilians, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has voiced concern over the fate of migrants from sub-Saharan African countries and other vulnerable foreigners who want to leave Libya but have been unable to do so. An IOM chartered boat left Tripoli with migrants on board, but despite efforts to organise their safe evacuation, IOM has not been able to reach many of them, the agency said. WFP has dispatched around 600 metric tonnes of food to Tripoli for distribution by the Libyan Red Crescent to more than 35,500 conflict-affected and displaced people for one month.
According to OCHA, the agency is also procuring 250,000 tonnes of fuel for life-saving humanitarian work for one month, at the request of NTC. WHO said it would ensure the provision of essential medicines, vaccines and other medical supplies for Libya after a UN sanctions committee in mid-August authorised the release of 100 million euro ($142 million). A list of priority items has been developed by the WHO in collaboration with Libyan authorities.
100 YEARS AGO TODAY
FAMOUS CALCUTTA LAWYERS
An interesting ceremony took place in the Vakil's Library, High Court, on Monday evening, when the Chief Justice unveiled the portraits of Sir Chunder Madhab Ghose and the late Babus Srinath Das and Saligram Singh. All the Judges and leading members of the legal profession attended, the Library being crowded.
Babu Ram Charan Mitter, Senior Government Pleader, in asking Sir Lawrence Jenkins to unveil the portraits, gave a brief sketch of the career of each of the trio, and read a number of telegrams from the various Bar Associations in Behar referring to the work done by Babu Saligram Singh.
The Chief Justice then unveiled the portraits. He said:- When I first knew Calcutta the distinguished trio, whose portraits are being unveiled this evening, were prominent figures in this court; and when I think of their abilities and achievements I am tempted to exclaim, "there were giants on the earth in those days." It has been my good fortune to know all three. Two are no longer among us; the third is happily still of our number. I am not going to enlarge on their merits or their worth, these are known to you as well as to me.
MAIL BAG STOLEN
Carrier Robbed Near Serampore
Intimation by wire was received at Serampore on Tuesday morning that a robbery had been committed near Bhadreswar in which Rs 1,400 was stolen from a mail bag. It is reported that on Monday night the mail peon was carrying the mail bag, and that as he was nearing Bhadreswar some upcountrymen assaulted him, snatched away the mail bag, and decamped. The bag, it is stated, contained, amongst the letters, some 14 G.C. ten-rupee notes.
It is now almost 12 years that Manmohan Singh, once a mandarin, has held political office. Twelve years is a long time in politics and should have been enough to tell him where a mandarin's job ends and a politician's begins. But his reliance on mandarins, rather than on elected politicians, seems to cause him no end of trouble. Hardly has the dust settled on the Anna Hazare fiasco when the prime minister walks into another mess. The embarrassment Mr Singh now faces from Mamata Banerjee's anger over the proposed Teesta agreement shows how advisers unfamiliar with popular sentiments can lead a government astray. Clearly, the prime minister's men had not done enough to convince Ms Banerjee that the agreement would not harm Bengal's interests. The mandarins in New Delhi apparently thought that they could take Ms Banerjee's consent for the agreement for granted. The goof-up shows how unelected people can misread situations on the ground. Two of the prime minister's men — the Union finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and the national security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon — should have known better. Mr Mukherjee may have been in politics for five decades now, but his recent successes in electoral politics are due mainly to Ms Banerjee. Mr Menon, the seasoned diplomat, is unfamiliar with the compulsions of democratic politics.
In sharp contrast to the prime minister's predicaments, Ms Banerjee's star seems to keep ascending. Nothing she does can go wrong. In forcing her way about the Teesta pact, she has reminded the men in New Delhi that India is a democracy and that important matters of the State should not be dealt with as if the actors were playing the Great Game. In fact, Ms Banerjee's protest, which has now forced New Delhi to keep the Teesta agreement in abeyance, makes an even larger point. It underscores the importance of debate and transparency on important policies and issues. It is important for a government to respect the public mood when deciding on such matters. David Cameron, the British prime minister, and Tony Blair, one of his Labour predecessors, decided against the United Kingdom joining the European Union in deference to the public mood. Before making any commitment on the sharing of the Teesta waters, New Delhi should have taken not just Ms Banerjee but also other political parties and the society in Bengal into confidence.
Unflattering as the whole episode is for the prime minister, it has turned out to be a remarkable political victory for Ms Banerjee. It shows that she can fight not only the Marxists but also the Congress, her ally, in order to safeguard Bengal's interests. Her battle for the Teesta may go a long way towards making Ms Banerjee Bengal's sole spokesperson.
A movement for rights should be the last to trample on the rights of its own activists. Or of anyone else. And Irom Chanu Sharmila is an activist to reckon with, one who has made history by fasting for nearly 11 years, force-fed in police custody, yet steadfast in her demand that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act be repealed in Manipur and other states where it is operative. Without budging from her determination to fast till the AFSPA is repealed, Ms Sharmila has recently expressed hopes of marrying the man she has fallen in love with — but only after her demand has been fulfilled. She has, shockingly, come up against her supporters' harsh resistance to her relationship, which is long distance for the most part. They tried their best to stop Desmond Coutinho, the writer and activist with whom Ms Sharmila connects mainly through letters, from visiting her for the first time. He, too, had to fast for two days just to be allowed to see her.
The ironies are telling. It would seem that the "icon of public resistance" is being forcibly reduced to just that — an icon. Ms Sharmila is being denied her rights as a woman and a human being in a state remarkable for its strong women's movements — by the very people who are fighting for the right to life as free citizens, for which the AFSPA must be repealed. The movement seems to have laid possessive claim on her, using her as a tool to propagate the protest. Nobody asked her to fast. It was her own response to what she saw as terrible injustice and repression. Yet it is her own agency, her personality and emotions that are being ruthlessly repressed in the name of an anti-repression cause. The incident reveals a kind of hardening within the movement that may have come from focusing on the goal to the exclusion of all else. Losing the larger picture means the loss of the ideological premises on which the protest against AFSPA was born in the first place. Nothing would be a greater pity if one of its most remarkable members also became its victim.
INHERITING A LEGACY OF IMPROVIDENCE WRITING ON THE WALL: ASHOK V. DESAI
Once again, 15 years after P.V. Narasimha Rao lost the general election and took his finance minister, Manmohan Singh, with him out of the government, a finance minister is doing reforms. His name is Amit Mitra. He is no relative of Ashok Mitra, who preceded him as finance minister of West Bengal some decades ago. The two could not be more different. Ashok Mitra is an angry once-young man who never grew out of his acerbity; Amit Mitra cannot take his smile off. Ashok Mitra was a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist; Amit Mitra was a saffron Hindutwit in his student days. If there is any similarity between them, it is in the way they changed masters. Ashok Mitra was once chief economic advisor in the Central finance ministry in the age of Indira Gandhi; later he became finance minister in a rabidly anti-Congress government in West Bengal. Amit Mitra served businessmen's interests as secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and propagated positions contrary to those of the Trinamul Congress on Singur, foreign investment in retail trade, labour laws and other issues. This is not particularly shameful. It is quite all right to change one's views. Needs of survival come before calls of conscience. Everyone has to make the best of the opportunities that come to him; that may require expressing views that one does not hold. Some degree of hypocrisy is often necessary for worldly success. Those who sacrifice good jobs to be true to their convictions are saints who would be well advised to live in the jungle; and they would not find much jungle left to live in.
Asim Dasgupta, Amit Mitra's predecessor, invented a revolutionary theory of public finance. The general conviction of economists is that a government must distinguish between current revenue (that is, revenue raised from taxes or received from transfers) and borrowed money. At one time, they used to believe that borrowings should be used only to finance productive expenditure — expenditure that would generate income in the future, from which interest could be paid and debt repaid. They ceased to believe that when Keynes pointed out in the 1930s that when an economy is in depression, a government may have to run budget deficits to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. But they would still say that a government should minimize borrowings and not let government debt rise above a sum which can be repaid in a foreseeable period. Many Western governments are facing a dilemma just now, that they are running deficits to stimulate their languishing economies, but they would find it difficult to repay the resulting debt because their future growth prospects are so poor. That has been true of West Bengal as well. But Dasgupta borrowed for West Bengal as if there was no tomorrow.
The Centre does not have the political will to force any state to improve its finances. If it punished a state ruled by an enemy, it would have to mete out the same punishment to its own states in the same situation. So it uses carrots. Till the 1990s, when states got into financial trouble, the Centre lent to them. Since it was itself borrowing, it meant that it borrowed on behalf of the states and let them ride on its better credit rating.
The Bharatiya Janata Party- led government got tired of these proxy borrowings. When inflation came down and interest rates started falling, it introduced a debt swap scheme in 2002, under which states could exchange the loans they had taken from the Central government for loans from banks and the small savings fund at lower interest rates. Most states swapped their entire outstanding debt; West Bengal, for some reason, swapped only Rs 10,925 crore out of its total debt of Rs 15,412 crore.
The Congress-led government that followed implemented a debt consolidation and relief scheme as proposed by the 12th Finance Commission. Under this scheme, the Centre promised to reduce interest rates; and if states reduced their revenue deficits (that is, the excess of their non-capital expenditure over their revenue), it promised to write off some of their debt as well. As a result of Dasgupta's borrowing spree, the West Bengal government missed out on this free gift. His incontinence was expensive for the state. The average ratio of public debt to their gross domestic product for all states in 2010-11 was 23.1 per cent; for West Bengal it was 40.8 per cent.
Because of this debt burden, West Bengal spends more on interest; its interest payments came in 2010-11 to 2.9 per cent of its GDP against 1.6 per cent for all states. It also raised less revenue of its own — 4.8 per cent against 6.7 per cent for all states. It made up by spending borrowed money; but contrary to sound budgetary practice, it spent little of its borrowings on building up assets. In 2010-11 it borrowed 4.6 per cent of its GDP, but spent only 1.1 per cent on capital assets. The corresponding means for all states were 2.5 and 2.1 per cent respectively. In other words, an average state spent 84 per cent of its borrowings on capital assets; West Bengal spent 24 per cent.
This is the legacy of improvidence that Amit Mitra inherited from Asim Dasgupta. That is the story that can be gathered from the Reserve Bank of India's figures: I have not cited a single figure from Dasgupta's budget, because it is impenetrable. His budget statistics are the most voluminous of any state; it is impossible to make sense of them because the descriptions of expenditure beneficiaries are obscure. But before Mitra could get down to making sense of Dasgupta's budget, he found that his treasury had run out of money; in June, Mitra had to rush to the state assembly and ask it to pass a vote on account. He said it would take four months to penetrate Dasgupta's budget and make up a new one.
That was the budget he presented last week. Earlier he had complained that Dasgupta had exaggerated future revenue. Either he did not, or Mitra is doing it too. For revised estimates of revenue are higher for all heads than budget estimates; in other words, Mitra is expecting more revenue than Dasgupta did six months ago. Only a part of it is due to the tax increases Mitra announced. His estimate of fiscal deficit for 2010-11 is lower than Dasgupta's; that of revenue deficit is only slightly higher. He is expecting to get more from the national small savings fund and in ways and means advances from the RBI; he will therefore borrow less from the market — that is, from banks — and will be paying less in interest. So Mamata Banerjee's chumminess with the big brother in Delhi is paying off; there is nothing for Mitra to complain about.
Why then did he raise sales tax and liquor duties? It was not necessary; he probably did it to convince the big brother in North Block and the little tyrant in Mint Street that he was a good boy. On the other hand, I still do not see any signs that he has subdued the bureaucracy of his ministry. That is what I hope to see in March.
NOT FOR THE PEOPLE
The government of India remains imperious, overbearing and presumptuous despite having been discredited over the last month for its way of handling of the protest against corruption. Arrogance and high-handedness remain firmly entrenched in its operating scheme. No lesson has been learnt from the unbottling of public sentiment and the flood of desperation directed at the State for having exploited the citizens by failing to deliver the basic goods and services in a clean and dignified manner. Disconnected from the mood of the people, the government is misusing its agencies to point fingers at Team Anna. This is damaging the Congress severely.
This government has condoned corruption in its ranks by citing the weak excuse of 'coalition dharma'. This kind of nit-picking is aggravating the antagonism further. Such high-handed 'threats' have ceased to have any meaning in the larger scheme of failed governance, the kind of which India has not experienced after 1947. To resort to 'blackmail' in an effort to counter what the State believes is 'social and political' blackmail — manifest in the form of hunger strikes or fasts-unto-death — is no way to begin the process of restoration. The prime minister must intervene and put an end to this kind of petty witch-hunt and harassment that India is revolting against. India's citizens have been victims of State malpractice, malfunction, extortion and corruption, and they will not tolerate this exploitation any longer. The pent-up anger has been released.
The government seems to be caught in a trap it cannot extricate itself from. Who in the ruling dispensation is responsible for this complete inability to conduct the orchestra with political aplomb? Till recently, polls showed that it had gained ground and would probably swing many more seats in the forthcoming general election. But in politics, one incident can trigger a total reversal and bring to the fore many suppressed truths. Alternatives emerge, and we seem to be on the brink of that possibility because with every 'move' the government makes, a fresh controversy takes root. Old and predictable strategies are having no positive impact whatsoever, and have ended up stoking trouble. Pranab Mukherjee's speech in Parliament showed how jaded the government has become.
The picture that has sunk deep in the psyche of India is that of aged, blundering men, speaking 'at' the people of India, unable to recognize the anger simmering below the surface, confident that the numbers on the street are of no consequence. It is this insular arrogance that brings down governments in a democracy such as ours where elected representatives have exploited the patience of the people by delivering nothing on the ground. They have, instead, openly indulged in greedy self-aggrandizement. It has been a free-run for the political class and its administrative support system. It is for the government to smell the coffee and come to terms with the truth that its reign is being severely questioned by the people.
The electronic media, social networking sites, films, folk theatre as well as word-of-mouth transmissions of truth and experiences have all come together in sharing the rot in the system with those who are meant to be nurtured and protected by it. The system has been misused with impunity, and the people will soon call the shots.
The government can still try to open its nostrils to smell the coffee and start cleansing its own backyard. 'What' and 'Who' are stopping the government from fast-forwarding the correctives? Why are the party and the government out of sync? There are many questions, but there seems to be no answer.
TO GET THE QUESTION RIGHT
THE MOVEMENT AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER NEEDS TO BE PLACED WITHIN THE BROADER ISSUE OF ENERGY, WRITES JAYANTA BANDYOPADHYAY
The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, while speaking at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Calcutta on August 21, 2011, described nuclear energy as an important factor in the economic growth of India. He encouraged nuclear physicists to work on this subject and also enhance the safety of this technology. The issues involved, however, are not so simple when a broader assessment of the present global push towards nuclear power is made. This push, described as the renaissance of nuclear technology, needs to be seen in the historical-political context.
Scientific enquiry and technological innovations have been driven by the survival instinct, which led to the development of weapons for killing competing communities. World War I stands out as a watershed in the evolution of science and technology for developing weapons for the destruction of living beings. These activities grew very rapidly in the post-World War I period, when the scale of governmental and corporate investment in research and development of weapons of mass destruction became astoundingly large. The race for making the first atomic bomb was won by the United States of America when the Manhattan Project established destructive technological supremacy by causing the deaths of many innocent human beings in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and later in Nagasaki. It was probably the largest field testing of the atomic weapon.
While investments in military research have mounted after that, the modification of products of military research has opened up the civilian market for them. Thus, scientific knowledge associated with the production of atomic weapons was put to use in the commercial generation of nuclear energy. This has been the growth path of modern technologies, whether it is solid-state electronics or jet-propulsion applications.
In India, in spite of the debates on the nuclear policy, information about nuclear research and development remains largely classified because of its strategic significance. Such confidentiality about nuclear power starts from mining nuclear fuels, processing ores, extracting nuclear materials, generating nuclear power, all the way to the storage and safe disposal of nuclear wastes.
Thirty-one countries now have functioning nuclear power plants. In India, rapid expansion of nuclear power generation capacities is on the official card. Anti-nuclear positions are taken by Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, and so on. Following the disaster in March 2011 at the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan, a new wave of debate has emerged all over the world on the desirability or otherwise of nuclear power, though it has been prescribed as a "clean" source of energy by the prime minister for unhindered economic growth.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, common people all over the world demonstrated against the expansion of nuclear power generation. China, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and so on have started seriously rethinking their nuclear plans. In Italy, a national referendum went against nuclear power. In India, though there has been no declaration of rethinking at the national governmental level, the West Bengal government took a stand against it.
As India starts an ambitious expansion of civil nuclear power generation, the question whether we have undergone an open options assessment for energy technologies is being raised. Growing incidences of nuclear disaster have further focused public opinion on the issue of liability and desirability of such an energy path. Protests that started against nuclear weapons and later expanded to nuclear power constitute the 'anti- nuclear movement'. In July, 1977 in Bilbao, Spain, 200,000 people demonstrated against nuclear power. In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, New York witnessed an anti-nuclear protest by about a quarter of a million people. To protest against the Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant west of Hamburg, some 100,000 people confronted 10,000 police officers in 1981. A million marched against nuclear weapons in New York on June 12, 1982. In May 1986, following the Chernobyl disaster and as a protest against the Italian nuclear programme, about 200,000 people marched in Rome. In a recent report on the real economics of this energy path, entitled Nuclear Power Subsidies: the Gift that Keeps on Taking, the US's Union of Concerned Scientists has exposed the growing dependence of the nuclear power sector on subsidies. So the energy expert, Arjun Makhijani, has charted a carbon-free and non-nuclear energy road map for the US that needs the attention of policymakers even in India.
The anti-nuclear movement has three main platforms. The first is the risk to living beings, both from the plants and the wastes. The wastes include isotopes with half-lives of several thousands of years, during which time they need safe storage. The second is the real economics of nuclear power, the actual cost of its generation and whether it is as "clean" a technology as described by its promoters. The third is the lack of transparency and the destructive power associated with it.
However, anti-nuclear movements in India and probably in many other countries have not connected their protests with the broader issue of available energy options. The efficient use of energy resources at all levels has become urgent. But in India, the rich and the middle class have shown scant interest in energy efficiency or technological choices as long as energy supplies to the homes and the factories are smooth. The richer consumers have become comfortable with subsidized non-renewable energy sources, pampered by politicians supporting subsidy on non-renewables. If sustainable and efficient use of energy had been a serious priority, solar-based technologies would have found far greater popular use. Unconcerned dependence on non-renewable energy sources and the assumption that energy supplies to maintain the growing standards of living in India should be made available ad infinitum by the government, without options assessment, provides the backdrop for the nuclear energy discourse in India.
Driven by the Copenhagen Accord, some steps to promote energy efficiency are being taken in recent months, but a lot of indigenous research and development should have already been done, considering the level of our problems. An example is the lack of widespread use of rooftop passive solar cells, especially in the west of the country, which has 250 or more sunny days. In the case of active solar cells, research towards greater efficiency of conversion in photovoltaic-cells is a very important priority. In the industrialized world, large, futuristic investments are being made on research towards this objective. India, with its competence in solid-state and surface physics, can become a front-runner in this race. The impact of the development of high temperature superconductors will be similar. In these challenges, frontiers of modern physics and energy technology merge. The advances made in non-conventional energy development in China have not woken us up either. In addition, the question of distributive equity has always raised important questions about technological choices.
Whether it is the governmental policy in favour of nuclear power or the popular movements against it, positions need to be taken with a more comprehensive perspective. The movement against nuclear power needs to be connected with the broader perspective on energy, beyond the narrow ideas of risks associated with this technology, however real they may be. If the risks of living with nuclear wastes are to be avoided, the starting point for the people will be to embrace organic wastes as sources of energy. If social movements do not address this challenge, the government would continue with the arguments of developmental needs and of having "no alternative" to the expansion of the nuclear power sector.
THE ENGLISH RIOTS COULD HAVE BEEN TACKLED EFFECTIVELY HAD THE POLICE ADOPTED A TOUGHER STANCE
The riots in England marked a watershed in the annals of the police in that country. There was loss of some lives and heavy damage to property. Further more, Britain's international standing as a peaceful, law- abiding country also took a hard knock.
It is a fact that during the early stages of rioting, the police commanders adopted the wrong tactics to deal with the situation. There was fear that a disproportionate use of force would exacerbate the crisis. A poll conducted by YouGov showed that 90 per cent of respondents favoured the use of water cannons, 78 per cent favoured tear gas, 72 per cent preferred tasers, 65 per cent opted for plastic bullets and 33 per cent even wanted the police to use live ammunition. Police officers in India will find it hard to believe that the police in England are discouraged from using water cannons and rubber bullets.
Police officers are justifiably proud of the fact that policing in England is based on the consent of the communities. Soft policing with the consent of communities, minimum use of force and insistence on "patience under provocation" are some of the prominent features of British policing. The British police have a long tradition of unarmed policing. Most of the bobbies carry only batons, and of the more than 32,000 MET officers, just 2,740 are armed.
But the situation is changing rapidly. In post-modern Britain, there is a growing disregard for the police which symbolize order and authority. Moreover, the police have been able to operate with limited powers for so long because of a strong network of family and community values that meant that the law could be enforced informally. But in the absence of any moral standards in schools or in the family, many young Britons have lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.
It is a fact that the marauding gangs were communicating with one another with the help of mobile phones. The digital revolution allowed people to mobilize themselves against the authorities effectively. The police will now have have to wake up to the new reality and change their style of operation. They will have to prepare themselves to use deterrent force to prevent looting and rioting. A police force that cannot protect lives and properties of citizens forfeit the respect of the people. It was appalling to watch members of the force standing idle even as teenaged looters had a field day.
It was not just underprivileged black youths who indulged in the looting. A number of white youths participated as well. Many people took part in the looting because the police decided not to intervene. Some former police chiefs have suggested that senior officers, fearful of being accused of over-reacting, hobbled the police commanders on the ground.
Lenient policing encourages law breakers. The police, according to a former commissioner of New York police, should have "a number of arrows in the quiver", and there should be escalated use of force. Weapons like rubber bullets, tear-gas shells, water cannons, pepper spray and so on should be available to police commanders. However, some experts are doubtful whether traditional riot-control weapons would have made much difference as the gangs were moving quickly from one place to another. But water cannons could have been useful in dousing the flames and in dispersing large mobs.
Many police officers in Britain — except those who have served in Northern Ireland — have no experience of dealing with large- scale public disorder. The police relied on CCTV cameras to collect evidence and, subsequently, to nab the culprits. Their quick trial and conviction will have a salutary impact.
In India, very often, unprovoked and disproportionate use of force by the police precipitate mob violence. But on some occasions such as communal riots, maximum force has to be used to deter mobs. Soft policing will encourage mobs and spell doom for citizens.
''THE UPA GOVERNMENT WAS DECEIVING THE PUBLIC.'
Fresh WikiLeaks disclosures about India's purported efforts to get Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Coleman Headley extradited from the US expose the double dealing and double talk on the part of New Delhi on a matter which has serious implications for national security.
Headley, who is considered to have worked for both American and Pakistani intelligence agencies, had a major role in preparing the ground for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. He was later arrested in the US and is awaiting sentence after trial in a Chicago court.
Ever since his arrest the Indian government had in public demanded his extradition to India so that he could be interrogated and then tried. The US was unwilling to hand him over to India but only gave limited access to him for Indian officials in the US. The Indian government had made it out that it was doing everything possible to get him extradited to the country.
The leaked diplomatic cables sent from the then US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer show that former National Security Advisor M K Narayanan had told him that the US did not have to take the Indian demand for extradition seriously. According to the cables India's demand for extradition was only a posturing for public consumption.
Narayanan has denied that he told the US envoy what has been attributed to him. But the whole Headley saga and the circumstances of the matter lead one only to the conclusion that Roemer, and not Narayanan, is speaking the truth.
This is a serious indictment of India's foreign policy and its handling of terrorism-related issues. The government was deceiving the public when it maintained that it trying to get the custody of Headley, even as it assured the US that the demand was not serious. So much for a democratic government's sincerity, respect for the public, transparency and commitment to truth.
In the light of the disclosure about Headley, the charge that India was susceptible to US pressures in the conduct of foreign policy and its handling of a matter which had a bearing on national security was inept does not seem to be off the mark. India took the US interest in keeping Headley on its soil more seriously than its own need to get him to India. This is when it was known that the US had not shared with India information about Headley which could even have helped to avert the 26/11 attack!
''THERE'S POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH IN BANKING.''
The draft guidelines released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on new bank licences for the private sector are much tougher than earlier norms. Though the banking sector should expand further and there is room for expansion, there is the need for caution because it is an area which had once seen a lot of malpractices.
The nationalisation of banks in 1969 and 1979 had freed major banks from the control of large industrial houses. It also made banking more socially and economically relevant. Public sector banks account for three-fourths of the banking sector now. However big they have grown, they are unable to meet the entire the banking needs of the country and hence the need for more private banks.
The new guidelines have not closed the field for industrial houses, except those engaged substantially in real estate, construction and capital market activities. Industrial houses had once diverted funds from the banks they had controlled and the new norms will ensure that they cannot do this again even if they secure new banking licences.
The RBI has sought to lay down a whole array of conditions like a diversified ownership, sound credentials and a 10-year banking experience and integrity to qualify for licences. The insistence of Rs 500 crore of minimum capital requirement and a capital adequacy ratio of 12 per cent will see to it that only those with sufficient financial strength will seek to enter the field. Since expansion of banking is a major aim they are also required to open one-fourth of their branches in rural and semi-rural areas. The RBI will have the power to supersede the bank's director board in some cases.
Though many of the norms may seem draconian they are needed because banks have access to thousands of crores of public and customers' funds. RBI governor D Subbarao had recently cautioned against corporations trying to use banks "as a private pool of readily available funds."
Even with stringent conditions there is great demand for new banking licences. That shows the potential for growth of the sector in the coming years. The RBI will be very selective and discriminating in awarding the licences. It has even said that meeting the eligibility criteria does not ensure that an applicant will secure a licence. The conditions should not be relaxed but only tightened if necessary.
THE SECRET MISSION
BY M K BHADRAKUMAR
The Paris meet was a grim victory celebration by the Nato powers who wanted non-European poodles on the bandwagon.
The death of Imtiaz Alam, a domestic help in Tripoli, ten days ago in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) air strike, was an opportune moment for our government to pronounce on the Libyan tragedy. Even the death of a sparrow is a tragedy, as Shakespeare put it, but the government continued with its stony silence about Nato's war crimes. The official position is that the Libyan situation should be normalised by the people of that country and "this process should be guided by respect for the sovereignty, integrity and unity of Libya."
But that position was fortnight-old. The government is yet to reveal that it took a U-turn in secrecy and decided to identify with the western intervention in Libya. Even the Indian parliament, which was in session, didn't know that the minister of state for external affairs E Ahmed attended the so-called 'Friends of Libya' conference in Paris on September 1, which was convened by France, the interventionist power that spearheaded the assault on Libya's sovereignty and territorial integrity in flagrant violation of international law.
Whether the volte-face was due to Nikolas Sarkozy's charm or a diktat from Washington (or both), we do not know. Perhaps, two or three years hence WikiLeaks might throw some light. Meanwhile, Ahmed's flight to Paris signifies a major shift in policy.
True, Muammad Gaddafi's regime has been overthrown and there is need to look ahead. It is nobody's case either that India's ties with Libya should be put in a deep freezer until the looming civil war finally gets over. Nor is it questionable that India has substantial interests in Libya which need to be safeguarded. The big question is how India should go about meeting the developing situation.
Our government argued when Resolution 1973 came up in the United Nations Security Council that India's position would be largely guided by the stance of the African Union (AU) on the Libyan question. Subsequently, prime minister Manmohan Singh demonstratively displayed India's solidarity with Africa when he made an extended tour of that continent and attended an AU-India summit meeting in Addis Ababa. The spin doctors hailed Singh's rhetoric as historic. In retrospect, it seems the Indian statements were vacuous.
The point is, AU stubbornly refuses to accord recognition to the National Transitional Council or TNC (which is how the disparate elements who are Nato's pawns in Libya are collectively described.) For the AU, Nato's intervention in Libya evokes collective memory of the colonial era. The AU ignored Sarkozy's invitation to the Paris meet. The government owes a decent explanation as to what prompted it to dump the prime minister's flowery rhetoric in Africa about India's common destiny with that continent.
Oil to money
Furthermore, what was the Paris meet about? Quintessentially, the western interventionist powers, having brought about the 'regime change', now want to consolidate their grip on Libya's oil resources and to this end want to install the NTC in power in Tripoli, which of course needs lots of money — and Europe is broke. France and Britain seek that the billions of dollars in frozen assets belonging to Libya to be vested in the TNC's hands. The British foreign secretary William Hague admitted that money is needed "to fund basic necessities, pay civil service salaries, and bolster confidence in Libyan banks."
The Paris meet was a grim victory celebration by the Nato powers. In order to give legitimacy to what lies ahead, the Nato powers want poodles from outside Europe to get into their bandwagon. India needs to ponder about what is happening. India shouldn't have been party to the processes under the rubric of 'Friends of Libya'.
India should rather insist that such processes for cauterising the Libyan wounds should be the UN's business. The western interventionist powers are bypassing the UN and insisting that Nato will remain in Libya for an indeterminate period.
Most certainly, India needs to maintain contacts with the disparate elements vying for supremacy in Libya. But then, their representatives could be invited to visit Delhi so that India's concerns can be appropriately registered with them. By all means, render humanitarian help to the Libyan people. But India does not need Sarkozy or David Cameron as mediators. Nor should India be oblivious of the stance of the AU. India should synchronise its stance with the AU's. It will be a principled stance and it will be in consonance with the promises and hopes held out by Manmohan Singh in his celebrated Africa tour, which still lingers in memory.
Finally, India should thoughtfully begin to assess the far-reaching import of what is unfolding in Libya. India has consistently argued that the struggle for change has to be peaceful and non-violent. That was how the Shah of Iran was overthrown (1979); Marcos in the Philippines (1986); the East European regimes in the 1980s; and Suharto in Indonesia (1998). On the contrary, the change in Libya is taking place through unilateralist western military intervention. It raises fundamental questions in global politics.
Are we hearing the footfalls of history all over again — the 'white man's burden'? We too have been, historically speaking, victims of the predatory politics of the western powers in their scramble for scarce resources in the Global South. Before dispatching Ahmed under a veil of secrecy to Paris, the government should have consulted the Indian parliament.
(The writer is a former diplomat)
AFTER REDDY, GOA'S ILLEGAL MINING DONS SHOULD GO TOO
To say that the arrest of the don of Bellary Janardhan Reddy, by the CBI is a huge step forward inc leaning up corruption, especially mining related corruption is stating the obvious. But it is also a body blow t the industry which is reeling under its hardest possible onslaught, from a movement which questions not just illegal mining but mining itself.
When people like Janardhan Reddy become bad mascots of the industry, then their arrest further tilts the balance in favour of the broad anti mining argument. But to think that Janardhan Reddy's arrest will clean up corruption or clean up illegal mining is like saying that Suresh Kalmadi and A Rajas arrests will clean up political and administrative corruption. It doesn't happen that way.
The arrests came in connection with the cases filed by CBI against the Reddy brothers in Andhra Pradesh. The axe fell on the Reddy brothers, because they lost political favour. While the entire focus has been on Karnataka, the truth is that the Reddy brothers received umpteen favours with rules being bent at will form the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy. YSR's death changed all that. The new congress dispensation, realised that the Reddy brothers were bad news and in any case there were political opponents. Secondly, even in Karnataka, YS Yedurappa would never have forgotten the utter humiliation the Reddy brothers caused to him by literally running an independent fiefdom in Bellary where the government was theirs and all other mine owners functioned as servants of the Reddy's.
Thus far the Reddy's survived because a friendly government in Andhra Pradesh and a scared government in Karnataka protected them. The friend died in Andhra Pradesh and the fear died in Karnataka. And that paved the way for the CBI to actually move in.
The arrest is significant since this will hopefully open a few more cans. Of other companies, other officials and most importantly other politicians. The industry, or at least the legal above board elements in it have a huge challenge to separate the Janardhan Reddy shadow from the industry itself. When the industry is seen through the Bellary looking glass, it looks even worse than what the ground reality is.
Following the arrests, the BJP has been alleging political vendetta in the case. But the vendetta theory will fall hopelessly flat when you look into the quantum of misdeeds of the Reddy brothers, detailed in the Lok Ayukta report and the CBI's findings. There is no vendetta here but yes the CBI indeed has got the additional political push in a case which was naturally strong.
After all when you keep Rs 3 crores in cash at home, it can't be white money. Of course for the Reddy's, 3 crores is probably their daily vegetable shopping expense but it still has to be accounted for.
The Reddy story should have some bitter lessons for Goa. The wait for the Lokayukta to be constituted, and then expect it to do a Santosh Hegde on Goa will be too long. A criminal investigation needs to be initiated and the CBI roped in to probe illegal mining in Goa. The mining department itself has officially listed 19 companies involved in illegal mining in Goa. But that's not enough. The involvement of politician either in these companies or in illegal mining in the state needs to be unearthed. There are mini Janardhan Reddys in Goa and the Chief Minister himself is under a cloud.
GLOBALIZATION DOWN THE AGES
TEOTONIO R. DE SOUZA
The western countries that were till recently, the colonial masters of the globe, have created and continue to sustain an idea of modernity and globalization that suits their ego and ongoing interests. This idea keeps circulating through media control (CNN or BBC refer invariably to 'international community' to represent no more than USA or some countries of the EU and their close allies) and through the manipulation of academic-scientific institutions.
Scientific development is always relative to times. The invention of fire (or rather the control and domestication of fire) was a revolutionary scientific advance for the pre-historic man. More advances followed at varying rhythms and in different geographic spaces covered by the early human diaspora and largely determined by the natural resources available and explored.
It is also known that social conflicts accompanied the age-long process, some social groups seeking to grab the resources of others. The process continues through imposition of social organizations and use of double-speak and misleading discourses. Democratic institutions are a modern tool of manipulation for the elite, and current discourse of 'Arab spring' can only be a euphemism for the tragic reality that awaits the Middle East.
Kautilya, the author of classic Arthashastra, was the political mentor of Chandragupta Maurya, who contained the globalization bug that had bitten the Macedonian empire-builder, Alexander the Great. Kautilya belonged to an era marked by outstanding scientific achievements of outstanding Indians. Panini, Aryabhatta and others kept up the scientific temper of India, until the Islamic invasions and accompanying plunder opened an era of foreign domination and cultural subjugation that reached a climax with the European colonialism.
Niccolo Machiaveli taught modern Europeans, what Kautilya had taught Indians 20 centuries earlier, namely the art of realpolitik, the high point of the European humanism.
Postcolonial India has gained from these two traditions of political bullying. It is doubtful if one Anna Hazare is sufficient to check two hazar years of the looting skills of the damning modern heritage.
The cat and mouse game of political intrigue is our daily bread, and while gearing up to commemorate the golden jubilee of Goa's liberation from four and half centuries of colonialism, we need to watch out for the pre-colonial Kautilya and the postcolonial Machiavelli in action. The Arab spring is attributed by the western media, to a digital revolution. An announcement is making its rounds in the internet about an international conference on Goa: 1961 and Beyond [ http://www.iias.org/goa-1961-beyond.html ] to be held at the Goa University, but sponsored by the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, directed by Peter Ronald de Souza, a bright Goan political scientist, who earlier headed the Department of Political Science at the Goa University.
An interesting feature of the organization is the participation of a Portuguese University. In 1998, Peter Ronald de Souza had taken a group of prominent Indian social scientists to Lisbon with the financial support of the Fundação Oriente. The alleged political significance was to announce 50 years of Indian independence to the world from a place that initiated the colonial globalization and the European encounter with India. Another declared objective was to correct the predominantly indological perception of India in the West with that of the contemporary India. However, in the published proceedings entitled Contemporary India - Transitions (New Delhi: Sage Publications & Fundação Oriente, 2000) Peter R. de Souza admitted some failures, but praised the value of unfinished dialogue as a motivation to keep dialoguing.
Long live the dialogue with all the caveats about who manipulates whom. We wish that all come out winners.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE BANDITS GONE?
THE ISRAEL OF 2011 NEEDS A SOBER, HONEST LEADERSHIP, BUT ONE SEASONED WITH A PINCH OF THE BANDIT'S DARING AND CHICANERY.
BY AMIR OREN
Israel is stuck. It is moving, if at all, in futile circles. Its diplomatic, social and security horizons are obstructed. That is the feeling reverberating from the popular protest - what has been will be again. There is no progress, no hope for change of direction. The responsibility for this falls mainly on the leadership, which isn't daring enough to break through the murky present into the future.
A possible explanation for this situation in the army - which is still producing a future civilian leadership reserve - can be found in the words of the commander of the military colleges, Maj. Gen. Gershon Hacohen. Discussing the IDF's senior officers' class in an interview with the magazine Israel Defense and the IDF veterans' journal Tzevet, he complained: "We have too many outstanding cadets and too few bandits."
Outstanding means living up fully to the establishment's expectations. The bandits - outlaws (meaning unconventional or rebellious ) - are a thorn in its flesh. The establishment prefers the conformists and conservatives to the creative talents heralding change.
Hacohen's distinction is based on his personal experience as an extraordinary officer and his acquaintance with hundreds of cadets and candidates for military college studies. It is supported by two studies conducted by IDF organizational psychologists, published last winter by the General Staff Behavioral Sciences Department.
One study examined lieutenant colonels, whose promotion was conditional on undergoing evaluation. Those who scored high grades shared the characteristics of staunch loyalty to the organization and conservatism. They "are relatively short of creativity and vision, flexible thinking, awareness of the human factor, initiating and leading change processes, openness to learn from others, the ability to dispute basic assumptions and readiness to take risks."
The study concludes that "the officers assimilate a systemic block that becomes part of them over time," and that "this is usually not a personal tendency but a characteristic reflecting organizational culture."
The placement and promotion mechanisms, which are greatly influenced by the direct commander's opinion, generate personal loyalty to the officer in charge. This prevents personal attributes from coming into play and sterilizes the urge for innovation.
An Israel Air Force study found that squadron commanders were seen as more effective when they conformed to the squadron culture and did not try "to make changes in a short time and shape the unit" - in contrast to the expectations of them when they were appointed to their position. This is a "culture in which it is difficult to make revolutions and does not make life easy for 'maverick' leaders with an unusual voice. The question is, what conditions will bring forth the 'maverick' leader, who will renounce the organizational status quo?"
The anti-revolution is cloning its followers. Those who kick against the conventions discover that the conventions kick back, painfully and accurately. In the process of natural selection, only especially sophisticated rebels survive: Those who are indifferent to others and enjoy the organization leader's sponsorship. Until payback time, which is bound to come.
David Ben-Gurion was such a patron of bandits. He controled mavericks in the army (Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon ) and in defense-foreign relations (Shimon Peres) and protected them from their rivals. He understood that after every formation period, like 1948, comes a stabilizing period, which is in danger of sinking into degeneration (in the '50s ) and cries out for reformation. Afterward (following the Suez-Sinai War ), formation was again required, so the IDF that was built to win in the Six-Day War was the right blend of seriousness (Yitzhak Rabin ) and craftiness (Ezer Weizman).
Dayan and Sharon's greatest flaw was their ego. They expected loyalty to the army - that is, to themselves - from their subordinates, while they were a law unto themselves, from excavations to farms. As politicians, they stood out mainly for their flaws, which dragged Israel into disasters. The various forms of depravity this caused were reflected in the wars of 1973 and 1982. Their student, Ehud Barak - whom the public was enticed to see as the dawn of the new day he himself had promised - was wasted on petty account-settling and became a routine functionary.
The Israel of 2011 needs a sober, honest leadership, but one seasoned with a pinch of the bandit's daring and chicanery. The protest is providing such a leadership a chance to appear, even if it comes from outside rather than within its ranks.
ARABS MAKE THE DESERT BLOOM
IN THE ULTIMATE OF IRONIES, THERE IS NO BETTER MANIFESTATION OF THE ZIONIST CONCEPT OF MAKING THE DESERT BLOOM THAN THE UNRECOGNIZED ARAB VILLAGES OF THE NEGEV - VIBRANT ISLANDS IN A SEA OF GOLD, IN THE MIDDLE OF NOTHING WHATSOEVER.
BY OUDEH BASHARAT
While the social protest movement was starting up on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, the unrecognized Negev village of Al-Arakib marked the first anniversary of the beginning of the demolitions. The Israel Lands Administration didn't make itself scarce for the occasion. Instead, in honor of the heartwarming event, it carried out another demolition, the 28th. Even before the last bulldozer left, the residents received the bill for the demolition work: NIS 1.8 million.
In light of what's happening, I wonder if anyone would need to invest in a fantasy film, even if it's in 3-D, if a nonfiction film can be produced with flesh, blood and tears. In every corner of the Negev one can see, just like in the movie "Avatar," how a brutal and cold-hearted machine is fighting against the beauty of human nature. Every Arab village must be subdued and confined to a minimum amount of land because a "Jewish character" must be bestowed upon every grain of sand so that this "redeemed" land, in Zionist terminology, speaks only Hebrew.
But in the ultimate of ironies, there is no better manifestation of the Zionist concept of making the desert bloom than the unrecognized Arab villages of the Negev - vibrant islands in a sea of gold, in the middle of nothing whatsoever.
The Negev has more than a million dunams of land, but it's only the Arab land, less than 5 percent of that expanse, that the government covets. Those unrecognized villages are home to 90,000 residents, and an entire generation of alienated people who grew up there lack even basic living conditions. Some people say infrastructure cannot be provided to these villages, each home to a few hundred residents. But a quick check on Google shows that many communities in Israel have fewer than several hundred people and they are recognized to the full extent of the law.
It's not just the redemption of the land that the government is losing sleep over. The government is also concerned about the high Arab birthrate, particularly in the Negev. But it can't have it both ways, because only in societies with high socioeconomic conditions are birthrates low. The government must decide either to pursue a policy of discrimination, with the accompanying high birthrates, or grant the people rights and have low birthrates.
We will not allow despair to get the better of us, because from a historical perspective, things do change. In the 1950s the Jewish town of Upper Nazareth was built on land in Nazareth, a town hemmed in from every direction. Herzl Rosenblum, the editor of Yedioth Ahronoth at the time, was overjoyed at the sight. "Down below, at the foot of those surrounding mountains, you see little Arab Nazareth looking up at us," he wrote.
In the annals of that same history, the previous generation of Arabs in Israel will remind you how they built their homes on Shabbat. During the week, they built for the Jews, and on Shabbat, when the construction supervisors rested, and because, as the Arab saying goes, the exploitation stops when there is prayer, the Arabs stole away to build their own homes, room by room.
In this way over time the feeling among the Arabs grew that the country belonged to the Jews and the Arabs were just stepchildren. At the same time, there were those super-patriotic Arabs who were not pleased when the Arabs fought for their rights, as if it were some despicable form of "Israelization." In this way the extremes of Arab nationalism and the Israeli right wing came together, and not for the first time.
Currently, with the revival of campaigning for social issues, the Negev should not be forgotten. The true test of a society is its ability to address its serious ills. If social justice is the goal, it should be sought in the dark recesses of society. There's a lot of injustice there, because the more the light diminishes, the more exploitation rules.
A FAIRER DIVISION OF THE PROFITS
AN OPINION ISSUED BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE WITH REGARD TO DEAD SEA WORKS HELPS TO ESTABLISH PRINCIPLES THAT ARE IMPORTANT NOT ONLY FROM AN ECONOMIC STANDPOINT, BUT NO LESS SO FROM A MORAL AND SOCIAL STANDPOINT TOO.
An opinion issued Sunday by the Attorney General's Office with regard to Dead Sea Works may prove to be an important milestone in setting principles for the proper and just division of natural resources that belong to the public as a whole.
The document deals mainly with the question of who should pay for the action needed to prevent the hotels at the southern tip of the Dead Sea from being flooded by the rising water levels caused by DSW's evaporation pools. It states that the requisite action, harvesting the salt, should be financed largely by DSW, as it is the party that created the danger.
But the opinion also says a special fee should be levied on DSW, so that the public can enjoy a greater share of the enormous profits the company derives from the minerals found in the Dead Sea.
This opinion helps to establish principles that are important not only from an economic standpoint, but no less so from a moral and social standpoint too. The first is the principle that a private entity that derives profit from a public asset must pay for fixing any pollution or danger it creates or, alternatively, must pay to prevent it. It thereby prevents responsibility for dealing with such environmental problems from being rolled over onto the public's shoulders. This also makes economic sense, as it creates an incentive for capitalists to try to prevent pollution or environmental hazards in advance.
The second principle is distributive justice, which the opinion mentions explicitly. This is a principle laid down by the High Court of Justice about a decade ago, in a case dealing with the use of agricultural lands for construction. The court ruled then that one particular segment of the population cannot be the sole beneficiary of any profits derived from the use of these lands. More recently, the application of this principle has been expanded to private entrepreneurs who derive profits from other natural resources, such as oil and gas - and now, in the case of DSW, potash as well.
This is not a negation of the principle that private entrepreneurs are entitled to make a profit, but rather a more balanced division of the profits, which enables the public, via the state, to also benefit from the exploitation of natural resources. It must therefore be hoped that the government and DSW reach an agreement that will embody a fair application of these principles.
THE UNFORESEEN RISKS OF PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD
ANY PALESTINIAN STATE WOULD HAVE AN OBVIOUSLY INJURIOUS IMPACT ON U.S. STRATEGIC INTERESTS, AS WELL AS ON ISRAEL'S SHEER PHYSICAL SURVIVAL. AFTER PALESTINE, ISRAEL WOULD REQUIRE GREATER SELF-RELIANCE IN ALL EXISTENTIAL MILITARY MATTERS.
BY LOUIS RENE BERES
Very soon, in mid-September, Palestinian Authority leaders will seek statehood at the United Nations. There, the basic strategy will be to secure a presumably authoritative acceptance of Palestinian sovereignty. In essence, as this plan to circumvent both the original Oslo Agreements and the more recent "Road Map" would not succeed in the Security Council, where the United States has veto power, the PA will quickly bring the sensitive matter before the larger and more sympathetic General Assembly.
Legally, this strategy would mock all codified expectations of the governing treaty on statehood, the Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1934). But the main danger for Israel would lie latent in Palestinian statehood itself. Once accepted by the UN, whether lawfully or unlawfully, a Palestinian state would increase the risks of both mass-destruction terrorism and regional nuclear war. These generally unforeseen risks of Palestinian statehood could ultimately dwarf the more routinely expressed fear that "Palestine" would systematically displace Israel in "stages."
A Palestinian state would itself be non-nuclear. This incontestable fact is unrelated to the expanded post-Palestine nuclear threat to Israel. Concerning this threat, what only matters is that after Palestine, the resultant correlation of armed forces in the region would be cumulatively less favorable to Israel, something that could lower the general threshold of resort to nuclear weapons.
Any new state of Palestine would be carved out of the still-living body of Israel. Promptly, this 23rd Arab state would embark upon territorial extension, occasionally, in unopposed and audacious increments, well-beyond its UN-constituted borders, and deep into the now-porous boundaries of Israel proper.
At that point, despite the obvious new Arab aggression, the "international community" would almost certainly look away. By then, after all, Israel will already be widely regarded as an alien presence in the otherwise neatly homogeneous Dar al Islam, the Middle Eastern "world of Islam."
Any Palestinian state would have an obviously injurious impact on U.S. strategic interests, as well as on Israel's sheer physical survival. After Palestine, Israel would require greater self-reliance in all existential military matters.
In turn, such self-reliance would demand: (1) a more comprehensive and explicit nuclear strategy involving refined deterrence, preemption and war fighting capabilities; and (2) a corresponding and thoroughly updated conventional war strategy.
The birth of Palestine could affect these two interpenetrating strategies in several important ways. Immediately, it would enlarge Israel's need for what military strategists call "escalation dominance" - namely, the capacity to fully determine sequential moves toward greater destructiveness. By definition, as any Palestinian state would make Israel's conventional capabilities far more complex and problematic, the Israel Defense Forces' national command authority would now need to make the country's still-implicit nuclear deterrent less ambiguous.
Taking the presumed Israeli Bomb out of the "basement," could enhance Israel's overall security for a while; but over time, ending "deliberate ambiguity" could also heighten the chances of nuclear weapons use.
With a Palestinian state in place, a nuclear war could arrive in Israel not only as a "bolt-from-the-blue" surprise missile attack, but also as a result, intended or inadvertent, of escalation. If an enemy state were to begin with "only" conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem might respond, sooner or later, with fully nuclear reprisals. Alternately, if this enemy state were to begin with solely conventional attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem's conventional reprisals might still be met, in the uncertain strategic future, with enemy nuclear counterstrikes.
It follows that a genuinely persuasive Israeli conventional deterrent, at least to the extent that it would prevent enemy-state conventional and/or biological attacks in the first place, could significantly reduce Israel's eventual risk of an escalatory exposure to nuclear war.
Why should Israel need a conventional deterrent at all? Even after Palestinian statehood, wouldn't rational enemies desist from launching conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel for well-founded fears of an Israeli nuclear retaliation? Not necessarily. Aware that Israel would cross the nuclear threshold only in extraordinary circumstances, these enemy states could be convinced, rightly or wrongly, that as long as their own attacks remained non-nuclear, Israel would respond "proportionately," in kind.
The only credible way for Israel to deter large-scale conventional attacks after any UN creation of Palestine would be by maintaining visible and large-scale conventional capabilities. Naturally, those enemy states contemplating first-strike attacks on Israel using chemical and/or biological weapons would be apt to take more seriously Israel's nuclear deterrent. Whether or not this nuclear deterrent had remained undisclosed or "ambiguous" could seriously affect Israel's credibility, as could perceptions of Israel's corollary capabilities for anti-missile defense and cyber-warfare.
A continually upgraded conventional capability is needed by Israel to deter or to preempt conventional attacks, enemy aggressions that could lead, via escalation, to assorted forms of unconventional war. Here, Palestine's presence would critically impair Israel's strategic depth, and thereby its capacity to wage conventional warfare.
Finally, both the United States and Israel should assume that recent and ongoing revolutionary events in Libya and Syria will enlarge the theft and black-market trafficking of chemical and biological weapons stocks in the region. Depending upon where these dangerous materials would wind up, in the Middle East and North Africa, or even in North America, they could exacerbate the already-expected harms of any UN-declared state of Palestine.
Louis Rene Beres is an expert on Israeli security matters and the author of 10 major books and several hundred journal articles on international relations and international law.
WHO'S THE GUY DRIVING AGAINST TRAFFIC?
IT'S RIGHT TO LISTEN TO THE SOCIAL PROTEST'S DEMANDS AND CHANGE BUDGET PRIORITIES TO FULFILL BASIC DEMANDS. BUT WE SHOULD ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THE BASIC CONDITION: ANY SOLUTION MUST BE IMPLEMENTED WITHIN A FRAMEWORK, WITHOUT BREACHING THE BUDGET.
In light of the many traffic accidents lately, Rachel called her husband Shmulik: "Listen honey, I just heard on the news that on Highway 6 someone's driving against the traffic, so be careful." Shmulik answered: "I'm on Highway 6 now and I'm telling you that it's not just one guy, it's hundreds! What's wrong with them, are they crazy?"
So who's the crazy guy? The guy driving against the traffic or the hundreds of others? And who's the crazy guy in the economy? The one calling for the government to increase spending and enlarge the deficit, or all those European countries that not only are not increasing spending but are slashing their budgets?
This week, the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, said Italy's government must act quickly to reduce spending, implement reforms and privatization, and reduce the budget deficit so it disappears by 2013. The reason is Italy's huge public debt, 1.9 billion euros - 110 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The Italians wanted to work little, vacation often and enjoy a welfare system that gives everybody everything. Until they collapsed. In an attempt to prevent bankruptcy, the Italian government decided to cut its budget by 45 billion euros in five years, meaning fewer services, wage reductions and a freeze on hiring new workers in the civil service.
But Italy is not alone in its troubles. Many European countries that were on a roll in recent years now find themselves in a similar situation. They shortened the work week, increased vacation time, improved social conditions, allowed workers to retire and receive pensions at between 55 and 60, and subsidized education. Now they've discovered that their public debt is too high, their credit ratings are going down and their economies are stuck in recession and unemployment. In Spain, unemployment is at 20 percent; among the young it's at 40 percent! So Spain too has to cut its budget by 8 percent and reduce public sector wages by 5 percent.
Greece too is undergoing a severe crisis. It's cutting 14.3 billion euros in social security, health, investments, defense and public sector wages. Ireland is cutting 4 billion euros in social security and public sector wages. And Britain is cutting a huge amount to prevent a downgrade of its credit rating. It's cutting 84 billion pounds over four years, meaning a reduction of 500,000 jobs in the public sector, an average reduction of 19 percent at government offices and a tripling of university tuition to 9,000 pounds a year. Just for your information as a student, Itzik Shmuli.
The Americans, who partied throughout the last decade, now find themselves in a deep crisis. The stock market is falling, unemployment is rising (to 9 percent ) and President Barack Obama, "the national increaser," has been forced to change direction and present a plan for cuts of between $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion over 10 years, with the aim of reducing the deficit and lowering the large public debt.
In these countries, the people don't even dream of demanding that the government increase spending. There the people are not only struggling to make ends meet, they can't even make basic monthly payments because wages are being reduced, unemployment is rising and welfare payments are being cut.
Luckily for us, we don't need cuts, for now, because we've acted responsibly in the last 26 years. We've cut government spending, become more efficient, lowered taxes, implemented sweeping reforms and privatized government companies, helping us grow and lower the public debt from 200 percent of GDP in 1985 to 75 percent today. This responsible policy has created growth, lowered unemployment and created conditions in which resources can be channeled to address social problems.
So it's right to listen to the social protest's demands and change budget priorities to fulfill the basic demands. But we should always keep in mind the basic condition: Any solution must be implemented within a framework, without breaching the budget.
For it's clear that the one guy driving against the traffic is crazy, not everybody else.
******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES
WHERE THE JOBS AREN'T
BY DAVID BROOKS
With the economy stagnating and unemployment high, where are the jobs of the future going to come from? A few years ago, it seemed as though the Green Economy could be a big part of the answer.
New clean-energy sources could address environmental, economic and national security problems all at once. In his 2008 convention speech, Barack Obama promised to create five million green economy jobs. The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated in April 2009 that green jobs could account for 10 percent of new job growth over the next 30 years.
Alas, it was not to be. The gigantic public investments in green energy may be stimulating innovation and helping the environment. But they are not evidence that the government knows how to create private-sector jobs.
Recently, Aaron Glantz reported in The Times on some of the disappointments. California was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize homes. So far, the program has created the equivalent of only 538 full-time jobs. A $59 million effort to train people for green jobs in California produced only 719 job placements.
SolFocus designs solar panels in the United States, but the bulk of its employment is in China where the panels are actually made. As the company spokesman told Glantz, "Taxes and labor rates" are cheaper there.
There's a wealth of other evidence to suggest that the green economy will not be a short-term jobs machine. According to Investor's Business Daily, executives at Johnson Controls turned $300 million in green technology grants into 150 jobs — that's $2 million per job.
Sunil Sharan, a former director of The Smart Grid Initiative at General Electric, wrote in The Washington Post that the Smart Grid, while efficient and environmentally beneficial, will be a net job destroyer. For example, 28,000 meter-reading jobs will be replaced by the Smart Grid's automatic transmitters.
A study by McKinsey suggests that clean energy may produce jobs for highly skilled engineers, but it will not produce many jobs for U.S. manufacturing workers. Gordon Hughes, formerly of the World Bank and now an economist at the University of Edinburgh, surveyed the landscape and concluded: "There are no sound economic arguments to support an assertion that green energy policies will increase the total level of employment in the medium or longer term when we hold macroeconomic conditions constant."
Many of the most celebrated green tech companies are foundering despite lavish public support. Evergreen Solar, the recipient of tens of millions of dollars in state support, moved its manufacturing facility to China before filing for bankruptcy protection.
The U.S. Department of Energy poured $535 million in loans into Solyndra, a solar panel maker backed by George Kaiser, a major Democratic donor.
The Government Accountability Office discovered that Solyndra had been permitted to bypass required steps in the government loan guarantee process. The Energy Department's inspector general criticized the department for not maintaining e-mails that discussed how the loan guarantee winners were chosen.
Late last month, Solyndra announced that it was ceasing operations, laying off its 1,100 employees. The Department of Energy placed the wrong bet, potentially losing the taxpayers half-a-billion dollars.
All of this is not to say that the government shouldn't be doing what it can to promote clean energy. It is to say that the government isn't very good when it tries to directly create private-sector jobs.
In 2009, Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School published a useful book called "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." He found that for each instance in which the government has successfully promoted entrepreneurial activity, there is a pile of instances in which it failed.
Lerner details case after case where public investments produced little or nothing. But he also makes an important distinction between government efforts to set the table for entrepreneurial activity and government efforts to create jobs directly. Setting the table means building an underlying context for innovation: funding academic research, establishing clear laws, improving immigration policies, building infrastructure and keeping capital gains tax rates low. Lerner notes that one of the most important government initiatives to encourage innovation was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which gave universities automatic title to research paid by the federal government.
These table-setting efforts work. The problem is the results are indirect, the jobs take a long time to emerge and the market may end up favoring old-energy sources instead of shiny new ones. So politicians invariably go for the instant rush. They try to use taxpayer money to create private jobs now. But they end up wasting billions.
We should pursue green innovation. We just shouldn't imagine these efforts will create the jobs we need.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE LAST MODERATE
BY JOE NOCERA
Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat who represents the Nashville area, was first elected to Congress in 1982. He was 28, and if it's not quite right to say he's been there ever since — he spent eight years in the private sector after losing the race for Al Gore's Senate seat — he's still been a congressman most of his adult life.
You'd think that Cooper's tenure would ensure him the privileges of seniority. It doesn't. A mild-mannered man, you'd think he'd have friends on both sides of the aisle. Not so. He's loathed by Republicans for being in the wrong party, and scorned by Democrats for his fiscal conservatism. At the least, you'd think that he'd be respected for his institutional memory. Wrong again.
The reason is that Cooper is the House's conscience, a lonely voice for civility in this ugly era. He remembers when compromise was not a dirty word and politicians put country ahead of party. And he's not afraid to talk about it. "We've gone from Brigadoon to Lord of the Flies," he likes to say.
I first heard him lament the state of Congress during one of those "get Elizabeth Warren" hearings held earlier this year. When it was Cooper's turn to question her, he turned instead to the Republicans. "This Congress is viewed as dysfunctional," he said, "and this alleged hearing is one of the reasons why. It too easily degenerates into a partisan food fight." He pleaded with the junior members to change their mean-spirited ways before they became ingrained.
With Congress back in session this week — and the mean-spirited wrangling about to begin anew — I thought it would be useful to ask Cooper how Congress became so dysfunctional. His answer surprised me. He said almost nothing about the Tea Party. Instead, he focused on the internal dynamics of Congress itself.
To Cooper, the true villain is not the Tea Party; it's Newt Gingrich. In the 1980s, when Tip O'Neill was speaker of the House, "Congress was functional," Cooper told me. "Committees worked. Tip saw his role as speaker of the whole House, not just the Democrats."
Gingrich was a new kind of speaker: deeply partisan and startlingly power-hungry. "His first move was to get rid of the Democratic Study Group, which analyzed bills, and which was so trusted that Republicans as well as Democrats relied on it," Cooper recalled. "This was his way of preventing us from knowing what we were voting on. Today," he added, "the ignorance around here is staggering. Nobody has any idea what they're voting on."
In the O'Neill era, when an important issue was being debated, there were often several legislative alternatives. But, under Gingrich, "that was eliminated in favor of one partisan bill," said Cooper. That continued after the Democrats retook the House in 2006. "We no longer search for the best ideas or the best policies," he said. "There was only one health care bill offered. One Dodd-Frank. Now you are either an ally or a traitor."
Cooper was rolling now. "The real problem with big issues like Medicare is that both parties have to be brave at the same time," he said. "Every pollster will tell you not to do that to get partisan advantage. Too many people here are willing to deliberately harm the country for partisan gain. That is borderline treason.
"This is not a collegial body anymore," he said. "It is more like gang behavior. Members walk into the chamber full of hatred. They believe the worst lies about the other side. Two senators stopped by my office just a few hours ago. Why? They had a plot to nail somebody on the other side. That's what Congress has come to."
Inevitably, Cooper turned to the subject of money in politics. "Money changes hands here way too much," he said. "Members buy their way onto committees. When I first came to Congress, the party was supposed to help you. Now, when a new member is sworn in, he or she is told what their dues are — how much they are expected to raise for the party for the next election. It's worse in the Senate. It turns the whole place into a money machine."
Cooper had lots more to say: about how redistricting has fostered extremism, on both the left and the right; about how Congress has become incapable of legislating on behalf of the nation; about how we are living through a new McCarthyism, aimed at destroying innocent people who want to serve their country by coming to Washington to run an agency or department.
"We survived McCarthy," he said, suddenly, sounding a small, surprising note of optimism. "We'll survive this." I hope he's right. As I prepared to leave, he added, "You can't lose hope."
So, yes: Let's all hope that the next few, critical months for Congress will be better than the last few. For the country's sake, they have to be.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
YES, WE NEED JOBS. BUT WHAT KIND?
BY PAUL OSTERMAN
ON Thursday, President Obama will deliver a major speech on America's employment crisis. But too often, what is lost in the call for job creation is a clear idea of what jobs we want to create.
I recently led a research team to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has advertised his track record of creating jobs. From January 2000 to January 2010, employment in the Valley grew by a remarkable 42 percent, compared with our nation's anemic 1 percent job growth.
But the median wage for adults in the Valley between 2005 and 2008 was a stunningly low $8.14 an hour (in 2008 dollars). One in four employed adults earned less than $6.19 an hour. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported that the per capita income in the two metropolitan statistical areas spanning the Valley ranked lowest and second lowest in the nation.
These workers aren't alone. Last year, one in five American adults worked in jobs that paid poverty-level wages. Worker displacement contributes to the problem. People who are laid off from previously stable employment, if they are lucky enough to find work, take a median wage hit of over 20 percent, which can persist for decades.
To understand the impact of low wages, in the Valley and elsewhere, we interviewed a wide range of people, including two directors of public health clinics, three priests, a school principal and four focus groups of residents. Everyone described a life of constantly trying to scrape by. One month they might pay for the phone, another, for utilities. Everyone knew how long each company would carry unpaid bills before cutting service. People spoke not only of their fear of an unexpected crisis — an illness, a broken car — but also of the challenge of paying for basic needs like school supplies. Many used the phrase "one paycheck away from homelessness."
Because their parents cannot afford child care, children move among relatives and neighbors. They watch too much TV. They don't finish their homework. Older children grow up too fast from parenting their younger siblings. As one person observed, "All you think about is which bill is more important."
Economic stress strains marriages. Parents cannot afford quinceañeras for their daughters. In church youth groups, teenagers ask why they should stay in school if all they can get are low wages.
Many children are latchkey kids. Accidents are frequent; we heard of an elementary school student who badly burned himself in a science experiment, with his older brother watching. Their father couldn't take time off from work to visit his son in the hospital. Children come to school sick. Parents miss teacher conferences because they can't afford time off. Type 2 diabetes is a scourge in the Valley. Since Type 2 diabetics can be asymptomatic for years, many don't buy medicine; as time passes, they become severely ill, often losing sight or a limb.
The director at one clinic, with nearly 70,000 visits a year, estimated that half of its patients had anxiety or depression. Often people can't get to the clinic because they cannot afford to lose work time or because gas costs too much. When they go, they take their families, because they have no child care.
And yet the Valley is not hopeless. Teachers stay late to help with homework. They make home visits to meet parents. Health clinic employees work overtime. The community organization Valley Interfaith has pushed for training opportunities and living-wage jobs. There is no "culture of poverty," but the low-wage economy has corrosive and tragic consequences.
Must we choose between job quality and quantity? We have solid evidence that when employees are paid better and given more opportunities within a company, the gains outweigh the costs. For example, after a living wage ordinance took effect for employees at the San Francisco International Airport, in 1999, turnover fell and productivity rose.
Contrary to the antigovernment rhetoric, there is much that the public sector can do to improve the quality of jobs.
A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute reported that 20 percent of federal contract employees earned less than the poverty level for a family of four, as opposed to 8 percent of traditional federal workers. Many low-wage jobs in the private sector (notably, the health care industry) are financed by taxpayers. The government can set an example by setting and enforcing wage standards for contractors.
When states and localities use their zoning powers to approve commercial projects, or offer tax incentives to attract new employers, they can require that workers be paid living wages; research shows this will not hurt job growth.
Labor standards have to be upgraded and enforced, particularly for those employers, typically in low-wage industries, who engage in "wage theft," by failing to pay required overtime wages or misclassifying workers as independent contractors so that they do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Americans have long believed that there should be a floor below which job quality does not fall. Today, polls show widespread support for upgrading employment standards, including raising the minimum wage — which is lower, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it was in 1968. It's time for the federal government to take the lead in creating not just more jobs, but more good jobs. The job-growth mirage of the Rio Grande Valley cannot be our model.
Paul Osterman, an economist at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, is the co-author of "Good Jobs America: Making Work Better for Everyone."
TIMES FREE PRESS
SECURITY STEPS APPROPRIATE AFTER 9/11
It was widely rumored late last year and early this year that al-Qaida or a similar group would use the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks to strike a major U.S. city or other high-profile target. The rumor became fact when material uncovered at Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound after he was killed by U.S. forces last spring indicated that plans for such an attack had been discussed. It is understandable, then, that federal, state and local governments have heightened security in the weeks leading up to and following the anniversary.
It is prudent to do so, even though there is no information extant to suggest such an attack might be imminent. "While there is currently no specific or credible threat, appropriate and prudent security measures are ready to detect and prevent plots against the United States should they emerge," a Homeland Security Department spokesman said recently. Still, the additional concern and security measures are an acceptable response to the possibility of an attack on or around the anniversary of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil in history.
Some of the precautions taken by officials is readily apparent. There's more visible security at the nations airports and other mass transit facilities. Border patrols have been expanded and additional personnel are on duty at government and other public buildings and at major public gatherings, like sports events and outdoor concertos. There are, to be sure, other increases in security too. but officials understandably won't divulge any information about such activity.
The precautions are the result of extensive planning. A White House spokesman said that senior-level meetings of homeland security and counterterrorismofficials started several months ago to discuss possible threats to the United States and appropriate responses leading up the anniversary. They've not ended. The official confirmed that security reviews will continue through the 9-11 anniversary and beyond, "in order to ensure the federal government remains fully prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to mitigate any potential attacks."
President Barack Obama acknowledged such discussions last month when he said that the threat of a plot by a lone terrorist is a particularly troublesome possibility. "The risk that we're especially concerned over right now is the lone-wolf terrorist, somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide-scale massacres of the sort that we saw in Norway recently." The president, of course, was referring to the July attack in which 69 people were gunned down at a youth camp.
"You know," the president added, "when you've got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it's a lot harder to race those lone-wolf operators." Counterterrorism officials and law enforcement agencies, of course, have to be prepared to deal with threats from both the lone-wolf terrorist and larger groups like al-Qaida.
Americans, who moved about the country with almost unfettered freedom before the 9-11 attacks, have grudgingly accepted the measures implemented to protect the country since 2001. And despite grumbling about some heavy-handed and intrusive measures, most agree that the security arrangements have produced a desirable result. No terrorist attack has occurred here since their implementation.
The government's current effort to tighten security during a time that terrorists view as a highly symbolic and appropriate time for another attack is commendable. The new procedures and policies, however, need not be permanent. When the anniversary passes and conditions warrant, a return to more normal security programs that promote a proper balance between the nation's need for security and personal freedoms is in order.
TIMES FREE PRESS
TAX INCREASES, MORE 'STIMULUS' WON'T WORK
It's odd to hear President Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in Congress continue calling for tax increases as the way out of the United States' economic crisis.
For one thing, raising taxes during bad economic times is dangerous at best, because it further suppresses whatever limited private investment is taking place.
But the other issue is, what exactly does Washington plan to do with any new tax revenue that it gets? Supporters of tax increases say the money could stimulate the economy and create jobs if it were spent by Congress on road, bridge and other infrastructure projects around the country.
But we tried that with the first "stimulus," and it failed. Nationwide, the counties that got the most road work money per capita from the $862 billion stimulus created no more jobs for construction workers than counties that got no stimulus money.
Other spending from the stimulus has been equally non-stimulating.
But even if you think additional stimulus spending is a good idea, it's just not likely to happen. Even if somehow the Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives went along with the Democrat-controlled Senate and approved tax increases, the failure of the last stimulus makes it almost impossible that the House would approve yet another stimulus to eat up the new tax revenue.
That's not to say Congress wouldn't find some way to spend extra money. It always does -- and then some. But if the stimulus -- whose direct purpose was to create jobs -- didn't boost employment, how likely is it that more government spending on other things is going to get Americans working again?
The thing that small businesses -- which provide most of our nation's jobs -- need right now is some economic certainty. They need assurance that Congress is not about to raise their taxes and undercut whatever investment they make in expanding operations and hiring workers.
They also need relief from the increasing regulations and coming penalties of ObamaCare. Unfortunately, whether businesses will get relief from ObamaCare's rules is unclear. Even if a repeal of the law made it through Congress, the president would veto it. A majority of the states have sued to have ObamaCare overturned. But it could take years before the lawsuits work their way through the federal courts, and a favorable ruling is far from guaranteed.
So one of the few things that Washington can do in the short term to enhance prospects for economic growth is to declare firmly that it will not raise taxes.
Ironically, and sadly, that is the very thing that the president and Democrats in Congress are most unwilling to promise.
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.
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.
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.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
IS THERE A WAR TO WIN?
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that it has asked the Israeli Embassy diplomats in Ankara who are more senior than second-secretary to leave the country by Sept. 7, which is tomorrow. Turkish diplomats of the same level will be leaving the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv for home at the same time.
That was the first of the set of measures as announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last weekend. That was in protest of Israeli government's refusal to apologize and pay compensation because of the nine Turks killed by Israeli soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010 while trying to break the blockade by carrying aid to the Palestinian-hold Gaza.
As a second step, the Turkish government is planning to give new orders to Turkish Navy warships to start patrolling in the territorial waters of the eastern Mediterranean, aiming to show Israel that it is not the bully of the region. Is this going to convince the Israeli government to change its mind and try to improve relations with Turkey?
It is not a question to answer easily, because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu said he saw nothing to apologize for in the "self defense" of Israeli soldiers against the provocations of civilians on a ship acting hostile to them 72 kilometers off the Israeli shore, out of their territorial waters. Perhaps according to current government rules in Israel, the punishment for provocations from civilians could be an instant shot in the back of their heads, as stated by the Palmer Report, but not according to common sense.
Obviously there are people thinking differently in Israel, from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Central Bank Gov. Stanley Fischer and respected columnist Zvi Ber'el. They are among the people saying that Turkey is not and should not be an enemy of Israel, noting that if Turkey's stance affects Israel's economy, the cost would be even higher. Will that work? It is not easy to answer positively as well.
Perhaps that is the reason why Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has not said anything since the report was leaked to the New York Times as Davutoğlu was thinking in the Libya conference in Paris last Friday that they had reached a deal with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps Erdoğan is expecting a call from U.S. President Barack Obama on the issue? But can he do anything to convince Israel? Another difficult question to answer positively.
The U.S. Congress opens today for the new legislative year and Obama is already having troubles there. The Republican opposition, who had invited Netanyahu to deliver a speech there when Obama was out of the country, for the first time in U.S. history, refused Obama's request to do so later on.
There is opposition to the Turkish government's foreign policy from within as voiced by opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. But how differently could he act if he was in power and nine of his citizens were killed by foreign soldiers? That is another difficult question.
There are a lot of difficult questions around, indeed. But is there a war to win? The answer to that question is easy: No, there isn't.
There is no benefit for the Turkish and Israeli peoples or the region in further escalation of tensions. But it is difficult to talk when the dead bodies of civilians are still haunting us. Perhaps the Israeli government should see that it is not so difficult to solve the problem in a humanitarian way as well.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
THE UNMOURNED VICTIM OF NEW YORK'S '9/11'
"Pakistan – A Hard Country." By Anatol Lieven. 559 pages. Allen Lane.
Today our focus is on the collapse of Turkish-Israeli relations, the creation of a fledgling new government in Libya and the growing strife and chaos that is Syria. But sooner rather than later our attention is sure to be yanked to the other side of what diplomats call the "arc of crisis" connecting the Carpathians to the Himalayas.
When we do return to thinking about Pakistan, its 200 million population, its Taliban insurgency spawned by the war in Afghanistan, the tapestry of ethnic and tribal alliances and the fact that this fragile state actually has nuclear weapons… well then would be a good time to pick up "A Hard Country," a remarkable portrait of a deeply troubled place.
"The following fact has been widely ignored in the West, probably because it raises a very uncomfortable issue," writes Anatol Lieven, who worked as Pakistan correspondent for the Times of London in the 1980s and is now a professor at King's College London. "Namely, that Western governments and the Western media believe that they want to promote democracy in Pakistan, but that they have pressed upon Pakistan governments a cooperation with the West in the 'war on terror' which most Pakistani voters detest."
On the 10th anniversary of the assault on the World Trade Center that prompted America's invasion of Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama Bin Ladin, it is worth reflecting on the following: As the war has spread across the non-existent border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as of last February, 7,598 Pakistani civilians had died in Taliban attacks, military action or US drone attacks. That is two and a half times the dead on that day in New York. The cross-border skirmishing in the hunt for al-Qaeda has also killed 2,351 Pakistani soldiers, more than twice the number of American soldiers dead in Afghanistan. And the conflict has cost Pakistan $35 billion, almost twice the $18 billion in U.S. economic aid to the country.
That accumulated trauma alone should give us pause. But when combined with Pakistan's violent birth in the 1947 division of then British India, the three wars and continuing skirmishes with India largely over disputed Kashmir and the web of identities that define Pakistan, the result is chilling. So is this book.
A more thoughtful policy from the Americans is probably too much to hope for given the imperative within U.S. domestic politics to "punish" Pakistan for the fact Bin Ladin was discovered hiding in its midst. Indeed, one encounters growing calls in U.S. policy circles to end the "fiction" of any Pakistan at all, carving it up and delivering it to its constituent Pashtun, Sindh, Baloch, Punjabi and other parts. Lieven, clearly sympathetic with Pakistan, does not believe it can or should come to that.
Pakistan has done a remarkable job of holding itself together through compromise and patronage among its many internal allegiances which includes that to the military, he argues. It can do better in the future, he adds.
But not without better international understanding of the country's "hellish complexity," which Lieven details. Pakistan, it seems to me, deserves at least that much.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
SEEING THE GLASS HALF FULL IN TURKISH-ISRAELI TIES
In light of the current situation the headline certainly seems weird.
Still, I believe that the good thing about the deterioration in bilateral ties is that it will prove as a lesson for both sides. The Mavi Marmara incident has already served as a lesson for "some" in both governments.
In Turkey some have realized that had Turkey not turned a blind eye to Mavi Marmara, today it is closer to fulfilling its aim of being a "game maker" in the region. The fact that the Mavi Marmara did not set sail for a second time is proof that lessons were drawn from past experience.
In Israel some realized that unlike the whole Arab world or some European countries you cannot easily get away from Turkey once you get in trouble with it. That's why key members of the Cabinet were for an apology.
Today we have spiraling tension because in contrast to what happened in Turkey, those in Israel who learned from past mistakes have not outweighed those who prefer to remain shortsighted.
I am hoping that what is to come, which might be quite catastrophic as the two countries could come to the brink of war, will serve as a new opportunity to teach some lessons not only to shortsighted people in Israel but also for those in Turkey who haven't yet learned from the mistake of falling into the trap of ideological emotionalism.
For it seems that the latter have again started to prevail over the Turkish government.
Lowering diplomatic ties, suspending military cooperation and giving nuisance to Israel at every occasion can be understandable. But challenging the Gaza blockade not only legally but physically will be perceived worldwide as the work of this group who believe that Turkey should bully Israel on behalf of oppressed Muslims.
This will no longer be seen as Turkey seeking justice for its killed citizens, but it will be seen as Turkey championing the cause of all dead in Gaza. So supporting legal action and helping the families of Mavi Marmara's victims should have carried priority over challenging the Gaza blockade, by mobilizing international support.
This month, Palestinians will request recognition of their state and full membership in the U.N.
This is the most crucial time when they would be expecting Turkey's support. Yet, whatever Turkey will do, it will not be taken as a power that wants peace in the region, but as a state that badly wants to hurt Israel.
Turkey started to come close to its aspiration to be a game maker when the tension on its border like Greece or Syria diminished, which is the gist of "no problems with neighbors" policy. As the tension in the Mediterranean will divert Turkey's energies as a soft power, some in Turkey will learn that states should bully others for its national strategic interests, not for ideological causes.
In turn Israel will learn that, in contrast to the past, there is a higher price to pay for its intransigent policies. It cannot kill and wash its hands clean. It will learn that safety does not come by increasing your enemies but by increasing your friends.
Israel will also see that it has lost an incredible occasion to cooperate with Turkey on mending fences with a new regime in Syria, which sooner or later will replace the current one and isolate Iran further.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
WHERE WERE WE?
Our separation was long.
When it is health problems, one does not do anything else.
Those topics you highlight so much up until that moment suddenly begin to disappear.
You start viewing those that you hate from a different angle. Those people who cause major distresses in you become smaller in your eyes and disappear. Your friends and loved ones, though, expand more and more.
The money you have been running after all your life, striving to earn, suddenly has no meaning.
You withdraw into yourself and start questioning all your values. And in the end, you see that those many problems you have obsessed about were not at all as important as you thought.
I took down my shutters. I was not interested in anything exterior to myself. I did not read the papers; I did not watch television. I did not follow the agenda in any way.
I lived in a completely different environment.
The world now seems to be a place that can be lived in more easily. Especially, those colossal problems have all shrunk to minimal size.
I know it is easy to say all of these. They have been told to me also before. But mankind does not understand the real meaning of all these before they happen to one's own self.
I went through such a phase.
Now, it is over.
I closed the chapter and when I opened my eyes to return to my old world, I was astounded.
On one hand, a great deal has changed.
More than one earthquake has been experienced in Turkey at once. While military-civilian relations have been changed fundamentally, the dimensions of the match-fixing incident of Fenerbahçe have reached incredible measures. The minority foundations, finally, have been taken care of…
The crises in the world, again, have swollen; the richest countries are at odds with each other… Col. Moammar Gadhafi has finally fled and quit power… Syria is even more muddled…
When this scene is viewed from another window, one sees that nothing has changed.
The military maintains its former mentality… It does not want to perceive that the era has changed. The situation Fenerbahçe has fallen into is blamed not on its own administrators but again on various actors. The federation is being slammed.
The global situation is no different.
Western countries still move persistently to govern the fate of the Middle East… Nobody is offering any sacrifices to overcome the crises.
As you can see, in a way, it is the same old story…
There is no harm in that, in any case, the old story also belongs to us…
You cannot imagine how happy I am to meet you in this column again…
A mad summer has passed
Summer months generally pass easily.
No offense, when the political actors go on vacation, then we are even more relaxed. Inter-leader fights are over; interparty disputes decrease to an almost-nonexistent level.
We all rest our heads.
But this summer passed differently.
Turkey experienced incidents it was not used to. Entirely unexpected decisions of revolutionary caliber have been reached. Look at the list below and tell me if you agree with me or not:
- Terror started hurting as expected. It was expected, yes, but not to this extent.
- Match fixing was a frequent topic of talks in Turkish sports but it was a truth that was never approached. We all got used to it. We would imagine something were going on but we would turn a blind eye. For the first time, Turkey has been squeezed by the international sporting world's rules. We do not know whether the allegations against Fenerbahçe are true or not. What we know is that, from now on, even pronouncing the word match fixing will become impossible.
- It was revolutionary by itself that the government decided to return the property that belonged to minority foundations. The major injustice the state of the Turkish Republic had exerted upon its own citizens of other religions has been corrected after many years. I was surprised that this event was not adequately emphasized. In fact, it is the first time that such a step is being taken. Moreover, the fact that this step is being taken by the Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, which is much more sensitive in religious matters than previous governments, changes the color of the situation quite differently. With this opportunity, we have learned better how much agony we have caused to our minority citizens.
- An earthquake has been experienced in military-civilian relations. Nobody was expecting the developments in that area. The pieces of the puzzle are falling more into place. The resignations of the Chief of General Staff and three force commanders were an unprecedented step. The photo showing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presiding alone over the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, meeting, President Abdullah Gül's acceptance of the greetings at the Aug. 30 reception as commander in chief were the actualization of those steps that needed to be taken for a long time. They were the symbols that civilian authority has now superseded military authority.
- Former Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner's recorded conversation that was posted on the Internet was probably the last bomb of the summer months. It has revealed the problems of the Turkish Armed Forces as imagined in the minds of the Turkish public and how empty the words that have been said about it have been up until now.
- The Israeli report has brought Turkey into brand-new waters. This will be one of the topics we will be talking about the most in the coming term.
From tomorrow we will start our conversation focusing on these matters primarily. Many of my friends wrote about them and made significant assessments. But having spent a major portion of his career on examining military-civilian relations and having written the book "Yes, commander," I cannot possibly just stand aside with such significant developments.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
A MISCONCEIVED PANEL
One wonders if anything could have been more misconceived than the Palmer Panel, set up by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to investigate the raid by Israeli commandoes on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead at close range.
The panel was supposed to find the middle ground between Turkey and Israel, and help improve ties between the two countries, but it ended up doing just the opposite. Today Turkish-Israeli relations are worse off, not better off, because of this panel.
The problem goes back right to the beginning when the panel was first set up. To start off with, what Turkey understood the panel's job to be did not match what Israel and the United States understood it to be.
For Ankara the panel should have begun by considering the findings of the U.N. Human Rights Council's investigations into the Mavi Marmara incident. Those findings faulted Israel on legal and humanitarian grounds and were adopted by the majority of the members of the council.
What makes the findings of the Human Right's Council doubly valid for Turkey is that it is based on an investigation by international legal experts and not by politicians as is the case with the Palmer Panel. As it turned out, the council's findings were largely disregarded by the Palmer Panel while it was compiling its report on the Mavi Marmara incident.
For Washington, however, the Palmer Panel's objective was never to seek and find the "guilty party," but to investigate the incident, and "make recommendations as to how to avoid such incidents in the future." This is what the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said at the time.
It is also clear that Israel would never have accepted the panel without assurances from Washington that it would not set out to determine the guilty party. Israel is not known, after all, to cooperate with the U.N.'s criminal investigations since they generally find the country guilty.
The ultimate aim of the Palmer Panel was, therefore, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, after the latter "appropriately" expressed its "regrets" over the Mavi Marmara killings, and accepted to pay compensation to the families of the dead.
But with public opinion clamoring for justice for the Turks killed by Israel, it was clear from the start that the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government could not climb down from its initial demand for a full apology and settle instead for a weak and legally non-binding expression of "regret."
It seems that the Palmer Panel, whose job it was to lay the groundwork for improved Turkish-Israeli ties, underestimated this not so insignificant fact. In the meantime the panel also ended up deepening the rift between the two countries by making a categorical statement about the legality of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
In the absence of an apology from Israel for the killings, which is clearly not going to come, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has signaled that Turkey will work hard now to get the International Court of Justice to investigate whether this blockade is in fact legal under international law.
Judging by Davutoğlu's remarks, Turkey, knowing it cannot take Israel to the International Court of Justice directly – since both parties need to consent for a case to be opened there – is going to instead try and get the U.N. General Assembly to get the court involved in the matter.
How successful Ankara will be in this venture remains to be seen. It is a fact, however, that the Mavi Marmara incident, and the determined stand displayed by the Erdoğan government against Israel, has gained Turkey many friends and supporters in the U.N. General Assembly.
Ankara's efforts will therefore cause added headaches for Israel at the U.N. at a time when the Benjamin Netanyahu government is already grappling with the prospect of international recognition of Palestinian independence by the General Assembly.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
NOTHING NEW AT THE BDP CONGRESS
TARHAN ERDEM - email@example.com
What happened at the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Congress? What decision was reached? In fact, no new decision was made, no new policy was determined, those policies determined by "others" were approved, and those selected by others were "selected by the congress." Why did it happen like this?
For the congress to be a real "congress," first, the BDP has to be a serious "political party." In fact, the BDP is a tool that is managed not by the elected but by those whose names we do not know or by people the majority of whom we do not know.
Who perceives the party how?
Each sphere among the Kurds perceives the BDP differently. Who perceives the BDP how can be explained as such:
Abdullah Öcalan: A legal organization that cannot oppose his politics.
Kandil: Spokesmen for their policy.
Youth who use violence in the struggle: Big brothers not to be opposed.
Silent majority of the Kurdish people: Our children who need to be advised.
Because different spheres and people base their relations according to their perceptions, the BDP's adoption of a consistent and sustainable policy is being obstructed.
What was sought at the congress?
The latest congress has demonstrated this difficulty once again. Daily Sabah writer Mahmut Övür called the presence at the back seats of the congress on Sept. 4 "a deep internal tension and search," but this was not seen or voiced at the congress. In fact, the political "search" which Övür has written about is the need for the vast majority of the Kurds; but before that the diversity of those individuals and groups who perceive the BDP differently has to be minimized. They could have, in the congress, discussed their policies after introducing the correct definition of the Kurdish issue or they could have said, "Let's discuss what the Kurdish issue is." None of this was done or could not be done. Various groups believe that those definitions that suit their aims are correct; those leaders seen in the congress do not possess the courage and power to present their own definitions.
Before the Kurdish issue is defined, no policy can be specified and adopted; dilemmas are inevitable: For example, when BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, said, "We have not withdrawn from the Parliament," adding that they were waiting for "the minimum democratic circumstances to be formed to participate," does he claim that the democratic environment has shrunk in the past four years? Presumably, what he refers to as shrinkage is the limits on his own discourse.
What cannot be admitted is this: The BDP is not yet an independent political party; it is a formation living thanks to the de facto power of an illegal organization.
Gültan Kışanak read out the text of a proposal. The only place that her proposal should be debated is Parliament. One or two of the conditions she read can be discussed; most of them are rephrasing, with much sharper words, of some basic rights everybody is mentioning. When it is said, "Let us talk in a commission formed by two persons from each party," then why stay away from the Parliament? Really, it is difficult to understand.
The congress seems to have decided to continue using participation in Parliament as a threat. Is this decision a suggestion of the legitimate administration of the BDP? I don't think so. Those people who are familiar with illegal movements know that the view of an inaccessible leader is transformed into a decision first in a "committee," then in a "congress" or any meeting with a given fancy name. In a nutshell, the BDP congress where new policies were expected to flourish was influenced by extremes and they were able to block the correct decisions that needed to be made. At the same time, the congress that does not effect any changes in the BDP stance will also not contribute to the Kurdish issue.
As a matter of fact, I believe the BDP administrators have done what they could but it must be that their powers were just limited to this.
*Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ: CAMPAIGN OF 100 ATTACKS
Al-Qaeda in Iraq, also known as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, is one of the most influential powers in Iraq, with approximately 1,000 full-time fighters, and is responsible for organizing an estimated 20 percent of the attacks in Iraqi cities. The Iraqi branch was founded by Jordanian Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006, and has predominantly resorted to targeting the U.S. and Iraqi security forces via suicide bombings with the aim of bringing down the current government and establishing a pure Islamic state. Hence, in 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq was referred to as the most dangerous power and "probably public enemy No. 1" by former U.S. Commander David H. Petraeus, although after 2009 it has been classified as a narrow organization focusing on sporadic, spectacular attacks.
However, the increase in the number of attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent weeks across the country indicates that it has again reorganized and is able to carry out devastating attacks. After the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda has claimed several times that it will seek revenge for his killing. That became clearer with an Aug. 21, 2011, release in which it stated that it had begun a 100-attack campaign in Iraq: "We began this stage with an invasion we have called the battle of revenge for Sheik Osama bin Laden and other senior leaders."
On Aug. 15 and 25, al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for coordinated bombs that killed at least 80 security forces and civilians and injured dozens more across Iraqi cities in an attacks that demonstrated the group's capability. Now, the question is what reasons led the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda to re-establish itself and gain ground, enabling it to carry out such devastating attacks.
Based on local and international sources, one can highlight predominantly four reasons for this. First, after the death of Zarqawi in 2006, the Iraqi branch has gradually become an umbrella organization of Sunni insurgent groups and former Baath Party members. Those factors have strengthened its position in Iraq and facilitated its development as a domestic movement receiving more support from the local population, especially in Baghdad, Mosul and Anbar province.
Second, because the political agenda of al-Qaeda in Iraq is based on strong sectarian conflict, it has attempted to ignite a sectarian war, which it achieved in 2003 and 2004 after bombing the Shiite Imam Ali Mosque. This is why the current tension between Sunnis and Shiites provides al-Qaeda greater support. It is also for this reason that it is believed that the recent attack on Aug. 29 on a Sunni mosque in Baghdad was carried out by al-Qaeda with the aim of reigniting sectarian violence.
Third, because of the unstable situation in Syria, the eastern part of that country along the border with Iraq is becoming a new al-Qaeda haven. Here, they are supported mainly by former Baath Party officers, who fled after the American invasion in 2003 to Syria. Thus, a senior U.S. intelligence officer has speculated that eastern Syria will begin to look like northwestern Pakistan, where al-Qaeda organizes its attacks in Afghanistan.
The fourth reason is the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. The anti-U.S. discourse in recent months regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is used by al-Qaeda to mobilize people and campaign for more support.
All of these reasons indicate that the existence of al-Qaeda will not be diminished in the foreseeable future because it is obvious that the U.S. presence will continue, the developments in Syria will not cease in the short term and the historical tension between Sunnis and Shiites will not end since it appears to be intractable.
*Kenan Engin is a lecturer at the University of Heidelberg.
I. THE NEWS
JUSTICE FOR KARACHI
In the crude political calculus of who is up and who is down, the judges – as has become the norm lately – are scoring better than the government. As the Eid break ended and the SC's special bench sat down to hear the Karachi suo moto case, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry made it clear that the apex court had no intention of dragging out the hearings and wanted to wind up the proceedings of the case by the end of the week. In order to ensure this, the CJ has asked the IGP Sindh to take indiscriminate action against criminals in all areas and end the carnage that has held the city hostage in recent months. While it remains to be seen what kind of action the court will eventually take to ensure those responsible for the violence are punished, now may be a good time for the government to do its job to dispel the accusations that the operations are inconsequential and will bring no real, long-term results. Indeed, the 'surgical operations' that Rehman Malik has claimed as his trophy move can be the first step in rebuilding the people's faith in law-enforcement agencies and the government – but only if those arrested are actually prosecuted and the cases against them taken to their logical conclusion. Even if the violence is somehow halted for now, it will rear its ugly head once again.
For now, the SC seems to be the only institution whose response to the crisis has been authentic and non-convoluted. That it wants to keep away from political wranglings is clear from the fact that it responded to the ANP counsel's insistence that Zulfiqar Mirza be summoned to the court by asking why Mirza had not spoken up before if he had all the information he now claimed to have. The CJ also wondered on Friday why the entire law enforcement machinery at Karachi's disposal could not do the job that the army needed to be called in to do. The answer, at least to this question, is simple: because while the government may have the capacity to deal with the Karachi crisis, it does not have the will. This is not a good omen. The killings have indeed decreased in the last few days but it is important not to mistake putting a tenuous lid on a volatile problem for a long-lasting solution.
I. THE NEWS
NEED FOR DIALOGUE
Karachi appears to be struggling to get back on its feet after the latest round of bloodshed. The repercussions of Zulfiqar Mirza's outburst continue to create waves; the prime minister has said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik's call for a commission to be set up to investigate the allegations that have been made will be looked into. However, much of what happens in Karachi will depend on how things shape up between the key political parties – particularly the PPP and the MQM. The friction between these two parties is all too real to the people of Karachi who have suffered its ugly consequences.
It is difficult to predict what will happen next. Tension had grown since the MQM expressed its outrage over Mirza's allegations. But political contact at the highest levels continues; Prime Minster Gilani had a telephone conversation with MQM Chief Altaf Hussain in which he inquired about the latter's health – the call was also obviously made to keep a political relationship going. The early indications are that the MQM is not entirely averse to the idea of a deal with the PPP. Whether there are hidden pressures and secret tactics at work behind the scenes to ensure this, is anyone's guess. All that can be said with certainty is that any effort to force or blackmail the MQM into an alliance with the government will not lead to long-term calm. Results achieved with the use of such tactics would only be temporary at best. Bringing an end to the violence in Karachi requires political dialogue; the will to bring peace must be built among the various political parties. And building it will be a painstaking process; it cannot simply happen overnight. Nor should it come because of pressures other than those exerted by the people of Karachi who seek peace and security. Sadly, in light of the dramatic developments we have seen over the past few weeks in Karachi, establishing the political will to bring about peace appears to be a distant goal. There is unfortunately too little commitment to protecting lives and property and too much focus on political point-scoring.
I. THE NEWS
A recent headline in a Danish newspaper screamed: "Pakistan squashed!" For a change the story didn't deal with terrorism or other ills dogging Pakistan. It was instead about the shocking result of the World Team Squash Championship in Paderborn, Germany. Denmark, one of the minnows of international squash, had stunned six-time former champions, Pakistan, in the event. Their 2-1 defeat, easily the biggest upset for the Paderborn spectacle, threw Pakistan out of the 32-nation event's first-round for the first time in history. It was certainly a humiliating result for Pakistan, who till the early 90s used to ride roughshod over their rivals in world squash. But the disaster wasn't entirely unexpected. Pakistan squash has been going downhill since the exit of Jansher Khan in the late 90s. There was a time when around six of our players used to figure in the top-ten world rankings; now there isn't a single Pakistani in the top-25 list.
According to Jahangir Khan, arguably the most successful player in squash history, the poor policies of the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) and lack of vision are the biggest reasons behind the slump. Jahangir and other experts believe that the fact that top Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officials automatically inherit the command of the PSF is also dogging the game. They believe that the sport should instead be run by professionals rather than PAF officials, whose primary duty is to defend the country's borders. They have a point. The unabated downfall of Pakistan squash is clear proof that whatever the PSF is doing to lift the game is not working. It's time that sweeping changes are made to save Pakistan squash from total destruction. Even before cricket and hockey – the two most popular sports in our country – it was squash that gave a newly-independent Pakistan an identity when it needed one in the international arena. The historic triumphs of our squash legends – Hashim Khan, Azam Khan, Jahangir and Jansher – are a part of our national heritage, our national soul. We can't just allow this legacy to die.
I. THE NEWS
FLYING INTO LYARI FOR EID
I'd like to talk about the deep feelings and innovative ideas of Lyari's residents. I would take great pleasure in describing the light in the eyes of little children in Lyari as they told me about the NGO schools that they attend. I would rather enjoy describing the rustic beauty of Lyari's young ladies, and the raw masculinity of Lyari's young men.
Unfortunately, unlike Thomas Friedman's helicopter visits to Afghanistan, I did not have an armed escort and a narrative-spewing machine accompanying me to Lyari. I ended up in Lyari because my hosts in Karachi, brilliant young reporter Shehryar Mirza and entrepreneur (and sometimes columnist) Shakir Husain consumed substantially more nahari than I did on Burns Road that night. This meant that I, an Urdu-speaking Mohajir who has not lived in Karachi since the early 1980s, was assigned the responsibility to drive the festive group home.
A couple of wrong turns and we were driving around a 2 a.m. desertedness on the streets that completely violated the notion of the stylised hot, crowded and flat Karachi we've come to expect. We only learnt that we were deep in the heart of Lyari upon noticing the visible and proud PPP paraphernalia, from school buildings to posters and hoardings, lauding Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. There was, of course, one other, rather large, giveaway.
We drove past two massive formations of police trucks and armoured personnel-carriers, each made up of no less than 150 fully armed policemen, lying in wait. Those that doubt there is a major operation going on in Lyari may be well served by a random drive through the area in the dead of night. Of course, as we experienced, this would naturally include, for small interludes, being tailed by multiple young men on motorcycles, and the anxiety induced by the eerie silence and emptiness of a new place.
On the best of days, Lyari is not a particularly hopeful place. Sandwiched between Machhar Colony, which ranks among the world's largest ghettoes, and the heart of Karachi's deeply under-serviced central business district, Lyari is a lot further from "Karachi" than the distance would suggest. Young Pakistanis from all across the country tend to find opportunity on and along I. I. Chundrigar Road, but few youngsters from Lyari ever do. This police operation will deepen the sense of alienation in Lyari.
The tensions that the police ops in Lyari are instigating are dangerous and widespread. They go far beyond the problems of urban decay, or ethnic ghettoisation in Karachi. The majority of Lyari is Sindhi and Baloch. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a cheap and easy route to the hearts and minds in the Sindhi countryside is through blood in Lyari. Claiming victimhood in Lyari will resonate with Sindhis across the province. This is an exceptionally opportune thing. It isn't every day that Sindhis get a headline in discussions about Karachi.
As a third-generation Urdu-speaking Mohajir, it would be an impressive feat of creativity for me to claim objectivity when thinking, writing or speaking about Sindh or Karachi. This disclaimer is important when Pakistanis discuss politics and violence in Karachi. Karachi is a massive melting pot on the boil. Very few Pakistanis, if any, can claim the conversation to be one in which they have no stakes.
In April, I observed my grandfather's first death anniversary. Daada moved to Hyderbabad, Sindh, from Buland Shehr, Uttar Pardesh, in August 1947. My father grew up in the heart of Hyderabad, in as idyllic a childhood as I've ever had described to me. My maternal grandfather, my naana, known to family and friends as Babu Jee, passed away in 1983. He moved to Pakistan in 1970 from a town in UP named Gulaothi. I had the privilege of visiting Babu Jee's grave at Yaseenabad in Karachi this Eid, after more than a decade. His port of landing in Pakistan was Bahawalpur, though he settled in Karachi's Dastagir neighbourhood. Many smaller parts of the larger extended family, on both my mother's and father's sides settled across the country – in Sargodha, in Tando Allahyar, in Mirpur Khas, and across southern Punjab, including Bahawalpur, Multan and Rahimyar Khan.
Sixty-four years since arriving, wide swathes of my extended family speak Punjabi, Saraiki and English. Yet less than half-a-dozen can speak Sindhi fluently. Those were the ones that settled and stayed in what we call the "interior." Just think of the language here: "Interior Sindh." Interior. Inside. Hidden. Covered. Mysterious. Unexplainable?
The fact that the Sindhi language, Sindhi culture, and Sindhi socio-political discourse at large are so removed from the overarching discussions about Karachi is telling. In these six decades Pakistani historians have lauded the sacrifices of immigrants from UP, Bihar and Punjab. Tributes are even paid to the sacrifices of Bengali-speaking Pakistanis – notwithstanding the partition of Pakistan in 1971. But what about what Sindhis sacrificed? Where is that story in the larger national discourse? Think hard.
If you're drawing a blank, then understanding the appeal of Zulfiqar Mirza's invective should not be too difficult. Stereotyping Sindhi political and social identity with ajraks, vaderas and dacoits in "interior Sindh" regularly goes unchallenged in Pakistan. Why should the stereotyping of Mohajirs with the MQM, and the stereotyping of the MQM with bhatta-financing, with targeted killings and with urban violence at large be any different? The fact is that it isn't. Powerful stereotypes are not restricted to Larkana or Nawabshah. Far from the madness of Mirza's hate-fuelled ethno-political theatrics, the twinning of Mohajir identity with the MQM and the twinning of the MQM with violence is a distinct and palpable reality in living rooms right across Punjab.
So what we have here is Zulfiqar Mirza, otherwise a political non-entity, become a national figure based on his specific targeting of an ethnic group and the largest representative political party for that group. What's the punchline? The more that Mohajirs are demonised in the rest of the country, the closer the embrace between them and the MQM becomes. After all, who else will middle- and lower-middle-class Urdu-speaking Karachiites turn to? The army that conducted operation Clean-up? The Imran Khan that undermined Javed Miandad? The PPP of Pukka Qila? The Munawwar Hassan that can't operate without the blessings of the JUI? As someone famously once said, "lol."
Most Pakistanis simply don't believe that the Pakistani state is capable or willing to take on the criminal mafia, the extortionists and those carrying out targeted killings who are marking their ethnic territory with blood. Most Pakistanis also don't believe that the MQM has a major problem with this mafia, these extortionists and these killers. The MQM's virtual silence in the face of Mirza's toxic onslaught is telling. If politics is like wrestling, the PPP has the MQM in a sleeper-hold. But it must not mistake the sleeper-hold for a kill shot. If it pushes too hard, it will only strengthen the MQM's rock-solid base of support in Karachi. If it doesn't push at all, it will have to continue playing poker with the Raabita Committee of the MQM.
Worst of all, no matter what the Central Executive Committee of the PPP or the Raabita Committee of the MQM decide, the chances that a kid in Lyari will end up working at a bank on I. I. Chundrigar Road will remain ridiculously slim. This diet of opportunity in Sindh is the real long-term cancer. Both the tortuous Zulfiqar Mirza and the conspicuously silent MQM seem immune to the tumour.
The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. www.mosharrafzaidi.com
I. THE NEWS
CENTRAL BANK INDEPENDENCE
DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
The independence of the central bank is understood to be a prerequisite for the effectiveness of monetary policy. It is generally believed that the greater the independence of the central bank, the better the impact on a country's macroeconomic performance. It has also been argued that a more independent central bank is likely to produce lower inflation without compromising on economic growth. The existence of an inverse relationship between the degree of independence and inflation in many developed countries has encouraged developing countries to move towards granting greater independence to their central banks.
The strongest argument in favour of independent central banks is rooted in the view that subjecting the central bank to more political pressures imparts an inflationary bias to monetary policy. Politicians in a democratic setup are shortsighted because they are driven by the need to win their next election, and as such they are unlikely to focus on the long-term objectives of promoting price stability with higher economic growth. Instead, they seek short-term solutions to problems such as high unemployment, poverty, and higher interest rates, even if the short-term solutions have undesirable long-term consequences.
In Pakistan, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) – the country's central bank, has gained considerable independence over the last two decades. How independent is the SBP in relation to other central banks in the Asia-Pacific region? No one appears to have an answer to that; even the staff members of the SBP are perhaps unable to gauge how independent their institution is. It is against this backdrop that three graduating BBA students of the NUST Business School, namely Fatimah Hamid, Mehak Firdous and Mohammad undertook the task of measuring the independence of the SBP in relation to other central banks as their undergraduate project. The findings of the projects are summarised below.
In the literature, the independence of the central bank is broadly divided into instrument independence (the ability of the central bank to set monetary policy instruments) and goal independence (the ability of the central bank to set the goals of monetary policy). In recent years, the definition of independence has been widened to include legal, political, price stability objectives, exchange rate policies, monetary policy and deficit financing and accountability and transparency. These six components form the Central Bank Independence and Governance Index (CBIG), which measures the degree of independence of the central bank and falls into the broad category of instruments and goal independence. The students used the CBIG to measure the degree of independence. They compared the SBP with the Bank of Japan (BOJ), Bank of Thailand (BOT) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The legal component includes, among others, the appointment of the governor of the central bank. The political component determines at what level a central bank operates without any political influence. Who sets the goal of price stability and which types of exchange rate policies are being pursued are the two critical components of the Index. How independent is the central bank in saying no to the government in financing the budget deficit and how often the central bank discloses its policy changes are two other components of the Index.
The findings of the study are interesting. The average score of the CBIG ranges from zero (no independence) to 1.0 (highest level of independence) for each component as well as for the total score. The BOJ with combined average score of 0.75 ranks first, followed by the RBI (0.70), SBP (0.67) and BOT (0.47). In other words, the BOJ is the most and the BOT is the least independent central bank in the sample of the study. The RBI and the SBP are close to each other in the degree of independence.
Pakistan performed poorly in the area of legal independence. While the tenure of the central bank governors in all the countries of the sample is five years and extendable for another term, the tenure of the Governor of SBP is three years with a possibility of extension for another term. Furthermore, the regulatory responsibility has been separated from the central bank in the case of BOJ and BOT (hence scoring high on this count) while the RBI and SBP performed both the roles of monetary as well as regulatory authorities.
With reference to the political component, both the BOJ and the RBI have the highest degree of political freedom with a 0.89 score. The BOT has the least freedom (0.67) with governors changing according to political changes in the country. The SBP takes the middle ground with a score of 0.78. Some degree of political interference has been observed in recent years with former governor Shahid Kardar resigning over policy differences.
On exchange rate policy, both the BOJ and the SBP scored a perfect mark (1.0) suggesting their exchange rates are floating in nature. Both the RBI and the BOT pursued a managed floating exchange rate and scored low on this count. On monetary policy and deficit financing, none of the central banks was found free from pressures and as such scored in the range of 0.31 (BOT) to 0.64 (RBI). The degree of independence in price stability objectives was also not found to be perfect in any of the central banks. However, the RBI enjoyed relatively more independence (0.89) followed by the BOJ (0.83), the SBP (0.72) and the BOT (0.72).
On accountability and transparency, both the BOJ and the SBP scored high (0.94) followed by the RBI (0.88) and the BOT (0.50). In other words, the BOJ and the SBP, through the regular publications of their monetary policy statements and other publications, have made themselves accountable and placed themselves high in the transparency index.
In short, Pakistan's central bank enjoys a considerable degree of independence. The degree of independence can be enhanced if the tenure of the governor is raised to five years. Contrary to general perception, Pakistan's exchange rate is floating with little or no interference from the central bank.
The writer is principal and dean NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nbs. edu.pk
I. THE NEWS
Mirza's tirade against the MQM and Rehman Malik caused consternation not only among the PPP rank and file and their MQM and ANP allies, it has opened up a new dimension in Pakistani politics. An otherwise nice enough affable person well liked by his friends, Mirza is in a class by himself when it comes to intimidating people, a sort of a Dr Mirza and Mr Hyde personality. Everyone and his uncle knows that in his Dr Jekyll role, he is Asif Zardari's "enforcer", keeping recalcitrant PPP politicians (and others) in Sindh in line for his close friend. If he really has been cast out into the cold, as the PPP tongue-in-cheek edicts about suspending his basic membership suggests, his will be a hard act to follow to ensure that many in Sindh do not jump the Zardari ship of state.
That very few are clambering over the rails gives credence to the fact that no one really believes Zardari has set Mirza adrift. Given the loving "criticism" by the Sindh PPP's Qaim Ali Shah, Manzoor Wassan, Sharjeel Memon, little Miss Goebbels Sharmila Farooqi, etc a majority school of thought believes that in a variation of the "Sindh Card" he has been cold-bloodedly unleashed by master politician Zardari to corner the MQM. Mirza's accusations have sent potential political suitors for the MQM like the PML (N), the PTI, etc scurrying for "patriotic" cover and driven the MQM into political isolation, leaving them with no option but to remain, however reluctantly, Zardari's allies, for the foreseeable future and on his terms, with no space for political blackmail. The Mirza "sacrifice" was also clearly programmed to steal the thunder of Sindhi nationalism gaining momentum after PPP's ill-considered on-off commissionerate fiasco.
The MQM has started feeling the heat from other forces, both political and non-political, in being portrayed as "anti-Pakistan". While the PPP has taken a rather hypocritical "high road" by "disassociating the PPP from Mirza's tirade", what about the massive spurt in his popularity among ethnic Sindhis, some even calling him "Sher-e-Sindh" (lion of Sindh)? He has even taken to tearing his shirt and baring his chest during political speeches, a la vintage Zulfikar Bhutto. Whatever the original game plan, the massive rise in his popular appeal will not go down well with Zardari whose already low threshold of popularity in interior Sindh has taken a further nosedive.
Mirza's public antics and tears notwithstanding, his wife Fehmida has been confirmed by the PPP hierarchy to continue as the Speaker of the National Assembly and third-in-line in order of precedence in the country. Has this lady any other standing in life other than being the wife of Zardari's most trusted friend? Her being cast aside would have given credence to Mirza's supposed estrangement from Zardari, otherwise it is "Ripley's Believe it or not!" Are we expected to be naïve and gullible? Remember Caesar's loyal general on Caesar's funeral, the Mark Antony ploy, "Brutus hath said that Caesar was ambitious and Brutus is an honourable man. When on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown he did thrice refuse, was this in Caesar ambitious? Yet Brutus calls Caesar ambitious and Brutus is an honourable man!", or words to that effect.
The former Sindh home minister calls Rehman Malik a born liar and a "traitor" on the strength of information denied to us lesser mortals, was Mirza speaking rot? Any self respecting man would have reacted to the epithets Mirza has pasted him with. We cannot dismiss such accusations out of hand, what if Mirza's rantings are true? Malik has further access to a lot of state secrets in his present capacity, prudence requires that he not be given access to meetings like that of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) till he has been cleared of such allegations by various intelligence agencies. The Official Secrets Act requires that the DG ISI, DG MI and DG IB certify that Rehman Malik is not the dubious "sleeper agent" character being repeatedly asserted by Mirza.
On the other hand, if what Mirza is saying is false, this blatant defamation is contrary to public interest. He must not only be severely dealt with and deemed unfit for public office in the future but in the public interest not allowed further display of hate-mongering politics. The moment of truth will really come when Pir Mizharul Haq confirms or denies Mirza's allegations.
With Mirza's revelation and the MQM's point-counterpoint (not to forget the ANP's Shahi Syed's holier-than-thou spiel), Pakistan's ruling coalition (with the exception of the PML (Q) and other smaller parties) are all in violation of Article 9 of the Constitution. They are in fact guilty of doing the very thing they as the rulers are supposed to protect, the life and liberty of every common citizen. By the token of similar allegations made (refer to the SC judgment banning the National Awami Party (NAP) during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's time in 1974), neither the Gilani-led coalition in the Federation nor the Qaim Ali Shah-led Sindh government can stay in office.
President Zardari is duty-bound by the Constitution to dismiss both these governments, appointing a caretaker PM at the federal level and caretaker Sindh chief minister. If the president does not adhere to the Constitution then the SC has a real dilemma. The octogenarian embedded in the Presidency, former bureaucrat Salman Faruqui (incidentally the first man suspended for corruption in 1973 by the PPP's first finance minister, Dr Mubashar Hasan, a man known for his honesty and integrity), will probably sweetly advise Zardari his normal bureaucratic trick of "changing the rules". Unfortunately in this case Zardari's options are limited by the political and legal fallout of Mirza's accusations.
The choices for the PPP, MQM and ANP and other parties with militant cohorts running amok are clear and unambiguous; either they get rid of the killers that they have been harbouring for their criminal and dangerous political games destabilising Karachi or risk being banned as political entities. No civilised nation on this earth can afford the projecting of the will of a minority on a majority through the barrel of a gun. Our democracy is a sham, what we have is a dictatorship of a corrupt minority having an agrarian feudal mindset. The proverbial genie, Mirza, is now out of the political bottle. While he can (and probably will) be put back having accomplished what he was meant to do, his allegations remain in the ether and cannot be conveniently swept under the carpet.
Everyone is telling the truth about each other for once, if not wholly at least selectively. For the sake of this country all of us love, somebody please take notice!
I. THE NEWS
WHY THE COMMON CITIZEN MATTERS
DR QAISAR RASHID
There is much talk in Pakistan about the concept of "representative democracy," because only a representative democracy is democracy in the true sense. Nevertheless, what Pakistanis do not realise is that there can be no representative democracy, or any semblance of democracy, for that matter, the country in question has a responsible citizenry. Pakistan is deficient in this regard in a number of ways.
First, it has virtually become a habit for people to ask for a system to be thrust on them. People are averse to adopting one. For example, Pakistan is overwhelmingly inhabited by Muslims but its citizens still call for the imposition of an Islamic system, instead of adopting Islamic norms and values and abiding by Islamic laws and procedures. Similarly, Pakistanis want democracy to be imposed in place of dictatorship, but they do not adopt democratic attitudes and ways. Pakistanis seem unwilling to change themselves and wait for someone to effect a change. On the other hand, responsible citizens spearhead a change.
Second, people do little for the spread of education. Most parents are just selfish because they want to ensure that their own children receive education. There are few voices demanding universal education in Pakistan. No one thinks about the welfare of those out of school children and illiterate youths who clean cars along roadsides and work day and night at workshops under miserable working conditions. Which is why many of them turn to violence and crime when they grow up.
Pakistani society is getting imbalanced. With the rapid rise in population, among other problems, an increasing number of people are becoming increasingly disgruntled and disgruntled people do not contribute constructively to society in the same way as relatively satisfied people do. If things stay as they are, there is likely emerge a generation which is bitterly alienated from society.
Those who could benefit from Article 25-A, which seeks to ensure the right to education for the citizens of Pakistan, live mostly in the rural areas of the country or belong to the lower social classes. They are neither enlightened nor empowered to ask for their rights. "Ghost schools," like the one shown to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on his visit to Badin recently, cruelly mock the very concept of education. But few people seem to care. In contrast, a responsible citizen believes in an educated society and an informed citizenry, and does something about it if he can.
Third, people have accepted the scourge of corruption as a way of life. It is unfortunate that a society which is overwhelmingly Muslim treats bribery, which is strictly forbidden in Islam, as just another way of conducting everyday business. In private meetings, people heap curse on corrupt officials but consider it fine when they themselves offer bribes to get their business and bureaucratic problems solved. Further, people also promote and condone corruption. People think it a matter of prestige to be able to bypass others in a queue, even if takes surreptitiously bribing the clerk at the window. Passport offices, despite their being computerised for the enhancement of efficiency and obviation of corruption, are infested with evils like bribery. The Pakistani version of Anna Hazare is yet to emerge in Pakistan. It is as if Pakistanis are not yet fed up of corruption, as Indians seem to be. In Pakistan, the job of dealing with corruption has virtually been abandoned to the Supreme Court. A responsible citizen is not merely law-abiding but also opposes and refuses to indulge in corruption.
Fourth, people do not turn up to cast votes in elections. The low turnout of voters does not make the electoral process a truly representative one. A rough estimate is that less than half the population takes part in the voting process. The resulting legislatures and governments therefore fall short of being truly representative ones. A popular government cannot be formed without the participation of a large percentage of the populace. Even though the elections of February 2008 jettisoned an unwanted regime, there can be no representative democracy in the real sense if voter percentage is low. Only a larger, and therefore better represented, electorate can be a truly effective one. A responsible citizen affects change by casting his vote.
Fifth, people are disinclined to pay taxes. The number of taxpayers is low the tax-to-GDP ratio was around nine percent in 2010-2011. Ideally, the ratio should be in the top, or at least higher, double digits. Permanent dependence on foreign aid has not only made the country less inclined to broadening its tax culture base but has also encouraged people not to meet their taxpaying responsibilities. Awareness regarding the two aspects can be attributed to the post-1991 era when international donors demanded that the country be more self-reliant – i.e., that it generate its own resources to meet its expenditures.
Pakistan's spending more in non-development areas is a stubborn trait. Tax evasion is an added problem. Further, people are still unconvinced of the need for paying taxes to the government. The reluctance has brought about the imposition of disproportionately more indirect taxes than direct ones. A responsible citizen pays his taxes and then holds the government to account if it fails to deliver.
Sixth, people are not realise the need for cleanliness and tidiness, neither with respect to their homes nor their surroundings. Many people do keep there own homes clean but pays no attention to the litter and trash in the street. The only way to keep the surroundings clean is not to throw litter about-let alone picking up litter, where that is possible. But this is rarely, if ever, done. People generally think that picking up litter is the job of "the sweeper," who is a lesser human and therefore more suited to the work of cleaning. Cleanliness and tidiness, and their encouragement and promotion, is something to take pride in. The responsible citizen does everything to keep the environment clean.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
I. THE NEWS
THE LIBYAN INTERVENTION
DR MALEEHA LODHI
The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.
The fall of Muammer Gaddafi's regime in Libya has been a predictable development. But the manner of Libya's liberation from dictatorship – midwived by Nato's military support of the rebels – raises a number of important questions.
Does this offer a template for externally aided regime-change in the future? Was outside help the only way to achieve the opposition's goal with a negotiated settlement ruled out early in the game? Can the much-contested 'responsibility to protect' doctrine known as R2P be applied elsewhere too? Was the March 2011 Security Council resolution calling for enforcement of a no-fly zone deliberately misinterpreted by Nato countries leading the effort, which exceeded that mandate to carry out a six-month bombing campaign?
Was the 'humanitarian intervention' about protecting the civilian population or securing preferential access to Libya's vast oil reserves? And does the Libyan 'victory' assure post-conflict peace and stable, democratic rule?
These questions not only go to the heart of the present phase of the Arab spring but also one of the most vexed and enduring issues in international politics today: whether foreign military intervention is ever justified and in what circumstances?
A review of the Libyan experience answers many of these questions and reveals the gap between western rhetoric and reality. What is noteworthy is that external intervention in Libya's civil war took place in the backdrop of the growing aversion in the West – post-Iraq and Afghanistan – for large-scale military intervention.
At an international conference I attended earlier this year focusing on the future global strategic landscape, consensus was quick to form around the proposition that an end was at hand to the era of over-the-horizon military interventions witnessed in the post-9/11 decade. This was a consequence of the disastrous experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, a function of western publics' war weariness and the economic troubles and budget cuts confronting America and Europe. With the two conflicts having already cost the US over a trillion dollars, the loss of blood and treasure has eroded any zeal for more wars. The appetite for intervention has also faded because of the limits exposed to the ability to accomplish desired outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A statement in February 2011 by the then US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates acknowledged this reality and warned against future wars like Iraq or Afghanistan and of the dismal prospects of effecting regime-change in that fashion. "Any future defence secretary", he told American cadets in a speech at West Point, "who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined".
The Libyan case does not negate the 'new imperative' against large-scale intervention. If anything the initial US reluctance to get involved, refusal to endorse any ground force attacks or to directly intervene, reinforces this. Its subsequent involvement was in a support role, portrayed as "leading from behind". The deep divisions in Europe about the use of military force and Germany's decision to stay out also reflected general western unease with wider military engagement.
But what was evident as the Nato campaign unfolded was that without the use of air power to knock out the Qaddafi regime's military assets and command centres as well as armed help for the rebels (also from Qatar and UAE), incoherent and disorganised opposition forces could not have toppled Qaddafi. Once the Obama Administration had been pushed into involvement by Britain and France, American logistics, reconnaissance and electronic war capabilities enabled Nato to take the mission to completion.
Even then it took six months of unrelenting air assaults on an internally and externally isolated regime and one of the region's weakest militaries to achieve this. This laid bare the operational and political difficulties in even a relatively 'modest-sized', limited campaign. As the New York Times commented in its editorial of 31 August: "If it was this hard taking on a ragtag army like Qaddafi's what would it be like to have to fight a real enemy?"
The Libyan case has underscored the constraints rather than the ease with which military force can be used. It has shown that western powers and Nato do not in fact have the military, organisational, political or economic capability for effective intervention in states other than the weakest and where their regimes lack any regional support. Even this limited intervention cannot be repeated in say Syria or elsewhere where states or regimes have the backing of neighbours or near neighbours and possess significant military capability. The feasibility of future interventions will rest on a complex array of factors, assurance of a certain outcome, and only when the direct strategic interest of a major or emerging power is involved. It will also have to stand the test of domestic opinion in states contemplating such action.
These factors make the Libyan case sui generis and exceptional rather than a "model for future interventions" as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France ebulliently but mistakenly claimed after Qaddafi's fall. The triumphalism exuded at the international summit hosted last week by Britain and France in Paris does not obscure the fact that the Libya story is far from over. With rival tribes and militias jostling for power and the internationally-recognised National Transitional Council (NTC) not even in place much less control in Tripoli, the endgame can go sour. And the longer reliance on outside help continues the more the NTC's credibility will be questioned at home.
A slew of unresolved issues engender uncertainty about Libya's future. Doubts remain about the ability of the transitional authority to fill the power vacuum, overcome internal squabbles, reconcile the secular and Islamist factions of the opposition, and to win the peace especially with several rival foreign backers in tow.
What of the R2P 'principle' so dubiously invoked to justify the Libyan intervention? The UN's 2005 summit that approved this notion had set the bar very high for its application. This was limited to crimes against humanity, mass atrocity and genocide. It did not stipulate any preemptive application because it was felt that this would expose it to easy misuse or selected and expedient application. Its potential misapplication by powerful states was a source of much concern for developing countries, Russia and China, which is why they agreed in 2005 to accept it only under certain conditions. These conditions were not met in Libya where external intervention took place on one side of a civil war and involved arming the opposition.
The most telling statement on the rationale marshalled out to defend the R2P's Libya application is what happened on the sidelines of the recent Paris summit. Behind the lofty rhetoric of western leaders to 'secure Libya's democratic future' was the widely reported scramble behind the scenes for oil and infrastructure contracts and reconstructions opportunities in Libya. A French paper published a letter showing that France had acquired priority access to 35 per cent of Libya's oil from rebel fighters. The French authorities denied this. But the foreign minister insisted in the same breath that it was "fair and logical" for French companies to benefit from Libya's new rulers.
Not denied were reports that Britain and France, anxious about future energy supplies, were seeking to pries the commercial advantage from Russian, Chinese and other companies doing business in Libya. By this reckoning the R2P seemed to be more about 'protecting' the economic interests of these western powers rather than civilian lives. Their post-conflict concern was not with counting the cost of war in terms of human lives but counting the profits to be made in liberated Libya. 'Was this a war for oil?' asked a British paper. The answer is obvious.
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.
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.
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.
CREATING MORE PROVINCES!
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.
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.
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.
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.
AFGHAN SOLDIERS DESERTING ARMY: NATO
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
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.
LABOR LOOKS FOR MESSIAH INSTEAD OF LIGHT ON THE HILL
Today's Newspoll provides no happiness for Labor, with its primary vote flatlining at 27 per cent, against 50 per cent for the Coalition. For the Prime Minister, the news is worse with 68 per cent of voters dissatisfied with her performance. Yet such has been the lack of competence and conviction that the numbers are no surprise.
Ms Gillard is likely to proclaim she is not interested in polls and will proceed with the tasks that are important for the nation. Such rehearsed lines are standard political fare even though most MPs are addicted to absorbing polling data in search of omens and guidance. It is not the polls that ruin careers but the reactions they trigger.
Ms Gillard's lack of authority -- identified with surgical precision by John Howard last week -- stems from her own inconsistencies and failure to deliver. She justified the political assassination of Kevin Rudd by saying that a good government had lost its way. If that was true, then a government that lost its way has now run off the rails.
Having seen Mr Rudd undermine his own standing by running away from the "greatest moral challenge of our time", it seems incomprehensible that Ms Gillard proceeded to skewer her own credibility on precisely the same issue. The Australian has consistently supported the government's aim for a market mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Ms Gillard's flip-flopping -- her unequivocal ruling out of a carbon tax and blatant breach of that pledge -- has left the electorate comprehensively underwhelmed. Having seized the leadership and squandered Labor's majority in a frenzied election, Ms Gillard seems to have expended the little political capital she had. By her own criteria of securing our borders, delivering a mining tax and implementing a climate change policy, she is without success.
In a perverse way, it is the very failure of the Gillard experiment that is prolonging it. Having attempted to fix its deep-seated woes by changing leaders last year, the party, wisely, will want to weigh its options more carefully this time. Despite trying five leaders since 2003, Labor has not found a messiah. A return to Mr Rudd would embody an apology for pre-emptively dispatching a leader the electorate had initially embraced, but it would also require contrition from Mr Rudd for surrendering on climate action and losing his way. Any other new leader, whether Bill Shorten, Greg Combet or Stephen Smith, would need to seek forgiveness for last year's leadership coup, and promise a more collaborative culture. These gymnastics of blame make Mr Rudd a plausible option, especially with Newspoll showing his support doubling Ms Gillard's.
Climate policy remains central. Labor turned its back on the mandate for action after the 2007 election, and then broke its carbon tax pledge from last year's poll. A new leader might need to impose a moratorium on climate action until the ALP can take a clearly articulated policy to the next election, with a commitment to stick to that. If the task is too urgent to wait, the election could be brought forward -- that is in the remit of government.
This is all the more reason caucus might leave Ms Gillard in place to see whether she can marshall the carbon tax legislation through parliament. If she succeeds, fresh assessments could be made at year's end. If she fails, it would be game over.
These considerations are not merely about measuring potential leaders against pollster's samples. Rather, we seem to be witnessing the ALP struggle to find its 21st-century mission. Workers' tasks, conditions and expectations have changed dramatically over the decades but it is still the mainstream -- the working families -- that is the backbone of the nation, which Labor needs to claim as its core constituency. Modern workers might carry laptops rather than union cards, or use a home office rather than punch a time-card, but those who work to own a home and care for their families are still the people both major parties must court.
Tony Abbott and the Coalition seem to understand this point innately, while Labor has been sidetracked by an agenda pushed by the Greens, public sector unions and an inner-city political class more interested in symbolism than good governance. Instead of debating labour market reform, productivity improvements or a bipartisan settlement on border protection, Labor has been pre-occupied with moral posturing on climate, refugees and gay marriage. Whoever leads Labor in the months and years ahead will need to end the lemming-like pursuit of gesture politics. In its place, Labor must pursue the pragmatic policy solutions it once proposed from and for the mainstream. Again, Chifley said it best more than half a century ago: "The success of the Labor Party at the next elections depends entirely, as it always has done, on the people who work."
AUSTRALIA'S LUCK IS EBBING AWAY
Mr Argus's warning coincided with a call from Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout to overhaul the Fair Work system, which she said had "promised so much but delivered so little". Ms Ridout's initial enthusiasm for the scheme has been dulled by experience and by growing calls from employers for a return to individual contracts, a move backed by 69 per cent of employers surveyed by the AI Group, including 80 per cent of those with more than 500 employees. Ms Ridout is arguing for flexibility arrangements to be incorporated in contracts for new employees, for employees to have the right to cash out annual leave on an agreed basis and for contracts to operate for up to four years. Fair Work Australia's destructive "strike first, negotiate later" provisions should also be scrapped and unfair dismissal laws modified.
In response to Ms Ridout, Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans showed himself to be a man of the 1970s, branding individual contracts a mechanism to "strip away pay and conditions" for workers. The experience of many workers during the Howard years, especially in mining, suggests otherwise.
So far, the opposition has been reluctant to offer much detail about how it intends to tackle industrial relations, prompting criticism from the Australian Mines and Metals Association that it has merely expressed "platitudes". After encouraging industry to speak up, Tony Abbott and his workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz should take heart from the chorus of voices in favour of reform, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, retailers and executives such as NAB chairman Michael Chaney.
There is no need to resurrect Work Choices, and the opposition is looking to harness the individual flexibility arrangements under Labor's Fair Work Act. However its policy proceeds, it must address the problems noted by the AMMA, which has found that during 18 months of Labor's system, 82.6 per cent of resource companies have been unable to negotiate productivity improvements in exchange for wage increases, and more than 42 per cent of resource companies have encountered more union problems.
As Mr Argus said, some employers confronted with union campaigns have been unable to hold on to productivity gains achieved through individual agreements, which both boosted efficiency and rewarded workers. Such regression will accelerate the decline in labour productivity, which has more than halved since the 1990s. The Opposition Leader must recognise the tide has turned. While the Gillard government seems mired in the centralism of the past, Coalition policy must be built on the principle that a flexible labour market will increase productivity, help retain investment capital, be competitive and help guarantee prosperity beyond the mining boom.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
O'FARRELL TRIPS ON HOTELS' STEP
IS IT possible that the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, simply blundered when he appointed Brian Ross, whom he has known for 20 years, to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority? As the Herald's Sean Nicholls reported, Ross has visited Parliament House repeatedly, as a representative of the Australian Hotels Association, to lobby MPs for the industry. He is a former chief executive of the association. An early act of the O'Farrell government was to ban lobbyists from serving on government bodies relevant to industries they have represented within the previous year. The Premier says that when he approved Ross's appointment he did not know Ross was still retained by the AHA. Since he met Ross as recently as June to hear the association's arguments against the government's three-strikes legislation on alcohol-fuelled violence, would it not have been prudent to check?
The sloppiness of the mistake the appointment represents suggests this was indeed a blunder. Let us hope so. But even if it is, it is an astonishingly clumsy one, for two reasons.
First, it calls into question the O'Farrell government's tightening of the rules on lobbying. That was a necessary move to make a fresh start and free government processes from the string-pulling that so tarnished Labor. That fresh start is now in doubt. By saying this we do not suggest or imply anything untoward about Ross or his actions, past or present. But as the paid representative of the hotel industry until recently, Ross cannot appear in the public's eyes to be unbiased towards that industry. Nor can he be an impartial arbiter on the body that regulates it. O'Farrell should have seen that the need for transparency simply rules him out.
Second, by appointing someone so close to the industry to the powerful authority that regulates it, O'Farrell has undercut his government's commitment to its three-strikes legislation - also a necessary reform to make hotels take responsibility for violent behaviour around liquor outlets. The public does not want to see this government go the same way as the last - regularly knuckling under to the demands of powerful and wealthy lobby groups. It has already given in - wrongly - to pressure from clubs over the three-strikes law, exempting them from its strictest provisions.
The Independent Commission against Corruption may now scrutinise the Ross appointment. Let us hope it does - and that the process helps the government to learn from this error.
LIBYA AND THE WEST'S UGLY SECRETS
IT IS difficult to know where to start with the compromises made by British leaders, government agencies and institutions in their dealings with Muammar Gaddafi and his Libyan regime.
The British secret services MI6 and MI5 worked closely with Gaddafi's intelligence service, swapping information on Islamic extremists and, with US agencies, ''rendering'' some to Libyan jails for extraction of information by torture. The London School of Economics awarded Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam a doctorate for a thesis on - of all things - The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions, then pocketed a £1.5 million donation from Libya.
The former prime minister Tony Blair displayed a sickening cordiality in his dealings with the Gaddafis. His successor, Gordon Brown, and his Labour Party ministers made their craven decision to return the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from his Scottish prison to Libya under direct threat of retaliation against British business interests if they did not. The prisoner was supposed to have only three months to live in 2009. He is still alive.
But perhaps the best place to start is with the panic caused by the September 11 attacks in the US, on which we are now reflecting a decade later. It was not only Blair who threw certain principles and decencies out the window in the desire to protect citizens and strike back at al-Qaeda. Washington also saw intelligence consciously doctored or ''sexed up'' to implicate Iraq's Saddam Hussein, while Canberra ignored doubts. The US, British and Australian governments co-operated in setting aside the Geneva Conventions applying to enemy prisoners.
The worst compromise was the slide into ''enhanced interrogation techniques'' and then the progression to more harsh forms of torture by proxy. The three governments were all party - directly or by acquiescence in Australia's case - to the ''rendition'' of terrorism suspects and captured militants into the hands of Arab regimes now overthrown or subject to rebellion by their peoples, including Egypt, Syria and Libya.
Even after the governments of the US, Britain and Australia, which launched the ''war on terror'', have all been replaced by their former oppositions, the people of these nations have not been given sufficient assurance that these practices have been abandoned. Indeed, bureaucracies are still working to hide them. But dirty secrets are coming out through the files and dossiers discovered in the abandoned offices of their security services. A decade on, Osama bin Laden dead, troops almost out of Iraq, and success due to be declared in Afghanistan in three years, can't we have an honest account?
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
50 MILLION CARDS GOING NOWHERE
THINK of the figure 50 million and what do you get? The population of South Korea or Burma is a good start, or maybe the approximate age of one of the oldest reptilian fossils on the planet, recently discovered in Utah. But 50 million also has special significance for public transport users in this city - and it's not just the number of times people have mentioned the word ''myki'' in conversations polite or otherwise. Rather, it is the number of single-use paper myki cards reposing on hundreds of pallets in warehouses in Rowville and Altona; tickets, as The Age reported yesterday, with a single destination: the pulp mill.
Each of these 50 million useless cards - originally meant for the use of people who did not have a permanent plastic smartcard and did not want to spend $10 to buy one - is microchipped and worth 31¢, or $15 million in total. Alas, the Baillieu government plans to eliminate short-term tickets by the end of next year, when the Metcard system is shut down, leaving myki as the sole ticketer. This is on the advice of a secret review by consultants Deloitte. The reason for abolishing short-term tickets, says the government's Transport Ticketing Authority's chief executive Bernie Carolan, is to save $30 million. Also in doubt is the future of the 500 myki vending machines destined for use on trams but still in their crates. At least the government is investigating if these machines could be installed elsewhere on the network.
The ticketing stockpile, however, remains. What, it seems, has yet to be reasoned is where this decision will leave the hundreds of thousands of casual users of our public transport system. Last week, Melbourne was back in No.1 spot as the world's most liveable city; this week, we may be on the way to another, more dubious, distinction of being one of the world's only cities where visitors and occasional users cannot buy a short-term train, bus or tram ticket.
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Clearly, this option should not be adopted - especially since public transport is, by definition, for all the public, not just people who use it regularly. Maybe the Deloitte report recommends a practical alternative worthy of consideration. If only we knew. But in spite of requests within Parliament - and, indeed, by this newspaper, via a freedom of information request - to release the report, it remains subject to cabinet confidentiality. Surely it would be in the government's best interests, as well as to avoid accusations there is something to hide, to make the report public.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
PRODUCTIVITY IS EVERYTHING, NOT JUST ABOUT IR
Look beyond the workplace to see the bigger policy picture.
NOBEL prize-winning economist Paul Krugman observed: ''Productivity isn't everything, but in the long run it's nearly everything.'' At the time, Australia was starting to enjoy the 1990s productivity gains driven by the 1980s reform agenda, beginning a record run of unbroken economic growth. Unfortunately, two decades of good times seemed to cause Australians to lose their appetite for reform and masked a long and disturbing decline in productivity.
Today's big policy challenges now remind us of how vital productivity is in sustaining incomes and living standards. An ageing population means more people will have to be supported by a proportionately smaller workforce. The high immigration of recent decades has its limits as a driver of economic growth. Scarce and increasingly costly resources add to the need to produce goods and services more efficiently. This is also the way to counter global competition, as more nations match Australian workers' output. Should the resources boom end, we will have to rely more on other, weaker sectors of the economy. Higher productivity offers an answer to all these challenges.
Recently, Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson warned: ''We expect growth in living standards to slow over time unless productivity growth improves.'' Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens notes that as record commodity export incomes won't last forever, living standards depend on productivity growth. ''So everything comes back to productivity. It always does.'' These remarks do betray concern about current policy, but the productivity malaise goes back much further. As Mr Stevens notes, the ''will to reform'' was most powerful when the terms of trade hit historical lows in the mid-1980s. Politicians no longer pursue policies that may unsettle a comfortable public.
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The Howard government went too far with WorkChoices, but the Coalition then reacted to election defeat by avoiding the issue. Last week, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott finally re-entered the industrial relations debate. Workplaces do need to be flexible, and this government unwound reforms that predated WorkChoices. Premier Ted Baillieu's call for a new wave of IR reform reflects a real concern about construction industry costs and the impact on infrastructure, a key factor in productivity. The federal Coalition, as the alternative government, has a duty to set out a substantive IR policy. But the productivity crisis is not all government's doing. Last year, a Telstra survey of 300 employers with more than 200 staff found only 42 per cent measure their productivity and set specific targets.
Productivity is too important, though, to be reduced to workplace policy. A reductionist mindset of cutting wage costs also does not inspire workers to be more productive. Labour productivity growth rose steadily through the 1990s but fell after 2001-02 to just 0.8 per cent (measured as a five-year rolling average) by 2008-09. So much for WorkChoices. Broader productivity measures followed a similar course.
Lifting the net value of work and services across the economy calls for a more expansive and positive approach. The greatest gains have always come from working smarter: using new technology, fostering innovation and equipping people to fill roles of higher value. The economic benefits of closing the gaps in education and skills training are huge.
As last year's federal budget papers stated: ''A more highly educated workforce is likely to be more productive and better able to adapt to changing circumstances.'' So why is public education still neglected? Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are well below average levels of achievement. Teaching is shunned by the best and brightest.
Workplace cost reductions hold immediate appeal for employers, and regulatory and taxation reforms are needed too, but government's long-term focus must be on innovation and working smarter. That all comes down to education and training.
WORLD ECONOMY: ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
As predictable calamity slowly befalls the global economy again, world leaders ought to dwell on how their own stock will stand in a few decades' time
For many years after the second world war, the generation who had held the reins before it were regarded with withering contempt. They were the Guilty Men, who had lacked the courage to grip the political tensions and the great slump of their day. As predictable calamity slowly befalls the global economy again, world leaders ought to dwell on how their own stock will stand in a few decades' time.
The new IMF boss, Christine Lagarde, is refreshingly frank in describing the perils that were yesterday spooking markets by pushing the planet towards the precipice of a fresh recession. Europe's banks have still not come clean about the battering of their books, and American property continues its uncontrolled slide. Meanwhile, the export-paved road to recovery is blocked, because the governments, families and corporates of the rich world are all stampeding to clear debts at the same time, leaving no one to do the spending.
What is needed is for the world's treasuries to come together and co-ordinate plans, with deficit reductions being carefully paced so recoveries are not snuffed out. But today's politicians, like those of the 30s, are too preoccupied with parochial concerns to take the global view. The machinery of paralysis is no longer the gold standard, it is Europe's single currency and Washington's divided government; but the failure of imagination is the same. National leaders talk about responsibility, but act recklessly, indulging in a global game of beggar-thy-neighbour which nobody can win.
Few are as resigned to the notion that there is nothing to do but cut as George Osborne is. A few days after dismal UK manufacturing figures bore out the collapse of export markets, yesterday's Markit/CIPS figures registered the growth in British services falling away even more sharply than after Lehman Brothers' demise. And yet every fresh battery of data is met with a world-weary shrug, and hints that meddling would only make things worse. Just how much worse might well be asked, in the light of new Cambridge Centre for Business Research numbers which reveal we have calmly succumbed to the longest and cumulatively costliest depression in over a century.
In Osbornomics, the sole demon is debt – exorcise it, and demand takes care of itself. But it ain't necessarily so. It is defeatist to treat every dire figure as confirming how far we were living beyond our means; the world is not merely suffering from past profligacy but from a present failure to see to it that somebody spends. Mr Osborne should raise his ambition and, as Labour suggests, summon the world to hammer out a plan B, rooted in a reality that he has often described: that we're all in it together.
RENDITION AND THE UK: HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
The CIA fax found in an office in Tripoli is the first evidence that the UK organised rendition, not only of a Libyan but also of his wife and children
The claim that British intelligence services were not complicit in torture or rendition has been crumbling for some time. The last Labour government tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the high court from disclosing evidence that MI5 knew Binyam Mohamed was being unlawfully detained in Pakistan. A telegram signed by Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, showed his government had decided that British nationals should be sent to Guantánamo Bay, but only after MI5 had had a chance to question them in Afghanistan.
The CIA fax now found in an abandoned office in Tripoli is a smoking gun of an entirely different order. It is the first evidence that the British organised rendition, not only of a Libyan but also of his wife and children. Officials say it was a legal deportation organised by two sovereign countries, China and Thailand. But whether the targets were delivered in orange jump suits in an executive jet or were in their own clothes on a civilian airliner, the effect was the same. Just as damning are other documents which show MI5 gave Tripoli reports on Libyan dissidents living in Britain and identified at least one organisation using UK telephone numbers. Complicity is one thing, active involvement quite another.
The government's response has been to pass the parcel: to claim, as the foreign secretary William Hague did, that none of this happened under his watch, and to say this will be investigated by the detainee inquiry run by a retired judge, Sir Peter Gibson. Neither response is satisfactory. Officials, furious at the foreign secretary's remarks, replied acidly that they could not recall any Tory expressing concerns at the time when Tony Blair and MI6 were cuddling up to Gaddafi. If Abu Munthir, the subject of the British rendition from Hong Kong, was thought to be the link man between British jihadis in Luton and a senior figure in al-Qaida, would a Conservative government have acted differently? The answer, surely, is no.
Dropping the matter into the black hole of the Gibson inquiry is just as fraught with problems. For this is not an inquiry in the sense that Sir Brian Leveson's inquiry into phone hacking goes under that name. As Liberty says, torture victims will have no right to put questions to those allegedly complicit in their abuse, even through lawyers. They will not be allowed to know what evidence is given by the security services on their torture and illegal rendition, while the final word on whether any of this will be made public rests not with the judge but the cabinet secretary. In a proper judicial inquiry, Sir Peter Gibson, a former intelligence services commissioner who had the task of monitoring MI5 and MI6, would be appearing not as a judge but as a potential witness.
Kim Howells, the former Labour foreign minister and chairman of the intelligence and security committee, said that if anyone is going to get to the truth it would be Sir Peter. Maybe, but will the detainees themselves ever hear it? If the public outrage caused by the Milly Dowler revelations led to a full-blown inquiry, Britain's darkest acts at the height of Bush's war on terror merit the same treatment. Gibson will not start until all the legal cases currently under way are heard. It is perfectly open to the government to change its mind. We doubt that it will.
For at the heart of this case lies a truth about the way democracies deal with dictatorships. The answer is: all too easily. It is in the context of MI6's liaison with Gaddafi's men that the rights and wrongs of Britain's intervention in Libya will one day be judged. The CIA cable also explains the bewilderment of Gaddafi's men in the early part of Nato's campaign. Many thought their surprise was theatrical and that the Libyans were exaggerating how close their ties with Britain had been. It turns out now that they were not. If we are to put the mistakes of the last decade behind us, this surely warrants serious, public investigation.
IN PRAISE OF… UNDERSTANDING A LITTLE MORE
All sides will learn if the heat of riot flames makes way for explanatory light
In a rare slip into abject bone-headedness, John Major once pronounced it was time "to condemn a little more and understand a little less". At the height of this summer's riots, there were days when the political class and the BBC appeared to have swallowed the Major dictum. With Tottenham and Croydon ablaze, condemnation was of course required, but there should also have been space on the airwaves for interrogation about why this was happening; instead, the patriotic duty was dismissing "random acts of criminality". While criminal the rioting indubitably was, random it was not. Individual whims can't explain looting and burning which was clustered in particular places, at a particular moment in time. There may be a reason why the chaos spread to Gloucester but not Taunton, and why it never reached Scotland or Wales. It would be good to know. Happily, the curiosity worm is starting to turn. The Financial Times yesterday mapped the poverty afflicting the rioters, and now a joint Guardian/LSE project will dig deeper still. Inspired by an earlier link-up between reporters and scholars after Detroit's outbreak of anarchy in 1967, Reading the Riots will assemble hard facts of the disorder, by trawling court records, analysing tweets and talking to offenders themselves. The thoughtful right will look out for the fragility of families in afflicted communities, while the left will instinctively turn to the local dole queue. But all sides will learn if the heat of riot flames makes way for explanatory light.
THE JAPAN TIMES
PREPARING FOR THE NEXT CATASTROPHE
Japan marked the 88th anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake on Sept. 1 and is nearing six months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated the Tohoku Pacific coastal areas. It is impossible to completely protect communities from damage caused by a major calamity, but serious efforts must be made to reduce as much as possible any such destruction.
In the Great Kanto Earthquake, which happened on Sept. 1, 1923 and devastated Tokyo and its adjacent areas, more than 100,000 people died, many of them from fires. After the quake, many fire-resistant buildings were constructed and many parks were built, which would serve as both firebreaks and evacuation sites. In addition, rezoning was carried out and wide roads were built in Tokyo, although efforts fell short of the original plan that envisaged large-scale reconstruction of the capital. Further improvement in the fire-resistant capabilities of buildings should not be forgotten.
The central and local governments concerned, especially those in the Tokai and western regions, must make preparations to cope with major quakes that are expected to come. A strong quake beneath or near Tokyo is anticipated. Major quakes are also expected to occur in the following areas — off Shizuoka Prefecture, off the Kii Peninsula and off Shikoku. It is feared that the three quakes may occur simultaneously or one after another.
The central and local governments need to devise strategies to minimize damage to dwellings, buildings and other structures from these quakes. First, efforts must be made to make existing buildings quake resistant. The work has been slow, so it must be accelerated.
Prevention of damage from tsunami caused by these expected quakes also must be considered. It is necessary to devise a plan to move houses and factories in areas likely to be hit by tsunami to higher ground. A weak point in Tokyo in the event of tsunami are underground shopping malls, and subway lines and stations. Detailed plans must be developed to prevent tsunami from hitting these facilities and to evacuate people to safety when a tsunami hits.
A major quake beneath or near Tokyo and in the Tokai region could paralyze the city's function as the capital and the main traffic routes such as the Tomei Expressway and the Tokaido Superexpress Shinkansen Line. The central government must choose places where the substitute functions of the central administration will be secured in case Tokyo is severely damaged. Train lines and expressways that will function as substitute routes for the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and the Tomei Expressway must be strengthened.
In the March 11 quake and tsunami, more than 20,000 people died or went missing. In many places, costal embankments failed to prevent tsunami from hitting inland areas. It has been shown that putting too much confidence in such embankments is risky. People have learned that what is most important is to evacuate their homes, schools and workplaces and move to higher ground as quickly as possible when a tsunami occurs.
The March 11 experience has underlined the importance of multiple-redundancy to reduce damage from tsunami. In addition to coastal embankments, high buildings must be strengthened, and highway and rail embankments must be reinforced.
Local governments need to improve escape routes. Authorities concerned, including the Meteorological Agency, must improve the quake and tsunami warning systems. Accurate information on quakes and tsunami must be conveyed to every citizen quickly and without fail. The experience of the March 11 disasters has shown that communication networks covering local governments and citizens can break down. Communication networks resilient to disasters must be established.
In the March 11 disasters, many municipal governments, tasked with playing the central role in helping disaster victims and carrying out reconstruction, were critically damaged and temporarily lost their administrative functions. The prefectural and central governments must prepare to readily take over their functions if municipal governments become dysfunctional. Municipal governments must be ready to cooperate with each other in the event of a major disaster.
In addition to participation in disaster drills, individuals should prepare themselves, such as bracing furniture, storing emergency food and water, and deciding how to communicate with family members and where to evacuate in the event of a major disaster.
In the past, the belief was prevalent that nuclear power plants were safe. But the fiasco at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, which suffered serious damage as a result of the March 11 catastrophe, has proved that it is propaganda pushed by the nuclear power establishment. The possibility cannot be ruled out that quakes and tsunami could cause major accidents at other nuclear power plants. The power industry and the central government should humbly listen to the views and warnings given by seismologists and take more than make-shift measures to make nuclear power plants resilient to major quakes and tsunami.
THE JAPAN TIMES
PINNING A TALE ON THE CANDIDATE
BY GEORGE WILL
WASHINGTON — Wednesday's Republican "debate" in California will not resemble the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, in which one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, the other responded for 90 minutes, and his opponent had 30 minutes for rebuttal.
Still, today's debates ("What is the meaning of life? You have 30 seconds"; "One word answer, please: Keynes or Hayek?") can illuminate.
So, some questions.
For Mitt Romney: One day recently you said, "I'm not for tax cuts for the rich. ... I want to make sure that whatever we do in the tax code, we're not giving a windfall to the very wealthy."
The next day you said you support the Bush tax rates. Would making the Bush rates permanent constitute a tax cut?
Who is "rich" or "very wealthy"?
Does allowing people who make lots of money to keep lots of it constitute a "windfall"?
In 1996, you called a 17 percent flat tax "a tax cut for fat cats." Have you always used epithets like "fat cats"?
What annual income or net worth defines "fat cat"? Are you one? Should economically successful Americans generally be stigmatized?
For Rick Perry: As an American anomaly — a hard money populist; the opposite of William Jennings Bryan — you fault the Federal Reserve for the promiscuous printing of money. It has indeed essentially promised a fourth and fifth year of very low interest rates.
But someone or something must control the money supply. Should the Fed be independent? Of what? Is it not a creature of Congress, which could set the money supply? But would not Congress constantly dictate low interest rates?
Would you solve the problems inherent in fiat money by returning to the gold standard?
In Texas, you supported a state version of the DREAM Act, giving in-state university tuition discounts to illegal immigrants who graduate from Texas high schools, saying it would be unfair "to punish these young Texans for their parents' actions."
By what logic is this right for Texas but wrong for the nation?
The 11 million illegal immigrants could fill a line of buses extending, bumper to bumper, from San Diego to Alaska. Which would be worse, some form of amnesty or the police measures that would be necessary to fill those buses?
Your Texas Emerging Technology Fund is, essentially, a government-financed venture capital operation to nurture infant tech industries and to lure some to the state. How do you square this form of industrial policy — government picking winners — with governmental minimalism?
For Michele Bachmann: You say that under President Bachmann gasoline will cost less than $2 a gallon (3.8 liters). How?
Will increased domestic drilling and oil shale production quickly and dramatically increase oil supplies and somehow sever the price of American oil from the world market price?
Should politicians promise particular prices for global commodities?
After misidentifying New Hampshire as the state where "the shot heard 'round the world" was fired, and misidentifying John Wayne's Iowa birthplace, in South Carolina you misidentified Aug. 16, the day Elvis died, as his birthday.
Incompetent staffers are feeding you false information. Has anyone been fired? Do you believe that when there is no punishment for failure, failures multiply?
For Jon Huntsman: You, who preen about having cornered the market on good manners, recently tweeted, "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
Call you sarcastic. In the 1970s, would you have trusted scientists predicting calamity from global cooling? Are scientists a cohort without a sociology — uniquely homogenous and unanimous, without factions or interests and impervious to peer pressures or the agendas of funding agencies?
Are the hundreds of scientists who are skeptical that human activities are increasing global temperatures not really scientists?
Your chief strategist, John Weaver, says the "simple reason" the GOP is "nowhere near being a national governing party" is that "no one wants to be around a bunch of cranks." Do you share your employee's disdain for the party?
Although you say the country is "crying out" for a "sensible middle ground," you have campaigned for three months on what you say is that ground and, according to the most recent Gallup poll, your support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents is 1 percent. Are the other 99 percent cranks?
Should the cranks be cranky when the Democratic National Committee distributes your attacks on Republicans under the headline "Don't Take Our Word For It"?
For all candidates: Raise your hand if you believe string theory explains the origin and nature of the universe.
George Will's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2011 Washington Post Writers Group
THE JAPAN TIMES
INSTRUMENT OF LOVE IN LIBYA
BY GWYNNE DYER
LONDON — Somebody (perhaps a Jesuit) once said: "Force is an instrument of love in a world of complexity and chance."
I'd be grateful if someone could tell me where that comes from. It has stayed with me for a long time because it embodies a kind of truth: Sometimes you have to use force to protect innocent people from harm. Which brings us to Libya.
The war there is effectively over, and the Good Guys won. The dictator's delusional son, Saif al-Islam, still promises that "victory is near," but he will soon be dead, in prison, or (if he is lucky) in exile.
The only problem is that the Good Guys who mattered most were actually foreigners.
The National Transitional Council, the shambolic proto-government that claims to run the rebel-held areas (now more than 90 percent of the country) is well aware of the problem. When the United Nations began talking about sending peacekeeping troops to Libya to help stabilize the country, their reply was a resounding "no."
That's understandable. The NTC has enough difficulty getting other Arabs and Africans to accept that their revolution is a legitimate, homegrown affair without having armed foreigners traipsing around the country. It's painful even to admit that NATO functioned as the rebels' air force, and that they could not have won without it. But it's true.
It was the decision by France and Britain to commit their air forces to the defense of the rebels in eastern Libya that saved them from being overrun by Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the early days of the revolt. Other Western countries sent combat aircraft to join them (although the United States drew back after the first few days), and Gadhafi's army was stopped just short of Benghazi.
Equally important was U.N. resolution 1973 in March, which authorizes willing U.N. member countries to use "all necessary means" (i.e. force) to protect the Libyan population from its own government. It specifically mentioned Benghazi, the capital of the rebel-held territory, as an area to be protected. And even Russia and China did not veto the resolution, although they had deep misgivings about where it might lead.
They were right. It led to a NATO-led aerial campaign (supported by a few planes from a couple of small Arab countries) that went far beyond protecting the Libyan population from attacks by Gadhafi's forces.
His troops were struck from the air wherever they were, on the flimsy argument that they might be planning to attack civilians one of these days.
Similarly, any building with pro-Gadhafi Libyan troops in or around it was designated a "command and control center," and therefore a legitimate target. The targeting was precise, hurting few civilians, but the bombing was intense. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the Royal Canadian Air Force, with only six F-18s involved, dropped 240 bombs on Libya in the first two months of the operation, all of them 227-kilogram laser-guided weapons.
It was these relentless air attacks that eroded Gadhafi's forces so much that the rebel fighters in the west were finally able to seize Tripoli. The rebels could not have won without NATO.
So were NATO's actions legitimate, especially since they stretched the U.N. resolution's terms almost to the breaking point? Even more importantly, were they morally correct?
Let's leave the legality to the lawyers, who will gladly argue either side of that question for a fee. The real question is moral. Was NATO an instrument of love in this instance? Were its bombs?
Cheap cynicism says no, of course. It was "all about oil," or the West seeking military bases in Libya, or French President Nicolas Sarkozy looking for a cheap foreign policy success before next year's election. But cheap cynicism is sometimes wrong.
You don't get oil more cheaply by invading a country: look at Iraq, which has sold all its oil at the world market price for the past eight years despite U.S. military occupation.
Why on Earth would the West want military bases in Libya? It already has them nearby, in Italy. And Sarkozy took a very big risk in sending French planes to back the rebels, although he must have known that any political boost he got would be over by next year.
If the foreigners' motives really were humanitarian — they wanted to stop Gadhafi's atrocious regime from killing his own subjects, and thought that Libyans would be better off without him — then they actually were using force as an instrument of love. Not "love" as in the love songs, but love meaning a genuine concern for the welfare of others.
Most resorts to force do not meet this criterion (although those using the force generally claim that they do). The United States did not invade Iraq out of concern for the welfare of Iraqis, for example. But once in a while there is a shining exception, and this is one of those times.
The British, French, Canadians, Swedes, Qataris and so on would not have done it if it involved large casualties in their own forces. (In fact, they had no casualties.)
Most Western soldiers didn't think the operation would succeed in removing Gadhafi, and the outcome has been greeted with surprise and relief in most of the capitals that sent aircraft. But they did it, and that counts for a lot.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
THE JAPAN TIMES
WILL THE IMF STAND UP TO EUROZONE OFFICIALS?
BY KENNETH ROGOFF
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — As the eurozone crisis continues to deepen, the International Monetary Fund may finally be acknowledging the need to reassess its approach. New Managing Director Christine Lagarde's recent call for forced recapitalization of Europe's bankrupt banking system is a good start. European officials' incensed reaction — the banks are fine, they insist, and need only liquidity support — should serve to buttress the Fund's determination to be sensible about Europe.
Until now, the Fund has sycophantically supported each new European initiative to rescue the over-indebted eurozone periphery, committing more than $100 billion to Greece, Portugal and Ireland so far. Unfortunately, the IMF is risking not only its members' money but, ultimately, its own institutional credibility.
Only a year ago, at the IMF's annual meeting in Washington, senior staff were telling anyone who would listen that the whole European sovereign-debt panic was a tempest in a teapot. Using slick PowerPoint presentations with titles like "Default in Today's Advanced Economies: Unnecessary, Undesirable,and Unlikely," the Fund tried to convince investors that eurozone debt was solid as a rock.
Even for Greece, the IMF argued, debt dynamics were not a serious concern, thanks to anticipated growth and reforms. Never mind the obvious flaw in the Fund's logic, namely that countries such as Greece and Portugal face policy and implementation risks far more akin to emerging markets than to truly advanced economies such as Germany.
As the situation deteriorated, one might have guessed that the IMF would adopt a more cautious tone. Instead, at the IMF's interim meeting in April, a senior official declared that the Fund now considers troubled Spain to be a core eurozone country like Germany, rather than a peripheral country like Greece, Portugal, or Ireland. Evidently, investors were supposed to infer that they should think of Spanish and German debt as identical — the old hubris of the eurozone.
Having served as the IMF's chief economist from 2001 to 2003, I am familiar with the Fund's need to walk a tightrope between building investor confidence and shaking up complacent policymakers. But it is one thing to be circumspect; it is quite another to spew nonsense.
The late Chicago-school economist George Stigler would have described the IMF's role in Europe as reflecting acute "regulatory capture." Simply put, Europe and the U.S. control too much power in the IMF, and their thinking is too dominant. What European leaders may want most from the Fund are easy loans and strong rhetorical support. But what Europe really needs is the kind of honest assessment and tough love that the Fund has traditionally offered to its less influential, clients.
The IMF's blind spot in dealing with Europe until now is only partly due to European voting power. It also stems from an "us" and "them" mentality that similarly permeates research at the top Wall Street investment houses. Analysts who have worked their entire lives only on advanced economies have learned to bet on things going well, because for the couple of decades prior to the crisis, things mostly did go well — very well.
That's why, so many keep assuming that a normal rapid recovery is just around the corner. The financial crisis should have reminded everyone that the distinction between advanced economies and emerging markets is not a bright red line.
In his recent speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke forcefully complained that political paralysis has possibly become the principal impediment to recovery. But analysts accustomed to working on emerging markets understand that such paralysis is very difficult to avoid after a financial crisis. Rather than slavishly believing policymakers' assurances, emerging-market researchers have learned to be cynical about official promises.
The IMF needs to bring much more of this brand of skepticism to its assessment of eurozone debt dynamics, instead of constantly seeking strained assumptions that would make the debt appear sustainable. Anyone looking at Europe's complex options for extricating itself from its debt straitjacket should realize that political constraints will be a huge obstacle no matter which route Europe takes.
Even outside Europe, the IMF has long given too much credence to sitting governments, rather than focusing on the long-term interests of the country and its people. The Fund is doing Europe's people no favor by failing to push aggressively for a more realistic solution, including dramatic debt write-downs for peripheral eurozone countries and re-allocating core-country guarantees elsewhere.
Now that the Fund has squarely acknowledged the huge capital holes in many European banks, it should start pressing forcefully for a comprehensive and credible solution to the eurozone debt crisis, a solution that will involve either partial breakup of the eurozone or fundamental constitutional reform.
Kenneth Rogoff is professor of economics and public policy at Harvard University. © 2011 Project Syndicate
THE JAKARTA POST
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is facing yet another test of his commitment to fighting corruption as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) digs deeper into a bribery case allegedly implicating a member of his Cabinet.
It appears that Yudhoyono faces a dilemma, as the Cabinet member involved is Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar, whose National Awakening Party has been the President's loyal coalition partner, both in good times and in bad.
The KPK has arrested two ministry officials, I Nyoman Suisnaya and Dadong Irberelawan, as well as businesswoman Dharnawati in connection with the case, which revolves around a Rp 1.5 billion (US$175,500) bribe paid to accelerate an infrastructure project in a resettlement area in the West Papua capital of Manokwari.
Dharnawati said through her lawyer that the money was meant for Muhaimin as an "Idul Fitri bonus". Muhaimin has denied the allegations.
However, it remains for the KPK to determine if the minister is in the clear or not. KPK deputy chairman M. Jasin said on Monday that investigators have arranged a questioning session with the minister in the near future.
According to an investigation conducted by Tempo magazine, Dharnawati, who works for PT Alam Jaya Papua, was allegedly asked to pay Rp 7.5 billion, to be split between Muhaimin and the House of Representatives' budget committee.
The payments excluded a 10 percent "commission" allegedly demanded by the politicians for a Rp 500 billion tender granted to the company to build infrastructure in resettlement areas in 19 regencies across the country.
The company could only afford to pay Rp 1.5 billion, which Dharnawati later allegedly handed to Nyoman on Aug. 25. KPK investigators caught the suspects while in the act that day.
Of course the KPK should and cannot unquestioningly accept Tempo's findings, which have no legal weight and might be inaccurate. The KPK will have to rely on the facts and evidence its investigators discover, regardless of Dharnawati's accusations or Muhaimin's denials.
Without a doubt, politics are and will be at play in the bribery case, given Muhaimin's status as the chairman of a party that supports Yudhoyono's government. The situation is exacerbated by the KPK's corruption investigation of Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former treasurer of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.
The fact that the KPK previously waited for ministers to step down before investigating them in earnest for corruption allegations shows how politics have impeded the antigraft campaign in the country. This has happened despite the President's vow to stay away from the legal process conducted by the KPK against his aides.
Muhaimin, who has emerged as a seasoned politician since reform, should wary of using politics to weather this crisis. In interview given to local journalists in his hometown, Jombang, in East Java over the weekend, Muhaimin made an unprecedented move to declare his party's support for a House move to exercise the right to express an opinion in connection with the controversial Bank Century bailout if the ongoing legal process to settle the case stalls.
As a former deputy House speaker, Muhaimin is well aware that such a move would lead to impeachment of Vice President Boediono, whom the House blames for the Rp 6.7 trillion bailout.
The only way to prove his leadership in the nationwide fight against graft is for the President to throw his weight behind the KPK investigation and ask Muhaimin to focus on the legal process.
For the sake of equality before the law, the same standard should apply to all Cabinet ministers, including those from the Democratic Party.
THE JAKARTA POST
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
During recent years, the government has been allocating increasing amounts of funding for poverty alleviation, which is then dispersed to all regencies, and a number of agencies and ministries.
However, there is growing concern that these central-administration-driven programs seem to be losing some of their effectiveness, either because we are now dealing with extreme poverty or that more local solutions are called for.
On top this, within the bureaucracy poverty alleviation has come to be widely accepted as yet another project, with all attendant connotations.
The National Commission on Human Rights has been driven to the forefront by the principle that poverty comprises a violation of human rights, especially abject poverty, which strips away human dignity and threatens life itself.
That poverty wears the face of a woman has long been recognized by the National Commission for the Prevention of Violence against Women. Upon women falls the onus of feeding poor families, and women become even more vulnerable when driven into the sex trade.
The Commission for Child Protection fears that if current conditions persist almost 100 million poor children will be denied proper nutrition, health and education.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) realizes that "corruption is stealing from the poor", as plundering the state coffers inevitably results in even smaller budgets for fighting poverty.
In the eyes of the Ombudsman, shoddy quality of public services leads to poverty and discrimination further prevents the poor from gaining proper access to the very services which could enable them to climb out of poverty.
By stepping forth together, these national commissions are living up to their mandates to strengthen the state and give the public greater prominence in helping ensure that subsequent policies crafted to deal with the collective problem of poverty are rendered more effective.
The state institutions recently convened at the Proclamation Monument in Central Jakarta, depicting Sukarno and Hatta who led this country into independence 66 years ago. In his "Birth of Pancasila" speech on July 1, 1945, Sukarno emphasized that the principle of social justice dictated that "there would be no poverty in an independent Indonesia".
Indeed, there is absolutely no justification for poverty to exist in this land of abundance. However, we are still getting a daily barrage of heart-rending cases such as that of poverty driving parents to double-suicides in East Bekasi, West Java. A homeless mother was left to give birth unattended in her bamboo shack only 50 meters away from a radio station in Gresik, East Java. What sort of society are we living in, anyway? Do we still retain any right to claim we are cut from the same cloth as Sukarno and Hatta?
The conspicuous consumption of the unheeding elite amid glaring urban poverty seems to be contributing to the current sense of despair. Indeed, many of the elite appear to have inherited colonial attitudes that regard rampant poverty among the "lazy natives" as an inescapable fact; "Theirs is a 'culture of poverty' and they do not respond to economic incentives. They are the government's responsibility — We don't have anything to do with them".
Holding such beliefs, they continue cavorting around in Lamborghinis and Hummers, vying with the global elite in sporting designer accoutrements, proving the dominance of the "culture of apathy" over enlightened self-interest.
It is thus evident that poverty is a result of both commission and ommission. Many of us very recently practiced self-restraint to varying degrees. If properly observed, Ramadhan possesses the power to transform us into higher beings, returning us to our original sinless state.
Therefore, we should — as a people and not just a collection of individuals — go back to basics, back to the original intent of creating the Republic: to create social justice for all the Indonesian people!
It is high time that we stepped forward to create new space, new language and new ways of fighting poverty. Space that features Indonesians helping fellow citizens climb out of poverty without waiting for the government. The language of justice and fraternite from which hope springs eternal, reviving the age-old gotong-royong or mutual-assistance which remains the most effective way to attack the roots of poverty, based on indigenous capacity.
Have we been adequately inspired by the sacrifices following the Proclamation and infused by the spirit of sharing with the less fortunate during Ramadhan to take a strong stance and declare: Enough is enough?
Do we possess the determination to work harder, to be more truthful, and study more diligently to infuse meaning into the thousands of remains of those who gave up their lives for our independence?
Can we summon the moral courage to put our positions on the line and wage open war on the corrupt?
Only our conscience can serve as a guide as to whether we step forth as paragons of those fighting for social justice and sharing with their fellow-citizens, or whether we follow the herd donning the robes of ritual masquerading as pious and sanctimonious beings, yet walking away unperturbed from fellow countrymen wallowing in abject poverty.
Whether we leave a legacy of genuine piety or slick public relations, love of God or subservience to Mammon, charity straight from the heart or contemptible charade, the choice is ours alone.
The writer is presidential special envoy for poverty alleviation.
THE JAKARTA POST
TIME FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT IN HEALTH CARE
Over a quarter of the world's population lives in the 11 countries comprising WHO's Southeast Asia region. These countries which include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Timore Leste, also bear 28 percent of the global disease burden.
The health sector is under-funded and government spending on healthcare is the lowest in this region compared to all other WHO regions. This region has the highest out-of-pocket expenditure on health. This means that the cost of health care impoverishes people and drives them further into a poverty trap.
While many countries in the region have seen a boom in high quality tertiary health care, unfortunately primary health care for all remains a challenge.
While the countries focus on the people who are sick, how can they maximize finite health resources to protect their populations and ensure that people remain healthy and productive? Is it time for a paradigm shift in health policies from treating the sick to keeping people healthy and prevent them from falling ill?
Governments must allocate more finances for health, and the larger portion must be invested in strengthening public health measures through primary health care for the community.
Most countries in the region have successfully deployed community health workers as the catalysts for this paradigm shift. These workers are from the communities and act as agents of change for promoting healthy behaviors and reducing health inequities.
Nations now need to review and redefine the role as these health workers, build on their skills and integrate them into the health system.
In Indonesia the Posyandu (integrated health service post) program which started in 1984, has been upheld as an exemplary community based program. The health volunteers or cadres are women of the community who each month provide services related to monitoring the health of children and pregnant women.
They work with health workers from local Community Health Centers (Puskesmas) to provide immunization, family planning services and education. The Posyandus fund comes from the community and the Puskesmas. For several decades they have provided much needed health services at the community level.
Public health interventions have saved millions of lives in Southeast Asia, yet more needs to be done to ensure access to all. Each year immunization saves the lives of millions of children and prevents diseases. Yet about 10 million children in countries of the region do not receive diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP3) vaccination during their first year of life, leaving them vulnerable to these diseases. Each year, of the 1.5-2 million children who die globally from vaccine preventable diseases, a quarter are from this region.
Every minute one child under-five dies of pneumonia and every five minutes, diarrhea kills 6-7 under-five year old children in WHO's Southeast Asia Region. These lives can be saved through simple interventions like improved child nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age, zinc supplementation, expansion of immunization coverage and addressing the key determinants of health including provision of safe drinking water and sanitation.
Seventy percent of the world's malnourished children reside in this region. Most of them suffer from anaemia, including deficiency of iron and Vitamin A. The consequences of malnutrition are inter-generational and besides health can affect intellectual and work capacity in adulthood. The same countries also suffer from unhealthy diets, obesity and a higher risk of chronic non-communicable diseases. Medical care for these diseases contributes to further impoverish their populations.
Though not all of the disease burden can be prevented, a proactive health strategy with a positive health approach can result in a well informed public that knows how to prevent, protect and maintain good health.
Countries in Southeast Asia need to achieve a better balance between preventive and curative care. This balance in health care will reduce health-care cost and ensure better health and a better quality of life of all people.
Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang is Regional Director, WHO Southeast Asia
THE JAKARTA POST
BE WARY OF NORTH KOREA'S CHARM OFFENSIVE
Pyongyang's latest attempts to re-engage the world have again raised expectations for resumption of nuclear negotiations or at least a lowering of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
During the past two months, Kim Jong-il or his subordinates have met with all member countries of the six-party talks. Pyongyang has proffered vague promises of progress in denuclearization but has yet to take any tangible actions.
Kim's summit meetings with Russia and China, as well as a new willingness to re-engage with the United States and South Korea, reflect a shift in North Korean policy-though it is one that we have seen before. The North Korean ship of state typically veers back and forth between belligerence and engagement, though it always remains on a true course toward achieving long-term objectives.
In its typically schizophrenic way, the regime combines diplomatic entreaties with threats, resulting in a charm offensive that is more offensive than charming.
North Korea's latest outreach efforts are correctly being met with greater skepticism by the United States and its allies. Although Washington and Seoul are more willing to engage with Pyongyang, doubts remain about the efficacy of returning to the six-party talks. As is always the case in dealing with the North Korean regime, any progress will be difficult, halting, overshadowed by fears of cheating and potentially illusory.
Kim Jong-il's summit with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev recently was typically full of diplomatic and economic promises. North Korean diplomatic pledges-usually simply to return to the status quo ante-were given in return for foreign promises of economic largesse. But serious doubts linger about fulfillment of either.
After the Kim-Medvedev summit, headlines blared that Kim had promised a moratorium on his nuclear and missile programs. Yet the Russian spokesman merely stated that "in the course of the [six-party] talks, North Korea will be ready to resolve the question of imposing a moratorium on tests and production of nuclear missile weapons." Far short of a pledge for unilateral action prior to resuming talks, the bland wording also gives Pyongyang plenty of opportunity to demand concessions during the six-party talks.
Similarly, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) declared after his December 2010 trip to Pyongyang that the regime had vowed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to return to the North Korean nuclear facility. Richardson declared, "They will allow IAEA personnel to go to Yongbyon to ensure that they are not processing highly enriched uranium and are proceeding with peaceful purposes."
Despite Richardson's self-aggrandizing visit, Pyongyang never publicly made such a pledge nor carried it out.
During the Russia summit, North Korea reiterated its advocacy for returning to the six-party talks with "no preconditions" to appear more benevolent than the US and South Korean demands. But returning to the talks on North Korea's terms would enable Pyongyang to move beyond its non-compliance with previous denuclearization commitments and its two unprovoked acts of war against South Korea last year.
Despite their lack of substance, the public relations impact of North Korean diplomatic efforts could spur (still glacially slow) movement back to multilateral nuclear negotiations. Pyongyang's willingness to meet with South Korean officials in Bali last month, reversing an earlier pledge to have nothing to do with the Lee Myung-bak administration, was significant. Similarly, although bilateral US-North Korean talks in New York did not lead to an immediate breakthrough, they may form the basis for additional contact.
The Lee administration subsequently softened its policy toward Pyongyang by de-linking inter-Korean engagement from its previous demand for a formal North Korean apology for its two attacks in 2010. Seoul indicated a willingness to allow movement in humanitarian and nuclear issues even prior to receiving an apology.
The Obama Administration offered US$900,000 in flood relief supplies to Pyongyang, though it is still refraining from a decision on providing large-scale food aid. Hours after Washington's announcement, North Korea offered to resume bilateral talks on repatriating the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War.
Though minor steps, these actions add to speculation that secret meetings with Pyongyang may be underway, such as those that preceded the surprise announcements of the Bali and New York meetings.
North Korea's diplomatic outreach, however, was undermined by concurrent threats of war in response to annual South Korean-US military exercises and Pyongyang's seizure of South Korean assets at the joint inter-Korean Kumgang Mountain tourist venue.
Whether the United States or South Korea agrees to additional meetings with North Korea should remain dependent on Pyongyang's actions. Prior to returning to the six-party talks, Washington and Seoul should continue to require that North Korea take tangible steps to resume its denuclearization commitments and abide by UN resolutions.
The Obama administration, in concert with South Korean and Japanese allies, should call on Pyongyang to formally and publicly pledge to:
• Return IAEA inspectors to the Yongbyon nuclear facility;
• Issue a moratorium on any additional long-range missile or nuclear tests;
• Institute a freeze on nuclear activities, including its uranium-enrichment program; and
• Abide by the Armistice and inter-Korean agreements.
Pyongyang should also agree to additional inter-Korean meetings to address South Korean security concerns, including last year's attacks by North Korea.
If North Korea were to do all of those things, it would fulfill allied preconditions for returning to the six-party talks. We should be clear, however, that a resumption of multilateral nuclear negotiations merely returns the combatants to the ring. None of the participating countries has high hopes for success.
Pyongyang is driven to its latest iteration of outreach by economic necessities that it perceives can best be fulfilled through diplomatic means. North Korea's quest for food aid and economic benefits will moderate the regime's behavior for the near term. Failure to achieve those objectives, however, will lead Pyongyang to resort to provocative actions once again.
Therefore, even as the United States remains open to diplomacy, it must retain sufficient defenses against the multifaceted North Korean security threat.
The Obama Administration should affirm an unequivocal commitment to defending Asian allies by maintaining the threefold US promise of extended deterrence comprised of forward-deployed conventional forces, missile defense, and the nuclear umbrella.
For its part, Congress should fully support ongoing US military realignment plans in South Korea and Japan. These plans include the Yongsan base relocation, land partnership plan, and family housing for accompanied tours.
Planned budget cuts by the Senate Armed Services Committee, including a US Marine Corps air unit on Okinawa, would undermine years of carefully crafted diplomacy that achieved US strategic objectives and resolved contentious issues with allies.
The writer is senior research fellow for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, Washington.
THE JAKARTA POST
BASEL III AND THE NEW ECONOMIES (PART 2 OF 2)
There are three components of bank capital under Basel III, namely (i) minimum common equity requirement, (ii) a conservative buffer and (iii) countercyclical buffer. The capital conservation buffer is to enable banks to maintain capital levels above the minimum requirement throughout a significant sector-wide downturn.
This conservation buffer should be phased in by January 2019 at the latest. National bank supervisors have more discretion in implementation of the countercyclical capital buffer. The three components of bank capital should be raised from a combination of raising capital in the market and restricting discretionary payments such as dividends, share buyback and bonuses to shareholders, employees and other capital providers.
The restriction of discretionary distribution of banks' earnings will shift the risk as much as possible from depositors to shareholders and employees of banks.
Basel III raises minimum common equity requirement to 4.5 percent of risk-weighted assets (RWA) from 2 percent under Basel II. In addition, a bank is required to hold another 2.5 percent of RWA for capital conservation buffer to face economic stress. On top of these, Basel III requires banks to create a countercyclical buffer between 0 to 2.5 percent of RWA during the period of excess credit growth.
In total, therefore, banks need to maintain a common minimum required equity ratio of 7 percent of RWA. Tier 1 minimum capital requirement is increased from 4 percent to 6 percent of RWA. Total Tier 1 capital needed to be maintained by a bank is therefore is equal to 8.5 percent of RWA.
Total capital requirement of the bank increased from 8 percent in Basel II to 10.5 percent of RWA in Basel III. But, "there remains the more difficult (if not impossible job) of setting accurate risk weight against which to measure capital" (Scott, 2011).
The countercyclical capital buffer in Basel III makes the Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) high during a boom periods and low during sluggish periods. This partly corrects the inherently pro-cyclicality of capital regulation and mark-to-market accounting of Basel II that would precipitate an unnecessary crisis.
The shortcoming of mark-to-market valuation of credit collateral is a fundamental accounting issue faced by banking regulators and supervisors all over the world. Mark-to-market accounting distorts valuations during periods of market volatility when the long-term value of assets differs from their market prices.
Forcing excessive write-downs during a period when asset prices are below their fundamental values may lead to fire sales of illiquid assts that would result in a vicious circle of spiraling asset price devaluation.
The countercyclical capital buffer serves two purposes. First, to allow banks to grant credit during the period of stress, and therefore prevent a sudden drop in bank credit and the amplification of cyclicality through the banking system that can push the real economy deeper into recession.
The second purpose of the countercyclical capital buffer is to dampen credit growth or to act as brakes on bank lending that can cause asset price bubbles as its accumulation increases costs to the banking system. In reaction to capital shortages, banks can also reduce investment in risky assets in favor of safer investments rather than raising additional capital.
The countercyclical buffer helps ensure the availability of bank capital to support ongoing business operations and credit extension during the period of stress.
Sudden stop in bank credit during the period of stress pushes down further decline in asset prices and increases non-performing loans that would precipitate unnecessary crisis.
This self defeating process causes bank lending to become scarcer. The capital buffer should be build during the times of economic growth and to be used as a cushion to absorb losses in times of stress.
An increase in the level of capital requirements, better quality and transparency of the capital base as well as better risk capture will increase the cost of banking business and could curtail its lending, negatively affecting economic growth. To ease this, the Basel Committee has provided an ample eight-year transition period for banks to adjust to the new Basel III standards between Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2019. This will allow the banking industry to generate higher capital standards through retained earnings and other measures to raise capital.
Thanks to massive injections of sovereign bonds following the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, banks in East and Southeast Asia are now better capitalized, their external exposures have been reduced and their credit risks are managed more effectively. As a result, they will not find difficulties in meeting the schedule of the capital standard.
Like important financial institutions, there are also systemically important markets and systematically important infrastructures that are very important in matured industrial economies. Again, such rules on investment portfolios are irrelevant to banks in emerging economies that still rely on deposits and loans.
The GFC in 2007-2009 in industrial countries indicated that the crisis came from the trading book, particularly the complex securitization exposure such as collateralized debt obligation (CDO).
Basel III introduces a leverage ratio to constrain the build-up of leverage in the banking industry. The current proposal by the Basel Committee is to test a leverage ratio of 3 percent of Tier 1 as part of the Pillar 2 supervisory review, with a view to migrating this to a Pillar 1 requirement by January 1, 2018.
There are two standards being proposed to ensure liquidity of bank assets. The first is the Liquidity Coverage Ratio to ensure that banks have sufficient high-quality liquid assets that can be easily converted into cash at a low cost to meet its cash outflows for a 30-day period in times of severe market shock.
The second standard is the Net Stable Funding Ratio, which is intended to promote long-term funding such as capital, preferred stock and debt maturities of more than one year, or short-term deposits that can be renewed.
The writer is professor on monetary economics at the University of Indonesia. He has served as senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, the country's central bank.
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