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Thursday, September 8, 2011

EDITORIAL 07.09.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month september 07, edition 000830 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


























































  1. WHEN IT RAINS ...



































At a time India is trying to take ties with its eastern neighbour to the next level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's high-profile Bangladesh visit could've done without this unseemly controversy. Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee pulled out of the trip at the eleventh hour, saying the Teesta water-sharing pact will give far more water to Bangladesh than she'd agreed to. This, she felt, would hurt north Bengal's interests. Not wanting to alienate an important ally like the Trinamool with its 19 MPs, the government backtracked. It said India would ink the deal only if accepted by all stakeholders. This may placate Mamata. But what about sensitivities across the border?

The spat has derailed - at least for now - a crucial treaty that was to be the centrepiece of Singh's visit. If signed, it has the potential to boost connectivity and prosperity in the region besides putting a long-standing bilateral issue to rest. Little wonder the Sheikh Hasina dispensation has urged Singh to reassure Bangladeshis that the delay is temporary. Bangladesh foreign secretary Mizarul Kayes has even sought an explanation for the postponement from the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka. The last-minute hitch can't but discomfit Sheikh Hasina, who needs substantial takeaways from Bangladesh's engagement with India to place before a combative opposition.

Given the economic and strategic significance of Singh's trip, both the UPA government and the Trinamool should have tried to avoid a public rift with the potential for causing diplomatic ripples. Many key issues are on the discussion table: transit access to the northeast, facilitation of easy movement of goods and people, trade integration and investment flows. By wrangling over a few cusecs of water, Mamata plays into the hands of those who will question her ability to grasp the big picture: diplomacy geared to serving national interest. But that doesn't absolve the Centre of its evidently poor communications strategy.

Mamata's preoccupation with her home turf isn't any different from that of other CMs who prioritise state concerns as well. Given India's federal nature, pacts relating to sharing of resources need broad consensus from all players affected. If Mamata complains she wasn't kept privy to the Teesta treaty's final shape, the Centre should explain why. The fracas reflects particularly badly on the Congress, which has had a doubtful record in dealing with states in a federal polity and smaller alliance partners. Both sides must now sort out differences away from the flashlights, so that the treaty can be signed as soon as possible. Given her state's strategic location, Mamata can in fact turn engagement with Bangladesh to Bengal's advantage by backing the Centre's push for economic and cultural cooperation in the region.







Maharashtra's politicians have mismanaged Mumbai, draining the city of its capacity for "growth and innovation". That's the scathing view expressed in a diplomatic note dispatched by the US consulate in Mumbai, as revealed by the latest batch of WikiLeaks cables. This merely corroborates what's become increasingly obvious over the past decade and a half. India's financial nerve centre is losing ground, and fast. Starting with the Shiv Sena-BJP coming to power in 1995 and accelerating under the Congress-NCP combine's watch, two toxic trends have marked the city. The first is the rise of the politician-builder nexus. Land, Mumbai's most valuable commodity, has been taken over by administrators and land mafias. The result: skyrocketing property prices coexisting with artificial resource scarcity. Ruthlessly appropriated, money from land has been diverted into politicians' personal coffers or for party funding.

Urban infrastructure has decayed with administrative bodies becoming hubs of institutionalised rent-seeking. As a result of extortionist land rates and poor facilities, many corporate houses have been looking elsewhere. The second trend that's taken root - the politics of parochialism - has exacerbated the problem. It's no longer just the Shiv Sena and the MNS that use the 'Marathi manoos' plank. Other parties subscribe to regional chauvinism too, only less openly. When Congress leaders validate Sena-brand cultural myopia by backing the call for writer Rohinton Mistry's work to be dropped from Mumbai University's syllabus or don't do enough to protect migrants against assaults, there's something rotten in the state of Maharashtra. Inclusiveness, cultural openness and economic dynamism go hand in hand. The former two under attack, the latter can't last. Mumbai still generates business, but the signs of its slide are all too evident. The question is whether it's in terminal decline, or its politicians can join hands to turn things around.





                                                                                                                                                TOP STORY



The Anna Hazare-led civil society movement cannot be faulted for having come up with its version of the Lokpal Bill, because otherwise it would have been accused of campaigning for something essentially negative - the withdrawal of the flawed government version without putting forward an alternative. Frustration with everyday corruption - as well as the spectacular kind that explodes in the public sphere ever so often ( Commonwealth Games, 2G, Adarsh, illegal mining in Bellary district etc) - explains the widespread popular support received by the anti-corruption movement.

The depth of this support, coming from every corner of the country, should tell the government something. While the value of the movement lies in having highlighted the critically important issue of corruption - which has not been dealt with seriously by successive governments - the Jan Lokpal Bill put forward by Team Anna too is flawed in some of its specifics.

If the government Bill is minimalist, setting up a toothless ombudsman with limited powers, the Jan Lokpal is too overarching in its design and could topple under its own weight. It is somewhat contradictory in its approach, in that it envisions a superior layer of bureaucracy to fix bureaucratic corruption. If the government version of the Lokpal Bill can be likened to a cop with a lathi confronting an AK-47 wielding terrorist, the Jan Lokpal could be the equivalent of the trigger-happy supercop mowing down innocent citizens in his rage to establish order.

A third version of the Lokpal Bill, formulated by Aruna Roy and the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), is superior to both the government version and the Jan Lokpal Bill. We are in sympathy with its broad philosophy, which is to have a series of interlocking bodies which will act as a check on each other rather than a centralised, overarching Lokpal which supervises everything. The way to check corruption is through an architecture of mutually supportive legislation, rather than through a single Bill which is required to deliver a magic bullet. This vision is best embodied in the NCPRI design.

The biggest flaw in the government version is that it excludes many categories of public servants from its ambit - anyone below grade A in the central government, state-level civil servants, the judiciary, the PM while he is in office. Moreover the dice is loaded in favour of the accused, which would make it extremely difficult to bring powerful people to justice and therefore defeat the purpose of the Bill.

For example, while there is no provision to protect whistleblowers, the Bill provides for all incriminating evidence to be made available to the accused even before the registration of an FIR. Moreover, the tough punishment provided for the subjectively determined 'frivolous' or 'vexatious' complaint (two to five years imprisonment) would deter most victims of corruption from lodging a complaint.

The Jan Lokpal Bill corrects for flaws in the government version by including everybody under the ambit of the Lokpal. Besides corruption cases, the Lokpal is asked to look into grievance redressal as well. This leaves it with the unenviable task of policing some four million employees of the central government alone, among many other categories.

Like our present court system, the Jan Lokpal could simply get buried under a backlog of cases. Moreover, too much power would be concentrated in the Jan Lokpal. Complaints against it may be lodged in the courts. But since the judiciary itself will be under the Jan Lokpal, that would have a chilling effect on any judgments against it.

For anti-corruption laws to work, the remit of anti-corruption bodies must be specific and focussed. To have a manageable task on its hands, the Lokpal should focus on corruption cases involving MPs, ministers and senior officers in the central government. If corrupt officers at grade A level are punished, the message is bound to percolate downwards. Besides, there can be other agencies to check corruption at other levels (more about this soon).

For the same reasons the Lokpal should confine itself to cases where public servants are involved, and not stray into cases of NGO or corporate fraud. The government Lokpal envisages harsh penalties for NGOs, the Jan Lokpal and NCPRI versions do the same for corporates. But the job of public servants is to regulate the working of civil society institutions. If public servants were honest and only some corporates and NGOs were corrupt, we wouldn't have so much of a problem as the government can throw the book at the latter using a whole gamut of legal instruments: the Companies Act, the Prevention of Corruption Act, IPC provisions which deal with bribery and corruption, income tax laws, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and so on.

The real problem arises when the regulators themselves, ie public servants, are corrupt. Anti-corruption laws will work if we keep the architecture simple, without diversionary red herrings - the government polices civil society, Lokpal polices the government.

Who polices the Lokpal? It could be the Supreme Court, which would entail keeping the higher judiciary outside the purview of the Lokpal. The NCPRI suggests strengthening the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill as a check on judicial corruption. But a superior solution is to have a National Judicial Commission (NJC), which would look at judicial appointments as well.

If the quality of judges in the Supreme Court and high courts could be regulated at entry, that would be a more holistic way of dealing with corruption. To widen the scope of discussion on judicial practices, the NJC should incorporate a balanced mix of non-judicial members as well (the relevant authority in the current Judicial Bill can induct only judges and members of the legal profession). It may require a constitutional amendment to set up the NJC, but the government could commit to bring in such an amendment within a year.

As for dealing with corruption at other tiers of public service, the NCPRI makes sound suggestions. A strengthened Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) can look at corruption among civil servants below grade A level. State Lokayuktas should be appointed to rein in corruption at the state level.

While a serving prime minister should be under the aegis of the Lokpal, strong safeguards are needed to ensure he is not unduly harassed in conducting the work of government. A full bench of the Supreme Court should be convinced there is a prima facie case and clear the investigation, vicarious liability (due to misconduct of other ministers) shouldn't be considered, national security matters should be kept outside the purview of the Lokpal.

There is need for a strong Bill to protect whistleblowers. Another one should set up a grie-vance redressal commission, to look into redress of grievances not amounting to corruption.

Finally, it's important to remember that corruption cannot be controlled through punitive steps alone. Side by side, we need to reform the system to reduce incentives for corruption. For that we need to look carefully at policies and processes through which scarce resources such as land, spectrum and minerals are allocated. We also need to look at how elections are funded.

High stamp duties, for example, incentivise the undervaluing of property and therefore the setting up of a black economy. Heavily distorted land markets make the rise of a land mafia inevitable. Rs 40 lakh as the legally designated upper limit for electoral spending by a Lok Sabha candidate is ridiculously low and impractical, inviting evasion by successful candidates.

Perhaps, instead of a mechanical cap on spending we need to put in place a full disclosure requirement, whereby every candidate is obliged to place on record all campaign contributions received beyond a prescribed minimum level. For insights into how reforming the system (as opposed to punitive measures alone) could reduce incentives for corruption, watch this space tomorrow for an article on the subject by Arvind Panagariya.

Tackling graft: The many drafts

Whom should the Lokpal cover?

GoI Lokpal draft: Includes NGOs in the Lokpal's ambit
Jan Lokpal draft : Includes corporates in its purview
NCPRI draft: Includes corporates within its radar

Times View: The Lokpal must focus on graft in government. Existing laws should be strongly applied to corrupt practices in civil society but the Lokpal must focus on corruption within government.

The higher judiciary

GoI Lokpal draft: Excludes the higher judiciary from the Lokpal's purview
Jan Lokpal draft: Includes the higher judiciary within the Lokpal's purview
NCPRI draft: Excludes the higher judiciary from the Lokpal's ambit - it instead proposes a stronger Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill for tackling issues of corruption in the judiciary

Times View: The judiciary must be free to survey the Lokpal itself. The judiciary can be managed via a National Judicial Commission - that's better than just a Judicial Accountability Bill as it surveys graft and legal appointments and is open to non-legal members too

Covering the PM

GoI Lokpal draft: The PM is under the Lokpal's purview - but only after leaving office
Jan Lokpal draft: The PM is fully included while in office
NCPRI draft: The PM is included during office - with proper safeguards

Times View: The PM should be included - with due checks. The NCPRI draft provides good safeguards (due process, no vicarious liability and confidentiality on matters of national interest)

The bureaucracy

GoI Lokpal draft: Only includes Group A officers under the Lokpal's purview
Jan Lokpal draft: Includes all government servants
NCPRI draft: Envisions all government officers outside Group A to be surveyed by a stronger CVC's office

Times View: The Lokpal must focus on corruption in high places. Putting all government officials under it is over-burdening it. A stronger CVC and state-level Lokayuktas should oversee all officers outside senior level

Public grievance redressal

GoI Lokpal draft: Makes no provisions for public grievances or their redressal
Jan Lokpal draft: Includes public grievances and redressal at all levels under the Lokpal
NCPRI draft: Envisions a separate commission specifically to hear public grievances and manage redressal

Times View: The Lokpal is a unique institution designed to weed out corruption in government. As the NCPRI draft suggests, public grievances over a range of issues should be routed to another body that can make enquiries at diverse levels and make effective, hard-hitting changes where needed







Who should decide what is news? The general public, which is you and me? Or should it be the government? In a democracy the news obviously belongs to the people. In totalitarian countries like China, the news belongs to the government. In such societies, news is just another word for government propaganda.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reportedly under pressure from his colleagues to set up an official body to ensure the 'accountability' of the Indian media. The move has reportedly been provoked by the way the mainstream media in the country covered the anti-corruption movement. An unnamed minister is quoted as saying "Was Anna Hazare's agitation the only thing that was happening in the country?", the implication being that the media had given undue weightage to the anti-graft stir at the expense of other issues.

It is true that much of the media did give the Anna movement saturation coverage. But it is also equally true that the other side of the picture, showing those who were critical of Anna and his methods, was also presented, though not as extensively. The point remains that while other things certainly were happening in the country, as the disgruntled mantri pointed out, the single most important thing so far as the so-called common citizen was concerned was the anti-corruption movement. By giving it exhaustive coverage, the media was not only doing its job but was also underlining the basic tenet of democracy, that of freedom of expression and the right to dissent.

To its credit, the opposition - ranging from the BJP to the Left parties - has unitedly come out strongly against the government's proposal to make the media 'accountable'. Such 'accountability', not to the public but to the government, would be a subversion of democracy as serious as that of Indira Gandhi's Emergency, which eventually proved self-defeating. By muzzling the media - the voice of the people - the autocratic prime minister insulated herself from the anger building up in the country against her repressive regime. Relying on a small coterie of sycophantic advisers, she called for elections in which she was soundly trounced. In a democracy, those who try and silence the people do so at their own risk.

It seems, however, that this lesson has not been learnt. To demand that the media be made 'accountable' to the government of the day is to take away the voice of the people, for the media are nothing more - and nothing less - than the amplified echo of the popular will. This is not to say that the media don't have a public responsibility. In cases of mob violence, for instance, the media must play a restraining role in curbing passions and urging the swift restoration of law and order. In a democracy, however, such restraint must come from the media themselves, and not from the government. Media must certainly remain accountable, but accountable to their own constituency, which is the people.

Individual components of the media - a particular TV channel, or news-paper - can indeed try and 'manufacture' news, by promoting an individual or an event. But unless they are in resonance with the pulse of the people, such media 'creations' will at best be nine-day wonders, if that.

The media didn't make Anna Hazare, the people did. The people who wanted to hear their own voice in his voice, and also the people who wanted to have their own say against what he was saying.

Either way, Hazare was news, is news. Your news and mine, if not the government's. Let's keep it that way.






It was an issue that the BJP could have hit the ground running with after the recent anti-corruption wave. Instead, it chose to dilly-dally on resolving the allegations against its ministers in Karnataka on illegal mining, criminal conspiracy and theft. The UPA has now seized the advantage by allowing the Central Bureau of Investigation to arrest G Janardhana Reddy and his brother-in-law BV Srinivas Reddy, the managing director of one of their mining companies. With this, a powerful blow has been dealt to the BJP in Karnataka and exposed the ineptitude of its central leadership.

That the Reddy brothers derived a great deal of legitimacy from their proximity to certain central BJP leaders is no secret and instead of disproving these suspicions, those supposedly close to them distanced themselves from the issue when things came to a head. Earlier, too, when the former Karnataka BJP chief minister attempted, though half-heartedly, to move against the brothers, his hand was stayed by the central leadership.

This arrest with the BJP leadership acting as though it's none of its business will certainly damage its attempts to take ownership of the anti-corruption movement. The influence of the Reddy brothers, not the least of which derives from their colossal wealth, means that the CBI move against them will throw up divisions within an already divided state unit. The new chief minister, Sadananda Gowda, is unlikely to be able to contain dissensions in the ranks. The tipping point against the Reddy brothers appears to have been the Karnataka lokayukta's report on the pillaging of public resources. Also at the receiving end of the report was the former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa.

With growing public revulsion against corruption, the BJP showed very poor political management in letting things come to this pass. Karnataka is its only bastion in the south and was meant to be the gateway to a bigger voteshare in other southern states. The UPA government can now legitimately take the credit for having instituted some measures to clean up the system like acting against the accused in the 2G scam and the Commonwealth Games mismanagement.

This is not the first time that the BJP appears to have misread political signals or failed to take advantage of opportunities to put the government on the mat. This suggests some sort of disconnect between the central leadership and the rank and file and among the top leaders themselves. Apart from the eloquence of some of its leaders, it has not really contributed much to public debate in recent times. The decline of the Reddy brothers should give it a chance to clean up the mess in Karnataka. Otherwise, it would be failing to live up to its role as the shadow government.






To begin with, let's assume that you have the wherewithal for quick, impromptu polls that gauge popularity. Then, let's further assume that you want to find out how our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, so much maligned for not chattering like a magpie, fares in those ratings. Rest assured, there will be a corner of this country (here, look east) where PM Singh would have won hearts, minds and souls over with his latest remark that he is willing to make an exception to his vegetarian diet if he is served hilsa while on his official tour of Bangladesh.

Long before politics had severed ties, uprooted people and divided Bengal into two, its poets waxed eloquent over the nonpareil delicacy that is the hilsa: one described it as the 'silver harvest' of the waters, while another hailed the onset of the monsoon (when the fish comes to spawn upstream and is found in abundance) as a season dedicated to the 'celebration of the hilsa'. Lesser mortals have been known to turn dewy-eyed at its mention (and this before the pungency of the mustard sauce hits their senses).

What about the clamour for cheaper imports of hilsa from our eastern neighbour now that the famed fish costs

R1,000 per kg in Kolkata's markets? Well, we wish godspeed to Dr Singh on his noble venture to convince the Bangladeshis of the need to share their catch and hope those glistening fins bolster our bilateral ties. To build new ties or mend old ones, leaders organise cricket or football or ping-pong matches, and bear each other expensive gifts. None of that beats the sight of an elderly, dignified Sikh gentleman carefully picking the bones from a delectable serving of hilsa.









Once upon a time, there were many readers. Curling up with a good book was an idea that found favour with most people, come rain (as in monsoon) or shine (when the blazing sun made one drop holiday games of cricket or football and rush indoors in search of cool drinks and cooler comics).

But first video, and then satellite channels, CD/DVD players, X-boxes, iPods and mobile phone thingamajigs put an end to all that. Today, these gizmos have severely dented reading habits; beating the once venerable book to a, well, pulp.

One of the most depressing fallouts of this trend is the near-disappearance of libraries. Shops selling CDs/DVDs, hawking the latest gaming consoles or peddling mobile accessories run into thousands. But there are only a couple of decent libraries for Indore's 20-odd lakh residents. As for the various 'vachnalayas' (reading rooms) scattered around town, you'd be lucky to get the day's newspaper there. To a certain extent private lending and reading libraries have stepped in to bridge the gap.

But while the material here covers the entire paperback gamut from Nancy Drew to Nancy Friday, there's little for the serious reader.

For someone weaned on that potent neural aphrodisiac, the musty smell of old books, it's disturbing to watch libraries vanish in this manner. Libraries, after all, are the repositories of a society's knowledge; its socio-cultural moorings bound in hardback.

And for this reason were traditionally the first targets of invaders seeking to impose their superiority.

Would Bakhtiyar Khilji, who burnt Nalanda, or Felipe de Olivera — the Portuguese commander who set alight Saraswathy Mahal, arguably the greatest collection of Tamil literature — have torched DVD shops? One doubts it.

As Timothy Leary, acid guru of the 1960's, put it, "To those with ears to hear, libraries are really very noisy places. On their shelves we hear the captured voices of the centuries-old conversations that make up our civilization."

Unfortunately, no one's listening.





The suspension of operations against the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) on September 3 sets the stage for a political dialogue with the banned secessionist outfit. It is also believed to have started a reign of confusion besides complicating the militancy scenario in Assam.

In militancy-mauled Northeast, the July 1997 ceasefire agreement between New Delhi and the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) is often regarded as the benchmark though a similar pact had been signed with the legendary Laldenga's Mizo National Front a decade before. The truce was between two warring forces — 'colonial India' and Naga nationalists — toward stopping bloodshed and ushering in peace through an 'honourable' solution.

The pact with the NSCN would perhaps have been redundant had the outfit not been sired by another agreement, the Shillong Accord of November 11, 1975, between the Indian government and some 'captured' rebel leaders of the Naga National Council. The hurriedly drawn-up accord — it said the militants decided to accept the Constitution of India unconditionally — was panned as divisive and insulting to the Nagas.

Assam is not Nagaland, and the Ulfa is no NSCN. But many in Assam are drawing a line between the Shillong Accord and the tripartite agreement Arabinda Rajkhowa's Ulfa signed with the Union and Assam governments. They see the agreement as one between the conqueror and the conquered, because Ulfa chairman Rajkhowa and members of his core group are on parole after their capture since December 2003. And because it is a pact that leaves out key leaders of the outfit — military chief Paresh Barua, for instance — as was the case with the Nagas in 1975.

"The ceasefire with Ulfa is as confusing as it challenges the definitions of certain terms usually associated with conflicts. First, a ceasefire as we know involves two or more hostile groups, but Rajkhowa and his group were captives without arms. Secondly, will the cessation of operations also apply to the anti-talks faction led by Paresh Barua that has vowed to carry on the fight for Assam's sovereignty?

"And if the anti-talks group is out of the picture, can we call it a truce with Ulfa? Do we call Rajkhowa's group Ulfa or ex-Ulfa or Sulfa (Surrendered Ulfa)? If we call them Sulfa, where does it leave some 3,000 Sulfa members who bid farewell to arms long ago to be in the mainstream? Moreover, how can the same law that granted Rajkhowa and his associates bail continue to consider their organisation banned?" asked Haider Hussain, editor of Assamese daily Asomiya Pratidin.

Hussain was a key member of the People's Consultative Group the Ulfa had formed in 2005 to mediate with New Delhi for a peaceful solution. The government did not agree to the Ulfa's demand for discussing the issue of sovereignty of Assam, and the peace process fell through.

The scenario changed after the pro-India Sheikh Hasina came to power in Bangladesh and launched a drive against Ulfa and other Northeast rebels operating from her country. This led to the arrest of Rajkhowa and five other top Ulfa leaders. They were allegedly talked into accepting the Indian Constitution, give up sovereignty and draw up a charter of demands that intellectuals and former rebels said did not warrant a 30-year insurrection. The elusive Paresh Barua, believed to be in Myanmar with some 200 hardliners, expectedly junked the charter of demands and the ceasefire as a "sellout at gunpoint".

Technical issues aside, Hussain feels the peace process can be fruitful if New Delhi is sincere, tactful and constructive. So does Nonigopal Mahanta of Gauhati University's Centre for Conflict Studies. The peace process, they feel, will meander if its aim is to isolate Paresh Barua's group and pressure it into accepting the government's terms.

Most leaders in the Ulfa's decision-making general council are with Rajkhowa, but the dilution of ideology is believed to have eroded their appeal. The anti-talks faction too is low on public support and resources, but the cessation of operations — again, confusing for forces engaged in counter-insurgency because of the Paresh Barua threat — could give it an opportunity to be back in the business of subversion.



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 governor of Gujarat is at the very centre of a political mess, with the Bharatiya Janata Party stalling Parliament for three consecutive days over the appointment of a Lokayukta in Gujarat. The BJP complains that the new Lokayukta, a retired judge named R.A. Mehra, was appointed by Governor Kamla Beniwal without consulting Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The Gujarat Congress, MLAs from which met President Pratibha Patil today, argues that the state Lokayukta Act permits the governor to act in this case without the advice of the state cabinet, and that, that indeed had been the precedent — at least till the eight-year gap between Lokayuktas that this recent appointment has ended. It appears that, again, the Congress has set Centre and state on a collision course, causing questions to return to the extent of the party's commitment to federalism.

While the 1986 law that covers the appointment of the Lokayukta may indeed be made by the governor alone "after consultation with the chief justice of the high court and... the leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly", making no mention of the chief minister of the time, the question remains: why not ask the chief minister anyway? That would demonstrate a credible commitment to federalism. The current Gujarat government might well want to amend the law, too, to bring in some formal government representation in the process.

The larger point here is that allowing governors to be seen as representatives of the party in power at the Centre in their state is a short-sighted and futile strategy. Once that impression gains ground, even an action that might not be taken following orders from Delhi, that are specifically politically motivated, will be seen as being so, vitiating the political atmosphere in the state, undermining federalism and hurting the stature of the governor's office itself. Rather than an imperial resident in a state capital, the governor is supposed to be, like the president, a symbol of the state, and of its integration in the Union. Instead, the governor's office frequently is seen as a threat to federalism. This is an inescapable consequence of exploiting the office for political ends. The Congress, which behaves as if it will be in power for ever, needs to remember that institutions serve to protect principles — and principles benefit us all.






It is not difficult to see why India is being mocked as the place where "the plane never takes off". India's economy and governance didn't land in this sorry state overnight; we had been getting here ever since UPA 2 stopped, paralysed in its tracks, unable to budge on much-needed economic reforms and losing its better judgement on political bottlenecks. The GDP figures for the first quarter of the current fiscal are the writing on the wall for the government. At 7.7 per cent, India not only grew slower than the 9 per cent in last fiscal's corresponding quarter, but demonstrated how continued policy paralysis at home and global economic pessimism have put the brakes on the India story.

Under the circumstances, what can still be done and what, anyway, must be done is reform. At the heart of the faltering India story is a weak manufacturing sector in no position to accommodate jobs, but which must be revived to set our economic trajectory right again. But for that, fundamental reforms, such as land acquisition and transparent environmental clearances, must be in place. Moreover, investor-confidence in India is noticeably low at the moment, with much more money flowing out than in. The Hydra threatening the government is not just inflation and the fiscal deficit but, simultaneously, the challenge of growth. All of this is compounded by the general fact and perception of corruption and uncertainty, as entrepreneur Deepak Parekh lamented in 'Walk the Talk', published in this newspaper on September 6.

The time an investor spends suspended in apprehension, acquiring multiple permits and licences, or the archaic tax laws industry must navigate don't speak of a fast-growing, cutting-edge, 21st century economy. These are redolent of the licence raj which refuses to disappear because government still sustains it. That is exactly what's stalling disinvestment of PSUs. The single instance of the money being wasted on Air India's losses marks this misdirection of effort and resources. If the fiscal deficit is not contained, India's rating could come down in November, as Parekh warns. To say the full picture is grim is an understatement, but the only way out is for government to open the door to reform.







As the world marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the question on most people's minds is: how has 9/11 changed the world?

To Americans, the answer is easy: 9/11 has changed everything. But people outside the United States will beg to differ. 9/11 has definitely changed the United States — it has become a more inward-looking country, obsessively focused on its security, politically polarised and militarily and fiscally overextended. The world outside the United States, to be sure, has also greatly changed. Some of the changes, such as the rise of major emerging-market countries (India and Brazil being the best examples), the decline of Europe and the continuing stagnation of Japan, have nothing to do with 9/11. Other momentous events — the American invasion of Iraq and the decade-long war in Afghanistan — were direct results of 9/11.

More ambiguous is the remarkable rise of China in the past decade. How did 9/11 affect China's rise?

Before we answer this intriguing question, we must first take a look at the extent of China's gains in economic power and military capabilities since 9/11.

In 2001, the Chinese GDP was $1.16 trillion based on the exchange rate at that time; by 2010, it had expanded four times to $6.04 trillion (using current exchange rate). In the same decade, Chinese foreign trade grew six times, from $500 billion to $3 trillion. Its foreign exchange reserves rose from $212 billion in 2001 to $3.2 trillion in July 2011. Rising wealth enabled China to boost its military spending four-fold. The official defence budget increased from $17 billion in 2001 to $78 billion in 2010. (Real military expenditures are much higher.)

Needless to say, such rapid economic advance has dramatically closed the gap between China and the United States. In 2001, the size of the Chinese GDP was roughly one-tenth of the American GDP. In 2010, it was about 45 per cent (based on exchange rate). In 2001, Washington's coffers were bulging with budgetary surpluses. By 2010, the United States was running deficits equal to 10 per cent of GDP. Not coincidentally, the past decade saw China becoming America's largest creditor. In 2001, Beijing held about $160 billion in US Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. By the end of 2010, Chinese holdings ballooned to close to $2 trillion.

Of course, the Chinese themselves would be indignant about the mere suggestion that China has been a beneficiary of 9/11. They would argue that it was their hard work, not America's tragedy, that has made the Chinese economic miracle. To a large extent, they are undoubtedly right. Beijing's single-minded focus on economic growth, the dynamism and entrepreneurship of the Chinese people and the growing capabilities of Chinese firms have been the driving force behind China's stunning economic rise in the last decade.

But could China have gained so much economically without an extremely benign external environment since 9/11?

The answer is definitely no.

What 9/11 did was to reset Washington's strategic priority in a radical direction. Prior to 9/11, the neo-conservative hawks in the Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, identified China as America's most serious national security threat and were pushing for a containment strategy against Beijing. Indeed, the first eight months of the Bush administration saw a rapid deterioration in US-China ties. Then 9/11 intervened, and America's attention was diverted to fighting terrorism. Washington's war on terror, however, would have had only a limited and perhaps short-lived impact on changing China's strategic environment. In retrospect, it was the ill-fated invasion of Iraq, which completely consumed America's energy and preoccupied its military (not to mention the $1 trillion in war-related spending), that provided China the benign security environment it needed to focus on economic development.

At the same time, Beijing adroitly adapted to the post-9/11 international environment by following a pragmatic foreign policy that sought to maintain a stable relationship with the United States while pursuing its long-term strategic goals slowly but surely. In the ensuing decade, Beijing carefully avoided stepping on Washington's toes and watched, with enormous relief, as the Bush administration dug itself into an ever-deeper hole in Iraq. With a freer hand, China also adjusted its Taiwan policy and managed to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Straits dramatically. It has made significant economic inroads in Africa and Latin America. In East Asia, the perception that China represents the power of the future has taken hold among the region's elites.

When historians look back at this period, few of them would disagree that it was China's "golden decade."

Alas, good times do not last. For China, the rare strategic opportunities created by 9/11 are fast fading. In Washington, a different president is in office and busy rectifying the costly mistakes made by his predecessor. Given America's difficult fight in Afghanistan and economic woes at home, it will take some time for Washington to fully regain its strategic initiative and dispel the perception, particularly strong among the elite circles in Beijing, that it is in irreversible decline. In East Asia, China's recent assertiveness over territorial disputes and pusillanimous stance towards its trouble-making client state North Korea have squandered the goodwill it has worked hard to earn from its neighbours. China's stumble allowed the United States to reassert its influence in East Asia effortlessly. By positioning itself as a strategic balancer against an assertive China, the United States is being welcomed with open arms, from Tokyo to Hanoi.

We are not saying that China and America are again on a collision course. Mostly likely they are not — for the immediate future at least. But one thing is certain: China will miss the benign external environment created by 9/11 that has contributed so enormously to its economic rise.

The writer is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in the US










Some members of Parliament have filed privilege notices against several persons associated with the protests related to the Lokpal bill. The main accusation is that they have made derogatory remarks against MPs.

The issue of privilege was wrested over a period of time by the Lords and the Commons in revolutionary England. The objective was that the members should have the freedom to discharge their functions, including the right to speak and vote within Parliament, without the fear of being victimised by the monarch.

Although there is no need for protection against a despotic monarch in India, the need to ensure that MPs are free to express their opinions in speech and vote was recognised by the framers of our Constitution. Article 105 of the Constitution provides (a) freedom of speech of MPs subject to provisions of the Constitution and the rules and procedures of Parliament; (b) legal immunity for anything said or vote given by an MP in Parliament or its committee; and (c) any other powers, privileges, and immunities that Parliament prescribes by law. In the absence of any law, such privileges would be the same as those enjoyed by the House of Commons at the commencement of the Constitution; this provision was amended in 1978 to state that the privileges would be the same as enjoyed by the Houses of Indian Parliament as on the date of effect of that amendment.

It is evident that the Constitution provided for a law to codify privileges, and adopted the practice in the House of Commons as a temporary measure. Indeed, in the Constituent Assembly, Dr Rajendra Prasad said, "Parliament will define the powers and privileges, but until Parliament has undertaken the legislation and passes it, the privileges and powers of the House of Commons will apply. So, it is only a temporary affair. Of course, Parliament may never legislate on that point and it is therefore for the members to be vigilant." Parliament has not enacted any law till date.

The main argument for a legislation is that there would be clarity on the exact boundaries that may not be crossed, and on which penal action may be taken. On the other hand, a law could lead to intervention by courts. This issue has been examined several times by Parliament. For example, the Committee on Privileges of Lok Sabha examined the issue in 2008. The committee felt that allegations of misuse of its powers were due to ignorance of the procedures, and noted that it had recommended punishment in only five cases since the first Lok Sabha was constituted. It concluded that there was no need for codification.

There are several types of cases in which Parliament may invoke its penal powers. It may take action against someone who obstructs the work of MPs. For example, in February 2008, some Rajya Sabha MPs complained they were deprived of the benefit of getting answers to their questions as some MPs (not named) did not allow the House to run. However, the Committee of Privileges concluded that bringing such matters under the purview of parliamentary privileges was not an optimal solution.

Parliament may penalise MPs for misconduct. It took action against several MPs, including expelling them from the House, for issues such as the cash-for-questions.

Parliament may also take action against any person for lowering the dignity of the House. In 2008, the editor of an Urdu newspaper reported that the deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha had behaved in a cowardly manner while chairing the House. The privileges committee held the editor guilty but decided not to pursue the matter as his intention was to get publicity.

There are moves to codify the privileges in some other parliamentary democracies. Australia enacted its Parliamentary Privileges Act in 1987. It prescribes a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and fine of A$5,000. The Australian legislation prohibits the expulsion of any member from membership of the House. Also, it abolishes contempt by defamation: Section 6 states that "words or acts shall not be taken as an offence against a House by reason only that those words or acts are defamatory or critical of Parliament, a House, a committee or a member". It excludes the words spoken or acts done in the presence of a House of committee from this protection. In the UK, a joint committee recommended in 1999 that a Parliamentary Privileges Act should be enacted, but the British Parliament has not yet done so.

The current cases provide a reason to examine the issue of privileges. It would be useful to have a debate on whether privilege should be just a power to provide legal immunity to MPs for their parliamentary work, or whether it should also extend to the power of contempt of Parliament.

The writer is with PRS Legislative Research







Does Anna Hazare's movement portend a significant restructuring of Indian politics? This important question can't be answered unless we summon the history of movement politics in India, and place the Hazare movement in perspective.

Movements and Political Impact

Thus far in the history of modern India, the movements that shook the basic structure of politics were those in which movement politics and party politics got fused. Movements that stayed pure, spurning, or not seeking, the patronage of political parties, made limited gains.

The first half of the 20th century witnessed the freedom movement and the anti-Brahmin movement in the south.

Both left lasting legacies. The first one was led by the Congress, the second supported by the Justice Party, a precursor to the DMK and AIADMK. Between 1921 and 1937, the Justice Party ruled Madras for twelve years.

After 1947, the two movements that dramatically reframed long-term politics were the linguistic agitations of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Ayodhya mobilisation of the 1980s and early 1990s.

More than half a century later, it may be hard to recall what the linguistic movements were all about. Despite the Congress's pre-1947 commitment, Nehru had developed cold feet about a linguistic organisation of states. The communal carnage around Partition was so horrifying that language and caste, not just religion, seemed destructive to him. He wanted Indians to concentrate on economic development: all else was a needless diversion from the immediate and urgent national purpose.

As the language movements acquired momentum, Nehru caved and a States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) was set up. Several commentators, famously Selig Harrison, predicted that language differences would lead to India's disintegration, much like what happened decades later to Yugoslavia and the USSR. But scholars now agree that the birth of Andhra, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat; later Punjab, Haryana, Himachal; and, still later, the Northeastern states, saved India. Essentially, linguistic states permitted Indians to live with two identities: a regional identity and an all-India identity, without one undermining the other.

Movement politics, thus, profoundly shaped the basic state structure of modern India. In particular, three of the states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Punjab — were born despite the SRC's recommendation to the contrary. Each was supported by a major political party, or the movement itself contested elections and won seats.

The Ayodhya movement was also hugely transformative. In the beginning, the VHP led it. But once, under Advani, the BJP decided to co-lead, the movement became stronger. For the BJP, it also became a stepping stone to power.

In contrast, movements that zealously maintained their civil society purity — for example, the Chipko movement and the Narmada Bachao Andolan — showed high moral courage, but their achievements were regional- and/or issue-specific. Delhi was not shaken to any significant degree.

Hazare Through the Prism of Democratic Theory

By insisting that elections are not enough for meaningful democracy, and that there has to be greater governmental accountability during the five years between elections, the Hazare movement seeks a fundamental change in Indian politics. Unknown to itself, and rarely with sophistication, the movement's vanguard has begun to make an argument known to democratic theorists for a long time.

Theorists have argued that democratic deepening requires (i) accepting that elections are necessary, but not sufficient, and (ii) putting in place institutions and procedures that make citizen preferences more relevant to governmental decision-making on the one hand, and that rein in the misconduct of the powerful between the elections on the other. According to theorists, India is an unparalleled elections-based democracy, for no society in history has made elections work at such a low level of income. But India's record does not respond well to a more demanding theory of democracy, which also takes note of how well politicians behave and how much citizen welfare matters between elections.

The Hazare movement's proposals are basically aimed at achieving greater correspondence between democracy and popular will between elections. Though its desire to force its will on Parliament was undemocratic, the overall thrust of the movement is about deepening democracy. If it succeeds, Indian politics will be qualitatively transformed.

But the path chosen to achieve results defies historical patterns. The movement has rebelled not only against the government, but also against the entire political class. It has unwaveringly held on to its civil society character. It shows no desire — yet — for electoral power, nor has it allowed political parties to dominate its thinking or strategic evolution. Should we, then, expect it to wither away — as did the powerful peasant movements of the 1980s, once the "more serious" electoral issues of Mandal and Mandir emerged?


There are four reasons the Hazare movement is likely to be resilient, and will defy historical patterns.

First, grievance alone can not sustain a movement. Resources are always necessary. The Hazare movement has struck a deep chord with India's new middle class. It, thus, has an internal source of finance, which the government cannot legally cut off. India's middle class did contribute mightily to the Ayodhya movement, but it is now bigger and richer: it is economically privileged, while feeling electorally underprivileged. This is a politically explosive combination.

Second, the grievance itself is a potential winner. There were arguments for and against Ayodhya, Mandal, JP, dams, tree-hugging and linguistic states. But what arguments can anyone marshal in favour of corruption? Arundhati Roy has tried, saying corruption can be good for the poor, but there are no takers. Both those opposed to Hazare's argument, and those not willing to give up corruption have only one choice: talk about what is the best way to reduce it. That is an exceptional circumstance for a movement.

Third, India's government, perhaps its political class in general, has lost the support of TV media, another privileged and powerful child of reforms. TV did not go to Ramlila Maidan only to cover a spectacle: it is clear that it shares middle-class anger against the political class, though the sources of its resentment remain less than clear. Perhaps market forces are the greatest reason. The middle class is TV's largest market.

Fourth, social media, too, needs to be taken note of. As we dramatically saw at the Tahrir Square, but also elsewhere, governments cannot easily stop communication via cellphones, Facebook and Twitter. With incomes rising, social media are bound to grow. India's middle class will use these tools for its goals. Back in 1975, the government could control the media. The technological world has changed for ever. Anger can be more powerfully expressed, and is less easily controlled.

Government Response

Thus far, the government has basically used the stock principles of old-style politics: entice and neutralise, or punish and neutralise. When it makes arguments, it has relied on legalities. To hear the home minister defend in Parliament Hazare's arrest was to witness legal acumen — except, as the opposition so effortlessly pointed out, the moment was political, not legal. Politics without law can be dangerous; but politics based entirely on law is profoundly confining. So many of the modern world's democratic politicians have been lawyers; the best ones have always embedded legalities in a political imagination appropriate for the times.

Forces unleashed by India's economic reforms are now clashing with an old structure of politics. How to incorporate the concerns of the middle class, which will only grow, is the new challenge of Indian politics. Faced with a novel moment not comprehensible in older frameworks, political imagination is the best way forward for the government and politicians. A punish-and-neutralise strategy is awfully myopic.

The writer is a professor at Brown University. His books include 'Democracy, Development and the Countryside: Urban-Rural Struggles in India'







Gaming the East

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh marks a new Indian focus on the east. During the last two years, Dr Singh directed a sustained effort to resolve many long-standing bilateral issues — including boundary problems, border management, water, energy cooperation, trade and transit.

For all its significance, Dr Singh's visit is only about clearing the detritus from Partition more than six decades ago. There are much bigger challenges awaiting India as a rising China transforms the Great Game in the east.

The Great Game never just about Afghanistan to the northwest. It was about managing the entire periphery of the Raj, by bringing many of its remote border lands under control and keeping other great powers at arms' length.

In the northwest the Raj sought to prevent Russia from extending its influence south of the Amu Darya, and made Afghanistan a British protectorate and buffer. In the north it was about extending India's influence into Tibet, and negotiating favourable terms with the nominal rulers in Beijing. In the east it was about containing the influence of France and the Netherlands and occupying Burma (now Myanmar). Once the European powers ceased to be a threat, the Raj took its military eyes off the east.

The Raj was surprised by the speed with which a rising Japan ousted its forces from Singapore and showed up at the northeastern gates of India in the 1940s. It took much blood, sweat and tears from the Indian army to push the Japanese back and liberate Southeast Asia.

Like the Raj, independent India too has been obsessed with the northwest. While Dr Singh has begun to take corrective action, much remains to be done as China surprises us by the rapidity with which it has begun to alter the geopolitical landscape to our east.

Sonadia port

As it builds a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar's Arakan coast to the Yunnan province in southwestern China, begins work on a railway along the same alignment, and plans to develop transport corridors into Bangladesh, Beijing appears all set to bag the contract for the construction of a new deep sea port in Bangladesh, at the Sonadia island off Cox's Bazaar.

Reports from Dhaka say the Sheikh Hasina government is close to approving an MoU between the shipping ministry and the China Merchant Holdings, a state-owned construction company. The first phase of the port is expected to be ready by 2016 and facilitate trans-shipment of goods from Bangladesh to eastern India, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, China and Southeast Asia.

Naval interest

China's construction of civilian ports in our neighbourhood need not be seen as automatically threatening.

The challenge for Delhi's policymakers is not about blocking Beijing's economic entry into the region, but to ensure that India can take advantage of the Chinese infrastructural development in the civilian sector.

India's policy problems are very different when it comes to China's growing maritime interest in the Bay of Bengal and its role as a major arms supplier to Bangladesh and Burma.

As it seeks to limit the vulnerability of its vital sea lines of communication through the Malacca Straits, it is inevitable that China will seek to intensify its naval engagement with Burma and Bangladesh.

In responding to this reality,

India will have to look beyond the current emphasis on counter-terror cooperation with the two countries and focus on developing substantive military and maritime security partnerships with both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi






Here's what the UN report on Israel's raid last year on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara had to say about the killing of a 19-year-old US citizen on board: "At least one of those killed, Furkan Dogan, was shot at extremely close range. Dogan sustained wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect." The four-member panel, led by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a former PM of New Zealand, appears with these words to raise the possibility of an execution.

Dogan, born in upstate New York, was an aspiring doctor. Little interested in politics, he'd won a lottery to travel on the Gaza-bound vessel. The report says of him and the other eight people killed that, "No evidence has been provided to establish that any of the deceased were armed with lethal weapons." It's hard to imagine any other circumstances in which the slaying in international waters, at point-blank range, of a US citizen by forces of a foreign power would prompt such a singular American silence. But of course no US president, and certainly no first-term US president, would say what PM Cameron said: "The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable."

My rough translation of the Palmer panel's conclusion would be this message to Israel: You had the right to do it but what you did was way over the top and just plain dumb. Overall, it finds that Israel should issue "an appropriate statement of regret" and "make payment for the benefit of the deceased and injured victims and their families." Yes, Israel, increasingly isolated, should do just that. An apology is the right course and the smart course.

Israel and Turkey have been talking for more than a year. At times agreement has been close. Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor, Israel's defence and intelligence ministers, have argued the case for an apology; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has led the hawks saying Israel never bends; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had his finger to the wind. In the end, Lieberman and the far right have won, as they tend to with this abject Israeli government.

"It's a typical case where coalition considerations trumped strategic thinking, and that's the tragedy," Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli political scientist, told me. "Given the Palestinian issue at the UN, and relations with the new Egypt, we could use strategic wisdom."

That's right. Instead, locked in its siege mentality, led by the nose by Lieberman and his ilk — unable to grasp the change in the Middle East driven by the Arab demand for dignity and freedom, inflexible on expanding settlements, ignoring US prodding that it apologise — Israel is losing one of its best friends in the Muslim world, Turkey. The expulsion last week of the Israeli ambassador was a debacle foretold. Israeli society, as it has shown through civic protest, deserves much better.

"We need not apologise," Netanyahu thundered Sunday — and repeated the phrase three times. He's opted for a needless road to an isolation that weakens Israel and undermines the strategic interests of its closest ally, the United States. Not that I expect Obama to raise his voice about this any more than he has over Dogan.







Where are they now?

The CPM is fuming at the media and civil society for ignoring the attacks on its cadre by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. The editorial in People's Democracy argues that, just months ago "people in numbers that were exponentially larger than those who collected at Ramlila Maidan marched to Parliament at the call of the central trade unions" protesting against inflation and corruption. The only reference in the mainstream media to this huge mobilisation was the traffic dislocation that this caused in the capital: "The electronic media decides its content on the basis of TRP ratings and not on the worthiness of the news. Showing the 'wretched of the earth' protesting price rise and corruption may not influence TRP ratings positively." It talks about the virtual blackout of the news by the mainstream media of a dharna staged here to protest the attacks in Bengal.

Listing out details of the attacks, it says:"Despite such serious and unacceptable attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties, not a whimper was heard from any section of the so-called civil society... These very luminaries were in the forefront, in collaboration with the Maoists, in highlighting the blatantly fabricated attacks against the Left Front and the state government on the issues of Singur and Nandigram. Now, given the seriousness of these attacks in Bengal, they choose to remain silent. Need anything more be said about their ideological predilections?"

Congress softness

CPI weekly New Age wonders: "The BJP is supporting all economic measures being taken by the UPA 2 government under the dictates of international finance capital that will ruin the national economy. Is Congress paying back the BJP by soft-pedaling the involvement of Sangh Parivar in cases of bomb blasts and terrorist attacks?" It argues that "any honest government should have started releasing and rehabilitating all those Muslim youth who were falsely implicated in several cases of bomb blasts and terrorist attacks" and prosecuted those police officers and investigating agencies who "cooked up stories of Muslim involvement" in the bomb blasts.

Medical news

An article in People's Democracy claims evidence is emerging that social health insurance schemes largely premised on private provisioning fail to ensure universal access. It quotes a study published by the Public Health Foundation of India examining data from the three largest social health insurance schemes in India, which explicitly separate financing and provision of health care, and allow beneficiaries to access care in accredited facilities — in the private or the public sector.

In practice, an overwhelming majority of the accredited facilities are in the private sector and the study has found that the average cost of hospitalisation in these schemes was extremely high. The article says this indicates that private providers not only benefit from these schemes by securing a captive market, they also over-charge, possibly with the participation of the administrators of the schemes: "What such evidence implies is that an increase in public expenditure on health care which is not accompanied by expansion of public health services, further strengthens the private sector (especially the large tertiary care sector that increasingly is constituted of corporate-run hospital chains) — which already accounts for 70 per cent of health care in India. That the health care system in India might follow this route, is not an empty threat."

Compiled by Manoj C.G.








The Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation Bill has taken four years to reach the final leg of becoming an Act that will undo 117 years of legislative lethargy. Like any other Bill in the making, this too could do with improvements but, thankfully, the UPA government has not let the best be the enemy of the good. Land issues are becoming fiendishly difficult to resolve but those would become even more so as industry expands, towns grab more from the countryside and the population pressure multiplies. To have waited for an ideal solution to emerge, even if that possibility existed, would have been unacceptable when such pressures are mounting. That the government has decided to act now is quite salutary.

The Bill could have become an Act in 2009 itself, but determined opposition by Mamata Banerjee's party blocked it then. Those political calculations are responsible for the pitched battles that broke out early this year at several project sites across the country between the police and farmers, creating a dissonance that was quite avoidable. What will be needed now is for this government and the ones hereafter to be ready to bring in amendments that fit the new realities, including the scales for rehabilitation. Since the Bill will now travel to the standing committee, there is enough scope for entities that have objections to file them. The objections, principally by the real estate companies, centre around the additional cost they will have to pay to acquire land and how to operate the rehabilitation plans. If, in the process, the cost of land goes up, that should surprise no one in a land-starved country. Until now, it was the government support which ensured the price of acquisition stayed low, hurting those who sold land. Farmers could also cavil at a lower rate of compensation than in the earlier draft. In any case, the current Act of 1894 vintage was never meant to help as a tool for industrialisation, but India can ill-afford to short-change the land holders.





It may be home to 22% of the world's population, but South Asia remains the world's least integrated region—with intra- regional trade amounting to only 5% of its total trade. But despite such a dismal background, there is probably no better moment to increase economic cooperation in this region. All South Asian states now boast democratic governance structures. This is also one of the only two regions in the world where GDP growth rate is near 8%. As PM Manmohan Singh meets Bangladesh, the commitment to cooperation to accelerate growth, deepen cross-border trade and investment, and seek more stability in the neighbourhood can now begin to move beyond mere speeches to concrete action on the ground. The Bangladesh government has struck an emotive chord by recognising Indira Gandhi's "outstanding contribution" to the country's freedom struggle through its highest state honour. India, in turn, has announced a $1bn credit line for Bangladesh, the largest offered to any country. Singh's visit to Dhaka is being heralded as historic, admittedly with much greater enthusiasm in that country, and it offers plenty of scope to build on. Even the last-minute shock delivered by Mamata Banerjee—who has baulked at the Teesta water-sharing deal that was the fruit of complex negotiations in which she was very much in the loop by all accounts—is being received rather graciously by Bangladesh. As a Daily Star editorial over there put it, "We are shocked but still hopeful of a successful outcome of the visit."

Note that while India has been anaemic in engaging its neighbourhood, China has made robust inroads—from Nepal to Sri Lanka and from Pakistan to Bangladesh, where it now reigns as both the biggest trading partner and the primary supplier of military equipment. Note also what The Economist pointed out recently: all that India and Bangladesh are attempting to establish today is what West and East Germany enjoyed even at the height of the Cold War, from an undisputed international border to a well-established transit system for goods, trains and peoples. Bangladesh is looking to us for trade concessions, especially in textiles, that will dramatically impact its growth. We are looking at it for transit solutions that will equally dramatically transform connectivity for the Northeast. It's actually a win-win situation.






Dear Mr Arnold,

Your letter dated August 20 to the CBI on the 2G spectrum scam, stating that Trai never asked for auctions in 2003 and 2007, and it did not even ask for revision of entry fee in 2007, has created a lot of confusion. It is also being perceived to have weakened the CBI's case in the matter. However, considering the importance of the issue and the differing stand of Trai on the subject, since it said something very different in its affidavit in the Supreme Court in March, certain basic questions arise, which would help in determining what its stand on crucial issues exactly is. I, therefore, have a couple of questions for you, the answers to which would help in clarifying Trai's stand on the subject.

l Mr Arnold, since you have said that Trai was never in favour of auctions or a revision of entry fee, could you please take the trouble of explaining the following: The Trai recommendations were made on August 28, 2007, at which time there were approximately 49 applications pending for licences against 155 slots. By the time the DoT decided to act on your recommendations, the number of applications had jumped to 575. If supply far exceeds the demand then what is the best course to decide who gets licences and who doesn't?

l I quote from the Trai affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in March this year where it said: "While Trai was not in favour of holding auctions for 2G bands, it has nowhere suggested or recommended that the entry fee should be kept pegged at 2001 level". You have then gone ahead and quoted from the 2007 recommendation: "The entry fee, as it exists today, is, in fact, a result of the price discovered through a market-based mechanism applicable for the grant of licence to the fourth cellular operator (2001). In today's dynamism and unprecedented growth of the telecom sector, the entry fee determined then is also not the realistic price for obtaining a licence. Perhaps, it needs to be reassessed through a market mechanism". Could you please clarify your stand on this now? It is particularly important since you served at Trai exactly in the same capacity in 2007.

l In the same affidavit before the Supreme Court, you have also stated that former telecom minister A Raja never followed the proper procedure while granting the licences and there was never a specific reference to Trai for the purpose of issuing new licences and at what prices. This is what you said: "In fact, based on Trai's recommendation of 2007, the first step should have been to assess the availability of spectrum, to lay down spectrum allocation criteria and pricing methodology as a matter of policy and to place the same in public domain. Thereafter, the central government should have sought a specific recommendation from Trai for issuing new licence to a service provider as envisaged by the second and fourth proviso of section 11 (1) of the Trai Act. However, this was not done". What is your position on this now?

l Your former chairman Nripendra Misra had written several letters to the DoT against the selective implementation of the 2007 recommendations and urged it to refer the matter back to it in case the government wanted to issue new licences or differed on specific recommendations. These were ignored. Since you were secretary of Trai then also, surely you would have known all this. These letters are also part of the annexures of the Trai affidavit. Do you see Trai as a continuous body irrespective of who the chairman is or do you think that with every new chairman the stand of the regulator should change on major issues? I don't mean change is not for the good but don't you think that any such change should be accompanied by valid reasons and proper public debate?

l Post your 2007 recommendations and the DoT's decision to implement it, the Prime Minister also strongly advocated the case of auctions or price indexation in his letter of November 2, 2007, to Raja. The Prime Minister even explained that this was required for better spectral efficiency and optimal usage of spectrum. If the Prime Minister feels the need for indexation of price and transparency, why is Trai not coming forth on the issue?

l You have now said in your letter that the new telecom policy (NTP) 1999 did not recommend auctions. It was an executive decision that led to auctions in 2001 to grant licences. Since the first ever allocation of licences after the NTP 99 was made in 2001 through auctions, why could not the same be done in 2008?

l You have also said in your letter that Trai repeatedly held the view that telecom services and spectrum should not be treated as a source of revenue for the government. Against this backdrop, could you please explain, why did the same body recommend auctions in the case of 3G and broadband wireless spectrum, which were held in 2010?

You would appreciate that a comprehensive stand of the regulatory body on this important subject needs to be unambiguously cleared for once and all.

PS: I am aware that I should have addressed this letter to the Trai chairman since your letter to the CBI is with the approval of the Authority. However, since you are the signatory, I chose to address it to you.







When she walks into the room, everybody falls silent. It's like the headmistress coming in." That, according to one senior politician, is the impact that Angela Merkel has when she enters the regular gatherings of conservative leaders from across Europe.

The chill spread by the German chancellor is easy to understand. Her colleagues know that the fate of the

euro—and the European Union as a whole—now depends on decisions made by the German government. Many criticise Ms Merkel for lacking imagination, warmth and generosity—for being too slow and too cautious. The chancellor is even under attack from pro-Europeans back home. Helmut Kohl, her mentor and the man who took Germany into the euro, complained recently that he had no sense of "where Germany stands today, and where it is heading".

The general tenor of all this criticism is clear. Why won't Ms Merkel live up to her promise to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro? Why won't she finally get ahead of the crisis, by committing all of Germany's financial might to the project? Why can she not see that eurobonds—a pooling of credit risk across the EU—are the answer? Europe needs a leader and instead it has got a hausfrau.

But rather than lambasting the chancellor, the rest of Europe should be grateful that they have a calm

and cautious leader in Berlin. It was bold visionaries such as Mr Kohl who created the euro in the first place—leaving future generations to sort out the subsequent mess.

There are (at least) five reasons why Ms Merkel is absolutely right to balk at some of the more dramatic courses of action that are being urged upon her.

First, the chancellor's critics often fail to acknowledge the real political and legal constraints that she is operating under. Tomorrow, the German constitutional court will rule on the legality of the proposals to increase the fund for bailing out debt-ridden members of the eurozone. Later this month, the German parliament will vote on the issue. It would be both arrogant and foolish for Ms Merkel to assume that she can simply win all these battles, when both German public opinion and many influential voices within the country are deeply opposed to further bail-outs. Similarly, any proposal to create eurobonds would require new EU treaties, which would be very hard to

get ratified in Germany—let alone the rest of the

eurozone. Those who are calling for ever bolder German actions, regardless of the legal and political difficulties, seem to have little respect for the country's democracy.

Second, saying that the German chancellor should do "whatever it takes" to save the euro, assumes that we know what it would take. Eurobonds are the latest panacea, recommended by many of the same people who assured us years ago that the euro would be a secure currency. Ms Merkel has no real idea whether they would work. But we do know that expanding the bail-out fund (as will almost certainly happen), or creating eurobonds, would mean piling more and more potential costs and liabilities on to the German taxpayer.

Third, it is not simply vulgar, tabloid prejudice to believe that if more money is funnelled to southern Europe, much of it will be wasted. In countries such as Greece and Italy, basic functions of the state—such as tax collection and the awarding of public contracts—are frequently corrupt. In the past, EU money has actually fostered corruption.

Fourth, the idea that Germany can automatically save the euro—if it summons the will and generosity—is based on an unjustified assumption of unlimited German economic strength. Take a look at the debt ratios across the EU, and you might notice that German debt at more than 83% of gross domestic product is higher than that of France, Spain or Britain. At present, the markets have confidence in Germany. But that happy state of affairs cannot be counted on forever. Growth is slowing and the country's ageing population points to rising costs in the future. If Germany underwrites too much EU debt, the markets could easily change their view of the country.

Fifth, it is often said Ms Merkel fails to realise that saving the euro is profoundly in Germany's own interests. On one level, this is a truism. Of course a stable and prosperous Europe is in German interests. The question is whether the remedies being pressed on Ms Merkel would actually achieve this end, or simply create a worse crisis further down the road.

A slightly more sophisticated version of this argument holds that the German economy would suffer hugely if the euro broke up, because many German banks would go bankrupt or its currency would soar in value, making German exports uncompetitive. The banking problem is a real one. But it is possible that a one-off recapitalisation of German banks would be rather less costly than an open-ended commitment to the whole of southern Europe. The argument that German industry could not cope with a stronger currency also ignores the history of the postwar German economic miracle—which took place despite a steadily rising D-Mark.

The German chancellor clearly wants to support the single currency and the EU. Her good intentions cannot be doubted. But she would be foolish to endanger Germany's own economic and political stability, by endorsing whatever desperate plan is proposed to "save" the euro.







The Palestinians on Tuesday said they would not give in to American pressure to drop their bid for statehood at the United Nations, taking a tough position ahead of a meeting with a senior U.S. delegation.

Two senior White House envoys, David Hale and Dennis Ross, arrived in the region on Tuesday for talks with Israel and Palestinian officials. The U.S. has been trying to persuade the Palestinians to drop their plan to ask the U.N. this month to approve their independence and instead resume peace talks with Israel.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said there was little the Americans could do to change the Palestinians' plans.

"We are going to the United Nations, regardless of objections or pressure," he said. Mr. Abbas is expected to meet with Mr. Hale on Wednesday.

The comments signalled more frustration for President Barack Obama, who has made little progress on peace talks despite pledges to make West Asian diplomacy a priority.

U.N. vote

The Palestinians say they are turning to the U.N. after years of sporadic, and inconclusive, peace talks with Israel. Any U.N. vote will be largely symbolic. Facing U.S. opposition, the Palestinians are unlikely to win approval in the Security Council, whose decisions are legally binding. Instead, they will likely seek status as a non-member state in the General Assembly, a move that will not change the situation on the ground. — AP






For almost an entire week Parliament has been disrupted several times a day with the Bharatiya Janata Party determined to raise the issue of the appointment of a Lokayukta in Gujarat and the government turning a deaf ear to its slogan chanting.

What is it that the BJP wants? And what can the Centre do under the law, even if one presumes it wants to intervene? Can the warrant issued by the Governor on the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta as the Gujarat Lokayukta be withdrawn?

There is a strong view that the Lokayukta's appointment — the process is complete, barring the taking of the oath of office by Justice Mehta — cannot be annulled unless the courts find the process of appointment to be vitiated, as happened in the case of the former Central Vigilance Commissioner, P.J. Thomas. The Supreme Court held that the appointment of the CVC was non est in law; that is, the appointment did not exist as the process was vitiated.

The Gujarat State government has already petitioned the Gujarat High Court where the matter is to come up on Wednesday. The BJP's argument, as also that of the State government, is that Governor Kamla Beniwal's action was bad in law in that she had failed to consult or get the approval of the Chief Minister before issuing the warrant and notifying the appointment on August 26.

Party leaders, including Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, have argued that the Governor could have acted only on the aid and advice of the State government as mandated by Article 163 of the Constitution.

But the Opposition clearly does not want to await the outcome in the High Court. In a memorandum to the President on September 2, the BJP demanded the Governor "cancel the appointment" of the Lokayukta. In Parliament, vociferous BJP MPs have said the Centre should recall the Governor.

Strangely, while the BJP has accused the Congress of having "used" the Governor to foist a Lokayukta on Gujarat — although the name of Justice Mehta came from the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court and was then approved by the Governor — it now wants the Centre to give marching orders to the Governor or direct her to cancel the appointment. In short, treat the gubernatorial office as a political tool of the Centre.

In this high-decibel political dispute, the Congress has been saying only one thing: the matter is sub judice and the BJP should await a judicial decision.

But to take the BJP's demand, can the Governor, even if she so wished, arbitrarily cancel the appointment made by her just 12 days ago? If it is bad in law and violates the Constitution, then the High Court will necessarily quash the Governor's order, but can the Governor do anything? Can the Centre "direct" the Governor to take back her warrant for appointment of a Lokayukta?

The Lokayukta's is a quasi-judicial office and the Act states very clearly "the Lokayukta may by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor resign his office" or he may be removed in a manner specified by section 6 of the Act.

Section 6 states: " The Lokayukta should not be removed from his office except by an order made by the Governor on the ground of proven misbehaviour or incapacity" after an inquiry by the Chief Justice of the High Court or a judge nominated to hold the inquiry by the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Mukul Sinha, whose petition on behalf of Jan Sangharsh Manch, is also before the Gujarat High Court, was of the view that the appointment of the Lokayukta "cannot now be cancelled by the Governor". Of course, it can be "struck down by the court" if the appointment process is proven to be vitiated. "It is one-way traffic as in the case of judicial and many other quasi-judicial appointments. Removal or cancellation can only be through the procedure laid down in the related statute."

Justice Mehta was the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court from 1995 to 1996 and he was a judge of that court from 1976 to 1988. Mr. Sinha said it was unbecoming of the Gujarat State government to make all sorts of allegations against the judge.

While the BJP is making this demand, the Congress is saying the matter is sub judice.





There can be no quarrel with the position that States bordering India's neighbours must be consulted in framing bilateral policies with those countries, especially when it comes to sharing crucial natural resources. New Delhi's proposed agreement with Bangladesh on a formula to share the waters of the river Teesta needed to take West Bengal along. But Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's row over the draft agreement on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's important visit to Bangladesh has set a new low in the shaping of India's foreign policy. The State government evidently knew in advance that the agreement was in the works, and was familiar with its provisions. National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon met the Chief Minister for a discussion on August 31. For days New Delhi had been describing the Teesta pact as a crucial component of Prime Minister Singh's visit. So why did Ms Banerjee wait until the last minute to declare it was unacceptable to her? Although the specific objections are unclear, the State government is said to have found the agreement "detrimental to the interests" of West Bengal. There is also speculation that the decision was prompted by the Trinamool Congress leader's differences with the Centre over the State's financial allocation. That New Delhi was caught unawares by her dramatic withdrawal from Dr. Singh's entourage to Dhaka indicates that it had no prior indication of her dissent. The agreement has been jettisoned at least for now, the Mamata-authored fiasco casting a shadow over the visit, the first by an Indian Prime Minister to Bangladesh in 12 years.

Sheikh Hasina's government is already targeted by political opponents for its perceived 'pro-India' tilt. Prime Minister Hasina might have hoped to use the Teesta pact to ward off some of this criticism — levelled against her for cooperating with India on denying safe haven to ULFA and cracking down on anti-India Islamist groups. It was also hoped that a similar treaty would follow for the Feni river that flows through Tripura into Bangladesh. For its part, New Delhi expected that the give on the Teesta would yield connectivity through Bangladesh to the North-East States and beyond, underlined by the inclusion of four Chief Ministers from the region in the delegation to Dhaka. All this is up in the air now. Prime Minister Singh's visit was billed as one that would "craft a new paradigm" in a complicated bilateral relationship. With the likely signing of a border agreement and an extradition pact, the visit is not a complete write off. But there was a palpable feeling of let-down even before the Prime Minister's delegation took off from Delhi.




The law has finally caught up with G. Janardhan Reddy, the Bellary-based mining tycoon, whose wealth and political clout created what the Karnataka Lokayukta in a recent report famously referred to as "the Republic of Bellary." The arrest of Mr. Reddy, a former Tourism Minister and a director of the Obalapuram Mining Company (OMC), along with the company's Managing Director, by a Central Bureau of Investigation team is a welcome first step in the process of bringing to justice those involved in the unprecedented plunder of scarce natural resources. The arrests arise from a case registered by the K. Rosaiah government in Andhra Pradesh on December 7, 2009 for OMC's alleged illegal mining, corruption, and destruction of forest wealth. The cases were filed under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Indian Forest Act, and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act. It is significant that action against Mr. Reddy and his associates was initiated in Andhra Pradesh, where only a relatively small part of Mr. Reddy's business operations lie. According to the Lokayukta report and those of the Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, the bulk of the OMC's illegal operations are in Karnataka.

The rise of this son of a small-town police constable owed considerably to political patronage in both States. His proximity to former Andhra Pradesh Congress Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy helped in getting lucrative mining leases in Anantapur district, while in Karnataka his expanding business empire fed the fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP government, of which he was part, is yet to initiate legal action despite the damning evidence in the Lokayukta report of the OMC's illegal operations. The long list of violations includes under-invoicing of iron ore exports to the tune of approximately Rs.215 crore that, according to the report, "might have been parked in some bank of another country." If an inner-party rebellion led by his associate B. Sriramulu has been doused, his arrest will dent the party's credibility at a time its central leadership is attempting to ride the anti-corruption wave across the country. To its discredit, the State party leadership criticised the arrest, and the government did little to rein in Mr. Reddy's supporters who went on the rampage in Bellary city. N. Santosh Hegde, retired Supreme Court judge who served as Karnataka's Lokayukta until recently, has suggested that the BJP government must follow the example of Andhra Pradesh and seek a CBI investigation into illegal mining in Karnataka. It's the BJP's turn to feel the heat.





Charles Smith always enjoyed visiting U.S. troops aboard. Though a civilian, he had worked for the Army for decades, helping to run logistical operations from the Rock Island arsenal near Davenport, Iowa.

He helped keep troops supplied, and on trips to Iraq made a point of sitting down with soldiers in mess halls. "I would always ask them: what are we doing for you?" Smith told the Guardian .

Mr. Smith eventually got oversight of a multibillion-dollar contract the military had struck with private firm K.B.R., then part of the Halliburton empire, to supply U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But, by 2004, he noticed problems: K.B.R. could not account for a staggering $1 billion of spending.

So Mr. Smith took a stand. He made sure a letter was hand-delivered to K.B.R. officials, telling them that some future payments would be blocked. According to Mr. Smith, one K.B.R. official reacted by saying: "This is going to get turned around." A few days later, Mr. Smith was abruptly transferred. The payments he suspended were resumed. "The emphasis had shifted. It was not about the troops. It was all about taking care of K.B.R.," he said. Eventually, Mr. Smith left the Army. When he told his story to the New York Times , the paper ran an editorial. "In the annals of Iraq war profiteering, put Charles Smith down as one of the casualties," it wrote.

What Mr. Smith had blundered into is one of the most disturbing developments of the post-9/11 world: the growth of a national security industrial complex that melds together government and big business. It takes many forms. In the military, it has seen the explosive growth of the contracting industry with firms such as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, or DynCorp increasingly doing the jobs of professional soldiers. In the world of intelligence, private contractors are hired to do the jobs of America's spies. A shadowy world of domestic security has grown up, milking billions from the government and establishing a presence in every state. From border fences that don't work to dubious airport scanners, spending has been lavished on security projects as lobbyists cash in on behalf of corporate clients.

Meanwhile, generals, government officials and intelligence chiefs flock to private industry and embark on new careers selling services back to government.

Contractors form huge parts of the lines of supply for American troops. But they also fly planes, provide security and take on big infrastructure projects. Next year, as U.S. combat troops draw down from Iraq, an estimated 5,000 private contractors will provide security on behalf of the U.S. State Department. Worldwide, the ratio of contractors to U.S. soldiers in uniform is about one-to-one. During Vietnam it was one-to-eight.

Incidents of malpractice and fraud by contracting firms are legion. One of the most infamous was the Baghdad battle involving Blackwater that saw 17 Iraqi civilians killed in 2007. But that was just one event. An AP investigation in 2010 looked at incidents involving more than 200 contractors worldwide that ranged from drinking to sexual misconduct to a gunfight outside a nightclub in Haiti.

Oversight of contracting is weak or opaque — and is often contracted out, too. One recent investigation found $4.5 billion of contracts awarded to firms with a history of problems or which had violated laws.

A similar process has hit the intelligence world. An industry has sprung up of recruitment firms that service the intelligence community. A search on website found highly paid jobs in Iraq and Japan as well as all over the U.S. Many required "top secret" security clearance. Of those private firms with a top secret clearance, more than a quarter came into being since 9/11. It is estimated that contractors from more than 100 firms make up a third of the CIA. And as the rest of America suffers recession, this is an economic boom. The U.S. intelligence budget last year was $80 billion, more than twice 2001 levels.

When CIA agent Raymond Davis was arrested in Pakistan after shooting dead two men in Lahore it caused a huge diplomatic spat. But what went mostly unrealised was that Mr. Davis, engaged to work in one of the world's most dangerous places, was a contractor.

Those cashing in on the international "war on terror" pale beside the security boom that is taking place in the U.S. itself. Across America, new organisations sprang up in the wake of 9/11 as the flow of money was turned on. Nine days after the tragedy, Congress committed $40 billion to fortify America's domestic anti-terror defences. In 2002, the figure was a further $36.5 billion. In 2003 it was $44 billion. More than 260 new government organisations have been created since 2001. The biggest of all is the Department of Homeland Security, whose workforce is 230,000-strong and awaiting new headquarters in Washington, which will be the biggest new federal building since the Pentagon. It is rising up on the grounds of a former asylum.

Since 2003, the DHS has distributed more than $30 billion to spend on security and counter-terrorism. The Washington Post last year produced an exhaustive survey called Top Secret America. It revealed there are now 1,271 government organisations and 1,931 private firms related to counter-terrorism, intelligence or homeland security in some 10,000 locations around the U.S. In the Washington DC area, they have built enough new office space to add up to three Pentagons. A startling 854,000 Americans now hold top secret security clearances, around 250,000 of them in the private sector. One of the main reasons for the ongoing gold rush in national security lies on "K Street" in Washington, the busy downtown thoroughfare is where many lobbying firms have their headquarters, clustered around the fountain of national security funding like bees around a hive. "Wherever there is government money in that amount, there is going to be a swarm of lobbyists. They are very active players," said Michael Beckel, a researcher at the Centre for Responsive Politics watchdog. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

The 10 years since 9/11 have seen the growth of a national security-industry complex that melds government and business.





All provisions in Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill are within the legislative competence of Parliament, including the provisions relating to Lokayuktas in the States. Some confusion is being spread in the media that Parliament cannot enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, particularly those relating to the Lokayuktas in the States, a law for which will have to be enacted by the State Legislatures themselves. Any constitutional jurist would confirm that there is no substance in this impression and that Parliament is fully competent to enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Parliament can enact any law if the "pith and substance" of that law is covered by any entry in the Union List or any entry in the Concurrent List. Entry 97 of the Union List is as follows: "Any other matter not enumerated in list 2 or list 3 including any tax not mentioned in either of those lists."

The effect of this is that unless the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill falls squarely under any of the entries in the State List, Parliament cannot be denied the legislative competence to enact the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Even a student of law would tell you that the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill does not fall under any entry in the State list.

One of the entries in the Union List is entry No.14: "entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries." Article 253 provides that "Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body." The effect of Article 253 is that even if the pith and substance of an Act is squarely covered by an entry in the State List, even then if the enactment is for implementing a U.N. Convention, Parliament would still be competent to enact the legislation.

As the statement of objects and reasons of the Jan Lokpal Bill would show, the object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to implement the United Nations Convention on Corruption, which has already been ratified by India (


The definition of "public official" in the U.N. Convention includes any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative, or judicial office, whether appointed or elected. This is quite similar to the definition of "public servant" in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, enacted by India's Parliament, which covers all Ministers including the Prime Minister, all judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court as well as all elected Members of Parliament and State Legislatures. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Prevention of Corruption Act was enacted by Parliament and not by any State Legislature, even though it is applicable not only to Central government servants but also to servants of the State governments. The main object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to set up an independent authority as required by the U.N. Convention to investigate offences of corruption by all public servants covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Entry 1 of the Concurrent List refers to criminal law, including all matters included in the Indian Penal Code. As bribery and corruption were covered by the Indian Penal Code, Parliament had full competence to enact the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Entry 2 of the Concurrent List relates to criminal procedure, including all matters included in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since the investigation of bribery and corruption was included in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Parliament is fully competent to enact a law to provide for alternative methods of investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Article 8 (2) of the U.N. Convention requires each state that is a party to the Convention to apply, within its own institutional and legal systems, codes or standards of conduct for the correct, honourable, and proper performance of public functions.

Article 8 (5) further requires the states to establish systems requiring public officials to make declarations regarding their outside activities, employment, investments, assets, and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials.

Article 8 (6) further requires the states to take disciplinary or other measures against public officials who violate the codes or standards established in accordance with the convention.

Article 12 (2) requires the taking of measures for preventing the misuse of procedures regulating private entities, including procedures regarding subsidies and licences granted by public authorities for commercial activities. It further requires the imposition of restrictions for a reasonable period of time on the professional activities of former public officials after their resignation or retirement, where such activities of employment relate directly to the functions held or supervised by those public officials during their tenure.

Article 34 of the Convention requires the states to consider corruption a relevant factor in legal proceedings to annul or rescind a contract, withdraw a concession or other similar instrument, or take any other remedial action. It would be crystal clear to any constitutional jurist that even if the Jan Lokpal Bill had not been for the purpose of implementing the U.N. Convention, all its provisions would be squarely covered by the Union List and the Concurrent List.

While one can understand the anxiety of political parties to somehow attempt to dilute the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill by reducing its coverage or to weaken it, they owe it to the people of India not to mislead the gullible people that Parliament is not competent to enact the provisions contained in Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill. Even the claim that at the least the States are required to be consulted has no basis at all. The Constitution-makers had foreseen that in a federal or quasi-federal country, the States' views had to be taken into consideration by Parliament when enacting a law. They had, therefore, provided for the Council of States and a Bill cannot be enacted by Parliament unless it is passed both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The constitution of the Rajya Sabha provides that each State elects its representatives to this House. Thus all States are represented in the Rajya Sabha. The MPs in the Rajya Sabha are there to represent the views of the states on any Bill that comes before it and there is thus an inbuilt mechanism in the Constitution itself to provide for taking into consideration the views of the States on a Bill that is being enacted by Parliament.

( Shanti Bhushan, a constitutional expert, is a former Union Law Minister and member of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill .)

Is the Bill within the legislative competence of Parliament? Yes.






Monday's arrest by the CBI of Bellary mining magnate G. Janardhan Reddy has the potential to disturb political contours in Andhra Pradesh as well as Karnataka, to the detriment of the BJP as well as the YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan Reddy. The same high court has also asked the CBI to investigate the business dealings of the young chief of the YSR Congress, a rebel Congressman.

A clutch of top BJP leaders at the national level, as well as the YSR Congress chief, are thought to have had convivial ties with the arrested mining baron who has been pulled in for illegal business activities. Whether these amount to a collusive relationship is far from established. Even so, it is not unexpected that the political cauldron will be stirred by the case. Pronouncing guilt is best left to the judiciary, of course. But surprise is occasioned when a man of humble beginnings comes to own 30 kg of gold, a fleet of ultra-expensive cars, helicopters, and inordinate amounts of cash, within 20 years of a somewhat hesitant business career. These were among the items recovered in the CBI's raid on Mr Reddy's premises at Bellary in Karnataka.
Mr Janardhan Reddy was a minister in the first BJP government in South India led by B.S. Yeddyurappa, along with brother Karunakar Reddy. The third of the "Bellary brothers" trio also embraced the BJP. This mining group has been indicted by former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde's report on mining. But it is not following any complaint by the BJP government in Karnataka that the CBI arrested Mr Janardhan Reddy. The development flowed from the directions of the Andhra Pradesh high court in a case of the Bellary brothers' mining business spilling over into that state from Karnataka.
Justice Hegde, who played a significant role in Anna Hazare's recent campaign against corruption, has called for the CBI to take up his report on mining to deal with the sordid saga of illegal iron ore extraction — which amounts to a violent plunder of the state's natural resources — in order to bring the guilty to book. The frequently hurled charge by Opposition parties that the CBI is used by the Congress to corner political opponents does not appear to hold in this case. Recently, BJP president Nitin Gadkari assured Mr Hazare that his party would work under the eminent social activist's direction to unearth corruption. It would be a great idea if the BJP chief began with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The commonsense view is that dizzy sums of money cannot have been made by the Bellary brothers without firm political backing. The system has to find out if this is indeed true.





How sadly short-lived has been the relief over the end of the "Anna storm" on a reasonably constructive note! No sooner had this denouement been reached, and Parliament and Anna Hazare's movement appeared to be on the same page, than the reverse process began, with little prospect of the downhill descent being stemmed.
On Saturday, August 27, when the settlement was clinched after day-long debates in both Houses, Parliament had risen to heights not seen in recent decades.

The high standard of the Rajya Sabha's earlier
discussion on the motion for impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen strengthened the expectation that Parliament might at last return to the ways it used to function during the Nehru era. That, alas, was not to be.
For, from Monday, August 29, proceedings of both Houses started being disrupted, as usual, most raucously. The BJP was irate because of the appointment of the Lokayukta in Gujarat by the state governor without consulting the council of ministers headed by the redoubtable Narendra Modi. The flip side of the story is that the issue of appointing a new Lokayukta had been before the state government for seven years, to no avail.
Whichever way this tussle is sorted out, one can be rest assured that various sections of MPs would find one reason or another, no matter how flimsy, to stand and shout, rush Lemmon-like to the well of the House and make Parliament dysfunctional. This time around there is an additional difficulty. The "sense of Parliament" accepted by Mr Hazare clearly implies that even those fed up with the political class have to show due respect to the dignity and authority of Parliament as an institution. Yet some hotheads in Team Anna made it a point to abuse parliamentarians in foul language. Parliament has retaliated by serving breach of privilege notices on three of them who are making defiant noises.
Moreover, the government has served a four-year-old notice to one of the trio, Arvind Kejriwal, for payment of over `9 lakhs income tax dues. No wonder, there are cries against the Congress-led government's "vindictiveness reminiscent of the prelude to the Emergency". At this rate the atmosphere is unlikely to be conducive to the speedy enactment of a demonstrably strong and effective Lokpal Bill. After all, Mr Hazare has personally condemned official action against Mr Kejriwal, former police officer Kiran Bedi and actor Om Puri.
Strangely, the Congress-led government chose this moment to deliver a blow to elementary democratic norms, of which the country hasn't taken sufficient notice. Last week it was suddenly announced that sports minister Ajay Maken had brought before the Cabinet his draft National Sports Bill. Instead of being allowed to introduce it in Parliament, he was badly mauled by several senior ministers — both Congressmen and powerful allies in the UPA — each of whom has a big stake in running some major sports organisation or the other.
Among those who rubbished the proposed bill and pronounced anathema on its author were Sharad Pawar, the overlord of the mighty and tremendously wealthy Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI); C.P. Joshi, the boss of cricket in Rajasthan; Farooq Abdullah who plays the same role in Kashmir; Vilasrao Deshmukh, president of the Cricket Association in Maharashtra; Praful Patel, who runs the All-India Football Federation; and so on.
What they had to say against the bill before strangulating it is not the point at all. Indeed, they may be entirely right in saying that the bill was misconceived and unacceptable because it ran counter to the golden Olympics principle that sports should be "free of government control". Understandably, they had no time for Mr Maken's legitimate argument that after the Commonwealth Games Committee had blackened the country's reputation and indulged in loot of astronomical proportions, there was need that those running sports bodies as personal fiefdoms must be made accountable to someone, if not the government, at least Parliament. But let that pass for the nonce.
The issue that cannot be evaded is that so many ministers, comprising a fair proportion of the Cabinet, have violated, glaringly, a fundamental principle of democracy requiring that those with a conflict of interest must not have a say in policy in any issue that is the cause of conflict.
Ironically, Dr Farooq Abdullah's son and Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, has publicly stated that his father and other Union ministers with interests in sports organisations should have "recused" themselves from the Cabinet meeting. Why didn't the Prime Minister insist on the wholesome rule about conflict of interest being obeyed? Was it because of Mr Pawar's gruff threat about the very future of the UPA?
If so, something far more shattering and shameful followed. As the country has witnessed over the last two days, West Bengal chief minister and a key ally in the UPA, Mamata Banerjee, has gravely jeopardised the Prime Minister's landmark visit to Bangladesh when all was set to bring about a paradigm change in the bilateral relationship. Her tantrum over the sharing of Teesta waters has driven a dismayed Dhaka to ask: "Will another great opportunity to usher in a new era be missed?" The precise answer to the question would be available only at the visit's end, but the prospect seems very gloomy.





At the end of the Cold War, India's policymakers had demonstrated much dexterity in shifting foreign policy priorities to adapt to a vastly changed global order. They had moved to improve relations with the United States, upgraded diplomatic ties with Israel, turned towards SouthEast Asia and abandoned the country's hoary commitment to Third World solidarity. All of these changes required a fleetness of foot that was genuinely remarkable.

Sadly, the adroitness that had so characterised India's policies for the first two decades of the post-Cold War era now appears to be drawing to a close. Relations with the United States, which appeared to be on a firm footing in the wake of the US-India civilian nuclear agreement, now seem to lack steam. The Indo-Israeli relationship that had thrived after the Madrid agreement has the quality of being on autopilot. The much-vaunted "Look East" policy that had been set in motion under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao is mostly bereft of focus and substance.
The only arena where India's policymakers continue to show some skill and imagination involves relations with India's immediate neighbours. The obvious exception is the bilateral relationship with Pakistan. Despite consistent efforts at reconciliation with Pakistan progress has been virtually negligible. In all fairness, the lack of progress cannot be attributed to any lack of goodwill on India's part, but must be attributed to the intransigence of the Pakistani military, which continues to exert a disproportionate and pernicious influence on the conduct of the Zardari regime's foreign policy.
In a related vein, despite significant and appropriate investments in Afghanistan, little thought has been given to how the country hopes and expects to protect them in the wake of the imminent drawdown of American troops and the International Security Assistance Force. India has ample spare capacity to train and equip the Afghan National Army. Yet it has shied away from even proposing such an endeavour for fear of incurring Pakistan's wrath and the possible objections of the United States. Given the sheer significance of Afghanistan to India's national interests the lack of gumption and resolve to protect them appears downright disturbing.
Matters appear worse as the ambit of policy issues move away from the confines of the subcontinent. Few errors have been as glaring as the striking passivity of Indian policy towards the "Arab Spring". It failed to offer comfort to the protesters in Egypt, and it stood on the sidelines as the uprising spread to Libya. Most significantly it chose to abstain from voting on the UN resolution that allowed the use of force against Col. Muammar Gaddafi's scrofulous regime in Libya. Even as it is all but certain that Col. Gaddafi's days are at an end South Block has held off from recognising the Libyan National Transitional Council. It continues to maintain a stony silence while another vicious dictator, Bashar Al Assad of Syria, continues to use indiscriminate force with impunity against segments of his hapless population.
The failure to demonstrate greater verve, decisiveness and forthrightness when confronted with difficult choices will have significant adverse consequences for the country's long-term interests and standing in the global order. The inability to respond positively and firmly to the dramatic changes that swept through the Arab world this year has diminished India's global status. For a state that aspires to shape the emergent global order, its diplomatic absence has raised disturbing questions about the viability of any such ambition. Furthermore, as the world's largest democracy, its failure to throw in its lot with the plight of those standing up to the brutality of squalid authoritarian regimes shrank its moral stature. Worse still, proffering dubious explanations for its unwillingness to step up and offer political and diplomatic support, let alone military assistance to those challenging harsh authoritarian regimes, made its policymakers look weak, indecisive and risk averse. For a state that aspires to acquire a permanent seat in the UNSC, India's vacillation provided handy ammunition to its critics that it was clearly not ready to assume such a role.
Apart from India's seemingly inexplicable set of responses to the dramatic developments in the Arab world, it is also troubling to see that inadequate efforts are being expended to tend to other carefully nurtured and now vital relationships. For example, while continuing to harp on the need to find the next "big idea" in Indo-US relations, existing needs remain unmet. India squandered a critical opportunity to cement the strategic partnership when it failed to shortlist the two contending American aerospace companies for the eventual purchase of the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). Even if, as several key analysts have argued, that the decision was made on purely technical grounds, it has had an adverse effect on the bilateral relationship.
Can this drift be arrested before it does greater damage to the country's national interests as well as its international status? The country's policymakers had demonstrated admirable aplomb when dealing with the momentous changes at the Cold War's end. Consequently, there is little reason to believe that they lack the necessary capability to again rise to the occasion to prevent further erosion of the country's interests.
Nor should domestic politics prove to be an impediment to the adoption of more assertive policies. The BJP may make discordant noises in Parliament but is most unlikely to mount a serious challenge to the pursuit of a more muscular foreign policy. Of course, the Communists and other Left-wing parties will raise predictable objections but will not be able to form a bulwark of serious resistance. The UPA still has two years left in office. If it hopes to leave a meaningful legacy it can ill-afford to remain complacent and docile in the face of mounting challenges.

Sumit Ganguly is director of research at the Centre on American
and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington





The recent happenings in Delhi around the issue of the Lokpal Bill have been celebrated by the media as people's victory, pinned down on Team Anna Hazare. But the majority of the "masses" of this country, living in institutional caste and class enclosures, are not yet part of the "civil society" that the victorious group was talking about.

The so-called anti-corruption movement, therefore, needs to be examined from a multi-dimensional perspective. For example, I see it as a modern Manuvaadi Leviathan's victory. Manu's modern disciples walked into the Ramlila Maidan to celebrate the rise of a modern Leviathan, decorated in Gandhi topi.
This 21st century "social" Leviathan walked into the maidan as the enemy of corruption, but he sought to set aside the Constitution (maybe because it was drafted under the chairmanship of a dalit) and throw overboard the supremacy of Parliament that came into existence to dismantle the fascist social structures that existed for centuries in the form of Varna Dharma. Vande Mataram was its slogan and the national flag
(not its own flag) became the symbol of its street power.
Social fascism becomes the reality of a civil society that constructs a moral basis of its own. A middle class like the Indian one, which has erected strong caste enclosures around itself, looks for morality to serve its own interests. Corruption in general becomes a buzzword of condemnation within its day-to-day discourse, despite the fact that it lives with corrupt practices on a daily basis. For example, a middle-class government or NGO functionary does not hesitate to take Rs. 1 lakh or more as salary, plus thousands of rupees of honorarium and sitting fees, but that same person would treat a chaprasi, who works for a Rs. 5,000 monthly salary, as corrupt if he/she asks for Rs. 200 for extra work.
The civil society that led the anti-corruption crusade also does not see corporate houses paying hundreds of crores of bribe money as corruption, but, a minister, an MP or a government official, who takes such bribe money is seen as corrupt because the corporate houses are still in the hands of "their people", while the political and bureaucratic positions are slipping into the hands of people who are "corrupt by birth".
Take, for example, A. Raja and Kanimozhi. They are treated as corrupt but the corporate houses that gave kickbacks and took huge contracts at throwaway prices are not treated as corrupt. The same corporate houses and their media boxes have been mobilising civil society of Gandhi topi into maidans to fight corruption.
In an unethical capitalist market like ours, whoever takes more space in English TV channels can portray themselves as clean. That very media can become a source of mobilisation of mobs to define corruption as they want. Any other mode of defining corruption is treated as illiterate rhetoric.

If the chant of Vande Mataram has the power to empower civil society, it also has the power to destabilise democratic institutions that gave life to the poorest of the poor and the lower castes, particularly India's Muslims.
The high moral ground on which the Hindu middle class stands is a breeding ground for social fascism.
The poor and lower castes have fought huge battles to checkmate saffron social fascists in the last 20 years. Now the same forces have come to occupy centrestage wearing the Gandhi topi. I wish all those who came to Ramlila Maidan in Gandhi topi would also send their children to schools in Gandhi's dress code. But back home they prefer suits and boots for their children who go to a St. Mary or St. Peter's, and not to a Mahatma Gandhi or a St. Hazare school. Corruption is not just economic practice; it is also cultural practice. Social fascism does not want us to see that inter-linkage, though it knows that such linkage exists.
Social fascism always lives in duplicity. It uses Sanskrit as its temple language, Hindi for maidan speeches and English as its office language. Hypocrisy is its innate cultural being. It pretends to be simple in public life but its dining table has to have all items that the corporate market supplies with brand names.
Team Anna does not think that the Indian corporate houses are corrupt because they are supplying all the cameras that show them as crusaders out there in the new avatar of Gandhi. The social fascist ideology treats corruption as a one-way process.
Any process of flow of money to the poor and lower castes in the Indian context is treated as a process of corruption or economic waste. But deployment of market prices by monopoly traders that acquire huge margins of profits, without subjecting themselves to state regulations, is not treated as corruption.
Take, for example, all Bollywood heroes and heroines who joined the anti-corruption bandwagon — most are people who evaded taxes.
Team Anna believes that the agendas that have the potential to establish equality among people or at least change the basic life of the oppressed masses need not exist in the national discourse at all. The nation is being shown in the image of Bharat Mata who controlled and manipulated the consciousness of oppressed people for decades, and that image is being shown to the others, minute by minute, 24x7, making them shiver.
Fascism now lives in pucca houses and democracy has been sent to a shed.
Social fascism treats hierarchical ordering of the society as natural. Any economic re-distributive mechanism put in place by the state or a civil society organisation is treated as corrupt and unethical.
When corruption is seen through the glasses of this upper caste middle class, it appears to them that it has a legal solution and that legality is crafted in its own terms. It doesn't want to understand that the dharma of the oppressor has always worked against the interest of the oppressed.
Social fascism emerges when a nation is in a deep crisis of moral confidence. It formulates itself in the layers of civil society and moves on to occupy the portals of political power. This happened in many countries — Germany, Italy and so on. In all countries where social fascism emerged victorious, it emanated from the fold of middle class that asserts a high moral ground for itself. That high moral ground generally gets established around the theory that it is non-corrupt.

Kancha Ilaiah is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad







September 5 is observed as Teachers' Day in our country. This is in remembrance of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the eminent philosopher-teacher, a frontline freedom fighter, Professor of Indian Philosophy at Oxford and the former President of India. The name of this great son of the soil lends honour and credibility to the teaching community of our country. The world has recognized his contribution to higher education and to the ethical code of teaching community.
Our State does not lag behind in remembering the great educationist who has inspired many a teacher in and out of service in the State. The day was observed all over the State and in most of educational institutions from lowest to the highest level. The Chief Minister addressed a large gathering at SKICC, most of them teachers, and also presented certificates of honour to some of the distinguished teachers drawn from various institutions. Speaking on the occasion, the CM gave the teaching community the right place and status they deserve. He called them the "architects of future". He reminded them of their duties and also mentioned about the responsibilities of the government in improving the life of the teachers of his state.
There are no two opinions about the importance and relevance of teachers to the future prosperity and progress of the nation. Dedicated and duty conscious teachers are always remembered by their students even when these students reach the heights of position and status in their lives. Teachers are proud that they are remembered with affection and live memories. Celebration of Teachers' Day in all the three regions of the State including many far off and remote places and even in primary schools indicates that society is fully conscious of the importance of education. Now if the society recognizes this, it is logical that teachers will have to prove themselves to be worthy of the honour bestowed on them. While most of the teachers at all levels are dedicated persons but of lately some reports have been coming in that cast a shadow on the character and honesty of some of the irresponsible members of teaching community. For example, in recent months the Education Minister or senior officers of the department while on a surprise checking visit found many teachers absent from duty. There have also been complaints lodged by local persons against some teachers in their respective schools for dereliction of duty. Even in some cases, the Headmasters and Principals, too, have been alleged to be carelessly performing their duty. Even charges of graft have also been leveled against some officials in the Directorate of Education. All this leaves a bad taste. Nobody expects teachers to be accused of dereliction of duty. The reason is that a teacher has to be a model of an upright person as the impact of his life and work is enormous on the mind of the taught. He has to be fully conscious of his duty as the architect of the future of the country and the nation. We are aware that in many cases justice is not done to the teachers as a whole and in some individual cases, very rough treatment is meted out to them by the government. This is a sad part of the story. The authorities are within their jurisdiction to visit the performance of teachers and suggest both appreciations as well as reprimand whatever is demanded by circumstances. But individual cases cannot become generalization. In his address to the teachers, the Chief Minister hinted at Government's intention of removing the grievances of teachers in many ways and announced that the matter was under the consideration of the Cabinet sub-committee.
In final analysis, it needs to be said that great advancement in science and technology has made a deep impact on our educational system, on curricula, on approach and delivery. This calls for many far-reaching reforms in the entire educational system so as to make it compatible with the needs of today and tomorrow. That will also necessitate re-visiting the role and functionality of the teaching community, their life style and their economic well being. The Department of Education might need a comprehensive reassessment of all these things.







Defence Ministry is showing signs of concern over consistent infiltration bids by the terrorists from across the LoC. Top echelons of the Ministry, besides the top brass of the Army have been making repeated on-spot visits to forward areas along the LoC but more particularly the Tanghdar, Keran and Macchil sectors of district Kupwara. During last two months the terrorists from across the LoC have made no fewer than a dozen attempts to sneak into Indian side of the line. The alert jawans of the army foiled their attempts and inflicted casualties on them. After tight vigil along the LoC by Army, which led to failure of militant plans to infiltrate, the Pakistani troops along the LoC of late started giving cover to the militants by resorting to ceasefire violations. One JCO of the Army was killed and in retaliatory firing three Pakistani soldiers were also killed.
This is not a happy situation. The Defence Secretary has recently visited the forward posts in Tangdhar, Kupwara where the terrorists had tried to infiltrate in a large number. According to informed sources with the Army, no fewer than 3,000 well armed terrorist groups are waiting in different camps along the LoC in the above stated sector and ready to infiltrate. The meeting of the visiting Defence Secretary with the Commanders, the Governor and the CM for assessing the ground situation is of much significance. Even a little while ago, high ranking officials of the Defence Ministry had also made similar visits. This indicates that all is not well in the aforementioned sector. Recurrent violation of cease fire by Pakistani troops, artillery fire to provide cover to the infiltrators and interception of radio and satellite phones all point to a tense situation along the line. It could be the fallout of deepening crisis in Pakistan where Army wants to do something to retrieve its position humiliated in the aftermath of American commando attack on and liquidation of Osama bin Laden. Our Army would be well advised to keep its powder dry as the nexus between Pakistan Army and the Theo-fascists in that country is deepening fast.







The civil society members are not the first critics of a government to face official probes into their past. The most celebrated victim of the government's wrath in recent years was the website,, following its expose in 2001 of fraudulent deals involving the then defence minister, George Fernandes, and BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, who was caught on camera accepting a bribe. For its pains, the company was "ruined", as the Wikipedia claims, because the Atal Behari Vajpayee government let loose the police and tax authorities against it.
Compared to that onslaught, the charges against Arvind Kejriwal and others are mild, as of now. Given the present tattered reputation of the Manmohan Singh government, it is unlikely that it will be as venomous as the Vajpayee government. But, if there is a lesson from these episodes, it is that it is high time that a powerful ombudsman is installed. Otherwise, there is no way that the government's vindictiveness against its opponents can be curbed.
So, the Lokpal is not only necessary to catch the corrupt. It will also act as a check against official arbitrariness if only because it will be a body to which complaints can be filed with a reasonable expectation that they will be seriously considered. This will be a sea change from the present arrangement, where inquiry commissions are set up which prove to be virtually useless not only because of the inordinately long time they take to come to a conclusion, but also because their verdicts do not always carry conviction.
To return to the Tehelka case, in a classic instance of shooting the messenger, the terms of reference of the first commission, which was set up to probe the scandal, were to probe the credentials of the journalists who had conducted the sting operations ! After the judge heading it resigned, another judge was appointed, but he gave Fernandes a clean chit in his interim report. Considering that the Narendra Modi government, too, has been exonerated of any wrong-doing by the Nanavati-Mehta commission in its first report on the Gujarat riots, it is obvious that this form of inquiry is beginning to lose its credibility.
Hence, the need for a Lokpal. Since the kind of behaviour of which Laxman and Fernandes - in whose house a monetary transaction was secretly filmed - were accused fall in the category of corruption, the Lokpal can play a role in similar cases not only by preventing the harassment of whistle-blowers, but also by probing the alleged sin, which is its main business. But, that is not all. The fact that the CBI will have relative autonomy because of its close association with the Lokpal will also prevent its misuse by the government, which has not hesitated to use this premier investigating agency to target critics and even political adversaries.
What is more, autonomy can make other outfits like the police shed their dependence on the government. At present, the police officers and men seem to have no option but to meekly carry out the orders of their political bosses - whether it is let a community vent its anger on another, as they were apparently asked to do in Gujarat, or to let a gang of hooligans "invade" an area controlled by the latter's political opponents, as in Nandigram.
Once, however, it is seen that an independent Lokpal is able to exert a restraining influence on the government, more and more police officers will be able to follow their conscience instead of illegal verbal orders from above. The resultant cleansing effect on the system as a whole will be immense. For this to happen, a credible ombudsman is unavoidable. But, the way in which its proponents are pushing its case is damaging rather than helping their cause. Instead of challenging and bad-mouthing the government, the political parties (except the Congress) and the parliamentary system, what the Anna camp could have done was to enlist the cooperation of activists like Aruna Roy, Jayaprakash Narayan and others to push its case.
But, the self-righteousness, which has guided the team from the start, has made it see everything in black and white, with only those who are with Anna being on the side of the angels. By their mulishness, they have only played into the government's hands, which will embroil the activists in so many court cases that they will have little time for their main campaign. Moreover, their legal difficulties may not evoke too much sympathy because of their infuriating pompousness, which has unfortunately been encouraged by several television channels, both Hindi and English, which are more intent on augmenting the number of their viewers than on being objective.
The mistake which the civil activists made was to believe that since popular enthusiasm would carry them past the victory post, there was no need for tactical ploys. But what they did not realize was that the government was waiting for them to pause for breath before launching an offensive. (IPA)








India's public sector banks have made huge strides since the days of nationalization. They now handle unrecognizably large deposits compared with the pre-nationalisation days; they have far greater resilience in terms of capital base and own funds; they are offering varied products to their customers; and, the public sector banks handle no less than 80% of all banking transactions in the country.
Although there are 27 PSBs, in a way they are all same and the virtual monopoly of the public sector in India's banking scene is giving rise to demands for greater competition. It is in this context that the former Governor of Reserve Bank and currently chairman of the Prime minister's economic Advisory council, Dr C. Rangarajan, observed last week that Indian banking needs greater competition. That means we need to open up the banking industry window a little more to allow fresh players. This demand is now on the way to being met with the Reserve Bank issuing draft guidelines for giving licences for new banks last week.
The idea of giving new bank licences and admitting new banks has been in the air for at least a year now. Exactly a year back, in August 2010, Reserve Bank had released its "Discussion Paper on New Bank Licences" inviting comments on the policy issues relating to allowing fresh players into banking. Easy say that after over forty years it is time to admit new banks, this is fraught with grave concerns as well. After all, banking is not like any other industry. Financial sector plays a critical role in the economy and any disruption in any part of the financial architecture of an economy can have impact on the entire economy. The recent history of financial melt-down in the developed economies once again is a grim reminder.
The draft policy resolves one of the key questions that were raised in the RBI discussion paper, that is, whether private corporate sector should be allowed to float new banks. It allows the private corporate sector to start new banks under some very strict conditions. These include stipulations that promoter groups having assets or income from real estate or broking business in excess of 10% will not be eligible to float a bank. Besides, there are provisions which seek to maintain an arms' length relation between the promoter groups and the banks. For example, any exposure of the bank to a promoter group company in excess 10% shall not be permitted or exposure in exposure in excess of 20% to the entire group of companies will be ineligible. Similarly, half of the directors of the banks shall be independent ones.
Just before the new bank licensing policy was announced the Reserve Bank Governor had expressed his reservations about "self-dealing" by private corporate promoters if they are allowed to promote new banks. There are very many other concerns as well, such as, conflict of interests between bank shareholders and depositors. While shareholders will prefer risk taking for higher gains, bank depositors will surely ask for safer investments to protect their money in the banks. The cases of some of the big banks which faced bankruptcy in course of the financial melt-down are illustrative of the dichotomy of interests between shareholders and depositors.
While the discussions paper had examined in detail the pros and cons of each of these subjects, the most sensitive issues are whether private coporates should be allowed to float new banks and what should be their voting shares. When governor Subbarao referred to possibilities of "self-dealing" he was making a pointed reference to such collusion, between a promoter group and a bank, in the event of allowing private corporate entry into banking. Currently, the provision is that a bank cannot give loans or have transactions with an entity in which any of its directors is interested. Thus, if a company does not have a common director with a bank which it is promoting, there is no bar to the bank giving it funds. This is self-dealing. This can go against the interest of say banks depositors. Capturing the essence of the problem MrSubbarao observed: "By far the biggest apprehension is about self-dealing".
Private corporate promoters can further hide any self-dealing through an elaborate structure of cross holdings and corporate structures. The promoted banks could therefore turn into private pool of funds for corporate purposes. There would be no harm as long as things are going fine. However, in times of crisis unless funds are spread among a wide variety of private companies risks tend to get concentrated. Therefore too much funds into a single or handful of groups become vulnerable to the fortunes of these limited borrowers. Banks can fail with such corporate. This would spell disaster for the individual depositors.
At the same time, if the private corporates are debarred from floating banks, there might not be very many serious promoters who can float a really sound new bank. For one, banks cannot be floated with small core funds as equity. A new bank must start with a sufficiently large capital base -the draft policy states Rs500 crore-- to be a meaningful player. Such funds could come only from large corporate houses not from any other sources. It is well know that large houses including the Ambanis, Aditya Birla Group, Tatas are all in the running for banking licences. Of these, Tatas had at least one large bank at the time banks were taken over by the Government in late 'sixties. So also had the Birlas which had the third largest bank in their stable at the time of nationalization. Equally important, they have the talent pool to run such operations professionally and with competence.
If new private sector banks are to be allowed, it is inescapable that private corporates should be allowed to enter. Hence, what is needed is to introduce fool-proof rules and regulations for securing water-tight segmentation of banking activities from other activities of a group. The requirements of an arm's length segregation will call for changes in the current laws and more stringent rules have to be put in place than only the bar on common directors. Besides, RBI's supervisory powers will also have to be augmented to go into the accounts and funds flows of group companies.
In the end, the future structure of India's banking industry will evolve as new banks start functioning. No amount of a priori moves will ensure such an healthy separation between promoter groups and India's new private sector banks. The proof of the pudding will be in eating. Only hope is that so far the Reserve Bank of India has proved to be an eager, careful and cautious guardian of Indian banking. (IPA)








In this Anna season of transparency, our netagan continue to thrive on ambiguity. Kudos to Sports Minister Ajay Maken who's National Sports (Development) Bill entails sweeping away the cobwebs that ensnare Indian sports in its deadly vicious tentacles. Only to be nastily bitten by his 'sporty' compatriots, who not only cried foul, refused to play ball but also tried clean-bowling him for intruding on their terrain. Welcome to the sleazy world of political sports!

Significantly, the Bill to regulate sports bodies becomes imperative against the backdrop of the massive corruption in funding the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The Bill, now sent for re-drafting seeks transparency in the federations overseeing various games in the country, reserving 25 per cent seats for ex-sportspersons in sports bodies, strict anti-doping norms, elections under its supervision et al.

Our netagan's angst against Maken and his Bill arises over three issues: One, to regulate all sports federations and bring them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. Two, the 70 year age limit on the sports federations office-bearers. Three, time limit on term. Our 'un-sporty politicos refuse to buy Maken's correct assertions that his proposals are not about "more Government" or "less Government" but are simply about going about the business of sports transparently. "Are you saying that after RTI more transparency would come and everything else was hanky-panky before?" they counter.

Said sports 'big daddy' NCP supremo Union Agriculture Minister, ICC President and ex-BCCI Chief Sharad Pawar, "I will take this Bill with Sonia Gandhi. Said another, "Maken doesn't know anything that is the problem. Why is he interfering?" Dittoed one more, "We are being painted as villains as if we are gaining from these federations. Instead of showing himself as the savior Maken should concentrate on getting more money, modern technologies and development plans. Why is he concentrating on something which has nothing to do with sports development?" Really?

Now we know why. Think. India has over 40 sports associations, encompassing every game from archery to yachting. Each is headed by a politician or his 'chamcha' for years on end. Besides Pawar, BJP MP VK Malhotra, oversees the Archery Federation of India, for decades and is also the acting president of the Indian Olympic Association, Haryana INL MLA Ajay Chautala heads the Wrestling Association, NCP's Praful Patel and Heavy Industries Minister leads the All India Football Federation (Europe's governing body is headed by ex-French football player) and 83-years old Vidya Stokes Women's hockey.

Union Science Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh heads the Maharashtra Cricket Association, Cabinet colleagues CP Joshi and Farooq Abdullah lead Rajasthan and J&K Associations and RJD Chief Lalu Yadav controls Bihar's Cricket, former police officer K.P.S. Gill who knows nothing about hockey is the czar of the Indian Hockey Federation for 14 years. Other sports organizations like table tennis, boxing, judo et al are also led by politicians whose expertise in or knowledge of these games is at best tenuous.
Worse, in most sports, barring cricket, India's global rankings are abysmal and our medal prospects in international events zilch. Shockingly, our national sport hockey team failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. In football, India now ranks 158 in FIFA's global chart, below Palestine. Add to this, on paper, the administrators do their bit. In hockey, India had two foreign coaches, yet, all they had to say at the end of their tenures were how poorly hockey was run in the country!
Yet we call ourselves a nation of sport lovers. Spoil sports is more like it. Think. In a billion plus nation only 3 per cent of us play sports. Why do we have only the occasional Sachin Tendulkar, Abhinav Bindra, Vishwanathan Anand, Geet Sethi, Leander Paes and Saina Nehwal? Why can't we produce badminton players like the Indonesians and table tennis players like the Chinese? Or scout for swimming talent among three years old like Russian coaches do?
Sadly, games after games, year after year, it is the same story. India sends one of the largest contingents, but comes back with wins that are truly embarrassing. Since 1984, we have won only three Olympic medals while China managed 420 in the same period -- including 100 in the Beijing Olympics.
Significantly, most of these bodies are funded by the Government. The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is wealthy, but never refuses public funding in the form of tax breaks from the Central and State Governments, land and "directly or indirectly" benefits from the Government. Example: The Delhi and District Cricket Association gets the Ferozeshah Kotla ground for free but earn crores from matches. Also, other bodies too avail of entertainment tax, IT benefits and custom duty exemptions, which are just like a grant.
All agree that most associations are incompetent and venal and incestuously co-exist on bhaichara. Consider the massive women's athletics doping scandal after attaining Commonwealth glory took place right under the Athletic Federation bosses. The richest body, BCCI's running is completely opaque. Only last year the ouster of its IPL, aka Indian Paisa Limited, Chairman Lalit Modi was ousted under a cloud of graft charges thanks to the BCCI's non-accountability.
This is not all. More scandalous is the issue of 'conflict of interest' that arises from our polity heading various sports organizations. Appalling was the sight of some Ministers un-sportingly attended the Cabinet meeting to discuss the Sports Bill. Underscoring the 'high stakes' involved and the murkiness in Indian sports. Remember the serious Commonwealth Games fallouts thanks to multiple Ministers being in-charge of organizing them. As also India's TV cricket commentators are on the BCCI's payroll.
So, where does Sports in India go from here? Importantly, time to give politicians and babus the boot from sports bodies. Who break bend, warp, twist and ignore all rules, paving the way for mediocrity, degeneration and collapse. Politicians who have little to contribute, but a lot to gain and replace them with fine, upright, capable sports lovers or former sportsmen with a clear mandate to make India a super power in sports.
Undoubtedly, the Government needs to pull the country from this sports morass. The need of the hour demands change. And change can only come about via more scrutiny and transparency, albeit the re-drafted Bill. It should retain most of the existing clauses of the Bill including being run professionally and annual audit. All so vital to clean up Indian sports, make it a more professional affair to ensure accountability.
In sum, it is high time to set our sports house in order. Sport must become a national priority for India to do well. We will never reach 'golden' heights as long as the coaches have to report to a Joint Secretary in the Sports Ministry and players have to depend on official largesse.
Let's face it, rescuing sport from the grip of our netagan, deceit and money will be not only an uphill task but a lot of sweat and tears. It is not a question of Maken versus Pawar, Lalu or about "more Government" or "less Government". It is simply about doing the business of sports transparently. Time to stem the rot and do a Chak De India! Or else reconcile to being a nation spoil sports! - (INFA)



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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's penchant for throwing tantrums is well known. It is small wonder then that even when she puts her foot down on perfectly legitimate grounds, it is viewed with skepticism. Her latest — pulling out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official delegation to Bangladesh at the last minute in protest against the final draft of the Teesta river water agreement — may have put the agreement in jeopardy and embarrassed India greatly, but a fair share of the blame for this must lie with the Central government. By all accounts, Mamata Banerjee had agreed to give Bangladesh 25,000 cusecs of water from River Teesta. The decision to raise this in the draft agreement was evidently taken unilaterally by the Central government. It was indeed wrong on the Centre's part to take Mamata for granted and to let her know of the enhancement of Bangladesh's share on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit to Dhaka.


It is undeniable that the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh, the first by an Indian prime minister in 12 years, has been robbed of some of its sheen by Mamata's decision not to accompany him.The redeeming feature is that four other chief ministers—of Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya—have gone with Dr Singh and a host of agreements are being signed in Dhaka. It would be in the fitness of things if the Teesta agreement is not put on the back burner and an agreement is soon worked out which is a symbol of the spirit of accommodation between the two countries and in which the interests of West Bengal are duly addressed.


The Mamata protest follows the embarrassment Indian diplomats had to suffer when the "off-the-record" comments made by Dr Manmohan Singh on some "not-so-friendly forces" in Bangladesh found their way to the front pages of Bangladesh newspapers a few months ago. With China pursuing the 'string of pearls' doctrine under which India is surrounded by hostile neighbours, Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina has been steadfast in India's support. One can only hope that the positivity in the Indo-Bangla relationship would be enhanced with Dr Singh's visit despite some straws in the wind.









With a boom in the construction industry, the demand for sand and gravel has shot up, leading to a jump in illegal mining and quarrying in Punjab. The situation is worse in Haryana, where the Punjab and Haryan High Court frequently intervenes to save the fragile Shivalik and Aravalli hills from the mining mafia. Frequent bans in Haryana step up mining activity in Punjab to meet the shortfall. As the case of the notorious Reddys of Karnataka shows, illegal mining cannot flourish without political support. There are many mini Reddys engaged in the thriving business in Haryana and Punjab as also elsewhere in the country. Like transport and cable network, mining and construction businesses flourish in Punjab with politicians' blessings.


Though the two northern states are not as rich in minerals as Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the essential construction items like sand and gravel are much in demand. These are dug up from river/canal beds and hills by contractors and supplied to builders at prices of their choice. Since builders, like contractors, also enjoy political patronage, some have diversified into illegal mining and quarrying, denying revenue to the state exchequer. The state forest and industries departments, which are supposed to stop any such illegality, seem to be actually hand in glove with the mafia. Reports indicate some builders have set up check-posts in Ropar district to collect royalty from each passing truck carrying construction material.


According to one media estimate, this illegal activity in Punjab generates soft minerals worth Rs 3 crore every day compared to a daily business of Rs 50 lakh from the legal sites. The state government unveiled its mining policy recently, putting a cap on sand and gravel prices and introducing e-auction of sites. But the truth is the government delays auctions to save the existing operators from paying additional lease money, levies entry tax on building items from other states and gives the reckless miners the freedom to ransack natural resources, disregarding the damage to the environment.
















If politicians are a despised lot today, it is thanks to men like former Karnataka Tourism Minister Janardhana Reddy, who has been finally arrested by the CBI for his multi-crore mining racket, along with his brother-in-law B.V. Srinivasa Reddy. The action should have come much earlier but was stalled because of the political clout of the infamous Reddy brothers — Karunakara, Janardhana and Somashekar. As the Karnataka Lokayukta's report points out, they did everything that is not permitted in the rule books. Yet, the administration treated them with awe and respect. The entire administrative system for governing mining was drastically changed to suit them. The Reddy brothers used government officials to force other mining companies to share their produce with them. When companies or miners did not cooperate, they were refused permits. Not only that, the mining mafia led by them used its muscle power to trespass into the mines owned by others.


This mafia allegedly smuggled over Rs 1,800 crore worth of iron ore out of the country illegally while the Reddy brothers moved from mopeds to helicopters. How strong the mafia-politician links are can be gauged from the fact that the Reddy brothers at one time enjoyed the backing of the then BJP Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka and that of Congress Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Even after being removed from the ministry, Janardhana Reddy managed to keep the CBI at bay for so long. One hopes that now that action has finally been initiated, it will be taken to its logical conclusion without fear or favour.


There is need to probe the links of such men with even central leaders. The allegations of their long ties with Mrs Sushma Swaraj and Mr Venkaiah Naidu should be looked into objectively without any witch-hunt. If the extreme mistrust among the public about the politicians has to be reduced, it is necessary to ensure that no leader is able to escape the clutches of law on the strength of his influence. There is no dearth of people who have gone from rags to billions through the political route. All of them need to be made to pay for their sins.









The judiciary has always been recognised as one of the co-equal institutions of a state along with the executive and the legislature. But in the recent past, the public has magnified its stature manifold — some may feel disproportionately; no doubt, a great tribute. But then this means that the judges must be prepared to suffer a closer scrutiny of their actions.


It is a hoary tradition that even when an active politician accepts appointment as a High Court or Supreme Court judge he is automatically expected not to comment on political issues which are being publicly debated — no doubt, he is fully entitled to and many judges do express their views strongly both during the hearing in the court and then, more thoughtfully but soberly, in their judgments.


But this established restraint was regretfully ignored recently when Justice Ganguly, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, at a book release function, commented on the current debate among political parties and civil society and opined that the Prime Minister should be covered under the ambit of the Lok Pal legislation. This debate at present is in the political field, but it is possible that it may land in courts.


The learned judge will obviously recuse himself for the simple reason that he has expressed his views on this matter already in a public forum but it cannot be denied that this may cause some embarrassment to his colleagues who may be hearing the matter (though, no doubt, the decision will be given uninfluenced by what Justice Ganguly has said) — would it not have been better if such a situation had not been allowed to arise.


In this connection it is good to remember the cautionary words of Baron De Montesquieu "When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body there can be no liberty because apprehension may arise lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to enforce them in a tyrannical manner………...Were the power of judging joined with the legislature, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with all the violence of an oppressor." Montesquieu saw this predicament and himself added that there can be no liberty if the power of judging is not separate from the legislative and executive powers.


The Supreme Court has accepted that it is open to anyone to express fair, reasonable and legitimate criticism of any act or conduct of a judge in his judicial capacity or even to make a proper and fair comment on any decision given by it because "justice is not a cloistered virtue and she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men."


But it does not follow that judges have a similar right to question any government policy in a public forum. There are certain self-imposed limitations on the public activities of the judges which cannot be crossed without endangering the impartiality content of the judges.


The judges cannot purport to declare the finality of an issue outside the courts — it can only be within the precincts of the courts and only then will it be final and binding. The faith of the public in the fairness and incorruptibility of judges is a matter of great importance. This receives a blow if sitting judges comment on political matters outside the courtrooms and that too without hearing the opposite view. That is why the judges have on their own accepted the need to be governed by a code of ethics. Bacon in his inimitable style emphasised, "Patience and gravity of hearing is an essential part of justice; and an over-speaking judge is no well tuned cymbal."


Justice Frankfurter of the US Supreme Court said, "All power is of an encroaching nature. Judicial power is not immune to this human weakness. It must also be on guard against encroaching beyond its proper bounds and not the less so since the only restraint upon it is self-restraint…..."


Similarly, the US Supreme Court, in Baker vs. Carr, said that the court's authority ultimately rests on sustained public confidence in its moral sanction. Such feeling must be nourished by the court's complete detachment, in fact, in appearance, from political entanglements and by abstention from injecting itself into the clash of political forces in political settlements.


Our founding fathers and mothers, when framing the Constitution, were aware of the warning given by Baron Montesquieu and deliberately refused to enthrone the judiciary both inside the courts and outside where political questions are to be decided by the "civically militant electorate". It must also be accepted that there is nothing judicially more unseemly nor more self-defeating than for the courts to make interrorem pronouncements, to indulge in merely empty rhetoric.


No, I am not saying that judges are to behave like coy brides when speaking in public. My comment refers to avoidance on political questions. Of course, the judges must and are expected to speak in public on matters connected with the judiciary. I for one will fully endorse a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to speak, even harshly about the delay in filling vacancies in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, (284 vacancies out of 895 sanctioned) leading to the cumulative pendency of 42,17,903 cases in High Courts and also telling the public whether the delay is because of the apathy of the government or the judiciary itself. Sitting judges should also publicly debate the failed exercise of appointing an outside Chief Justice of a High Court, and the not-so-logical transfer of judges. Certainly, this will also partly involve self-criticism of the judiciary itself along with that of the political government. But this open criticism will be for the betterment of the judiciary which the judges alone can advance. The only caveat is that judges, even with good intentions and actuated by a public purpose, may not venture on the political field prohibited to sitting judges.


Judges must always be conscious of the warning given by a former Chief Justice of India, who reminded them that though "our function is divine; the problem begins when we start thinking that we have become divine."


If I sound a bit harsh, I can only invoke the caveat of Justice Holmes of the US Supreme Court, who said, "I trust that no one will understand me to be speaking with disrespect of the law, because I criticise it so freely… But one may criticise even what one reveres…. And I should show less than devotion, if I did not do what in me lies to improve it."


The writer is a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi.








Last week I received a mail from one of my US-based distant relatives who is going to taste motherhood at 43.


She is among the growing number of New Yorkers, who believe experiencing love and motherhood is important to a woman's evolution, while the noise factor of marriage is avoidable. As a successful architect she has had a good life and was now willing to take up the role of mothering a child.


In the absence of the commonly elusive Mr Right crossing her way after about 50 dates, the only option left to fulfil her motherhood dream was to adopt a child, or, to go shopping for a father through sperm banks. She chose the latter. The dream-father for her dream-child was found on the website of a sperm bank selected after a year-long search.


He is an 'open donor' of Afro-Asian origin from the paternal side and his mother's family comes from Latin America. He is tall, she is short. He is handsome, she is passable. He is a technocrat who had been to MIT. She has mailed the web-link to friends and family to familiarise them with the 'would be' father, while she is 'trying to' fall in love with his web-picture for sound emotional health of the baby.


By a strange coincidence, I happen to be reading the Mahabharata these days, and find the narratives of the women of the dwapar yuga rather fascinating. Women of this yuga choose men outside their marriage to father healthy, valorous children, under the sanction of dharma. They are ambitious, but, since the power rests with either the kings or the rishis, and both happen to be men, they manipulate both through marriage or by begetting their children- to play an active role in the power game.


All the great rishis seem to be breaking their vows of celibacy to fall in love with apsaras and beget illegitimate children, while apsaras abandon their children as insouciantly as the rishis drop them. Fantasy runs wild in these tales, making J K Rowling's imagination appear rather lazy and tardy.


Placed in the middle of these texts — of the high-tech yet-to-be born baby selected through a website and the children of Kunti and Madhavi, daughter of king Yayati, who makes sons for four different kings, I feel outdated and obsolete like a cave woman. The kind of upbringing of kaliyuga, which befell me as my karma, rested so much on the predictability of everything — from the inheritance of physical features to religion, caste, class, education, politics, marriage and god knows what all baggage of middle-class dos and don'ts.


This child with a potpourri of genes breaks the lineage of time to shatter so many barriers by one stroke of technology, which so many social reformers failed at. I am clueless about the kind of narratives this child will weave for the future.









Kotri is a mid-sized village in Desuri block (Pali district, Rajasthan), about 15 kilometres away from the nearest large bus stand and market place. We walked to the dusty outskirts of the village to meet an old man on our list of sample households. His blind wife squatted outside their hut, emaciated, worried and in a state of constant confusion. In the background their young son peered out from a picture on their wall, with a withered garland around his neck. Looking at this skeletal couple, living off their old age pensions and monthly supply of government-subsidised grain, you got the impression of a tenuous hold on life.


The landscape is expectedly dry and arid, dotted with neem and prickly babool trees. The main occupation is agriculture and animal husbandry, but among the people we met, the few who owned some agricultural land shrugged when asked about their reliance on it. It was 'saawan-khet', dependent on the recalcitrant monsoon, and therefore unreliable.


Previous reports on the PDS in Rajasthan provided a pretty dismal report card, like the 2009 report of the Justice Wadhwa committee, which pointed to large-scale diversion of PDS grain and serious bottlenecks in the delivery system. So we were pleasantly surprised to see how well the state welfare programmes were working in Pali.


Most families we met had worked for a hundred days at MGNREGA worksites, and almost all Below Poverty Line (BPL) cardholders were receiving their 'full quota' of 25 kilos of wheat, at Rs.2 per kg, every month from the PDS.


The changes in the PDS are primarily because of significant reforms introduced in May 2010. Under the "Chief Minister's Anna Suraksha Yojana", the price of grain was reduced to Rs.2 per kg, and Fair Price Shops were directed to stay open for a fixed period of seven days every month, from the 15th to the 21st. Importantly, the commissions for PDS dealers were increased from Rs.8 to Rs.20 per quintal, substantially reducing incentives to cheat. Earlier, the low commissions meant that there was enormous pressure to cheat just to recover costs, and this was also used as a convenient excuse to justify any amount of cheating.


Problems persist


There are still problems in the system: the quality of PDS grain left much to be desired, with many respondents complaining that their monthly wheat ration came with 2-3 kilos of stones and chaff. The availability of items other than wheat (e.g. rice and sugar) was uncertain and irregular. Although the Rajasthan state government was supposed to distribute sugar, it frequently failed to even lift the entire sugar quota released from the Centre. So, despite being entitled to half a kilo per member at subsidised rates, BPL families could not count on getting this every month. The same applied to the occasional apportionment of cooking oil and rice, when these commodities were supposed to be given.


This irregularity also indicated the power of information: because these 'additional' PDS entitlements were not clear to the recipients or even to the dealers, and allocations were subject to vagaries down the supply chain. Some dealers even said that they were asked to pay bribes to godown officials to get any 'extra' quota of rice or sugar.


Other lacunae include missed opportunities to modernise the system for increased efficiency and transparency. Although we saw fairly well maintained sales and stock registers at the Fair Price Shops, no one was checking the sales register and there was minimal checking of stock registers. No electronic weighing scales had been provided anywhere. It was also unclear what recourse people had for genuine grievances.


While the PDS was of great help to vulnerable households in meeting their food requirements, this support was restricted to those fortunate enough to be on the BPL list. There have been problems with the BPL list both at the policy and implementation levels. In 2002 a new 'scoring' approach was used to identify BPL families, with scores given on thirteen socio-economic criteria. This replaced a previous identification system based on income and expenditure, used in the 1997 
BPL survey.


The BPL list is a dubious way of ensuring that the entitlements of the most vulnerable are met, especially in areas where disparities in standard of living are relatively small. Getting onto the list often requires some clout, defeating the purpose of the exercise. This is particularly so since the centre caps the number of BPL households for each state, and the state has to adjust its 'poor' into this figure. This leads to situations where limited BPL cards are used as a means of reward and punishment. For instance, we heard of cases where BPL cards had been arbitrarily taken away from some families and given to political supporters of the village sarpanch.


Another significant reason for preferring food was the thought of having to cope with the all-too-likely possibility of a drought. Pali district, although slightly better off than the drier regions west of the Aravallis, expects a drought every three to five years. Reliance on the government increases drastically during a drought, and the government often releases larger amounts of food grain through the PDS at such times. One respondent, a 50 year old woman from the Meena tribe, pointed out that in such a situation, money is of little help as the cost of food spirals upwards and the availability of food grains dwindles.


All these reasons led to an overwhelming preference for the known, functional and simple option: food. For most women it was an obvious choice - one simply pointed at her alcoholic husband, while another laughed when we gave her the alternatives, and said "Kya mein paisa khaa sakti hoon?"


It is clear from the gains made over the last few years that the PDS system in Rajasthan is not, as is commonly

believed, a failing and ailing animal. It is showing clear signs of revival, and has to a large extent been made more efficient and leakage-proof. It has evolved to play an important role in people's lives. This has been achieved by the state government realising that fixing the PDS system can lead to significant political gains.


Cash transfers


A crucial question we posed to our respondents was how they would feel if the PDS were replaced with an equivalent system of direct cash transfers. Their experience with money transfers is, for example, the Indira Awas Yojana, a scheme wherein the government gives eligible rural families money to build a house. It has wizened them to sarkari calculations, and taught them to think in 'percentages' which have to be paid as bribe to different levels of the administration to get their money.


People aired their misgivings over fluctuating market prices (misgivings about how the state would index cash transfers), the high risk of delays in payments (commonly experienced in MGNREGA payments, and hard to cope with when it was the question of day-to-day sustenance), how much money they would spend going to the bank (which were often far away), how many days' wages would be wasted withdrawing the money and then buying their rations (markets too, were often not in the same village), and so on. The concern with transaction costs is particularly relevant in Rajasthan where the PDS system reinforces a tenuous market infrastructure.


The writer is a Law student in Delhi University


Will cash transfers reach the poor and plug leakages?

Complaining that the Delhi government's scheme replacing the Public Distribution System with cash transfers will not benefit the poor since they would be receiving a fixed sum when prices of essential items are rising, an NGO 'Rozi Roti Adhikar' kicked off a 20-day campaign on Tuesday to galvanise opinion against the government's decision.

One of the organisers, Deepti Sinha said, "We want to let the public know that the government's scheme of cash transfer in lieu of ration subsidy is a total fraud. We demand that instead of luring people with cash, the government should strengthen the PDS scheme and make it available to common people at subsidised rates."

Pushpa Lata, a slum dweller in south Delhi's Malviya Nagar area, said: "We don't want cash because today the government may give us Rs.1,000 but what will we do when the food prices rise?" She wondered whether the government will keep increasing the cash amount to meet the rising food prices.

Another slum dweller, Sunita said: "We all know that leakages and malpractices are there in the public healthcare system; so will the government decide to shut down government hospitals next and give us a fixed amount of money for our medical needs too?" — IANS







Both Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have a well-functioning Public Distribution System (PDS), in contrast with many other Indian states. However, there are interesting differences between these two states in the way the PDS works.


Himachal Pradesh has a "differentiated" PDS in the sense that everyone is entitled to subsidised food, but "Below Poverty Line" (BPL) households pay lower prices than "Above Poverty Line" (APL) households.


Additionally, the state also runs the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY - for the poorest of the poor) and Annapoorna Yojana (for elderly persons without a pension). While these distinctions might add to the brittleness of the system (as is evident in other states), Himachal has achieved relatively low errors while identifying BPL households.


On the other hand, Tamil Nadu has a simple universal system, without differentiation - a model worth replicating, given the efficiency with which it functions. Every family (including my own) has a ration card. Cards are of two different colours, green (eligible for rice and other commodities) or white (eligible only for sugar and other commodities; no rice), but people can choose between the two. In this way, the entire population is covered and there is no discrimination of any sort.


The universal approach has helped prevent corruption and leakages, since everyone has a stake in the integrity of the system. In fact, this applies in Himachal Pradesh as well.


While the disparity between BPL and APL prices in Himachal is significant, Tamil Nadu's uniform entitlements resonate the spirit of 'food for all'. In terms of quantity per household, PDS entitlements are somewhat lower in Tamil Nadu (up to 20 kgs per month, compared with 35 kgs in Himachal), but spread over the entire population.


In Tamil Nadu, the field survey suggests that the quality of rice varies a great deal. On the other hand, the people of Himachal are quite happy with the quality of PDS grains. I would go as far as to say that the quality of grains from the Fair Price Shops is almost on par with a commercial provisions store.


In Himachal Pradesh, food grains are lifted by the State Civil Supplies Corporation from FCI godowns and then transported to the Fair Price Shops. The Fair Price Shops are managed by one of the following: cooperative societies, Gram Panchayats, State Civil Supplies Corporation, Mahila Mandals and private dealers.


In Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, cooperative societies and the government itself take care of the entire delivery system. With ample support from women's self-help groups, villages in Tamil Nadu have Fair Price Shops that are not only close to corruption-free but also answerable to informed consumers.


In Himachal Pradesh, formal checks and balances seem to be weaker. As we found out, the Fair Price Shop manager has opportunities to manipulate the consumers. Yet, in spite of this lack of formal checks and balances, the PDS in Himachal Pradesh seemed to work really well and to be free from the large-scale embezzlement that has plagued the PDS in many other states.


In terms of access, Himachal Pradesh has definitely done a commendable job. Despite the difficult terrain, the Fair Price Shops are very well distributed and access is not an issue at all. In Tamil Nadu also, the opening of part-time Fair Price Shops in remote places (in addition to the full-time ones in main villages) has ensured high levels of accessibility. A striking feature about Tamil Nadu is the high level of awareness among the people as to what they are entitled to. They answer questions with supreme confidence and this awareness empowers them to fight should they be subjected to injustice. They are not shy to demand their rights, increasingly including (for better or worse) free goodies. Decades of populist policies by the government have sure had their effect.


Both Himachal and Tamil Nadu offer interesting case studies with their well-functioning PDS. Numerous lessons can be learnt from them, notably about the importance of universal entitlement and the possibility of putting in place effective checks and balances.


The writer is a student at the College of Engineering, Anna University, Chennai










Shom shom shom, shaamo shasha." It's official, you know. That last Salman Khan movie, which just completed the highest grossing first week in the history of our movies, was the last nail in the coffin of cinematic hope. The Bollywood blockbuster's shameless and unstoppable regression into '90s era trash is now an inevitability, a meteor hurtling helplessly towards a stratosphere so mediocre it feels oily.


What we're seeing on our screens now, with every post-pubescent actor showing up as an action star every few weeks, to massive hype and gargantuan box office proceeds, isn't a mere revival or kitschy tribute anymore, but a full-blown return to a ghastly celluloid era: one where emotions ran high and films were assembled around star dates and T-Series mattered more to any film than its screenwriters.


And while that is worth furied indignation and (as the man with the jheri-curls quoted) righteous anger, I muse this week on a different, almost as vital, topic: where are all the awesome baddies?


Often the most memorable part of the cheesefests that defined the '80s and '90s mainstream – before the innovators (Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Ram Gopal Varma on one side, Sooraj Barjatya and Aditya Chopra on the other) came around brandishing their newfangled pistol-giri – the Bad Man was usually the one with fangs distinctive enough to separate movies featuring cookie-cutter heroes avenging raped sisters and dead fathers. Quirky, sinister, clownish, dictatorial, brooding, malevolent, whimsical: the villains were the freaks who kept us interested despite the monotone melodrama and its unyielding predictability.

And I don't just mean the good films. Even an execrable monstrosity called Tehelka gave us the late great Amrish Puri as the demented dictator Dong (giggle) who made that Shom shom line of gibberish I kicked off today's column with into something genuinely quotable.


The difference between today's schlock and original schlock is simply this: earlier, the hero would win against all odds; now he just wins. It's a walkover, with the movie so servile to the star that footage spent earlier defining formulaic plot elements and adversaries to make the hero's journey harder is now spent focussing on his abs, giving him a couple of Rajnikanthian punchlines, and letting him wink at the camera a few times, generously tossing out in-jokes.
    In the recent Singham, supercop Ajay Devgn is thrown the Zanjeer challenge by some suicidal goons: to come fight them in civvies, not as a policewallah. Promptly stripping down to his undershirt, Devgn roars as he pummels and, when finally beating the loudmouthed goon to a pulp, he whips him with his belt. His thick, standard-issue, police uniform belt. So there.


 So much for rules or roadblocks, the heroes have won. If we were making superhero movies, the climax would involve Lex Luthor running scared while Superman flirted with the camera, tucking his Clark Kent spectacles behind the back of his neck, between collar and cape.


When all that matters is the man on the poster, everyone around him is intentionally made less relevant, which explains the markedly unimpressive rogues' gallery. Prakash Raj, the veteran from the South drafted in to play baddie 70 per cent of the time, is a fine actor with sufficient quirk, but never given room to be menacing or powerful. God forbid the unflappable hero actually break a sweat (except in slowmotion). We still mistakenly call Aamir Khan Ghajini, just like we're liable to call Shah Rukh Ra-One, despite both those films being named after their villains. Because the bad guy, sadly, doesn't matter.


Which is a damned shame. Because Dr Dang would have made Lovely Singh cry like a little girl.






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Is foreign policy entirely the domain of the Union government, with no role for state governments? That, at any rate, seemed to be the point that two Union ministers, Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram, reportedly made in a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) convened to discuss the proposed India-Bangladesh Teesta river agreement. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has refused to give her consent to an agreement that the Union government had proposed. There are two dimensions to the controversy. The first is about facts. Was Ms Banerjee briefed properly? Did she first agree to come on board and then shy away? Does she really object to the terms of the proposed accord or was she throwing a political tantrum with other things in mind? It would appear that though Ms Banerjee was briefed properly, she chose to withdraw her consent for political reasons. This, coming after the manner in which Sharad Pawar chose to reject a Bill brought to the Union Cabinet on regulation of sports bodies, suggests that all is not well between the Congress party and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance. These are domestic political issues that have nothing to do with foreign policy.

The Mamata tantrum on Teesta river has, however, another dimension that should engage political scientists, foreign policy and international relations experts, Indian strategists and diplomats: what is the role of state governments in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy? Were Messrs Mukherjee and Chidambaram right in insisting that foreign policy is the prerogative of the Centre with no independent role for the states? In theory yes, in practice no. The fact is that in a federal, continental country like India, with varied regional history and politics, and given the history of the subcontinent, and furthermore in the context of coalition politics with regional parties playing a role at the Centre, there is no way in which foreign policy can be regarded as a purely central government prerogative any more. Apart from the fact that border states have a right to have their views heard on bilateral relations with neighbours – Tamil Nadu on Sri Lanka; Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir on Pakistan; West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura on Bangladesh; and Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on Nepal – there are some states whose economy is dependent on distant lands — for example, Kerala's interests cannot be ignored while formulating India's policy in West Asia and the Persian/Arab Gulf. Though in theory the Centre can pretend that it has a monopoly in the formulation of foreign policy, in practice it must consult and keep state governments informed. After doing so, the Centre can, and should, act on its own, mindful of the consequences and willing to tackle them. But a more consultative process can always smooth the rough edges and strengthen national initiatives. Apart from states, the Centre should also keep other political elements in the loop on foreign policy. These include domestic business, representatives of various interest groups and so on. Some may be missing the Nehru-Indira era, when Delhi could do what it liked in foreign policy, but those days are gone. Even Rajiv Gandhi could not afford to ignore Tamil Nadu's politicians on his Sri Lanka policy.






The view expressed by a committee headed by Saumitra Chaudhuri, member of the Planning Commission and Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, that ethanol prices should be market-determined and not fixed to suit any particular sector (read the sugar industry) makes immense sense. Equally sensible is the advice that blending ethanol with petrol should not be mandatory and must be left to the discretion of oil marketing companies. The Chaudhuri committee has said the first priority in ethanol allocation should be given to the potable alcohol sector, followed by the chemical industry, and then blending with vehicular fuel. The panel wants the price of ethanol to be linked to petrol prices. The committee rightly believes that the interests of the well-established alcohol-based industries cannot be sacrificed for petrol doping or for helping the sugar sector. Given the wide annual fluctuations in the output of molasses-based ethanol, which synchronise with the availability of sugarcane and sugar production, a mandated fixed proportion for petrol blending, as is the case now, is neither practical nor advisable. It is only fair that all the end users of alcohol should have access to ethanol at market-determined prices.

The sugar industry's concerns are understandable. It has come to rely substantially on earnings from a key by-product: ethanol produced from molasses. The industry's claim for a better deal on ethanol also derives strength from the fact that the fate of millions of sugarcane farmers is linked to the economic health of sugar mills. While the industry's misgivings are not wholly unfounded, given the uncertain economics of sugar, the industry must find other means of shoring up its bottom line and not depend on ethanol alone. The best way is to free the sugar industry from needless controls, including the obligation of supplying part of its total sugar output to the government as levy at prices far below the production cost and paying arbitrarily fixed prices for sugarcane, the main raw material for sugar production. Though laying down a benchmark price for cane seems essential to safeguard the interests of the cane growers, this should just be the floor price that the sugar mills must pay to the farmers on cane delivery. The actual or final price should be determined by the mills' total realisation from sugar as well as its by-products under totally free market conditions. For molasses, it should be kept in mind that ethanol production is not the only gainful use — there are flourishing, though volatile, domestic as well export markets that the sugar industry can tap. Even ethanol has buyers other than oil companies. Total decontrol can, therefore, help the sugar industry shed its reliance on realisation from any particular product or by-product for its survival. The government should, thus, factor in the entire sugar sector – and not molasses alone – while formulating a policy on ethanol pricing and its utilisation.







When a government is confronted with an inconvenient court judgment, there are three common ways in which it tries to dodge the blow. The risk is indeed high, but the gamble must be played to save face.

The first is to ignore the order, as in several public interest cases. However, the Supreme Court has long arms and memory. It can press on and call chief secretaries of states who do not implement its directions. For instance, the court has called some of them in person this month to explain why primary schools in their states do not provide drinking water to children as directed.

Another stratagem is to invoke legal technicalities by filing a review petition, which is normally dismissed in minutes in chambers before the judges concerned take their quick lunch. After that there is a provision for filing a "curative petition" that also meets a similar fate. The diehard litigants and lawyers then clothe the same issue in a new writ petition and brave a third time, with the same probability rating. In between, they move applications for "clarifications" or "modifications" of the earlier orders, which are guises for review by other names. The government is currently trying a combination of all these in its bid to sidestep the knock of the recent black money probe order.

When the government's stakes are very high, it resorts to legislative powers. The latest instance was the political row over the Tamil Nadu textbooks allegedly glorifying the DMK supremo. It was given the euphemistic garb of a legal issue involving the "uniform system of education". The Madras High Court and the Supreme Court had approved the old law. However, the new government passed an amendment to undo the judgment (State of Tamil Nadu vs K Shyam Sunder). The amendment was struck down last month.

The court stated that "a judicial pronouncement of a competent court cannot be annulled by the legislature in exercise of its legislative powers for any reason whatsoever. The legislature, in order to revalidate the law, can re-frame the conditions existing prior to the judgment on the basis of which certain statutory provisions had been declared ultra vires and unconstitutional."

The court was following the dictum of a seven-judge Bench in the famous case, Madan Mohan Pathak vs Union of India, that bringing legislation in order to nullify the court's judgment would amount to trenching on judicial power. No legislation that is meant to set aside the result of the court's mandamus is permissible. Even if the amending statute may not mention such an objective. The rights embodied in a judgment could not be taken away by the legislature indirectly.

Though this declaration is 35 years old, governments consistently breach the barrier. There are several other instances in the recent past in which even the central government tried to circumvent court pronouncements. Some time ago, aquaculture farms were being set up along the eastern coast, violating coastal-zone regulations. Writ petitions were moved alleging violation of the rules and destruction of ecological balance. The Supreme Court ruled that "industrial" activity could not be carried on along the coast. The government then brought a law declaring that aquafarming units were not industries, but "agricultural enterprises". The move failed.

In another case, the Orissa government lost its case in arbitration and had to pay a huge sum to a contractor. Instead of paying it, the state legislature passed a law to get over it. The Supreme Court struck it down (G C Kanungo vs State of Orissa).

Sometimes those who opposed a government action in court would find themselves in power after an election. In MRF Ltd vs State of Goa, the electricity rebate given to some industries were challenged in a public interest litigation. The court ruled against it, and a law was passed to overcome the judgment. The government changed meanwhile but the court stood constant in its order.

Some time ago, the Supreme Court declared in the People's Union for Civil Liberties case that voters have a right to know the antecedents of candidates. The political class ran like a headless chicken and got an ordinance promulgated, and later passed a law with few nays to cancel out the judgment. However, the issue was back in the court and it stood its ground. A similar drama was enacted on the question of the infamous "single directive" for protecting senior babus from corruption charges (Vineet Narain vs Union of India).

When the Karnataka government perceived the Supreme Court judgment in the Cauvery water dispute as against its interest, it passed a law that gave overriding effect to its decision over that of any court or tribunal. The court struck it down observing that "such an act of the legislature amounted to exercising judicial power of the state."

The urge to rise from a judicial defeat, whichever way, is irresistible. When the government clambers up with a new-fangled law with the same warts, it usually returns from the court with a bloody nose.









When a government is confronted with an inconvenient court judgment, there are three common ways in which it tries to dodge the blow. The risk is indeed high, but the gamble must be played to save face.

The first is to ignore the order, as in several public interest cases. However, the Supreme Court has long arms and memory. It can press on and call chief secretaries of states who do not implement its directions. For instance, the court has called some of them in person this month to explain why primary schools in their states do not provide drinking water to children as directed.

Another stratagem is to invoke legal technicalities by filing a review petition, which is normally dismissed in minutes in chambers before the judges concerned take their quick lunch. After that there is a provision for filing a "curative petition" that also meets a similar fate. The diehard litigants and lawyers then clothe the same issue in a new writ petition and brave a third time, with the same probability rating. In between, they move applications for "clarifications" or "modifications" of the earlier orders, which are guises for review by other names. The government is currently trying a combination of all these in its bid to sidestep the knock of the recent black money probe order.

When the government's stakes are very high, it resorts to legislative powers. The latest instance was the political row over the Tamil Nadu textbooks allegedly glorifying the DMK supremo. It was given the euphemistic garb of a legal issue involving the "uniform system of education". The Madras High Court and the Supreme Court had approved the old law. However, the new government passed an amendment to undo the judgment (State of Tamil Nadu vs K Shyam Sunder). The amendment was struck down last month.

The court stated that "a judicial pronouncement of a competent court cannot be annulled by the legislature in exercise of its legislative powers for any reason whatsoever. The legislature, in order to revalidate the law, can re-frame the conditions existing prior to the judgment on the basis of which certain statutory provisions had been declared ultra vires and unconstitutional."

The court was following the dictum of a seven-judge Bench in the famous case, Madan Mohan Pathak vs Union of India, that bringing legislation in order to nullify the court's judgment would amount to trenching on judicial power. No legislation that is meant to set aside the result of the court's mandamus is permissible. Even if the amending statute may not mention such an objective. The rights embodied in a judgment could not be taken away by the legislature indirectly.

Though this declaration is 35 years old, governments consistently breach the barrier. There are several other instances in the recent past in which even the central government tried to circumvent court pronouncements. Some time ago, aquaculture farms were being set up along the eastern coast, violating coastal-zone regulations. Writ petitions were moved alleging violation of the rules and destruction of ecological balance. The Supreme Court ruled that "industrial" activity could not be carried on along the coast. The government then brought a law declaring that aquafarming units were not industries, but "agricultural enterprises". The move failed.

In another case, the Orissa government lost its case in arbitration and had to pay a huge sum to a contractor. Instead of paying it, the state legislature passed a law to get over it. The Supreme Court struck it down (G C Kanungo vs State of Orissa).

Sometimes those who opposed a government action in court would find themselves in power after an election. In MRF Ltd vs State of Goa, the electricity rebate given to some industries were challenged in a public interest litigation. The court ruled against it, and a law was passed to overcome the judgment. The government changed meanwhile but the court stood constant in its order.

Some time ago, the Supreme Court declared in the People's Union for Civil Liberties case that voters have a right to know the antecedents of candidates. The political class ran like a headless chicken and got an ordinance promulgated, and later passed a law with few nays to cancel out the judgment. However, the issue was back in the court and it stood its ground. A similar drama was enacted on the question of the infamous "single directive" for protecting senior babus from corruption charges (Vineet Narain vs Union of India).

When the Karnataka government perceived the Supreme Court judgment in the Cauvery water dispute as against its interest, it passed a law that gave overriding effect to its decision over that of any court or tribunal. The court struck it down observing that "such an act of the legislature amounted to exercising judicial power of the state."

The urge to rise from a judicial defeat, whichever way, is irresistible. When the government clambers up with a new-fangled law with the same warts, it usually returns from the court with a bloody nose.








By the end of this year, it will be five years since the housing bubble burst in the US. House prices began to decline in end-2006, setting off the subprime crisis in mid-2007, which then metamorphosed into the financial sector meltdown of 2008. Though that is hardly a cause for celebration, it is an important milestone. If indeed the American economy is going through a "lost decade" on the lines of Japan, then we are bang in the middle of it. The implication, of course, is that there is more pain to come in terms of growth and employment for the US and, by extension, the global economy. Besides, there are a number of lessons that need to be learnt from the Japanese experience.

Is a comparison with Japan legitimate? Yes and no. Both recessions were triggered by the bursting of debt-inflated asset bubbles that left private sector balance sheets in tatters. The process of repairing balance sheets lasted inordinately long in Japan and threatens to do the same in the US. In Japan, private and household sector behaviour flew in the face of conventional theory as the balance-sheet recession set in. Even as monetary authorities kept interest rates close to zero, households and companies paid back their debt defying the basic tenets of profit maximisation. Thus, interest rates lost their role of equating borrowings with savings. By 1995, interest rates in Japan were close to zero, but in the decade that followed the Japanese companies continuously repaid debt. By 2005 net debt repayment rose to six per cent of GDP in Japan. In the US, despite the zero policy interest rate regime that has been in place for almost three years now, savings rates have been rising.

However, conventional wisdom had it that though their problems were similar, America's woes would not last as long as Japan's. This was premised on the fact that policy responses from both fiscal and monetary authorities in the US were more proactive than Japan. Japan, for instance, did not use large-scale monetary policy until about seven years after asset bubbles started popping. The Bank of Japan took six years to bring policy rates down to zero; the US Federal Reserve took just two. The Fed was also miles ahead in the use of unconventional monetary policy. Within four years of the crisis, the Fed's balance sheet has trebled. It took the Bank of Japan 21 years to grow its balance sheet size by this multiple. With fiscal policy too, the US was far swifter than Japan. While the Americans used expansionary fiscal policy immediately after the crisis, the Japanese government took a good seven years to put large-scale fiscal policy in place

While the US cannot be accused of "self-induced paralysis" (Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's oft-quoted phrase describing Japan's debacle), it is possible that it will see another five years of weak growth .That is, the US will have its own lost decade. Why hasn't more nimble policy paid off in the US? For one thing, the drop in real sector output in the US was far sharper than in Japan. Second, Japan's economic troubles started at a time when the global economy was relatively benign. The US' own problems have been exacerbated by the fact that its heavyweight neighbours like Europe and Japan find themselves in dire straits, perhaps worse than the US itself.

The most compelling reason why the US will "lose" the next half decade itself lies in the very nature of the recession. Balance-sheet recession involves a radical change in the behaviour of the private sector. In such a situation, monetary policy plays, at best, a marginal role. Thus, the degree of aggression in monetary policy becomes somewhat irrelevant to the quickness of the recovery. The only thing that is likely to do the trick is for the government to pick up the surpluses created by private sector de-leveraging and to redeploy them in the economy through aggressive fiscal policy. Japan's experience suggests that fiscal consolidation in the middle of a long-term downturn in the economy could be dangerous. A few quarters of rising growth in the mid-nineties lulled Japanese authorities into believing that the worst was over for Japan's economy. This encouraged them to tone down their fiscal stimulus in 1997 which, in turn, led to five quarters of negative growth and helped prolong the recession.

The bottom line is that for mega-recessions like this, it is imperative to keep the fiscal engines revving unless there are clear signs that the economy is on the mend. But try explaining that to the Tea Party vigilantes and the rating agencies. Despite its early success in responding to the stimulus, the US is likely to fall prey to muddle-headed economics that underpins populist politics.

There is another risk that Japan's experience points to: the delayed onset of deflation. Japan entered a phase of sustained deflation a good nine years after the crisis broke on the back of the crash in asset prices. If that is extended to the American case, the current phase of rising inflation might actually just be a little blip that precedes a sustained fall in prices. For an economy that needs to push up its levels of borrowing to drive a recovery, nothing can be worse than a decline in prices. Deflation raises the real value of debt and puts borrowers at a disadvantage vis-à-vis creditors. In short, deflation discourages borrowing; inflation encourages it.

Therefore, the Fed has to keep a close watch on prices. If they show the slightest tendency of softening, the Fed needs to use its monetary arsenal to reverse this. The second round of quantitative easing (QE2) was explicitly focused on fighting deflation and proved to be extremely effective. At this stage the US certainly cannot afford to take QE3 off the list of available policy options.

(I would like to acknowledge Nomura Institute Chief Economist Richard Koo's paper titled "US Economy in Balance Sheet Recession: What the US can learn from Japan's experience in 1990-2005".)

The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank







In the last few weeks, three developments took place in different sectors, completely unrelated to each other. Underlining all of them, however, was a common factor. In each of the cases, the principal player was a public sector undertaking. And what distinguished the developments was the manner in which the public sector entities flexed their muscles.

This was unusual. A public sector undertaking in India is often seen as an extension of the government and, therefore, either pliant or unable to operate on commercial principles. In all the three cases, however, they were neither pliant nor willing to abandon the commercial logic of doing business. Hence, it is time to pause and understand the new trend that marked those developments.

Last week, the country's largest power producer, NTPC Ltd, sent out a notice to two power distribution companies of BSES, an Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group enterprise, threatening them with discontinuation of power supplies from September 6 if they did not clear their dues. This was unusual for a variety of reasons.

One, the two BSES companies distributed power to over 2.8 million consumers in the national capital city of Delhi and met almost two-thirds of the two companies' total peak power demand from NTPC supplies. It is true any disruption in power supplies by BSES would not have affected New Delhi's VIP zone, where central ministers and Parliament members live, since this area's power distribution comes under the charge of NDMC.

In spite of that, the threatened NTPC action would have provoked sharp reactions from close to 70 per cent of Delhi's electricity consumers and directed their ire largely against the two BSES companies, creating chaos and confusion in its wake. Good sense prevailed on the BSES management and NTPC as they agreed to a revised schedule for payment of the dues and the crisis got over a day before the deadline.

Now, step back for a moment to reflect what really happened. A state-controlled company used basic commercial principles to force two private sector companies to see reason, pay up part of the dues and agree to settle the balance by March 2012. This is the new face of India's public sector — not supine or allowing its dues to keep mounting, but taking proactive penal measures and then settling a dispute showing pragmatism and business sense while dealing with a customer.

A similar thing happened a few weeks ago when state-controlled oil refining and marketing companies refused to fuel the planes belonging to Air India and Kingfisher Airlines as the two companies had failed to clear their dues. This led to the grounding of several planes belonging to the two airlines for a few hours and they could take off only after the airlines entered into a pact with the oil companies on a payment schedule to clear the dues.

Similarly, the Railway Board, seemingly liberated from the stasis that had gripped it when Mamata Banerjee was the railway minister, has now sought a mid-year fare hike of eight to 12 per cent. This is almost unheard of. It is true that in the last few years, the Indian Railways has quietly rationalised fares and freight rates to improve its earnings, but it has never dared to moot a proposal to raise fares. Now the Railway Board has put before its new minister, Dinesh Trivedi, a proposal to raise fares so that its finances remain in shape.

While the rise of the public sector organisations as entities enforcing commercial principles in their business operations deserves unqualified endorsement by everybody, it is equally important to recognise how the transition came about. First, disinvestment of government equity in public sector undertakings, though in small doses, has forced them to think commercially and worry about their bottom lines. Second, the policy of allowing private sector companies to operate in areas hitherto reserved for the public sector has given rise to competition and forced every other entity dealing with them to operate on commercial principles. This, no doubt, has changed the market dynamics of today.

Imagine a situation where the government has not disinvested its equity in any public sector undertaking and there is no private sector player in the areas of power distribution and civil aviation. Could NTPC have actually sent out a notice for discontinuing power supply to the Delhi Vidyut Board, which was the state-owned body that distributed electricity in the capital before its privatisation? That kind of action would have been unfeasible. Similarly, the state-controlled oil marketing companies could stop supplying aviation turbine fuel to the planes belonging to Kingfisher Airlines and Air India, because the market environment has changed. The entry of private sector players in civil aviation and the oil marketing companies' status as entities listed on the stock exchanges have made them more sensitive to the need for shoring up their revenues.

It seems the new mood has become infectious since the Railway Board, which continues to operate as a government department, has become more conscious of the need to raise revenues through a fare increase. After all, the Indian Railways now faces the prospects of paying service tax on its ticket sales and incurring a higher fuel bill because of rising diesel prices. If indeed the mood has changed and public sector bodies are showing greater commercial sense, some credit should go to the idea of economic reforms. The pace of disinvestment may have been slow and the process of allowing private sector entry into areas earlier reserved for the public sector may have been half-hearted, but the dividends are beginning to flow in.






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.









 As in a great many other areas of public life in this land of frenetic growth and consequent ferment among a billion-odd people, policy lags commercial practice in releasing land for urbanisation. The new land law proposed by the government is an attempt to make policy to catch up with the dynamics of economic growth. What is most welcome about the law as proposed is its intent to make relief and rehabilitation an integral part of the legal framework for acquiring land. But that said, the Bill falls short of the ideal of elevating those who lose land or livelihood from the status of victims to active stakeholders in what comes up on their erstwhile land. Now, this is not entirely the Bill's fault. Such a goal can only be elucidated in principle, its realisation in practice would have to vary depending on the concrete circumstance of each instance. Yet, the proposed law does not stay entirely within the ambit of what is both feasible and sensible. The notion of a market price, for example, whose multiples are indicated as upfront compensation for the land-loser, is doubly flawed. For one, the market for land is such that the registered price is just a fraction of the actual price of the transaction. For another, the sale price could go up a hundred-fold, were landuse to be converted from agriculture to commercial before sale. All this makes a single transaction that provides for total alienation of the land from the farmer an unsuitable policy for releasing land for industry. It would make far more sense to have some sort of a lease arrangement that makes land available immediately for a project at low cost but retains ownership for the farmer in the land as it appreciates over time. The lease income would provide the farmer with a regular stream of income, which he could supplement with assorted activities catering to the development that comes up on the land.

Fairness, transparency and accrual of incomes and a share of the capital appreciation to the farmer over time should be the key objectives of policy. Instead of straitjacketing how these are to be achieved, the law should allow for innovative policy entrepreneurship. The Bill, thus, is a beginning, not the last word.







 The impending shortage of judges in the Supreme Court might grab headlines. But it is only the most visible aspect of a problem that ails our entire judicial system, right from the lowest to the highest level: the acute shortage of judges. So, come October, when seven of the judges of the apex court are due to retire, the Supreme Court will find itself functioning with less than 75% of its sanctioned strength. The position in high courts all over the country is no better. According to news reports, with the exception of Himachal Pradesh, there is not a single high court in the country that is functioning at full strength. No new judges have been appointed to the Allahabad High Court for more than two years. The reasons for this dismal state of affairs may vary from state to state, but there is no denying the higher judiciary must share a great deal of the blame. Under the present 'collegium' system — a consequence of a long and convoluted struggle between the executive and the judiciary — the power of appointment to top judicial posts vests in a collegium of senior judges, with the executive virtually playing second fiddle. Apart from being opaque, the system has simply failed to deliver. It is not uncommon for higher courts to remain without their full strength for months.

The problem is much worse at lower levels, where we have the maximum backlog of cases. Data collected by the Supreme Court shows that, as at the end of December 2010, 3,170 posts — or a little over 18% — of the total sanctioned strength of 17,151 were lying vacant. Unfortunately, few state governments seem serious about addressing the problem. Poor salaries and miserable infrastructure, especially in the lower courts, compound the problem since the best legal brains have no incentive to join. Is it any wonder then that courts are unable to make headway in delivering on what the Supreme Court has ruled is a fundamental right: the right to speedy trial? What is the solution? An all-India judicial service on the lines of the other all-India services — there is a provision for this in the Constitution — and reform of the collegium system.








No one can quibble with sports minister Ajay Maken's suggestion that 25% of the membership of executive bodies of national sports federations (NSFs) should consist of those who have played that particular game at the highest level and that they should be elected by former sportsmen in each discipline. No one can quibble with his view that NSFs should come under the RTI so that the fans can query the policies or practices of each body. No one can quibble with the ministerial view that the BCCI, though wealthy enough not to depend on government grants, is still selecting a team that represents the country and is, therefore, accountable to the fans who generate the revenue that has made the Indian cricket board the most affluent in the world. No one can dispute that, despite the winning of the 2011 World Cup, there have been lacunae in the selection of the team for the ongoing tour of England, with six key players carrying injuries that made them opt out of national duty while playing this summer's IPL tournament for the big bucks guaranteed by the corporate club connection. And no one can deny that there could be a conflict of interest in the BCCI president-elect himself owning a team that is the current IPL champion.

Where one can and must disagree with the minister is on his perception that the solution lies in government control. Mr Maken should himself realise that the government is not the solution but the problem, with his move to reform the administration of Indian sports being stalled by Union ministers who themselves head different NSFs. If Indian cricket is on a more sound footing compared to other sports, it is because of the absence of government control. Yes, the BCCI should be accountable, not to the government but to the millions of cricket fans.






The financial world has clearly turned dysfunctional. Trading in credit derivatives markets implies that no less than 70 large US companies are now considered a better credit bet than the US government.
The cost of insuring US government bonds against default for five years is trading around 50 basis points — it costs $50,000 a year to insure against default for $10 million of bonds — while the cost is less than 30 basis points for companies such as AT&T, New Cingular Wireless and Oracle. And this is not just in the US: credit-default swap spreads for Telefonica and Iberdrola in Spain, for example, are well below those of their government.

Also, in the London interbank offered rate (Libor) market — where traders bet on future rates — implied Swiss interest rates recently plunged into negative territory. So, if you want to lend Swiss francs or make deposits in the next year, you must pay for that privilege. This unprecedented swing was caused by a surge in the Swiss franc and is a sign of how distorted global financial system has become amid eurozone and US turmoil — and the ripple effect this is creating in global currency market. In a desperate move, Swiss National Bank, within 10 short days, raised liquidity from SFr30 billion to SFr120 billion — an injection into the financial system worth a stunning 20% of Swiss GDP — and conducted currency swaps. Hope was that this shock therapy will push interest rates into negative territory and foreigners will not want to hold Swiss francs. Switzerland has also cut interest rates to weaken the franc. Japan spent a record ¥4,510 billion ($58 billion) on one day's currency intervention in August to try and stem appreciation of the yen. Thus, quantitative easing 3 (QE3) has started in Switzerland and Japan via forex action and/or monetary easing. At Jackson Hole in 2010, Ben Bernanke had set the stage for QE2 — using Fed's balancesheet to buy financial assets, push up prices, make people feel richer and stimulate consumption, investment, jobs and economic growth.

Rather than follow QE1 in targeting normalisation of dysfunctional financial markets, QE2 had a more ambitious objective: to minimise risk of deflation and position US for renewed growth and price stability. QE2 pushed financial investors out of the risk spectrum and delivered higher asset prices. But it failed to convince companies and households to consume, invest and hire more. Fed-induced wedge between market levels and underlying fundamentals collapsed under weight of artificially-high valuations.

QE2's benefits — in form of 'good' inflation (higher prices for equities and corporate bonds) — were coupled with collateral damage ('bad' inflation via surging commodity prices). Global economic landscape is dramatically different than when Fed launched QE2. Since then, a catastrophic earthquake in Japan, debtceiling impasse in Washington and sovereign debt crises in eurozone have rocked global financial markets.
Compared to August 2010, inflation is higher, structural impediments to job creation deeper, global environment less cooperative, and independence and credibility of Fed under greater pressure. For the first time since World War-II, the US economy had precisely net zero jobs created for a month in August 2011.
The US is facing Japanification: slowdown is seen in economic growth as soon as fiscal support is off the ventilator. The predicament, often called 'liquidity trap', occurs when even nominal interest rate of zero fails to induce people — expecting deflation or falling real incomes — to spend.

Keynesians argue that the best way out of liquidity trap is fiscal spending, which kickstarts demand. But that is not Mr Bernanke's turf. With no minal interest rates 'trapped' at zero, this requires rise in inflationary expectations — but everyone knows Fed is committed to reining in inflation.


It is apprehended whether Fed has tools left beyond QE, but Bernanke has other options. Fed's menu consists of four possibilities, ranked most to least likely: (a) modified form of the 1960s' Operation Twist, (b) eliminating interest it pays on reserves, incentivising banks to start lending again, (c) an outright series of asset purchases, such as the $600-billion in Treasurys it bought during QE2, and (d) inflation targeting, where it keeps rates low till inflation stays within parameters FOMC deems manageable. The latter option is unlikely since headline inflation as expressed in consumer price index — which includes volatile food and energy costs — rose to 3.6% annualised over the past month.

US Fed is expected to respond to August's tame jobs report by announcing Operation Twist — purchase of longer-dated Treasurys and simultaneous sale of short-dated Treasurys — on September 21. Unlike QE, the move does not expand Fed's balance-sheet because it uses proceeds from selling short-dated securities to buy long ones. Fed would purchase Treasurys with maturities of 10 years or greater in an attempt to keep longer-term rates lower to give investors and companies longer-term certainty and hit directly at rates linked to consumer loans such as mortgages. QE2 was focused on centre of the yield curve. Operation Twist — nicknamed after singer Chubby Checker's dance craze of the day — dates back to 1961 when it was put into action by then-President John F Kennedy and Fed chief William Martin in an attempt to stop massive flow of money from the US to Europe. Most economists believe Operation Twist had relatively little impact on the economy. A recent study by San Francisco Fed concludes that the size of Operation Twist, relative to the then-size of Treasury market, was about two-thirds as big as QE2, but it cut Treasury yields by only 15 basis points. We could see QE3 return in a new form in January 2012. Patient investors should be able to find cheaper stock prices by the end of calendar 2011.










There is a much bigger issue that lies at the core of mandatory whistle-blowing provisions: the safeguard against self-incrimination enshrined in the Constitution. Increasingly, financial laws are flirting with unconstitutionality. Regulations requiring subjects to walk up to the state to self-incriminate are creeping up on our society. Make no mistake — there has to be zero tolerance towards fraud. If an auditor discovers fraud, it would be his professional duty to set out the fraud in his audit report. If an auditor is himself a victim of fraud, he would not be aware of the occurrence of fraud, much less be able to report it. If an audit firm discovers that one of its partners has not been party to a fraud, but could be regarded as being negligent, a whistle-blowing requirement even vis-à-vis the fraud subsequently discovered would place the firm and the other innocent partners in serious jeopardy of self-incrimination: the criminal justice system could eventually turn against the audit firm.

It is not at all my case that auditors do or should enjoy any privilege like lawyers. It is indeed open to regulators and law enforcement agencies to investigate whether an auditor was a fraudster. They have sufficient powers to bring a charge with credible evidence. However, to ask someone who is not a party to a fraud to potentially incriminate oneself runs counter to the construct of our Constitution.

Also, regulators like to arrogate to themselves powers to regulate persons outside their domain. The RBI asking auditors to directly report irregularities, or Sebi itching to direct listed companies to treat a particular auditor as a pariah, are but examples of regulation without statutory basis — the ICAI has the exclusive mandate of Parliament to regulate auditors. ICAI could want auditors to not audit a company whose promoter is convicted of fraud. Nothing stops the Irda, Trai, CCI or any other regulator from nurturing similar aspirations. Self-incrimination could have disastrous consequences with this bunch. Introducing mandatory self-incrimination couched as whistle-blowing in the backdrop of simplistic national hysteria is dangerous.

(Views are personal)


Accounting scams in the last decade have underlined the danger of erosion of credibility of the accounting profession to a large extent. The question generally asked is: what were the auditors doing? The failure of Lehman Brothers and Enron in the US and Satyam in India has raised questions on the role of auditors, both statutory and internal auditors, as whistle-blowers. It is needless to say that auditors in India shoulder greater responsibility than their counterparts abroad in certain areas of reporting. We are probably the only country where the Companies Act, 1956, requires a report (Caro 2003) to be issued by the auditors. The report has 21 clauses to be reported upon. Some of them, if properly understood by the regulators and other stakeholders, point towards the whistle-blowing role of auditors.

For instance, auditors are required to comment on the diversion of shortterm funds to long-term uses, erosion of net worth beyond a specified percentage, use of money raised from public issues for purposes other than those stipulated in the issue documents, frauds on and by the management, non-compliance with certain statutes and non-deposit of statutory dues, non-maintenance or improper maintenance of fixed assets records, weaknesses in internal systems and so on. The need is that regulators must read qualified opinions of the auditors and act on the same. The stakeholders including banks should read this report and may form their opinion accordingly with regard to impending disasters, if any. Auditors in India are required, in the appointment letter of public sector banks, to report directly to the Reserve Bank of India on any fraud or possible fraud in the banks. Hence, the role of a whistle-blower has already been assumed by auditors in India. No profession can survive on disclaimers as these bring down the value of their reports. No profession can hide behind the code for non-providing or non-sharing of the information with the outside world of the impending disasters in the corporates if the credibility of the profession is to be retained. We all need to rise to the occasion to create, at least to arrest erosion in the credibility of the profession.

(Views are personal)







The DoT panel looking at various issues for the forthcoming New Telecom Policy has recommended that the country be considered as a single region — instead of the current 22 circles — a move that will spare customers roaming fee while travelling.

Roaming fees for voice calls have dropped considerably in recent years thanks to intense competition. So, the proposal may not have a significant effect. However, what is the effect of one-nation-one-market policy on 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) services?

In the case of voice roaming, the Trai regulation implemented in 2007 ensured no rental or surcharges can be levied by operators. Trai has also regulated the maximum permissible per-minute charges for roaming calls, irrespective of terminating network and tariff plan. Moreover, multi-SIM mobiles have reduced the relevance of roaming. A user who often roams typically has two SIMs, one from an operator in the home circle and another from an operator in the roaming circle to reduce roaming charges.

With no operator holding a pan-India licence for 3G and only one operator for BWA — and assuming that the operators had a rationale and business models for picking up circles of their choice and paying the huge spectrum fee for the same in last year's auction — combining the circles for data roaming could be tricky.
A recent report says that the country has over 25 million data subscribers and about 49% of Internet users use only mobile phone for accessing the Internet. In the initial stages, it will be the high-Arpu, post-paid subscribers in metros and category-A circles who will be the innovator segment to adopt 3G/ BWA, and it is likely that the subscribers will use data roaming to a large extent.

Without a regulatory oversight, the larger operators are likely to have better bargaining power in the roaming negotiations and, hence, the smaller operators might be disadvantaged, both for originating and terminating roaming data calls. In BWA, it is worse. The smaller Internet service providers that got the BWA spectrum are at the receiving end of pan-India unified access service providers who can leverage on the scale of their operations. As of now, data roaming charges are not regulated across the world. EU has drawn up a three-year plan for reducing roaming tariff for data. As per the new regulation, subscribers will have to pay a maximum of 90 cents per MB of data by July 2012. The charges will go down substantially to 50 cents by July 2014. EU has also defined ceiling charges for wholesale rates, between two operators.

Some mobile operators have launched 3G services in circles without having won the spectrum for the same in the auction. Though not likely, the operator could have refarmed the existing 2G spectrum in the 900 and 1,800 MHz to offer 3G services. This is being practised by some CDMA operators to provide high-speed data services in the 800 MHz they received for 2G services. There is consensus that the industry needs to move towards spectrum allocation independent of technology, thereby bringing in efficiency of spectrum usage. For example, earlier this year, UK's regulator Ofcom allowed refarming of existing 2G spectrum for 3G service. Though the unified access service licence allows the operator to use any technology to provide any service including data and multimedia, legacy indicates that spectrum is associated with a type of service: 2G or 3G. Spectrum refarming explicitly disassociates spectrum from technology or service.

Another possibility is cooperative sharing of spectrum between the operators who have spectrum and those who do not. If so, even though there is no policy on spectrum-sharing between network operators, it indicates the birth of secondary spectrum market in India. This type of sharing can occur between two spectrum holders within the same circles too. The operator that does not have the radio access infrastructure in specific geographical areas within a circle can possibly use the spectrum and the associated infrastructure of an existing operator to provide coverage that again will lead to optimal utilisation of spectrum. These arrangements can also be construed as roaming, though not precisely.

What is notable in both the above cases is that the ministry of communications and IT is yet to take a policy decision on refarming and spectrum-sharing, though it is apparently in the works at DoT to be included in the New Telecom Policy. Though credit shall be given to the operators for taking these initiatives, without policy directives, the user is not adequately informed and even misinformed. It is time that the much-hyped telecom policy is announced soon, with the above incorporated.

(The authors are wireless telecom professionals based in Bangalore. Views are personal)








The Central Bureau of Investigation team's surprise swoop and arrest of former Karnataka Tourism Minister, Mr Janardhana Reddy, from his palatial home in Bellary on charges of illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh will appear the work of a pro-active government intent on cleaning up the mess in the country's mining sector. Illegal mining has been thriving in those States, with Mr Janardhana Reddy's firm also exporting iron ore to China with impunity. Even more shocking was the fact that he, as a State minister, and his three brothers continued with the illegal mining operations well after the Lokayukta, Mr Santosh Hegde, had submitted a voluminous report on the activity.

The CBI arrest may also raise suspicions in the BJP that the arrest is a political move as Mr Reddy was part of the former BJP-led State government of Mr Yeddyurappa. No one can deny that illegal mining had to be stopped for what it represented: an unlawful appropriation of public resources for private gain using political power for the purpose. This is as pernicious a form of corruption as any that Anna Hazare-led activists including Mr Santosh Hegde, author of the aforementioned report, have campaigned against, considering the involvement of politicians across parties and businessmen — the latter being members of ' civil society'. Illegal mining is rampant all over India, from dredging the Ganges bed in Uttarakhand to Rajasthan's marble mines; it has also resurfaced in the Bihar-West Bengal mining belt, all the way down to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Such blatant hijacking of a national resource requires more than the arrest of a local kingpin businessman-politician. It requires both law enforcement backed by all-party and popular (civil society) consensus to root out the evil and, at the same time, more enlightened policies that will disincentivise illegal mining.

The new Mining Policy is languishing even though the Cabinet has cleared it; Parliament has yet to approve it and then the mineral-rich States will have to do their bit to provide the grounds for precisely such discouragement. By reducing State control over licences, increasing private involvement in the working of mines through a transparent and open bidding process in which foreign investors can participate, the policy aims to bring mining literally to the surface. The arrest of Mr Janardhana Reddy is only the beginning of a systematic and consensually driven action plan to eradicate the biggest piracy of our mineral resources by a business-political nexus that has flourished unfettered for decades.






Few people remember that the Chief Minister who protested most about the terms of the WTO agreement in the late 1990s is now the Foreign Minister, Mr S.M. Krishna.

India not being able to sign the Teesta water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh during the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's ongoing Dhaka visit has again raised the issue of Centre-State dynamics.

 If one were to go strictly by the Constitution, in a federal structure as in India, the power to negotiate an international treaty such as the Teesta water-sharing agreement rests with the Centre. The Centre does not have to consult the States when it comes to signing international treaties.

In 1995 when India signed the final act embodying the results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, the Centre did not consult the States even though it negotiated on agriculture, which according to the Constitution is a State subject.

  Till such time the Indian Constitution is amended to give more powers to the States to play a more active role, whether in domestic or international issues, it is the Centre that is mandated by the Constitution to over-ride what the States have to say. Taking this argument further, there is nothing to stop Dr Singh from still signing the Teesta water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh.

States flexing their muscles

 However, in this t age of coalition governments and rising ascendency of regional parties and leaders , the States are increasingly flexing their muscles in what was till the 1990s the exclusive domain of the Centre.

 Ms Banerjee throwing a spanner in concluding the Teesta agreement is just the most recent in a series of State governments stalling or protesting against an international treaty being considered.  In 2001, the then Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal of the Akali Dal, also an ally of the Government, initially supported it on WTO only to change his tune later.

 There have also been instances of the Centre taking the States on board when it comes to deciding international policy. For instance, in 2000, the then Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, consulted the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and other DMK party leaders while drawing up the Government's policy about Tamils in Sri Lanka.  And in 1996 it was a six-day visit by l Chief Minister Mr Jyoti Basu, to Bangladesh which eventually paved the way for the signing of the Ganga water-sharing pact. 

Power shift

The situation now is also markedly different because India has embarked on the path of economic liberalisation. As Dr Kripa Sridharan, formerly of the Department of Political Science of the National University of Singapore, had pointed out in her paper, 'Federalism and Foreign Relations: the Nascent Role of India's States' in The Asian Studies Review economic liberalisation has given the States unforeseen opportunities to sprout external wings: "Regional leaders and parties have become important national players and the central leadership can no longer take for granted that they will toe the line," she wrote.  

Then there is also the question of winning elections at the State level. Mr Badal changed his tune in 2001 when he was faced with elections in the State and many now believe that Ms Banerjee too is against the Teesta water-sharing agreement, because she will soon have to face the electorate. At the moment, the Chief Minister is not a member of the Legislative Assembly. Most believe that India will have to live with coalition governments at the Centre and with strong regional leaders such as Ms Mamata Banerjee, and that it will have to continue on its path of economic liberalisation. Hence, the Centre will increasingly have to pay heed to the concerns of the States, be it on local or international issues.





With the entire nation riveted on Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption throughout August, the news of a landmark event — the coming into force of the India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement on August 1 — got sidelined in the media. In fact, as far as I am aware, there was no coverage of it in the e-media, either as straight reporting or in the form of discussions on its significance.

There have been many free trade agreements (FTAs) in the past; actually, as of 2010, there are 92 of them in operation, while 19 are under negotiation and 55 more have been proposed. But the thrust of FTAs is limited, being directed principally at the elimination of tariffs.

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPAs) which have come into vogue are in clear recognition, by the participating countries, of the need of an alternative, comprehensive, holistic approach to economic relations, to supplement the FTAs.


In essence, the CEPAs go beyond the FTAs as a catalyst for bringing about deeper and broader economic integration, encompassing diversification, liberalisation, and promotion of trade, and regulatory convergence, through predictable and transparent policies and their implementation, taking account of the core competencies, complementarities and mutuality of interests.

A simulated computer study shows that India's GDP can go up by as much as 3.45 per cent if it enters into CEPAs with the Asean countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), and their Dialogue Partners (Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea).

There are two reasons why the India-Japan CEPA acquires special importance. The first is that it is the first such agreement entered into by India with a developed country, its two previous CEPAs having been with Singapore and South Korea.

Thus, there is a great responsibility cast on both India and Japan to make a success of it, so that it becomes a path-setter for CEPAs with other developed countries.

The more such CEPAs there are between India and other developed countries, the greater the scope for international cooperation in finding agreed solutions to the looming problems.

On the other hand, if India stumbles in ensuring successful working of the CEPA with Japan, it might face difficulties in concluding similar agreements with the advanced industrial countries in general.


The second reason conferring a distinction on the India-Japan CEPA is the fact that it coincides with the assumption of the office of the new Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Yoshihiko Noda.

He is probably the youngest (at 54 years of age) among the recent Prime Ministers of that country, and hence can be expected to have an open and pragmatic mind, with a touch of idealism, and demand a vigorous and disciplined work ethic in both government and party affairs.

More relevant to the CEPA is that by conviction, he is for trade liberalisation and lowering of barriers, and the agreement with India fits in with his ideological stand. The implementation of the CEPA may also benefit from his softness for India arising from a fortuitous circumstance.

Reportedly unhappy with the conviction by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) of Japan's wartime leaders and their being hanged as war criminals, Mr Noda has long been impressed with the voting against the verdict by the Indian Judge (Radhabinod Pal) on the Tribunal, who wrote a 1,235-page judgment dismissing the legitimacy of the IMTFE as mere "victor's justice" and holding that "each and every one of the accused must be found not guilty of each and every one of the charges in the indictment and should be acquitted on all those charges".

India should lose no time in inviting him to pay an official visit so as to strengthen the bonds already forged by the CEPA.

For, there is plenty for both countries to catch up with, by cashing in on the vistas of opportunities and advantages opened up by the CEPA. In my next column, I shall propose a strategic plan for getting the best out of it.





The recent killing of three innocent farmers by police in Maval of Pune district, Maharashtra led to has pandemonium in Parliament and in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Questions were raised on why it happened and who was responsible for the killing. The Government was reportedly planning to divert more water from Pavna dam situated close to Pune city to Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, which is one of the richest municipal corporations in India.

Since diverting irrigation water to domestic and industrial purposes would affect their livelihood farmers who are historically relying on this water for crop cultivationopposed it.

Though this problem was widely covered by media, the 'real issue' has been buried in the furore over the killing of the farmers. The issue raised by the farmers is genuine, has a larger context and not specific to Pavna dam alone.

A large quantity of water originally allotted for irrigation has been increasingly diverted to non-irrigation purposes without even consulting farmers who are entitled to its use. Rapid urbanisation, along with changing lifestyle of the masses, puts enormous pressure on the government to augment water supply for urban use.


Since the availability of water is limited, any reallocation will have to come from irrigation water. This reduces the overall availability of irrigation water, resulting in reduction in area irrigated The tail-end farmers have been facing extra-marginal burden today in most of the command areas.

In advanced developed countries such as the US, the water transfer from agriculture to other sectors takes place with the consent of the farmers who are adequately compensated for sharing their water. The farmers are provided with 'use rights' which they can transfer to other sectors, if transfer benefits them adequately.

The transfer takes place purely on voluntary basis; the government cannot transfer irrigation water without the permission of the farmers. But, in the Indian context, the property rights over water is still with the government; farmers, despite property rights over land, could gain such right for water only if water reaches either the sub-canal or the field. The government can take away water from the main source whenever required. Moreover, farmers are also asked to pay for water even if they don't get water, since their land is demarcated under command area of the reservoir. What is the implication of diverting water to non-agricultural purposes? Obviously, it reduces the area irrigated; farmers may not be able to cultivate wetland crops. This would ultimately reduce the income generating capacity of the land and households.

Farmers living at the tail-end of command areas do not have any livelihood opportunities other than crop cultivation. The increased diversion of canal water for domestic and other purposes has also slowed down the expansion of canal irrigation in India, especially since mid-nineties.


Why is the state agency increasingly diverting irrigation water to non-irrigation purposes in the recent years? An important reason for the diversion of water is urban agglomeration.

In the absence of reliable water sources for non-irrigation purposes, states are trying to 'steal' the water from the dams and tanks which are originally constructed for the irrigation purposes.

One can give live example for this from Maharashtra State itself. Some two decades back, Pune city was drawing about 4 tmc ft of water from Khadakwasala dam, but the drawal level reportedly has increased close to five times now. This increased drawal is already creating lots of hardship to the tail-end farmers of the Khadakwasala dam.

Given the fast decline of unutilised irrigation water potential and increased competition for irrigation water from non-agricultural sectors, there is every possibility that farmers' agitations and their conflicts with the governments would aggravate in the future.

Farmers are more diligent nowadays and have strong political organisations, too. We have also been observing how strongly farmers fought against the land acquisition policy proposed by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana recently.

Therefore, the state needs to find out ways to solve this problem swiftly. First, water allotted for irrigation should not be diverted for non-irrigation purposes without the consent of the farmers. Many in policy circles believe that irrigation water can be diverted to municipal purposes when needed as if it is their right. This kind of arrogant thinking will only result in conflict.

The existing water policy, both at Central and State levels, does not provide any incentive for 'voluntary transfer' of water from low-value use to high-value use. Introducing incentive-based institutions in the water sector can bring about a 'win-win' situation for both farmers and urban consumers.

Pricing municipal water

Inefficient use of water in municipal areas is another reason for increased diversion of irrigation water. In Pune, which draws water more than the allocated limit from Khadakwasala dam, the purified water supplied by the municipal corporation has been used for cleaning cars, irrigating parks, home garden, etc. This happens because of low price fixed for municipal water.

Since the ability to pay is high among the city dwellers, water price needs to be increased substantially to improve efficiency and also to compensate the farmers who have lost their livelihood opportunities because of diversion of irrigation water.

Apart from government sources, private water vendors divert huge amount of water from traditional sources of irrigation towards urban areas, which usually goes unnoticed. Water diversion from agriculture to urban areas should have in-built mechanisms to compensate the farmers adequately. There is also a need to enact a proper water acquisition (diversion) policy to protect the farmers, on the lines of the land acquisition policy. The Government should also initiate proper 'water accounting' at all river basins to find out actual water use by different sectors.





Industry observers have been cautioning us that corporate giants from India are moving a good part of their balance sheet to operations abroad largely for 'administrative convenience'. The notorious red tape notwithstanding the liberalised policies, delays in obtaining trouble-free land for expansion, Centre-State authority overlaps, or even inter-Ministerial rivalries spilling over to applicants seeking clearances are now industry folklore.

A business weekly attributed this desire to establish abroad "to get the benefit of those countries' sovereign rating." It is public knowledge that Standard & Poor rates India very low, reflecting on its fiscal deficit, inflation and other vital indicators.

Getting bigger

Indian industry is going global. The corporates are getting bigger and diversifying within the country too. They need land, energy, water and minerals — all scarce and not completely renewable. Serious industry players want facilitation through governments, and no more. Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) are too opaque for anyone to measure their productivity vis-a-vis their asset base.

Today's probity-conscious, rights-asserting India seeks better governance with lessgovernment. The industry has been longing for it . Ideally, it is expected that government works as a regulator with a large degree of transparency and remains accountable for its decisions.

It shall continue as a player only in sectors such as health and education where great disparity in access continues. In these sectors, the long-term implication of any governmental neglect on the much-talked-about demographic dividend shall be disastrous.

Henceforth, apparently, the active players of the economy shall be the industry – several small, many medium and those that are revving to forge ahead shall be those that are the large. It is equally apparent that the industry shall not confine itself to manufacturing alone; there are clear signs of their moving into agriculture too.

CSR issues

Therefore, it is time that India Inc revisited the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) whose impact on society has been limited. Fashioned, as it was, in the Western consumer capitalistic world, it has remained like froth on the sea-waves.

It presumes ceterus paribus (all things being equal) and offers a few pennies for Good Samaritan activities. At times of expansion, can CSR ignore acquiring more than required tracts of land even after future demands are factored in?

Even in 1886, Leo Tolstoy, answered the question, "How much land does a man need?" The hero of his folktale can easily manifest in any of our corporate bodies!

CSR doesn't answer issues that arise when a large, say, thermal unit is super-imposed on a live, organic, complex fabric of a village which for centuries adapted to a level of self sufficiency.

Even if 'for-the-larger-good' argument is conceded, the presence of any super-imposed structure has not helped these villages 'to arrive'. An old Chinese adage on moderation observes: "Going beyond is as bad as falling short."

On consumption or production, Western capitalism depends on price-mechanism to settle the issue, implying thereby that resources, even if scarce, given a premium, will remain available. Available, certainly for this generation! What shall we hand over to our children? In this context, can it be presumed that CSR is being fulfilled?

Efforts are on in the human resource departments of Western business houses, "to acquaint their managers with spiritual parts of life for better productivity, positive working atmosphere, and less and less greed."

Seminars are being offered in the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University in California, "just to ensure that corporate people have clarified intentions, avoid the traps of excessive greed and power, and make decisions that are both compassionate and effective." Many other schools too may be working on similar lines. But will it change their corporate philosophy?

Trusteeship principle

Indian corporations should set their paradigms based on Mahatma Gandhi's trusteeship principle. A distilled essence of this principle is found in the first verse of the Isopanishad (Shukla Yajur Veda) Isavasyam idam sarvam...dhanam (the One God is present here and everywhere).  It underlines that everything around us has the Supreme residing in them and hence He is the rightful owner. We, who actually possess it, can enjoy a "delegated ownership" as trustees.

For the coming generations shall receive it from us. In the meanwhile consumption was not discouraged, but we were cautioned not to accept what was someone else' quota.

The Mahatma's trusteeship beautifully explains that enterprise is not discouraged, while we know that socialism numbs enterprise. Gandhiji's trusteeship allows the entrepreneur to keep the surplus. It actively encourages spending the surplus for the benefit of the society.

So, one may ask, where is the difference? As the writer understands it, Gandhiji's trusteeship rests on three solid pillars — Ahimsa (non-violence), Samanta (equality), and Swaraj (self-rule).

Swaraj or self-rule is significant in the context of the current debate as it shall refer to the self-rule of the smallest governing unit — the gram panchayat. And this is the unit closest to the people.

The relevance of ahimsa needs no elaboration in the light of today's land acquisition debate. Not just lathis, but even the uncertainty of displacement can be described as himsa (violence) and hence engagement for negotiations, where and when necessary, should be on completely different parameters.

Gandhiji envisaged the entrepreneurs "to use their talent to increase the wealth, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the nation and, therefore, without exploitation...Their children will inherit the stewardship only if they prove their fitness for it."

The Mahatma also observed, "When the people understand the implications of trusteeship and the atmosphere is ripe for it, the people themselves, beginning with gram panchayats, will begin to introduce such statutes. Such a thing coming from below is easy to swallow. Coming from above, it is liable to prove a dead weight." ( Hind Swaraj, 31-3-1946, pp. 63-64)

Let us reassure ourselves that these are achievable standards. In India today, some entrepreneurs who have followed these principles who stand out as exemplars. They may not call themselves so, but they have practised these principles and give us the comfort that ideals can be emulated.






Scenarios with respect to the use of farm land should receive more attention than they have. Rising demand for food and livelihood has led to expansion of acreage to marginal or less productive lands and encroachment into pasture and forest lands.

Now that these options appear to have been exhausted while demand for land continues to grow, land use choices become even more important. As the economy expands, land use in agriculture will not remain static, even if agricultural growth remains relatively low.

Concerns have been expressed over whether the intensive use of land for agriculture is sustainable. But there is likely to be even greater need for intensive use of land in the future, given the rising demand for farm output and increasing demand for land for non-farm uses.


As population pressure and pressure from other demands on land increase, adjustments in land use in agriculture will become necessary. Such adjustments will become necessary also because of the changing economics of agriculture. As water becomes more expensive or scarce, just as land, and as labour becomes more expensive, there will be constant changes in the use of farm-land.

There are thus both external pressures outside of agriculture and internal pressures leading to changes in land use patterns in agriculture. What will these adjustments be, particularly in response to the external pressures?

At an aggregate level land acquisition issues have provided one context for analysis. Land is necessary for development purposes and it has to come from some other alternative use to which it is put.

As agriculture is likely to be the first user of land before other claims emerge, land available for agriculture will inevitably be affected.

Farmers displaced from their current land holdings may not always find some other land for cultivation. More importantly, farm land is likely to be taken away for other uses. Therefore, the laws are likely to make diversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses more difficult or more expensive.

Over time, there has been a gradual diversion of land from agriculture to other uses. Balancing the demands on water and land for agricultural production with other requirements will be increasingly difficult and will require efficient processes for making the right choices.

Bans on change in land use from agriculture to other uses are not workable because the alternative uses may also be equally critical. For instance, the demand for land for non-farm uses arises not only from outside development project requirements but also because of growing demand for housing and other requirements within rural areas.

The demand for land for urban development is set to rise as well. The drivers of adjustments in land use will be the demands for habitation, commerce and industry, in both urban and rural areas. The pattern of development of these sectors will influence land use in agriculture.


Will more productive farm-land be lost for non-farm uses? The proximity to demand from the relatively more affluent urban population often implies that more intensive cultivation of land is likely to prevail closer to the urban areas.

The more productive and prosperous villages are also more likely to expand to other sectors, raising the demand for non-farm uses of land. The diversion of good farm-land to other uses cannot be avoided.

It is also to be expected that international trade will provide some relief to pressure on land. However, it is more likely that agriculture will change in areas where productivity is at present relatively low. However, more investments in improving land will become economically viable for those farmers. Intensive cultivation will expand.

In a sense, the regions where agricultural productivity has been low will also begin to see improvement in opportunities. Investments in infrastructure, especially those connecting all rural areas with centres of commerce and industry, will make the diffusion of demand impulses more effective.


The adjustments in land use are, of course, not limited to agriculture. The need for more efficient use of land in other uses will also increase. However, faster growth in income from the non-farm sectors will mean that pressure on farm land adjustments would be greater.

The adjustments that are likely to unfold will require enabling conditions to make them possible. Improved infrastructure is necessary, not only to connect major urban centres but also the distant farm centres. The gains in efficiency in the provision of other services such as credit and extension support may also help in reducing the cost of agricultural production.

The need for maintaining the quality of land resources in the face of its even more intensive use will have to be addressed. Without these facilitating conditions and steps to retain quality of land resources, adjustments will be expensive.






The spectacular protest by Anna Hazare and his supporters on the introduction of the Lokpal Bill is done with — for the time being, at least — and life in the nation appears to have returned to normal once again. Admittedly, there has been a Parliamentary resolution indicating a "sense of the House" which has accorded importance to three specific points emphasised by the Hazare group, namely, a citizens' charter, an appropriate mechanism to bring the lower bureaucracy under the purview of the suggested Lokpal, and the setting up of Lokayuktas in the States. The proposed Bill will most probably not be rushed through Parliament, because such measures are far too complex for hurried treatment.

But this does not mean that Parliament should take its time in making up its mind on the proposed legislation. It should not do so, because the Hazare protest showed amply how deeply entrenched is the opposition to the policy drift on appropriate steps to tackle corruption. The Government would do well to learn its lesson from what happened, because power flows from the will of the people, and it is dangerous to play with that "will" once too often.

Just a little step

What is certainis that the Lokpal legislation will be enacted "soon", which will be one step forward in combatting corruption. As has been reiterated by just nearly everyone, there must be a series of other similar measures, without which the Lokpal legislation will be reduced to a showpiece with no serious impact on the flow of corruption in national life.

Why can't politicians take the lead and, in the process, live up to the promise expected of them, by those who send them to the legislatures, including the Lok Sabha? When dealing with legislation, Parliament certainly represents the will of the people. But what is, perhaps, pushed into the background is that it is the will of people which gives Parliament its shape.

Screening candidates

To start with, why can't political parties take the lead in screening their candidates by separating the chaff from the wheat — even if the chaff does wield much more clout in garnering votes with the help of muscle power and other devious means?

Mr Hazare has mooted the right to reject and recall members already sent to legislatures. This is a good initiative which, fundamentally, draws attention to the need to get rid of legislators who have failed to deliver, after being elected. But there are serious problems of implementation involved. A much easier step to get healthier legislatures would be political parties banning people formally charged by the police for criminal acts. The idea requires a lot of fine-tuning, but this can be an exemplary contribution by the politicians themselves to the campaign against corruption.

The UPA Government is reportedly working on such an initiative; it should be got off the drawing board as quickly as possible.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Monday's arrest by the CBI of Bellary mining magnate G. Janardhan Reddy has the potential to disturb political contours in Andhra Pradesh as well as Karnataka, to the detriment of the BJP as well as the YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan Reddy. The same high court has also asked the CBI to investigate the business dealings of the young chief of the YSR Congress, a rebel Congressman. A clutch of top BJP leaders at the national level, as well as the YSR Congress chief, are thought to have had convivial ties with the arrested mining baron who has been pulled in for illegal business activities. Whether these amount to a collusive relationship is far from established. Even so, it is not unexpected that the political cauldron will be stirred by the case. Pronouncing guilt is best left to the judiciary, of course. But surprise is occasioned when a man of humble beginnings comes to own 30 kg of gold, a fleet of ultra-expensive cars, helicopters, and inordinate amounts of cash, within 20 years of a somewhat hesitant business career. These were among the items recovered in the CBI's raid on Mr Reddy's premises at Bellary in Karnataka. Mr Janardhan Reddy was a minister in the first BJP government in South India led by B.S. Yeddyurappa, along with brother Karunakar Reddy. The third of the "Bellary brothers" trio also embraced the BJP. This mining group has been indicted by former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde's report on mining. But it is not following any complaint by the BJP government in Karnataka that the CBI arrested Mr Janardhan Reddy. The development flowed from the directions of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in a case of the Bellary brothers' mining business spilling over into that state from Karnataka. Justice Hegde, who played a significant role in Anna Hazare's recent campaign against corruption, has called for the CBI to take up his report on mining to deal with the sordid saga of illegal iron ore extraction — which amounts to a violent plunder of the state's natural resources — in order to bring the guilty to book. The frequently hurled charge by Opposition parties that the CBI is used by the Congress to corner political opponents does not appear to hold in this case. Recently, the BJP president, Mr Nitin Gadkari assured Mr Hazare that his party would work under the eminent social activist's direction to unearth corruption. It would be a great idea if the BJP chief began with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.







H ow sadly short-lived has been the relief over the end of the "Anna storm" on a reasonably constructive note! No sooner had this denouement been reached, and Parliament and Anna Hazare's movement appeared to be on the same page, than the reverse process began, with little prospect of the downhill descent being stemmed. On Saturday, August 27, when the settlement was clinched after day-long debates in both Houses, Parliament had risen to heights not seen in recent decades. The high standard of the Rajya Sabha's earlier discussion on the motion for impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen strengthened the expectation that Parliament might at last return to the ways it used to function during the Nehru era. That, alas, was not to be. For, from Monday, August 29, proceedings of both Houses started being disrupted, as usual, most raucously. The BJP was irate because of the appointment of the Lokayukta in Gujarat by the state governor without consulting the council of ministers headed by the redoubtable Narendra Modi. The flip side of the story is that the issue of appointing a new Lokayukta had been before the state government for seven years, to no avail. Whichever way this tussle is sorted out, one can be rest assured that various sections of MPs would find one reason or another, no matter how flimsy, to stand and shout, rush Lemmon-like to the well of the House and make Parliament dysfunctional. This time around there is an additional difficulty. The "sense of Parliament" accepted by Mr Hazare clearly implies that even those fed up with the political class have to show due respect to the dignity and authority of Parliament as an institution. Yet some hotheads in Team Anna made it a point to abuse parliamentarians in foul language. Parliament has retaliated by serving breach of privilege notices on three of them who are making defiant noises. At this rate the atmosphere is unlikely to be conducive to the speedy enactment of a demonstrably strong and effective Lokpal Bill. After all, Mr Hazare has personally condemned official action against Mr Kejriwal, former police officer Kiran Bedi and actor Om Puri. Strangely, the Congress-led government chose this moment to deliver a blow to elementary democratic norms, of which the country hasn't taken sufficient notice. Last week it was suddenly announced that sports minister Ajay Maken had brought before the Cabinet his draft National Sports Bill. Instead of being allowed to introduce it in Parliament, he was badly mauled by several senior ministers — both Congressmen and powerful allies in the UPA — each of whom has a big stake in running some major sports organisation or the other. Among those who rubbished the proposed bill and pronounced anathema on its author were Sharad Pawar, the overlord of the BCCI; C.P. Joshi, the boss of cricket in Rajasthan; Farooq Abdullah who plays the same role in Kashmir; Vilasrao Deshmukh, president of the Cricket Association in Maharashtra; Praful Patel, who runs the All-India Football Federation; and so on. What they had to say against the bill before strangulating it is not the point at all. Indeed, they may be entirely right in saying that the bill was misconceived and unacceptable because it ran counter to the golden Olympics principle that sports should be "free of government control". Understandably, they had no time for Mr Maken's legitimate argument that after the Commonwealth Games Committee had blackened the country's reputation and indulged in loot of astronomical proportions, there was need that those running sports bodies as personal fiefdoms must be made accountable to someone, if not the government, at least Parliament. But let that pass for the nonce. The issue that cannot be evaded is that so many ministers, comprising a fair proportion of the Cabinet, have violated, glaringly, a fundamental principle of democracy requiring that those with a conflict of interest must not have a say in policy in any issue that is the cause of conflict. Ironically, Dr Farooq Abdullah's son and Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, has publicly stated that his father and other Union ministers with interests in sports organisations should have "recused" themselves from the Cabinet meeting. Why didn't the PM insist on the wholesome rule about conflict of interest being obeyed? Was it because of Mr Pawar's gruff threat about the very future of the UPA? If so, something far more shattering and shameful followed. As the country has witnessed over the last two days, West Bengal chief minister and a key ally in the UPA, Mamata Banerjee, has gravely jeopardised the PM's landmark visit to Bangladesh when all was set to bring about a paradigm change in the bilateral relationship. Her tantrum over the sharing of Teesta waters has driven a dismayed Dhaka to ask: "Will another great opportunity to usher in a new era be missed?" The precise answer to the question would be available only at the visit's end, but the prospect seems very gloomy.







Rupert Murdoch believes in having friends right across the political spectrum. During the phone-hacking scandal it was revealed that his executives were rather too chummy with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who belongs to the Conservative Party. But the wily old media baron did not break off ties with the defeated Labour Party either; it has just emerged that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is godfather to Mr Murdoch's daughters by his third wife Wendi. The deep nexus between the media and politics is hardly news, but in Britain it appears to have reached epidemic proportions. Mr Murdoch does not make influential friends for their own sake; they often help his companies which control a huge chunk of the British media. No politician has dared put an end to this unhealthy situation, since inviting Mr Murdoch's wrath would mean that influential newspapers like The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sun and the late lamented News of the World would turn against them.







India is a country where we have 365 different festivals for 365 days of the year, which means that the whole culture is in a state of celebration, always. Everything is a celebration. If today is ploughing day, it is celebrated. If tomorrow is planting day, another celebration. If day after tomorrow is weeding, that is another celebration. Harvesting, of course, is a very important celebration, though it has now slowly moved into a state of depression. A large part of the Indian population which lives in the rural areas of the country has lost its celebratory mood for this occasion because of a few generations of abject poverty. Sports is a simple way of bringing back the celebratory mood. Sports makes human beings function with a certain exuberance for life. Sports makes human beings function beyond their limitations. The expression "Are you game?" means "Are you ready for life?" So, playing a game, or being in sport, is an essential ingredient for building a healthy life. Physically, mentally and even for a spiritual process, it is important to know how to play at least one sport. The most important thing about playing a sport is that you cannot do it half-heartedly. You can work half-heartedly, you can handle your marriage half-heartedly, but you cannot play a game half-heartedly. Unless you involve yourself, there is no game. The sense of involvement in whatever you are doing — the focus that it takes — and the human ability to stretch yourself beyond your limits to achieve something are essential ingredients for a successful life. The other significant thing about sport is that it levels communities. Whoever is playing a game well becomes visible. Nobody is concerned about his caste, creed or parentage. Nobody in this country asks, "What caste does Mahendra Singh Dhoni belong to?" because nobody is bothered about it; what he does on the field is all that matters. So sports is a huge levelling factor. Playing games or bringing sport into communities builds a sense of harmony that even a million teachings can't achieve because sports is a natural inspiration for people to be together and move together in one particular direction. When you want to play a game with a team of people, unless you bring yourself into a certain space of inclusiveness, you cannot play the game well. This sense of inclusiveness — which goes beyond your likes and dislikes — where all are striving for a common goal, is the fundamental ingredient for community building. Social transformation, economic revitalisation and spiritual development of the human being can be very easily introduced into societies if sports is used as an entry point. The idea is not necessarily about developing competitive sport, but to bring in the spirit of sports to make every human being "game for life". Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, an internationally renowned spiritual leader, is a visionary, a humanitarian, author, poet and speaker. He can be contacted at






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







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.









THE Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 is scheduled to be introduced in Parliament during the current session. And one critical underpinning is to stick to Rahul Gandhi's political deadline ~ an anxiety that ought to have been the least of the considerations. The Bill has been long in coming. Now, in trying to defer to the timetable of the babalog brigade, the Union Cabinet has somewhat hurriedly cleared the legislation, ignoring the objections of no fewer than four ministers ~ Vilasrao Deshmukh, P Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar and Veerappa Moily. The Centre has conveyed the impression that a watershed legislation, crafted after much discourse to replace a colonial Act, is no less an electoral document that may yet pay dividend at the hustings in Uttar Pradesh. This appears to have been the major consideration at Monday's Cabinet meeting. The electoral underpinning has glossed over the fact that the Bill is essentially a piece of legislation with profound social and economic significance. Theoretically, it takes care of the peasantry as much as the compulsions of a market economy. And it must be conceded that in deference to Mamata Banerjee's suggestion, there is a marked degree of flexibility not least because local compulsions can differ from state to state. Hence the leeway given to the states to enact their own rules of agrarian engagement within the broad contours of a central legislation. Another suggestion by the Chief Minister has also been endorsed, one that should rationalise the use of land. Acquired tracts, if unutilised for ten years, will henceforth be placed in a land bank ~ to be used in a manner that the state deems fit.
The land Bill illustrates yet again that the Cabinet and the Group of Ministers are seldom on the same wavelength as the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council. It would be no exaggeration to suggest that its recommendations ~ whether on food security or land acquisition ~ are almost invariably turned down. This time around, the NAC's suggestion on compensation at the rate of six times the market value of the land has been scaled down to four times. The Prime Minister's decision to take a call on the council's recommendation raises hope of a revision, which ought to be in keeping with the rate of inflation.
Standing Committees a poor cure
WHEN the system of Department Related Standing Committees was introduced in Parliament in the 1990s the then Speaker, the admittedly undistinguished Shivraj Patil, stressed that their powers would be "persuasive". And explained their purpose was both to upgrade the quality of legislature scrutiny as well as save the time of both Houses when processing legislation ~ a "parliament in miniature" would have already examined the issue. Recent developments, however, point to Standing Committees being used as a cushion, a parking lot for the politically inconvenient. There could be a small degree of legitimacy to that given the divided polity and confrontationist climate. However, there can be no justification for poorly drafted, incomplete legislative proposals being introduced in either House, then being subjected to the line that shortcomings would be rectified by the Standing Committee. Bills are drafted hurriedly to meet self-imposed, or pressured, deadlines; there is much playing to the galleries. It was disturbing to hear (during the Lokpal controversy) a minister suggesting that what was introduced was an outline, details would be fleshed out at the Committee stage. Was that not insulting the Cabinet that approved the draft, as well as the legislative chamber to which it was presented? Conversely, when that controversy raged it was not reassuring to hear an activist claim a Standing Committee had made 156 changes to an equally critical legislation ~ particularly since that argument was advanced in support of the Committee's role. Was it not tantamount to condemnation of the initial, official, draft?
While the Lokpal Bill action was conditioned by unusual circumstances, an initial unsatisfactory government draft fuelled the fires. The same appears true of the land acquisition Bill. It is to be introduced in a day or two despite sharp divisions in the Cabinet. Even after it is referred to a Standing Committee a meeting of the National Development Council will discuss it, and there is some talk of an informal ministerial group doing likewise. Various "civil society" groups have flayed the lack of consultation. For a government top-heavy with legal expertise this line of thinking is demeaning. Every effort, including tapping non-official expert opinion, should precede the drafting of any Bill cleared by the Cabinet and presented to Parliament. The Standing Committee's role must be limited to trying to bridge political differences, not remedy larger infirmities or come up with a de novo draft. And, pray. Why place so much stock in parliamentary committees ~ their meetings often just about attract enough members to attain a quorum!



THE final phase of the transition in Libya has been marked by an embarrassment for the humanitarian interventionists, pre-eminently Britain and the USA. Having played their collective role in the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, the discovery of confidential documents in abandoned houses points to the fact that operatives of the CIA and MI5 ~ during Tony Blair's dispensation ~ acted in cahoots with the dictator to fix terrorists through interrogation and torture. Gaddafi, in fact, was directed to convey to the Intelligence outfits the details of what was gleaned through the tortuous questioning by a repressive regime. The details range from Libyan dissidents in London to Mr Blair helping Saif Gaddafi with his PhD thesis to the attempted move by Prince Andrew to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. At another remove, the CIA worked closely with Gaddafi's intelligence services in the rendition of terrorist suspects. More recently ~ and quite the most astonishingly ~ they included the rebel commander in Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhaj. Yesterday's terrorist is today's national leader, a quirk of history that neither the USA nor Britain will find it easy to digest. The revelations largely predate the present dispensations at the Whitehall and Washington. But considerable must be the loss of face vis-a-vis the West's dealings with the Transitional National Council. The discovery of the documents has stumped both Britain and America. Having helped the rebels to get rid of the dictator, both countries  are apparently groping for a convincing explanation as to why they were in league with Gaddafi in the fight against terrorists.

The contradictory roles expose the ironical twists and turns in international relations. Alone among the countries contending with the Arab Spring, the success of the Libyan revolution is embedded primarily in the West's "humanitarian offensive" against the regime that it had assisted in espionage activity till a couple of years ago. The disclosures are likely to revive the debate on the West's complicity in the torture of terrorist suspects abroad. The disconnect in international game theory has seldom been so stark ~ both Britain and America once had cordial relations with a regime that was notorious for torture. The international reputation of the secret services stands damaged. As the present Prime Minister, David Cameron, said on Monday: "The relations came too close."







ANNA Hazare has announced that his next movement will be aimed at electoral reform. He has emphasised the right to reject a candidate in the elections and the right to recall a legislator before the end of his term.
If the Centre claims to be responsive to public opinion, here is an opportunity to take action. A large section of the electorate has on occasion demanded what it calls the "right to reject vote" or more explicitly ~ "None of the Above" (NOTA). The Representation of the People Act, 1951, provides a detailed mechanism both for contestants and voters. The government has framed the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 to clarify how votes are to be cast as also the precaution to maintain secrecy. This is absolutely essential for a healthy democracy.
The ballot paper was used prior to the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Rule 49 (M) provides for secrecy. It also explains the voting procedure of using the EVM. The voter presses the button against the name of the candidate for whom he intends to vote.
Rule 49(O) provides that if an elector decides not to record his vote, a remark will have to be made by the presiding officer on Form 17, a document that the voter also has to sign. But this procedure is faulty and outdated; it does not take into account the switchover from the ballot to the EVM. It is also illegal not least because the identity of   the person, who decides not to vote, gets disclosed in violation of the fundamental right to vote in secrecy.
The Election Commission is aware of this lacuna. Since 2001, it has been writing to the government to revise the rules, most importantly by providing a slot named "None of the Above" in the EVM.
With no response from the government, the People's Union of Civil Liberties filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in 2004, seeking a directive to the Centre to suitably amend Rule 49 (O). A two-judge Bench referred the petition to a larger Bench in 2009. The matter is yet to come up for hearing. Despite the fact that it is pending in the apex court, there is no legal bar on effecting the change, by amending rule 49(O) and providing for the insertion of "NOTA".
If it materialises, it will be a radical change in the electoral and political segments. Voters are generally viewed as dumb cattle who must choose one candidate, even if they find all of them to be thoroughly undesirable. Unlike in the USA, a voter in India has no role in the selection of a candidate. The nomination is conducted by a small cabal of party leaders.
The "None of the Above" provision will bring about a dramatic change in power equation in favour of the voter as against the party. Such a provision will enable the voter to exercise his right in secrecy and convey a message on the unsuitability of the contesting candidates and their political mentors.
It is not as if many voters at present will not wish to electronically record their disapproval of the candidates. But they are afraid to do so in view of the candidates' links with the mafia. If the NOTA option is available in the voting machine, the voter will be able to convey his disapproval without fear and thus defeat the politicisation of criminals.
At present, if voters are dissatisfied with the nomination of undesirable candidates, they can only grin and bear it. The electorate is not in a position to convey its resentment. In a reformed format, the voter will be assured of secrecy. He will exercise his right to send a strong message to the political class against  manipulation. The power of the finger will determine disapproval as much as approval.
The "None of the Above" provision can be put into effect immediately by amending the rule, provided the government is genuinely concerned with clean polities. The principles justifying NOTA are self-evident: (a) Legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent; (b) It will end the farce of  voters often being forced to vote for the least unacceptable candidate, the all too familiar "lesser evil"; ( c ) Voters will take the final call on the nominations of political parties instead of the parties deciding the voters' choice; (d) Many voters and non-voters, who now register their disapproval of all candidates for an office by not voting, could cast a meaningful vote; and (e) It improves the system of checks and balances between voters and political parties.
In the EVM, the list of candidates should be followed by the "NOTA" button. If this new button registers more votes than any of the candidates, then no one is declared elected. Instead, a follow-up by-election with new candidates must be held to fill the seat, until a candidate wins a plurality of votes among all other candidates, including "NOTA".
This provision has been welcomed in several parts of the world, notably by Ralph Nader, the well-known activist. There is a strong constituency in its favour in the USA, Australia, and Norway.
Of course, legislation will have to be enacted to provide for the fact that if NOTA votes exceed the maximum cast for the highest vote-getting candidate, the election will be countermanded and a fresh election ordered.
This change will be a warning to the political parties that the decision about the choice of a candidate is not the sole prerogative of a clique within the party. It must involve the voters at the initial stage of selection. A wrong choice will result in fresh elections.
I feel the Central Government can refurbish its image in the aftermath of Anna Hazare's fast by immediately amending Rule 49(O), as demanded by the Election Commission, and providing for the NOTA slot in the voting machine straightaway. The supremacy of the voters will thus be recognised.
The writer is former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court







With a low-key remark in the state-run People's Daily, China effectively signalled its intention to establish a fourth fleet for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). However, this may yet prove temporary. The PLAN is currently structured around three fleets, each with a geographic focus: the North Sea Fleet, headquartered in Qingdao; the East Sea Fleet, headquartered in Ningbo; and the South Sea Fleet, headquartered in Zhanjiang. But a 16 August newspaper article suggests that change is brewing on a grander scale than most envisage.
"China's new aircraft carrier is planning to serve in the South China Sea by the next Army Day (Aug 1)," the People's Daily Online reported, referencing an unnamed military source. "The vessel will be under direct command of the country's Central Military Commission (CMC)." The South Sea Fleet is normally responsible for the South China Sea, including hot spots centred on the Paracel and Spratly Islands. By introducing the carrier into this mix but placing it under the CMC, the vessel is being recognised as a strategic asset on a par with the Second Artillery's ballistic missile force. In the mid-1990s, foreign intelligence sources spoke privately of China introducing its first aircraft carrier during the period 2005-2010, and they were nearly spot-on with the timing. Some offered further elaboration.
"The decision to proceed with the carrier programme may be tied to reports of PLAN intentions to create a fourth fleet that would supplement the existing East Sea, North Sea and South Sea fleets," I wrote in 1995, based on these discussions. "Such a scenario envisages the current elements remaining geographically based while the carrier battle group, or fourth fleet, is organised as an independent strike force directly under General Staff Headquarters command."
In the event, the PLA's operational structure has been bypassed to place command and control with the more senior CMC ~ China's supreme policy-making body for military affairs, headed by President Hu Jintao. Yet analysts believe that the CMC is structurally unable to manage a combat- ready operational force. "It would have to be helped by the PLAN headquarters or made an independent asset distinct from the three fleet commands, but I would think that it would not be made into a separate organisational force like the Second Artillery," Dr Tai Ming Cheung of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation said.
That prescient view from the mid-1990s is further significant for noting the truism that aircraft carriers do not operate individually. Rather, they are the core element of a potent flotilla known as a carrier battle group (CBG). Beijing has underplayed this aspect, invariably referring to the carrier alone. But this is a valuable and vulnerable asset that requires protection, as every country with an operational carrier capability knows. CBGs differ in their make-up, but several additional vessels are invariably required to support the carrier and its organic air wing. The American model typically includes two guided missile cruisers, two destroyers, one frigate, two nuclear-powered attack submarines and a supply ship. Depending on the mission, these may be supplemented by troop vessels, amphibious vessels and cargo vessels.
Other navies operate variants of this structure, but all include a number of core capabilities, increasingly fitted on multi-mission platforms. These involve air defence, anti-submarine warfare and land-attack cruise missiles. Submarines provide anti-surface and anti-submarine screening, and a replenishment ship allows for supplies to be topped up while under way. In the PLAN context, this means including with the carrier one or two Type 093 Shang class nuclear-powered attack submarines along with one or two Sovremenny class destroyers (in photograph right).
There would be one or two other destroyers ~ perhaps the Type 051C Louzhou class or Type 052C Luyang-II class, although the Luyang-II might also displace the Sovremenny ~ along with at least one frigate. The latter could well be the multi-purpose Type 054A Jiangkai II class introduced in 2008. The initial requirement for a replenishment ship could involve the 23,000 tonne Fuchi class, which entered service in 2005. Together, these promise a potent force but one which will take years of training to fully refine.
Beijing has stated that its first carrier ~ the ex-Varyag, which recently completed its initial sea trials after extensive refurbishment ~ will be used for 'research and training' once formally transferred to the PLAN. But this training activity must certainly extend beyond the vessel itself to involve the full CBG. A CBG is normally assembled as needed. It is nevertheless intriguing to consider what impact the regular absence of China's most advanced warships could have on the fleets from which they are drawn. Or the impetus this requirement could provide for a host of new naval construction. Also worth mulling is the possibility that China intends to induct several aircraft carriers beyond the basic vessel now evident. This suggests that a fourth fleet centred on the ex-Varyag could be an interim measure pending deeper changes.
Professor Nan Li of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College argues that the PLAN is not satisfied with its current three fleets and their narrow geographic focus. "They are not appropriate for operating beyond coastal waters. There's no question about that," he said in a telephone interview. It will take some years for the PLAN to induct its first carrier, assemble its air wing and form around it the CBG. Then train, train, train. Chinese shipyards could, meanwhile, build new carriers with full operational capabilities while planners consider how best to restructure the PLAN in order to accommodate them and Beijing's expanding maritime vision. Followed by new doctrine and considerably more training.
The intentions are clear. Only the scale and the timeframe remain hazy.

the straits times/ann







SIR, ~ As a shareholder who has not got his accustomed dividends from his investments in Jute Mills, I have been waiting for someone to follow on Reorganisation's letter in your issue of 30th August. No one having come forward, will you allow me to suggest at any rate one step towards a remedy which I think will enable shareholders to be in a better position than they are at present. I suggest that all directorships be abolished ~ this would at any rate save money, and I do not believe a single shareholder has bought his shares because of the  formation of any particular Board, but rather on what he considered the standing of the mill or its managing agents. What good, from a shareholder's point of view, does a Board do? If they are considered necessary to "check" managing agents then I say the managing agents are not fit for their job. If the Board is considered necessary to decide the policy of a mill then I fail to see how they can do so in these days of constant and violent fluctuations in both jute and the manufactured article.


Do not let it be thought that I have any personal animus against directors of Jute Mills. I know most of them, some of them I am privileged to call my friend, but as directors I fail to see their utility.




SIR, ~ I think most people who have followed the tactics of the landlord party in the Bengal Council will read with profound amusement Mr Bhupendra Nath Basu's epistle. The calm and judicial tone now adopted by the honourable member is in striking contrast to the language used by certain large Calcutta property-owners during the debates. But the facts are too strong to be disposed of even by so astute a politician as Mr Basu. That gentleman's reference to what is done in England is perhaps the most diverting point in his letter. One can imagine what would be done in England if members of a public body adopted the tactics that wee adopted in the Bengal Council over the Improvement Trust Bill.

Calcutta, September 1.







However politically mala fide the government's motives related to the crisis created by the Gujarat Governor's appointment of the Lokayukta might be, one great good has emerged from it. Legal experts have been compelled to mull over the precise powers of Governors and, by implication, of the President. A commentary by a legal correspondent in a national daily recalled the arguments advanced in the Supreme Court (SC) case of Shamsher Singh versus the Punjab government of 1974 which has had a crucial bearing on this question. The SC ruled that the President was bound by the advice tendered by the Council of Ministers. The SC had, in a ruling, described the President of India as a "titular head". I have consistently questioned this flawed ruling that has no basis in our explicit and written Constitution.

The counsel for Shamsher Singh had argued that wherever the Constitution had explicitly vested powers in the President and the Governors, they could not be overseen or overruled by the ministers. The SC reacted with the following observation: "How ambitious and subversive such an interpretation can be to parliamentary (and popular) authority unfolds itself when we survey the wide range of vital powers so enunciated in the Constitution. Indeed, a whole host of such Articles exist in the Constitution, most of them very vital for the daily running of the administration and embracing executive, emergency and legislative powers either of a routine or momentous nature." If the President acted on his own then the judges said, parliamentary democracy "will become a dope and national elections a numerical exercise in expensive futility… we will be compelled to hold that there are parallel authorities exercising powers of governance, as in the diarchy days, except that Whitehall is substituted by Rashtrapati Bhawan and Raj Bhawan. The cabinet will shrink in political and administrative authority…remember …the President himself is elected on a limited indirect basis."  
The sheer arbitrariness of this ruling is shocking. Why could not the SC consider that all the powers vested in the President actually conferred responsibility to the office? As for the "limited" mandate of the President, it is considerably wider than that held by any Prime Minister. The PM is elected by the Lok Sabha, not by the people directly. The President is elected by both Houses of Parliament and by all the state Assemblies in the nation. By a minor amendment that does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution, the President can be elected not by sitting legislators but by incoming incumbents in order that the voters automatically have a say in electing the President. All that would be required is to make the terms of President and legislatures co-terminus. The proposal to give fixed terms to legislatures was seriously considered by Parliament earlier. The voters would know whom the legislators they elect would nominate as the Presidential candidate. The President's election would be, for all practical purpose, direct.
It is astounding how jurists continue to betray their unthinking sycophancy to Britain and to Pandit Nehru who unreasonably and whimsically overruled the far more cogent and logical arguments advanced by President Rajendra Prasad regarding the President's powers. If the interpretation of the Constitution were to rely on the baseless assumptions of the SC, why was it written at all? Were the framers of the Constitution morons who wrote the world's longest Constitution only to have it rubbished by conventions that found no mention in its written text? Have the worthy SC Judges cared to delve into why during a debate in the Rajya Sabha the late BR Ambedkar on 2 September, 1953 said that the Constitution could be burnt? He told the House: "We have inherited the idea that the Governor must have no power at all, that he must be a rubber stamp. If a minister… puts up a proposal before the Governor, he has to ditto it. That is the kind of conception about democracy which we have developed in this country…my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody...."
Ambedkar was a brilliant student who studied law in America. The similarity between America and India in size and diversity must have been uppermost in his mind while he drafted the Constitution. Would not the distortion of a Presidential system by converting it into the Westminster model by Pandit Nehru have disgusted him? The SC's glib and hollow reasoning in the Shamsher Singh versus Punjab case merely reinforced the distortion. Members of the elite should renounce intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice and start interpreting correctly the Indian Constitution as written, and not as wrongly practiced for the past six decades.
The SC ought to review its erroneous judgments of the past that distorted the provisions of the Constitution. If that is done India's First Republic will survive. The system would change but the Constitution would remain intact. Otherwise there is serious possibility that the distortion and the decline of the system would continue unabated to compel the framing of a new Constitution leading to the emergence of India's Second Republic. That could possibly entail a drastic and painful interruption in democratic governance.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







The foreign policy of a country like India cannot be run on the basis of obsessions. India's foreign policy makers are obsessed with Pakistan and the United States of America. This explains why a country like Bangladesh is accorded such a low priority by the prime minister and the relevant mandarins. It is difficult to believe that Manmohan Singh, who has been the prime minister for seven years, is now visiting Bangladesh for the first time. The previous prime ministerial visit to Bangladesh was in July 1999, when Atal Behari Vajpayee went to Dhaka. For 12 years, Bangladesh has been considered beyond the pale till suddenly Mr Singh woke up to its importance. The reigning assumption seems to be that if foreign policy looks after the pounds (read the big countries or the big issues), the pennies (read small countries and allegedly minor issues) will look after themselves. The assumption is as misplaced as the one that says global politics only revolves around the US axis. The self-evident truth is that Bangladesh is important to Indian foreign policy and for the role that India seeks to play in the region. This has been true since the birth of Bangladesh but even more true since the election victory of Sheikh Hasina Wajed in December 2008.

Bangladesh is the second biggest Muslim country in the world and this fact alone should make it important to India. It can be an ally, especially with Ms Wajed as prime minister, in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism. A strong Indo-Bangladesh alliance, based on mutual trust and respect, will give India leverage in its negotiations with Pakistan and China. Bangladesh may be a small country compared to some, but it can help India pursue larger goals and aspirations. Greater cooperation with Bangladesh will enable India to maintain better connectivity with the Northeast. Sheer self-interest, often seen as the cornerstone of foreign policy, should have forced India to accord greater priority to its eastern neighbour. Yet for 12 long years, no prime minister of India visited Bangladesh. The argument that such visits were not made because the regime of Khaleda Zia was perceived in India as a hostile one is somewhat specious since no effort was made to win her over. Mr Singh may have left his visit too late for his intentions to appear genuine and sincere. He is also severely handicapped by the fact that on the Dhaka stage he is directing Hamlet without Ophelia.







For a state that had not seen big changes for a long time, a brave new idea may not immediately cause a stir. That was perhaps why the dramatic tax reforms initiated by West Bengal's finance minister, Amit Mitra, went unnoticed when they were mooted. The reformist steps he announced in the finance bill could actually be a game-changer. Mr Mitra inherited not just empty coffers but also a massive debt burden from the previous Left Front government. Worse still, although he had a compulsion to raise the state's revenue dramatically, he did not have the option of levying many new taxes or increasing the rates of the old ones. His answer to the challenge is something that few finance ministers in the country have tried so far. He has come up with proposals to raise the revenue by about Rs 6,500 crore. But that is the stuff of ordinary budgets. The extraordinary thing about Mr Mitra's finance bill is the ease and simplicity of his attempt at structural reform. At the heart of the reform is a plan to initiate a system of rewards and punishment and also to increase the efficiency of tax collection. All this is to be achieved by eliminating the dead weight of babudom.

The reasons for the disastrous state of West Bengal's finances during the Left rule are generally known. But it is not always understood how the efficiency of the tax collection system is undermined by the bureaucracy. Worse, bureaucratic inefficiency has been at the root of corruption and delays in tax administration. Mr Mitra has sought to change it all with the introduction of online registration for businesses paying taxes under different acts of the state government. All other tax-related work too will come under electronic governance. All this will drastically reduce the interface between taxpayers and officials or clerks. Together with the system of rewards and punishment, this new scheme can dramatically change things for Bengal's revenue generation. There is absolutely no doubt that these are crucial first steps towards the financial restructuring that Bengal desperately needs. The next challenge for Mr Mitra is to ensure that the new ideas are translated into reality. For the rewards and punishment system to yield results, the government has to prove that it means business. For the online administration to function, Bengal's notorious work culture has to change. Mr Mitra has a long and hard road ahead.






Every time I pass through the no-longer-new Terminal 3 at Delhi airport, I cringe. Anxious to spare no expense for this showpiece facility, they had the English announcements recorded in real canned memsahib accents, no doubt at many times the fee the priciest Indian voice would command. As a result, India's capital now makes foreigners feel at home with flights to Khol-khyat-tah, Amm-head-ah-byad, and such exotic destinations.

In the city The Telegraph still calls Calcutta, we are happily catching up with our enlightened capital in this respect. This was most recently evidenced when the English name of the state was changed to Paschimbanga. Now that the state assembly has formalized the change, it seems a good time to take stock.

This article is not to debate the merits of the change, still less of the specific name. It is to examine an interesting syndrome thrown up in course of discussion among citizens of the state, both Bengali and other.

It bears recall that till last week, ours was the only Indian state to have a separate English name at all. No one complained that the rest did not make this concession to cosmopolitanism. But when we dispensed with it, that was seen as a parochial and intolerant move, arguably an attack on the integrity of India.

Let us take a few simple ideas on board. They are, or should be, familiar. The Indian state is multilingual and multicultural. Despite the disaster of Partition, it has achieved a degree of political and economic integration that Europe, a comparable demographic expanse, is still trying to achieve. This naturally means that people of all states can live, work and travel in all other states. In the metro cities above all, the workforce and resident population will reflect this exchange. The more successful a city or state, the more its mix of population will vary from that of the villagers dwelling there 500 years ago. This is a blessing the descendants of the latter must bear in mind. If they searched back through history, they would no doubt find that their own ancestors migrated there 500 or 1000 years earlier still.

It is also true that various parts of the country are the seats of various rich and distinctive cultures, usually anchored in particular languages. When the states were demarcated after Independence, the guiding principle was linguistic. Other factors have later come into play, but language is still a chief marker of regional identity. It does not seem irrational to hold that of all Indian tongues, Tamil would be the chief language circulating in Tamil Nadu or Marathi in Maharashtra. The ethnically-oriented name of the first state matches the language; the second mirrors it in sound, and there is almost certainly an etymological link. Yet the latter's denizens would protest — militantly, going by recent history — if their homeland were given an English name, even one so flattering as 'The Great State'. The Bengali language and culture has its chief seat on Indian soil in another such state. On the same principle, there seems no good reason why everyone should not refer to that state by a Bengali name enshrining its Bengali identity.

It is a different question whether, within the resources of the Bengali language, a better name could have been found. That is to be debated by people who care for the language (not necessarily native or ethnic speakers). The move for such a name cannot be condemned out of hand by those who do not — sometimes, amazingly, after self-declaredly living in the state for generations. They are apparently not struck by the contrariety of their assuming proprietory status in a city and state with whose principal language they will not come to terms. The globally sophisticated tone of the protests suggests that their makers would despise migrants to London who blanked out the English language from their lives. But to be globally sophisticated in Calcutta/Kolkata, you must blank out the Bengali language, and read symbolic meanings into Bengalis' refusal to do so. Some objections border on the fatuous, like protesting that 'Paschimbanga' is hard to pronounce. We have lived with 'Tamil Nadu' all these years. Any North Indian who thinks this easy to pronounce has obviously not heard the authentic rendering.

Of course, many of the protests have come from Bengalis. Some of them, far from dismissing the language, have contributed notably to its cultivation. One eminent cultural figure wrote in from the city now called Chennai, in the state now called Tamil Nadu. I do not know what he thinks of those changes, made in the last century. Maybe he deplores them too. Yet he must see them as testifying to a general trend.

Perhaps such Bengalis feel they must adopt a more open cultural, not to say moral, stand than their compatriots. Bengalis are widely credited with a tiresome and misguided penchant that way. If so, it has done them little good if after all these years, changing the name of their home state brands them with linguistic chauvinism.

There is a sinister context of actual chauvinism we should not forget. We are currently repeating as farce a practice that began elsewhere as tragedy. In many shopping precincts in Calcutta, an unobtrusive Bengali version has recently been added to English shop-signs. This does not reflect a sudden love of the language among the owners (most of them, interestingly, not Bengalis). It is a new fashion mechanically imitating an imperative practice in Mumbai, where every shop-sign must, on pain of damage or assault, display a Marathi version.

We know too many cases of what happens in Maharashtra to people suspected of a whiff of a thought against the supremacy of the Marathi language. The route numbers on Mumbai buses are written in local numerals. Even The Telegraph, that Calcutta paper, acknowledges the existence of Mumbai. This must be reassuring for the staff of its bureau there.

Heaven preserve us from emulating our flourishing sister city in this grotesque respect. Equally, let us not confuse militant chauvinism with the natural right and desire of a people to practise their own language in their home state. If some of us originally from elsewhere make our home in that state, let us not lose out on the opportunity to imbibe its language and culture, while opening up our own to the others.

In this last respect, the Bengalis' own past record is deplorable. They paid a bitter price for it in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the adjacent states, as linguistic and regional pride developed in the latter and sometimes took violent form. There was also a price to pay in the opposite situation, fighting domination by other languages in Cachar and, above all, in what is now Bangladesh. Contrary to the general view, this has left the Bengali deeply insecure about his own language.

It is easy for other communities to target that insecurity; easier still for individual Bengalis to evade it by self-deprecation, implying that they, superior souls, are above their benighted compatriots. The English and Hindi languages offer excellent tools for such self-distancing from the tribe. The Indian without English (unless he be a Hindi-belt politician) is, of course, a natural subaltern everywhere in the land. The Calcuttan without Hindi, or with an egregious pidgin Hindi, can prove an underdog in his own state while negotiating with shopkeepers, taxi-drivers, porters, or other functionaries who will work here all their lives but not learn the language.

These depressing encounters will increase as the city and state become more prosperous, opening their doors to more and more workers from across India. As I said at the outset, such human exchange is part of the blessings of development. But employment is the least part of this process of exchange. If we are genuinely to share a common existence, each sharer must give something to the other, but also allow the other to retain what it holds most precious.

The author is Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur University Top







On August 31, Abhayanand became Bihar's super-cop — that is, the director-general of police. The prefix, 'super', in his case has little similarity with the title K.P.S. Gill is associated with. It has more to do with the concept of Super-30 — Rahmani Super-30, Magadh Super-30 and Triveni Super-30 — the free coaching classes for IIT-JEE aspirants, conceived by him and other philanthropists.

In that way, perhaps no other policeman in the country has acquired the stature of being the super-cop even before becoming the DGP of the state, as Abhayanand has. A 1977-batch IPS officer, he was preferred over the equally talented and no-nonsense 1973-batch officer, Manoje Nath, who relishes in writing articles for newspapers, web portals and journals.

It is this high profile of Abhayanand which will be put to test in the state, where ministers, members of parliament and of legislative assemblies, and now, district magistrates of Patna and Saran, have been receiving threat calls from criminals of various hues. Not only that, recently an MLA lost his car and thieves barged into the house of a member of legislative council from the Janata Dal (United) in Patna. Attempts were also made to rob a Rajya Sabha MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal and a MLA of the Bharatiya Janata Party on the highways of the state.

Often, we look at officers of the IPS with more awe and respect than at those of the IAS. This is more true of states which are in the grip of separatist movements or militancy. Hardly anyone outside Punjab today knows the name of any chief secretary from the days of the Khalistan movement while few would be unaware of Julio Ribeiro or K.P.S. Gill. People of West Bengal have not yet forgotten Ranjit Gupta, the police commissioner of Calcutta, who played an important part in curbing the Naxalite movement of the early 1970s.

Challenges ahead

Bihar is infested with Maoists and criminals. A few months ago, Ajay Kumar won the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha by-election on the ticket of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha. Throughout his campaign, he highlighted his achievements as the superintendent of police in the mid-1990s. He had rid the Steel City of criminals and the mafia. The young actress, Neetu Chandra, originally from Patna, travelled all the way to campaign for him because as the SP of Patna between 1990 and 1994, Kumar had come down heavily on criminals and made the city safe.

In the same way, as a young SP in the early 1990s, Abhayanand was assigned the responsibility of clearing West Champaran of kidnappers' gangs, which had been wreaking havoc in the district. To a large extent, Abhayanand had succeeded in his mission.

The interesting aspect of the crime scene in Bihar is that now, as in the 1990s, cases of murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping and the like have shown a sharp rise in this second term of the chief minister in office.

In the first five years of Lalu Prasad's rule — between 1990 and 1995 — Bihar produced a number of dons, who projected themselves as the Robin Hoods of their respective castes or communities. Anand Mohan, Pappu Yadav, Rajan Tiwary, Chotan Shukla or Mohammad Shahabuddin were products of that era.

However, the nature of crime took a different turn after 1995, when hardened criminals –– apart from the so-called Robin Hoods –– tried to capitalize on the situation created after Prasad got embroiled in the fodder scam. He had to quit, leaving behind the state to his spouse, Rabri Devi.

In the same way, the crime rate has shot up after Nitish Kumar was voted back to power last year. Unlike Prasad in the late 1990s, Kumar is in full control in his second term. Yet criminals have taken the state by storm. Herein lies the challenge for Abhayanand.






The short stay on the execution of death row convicts Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan who were involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 has become an occasion to revisit the old debate on whether or not capital punishment should be outlawed in India. But one pertinent question that must also be asked here is — given that death sentences continue to be awarded in our country, why does it take so long to execute them? Some legal experts believe that if the system cannot function without such delays, it would only be just and humane to commute the punishment to life imprisonment.

Take the case of Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan. After the Supreme Court upheld their death penalties in 1999, their plea for clemency was submitted to the President in 2000. It was only last month — that is, 11 years after their clemency plea was submitted — that the President finally rejected it. Lawyers in the case, including senior counsel Ram Jethmalani who's appearing for Murugan, have argued that the 11-year delay in carrying out the death penalty was itself a violation of the convicts' fundamental rights.

There are several other instances of inordinate delays on the part of the authorities in meting out capital punishment. Afzal Guru, pronounced guilty of conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on Parliament, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2004. The sentence was due to be carried out on October 20, 2006. But the execution was stayed after his wife filed a mercy petition. Early last month, the Indian home ministry recommended that the President reject his petition. The matter is pending the President's decision.

Then there's Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, involved in the blast outside the Youth Congress office in Delhi in 1993 that killed nine people. Bhullar was sentenced to death in 2001 and his mercy petition was rejected last May. This week the Supreme Court allowed him to file an amended application for reducing his sentence to life imprisonment. And last but not least, there is death row convict Ajmal Kasab, the man who gunned down several people during the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai, whose trial grinds on.

Death row convicts in high profile political crime cases are not the only ones caught in a tortuous legal process. The mercy petition of Dhananjay Chatterjee, convicted of raping and brutalising a 14-year-old girl in Calcutta, was first rejected in 1994 by the President. After numerous petitions and counter-petitions at the high court and the apex court, Dhananjay was finally hanged in 2004 when his petition was again rejected by the then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

There are provisions built into the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code whereby higher courts are empowered to turn death sentences into a lesser punishment like life imprisonment. Also, under Articles 72 and 161, the President of India and Governors have the power to grant pardon or commute death sentences.

Legal experts contend that the criminal justice system has to follow certain standard procedures. "In law, culpability is not only about the act or deed, but also about the intent," says Amita Dhanda, professor, Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad. "Hypothetically, if Ajmal Kasab can demonstrate that he did what he did because of dire penury and that he had no choice but to give in to indoctrination to get money to feed his family, he is entitled to a hearing. As in all legal battles, death row cases too take time."

But leaving aside the lengthy trial process, what explains the unusually long hiatus between the apex court upholding a death sentence and the final execution of the penalty?

"Blame it on the ineffectual legal system first," says Madhu Kishwar, activist and editor, Manushi. "And then there are vested interests from the political sphere at play which essentially stall efforts to execute sentences."

Over the years, Supreme Court judgments seem to have grappled with the issue of delay in carrying out death sentences.

In a 1983 case, the apex court held that a delay of two years for execution was permissible, beyond which the sentence ought to be converted to life. Again, in a 1989 ruling, the Supreme Court, acknowledging the suffering endured in the long wait for execution, said: "When mercy petitions under Article 72 or 161 are received by the authorities concerned…, it is expected that these petitions shall be disposed of expeditiously. Undue long delay in execution of the sentence of death will entitle the condemned person to approach this court under Article 32 (right to approach the Supreme Court)…" to look into this.

To the lay citizen who wants to see some visible evidence of justice being done in case of a horrendous crime, the delays in executing a death sentence seem inexplicable. But legal experts say that it is not so easy to lay down iron clad rules to prevent them. "People who are administering criminal justice have to be balanced. In the conduct of such affairs, they cannot show vendetta," says Dhanda.

But she also feels that it's unfair to not act swiftly while dispensing justice. "The country is not abolishing capital punishment, and on top of that there is this delay in carrying out the sentences. So basically, they are doing nothing — neither are you creating a culture of compassion nor are you deterring anyone," she says.

Agrees retired Justice K.T. Thomas, who presided over the bench that handed the death penalty to the accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination: "The longer the wait for the execution of the death sentence, the greater should be the chance of commutation. You cannot put a person perpetually on tenterhooks. This should be ground enough to commute his sentence."

Dhanda refers to some countries like the UK where life-without-parole sentences are used. "Here, a life sentence means a sentence for life — that is, they won't be allowed to come out of jail till they die," she says. "In most capital punishment cases, the Indian government's attitude is actually similar, but they won't make it official. This is abominable — if one is sentenced for a life in jail, one will at least know that he or she will be alive in jail!"

In some other countries where capital punishment is in force, the execution of the sentence usually takes much less time. For instance, Timothy McVeigh, who was found guilty of the murder of 168 people in the 1995 bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City, US, was sentenced to death in 1997 and executed in 2001.

Of course, most human rights activists, who in any case are opposed to capital punishment, object to the very demand for faster execution of the death penalty. "Why do people want death row convicts to be executed faster? Why do the media and the public at large always bay for blood," asks human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who's appearing for Perarivalan. "Those who crave to see convicts hanged should spend some time in prison and try to understand what agony people on the death row go through while waiting for execution."

The point some are making is that the delays in dispensing with a mercy petition just makes the agony worse, not to mention the fact that in the process, justice is also not seen to be done.






Q: I am 63 years old. I have one son and two daughters. All of them are married. I own a flat and some moveable assets, which I don't want my son to inherit on my death. As far as preparing a will is concerned, I do not know any lawyer who I can rely on. What other options do I have and which will be the cheapest one?

A.K. Agarwal, via email

A: Making a will is a less expensive option — you can draft it yourself and registering it is also not compulsory. But if you think your son may contest the document, legal expertise and registration is desirable.

Q: I have a salary account with a private sector bank. The bank imposed a lien on my account without prior notice to adjust alleged credit card dues over which I have a dispute with them. The Alipore civil and sessions court has issued an injunction, ordering the bank not to deduct anything till the final disposal of the credit card suit. Despite that, the bank has not withdrawn the lien. What options do I have now? What consequences can the bank face for non-compliance with the court order?

Amlan Gupta, Calcutta

A: A lien is a right to retain that which is in the possession of a person or an entity but belongs to someone else till the latter satisfies certain demands of the former. From the facts of your case, it appears that the bank has not yet deducted any amount but only imposed a lien for the amount due. If the court had passed an order restraining the bank from imposing a lien, you could have filed a contempt application against the bank, but not under the present circumstances.

Q:We have been tenants in a building for the past 40 years. There was no written agreement with the landlord and subsequently, we agreed verbally to revise the rents of the flats. We have received receipts for the rent paid earlier as well as after the increase. Will these hold good in case of any future dispute?

Maya Ghosh and others, via email

A: The Indian Contract Act, 1872, recognises both written and verbal contracts, though the latter are difficult to prove. However, in your case, the rent receipts received from your landlord would hold good as documentary evidence even in the absence of an agreement.

Please send your legal queries with your name and address to Legal FAQs, The Telegraph (Features),

6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001. Or email us at Readers are requested to please keep their queries short.




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




Even if inordinately delayed, the law is finally catching up with the notorious 'Reddy brothers,' who, over the last eight years, have muddied Karnataka's politics and administration beyond recognition.

The formal arrest of Gali Janardhana Reddy by the CBI – the kingpin of rampant illegal iron ore mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh — is an indication that the authorities are finally ready to crack down on a mafia that was spreading its tentacles from illegal mining to corrupting the entire administrative machinery and blackmailing a major political party to serve its interests. The mountain of information and evidence gathered by the CBI should enable the agency to nab all the key players in what must rank as one of India's biggest rackets, and arraign them before the courts of law.

It is amazing that the mining barons, who also managed to become ministers in the B S Yeddyurappa government, almost had a free run for three years, bending every rule to amass wealth and use that money to dictate terms to the ruling party. Having taken their help to attain majority, Yeddyurappa, who himself was immersed in corruption charges, became a puppet in their hands.

The former chief minister turned a blind eye to the 'rape of Bellary' and continued to defend them. It was only the monumental work of former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde and his officers that forced the BJP to dump Yeddyurappa and the mining barons. That the Reddy brothers, having tasted power, are not going to fade away quietly is evident from the fact that they are relentlessly pressuring the successor Sadananda Gowda government for ministerial berths.

The central leadership of the BJP, instead of making mandatory noises about 'misuse' of the CBI by the Congress, should celebrate the cornering of the Reddy brothers who had become a menace to the party. If Sadananda Gowda wants to emerge as a leader in his own right, he should permit the CBI to investigate into illegal mining on this side of the border with Andhra Pradesh as well and show that he is ready to act in public interest.

The Reddy brothers, if found guilty, should not only be punished, but every effort should be made to recover the loot from them, four times, as the former Lokayukta has recommended. The CBI on its part, should widen the inquiry to include even the former chief ministers who had opened the floodgates of illegal mining in the state. ***************************************





I haven't forgotten that night. Sitting with a group of farmers in a village in Ludhiana district in Punjab, at the height of the Green Revolution, a farmer showed me a bag of fertiliser that he brought from the market.

"Why are you showing me this bag", I asked. "Wait", he said, and began to open the bag. It was only when he crushed the granules with his hands that I realised why he wanted me to see the fertiliser bag. The fertiliser was spurious. The jute bag, neatly packed and branded, contained mud granules.

Several years later I was travelling in the villages of Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh to understand the reasons behind the spate of farm suicides that had first rocked the nation. This was in 1997 when 37 farmers committed suicide in this district alone. While everyone blamed the weather gods for inflicting a terrible blow to farmers, I found spurious pesticides to be the reason for the failure of the cotton crop. More than 80 per cent of pesticides sold in Warangal district that year were later found to be fake.   

Two and a half decades later, agriculture is in ruins. The story of the decline in agriculture across the country is the same. Dying crop fields, and crying farmers. With degraded soils, depleting groundwater, and chemical pesticides playing havoc with the environment, agriculture is in terrible distress. With farming becoming a losing proposition, and with the entire equation going wrong, agriculture is witnessing a mass exodus.

While academicians, economists and policy makers are ascribing several complex reasons for the decline of agriculture, the dark underbelly has somehow remained unexposed. What has actually eaten into the vitals of agriculture over the years is rampant corruption. It is like the vultures swarming around a dead animal carcase. Believe it or not, the despicable farm scenario is no less gory.

Fake and sub-standard inputs – seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and machinery is only one part of the story. With quality control in complete shambles, and with many testing laboratories known to have a fixed price tag for approving samples, farmers are always at the receiving end. No wonder, the post of plant protection officers as well as quality control is one of the most sought after in the State Departments of Agriculture.  

Massive public outlays under the National Horticulture Mission, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna, and the National Food Security Mission are in fact being used as grants. When I see the misuse of these outlays, often going into the pockets of senior farm officials, I have always wondered why the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has refrained from focusing on the flagrant misuse of resources in the name of food security.

Cosy relationship
Agricultural officials and input suppliers have always maintained a cosy relationship. Even where upright officials have blacklisted erring firms, it isn't difficult to pull down the shutters and then float a new company. Over the years, I have seen the business growing for those who were once known to be selling sub-standard products. 

Fly-by-night operators adorn the seed industry, and despite seed laws spelling out stringent punishment for marketing fake seeds, the market is full of spurious seeds. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had recently said that a big seed company had supplied inferior maize hybrid seed, and had refused to account for the losses. Ultimately, Bihar government had to pay for the Rs 60-crore loss.

Post harvest, the travails of a farmer take a different turn. In areas where procurement centres and mandis exist (mainly in the Green Revolution belt of Punjab, Haryana, western UP and some parts of Madhya Pradesh), invariably farmers are at the mercy of the arhtiyas and the mandi agents. In rest of the country, the farmer is exploited, fleeced and ends up selling his produce in distress. It will not be wrong to say that it is a nightmare for a farmer to get a fair price for his produce and that too after putting in so much of hard labour.

Banks, money lenders and micro-credit agencies have been perpetual suckers. Several studies have pointed to the mismanagement (and corruption) in the distribution of bank credit to be the primary reason for the agrarian crisis. Usurping interest charged by micro-finance institutions, often exceeding 24 per cent and that too to be repaid at weekly intervals, as well as the dependence on private money lenders has been the bane of farming.

A recent study by Nabard shows how farmers are being duped by nationalised banks. Farmers are being charged double the interest rate for subsidised credit as announced in the annual budget last year. Against the provision of a maximum of 7 per cent interest, banks have included the contingency expenses and other costs, which in reality means the farmer has to shell out an interest of 14 per cent.  

If you think scientific research, agricultural development and policy framing is devoid of corruption you are grossly mistaken. Much of what hits the farmer is the result of wrong policies. These policies are frames keeping the interest of service providers before farmers. But then, it is a topic for another day.  








The peace process in Assam involving the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants has made notable progress with the signing of an agreement for suspension of operations between the pro-talks faction of the outfit and the Central and state governments.

An unofficial ceasefire was in force and the formal agreement now should pave the way for talks on substantive issues. The ULFA has traversed a long way from its violent heydays and it is a much weakened and fractious outfit now. Its top leaders, except the 'commander-in-chief'' Paresh Barua, have been captured.

Ever since 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa's arrest, the militants have been amenable to talks and have dropped some of their most unacceptable demands like a discussion on sovereignty. This is the right time to build on the gains when the government holds an upper hand and reach an acceptable solution to end the three-decades-old militancy in the state.

It must be ensured that the terms of the agreement are not violated by both sides. In the past such agreements have come to naught because one side violated it and the other responded in kind to the violations. It has been decided that the militant cadres will stay in special camps set up by the government.

The government must ensure that these are provided because the militants will otherwise be tempted to resort to violence and extortion. Their security should also be the responsibility of the government. The ULFA has refused to surrender their arms but it has been agreed that whatever arms left with the militants would be kept in a mutually agreed system of safety.

The substantive round of talks should start without delay. In the past delay in the submission of demands by the militants or their vagueness and unacceptability have been stumbling blocks in talks. But this time the pro-talks faction has already submitted its charter of demands to the government and they can be a basis for negotiations.

Efforts to involve the hard line faction in the talks should continue. ULFA 'general secretary' Anup Chetia is in protective custody in Bangladesh. It may not be difficult to persuade the Bangladesh government to hand him over to India. If the talks make progress, more members of the hard line faction might come to support the peace process.







Uttam Raut Desai, like many other powerful police inspectors of Goa, has a Godfather protecting him. Even as Dy Sp Sammy Tavares is conducting an inquiry in to the case of a sexual assault on a trafficked victim by a constable of the Mapusa police, (under Desai's charge as PI of both Mapusa and Pernem), there is a move to transfer the case to the women's police station, to be investigated by a relatively junior PI Ezilda D Souza.


While nothing that the Goa police does is shocking anymore, this act goes against the basic sensitivity of its own DGP Aditya Arya, whose intervention actually resulted in the arrest of the constable who forced the trafficked victim to perform oral sex on him at the Mapusa police station. But having done that, there has been a systematic attempt to protect the Pernem PI who was in charge of both the Mapusa and Pernem police stations. While PI Desai, had nothing to do with the heinous act, he needs to tell us why did he not act against two constables including a lady who watched while the poor victim was being brutally abused?


There has been a subtle but systematic cover up and PI Desai is on the wrong for not taking action as well as committing acts that resulted in further torture of an innocent victim of the flesh trade.  Why has PI Desai not been asked why he blatantly lied and arrested the victim for soliciting in Pernem when she has escaped from the clutch of traffickers and was running away when the Mapusa police picked her up? Here was a young woman completely traumatized, running away from her captors who had forced her into prostitution and where she was repeatedly raped. Instead of treating her with sympathy, one constable inflicted great sexual violence on her and then the next day his boss sin charge, the PI of Pernem, (who was holding charge of Mapusa) "arrested" her for soliciting customers in Pernem. 


Have the people of Goa fathomed the seriousness of this case. Have civil society organizations realised how heinous this is. Or is this too trivial to take up because the PR returns in this case are not too big? 


If it were not for the state Women's commission, then even the identification parade of the girl would not have taken place. Arun Pandey a member of the panel which deals with cases of trafficked victims and the director of ARZ, however made the first serious call for an identification parade and informed the DGP.


After the identification parade was conducted and the victim identified the constable, there has been another twist to the case. Under the pretext of conducting investigations across various police stations, the case is being sought to be handed over to the Women's police station. 


Though this technically falls under the Crime Branch, the strength of an investigation by the Women's police

station is in doubt because here much junior PI will have to investigate the actions of a senior PI. 


This must not happen at any cost. The Mapusa and Pernem police stations are scenes of crime and while it is advisable that the case handled by someone all officers of these two police stations report to. While Sammy Tavares fits the bill, it is important to know that Uttam Raut Desai and Sammy Tavares were batch mates. Desai's career path has halted because of earlier charges against him in other cases. 


Clearly, investigations in this case do not inspire confidence. But we must let them dilute the case and protect guilty police men.








Recent news drew attention back to Goa's forgotten tribe - the Goans in Pakistan. For no fault of their own, other than the twists of history, this group has been treated as our own prodigal children for many decades now and definitely after 1947.

Goans living in Pakistan would henceforth be entitled to long-term visas to visit India, said NRI Commissioner Eduardo Faleiro. What this means in actual practise is yet to be seen. An estimated 10-15,000 Goans have had a harried time when visiting home, accessing their properties here or even simply visiting their relatives.


In their heyday, around 1956, the number of Goans in Pakistan had peaked at 25,000. These numbers sadly got caught in the wedge Indo-Pak policy, and unfriendly neighbourliness. But this is not a question of the Pakistani Goans alone.


For over a century, Goans - particular 'Old Conquest' Catholics - have streamed out of their homes in search of greener pastures and economic opportunities. They did well abroad; but they also found themselves uprooted from their soil, treated as aliens back home, and pushed aside when it came to claiming their fair share.


Maybe they had themselves to blame. Some expats thought they would never need to come back to Goa. Others focussed on their new lives and their economic needs.


Of late, one hears a rumbling over the lack of protection for the properties of expats. Since the 1960s, the changing power equations in Goa saw 'missing' expats as a convenient scapegoat used to feather the newly influential vote-banks. 'Land reforms' have targeted the middle-class rather than the big landholders, in a State which still lacks a land ceiling act.


Some properties were gobbled up by 'tenants'. In some coastal villages, a new class of 'grassroot politicians' have been taking over properties both by sleigh of hand and vanishing record tricks. An online expose on mining [] talks of how the State in Goa handed over "enemy property" to mine owners as the owner apparently migrated to Pakistan (after partition, in this case).


But these are not the only problems. Goan expats have themselves been disinherited and blocked by 'domicile' clauses. Education in professional institutions is blocked to expats' children. The position taken by the authorities - that they can fit within allocated quotas and higher fee structures - is unhelpful and unfair. What we need is more institutions to accommodate more, not fight over a small cake.


Little has been done to help them maintain cultural links with home. Air-links have long been promised to centres of Goan migration, but today transitory tourists' interests are obviously more important.


One major issue is about nationality. Expats struggle with lost records, and unhelpful bureaucracies, as they try to make a claim that they in fact belong here. Some have reported encountering difficulties and un-helpfulness when they seek OCI or PIO status, given that Goa's history was different from the rest of India (till 1961), and their parents could have well migrated out of a Portuguese Goa!


As of now, we don't even know sufficiently about the issues facing the expats in diverse locations. One suspects they are disorganised themselves, and might not understand their own issues. Recently, Goans in Borivali - a new centre for the community once based further south in Bombay - demanded a halt for Konkan Railway trains passing there.


With the exception of one Goan community in the Gulf, one is yet to see a detailed list of issues faced by them in different parts of the globe. Obviously, the long traditions of unity and solidarity that Goans have displayed (their ability at infighting apart), has not been used where it matters most. To claim part of is rightfully theirs.







Even today, six days after the start of the crisis surrounding the Ner Etzion school in Petah Tikva, dozens of students of Ethiopian origin do not know where they will be studying this year. It is difficult to imagine members of other, stronger social groups being in such a situation. For several years now Ner Etzion's entire student body has been of Ethiopian origin. The existence of this "Ethiopian ghetto" has served the other religious schools in Petah Tikva, which did not have to take on the challenge of admitting the immigrants. For a long time the Education Ministry also supported the arrangement.

The unequivocal demand by parents and activists in the Ethiopian community to close Ner Etzion, using the impressive argument of seeking genuine integration, led Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to reverse his earlier decision: The school would be closed immediately, rather than gradually. The result was confusion, uncertainty and anger on the part of many parents, who still do not know where their children will be enrolled. The other schools in Petah Tikva, especially the religious ones, will have to admit the Ner Etzion students. Two years ago the city's private educational institutions refused to admit students of Ethiopian origin. Now, too, there are calls to limit the number of these students that are to be accepted, on myriad and sundry grounds such as their subpar educational level or "lack of an appropriate support infrastructure." Busing the students to other communities has also been suggested - another way of relieving the "pressure" on the local schools.

Contributing to the desire to avoid absorbing these students is the growing competition between the state-religious and the private schools; the latter receive generous state support but have fewer Ethiopian-immigrant students. The private schools admit only the better students, figures in the state-religious education system say.

The Education Ministry and the city of Petah Tikva must solve the Ner Etzion crisis together, immediately. Its students, who have been sentenced to remain at home until some school deigns to admit them, will carry the memory of this rejection as a formative experience of their attempt to be accepted into Israeli society.








 "Gaza envelope" is not just a geographic term or an imaginary border line delimiting the threat zone around a group of communities in the south. It is a political situation in which, for the sake of accuracy, "Israel" should replace "Gaza." It is the Gaza Strip that envelopes Israel, and not the other way around. If a closure or blockade is the index of a smothering "envelope," then it is Israel that is being smothered, largely on its own account and in no small measure on account of Gaza.

The crisis with Turkey is just the latest example of Gaza's ability to cause Israel enormous diplomatic damage from within the fence surrounding the Strip. While Israel's alliance with Egypt is not like the one it had with Turkey, Egyptians are calling for a reappraisal of the Camp David Accords in light of last month's terror attack near Eilat, in which Gaza had a hand. To its east Israel is trapped within a new diplomatic front; in less than two weeks the United Nations will recognize an independent Palestinian state that will of course include Gaza as well.

It's true that unlike Gaza's inhabitants Israelis are still free to leave the state, to import and export goods and even to go abroad to study. But the siege is setting in. It isn't just the boycott on goods from the territories, the withdrawal of invitations to Israeli professors or directives to avoid speaking Hebrew in certain countries. It is the sense that Israel is increasingly isolating itself within its righteousness, magnifying the genuine and the imaginary threats, once again using the military language that speaks of the "high" or "low" probability of war, no longer confident of the U.S. position toward it and seeing most European states as political rivals.

A large majority of UN member states will support recognition of a Palestinian state. Many of them will say "yes" not because they care about the Palestinians' political rights - some of these countries oppress their own citizens - but because of Israel's opposition. Some will support a Palestinian state because they are fed up with Israeli policy, with the occupation and with Israel's arrogance. Others will vote in favor because they want to poke Washington in the eye with a sharp stick for pampering Israel for so long. It would not be going too far to suggest that the UN vote will be mainly a protest vote against Israel, a part of the undeclared siege.

Israel has never given the UN its due. The organization's failures, and its anti-Israel tendencies, are no secret. No one knows better than Israel that its resolutions are mainly ink on paper. But the UN is a dangerous arena, incapable perhaps of solving conflicts but good at defining goals, building international coalitions and imposing sanctions. It's an arena in which Israel's status is slipping away, and where even its closest friends labor to understand what state exactly they are supposed to be protecting.

This is part of the same siege, that can be likened to icebergs surrounding a straying ship whose captains are confident of their ability to thread their way through, until it can no longer move. It is natural to develop a siege mentality, a solidarity of the besieged, under such conditions. It's not the captain who ran the ship into the icebergs who is to blame, it's the terrible weather. It's not the closure of the Gaza Strip that's to blame for destroying relations, it's the Turks, the Islamists, the pro-Iranians. The Egyptians are also at fault, for revealing their true faces. And, of course, it's not the occupation that is at fault, it's the Palestinians who resist living under it.

And so, what is the only possible response when the entire world rises up against you; when Gaza, in any of its various names, is closing in on you? That's the time to hold onto the government's hand, to embrace the army, to consecrate the settlements and begin a new siege-mentality conversation. A conversation that will convince the besieged that the only way is that of the government, a conversation of prestige and condescension, of "We survived Pharaoh, we'll survive this, too," of "us against the world."

These are precisely the symptoms of the siege. They are the same words used by the leaders of countries under international sanctions. The terrible thing is that one can get used to a siege, at least for long enough to forget what it's like not to be under siege. But there is nothing like a siege to fortify esprit de corps - look at Gaza, for example. There's also nothing like a siege to cure a people that has begun to challenge the decisions of its government, to demonstrate or to ask superfluous questions. The siege is good for us.








Seven and a half weeks after it erupted, everyone agrees that the greatest achievement of the social protest is the revolutionary change in discourse. For the first time since the establishment of the state, the "socioeconomic issue" is Israel's top priority. As though someone had entered a room in which alienated and frightened people, suffocating with a sense of no-exit, were crowded together back to back, opened the door for them and invited them to go out into the fresh air. And they went outside, by the hundreds of thousands, and in a forgotten language demanded social justice, equality, a welfare state.

The achievement, as we said, is tremendous. Incomprehensible. But at precisely this point in time, and in light of the impressive success, the protest is fragile. While the students are folding up tents and are apparently preparing "to bring results" from the Trajtenberg Committee, others are initiating challenging campaigns like the "10 Plagues," the first of which is asking the public not to fill up at the gas stations owned by Yitzhak Tshuva, "because the tycoon took a loan from you and didn't return it." Although the determined young people succeeded in repelling ugly attacks and the anticipation of a "waning of the protest," there is danger awaiting at the very door that opened, and through which the historic opportunity for change came.

Days before the first tent was set up on Rothschild Boulevard, Israel was swept by an ugly wave of fascist legislation, whose high point (so far ) is the Boycott Law. In the air were threats of silencing, exclusion of anyone who doesn't meet the "Zionist" and "Jewish" criteria of the law's initiators, racist letters from rabbis, demonstrations against Arabs "who want to marry your sister," and more. Israeli democracy has never looked so unstable.

Even those who insist that the protest expresses only the distress of the burned-out middle class cannot deny the tremendous change evident in the demonstrations, the rallies and the discourse around the tent encampments. Jews, Arabs, secular and religious people, began talking to one another, spoke of their hardships, felt solidarity - a concept forgotten in recent years. All at once the spirit of isolationism and hatred evaporated, and another spirit appeared - one of hope, belonging and pride.

The young heralds of the new spirit succeeded, by means of their character and the messages they brought, in breaking down the barrier of fear. It was enough to listen to the speech delivered by Dafni Leef in the most recent demonstration to understand how they did it. With great wisdom she, in effect, summed up the essence of the demonstration, and paved the way for its continuation; she mentioned the backlash - "go to the outlying areas," "sushi eaters and nargileh smokers," "the protest is dying out because of the security situation," "Leef did not serve in the army" - and proposed a new discourse: civic, democratic, egalitarian, humane and desiring normalcy.

But this message is not necessarily what led hundreds of thousands of embittered, angry and helpless people to the demonstrations, and many of them are now finding consolation in the deceptive words of various hitchhikers who are taking a ride on the protest. For example, Yaron Zelekha, former accountant general of the Finance Ministry, who swept up masses with pseudo-socialist speeches, but at the Israel 2021 conference this week actually recommended comprehensive privatization of state assets, mainly land, just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been preaching for years.

More worrisome than Zelekha's zigzagging is his brutal style. At the present stage such belligerent ideas are liable to hit exposed nerves, and the anger and frustration are liable to be translated once again into sectoral hated and incitement. The danger lurking at the doorstep of the protest is therefore its total opposite: another ugly fascist wave, which will further undermine democracy, solidarity and freedom of expression. To prevent that, its leaders have to be more precise: to talk about the connection between equality, social justice, freedom of expression and transparency on the one hand, and democracy in the broad sense on the other. Not to be afraid to tell the politicians, the experts and the pundits who suddenly remembered that "they are also very social-welfare oriented," to stop bluffing and to refrain from using "pure" economics as an excuse for political decisions, and to avoid proposing instant solutions when what is needed is a profound change of the system.

The demonstrators must look Israeli society straight in the eye, and remind it that on July 14, 2011 they gave it a once in a lifetime opportunity for change. It should rely on them.








On August 30, Superintendent Tamar Bat Sharon and another Israel Police investigator reported to the office of Joseph Melamed. They came as emissaries of the Lithuanian government, which is accusing Melamed of slandering nine Lithuanians who were executed by the Soviet government for collaborating with the Nazis. In their homeland they are considered national heroes.

Attorney Melamed, 86, a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto and a partisan who fought in the forests, is chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. In 1999, he sent the Lithuanian prosecutor general a document entitled "Lithuania: Crime and Punishment," which contains a list of thousands of Lithuanians who collaborated with the Nazis and executed Jews during World War II. The list is based on testimony taken from survivors and eyewitnesses. Melamed demanded that the prosecutor general investigate their crimes.

Lithuania didn't lift a finger. Its government waited for 12 years and has now issued an order to investigate Melamed, of all people.

One of the nine whose honor the Lithuanian government wants to uphold is Juazas Luks'a, an officer in the Lithuanian army, who in 1941 used his sword to saw off the head of Rabbi Zalman Osovsky, and then put it on public display.

Many Lithuanians gladly collaborated with the Nazis and welcomed them as liberators. In 1941, even before the "liberation," Lithuanians began to massacre their Jewish neighbors. Most Lithuanian Jews, about 200,000, were exterminated in the Holocaust. Many of the murderers were Lithuanians. They had no need of Nazi encouragement.

Instead of being ashamed of its past, Lithuania is rewriting its history. It grants pardons to Lithuanians who were tried after the war in Soviet courts for the crime of collaboration with the Nazis. It considers them national heroes. In 2010, Lithuania even permitted the public use of swastikas.

Israel's embarrassing silence is being interpreted in Lithuania as weakness. Encouraged by the lack of Israeli response, Lithuania is not content only with expressions of nostalgia for the Nazi occupation or with sanctifying "patriots," the collaborators. In recent years there has been an escalation in Lithuanian chutzpah. It has begun to demand that Israel investigate Holocaust survivors for "war crimes." It began a few years ago with a demand that Israel extradite Brig. Gen. (ret. ) Yitzhak Arad, who was the chief education officer and chairman of Yad Vashem. The Lithuanians demanded his extradition for being a partisan who fought the Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators.

Instead of responding firmly and sending back the request without examining it, as is to be expected from a country that has vowed to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, the Israeli Justice Ministry made do with a rejection of the request, adding that it would have been preferable had it not been submitted, or something to that effect.

Later, the Lithuanians repeated the despicable maneuver of accusing Holocaust survivors of "war crimes," this time directing it at Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, a resident of Vilna, and Rachel Margolis of Rehovot.

It turns out that in the case of Melamed there was no coordination between the Israel Police and the Justice Ministry. It is surprising that the Israel Police, which usually investigates slowly, actually demonstrated unusual alacrity when it came to Lithuania's request to take testimony from Melamed (the case was first reported by Prof. Dovid Katz in his blog

But even more disturbing is the deafening silence of the Israeli government. The time has come for the government to stop showing restraint and to voice a harsh protest in order to put an end, once and for all, to the Lithuanian chutzpah.

Declaring the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel a persona non grata, or at least lowering the level of diplomatic relations, are fitting steps for a country that presumes to be the country of Holocaust survivors.








How embarrassing. While solidarity activists are planning new protests against the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government is adding to limitations on Palestinians' freedom of movement. One might justifiably ask: What are a few high school students Hamas refuses to allow to travel to the United States to study as opposed to 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned by Israel in Gaza?

Who cares about a few Fatah activists who have been banned from leaving the Gaza Strip? They have become a "price tag" - Hamas' revenge for the persecution of its supporters (not linked to the use of arms) in the West Bank by the Abbas-Fayyad government. And who even pays attention to a few hundred people who might be traveling to participate in NGO projects in the West Bank and abroad? What does it matter that they are required to give at least two weeks notice and provide the authorities in Gaza with an abundance of details about the project?

The truth is, these strikes against freedom of movement can be explained away by political circumstances. The explanations would even suit Hamas' respectable image abroad as a resistance government (as opposed to the PLO government's image as collaborators). It's almost certain that any rare Palestinian who Israel allows to leave Gaza via the Erez checkpoint is being shown some sort of favoritism by the Israeli authorities. This person can be close to the Palestinian Authority or a PA official himself, a favorite of the Americans or other Western entities, or of a well-connected Israeli organization.

By its very essence, freedom of movement for the few constitutes privilege, and privilege is a mutilated right, because rights are meant for everyone. Such mutilated rights foster envy and encourage the estrangement of the privileged from the rest of the public. That has been the basis for Israel's 20-year closure policy.

But Hamas' prohibitions are not intended to protest the maiming of the right to freedom of movement or the hypocrisy of Western governments that cooperate with the siege. After all, Hamas' limitations on movement also apply to those leaving from Rafah to Egypt.

Last Thursday, the Hamas authorities once again prevented six high school students, scholarship recipients, from leaving for their studies in the United States. A number of them had wanted to leave two weeks ago and were prevented from doing so on the orders of the Hamas education minister. This summer, children were prohibited from participating in a summer camp (! ) in the West Bank. The Gaza security forces interrogated a number of activists who had gone abroad; they were part of the movement against the separation of the West Bank from Gaza. Two had their laptops and cellphones confiscated, one was arrested for two days.

The prohibitions and Hamas' deterrent tactics must not be taken lightly just because the number of people affected is small. The nature of prohibitions is that they increase in volume as they roll down the slope called "rule." Hamas believes it has the right to intervene in parents' choices for their children's educational future. It believes it has the right to limit national and societal activity that is not based on its religious axioms.

These prohibitions are woven tightly into the Hamas regime's logic. Hamas, which is not threatened by elections, builds its own separate political-religious entity. The closer the government in Ramallah gets to the UN vote on accepting "Palestine" as a member, the more Hamas stresses the independence of the Gaza Strip under its rule.

In this way the Hamas government provides an alibi for Israel to mendaciously claim that it is no longer an occupier. Hamas needs a blockade to regulate from within so that the subjects of "independent Gaza" will be exposed as little as possible to different realities and will not question its policies. Hamas needs the blockade and needs Gaza to be cut off from the rest of Palestinian society to ensure the continuation of its regime.






Those who follow weather forecasts in print, on TV or some other form of the media were unlikely to be surprised by the record rainfall in the Chattanooga area on Monday. The possibility, indeed likelihood, of record-shattering precipitation was widely predicted. Still, the deluge and its aftermath are causing hardship and inconvenience for tens of thousands of area residents.

That should not be a surprise -- given the record 9.49 inches of rain in Chattanooga. It was the most rain ever in the city in any 24-hour period and broke the previous record set in 1886 by almost 2 inches, according to Kate Guillet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn. Monday's rains were significant from a meteorological standpoint.

Though rainfall was widespread, the Chattanooga area was the hardest hit by this particular system spawned by Lee, first a tropical storm, then a depression, Guillet said. "It [Monday's storm] was a very unusual event. That amount of rain in that amount of time occurs only about every 500 years."

Monday's rains, which lingered into Tuesday, brought familiar problems to the area. As creeks and rivers filled, mostly minor flooding occurred, prompting many road closures and a few evacuations during the late morning and afternoon on Monday. High winds Monday night exacerbated the problems, bringing down trees and power lines. By dawn Tuesday, tens of thousands of customers of the EPB and other area utility companies were without service. The effort to restore power began promptly.

Even with every available local worker and crews from out of town working, it will take some time to do so. A spokesman or the EPB said late Tuesday afternoon that about 22,700 homes and business were without power, adding that the utility company hoped to restore service to a majority of its customers within 24 hours. Still, it could be Thursday evening before complete restoration is accomplished. Power interruptions, of course, are one of many problems caused by the record-breaking downpour.

Many schools in the area were either closed Monday or started classes on a delayed schedule. And despite the effort of public works and utility company crews in several jurisdictions, some roads in the area remained either covered by water or blocked by trees, wires or other debris. Still, it could have been worse, especially if the record rain had fallen on waterlogged ground.

Kent Frantz, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga., said that flooding in the region could have been far more extensive. The area was extremely dry, he said and many streams, creeks and rivers in the area had low flows. "That gives a whole lot of room to work with ... normally when an area receives this much rain -- 6-10 inches over a widespread area -- you're in trouble."

This time, though, the ground was able to absorb a great deal of moisture and the impact of the record rainfall was relatively minor. In Northwest Georgia, he said, most flooding was relatively minor, though a few areas did experience what he termed moderate flooding. The weather, however, should abet recovery efforts.

"The long-range forecast looks pretty good for a while," Frantz said Tuesday. Those who experienced Monday's abundant rain and who are coping with its aftermath can be thankful for that.





To tens of millions of Americans who have no jobs or who cannot get enough hours at their part-time jobs to support themselves and their families, the most recent employment report will not come as any surprise.

In August, there was no net increase of jobs in the U.S. economy, and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent. That was the worst jobs report since last September, according to the Labor Department.

The alarming jobs figure in August seemed to take quite a few experts unawares. Economists had predicted -- or perhaps hoped -- that a net 93,000 jobs would be created in August, so it was an unpleasant surprise when new jobs were not created.

In fact, from June through August, job creation averaged only about 35,000 positions per month. That's obviously preferable to actually losing jobs, but that number is not nearly enough to keep up with the normal growth of our nation's workforce.

The United States needs to be producing about a quarter of a million new jobs a month to begin making progress against our high unemployment rate. The indicators from the past few months -- and the ongoing push in Washington to throw good spending after bad -- do not suggest that major private-sector job growth will be happening anytime in the near future.

Considering our high unemployment -- as well as the continuing housing market collapse, low consumer confidence and economic expansion of only 0.7 percent in the first half of this year -- can there really be much doubt that we face the serious possibility of another recession?

And even if we technically do not fall into a new recession, the likelihood of robust growth seems remote at best.

"[E]ven if the U.S. economy doesn't start to contract again, any expansion is going to be very, very modest and fall well short of what would be needed to drive the still-elevated unemployment rate lower," Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, told The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama plans to deliver a big speech later this week on his plan to create jobs. But it is expected to be more of the same -- lots of government spending and borrowing to "stimulate" the economy.

We would rather he give a speech candidly acknowledging that the previous stimulus didn't work, and that the federal government is going to get out of the way of the free-market economy, cease its threats of tax increases, and roll back undue, job-killing regulations in ObamaCare and other unwieldy programs.

But we won't hold our breath waiting for that speech from our big-spending president.






U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe minced no words Tuesday in a meeting with members of a Senate committee on Tuesday. Without Congressional action, Donahoe told the lawmakers, that the Postal Service will default on a multibillion dollar payment due the U.S. Treasury this month and that it could run out of money to operate sometime next year. Congress should not allow either to occur.

The Postal Service's problems are well documented. The agency has been hammered by the economic slowdown and by the continuing consumer shift from first-class mail to email. The situation is dire. The Postal Service lost $8 billion last year and could lose that much or more this year -- despite job cuts and local post office closures. Clearly, some remedy is in order.

Congress holds the key to restoring a bit of fiscal stability to the Postal Service. While it does not provide funds to operate the post office, it has considerable say in how it operates. Congress mandates, for example, that the agency provide universal service, certain employment rules and that it prepay retiree health benefits. The Postal Service does not have the money to meet the latter requirement, a payment of $5.5 billion due by the end of this month.

Even if the Postal Service could make the payment, that wouldn't end the crisis. The agency still needs to cut other costs. That's difficult given the agency's mandates and the political pressures it faces from lawmakers, especially rural ones, to maintain unprofitable post offices and from big business that has a vested interest in keeping mailing costs, especially for bulk mail low.

Balancing such competing interests -- consumers, politicians, big business -- would be hard at any time. It is especially difficult in the current partisan atmosphere in Washington. There is some bipartisan support for remedies to help the Postal Service, though even the most ardent backers of such legislation admit they are mostly short-term solutions to a long-term problem. A broader view is needed.

Donahoe told the Senate committee that the Postal Service doesn't want taxpayer money. He said he wanted to get the agency's finances in order. That's the right approach, but Congress needs to help by helping to develop plans to streamline the service, even if it includes closing posts offices and reducing delivery days. Whether legislators are willing to do so remains to be seen. If they treat the looming Postal Service crisis like they did the debt-ceiling debate, then the Postal Service and all who still depend on it are in trouble.





Congress hasn't been exactly popular in a long time, and two recent polls drove that point home again. In an Associated Press-GfK poll, only 12 percent of those surveyed said Congress is doing a good job, compared with 87 percent who think Congress is on the wrong track. A Gallup poll put the disapproval at 84 percent, compared with 13 percent approval.

There can be many reasons for the unpopularity of lawmakers. Sometimes they must take difficult but necessary votes for the good of the country.

But all too often, they bring disfavor on themselves with unwise legislation. Think of the billions of dollars wasted, for instance, on harmful ethanol subsidies or unconstitutional federal support for Amtrak -- to say nothing of much bigger and extremely unpopular budget items such as ObamaCare.

And now, with a bipartisan "super committee" of Congress tasked with proposing, before Thanksgiving, more than $1 trillion in long-term deficit cuts, Democrats on the committee are zeroing in on tax increases rather than keeping the focus on the excessive spending that caused our huge deficits in the first place.

That's no recipe for enhancing the public's opinion of Congress.

Even when they do the right things, our representatives and senators in Washington will never please everyone. But it would be a refreshing change if they at least did fewer of the obviously wrong things.




While we in the Chattanooga area fortunately haven't experienced, over the past couple of weeks, the weather extremes that some on the East Coast have suffered during the hurricane season, nor the level of severe drought that places such as Texas are enduring, we undoubtedly have been going through some just plain messy weather.

The more than 8 inches of rain that the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee had dropped at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport by late Monday afternoon surpassed the 24-hour local rainfall record set all the way back in 1886!

More rain fell Tuesday, closing or delaying school in much of the area and causing flooding. Phone service and electricity were out in a number of areas. And some motorists, not heeding warnings and common sense, unsuccessfully tried to drive through flooded areas, only to see their cars stall.

Tragically, at least one local death was attributed to the weather when a woman was struck by a falling tree.

Our "September in the rain" surely will yield before too long to "October's bright blue weather," though. Soon we'll see the seasonal changing of leaf colors, with mild temperatures for a while -- before we get to the chilly season. And even then, we'll likely be blessed with our accustomed mild winter weather.

Experienced Chattanoogans long have said that if you don't like the weather here, just wait 24 hours. It will change.

So as we dodge the current showers, raise our umbrellas and steer clear of flooded areas, we are certain that there's lots of mild weather ahead in these waning days of summer and during the fall, before we have to button up our coats.

And then before we know it, spring will break through again in all its splendor.







Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan broke his silence of four days on the latest row with Israel.

His mimics were as strong as his words as he answered reporters' questions. He denounced Israel as a "spoiled boy." The Turkish audience got the hidden message there; the phrase was spent to imply that it was the United States who was spoiling Israel. Erdoğan was criticizing the U.S. indirectly while attacking Israel.

Repeating Turkey's demand for an apology for killing nine Turks aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010 and compensation for their families, Erdoğan also said together with downgrading of political relations, military and economic relations were frozen.

Erdoğan was quite decisive when he announced that from tomorrow on, the Turkish Navy would be more visible in the East Mediterranean, hinting at especially off the Israeli coast, which "is not an unfamiliar region" for Turkey.

More visible Turkish Navy patrols in the East Mediterranean surely implied that Turkey is disturbed by the natural gas explorations of Israel, partly in cooperation with the Greek Cypriot government in the region; thus more escalation of tension.

Erdoğan looked frustrated when he was asked about his possible trip to the Hamas-held Palestinian territory of Gaza. He said he did not make a decision yet. Experienced reporters knew that it was already a problematic plan as Egypt was not volunteering for another conflict with Israel over Palestinians after the fatal incidents last week and while a regime change is ongoing in Cairo.

That was not the only problem with the five-point set of measures against Israel announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu over the weekend. A number of Turkish foreign policy and international experts who yesterday commented on taking the case to the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, said that it was not an easy process like applying to any criminal court. It needed a tough United Nations process beforehand, where the possible U.S. backing of Israel is likely to block it. Moreover, neither Israel nor Turkey recognizes ICJ rulings.

It was important that Erdoğan made those statements after having a rather long meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoğlu and Foreign Ministry diplomats the night before. So it might be understood that Ankara decided to burn the bridges between Israel and itself.

Not exactly. Around one hour after Erdoğan's statements, sources from the prime minister's office leaked to media that Erdoğan did not mean to freeze economic relations, but only military ones.

By that time, and it was still mid-day, news agencies started to report that the fall in Tel Aviv stock exchange had hit 9 percent in two days, triggered by the statements of Israeli Central Bank Gov. Stanley Fischer, who said escalated tension with Turkey might be costly for the Israeli economy.

It can be concluded in reference to the nature of Ankara politics that Erdoğan's early correction was a step saving the opponent from a further depreciation and an effort to avoid burning all the bridges. Behind all those strong words, there is still room to maneuver.






An officious deputy Istanbul governor – who unfortunately is serving as the "highest administrative official" at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport – apparently decided to defend the "national honor" of Turkey by ordering customs police to apply the famous "reciprocity principle" to arriving Israeli citizens and question them why they wanted to visit Turkey. Thank God, at least so far, neither the officious deputy governor nor the officious customs policemen decided to undress arriving Israelis from top to toe as Israeli security people were reported to have been doing for some Turks at Tel Aviv Airport.

I have been to Israel many times over the past years. There were times when I was treated as a VIP and escorted by protocol people, there were times when I was questioned mercilessly and my luggage was violently searched by security people. In view of the immense terrorist threat to Israel and Israelis, I always considered the tightened security or obsessive security measures undertaken by Israelis at key places such as the Tel Aviv Airport as "perfectly normal." Yet, the fact that Israel employs "kids" as security people with the power to conduct body searches at the airport or at crossing points to Palestinian areas has always been problematic. A "kid" in uniform holding the Turkish foreign minister for hours at the crossing point to Palestinian territory was awful but almost a common practice in security-obsessed Israel. That has been a perennial problem that Israel must resolve somehow, of course without compromising its legitimate security concerns.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government should urgently take action against that stupidity at the Istanbul airport which if not stopped might seriously hurt Turkey's legitimate uproar against the Israeli Mavi Marmara barbarism and intransigence in delivering a modest apology and compensation for the nine Turkish nationals murdered by Israeli marines.

If such foolish and indeed shows of masturbation at the airport are allowed to continue on the pretext of reciprocity – as if this were the first time Israel had ever started to become obsessed about security – people might start asking tomorrow what happened to that deputy governor who allowed the Mavi Marmara to leave Turkey with passengers who did not go through routine departure formalities in accordance with the passport laws of the country. Did the Mavi Marmara possess proper navigation papers (and not ones obtained in the aftermath)?

There are many questions to be asked and of course even though Ankara might declare the U.N. Palmer Report on the Mavi Marmara incident as "null and void," can the people in Ankara say in all confidence as "honest Muslims" that they did all they could to prevent the Mavi Marmara catastrophe? Why at the last minute were AKP deputies "ordered" to stay away from the trip but others were allowed to leave without going through passport formalities? The Mavi Marmara incident exploded both in the hands of the Israeli coalition of absurdity and in the hands of Turkey's absolute ruler, who had a revanchist outburst after being angered by Israel's sidelining of Ankara's "regional mediator" or "regional power" role by conducting the Gaza bombardment just hours after a trip to Ankara by the Israeli prime minister.

What's done is done… Perhaps Israel and Turkey should sit back and calculate the prospective cost of continuing the current politics of tension before adding more fuel to the fire… Where is the common interest? In reciprocating offenses or helping each other treat their wounds?







Israel and Turkey are the biggest democracies in this region. The 63-year-old diplomatic relations we have between our nations - political and financial relations which were known for their warmth and depth and had benefitted both peoples - had their share of differences. We have always managed to overcome them. For the most part, these differences did not focus on the bilateral relations, but rather on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I have no doubt that Turkey aspires to contribute to the peace process in the Middle East. I do hope that we will all witness the renewal of this process - sooner than later. But the unfortunate incident on the Mavi Marmara, with the death of Turkish citizens, created a gap between our nations that has never been this wide.

This is the time to ask ourselves – can we find a way to bridge our differences and resume the path of a shared dialogue between our nations? I believe we must. This is the time to put emotions aside and see how we can solve the problem – not deepen it.

From my experience, when you get into the room and understand you have common goals and interests, it is often possible to find the words that satisfy both sides. I hope this could still be the case.

Each nation has its own narrative about the same event.

From Israel's perspective our soldiers had no choice but to defend themselves. But, as this event resulted in deadly casualties – Israel has expressed its regret for the loss of lives.

Our shared interests are far greater than what we disagree about. We should be wary of damaging this important relationship by acting emotionally. Now is the time for both Israel and Turkey to think with our heads, not with our hearts, and to act carefully.

While governments can have their differences, their peoples must not pay the price of these political disagreements. Humiliating Israelis in airports is not the answer to this conflict, and it will only make the process of restoring relations more complicated. Even when we have differences between our governments – Israeli and Turkish citizens should not pay the price for these differences – not in the airport and not anywhere else.

Both sides have too much to lose by acting emotionally and jeopardizing the important long-standing strategic connections we have cultivated over the past decades. We see eye-to-eye on many issues in our region. We both understand the dangerous trends that might affect both Turkey and Israel these days. We can achieve more by working together, as we did in times of differences, than by fighting and hurting our peoples.

Yes, I am the leader of the Israeli Opposition. I have my share of differences with our government. But all of the differences that might occur between both nations' governments must not hurt our strategic alliance, and the bonds between our peoples. This is now the time for leadership, on both sides to calm things down, sit together, see all that is important for us and for you and restore the relations between our nations to where they are supposed to be.

We have to find a way - and there is another way- in which both of our peoples can preserve their self dignity and our nations' their mutual interests. Israel and Turkey must find that way.

* Tzipi Livni is Isreal's former foreign minister.






Former Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner's famous conversation posted in the Internet has astonished not only us but also the international military community.

The Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, had built up an image domestically and internationally. An almost legendary show of force was in question. A much disciplined Turkish Army was always mentioned, full of heroic epics, the stories of sacrifices and successes of which we were constantly exposed to.

Koşaner's speech has shattered this legend. Where is our army, the apple of our eye? What happened to our heroic army that would make our eyes water when, in parades, they would pass with their spotless uniforms? What happened to that army which was the insurance of all we own, defender of our democracy, assurance of our lives, that army we cherished?

We are in deep disappointment.

We are not alone in this; the international military community is making new assessments and writing new reports about the TSK.

It seems that whatever has been told to us up until today were not at all correct.

- They used to say it was NATO's and the region's most powerful army.

It seems that we have created hundreds of thousands of Mehmetçiks (soldiers) ready to die in the name of "love for the country – mission for the nation." We have assigned them, beyond dying, even to do house chores.

- They used to say it was the most disciplined army.

It seems that, in time, there was no discipline left. An unnecessary rudeness, extreme arrogance and a fancy to act superior to rule of law have become widespread.

- People said its training programs were better than the US army's

It seems that no proper training was provided and no effective command and control practice was developed.

Look at what Gen. Koşaner is explaining.

He goes on a tirade on the troubles in the management of troops, on those who cannot properly process the data received from unmanned air vehicles, the idleness and mayhem in the barracks and those officers who cannot lead their soldiers.

- They used to say the TSK's biggest chance was the experience it gained in anti-terror combat

It seems that, let alone experience, in anti-terror combat there was no shiny lesson learned except for about personal sacrifice. One listens to stories of those commanders who left their weapons and fled or who have shot their own soldier.

Where are our heroes?

Where are the Southeast commanders who constantly appear on TVs, who write books and put on airs, who slam civilians?

It means that we have only been given an image.

An empty image.

Then, and only then, can you understand that you have been deceived.

TSK weakened by involvement in politics

At the root of the problems in the TSK lies the facts that commanders were involved in the nation's politics rather than their real jobs and that they spent the majority of their time dealing with domestic politics.

Especially the General Staff, since the coup on May 27, 1960, played an accelerating role in domestic politics.

Take a look at our recent history, you will notice it immediately.

The March 12, 1971 intervention and Sept. 12, 1980 coup have resulted in the TSK spending 25 years in domestic politics. After that came Feb. 28 and things got even more complicated. The "fine-tuning" attempts for democracy, and if you add to that the military interferences after the Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, seized power in the 2004-2007 period and especially during the process of the election for Çankaya, you come to the conclusion that the TSK has not released itself from politics for 40 years.

 If the senior staff of an army is involved in domestic politics to this extent and if commanders spend most of their time in extra-military affairs, then the situation they have fallen into today becomes inevitable.

You see, I have been drawing attention to this risk for 40 years. For 40 years, I have been writing that the TSK should stay out of politics. Because of that, I have been declared an "enemy of the army." I was taken to court; they wanted to punish me.

In the end, I was proven right.







Dear Sons of Isaac,

Until a few weeks ago, I was hoping that the rift between our governments was on the verge of being closed. There were rumors that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides were considering an appropriate apology for the killing of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara some 15 months ago. Since then, after all, we Turks had shown several signs of goodwill. When there was a forest fire in Israel last December, our government sent planes to help. When a second flotilla set sail for Gaza, the Mavi Marmara declined to join.

But, apparently, the hawks in the Netanyahu Cabinet prevailed, producing a "no apology" response. Our response, in return, was to expel your ambassador, end all military cooperation, and vow to protect our ships from future attacks in the Mediterranean. Most people here think that these are justified measures. Some, including the opposing Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, even think they are insufficient.

Please try to understand why we Turks have this attitude. Our civilian ships are not attacked everyday on international waters. In fact, it has been common to note here that the Mavi Marmara incident is the first since World War I in which Turkish citizens have been killed by a foreign military.

Moreover, most Turks see the Mavi Marmara people quite differently than you do. Those activists did not recognize the legitimacy of your blockade on Gaza – a collective punishment on the Palestinian people – just like the dozens of non-Muslims in the Free Gaza Flotilla, which included peacenik Jews and even a Holocaust survivor. Yes, many on the Mavi Marmara were passionately religious and saw the world in scriptural terms – but not more so then your West Bank settlers. And yes, some of them used "violence" to protect the deck from whom they saw as pirates, but all they tried to do was to disarm your commandos. Photographs prove that they even took one of your injured to the doctor onboard.

What your soldiers did in return was ruthless rampage. Even the Palmer Report, which we find biased on your behalf, notes that one of the victims, the 18-year-old Furkan Doğan, received "wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect."

The young Furkan was an American citizen of Turkish origin. The United States government has not pursued his cause, and probably will not do so, for reasons that we all know. But we Turks will never forget Furkan, the other eight victims, or the rightful cause that they stood for: a free and secure Palestine.

I know that many in your country see this Turkish stance as a product of the "Islamism" of our government and its supposed shift to the "axis of evil." (Recently, one of your former officials, Gregg Roman of your Defense Ministry, gave me that line passionately on Al Jazeera English.) But the world is really less black and white. We are an ally of neither Iran nor Syria, as we have been busy condemning the latter's brutality on it own people. On the other hand, we are an ally of the United States, but not its yes-man. And while we remain as strong supporters of the Palestinian cause, we hope to befriend you again as well.

In fact, before this blood between us, we were hoping to help you by moderating Hamas and other radical actors in the Middle East. We were trying to convince more Muslims for a two state-solution in the Holy Land. But now we clearly realize that the obstacle to peace is not just the fanaticism on the Muslim side, but the one on your side as well, as evidenced in your never-ending settlements and the ever self-righteous attitude of your politicians.

Listen; you just cannot go on like this forever. The Middle East is changing, and you soon will not be "the only democracy in the Middle East." You rather will have to choose between becoming an isolated Apartheid state, or a state that respects universal norms of justice. Personally, I am still hoping that you have the wisdom to make the right choice.


A humble Turk — and an honorary son of Ishmael

* For Mustafa Akyol's all works, including his recent book, "Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty," visit his blog,






As Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held a very critical meeting with the U.S. secretary of state in Paris on Thursday on a possible last-ditch American effort to postpone the release of the Palmer report so as to further press the Israeli government to agree to a formal apology to the Turks, he was not aware that a copy of the blueprint was already being leaked to the New York Times to nix Clinton's plans. He immediately changed his itinerary and instructed his team to return to Ankara that night to immediately announce Turkey's sanctions against Israel. Months-long efforts were killed Thursday by the anonymous persons who leaked the report.

In the light of recent developments, here are some of the consequences:

- Turkey's miscalculations and wrong planning from the very beginning after the Mavi Marmara incident resulted in the "so-called legitimization of the Israeli naval blockade against Gaza." The panel led by Geoffrey Palmer and Alvaro Uribe was established as a result of Ankara's strong pressure against Israel. The formation of the panel was among Turkey's pre-conditions.

- However, a methodological mistake authorized Palmer and Uribe to write the report in the event that the commission's Turkish and Israeli failed to come to an agreement. Uribe's close links with Jewish groups and the influence of the Israeli lobby in international organizations were ignored by Turkey. At the end of the day, nearly 65-70 pages of the 105-page report were devoted to legitimizing the naval blockade. Thus, Turkey's insistence resulted in a U.N. document legitimizing Israel's inhuman blockade, something Tel Aviv was long looking for.

- Turkey's attempt to take the naval blockade to the International Court of Justice with the aim of nixing the Palmer report seems doomed to fail, according to experts. The process is a very difficult one, and it could produce an additional document that serves to Israel's advantage.

- However, the current picture is to the advantage of Turkey, who was long working to become an influential regional player and even the leader of the Muslim world. Bashing Israel is a proven way to realize this aim, as seen in the aftermath of the Davos crisis between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Shimon Peres.

- Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza over the weekend to praise Erdoğan for cutting ties with Israel. No doubt, thousands of them would still be on the streets if Turkey and Israel would agree to normalize ties following the latter's issuance of an apology and the payment of compensation.

- Turkey's warning that a more aggressive strategy will be pursued in the eastern Mediterranean is, I believe, a sort of indication of the Israelization of Turkey in this neighborhood. Retaliatory policies accompanied by threats about the use of military power will obviously not work for the stability of the already unstable region. Israel's counter move by intensifying relations with Greek Cyprus, coupled with Turkey's intention to sign a strategic-military agreement with Egypt, will further complicate the picture in the eastern Mediterranean.




According to the latest report on the pharmaceutical sector by the international auditing and consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers, one in every five drugs sold in 2020 will be sold in Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey.

According to the report, Turkey and India will especially become the most important markets for the sector.

I recently spoke to the general manager of Bilim İlaç, Dr. Erhan Baş on the latest developments in the pharmaceutical sector in Turkey.

Bilim İlaç is the fastest growing company in the last five years in the sector.

While Bilim İlaç ranked in ninth place in 2002, it had jumped to third place by 2010 among 300 companies in the sector, according to data provided by Erhan Baş.

Investing in R&D has played a huge part in this success.

Bilim İlaç has a laboratory, covering an area of 4,500 square meters in Gebze, near Istanbul, and it has appointed Dr. Chadrashekhar Mainde form India to head its R&D department.

Dr. Mainde is transferring, in a way, the know-how India has in pharmaceutical R&D to the laboratory in Gebze.

According to information provided by Baş, Turkey imports 51 percent of the medicine it consumes.

But despite the high ratio of imports, Turkey is at an exceptionally good point in pharmaceutical production compared to regional countries.

Exports to Libya have come to a halt

Bilim İlaç annually exports $32 million worth of pharmaceuticals to 48 countries.

"Regional countries are an important market for us," he said, adding that Iraq has both become an incredibly active market recently and also has a huge potential for the future.

Recent incidents in Libya have also affected Bilim İlaç, just as they have many other sectors in Turkey.

After clashes erupted between Col. Moammar Gadhafi's troops and opposition forces, Bilim İlaç's exports to Libya came to a sudden halt.

The company also sends medicine aid to Somalia.

Another interesting topic emerges during the conversation with Baş.

The Health Ministry inspects imported pharmaceuticals with its own personnel. But because of the recent inadequate numbers of staff, the inspections have started to take a lot longer. And this has caused global pharmaceutical giants to knock on the doors of Turkish pharmaceutical firms for production.

This situation which is in favor of local producers has presented new opportunities for companies such as Bilim İlaç.

In short, they have "hit the jackpot."

Cooperation with world giants

For example, Bilim İlaç has started negotiations for joint production with the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis, for production in Turkey.

One of the reasons why world giants prefer Bilim İlaç is this:

Bilim İlaç is one of the Turkish firms that has best adopted a "sustainable development" strategy.

The "Corporate Responsibility Report" it issued in 2011 received a lot of praise from the reporting standards corporation Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI.

One of the first companies in Turkey to sign the "U.N. Global Compact," Bilim İlaç has taken a series of measures, including restricting air travel to reduce its "carbon footprint."

Environmental awareness is a must today in corporate responsibility global compact cooperatives.

Erhan Baş has understood this very well.





Turkey, with a midnight statement, suddenly accepted to host NATO's missile shield.

They had tried to set it up in the Czech Republic three years ago.

The public reacted; they gave up. Then they tried Poland. Again the masses resisted, and it was given up.

Thank God, there is no problem with such a public reaction in Turkey.

The government said, "Right, we are taking it." It was over.

Of course, the only reason for this strategic change is not the submissiveness of the Turkish public. The increase in Iran's armament has increased neighbor Turkey's charm. As you know, the real target of the "Missile Shield Project" is Iran.

Whenever this subject was brought up at every international meeting in recent years, Turkey would insist on the argument, "This has nothing to do with Iran." Both President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unwaveringly resisted that the name "Iran" be mentioned in NATO documents. It was the French President Nicolas Sarkozy who summed it up: "We call a cat, a cat."


How did we understand that the "cat" mentioned was Iran?

Of course from WikiLeaks postings.

We learned from a leaked document that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a message to all embassies on Sept. 18, 2009:

"President (Obama) has accepted forming a missile defense system against a possible Iran threat."

Five months later, U.S. Defense Minister Robert Gates was sent to Turkey to investigate. Date: Feb. 16, 2010.

They met with Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül.

In a one-on-one meeting, Gönül said (just the opposite of the message the government was giving to the public): "We are concerned about the Iranian threat."

He gave the message that, "We are ready," by saying: "Though we do not expect an attack against Turkey, a threat against our Western allies makes the air defense capacity important." The American diplomat in Ankara who recounted this meeting to Washington added this note: "The (minister's) acceptance that Iran may pose a threat to Europe differs from previous Turkish discourses that underestimated the threat in question."

This interpretation means that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has changed its policy on Iran.

As Güngör Uras' well-timed reminder on Monday, Turkey learned about the Jupiter missiles on its soil during the Cuban Crisis in 1961 by coincidence.

This time also, we are learning that we have been assigned a mission in the West's new defense concept against Iran through documents leaked accidentally.

The New York Times said, "American military officials are pleased."

Wall Street Journal said the deal could ratchet up tensions between Turkey and Iran.

The Turkish public does not even discuss it.

While the Mavi Marmara showdown with Israel has justifiably taken center stage, there is no reaction to Turkey's shielding itself, in a way for Israel, against its eastern neighbor.

Is it possible to defend such a step that would deepen the tension with Iran by saying, "But Iran's name is not mentioned in official documents"?

Is it possible to circumvent such an important decision that would make all of us targets without reporting to either the Parliament or the nation, only with a midnight statement?

The real question is for the pro-Islam media: The Iran sensitivity, the Israel hostility, why are they not active here?

Can Dündar is a columnist for Daily Milliyet in which this piece appeared on Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.




In the end, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has succeeded in winning a United Nations seal of approval that notes that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is legal, ending the cold peace with Israel and starting a cold war. The downgrading of diplomatic ties to the level of second secretary may soon be replaced by a new downgrading, this time to the level of doorman as Turkey puts into action its plans C, D and E.

The Turkish threat to take the blockade dispute to the International Court of Justice is dubious since only parties can do that and, sorry Mr. Davutoğlu, Turkey is not a party to the Gazan-Israeli dispute no matter how much that may break your heart. The threat to boycott Israeli weapons systems is equally childish since these sounds like boycotting Chinese chicken leg producers.

So you say, Minister Davutoğlu, that the Turkish military will now upgrade its naval presence in the Mediterranean, increase its patrols and pursue a more aggressive strategy. With half the naval top brass in jail, our frigates should be careful not to fire on one another, run aground or mistakenly land on our own coastline.

What other imminent Turkish shows of anger are in the works? A painful interrogation process for airline passengers arriving from Israel was what the new Ottoman state could think of. The official explanation is reciprocity, which looks plausible at first glance. But this will only open the new Ottoman state to ridicule as it has no power to reciprocate for how most Western countries process its citizens during visa and entry processes. Now we know that the new Ottoman state can only reciprocate against Israel and turn a blind eye to all other states. Or else, go ahead, Minister Davutoğlu, and apply a reciprocal visa and entry procedure to all visitors from the Schengen zone.

But why are the big angry Turks raising the stakes against big angry Israelis in what one diplomat described to me as "watching a western in which two heroes are killing each other?" Officially speaking, they want payback for the nine Turkish lives lost during the commando raid on the Mavi Marmara which the U.N. panel rightly found was excessive use of force. Nine Turkish lives lost due to a foreign military's excessive use of force; it's a first in history.

This could well have been avoided if the big angry Turks and big angry Israelis were not the big angry Turks and big angry Israelis. As a western diplomat told me, "When the Mavi Marmara did not participate in the second flotilla, everyone realized how easy it was to prevent the first one."

No doubt, Turkish government officials sincerely feel sympathy for the Mavi Marmara victims and their families. But this is not precisely why they are acting like big angry Turks. If Mr. Davutoğlu is keen for an honest explanation, he can first listen to his own speeches which, in "I-have-a-dream" fashion, boast that his dream is to "pray one day at the al-Quds mosque in the Palestinian capital al-Quds." Yes, it's all about the militantly Islamic sacrosanct symbolism about an "Arab-only Jerusalem."

Placards are important. If his own speeches fail to convince Mr. Davutoğlu, he can look at the footage of demonstrations after Friday prayers often ornamented with placards reading "Now I understand Hitler!" Still not convincing? Let's have a look at the visual material from the annual al-Quds day celebrations in London and in Istanbul for which thousands of Muslims gathered sporting their yellow Hizbullah flags with the famous gun emblem.

The placards at the Trafalgar Square had this assortment: "Death to Israel," "Israel your days are numbered," and "For world peace Israel must be destroyed." A common Trafalgar-Beyazıt placard was "We are all Hizbullah," and an only-Beyazit placard read "The army of Muhammad is returning/coming."

And here is how a speaker at Beyazıt spoke about peace: "The world is moving closer to a great day to settle scores [with Israel/Jews]... Israel's demise is near... If we are going to talk of liberating al-Quds, we must first talk about the annihilation of Israel."

One may argue that these are radical Islamists and that Turkey's rulers are not. Then answer two questions, dear optimist (and you can do this silently). Did Turkey's current rulers carry, or did they not, the same placards years ago before they decided to become the chameleons of political Islam? Do they, or do they not, even this day talk about the "liberation" of al-Quds? They may no longer be carrying the placards, but the same words are engraved on their hearts.








Will we ever get to the bottom of the allegations made by former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza, or are they, like so much else that happens in our society, destined to fade into oblivion? The latter cannot be allowed to happen; the charges made by Mirza are far too grave. Most serious among these are the claims that Interior Minister Rehman Malik was complicit in the violence in Karachi or, at the very least, did not stop it with the deliberate intent of furthering certain political purposes. This 'revelation', if found to be true, is loaded with devastating implications about the morality of our politicians and their mindset. It would establish their ruthless readiness to squander innocent lives in order to move ahead in their own games. One would expect the party's top leadership to step forward and demonstrate a special interest in getting to the bottom of the matter. Instead, we find just the opposite. The president and prime minister are reportedly opposed to the establishment of a judicial commission to examine the charges. This is despite the fact that, in a letter to the PM, Rehman Malik had himself requested that a commission be established. Perhaps this was merely an act of bravado – or perhaps Mr Zardari and Mr Gilani themselves know the truth all too well and would rather not have it come out?

Their response thus far has been grossly inadequate and distressing, to say the least. The argument put forward by the two men, that political issues should be settled through political means rather than judicial ones, makes little sense. In a democracy people have an absolute right to know what is happening and why; they have a right too to know about the character of their political leaders and of their doings. The remarks Dr Mirza made involved allegations of some grave criminal actions; not looking into these properly would also border on the criminal. An independent judicial commission can effectively perform this role. The matter goes well beyond politics. It involves lives and welfare and indeed the future of our largest city. The top leadership must not be allowed to sweep matters under the carpet. Doing so would only add to our apprehensions about their integrity and willingness to solve the issues of our country by preventing criminal offences by politicians – or anyone else.





'One up, one down' is a good way to sum up this week in Pakistan-United States relations. On one hand, Pakistan has earned some high praise from the US by arresting senior Al-Qaeda leader, Younis al-Mauritani, and, on the other hand, Pakistan has also finally formally rejected the US demand to hand over Dr Shakeel Afridi who helped the CIA get to Osama bin Laden by carrying out a fake anti-polio campaign in Abbottabad. Al-Mauritani, described as Al-Qaeda's foreign minister, is one of the top three senior members of the network's External Operations Council – the division tasked with hitting the US, Europe, and allied nations, especially economic targets. The operation to capture him, which has been hailed by the White House, was conducted with assistance from US agencies, and is being called a sequel to the May 2 raid. Even the Pakistan Army has not shied from using the arrests to extol the relationship with American intelligence agencies. Certainly, the operation indicates that Pakistan-US intelligence-sharing efforts, which took a major hit after the Osama raid, have been restored to some degree.

However, almost simultaneously, a reminder of the dysfunctional nature of the Pakistan-US relationship has also come in the form of the announcement that Pakistan has no intention of handing Dr Afridi over to the US. The demand for the doctor has come from the US embassy, the CIA and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This will surely lead to strains in the immediate short-term when Pakistan considers America a fickle ally and the US continues to doubt Pakistan's commitment to eliminating terrorism from Pakistani soil. However, while the winds of distrust continue to chill relations in the aftermath of the Osama raid and even though complete restoration of ties may not happen, the bottom-line is that both countries need each other. It is this that they must not lose sight of in the more trying moments of the relationship.





There can be no other reason for the government penalising those independent power producers (IPPs) which had served notice on it other than petulant spite. It will be remembered that the IPPs had informed the government that they proposed to invoke sovereign guarantees as a result of the government defaulting on its payment to them. To say that this will embarrass the government is something of an understatement; and a more appropriate response would have been to pay the IPPs their dues rather than provoke a response that is likely to have international repercussions. Instead, the government has chosen to hold back what are known as 'normal daily payments' (NDPs) to the IPPs which represents about 50 percent of their daily fuel costs. Those IPPs which have not served notice to the government have, by contrast, been paid their NDPs as per normal. What a coincidence. A Pepco representative speaking to this newspaper said that the IPPs 'had taken an extreme step'. An extreme step? Hardly. They have been kept waiting for their money for months on end, the government has failed to honour just about every agreement it had with them, and then when they have the temerity to protest at the way they have been treated they are penalised for taking an 'extreme step'.

As if this were not enough, the PM has of late taken to announcing to the nation his pride in the fact that his government has added 3000 MWs to the grid since it came to power. This is more than a little disingenuous. It is true that 3000 MWs have been added to the grid in the life of this government, but what the PM failed to mention is that every one of these extra MWs is generated by projects initiated before the PPP came to power in 2008. The less palatable truth is that no new power plant or gas generator has been commissioned or has come online in the lifetime of the PPP government, and it will complete this tenure without adding a single purely PPP-initiated power project to the grid. Spite, perversions of the truth and incompetence – an object lesson in how not to run a power sector.





The blood-soaked mega-city of Pakistan has been crying for help, which was mercilessly denied. Over nearly one month, it witnessed the most dreadful slaughter of its ordinary and innocent citizens. The butchery was reminiscent of the tragedy that had shattered the peace of the city nearly two decades ago. Stories abound as individuals from different schools of thought propound an assortment of theories. The high and mighty of our ruling junta never tell us the truth. In fact, it is mostly the opposite, which then becomes the reference point for conjecture.

In any analysis of the Karachi crisis, there are two case studies on recent happenings in the contemporary world that need special mention. First, take the case of Turkey where the armed forces, backed by a constitutional provision, had a dominating role in state affairs. Although they caused interference in politics, their role had to be accepted by successive governments due to their lack of strength.


However, the present government turned out to be an exception. Determined to serve the nation honestly and sincerely, the leadership achieved rapid growth in all fields, enabling Turkey to become a leading country of the Muslim world. Its per-capita income jumped to a record high, from $2,500 to $10,000. Having achieved historical milestones and feeling strong due to public support, it was emboldened to establish its rightful control on public affairs. In a recent show of political power, all the services' chiefs and the joint services chief were made to resign because they were resisting an investigation into a conspiracy by servicemen.

Moral of the story: if democratically elected governments deliver public service through good governance, they can rule with authority without fear of interventions, as they gain invincible power through public support.

The second example is that of the UK, which was recently rocked by riots and acts of looting and vandalism. As the law enforcing agencies sprung into action, the government stood firmly behind them with unflinching support for the entire state machinery at its disposal. All organs of the government were on the same page for the protection of public life and property, as part of their sacred duty.

Within days, the situation was brought under control. Speedy, unbiased and transparent investigations collected incriminating evidence to be submitted to courts. The courts, in turn, worked overtime and non-stop for days to administer justice expeditiously and handed down punishments, manifesting the true spirit of the dictum, "justice delayed is justice denied." Moral of the story: when state institutions are conscious of their obligations towards the public and when they meet them conscientiously, it furthers their credibility and reinforces public trust in the political government.

It is in the backdrop of these glittering examples that we have to assess our own performance. In a mutually beneficial mechanism, where the public and its representatives work as one entity and are guided by the golden principles of honesty and truthfulness in their dealings with each other, neither side has to worry about betrayal by the other.

In our country, however, the situation is different. The leadership has always been considered as aliens that descend from another planet, work selfishly for their own interests, make fortunes at the cost of the common people and then disappear, leaving people in tatters. Due to the persistence of this unnatural, unfair, non-participative and exploitative arrangement, where the true representation of the common people of this country is absent and the interests of ordinary citizens are crushed by petty and partisan politics, there is a huge gulf between the rulers and the ruled.

The Karachi quagmire is a direct outcome of the myopic vision of our ruling political elite, in their efforts to secure their personal interests by adding more space to their respective fiefdoms through turf wars, without regard to the life, liberty and properties of the citizens. It is common knowledge that the leading political party in Karachi was patronised in the consolidation of its position by the last regime, and it holds sway over most of the city, exploiting it at will.

An attempted encroachment in this domain through a joint venture of the two other political parties is being resisted tooth and nail. Unfortunately, the antagonists are trying to establish their authority by use of force, rather than seeking a solution to political problem through a dialogue. Learning from the leading party's secret to success, in using violence and extortion as instruments of its policy, the other two have raised their own militant wings, whose violence was on brute display in Karachi. Resultantly, hundreds of poor and innocent citizens have been massacred in pitched battles fought across the city for acquisition of more territory and protection of the existing turf.

Add to this explosive environment the revelations by the former senior minister of Sindh about those holding key positions in our setup. They have struck a mortal blow to the already weakening faith and confidence of the people of this country. Considering the sensitive and serious nature of these allegations, justice demands that they be expeditiously probed through a judicial council, and the curtain be lifted from the treacherous activities of those who hold the reigns of this country.

It is heartening to see the formerly dormant judiciary spring into action and taking suo motu notice of the killings of innocent citizens by the hundreds in Karachi. The people of this city had been clamouring for the higher judiciary to come to their rescue, by invoking Article 245 of the Constitution.

They want the army to bring durable peace by undertaking surgical operations against the barbarians who have been unleashed upon them. This should be followed in a natural progression, by the application of Article 190 for the execution of the Supreme Court's pending judgments. As a third step, and based on the proven failures of the alternating civilian and military rules, a group of honest, honourable and competent professionals should be selected to run this country, till the time we can evolve a culture of sane and civilised politics and revert to "genuine" democracy.

It is expected that the judiciary, which is the only institution enjoying public trust, will rise to the occasion and take matters to the logical conclusion, in order to safeguard the security, sanctity and integrity of our beloved homeland that is being systematically ruined by the vested interests.

Pakistan enjoys an attractive geostrategic position. It lies in the middle of the world's energy corridor, which regulates, and will continue to regulate, the global economy. The outside powers will, therefore, continue to hatch conspiracies that weaken this country, so that they can establish their foothold here with least resistance. Coupled with the crimes that are self-inflicted and in which the outsiders add fuel to the fire, this land becomes ripe for unrest and dissension, as we saw in the case of East Pakistan.

Let us therefore resolve that we will allow no room for further disintegration. This can be ensured if the patriotic citizens of Pakistan stand up and support the judiciary in its bold decisions, which will also provide us a chance to emulate the examples of Turkey, the UK, Malaysia, Singapore and other models of political and economic success.

The writer is former vice chief of air staff. Email: Shahidlateef57@






The emerging dynamics in the regional strategic situation seriously demands matching policy modifications in Pakistan. Eid Day messages by the Taliban and Hizab-e-Islami indicate a major shift in policies. Besides, Al-Qaeda threats for Pakistan and the current situation in the Middle East present new challenges and opportunities. The Eid Day message, having the status of an annual policy statement, is a surprising and major policy shift. Both Mullah Omer and Hekmatyar declared the presence of foreign forces and military bases on the soil of Afghanistan unacceptable. However, unlike in the past, Karzai government is not criticised in a harsh tone.

Mullah Omer in his message for the very first time said that the errors that were committed after the exit of the USSR will not be repeated once the foreign forces leave Afghanistan. He clearly said that Afghanistan is country of all Afghans, and all segments of society will be represented in the new system. Mentioning the rich deposits of natural resources in Afghanistan, he pledged to target poverty and social injustice. He also promised to establish relations with all neighbouring countries on the basis of mutual respect. He asked his followers to be disciplined and not to attack unarmed persons.

Gulbadin Hekmatyar went farther in his message. He stressed that no government servants, teachers, judges, ulema, engineers, doctors, journalists and all unarmed persons must be targeted. He even said in his message that persons who shell mosques, schools, seminaries, hospitals, offices and public places are actually bing used by the enemy.

Both Mullah Omer and Hekmatyar refrained from using a single word against Pakistan or any neighbour country. However they stressed that the neighbours must refrain from participating in the Western plot against Afghanistan. The crux of the messages is that Pashtun resistance leaders confirmed their readiness for a broad based government in Afghanistan if Kabul and Islamabad free themselves from US influence and are ready to cooperate in expulsion of foreign forces from Afghanistan. Hikmatyar always mentioned elections in his policy statements but now Taliban also show their inclination to adjust their policies according to new realities and to eliminate regional and international worries.

In his message Mullah Omer also admitted that negotiations had been held with the US, but explained that these related to the exchange of prisoners. He explained that this was not part of any all-inclusive talks on the Afghan situation. In the Eid message the Taliban indicated the need for negotiation with and through the Afghan and Pakistan governments. Therefore, the two government have to prove their credibility and authority. So this situation necessitates that Islamabad and Kabul sit together and prepare a workable and credible plan for the exit of foreign forces and arrange meaningful negotiations with the Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami.

Al-Qaeda is going through important changes. This organisation is indeed more dangerous than before. The death of Osama bin Laden and the subsequent deaths of important Al-Qaeda leaders in drone attacks will hurt the organisation but for the time being its recruiting and financial capabilities have increased due to the sympathy factor. This is typical feature of Al-Qaeda, that its operational and media faces are kept apart. Atya Abdur Rahman was second to Osama bin Laden in all operational matters in this region. Though the United States' intelligence is incorrect when it says that he was a Libyan, it is now confirmed that he died in a drone attack on Aug 22 in North Waziristan.

The death of Atya Abdur Rahman was indeed a big setback for Al-Qaeda after the loss of Osama bin Laden, but this also resulted in a threat situation for Pakistan. Atya Abdur Rahman shared a vision with Osama bin Laden that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were not Al-Qaeda's primary targets. It used acts of terror in these states for tactical purposes. After the death of the two men, Al-Qaeda is a bigger threat for Pakistan as now the persons in driving seat see the capture of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as the first and inevitable step for the defeat of the US.

Beyond the regional situation, the Arab Spring has opened new vistas for the landless militants of Al-Qaeda and their leaders. In Egypt and Libya Al-Qaeda was the main target of witch hunts by security establishments, but now the new governments consist of a number of Al-Qaeda sympathisers.

The source of policy failures in strategic areas is its single-agenda approach, the threat perception of India. We always formulate policies even towards Afghanistan in terms of its potential strategic capability regarding India. In the past the same thinking process led us to support the Taliban and the US. We supported the Taliban with the perception that it is necessary to curtail the influence of India. After 9/11 Pervez Musharraf argued that by supporting the US we curtail the dangerous nexus of US-India and that it was necessary for the cause of Kashmir. Now it is very clear that in the internal and external matters of Afghanistan, India could never surpass the role and influence of Pakistan. The tensions with India force us to admit every order of the US and India also pays heavily for the same reason. Today if India is a threat to Pakistan, there is no doubt that the US in Afghanistan is a bigger threat for Pakistan. India may go for war with Pakistan but can never disintegrate Pakistan. On other hand, the very presence of the US in Afghanistan is a threat to the whole region.

The writer works for Geo TV.








 Thomas Malthus lived in an era much like today's, when emerging technologies made anything seem possible. The 19th century was approaching, the Industrial Revolution was steaming along, and in intellectual circles it was popular to believe that expanding scientific knowledge could create a more enlightened, even utopian, society.

Malthus, however, made a dire prediction. In 1798 he published An Essay on the Principles of Population, with a grim vision of the future which haunts the planet to this day. Malthus thought we could never overcome two basic laws of nature: the planet's population grows exponentially, while food production increases arithmetically. Therefore, the planet will become short on food. "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man," he contended. The "natural inequality" between these two forces "appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society." Inevitably, the result would be "misery and vice."

The thesis itself is familiar enough, although all of its implications are not immediately evident: population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio, while food supply at best increases in an arithmetical ratio; hence, population tends to increase up to the limits of "the means of subsistence." This is the principle of population that Malthus maintained against all his critics. He observed that in the real world there are checks that prevent population from increasing beyond the food supply. The checks are of two kinds: "positive" checks that show up in the death rate, such as war, famine, and pestilence; and "preventive checks" that show up in birth rate, such as abortions and birth control.

At the time of its birth Pakistan had a population of 35 million. As a result of the population explosion, the population of Karachi today exceeds the combined urban populations of Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sukkur and Hyderabad in 1947.

The killing streets of Karachi bear witness that Malthus was prescient. Food prices are near historic highs, driven upward by an ever larger, ever hungrier population. The land, water and other resources needed to produce additional food edge closer to their apparent limits.

"No civilisation has ever survived the ongoing destruction of its natural support system," says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, "and neither will ours."

Because Pakistan has not conducted a census since 1998, the country's population size is conjectural. The government of Pakistan estimates the current figure at about 175 million people, while the United Nations believes the number is closer to 185 million. However, while the precise figure may be in doubt, the population's rapid rise is not. Though no longer increasing at the more than three percent seen in the 1980s, at which rate the population doubles every 25 years. Pakistan's population is still growing at more than two percent. According to the UN Population Division's latest mid-range demographic projections released in 2009, the population will rise to 335 million by 2050. The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics forecasts population to be 350 million by 2050.

This explosive increase will prevail only if the country's fertility rates drop from the current average of about four children per woman to two. Should fertility rates remain constant, the UN estimates the population could exceed 450 million by 2050, with a total population of nearly 300 million as early as 2030.

Excluding Afghanistan, of all the member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – Bangladesh, Bhuttan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – Pakistan has the highest population growth and birth and fertility rates.

In Pakistan, only 22 percent of married women use modern forms of family planning. Yet this does not mean the remaining 78 percent all refrain by choice. Indeed, the rate of unmet need for family planning – a measure of how many women desire, but do not use, contraception – is 30 percent. Consequently, a staggering one out of every three pregnancies is unplanned. Such high levels of unmet need increase population growth, but also contribute to Pakistan's 900,000 annual abortions. In the absence of contraception, one out of every seven pregnancies in Pakistan is aborted, again the highest percentage in South Asia.

Urbanisation is the biggest social change in Pakistan, the migration of the poor peasant pushed by poverty to city slums. By the 2020s, at least 50 percent of the Pakistani population will reside in cities. The root cause of terrorism in Pakistan is thus bulge of unemployed youths looking for jobs in the cities.

In the case of Shehla Zia reported in PLD 1994 SC 693, the Supreme Court held that "Article 9 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty, save in accordance with law. The word 'life' is very significant as it covers all facts of human existence. The word 'life' has not been defined in the Constitution but it does not mean, nor can it be restricted only to, the vegetative or animal life or mere existence from conception to death. Life includes all such amenities and facilities which a person born in a free country is entitled to enjoy with dignity, legally and constitutionally.

"For the purposes of the present controversy, suffice to say that a person is entitled to protection of law from being exposed to hazards of electromagnetic fields or any other such hazards which may be due to installation and construction of any grid station, any factory, power station or such life installations. Under the common law a person whose right of easement, property or health is adversely affected by any act of omission or commission of a third person in the neighbourhood or at a far off place, he is entitled to seek an injunction and also claim damages, but the constitutional rights are higher than the legal rights conferred by law, be it municipal law or the common law.

"Such a danger as depicted, the possibility of which cannot be excluded, is bound to affect a large number of people who may suffer from it unknowingly because of lack or awareness, information and education and also because such sufferance is silent and fatal and most of the people who would be residing near, under or at a dangerous distance of the grid station or such installation do not know that they are facing any risk or are likely to suffer by such risk.

"Therefore, Article 184 can be invoked because a large number of citizens throughout the country cannot make such representation and may not like to make it due to ignorance, poverty and disability. Only some conscientious citizens aware of their rights and the possibility of danger come forward, and this has happened so in the present case..."

When Pakistan completes its first century, the population explosion would place a burden of ten times the original number of 35 million on the limited natural resources of the country. It is not just food, there will be a water famine; if the brakes are not applied, hard and fast on fertility.

There are limits to the growth of population. We have crossed the optimum and are in the throes of Malthusian checks.

In order to preserve the quality of life universal family planning is the hinge of fate.

The writer is a former governor of Sindh and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court.






Often one finds the words 'realistic' and 'idealistic' being used in the context of the myriad problems facing Pakistan and their suggested solutions. It is undoubtedly preferable in our society to be known to be 'realistic' even if that has become synonymous not with practicality, pragmatism or rationalism, but with inaction, defeatism, an extremely low measure of our self-worth; extreme cynicism in the assessment of our capabilities to chart our own destinies and utter hopelessness that things can change for the better.

A round-up of some of the major events and incidents this Ramazan and the reactions of politicians, media-pundits and large segments of the society have proven that when it comes to being 'realistic' in the context of Pakistan, we are at the zenith of this national talent.

Almost all of the worldly benefits that are to be gained from the Islamic rituals we regularly observe have, over time, proven too 'idealistic' for our liking. Ramazan is not different when it comes to that. Any notion of love for the fellow man, especially the down-trodden, along with any nudge towards living a more austere life with a sense of compassion and impetus for positive action in support of the weak, hungry, needy and poor is given the realistic treatment well before Ramazan starts. This, when the price of the basket of goods of the average Pakistani shoots up to an extent where they almost wish this holy month had never arrived.

Our government and politicians, in true spirit of keeping Ramazan 'real', did not even pretend to try and control the price hikes this time around. In fact, they were busy purporting their 'real' politics with their contribution and instigation of the unrelenting and ruthless violence in Karachi. Ramazan was just background noise in the political contest in the 'city of lights' where gaining leverage over opponents was commensurate with one's ability to take innocent lives.

And while other 'idealistic' non-believing, non-fasting and non-worshipping statesmen and politicians in developed and rapidly developing countries strive to create egalitarian and just societies; our 'realistic' Pakistani politicians and leaders seem to have left large segments of the populace to fend for themselves. Compare Hurricane Irene's damage control and evacuation protocol with how unprepared we were – despite being flooded yearly – in dealing with the floods in Sindh and one gets to see our political realism in its full glory. The security of the lives, dignity and property of impoverished Pakistanis in the inundated villages is not high on the list of realistic government priorities. Close to the bottom is also the convenience of millions of Pakistanis who travel by rail.

In the month that the ruling elite and common Pakistanis fasted, we were treated to the sight of new and unique methods that our government employed in an effort to frustrate the Supreme Court, its verdicts and the due process of law. And most of us sat and watched while, in our neighbouring India, one man fasted for 12 days and tens of thousands, under the spectacular national and international glare of the media, thronged to his support and successfully brought about a victory our fasts, our worship, our pilgrimages, charity, mehfil-e-naats and tasbeehs have failed to achieve.

Those hoping that like the Arab Spring, Anna Hazare's success may be the start of our own 'Sub-continental Spring', that would envelop us and other corruption-ridden countries in the region in a hurricane of change need to come out of their idealistic reverie. Here Imran Khan – probably the only clean man in our politics – and his idealistically named party 'movement for justice' organised a protest against the government and its realistic ways in the heart of the capital only to be welcomed by an almost complete media-blackout.

In doing so our media is actually doing us; the 'idealistic' Pakistani youth supporting Khan, a favour. It is trying its best to ensure that myself and the estimated 35,000 others who thronged Constitutional Avenue during the 'Independence Day Dharna' do not get carried away and become 'spoilers' of the 'realistic' politics that is our rightful inheritance from the previous generation. Media heavy-weights and political pundits wish for us to realise that politics in Pakistan is a game that changes hands only between one old and tested political party and its leadership to another set of spent-bullets. And in this game, anyone who would like to be taken seriously should be aware that there is no room for idealism.

Thus, the role of the youth in politics will remain a subject of the plethora of talk-shows when they sometimes need to record 'fillers' during lulls in the otherwise 'realistic' newsworthy events and incidents taking place in our country. While statistics firmly place the support of us young Pakistanis behind a particular leader and his brand of politics, the media will endeavour to keep it real by trying to show us as a naive and youthful political force that should know better.

Therefore, when one sees Aamir Liaquat continuing to host Islamic entertainment shows for multitudes of admirers, one need not waste time cringing in anger and frustration at one's TV screen. As Pakistanis, rather than taking his presence on our airwaves as an affront, we should accept that he is, in fact, a true reflection of what it means to be 'realistic' in our society.

The writer is a freelancer based in Rawalpindi with an interest in social, cultural and educational policies. He blogs at







The writer is editor The News, Islamabad.

I can already imagine being burnt at the democratic stake for the blasphemy to follow, so a critical clarification is in order. I am a democrat with an unassailable belief in 'real democracy'. I have silently suffered long snaking polling lines only to speak through my vote, stood there with others to help democracy find its feet in our motherland. But I also believe that democracy is not about how votes are cast on polling day, but more so about how they are made to count in the days to follow.

Democracy gives an elected few the right to govern, not rule. Something, clearly lost on our PPP, MQM, PML-N and ANP lords and masters. Democracy is not about making 180 million people a slave to their ballot and told to wait for five years before throwing out criminals looting them on a daily basis. I also believe that the last thing the people need is a tutorial in democracy from those who have stashed their dirty billions abroad and have taken a leave of absence from their real lives elsewhere to indulge in lucrative power plays in the game zone called Pakistan.

Did hundreds and thousands get thrashed like animals, did so many die on the streets of Karachi on May 12 and were lawyers burnt alive inside a courtroom, only so that the chief justice could reclaim his rightful place to issue suo motu notices in cases of starlets carrying two bottles of liquor? I don't think so.

Did the chief of army staff, General Ishfaq Parvez Kayani accept his inexplicable-in-the-middle-of-the-night-three-year extension to dolefully look the other way for the next three, while the country was ruthlessly plundered and pushed to the periphery of absolute anarchy? I don't think so. Did the entire nation close ranks to force out Gen Musharraf only to let in a horde of brazen looters? I don't think so.

There is a deafening public cacophony against corruption and criminality of our 'elected' democrats, then why this crushing silence of our selected judicial and military power lords? Here, I do not even know what to think. Is it deliberate complicity and complacency sired by the boons of aligning with the status quo or simply the absence of two individual's will to face up to the collective might of the power juggernaut? I know not what to, or ought to think.

Is posing such questions akin to inviting judicial or military martial laws? Hardly so. But then, in Pakistan anyone stating what the milling masses are silently thinking is tarred with the brush of treason. A traitor to the cause of democracy, states the little cardboard hung around his neck like those adorning virtually every man of thought during China's so-called cultural revolution. Today we know who was right then. History has this tardy little habit of sifting right from wrong at a belated timing of its own choosing. History may have time on its side but unfortunately Pakistan affords no such luxury.

What a farce this so-called democracy of ours has become. Political parties are using the legitimacy of the ballot to impose the illegitimacy of the bullet in Karachi; our leaders are loath to share anything with the people (voters as they are called in 'their' democracy) but rush to the US ambassador and his/her underling consulate generals to bare their souls and to seek guidance.

Thanks to the revelations of WikiLeaks exposing the darker sides of our dazzling political elite, we got to know that former ambassador Anne Patterson was the high priestess of all the high power priests of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, whereas the then Karachi consul general, Stephen G Fakhan was the man everybody – from the PPP to the MQM to the ANP to my aunt's half blind cat – used to go to in Karachi. Now we know that the PPP leadership shared in private the same views that Mirza has now spilled publicly. But of course, it's again an internal party matter (pun intended).

It is indeed an amazing democracy where a provincial home minister publicly accuses the federal interior minister of supporting and protecting killers and criminals, and the country's president and prime minister turn a Nelson's eye branding it as an internal party matter. What criminal hogwash. What a democracy where a top politician holds a Quran and charges another with treason and no one flinches a muscle. But the bad joke doesn't end here. The accused interior minister demands the formation of a judicial commission to look into the charges but the president and prime minister brush it away. Again a party affair (sic).

And here comes the clincher. Our genuinely beloved chief justice of the Supreme Court does not deem such a commission worthy of unilateral action a la cases involving sugar price, traffic snarl up in Karachi etc. Heck, while the bench is sitting in Karachi purely to look suo motu at the Karachi crisis, till the time of writing these lines, Zulfiqar Mirza had not even been summoned to lay his charges and evidences before the honourable court. The man has been running around the country with his copy of the Quran Sharif now wearing thin, talking to anyone who would care to listen. And yet only the SC bench taking up the Karachi issue appears oblivious to his existence and his explosive claims. The wisdom of such judicial pragmatism escapes me.

On the khaki front, the GHQ takes stands purely of its own choosing. It puts its foot down and refuses to submit its findings on the multi-billion NLC fiasco (involving three top generals) to the Public Accounts Committee; the corps commanders put their foot down when it came to talk of civilian oversight in the Kerry-Lugar legislation; the COAS again put his foot down on who to and how to deal in Waziristan, Islamabad and Washington be damned.

And the list reads on. The argument being that when it comes to the masses and the country itself, suddenly democracy is held up as an excuse by the military leadership for retreating into the rotten woodwork. But is that really the case? Has the COAS stepped back from playing any supportive role for 'real democracy' or an independent judiciary only in the interest of this phenomenon called democracy, Pakistani style?

Can the COAS like Zulfiqar Mirza hold a Quran in his hand and tell the nation that he has never indulged in any behind the scene power manoeuvring in the past in matters of larger institutional and national interest? That he has never ever crossed that fine red line dividing Rawalpindi and Islamabad? That he is acting the way he is ONLY because he honestly believes it to be the right thing to do or is he actually scared of the weight of the wrong consequences of doing the right thing? That he will be there for the judiciary and the country, if matters came to a head? I didn't think so.

The riches of the country are being shared like spoils of war amongst the power elite. We are all guilty of destroying our country. The judiciary and the military through the absence of any meaningful action, the Opposition leader by acting like the fictional Rip Van Winkle who has still not woken up in his cave, and we the people by not making our presence felt as we did against Gen. Musharraf. Were we wrong in taking matters into our own hands then? I don't think so.








PAKISTANI security forces in an intelligence driven operation have taken into custody three key Al-Qaeda figures from Quetta causing another fatal blow to the militant group. A report by the ISPR said the operation was planned and conducted by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and the United States and it achieved the desired results.

The intimate cooperation between Pakistan and United States intelligence agencies earlier has resulted into prevention of a number of high-profile terrorist acts not only inside Pakistan and the United States but elsewhere also in world. In the past the United States blamed Pakistan for not acting timely to arrest some terrorists in North Waziristan which were identified by the CIA and when the operation was launched, one hideout was found empty. It must be remembered that the terrorists keep on changing their hideouts and at some point of time they try to misguide the intelligence agencies about their bases. Therefore Pakistan cannot be blamed for any failure. It is a known fact that maximum number of Al-Qaeda operatives were arrested with the cooperation of Pakistan. Pakistan cannot afford to shut its eyes from terrorists as it suffered the most in acts of terrorism as it lost thousands of lives including civilians and military personnel in addition to losses of around $ 60 billion in economic terms. Even now the US is pressing Pakistan for an all out military operation in North Waziristan but we believe that it would not achieve the desired results as key figures of the terrorist networks never operate from an area where there is danger of some military operation. The best option is targeted operations on the basis of actionable intelligence, which have proved successful like the one in Quetta. One of the men arrested in the latest operation was Younis al Mauritani, a senior operative of Al-Qaeda who had been planning attacks on American and Western targets and in his arrest Pakistan has saved the West from major disaster. Though the White House Deputy Press Secretary has applauded the action by Pakistan's intelligence and security services yet we hope that the US leadership would pay heed to the repeated assertions by Pakistan that Islamabad must be provided the much needed information about presence of high value targets in a specific area and then it should be left to its security forces for swift action as that is the way allies cooperate to achieve the desired results.





PEOPLE had pinned great hopes on the Supreme Court when it took suo motu notice of target killings and violence in Karachi and the way the five member bench of the apex court is moving ahead gives clear indication that it has the will and vision to help resolve the complex and compounded problem. During hearing of the case on Monday, the special bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, gave a very pertinent direction that could change the overall situation in the metropolis dramatically.

In an observation that must serve as a morale booster for the police force, the worthy Chief Justice told the Inspector-General of Police Sindh that the court was behind the police in its efforts to control the law and order situation in Karachi and asked him to prepare a team of independent and credible police officials and remove politically appointed SHOs. Being a law-enforcing unit that operates at the grass-roots level, a police station is invariably in the know of almost all things happening within its jurisdiction but it is a common knowledge that the police force deliberately keeps its eyes close because of all-pervasive corruption and political pressures. It is also an open secret that political parties, peoples representatives, feudal and influential people make it a point to ensure appointment of men of their choice in police stations of their areas, who protect their vested interests. This is true of the entire country but the problem is more acute in Karachi. Therefore, there is not only need to remove the politically appointed SHOs but also to purge the police force of criminals and party loyalists. There is no dearth of honest, visionary and bold officials who should be assigned the task of eliminating criminals and restoring peace and security in Karachi. The CJ has rightly pointed out that time is running out for the Police and a concrete beginning can be made by implementing the directions of the court in letter and in spirit.






IN an unfortunate development, there are reports of the Government contemplating a proposal to slash the tax collection target for the year 2011-12 just two months after beginning of the new year, reflecting poorly on the performance of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). The reason for revision of the targeted revenue of Rs 1952 billion is the dismal collection of taxes during July and August 2011.

This has happened many times before and ironically it is taking place once again, transmitting clear signals that there is no shift in thinking and mindset and affairs of the state are being run on conjectures, underhand tactics, adhocism, and whimsical behaviour. One can understand compulsions of the FBR as Karachi is paralysed for months, resulting into significant reduction in economic and commercial activities and therefore fall in the revenue collection. There are also reports that many entrepreneurs are shifting their industries and businesses to destinations abroad in view of the deteriorating security environment, political instability and unpredictable situation. But we believe that despite all this, the country has the potential to generate enough revenue to meet its expenditure requirements provided the concerned planners and decision-makers are ready to take bold steps, make all sections of the society to pay taxes as per their capacity to pay and eliminate the element of corruption. Why to fix higher targets when you don't have the capability, will and the guts to realize them? Everywhere we announced hefty increase in development expenditure but it becomes the very first target of downward revision and cuts and at the end of the year the expenditure is slashed to almost half and that too is not released to the concerned departments by the Finance Ministry on this and that objection and reason. As for revenue collection, the authorities concerned presented fudged figures of the last year causing huge embarrassment to the country during its dealings with the multilateral financial institutions. This state of affairs is not acceptable and planning and execution should be done on sound footings so as to ensure stability in the realm of economy.








Are we, as a nation, afflicted with the debilitating disease that may be called, for want of a better appellation, CBMitis? From all indications, it would appear to be so! Our relations with our neighbour India appear to be stuck in a groove. And yet we go on doing more of the same. What is hard to understand is why we must insist on immersing ourselves headlong in the sea of CBMs. Is not our cup already overflowing with them as it is?

Now it appears that matters have taken a fresh turn. At one time one understood that our obsession with CBMs was confined to our relations with India alone. A couple of years ago, one found that the affliction was more widespread than earlier feared. It was at that time that we set ourselves the unenviable task of introducing the humanity at large to the wonderful world of CBMs and vice versa. The Pakistani delegate to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly was reported to have pontificated that "Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) could lead to favorable conditions for settling international disputes". Our philosophy appears to be: what is good for the goose should be equally good for the gander. It would perhaps be a wee bit impolite to butt in and point out to the powers that be that CBMs are at best the means to an end and should never be confused with the end itself. Over-obsession with CBMs could very well result in making the overall picture murky and obscure. It would be in the fitness of things to pause and take stock before we are totally engulfed by the disease. On the subject of CBMs between India and Pakistan, one may well be within one's rights to pose the question: what happened to the much-vaunted back channel diplomacy? In the words of a screaming headline in a newspaper some months back, it (back-channel diplomacy that is) was "back to square one". One has little choice but to respectfully beg to differ. How could the process possibly 'come back' to square one when it was never intended to leave it in the first place? The sorry state of affairs is that the two interlocutors appear to have expended all their precious energy in merely marking time. The stage of leaping out of the starting blocks is apparently yet to become part of their training lexicon. Sadly, such was the state of affairs that was!

Now that a new dawn is reportedly on the horizon, it may perhaps be in order to peep over the shoulder and try to assess the trail traversed so far. In so far as the so-called composite dialogue is concerned, any movement to date has neither been forwards nor backwards, but rather sideways, more like that of hermit crabs on the beach. The only difference is that the crabs in question at least have a definite goal in mind. In our scenario, this is the one thing that is conspicuously missing in the 'composite exercise'. Peaceniks on both sides of the border have long crowed about the basket of CBMs. None have paused to reflect, though, as to where – if anywhere – these CBMs are leading the two countries! It is a sad state of affairs when an "accord" merely to "continue the dialogue" should produce exultant headlines in a section of the press as has happened several times over the past few years.

Futile to record that time and again our spokesmen have expressed 'satisfaction' over the ongoing dialogue, adding for good measure that Pakistan 'is fully committed to this process'. This is all to the good. Expressions of optimism and manifestations of good intentions are, no doubt, positive signs and should not be discouraged. However, much like the "flexibility" that the Pakistan side has so often been calling for, optimism too cannot be one-sided. Before going over-board, would it not be advisable, therefore, to take a good hard look at what the other side is conjuring up? What is amazing is not so much the Indian tactics (one should be used to these tactics by now) as the somewhat inexplicable optimism that has been oozed by our side over the past many years. Our spokespersons have often bent over backwards to give a positive spin even to India's assertions.

The staggering number of CBMs notwithstanding, precious little appears to have been achieved in the nature of settlement of outstanding issues. One would have thought that with the easing of tension the various outstanding issues would by now have been well on the way to equitable and lasting settlement. The sea change that the world has gone through since nine/eleven had lent credence to certain wooly assumptions that have, regrettably, turned out to be illusions as time passed. In making the aforementioned assertion, one is not alluding for the time being to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute that is admittedly somewhat complicated. What one fails to comprehend, though, is what stands in the path of progress on other contentious issues, like Sir Creek, Wullar barrage, apportionment of waters, Siachin and the like. Given a modicum of political will, at least some of these issues should have been well on the way to equitable and lasting settlement. That this has not happened points to only one conclusion: that political will is lacking. Incidentally, most of the CBMs agreed so far have entailed unilateral concessions on the part of Pakistan. It is about time that the other side too showed some semblance of flexibility if only to establish its credibility.

If one has gone through all the aforesaid, it is merely in the hope that the policy makers of both countries will see through the simulation and dissimulation that have characterized their past conduct. Given the state of the world today, the two neighbours can ill afford to traverse the same distorted path again, much as some lobbies may wish them to do. The name of the game is to steer clear of the snares strewn on the path marked out by the CBMs.






Although, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that it is difficult to overcome country's energy crisis in immediate term but there is still hope. Instead of spending billions on energy sector, Islamabad needs to make a clear and transparent policies on renewable so that public and private sectors can make necessary investments. Pakistan can wind energy on lines of China to generate 20,000 MW. China has planned to generate 30,000MW (or 30GW) with wind by 2020. Gansu province alone is going to add 7Gw to its existing 10GW installed capacity by 2015. Wind energy project costs have dropped to below 4,000 Yuan ($625) a kilowatt, making wind power generation a profitable business in Gansu (Gansu…, China Daily 9 August). China is going to harness 750Gw of offshore wind energy (China plans …, China Daily, August 17), and Beijing has authorized provinces to install grid ready renewable energy projects. In G-20, 48 % investment in clean energy has gone in wind energy and it has added 40 GW of generating capacity, which is enough to power 30 million homes. Pakistan can use its costal lines and farmlands to harness wind to power its agri-sector, industry, cities including Karachi and Gwadar.

Solar sector is the fastest-growing clean-energy industry in the world. Prices of solar panels have declined by more than 60% in the last 30 months. By the end of this year, solar modules are expected to cost half as much as they did four years ago. In 2010 alone, 17 GW of solar-generation capacity was added in the world which could power more than 12.5 million homes. China produced 48 percent, or 13 gW, of the world's solar panels in 2010 and two years time it will be world's largest market. The solar feed-in tariff, the price of solar-generated electricity, could drop below 0.8 Yuan (12.5 cents) for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2015, equal to conventional coal-fired electricity by that time. China plans to increase capacity to 50Gw by 2020 including 30Gw offshore capacity (Offshore wind… China Daily June 22). Technology including dual meter is being adopted in Europe and US that allow individual homes to send surplus energy generated from renewable energy to main grid online of US Energy Marshall Plan of 40s and are paid for it.

Pakistan can cut the cost of solar panels by using silicon in local deserts. China is importing 50% of its 80,000 ton polysilicon annually which is pushing prices up (Nation to double solar capacity, China Daily 13 August). The advancement in solar technology in form of tiny glitter sized photovoltaic and transparent, spary-on and thin film solar panels turning windows, cars and most surfaces into solar energy producers. These developments offers unlimited future use of solar energy ( India is encouraging individuals to develop 12-acre solar farms to sell energy to state. Almost entire textile sector of India has shifted to renewable energy. Islamabad needs to legislate to shift industry to renewable energy to free gas, end energy theft, meet international emission standards and competitiveness. Pakistan, online of UK, Germany, Bangladesh can encourage banking sector to finance individual homes to shift to renewable. It will save trillions being lost to corruption, line loses, administrative cost and maintenance. Punjab government needs to spearhead the drive to adopt renewable energy as the most populous province and support agri-sector.

Renewable energy can be used to reduce Pakistan's $10bn annual fuel imports, which is increasing with every passing year. By adopting mass transport, Pakistan can cut diesel fuel imports which reportedly constitutes 80% of total national fuel import. On lines of China and UK, Pakistan must return to railway to cut diesel imports by 80%, freight and travelling charges by six times and save trillions being spent on road infrastructures especially mega cities. It can help Islamabad earn billions of rupees annually from railways on lines of India (Rs 50bn), UK (£6.5bn) come from fares (Rail fares…,The Guardian August 16). Islamabad needs to make railway country's strategic mode of communication and introduce rail service all major cities.

E-vehicles and bicycles are becoming important part of national communication policies in Europe, US and China. Ecotricity UK is going to install green-energy-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging points at selected motorway service stations to speed up the adoption of EVs in Britain. China has installed 460 solar powered charging stations for EVs (cars, motorcycles and bicycles). Beijing is headed bring one million electric powered cars by the end of 2011. Philippines has introduced 20,000 electric rickshaws. Reportedly, bicycle use has increased 29 % in UK. Cycling adds £3bn to UK's economy (Cycling worth £3bn… The Guardian 21 August). A similar policy in Pakistan can generate £ 9bn. In US, New York alone has added 300 km to its existing cycling lanes. Cycling is part of regular policing is China, UK and USA. China is return to cycling to cut fuel imports ease traffic congestion, reduce pollution and cut health risks.

China's first eco-city will start working in 2012. It is based on three basic principles of zero carbon footprints, uses renewable energy and recycles resources, and has efficient land use and supports sustainable development. The city will feature zero-energy buildings, use zero emission transport, renewable energy sources like wind turbines, solar panels, biogas created from sewage. Beijing expects to use the eco-city concept to overcome water shortages in 660 cities of China. It will help Beijing city to save $24-35bn annually by overcoming sever water shortages and an alternate to urban future instead of adopting failed western cities, which are unsustainable models of consumption. China will speed up building renovations to make more structures energy-efficient and permanently replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs by 2018. UK has adopted carbon neutral house models based on combination of wind, solar and other renewable and rainwater harvesting techniques to cut cost and save water. Every Zulfiqarabad in Pakistan can be use these developments to meet future demands, avoid loss of precious arable land in city suburbs and reclaim wastelands.

Renewable energy can help Pakistan fight poverty, generate millions of jobs, end privatization of national silver and bring more than $100bn annually in direct foreign investments (FDIs). In 2010, $230 bn were invested in renewable energy in worldwide. Due friendly policies, private sector has invested $191bn in renewable energy. Germany alone has created 350,000 jobs in this sector since 2004 with help of investment, training, research and innovation. Italy has achieved grid parity in solar energy in small-scale sector due to abundant sunshine. China topped with $54bn private investment in renewable energy in 2010 to meet its 170Gw target by 2020. India is ranked 10th in the world with its target of 20GW solar energy by 2020. Cycling can help Pakistan generate lacs of jobs in line with Germany and 23,000 cycling jobs in UK (Cycling worth £3bn… The Guardian 21 August).

Renewable energy can save our future generations from being turned into yellow cab drivers or stay unemployed. Our leaders need to use renewable energy to educate and employ (our) youth, attract $billions in FDIs and revive and sustain economy. Even the bloodshed in Karachi can be ended by employing youth in renewable energy sector and revive local industry with it. Nations are using renewable energy, transport policies and eco-cities to overcome poverty, create millions of jobs, expand industries, attract direct foreign investment and strengthen economies. In conclusion, Islamabad can solve its energy crisis and join modern world provided our leaders are willing to adopt effective laws, transparent policies, get rid of corrupt practices, and adopt renewable energy.








The world is ruled through perceptions. And in the age of globalization or open market economy aimed at colonization of world mineral, natural and oil resources and we are controlled by media perceptions are created through propaganda mainly. Facts though they can be known but due to personal greed and desire, are most of the time compromised by weaker nations, are not considered important to safeguard ones own national interest and requirements and become spectacular enough to override the perceptions created by media hence the nations suffer in the ultimate analysis, which is the on going case in Pakistan today.

One such perception created by media propaganda is the idea of freedom and of America as the place of complete freedom, independence and opportunity. But what are the – known but unspectacular - facts in this matter? The facts are that there is freedom and opportunity in America in the first place for those who agree with 'American way of life' which started right away with capturing, killing and colonizing the indigenous population of that continent and by doing so destroying their centuries old civilizations. This ruthless spirit of the run-away migrants from Europe who after having 'cleared' the land from the indigenous population started constructing a new country based on the same ruthless principles by killing exploiting and colonizing black African slaves and later Mexicans and Latinos and declaring them less human than themselves. Anti-Semitism was rampant even among the founders of the state like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Despite this it soon turned out that Jews were much more sophisticated and clever than those simpleton white Americans and that is why today the Roman Catholic nation in US is factually dominated and are run by Jews who dominate the financial system having created the Federal Reserve and who control the media and though their propaganda keep the illusion of freedom up for the hapless US population.

As a matter of fact and against these perceptions freedom in the US has always been the freedom for the conformists. But as we know the real freedom is measured always by the freedom for those who think differently, who disagree and who challenge the system. That freedom has never been there in the US: not during the sixties and seventies when communism and communists were hunted, incarcerated and killed and even less now, when after 9/11 a witch hunt started not only against Muslims and Pakistanis but also against those white Americans who disagreed with the official policy and who were declared –un-American and intimidated in their workplaces, whose freedom of expression was curtailed. The worst affected were of course the Muslims who had come to US believing in the propaganda about freedom, liberty and who had after 9/11 to realize that this freedom and liberty did not apply to them.

One interesting example was a friend of mine visiting US on business trip in that fatal year 2001. When finished his business tour he invited his nephew who had a year back gone to US for higher studies to join him on a Cruise from Miami; they boarded Cruise Fascination on 8th September 2001, which sailed towards Mexico, on the morning of 11th September when he went to take breakfast, he saw the restaurant empty, as all people including workers were glued around a big TV screen in one corner of restaurant, he also stood behind them and a building was shown blown on TV screen and at that very time another aircraft hit the second building tower. So the people on cruise watching it live started screaming and crying, my friend was also sorry for all this then he took his breakfast and went back to his cabin, at afternoon some people came in his cabin to repair air conditioning of cabin, worked to fix spying gadgets and went out, then at late night while they were sleeping some people broke into their cabin to arrest both of them as terrorist on the very night of 9/11 from Cruise, and were locked in a locker room in the basement and cruise was now returning back to Miami.

On reaching Miami they were taken to FBI headquarter for third degree interrogation and mental torture, all their belongings were searched and diaries written in Urdu were translated into English and credit cards thoroughly screened. US TV news had flashed the news boasting about the arrest of two Pakistani terrorist from Cruise Fascination, but since no evidence was found they were released after few days. This atmosphere of suspicion created opportunities for whistle blowers and informers which thoroughly damaged the trust of US citizens in their own government and society. In this case this all was done due to some mischievous Indian staff of this Cruise to fix Pakistani innocent people on 9/11 and thereafter under US patronage what is not going on in Pakistan every day.

At the end of the day the US might realize that all the mischief they are creating for others like for Muslims in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine will destroy their own country and society, a tinge of which has started surfacing in the shape financial recession and wrath of nature in the form of dangerous cyclones, tornado's and earthquakes not heard or seen during last 100 years. Islam is a religion of peace and does not preach violence against other religions. It is considered crime against humanity that the Western powers are doing against Muslim nations with impunity. Within the last ten years, when ex-President George W Bush started pre-emptive attacks in their proxy war against terror as an out come of that since 9/11 Americans managed to become the most hated people in the world; when traveling outside their country they prefer to hide their nationality and pose as Canadians. Inside their country, society is controlled by agencies who spy on them and the terrorist threat is creating hype, destabilizing society. In Pakistan and Middle East they have their spy network working under the camouflaged visas of Contractors busy in buying local loyalties and disturbing peace in those regions.

Pakistan's economy has been ruined by the financial burden the wars and agencies are posing on the exchequer and all claims made by America for having re-imbursed all the bills on this account are nothing but a white lie, which has strangulated our economy and common men right to live has been snatched. Startling revelations of Gen Aslam Baig in his article "Proxy war and politics in Pakistan" published in Pakistan Observer, dated August 30 is enough to understand. In allthis gloomy atmosphere my firm belief is that their days as the single super power are counted: already China has taken up the challenge and may have already succeeded.

Was it all worth it? That is the question they will have to ask themselves. For us it is to realize that we should finally stop looking towards the US for any help or solution because they are not sincere friends, they use us in time their need and they abuse us when it suits them the most, the recent political upheaval created in Karachi first to bring regime change in Pakistan as a part of Middle East's spring revolution, which was foiled by PPP and now a wave of allegations and counter allegations attributing involvement of proverbial monkey's great game to destabilize Pakistan to fulfill Indian dreams for hegemony in South Asia. Time has come to call a spade a spade and beware of US endgame on Pakistan, which might become counterproductive for Americans. They can't help themselves, how can they help us?






On June 29 the Federal Defense Minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, who had been sleeping all through the May 2 Abbottabad-Osama-Bin-Laden and May 23 PNS-Mehran-Karachi happenings, awoke to talk to a group of journalists apprising them that Pakistan had asked Washington to vacate the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan which was used to launch Drone strikes against the militants. The Minister remained awake to tell the Reuters on the following day that Islamabad had been pressing the US to leave the base even before the 'Abbottabad incursion' and did so again after the 'incursion.'

Very next day, the message had already generated its rebuke. The US officials in Washington reacted that there was no plan to vacate the base. Then it was on July 1 that the Federal Minister for Information, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, had to settle the matter. She while talking to media persons in Lahore declared: "It was just a statement for the media." She clarified that 'she was a member of the defense committee and the matter was not discussed there.' Is there something such as for the consumption of media? Should there be something such as for the consumption of media? If so, as is the case, what is media for, then? To consume? To consume endlessly? Yeah, it's a voracious consumer, 24 hour consumer. Now, they say it is its freedom what it chooses to consume? But this freedom of it does not work for a 24 hour long day; that means it has to consume sometime or most of the time it has no choice in having it on its table, and it depends on the nature of its appetite and its taste. There the governments find room to bring in the media to consume they want it to consume; though, there are many other ways governments have got to regulate the appetite and taste of the media.

Functionally, media is sort of an information bridge between the rulers and the ruled. But it has come to be a one-way bridge at best, and most of the time. The two-way traffic on this bridge is not allowed and needs media-men like Omar Cheema and Saleem Shahzad, and may cost life. This is this one-way traffic about which the Federal Information Minister alluded when she brushed aside her government's Defense Minister's substantive talk by terming it something which was meant for the media. Why do media need such stuff? Of course, it does not need any such thing (or otherwise), for its own sake, or for its staff, or for its bosses, or for nothing? Obviously, it goes to the citizens of the country with what it picks up from here and there, or is "given" to it by X, Y or Z. After separating wheat from chaff it brings it to its end-users.

However, it is here that it sets itself to consuming chaff, and not wheat. That is what the Information Minister alluded to. The media picked up what the Defense Minister threw or the Information Minister threw and brought it up to its viewers, the citizens, who are ultimate end-users. In other words, what Information Minister dubbed as 'for media consumption' is for the consumption of the viewers, the citizens, finally.

That is what is known as Public Consumption. Also, government has laws and rules such as official secret acts, or classified information; it goes beyond that and conceals its affairs from the citizens, and makes their leaking a crime. In addition to concealing its affairs, government lies as well as misleads the citizens. It contrives incomplete, incorrect and false information which they mean for "public consumption." In this game, the media serves as a tool of the government. Otherwise, what else the Information Minister's 'for the media consumption' may amount to?

As no one from the media protested over the Information Minister's 'for the media' theory, it meant not only the media is ready to consume such misleading stuff; it is ready to mislead its viewers also. The question is: Is media an accomplice in the Great Crime being committed in Pakistan against its citizens?

—The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.






A decade ago, Peshawar's bomb squad had it pretty easy. Occasionally, one of its 20 members would be dispatched to a cornfield to defuse a mine planted by a villager who was feuding with his neighbour. Bombs were small and crude; the only tools an officer needed were pliers and a roll of electrical tape. Because their budget was minuscule, the officers travelled by taxi. Today, the squad careens through week after week of carnage and peril in this volatile city near the Afghan border. One day members are defusing a partially detonated explosive vest strapped to the torso of a dead militant, the next they are surveying evidence left behind by a teenage suicide bomber. The squad has grown to 113 members. Nine have died in the line of duty. At least five others have been maimed. "Everything changed drastically after 9/11," said Khan Zada, a veteran of 17 years. "Now we're on the go all of the time."

Neither the men who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States nor any of Al Qaeda's top leaders were from Pakistan. But much as 9/11 changed the way America viewed the world, it also cut deeply into Pakistan's collective psyche. Pakistanis sum it up with a simple maxim: In Pakistan, they say, every day is 9/11. Pakistan's relations with the US have for decades been tainted by mutual mistrust. In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, then-President Pervez Musharraf faced an ultimatum from Washington to cooperate in the drive to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and oust the Al Qaeda leader's Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. When Musharraf consented, however, he threatened a long, cosy relationship between Pakistani authorities and Islamic militants. As Pakistan began helping Washington's campaign against the militants, it became a target itself. Analysts say that in the years since, some of Pakistan's own policy choices have made matters worse. Ties between Pakistan's military and intelligence community and Afghan Taliban leaders stretch back to the 1980s, when Pakistan and the CIA armed and backed many of those same figures as they fought Soviet occupation. Although the Pakistani government won't acknowledge it, those ties still exist.

Moreover, the country's primary spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, nurtured militant groups that targeted India in retaliation for its occupation of the disputed Kashmir region. Relationships with Islamic militant groups were a handy cudgel against external enemies that Pakistan did not want to openly confront. And until 9/11, those militant groups never viewed the Pakistani state as a villain. That changed as the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, and Bin Laden and scores of militants streamed into the barren, lawless badlands of Pakistan's tribal belt along the Afghan border. In cooperation with the US, Pakistan captured Ramzi Binalshibh, a planner of the 9/11 attacks, in September 2002. Six months later, Inter-Services Intelligence arrested mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Meanwhile, Bin Laden disappeared in Pakistan, limiting himself to increasingly rare pronouncements until May, when Navy SEALs landed in his Abbottabad compound and killed him.

And Pakistan started paying a heavy price. Before 9/11, Pakistan had suffered just one suicide bombing — a 1995 attack on the Egyptian Embassy in the capital, Islamabad, that killed 15 people. In the last decade, suicide bombers have struck Pakistani targets more than 290 times, killing at least 4,600 people and injuring 10,000. The country averaged nearly six terrorist attacks of various kinds each day in 2010, according to a report by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies. A country that had regarded suicide bombs as a faraway problem suddenly found itself in the market for bomb disposal armour, bomb-sniffing dogs and blast walls. In Islamabad, which once had the pace and feel of a leafy suburb, metal detectors now greet patrons of a wide range of establishments, including fast-food restaurants and libraries.

Although the strikes occur with the tacit consent of the government, many Pakistanis see them as a blatant violation of their country's sovereignty — much as they did the raid that led to Bin Laden's death, which the US launched without informing Pakistani authorities. Anger boiled over this year with the arrest and subsequent release of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistani men he believed were trying to rob him. The case reinforced long-held beliefs that the country was crawling with American intelligence agents aiming to destabilize it. Pakistan's leaders maintain that the alliance with the US against Islamic militants has destroyed the country's investment climate, caused widespread unemployment and ravaged productivity. The government estimates the alliance has cost it $67 billion over the last 10 years. But it's not as simple as that. Since 2001, the US has sent Pakistan more than $20 billion in direct aid and military reimbursements. And from 2003 to 2007 under Musharraf, the economy grew at a robust rate of 6% a year.

The Pakistani economy stalled along with those of many other countries in 2008 because of rising commodity prices and the global financial crisis. Under President Asif Ali Zardari, mismanagement and ballooning budget deficits have worsened the country's plight. Zardari has done little to remedy electricity shortages that hamstring factories and businesses. The largest increase in suicide bombings in Pakistan occurred long after 9/11, in reaction to the decision to send troops into the Red Mosque in the heart of Islamabad in July 2007. Authorities were seeking to clamp down on radical clerics and students who openly called for holy war against America and the assassination of Musharraf. More than 100 people were killed in the siege.Pakistanis might feel better about their future if they knew authorities had a sound strategy to eradicate the violence. But links between the state and some militant groups have yet to be severed. Terrorism suspects captured and put on trial are routinely released because of shoddy police work. And the government's inability to establish the rule of law in the tribal areas ensures they remain a breeding ground for militancy. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the post-9/11 violence, said Naeem, the Islamabad student, is that Pakistanis seem to have grown accustomed to it. "All over the world, people are shocked by bombings," he said. "But here, we're getting used to it. And that's sad."

—Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times






IN June last year, at her first media conference as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard made a commitment to "lead a strong and responsible government that will take control of our future".

She also claimed to understand the anxiety Australians felt about border protection. "Australians therefore say to their government that they want to know what we are doing to manage our borders and what we are doing to manage asylum-seeker flows," Ms Gillard said. "And I will be explaining as Prime Minister to the Australian people how we do that." It hardly needs pointing out, but more than a year later, we are still waiting for that explanation.

The Prime Minister recognised from the outset the priority that needed to be placed on this policy challenge. But her actions one week after the so-called Malaysia Solution was scuttled by the High Court are bewildering.

Having suggested that a bipartisan compromise was the sensible way forward, this newspaper was delighted by Ms Gillard's provision of a full briefing for the Opposition Leader yesterday. Despite their differing views on the role that Malaysia could play, both leaders remain committed to offshore processing, so a bipartisan accommodation does not seem too far fetched. Both Nauru and Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, remain potential processing centres. The Prime Minister has done the right thing by seeking agreement in the mainstream of politics and resisting calls from the Greens and the Left of her own party to turn her back on offshore processing once and for all.

Ms Gillard understands that the problem with reverting to onshore processing is that -- certainly without some onerous visa classification as part of the formula -- it provides no disincentive to unauthorised boat arrivals. Australia's bountiful opportunities will always act as a significant pull factor unless we have in place some powerful disincentives for these perilous journeys. This is why the Howard government's tough Pacific Solution was so effective. Reports suggest this was, in part, the message that bureaucrats relayed in Tony Abbott's briefing, even though it hardly needed explaining to him.

The Australian has always been of the view that voters are justified in voicing concerns about this trade, including about the possibility of more lives lost. To be alarmed at unauthorised boat arrivals does not require racism, xenophobia or selfishness. Voters are also right to worry that other refugees who are waiting in camps, without the money to pay people-smugglers and who rely only on orderly processes for settlement in Australia, must wait longer because places in our humanitarian intake are taken up by boat arrivals. A fair-minded nation should not tolerate the de facto outsourcing of our refugee intake to reckless people-traders who are probably indifferent to their customers' fate. Through its floating of the ill-considered East Timor and Malaysian plans, Labor finally has conceded this compelling argument.

Yet the Prime Minister's behaviour at the Pacific Islands Forum in New Zealand yesterday was at odds with this new bipartisan consensus. Acting in the national interest would seem to compel her to raise asylum-seeker processing with the Nauru President, Marcus Stephen. In order to fully consider all her options, Ms Gillard needs to ascertain the extent of Nauru's willingness and capacity to assist. To deliberately eschew this topic in talks with Nauru smacks of a party political wariness; an aversion to being seen to follow Mr Abbott's lead. Ms Gillard is not in Auckland to represent her party's political interests, she is there to represent Australia's. Assessing options with Nauru, on an issue she has identified as an urgent priority, would seem to be an opportunity she could ill-afford to miss.

The Australian hopes Ms Gillard reconsiders her reluctance on this matter. She is right to say the issue is not an agenda item for the forum, but it is a crucial issue for Australia and an area of potential co-operation that, by all accounts, Nauru is happy to discuss. When the newly installed Prime Minister said "there will be some days I delight you, there may be some days I disappoint you", we did not expect she would be doing both, on the same issue, on the same day.






PERHAPS the magpie dilemma is not so black and white after all. The aggressive warblers have been defending their territory for eons -- it took the High Court to quash terra nullius but there was never any doubt who owned our skies.

Now some people want to smite these swoopers. But a stay of execution has saved one Tweed Heads bird. Are magpies becoming anti-social? By rejecting the death penalty, are we shunning a useful deterrent? Is the magpie a victim of social dislocation, taking out its frustration on unsuspecting scalps? And will immunity for magpies encourage all birds to swoop? Perhaps we should accept some of the blame ourselves. The feathered fiends could be instruments of Gaia, warning us of the planet's peril. The magpie matter is too much for the judiciary and must go to the parliamentary branch, where no doubt, some will find an area of grey.






BUILD a better broadband network and the world will beat a path to your door. That at least appears to be the view of Stephen Conroy who tells us we deserve "the best broadband network we can build". So why, if the National Broadband Network is the best product on the market, would the Communications Minister support a gag on a potential competitor preventing it from criticising the NBN?

In an $800 million deal, Optus has promised not to be "expressly critical" or make "any adverse statement" about the performance of the network in key regions, a gag that will no doubt influence 500,000 Optus customers to shift to the NBN. It remains to be seen whether the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission accedes to the NBN's request to authorise the deal on the grounds of public benefit. Just over a week ago, the competition watchdog declared parts of the NBN's $11 billion deal with Telstra potentially detrimental to competition and consumers partly on the grounds that Telstra's agreement not to promote its wireless internet services as a substitute for fibre for 20 years had the potential to undermine competition for wireless voice and broadband services.

The Hawke and Keating governments made competition a Labor virtue, but Senator Conroy and his colleagues seem to regard it as a vice -- to the detriment of consumers. Beating a retreat from decades of bipartisan agreement on the benefits of healthy, market-driven competition raises the unfortunate spectre of higher prices and lack of choice in services. Already the NBN has suggested the possibility of raising prices for many services by up to 5 per cent per annum above inflation. And even NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley came clean about the "small print" for consumers yesterday, admitting that the entry level service, expected to cost $60 a month, will not be adequate for high-definition video-conferencing with doctors.

Not surprisingly, consumer response to the network has been less than enthusiastic so far, with the Labor-dominated House of Representatives standing committee on infrastructure and communications conceding recently that a more comprehensive strategy was needed to drive uptake rates and help people understand the potential benefits of the NBN. The other possibility is that savvy consumers understand it very well but don't like what they see -- especially the prospect of paying up to $190 a month for download speeds comparable to those already available in Melbourne. Consumers who are unhappy can always complain, of course, to their peak body, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network. Alas, that quasi-autonomous non-government organisation, invented by Senator Conroy and funded by the government, is answerable to his department.






HAMLET might have had one or two things to say about this state budget. The O'Farrell government knows what it ought to do. The Coalition's first budget for 16 years declares - quite reasonably - its intention to cut government spending, keep to budgetary rules that Labor had previously imposed on itself but never managed to observe, and tailor expenditure to revenues that have been reduced by the economic downturn. But how will it pull off the feat? What will be cut to reach the target? Ah, now you're asking. For the most part we are not told.

What we do know is that the budget has set a global target - $8 billion over four years - for cuts and efficiency savings across the government. The government will cut the 322,000-strong public service by - wait for it - 5000 over four years. This is considerably less than the blood-curdling figures foreshadowed in recent days but it will make a dent in time in recurrent expenditure.

We also know that the Treasurer, Mike Baird, has told ministers and their departmental heads - as he is also telling public servants on the question of their wages - that the targets in the budget are not negotiable, and they will be responsible for meeting them.

Instead of one big bang yesterday, in other words, with cuts dictated by state Treasury, there will be a series of little bangs and whimpers over coming months and years as departments close or cut back services and branch offices to meet their targets. Substantial cuts have been put off, too, until the third and fourth years of the forward estimates. By then revenues, which have been badly hit by the downturn, may even be on the mend.

Whether this strategy works or not, there is a good deal that is worthwhile in the Coalition's first budget. Despite weak revenue forecasts, the government has allocated substantial sums to make the start it has promised on rail projects in Sydney's developing north-west and south-west regions. As well as privatising the desalination plant, a measure already announced, the government has moved to privatise Port Botany with a long-term lease. It will use the funds raised to speed duplication of the Pacific Highway in partnership with the federal government.

Its other big money-raising measure, though, is an increase in mining royalties for companies subject to the federal carbon tax. Since the federal government has promised miners paying the tax that they will be reimbursed for the amount of state government royalties they pay, this is just bloody mindedness - the Coalition in Macquarie Street is giving Labor in Canberra the two-fingered salute over a measure it rejects. We believe the carbon tax is an important, necessary measure, but regardless of one's view, obstructionism of this sort is yet more evidence of the way Australia's constitutional arrangements encourage needless game playing rather than good economic management.

The decision to amend the stamp duty concession for first home buyers, allowing it only for new homes, ensures that what stimulus the measure provides is closely targeted on the building industry.

The substantial commitment to disability services over five years is a welcome confirmation of a long-term program initiated by Labor. But the Department of Family and Community Services - as foreshadowed gloomily by its minister, Pru Goward - has received no extra funds and will find it hard to make the planned and necessary transfer of foster care arrangements to the private sector.

Curiously, for the first time, the NSW government explicitly sets out in this budget to keep within the boundaries of fiscal rectitude insisted on by the international rating agencies. The budget papers contain a series of graphs and charts tracing the movement of various budget aggregates in relation to boundaries set by Standard & Poor's for maintenance of the state's AAA credit rating. Many people will have reservations about giving any de facto role in setting fiscal policy to outside agencies whose own performance in recent events - specifically, the global financial crisis - leaves a great deal to be desired.

But since the government, like its predecessor, sets so much store by the approval of those agencies, it is worth pointing out that in the document presented yesterday, the government has not yet done enough to ensure NSW keeps living in the sunshine of Standard & Poor's smiles. Its projections are only promises - as Standard & Poor's has pointed out.

The budget Barry O'Farrell, through Baird, has brought down is true to his gradualist instincts. He is no Kennett, or Greiner, or Howard, concentrating all the really nasty cuts in the first budget of his new administration, sweeping away Labor's detritus with a crisp new broom. Actions like that alienate voters, and that is not O'Farrell's way.

The difficulty for O'Farrell and Baird, though, will be maintaining resolve as communities start to protest at what they see disappearing, and in justifying each new cut using, over and over again, the same budget template that was revealed yesterday. What would be acceptable now, presented in a single package from a new and still popular government, may not rouse quite the same enthusiasm in six or 12 months' time. The Prince of Denmark's warning to the dilatory still holds good:

Thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action.





Corruption is at the heart of the troubles afflicting the Pacific.

IN THE lexicon of contemporary tourism, Pacific islands are synonymous with tranquillity and relaxation. Images of towering palms, sun-drenched sands and aqua waters may promise Westerners respite from the problems of life, yet for the people who live in places such as Fiji, Nauru and Solomon Islands, life remains arduous despite decades of aid. In the worst cases, fault lies with corrupt leadership and a breakdown of democratic processes. Other island nations face huge problems despite responsible leadership - Tuvalu, for example, has long sought action on climate change as rising sea levels threaten its very existence.

As regional leaders gather in Auckland for the annual Pacific Islands Forum, there is much to discuss. The problems in many of these countries seem intractable. Corruption is rife in Papua New Guinea; Fiji's military regime, which makes a mockery of its promises to restore the rule of law, has been accused of human rights breaches; and more than a billion dollars spent by Australia as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has failed to build political and economic security.

United States diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and reported in The Age in the past week have been scathing of most governments in the region. While many places are regarded by diplomats as ''fragile'' states , the most damning assessment was applied to Papua New Guinea. The country for which Australia arguably has greatest responsibility as its former colonial protector was described as a ''totally dysfunctional blob''. In the absence of transparent, accountable government, politicians have acquired riches while the mass of people lack basic services in health and education.

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Papua New Guinea is a glaring example of the tragedy of missed opportunities. The country should be prospering. It has substantial natural resources - gas, oil, gold and forests. Its reserves of liquefied natural gas alone could ensure a sound future, but this would require leaders in the post-Somare era to negotiate complex rights as well as find a way to reverse the moribund culture that has seen a collapse of the police force, high unemployment and malnourished children dying from preventable diseases.

Solutions to these questions are beyond the capacity of the forum. Australia and New Zealand can be expected to require more progress for their investments in aid. But they too must consider a different approach. As US officials have noted, if RAMSI left ''it would take about a week for trouble to break out as none of the underlying issues [which have caused widespread ethnic violence] have been addressed''.

The forum will no doubt again consider suggestions from some of the smaller island states that Fiji - which was suspended following coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama's failure to restore democracy - be allowed to rejoin. Australia and New Zealand have made clear their opposition to this and they will prevail. But political pressure and soft sanctions have had little effect on Bainimarama. The cables indicate the Fijian leader believes that sanctions, designed to put pressure on his government without causing the Fijian people too much hardship, are little more than an irritant. Of course, for many member states, these issues are academic. The forum's opening day was dominated by the Small Island States (SIS) Leaders' Meeting, which focused on climate change. There was criticism of NZ for helping to build cruise ship facilities in Kiribati while that nation was seeking funding for seawalls to stop rising ocean levels.

Australia and New Zealand must determine the extent to which aid should be tied to development. Making real progress in the region will depend on their willingness to work with their neighbours in establishing structures and processes that can help them face the challenges of governing in the 21st century.



THE founding general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission from 1935 to 1965, Sir Charles Moses, knew all about the practicalities of axing: among his pastimes was wood-chopping, and he kept a couple of razor-sharp hatchets in his office to entertain visitors by shaving the hair off their forearms. Sir Charles might have cut down trees, but he cultivated culture; indeed, he was responsible for establishing and maintaining the ABC's considerable artistic achievements. The nation has much to thank him for.

Two generations later, the arts in this country have deepened and diversified immeasurably, as have the methods of broadcasting them across the continent and, in fact, the world. But there appears to be a widening divide between Australian culture and how it is communicated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation - the organisation whose very guiding principles are under threat. Early last month, the ABC announced it was dumping Art Nation, its only television arts program, as well as making most of its Melbourne-based arts production staff redundant and externally producing the documentaries under its banner. This week, it was revealed that Radio National's Artworks - ABC Radio's only arts news program - is for the chop; in its place, RN is reworking The Book Show as Arts and Books, expanding it by 15 minutes each weekday to one hour and dropping the evening repeat broadcast. As The Age reported yesterday, the net effect is a significant drop in the network's arts coverage.

Outside the corporation, many people are disturbed. Last week, a number of notable Australians, in an open letter to the ABC board, expressed deep concern at what they called the destruction of ABC TV arts. No doubt more will join the chorus of despair at the news of Radio National's plans. In addition, the recent ABC cuts are the subject of a Senate inquiry, due to report next month. Such attention cannot be without good reason.

Not surprisingly, the ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, is defending the cultural changes. On the opposite page today, Mr Scott writes that ''every content decision attracts debate'', and that ''programmers and schedulers need the freedom to innovate and challenge''. He may be right, but the public broadcaster should also be mindful that not all change is innovative, and that it can challenge for the wrong reasons. The corporation should handle its cultural responsibilities with care.







Smiley's world was not without deceit and brutality but it seems almost gentle compared with the decade that followed 9/11

A hot afternoon in the Libyan desert would be no place for Mr George Smiley. A man of thick glasses and thicker overcoats, he dressed for the cold war and seems destined to fight it for ever. He emerged into the light again this week in a film presented at the Venice festival and on show in this country from next week. "We have the sense that Smiley has seen too much and done too much, and that a lifetime's experience has bled him of colour," Xan Brooks wrote in his Guardian review. "His eyes are tired, his collar too tight, his necktie a noose. Yet still he keeps coming." That is right. Smiley's secret world was not without its own forms of deceit and brutality, but now, with nostalgia, it seems almost gentle compared with the decade that followed 9/11. Today's spies (and real ones) stand accused of torture, rendition and the corruption of democratic morals, shown in the demeaning cache of letters emerging from Tripoli. By contrast, Mr Smiley's fictional game of cross-border chess with his Russian rival Karla was sustained by a sort of dismal elegance and respect. Brought to screen brilliantly by Alec Guinness in a famous BBC series, and now once again by Gary Oldman, George Smiley is the sort of spy this country believes it ought to have: a bit shabby, academic, basically loyal, and sceptical of the enthusiasms of his political masters. Smiley would not, it is safe to say, have wanted to modify intelligence to encourage the Iraq war. He was never real, but we need his type still.





The man in charge of English education appears to dwell in a parallel universe of social expansion

Michael Gove has devised ingenious means of hiring more than his share of political advisers, sponsoring thinktanks and bringing Conservative people in as officials. This week's news would suggest his many spinners and strategists have been earning their crust. While the government groans in its grim mission to slash in every direction, and as a ghost of a health secretary resurrects a derided bill, the man in charge of English education appears to dwell in a parallel universe of social expansion. On Wedndesday he will cut the ribbon on one of his much-vaunted free schools, part of a first clutch which have been opening their doors this week.

There is no doubt this puts him on the right side in the publicity stakes. His critics, including Labour, must remember that a new school will always be a positive story, and will be so in spades where it has been set up at the behest of local parents, even if only a select sample of them. Educational experts may like or loath free school theory, but – starting this week – Mr Gove is creating new facts on the ground and, if past experience is any guide, these are hard to budge. If you doubt it, consider the dogged survival of grammars in parts of the country decades after Whitehall gave up on the unpopular 11-plus; consider, too, the community campaigns which invariably pop up to fight any proposal to close even dire schools.

Free school sceptics have some powerful arguments – not least that £120m has been avoidably drained from the buildings budget of other schools. But the statecraft is cunning: leaking roofs in the maligned "bog-standard" comprehensives may only redouble demands for new alternatives. Settings one's face against particular new schools is thus bad politics; happily the really important debates do not require this. So far, a mere 24 free schools are in business, which experts say will teach a mere 0.05% of the cohort. What matters more than what goes on within these institutions' own walls is what their arrival will do to education elsewhere in the system.

The first thing to watch out for is whether new schools poach pupils in a way that increases segregation, something there were signs of in the Swedish experiment which first inspired Mr Gove. The emerging evidence is contested, with the coalition pointing out that many are sited in the ethnically mixed inner cities, while a Guardian analysis instead emphasised how they were springing up in professional parts of town.

The other big question is quality. For Mr Gove, the great hope is that the mere prospect of competition from parents setting up schools will force education authorities to raise their game. Perhaps, but only if free schools are perceived to be good enough to represent a serious threat. In the US, so-called charter schools have varied wildly in quality across cities and states, and – intriguingly – have produced better results where they are held to officially ordained standards and reliant on renewable funding agreements. There will be something of a paradox if it transpires that to thrive free schools must have their freedom curtailed, yet things could pan out that way. The familiar anxieties have been about zealots rewriting science curriculums, but in fact the direct financial dependence of free schools (and indeed of Labour's academies) on bilateral contracts with the education secretary gives him a whip hand as never before, should he choose to use it.

Mr Gove is sincere in seeking to create space for new styles of teaching, but that doesn't stop him pushing his own priorities, from phonics to English kings, not to mention the new target which he calls the English baccalaureate. Free schools bring many possibilities for good and ill, but what needs to be watched particularly closely is how far they succumb to the latest whims in Whitehall, as they consider where their next contract is coming from.







Tory MPs must not underestimate Osborne and Pickles' determination to win a battle they say they are fighting in the interests of growth

All governments face backbench rebellions, some more disturbing than others. The trickiest are those exposing a deep underlying collision between one strand in a party's philosophies and another far removed from it. The present dispute in the Conservative party about relaxing planning laws could prove to fit this category. For old parliamentary hands it may recall the epic occasion in 1986 when 75 of Margaret Thatcher's backbenchers joined with the opposition to kill a Thatcherite bill.

The issue then was Sunday trading: to ease the then-existing bar on stores opening their doors to the public on a day when increasing numbers were eager to shop. To the party's modernisers, this was all of a part with the general commitment to sweep away all manner of antiquated obstructions on the free functioning of markets and the innovatory plans of thrustful entrepreneurs. Yet to another substantial Tory contingent the bill was an outrage. These were the Conservatives who believed their party was there to conserve. Sunday opening, they protested, would destroy the traditional Sabbath, that day of church and families gathering at home, reducing it to a second Saturday. The government lost the division by 14 votes. That defeat, the first of a government bill at second reading in more than 60 years, would have been a greater sensation had even more remarkable news not begun to seep out as voting ended. The Americans were bombing Libya.

No such melodramatic moments are expected this time, but the issues are equally sensitive. Under the banner "Hands Off Our Land", the Daily Telegraph is running the sort of affronted campaign it normally mounts against socialists. Yesterday one of its writers chidingly quoted David Cameron, in opposition days, describing the cultures and traditions of rural life as "national treasures, to be cherished and protected for everyone's benefit". Conservatives who believe above all in conserving have always proudly asserted that theirs is the party that cherishes and protects the countryside. It was under that banner that they lined up against Labour's plans to ban hunting.

After weekend reports suggesting that ministers might be wobbling, George Osborne and the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, warned MPs not to underestimate their determination to win a battle they were fighting in the interests of growth. Most Conservatives are anxious enough about the economy to take such a warning seriously. But what their instincts – and their understanding of party traditions – are warning them now, with equal insistence, is that they are here being asked to sanction what could turn out to be an act of betrayal.






Typhoon No. 12 (Talas) has brought heavy rains mainly in western Japan. As of the night of Sept. 5, 37 people had died and 54 others were missing. Among the typhoons that hit Japan since 1989, when the Heisei Era started, the latest one caused the second largest number of deaths and missing victims, following Typhoon No. 23 of 2004, which caused 98 people either to die or to go missing.

Hardest hit by Typhoon No. 12 was the Kii Peninsula of Honshu, where unprecedented rainfalls killed some 30 people and caused some 50 others to become missing.

The damage from the typhoon has become a big domestic task for the Noda administration to tackle. It must do its best to help rescue people trapped in debris or in earth and sand or left in isolated communities, find missing people, and restore damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

The Mie, Tottori, Nara and Wakayama prefectural governments have decided to apply the Disaster Relief Law to 20 municipalities. Under the law, the central and prefectural governments shoulder the cost of running shelters for evacuees 50-50.

A high-pressure air mass that stood in the typhoon's way kept it from moving fast. It moved north at almost a snail's pace of 10 kph to 15 kph, dumping lots of rain for a long time. The typhoon landed in Kochi Prefecture of Shikoku on Sept. 3. After crossing Shikoku and the Inland Sea and landing in the southern part of Okayama Prefecture of Chugoku in western Honshu, it reached the Sea of Japan on Sept. 4.

The Meteorological Agency analyzed the mechanism which brought the extremely heavy downpour on the Kii Peninsula the following way:

Its storm area was wide, with the maximum diameter reaching about 400 km. Because its speed was slow, cumulonimbus clouds around it covered the peninsula for a long time. In addition, as the typhoon moved north, moist air continued flowing into the peninsula — from east-southeast on Sept. 2, from southeast on Sept. 3 and from south on Sept. 4.

The moist air hit mountains 1,500 to 1,900 meters high in the central part of the peninsula and turned into updrafts, continuously forming rain clouds.

The cities of Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture, and Kumano, Mie Prefecture, respectively, registered an hourly rainfall of 132.5 millimeters and 101.5 millimeters — both record rainfalls.

In the village of Kamikitayama, Nara Prefecture, the rainfall which started on the evening of Aug. 30 amounted to 1,808.5 millimeters. On the evening of Sept. 4, AMeDAS (the Automatic Meteorological Data Acquisition System) in the village stopped transmitting data.

The heavy rainfalls caused flooding of rivers and landslides, which evacuees and local municipality government workers said they had not experienced before.

Kumano Nachi Shrine in the town of Nachi Katsuura, Wakayama Prefecture, on the Kumano Kodo "World Heritage" pilgrimage routes, was partially buried by earth and sand. Part of the roof of the Kinpusen Temple in the town of Yoshino, Nara Prefecture, which is a national treasure, was partly damaged.

At one time, more than 400,000 people, including some 300,000 in Okayama Prefecture and some 100,000 in the city of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, in western Honshu, were ordered or recommended to evacuate.

Some municipalities apparently failed to issue evacuation orders or recommendations, contributing to the large number of deaths and people who became missing.

In the city of Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, earth and sand hit five houses. One died and five others went missing.

In the village of Totsugawa, Nara Prefecture, seven people went missing when their houses were washed away. In the city of Gojo, Nara Prefecture, after about 10 houses were washed away and one person died, an unspecified number of people were missing.

It is reported that no evacuation order had been issued in these municipalities. A worker of the Gojo city government said that since local residents ordinarily had a keen sense of concern about natural disasters, the city government might have trusted their judgment too much. This report backs the need to study what actions municipal governments concerned took, what went wrong and what eventually happened.

It will be important for municipal governments across the nation to prepare and distribute hazard maps and tell local residents in advance what routes and what shelter facilities to use when heavy rains hit their areas.

In 2005, the Cabinet Office issued a guideline concerning issuance of evacuation orders by municipal governments when natural disasters happen. But as of November 2009, only 46 percent of the nation's municipal governments had their own standards for issuing evacuation orders when floods are feared to occur. The corresponding rate for landslides was 41.4 percent. Municipal governments need to consider in detail what preparations they should make when floods and landslides are likely to occur.

Although Typhoon No. 12 turned into a tropical low-pressure area in the Sea of Japan, heavy rains were hitting Hokkaido and Tohoku on Tuesday. On the Kii Peninsula, rainfalls had made the ground soft. Utmost caution needs to be taken to prepare for secondary disasters such as landslides in areas soaked with rainwater and floods that may occur when earth and sand clogging rivers break up.





Special to The Japan Times

SINGAPORE — Doubts are beginning to be heard about how sustainable is China's economic miracle, particularly the relentless emphasis on exports and investment spending by hundreds of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and local governments. Beijing, of course, has its supporters, including banker turned academic Stephen Roach, non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia as well as a faculty member of Yale University, who assert that China is different, bigger, special, the superpower that will defeat all the odds.

Fraser Howie is a leader of those who raise questions about China's economic miracle. He's an investment banker, too, and he has lived in China, speaks the language fluently, has a Chinese wife, and has written two books about important financial aspects of China's economy. If you want an antidote to China fever read "Red Capitalism: the fragile financial foundation of China's extraordinary rise," written with fellow investment banker Carl Walter.

In appearance, Howie looks some way south of the South Pole of a typical suited and booted investment banker, no sharp suit and tie, but a rather garish blue and purple casual shirt. His stubble of several days highlights his rapidly receding hairline, but, OK, he is off-duty today. His views are sharp and public-spirited in contrast to most bankers who keep their heads down and make money, unless they raise their heads above the parapet to praise their client state, as Roach has done several times.

"Carl (Walter, his coauthor) and I have always started from having worked and lived there," Howie says. "You find that the closer you are to the source, the more cynical you are. We were the first to say that China is not all it is cracked up to be and to raise a few red flags. This splurge in lending if you look at it financially, of course it is stimulus, is ultimately not sustainable and is going to lead to a great revival in nonperforming loans. If you look around China you see an incredible infrastructure binge and fixed asset binge, which is probably unwarranted and almost certainly mispriced and miscosted."

He admits that China's very size and ancient history makes it difficult to grasp. "Who could not be mesmerized by the numbers of China, whether it is the population, the foreign currency reserves? This is especially so if look where they have come from. In the 1980 financial crisis China had $150 billion of external reserves and its external debt was $130 billion to $140 billion, so it was touch and go, Now, the reserves are 20 times the size. From that perspective, these seem incredibly large numbers and seem unstoppable."

He cautions that Asians should remember that, "We have seen this before, 20 years ago in the case of Japan. China seems different because there are so many more people. There are no miracles happening in China in the sense that somehow the rules of economics somehow don't work. They work just as well in China as they do everywhere else. If the government can seem to be doing noneconomic things or things that other governments won't do, you also find that there is a cost. They are spending a lot of money in the hope that it pays off, even though if you cost it, it is not an economic or viable proposition."

His words tumble out like a waterfall, and occasionally snag on a rock or a boulder of a new thought before he picks up one or other theme and continues. His Scottish burr also gives him an edge. Howie takes issue with a million and one commentators who believe that it is only a matter of time, whether 10 or 50 years — or may be even five — before China takes over from the United States as global MegaPower. "I fundamentally don't believe that China will ever achieve superpower status in the way that the United States has in terms of cultural influence and general domination. I feel confident because if nothing else the Chinese culture itself is exclusionary. The whole language is structured around inside and outside, and it's about ..." His waterfall of words hits a rock before he continues: "Chinese systems are all designed to run Chinese people. No one else is going to take this sh** garbage from their government. People are not rallying round the world 'Bring me no freedom of assembly; bring me no religious freedom.' That's not to say that America does not have its problems, but nobody rallies round, 'Give me a one-party state; I want my civil rights taken away; I want corruption in my government; I want my bank savings to be taken and interest rates to give preferential treatment to SOEs.' "

Howie warns that in the next year or so, it will be difficult to get even straightforward decisions out of China because of the political jostling as President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao step down, probably to be replaced by vice president Xi Jinping and by vice premier Li Keqiang, who will be the fifth generation of Chinese leaders. "I am not a political analyst, but from what I can see of this new fifth generation, the bios of each of them look the same on the National People's Congress website. These are very tricky people who have come through the system. One thing does seem to be lacking — where is the clear strong leadership? In the past decade China has suffered from poor leaders, with a lot of consensus decision-making, a lot of political factional infighting."

Politics and economics interact, especially with the building up of the giant SOEs, whose chief executives, Howie points out, "have ministerial-level power. And so you have a question of who's the government here? Is the government the politicians or the government the businessmen, because they are holding the same level of power? This has led to factionalism and patronage cliques or business groupings, and led to poor decision-making, inefficient decision-making and failure to grasp the nettles of reform — as many hard decisions are rolled over for the next generation of leadership. I don't see that fundamentally changing.

"There must also be a concern as well from the Communist Party that the system is pretty unstable in many ways, social stability is a problem. It is a problem of their own making: by not addressing genuine reform, by not addressing corruption, by not addressing real accountability — and the whole democratic question is one of accountability and holding people responsible — they have got this very unstable system. Who wants to rock the boat?"

Howie is sympathetic toward former premier Zhu Rongji, but Zhu's own great failure was in not cementing the foundations of reform at the time of great opportunity when China joined the World Trade Organization is 2001. Rebalancing the economy then, "when China was barely on the global radar screen and did not have the burden of $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves," notes Howie, would have made it easier to head off problems before they started festering.

Exporters who do not want to see the renminbi substantially revalued have gained political clout as the Communist Party opens up membership to booming business executives. In addition, strident nationalists don't want China to be pushed around by the U.S. On top of that there is an often badly directed global searchlight. Howie cites "interest rate hikes in China, which really have very little to do with the global economy, are all the headlines on CNBC. Markets move because China moves rates. Interest rate hikes in China might as well be interest rates on the moon or on Mars for all the direct impact they are going to have. You can't easily get into renminbi, and you can't easily get out of renminbi, so the impact on global markets is minimal."

For all his skepticism about the Chinese miracle, Howie pulls back from predicting imminent disaster: "I have real problems in envisioning a scenario where you somehow have a collapse of China, and that's what we shy away from in the book. We sort of push toward it because that's the natural conclusion, but then you remember that things can go on for a long time, especially in an environment where you can't short the government, you can't take an opposing position against the government. There is very little foreign debt. It's all domestic."

When the government talks about the economy, it is talking about SOEs, Howie points out, "never about the small capitalist trader or the exporter sector even, as important as that is. If you are looking at the major sectors of the economy, the SOEs are dominant, and a lot of retail and others is populated by divide and rule. Steel, the airline industry, coal, power, telecommunications, are all in the hands of the national champions. That is all defined as strategic.

"Much of the rest of the economy is populated by these millions of small businesses. There is obviously a lot of overlap as well and they now accept capitalists into the Communist Party, so you are getting growing links between the two. But it is still very much a dog on a leash. Even if you are in the private sector, you are still on a leash. And if you are playing inside China you are on a leash and the government can always pull it and rein you back in. So many in the private sector want to work more with the government sector because that's where the favorable policy, favorable laws, favorable deals come from. It clearly isn't the private sector on one side of the barricades and the state on the other."

Howie expresses optimism that China is still seeking the direction of reform. He resorts to a battery of jumbled metaphors, describing it as "a bit of a pinball, you are going to bounce this way and then come back that way, a bit of progress here, then delayed, then forward, back again, then bong, oops, fell off the chair... There seem to be a lot more hills, and so therefore it is going to take a lot longer to get there than you think. It is a direct flight but we seem to take a lot of roundabout twists and turns to get there. And maybe they actually won't get there. There is no guarantee that China must succeed, whatever that means."

Even though some Western-educated Chinese see China as the potential savior of capitalism, Howie points out that the Communist rulers of Beijing have drawn their line and will not give up state ownership of the strategic heights of the economy. The system is full of inefficiencies, not least because banks' chief executives have the rank of vice ministers, whereas SOE chiefs are full ministers. It's clear who is in charge. No one got fired for lending to SOEs; or got promotion for refusing a loan.

He notes the predilection for new buildings, many of questionable quality, but construction of which boosts GDP. "If you build a worthless building, that adds to GDP because you use cement, workers, whatever. If you knock it down, that adds to GDP as well because you need to employ people to knock it down. And then you build another building, and that adds as well. Construction seems to be the classic GDP generator. Let's just build something. Let's build something big. You look at so many of the projects, such as town halls or police headquarters, even in villages, 10-stories high."

He hones in on the extravaganza of last year's Shanghai Expo: "They have got limited resources in China, still a poor country on a per capita basis, lacking all sorts of resources. What are they doing with their limited resources? They are bussing people in from the countryside, so they can have the highest number of people ever to go to an expo. Talk about misuse of resources.

"Have you been to the countryside? Have you see the health care status in the countryside? Even in the cities, one of the biggest problems is that if you get ill the medical expenses and the bill (will be so high) that if you were not already in poverty, you will be kicked back into poverty. It is a dreadful scenario. Primary health care is really bad in China in the big cities. If you have got money, it's fine."

He takes a sideswipe at Japan for technology sales to China, praying that it will lead to more orders, "When what happens is that the Chinese steal the technology, call it Chinese and then sell it to the rest of the world... It also begs the questions about this economic miracle and about your strategy for China. You may look at your growth numbers, but where is the slide that shows what happens when technology is stolen and copied and you are in competition with China in five years time?"

Howie says China still has a long way to go. "There is ambition in China. They are clearly not a lazy people, and there is certainly no lack of imagination in a broader sense. They have a large vision of where they want to be and who they want to be — which is obviously important for anybody who is trying to grow or become something.

"But that doesn't necessarily translate into achievement. They want to have the world's best universities, so they throw lots of money into education. They build lots of big university campuses. What they don't try to do is reform primary school education and move away from rote learning system and standardized tests. China recently came top recently in some global standardized test. That's great: but I have never seen anything in life which is a standardized test, nor in business. So unless you can move the world to a standardized test for business and life, that's of limited benefit."

He adds: "China's has gone for the trophy events, like the Olympics, the Expo, the Asian Games, huge monumental things. And yet traffic in Beijing is still very bad, air pollution in Beijing is bad, the quality of life is somewhat dubious, the Chinese people are not happy. Would you rather be happy or have the Olympics? It seems ironic that with all of China's 3,000 years of history, the biggest tourist attraction in Beijing is the Bird's Nest Stadium, which has never been used for another sporting event, which is a bigger money earner than even the Forbidden City."

He is also pessimistic about China's $3.3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves: "All they can do is keep buying U.S. government bonds. There is nowhere else to put your money. No one's going to sell you Brazil or Nigeria or (mineral rich) Western Australia. All non-Western Australians and most Western Australians would be upset being the 32nd Chinese province. I don't think Zambian miners would be too keen either. China is discovering that its methods of management don't necessarily work outside China, and Africa is just as difficult place to do business if you are Chinese as it is if you are a Westerner."

Howie pours scorn on the idea of a Beijing consensus or a Beijing model to take over from the Washington consensus. China is not unique. It is following a model started in Japan and Korea, and China's very size has been a factor in shaking the world. But the Chinese experience is not replicable by other emerging countries, even if they were prepared to embrace the lack of freedoms in the Chinese system.

"If you were on the back streets of Nairobi , you would probably find dollars most useful," says Howie, probably not yen or Swiss francs, and certainly not renminbi. "No one bestows the (role) of reserve currency from somewhere on high. It is ultimately what the market, what the man on the street thinks. Is the yen a reserve currency? Sort of, in a distant sort of way, and yet it is a fully free and tradable currency. China is nowhere near to ticking half of the boxes to get to the stage where you can talk of the renminbi being a reserve currency in any substantial way.

"I also doubt whether China is in any way politically ready to accept the scrutiny that comes with running a reserve currency. Think of the number of commentators, basically any man and his dog, from your plumber to your servant's tennis partners, everyone has a view on Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and whether they are right or wrong, what they should do, what they shouldn't do — and they are all high profile people, Jim O'Neill, Roubini. Do you think the Chinese are going to suffer that level of scrutiny and the vitriolic attack that comes with being the world's central banker? There's no way that they are going to put up with that. And if it doesn't come, what does that tell us about the global economy — that we are all defaulting to the Chinese because we have to give the Chinese face. You cannot be given face if you are a central banker. There has to be serious scrutiny, dialogue, debate, some of it extreme, across the whole spectrum.

"I don't see the Chinese are anywhere near ready to raise themselves to that level of public criticism or exposure and accept it. Mattel complains about lead in toys made in China, but it's not the Chinese factory's fault, it is Mattel's fault and they must apologize to the 1.3 billion Chinese for insulting them. This is ridiculous. If you want to take on that superpower mantle, there's a whole host of things that come with it in terms of disclosure.

When, where and how is China going to be forced to face the need for thorough reform and change? Howie concludes: "Maybe the change comes from some sort of external shock in terms of an internal shock, such as inflation that you cannot get under control. Maybe it comes from a fall off in the export sector again due to the global economy. Maybe the shock comes from some North Korean crisis that shuts shipping lanes — or whatever — and that real hard action that needs to be taken really to bring things under control again. But it is going to be very difficult when you look at the huge expansion of credit over the past few years. Postponing the decisions makes them ultimately more difficult."





Special to The Japan Times

Fraser Howie is scathing about foreigners' blinkered views, particularly those of his financial colleagues who believe they are God's gift to a reforming China. "Some of the management of these top firms genuinely believe that China is reforming and say 'we will be in there and China needs us.'

"Stop right there. They may need to do it in your worldview, but why are they going to do it and why are they going to do it with you? There is no guarantee that they are going to choose you, Bank of America or Goldman Sachs or whoever. Look at Morgan Stanley's experience with CICC very early on. (China International Capital Corp. was set up in 1995, with Morgan taking 34.3 percent, China Construction Bank 43.35 percent and China National Investment and Guaranty Corp. the balance.)

"Morgan Stanley thought it was going to get a toehold that would lead to a dominant position. Yet within a few years, CICC was partying with (Morgan Stanley's rival) Goldman Sachs. Yet the irony is that Morgan Stanley made an absolute killing financially. They invested $37 million and they got paid that out in dividends many times over and then ultimately sold their stake for the best part of a billion dollars. And yet ultimately it was a failure."

Howie laughs sardonically: "Only in China can you have this storming financial success and end in failure." Morgan Stanley was the pacesetter for other foreign failures as Western banks clamored to be strategic investors in big Chinese financial public offerings. Howie explains that getting in at pre-IPO prices offers the opportunity of good returns: "It turns into a financial trade: You buy at 10, you sell at 12, so you make money."

Making a financial killing is one thing, but Howie doesn't see foreigners making financial waves in China, seeing few cases where the foreigners have the freedom to run things their way or make reforms. He slams foreign bank managements for throwing good business practices out of the window when they go to China. "Managements are fond of saying that they are in there for the long-term. They are very cautious about how they deal with China, keen to give the Chinese face. You are in business. Are you making money, or are you not making money? How can you go back to your shareholders and say, 'We lost money on this deal, but don't worry, we gave the Chinese face?'

"Are they approaching China the way they approach Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand? In an economy that is booming the way that China's is, that allegedly has all this growth potential, are they getting above China returns or below China returns?" Howie advises foreigners investing in China to "be realistic about what you can do." You cannot reach China's booming 10 percent growth if your operations are confined to a small courtyard.

To objections that Goldman Sachs and others have made lots of money in China, Howie responds that, "Most money made doing Chinese activities has been based outside China, doing the big IPO underwritings for the mega-listings, the PetroChinas, the ABCs, all the big banks, things like that, all in the Hong Kong market. People have made money, but not by being in the domestic market.

He says: "I remember asking Bank of China's management some years ago, 'Why can't HSBC come in, buy a Chinese bank and be allowed to expand?' And they hummed and hawed and finally said, 'They wouldn't know what to do.'" Howie laughs: "Why this nonsense? Of course, you don't want to compete with a bank like HSBC, but (why pretend) that China is different and outsiders can't understand it? I don't buy that. Chinese companies make bad decisions all the time in their own market, so why can't foreigners?"





The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — While everyone is watching events unfold in Libya, Syria and the rest of the Arab world, Iran is watching, too. And the leaders in Tehran may decide that this is the time to rush for the bomb. Moammar Gadhafi gave it up. Bashar Assad fell short of getting it. Would they be next?

The mullahs probably ask themselves a fair number of "what if" questions. What if Gadhafi had had the bomb? Would NATO have dared to bomb Libya? Would the Europeans even have thought to take Gadhafi on if he had had nuclear-armed missiles aimed at Italy and France? And what if Assad had the bomb? Would Syria's leader be as vulnerable? Would Turkey be able to act independently if Ankara and Istanbul were within the reach of Syrian nuclear weapons? Would Israel be so concerned at the prospect of being targeted by Syria that it would have asked allies not to pressure Assad?

As they watch this year's developments throughout the Middle East, Iran's leaders see the potential for great gains and losses. They took over Iran in 1979, the same year Egypt signed the first-ever peace treaty between an Arab state and Israel. Where will current events take the region? Which of these two opposite trends will prevail?

On the one hand, a moment of great opportunity for the Iranian regime could emerge. Pro-Western Arab autocrats are falling; Sunni leaders who hate Shiites are shaking; rivals for hegemony are weakening. The Israeli Embassy in Cairo is under siege, while the Egyptian secretary of the Arab League has called for a review of the peace treaty with Israel. The possibility of the old structures being replaced by weak systems, or merely removed, presents Iran with a sizable opportunity to develop non-state actors as its partners and agents throughout the Middle East.

On the other hand, this moment could deal a significant setback to the Iranian regime. Syria is Tehran's only Arab ally and is its partner in backing and strengthening the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas. What will happen to Iran's interests if Assad loses control over Syria? New forms of less fundamentalist Muslim political expression may emerge in the Arab world, making the Iranian model less attractive. New Arab regimes may be less hated by their people and thus less vulnerable to Iranian pressure.

Above all, the mullahs must prioritize the future of their regime and the Islamist revolution. What will happen to Iran if the rage sweeping the Arab world inspires Iranians to take to the streets again, aiming, together with mounting international pressure, to oust the mullahs? Will they follow in Gadhafi's footsteps? Will they be better prepared than Assad?

While the world might be looking elsewhere, the Iranians have boosted the production of enriched uranium, upgraded the level of enrichment closer to weapons-grade and are reportedly moving essential production aspects to a well-protected underground facility. To the mullahs, who face growing uncertainties and are trying to draw their own lessons from events around them, what could better protect them and enhance their clout than the possession of a nuclear bomb?

While the Iranians are watching the Arab world, the world should watch Iran.

Sallai Meridor served as Israel's ambassador to the United States from 2006 to 2009, and is the chairman of Glilot Venture Capital Fund





NEW YORK — That $5 trillion dollars is not money invested in building roads, schools, and other long-term projects, but is directly transferred from the American economy to the personal accounts of bank executives and employees. Such transfers represent as cunning a tax on everyone else as one can imagine. It feels quite iniquitous that bankers, having helped cause today's financial and economic troubles, are the only class that is not suffering from them — and in many cases are actually benefiting.

Mainstream megabanks are puzzling in many respects. It is (now) no secret that they have operated so far as large sophisticated compensation schemes, masking probabilities of low-risk, high-impact "Black Swan" events and benefiting from the free backstop of implicit public guarantees. Excessive leverage, rather than skills, can be seen as the source of their resulting profits, which then flow disproportionately to employees, and of their sometimes-massive losses, which are borne by shareholders and taxpayers.

In other words, banks take risks, get paid for the upside, and then transfer the downside to shareholders, taxpayers and even retirees. In order to rescue the banking system, the Federal Reserve, for example, put interest rates at artificially low levels; as was disclosed recently, it also has provided secret loans of $1.2 trillion to banks. The main effect so far has been to help bankers generate bonuses (rather than attract borrowers) by hiding exposures.

Taxpayers end up paying for these exposures, as do retirees and others who rely on returns from their savings. Moreover, low-interest-rate policies transfer inflation risk to all savers — and to future generations. Perhaps the greatest insult to taxpayers, then, is that bankers' compensation last year was back at its pre-crisis level.

Of course, before being bailed out by governments, banks had never made any return in their history, assuming that their assets are properly marked to market. Nor should they produce any return in the long run, as their business model remains identical to what it was before, with only cosmetic modifications concerning trading risks.

So the facts are clear. But, as individual taxpayers, we are helpless, because we do not control outcomes, owing to the concerted efforts of lobbyists, or, worse, economic policymakers. Our subsidizing of bank managers and executives is completely involuntary.

But the puzzle represents an even bigger elephant. Why does any investment manager buy the stocks of banks that pay out very large portions of their earnings to their employees?

The promise of replicating past returns cannot be the reason, given the inadequacy of those returns. In fact, filtering out stocks in accordance with payouts would have lowered the draw-downs on investment in the financial sector by well over half over the past 20 years, with no loss in returns.

Why do portfolio and pension-fund managers hope to receive impunity from their investors? Isn't it obvious to investors that they are voluntarily transferring their clients' funds to the pockets of bankers? Aren't fund managers violating both fiduciary responsibilities and moral rules? Are they missing the only opportunity we have to discipline the banks and force them to compete for responsible risk-taking?

It is hard to understand why the market mechanism does not eliminate such questions. A well-functioning market would produce outcomes that favor banks with the right exposures, the right compensation schemes, the right risk-sharing, and therefore the right corporate governance.

One may wonder: If investment managers and their clients don't receive high returns on bank stocks, as they would if they were profiting from bankers' externalization of risk onto taxpayers, why do they hold them at all? The answer is the so-called "beta": banks represent a large share of the S&P 500, and managers need to be invested in them.

We don't believe that regulation is a panacea for this state of affairs. The largest, most sophisticated banks have become expert at remaining one step ahead of regulators — constantly creating complex financial products and derivatives that skirt the letter of the rules. In these circumstances, more complicated regulations merely mean more billable hours for lawyers, more income for regulators switching sides, and more profits for derivatives traders.

Investment managers have a moral and professional responsibility to play their role in bringing some discipline into the banking system. Their first step should be to separate banks according to their compensation criteria.

Investors have used ethical grounds in the past — excluding, say, tobacco companies or corporations abetting apartheid in South Africa — and have been successful in generating pressure on the underlying stocks. Investing in banks constitutes a double breach — ethical and professional. Investors, and the rest of us, would be much better off if these funds flowed to more productive companies, perhaps with an amount equivalent to what would be transferred to bankers' bonuses redirected to well-managed charities.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a professor of Risk Engineering at New York University and the author of "The Black Swan." Mark Spitznagel is a hedge fund manager. The authors own positions that profit if bank stocks decline in value. © 2011 Project Syndicate





Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — A nervous calm has returned to the streets of England after last month's widespread riots, arson and looting across London and other cities sent shockwaves around the world. As far away as Japan people were asking if Britain was safe any more, and one German politician suggested moving next year's Olympic Games to safety in Germany.

Key questions remain about what sparked riots in so many different places, some far from the initial north London area where police killed a black gang suspect. None of the explanations is satisfactory, but Britain and the West generally should take careful stock of the dangerous ways that inexorable economic decline may lead to potentially worse social upheaval.

Prime Minister David Cameron blamed street gangs and opportunistic looters and declared that criminality would be punished. Magistrates and judges duly obliged. Two men who tried to foment "massive lootin" (their expression) using Facebook, got four years each in prison, even though only one of them turned up at the scene of the proposed riot. Hundreds of others received stiff prison sentences where previously they would have escaped with non-custodial sentences.

Cartoonists on both sides of the Atlantic put a different spin on the English riots, depicting financiers in swanky stretch limousines driving away with bags of cash to the applause of politicians, while hooded looters steal through broken shop windows with single pairs of sneakers or television sets. The suggestion was that there is one law for the rich and another draconian version against the poor.

Cameron conceded that he had a job ahead to tackle "120,000 most troubled families" in a "social and security fightback" against what he termed the "slow-motion moral collapse" of Britain.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair quickly rushed to deny that Britain was in a state of moral decline. He complained about "a highfalutin wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally" and asserted that, "today's generation is more respectable, more responsible and more hard-working than mine was."

It's true that the writings of Charles Dickens or Henry Mayhew in Britain's Victorian heyday of empire show a long history in Britain of a criminal underclass, but they knew their place, and did not challenge the established order.

Blair tried to brush aside any connections between the riots and looting and the high salaries of bankers. He would, wouldn't he since it was he who, following former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's damage of British industry, boosted the role of the City of London as the center of a supposedly winning service economy.

Western economies generally are in a mess and marked by slow growth, unsustainable levels of debt, an overpaid overclass, a growing underclass and a massive army of unemployed. In the United States, unemployment two years into a so-called recovery is still above 9 percent and would be much higher if hundreds of thousands of people had not stopped looking for work. In Spain unemployment is 21 percent and youth unemployment 43 percent. In the United Kingdom, youth unemployment is about to hit one million. In many of these countries, slowing growth and layoffs by the private sector are biting just as governments try to cut their deficits, all increasing the prospects of double dip recession.

Some people have never had it so good. Corporate profits in the U.S. are at record levels of almost $1.7 trillion. Multibillionaire Warren Buffet urged the government to stop coddling the super-rich. He noted in the New York Times that he paid income tax of $6,938,744, but that was only 17.4 percent of his taxable income. He and other high-rolling financiers benefit from tax breaks "showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species." Middle class people without Buffet's tax breaks are paying 33 to more than 40 percent tax.

The reaction among many of Buffett's peers was that if he wanted to pay more tax, the U.S. revenue had a gift window allowing him to do so. As former investment banker William Cohan noted, while Main Street U.S. suffers from rising unemployment, "the financial industry is dancing a jig after paying itself about $150 billion in compensation in 2010." It should be worrying that high financial salaries on both sides of the Atlantic are accompanied by a sense of entitlement with no understanding or caring about what is going on in the rest of the economy.

The economic mess is compounded by head-in-the-sand politics. In the U.S., the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives, has been captured by the right wing, which wants to curb the economic powers of the White House and cut the entitlements of the underclass. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, increasingly favored to challenge Barack Obama for the presidency next year, wants to repeal the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving the federal government income taxation powers.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel stubbornly rejects any initiative to help hard-pressed southern European members of the eurozone, declaring that they must reduce their debts, not much help for Greece, where growth is predicted to be a negative 5 percent. She conveniently forgets that Germany's rise as the world's second biggest exporter was helped by profligate euro-zone spenders.

Who knows what can spark a riot or revolution. Some countries and groups of people tolerate oppression and even torture for years without protesting. The evidence is that the French Revolution was sparked because people became relatively prosperous enough to glimpse and resent the privileges of the rich and powerful. The same could surely happen on the way down as the growing underclass refuses to share Blair's smug view that the rich financiers are entitled to their massive looting of a declining economy.

Some economists hope that, as one put it, "Today, at the height of the Western financial crisis, only China can save capitalism." I wish too, but fear that it is wishful thinking. For all its soaring success China accounts for less than 10 percent of global GDP, whereas the U.S. and European Union countries together account for 55 percent, so as the West slows, China's export model will look increasingly fragile.

Equally important, there is no indication that the rulers in Beijing are yet interested or understand the implications and restrictions on domestic freedoms of a global role for China.

Kevin Rafferty was editor of independent daily newspapers during annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank.





Special to The Japan Times

HONOLULU — Over the past decade, India and Japan have built a relationship of strategic cooperation to promote collaboration on regional and global issues. An examination of the current situation indicates that their relations are a sum greater than its parts.

What is missing is an honest acknowledgement of the relationship's raison d'etre. Rather than relying on the notion of shared values, they should acknowledge the primacy of shared interests regarding China's rise.

Until recently, the two countries had very little interaction. During the Cold War, they were not on the "same side" of the global struggle, thereby effectively freezing bilateral relations until the early 1990s. India's 1998 nuclear tests brought the burgeoning bilateral relations to a sudden halt. Yet today, they enjoy broad cooperation in the economic, diplomatic, and security fields. What explains this cooperation?

Historically, they do not share a territorial dispute or a record of hostilities. Culturally, they are linked by Buddhism and share a recent tradition of non-violence (India) or pacifism (Japan). Geopolitically, neither prefers to intervene in other countries' sovereign affairs. Additionally, while both support efforts promoting security, they cooperate with multilateral efforts in their own way. India defends its strategic autonomy, choosing to closely support multilateral initiatives but not as a member.

Japan joins multilateral efforts, but due to constitutional restrictions on its military, its participation differs from others. None of these offers an explanation for recent cooperation. Instead, they are possible explanations for why cooperation has been smooth.

The often cited reason has been shared values. As seen in their growing number of joint declarations and joint statements, the two countries strongly promote a shared commitment to the universal values of democracy, open society, human rights, rule of law, and the market economy. Regardless of how it is worded, the underlying argument is that Japan and India pursue deeper cooperation because they share common values.

As important as shared values may be, it is too nebulous a concept to explain the recent surge in bilateral cooperation. If this were true, why then are Japan and India not pursuing security agreements with other like-minded states, such as Norway, Canada, or New Zealand? Conversely, China ranks as the top trading partner for both countries, yet China does not share similar values as India and Japan. Finally, while their values have remained unchanged, why have Japan and India not enjoyed much in the way of cooperation until just a few years ago?

The answer is shared interests. Over the past decade a convergence of interests has emerged. Both countries share an interest in sustained economic growth through new trade and investment opportunities, new or reformed multilateral institutional structures that reflect the realities of today's distribution of power, and regional stability and protection of sea lanes. Cooperation enables both countries to be stronger, more prosperous and secure, and better equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century. Shared values may help grease the wheels of this relationship, but it is not the reason why they are cooperating.

Acknowledging shared interests involves being honest that their main mutual concern is managing the consequences of the rise of China. It is undeniable that over the past 20 years China has exerted a greater political, economic, and security influence in the region. For countries that have two of the largest regional militaries (particularly navies) and depend on the freedom of the seas for trade and energy and regional stability for continued economic growth, China's rise brought them together. They share an interest in ensuring China emerges peacefully as a responsible stakeholder in regional matters.

The problem is that there is a significant lack of trust in Beijing. While India and Japan trade with China and interact with it in various forums, the opaqueness of China's military modernization program and its maritime activities strain relations. India is concerned about a possible "string of pearls" encircling it in South Asia while Japan is anxious about increased Chinese maritime assertiveness in the East and South China Seas. When we factor in continuing territorial disputes and ongoing political and/or historical disagreements both countries have with China, China's opposition to their entry as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and China's direct/indirect support to their nuclear-armed neighbors (Pakistan and North Korea), it is understandable why trepidation exists.

Expanded bilateral cooperation between Tokyo and New Delhi enhances their individual security. Economic cooperation diversifies their trading portfolios with less reliance on China. Diplomatic cooperation balances Chinese influence through more inclusive multilateral institutions, both regionally and globally. Security cooperation hedges against an unpredictable China by taking preemptive actions to promote freedom of navigation and sea lane security. China is not the prime reason for closer bilateral cooperation between India and Japan, nor should closer cooperation be seen as the containment of China. China is one factor, albeit a major one, that India and Japan consider when developing common economic, diplomatic and security responses to global and regional issues.

While political leaders will promote shared values as the reason for the burgeoning relationship, it is more honest to acknowledge their shared interest in cooperating to ensure the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region during China's rise.

Jeffrey W. Hornung is associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.







The government will soon embark on a national tax census to register individual and institutional taxpayers and tax objects that are still outside the tax net. This effort will be part of a concerted drive to broaden Indonesia's taxpayer base and reduce tax evasion, thereby increasing tax revenue and expanding the government's financing capacity.

Tax evasion in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, has been quite pervasive, as evidenced by its low tax ratio (tax receipts against GDP) of less than 13 percent, compared to a range of 17 to 23 percent in most other major economies in the region.

As of this year, the total number of registered individual and institutional taxpayers was estimated at 20.5 million, representing a 375 percent increase from the total number in 2005. However, not even 30 percent of these bothered to file annual tax returns.

The 2012 state budget proposal, which targets a 16 percent increase in tax receipts, calls for a more vigorous campaign to promote tax culture in this country.

No one is arguing against the urgent need for stronger enforcement of taxation laws and improving the efficiency and competence of the taxation directorate general in administering and auditing tax collection.

But stronger law enforcement in itself will not do much to encourage voluntary tax compliance. This measure should be spearheaded with campaigns to develop a high level of tax culture, which is key to encouraging voluntary tax compliance.

Under our tax self-assessment system, tax law enforcement, though necessary to prevent or minimize tax evasion and tax fraud, cannot ensure tax compliance because there will never be enough auditors to examine all tax returns.

True, voluntary tax compliance or the public's willingness to pay their taxes properly is influenced by how high the costs of tax evasion are (the risks of being caught evading taxes). And this factor is in turn determined by how credible and effective tax law enforcement is in the public eye.

However, voluntary tax compliance is also strongly influenced by taxpayers' perceptions of the integrity of tax officials and the government's credibility in general. Put another way, voluntary tax compliance requires an environment of mutual trust between taxpayers and tax officials, unlike the current atmosphere of mutual distrust whereby taxpayers perceive most tax officials as corrupt and tax officials suspect most taxpayers as tax cheaters.

Yet more influential to the nurturing of a high level of tax culture and the enhancement of voluntary tax compliance are public (taxpayer) perceptions of how their tax money is spent by the government.

We think a more vigorous tax campaign through the national tax census will not be effective in developing a high level of tax culture or in encouraging voluntary tax compliance if it is not supported by a more concerted and effective drive against corruption.

As long as the public continue to perceive corruption as endemic, systemic and deeply-institutionalized within the administration, they will always try to avoid and evade their tax obligations.

Their logical question is why pay taxes to the government if a large portion of that money will end up in pockets of corrupt officials?





Seven years after Munir Said Thalib was found dead on a Garuda flight on Sept. 7, 2004, the state has ridiculed and embarrassed itself by treating his case as mystery — his death, the motives, the conspiracy and other aspects of the tragedy.

A leading figure at the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), former elite Army Kopassus unit commander Maj. Gen. (ret.) Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was among the key suspects in Munir's poisoning, but two years ago he was acquitted by a Jakarta court.

Fundamentally, formal justice is one thing, but in the public sense it is another. Seven years on, the gap between the legal process and public anger about what is perceived as justice in Munir's case has only grown bigger.

Even the President, who declared the investigation into Munir death "a test case of history", seems to have lost the spirit to revive his promise. Years have passed, but he has yet to officially publish the investigation report he commissioned.

At this stage, a few key aspects need to be considered.

On Sept. 7, 2004, just hours after Munir left Singapore's Changi airport for Amsterdam the night of Sept. 6, convicted off-duty Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, upon returning from Singapore, called Muchdi's assistant, Budi Santoso, and told him, "Pak, I have got the big fish!" When asked if he had reported it to Muchdi, Pollycarpus replied positively, as quoted by prosecutor Cyrus Sinaga at Muchdi's trial Aug. 20, 2008.

Earlier at the airport, an eyewitness later testified that Pollycarpus brought a drink to Munir — his "Big Fish". The court assumed that that was the locus delicti where the poisoning took place. Strangely though, Budi Santoso was not present to testify in the Muchdi trial, and a second possible eyewitness from Changi who might have been questioned was not even mentioned.

Next, no less than 41 phone calls have been detected between Pollycarpus and a mobile phone owned by Muchdi.

However, neither Pollycarpus' call to Budi Santoso nor those to Muchdi were brought as evidence at the Muchdi trial. Muchdi's argument ("My mobile could be used by anyone.") was accepted without further questioning.

Even more strangely, the recordings of the 41 calls that were deciphered by a Seattle lab (the existence of which had earlier been confirmed by both the Attorney General's Office and the then National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri) have reportedly vanished.

The police investigation also seems insufficient regarding what might have occurred during Garuda's last leg from Singapore to Amsterdam.

Medical experts were astonished by the amount of arsenic found — not only in Munir's body, but on his clothing, seat, the carpet and toilet. So much, that is, that another attempt — in addition to the one at Changi — to poison Munir seemed likely. Indeed, it's the standard practice of any state intelligence agency to have a "Plan B" to ascertain the result of "Plan A", or to escape if it fails.

These are a few hard facts among many. Moreover, there are questions concerning the death, if it is a mystery, of a number of people who ought to know more about Munir's demise.

Some justice officials involved in trials related to Munir's case have been implicated in mafia-like practices. If the legal, judicial processes and police investigations are unsatisfactory, the executive and legislative institutions, too, seem to have done little.

For example, has the President, being the so-called "single user" of the BIN, seriously called for the BIN's responsibility and probed its then chief Gen. (ret.) A.M. Hendropriyono? Did he ask then National Police chief Gen. Sutanto to explain the latter's statement that the BIN was not involved in Munir's death?

Likewise, what has the President's Foreign Ministry done to get Budi Santoso — posted at an RI embassy in Islamabad and later in Kabul — to testify at Muchdi's trial? Has Kopassus probed one of its members who apparently had knowledge of instructions to kill Munir?

Finally, has any legislator or political party ever seriously called BIN staffers and pushed the government to review and help solve the Munir case?

Former legislator Suripto, himself a former intelligence officer, has, on the basis of "a professional intelligence source" claimed that "action" against Munir was discussed at a BIN meeting, "possibly in August of 2004", which was led by Hendropriyono and attended by five staff members. (Radio Netherlands, June 24, 2008)

The plan, Suripto said, was assigned to BIN Deputy 2 (Manunggal Maladi, now deceased) and the implementation was Deputy 5's (Muchdi) responsibility. No BIN staffer was ready to respond.

Munir, the human rights defender, was but one individual. But his death and the mystery surrounding his assassination may have a symbolic implication for the nation.

Unlike the Great Tragedy of 1965-1966, Munir's case was a single instance of state violence against a rights activist. But like the mass killings of civilians in the 1960s, which have become a national trauma, it will be remembered plain and simple as state terrorism.

State killing like this — ironically Munir was born in that fatal year of 1965 — would have been inconceivable without the rise and legacy of Soeharto's militarized New Order.

Given the contradiction between the state's judicial regime and the public perception of justice in the Munir case, Munir's symbolizes state embarrassment. For what else can be said of a seemingly simple but unresolved case of a criminal act that reveals so much incredible carelessness and powerlessness, if not incompetence, of the state
apparatuses, in addition to political secrecy?

The writer is a journalist, formerly with Radio Netherlands.





On Sept. 11, 2001, anyone associated with aviation knew that that the industry would never be the same.

What we did not know was how resilient the industry would be in the aftermath of the tragedy or the direction in which it would change.

A decade after the event, there can be no doubt about aviation's resilience. By 2004 revenues and traffic surpassed 2000 levels.

And by 2006 aviation had returned to profitability — albeit with a weak 1.1 percent margin. In the interim airlines dealt with SARS, additional terrorist attempts, wars, and rising oil prices.

It took three years to recover the US$22 billion revenue drop (6.7 percent) between 2000 and 2001. When the global financial crisis struck in 2008, 2009 revenues fell by 14 percent ($82 billion) to $482 billion. This was largely recovered in the following year when industry revenues rose to $554 billion and airlines posted an $18 billion profit.

Clearly the restructuring of the decade has left airlines leaner and more resilient in the face of crisis.

Over the decade, the dimensions of global aviation have also changed. IATA expects 2011 airline revenues of $598 billion — nearly twice the $307 billion of 2001. Airlines are also expected to carry 2.8 billion passengers and 48 million tons of cargo. That's a billion more people flying and 16 million more tons of cargo than in 2001.

While it is difficult to isolate the impact of the events of 2001, we can say that they were a part of a chain of events that cost the industry three years of growth. The 2008 global financial crisis cost another two years of growth.

The legacy of 9/11 is felt most in airport security. Aviation is more secure today than in 2001. But this has come at a great price in terms of passenger convenience and industry costs.

As we move forward, there are five major lessons in security over the last decade:

Governments must coordinate the development and deployment of security measures to ensure harmonized global standards and eliminate overlapping and redundant requirements among nations.

Governments are obliged to foot the bill for security threats which are national challenges in the same manner as they would do in any other sector.

Airlines and their passengers currently pay a security bill that had ballooned to $7.4 billion by 2010.

Passengers should and do play an important role in helping keep air travel safe. Vigilance and cooperation with authorities is crucial.

Governments need to embrace a risk-based approach to security screening.

We must accept that there is no such thing as 100 percent risk-free security. Governments must focus on the probable and not all that is possible and avoid policies driven by knee-jerk reactions.

A good place to start is by removing the hassle that comes between check-in and boarding at many airports. The building blocks to do a better job exist.

The vision for IATA's Checkpoint of the Future is for passengers to be able to get from curb to gate in a seamless and convenient process. For this, we need a risk-based approach to security powered by the enormous amount of data that we can and do collect on travelers.

Combined with this will be technology that will allow most passengers to simply stroll through a checkpoint that can detect metal and harmful substances without stopping, stripping or unpacking.

Parts of this vision could be realized with technology that exists today. Others are in development with a three to seven year horizon.

The important thing is to keep focused on evolving the 40 year-old concept of today's airport checkpoint into one that is more convenient, more effective and that can handle the ever increasing volume of people who want and need to fly.

The writer is director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association.





Yoshihiko Noda, recently elected head of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), is now the country's leader following a set of elections within the DPJ after, on Aug. 26, Prime Minister Naoto Kan made public his intention to resign from the post.

Interestingly, at first Noda was not the most popular and widely supported candidate within the DPJ. In terms of public popularity, previous poll results conducted by Yomiuri Shinbun recently showed that Japanese public opinion was divided and unevenly distributed toward the more popular former foreign minister Seiji Maehara (48 percent) and Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda (12 percent), with Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda receiving only 9 percent of support.

In terms of political support within the party, it was Kaieda who won the first round majority within the party, mainly due to political support from the group within the DPJ centered on Ichiro Ozawa, a senior politician embroiled in finance scandals.

In the final leg, however, smaller factions opted to pool their votes against Ozawa's influential yet notorious group, granting Noda the majority vote.

Many saw that Noda's election into the top seat was a political compromise in which "no one group" achieved what they initially wanted. Noda, 54, jokingly noted that due to his physical image, resembling an eel-like, bottom-feeding fish with whiskers, public expectations toward his government were so low from the outset that he might actually be able to fulfill them.

Ironically, the fact that previous leaders repeatedly could not fulfill public expectations and lost the support of their political counterparts indicates that Japan's political turbulence is no joking matter. There are some important lessons that Indonesian political parties should learn from this.

First, public image, charm and popularity are the least reliable source of political leverage and do not always translate into political dividends, especially when the interests of other political actors are also involved.

Individuals with significant public popularity, such as Maehara or perhaps Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, might not always be able to convert such popularity into tangible political benefits when needed.

In contrast, corruption and finance scandals, such as those implicating Ichiro Ozawa or Indonesia's Muhammad Nazaruddin, can easily haunt and taint the public image of their larger group and political party.

Second, it is also important to keep intra-party corruption scandals down to acceptable and tolerable levels. Although it is impossible to prevent every single act of corruption, any "real" political party should always have its own internal mechanisms of accountability, monitoring and ethics.

Therefore, the leading political party's practice of "whitewashing" by framing recent corruption cases as separate incidents and individual acts unrelated to the political party should no longer be accepted by the Indonesian public.

Third, a weak and indecisive political leadership might limit a country's ability to face its most pressing challenges. Japan's post-tsunami reconstruction and the response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster had been seriously constrained by its unstable and discordant domestic politics. Although many international observers praised Japan's response to the tsunami, its own public is not impressed.

Survey results from Yomiuri Shinbun indicated that public satisfaction with Japan's post-tsunami response decreased from 43 percent in April to 33 percent in May and fell further to 28 percent in June while positive perception of the response to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown fell sharply from 27 percent in April to 19 percent in May and down to 17 percent in June.

The same can be said of the general public perception about Indonesia's performance in the Failed State Index and its uphill battle against corruption.

Fourth, political support can — and will — be withdrawn as quickly as it was once given. The fact that Japan has had five prime ministers "pushed" out of office in the last five years under public distrust and intense political pressure should be a sign of caution for Indonesia's current leaders.

Mounting public distrust in Yu-dhoyono in the face of corruption scandals and the obvious lack of protection of minority groups, if not managed in a timely manner, might create serious repercussions for his political party and potential successor.

Lastly, a country's international image and role will partly be shaped by its own leaders at home. In contrast to Kaieda, who is seen as "more friendly" to China, Noda's strong position on historical issues and the Yasukuni Shrine controversy might strain Japan's relations with its immediate neighbor.

The focus on post-tsunami disaster management also means that other important issues for the region, such as North Korea, will have to be put on hold in regional meetings.

In the current political instability and economic downturn, Japan's foreign policy, often dubbed as "checkbook diplomacy", might mean fewer checkbooks and less diplomacy. Indonesia's preoccupation with its "international image" might be just as problematic as Japan's "checkbook diplomacy" in the future.

There are many things that Indonesia and Japan, two of Asia's largest democracies, can learn from one another. Observers need to refrain from over-generalization. It is safe to say that both nations want firm and stronger domestic political leadership for change.

Pierre Marthinus is program director of Pacivis at the University of Indonesia. Ayaka Kimura is a student at Waseda University, Japan.





Remember Romeo and Juliet? In the famous balcony scene, Romeo swears his love by the moon and Juliet replies, "O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circle orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable."

I reckon many Muslims shared Juliet's sentiments last week. The end of the fasting month is, of course, determined by the moon, and it's been playing hard to get lately, creating global confusion about the date of Idul Fitri, Islam's most important annual celebration. Although the big day was originally set for Aug. 30, at the last minute it was changed to Aug. 31.

Sure, it was inconvenient, but that's nothing new. Every year, we have to put up with differences of opinion about hilal (the sighting of the new moon) — particularly between Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhamadiyah, our leading Muslim organizations. This year was particularly chaotic, however.

My driver's take on the issue? "It's the arrogance of the government, Bu, not sensitive enough to the people. Don't they realize that the women have already cooked everything?" His solution was very practical though: celebrate on Aug. 31, but stop fasting on the 30. How whacky is that?

Of course, I went to pay my respects to my mom on the day of Idul Fitri (I won't tell you which one!). When I got home, there was a film on TV about the Islamic holy book (Decoding the Past — Secrets of the Koran). I decided to hide from the chaos of the Eid celebrations outside and absorb myself in it.

It turned out to be wonderful, an exploration of the origins of the Koran and its revealing to Muhammad. It covered historical context, similarities to the Jewish and Christian revelations, the Golden Age of Islam and the importance of ilm (knowledge) in Islamic traditions.

It also dealt with the meaning of jihad and its modern usage, and how the Koran has been interpreted to support two opposing worldviews: one of peace, the other of violence.

Ah, interpretation! For some people, the Koran is an elastic document — as with so many other religious texts, they cherry-pick to justify whatever they want. They see what they want to see, just like the hilal!

And that leads to distortion. Osama bin Laden for example, used the Koran selectively, making it more militaristic than it really is. He stopped at the part that says when the enemy ceases to be a threat, you must remember that God is merciful and warfare should be a final option. Convenient, huh? Sadly, this piecemeal method of interpretation is typical of many extremists who ignore the messages of peace, love and compassion that are the true guiding principles of the Koran.

Most extremists believe there was once a time when all Muslims followed and shared a single interpretation of the Koran — which just happens to be the one they espouse! They see a supposed "fracturing" of this consensus as a chief source of problems within Islam today.

But according to Reza Aslan, acclaimed scholar and author of There is No God but God, differences in understanding began from the moment the Koran was revealed. "Its very first words were absorbed and understood and interpreted in wildly different ways by a whole host of different people within the community."

It was exciting to me to be reminded of the emphasis in Islam on ilm or knowledge, According to Akbar Ahmed, another prominent Islamic scholar, this word is used more often in the Koran than any other, except "God". "God emphasizes knowledge because it is knowledge that makes us human." Why, the first revelation that Muhammad heard was "Recite!"

Seeing knowledge and learning as divinely given was one of the things that made the Koran the engine that drove a phenomenal unleashing of intellectual and religious energies in the Middle East. It led to the rapid development of rich and diverse Islamic cultures.

Of course, what I'm saying is common knowledge for students of Islam, but it's surprising how many Muslims are ignorant of their own religion and have thus been easy prey for extremists. This is starting to change, Aslan says, because of widespread literacy: "Many Muslim individuals and especially women are going to the Koran by themselves, for themselves, many for the first time." The result is the opposite of what extremists want, but it is not "fracturing" — it is diversity, for centuries one of the strengths of Islam. As one hadith puts it, "Disagreement among my people is a sign of the bounty of God".

If this is true, then surely all the confusion about Eid just parallels the openness and complexity of Islam as a religion. I had to break the news to my driver: This is not really a case of government arrogance. For once, they were doing the right thing. In fact, the last thing we want is the government stepping in on religious issues and deciding what is permitted and what is not — dangerous, because it would likely play into the hands of the conservatives.

As for Juliet, she may have urged Romeo not to swear by the moon because of its changeability, but God has given Muslims the freedom to choose, like democracy, which may sometimes feel chaotic and unpredictable, but let's celebrate it!

And what's wrong with two days of feasting anyway?

The writer ( is the author of Jihad Julia.


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