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Thursday, September 8, 2011

EDITORIAL 08.09.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month september 08, edition 000831 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




























































Terror revisited the national capital yesterday as a high-intensity blast rocked the premises of the Delhi high court, killing at least 11 and injuring over 60. Though unverified, Islamic terror outfit HuJI has claimed the bombing. But what is truly shocking is that the blast comes barely four months after a low-intensity bomb went off at the same court. Given the precedent, one would have expected adequate security measures to be put in place to avoid a repeat. But despite the Delhi high court being a high-value target in the heart of the national capital, not even rudimentary measures such as metal detectors or CCTV surveillance were in place. This speaks of an extraordinarily lax security culture.

The government cannot wish away the terror threat. It must be fought with resolve, passion, 24x7 focus and scientific counter-measures. Home minister
P Chidambaram offered his condolences to the victims and kin of Wednesday's blast and promised to act against the perpetrators. But it's a speech we have heard many times before. The fact remains that our counterterrorism infrastructure is woefully inadequate. It is astonishing that as many as 700,000 posts remain vacant in the police and defence forces. The lack of quality intelligence gathering and forensic capabilities are exemplified by the fact that not a single major blast case in the last two years has been solved. That includes the Mumbai serial blasts that took place two months back.

Most of the time raw intelligence about possible terror strikes is available. Yet systemic inertia prevents law enforcement agencies from collating and acting on this. India is a trillion dollar economy, and it's high time that security is made an essential element of infrastructure. The challenge is to convert our security apparatus from a reactive to a preventive force. This would require expeditiously filling up vacancies in security agencies and adopting modern investigative techniques. If our techniques and training are backward we shouldn't hesitate to learn from foreign security agencies whose counterterror record is much better. Standing on national honour is beside the point when it's a question of confronting terror.

There is a strong case for aggressive hands-on policing. More boots on the ground combined with effective tools such as CCTVs in public places will go a long way in cracking down on nefarious activities. Just as the aviation industry has stuck with strict security norms post-9/11, there is a need for greater police-to-people interface to ensure constant vigil. The need of the hour is a strong security culture that has law enforcement agencies on their toes 365 days a year.







Despite initial hiccups, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's maiden trip to Bangladesh has yielded impressive diplomatic results topped by a historic land boundary pact. This is the first time since Bangladesh's independence that the entire land boundary between the two countries stands demarcated and the troublesome enclaves issue settled. The high-profile trip got off to a jittery start, with Mamata Banerjee pulling out and complaining that the proposed Teesta water-sharing agreement will hurt her state's interests. For a while it did seem that the botched up river deal could pour cold water on the PM's trip. But then in a show of maturity, both countries took the setback in their stride and moved on to sign fruitful trade and boundary agreements.

The boundary agreement, centrepiece of the bilateral diplomacy, grants basic citizenship rights, pending for over three decades, to thousands of people living in 162 adversely held enclaves. Due to their stateless existence, these people have not been able to access even basic services like education and health. India has also made major concessions in
bilateral trade relations. For long, Bangladesh has complained about unbalanced trade with India. Singh has announced quota-free access to the Indian market for 46 Bangladeshi textile product lines and 15 other items-a move welcomed by Bangladesh's political and business circles. Both Singh and Sheikh Hasina needed substantial takeaways from this engagement. And the trip has achieved that objective, reducing the trust deficit between the two countries. To take this policy of cooperation ahead, the UPA government has to move towards implementing the water-sharing and transit deals. India is looking for overland access across Bangladesh to its land-locked north-eastern states-something that still needs to be worked out. On Teesta water-sharing, the Centre must move quickly on working out an agreement. The transit deal and water-sharing remain the main unfinished business from the PM's otherwise successful Bangladesh trip.





                                                                                                                                                TOP STORY



Left critics are fond of blaming the post-1991 reforms for the corruption afflicting India today. Astonishingly, two Supreme Court judges recently joined this chorus. But the young among the critics are blissfully ignorant of history while the old suffer from amnesia.

Corruption existed aplenty prior to 1991. If you wanted a phone, car or scooter, you had to choose between a many-years-long queue or bribe. If you were among the lucky few to have a phone, a bribe was still necessary to receive the dial tone. If you wanted an airline ticket or a reserved railway seat, your choice was to take a chance and stand in a long queue or resort to baksheesh. Ditto for a bag of cement. God forbid, if you should have to travel abroad, many-hours-long queue and unfriendly customs officials would be awaiting you upon return. As an entrepreneur, if you wanted an investment or import licence or to stop your competitor from getting one, bribing a senior official in the relevant ministry would do.

Thanks to the post-1991 reforms, ordinary citizens have been freed from these travails and humiliations. Those of us who lived this history know that reforms bid goodbye to many forms of corruption.

Why have we then witnessed so many mega corruption cases recently? Partially, it reflects the success of reforms but largely it is to be attributed to the government's decision to stop halfway. Reforms and the higher incomes accompanying them pushed up the prices of scarce resources such as minerals and land. These price increases multiplied the scope for government officials to make vast sums of illegal money through arbitrary and opaque allocations of the rights to extract minerals and the acquisition and resale of land.

2G scandal offers an even more dramatic example. It had taken India 110 years to reach five million phones in 1990-91. But the spectacular success of telecom reforms brought the number to 300 million at the end of 2007-08 with the rate of expansion reaching 6.25 million per month . This turned spectrum on which cell calls travel into a resource worth tens of billions of dollars. That allegedly allowed telecom minister A Raja to make handsome sums for himself and his friends when allocating spectrum to his wealthy friends for a small 'fee'.

If in 1991 Manmohan Singh had chosen the course that reforms critics recommend, we surely would have escaped the recent large-scale scandals. But the long queues and corruption associated with them would have remained as well. Far more important, the revenues that today finance the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, the right to education and the National Rural Health Mission would not have been available.

A far superior path available to the government to curb corruption was the continuation of reforms. The reform of the antiquated Land Acquisition Act of 1894, issuance of land titles, transparency in government procurement and competitive auctions of mineral rights and telecom spectrum are some such measures. Rahul Gandhi spoke about them in the Lok Sabha on August 26, when Anna Hazare's fast was in its 11 {+t} {+h} day but it was too little too late. He and his party had already lost seven long years!

When the UPA unexpectedly won the 2004 election, it (erro-neously) attributed its victory to the incumbent government's pursuit of growth-centred reforms and neglect of the countryside. So it chose exactly the opposite course: an end to reforms and the total neglect of 30% Indians living in the cities in favour of near-exclusive focus on the countryside. And that sowed the seeds of the Hazare movement.

In November 2007, Jo Johnson of
the Financial Times predicted violent protests in Delhi by India's poor in reaction to what he saw as "the growing divide between haves and have-nots". Yet, when Hazare launched his movement, it was the educated, well-clad and well-fed young men and women from urban India who turned up in droves in peaceful demonstrations. Why did Johnson go so wrong?

For one thing, the poor are able to see that growth has done far more for them than the dirigiste policies of the past. More importantly, the young and ambitious middle-class men and women in urban India recognise that it is they whom their elected representatives have wilfully neglected. While mega corruption cases served as the focal point, deep down these Indians poured into the maidan to protest this neglect: crumbling urban infrastructure, limited opportunities for higher education and few formal sector jobs.

Unfortunately, those who think they can legislate the end to corruption through even a super-Lokpal are in for a huge disappointment. Economist Gilbert Etienne reminds us that, in the 2000s, China has imprisoned tens of thousands of officials and even executed some of them for corruption. And yet, Chinese scholars see no decline in corruption. Unless we return to reforms and address corruption at source as we did in the case of bribes generated by the command and control economy of the 1960s and 1970s, success will elude us.

With almost three years to go, the UPA could still make up for its mistakes. The prime minister has done more than his fair share for his party. It is now time for him to do the nation's bidding. If he succeeds in resetting the reforms agenda, history will applaud him for his courage. The alternative scenario is a lot less pretty.






To call 'lookism' - discriminating against people because of their supposedly unattractive looks - the 'new racism' and demand it be proscribed is excessive. Racism is brutal, in-your-face persecution based on skin colour. Lookism as a concept is vague, a subjective notion of how one appears to others and what their preferences may be. Beauty is a relative - and ephemeral - notion. Being hard to define, it escapes the clear, coherent para-meters a law would require to deal with it.

The debate on looks is completely open-ended. Each society has diverse notions of what's lovely and what's not - and these too change all the time. For example, the Japanese may once have thought petite, delicately-built, dark-haired women attractive. Today, they also find strapping golden-haired girls beautiful. In the contemporary world, traditional notions of aesthetics mix continuously with modern, market-based, cosmopolitan ideas. Trends, styles, fads and fashions change all the time. One moment brawny men get swooned over. The next instant, men with slim, boyish builds, sporting 'geeky' glasses, may win hearts. With such ever-shifting tastes, how can a legal antidote go by any one unchanging, universal definition of 'good looks' - or 'bad'?

Finally, those who complain about bagging lower salaries or fewer promotions ostensibly because of their imperfect looks should note that the argument can cut both ways. Take the case last year of a US banker fired by her employers. Her 'fault'? She looked too gorgeous for the workplace! With such comple-xities and nuances at play, it's more sensible to have awareness campaigns rather than unworkable bans against looks-based bias. These programmes can help people understand that appearance is just skin-deep. Besides, victims of discriminatory treatment can anyway go to court, as they've done in America. Attempts to 'outlaw' lookism could actually have the opposite effect of cementing prejudices.









If the demand for a legal counter to discrimination on grounds of appearance is growing, blame it on societies the world over attaching a high premium on physical beauty. There's hardly an interpersonal or a professional sphere left un-affected by the scourge of 'lookism'. We see biases play out everywhere in our daily lives: on the street and in the workplace. In India and elsewhere, discrimination exists even within the family. And few are lucid enough to see through cultural bromides that equate external beauty with intrinsic superiority. This explains why British broadcaster Nick Ross unabashedly says TV is a "lookism medium". Or why less-successful tennis stars like Anna Kournikova make more money than players ranked higher.

Lookism judges individuals by their physical allure rather than abilities or merit. This naturally works to the advantage of people perceived to rank higher in the looks department. They get preferential treatment at the cost of others. Which fair, democratic system can justify this? If anything, lookism is as insidious as any other form of bias based on caste, creed, gender and race that society buys into. It goes against the principle of equality of opportunity. A system that guarantees professional success on the basis of looks is bad for the labour force. If practised widely, it could affect productivity by favouring the undeserving even while demoralising those with more skills and talent than beauty.

To argue that looks-based discrimination is difficult to identify and punish is to adopt an ostrich-like attitude. Let's not underestimate the potential of strict legal remedies against discrimination. These can deny people with biases the opportunity to indulge in them at least in public. Fear evoked by punitive action will help create greater awareness and influence a change in attitudes over time.






The bomb blast on Wednesday morning outside Delhi high court that has, on last count, claimed 11 lives and injured many more, was not a bolt from the blue. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had tabled its final report in July on the attempted blast outside the same Delhi High Court on May 25, 2011 and had reportedly alerted the Delhi Police that the earlier unexploded device was no crude bomb but a more sophisticated weapon. The IB and the home ministry had also reportedly alerted the Delhi Police that the May attempt could be soon followed up by a similar attack. Such an attack has indeed taken place, this time without the excuse of there being no prior warning. Either the Delhi Police decided to take little cognisance of the warning given, or armed with the knowledge, it has been able to do precious little to prevent Wednesday's heinous attack. We are driven to believe the former explanation. So it comes as no surprise that the investigations into Wednesday's Delhi high court bomb blast has been handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Counter-terrorist operations work on two basic principles: preventive and reactive actions. With Delhi being a victim of a litany of terrorist attacks that stretch back at least to December 13, 2001, the action undertaken after one attack (reactive action) forms the very ingredients of how to ensure that the next attack is prevented (preventive action). In other words, the attacks that have rocked Delhi and, therefore, are under the jurisdiction of the Delhi Police, form one continuing narrative. Scandalously, the city police has failed to read this narrative and thereby do its job.

Providing safety against terror attacks for its citizens should be a priority for our law enforcement agencies. And to take it away from the realm of rhetoric to action, attention must be paid at the ground level where attacks take place. On Wednesday morning, the area around Delhi high court was not only unprepared against any attack but, with cars spilling out of the car parks and no security check worth its name installed, it was a veritable invitation for anyone seeking to perpetrate violence. This can be held true for most public spaces in the national capital. While it is imperative that investigations are conducted professionally and the criminals are brought to book, the need to take appropriate measures at the ground level, will have to be instilled in our law enforcement agencies. The excuse of 'not being able to stop every attack' is wearing perilously thin.






Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Bangladesh visit is likely to be remembered for what it did not deliver than what it did. An agreement to share the Teesta's waters could have signalled a bonhomie in the bilateral relations and served as a marker for subsequent accords on sharing water from the 50-odd rivers that flow across the two countries. Little has been achieved since 1996, when the two worked out a deal to split the Ganga's flow. Bangladesh reckons the Teesta irrigates 14% of its farms, and wants a much bigger lean-season flow. The two nations have managed to hammer out a stop-gap percentage share till joint studies yield actual division. This was to be the trophy deal of Mr Singh's visit, till Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee refused to travel to Dhaka with him.

Ms Banerjee's objection is that more water is being offered to Bangladesh than what West Bengal had initially signed up for. The concern is legitimate considering neither side knows how much of it actually flows through the Teesta. The Union water resources ministry points out that the upper riparian state will be at an advantage because four-fifths of the Teesta flows in West Bengal and Sikkim. This is apart from the bumped-up power supply to West Bengal from dams that will be built in Sikkim to deliver water to Bangladesh. Ms Banerjee isn't convinced, she also wants to withhold the share of water Bangladesh will need to keep the river alive.

This should not, however, take away from the gains made during Mr Singh's visit. Bangladesh's textiles, its principal export, now have free access to a huge Indian market. It will bring some balance into the crazily distorted trade between the two countries: Bangladesh buys R9 worth of stuff from its giant neighbour for every R1 of goods it sends across the border. Mr Singh's gesture in unilaterally freeing up imports from Bangladesh ought to prod the Indian textile industry, one of the largest apparel exporters in the world, to climb the value chain. The lower end of the Indian apparel market stands to gain from a new source of cheap supply.









Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has every reason to get mad at the sweeping allegations made about her by recent WikiLeaks revelations quoting secret cables sent out by the US embassy in New Delhi to Washington. Amidst the palpable delight among the chattering classes at this new stick to beat their favourite whipping girl, what is being conveniently overlooked is that the source material used for the salacious 'Portrait of a Lady' penned by a junior US embassy official in October, 2008 appears to be entirely based on casual conversations with unnamed Lucknow journalists.

The colourful accounts of Mayawati sending a jet plane to Mumbai to fetch her favourite sandals, making an errant minister do sit-ups and employing eight cooks and two tasters in her kitchen have virtually no authenticity, particularly since none of the concerned hacks printed the information they shared with the American embassy in their own publications.

The BSP supremo is well known for her personal eccentricities, splurges and imperious ways. But it is also true that Mayawati has, for more than two decades, had an openly hostile relationship with the media, particularly those based in Lucknow. In fact, BSP workers in the city attacked the offices of a prominent Hindi daily in the winter of 1995 after it published a particularly scurrilous story about the unmarried Dalit leader having an illegitimate daughter. Although local journalists have become more discreet after Mayawati's decisive victory in the 2007 assembly polls, they can hardly be regarded as unbiased or objective sources of information.

Interestingly, barely two months before the US embassy cable on her, two Delhi-based correspondents of The New York Times and The Washington Post went to Lucknow to do special profiles of the lady. They were, surprisingly, granted a rare interview with Mayawati and also met a large cross section of people in Lucknow and nearby rural areas, including Dalits. Both the articles were appreciative of the political distance travelled by the Dalit woman leader while simultaneously reflecting allegations of corruption and authoritarian behaviour by her detractors. However, what the two correspondents, professional journalists as they were, did not do was print Lucknow media-inspired gossip that they had no way of cross-checking.

It is possible the absence of the same professional discrimination by the US embassy had something to do with Washington's annoyance at that time with Mayawati for almost scuppering the India-US nuclear deal. Moreover, the fact that such secret cables were never supposed to never see the light of day gave their authors a certain licence that the journalists did not have. Unfortunately, however sensational and uncorroborated, the information wearing the garb of WikiLeaks revelations allows the print and electronic media to go to town against select targets without fear of defamation.

Indeed, this is turning out to be a major drawback of WikiLeaks which spews out classified US embassy material, some providing useful insights but a lot more unreliable stuff based on hearsay. Sometimes, the documents seem downright dubious as in the case of a cable dated May 29, 2007 claiming that Mayawati's close aide Satish Mishra had declared her corrupt and authoritarian. It is quite unbelievable that a few weeks after Mayawati's historic election victory, of which Mishra was a major architect through his Dalit-Brahmin alliance, he would choose to rubbish his leader to an American diplomat.

Ajoy Bose is the author of Behenji: A Political Biography of Mayawati. The views expressed by the author are personal.





Shortly after he ended his fast at Delhi's Ramlila Grounds, Anna Hazare announced his future plans. He was going to demand electoral reforms —  including the right to recall an elected representative and the right to reject all candidates. He was going to fight for farmers and industrial labour. Finally, he was going to push for changes in the education system. "Many people have commercialised education," Hazare said, "they have opened shops. Children of poor people also should get education. This sector also needs reforms."

The education sector in India indeed needs reforms. Yet its problem is not that it has been commercialised, but that it has not been commercialised enough. Education — whether a primary school in a big city or medical and engineering colleges anywhere — remains the final frontier of India's shortage economy. If any reform is needed, it is in the unshackling of education as an enterprise and its liberation from a predatory, rent-seeking regulatory system.

True, some people have converted education into a profiteering business. Politicians in Karnataka and in Hazare's own state of Maharashtra have exploited loopholes, land scarcity and governmental influence to set up private engineering and medical colleges of questionable quality. These charge fees that are often not commensurate with the services they offer.

Even so, they continue to attract students. The politicians who promote them ensure the supply-side bottleneck remains as it is, and that other and better colleges cannot easily be opened.

It would be a pity if Hazare were to universalise his experience of some politicians-cum-education entrepreneurs in Maharashtra and decide that he must superimpose his hostility to them upon the entire country. National policy cannot be decided in such a manner. Here like elsewhere, Hazare's belief that the methods and mechanisms he used in his village community in Ralegan Siddhi can simply be scaled up to the rest of India is charming but unrealistic. In the final reckoning, this represents a serious shortcoming in his programme.

Many in Hazare's inner circle have painted their anti-corruption crusade as a narrative of 'liberalisation and its discontents'. Whether the urban middle class throngs that have rallied around Hazare — and shared his disgust with a series of high-profile corruption scandals in the UPA years as well been angered by his arrest on August 16 — actually buy into this narrative is questionable. Education is a contentious, dynamite-laden area where the practicability and sustainable appeal of the Hazare phenomenon will be tested.

Why is this so? Hazare has focused on a solution — perhaps a magic-bullet solution — to corruption and has pushed for stern and expeditious punishment for the corrupt. What about preventing corruption? While punishing the wrongdoer is necessary, true reform lies is creating conditions where he finds it difficult to commit that wrong.

Hazare says "children of poor people also should get education." Nobody can disagree with that. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2010 — better known as the Right to Education (RTE) Act — has just the same goal. The point is: how does this work in practice?

Take school education. In India, 93% of school-going children go to government or government-aided institutions. In Hazare's state of Maharashtra 90% of the state's 67,885 primary schools are run by zila parishads and municipal bodies and charge no fees (2005 figures).

How good are these schools? Who regulates teacher performance? Why is it that the moment they can, parents — even socially and economically underprivileged parents — withdraw their children from government schools and seek private schools, never mind if they have to pay?

In 2003, James Tooley, a professor from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, published the findings of a year-long survey of private schools for children of low-income families in Hyderabad. In Hyderabad district, he said, 61% of all pupils were enrolled in private, unaided schools. In a detailed study of 15 arbitrarily selected private schools in slum areas, Tooley found teacher attendance and responsiveness to parents' concerns was better than in government schools.

If every Indian child deserves an education, Hazare and his civil society colleagues should set up local groups to monitor every government school in every neighbourhood in every district of India. Railing against a handful of privately-run schools will serve no purpose. In fact, to resort to criticism of private educational institutions will play into the hands of the bureaucracy. In state after state, education departments have used RTE provisions to frame rules that enhance government control over private schools. Some of these go well beyond existing draconian laws such as the Delhi School Education Act, 1973.

It is no better in higher education. A plethora of regulatory bodies and corrupt bureaucrats have made it impossible to set up modern and viable institutions of higher learning in India. It is telling that some of the better privately-run engineering and management schools have preferred to build new campuses abroad, in places such as Dubai, rather than explore the limitless market in India.

Far from shutting down what it has, India needs thousands more of such so-called education 'shops', of course with transparent regulation. Can Hazare and his friends run away from that reality?

Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator. The views expressed by the author are personal.



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

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

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

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






The assault on the Delhi high court was intended to shake and hurt us, and it did. As the city struggles to cope with the news, and mourn those who were killed, the blame and recrimination has already begun. How could they let it happen here, in the impregnable heart of the capital?

Assigning blame is often the first reflex, given the blurriness of the perpetrators and the terrible cost of their actions. The 26/11 attacks prompted a thorough review of the intelligence, security and enforcement agencies. Strikes like Wednesday's demand a careful, detailed and responsive assessment of the intelligence and law enforcement landscape. In 2009, the home minister announced a bold new security architecture to replace the maze of competing bureaucracies, including NATGRID, a networked intelligence database, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), a nodal agency for all counter-terror efforts, and a special National Investigation Agency (NIA). While the NIA is now taking charge of the high court blasts, the other two plans have met a different fate. NATGRID is just starting off, having been stuck with the Cabinet Committee on Security, and NCTC, which should have been operational by late 2010, is still being lobbed between various discussion forums in the government. The NCTC was planned as a central monitoring agency, one that would be ultimately responsible in trolling for clues, professionally piecing together information and acting on it, foiling potential plots.

But discovering and repelling terrorist attacks is not a simple matter of will. Of course, a determined terrorist can sometimes slip through the cordons, and the answers to whether the attack could have been averted do not necessarily lie at the venue of the tragedy. Acts of terror try to blow up our complacencies, destroy what we take for granted. We must separate the grief from the rage, as we take in the news of the bombing. The victims had nothing to do with the agendas of the terrorists, they were simply lawyers, litigants, journalists, bystanders, people making a living, or trying to patiently negotiate their own solutions. A courtroom is a place of implicit trust, of believing that the answers must be sought within the system. That sense of shock, the reeling, is understandable, as we try to comprehend what happened at Delhi high court — but the only real response right now is sadness and a reminder that securing ourselves is a tough, long haul.






When India's one-day cricketers went into the match against England at Chester-le-Street on Saturday, it was without seven members of the team that won the World Cup just months ago. Injuries had consistently whittled away at India's strength, starting from the first day of the first Test, when the team's most threatening bowler, Zaheer Khan, pulled a hamstring. Meanwhile, Virender Sehwag hadn't fully recovered from a shoulder injury; Gautam Gambhir, who missed the second Test after hurting his elbow, is missing the one-day series after picking up a concussion on the final day of the final Test. To top things off going into the series, Sachin Tendulkar's toe sent him home early.

Matters got even worse: Rohit Sharma's first ball in the Saturday game was a short one from Stuart Broad that broke his right index finger. It seems, whatever the real bench strength of the Indian cricketing system, the actual number of touring reserves seems set in stone. So, although Ravindra Jadeja has been named to "replace" Gambhir — although Jadeja is an all-rounder, not an opener — he couldn't turn up in time for the second one-dayer, because he didn't have a UK visa.

The BCCI is the richest cricket body in the world. Yet, in some ways, it seems unable to accept that fact. Its amateurishness is being shown up rather shockingly on this particular tour. Why is it impossible to take 30 probables along with you on a long tour, which this one is? Why expect domestic cricketers called in to replace legends to acclimatise instantly? Why not, at the very least, ensure your probables always have valid visas for the major Test-playing nations, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni has advised? The cricket board may not be responsible for the injuries. But it is responsible for the team's susceptibility to them.







The spectacle of high and mighty politicians in jail provokes a paradoxical response. On the one hand, it provides reassurance that the Indian system of checks and balances still has enough bite in it. Even if belated, high-profile chargesheets send a signal that it would be foolish to assume escaping the legal system is a preordained fact. There is some relief that the wheels of justice are moving. And the courts are getting the credit.

On the other hand, these chargesheets and arrests pose a delicate challenge for the legitimacy of the Indian justice system. The courts are using their legitimacy to jump-start stalled investigations, hold the CBI's feet to the fire. But this modus operandi poses a whole range of new institutional challenges that will need to be addressed.

Each high-profile case — cash for votes, mining, 2G, Gujarat riots — has to be examined on its merits. But the credibility of the justice system is delicately poised between four outcomes. Which one will prevail? The first outcome is the best: all major investigations and prosecutions are pursued meticulously and fairly. Some will be successful, others not. But not only is the outcome fair, it is seen to be fair. The second outcome is that the initial flurry of chargesheets flounders in the way so many prosecutions in the past have; for a variety of technical reasons nothing eventually happens. The crisis of the justice system deepens. The third scenario is a mixed bag: some prosecutions are successful, others are not. But unlike in the first scenario, each result is not convincing; so that confidence in the justice system remains mired in partisan politics.

The fourth scenario is in some ways the most disturbing: a lot of the current lot of politicians being chargesheeted do get fairly prosecuted. This satiates the public's desire that someone must be held accountable. But the prosecutions are not taken to their logical conclusion; the real beneficiaries and masterminds go scot-free, while relatively more dispensable (or more disturbingly, politically convenient) characters are fed to the judiciary. In short, the seeming success of prosecution provides the cover for the real perpetrators to be let off. They sacrifice a few lambs and call it justice.

We should presume this. All the accused are innocent until proven guilty. This is the requirement of a fair justice system. And second, that the courts have no vested interest. But here is the challenge. Will well-intentioned courts be sufficient to ensure that we end up with outcome one? Are there institutional reasons to think the courts are now running the risk of ending up with outcome four?

The crucial questions for scenarios two to four still depend on the CBI. What does court monitoring of the CBI mean? It can mean, constructively, that the CBI is shielded from political pressure. It can mean that the court can ask tough questions of the CBI. And political responsibility needs to be fixed for the criticism courts have handed out to the CBI. Politicians cannot claim to be representatives of the people and shirk all political responsibility for investigative agencies. If Delhi Police were deliberately going slow, someone needs to be held responsible. But beyond that it is an illusion to think that the court can actually monitor the details of evidence-gathering. The very nature of the asymmetry between the CBI and the courts puts the courts at a disadvantage. Merely because you can ask truant agencies questions does not mean truant agencies cannot play tricks on you.

But here is the institutional danger. In a context where, by its own accounts, the CBI cannot be trusted, does court monitoring help or exacerbate the problem? It helps in so far as it compels the CBI to produce something to satiate the court. The court can also monitor meticulously whether there are any double standards in chargesheeting — an area of considerable public concern. But how can the court possibly "monitor" the full range of evidence? This is purely institutional challenge, not a question of motives. The risk is this: precisely because of court monitoring, the imprimatur of legitimacy can be given to an investigation that is not full, complete or fair. The risk of scenario four persists.

The court's past record of monitoring the CBI has not yielded dividends. We have another institutional innovation that is instructive. The court has been using an SIT in cases related to Gujarat. While the SIT has raised enough questions about Narendra Modi's political responsibility, it seems to have fallen short of making a legally prosecutable case. So the court then appoints a distinguished amicus curiae to assess its own SIT. The issue here is not guilt or innocence. But the process is instructive: we create an institution to bypass an untrustworthy process, and then that institution itself requires yet another layer of assessment. The dilemma is this: due process and formalism have become a fig leaf for avoiding justice. But tailoring process so that the outcome corresponds to our intuitions in a matter also runs risks. Since the court is "crafting" processes, it will have to avoid both dangers.

You have to sympathise with the court. What can it do when state failure is so abject? When politicians say, "let the law take its own course", what they mean is, "we tried obstructing it, but something managed to elude our control." But when the court seems to take "control" of investigations it must be under no illusion that it has the wherewithal to ensure that the facts presented reveal the truth.

Lawyer jokes are a good barometer of legitimacy challenges. One joke doing the rounds is this. "What is bail?" Answer: "It is that which is denied when the courts want to show they can act tough." In short, the courts' dealing with bail may have tried to send a signal that they are serious about justice. But, because it is not consistent with what is perceived as standard practice, it unwittingly has the opposite effect of leading people to wonder whether this is about demonstrating toughness or justice.

The courts run the risk of perpetuating the myth that because the executive has failed the judiciary can do better. Alas, there are no extra-political quick-fixes for executive failure. The courts are our most trusted institution. They will have to be artful in demonstrating that what we get in high-profile cases is justice, not populist retribution or, worse still, the mere appearance of justice.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







The GDP numbers for the three months to June 2011 threw up a pleasant surprise; fixed capital formation rose a smart 7.9 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) from a low of 0.4 per cent y-o-y in the March quarter. However, since the fixed capital formation numbers for the June 2010 quarter were revised sharply downwards from 17.4 per cent to 11.1 per cent, the growth has happened on a much lower base. Nonetheless, data from CMIE corroborates the trend, showing a slight recovery in new project announcements during the quarter.

However, it's too early to start cheering. Given the fragile state of the global economy with both the US and the eurozone on the brink of a recession, China slowing down and the home economy losing pace, corporate India's confidence levels are fairly low. A recent survey by Morgan Stanley revealed that for a second successive year, corporate India is unlikely to up capital spending by more than a tepid 10 per cent. Moreover, while 15 per cent of those polled are unlikely to spend at all, about a third of those who do invest would do so more with a view to improving productivity rather than adding greenfield capacity. So we're unlikely to see companies rushing to set up too many new plants or build more roads. Despite the better-than-expected numbers on investments, no economist has tweaked GDP growth estimate for the year which is forecast to grow at just around 7.5-7.6 per cent levels.

The cautiousness of corporates is borne out by both empirical and anecdotal evidence; loans to the infrastructure sector which were growing at 50 per cent levels in August last year are now climbing at a rate of closer to 25 per cent, of course on a higher base. Bankers will tell you that most of the current disbursements relate to loans sanctioned earlier and that applications for new projects are few and far between. The deceleration has been sharper in sectors such as power, where the lack of fuel linkages, lower-than-anticipated merchant tariffs and the precarious state of finances of the state electricity boards (SEB) — combined losses estimated at some Rs 60,000 crore — are cause for concern. Loans to this space are now growing at just about 35 per cent compared with 50 per cent late last year. Again, order flows at engineering firms were rather muted in the June quarter.

Heavyweight BHEL could not bag a single meaningful order from the power sector because of which inflows crashed 77 per cent y-o-y while orders at Thermax dropped 19 per cent y-o-y. New orders at Siemens too increased at a subdued pace, showing an increase of 10 per cent at the end of June. So it's not exactly raining orders and while the Larsen & Toubro management says it is confident it will see new orders grow 15-20 per cent this year, analysts are not buying it; the shortage of key fuels together with a general disinterest on the part of managements to add to capacity just yet, they say will continue to hurt orderbooks. Crompton Greaves' profits crashed 58 per cent y-o-y driven by the poor show at its international subsidiaries. Since January this year, the Sensex has come off by 18 per cent while the BSE Capital Goods Index has lost 22 per cent; since its Diwali highs, the Sensex has given up 20 per cent while the CG Index has yielded 28 per cent.

That's not surprising because, while the rather hazy outlook for the global economy has left companies cautious, the lack of clarity and delays on the policy front back home have also stymied investments. For instance, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill is an important piece of legislation that needs to be enforced; a uniform goods and services tax (GST), while not directly related to capital expenditure, will make life much easier for industry. The good news is that the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill has been introduced in Parliament; getting land to set up a project has been among the biggest hurdles for industry. So reforms need to be fast-tracked, but more than anything else, the government needs to make sure that the environment is conducive to investing. In this context, high interest rates in the home market are also keeping corporates from planning new ventures but that trend is unlikely to change in the immediate future since inflation is nudging double digits and it's almost certain that the central bank will hike policy rates by 25 basis points when it meets next week. The capital markets too are virtually inaccessible just now and with risk-aversion rising globally, it's unlikely foreign flows into the Indian equity markets are going to be meaningful in the near term. More than anything else though the government needs to convince Indian industry that it will push through legislation and be less bureaucratic. That itself would go a long way in boosting industry's morale.

The writer is resident editor, Mumbai, 'The Financial Express'










The Delhi high court is a different court building. Unlike some other high courts in this country, it is not an ornate structure replete with reminders of the majestic structures that the British Raj bequeathed to us. It is a simple, functional building. A place where people with troubles come with their cases, where lawyers with varied levels of skill argue those cases, and where justices with years of learning behind them dispense with, and dispose of, those cases. Yesterday, this structure was dealt a blow.

Yesterday was a Wednesday. A day when some benches of this court hear cases of senior citizens. A day when court number one, the court of the hon'ble chief justice, hears public interest litigants. It was, therefore, a day well chosen — well chosen for diabolical action.

The location was even more sinister. The bomb went off near gate number five; that is the gate where every layman who wishes to enter the court has to present himself at a reception area, and where their entry passes are prepared.

And the court was picked well, too. The judges of the Delhi high court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, have now recorded the highest number of case disposals. The number of pending cases are steadily decreasing — and that means, as well, more hearings, which means more people — and thus more possible casualties.

On a normal day, at around 10.30 am, it would be a very different picture at the high court. The court compound would resound with the horns of lawyers' cars trying to park, their argumentative skills put to fine use even before they walk into a courtroom. It would be filled with clerks trying to move bags of briefs to the courts, making every effort to get there in time for the ensuing battle of words. There would be scores of litigants thronging the two elevators on the three floors. Some new, some seasoned — but all of them hoping that they were inching towards a fair and favourable end to their legal woes.

On a normal day, the atmosphere would be charged with banter, argument, frayed tempers. The air would resound with invitations to cups of tea at the canteen, stories of cases won and lost.

But today was not a normal day. It was a Wednesday.

The bomb went off; some were killed; others were injured. The court was closed. Some of those who were in court when the explosion occurred said it felt like someone was moving the earth below them. Some heard it all the way to the parking lot in the Supreme Court.

What then followed, as it always does, is the wave of calls and text messages. Are you OK? Where are you? Are you in the high court? The relief in their voices was palpable just at the sound of me answering "Hello" to my ringing phone. I heard, today, from family, from friends, from clients, from people whom I thought were long gone and forgotten. Thank God it wasn't you, said one of them. Strangely, the bomb went off where my car is normally parked. But I am not in Delhi, and my car is in my driveway at home. Thank God indeed. But what of those who were not so lucky?

We have suffered a great human loss. People who came looking for justice were taken away by an act of injustice. Cowardly injustice. But, as with all things Indian, the human spirit will not flag.

Within hours of the blast, the high court resumed work. The post-lunch session went as planned; all courts were working.

And today, the court will open as ever. The cars will honk, the clerks will rush, the litigants will throng. The structure will function. The lady of justice will blaze ever more.

Even though yesterday a palace of justice was assaulted, ours is a country which guarantees a fair trial even for the perpetrators of such actions. In the words of a young girl who visited these precincts a few months ago, "it is where we expect justice, deliverance, fairness and integrity. It is a place filled with complex chaos that is attempting to restore some order." That, I say, will never change.

The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer. He also appears at the Delhi high court







This is an idea whose time has come: the next big reality show, bigger than anything you have seen so far, and far more real. The next season of Bigg Boss should be at Tihar Jail. With actor Salman Khan as host and er, as Bodyguard. It will have the most fabulous cast of characters: high profile politicians Kanimozhi, A. Raja, Suresh Kalmadi, businessmen Shahid Balwa and Sanjay Chandra, and a host of bureaucrats accused of misdemeanours in India's scamfest. As of Tuesday, Amar Singh has joined them, along with two BJP MPs. Future special guest appearances may see Anna Hazare and his band of corruption-fighters, including perhaps Kiran Bedi who, once upon a time in her career, as IG Prisons, apparently called it Tihar Ashram and introduced vipassana meditation to its inmates. Should be riveting stuff and may beat even "Anna mirabilis" at Ramlila.

It will afford these people, accused of wrongdoing in corruption cases, an opportunity to be seen and heard. We'll see how they live behind bars and hear what they have to say for themselves. Remember, you read it first here.

Alas, it is not likely to happen, but it would have given the news channels a run for their viewership.

Baba Ramdev, who narrowly escaped going to Tihar Jail, is now in his element. For a while back there he had exchanged his saffron dhoti first for a ladies' salwar kameez, and then for the mantle of a black money crusader.

Often you saw him on Sanskar and Aastha channels, seated on a chair, at a table (how unusual and uncomfortable for him) conducting coaching classes on the origins and evils of "kala dhan" or how to select candidates for the next elections. Now he has resumed his cross-legged position on the floor and the role he is justly famous for: yoga guru.

Fortunately, homosexuality is no longer considered a crime, otherwise Gaurav and Karan may have found themselves inside Tihar Jail too. Last seen, the two were locked in a Fevicol embrace until a loud ring of the doorbell forced them apart. This was a scene, last week, from the daring Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak (Star Plus). The serial focuses on the travails of four women, one of whom is married to Gaurav, who is gay.

Since that tender embrace, there's been a dramatic "soap opera" confrontation between Gaurav and his father Brahma, with the father demanding to know if his son is gay, and the son's wife telling him that of course his son is not gay and who should know that better that she? Being a good Indian "nari", she then came between father and son, and was accidentally shot by the father. All is not lost, least of all her life, because this is a serial and good will, hopefully, triumph over evil.

A Hindi serial openly embracing gay characters is bold. That the gay couple shows affection for one another, on screen, is extraordinary, TV's Brokeback Mountain moment (the Hollywood film about two cowboys who fall in love). Let's not quibble over portrayals or treatment of the subject. Just seeing two men hug each other meant everything — or at least an acknowledgment of their right to do so. Let's hear it for Star Plus and the producers, Tony and Deeya Singh.

Meanwhile, Anna's August is over and come September, we have Amar's autumn and Assange's audacity: the Wikileaks' impresario has offered to send UP CM Mayawati many pairs of footwear. So that she can stamp him out like an ant (ouch!) after Wikileaks alleged she had sent airplanes to Mumbai for sandals. He's mad, get him to an asylum, she replied — with a stamp of her foot, no doubt.

By the way, what's up with this constant TV tag inviting us to complain about entertainment programmes to the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council of the Indian Broadcasting Federation? Are entertainment channels actually interested in viewer feedback, or is there more to this than meets the eye?






Kishore Mahbubani, a retired Singaporean diplomat, published a provocative essay in The Financial Times on Monday that began like this: "Dictators are falling. Democracies are failing. A curious coincidence? Or is it, perhaps, a sign that something fundamental has changed in the grain of human history. I believe so. How do dictators survive? They tell lies. Muammar Gaddafi was one of the biggest liars of all time. He claimed that his people loved him. He also controlled the flow of information to his people to prevent any alternative narrative taking hold. Then the simple cellphone enabled people to connect. The truth spread widely to drown out all the lies that the colonel broadcast over the airwaves.

"So why are democracies failing at the same time? The simple answer: democracies have also been telling lies."

Mahbubani noted that "the eurozone project was created on a big lie" that countries could have monetary union and fiscal independence — without pain. Meanwhile, in America, added Mahbubani, now the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, "No US leaders dare to tell the truth to the people. All their pronouncements rest on a mythical assumption that 'recovery' is around the corner. Implicitly, they say this is a normal recession. But this is no normal recession. There will be no painless solution. 'Sacrifice' will be needed, and the American people know this. But no American politician dares utter the word 'sacrifice.' Painful truths cannot be told."

Of course, there is a big difference between America and Libya. We can vote out our liars, unlike certain Arab — and Asian — countries. Still, Mahbubani's comparison warrants some reflection this week, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the president's jobs speech. It is a great week for truth-telling.

Can you remember the last time you felt a national leader looked us in the eye and told us there is no easy solution to our major problems, that we've gotten into this mess by being self-indulgent or ideologically fixated over two decades, and that now we need to spend the next five years rolling up our sleeves, possibly accepting a lower living standard and making up for our excesses?

For me, this is the most important thing to say both on the anniversary of 9/11 and on the eve of President Obama's jobs speech. After all, they are intertwined. Why has this been a lost decade? An answer can be found in one simple comparison: How Dwight Eisenhower and his successors used the cold war and how George W. Bush used 9/11. America had to face down the Russians in the cold war. America had to respond to 9/11 and the threat of al-Qaeda. But the critical difference between the two was this: Beginning with Eisenhower and continuing to some degree with every cold war president, we used the cold war and the Russian threat as a reason and motivator to do big, hard things together at home — to do nation-building in America. We used it to build the interstate highway system, put a man on the moon, push out the boundaries of science, teach new languages, maintain fiscal discipline and, when needed, raise taxes. We won the cold war with collective action.

George W. Bush did the opposite. He used 9/11 as an excuse to lower taxes, to start two wars that — for the first time in our history — were not paid for by tax increases, and to create a costly new entitlement in Medicare prescription drugs. Imagine where we'd be today if on the morning of 9/12 Bush had announced (as some of us advocated) a "Patriot Tax" of $1 per gallon of petrol to pay for education, infrastructure and government research, to help finance our wars and to slash our dependence on Middle East oil. Petrol in the US on September 11, 2001, averaged $1.66 a gallon.

But rather than use 9/11 to summon us to nation-building at home, Bush used it as an excuse to party — to double down on a radical tax-cutting agenda for the rich that not only did not spur rising living standards for most Americans but has now left us with a huge ball-and-chain around our ankle. And later, rather than asking each of us to contribute something to the war, he outsourced it to one-half of one-percent of the American people. Everyone else — y'all have fun.

We used the cold war to reach the moon and spawn new industries. We used 9/11 to create better body scanners and more Transportation Security Agency agents. It will be remembered as one of the greatest lost opportunities of any presidency — ever.

My fervent hope is that on Thursday Obama will set an example and tell the cold, hard truth — to parents and kids. I know. Honesty, we are told, is suicidal in politics. But as long as every solution that is hard is off the table, then our slow national decline will remain on the table. The public is ready for more than Michele Bachmann's fairy-dust promise that she can restore $2 a gallon petrol.

For once, Mr President, let's start a debate with the truth. Tell us what you really think will be required to get us out of this stagnation, what kind of collective action and shared sacrifice will be needed and why that can lead not just to muddling through, not just to being OK, but to restoring American greatness.







Southern clemency

According to the RSS, the Tamil Nadu assembly resolution that pleads clemency for three individuals convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case has sent out a dangerous message. The RSS believes that the Madras high court, by staying the death sentence, has taken a step to challenge not only the Supreme Court's wisdom, but also that of the government of India and the president.

The editorial in the RSS's Organiser deplores the fact that even national parties joined hands with regional forces to pass the resolution: "If the state assembly of J&K were to pass such a resolution, what should be the reaction?

Already the J&K chief minister has let the cat among the pigeons by raising this very question. Should regional sentiments, religious affiliations, sectarian politics and vote bank considerations override our national resolve to uphold the rule of law?" Saying that dozens of innocent men and women were killed in the suicide bomb attack that claimed Gandhi's life, it asks: "What about their families? They too deserve justice."

It claims the mercy pleaders were emboldened for two reasons: one, the Kerala assembly had previously passed an unanimous resolution seeking the release of Abdul Nasser Madani, who was then in jail in connection with the Coimbatore bomb blast case; and two, Sonia Gandhi's "pardon" to Nalini, which did take into account the agony of other victims' families.

Governing Gujarat

Panchjanya criticises the Gujarat governor's move to appoint a Lokayukta without consulting the state government. It says the appointment has to be seen in the light of the Congress party's "never-ending" attempts to "conspire" against the Narendra Modi government. "The governor's action reveals not just the dirty mindset of the Congress but also the party's complete disregard for the Constitution and constitutional institutions," it says.

Frequently abroad

In another story, Panchjanya takes on the Planning Commission's deputy chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, for his "frequent" foreign trips. Based on information obtained through RTI petitions, it says that Ahluwalia had travelled abroad 36 times in the last five years, 16 of those to the United States. "So many trips to the US raise many questions. The main question is: do Indian policies get decided in the US?" it asks.

It says a total of more than Rs 2.4 crore of taxpayers' money had been spent on Ahluwalia's foreign trips. "On the one hand, the government complains of budgetary deficits, and puts newer and newer taxes on people to bridge that, and on the other its ministers and other functionaries are wasting the public money. Can't such wasteful expenditure be stopped?" The piece is accompanied with a table detailing each of the foreign trips and the money spent on it.

The minority trap

A front-page article in Organiser claims West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has landed in a "minority trap", saying the Muslim community had played a role in voting the Left Front out of power and is now putting pressure on the Trinamool government to act on its demands. "After coming to power in May, Mamata announced that her government would recognise Urdu as the second language in districts with sizeable Urdu-speaking populations. The notification is awaited still. Muslim organisations further complained that new job distribution under the Mamata government has not been judicious towards Muslim youths," it says.

It claims the situation is such that Mamata was invited to the biggest ever Eid congregation and the imam said that while the new government showed remarkable urgency in solving the Singur, Gorkhaland and Jungle Mahal issues, the Muslim community's problems did not receive the same attention. "They (the new government) must learn a lesson from what happened to the previous government," he said. The article claims that though " Mamata was trying to show a brave face, but in her heart of hearts she knows how weak is she in the face of Muslim pressure," the article says.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.








In quick succession, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank have come out with a new version of combined fixed and floating home loan products, rekindling the issue of teaser home loans yet again. The second coming of these loans shows that the home loan market has expanded enough for competition to peak. Other banks that have also announced their intention to tap the retail sector aggressively will soon offer their version of the scheme. These could include State Bank of India, the pioneer in 2009. RBI deputy governor KC Chakrabarty has also said that the regulator is not inclined to put a halt to the schemes as long as banks make the extra provisioning of 2% instead of 0.4%. The higher provisioning will dent the profit margins but the revival of the teaser loan shows that the banks still see money in it.

Teaser loans undoubtedly pushed up the credit offtake for housing loans last year and gave the middle class much-needed relief from the increasing interest rates. The size of the home loan market at the end of July this year—at R3.61 lakh crore—makes it difficult for RBI to push banks beyond a point. For banks, the strategy of teaser loans works profitably when the income stream of the borrowers is carefully assessed. At a moment when the interest rate is peaking, the timing of the teaser loans can be questioned as they block new customers at higher rates. But, given that credit growth is sluggish at 2.5% in the current financial year till August as compared with 3.8% in the same period last year, banks need the home loan sector to move.





Dr Subbarao has now made it a habit to say openly what he feels strongly about, which is good. Sometime ago, he spoke of the independence of RBI, which was well taken. Now, he has touched on the issue of SLR, which should make us think hard. Today, at 24%, SLR may be interpreted as being a drag on the banks, which are per force compelled to hold government securities instead of using them for lending. Is this really bad for them? One is not sure of the answer, considering that today, for the system as a whole, the investments' deposits ratio is 30.7%.

There are really two things here. The first is that, ideologically speaking, banks should have greater flexibility with their funds and hence should have the option of using the investment or credit windows. Fixing a high number puts pressure on the use of funds by banks. Considering that they have the CRR requirement (6%) as well as priority sector lending compulsion of 40%, it makes sense to have a lower SLR number. They can still invest more in government paper in case they find them attractive from the point of view of the capital gains to be made or for satisfying the prudential regulatory norms. The RBI Governor's thoughts, if implemented, will actually help banks a lot. The second is how low should SLR drop? One way to tackle this issue is to gauge the level and extent of repo borrowings, which is, in a way, indicative of surplus SLR securities, which are being given to RBI for cash and is thus a measure of the liquidity deficit. Hence, a sustained borrowing of, say, R50,000 crore from the repo window means that SLR can be reduced by this proportion.

Is there a downside to this reduction? The party that benefits a lot from this high stipulation is the government that gets the banks to park their funds in its debt. A lower level will theoretically impact its ability to get subscribers for its debt. But then, given that banks are one component of this basket that holds around 40% of all government paper (insurance companies, PDs and provident funds are other important holders), this should not be an issue. Also the fact that banks are holding excess SLR means that, overall, the impact will be muted, as those with surplus SLR securities will continue to subscribe to them. But the positive thing is that all banks which are today facing a shortfall can have access to greater use of their own funds rather than look for borrowings in the call market. One can sense that RBI is becoming more progressive in its monetary view as well as in its policy formulation. While the approach has been so far bordering on being cautious, it has taken a pragmatic view on the operational issues for banks such as the base rate concept, opening up of savings rate (in progress), introducing the marginal standing facility and now lowering of SLR, and probably also CRR, when the time is right. This is really good news.





The title of this column is the title of a new book by Devesh Kapur, head of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania. The book is about how Indians who have emigrated have influenced the country they left behind. It is a fascinating study, broad in scope and full of new insights. Kapur argues that the economic, political, social and cultural consequences of international migration imply a richer framework for thinking about globalisation and related ideas such as 'openness', than just focusing on movements of goods and capital. He asks, "Is a country with substantial trade, but with few citizens who move around the world, really more 'open' in a broader … sense than a country where trade is more limited but whose citizens live and travel internationally, thus remitting foreign exchange and ideas to a much greater extent?"

Kapur identifies four channels through which international migration affects 'sending' countries: he calls them prospect, absence, diaspora and return. The prospect channel addresses the ways in which prospects of emigration affect decisions such as human capital investment and the exercise of political voice. The absence channel looks at the economic, political and social consequences for those who are left behind when others emigrate. The diaspora channel examines how migrants influence their home country, through impacts on flows of goods, capital and ideas, and the resulting consequences of those flows. The return channel considers what happens when emigrants return to their home countries, with new resources, preferences and networks.

The study uses several rich new sets of data to document four main economic impacts of emigration from India on India. First, it argues that the diaspora has played a significant catalytic role in the development of India's information technology and diamond cutting sectors. This conclusion identifies reputational and network effects as channels of influence. Second, the Indian diaspora has been an important source of foreign exchange for India for several decades now, and Kapur documents this trend, as well as bringing out his third conclusion, that remittances have been concentrated in faster growing southern and western states of India, possibly amplifying interstate inequalities. Fourth, he argues that emigration's diaspora channel has reinforced the skill- and capital-intensive nature of Indian growth. He also discusses the brain-drain, as well as effects on human capital investment through the prospect channel: people may choose what to study or train for based on the prospect of emigrating.

Intriguingly, the book uses a database on Indian elites to argue that international migration has been an important mechanism for "the diffusion of ideas that have shaped India's institutions and policies." Even more provocatively, Kapur argues that elite 'exit' from Indian politics and society through emigration has allowed numerically larger, but previously marginalised groups in Indian society to gain political and economic power without provoking levels of conflict that would have led to breakdown of the political system. In this analysis, emigration has helped preserve Indian democracy. Another positive conclusion of the study is that there is no simple chain of causality from diasporic activities abroad to religious violence at home—the negative role of sections of the Indian diaspora may be overstated in this view. This conclusion comes from looking at attitudes as well as philanthropic and other money flows from emigrants into India.

Kapur also considers the changing policies of the Indian government with respect to its diaspora, and relates this more broadly to changing conceptions of citizenship. In India's case, the resurgence of an idea of citizenship based on ethnicity rather than territorial residence is, in a sense, a recovery of an older form of group identity, one that much pre-dates the modern nation state. The current challenges faced by Europe and the US in reconfiguring the norms of citizenship in the face of much greater ethnic, cultural and religious diversity than in the past, mirror the issues raised by Kapur.

My own thoughts on diversity and openness are that India will thrive, not only by welcoming interaction with its diaspora, but also by being more open to foreign students and workers, whatever their ethnic identity. Such openness does increase security challenges. On the other hand, it can have a large payoff through increased knowledge flows and resulting spurs to innovation. A good place to start is obviously in higher education, where allowing foreign entry can make India a regional if not global hub for advanced study. Since higher education in India is tremendously supply constrained, impacts on existing domestic providers are likely to be politically manageable—certainly more so than in the retail sector, with its vast number of small shopkeepers. Of course, opening up higher education has its own ideological barriers. Here, the success of the diaspora in changing the face of Indian telecoms in the 90s may be an example of what it can and should do now for higher education.

The author is professor of economics, University of California, Santa Cruz





What is to be done? To find an answer, listen to the markets. They are saying: borrow and spend, please. Yet those who profess faith in the magic of the markets are most determined to ignore the cry. The fiscal skies are falling, they insist.

HSBC forecasts that the economies of high-income countries will now grow by 1.3% this year and 1.6% in 2012. Bond markets are at least as pessimistic: US 10-year Treasuries yielded 1.98% on Monday, their lowest for 60 years; German Bunds yielded 1.85%; even the UK could borrow at 2.5%. These yields are falling fast towards Japanese levels. Incredibly yields on index-linked bonds were close to zero in the US, 0.12% in Germany and 0.27% in the UK.

Are the markets mad? Yes, insist the wise folk: the biggest risk is not slump, as markets fear, but default. Yet if markets get the prices of such governments' bonds so wrong, why should one ever take them seriously?

The massive fiscal deficits of today, particularly in countries where huge financial crises occurred, are not the result of deliberate Keynesian stimulus: even in the US, the ill-targeted and inadequate stimulus amounted to less than 6% of gross domestic product or, at most, a fifth of the actual deficits over three years. The latter were largely the result of the crisis: governments let fiscal deficits rise, as the private sector savagely retrenched.

To have prevented this would have caused a catastrophe. As Richard Koo of Nomura Research has argued, fiscal deficits help the private sector deleverage. That is precisely what is happening in the US and UK. In the US, the household sector moved into financial surplus after house prices started to fall, while the business sector moved into surplus in the crisis. Foreigners are persistent suppliers of capital. This has left the government as borrower of last resort. The UK picture is not so different, except that the business sector has been in persistent surplus.

So long as the private and foreign sectors run huge surpluses (despite the ultra-low interest rates), some governments must find it easy to borrow. The only question is: which governments? Investors seem to choose one safe haven per currency area: the US federal government in the dollar area; the UK government in the sterling area; and the German government in the eurozone. Meanwhile, among the currency areas, adjustment occurs far more via the exchange rates than through interest rates on safe-haven debts.

The larger the surpluses of the private sectors (and so the bigger the offsetting fiscal deficits), the faster the former can pay down their debts. Fiscal deficits are helpful, therefore, in a balance-sheet contraction, not because they return the economy swiftly to health, but because they promote the painfully slow healing.

One objection—laid out by Harvard's Kenneth Rogoff in the Financial Times in August—is that people will fear higher future taxes and save still more. I am unpersuaded: household savings have fallen in Japan. But there is a good answer: use cheap funds to raise future wealth and so improve the fiscal position in the long run. It is inconceivable that creditworthy governments would be unable to earn a return well above their negligible costs of borrowing, by investing in physical and human assets, on their own or together with the private sector. Equally, it is inconceivable that government borrowings designed to accelerate a reduction in the overhang of private debt, recapitalise banks and forestall an immediate collapse in spending cannot earn a return far above costs.

Another noteworthy objection—grounded in the seminal work of Prof Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington—is that growth slows sharply once public debt exceeds 90% of GDP. Yet this is a statistical relationship, not an iron law. In 1815, UK public debt was 260% of GDP. What followed? The industrial revolution.

What matters is how borrowing is used. In this case, moreover, we need to consider the alternatives. If the fiscal deficit is to be sharply reduced, the surpluses in the rest of the economy must also fall. The question is how that is to be compatible with rapid deleveraging and expanded spending. In my view, it cannot be. A more likely outcome, in present circumstances, is mass default, shrinking profits, damaged banks and a renewed slump. That is what would happen if today's contained depression ceased to be contained.

The danger is particularly imminent in the eurozone. Much can be argued in response to the FT column by Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's finance minister. But two points stand out. First, it is impossible for both governments and private sectors of deficit countries to pay down—as opposed to default on—their debt, without running external surpluses. What is Germany doing to accommodate such an external shift? Next to nothing. Second, inside a currency union, a big country with a structural current account surplus is nigh on compelled to finance counterpart deficits. If its private sector refuses to do so, the public sector must. Otherwise, its partners will default and their economies collapse, so damaging the exporting economy. At present the European Central Bank is offering much of the needed finance. Does Mr Schäuble actually want it to stop?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, fiscal policy is not exhausted. This is what Christine Lagarde, new managing director of the International Monetary Fund, argued at the Jackson Hole monetary conference last month. The need is to combine borrowing of cheap funds now with credible curbs on spending in the longer term. The need is no less for surplus countries with the ability to expand demand to do so.

It is becoming ever clearer that the developed world is making Japan's mistake of premature retrenchment during a balance-sheet depression, but on a more dangerous—far more global—scale. Conventional wisdom is that fiscal retrenchment will lead to resurgent investment and growth. An alternative wisdom is that suffering is good. The former is foolish. The latter is immoral.

Reconsidering fiscal policy is not all that is needed. Monetary policy still has an important role. So, too, do supply-side reforms, particularly changes in taxation that promote investment. So, not least, does global rebalancing. Yet now, in a world of excess saving, the last thing we need is for creditworthy governments to slash their borrowings. Markets are loudly saying exactly this. So listen.







Impeachment is not merely a cumbersome business. It could also have divisive and other unintended consequences. This explains the sense of relief that Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court resigned on the eve of his certain impeachment by the Lok Sabha. It is welcome that there was a political consensus that the proceedings had become infructuous after his resignation had been accepted by the President. To have pressed on with impeachment, as Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati reportedly advised, may be justified on an interpretation of the law relating to Parliament and its functioning. But in a situation without clear precedents, it was far better that robust common sense prevailed, leading to the conclusion that it was unnecessary to impeach a person who has already demitted high office. Why Justice Sen did not see the light earlier and submit his resignation well before the Rajya Sabha voted overwhelmingly in favour of his impeachment, only he can explain.

This is the second time Parliament has grappled with the challenge of impeaching a judge. But the circumstances relating to Justice Sen are strikingly different from those that saw Justice V. Ramaswami let off the hook in 1993, when the Congress abstained from voting on the motion. Although the power to impeach vests with Parliament, the move was kick-started — unusually and extraordinarily — by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan. He had recommended to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that impeachment proceedings be initiated under Article 124(4) of the Constitution against Justice Sen on the basis of an in-house inquiry, which declared him guilty of financial misconduct. Another unusual aspect is that the charges relate to a period when Justice Sen was a lawyer (he became a judge in 2003) and a case in which he was made a court-appointed receiver in 1984. Even though he was absolved of "misappropriation" by a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, there is no doubt that he had acted with gross impropriety. He had mixed the funds entrusted in his capacity as a receiver with his own, failed to prepare and file accounts as required, and repaid the money with interest in 2006 only after he was directed to do so by a judge of the Calcutta High Court. Disgraced he might be, but anti-corruption campaigners will contend that he has got away lightly. There are two key lessons to be learnt from l'affaire Sen. The first and obvious lesson is that only those with impeccable integrity must be appointed to the higher judiciary. The second is that legislation for a Judicial Conduct Commission with a strong mandate has become an urgent imperative.





Suspicions grow about the motives of the United Kingdom and France, the primary international patrons of Libya's interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), in enabling the almost-completed overthrow of Muammar al-Qadhafi. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was not short of fine words in his March 19 statement that his country was protecting the civilian population of Libya against the "murderous madness" of a regime which, by assassinating its own people, had "lost all legitimacy." But substantial evidence is already emerging of extensive links between major oil corporations and the British and French governments in supplying the rebels and in the reconstruction of Libya's only large-scale industry, which is oil production. An analysis in TheGuardian mentions meetings between Britain's junior Minister for International Development, Alan Duncan, and the crude-oil trader Vitol, with whom Mr. Duncan had previous business connections. Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has tried strenuously to rebut allegations in a letter obtained by the daily Libération to the effect that the NTC had promised French companies 35 per cent of future Libyan oil production. Prospective western attitudes towards the government-in-waiting are thrown further into question by The Independent' s revelation, based on documents formerly possessed by the Libyan defector and former security boss Moussa Koussa, that Britain and the United States offered prisoners to Libya under the rendition programme in the so-called war on terror, and that the British intelligence service, MI6, provided Mr. Qadhafi with information on exiled Libyan opponents and dissidents.

Once in office, the NTC will desperately want to revive oil production as a prerequisite for further economic development, but the conditions under which it can do so will not be in its hands. It may find that the terms of new contracts are imposed by foreign companies, and that if it attempts to favour western firms over oil industries in Russia, China, and India — all of which abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote authorising military support for the uprising — then it might incur lasting opprobrium from those potentially important partners. Further complications for the new government in Tripoli could arise from the fact that its patrons, the U.K., France, and the U.S., were not nearly as hostile to Mr. Qadhafi as they would have the rest of the world believe. In addition, if the NTC goes about nationalising the country's oil industry as part of a programme of economic reconstruction, it could end up at the receiving end of western-induced regime change.





NATO's top official says the bombing campaign against Libya is unique due to the unprecedented precision of the alliance's airstrikes.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that no air operation in history had been so accurate and so careful in avoiding civilians casualties. NATO has conducted 22,000 sorties, including over 8,000 strike missions, since the first attacks were launched in March.

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance had degraded a war machine built up over more than 40 years, and that the airstrikes would continue until "the threat is over for good."

NATO has been criticised for overstepping its limited U.N. mandate to enforce a no-fly zone and protect threatened civilians. — AP





British students looking for any way to avoid £9,000 tuition fees payable at most U.K. universities and still attend a top-flight institution could do worse than look at Trinity College, Dublin. The 400-year-old institution, ideally located to enjoy the "craic" of the fair city's nightlife, is ranked 65th in the world — just behind the London School of Economics — in the latest league table of the world's top universities, published on Sunday. But it does not charge tuition fees to students from the U.K.

QS, the international career and education network that compiled the latest world rankings, has for the first time compared tuition costs for all 600 universities. And in the top 200, many have fees below England's top whack of £9,000 a year.

So what are the realistic options for students willing to pack their trunk to save on the debts? Dutch institutions are worth a look. Amsterdam university (ranked 63rd), offers numerous undergraduate degrees taught in English, and charges EU students just €1,713 a year in tuition fees. Also among the top 100 universities in the world are Utrecht (80th) and Leiden (88th).

For those happy to go further afield, Hong Kong has three universities in the top 50, all offering a good range of degrees taught in English. The University of Hong Kong is impressively ranked at number 22, with the Chinese University of Hong Kong at 37 and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at number 40. Fees at the University of Hong Kong are £5,480 a year and £7,829 at the other two, and all three offer a variety of scholarships.

Outdoor types may find Nordic institutions attractive. But the universities of Copenhagen (52nd), Helsinki (89th), Uppsala (83rd) and Lund (86th) do not offer degrees taught in English. Though any would-be undergraduate who happens to be bilingual in Danish, Finnish or Swedish could be laughing in both their languages. ETH Zurich (18th) and Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (35th), overlooking Lake Geneva, are among the cheapest fee-charging institutions in the league table and are a good option for those interested in studying for an English degree (other subjects are taught in German and French respectively). Fees are just 580 Swiss Francs (£435) a semester for both bachelor and masters degrees — foreign students pay the same as domestic undergraduates.

In contrast, U.S. universities, which dominate the top 20, are likely to be beyond the reach of most students, unless they're lucky enough to get a scholarship. Most of the U.S. universities listed charge $38,000-$40,000 (£23,400-£24,600) a year, which does put the £9,000 fees of many U.K. institutions in a different light. "At undergraduate level, all of the U.K. institutions listed are comparatively good value," says Ben Sowter, head of research at QS.

U.K. universities fare well in this year's QS rankings, with 54 in the top 600. Of these, over half are ranked in the top 200 and there are nine in the top 50. The rankings are based on research quality, graduate employability, teaching and how international the faculties and students are.

Cambridge this year pips Harvard to the top spot for the second year in a row, while Oxford, Imperial and University College London come fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. U.S. institutions continue to dominate, with six universities in the top 10 and 20 in the top 50. But whereas U.K. institutions, including Cambridge, tend to do well in terms of how international their students and faculties are, Harvard, like most U.S. universities, "struggles to compete" in this respect, Mr. Sowter says.

However, the tables show that if the listings were ranked according to employers' preferences, Harvard would come top, Oxford second and Cambridge third. In fourth place, come Manchester (29th in the overall table), Warwick (50th) and the LSE (64th), in equal place with Melbourne and the American Ivy League institutions MIT, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





At best they are baby steps towards changing a colonial hand-me-down, but by virtue of being the first change ever to be made in the 1901 vintage Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), the recent amendments are being billed as a "New Deal" for the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) which, as a collective, are seen as the epicentre of global terrorism.

Even these tentative steps towards mainstreaming FATA — where most of the laws of the land do not apply — took a while after the Pakistan People's Party-led dispensation at the federal level announced them on the eve of the 2009 Independence Day. They were finally signed into effect by President Asif Ali Zardari on August 12 this year; signalling a softening in the military's opposition to these reforms.

But this shift in the military's position came only after the federal government issued two identical notifications — Action (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011 — for FATA and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) that give unprecedented powers to the armed forces combating terrorism in these areas with retrospective effect from February 1, 2008, and also allowing them to detain terror suspects for 120 days.

Human rights activists and aid agencies working in the area fear this would again lead to misuse of power and nullify the dilution of some of the draconian provisions in the FCR. "If these fears turn out to be real, the FCR amendments will be like giving rights with one hand and taking them away with the other," wrote veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai in The News .

Given that FATA is a much-talked about but little known area, first a bit on the FCR. When the British annexed these areas in 1848, they sought to use the fiercely independent tribes to act as a bulwark against "Russian expansionism in Central Asia" by allowing them their writ over internal affairs, according to tribal codes, while retaining control on matters of security of British India.

With this quid pro quo arrangement under constant challenge — as per one account there were 62 military expeditions in the area between 1849 and 1889 — the British imposed the first incarnate of the FCR prescribing special procedures for the tribal areas distinct from the criminal and civil laws in force elsewhere in the subcontinent.

When these regulations — based on the idea of collective territorial responsibility and dispute resolution through a jirga (council of elders) — failed to subdue the region, the British expanded the scope of the FCR in 1901 to give powers, including judicial authority, to administrative officials.

The institution of the "political agent" was created and each of the four agencies — Mohmand, Bajaur and Orakzai were added to FATA after 1947 — was administered by such a government appointee with wide powers and funds to secure the loyalty of influential elements in the area. The "maliki" system was developed to allow the colonial administration exercise control over the tribes, with "maliks" acting as intermediaries between members of individual tribes and the British authorities.

Still, the British control over the area remained tenuous and the regime persisted after the various tribes in the region entered into an agreement with the Government of Pakistan following Independence through as many as 30 instruments of accession. And, this troika of political agent, malik and FCR — which arguably is based on the Pathan tribal code "Pakhtunwali" — had no room for "appeal, wakeel or daleel " (engaging a lawyer or reliance on reasoning).

The penal provisions were harsh and included rounding up an entire tribe for a crime committed by one member, demolition of hamlets, villages or towns on the frontier, removal of persons from their places of residence and confiscation of property without compensation. Though these provisions violate basic human rights and the Constitution, that very corpus of law mandates in Article 247 (3) that no Act of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) will apply to FATA and PATA without a special directive from the President.

Ironically enough, the FCR regime — recognised and denounced as a bad law from the early days of Pakistan but retained for political/strategic expediencies — survived the various political upheavals the country faced through its 64 years. Out of sight, out of mind, the ban on political activity kept the tribal areas cut off from national discourse, though FATA served as the backyard of the security establishment's policy of attaining strategic depth. Together with red tape endemic to the bureaucracy, the delays in justice delivery and the ban on political activity created a vacuum that the Taliban found easy to fill with speedy and cheap delivery of justice through shariah courts when they took refuge in these parts following the U.S.-led international onslaught on Afghanistan, post-9/11.

The Global War on Terror brought the spotlight on an area that was used by the British in the first Great Game against Russia, and the U.S.-Pakistan nexus during the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan as a staging post for the mujahideen. According to Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar and someone who was involved in the policy formulation that introduced adult franchise in FATA in 1996, the Americans, British, Germans, Norwegians and Dutch spent considerable time and resources in researching the area and acting as a catalyst for these reforms.

What has been introduced is generally described as "good but insufficient," "too little too late," "the minimum that could be done," and "better late than never." Cynicism apart, just the fact that even the bare minimum took so long makes this "no mean achievement." Though limited in scope, the reforms in FCR seek to grant some basic rights to the tribal people who, according to various analyses, want a repeal of FCR or a comprehensive overhaul while factoring in some traditions.

Indefinite detention will no longer be possible and people can now appeal before the FCR tribunal. Cases have to be decided within a time frame and arrested persons can be released on bail. The collective punishment provision cannot be applied to women, children below 16 and men above 65, and property cannot be confiscated without compensation. Also, a degree of fiscal accountability has been introduced as the use of government funds by the political agent will now be scrutinised by the Auditor-General of Pakistan.

With the extension of the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 to FATA, people can participate in political activity, and political parties can function in the region without being penalised. Though FATA has a dozen members in the National Assembly and eight in the Senate, laws they make are not applicable to the area they represent as the writ of Parliament does not extend there. Neither does the writ of the Supreme Court or the High Court in Peshawar.

The extension of PPO to FATA has been hailed as a measure that would introduce bona fide political activity in the area and provide a counter-narrative to the one established by the Taliban but the Oslo-based academic from the area, Farhat Taj, argues otherwise in an article in Daily Times .

"Anti-terror political parties, like the Awami National Party (ANP), the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and PPP, will not be able to freely operate in the area. The political will of the tribal people will remain under siege of terror and the people may have to withdraw from the political process or align themselves with the religious parties as a means to escape the deadly anger of the Taliban and the state security apparatus behind them.

Thus, while theoretically the extension of the PPO is a giant step forward, practically it would take no less than the total shift in the military-controlled security policy regarding Afghanistan to make terror-free political participation for the tribal people an attainable civil rights entitlement," is her contention.

While these reforms have across-the-board political support, the ANP hopes that it will pave the way for wiping away at least one artificial division created by the British among the Pukhtoons; the Durand Line being the other major fault line. Though it remains a contentious issue — with some leading lights from the tribal areas like the former Ambassador, Ayaz Wazir — advocating provincial status to FATA on the lines of Gilgit-Baltistan, the ANP's ultimate aim is to merge it with Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa (formerly the North West Frontier Province).

As a first step, the party has proposed representation for FATA in the provincial assembly so that the tribal people can have a say in decision-making on infrastructural development in their area as the Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa government is responsible for some of the developmental work in these agencies.

But, like Mr. Zardari said, after signing the reforms package, the ANP is also treading carefully, maintaining that the door has been unlocked and it is for the people of the region to decide their future course. How that will be possible without weeding out terrorists and fanatic elements from the area is a question that begs an answer and beyond the realm of the political class.

Recent amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulations are being billed as a 'new deal' for the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, seen as the epicentre of terrorism.




Political scientist Dr. Gowher Rizvi , who is the International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, has been widely engaged in managing conflicts and strengthening democratic institutions and processes in Asia. A former director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation and former director of contemporary affairs at the Asia Society in New York , he has taught for nearly two decades at several British universities, including Oxford, and served as the Asia-Pacific head for the Oxford Analytical Daily Brief, a think-tank. His publications span the disciplines of history, politics, international relations and development economics. Dr. Rizvi shared his thoughts on India-Bangladesh relations with Haroon Habib in an interview in the context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh starting on September 6. Excerpts:

How do you see the visit of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh?

The visit, by all accounts, is truly historic. It will build on, and take forward, the vision and the transformative agenda charted by the two Prime Ministers during their New Delhi summit in January 2010. The joint communiqué spelled out as many as 46 areas of cooperation that are aimed to wipe out the hostilities and misgivings that previously characterised relations between the two countries. The visit will not only enable the two Prime Ministers to address some of the key outstanding issues — water, power, border disputes, trade and investment — but also spell out the direction and focus of the relations in the years ahead. The two Prime Ministers will seek to expand bilateral cooperation to incorporate sub-regional collaborations that would involve India's northeastern States, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal in the future, and especially to address the problems of water, power and connectivity.

What are the two countries going to achieve out of the summit meeting between Sheikh Hasina and Manmohan Singh, who have jointly initiated a new phase of bilateral relations following the Bangladesh Premier's landmark visit to New Delhi in 2010?

The two Prime Ministers have a large agenda to cover. The entire gamut of the relationship between the countries will be discussed. The Prime Ministers will take stock of the progress of implementation of the agreements outlined in the Delhi summit of January 2010, including the questions of boundary disputes, Teesta river water-sharing, power purchase agreement, trade liberalisation and the modalities for making connectivity more effective, environmental and cultural issues…. They will also look ahead and explore new areas of cooperation to address the many challenges facing the two countries, including poverty, terrorism, and the adverse effects of global warming.

What are the main issues that need to be addressed for a durable relationship?

There are some longstanding issues that date as far back as 1947 and have not been resolved till today. The most important issue concerns the land boundary between the two countries. This includes about 6.5 km of border that has never been demarcated; a large number of enclaves that belong to India and are located in Bangladesh and vice versa; the vexed issue of adverse possession of land where Indians and Bangladeshis are occupying land in each other's country; and the pressing demand for Bangladesh to have access, through Tin Bigha, to its enclaves in Angarapota and Dhahagram.

Second, it is expected that the two Prime Ministers will sign a framework agreement for development cooperation and an interim agreement to share Teesta river water; finalise the operational modalities for the use of transit facilities through Bangladesh; revisit the question of allowing Bangladesh manufacturers access to the Indian market tariff-free; the connection of the Indian power grid to that of Bangladesh; the power purchase agreement between the two countries; joint exploration of energy resources in the Bay of Bengal; joint conservation of the Sunderbans and the tiger reserve; coordinated and cooperative management of the rivers that are shared by the two countries; and a number of other issues. All in all, the meeting between the Prime Ministers is expected to raise the level of cooperation between the two countries to new heights.

Can the present phase of Dhaka-New Delhi relations influence a greater South Asian understanding on ways to achieve peace, stability and development in the tension-torn region?

I think it would not be a great exaggeration to claim that the forging of relations between India and Bangladesh is an exemplar for the region. The experience of the last half a century has shown that the challenges and problems facing the South Asian countries are transnational and transcend the boundaries of the state — poverty, environmental degradation, terrorism, food security, water scarcity, trafficking in women and children, public health epidemics and so forth — and are incapable of being resolved within the jurisdiction of a single state.

Confrontation and force will not resolve these crises. These issues can only be addressed through cooperation and collaboration.

Here, Bangladesh and India have charted a new course and their cooperative approach offers a model for other countries to resolve their problems with their neighbours. India is rapidly emerging as an economic super power and its neighbours can confidently look forward to partaking in its prosperity, trade and technological innovations.

Will the transit facility to India harm Bangladesh's interests in any way, or is it going to open up a new horizon in the region? How do you assess the development in the backdrop of a strong political opposition to providing transit facilities, including the use of Bangladesh's seaports by India, Nepal and Bhutan?

There appears to be a deliberate attempt to spread disinformation to confuse the issues and create an environment of fear and suspicion by those who are opposed to good relations between the countries. Connectivity is considered as one of the yardsticks or indicators for measuring the development of a society. To the extent that Bangladesh is seeking to improve its connectivity with its neighbours — India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar — it will be wholly beneficial. It should also be pointed out that connectivity is nothing new. In the pre-1947 period, the entire region of Bengal, Assam and the northeast were connected by integrated rail and river services. Much of the transport network survived Partition (of 1947) and was only interrupted during the 1965 India-Pakistan war.

Thereafter, the Pakistan government deliberately uprooted the railroad connections, closed many of the border-crossings and imposed restrictions on transport and movement between India and [the] then East Pakistan. However, connectivity was immediately restored after our War of Liberation, and in 1972 Bangladesh and India signed the Inland Water Transport Agreement that provided for multi-modal transportation — rail, river and road — between the two countries. A further effort was made to strengthen connectivity in the 1974 Indira-Mujib accord under the clause for strengthening the bilateral trade.

Sadly, the 1974 Accord was never implemented fully as Bangabandhu [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] was assassinated in 1975, and the agreement was stalled but not repealed or rescinded. Our effort today is to make this agreement operational through improved and expanded rail, river and road infrastructure.

The ability of India now to transport goods and passengers to its northeast through the much shorter route, via Bangladesh, is clearly a great boon — it will cut down distances, time and costs and speed up the development of the region. For Bangladesh also, this is a complete win-win situation. The country will not only earn a significant fee for the use of its transit facilities and infrastructure, but also improve its domestic transportation, stimulate domestic trade by between 3 to 5 per cent annually, and make Bangladesh an attractive destination for Indian and foreign investment. It will create a large number of job opportunities as new industries are set up to take advantage of the large Indian market. I believe connectivity and transit will have a transformative impact for all the countries of the sub-region — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

The political opponents of the Sheikh Hasina government, including those who preach extremism and support militancy, are strongly opposing the deals with India signed in recent times or are likely to be signed soon. Do you subscribe to their views?

It would be fair to say that the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), and its Jamaat allies, have considerably toned down their anti-Indian rhetoric and have voiced support for improving relations with India. In large part, there is a growing realisation throughout the country that the path of confrontation is barren and counter-productive. There is also a realisation that India is our closest and biggest neighbour, and the earlier policy of hostility is futile in a rapidly globalising society. But more importantly, all parties understand that the people of Bangladesh overwhelmingly support an improvement in the relationship with India. Interestingly, the anti-Indian bogey failed to garner votes for the BNP.

However, the opposition will not spare any opportunity to embarrass the government and will look for areas of vulnerability. It is, therefore, important to manage the relationship and move away from a 'zero-sum game' mentality, to recognise that peace and cooperation create a positive-sum, win-win situation for all.

What are your perceptions of advancing democracy, development and cooperation in South Asia, the challenges of extremism and militancy, and the removal of distrust and colonial shadows?

Democracy lies at the core of peace and prosperity in the region. For the first time in the history of the region, all the eight South Asian states have democratic governance, albeit in varying levels. And so long as governments are accountable to the people, they will be obliged to move away from wasteful confrontation and focus their resources on development.

All South Asian states, in varying degrees, have been the victims of political and religious extremism and terrorism. Bangladesh has been subjected to terrorism since 1975, when the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu, was assassinated by a bunch of terrorists. Since then, different extremists have resorted to political terrorism to undermine our democratic, secular and plural society. Most recently, in August 2004, the present Prime Minister was the target of an assassination attempt by her political opponents, who have not reconciled themselves to an independent and secular Bangladesh. We also have a history of cross-border terrorism of which every country has been a victim. It is, therefore, in the interest of Bangladesh and India to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. As a result of this cooperation, both countries have been saved from the scourge of terrorism.

Interview with Dr. Gowher Rizvi , Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.








Located at a height of 11000 feet above sea level and encircled by the Himalayan Peaks, the plateau of Ladakh is fast becoming a much favoured and popular place for mountaineers all over the world. It is called the second roof of the world after Tibet. An unexpected boost in mountaineering expeditions of foreign adventurers has opened a new window on the economy of the region if the industry is properly handled. According to the in-charge of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Leh, Sonam Wangyal, as many as 430 expeditions have visited the open zone areas of Ladakh till August. The number of expeditions has also increased from 297 last year to 430 this year. Due to easy accessibility and a few regulations, Stok Kangri in the Zanskar Range and Mentok Kangri in the Korzok valley, among other peaks, have been popular with mountaineers. Stok Kangri is famous among the mountaineers for viewing Nanga Parbat, Mount Kailash and the Nun Kun peak. The chairman of the Adventure Tour Operators Association, Tsewang Mutup, said a total of 23 expeditions had been conducted till now in the restricted areas of Ladakh. However, three expeditions had visited the Karakorum Range in the Nubra valley. A boost to foreign mountaineering expeditions has happened because firstly the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has, on the nod of the Defence and External Affairs Ministries, thrown open some more peaks to the mountaineers. Secondly the commutation is better facilitated today than what was available previously. However, the MEA and Tourism Ministry both have to accelerate their activity in giving wider publicity to expanded scope of mountaineering and tourism in Ladakh region. Tourism can become a component of mountaineering expeditions. A comprehensive plan for giving impetus to Ladakh Mountaineering has to be formulated with the participation of local mountaineers. The base camps for scaling the newly opened peaks will need to be provided with adequate infrastructure, camp accommodation, board and lodging facilities, equipment, medical facilities, guidance and scouting services etc. The number of direct daily air flights between New Delhi/Chandigarh/Srinagar/Mumbai and Ladakh shall have to be increased and streamlined. Security arrangements have to be made foolproof and there should be no laxities in making tourists observe the rules and regulations of mountaineering. The project of boring a tunnel in Zoji La should be speeded up because the foreign tourists and mountaineers would love to enjoy the breath taking view of the entire region as one moves along the picturesque landscape. Ladakh's overland link with other parts of the country through Himachal has also to be speeded up. It has to be remembered that still much of Ladakh remains undiscovered and mountaineering is one sector which could have the potential of changing the economy of the region provided necessary infrastructure is in place. There is also the need of further easing travel regulations for foreigners. Despite the opening of additional peaks with the grant of security clearance for mountaineering last year, Ladakh still remains the second unexplored place in the world. A suggestion from local mountaineering official is that there should be an equal number of Indians in the foreign expeditions and a liaison officer as the representative of the Indian Government. The expenses of Indian members should be borne by the foreign expedition. Dr C Rangarajan, who headed an expert group on Jammu and Kashmir, has mentioned in his report about the scope of mountaineering in Ladakh. He has recommended the formulation of tourist-friendly policies to encourage tourism by reviewing various security restrictions. The time has come when Ladakh has to be on top.







Accompanied by a team of senior officers of the Mission, the British Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi is on a tour of the State. The State Minister of Tourism has desired that the British Government withdraw the adverse travel advisory for British tourists to J&K because of improved security situation. It is reminded that owing to the terrorist activities in Kashmir, the British High Commission did not want to put the lives of British nationals and tourists to Kashmir to risk. As such, they had issued advisory with the view to guide and warn the touring teams. Germany has already lifted the adverse travel advisory and with that the number of German tourists to Jammu and Kashmir has increased manifold. UK could follow suit and once she withdraws the adverse advisory, it will open Jammu and Kashmir to the tourists from Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Tourism Minister apprised the British Deputy High Commissioner about various tourism promotion measures undertaken by the Government. He told him that the main focus was on bringing the virgin tourism places on the world tourism map. The creation of a world-class tourism infrastructure was also the government's priority. Jora said the Government had established 20 tourism development authorities to exploit the vast tourism potential of the state. "Our motto is to diversify the tourism itinerary to newer and virgin tourist places like Bangus, Gurez, Doodpathri, Verinag, Kokernag, Aharhbal, Wullar and Manasbal, besides the main tourist destinations of Gulmarg and Pahalgam," he said.
Britain is no novice to visualizing tourist potential of the State. Many seniors at the British High Commission in New Delhi have been visiting Kashmir in their individual capacity. Tourist spots like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Dachhigam are the creation of the British residents during early days of Dogra rule. Moreover UK keeps close watch of situation in the State. This has emboldened the State Minister for Tourism to press for lifting of adverse travel advisory. As the tourist industry in the State is widening its scope and bringing more and more tourist spots on its tourist map, it should be an attraction for globe trotters to experience pleasure trips to these new tourist destinations. However it needs to be said that the State Government shall have to take special care of two components of the industry: one is of proper publicity in foreign countries about the potential of J&K tourism, and the second is providing adequate tourist infrastructure and specialized services.







''Central public sector enterprises should accord high priority to developing humanskills,'' emphasised recently President Pratibha Patil.
Consequently a big boost to vocational education has been planned by the Center under National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework.
For that purpose Central Government has planned to pump in over Rs 7500 crore to set up 1500 new ITIs and 5000 skill development centres in the country.
Government would set up each of the 1500 ITIs at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore while it will spend Rs 75 lakh on each skill develop centre.
All that had been planned by the Government of India in consultation with states education ministers for strengthening vocational education at all levels.
Expressing concern over lack of respect for vocational education, Central HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had called for a need to change the mindset. ''As the vocational education was the key towards improving the country's economy.'' He had pointed out that often the stigma attached by society vocational education dissuades parents from allowing their wards to pursue the stream.
''To build a particular expertise the industry should come forward and ask the ministry to set up higher education institutes where such expertise is required. For increasing investment in this sector significantly, we are setting up an Educational Finance Corporation to help investment in education for refinancing facilities on long term very low rates on priority. Education implies expansion, inclusion and excellence,'' said the minister.
Comparing the enrolment rate in India vis-a-vis developed countries, the minister said that to reach the standard India requires additional 1000 universities and 45000 colleges. ''It is a gargantuan task. What we need is not help in building a few universities but a large scale investment in the next 10 to 20 years,'' he underlined.
Sibal want to emphasise, ''It is important that state ministers support us in our endeavour. If we want to prepare fifty crore children for employment by 2022, which is a national priority, then states and centre have to work together and industry should also cooperate.
''The vocational framework should set common principles and guidelines for a nationally recognised qualification system, covering schools, vocational education institutes and institutes of higher education with qualifications ranging from higher secondary to doctoral level, leading to the international recognition of national standards.
''The framework would be competency based modular approach with provision for credit accumulation and transfer. Students would have the scope for vertical and horizontal mobility entry and exits.''
Educational institutions should also allow their premises to be used after working hours for skill development.
In order to have the widest possible consensus on the important subject, a meeting had been convened attended by 17 states education ministers and secretaries, heads of UC, AICTE, IGNOU, NCERT, NUEPA, CBSC and NICS and representatives of the Skill Development Corporation and from ASSOCHEM, CII and FICCI.
The HRD Ministry had also consulted several sectors on vocational education curriculum. Meanwhile Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee while addressing National Skill Development Corporation had said,'' India was faced with a major challenge of creating a skilled workforce of 150 million by 2022.''
Stressing on the need for private sector participation in creating required skilled manpower with technical knowhow Mukherjee underscored ''The Government alone can not meet this challenge participation of private sector had been mandated through National Skill Development Council (NSDC).
Emphasising the need for streamlining content and curriculum development setting up of competency standards, assessment and certification of trainees and accreditation of certifying entities, Finance Minister advised NSDC to develop these benchmarks in line with the international best practices to ensure that the demographic dividend of India is leveraged to meet the skill needs in other countries and jurisdictions.
The Finance Minister also emphasised on NSDC to play more pro-active role in this regard in the coming times in terms of formation of sector skills and tie-ups with Industry associations. Alongside he also stressed on the need to generate, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
Mr Mukherjee also pointed out that the incremental skilled workforce requirement in 20 high growth segments and the unorganised sector would by 240 to 250 million till 2022, ''It is going to be a challenging task to bridge this skill gap. Obviously Government alone can not achieve target.''
It was in realisation of the need to bridge this huge skill gap that the NSCD was set up as a joint venture between the Government and industrial associations that was expected to play nodal role in the project. Industry bodies such as CII, FICCI and CITI which are stakeholders have also put forward proposals to open new skill development centres.
Since its inception NSDC had approved nine raining projects. Several more are also on the anvil, said the Finance Minister who had also inked on agreement for forming a joint venture between NSDC and Centum Learning, an association company of Bharti Enterprises. The Venture Centum Work Skill India Ltd has plans to open 383 centres to train 1.5 crore youth in the technical skills by 2022, emphasised the Finance Minister.








Suicides have increased in most parts of the world and India is no exception. According to estimates, a many as 1.2 lakh people commit suicides every year in India and over four lakh attempt it. A majority of then have been found to be suffering from some sort of mental disorder. Such shocking figures have forced the Union Health Ministry to consider a special suicide prevention programme that would counsel and protect depressed patients. Sadly, nothing tangible has yet come out so far.
According to latest reports released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), suicides rose by 1.7 per cent compared to 2008. Bengal topped the list with 14,648 cases followed by Andhra Pradesh (14,500), Tamil Nadu (14,424), Maharashtra (14,300) and Karnataka (12,195). These five States accounted for over 55 per cent of total suicides. Among the metro cities, Bangalore topped the recorded the highest suicide rate with 2167 people killing themselves in 2009 followed by Chennai (1417), Delhi (1215) and Mumbai (1051).
Further the report found that on a day-to-day basis, 73 Indians commit suicides daily because of health problems and related economic issues. Eight Indians commit suicide due to poverty, nine related to bankruptcy and seven because of unemployment. The number of suicides unemployment and career problems showed a relatively higher increase of 18.1 and 15.1 respectively. However family problems and illness accounted for 44.7 per cent of all suicides in the country.
As society is progressing and becoming modern, such incidences have been on the rise, specially among the young generation. The reasons for such increase have been the subject of many surveys and investigations of sociologists and psychologists, who attribute it these to the induction of materialist culture in society. To the common man, it would logically appear that with spread of education and knowledge as also prosperity and better living standards, suicides should at least not increase, if not come down over a period of time.
The changing society and with it the value system has clearly had an adverse effect on the young generation. The indirect effects of the change are the yearning to do or get something which may not be achievable and in the process become frustrated. Added to this are family problems, employment and/or career problems, the low levels of tolerance and patience in the human individual, which was earlier quite high in religious-oriented societies. The NCRB report pointed out: "It is observed that social and economic causes have led most of the males to commit suicides whereas emotional and personal problems have mainly driven women to end their lives". Whatever may be the reasons, which are of course quite varied and difficult to comprehend, it is a fact that such a trend is quite unhealthy for our society.
Surveys in the western countries have revealed that depression amongst the youth is the main cause for suicidal tendencies. In India too, we have witnessed an increasing suicidal tendency among students because of either failure in examinations or an uncertain future. Besides, there is a high increase in suicide rates over love affairs and/or pre-marital sex which are mostly manifest in the metropolises. A modern society has complicated life and brought with it related problems, which result in a craving to get what one wants without realizing its social consequences.
A fall-out of these trends is depression, an off shoot of hypertension, which has been identified as the fourth largest health problem by the WHO. In India, depression is widespread as 15 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women suffer from the disorder. By 2020 or even earlier, it is likely to rank second after heart diseases. This has been the finding of a study, published in Lancet which has further revealed that depression has more impact on the physical health of those who suffer from it than chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and epilepsy.
The complexity of the disease, which manifests itself in feelings of intense sadness, worthlessness, pessimism and reduced emotional well-being, stems from the fact that a number of brain areas are affected by it. In cases of prolonged depression, it has resulted in increasing suicides (and, of course, divorces and separation) which can easily be attributed to psychological problems influenced by tension in office, family and social and even community life.
The failures to achieve targets in office and not being considered for quick promotion (by superseding other colleagues), to get to the top by hook or by crook, to win contracts (even after bribing), in love affairs and win over the opposite sex as bed partners have all resulted in terrible stress and tension. In turn, this has had an adverse effect on children, who do not find their parents in the house after office hours (obviously attending late night parties), and behaving abnormally and frequently quarrelling or fighting. Even the ideal home environment has been lost as all actions of individuals are linked to material gain or loss.
While the decline of social and moral values has become a major factor in the erosion of happiness in human life and society and increase in suicides, this has been accentuated by an increasing and unachievable target and the quest to earn much more. Jealousy and hatred has increased due to severe competition in all fields and the thirst for more and more. These developments, not compatible with social standards have truly messed up healthy relationships and taken away happiness.---INFA








''The continued prosperity and well being of the peasants of any Nation relies on several factors, one of the most important being the sustenance of the level of soil fertility of their farms''.
''Soil fertility is defined as the ability of the soil to supply with plants all the essential plant nutrients in available form in right amount and suitable balance''. Although plants contain small amount of 90 or more elements yet only 16 of them are known to be essential for the growth and reproduction of higher plants.
An essential element must satisfy the following three criteria:-
* A deficiency of such an element makes impossible for the plant to complete its life cycle.
* Such deficiency is specific to the element and can be corrected only by supplying this element.
* The element is directly involved in the nutrition of the plant quite apart from its possible effects in correcting some unfavourable microbal or chemical condition of the soil.
Out of the essential nutrients, if any one of them is deficient in soil, it must be provided since its deficiency in soil will limit the crop growth and eventually the soil productivity. Soil productivity, indicating inherent ability or capacity of the soil to produce crops, includes the soil fertility, good management practices availability of water supply and suitable climate. Thus, the soil fertility denotes the status of available nutrients present in soil, while soil productivity connotes the resultant of various factors influencing crop production.
Higher and higher crop productivity crop yield is essential for the feeding of an increasing population, which is presently about 7 billion of the world. In India alone, the population has become 1.21 billions as per the census of March 2011. Hence, the soil fertility of the farms of the peasants should not only be maintained but also be constantly ameliorated to reap rich harvests. Imbalanced use of chemical fertilizers during green revolution has declined the soil fertility, which has resulted into poor harvest in crops especially rice and wheat cropping system. It was discernible to the occurrence of deficiency both of macro (Ca, Mg,S) and micro nutrients (Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Mo and B) in many Indian soils. Continuous use of nitrogenous fertilizer alone has made many soils acidic. In the years to come deficiency of Zn would further magnify and that of other micronutrients like Fe, Mn and Cu would crop up if inherently poor soils are continuously exploited even at this level of production.
Methods to enhance soil fertility
To get rich harvests, the farmers are required to apply manures and fertilizers. Many of the farmers especially those, who were growing rice and wheat during green revolution, relied heavily on chemical fertilizers to increase the soil fertility. A rice-wheat rotation yielding nearly 889 ha-1 year-1 removes 663 kg N, P2O5 and K2O and several kg of micronutrients causing a serious drain on the plant nutrients reserve in soil. It, therefore, becomes imperative for the farmers to apply N, P2O5 and K2O back into the soil to obtain higher yield of various crops, vegetables and fruit trees.
Most of the farmers, however, apply only nitrogenous fertilizer i.e urea as other fertilizers, being costly are beyond their means. Thus, it is not surprising that P and K and micronutrient, deficiencies have become severe in the intensive Indian cropped areas. The deficiency of P and K has further been substantiated by the National average of N:P: K ratio of 8:3.3:1 against 4:2:1. Application of urea alone has not only created micronutrients deficiency and acidity in some soils of India but also contaminated the drinking water with NO3. NO3 - contaminated water has produced blue baby disease in many parts of India among the children. Nitric Oxides (NO, N2O, NO2 etc) are being increased in the atmosphere, which are amenable for depleting Ozone layer. Not only this, imbalanced use of fertilizers has created nitrosoamine in a number of food grain crops, which is found carcinogenic agent.
In the light of the above said harmful effects caused by the chemical fertilizers if not handled carefully the farmers, therefore, must add organic manures. Such manures consist of farm yard manure (FYM) compost, vermicompost, processed night soil and sewage, sea weeds as well as practising green manure and using organic fertilizers such as molasses, dried blood and oil cakes. Another alternative that greatly reduces dependency of chemical fertilizers and organic manures is the growing of the cover crops.
What are cover crops ? Those crops, which after fully growing cover the soil of the field, are called the cover crops. Cover crops may be legumes, which are grown to cover and protect the soil. Besides the leguminous crops add N for improving soil's fertility. Leguminous crops, infact, fix atmopsheric nitrogen in their modules by the bacteria known as Rhizobia. This nitrogen finally reaches the soil via osmosis process from nodule and death/decay of Rhizobia and nodules.
Characteristics of cover crops : What characteristics should be looked for in cover crops to produce manure and forage with no more cash cost and minimum of labour. It should produce large amount of green matter (about 25 tonnes ha-1). It should grow vigorously in poor soils without any aid of fertilizers. Selected cover crop must be sown.
Cover crops without wastage of land
Cover crops can be grown among traditional crops like corn, millet, sorghum without reducing the productivity of the main crop. Cover crops can be intercropped with basic grains towards the middle or end of the growing season's time, so that their major growth occur during the dry season. Wherever shifting agriculture is used, cover crops can be planted on the land, the first year it is to be followed or abandoned. In this way, the fallow period can be cut to one year.
In areas where fruit or coffee trees are common, cover crops can be grown around or under the trees both in increasing the growth and health of the trees.


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





NOT too long ago, Amar Singh preened on the entertainment, business and political stage like a peacock. Given the clout that he enjoyed, some cultivated him, many suffered him in silence. How things change! He has finally landed in Tihar jail. Mind you, the action in the 2008 cash-for-vote scam has not come in natural course, but only after the Supreme Court upbraided the Delhi Police for shoddy investigation. The cops had come up with a fantastic assertion that no politician was involved in the scam. Even when he was at the peak of his political career, the Rajya Sabha MP was (in)famous as a wheeler-dealer. The deals he fixed made this man-about-town notorious and stinking rich at the same time. Those who live by the sword die by the sword, and that has happened to him.


Such is the revulsion of the country for political scams that even his renal condition did not move the court enough to grant him bail, and he has had to grace the Tihar jail which already houses some well-known names like Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja and Kanimozhi. But his going behind bars is only part punishment. It remains to be seen how thorough a job the investigation agencies will do in serving him his just desserts.


The country wants to know whether he was acting on his own to just discredit BJP leaders – as some have made out — or he was the front man for the Congress fishing desperately for supporters to win the crucial trust vote. Then there is also his own claim that he is just being made a fall guy. Those who benefited by his bribing or trying to bribe some BJP MPs for either siding with the Congress or for abstaining should also not go scot-free. He is the public face of the sordid drama. Those who were behind the scenes also must be exposed. Only then would the ends of justice be met. The apex court has also reminded the police of bringing to book those who funded the scam.









THE seriousness of the threat of contamination of drinking water in two districts of Punjab is for all to see, even before the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre gives its findings, as demanded by Parliament's Standing Committee on Rural Development. High levels of chemical, biological and radioactive toxicity, including uranium contamination, have been known to be the bane of Bathinda and Amritsar districts for decades now. The apathy of the state government becomes evident when it fails to take urgent remedial actions, when it fails to take effective steps to reduce the pollution or to provide good drinking water to the people of the area. The sharp increase in the number of people afflicted with cancer, as well as neurological diseases and kidney ailments, is a matter of record, and their correlation has been increasingly documented by scientists.


Many experts blame the fly ash of thermal power plants, while others point to the highly contaminated water that flows down the Buddha Nullah. In either case, it is the government's job to ensure that the environment is not polluted, and to protect the people who have to drink contaminated water, which enters the food chain cycle and thus threatens the public far beyond the confines of these two districts.


That uranium can cause incalculable damage to the health of human beings, livestock, environment and bio-safety is well known. We have seen the rise in number of serious ailments in the residents of these areas. The survey of the state by BARC would be valuable in providing an accurate assessment of the threat. However, instead of waiting for it, the state and the Central governments should work together to counter the effects of this contamination by providing filtered water for human consumption, and by reducing the pollution caused by the thermal plants. Every day is costly in terms of the harm to people's health that it causes.
















THE International Hockey Federation's (FIH) decision to take the Champions Trophy hockey tournament out of India was something that was perhaps inevitable, considering that the Indian authorities in the sport, namely Hockey India, which has the approval of the FIH, and the Indian Hockey Federation, which had the court's ruling in its favour, have created a situation no international body can stomach. So while the Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association kept making all sorts of noises, the FIH did what was perfectly within its rights and powers and moved the tournament out, much to the chagrin of all concerned. The IOA bosses on their part tried to browbeat the FIH and also took the opportunity to take pot shots at the government, which has threatened to impinge on their fiefdoms. They were loathe to any attempt to question their attitude of indifference towards inefficiency and their complete lack of a culture of accountability.


The onus of fixing things lay with the people in control of things, both in Hockey India and the IHF. But neither seemed keen on a compromise. Sports Minister Ajay Maken managed to bring the officials of both bodies to the negotiating table, and some sort of a deal was thrashed out but no sooner than the office-bearers had left the table, things began to fall apart. HI warned players not to participate in the World Series Hockey tournament being planned by the IHF, which on its part continued to make all sorts of comments and claims in the dictatorial fashion made notorious by its chief.


Players pulled out of national camps giving family commitments as reason while others headed for lucrative club deals in Europe. The national hockey team has not been a cohesive unit for a long time and the evident differences between captain Rajpal Singh and some senior players did nothing to improve the unholy mess. India's win over South Korea in the Asian Champions Trophy in China comes as a little bit of a relief for the beleaguered team and office-bearers, but the larger picture remains bleak as before.









During the last one month there were two high-profile visits from Pakistan to China; the first one in the middle of August by new Foreign Minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar and the second by President Asif Zardari. Are these visits part of the regular rhetoric — "all-weather friendship" — or linked to the violence in Xinjiang in July after which the local government in China accused Pakistan?


Clearly, there is a strong component of fire-fighting from Pakistan's side, especially after the government in Xinjiang accused Pakistan of not preventing Uighur radicals from using Pakistan's soil, if not aiding them. The fact that Zardari visited Xinjiang on the occasion of Eid along with a high-profile team, and met various officials of the government of Xinjiang speaks for itself.


First, a geo-strategic look at Xinjiang will reveal the importance of China's western-most province; the province shares legal borders with Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Xinjiang's border with Pakistan is actually shared by Gilgit-Baltistan, and also a small border with the Aksai Chin. Xinjiang is China's gateway to the rest of Central Asia and Europe. All the gas pipelines and the proposed trans-Asian railways have to cut across Xinjiang. Historically, Xinjiang was the centre of multiple Silk Routes, which crisscrossed the vast deserts and oasis cities of this historical province.


Second, a short note on what actually happened in Xinjiang before analysing the role of "Islamic terrorists". For the last many years, there has been unrest within Xinjiang, but this issue is not monolithic. There are serious divides and multiple fault-lines within Xinjiang on social, economic and radical lines. The primary problem in Xinjiang is ethnic; the Uighurs who form the majority in Xinjiang claim that historically they were never a part of the Chinese kingdom. The fact that Xinjiang means "new frontier" and the Chinese dynasties have many "Xinjiangs" underline the Uighurs' efforts to delink from the rest of China on a historical basis.


However, more than the historical question — whether Xinjiang belongs to China or not — the primary issue today is ethnic. According to the latest census, the Uighurs are 45 per cent, followed by the Hans who form 40 per cent of the population. The Mongols, Kazaks, Kirghiz and the Huis are the other substantial ethnic groups having more than 1 per cent strength each. More importantly for the Uighurs, from a political perspective, their ethnic origin plays an important role — they are of Turkic origin. What really hurts the Uighurs is their treatment by the rest of China in matters of culture, religion and language. The Uighurs complain against the state of China for mistreating them, affecting their future. They also complain against the rest of Chinese society for treating them as second class citizens. In any given ethnic situation, some perceptions are genuine and the rest perceived. Whether genuine or perceived, there are serious grievances among the Uighurs against the Chinese state, primarily relating to the ethnic question.


Third, and more importantly, in recent years, China has been attempting to develop Xinjiang as a gateway to the Western world; as a part of this objective, there have been efforts to create special economic zones and build cities of international standards. This strategy has resulted in two serious economic imbalances: first, as is happening in the rest of China, there is a rural-urban migration factor. For example, Kashgar today attracts a substantial number of migrants from rural Xinjiang. Second, economic investments in Xinjiang have also attracted substantial Han migration from the rest of China into this region. The Uighurs, like the Tibetans, complain that this Han migration into their region is a deliberate strategy of the Chinese government to change the ethnic composition of their homeland.


The influence of Uighur Muslim radical groups and the Pakistan connection should be seen against the above backdrop. While there are serious grievances being nursed by the Uighurs, these have remained primarily ethnic and political. During the last two decades, a section within the Uighurs has been trying to superimpose its religious agenda on them. Today, Uighur society is divided on ethnic and religious lines — whether to project their ethnic identity as a Uighur or their religious identity as a Muslim. Within this religious-ethnic divide, a section is further trying to hijack the religious agenda through a radical onslaught, using violence for the purpose. Thus, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), believed to be having its bases inside Pakistan, is a small organisation trying to impose itself on a larger Uighur cause.


According to media reports, the ETIM was founded in the mid-1990s; its leadership moved from Xinjiang into Afghanistan, when the Taliban and Al-Qaeda attracted all radical groups of the region from Uzbekistan to Pakistan. It was during this time (in the mid-1990s) that Afghanistan became a violent black hole, absorbing all radical groups into it — the ETIM (from Xinjiang), the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) and multiple radical groups from Pakistan. Whether these groups formed a larger network can only be a conjecture; but what could be ascertained was that these groups got displaced from Afghanistan when the US troops entered the region following 9/11. While the IMU got into FATA, the ETIM moved into Pakistan's heartland. In terms of strategy, the ETIM's technique is not new; there are numerous Taliban and Al-Qaeda franchisees within Pakistan attempting the same.


The crucial question today is: how far will Pakistan and China go? For Islamabad, a positive relationship with Beijing is the most important aspect of its foreign policy. With the 2014 deadline of US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan fast approaching, the US-Pakistan relations are likely to undergo transformation. The economic aid and political support from Washington to Pakistan will see transformation; at least that is what Islamabad and GHQ are afraid of. Worse, there is also the fear within Pakistan that the Indo-US strategic partnership, especially the nuclear deal, will enhance India's nuclear capabilities. At the economic level, from Gwadar to the Sust dry port across the Khunjerab pass, China has made huge investments in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).


At the border level, what is not fully analysed is the relationship between Xinjiang and PoK especially with the Gilgit-Baltistan entity. Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) share strong economic linkages with Xinjiang. Most of Pakistan's trade with Xinjiang actually is done through GB. There was a bus service between Gilgit and Kashgar during recent years; local businessmen from GB visit Xinjiang often; given their economic interests and religious background (the majority of the people in GB are Shias), they are unlikely to support any radical hold in Xinjiang.


Clearly, Pakistan needs China more than vice-versa. And unlike the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Taliban, the ETIM does not fit in with any of Pakistan's strategic objectives. Therefore, Islamabad is likely to work with China in addressing the ETIM threat emanating from Pakistan. Despite calling the recent violence in Hotan and Xinjiang as "terrorism", Beijing should know that the threat comes not only from the ETIM but also from its larger ethnic problem, growing rural-urban migration and uneven economic development. Besides, Beijing also needs Pakistan to play a proxy role in South Asia for obvious reasons. Finally, there seems to be a difference in how Beijing and the local officials in Xinjiang see the role of Pakistan; it was the local officials from Xinjiang who complained that the militants were trained in Pakistan.


The unrest in Xinjiang is unlikely to alter Sino-Pak relations; there are larger strategic interests for both China and Pakistan to protect.n


The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, and Visiting Professor, Pakistan Studies Programme, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.








THE fixation with long hair has been there since time immemorial. As children, we read and heard about fairies, queens, princesses and mermaids with beautiful long tresses which would be taken care of by their maids of honour who would oil, wash, curl and style them. In one such fairytale, Rapunzel, a sweet and charming girl, is imprisoned in a tower by a witch. Her melodious voice attracts a prince. He uses her long, golden and braided hair to climb up the tower. They are thus united.


In George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss" Maggie Tulliver cuts her hair with her brother Tom's help, who can't stop laughing when the deed is done. Seeing her unevenly cut hair in the mirror, Maggie is filled with remorse. She had cut her hair to avoid criticism of her ill-kempt hair but the plan had backfired.


In the short story 'The Gift of the Magi' by O. Henry, Della and James are totally smitten with each other. Each wants to give a surprise gift on Christmas. Della buys a chain for James' watch by selling her lovely hair while James sells his watch and buys tortoise shell combs for her glossy and shiny hair. Though disappointed, on seeing the gifts for each other, the bond between the two is strengthened.


In contemporary times, shampoos are making quick money. Taking a cue from Indian woman's yearning for long hair there are many products in the market. I have a South Indian friend whose height is surprisingly,5 ft and 10 inches, and her long hair are knee-length. The plait she makes gives the impression of a snake slithering on her back when she walks. I, out of curiosity, asked her how she manages her hair. She said that her mother helped her in washing her hair as she could not manage it single-handedly. After all, hair needs care. Tongue-in-cheek, I asked her whether she too would be able to pull a loaded truck out of a ditch with her long lustrous locks by the sheer strength of her hair.


Recently, while on a walk through the district park, I saw to my surprise, a threesome of two daughters and a mother all with long hair of equal length. The younger daughter skipped while she walked and her pony tail swung from side to side like a pendulum. As a child, I used to love long hair. My mother would forcibly take me to the hairdresser to get my hair cut. I would weep on seeing my curls being chopped. Believe me, it used to be no less than a national catastrophe.










THE FDI World Dental Federation has dedicated September 12 as World Oral Health Day in order to create global awareness on oral health and educate people on the impact of oral diseases on overall health and well-being. This day while implying that a healthy lifestyle is incomplete without healthy teeth and gums also seeks to dispel common oral care myths and educate people on a complete oral care routine.

In India, this day is especially significant because of the low standards of oral hygiene practiced within the country. Studies show that a majority of people, 56 per cent, brush only once a day and an appalling 32 per cent have never gone to the dentist. The topmost oral health complaints in the country are tooth decay, gum problems and bad breath. According to the oral health experts, however, a lot of people suffer from oral health complaints without being aware of it and at times it can impact a person's quality of life.


Many medical researches continue to challenge our general perception about the oral hygiene. Contrary to the popular belief that brushing the teeth is the only way to good oral care, the fact is that teeth are just 25 per cent of our mouth. So leaving the remaining 75 per cent part of the mouth unclean creates a good breeding ground for the bacteria to grow and spread. It is therefore important to use advanced oral care products like mouthwash and floss to ensure the entire mouth is protected.


The common link between periodontal or gum disease and infections in the body goes beyond bacteria. Recent research studies provide proof of how inflammation is the connecting link between poor oral hygiene and chronic inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and pregnancy-related issues amongst many others. Many users are not aware that they are suffering from osteoporosis or diabetes, until the dentists spots the first signs during a routine oral examination and recommends further investigations. Often such a chance intervention or diagnosis can go a long way in controlling and even stabilising serious health conditions.


Researchers have found that people with periodontal (gum) disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.


In people suffering from Periodontitis (inflammatory disease affecting the tissues that surround and support the teeth), the bacteria may enter into the bloodstream while chewing and brushing. These bacteria can then attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels), contributing to clot formation. This plaque can lead to heart attack.


Oral bacteria could also cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or the bloodstream. The immune system's response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily.


People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, probably because diabetics are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes. Those who don't have their diabetic condition under control are especially at risk.


Research suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes work both ways — periodontal

disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar as the 6th complication of diabetes mellitus is periodontal disease.


Good blood glucose control is a key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled. Thus, diabetics who have periodontal disease should be treated to eliminate the periodontal infection.


Bacterial respiratory infections are considered to be acquired through inhaling fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs. These droplets contain germs that can breed and multiply within the lungs to cause damage. Recent research suggests that bacteria found in the throat and mouth, can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract. This can cause infections or worsen existing lung conditions.


Scientists have found that bacteria that reside in the oral cavity can be inhaled into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease. This discovery leads researchers to believe that these respiratory bacteria can travel from the oral cavity into the lungs to cause infection. Studies are now in progress to learn to what extent oral hygiene and periodontal disease may be associated with more frequents bouts of respiratory disease in COPD patients.


For a long time we've known that risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and drug use contribute to mothers having babies that are born prematurely at a low birth weight. Now evidence is mounting that suggests a new risk factor – periodontal disease. Research reveals that pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.

It appears that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labour. Furthermore, data suggests that women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.


Osteoporosis is one of the most common human bone diseases affecting millions of people, including over one-third of females above the age of 65. Osteoporosis is characterised by decreased bone density and weakened bones. Symptoms of osteoporosis often go unnoticed until a major fracture occurs, but your dentist may be able to detect the early signs of osteoporosis during your regular dental exam.


Loose teeth, severe gum disease, ill-fitting dentures and difficulty in eating or speech can all be a sign of decreasing bone density, an advanced stage of osteoporosis.


The writer is Secretary General of the International Clinical Dental Research Organisation and Professor of Periodontology at Santosh University, Delh









In his Nobel Prize for Literature speech in 1983, William Golding (19th Sept 1911–19th June 1993) mentions that on the very day he learned about the prize, he drove to a small country town and parked his car where he should not. "I only left the car for a few minutes," he says, "but when I came back there was a ticket taped to the window. A traffic warden, a lady of a minatory aspect, stood by the car. She pointed to a notice on the wall. 'Can't you read?' she said." He drove off sheepishly, only to run into two more policemen. They showed him how to fill out the ticket, and how to pay the fine, and then congratulated him on winning the prize.


In a much later interview, Golding remarks that he finds it annoying that, despite his later output, he is forever associated with Lord of the Flies. He also finds it tiresome that he has been stuck with the label "pessimistic." He was 42 when it was finally published, after being rejected by several publishers, till a sharp young man at Faber's, Charles Monteith saw its potential, suggested a few cuts, and published it in 1954. It's odd to think of the novel being published in the middle of all the social realism and kitchen sink novels and plays by working-class writers, John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, Harold Pinter, John Braine and others. He found his literary forbears in very different material.


One doesn't have to go very far back in human history, or even our own history to know that the fall from civilization to savagery can be very rapid. We see it in the work of Conrad, Orwell, and many other major moderns. Scholars have traced connections between the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis, Greek tragedy, Shakespearean tragedy. "Mired in original sin," Lawrence Friedman writes, "fallen man can rise only by the apparently impossible means of transcending his very nature. In man's inability to recreate himself lies the tragedy of Lord of the Flies." He sees both the novel and Euripides' play The Bacchae as "anthropological passion plays in which individuals-children in Golding, adults in Euripides, revert to savagery and murder during a frenzied ritual."


Golding is concerned with humanity in what one may call a cosmic sense. He is certainly aware that individuals can and do recreate themselves, even after they have created havoc in their own lives and those of others. In Chapter 12 of the book, the survivors watch "the burning wreckage of the island, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."


So was Golding a pessimist? His answers to this question were not exactly clear, so I shall avoid quoting them. But it's unlikely that anyone can be an absolute optimist or an absolute pessimist. He'd be a fool in the first case, and spend his life wanting to jump off a cliff in the latter. Most of us spend our lives trying to juggle the two, to keep a balance of sorts, however shifting it may be.


About his future readership, Golding was perhaps pessimistic, mainly because of his association with his best-known novel. He said, in an interview with William Boyd of the New York Times that he saw himself "spiraling up towards being a universally admired, but unread" novelist. Boyd feels the statement was prophetic. With the exception of Lord of t he Flies, he says, "Golding's strange, haunting novels have few readers these days."


Golding didn't like that, despite later work, he was forever associated with Lord of the Flies




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The rupee has been under pressure since early August as risk aversion fuelled by the European sovereign crisis and downgrade of US sovereign debt by Standard and Poor's drove away equity investments from Indian markets. In August alone, foreign institutional investors dumped $2.3 billion worth of Indian stocks and sought safer havens like US treasury bonds. Despite this rise in risk aversion, the correction in oil prices (and indeed other commodities) was shallow and helped lower India's current account deficit only to a limited extent. The payment of dues to Iran (of roughly $5 billion) in this period abetted depreciation. All this should please the often vociferous group of economists who believe that an undervalued, or at least a fairly valued, rupee is critical for growth. The real effective exchange rate (REER) terms (measured against a basket of 36 currencies) showed a value of about 103 in June (the latest data available). This means that adjusted for inflation, the rupee has appreciated a meagre three per cent over its base level of 2004-05. This is partly owing to the fact that over the last couple of years, the Indian currency has underperformed most of its Asian peers. In August the index level should have slipped further on the back of the nominal depreciation.

But there might not be room for complacency. Based on the six-country REER measured against our key trading partners – the US, UK, Japan, China, Eurozone and Hong Kong – the currency looks considerably overvalued. In July, it printed at over 118 (taking 2004-05 as the base), reflecting the large inflation differentials between India and the major buyers of its exports. This lack of competitiveness vis-à-vis trading partners might hurt India's exports as the imperatives of fighting recession get local firms to manufacture products that they usually import. Besides, currency movements are notoriously fickle and the fact that the rupee is depreciating now does not necessarily mean this trend will sustain. There has been a strong flow of external commercial borrowings (a hefty $12 billion in the April-July period itself) on the back of a large difference in local interest rates and those in developed markets. This is likely to continue. Once the equity markets shed their aversion to risk and wake up to the fact that India, despite a slowdown, will grow much faster than both the US and Europe, flows could return to India. The US Federal Reserve seems committed to liquidity easing, and policies like operation twist (where the central bank sells short-term bonds and buys long-term bonds) and ultimately another round of quantitative easing are very much on its menu. These would turn on the spigot of cheap dollars that could chase Indian assets. If there is a gush of dollars in the future, the current account deficit (most forecasters peg it between 2.7 and three per cent of GDP) is unlikely to absorb it entirely. The result could be another round of sharp rupee appreciation. Over the past couple of years, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has refused to intervene in the foreign exchange market. It may have continued with this stance in the face of a rising currency to help manage inflation at home and minimise the impact of rising commodity prices. But this could also compromise export growth and exacerbate the slowdown. Perhaps a rethink of RBI's currency policy and some explanation of it would help.






The arrest of Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh for his alleged involvement in the "cash-for-votes" scam of 2008 has once again drawn attention to the role of money in Indian politics. Paying cash for votes is an old and widespread malaise. There are several levels at which money enters the political process. The lowest, rather simplest, form of such corruption is when candidates contesting elections offer cash incentives to voters. The next level is when candidates offer money to political parties, or influential individuals involved in ticket distribution, to secure nomination. The third level is when an elected legislator offers cash to party bigwigs to buy a berth in the council of ministers. Then there is the cash that legislators earn by asking questions on behalf of various interested parties or by writing letters of recommendation or complaint to government functionaries or others willing to be influenced by such requests. Some of these payments are small change, others hefty sums. Securing a berth in the Rajya Sabha is one of the more expensive things. Political gossip suggests that it used to cost much less before Rajya Sabha MPs started getting important portfolios! In this bazaar of political give and take rarely does anyone get caught. Which is why no member of Parliament has actually been arrested till now on such a charge. Technology has made it possible to organise sting operations and secret recordings which now make it easier to nail someone culpable. Amar Singh's incarceration has set a precedent. It must be added, however, that Mr Singh's culpability has yet to be established in a court of law. Many politicians have been vocal in their condemnation of Mr Singh, but few of them can honestly say that they have not been guilty of using money in one of the forms mentioned above.

While the law will take its course in this case, it is necessary to examine to what extent the charges against Mr Singh taint the vote of confidence of 2008. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front have said that this "cash for votes" scam makes the July 2008 Lok Sabha vote suspect. This is not necessarily true. The fact remains that less than a handful of MPs have been shown to be involved in this scam, and even here the evidence is not yet clinching. On the other hand, the ruling coalition won with a margin of 17 votes, with 275 votes in favour of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and 256 votes against it. Also, no political party was ready to face the polls at that time and most opposition parties were complicit in the government's victory. So though the "cash-for-votes" sting was staged to embarrass the government, it is still not clear how tainted UPA's victory was.






The operational relevance of the Planning Commission has declined over several decades. Certainly, in my 15 years in the finance ministry up to 2001, we did not pay much attention to the Planning Commission, except for the squabble over the scale of "gross budget support to the plan" in each year's Budget. Nevertheless, it is the only organisation within the government charged with crafting a medium- and long-term vision of India's economic and social development and securing some degree of semi-formal co-ordination, or at least acceptance, of that view. If the Planning Commission didn't exist, we would have to invent it, though probably not in its present form.

Last week the Planning Commission put its draft Approach to the 12th Plan (henceforth A12P) on its website for comment. So here goes. To begin with compliments, it's a fairly well-written document (especially the Overview chapter), which recognises most of the major challenges that India has to grapple with to sustain high growth over the next five years: uncertain global economic conditions, high energy prices, "limited energy supplies, increase in water scarcity, shortages in infrastructure, problems of land acquisition for industrial development and infrastructure, … the complex problem of managing the urban transition … greater efforts in agriculture, health and education", governance weaknesses in public service delivery and so on. The A12P is forthright in proposing serious policy efforts and reforms in most of these areas.

Nevertheless, there are some clear weaknesses. Here I will focus on just four of them: the context and realism of the overall nine per cent economic growth target, the downplaying of the enormous employment challenge ahead, an inadequate appreciation of the policy impediments to manufacturing and a disappointingly old-fashioned approach towards the social sectors.

Broadly, A12P's approach to setting the nine per cent growth target is to say that the country has achieved 8.2 per cent growth in the 11th Plan (assuming, optimistically, eight per cent in 2011-12) and, therefore, nine per cent seems a reasonable target if we make serious efforts to deal with the various identified challenges. This approach hides more than it reveals. The truth is that the Indian economy already grew at nine (8.9 to be precise) per cent for the five consecutive years, 2003-04 to 2007-08. Since then (and the global crisis) average growth has dropped below eight per cent. What were the ingredients of the 2003-08 growth acceleration and can they be recreated? I suggest they included: a buoyant world economy expanding at four per cent (at market exchange rates), with advanced economies growing at nearly three per cent; moderately benign energy and food prices; the cumulative impact of fairly strong economic reforms undertaken (in spurts) between 1991 and 2003; a surge in gross savings and investment by around 10 percentage points of GDP between 2002-03 and 2007-08, led by a boom in corporate investment, profits and savings and a major improvement in government savings; a serious reduction in the combined fiscal deficit (from over eight per cent of GDP to four per cent), which ushered in low nominal and real interest rates; and a reasonably competitive exchange rate policy.

Recreating these growth-supporting ingredients looks difficult. The advanced economies of America, Europe and Japan (accounting for over half of world GDP) are teetering on the edge of a "second dip" recession. Even if they don't tip over (and that unfortunate outcome appears increasingly likely), most respected analysts expect a prolonged period of slow and halting expansion. Energy and food prices are much higher now and not expected to decline appreciably. In India, the last seven years have seen very little reform to spur competition and productivity. Instead, impediments to land acquisition, environmental clearances and mining access have increased, as have corruption and crony capitalism. Aggregate savings and investment are still fairly high but they have dropped significantly from their 2007-08 peak. The combined fiscal deficit is still around seven to eight per cent of GDP, helping to buttress high interest rates. Exchange rate policy has become conspicuously inactive. Adding these unfavourable "initial conditions" to the challenges outlined by the A12P makes the nine per cent growth target look a lot tougher and perhaps unrealistic.

In fairness, the overview chapter does devote a page to employment/livelihood issues. It recognises that despite the very low increase in total employment (only 18 million in five years on the current daily status basis) between the NSSO large sample surveys of 2004-05 and 2009-10, the unemployment rate dropped a bit because of an unusually low increase in labour force due to a substantial rise in working-age youth enrolled in education. It also appreciates that labour force growth will revert to much larger increases in the 12th Plan and beyond, posing huge challenges for job creation. However, this early attention does not resonate in the chapters on the "Macroeconomic Framework" and "Education and Skill Development". Surprisingly, there is no separate chapter on this crucially important subject, which could have profound effects on the nation's society and polity.

The chapter on "Manufacturing" mentions the enormous importance of this sector for generating job opportunities: "Unless manufacturing becomes an engine of growth providing 100 million additional decent jobs (in the next 15 years), it will be difficult for India's growth to be inclusive". If by "decent" jobs the reference is to those in the organised sector, the chapter sheds little light on how the present total of organised manufacturing jobs of a paltry 6 million (out of a labour force of about 500 million) is to be increased 17-fold in the next 15 years! There is only a brief and muted discussion of the critical constraint of our current job-destroying labour laws. The chapter advances "a new policy paradigm" for manufacturing growth, which seems to boil down to an unconvincing plea for "improving processes for consultation and coordination". A sort of "industrial policy lite"? Regrettably, there is no discussion on important issues such as an appropriate exchange rate policy and fiscal/monetary policies which nurture low interest rates, without which rapid industrial growth will remain a chimera.

Finally, the chapters on the social sectors seem to be rather along traditional lines. They do not outline compelling remedies to the well-known failings of pervasive inefficiency, poor quality, rampant "leakages", lack of accountability and voice (to and of the beneficiaries). In particular, I missed a serious discussion of possible synergies between the roll out of the unique identification programme (Aadhar) and reform of social programmes.

I trust these comments on the approach will not arouse grave reproach from friends in the Planning Commission.

The author is honorary professor at Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India

The views expressed are personal







Steve Jobs, co-founder, visionary and CEO of Apple, whose creations much of the word craves, left centre stage in August this year. He is only 56. His 142-word resignation letter was as minimalist as the design of Apple products. It read: "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

News items about retiring CEOs feature almost daily nowadays and I, for one, barely look at them. But I must confess to shedding a silent tear when I read about this one.

A kaleidoscope of images flashed through my mind: the TV commercial that introduced the first Macintosh; the unveiling of the iPod in 2001 that inaugurated the era of gadgets connected to the Internet; the 2007 launch of the iPhone instantly rendering all other mobile phones obsolete; and, most of all, Mr Jobs' moving speech at Stanford in 2005.

"My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption," he had said describing the painful situation following his birth. His biological parents were Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian, and Joanne Simpson Schieble, an American — they had met as graduate students.

The declaration of the arrival of the Information Age for many of us was the Macintosh computer and the TV commercial that introduced it. The commercial was subtly based on George Orwell's novel 1984. It opened in a dark blue and grey industrial setting with a line of workers marching in lockstep through a long tunnel. A woman appeared carrying a large hammer, chased by security guards in black uniforms. She raced towards a large screen with an image of a Big Brother-like figure, hurled the hammer at it and the screen was destroyed in a flurry of light and smoke. This was followed by a caption that suggested Macintosh would liberate the world from the tyrannical and centralised world that George Orwell had prophesied.

Mr Jobs' resignation has prompted various eulogies, with many aptly calling him America's greatest industrialist ranked right up there with the likes of Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. But many also made references to his "micro-managing". Such reports make me sad.

I believe Mr Jobs will be remembered the most for his alleged micro-managing. It showed that he was the first "auteur" CEO of a major company. The term auteur, French for author, is used in film theory and holds that a film reflects its director's personal creative vision. In the early days, film-making was seen as an industrial process. Then, directors like Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho, The Birds and Rear Window and Ingmar Bergman with Wild Strawberries, showcasing their distinctive, recognisable style, lifted film-making from its base industrial level.

In the world of management, the CEO is seen by many as the manager of administrative processes. This misunderstanding can be traced back to Alfred Sloan and his famous memoir, My Years with General Motors. Mr Sloan idealised the CEO as a rational, shrewd plutocrat managing a firm with detachment. Much of management theory, keeping industrial era firms in focus, has been based on this. The CEO, in this vision, is seen to be the man on top of the pile, the unemotional head of a command-and-control hierarchy. Even the one emotion that was allowed to him, a messianic belief in the gospel of shareholder value maximisation, has been denied since Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of GE, has dismissed that as "the dumbest idea in the world".

Mr Jobs' place in management history is assured for being the role model CEO who spent most of his waking hours obsessing about making their products "insanely great".

His auteur touch was evident when the iPhone debuted in 2007. The mobile phone industry was dumbfounded. The keyboard, once seen integral to a mobile phone, had disappeared, replaced by a software keyboard animated by touch. The rest of the industry spent the next four years trying to catch up with this.

A new reality had appeared. Even for physical products, the software platform on which they were built and their aesthetic usability became the source of competitive advantage. Manufacturing the physical part of the product contributes so little to the competitive advantage that it is outsourced to low-cost producers.

And like Hitchcock and Bergman, the "micro-managers" of film-making, auteur CEO Steve Jobs lifted the modern firm out of the Industrial Age and brought it into the Information Age.  








The tiny island nations of the Pacific, strewn like pearls across the vast body of the ocean and hardly visible on the map, have begun to write an alternative energy story of which the world may soon take notice. Their efforts are still small, and successes modest, but there's a growing realisation that fossil fuels make little sense when their supply of sunshine and wind is abundant enough to take care of all their current and future energy needs.

Take Cook Islands. Like most other Pacific countries, it currently depends almost entirely on imported fuels. This archipelago of 15 volcanic islands, with a total land area of only 240 sq km and a population of 19,000, has just announced a target of producing 50 per cent of its electricity from alternative sources by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2020. "It's an ambitious target but not an impossible one," says Cook Prime Minister Henry Puna.

For a speck of a country like Cook, even a 2-Mw solar plant is ambitious, but that's what it's going to set up on the outer island of Aitutaki (population: 2,000). Rarotonga, where the bulk of Cook's population lives, will have a 2-Mw wind power station, to be built with assistance from the Asian Development Bank.

Since demand is small, success will be easy to achieve. Examples of small successes already abound all over the Pacific. Last April, in Solomon Islands, 50 solar home systems were installed on the island of Santa Ana to provide electricity for over 300 people, while a solar/bio-fuel hybrid system perfectly meets the requirements of Guadalcanal's only health centre in Aola. Household solar lighting was introduced in Nauru last year and almost the entire complement of street lights in its capital, Yaren, is hooked to solar power. New Caledonia has an extensive programme of wind power. In Kiribati, solar cookers and LED lighting are getting increasingly popular.

Fiji is even more ambitious, and perhaps more serious. The government there intends to meet 90 per cent of the country's electricity needs from renewable sources as early as 2012. A wind farm, with 37 turbines, has been set up on the main island of Viti Levu, supplying 10 Mw of electricity through a power grid. To encourage more such initiatives, Fiji Development Bank has announced a lending programme for individuals and groups, while Fiji National University's College of Engineering, Science and Technology is offering a bachelor's degree in renewable energy technologies.

The island nations' interest in alternative energy derives from an almost mortal fear of a likely climatic Armageddon. If global warming lets sea levels continue to rise, they feel they might simply disappear from the face of the earth in another 50 years. Tuvalu's Deputy Prime Minister Tavau Teii voiced this concern when he told an environmental conference in Seoul last year: "All countries must make an effort to reduce harmful emissions and check global warming before it's too late for countries like ours."

That's what Cook Prime Minister Puna also said when he announced his government's alternative energy targets. "It's important we practice what we preach, to mitigate the harmful effects on our environment," he observed. "It's important we get on and do something about it," he added.

To help the Pacific nations overcome energy barriers, a Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project, or PIGGAREP, was launched in 2007 with a $5.23 million initial funding from the Global Environment Facility. The five-year project is now in its fourth year, with the United Nations Development Programme as the implementing agency. Even as some progress has been made, a lot still remains to be done. Some of the 11 nations covered by the project still don't have enough people with basic project skills, and a workshop was recently organised to educate them in simple things like writing project proposals.

In a similar initiative, the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) runs a $66 million fund committed by Japan for renewable energy development, with an emphasis on solar power and desalination plants. A management unit for the fund was established last December in Suva, Fiji, and Samoa recently became the first Pacific country to obtain a $4 million grant from the fund that will help it implement a 400 kwp (kilowatt-peak) solar photovoltaic project.

We haven't yet seen a rush of projects on the ground, but PIGGAREP and PEC have certainly helped test the waters and spread alternative energy awareness throughout the Pacific community. When PIGGAREP comes in for an assessment and evaluation this October, the experience of the last four years will certainly influence its course for the future. The Pacific countries know they've quite a long way to go. But they've the motivation to make the journey and it's growing all the time, driven by that lurking fear of an impending climatic doom.  







The idea of corruption is one that every citizen understands, unlike some of the other complex concepts that require a lot of background and training. People understand that corruption occurs when public services are available not on the payment of legitimate fees but when a lot of additional money that has not been mandated by government rules has to be paid. There are other facets of corruption, such as illegitimate money being made in the implementation of government schemes or award of contracts or public procurement, and allocation of natural resources like mining leases.

Recently, several people have argued that the economic liberalisation has given rise to increased corruption. With greater public awareness, a strong Press and electronic media portraying the gaps in governance, a strong impression has emerged that corruption has become worse. The rising expectations of people for good governance and a cleaner system of administration have strengthened this view.

Let us contrast this perception with the assessment of organisations that are measuring corruption globally. One of the organisations that does this is Transparency International (TI). It publishes Indices of corruption for various countries on a scale of 1 to 10. Admittedly there are inadequate measures as these involve perception-based measurement. As a secular trend of rising expectations of good governance, however, it may be useful. The data shows that the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for India has improved from 2.8 in 2000 to 3.3 in 2010. As against this, the global average has worsened by 15.6 per cent during this period. The Indices showed that perception in China has marginally improved. For the other major emerging economies like Brazil, this Index has gone down from 3.9 to 3.7.

The World Bank Index that is measured on a scale of (-)2.5 to (+)2.5 showed a marginal improvement from (-)0.41 to (-)0.33 for India. For China, it showed a sharp worsening from (-)0.23 to (-)0.53. The data also shows that India, which was in the last quartile of most corrupt countries, is now somewhere in the middle according to the TI Index. This data does not support the view of worsening corruption. If anything these show a marginal improvement in Indian economic structure in respect of corruption. We are perhaps measuring ourselves against a rising benchmark of people's expectations.

Economic reforms dismantled the licence-permit raj. The philosophy behind this policy was to abolish opportunities for corruption. Prevention of corruption through systemic change was critical to these changes. Huge transaction costs involved in the process disappeared at one go. The reduction of rates of both income tax and customs demolished another wall of corruption. Economic reforms enabled faster growth and brought economic prosperity. I recall the seventies and eighties when getting a telephone connection was considered a huge privilege. One was always in the queue which was almost never-ending. I recall the massive shortage of cotton yarn for weavers in the seventies. I also recall how edible oil was so scarce that even well-off people had to wait for months before using the limited stocks. For better-off middle class families getting a Vespa scooter was a privilege. All this has changed because of the faster growth of the economy and expansion of production. The growth process has, however, thrown up new challenges. We need to apply the "prevention of opportunity for corruption" philosophy and need further reforms.

Economic growth has led to bigger revenues and new or expanded areas of economic activity. Mobile telephony, PPP in infrastructure sector, coal and iron ore mining are some such areas. It has led to the rapid expansion of government budgets. These changes have provided new areas for corruption. Transparency in decision-taking in all these areas is an important and critical requirement for reducing corruption. The procedures have to be such that effective competition is promoted. Reducing competition on grounds of some procedural infirmity will not serve people's interest. Putting the list of qualified bidders on the websites in public procurements would go a long way in doing so. Similarly, in the case of natural resources, transparent procedures including e-auctions have to be devised. There are other areas of public policy that may give rise to corruption. The watchword in all these has to be transparency, equity and social audit.

Recent experience has shown that good governance can improve public service delivery and reduce corruption. Common citizens are harassed much more by poor governance than any other factor. For this, laws and procedures have to be simplified so that citizens get services without having to run from one official to the other. Systemic changes are extremely crucial for reducing corruption. Public services delivery that involves discretion with officials or too many complicated forms often leads to intermediary agents requiring illegal money. Technology can change this. Use of Information Technology (IT) by Railways has led to very sharp reduction in corruption in Railway reservations. Recent improvements in tax refunds to income tax payers are another example. The use of IT and UID can bring in major changes for delivery of public services. The effective implementation of simplified IT procedures, abolishing unnecessary certifications and trusting citizens can reduce corruption enormously. It is much more important to prevent corruption rather than to punish people after it has occurred. Citizens do not benefit very much if they know that an individual who had used illegal methods has been punished. Rather, they would be interested in the faster and easy delivery of services made available efficiently.

An important part of systemic change is setting up new courts and appointing an adequate number of judges to try the guilty. If people who are accused of corruption are punished quickly, it acts as a deterrent. If, however, these linger on then the effectiveness of punishment gets drastically reduced. Special courts, a larger number of courts and special independent investigative wings that ensure this are important components of punishing the guilty. Measures for confiscation of property of public servants who are accused of corruption is another important measure. This needs to be pursued relentlessly so that the culprits cannot get away with ill-gotten wealth. An effective Lok Pal Act will address many of these concerns.

No single measure can reduce or finish corruption. That any single measure will bring a corruption-free society is clearly a myth. The experience, especially in Hong Kong and Singapore, has shown that there are no parallels to it. The reality is that a strong independent Lok Pal is a cardinal and key component of reforms on corruption. However, this has to be supported by a whole host of measures on systemic reforms for preventing corruption. The myth that corruption has increased because of economic reforms is unfounded. The demolition of the licence-permit raj and expansion of the economy led to rapid growth, increased individual incomes and improved service delivery of a range of public goods including telephones and gas connections. What is, however, required now is a move forward and a new set of reforms to ensure that economic reforms attain their objective fully.

The author is Member, Planning Commission. These views are personal









If an email sent to media houses proves to be authentic, then the bomb attack outside Delhi High Court that took more than 10 lives and left scores injured, was organised by Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). HuJI wants the death sentence of Afzal Guru, one of the organisers of 2001's attack on Parliament, to be commuted. Otherwise, it promises more attacks outside Indian courts, including the Supreme Court in the heart of Delhi. HuJI, or any other terror outfit, should have known that bomb blasts, or violence targeting innocents, will never get the Indian state to accept any demand. If anything, the popular revulsion that is triggered by such acts, turns sympathies sharply away from anything that extremists demand. The Pakistani sponsors of the deadly 26/11 assault on Mumbai wanted to strike fear into the heart of people in every Indian city. It did not succeed, not for a moment. The pro-liberation Assamese organisation Ulfa lost every shred of popular sympathy after it resorted to the cowardly tactic of bombing people indiscriminately in crowded places like schools and markets.
We condemn this act of terror and urge the government to spare no resources to track down the culprits. If the right people are apprehended quickly and convicted successfully, it will prove the efficiency and effectiveness of India's counter-terrorism forces. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is in charge of the investigation. This is appropriate: after all the NIA was created by statute in December 2008, less than a month after the attack on Mumbai. The NIA's remit runs across the country and is not limited by police or state jurisdictions; so we hope that it will not be hobbled by inter-departmental confusions and squabbles that slow down probes. Under the provisions of the NIA Act, special courts, working round the clock, will hear terror-related cases like this blast, making sure that the judicial delays that choke our systems are no hindrance in these probes. Terror doesn't pay. The NIA should prove that. However, to foil terror, wider popular vigilance is of the essence. Intelligence and information must filter through to the police, for which public trust and solidarity are key.







The failure to achieve a water-sharing agreement, touted as a centerpiece of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh, should not detract from the momentousness of the two nations agreeing on a demarcation of borders. However, even as the withdrawal from the PM's delegation by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee was unseemly, it is clear that border states must have considerable say on agreements such as on water-sharing. It is a fact that sharing of water resources is a vexed problem, both within states and the wider region. Doomsayers even conjure scenarios where the issue can spark conflict, given that India has watersharing issues with Pakistan and Nepal, apart from Bangladesh. The point, however, would be to turn scarcity of water resources into an opportunity for mutual, regional cooperation. It is true that extant bilateral agreements on this front have been working well in South Asia, notwithstanding some disputes that flare up now and then. South Asia remains one of the more volatile regions in the world, where the water issue has deep resonances given that the countries locked in disputes have large agrarian populations. In a larger context, therefore, what is needed is a comprehensive regional policy on sharing this precious, scarce resource, which would enjoin the parties concerned to eschew political posturing.

That Bangladesh, with an India-friendly regime led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is miffed at the expected deal on sharing the Teesta river waters falling through is evident in statements emanating from Dhaka. The latter has also indicated that India's desire for transit rights through Bangladesh to the Northeast is linked to the water agreement. What needs to be done is to take the spirit of the historic border demarcation — with its unprecedented, and eminently sensible, exchange of lands in each other's possession, giving thousands of people a chance at a life without unsettled-status — and apply it to the water-sharing problem. The PM's visit displayed that bitter regional disputes can be settled amicably. That can be a template for the whole region.







Mayawati was clearly under the illusion that Julian Assange was an inventor of scurrilous gossip rather than merely a purveyor of it, and therefore erroneously deemed him fit to be an inmate of the asylum in Agra. She will undoubtedly be brought up to speed soon on how WikiLeaks operates and may then realise that the flurry of gossipy cables has actually revealed the US diplomats' alarming lack of a sense of balance instead. Indeed, the inmates of Roosevelt House in New Delhi's Shantipath do betray a propensity to soak up all sorts of tittle-tattle and relay everything gleefully to Washington DC without much verification. There could be enormous logistical problems, however, if Mayawati then decides that all writers of leaked US cables over the years have lost their marbles and therefore deserve sabbaticals in the same city where Shahjehan and Mumtaz Mahal lie entombed in pristine Makrana.

Those smarting from the WikiLeaks revelations would probably welcome the idea of Assange being put away permanently, but his offer to act as a personal shopper for Mayawati in return for asylum (albeit of a different kind) should also set off alarmbells in our corridors of power. If a planeload of shoes can get him a toehold in India, there is no telling what Assange could do in this market rich in scams and secrets. With sting operations stung by court restrictions and whistleblowers intimidated by official inaction on their individual revelations, the presence of Assange could instil a new enthusiasm among the disaffected to dig out what the government deems secret. After all, WikiLeaks has put a chaotic spin on the whole issue of Right to Information, flaunting a healthy catholicism when it comes to exposes — everyone is fair game, and wholesale is better than retail.







The recent launch of the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) by the government of India to create slum-free cities has occurred against the backdrop of an interesting exploration by the government — to allow cities to learn from practice to inform practice in which, first, pilot cities were allowed to craft contextualised strategies from the learning acquired from earlier slum renewal programmes and the present needs and priorities of slumdwellers and, second, to use the city-specific strategies so developed as inputs to design the RAY policy document. The opportunity was used by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) to use Amitai Etzioni's notion of "mixedscanning" to design a comprehensive slum-free city strategy. The purpose was to make Hyderabad slum-free by providing houses to all disadvantaged homeless, the underlying idea being that pucca houses are effective anti-poverty tools because they prevent spread of disease (provide ventilation and sanitation), provide opportunities to get out of poverty (children have lights to study) and provide a general sense of security (strong and not flimsy and flammable) through securing property rights, connecting housing to property rights and generally upgrading physical infrastructure.

Broadly, two approaches are followed in slum improvement programmes. In the technicalrational approach, household surveys are used to prepare project reports supported by "disempowering techniques of participation". In this approach, we try to do too much too early and often are compelled to adjust plans after initiation, the scaling down makes the revised plans bear little resemblance to the original and the a posteriori consensus building delays the programme. Alternatively, the completely bottom-up approach with exclusive focus on processes, as opposed to outcomes, does less than necessary and later than necessary; moreover, policy design remains a challenge because the pilot experiences are difficult to replicate or upscale. Etzioni's mixed-scanning strategy used by the GHMC to create the slum-free plan integrated the two approaches and the practice framework consisted of three parts: a procedure for information collection, a strategy to allocate resources and guidelines that relate the two, followed by validation of the strategy components through citizen involvement.

The information collection procedure consisted of a livelihood survey done in a prescribed matrix by community development societies, not by external agents. Slum information showed diverse types of land ownership (e.g., rented, government and private land), home location (e.g., low and high value, slums on hazardous land), disparate housing mix (e.g., pucca, semi-pucca, katcha), different levels of available infrastructure and distinct socioeconomic characteristics. Based on the slum information, comprehensive guidelines were prepared. One set of guidelines consisted of classifying the hard infrastructure based on type of location (hazardous or non-hazardous), land tenure (unstable — more than 90% houses on encroached land; all other stable), type of houses (0% katcha— housing not required; < 75% katcha — housing moderately required; > 75% katcha— housing strongly required) and land values (high value slum if land value > . 10,000/sq yard; low value if < . 10,000/sq yard).

The other guidelines applied land value, need for relocation and nature of land tenure to decide on implementation models. For 779 slums with stable tenure located on high value lands, private-public partnership was proposed; for 585 slums with stable land tenure located on low value lands including households having special socioeconomic needs (e.g., high indebtedness levels, single mom households) that called for greater support from the government, public-public partnership was planned; and the balance106 slums classified as unstable or requiring only infrastructure upgradation were to be directly implemented by the GHMC.
    The guidelines applied to the slum information led to five broad contextualised strategies. One, for slums having all pucca houses, only deficiencies in infrastructure were addressed; two, in slums having katcha and pucca houses, the gap-filling strategy consisted of conversion of katcha houses to pucca and making up the deficient infrastructure; three, remodelling was planned for slums having great number of katcha houses and the purpose was to develop anew layout; and five, combination of remodelling and gap-filling for slums having joint characteristics of slums in strategies two and three. Recall that stakeholders participation had started with the entrustment of household survey to community development societies; additionally, strategy components were validated in the area sabha meetings and the slum strategy was included as part of a larger slum development plan being prepared by the ward committees.
In short, the policy implication arising from the framework based on Etzioni's approach is that the central government may prescribe the analytical framework and a reliable and valid instrument to collect information that articulates the needs and priorities of slum households, leaving other components of the mixed-scanning process consisting of guidelines creation and strategy design to the cities. Additionally, the slum strategy is expected to connect to earlier slum development initiatives, bring about the convergence of all human and financial resources to meet the RAY goals and provide stable land titles to slum households. Finally, the empowerment of slum people occurs through the mediation of area sabhas that give them the autonomy to act on their behalf and slum upgradation is not an offline, stand-alone activity, but part of a comprehensive ward development plan.
(Views are personal)










It was 50 years ago, in 1961, or maybe a year or two before, that C Rajagopalachari derisively termed the economic policy of the time as "permitlicence-quota raj". Over the next few decades, it was a term that would come to signify everything that was wrong about the Indian economy and its vast system of quotas and controls.
But governments need to 'learn' how to administer and control — it doesn't come naturally (and mere rhetoric of socialism is of little practical help). It was during the second World War, under the British Raj, that the Indian state first learnt its critical lessons in how to control and administer a licence raj. The lessons were only halflearnt, and many may wish such lessons had never been learnt at all.

The similarities between a government mobilising itself for war, and a government trying to run a socialist command economy are obvious. In the case of a war economy, it is clear what needs to produced and what doesn't (more guns, less butter). Resources have to be diverted from the private sector and towards the war effort, through taxation, quota and rationing of consumption goods (in a socialist economy you want to divert resources towards heavy industry and infrastructure). And since rationing often leads to a black market, you have to be able to crack down on hoarders. So you need a vast network of government officials and police to keep tabs on which trader has how much of what product. In Britain's case (from where the idea was imported), such a system of controls, quotas and rationing worked relatively efficiently. In India's case, given that the government had little experience of running such a system, it was a recipe for chaos, confusion and above all, corruption.

It was not just a lack of experience, of course. This was after all a colonial economy run by a government faced with huge hostility from a burgeoning national movement, with strong links to the very trader and industrialist class that had to be brought to heel. "The first essential [sic] is to realise that 'control' in India is a mere shadow of the control exercised by the governments of the USA and Britain," wrote a correspondent of The Times of India in 1943. "Because of political dissension in this country, the Indian government must, of necessity, temper control with tact." To get around this, the government chose the path of co-option: for instance, the textiles control board, set up by the government to help the textiles commissioner administer the controls on cloth and yarn, was dominated by mill owners and merchants. It was the same in many other industries.
Thus began the 'control order' raj. In 1939 came the Rent Control Order in Delhi, which was the precursor to the Delhi Rent Act still in force till today. In 1943 came the infamous controller of capital issues, to whom companies had to make a beeline whenever they wanted to raise capital. The controller of capital issues would eventually only be done away with in the 1991 reforms. There were controls on movements of foodgrains across states, on the supply of machine tools, on newsprint, on automobile batteries, on essential drugs and dozens of other products. With the control order raj grew a vast bureaucracy of babus to enforce the controls.
But why were controls not dismantled when the guns fell silent and why were they allowed to persist for years or even decades? The ideology of the new Indian government was, of course, markedly socialist, but there were more practical problems. Both India and the global economy were still in a state of crisis when the war ended and global shortages of consumption goods were expected to continue for many years.
There are various ways to deal with shortages, but the Indian government knew only one from experience. 'Better the devil you know, than the devil you don't', is an important (if unacknowledged) rule of administration. Controls would continue for many years, but the rationale for them would shift gradually, from running a war to running a command economy.

A final irony. In a speech in September 1945, a senior Congress leader strongly advocated the continuance of control despite the war having ended. Controls, the leader said, were the beginning of the nationalisation of trade and commerce. Any attempt to remove the controls would lead to inequality and social unrest. That leader was C Rajagopalachari.







You have the right to: Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Form, join or assist a union. Bargain collectively through representatives of employees' own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions. Discuss your terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.

Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
Choose not to do any of these, including joining or remaining a member of a union."

Does this strike you as something straight out of the Soviet Union, or at least from pre-Mamata West Bengal? After all, middle class India's conventional wisdom holds unions to be troublemakers who kill productivity and economic growth. So, it would be natural to think that the notice cited above belongs to a contrived workers' paradise. In reality, this is a notice the US government wants employers to prominently display at the workplace, except in some industries.

How come the most capitalist of capitalist countries shows such tolerance, if not actual encouragement, of unions? This is because unions straddle, besides the economic sphere, the political one as agents of democracy. They articulate, at the workplace, the freedom of association, enshrined in the First Amendment and the bill of rights.

This is a link that eludes the great Indian middle class, incandescent, these days, with rightful rage against rotten politics and corrupt politicians. The Indian middle class is happy to take to the streets with the national flag, scented candles and Anna's praise. But what do they have to say, on the labour unrest at Maruti or the Gurgaon-Manesar belt in general? Precious little, when it is not abuse.

Such schizophrenia on democracy is not entirely unnatural, given the manner in which India got this form of governance.

Western societies that established the paradigm of democracy as the post-colonial ideal for countries like India did so after hard internal struggles. The revolutions of 19th century Europe had universal adult franchise as their foremost demand. Democracy was a hard-won right, inspired by thinkers, backed by the rising class of capitalists, who wanted freedom from feudal constraints, and fought for, on the ground, by the working people, organised into unions and otherwise. In India, the freedom struggle schooled a large number of people, steeped in a tradition of the worst kind of social hierarchy and inequality, in democracy. These were yet a tiny fraction of the Indian population. The Constitution of independent India adopted democracy as the country's form of government, thrusting it on a premodern society, which is still in the process of evolving to realise constitutional norms. Unions are a vital instrumentality of modernity and democracy. General Douglas MacArthur, who led the US occupation of Japan after the end of World War II, actively encouraged unionisation of the workforce, so as to guard against Japan's return to militarism. By 1947, 48% of the non-agricultural workforce had been unionised, thanks to his strenuous efforts. Coupled with extensive land reforms, this piece of social engineering helped relaunch Japan as a miracle economy. A military leader's enlightenment eludes the Indian elite, unfortunately.

For an enterprise, its workers are a cost that must be held down. However, for the rest of the economy, those workers are its market. If all enterprises succeed in keeping their own wages as low as possible, the result would be to repress the domestic market for industry's produce. Only if workers have sufficient purchasing power, and sufficient leisure to read, listen to music, watch movies and eat out, can a diversified economy thrive.
What is rational for individual enterprises is irrational at the level of the larger economy. Unions are the only agency that can pierce the insularity of individual enterprises to let in the light of macro-level sense.
Unions, on their part, must appreciate their constructive role in society. Industrial action that sabotages an enterprise's viability or damages its credibility with customers is just not acceptable.
It is a matter of shame that workers have to go on prolonged strike to gain essential recognition as workers or unions. Maruti and other employers need to see themselves and their workers as integral players in India's ongoing modernisation. If industry wants less corruption and more accountable governance, they must accept unions as agents of the needed democratic deepening.








The Cabinet's approval of the draft Land Acquisition Bill, with some modifications, comes at a time when the issue is hotting up across the country. Mr Rahul Gandhi is banking on troubles around land acquisition in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Anna Hazare has listed it in his future agenda. The Left Front had to pay a heavy price in West Bengal because of mishandling the land issue. Innumerable projects are in limbo as the States grapple with agitations. So the Bill has been on the centre-stage. Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development, has made it clear in the introduction to the draft Bill that the Government's effort would be to balance industrialisation with livelihood concerns of those whose land is being acquired. He is also looking as pleased as punch that 90 per cent of what he had proposed has been retained.

But the remaining 10 per cent could pose major difficulties for the passage of the Bill. Reason: The modifications approved by the Cabinet have left both the private sector and farmers unhappy. For example, the proposal to ban acquisition of multi-crop irrigated land has been diluted. The new Bill now proposes to permit acquisition of such land for linear projects of the Government and up to five per cent of irrigated land in a particular district. The compensation proposals, too, have been watered down. The earlier draft had favoured six times the market price for rural areas against four times in the cleared Bill. But urban areas will be compensated at double the market price, as proposed earlier. The catch, however, is that unlike the earlier draft, the relief and rehabilitation package will now apply only when private firms buy 100 acres or more in rural areas and 50 acres in urban areas. There was a clause in the earlier draft that if the stated purpose for which land is acquired is not fulfilled in five years, the land should be returned to its original owner. This has now been changed to 10 years, after which the land will be transferred to state land banks. Meanwhile, the private sector is unhappy that the cost at which it can now acquire land has increased. But this will surely make it economise on land use. The practice of firms acquiring thousands of acres for future expansion will stand moderated. However, there is a great deal of merit in its grievance that the definition of 'affected' persons has been expanded to the levels that will not only create financial problems but also administrative ones relating to identification. This could open up a lucrative area of corruption.

In the final analysis, however, the Government has done well. It would now be well advised to quickly iron out the wrinkles and get the Bill passed in the winter session of Parliament, not only because this will help industrial investment but also because Mr Rahul Gandhi will have something to take to the voters in the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.






Non-linear dynamics is rocket science, in every sense of the word. An interesting book Optimal Control of Non-linear Process, with applications in drugs, corruption and terror by Grass, published by Springer, explores the link between two seemingly unrelated disciplines — non-linear dynamics and corruption. The result is interesting, to say the least. This article summarises the findings of the study reported in the book.

A dynamic model is a mathematical abstraction of a real life situation. It is extensively used in engineering, sciences, economics and business. The model uses a quantity, many times physical, called a variable and studies its status with time. The book uses two models — a simple model to understand the corrupt population and a more complicated one to bring out the dynamics of political corruption.

Punishment and graft

The first model of interest to us is a one-dimensional model, involving one variable, the proportion of corrupt population. The model is built on the premise that people flit between being corrupt and honest depending on the difference between the utility of being corrupt, in terms of wealth, power etc., and the punishment or the deterrent. Further, honest people become corrupt by their contact with the corrupt.

The important question is whether there can be an equilibrium. Equilibrium is a state when disturbed, will not be pulled away but return to its original state, like a marble sitting in a trough. In simple words, will the ratio of honest to corrupt population reach a constant? The model shows that this will never happen! In the language of mathematics, it is an unstable equilibrium. With time, a country can only be totally honest or corrupt, a zero or one situation. Ironically, that is what we are witnessing now, an exponential progress towards total corruption. Assume, for a moment that there exists a nation which is totally honest and no laws for anti-corruption.

In this country, the model predicts that even one black sheep can pull the nation towards disaster at an exponential rate. Applying this to our country, where the corruption percentage is high, if the deterrent is lukewarm, the nation would race to total corruption.

The model gives a ray of hope. If the punishment is severe, and the population has a small percentage of honest people, the nation will become corruption free with time. The time depends on the two factors, benefit due to corruption and the severity of law against it.

Three factors at play

In order to analyse the corruption in politics, the authors graduate to a higher dimension. We now have three factors which are intertwined. The popularity of the politician, public awareness of corruption brought out by popular movements, press and judiciary and the extent of corruption. The resulting mathematical model is formidable. The politicians optimise the popularity and corruption. Though the results can be expressed quantitatively, let us understand it qualitatively.

The model assumes that the politicians are not corrupt, simply because it hurts their popularity. That popularity is affected by campaigns. When popularity increases, corruption increases, a scene we have seen time and again in Indian politics! There is a time lag between the corruption and the campaigns. It takes time to realise the extent of corruption.

This is again a scenario we have seen in many scams in recent times. The politicians sense the growing criticism and loss of popularity and the rate of corruption takes a southward march. Because of the time lag, corruption reaches its nadir even when the popular uprising is high. Since the driving force for the anti-corruption lobby is corruption itself, the campaign loses steam and comes down. The popularity of politicians is at a low and the campaign is low.

Interestingly, corruption starts to rise again at this point and the people do not realise it. The time lag works in the favour of politicians. The model shows that there can never be an equilibrium. Corruption is a cycle. It keeps oscillating around a mean. The peak and the trough above and below the mean need to be worked out. Nevertheless, the only way to keep it in check is a powerful campaign.

So what do we learn from this model? This country requires severe anti-corruption laws. A mild protracted action may do more harm. And Anna Hazare and his group cannot rest. Fighting corruption is a never-ending exercise.





Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption has been widely perceived as a conflict between parliamentarians and civil society. But when we see the contours of this campaign, particularly its focus on getting Parliament to accept a specific version of a Lokpal Bill, it is perhaps more accurately described as a conflict between Parliament and those outside the electoral system who would like to influence policy.

Such conflicts are not new, with the relationship between elected representatives and policy-influencing elite having a long history since Independence. Seen in this context, the recent battle on the Lokpal Bill may well be an indication of the strength of parliamentarians rather than a weakness.

Soon after Independence, India faced the challenge of handing over power to parliamentarians elected by a largely illiterate population. While their ability to reflect conditions on the ground was quite well developed, their intellectual abilities were not always so. Nehru met this challenge by setting up a Planning Commission filled with those who he believed had the intellectual ability to take the country forward.

This Nehruvian version of the policy-making elite took policy away from some of the intellectual trends of the national movement. It effectively converted the ideas of the man who led the largest mass movement of the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi, into the impractical ranting of an idealist. In the process, it defined the goal-posts of all policy-making as the existing ideological categories of Right and Left, allowing Nehru to speak of a 'Mixed Economy'.

This Planning Commission-led policy-making elite had its successes, notably the Second Plan. But by the time of the famine in the mid-1960s and the Plan holiday that followed, it had lost some of its sheen.


As Indira Gandhi moved from large Plan models to the specific doles of Garibi Hatao, the policy-influencing elite took a form closer to that of a kitchen Cabinet. The prime minister's office grew in importance, gaining precedence over ministries populated by elected representatives. The policy influencing elite found a role away from that of elected representatives, based upon the political strength that Indira Gandhi wielded.

Rajiv Gandhi's great insight was that, despite a huge electoral victory, he was extremely wary of relying on his charisma to retain the support of parliamentarians. His anti-defection law virtually guaranteed the support of the elected representatives of his party.

The nature of the law also helped it gain the support of the high commands of other parties keen to keep their flock in control. The policy-influencing elite also provided the discourse that was needed to ensure the complete rejection of the process of changing parties.

With elected representatives no longer in a position to vote against a policy for which the High Command had issued a whip, there was no question of the parliamentarians questioning the policy-influencing elite. A parliamentarian representing, say, a garment exporting area such as Tirupur could not vote against the WTO policy decided by the government, even if it went against the interests of her constituency. The voting records of members of the Congress in the US can be used by the electorate to judge what their elected representative stands for. But in India the forced voting brought about by the anti-defection law makes that impossible.

Reforms by stealth

Narasimha Rao took the process of separating the parliamentarian from policy-making a step further. By creating a separate constituency-specific MPs Local Area Development Fund, he virtually told parliamentarians that their role was to take care of constituency-specific projects, and not to intervene in policy.

He was able to carry out what has been termed 'reforms by stealth' without having to convince individual parliamentarians about specific policies. The unique situation of a Sonia Gandhi-led Congress and a Manmohan Singh-led government allowed for an attempt to institutionalise the role of the policy-making elite, by creating the National Advisory Council.

Members of this Council had, in the past, been able to effectively influence policy, particularly in the case of the Right to Information Bill.

For whatever reason, the NAC was not able to absorb Anna Hazare and his supporters. They moved on to the streets to feed on the contempt the middle-class has for their elected representatives. By doing so, they have fundamentally altered the means through which the policy-influencing elite operates.

It is no longer possible, at least in the case of the Lokpal Bill, to change policy by stealth. Policy-making has been taken from the backrooms and placed in the public domain.

The use of pressure built on the streets to influence policy, as was done by Anna Hazare, is also a domain that few know better than our politicians. A Jayalalithaa or a Mayawati can mobilise crowds far in excess of what Mr Hazare managed. The political class has also demonstrated that it too can play the game of policy by stealth.

The idea of a 'strong' Lokpal Bill that now has universal acceptance could well be used to include provisions that non-government organisations may not like.

The mobilisation of Anna Hazare has broken the quiet bonhomie that existed between the policy-influencing elite and the powers that be. As policy-making enters the public domain, it is quite possible that it will throw up new demands such as reservations in the appointment of Lokpals.

And if that happens, it is possible that those with Anna Hazare will regret letting the genie out of the bottle.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




It is not unlikely that the evil minds who set off a high-intensity briefcase bomb — which has killed nearly a dozen people and injured many more — at the reception gate of the Delhi high court on Wednesday morning were probably seeking to make a celebratory point on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America which went some way in shaping international relations. And there lies the irony. A "ceremonial" strike can be conceived in the Indian capital, but not in places which might offer international terrorism greater propaganda mileage. (An unverified claim by a terrorist group of acting to get Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's death sentence overturned could be a diversionary tactic.) Given their record of a string of failures, it is hard to imagine that terrorists can even venture to think of hitting the United States at this point: they have come to appreciate that it is extremely difficult to do so. The same is broadly true of Western Europe, where several terror strikes have been clinically thwarted in recent years. But India, sadly, is a different story. Half a dozen terror attacks have occurred in different Indian cities since November 26-28, 2008, when Mumbai was assaulted by Pakistani terrorists in an extraordinary manner. None of these cases has really been solved, although strong suspicions have been voiced from time to time. Our readiness to meet the onslaught of terrorism remains doubtful even after the wake-up call of 26/11. Among key issues to emerge from the attack at the Delhi high court (and the recent one in Mumbai, when several crowded commercial locations were struck simultaneously) is that even elementary fixtures such as CCTV cameras have not been installed in sensitive places. The forensic work is inadequate. Political noises begin to be heard when investigators get on to a particular track. The legal system takes for ever, as the Ajmal Kasab saga underlines. In short, India remains the world's only major democracy which can be attacked by terrorists at virtually no cost, any day of the week, any time of the day. Three years ago, P. Chidambaram was paradropped to replace Shivraj Patil as Union home minister in the wake of 26/11 to instil a sense of confidence, and set in place modern and reliable systems of intelligence gathering and collation, providing real-time data across state borders, equipping local police forces — who are the first line of defence in counter-terrorism, and getting right the system for successful prosecution of criminals inclined towards terrorism. How much of this has materialised, and if not, why? If the political class cares, it should ask these questions in a non-partisan manner.






IIndian politicians have been shy of getting on to the Twitter wagon, save a few exceptions. Everyone saw the perils of indiscriminate tweeting of views and witticisms after Shashi Tharoor was pulled up for his "cattle class" comment. But Omar Abdullah is made of sterner stuff — he is a regular tweeter, and not a day goes by without some remark or the other from him. Jammu and Kashmir's chief minister has now speculated about the rising number of politicians in Tihar Jail, and wondered what symbol would they choose if they were to form a party! As witticisms go, this is not bad, particularly for a politician, a tribe not usually known for a sense of humour. But quips like this won't really endear him to his colleagues. He must know — strictly as colleagues, of course — many of those now cooling their heels inside jail. As they see their circle of friends dwindle, they will surely be keeping a tab on who made jokes at their expense while they were in trouble. Moreover, politics in Kashmir is also no stranger to corruption, so perhaps Omar would do well to exercise some caution. All the same, it's an intriguing thought. The politicos behind bars are from different parties, from the Congress to the DMK, and now an Independent. What would work for all of them? Our suggestion — a bundle of notes.







The significance of the Prime Minister's visit to Bangladesh has been obscured by the hubbub over the West Bengal chief minister's refusal to accompany him to Dhaka. Mamata Banerjee was not pleased with the agreement on sharing the water of Teesta river negotiated by New Delhi and Dhaka. The removal of an important treaty from the summit's menu was disappointing indeed. Nevertheless, the importance of the raft of agreements to be concluded by the two Prime Ministers should not be underestimated. The protocol on demarcating the boundary and the resolution of the problem of enclaves and adverse possessions remove two of the thorniest issues between the two countries. These problems have been around since 1947. Solutions remained elusive even after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Of the 4,096-km boundary, a mere 2.4 km remains undemarcated. This may seem trivial. But, despite an agreement signed between Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman in 1974, both countries found it politically and psychologically difficult to take a rational view of the problem. The present agreement not only disposes of a lingering problem but also sets the stage for more effective border management. Enclaves and adverse possessions were more tricky problems. Enclaves are small pockets of one country's territory surrounded completely by the territory of the other. Adverse possessions refer to land used by Indians and Bangladeshis which are actually located in the other country. The solution is straightforward: enclaves will be merged with the territory within which they are located. India will give up around 70 sq. km. of enclaves inside Bangladesh and will, in turn, acquire about 30 sq. km. of Bangladesh's enclaves. Adverse possessions, amounting to a total of about 28 sq. km., have also been rationalised. Under the agreement, India will get nearly 16 sq. km. of territory. The other major agreement pertains to trade. India has agreed to remove several items — many of which relate to the garment sector — from the negative list of imports from Bangladesh. The Indian textile industry had bemoaned these moves and demanded more "protection". But New Delhi had to take a wider view of its interests. The overall balance of bilateral trade is heavily tilted in India's favour. India's exports to Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2010-11 stood at $4,570 million while its imports from Bangladesh amounted to $512 million. If anything India could go even further in giving Bangladeshi goods freer access to its markets. Equally important is the recognition of the need to strengthen connectivity — by road, river and rail — between the two countries. Prior to 1947, Bengal, Assam and other parts of the Northeast were linked by an integrated transportation network. This atrophied in the years after 1947, though it did not become completely dysfunctional until the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Following the liberation of Bangladesh, efforts were made to restore connectivity. But, as on so many other issues, the two countries were not able to seize the moment. The resurrection and upgradation of transportation links will work to the benefit of both sides. India can access its own northeastern states through shorter routes, while Bangladesh can traffic with Nepal and Bhutan besides India. A formal treaty may take a while. In the meantime, both countries can take several steps in this direction. All of this reflects a convergence of strategic views in New Delhi and Dhaka. India realises that its emergence as a global player hinges on its ability to manage its relations with neighbours. This can best be done by pushing for closer economic ties, even if it requires unilateral concessions, coupled with sustained political engagement. Bangladesh recognises both the unprecedented opportunity presented by India's economic growth for its own developmental aspirations and the futility of a confrontational course. The recent agreements, if fully implemented, will not only transform India-Bangladesh relations but also serve as a model for wider efforts at advancing regional cooperation and integration. But there is more to do. For one thing, both countries need to ensure a complete follow-through on the agreements. In the past India-Bangladesh relations have reached turning points but failed to turn. Too often, good intentions have foundered on the rock of bureaucratic sloth and political short-sightedness. The fate of progressive accords signed by Indira and Mujib should be read as a cautionary tale by both sides. For another, India needs to get back to the Teesta negotiations without delay. The question of river waters has always cast a long shadow on our ties with Bangladesh. India's unwillingness to go the extra mile in speedily resolving the dispute over waters released from the Farakka barrage contributed in no small measure to the souring of the relationship from the mid-1970s. New Delhi's latest attempt to tackle the Teesta waters dispute came a cropper mainly because of Ms Banerjee's grandstanding. It cuts a sad contrast with the manner in which the Ganga waters treaty was concluded in 1996. The then chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, played a crucial role in helping negotiate that treaty. Basu's week-long trip to Dhaka in December 1996 broke the gridlock and paved the way for a historic accord. To be sure, New Delhi could do more to involve the states in foreign policy issues that directly impinge upon them. But it is equally incumbent upon the concerned states to shed their provincialism and take a wider view of the national interest. Getting this balance right will be crucial to India's efforts in recasting its ties in the neighbourhood. Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







Our future lies with white ball By R. Mohan There is a clear case for the BCCI declaring a moratorium on Test cricket for at least a year. Team India may have been No. 1 in the rankings for 20 months right up to about a month ago when they lost the third Test in England. What the 4-0 verdict reflects is that our national team is no great shakes in the Test match arena. To make up for such humiliation, India will prepare turning pitches to suit slow bowling and beat visiting teams here on dust bowls and paddy fields. That will only add to the chimera that the top rank in Test cricket is India's. But Indian cricket's future lies with the white ball, which does not swing so much as the red one. Our batsmen are more at ease in the limited-overs arena as they have been trained to be naturally aggressive since 1983 when India first won the World Cup. Our expertise at the short game was again demonstrated in the first T20 world championship in 2007 as well as in the 2011 World Cup. But not in Test cricket. The purists will be shocked by a proposal to stop playing cricket for a year. But we must. This moratorium on international cricket should be there until things improve in a season or two of intensive first class cricket in which all the stars will then participate and pass on their knowledge and wisdom. That would also be the time to get rid of all the dead wood while assessing new players and preparing them technically and mentally for tough international cricket. There are television rights obligations like a guaranteed 27 days of international cricket in a year for the BCCI to sustain finances for its vast operations. This can be made up by playing more ODIs and also T20s from which boards seem to shy away because they are afraid of its growing popularity and so keep it to one per series as we saw in the England tour and in the Australia-Sri Lanka series. Our best Test players — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman — are well beyond their prime and the next generation of batsmen has little expertise against short-pitched bowling on true and sporting pitches. In the last four seasons India has hardly won Test series abroad against top-rated teams. There is also a declining audience for Test match cricket that is played nowadays to embarrassingly empty stands save in major Test centers like Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. It can be argued the Test grounds in England were full. Before we stand exposed in front of such hopeful people again, Team India must improve its cricket. Regardless of what the cricket world says, the IPL must go on. It is the league that provides our cricketers with financial stability. The IPL is our national league that offers a window of opportunity to the best international cricketers too. This form of the game will be a rage soon enough around the world, including in non-traditional cricket countries and despite its obvious crudities T20 still makes sense as it promises to keep cricket alive. R. Mohan is the Resident Editor of Deccan Chronicle, Chennai * * * Test can't be blamed for all ills By Ajit Wadekar A ban on Test cricket even for a short while is a very bad idea. Test matches will still produce our best players who can adapt to any shorter format. I don't believe we should take defeat in one series so much to heart as to wish to abandon the great training ground that Test cricket is. The Indian team that landed in England was by far the best we've ever sent. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had the finest batting line-up in the world at his disposal, an effective pace-attack leader in Zaheer Khan and the knowledge his side had performed consistently for the last two-three years. England had also been underestimated. Their Ashes victories were no flukes and in their home conditions they are a formidable side with a three-pronged pace attack which is very good at moving the ball. Their batting is far more solid now even if they are not filled with classy stalwarts like India. The problem with a place like England is that until you are fully adjusted and prepared to face the conditions, you'll be very lucky to survive, regardless of how great you are. With the gruelling schedule Team India have had coupled with the lack of rest and extremely short breaks between tours this year, only a super optimist or a fool would have expected Dhoni's men to make any sort of impact there. What India needed to do was to skip the IPL and play in the West Indies Tests and then go straight to England. They did the opposite. That is why we had such poor results. How do you fix this? Taking a cue from England of having separate teams for every format would be a start for India. If every format has a different set of players and the XIs are rotated, we could get back to the top in all formats. Injuries will diminish and the players will be hungrier. Totally stopping Test cricket doesn't make sense. We can't afford to go back to the eras when cricketers were paid peanuts. Instead, let's sift players in terms of their fitness, temperament and form and draft them in three Indian teams. We can keep the captain common but rotate the rest. The likes of Sachin and Dravid should only play Tests, the Suresh Rainas and the Virat Kohlis should appear only in ODIs and the Yusuf Pathans should play the T20s. The times have changed, and we have to change with it. Don't blame Test cricket for all the ills. All of India's greats came from the Test arena. Only today are we talking of specialists and separate squads. I do not recommend that we stop playing Test cricket merely because we got wiped out in England. Test cricket must go on. India still draws a sufficient number of people to the stadiums and millions more watch on television. To say Test cricket is dying is too pessimistic. To put a stop to this format would be to abandon the oldest form of the game that has done so much to bring cricket to its present-day status. Ajit Wadekar is a former India captain whose team won Test series in the West Indies and England in 1970-71







The clothes we wear are the closest to our physical at all time. By virtue of this, we are constantly affected by the nature of our clothes and their colour. That's why it is advisable to wear clothes made of natural fibre. Wearing synthetic clothes will transfer on to you the artificial nature of the fabric, making you artificial and taking you away from the real world of nature. The same goes for ladies who wear bindis. Since it affects the Ajna Chakra directly, it is strongly recommended that the bindi be made of natural substances. Unfortunately, nowadays designer bindis are more prevalent than the natural ones. What these ladies are imbibing through their Ajna is only plasticity and artificiality. Within the physical, the natural colour of substances indicates its nature and effect. When you go to a party, you wear bright flashy clothes, but when you go for a prayer meeting, the preference is for subdued pastel shades. Is this an effect of social conditioning or has social conditioning happened because the role of colour in our lives has been understood? The science of colour is an amazing science, and its effect on the physical body is even more amazing. I will discuss about colour in a different article. Today I want to tell you about energy, prana. In temples, priests apply tilak to hundreds of foreheads in a day, with the same thumb or stick. You can imagine the amount of different energies that are getting transferred to your forehead through this simple, seemingly harmless act. On a daily basis, we interact with many people, coming from different walks of life, having different energy patterns. This interaction affects us in one form or the other. Otherwise why would we feel good in the company of some people and irritated and agitated after meeting some? Have we thought why an eight-hour outing in a hill station is refreshing while eight hours in an office completely drain you of your energies? The reason is interchange of the energies. Prana is the force that pervades the universe; it is actually "the force" in the universe. Pranic energy, vibrating at zillions of frequencies, manifests itself as each and every object of creation, giving it a different shape, size and mental and physical state of being. This prana also manifests as the "life-force" that keeps the body alive. The other sources of prana are the air we breathe, the clothes we wear, the environment we are in, the sounds we hear, the land we stand on, the people we interact with, etc. Since our environment constantly affects us, it translates onto our physical, resulting in changing our pranic composition on a regular basis. This is why rishis choose to live in isolation, in a clean environment. Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation.







WITH little or nothing beyond the tentative in the report-card for the first 90 days, the West Bengal Chief Minister is now distinctly targeting the 200-day span. If Tuesday's Cabinet meeting is any indication, there also appears to be a change in focus with the stress on rural Bengal. Hence the emphasis  on such departments as micro and small-scale industries, fisheries, forests, irrigation and food processing. Critically enough, she sounded less than confident about what can possibly be achieved, if at all. Hence perhaps the warning to ministers over non-performance. The areas under the scanner are integral to the stability of the rural economy; yet there doesn't appear to have been the slightest progress since the present dispensation took over. Rural governance can't be monitored from the confines of Writers' Buildings or from any of the bhavans in Salt Lake. And the Chief Minister didn't put too fine a point on it when she told her Cabinet colleagues to "go to the districts and monitor the progress of work" instead of accepting "reports from officials". Clearly, the official feedback has been discounted; it can as often as not be misleading as the CPI-M had belatedly realised in the context of Nandigram. In a word, ministers in charge of departments germane to rural Bengal have been put on notice, indeed told to pull up their socks. Unmistakable is the mood-swing, compared to the exuberance in the aftermath of victory.

Miss Banerjee's caveat makes it pretty obvious that the performance of several departments has been below par. To the extent that she used the occasion to make the candid admission that her micro-irrigation project ~ Jal Dharo, Jal Bharo ~ is yet a non-starter. Nor for that matter has the construction of embankments in the Sundarbans ~ two years after Cyclone Aila struck ~ materialised. The government's performance in rural Bengal has been as sluggish as that of the previous regime. Hence her decision to go on district tours ~ as did her predecessor ~ and then surf the updated website instead of depending on ministerial reports.



"SHOCK" is the one term that cannot be used in reaction to India being stripped of the privilege to host the Champions Trophy. Caught up in their factional feuds, the rival bodies that make pretence to managing Indian hockey, abetted by a meddlesome sports minister, ignored the warning signals flashed by the international controlling body, the FIH. Could a major international event be subjected to risks like court injunctions, severance of government support (the funding specially), and a host of potential other controversies? What if there is some truth in the contention that the FIH has resorted to arm-twisting to obtain the monies it claims are due to it? As also the charge that it interferes in India's internal affairs: the reality remains that there would be no scope for such intrusion had the conduct of the Indian game been of requisite propriety. Thus far no threat has been held out to other programmed events, but that cannot be ruled out. It requires little imagination to appreciate the additional stress to which the players and their relatively new coach are being subjected to as they fight for a place in the London Olympics. A place that was taken as a birthright until Beijing three years ago. Surely, that alone ought to have sufficed for the house to be put in order?

Without in any way exonerating the Indian Hockey Federation and Hockey India for their protracted squabbling, in the immediate context the silly bid of the sports ministry to muscle through a merger exacerbated the situation. For reasons good or bad, the FIH "recognised" the Indian Olympic Association backed (created?) Hockey India, and prudence demanded the government (and the courts it might be added) remained aloof until the scheduled events were completed.

Alas, the overzealous and egoistic minister thought it was as simple as getting rival political parties to agree to share the spoils. Since neither side sincerely played ball the FIH was not incorrect in concluding that there was a contravention of the principle of one controlling body in a country. There is no scope in sport for ideologically disparate alliances like the UPA, NDA, Third Front etc. So rather than the IOA, HI, IHF (and the minister) cry "foul", they should better utilise their energies to re-rail the management of Indian hockey. And pray for a miracle when the minister meets the FIH chief some days hence. That would be in keeping with the legacy of Dhyan Chand, Les Claudius, Ajitpal...



THE higher education minister's decision ~ taken after consulting the Governor ~ to lift the embargo on recruitment in West Bengal's colleges and universities is an indirect admission of his own failure. There is no indication that the gubernatorial directive will be met even three months after it was issued. Mr MK Narayanan had asked the 14 state universities to keep faculty recruitment on hold, pending the recommendations of the committee on higher education. That committee had suffered a jolt when an exceptionally distinguished academic resigned in June... for whatever reason. More recently, its chairman has also put in his papers with no reason proffered. It was scheduled to submit its report this month; as of now, there is no indication as to when it will be ready, if at all. Acutely aware that the committee could well turn out to be a non-starter, minister Bratya Basu has approached the Governor in an effort to resume the process of recruitment which will cover both faculties and the non-teaching segment. The holding of classes and administrative work generally has been impeded in colleges and universities across the state. There is nothing inherently wrong in the Governor's directive; the fact of the matter is that the higher education department has failed to make the committee comply. Indeed, the functioning of the committee on higher education is symptomatic of the fiasco that has hobbled education since the present dispensation took office. It showcases the ineffectiveness of the committee raj.

For the government, the move to seek the Governor's approval to start recruitment was perhaps a way out of the embarrassment. Of immediate relevance must be the imperative to hold classes regularly with adequate manpower, both in terms of faculties and general staff. No less weightier issues such as freeing educational institutions from political interference and impeachment of non-performing Vice-Chancellors can be taken up later. Meanwhile, the committee on higher education needs to be given a deadline to complete its assigned task.








IT was John Stuart Mill who had once remarked that you cannot hope to build a great society if the members of your society continue to be dwarfs with no qualities and character. And education, both formal and informal, definitely does that remarkable value addition for the multi-dimensional development of society. Every welfare state, infused with the ethos of a liberal democracy, tries to put in place elaborate arrangements for developing human resources. The objective is to make such societies as egalitarian as possible, without stratified inequalities.
Human resource development is theoretically targeted to promote literacy among all members of  society with an emphasis on the three 'R's ~ reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. In 1971, the percentage of literacy was 22 among women. It was around 46 per cent among men. The figures rose to 39 and 64 per cent respectively by 1991. And if the latest Census data, as published in April 2011, is any indication, the number of people who can read and write in India today is around 74 per cent ~ male literacy is 82 per cent and female literacy is 65 per cent.
The Government of India, in keeping with the Directive Principles of State Policy, as enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution, has been formulating customised programmes for various sections of society to increase the level of literacy. In cooperation with the states, the Centre is engaged in executing ambitious literacy programmes. These plans have been implemented in synergy with the programmes of the state governments and with varying degrees of success.
Despite such efforts involving substantial public expenditure, a large segment of our populace continues to be illiterate. The Government of India has always tried to promote the level of literacy with suitable changes from time to time ~ be it the National Policy on Education through its various avatars in 1968, 1979, 1986, 1991 or 2001, the Farmers' Functional Literacy Projects during the heyday of the Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, the Non-Formal Education for Youth in 1975, the National Adult Education Programme in 1978, the Rural Functional Literacy Project in 1978, the National Literacy Mission as started in 1988, the Continuing Education Programme through the first decade of the new millennium, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the extant Sakhshar Bharat Programme. There have also been popular movements in this sphere, duly supported by the government and NGOs. This has led to 100 per cent literacy in many districts of the country. Ernakulum in Kerala and Burdwan in West Bengal were the first and second such districts to achieve this feat. However, the positive streak and motivation are no longer manifest.
The latest avatar in the form of 'Sakhshar Bharat' has also been making steady progress. Having been associated with various literacy programmes, one feels that a government programme will not, after a point, make much progress as long as society is not associated with it. Ergo, the 'Sakhshar Bharat' focus on the involvement of civil society through voluntary teachers (VT) is well taken. However, this focus needs to be reoriented to be more effective and successful. It is difficult to find committed people  who will serve gratis as voluntary teachers. This new literacy programme is running in fits and starts. The impact has not been in proportion to the financial input.
The empirical insights, gained through the implementation of literacy programme implementation, can yield newer concepts and methods of execution. If rightly implemented and followed through, it will save a fair amount of public money and also make our society better in terms of quality and character. The previous and present avatars of literacy programmes envisage a huge army of specialised manpower yoked to the task of literacy promotion. This involved  huge government spending. I would offer a new proposal that makes use of the existing infrastructure that is geared to promote literacy and develop human resource.
The proposal envisages the implementation of literacy programmes through our school and college students in keeping with our literacy slogan of yesteryear ~ 'each one teach one (sic)'. While the modality and finer details of actual implementation are subject to further debate and discussion, one does feel that the involvement of students can completely transform the literacy scenario in the country. To start with, the school and higher education departments of the states  should make it compulsory for high school and college students to participate in literacy programmes. Their responsibilities under the  guidance of teachers can range from organising literacy camps/classes to teaching the learners themselves.
A school or a college could act as the programme implementation unit (PMU) in their respective bailiwicks. Funds to the educational institutions, including those meant for the literacy programmes, could be allotted to such schools/colleges in proportion to their overall performance, to be measured by the parameters set for the purpose. The literacy component could be one of the key factors in such evaluation. The tasks for the students shall be specially earmarked and the scores to be awarded in keeping with their performance by the teacher/faculty assigned for the evaluation. Such scores shall be added to the overall academic performance of the students. The system of awarding special marks for participation in literacy programmes shall not only motivate the youth to participate in a socially productive programme, but shall also make them responsible citizens. Such an exercise will  also sensitize them to the sundry problems afflicting our society.
The system will preclude the need to create or hire additional space for running these literacy camps/classes. These will be run within the premises of the respective schools or colleges. The involvement of youth in a community exercise can be an enlightening experience. It can help the cause of 'nation building' and promote a sense of national feeling in a society under attack from fissiparous and reactionary forces. It will be a competitive exercise towards achieving excellence.
 With appropriate mentoring, the efforts of the students can be channelled properly in strengthening the pillars of our body politic. If implemented in right earnest, the scheme will almost certainly be a success and at minimal cost.
However, the proposal does not mean that all other methods to involve civil society in such an exercise should not be tried out. My suggestion is only one of the very effective options. If executed properly with suitable monitoring and supervision, such a programme shall definitely be more effective with little or no leakage or wastage of resources. It will also help reap our famed demographic dividend.
The writer is District Magistrate, Birbhum in West Bengal. The views are personal and not those of the government ++***************************************





The government has begun to think if the media and the judiciary should have the freedom they enjoy. It is like finding fault with the sea after the ship has been wrecked because the captain failed to act

PAKISTAN may not have democracy in the sense the world knows. Nor will it pass muster in the economic field. But it has, to its credit, an independent judiciary and a free media which lawyers and journalists have won after long battles in their respective fields. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka cannot emulate Pakistan because both countries have authoritarian rulers, Sheikh Hasina at Dhaka and Mr Mahinda Rajapakse at Colombo. The judiciary and the media exercise independence to the extent the two allow, although Bangladesh is a shade better than Sri Lanka. India is a different cup of tea. The country's Constitution and the
democratic system guarantee free functioning of both the judiciary and the media. Yet, the baffling point is that the Manmohan Singh government, battered by scams running to a loss of billions of dollars to the exchequer and the Anna Hazare movement to have an anti-corruption Lokpal (ombudsman), did not interfere in the functioning of either the judiciary or the media. However, while licking its wounds, the government has begun a new way of thinking: should the media and the judiciary have the freedom they enjoy? It is like finding fault with the sea after the ship has been wrecked because the captain failed to act. Home minister Mr P Chidambaram, human resources development minister Mr Kapil Sibal and the experienced finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, are reported to have urged the Prime Minister to "do something" to correct the two.
For action against the media, the suppressed report by the Press Council of India has come in handy. "Paid news" is not to the liking of journalists or the people. And it would help cleanse the field if the guilty could be spotted and punished. But the government's proposed remedy is to give teeth to the Council. Such a measure has been discussed many a time and rejected because the Press Council is not another law court, but a forum where peers judge peers. The sanction is moral and ethical, not legal. The government's proposal may defeat the very purpose of the council. Talking to bodies like the editors' guild and union of journalists may be more beneficial.

I dare the government to bring a Bill to curtail the Press freedom. Rajiv Gandhi, hurt by the criticism on the Bofors gun scandal, tried to have an anti-defamation Act. There was such a widespread protest that he had to beat a hasty retreat. In democracy, the media have a duty to perform. They cannot be silenced by a group of ministers or even the entire Cabinet. Left to the government, nothing would appear in the Press except official handouts.

The government's mind is clear from the manner in which its television network, Doordarshan, treated the Hazare movement. It just did not cover it, the biggest story since Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan's movement in 1974. India's taxpayers finance Doordarshan. It does not have to depend on advertisements. Readers or viewers would always revert to private avenues to get the news. This is exactly what happened when the Congress government imposed censorship in 1975.

The fact is that no government wants strong media or judiciary. It has a way to indirectly influence the judiciary because the budgetary allocations are made by the government. Media can be "disciplined" through corporate sectors which have large advertisement budgets. Mr Justice Sri Krishna suggested this in a report on Telangana. He did a tremendous job in naming the leaders who killed Muslims in the 1993 riots. But I did not know that he too could be on the government side. His suggestion to the home ministry is that media should be managed to build opinion against separate statehood for Telengana. He has even gone to the extent of recommending the use of government advertisements as an inducement to turn the opinion in favour of a United Andhra Pradesh. How naïve he is. Rattled by the Hazare movement, the government is playing its old game by digging out cases against Hazare team members Mr Prashant Bhushan, Mr Arvind Khejerwal and Ms Kiran Bedi. And I do not know why Mr Manish Tewari, who rescued himself from the standing committee, should return to it? Is the government serious about working of the standing committee? I did not like Ms Bedi asking Agnivesh, earlier a Hazare team member, to prove his credibility. His public service goes back to the time when Ms Bedi was a cadet in the police academy. And what secrets could he have divulged when every move of Mr Hazare was transparent? It is in the government's interest to create cleavage among people working for Mr Hazare. Ms Bedi or, for that matter, anyone else should not play into its hands.

As for the judiciary, the members of different parties are peeved over the obiter dicta of judges while hearing a case. Such remarks never form part of their judgment. For example, a Supreme Court judge said a few days ago that people would teach a lesson to the government. This was a realistic assessment against the background of the countrywide anti-corruption movement. It is apparent that the government and the Opposition have not liked the remark. But should Parliament go overboard to counter it?

Giving vent to their annoyance, members of a House panel have recommended to the government to set up a mechanism to scrutinise the declaration of assets by the Supreme Court and High Court judges (what about the Cabinet ministers who too have declared their assets?). But the bizarre proposal is that the media should be prohibited from publishing names of judges under probe. This reminds me of the days of the Emergency (1975-77) when no judgment could be published without clearance from the  authorities. Whether names are published or not, they soon become talk of the town.

All this should not in any way affect the independence of the judiciary. Mr Hazare did well to keep it separate from the ambit of Lokpal. After all, the Lokpal pronouncements are subject to a judicial review. How could, therefore, the judiciary come under the Lokpal? Yet, the judges should shed their sensitivity over what forms contempt. There is a lesson in how the Lord Chancellor in the UK treated a remark after a judgment. The remark was that he was an old fool. His reply was that he was indeed old. As for being a fool, it was a matter of opinion. He let the matter rest at that.

High Courts and Supreme Court judges in the subcontinent should take a lesson from the Lord Chancellor's attitude. They use the rule of contempt of court at the drop of a hat. The authority should rarely use it but never against the media. The two are on the same side.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator 







"Morning shows the day." I should have realised the import of this adage in my marriage as soon as the first crack in our honeymoon came at the crack of dawn. Unlike other couples, our tussle was not over the hour at which we should rise and shine. Both of us get cracking before the sun rises and we take our morning constitutional in tandem, like a couple of soldiers marching past for the benefit of the orb overhead. What a glorious start to the day for a couple in love!

No, the crack came from the difference in our preference for the cup that's supposed to cheer us first thing in the morning. It's her black tea up against my "white". How can the twain ever meet? While she loves the aroma of only Darjeeling leaf, I can't do without my liquor swimming in milk. Her Darjeeling tea skims her tongue lightly; but myself, on the other hand, can't do without the thick brew I am addicted to. Differing tastes in tea, unlike heterogeneity elsewhere, is not something one can live with so easily!
How to deal with a flaw of this magnitude in our relationship? The "live and let live" approach, i.e, cultivating a healthy respect for each other's choice in tea, is no guarantee against a stalemate since one's "cup of tea" tends to reflect one's basic character. For example, my wife likes to flit about like a butterfly ~ as light as the Darjeeling tea she covets. And what I like is heavyweight discussions that bring out hidden reserves of energy to invigorate my mind and body. No wonder we are torn apart when it comes to attending dos. She can't understand why I won't mingle with other men (women omitted) and "have a good time". On my part, I find these gatherings with no "intellectual stimulation" a sheer waste of time.

"Why do you have to be such an insufferable snob?" she asked me pointedly one morning as she poured tea. I dismissed her with a snort. "I prefer to be an intellectual snob, if you will, than an empty shell like your partying friends." That did it. Her anger boiled over and she poured the milky tea not in my cup, but on my spotless robe. "There, enjoy the company of your empty teacup!" she declared before stomping off. I am now forced to concoct my own brew. It's not all that difficult, except that in my hands, the tea turns out to be irritatingly bland. I try to look at the brighter side. Why not strike while the iron is hot and serve her with divorce papers on grounds of incompa"tea"bility?

But I know it's a futile thought. The truth is that, while she herself may be averse to taking tea laced with milk, she does make a damn good cup of strong tea with plenty of milk ~ just the way I like it! So if I relish my morning cuppa ~ something I really do ~ I had better crawl back to her wearing my heart on my sleeve. It doesn't matter that our tastes are so diverse. My prolonged dependence on her has erected, cup by teacup, a bridge over the divergence that no disturbance save death can destroy






Ten years. An eyeblink in the eternal march of history ~ yet sufficient distance to gauge the impact of America's most dreadful day, one that no one old enough to remember will ever forget. After 10 years, winners and losers can be declared. And in the case of 9/11, it becomes more evident by the day, both sides are losers.
The most obvious one of course is Osama bin Laden. The organisation that he founded has been not only decapitated, but decimated. Hardly a week passes now without the death or capture of top Al Qaida commanders, their security presumably compromised by the documents seized during the raid in Pakistan in which Bin Laden was killed. Touch wood, there seems scant chance of the spectacular 10th anniversary attack for which, those documents show, he was desperately trying to organise. As for his notion that violent Islamic jihad might create a new caliphate stretching from Indonesia to Spain ~ that seems even more far-fetched than it did 10 years ago. Even the "Arab Spring" of uprisings against the secular West Asian dictators that Bin Laden hated is no vindication of his warped ideology.
The protest reflects far more a popular yearning to enjoy the simple rights of political freedom and economic opportunity that we take for granted, than any answer of 9/11's call to strike down a decadent yet overbearing West. And yet my guess is that Bin Laden would be fairly pleased right now, even though by any standard measure, he's lost the fight he started.

But what about the ledger on the other side. Yes, America's leaders can claim that, contrary to every prediction at the time, there has been no terrorist attack on the US mainland since. And yes, the particular group that carried out the attacks on New York and Washington DC has been largely destroyed. But it took the mightiest military on earth almost 10 years to track down and eliminate its most wanted single target, while the terrorist movement for which he was the inspiration has become a Hydra. Chop off one head in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Yemen and others start to grow elsewhere. And in almost every other sense, these past 10 years have been a tale of mistakes made, opportunities missed and lessons not learned.

Consider first the opportunities missed. In the aftermath of 9/11, the USA enjoyed an outpouring of global support and sympathy unmatched since the Second World War: "We Are All Americans Now," proclaimed that headline in Le Monde, speaking on behalf of the European country that has more hang-ups about America than most. Within a couple of years, however, that sympathy had been utterly squandered. Mr George W Bush and Mr Dick Cheney were Ugly Americans reborn, loathed across the Arab world and beyond. Mr Barack Obama has repaired much of the damage among traditional US allies. But in Islamic countries, America's reputation remains in tatters, despite its deliberately low profile in the campaign to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. ("Leading from behind," one White House aide injudiciously described the approach, provoking scorn and anger from the President's Republican foes, insulted that the USA was not visibly heading this latest Western military foray against an Arab land.) But at least Mr Obama had tried to take the mistakes to heart.
And even setting aside Libya, America remains bogged down in two wars in Islamic countries, as a result of 9/11. The October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan to remove the Taliban government that not only sheltered Al Qaida but was literally of a piece with it, was absolutely justifiable ~ though Bin Laden and his cohorts should have been eliminated within months at Tora Bora. But why did everything take so much longer than it should have? The answer of course lies in that other mistake of the Bush administration, arguably the biggest single foreign policy blunder in all US history: the war of choice against Iraq that has succeeded only in strengthening the position of America's arch enemy Iran across the entire region.

According to one estimate, Iraq and Afghanistan may end up costing $4 trillion between them, an outlay covered thus far not by raising taxes as most wars are covered, but by borrowing. To that extent, 9/11 has contributed to the current economic crisis, helping create the mountain of debt that now ties Obama's hands. And that borrowing continues. America is still in Iraq and may retain a presence there for decades. The same goes for Afghanistan, even though the killing of Bin Laden and the dispersal of Al Qaida to other countries mean there is no sane reason why tens of thousands of US troops should remain there, on a nation-building mission impossible. Afghanistan has already provided its own grim 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks: August 2011 was the deadliest month ever for US forces deployed there.

Contributing to the two longest wars in the country's history were two more pervasive errors. The first was the "Global War on Terror" itself. At the time, the Bush administration's decision to treat 9/11 as an act of war seemed to make sense; the country after all had suffered something that neither Hitler nor the Soviet Union could manage, a devastating foreign attack on its own soil.

But declaration of the war on terror was the slippery slope that led to so much that proved disastrous to America's reputation: torture, Abu Ghraib, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, the denial of basic defendants' rights to captured "enemy combatants" (many of whom, it belatedly transpired, were innocent.) How much better to have treated the attacks as a criminal matter, monstrous to be sure, but which could have been handled by civilian courts. But the US strategy post-9/11 contained an even greater mistake: a refusal to face up to the basic dilemma at the core of its policy ~ that some of its main allies in the "War on Terror" were in fact accomplices or even instigators of that terrorism. One of them, Pakistan, sheltered Bin Laden. Another, Saudi Arabia, provided 15 of the 19 hijackers.

September 11, 2001 was a chance for Mr Bush to take a real hack at the Gordian knot of oil and security that distorts US policy in West Asia, by increasing the gasoline tax, reducing its addiction to imported oil, and boosting alternative sources of energy. But next to nothing was done. The world was told, you are either with us or against. For the 99 per cent of the population not involved with the armed forces, Bush's rallying cry was: "Keep on driving, keep on spending."

The real world, however, moved on. Amid Washington's obsession with terror, China has stepped up its economic challenge. The present moment has odd echoes of the past ~ a whiff of the frivolity of those carefree days before the real 11 September, when the fuss was about shark attacks in Florida, and whether a California Congressman was having an affair with a missing Washington intern.

And here we are 10 years on, amid a gathering economic crisis far more obvious than the clues back then to an impending terrorist attack, wondering if the magnificently absurd Sarah Palin will run for the White House, watching in disbelief as the two parties squabble over the timing of a presidential speech. 9/11 is not the cause of American decline. But it's as good a marker as any of when that decline began.

the independent






Various kinds of activism thrive in India. Some of these, like civil society activism or judicial activism, are open and bolstered by debatable rationalizations. There are others that are covert and, therefore, never discussed in any public forum. One of these is the enthusiasm with which the ministry of external affairs pursues certain types of activity that are far beyond its remit. Take the example of the recent kerfuffle concerning the sharing of the waters of the Teesta river with Bangladesh. Prima facie, it seems clear that this is an issue that falls within the jurisdiction of the foreign ministry since it involves another country. But a slightly deeper probing reveals that all that appears is not necessarily correct. Facts and logic demand that another Central ministry should play a critical role in any discussion on the given matter. This is the ministry of water resources since what is at stake here, most crucially, are the water resources of India. It is not unreasonable to expect that the secretary ministry of water resources in India should have discussed the matter with his Bangladeshi counterpart. Yet as events have unfolded, it has become obvious that the senior bureaucrats in charge of water resources in India were not even bit players in the negotiations about the sharing of the Teesta waters. The entire matter, from soup to nuts as the saying goes, was handled by the mandarins in the MEA. This is tantamount to nothing short of an act of appropriation by the foreign ministry.

The act of appropriation was so complete that the national security adviser, who is a kind of éminence grise in foreign policy matters and is a former member of the Indian Foreign Service, came to brief the chief minister of West Bengal. The secretary ministry of water resources had been taken by the tide. Unobtrusively but surely, the MEA had expanded its brief, perhaps with the blessings of the prime minister. There are other instances of the foreign ministry grasping matters not in its original ambit of functioning. Witness what has happened at The Nehru Centre in London. Initially, its directors had been men of letters like Girish Karnad and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. One of its directors was Pavan Varma, a writer of some renown who, coincidentally, is an IFS officer. Since Mr Varma's appointment, the MEA has claimed the directorship to be part of its authority. That a centre devoted to culture should be claimed by the MEA only reveals the latter's larger than life self-image.







The Reddy brothers are not invincible. That is the first message that has been conveyed by the arrest of the mining baron and former tourism minister of Karnataka, G. Janardhana Reddy, together with his brother-in-law, B.V. Srinivas Reddy, both directors of Obulapuram Mining Company. The message is heartening because a contrary image of the Reddy brothers had built up — dot by dot — over the years by the consistent failure of the law to catch up with the men who openly operated beyond its pale. Two successive reports by the Karnataka Lokayukta and inquiries by the forest department of Karnataka have pointed to the enormity of the crime. The Reddys are alleged to have not only mined and exported iron ore illegally, but also denuded the forests, re-demarcated state borders and promoted corruption while holding public office. If the Reddys yet managed to evade the law, it was owing to the patronage of the political party whose interests they furthered with their money power. The Bharatiya Janata Party has gone to enormous lengths to accommodate the interests of the brothers. Even now, despite having acquiesced to a change of chief minister in Karnataka in observance of the needs of its anti-corruption drive on a national scale, the party seems beholden to the Reddys. It has chosen to meet the challenge of the Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry in Andhra Pradesh that has led to the arrest by raising the cry of a Congress vendetta.

But the Reddys's sudden vulnerability neither translates into an all-out gain for the Congress nor a loss for the BJP. No doubt the investigations into the Reddys's mining operations, that also involve one into the disproportionate assets of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, are peculiarly poised to the Congress's advantage. But the inquiry, if allowed to be carried to its logical conclusion, is bound to prove that the Congress has been as indulgent as the BJP in tolerating corruption. The history of the rise of the Reddys after all is also inextricably linked to the rise of the Congress's own fortunes in Andhra Pradesh. If the Congress is sincere about its anti-corruption drive in the state and the BJP on the national scale, they should press for a CBI probe into illegal mining to be jointly conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.






Anna Hazare's fast is over, but the conjuncture of which that fast was an episode is not: Hazare's own movement, or other similar movements, are bound to recur in the coming months. The question naturally arises: what are these movements all about? And to start with: what was Hazare's own movement all about? It was certainly not about "corruption" in any definable sense. That word meant different things to the different people who thronged the Ramlila grounds. For some, it was what caused prices to rise; for others, it was what underlay the dynastic politics of the Congress; for still others, it was synonymous with "job reservation policy". Ironically, though the jan lok pal bill, on which "Team Anna" was so insistent, might have received symbolic support from all who had gathered there, it meant little to them. The crowds that converged on Ramlila Maidan were animated not by the prospects of some specific piece of legislation but by a general sense of disenchantment for which "corruption" became a portmanteau expression.

But the life and character of a movement are often as independent of the intentions of its leaders as of the motives of its participants. The movement has to be looked at "from the outside" to determine its character and outcome. The point to consider therefore is: what has the pervasive disenchantment that found expression in the Hazare movement ultimately yielded?

In an obvious sense, it has resulted in, or heralded, at least five major shifts. First, it has led to a shift towards the urban middle class and away from other classes in terms of socio-political influence. True, the gathering at Ramlila Maidan drew people from all classes, but the predominant presence was of the urban middle class, whose assertiveness and weight have, consequently, increased. Second, it has led to a shift towards non-political actors belonging to the so-called "civil society", and away from political actors, in terms of influence in decision-making. (In this sense it represents the continuation of a trend that started with the formation of the national advisory council). Third, within "civil society" it has led to a shift of influence away from those who are willing to work within the political framework (not the same as being pro-government) towards those who are willing to challenge it. Fourth, it has led to a shift from the secular domain to the domain of the quasi-religious in the language and symbolism of protest. (Even "Bharat Mata", one must not forget, represents a quasi-religious symbol). And fifth, within the political sphere, it has led to a shift towards the communal Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party, and away from secular formations, a fact underscored by the Star News-Nielsen opinion survey (The Telegraph, September 4).

These shifts are not just happenstance; they are integrally interlinked. In the old system, where vying for power was confined to political parties, the influence of any class, including the urban middle class, had to be exercised through its relative weight inside the political parties. And even though the leadership of political parties usually came from the urban middle class, the compulsions of electoral politics meant that its influence had to be balanced against that of other, numerically stronger, classes, even inside political parties. Its political influence therefore fell far short of its economic weight, a contradiction that got accentuated as its economic weight increased greatly under neo-liberalism. Greater assertiveness on its part, therefore, necessarily requires by-passing the electoral process, and hence the traditional political system. Statements made at Ramlila Maidan about parliamentarians being anpadh and ganwar, though subsequently regretted for not being de rigueur, were authentic expressions of this middle class angst. And if middle class activism is to by-pass traditional parties and the parliament that stands at the pinnacle of the political system, then it must be expressed through some other agencies; the obvious candidates here are the "civil society organizations", especially those that are willing to challenge the legitimacy of the political system.

The situation, however, is ironical. The political system, based on the Constitution that emerged out of an implicit social contract forged during the anti-colonial struggle, represents, despite all its distortions, the highest water-mark of our social awareness, compared to which the contemporary social consciousness of the average member of the urban middle class constitutes a marked retrogression. Hence, any recession in the primacy of the political, any special privileging of the influence of the urban middle class over that of other segments of society, any ceding of ground by Parliament to those elements of "civil society" which challenge the political system, necessarily means social retrogression.

"Civil society" activism that is not centred on concrete demands addressed to the political system, cannot do without quasi-religious symbolism; it necessarily carries within itself the germs of socio- political inegalitarianism. Consider, for instance, even an apparently unexceptionable "moral" crusade against "corruption". In a society where religion forms the basis of morality, any such "moral" crusade necessarily tends to become quasi-religious. Since the majority religion in India is intrinsically inegalitarian and upholds the caste system (eminent historian Suvira Jaiswal has even argued that the caste system is the core of Hinduism), any relapse into religious symbolism is socially retrograde. The dalit scepticism about the Hazare movement represents an intuitive appreciation of this fact. The point, in short, is that the different shifts essayed by the Hazare movement are inter-linked and occur independently of its leaders' intentions.

The implications of these shifts for democracy have been much discussed, and need not be pursued here. What is of concern here is a different point, namely that these shifts are significant not just in themselves, but for an even stronger reason: they in turn are transitions to a further, and altogether different, shift. The urban middle class has no clear agenda to pursue. It can neither perceive nor suggest any way out of the disenchantment it shares with others. It does not even relate that disenchantment to any underlying structures, let alone to any immanent tendencies of capitalism (one, incidentally, does not have to be a socialist to do this): its perceptions are limited to dichotomies like "honesty-dishonesty", "moral-immoral", "greed-sacrifice". Not that one should pooh-pooh these terms, but they are never located in its discourse within any structures. No wonder then that it is in need of "messiahs", and can only think of curbs on "corruption" through the institution of the ombudsman as the panacea for disenchantment.

Too pusillanimous to visualize putting any obstacles to the immanent tendencies of neo-liberal capitalism, it takes the path of least resistance by targeting the State alone, which happens to be in conformity with the proclivities of corporate capital. Far from confronting the immanent tendencies of capitalism, it conforms to those tendencies and becomes implicitly an agency for carrying them forward. Consider, for instance, the emphasis on "corruption" and the suggestion that it essentially resides among State personnel, that is the bureaucracy and the "political class". The immediate inference that will be drawn from such a campaign is that any payment of taxes to the State is money "down the drain", and hence the demand will be for a reduction in the "tax burden". This, in turn, will necessitate a reduction in State expenditure; and since State expenditure on "security", interest payments and basic salaries cannot be cut, the reduction will have to be in sectors like health, education, other social services and transfer payments to the poor. This, in turn, will necessitate the further privatization of a whole range of activities and services like education and health.

In short, the consequence of the hullabaloo over "corruption", seen primarily as an integral part of the functioning of the State, is to delegitimize the State and usher in further privatization, and hence commercialization, of a range of activities still undertaken by the State. This can only hurt the poor, and it amounts to a carrying forward of the agenda of financial and corporate interests, which want precisely a combination of tax reduction and privatization of what have hitherto been considered as State responsibilities.

The irony here is striking. Much of the big ticket corruption that has attracted attention recently, such as 2G spectrum, has been associated with privatization of State property; but the effect of fuzzy, moralistic movements such as Hazare's that are bred in opposition to such "corruption" and draw sustenance from the middle class is likely to be further privatization. Such movements, notwithstanding laudable intentions, tend to end up furthering the agenda of corporate and financial interests.

The author is a former professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New DelhiTop






The criticality of remote sensing in disaster preparedness hardly needs to be emphasized. The comptroller and auditor general's latest report on the performance of the National Remote Sensing Centre, one of the key units of the department of space, assumes significance in this respect. The NRSC is entrusted with the responsibility of acquiring, processing and disseminating remote-sensing data for the country from seven operational Indian remote sensing satellites and from a few foreign satellites. The efficient functioning of the NRSC is important not only for the success of the space programmes but also for agriculture, water-resource management, urban development and disaster preparedness.

During the period of assessment, the capacity utilization of the seven IRS satellites was found to be very poor, ranging from 32 to 55 per cent of their installed capacity. Significantly, when the proposal to launch the IRS satellites was submitted for approval, the NRSC duly presented Return on Investment, taking into account user requirements, data needs, cost of operation and maintenance. The standing committee of Parliament had advised the setting up of a national remote sensing coordination committee for the effective implementation of the projects. The NRSC, however, did not set up such a committee. It could not customize the data, expand the customer base or enhance the rates of its data products as per the international market. Consequently, it failed to recover capital expenditure and bring in revenue to meet its operational expenditure even after taking into account the sale of data products to Antrix Corporation Limited.

Gear up

The NRSC has agreed to focus on enhancing operational efficiency, devise appropriate marketing strategies, implement customer relations management and periodically revisit the pricing policy. The NRSC, as the sole civilian provider of aerial remote sensing services, has undertaken different projects of national importance: a study on Command Area Development, National Wasteland Mapping, Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission, Village Resource Centre Programme and Disaster Management Support Programme. The NRSC was also responsible for providing support for the application of remote-sensing techniques in varied areas and conducting operational resources surveys.

Effective coordination with all the stakeholders becomes indispensable for deriving better results. Inadequate coordination with the ministry of rural development contributed to non-reclamation of 86.6 per cent of the targeted wasteland. In the case of the DMSP, the requisite aircraft was not procured in spite of the availability of adequate funds and of sanctions from the competent authority.

In the projects undertaken on behalf of ACL, there had been instances of relaxation of terms of payment, short realization of revenue and the awarding of projects without signing the required MoU. In the case of operational projects, there were deficiencies in planning and implementation, delays and inadequate realization of targeted benefits. In the light of these observations, the NRSC will be better off fully utilizing its training facilities and encouraging private participation in varied training courses to ensure better usage and marketing of its data products.

Recognizing the centrality of effective and efficient functioning of the NRSC for strategic disaster preparedness as well as for optimum utilization of natural resources is a must. It is imperative for the organization to strengthen its internal control systems and procedures, internal audits and budgetary mechanisms. Keeping a firm control over inflow and outflow of funds and effective monitoring and timely implementation of key projects are of crucial importance.



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




The gaping holes in India's counter-terrorism security grid stands exposed yet again. Barely two months after serial blasts in Mumbai's diamond markets, terrorists have struck again; this time in the capital Delhi.

A powerful bomb blast at the Delhi high court has killed 11 people and injured 50 others. In May this year, a low-intensity bomb had been defused outside another gate of the same high court. Authorities were thus aware that the court was on the terrorists' radar. Still, little was done to prevent a blast.

It shows how lax government is with regard to protecting the lives of its citizens. In the wake of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government announced a series of measures to modernise and spruce up India's decrepit police force. A new security grid at much cost to the public exchequer was put in place. Home minister P Chidambaram described the new police force as "better trained, better equipped, and better motivated to prevent terrorist attacks." However, the blasts in Mumbai and now in Delhi indicate that his claims are rather exaggerated.

The Harkat ul jihadi al Islam (HUJI) has claimed responsibility for the blasts. It has demanded sparing Afzal Guru from the death penalty. It is likely that the coming days will see our political class engage in a familiar blame game and finger pointing. However, what the people of this country would like to hear is why the government remains lethargic when it comes to securing the common man.

If only the home minister would go unannounced to railway stations or crowded markets he would see why his much-vaunted security grid is such a sham. Much of the reforms in the security grid remain only on paper. On the ground, it is business as usual. That is, holes in the security set-up remain unplugged in practice.

Rarely do metal detectors at railway stations work and policemen are still dozing on the job. Patrol boats bought at high cost are lying unused as petrol is not being provided. Since the 9/11 terror strikes in the US, not a single terror attack has taken place on American soil.

Compare this with India's abysmal record in fighting terrorism. Chidambaram's grand plan to secure Indians from terrorist attacks has been a total failure. People are fed up with his empty rhetoric and the country needs a new home minister with better ideas and firm commitment to fight terror. ***************************************





In India, money and politics have become troublesome bedfellows. For long known as the undisputed political fixer, the incarceration of former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, even if it is for two weeks, must be the ultimate denouement.

In the years that he enjoyed the confidence of his party's supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh mastered the invincible black art of behind-the-scene wheeling-dealing. Caste-ridden Uttar Pradesh was the perfect setting for Singh who became a pivotal player in party politics of not just the state, but even at the Centre with 'friendly' relations with individual politicians of every hue.

It is in the backdrop of his association with such unsavoury politicians, some of whom stand accused with him for their alleged involvement in the cash-for-votes scandal, that the Central Bureau of Investigation must probe what role some Congress politicians might have played in the corrupt practice of vote buying.

As a party, the Congress has not been immune from charges of vote buying inside Parliament. In 1993, the bribery scandal surrounding a few Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs scalded then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao and ruined the political fortunes of the Congress. For the grand old party, it is not about politics as usual; in its long and turbulent history, the Congress has represented an entrenched system of patronage and corruption.

When in government, the party has survived less by keeping faith with the ideals of democracy than by keeping alive a system that has become the source of its lifeblood. After assuming the mantle of party leader and the country's prime minister following the assassination of his mother, Rajiv Gandhi had said in 1986 that the Congress obeys "no discipline, no rule"; that it follows no principle of public morality is also evident.

While this holds true for most Indian political parties, a formal investigation into the July 2008 cash-for-votes scandal should reveal the hands not just of Amar Singh but a clique of MPs whose singular contribution has been in eroding the foundations of democratic institutions.

Amar Singh is the face of that enterprise that is riddled with cronyism and corrupt power politics that now appear to have crossed the boundaries of excesses. If no remedial measures are taken now, people's lack of confidence in its democratic institutions will deepen.







Parliament has not passed most of the pending legislation before it this session. Instead it has, at least perfunctorily, discussed the Lokpal Bill because of the determined crusade of one old man demanding a strong legislation to identify, investigate, prosecute and punish corrupt elements at all levels of government.

There will be more legislation to come: dealing with judicial accountability, non government organisations, land acquisition and the nuclear bill. In all this excitement about democracy, the so-called supremacy of parliament (actually restricted to passing legislation),  the role of mass movements in compelling government to legislative action, the attention has drifted from the perilous state of the economy.

The GDP growth dipped sharply last quarter (and may be worse once final figures become available after a year). Inflation, especially of pulses and vegetables, has again become quite high. Demand for many consumer products is declining. High interest rates meant to control inflation has slowed investments in infrastructure and will soon hit housing purchases and construction.

Banks are showing rising non-performing assets. After many years, labour unrest is raising its head and may spread as inflation grows and declining production leads to layoffs. Corporate profits are showing declines, stock markets are down. Capital investment will fall. Banks are reluctant to lend to many infrastructure enterprises, even those that are part of government, like state electricity boards.

State electricity regulatory commissions have ensured by holding back legitimate tariff increases, that state government are spending rising portions of revenues on meeting losses of their SEBs.

Road projects are witnessing ambitious quotations by private companies who will certainly not be able to execute the projects, especially as banks are showing reluctance to lend against such projects, especially when bidders have offered to pay government instead of asking for viability gap funding. Sharp slowing of infrastructure spending is likely, hitting investment, demand and employment.

The American and European economies are showing distress, while Japan never recovered from years of stagnation, and from its recent disastrous tsunami and earthquake. Their interest rates are low, and Indian companies have taken full advantage in borrowing from them. But the big question is whether lenders and investors will consider it safe to invest in India, with its uncertain economic situation, declining corporate profits and wide-spread corruption.

The anti-corruption movement is also at long last compelling government to examine closing the windows for Indian money leaking to foreign shores via Mauritius (free of capital gains when invested in and repatriated from India), and on participatory notes.

Problems across economies
Since these two mechanisms were also major contributors for foreign financial investment in India, that also would get affected adversely. For some time we have felt that Indian markets are growing and a recession in developed countries might not hurt us much; and also that the emerging markets of China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and others could make up for much of the slackness in overseas demand. But all of them are going through similar problems as we are in their economies.

  The one bright spot is the good monsoon which will mean good harvests. But we have to hope that government will change policies and implementation in procurement, storage, pricing and distribution so that farmers get remunerative prices, and the theft of PDS grains and other items does not deprive the poor of the protection from inflation. Another gain from the global economic decline is the fall in crude oil and hence also of gas and coal. We must tie up supplies at lower prices and reduce the retail prices in India while raising power and other tariffs that have been held back.

The solutions are clear but governments may be too lazy and timid to implement them. Waste and theft must be plugged by harsh measures against culprits. This is what Anna Hazare is asking for, but no political party appears willing to undertake them. Efficiency in government and industry must improve.

This requires a system of performance evaluation and accountability, again areas that governments have shown little interest in implementing. Even though there is concern about inflation, tariffs for power should reflect costs and adequate margins to enterprises in generation, transmission and distribution.

The environmental constraints on mining coal must be removed with a strict replanting programme. Coal itself must be at least partially denationalised so that there is a domestic market.

Deficits of all governments must be reduced by a programme of economy and tax collection. The problems of having allies like Maata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, is a millstone at this time, since she will not countenance raising taxes and tariffs. A way must be found to get them in line.

The actions required call for ministries at Centre and states working in coordination. It demands a clear programme of action from the prime minster. Experience of the last few years suggests they will not be forthcoming. We are in for worse times. It is a pity because they are eminently avoidable.






A soft state like India does not face hard realities. As the dead bodies got counted after Wednesday's Delhi blasts power brokers, fixers and their related off-springs and sundry politicians made a bee line for the blast site with one eye firmly on the OB vans of television channels. 


The latest attack on India and its capital will have its usual stories of pathetic sights such as these as also humungous security failures and false and utterly laughable assurances from the Prime Minister that we will not succumb to terror. To say that today's attack on Delhi was sad and shocking is stating the obvious.  But merely saying so will not prevent further such incidents from happening. The Prime Minister says this is a cowardly act. But when cowards strike regularly and with target precision with no retaliation or retribution from a hapless state, then it is the Prime Minister who should be charged as a coward.


Three years after the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, India has still not managed to push the international diplomatic initiative towards getting Pakistan to act decisively and comprehensively against terrorist groups operating out of its bases, including the Harkat- Ul Jihadi Islamia (HUJI). The Indian Mujahideen which is nothing but an Indian arm or containing Indian constituents of the HUJI is a part of the Karachi project to establish militant groups within India to strike terror. There is also no denying that there is an absolute and direct link between the ISI and HUJI and this goes way back.


The failure of the government is on two counts. The failure of  a foreign policy initiative to bring the issue of terror  as the only agenda instead of keeping it aside to further diplomatic, trade and cultural  links. The second failure is the so called overdrive in trying not to hurt certain communities at the cost of affirmative action against perpetrators of terror. In any other country Afzal Guru, convicted of attacking the parliament in 2001, would have been hanged and not protected by political parties fighting for the repeal of his sentence.


The reaction of so called civil society groups after the Batla House operations, on September 19, 2008 where brave Delhi policemen managed to kill the main commander of the Indian Mujahideen Atif Amin, was shocking.   Atif Amin, was the chief bomber of the Indian Mujahideen, and his death had dealt a severe blow to the group, which earlier been blamed for terror attacks between 2007 and 2009.


Civil Society swung the focus of the case on alleged human rights violations rather than a very professional police action after five serial blasts killed 30 people in Delhi on September 13


Soft peddling on terror has been our national practice which we have raised to the level of a fine art. The luxury of fence sitting is not there any longer. If the USA could track and kill Osama from across the globe, why are we afraid to cross the border even if our own brothers and sisters get killed ever so often?








It was during Indira Gandhi's inglorious Emergency of the mid-1970s that we coined the phrase "Even a worm will turn, but not an Indian." This was because that draconian era was stoically borne by us Indians. 


There was not even a whimper of protest. But all that seems to have changed over decades of scams and frustation and the advent of a simple farmer from Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra who has shaken the nation as never before and New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, the scene of his historic fast, is now being called the foundry of Indian political thought.


The India Against Corruption crusade had a snow-balling effect after senior Delhi lawyer Shanti Bhushan and Magsaysay awardee and Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal joined the 74-year-old farmer to press for the Jan Lokpall Bill which had long been since in cold storage. 


The movement had received a further thrust after Anna's arrest and the lathi-charge which ageing BJP leader L K Advani foolishly compared to the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre. He's really lost it.


That the Congress high command made a mess of things is another reason for this upsurge. Blowing hot and cold was of no use. 


Their think-tank scored a blank and the prime minister merely saying "Anna Hazare is an honest man" did little to assuage the situation. Spurred on by a plethora of scams (the Commonwealth Games and the 2G spectrum to name just two) folks from all walks of life joined the fray. 


Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Mehda Patkar made a big impact saying "We will not indulge in corruption, nor will we allow corruption." She also attacked the Ambanis who "proudly crow about earning lakhs every minute but remain silent to the farmers committing suicide." 


This part, however, was blanked out by the media which is nothing new where certain issues are untouchable.


Having reached the stage it has now one must be careful how to handle that power. It's time to shed all emotion and have a pragmatic game plan where integrity should be the USP. Do we have enough of such leaders ? 


One needs to look for them for do we not know instances of revolutions setting to change the existing order and in the end emulating it. The case of the Marcos' in the Philippines is a striking example of the Lord Acton quote "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."



We have already seen Baba Ramdev trying to convert his yoga clout into political power but he has since been thoroughly exposed.  


Then the Rashtriya Sewamsevak Sangh (RSS) is said to be another big player in the field. Rajesh Ramchandran of e-paper Mail Today clubs Anna's movement to predecessors like JP and V.P.Singh and calls RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya the Kautilia of the Indian right. 


These are straws in the wind and who knows some of them may be coming from the government itself to scuttle the campaign.


Hence, this incubation period is important. It is the first time a people's movement is taking shape. And it must filter through all sections of the aam admi (why not Goa too ? but it will be hard to find someone to cast the first stone)) irrespective of caste or creed and carefully weeding out the chaff from the grain. 


It is not an impossible dream. It can be done with good leadership aided by dedication and integrity. But it has to be a full time job undertaken with missionary zeal, including that jeans-wearing collegian who scoffed at "this Medha, she will kill growth."







Robert (Bob ) Gates was one of the most experienced and sophisticated figures in the U.S. administration. Through his skills and connections he became head of the CIA, won the confidence of presidents and members of their inner circles as far back as the Carter administration and was appointed the second secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration. Gates was the only top Bush aide who was asked, and agreed, to remain in his post in the Obama administration as a Republican among Democrats. His worldview is acceptable to the centrist stream of the American establishment, and even in retirement his remarks find an attentive audience.

All this gives extra weight to his harsh criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gates described Netanyahu as "ungrateful" and as one who does not bother to do his homework prior to important working meetings. It is rare for a figure of Gates' stature to express such views about the leader of a friendly country that has excellent military ties to Washington, despite and alongside chilly diplomatic relations.

Gates referred initially to the issue of the qualitative military edge of the Israel Defense Forces, in other words U.S. military exports to moderate Arab states. Israel is apprehensive about a potential confrontation with American weapons. The United States, on the other hand, sees these arms and the advice that goes along with them as powerful levers, and refuses to abandon the markets in the region to competitors such as Russia and France. Israel, which for years has depended on generous U.S. aid packages, comes off appearing indifferent to U.S. needs, including the need to create jobs.

But this is just one aspect of U.S.-Israel relations. Israel needs Washington's assistance in intelligence and operational matters, including surface-to-surface missile interception. It would be difficult for Israel to take military action against Iran without U.S. consent. In peacetime Israel will expect additional military and economic aid.

Netanyahu's conduct not only repays generosity with ingratitude but also erodes support for Israel in critical U.S. centers of powers. What Gates is saying, in effect, is that the United States could live with this in a pinch, but Netanyahu is dangerous for Israel. Ehud Barak, who presents himself as an old friend of Gates, cannot escape responsibility for his own partnership with Netanyahu.








Benjamin Netanyahu made the worst economic mistake of his life on October 26, 1997. That was the day Prime Minister Netanyahu sold a bank to shipping magnate Ted Arison - Bank Hapoalim. The State of Israel received a hefty $1.37 billion; but the price the state paid for this sale turned out to far exceed this sum. Power over the bank that controls the state was turned over to a small group dominated by one family, establishing in Israel a new socioeconomic order. An oligarchic regime.

Netanyahu did not initiate this reckless process of privatization, Israeli style. He was preceded by Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Avraham Shochat. But Netanyahu was supposed to be different. He was committed to free market competition and to battling monopolies. And Bank Hapoalim was also different. It was, and remains, Israel's financial giant. Thus, Netanyahu made a historic blunder by not reducing the giant's dimensions before it was privatized.

Transferring the monstrous entity from the state's control to a family institutionalized the circumstance of duopoly that prevails in two-thirds of Israel's banking sector. It made permanent a situation in which there is no genuine competition between banks. It calcified a situation in which the banks erode households through strangling interest rates for wage earners and cheap credit for tycoons.

The Netanyahu-Arison deal took power over the economy out of the hands of the state and delivered it to a cartel of capitalists. This was the pinnacle of oligarchic privatization; the process created a bank oligarchy here and an oligarchic elite who nourish one another. Free market capitalism did not replace the old Israeli socialist state. Instead, a new system of consolidated power, featuring bankers and oligarchs, capitalists and media moguls, took shape.

During the past 14 years, neither Netanyahu nor other prime ministers have had an opportunity to correct this error. The new oligarchy castrated the government, eviscerated politics and turned heads of state into puppets. When Didi Lachman-Messer and Yaron Zelekha delivered warnings, nobody listened. When Shelly Yachimovich and Dov Khenin protested, nobody cared. Israel's democracy remained helpless as it confronted the Frankenstein monster of its own making. It didn't have the power needed to battle the concentration of political power created by the process of economic consolidation.

Now, there is an opportunity. A one-time chance. The social protest movement stretched to the breaking point strings that have been utilized by the oligarch puppet masters. The protest created a political arena comprised of three main forces: the people, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg and Netanyahu. Thus, Netanyahu and Trajtenberg are empowered to do what nobody has done and what nobody will be able to do in the future. They can break up Israel's oligarchic regime.

A thousand ideas are now being tossed in the air: inheritance tax, capital gains tax, reduction of VAT, slashes in the defense budget. Yet, with all due respect to the improvement augured by this cocktail of tax reforms, it won't bring about real change. With all due respect to the proposal of effecting a certain reduction in the defense budget, this change will not do the job. First and foremost, the revolution the people are demanding can be brought into being in one sphere - competition. That revolution can be stirred by a dramatic, anti-oligarchic act.

Here is the act: Turn the office responsible for monitoring restraint of trade into an agency for competition. Give such a competition protection agency complete independence and authority, akin to that exercised by the Bank of Israel. Appoint Yaron Zelekha to head the agency. Give this competition agency a clear goal: Within three years, Israel must not have a business sphere in which one entity (or two ) has dominance. Break up the cartels, destroy monopolies, guarantee free competition in each sphere.

That way, a genuine revolution will occur by 2015. Netanyahu would correct a historic error, Trajtenberg would make history. The people would get social justice. After 20 years of darkness, Israel will cease being an oligarchy and will return as a democracy.








It's as if summer 2011 never happened, as if there had never been a protest here: Israel is being led with dreadful blindness by a handful of irresponsible politicians, dangerous pyromaniacs without equal, yet the public remains apathetic. The government is pregnant with danger, conducting a scandalous policy, yet there is no protest.

With all the (enormous ) respect due the social protest, it should already have roused a political protest as well. With all the (enormous ) respect due to social issues - the cost of living is indeed a vital issue - but what about life itself, which is now being threatened in our names, yet about which no one utters a peep?

After summer comes autumn; that's the norm. And autumn 2011 is teeming with disasters: Turkey, America, September at the United Nations - and our fate has been entrusted to a handful of cynical politicians, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who think that national honor means losing our last ally in the region; that national honor means causing Israelis to fear traveling to their favorite country; that national honor means Israelis undergoing humiliating security checks in Istanbul, and perhaps also soldiers standing trial overseas; that national honor means losing a strategic ally, an important Muslim nation, virtually the only one that accepted us in the region where we have chosen to live.

To Netanyahu and his ministers, national honor also means hearing crude (and justified ) remarks about our prime minister from the former defense secretary of our absolutely last remaining ally. So who - tell me, who - has more honor? The one who demands a deserved apology and refuses to back down, or the one who is leading his country to the brink of destruction?

The day after nine activists were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, Israel should have offered a heartfelt apology. Excessive use of lethal weaponry and the close-range killing of civilians from a friendly country is something that cries out for an apology. It's not hard to imagine what would have happened had nine Israeli activists working on behalf of Turkish Jewry been killed by Turkey's army in this fashion.

But Avigdor Lieberman, our thuggish foreign minister, gave the signal, and Benjamin Netanyahu, our easily led prime minister, gave himself over to the "no apology" madness. This, it's worth recalling, came after the incident of the low chair and the incident at Davos. It's also worth recalling that this was aimed at a strong, flourishing, regional power, at the very moment when it was moving away from Syria and Iran - a country with a population 10 times the size of Israel's and a standing army three times the size of Israel's. But who's counting?

And what will Egypt do now that Turkey has almost entirely severed relations with Israel? What new depths will this lead us into?

Israelis looked at all this as if it were a natural disaster. This summer, they learned that the cost of living is not a decree from heaven, as they had always been taught to believe, but they have yet to learn that foreign policy is also not an act of God which can neither be combated nor altered.

Instead, they have been given the usual tranquilizers and mind-altering drugs, the opium of the Israeli masses, the magic charm against every evil: The world is "anti-Semitic"; the world "is against us"; it makes no difference what we do. They don't even ask themselves: Is all this worth it? It's enough for a ratings-hungry television anchor to call the Turkish prime minister "the boor from Ankara," or for a transportation minister with his eye on the primaries to say that Turkey is the one that should apologize, or for an inflamed pundit to write about the "same old anti-Semitism," all so that we will accept the storm that has hit us this autumn as part of the normal progression of the seasons, so that we will once again feel oh so righteous.

"Our town is burning, brothers, burning," wrote the Yiddish poet and songwriter Mordechai Gebirtig (translation from Songs of the Ghettos ). "Our whole town burns! And you stand looking on with folded arms and shake your heads. You stand looking on with folded arms, while the fire spreads!"

But the fire in our city is to a large extent the work of our own hands. There are also pyromaniacs in Turkey, but ours are immeasurably more dangerous to us. They will set our most vital national interests on fire for the sake of showing voters a puffed-out chest; they will sell out Israel for the sake of adopting the grotesque pose they falsely deem standing tall in front of the members of their parties' central committees.

And the public? If this is indeed a natural disaster and the whole world is really against us, what is there for it do other than unite in another display of self-sacrifice and nationalism, its favorite pastimes? And where is the protest when we need it once more?








This week, the head of the Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, said what he thought to the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. "It's being called the Arab Spring, but it could turn into a radical Islamic winter," he said. "And that increases the chance of an all-out, total war, which could even include the use of weapons of mass destruction."

His remarks caused a storm. Even his cautious phrasing (he said "chance" ) was an affront to the political correctness that has been formulated in Israel regarding the true nature of this "spring." In contrast to the dreamers, he called a spade, a spade.

Eisenberg's analysis (which was meant to be a situational assessment, not a defiant declaration ) drew a reprimand from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Barak's aide, Amos Gilad, joined the fray, telling Israel Radio's Reshet Bet's Aryeh Golan, "Our security situation has never been better." The same declaration, word for word, was made by our nation's leaders on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. Surely anyone who remembers this trembled.

Is "the conception" - and history as well - repeating itself?

"None of Israel's rivals is interested in initiating a war against it," said Barak. None of them? Really? Not even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Why exactly has Hassan Nasrallah been stockpiling thousands of rockets? Have we really heard no hostile voices coming from Egypt? Why are missiles, some of them capable of hitting Ben-Gurion International Airport, being smuggled into Gaza? And does anyone really know what might happen next in Amman?

"They know very well why it's not worth it for them to use chemical weapons," warned Barak. "They know very well why it doesn't pay for them to even think of using such weaponry against Israel."

Sorry, but they don't know. Because Barak and his ilk, the serial threateners, have taught them that threats like "It's not worth it for them" are idle threats.

During the first intifada, that of the stones and firebombs, our leaders threatened that if the Palestinians used live weapons, the rule would be "in war, as in war." But during the second intifada, when they shot at us and blew us up, killing and maiming hundreds, it took a full 18 months of "restraint is power" before Operation Defensive Shield was launched.

Then came the next stage of threats: If they dare to fire rockets at our civilian population, their cities, residents and all, would be toast. Among those saying this were the greats of Hebrew literature and the top left-wing politicians.

So they said it. So what? Our enemies know very well that threats of "It's not worth it for them to even think of using chemical weapons" are empty threats, and always will be.

Israeli guns are indeed loaded with lethal bullets, but Israel - certainly while Barak is defense minister- will never pull the trigger. Not until Doomsday, which we pray will never occur, but not before. The Jews, even if their citizens survive a chemical attack, will never respond in kind. So if rockets continue to rain down on the residents of the south, even if they have a chemical component, the response will be no more than another Operation Cast Lead, and once again will be concluded too soon.

No Israeli campaign ever ends with the enemy's surrender, which is one of the reasons why we are eternally at war. If we aren't prepared to defeat our enemies, once and for all, with conventional weapons, what's the point of making hollow threats of any other type of retaliation?








Many of us wonder where all the genius is that Jews are supposed to embody when they gather in their own country. Our situation has never been worse than it is now, even though our cabinets and Knessets have been filled with Jews since the state was established.

We were a people of gifted violinists, esteemed and talented philosophers, writers, poets and doctors, a people of behind-the-scenes advisers, bankers and belly dancers who against all odds found their way to the king's court. And our list of Nobel Prize winners was many times longer than that of other countries. So how have we transformed into a people that knows that the only thing that works is brute force against people in our own country, and especially, against our neighbors?

It's painful to contemplate what would have happened to famous Jews we're so proud of had they immigrated to Israel. Woody Allen (who probably would have been discharged from the army on psychological grounds, and therefore boycotted ), or Yehudi Menuhin (who would have been boycotted due to his anti-Israeli statements ), would certainly have marched in the protest demonstrations. (There are others I'm not worried about. Criminals and mafia heads would get along just fine here. )

For years, I had an idea about the fact that the cabinet and Knesset are in Jerusalem. As is well known, mountain people are tougher than coastal dwellers, and when you add the blazing sun, ozone holes and unknown amounts of radon gas, you can conjure up a geographic-biochemical interpretation of the dissipation of Jewish genius.

A New York Times article by John Tierney on "decision fatigue" provides a plausible scientific explanation for this phenomenon of lost genius and offers an applicable solution. A study by Jonathan Levav (a Diaspora Jew! from Stanford University ) and Shai Danziger of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev establishes two things. First, the more we are forced to make decisions, the more the quality of our decisions worsens. The brain gets exhausted.

And the least of all evils is to avoid making decisions; that is, to leave a situation as is (not returning the territories or not evacuating settlements are excellent examples of this phenomenon ). Or to make impulsive decisions (Israel's farce in its relations with Turkey is a stellar example of decision-making fatigue ). Or to accept whatever is proposed while displaying a loss of judgment and discretionary power (the fact that someone like Avigdor Lieberman is in the cabinet reflects the decision fatigue of the people who formed the government ).

Another study revealed that one thing that can fix decision fatigue is glucose. That is, a quick sugar fix, which can restart a weary brain and help our decision-making skills. So it's unfortunate that for dietary reasons, the cabinet-room table lacks simple sugary foods and that chocolate cookies have been replaced by healthier items in Prime Minister's Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

Instead of allowing MKs to exercise their tired decision-making skills and make decisions favoring all-out regional war, reductions in health coverage, scandalously expanded budget allocations for ultra-Orthodox education, or the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem, maybe we should just put more sugar in their tea. Too bad chronic stupidity can't be solved by a dose of chocolate.








Not far from the "ground zero" made infamous 10 years ago next Sunday is the Statue of Liberty, there to welcome the world's "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

As the world ponders the meaning of "9/ll" a decade on, might we also consider for a moment that immigration is no longer the price of this aspiration. America is now a concept, a global commons as much as it is the dominant global military power, a nation state, the "uni" in a unipolar world.

The Beatles' John Lennon once declared New York the "capital of the world." Writer David Rieff came along behind him a few years later to write an insightful book, "Los Angeles --- Capital of the Third World."

No political or business leader in Latin America will be without an apartment in Miami. You won't be taken seriously in Hong Kong business circles if you don't have at least a flat in California's Marina Del Rey. Almost every senior Turkish banker I know has a pied-a-terre in Manhattan. In all of our acquaintances are the Turkish couples of means who have arranged to give birth to a child on U.S. territory in order to lock up the precious "green card."

The children of friends in Dubai speak flawless American English and are as familiar with J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" as they are with Naguib Mahfouz' "The Journey of Ibn Fattouma."

I have sat with angry students at Kahramanmaraş' Sütçü İmam University eager to condemn America and all associated with it. But it only seemed ironic to me that the canteen was filled with the music of Madonna.

We often talk of U.S. military might. But the vast majority of medical research and development worldwide emanates from America's National Institutes of Health, often carried out by biologists and chemists on short-term visas.

That center of global high technology known as the Silicon Valley is really a kind of intellectual feedback loop connecting engineers in Palo Alto, Beijing and Bangalore. Yahoo's home page is overseen by a native of Mumbai, Google's founder was born in Moscow.

Wael Ghonim, the activist who was among the young leaders toppling Egypt's Hosni Mubarek earlier this year may work for Google and speak perfect English. But he has never actually lived in the United States, growing up between Cairo and Abha, Saudi Arabia.

One of my own few revolutionary heroes is the late Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for the so-called "Green Revolution." His work in boosting yields of wheat and other crops worldwide is credited with saving the lives as of as many as a billion people. Borlaug was about as "American" as you can get, a heartland boy born in Iowa. But his early research was conducted entirely in Mexico and the continuing network of research centers he helped found are run by multinational teams in Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Kenya and Syria – the latter a little known fact.

Jihadists will denounce the "great satan." Marxists will decry a world awash in "cultural imperialism." And neo-conservatives may envision the "new American century." But for better or worse, "Americanness" now belongs to us all in ways far more profound than any of them realize.

Which is my bit for the pondering on a tragic anniversary.






A brand-new phase is starting for the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK.

Let's leave the past aside. We all know the old practices, the mistakes done and their causes. Let us not launch unnecessary accusation campaigns. Let's not slam those officers today. Let's not forget that we used to applaud those we are criticizing today, and even encouraged them, because it then served our purposes.

In a nutshell, if there is a "call to account" stage, then we should take into account the sins of the civilians also.

Today, I want to look ahead, not behind.

Let's learn a lesson from past mistakes and opt for a formation that would not allow past mistakes to repeat. Let's start with the training of those officers who form the spine of the TSK and go deeper into a reorganization.

The reason is very simple.

The TSK comes at the top of those institutions that is the most important and the most needed for this country and also in the region we live in. Instead of slamming this organization and weakening it with unnecessary criticism, on the contrary, we should empower it "with a new perception."

The biggest responsibility in this aspect falls on Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel. Never before has any chief of General Staff had to encounter such a test.

Taking shelter from the wind

On one hand, there are "old school" commanders. They dance to the tune of the first commander but yearn for the past. They do not hold huge empathy for Özel. They have taken shelter and are waiting for those winds that are blowing today to change.

They can still say, "They can alter article 35 as much as they can. We would again go our own way. We will again intervene if necessary. We are the army of the people."

Even if they do not openly say it, while among themselves, they talk such as, "This government will one day go, and then time will come for us to call to account."

This mentality, this addiction has to change; this is the most difficult part of the transformation.

Özel has two options:

Either he will also take shelter or genuinely set off the transformation.

If we take his decisions made since he took office as chief of General Staff as a sign, we can say that he is proceeding on an exceptionally correct way and on the way to transformation.

Özel's biggest advantage is that he has four years ahead of him. If he can use it properly, he can both change the mentality and the structure of the TSK.

His personality and knowhow are fully equipped to be able to succeed in this.

The media and the government will be the biggest supporters of Özel.

We all should not spare this. We should make good use of this opportunity. We should not repeat again the old mistakes.

An officer is not easy to train

I am a person who knows that it is not an easy job to change the TSK's mentality, traditions and structure and that this would take many years. Consequently, I can see the difficulty of this.

Former Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner, in his speech, was mentioning commanders who had a hard time making decisions and who were unable to lead. I remembered my talks with Western officers who were trained in war schools and academies. When I asked them the difference between their education system and the Turkish military education, I received this important response:

"They make Turkish officers memorize everything. There is no opportunity for them to make their own decisions. Questions are presented together with their answers. They don't want officers to take initiative."

Here is one of the deficiencies Koşaner was complaining about. There are many points like this that need to be corrected.

An officer is not easy to train.

What is important is for them to properly digest the information provided.

Education must change first

First and foremost, the education at the military schools needs to be changed.

We should teach our officers the need to cohabit with civilian society and not that making coups is a normal activity. Not to look down on civilians but to live peacefully with all segments of society. Instead of losing time by getting involved in politics, to do their own job. To get out of their office clubs and barracks and to mingle with the people. That there is no healthier regime than democracy. That our secular and democratic system can be protected by votes in the ballot boxes not by guns.

If there is uneasiness being experienced in military-civilian relations, a big portion of this stems from the education that starts as early as military high schools.

We have to give up imposing the idea that "a military intervention can be done if necessary" to our officer candidates in the name of "love for Atatürk" or "ideals of Atatürk."

Özel has taken office at a time and in a position where he can leave his mark on our recent history. If he can launch the process of creating the real powerful Turkish Army, future generations will carry him on their shoulders.

We should not miss this opportunity.






Today I will focus on how the developments mentioned in the previous analysis affect the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK. Understandably, the AKP government and its allies claim that they want civil-military relations to suit the Zeitgeist. To what extent the means used to achieve the targeted ends are appropriate remains an unanswered question.

The government's attempt to achieve control over the military is perceived as "party control," not "democratic control," by the majority of officers and a significant portion of public opinion. There are three main reasons behind this perception. First, the legitimacy of the methods used in the apprehension and prosecution process, such as wiretappings, is dubious. An informal criminal organization was fabricated out of the formal hierarchal structure, without taking into account the institutional culture. Second, ideological discourses used indiscreetly in the mass media have overshadowed the legal framework of the prosecution process. For example, doubt has been cast over the legitimacy of the proceedings because of all the talk about "correcting a centennial mistake."

There are attempts to link the proceedings to the Committee of Union and Progress, a political party active in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, and this is reinforced by ideas like "rooting out the Baathist faction within the army" and illogical claims such as the alleged cooperation of some officers with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Finally, officers believe that they participated in a righteous fight against the PKK and made every possible sacrifice. The continuously deadly character of this fight has led to serious physical and psychological trauma. As the military profession is being unfairly despised and the officers' pride is being seriously hurt, civil-military relations are being carried to a psychological ground informed by emotions like hatred.

The fact that the means and arguments for achieving civilian control over the army disregard "democratic values" has made it very difficult for the officers to internalize these values. This prepares the ground for irrational reactions. Against such possibility, the political establishment is strengthening the police. A vicious circle of fear and insecurity has entrapped both the relations between the politicians and the army and those between the police and the army.

Some groups supporting the project of keeping the TSK away from domestic politics have contributed to the further weakening of the professional capabilities and functions of the TSK. These groups clash with the army for the sake of avenging the past. The TSK's intelligence-gathering capacity has deteriorated, which also explains the unwillingness of officers to take any financial, legal and professional responsibility. Morale and motivation in the army is probably at an historical low.

Unlike other institutions, life in the army is not solely informed by laws. Historical traditions and cultural values have equally important functions, especially regarding trust and the chain of command. This new era has witnessed old cultural values erode rapidly. Still, there are no signs of hope in the horizon that "democratic values" will substitute them. One should not forget that this transformation is happening in the midst of an unstable region and as the PKK problem persists.

This looks like an attempt to format the hard disk that is instead crashing the computer.







In mid-July, Iran launched an attack on Kandil against the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, which is the Iranian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The timing of the attack coincided with the Silvan attack in Turkey. As a matter of fact, it was after Silvan that the violence, which is still continuing, started escalating.

Iran's attacks did not cease against PJAK in Kandil – both south and north of it, and along the borders at Zele, Kala Diza and Xinere. They intensified during the Ramadan bayram holiday. On Sept. 5 PJAK called for a cease-fire. Iran said it would not accept it unless PJAK withdraws from its territory. The ceasefire started Tuesday.

What can we understand from this up until now?

1) PJAK has armed elements in Iranian territory. 2) Since the cease-fire started on Tuesday, they have neither withdrawn from Iranian territory nor stopped their actions.

Some commentators in Turkey evaluated PJAK's call for a truce as a move toward "surrendering" based on the assumption that it was near the point of elimination in terms of combat.

The same circles also assessed that the PKK had reached the end of the road and that they were nearly finished as a combat force.

Judging from the fact that Turkey has launched an intense air campaign and artillery fire and is also preparing for a land operation – coupled by the fact that Iran has launched intense artillery fire in addition to the Revolutionary Guards' land attacks – these same circles think and advance the view that there is cooperation between Turkey and Iran to finish off the PKK-PJAK.

Travel notes while wandering in wonderland

While Turkey is deploying its "iron fist" on the PKK, it will extend its "velvet glove" to the Kurds; while the PKK is being eliminated as a combat force, whatever is called the Kurdish issue will be dealt with by attracting "our Kurdish Brothers" with the Justice and Development Party, or AK Party's, constitutional efforts. While all these are being done, Iran will dispose of PJAK or, more correctly, the PKK in Kandil. The Kurdish administration in Arbil and our allies the Americans will patrol alongside the border between Turkey and Iraq's Kurdistan to fulfill their duties in deactivating the PKK.

All of this is almost completely wrong.

They sound like "travel notes in wonderland" with connection to the truth unmoored.

The interesting side is that the analyses of the PKK leaders are also no different than the opposite evaluations of those who believe the PKK is at the brink of elimination. For months, they have been writing, talking, announcing that Turkey and the United States have struck a deal over the "heads of the Kurds."

The price of the "cooperation" between the U.S. and Turkey over Syria will be that the U.S. will give a green light to Turkey's "Sri Lanka solution," in other words, "the elimination of the Tamil Tigers." In return for Turkey helping to eliminate the Baath regime in Syria, the U.S. will give Turkey a free rein to eliminate the PKK and its supporters; more to the point, the U.S. will support the endeavor.

For this reason, a roughly summarized stance of "the year 2011 cannot be lost by Kurds; this international conspiracy should be fought with a revolutionary people's war," was announced by the PKK's "mountain leaders."

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan stressed in his prison contact notes, which were made available to the public right after the June 12 elections, that a "revolutionary people's war" was an alternative.

A new 'theory' is needed

Very important developments have occurred in the past month. Because Öcalan has been secluded, we are not in a position to know his opinion on the developments of the past weeks. But the "PKK in the mountains" also added Iran to the U.S.-Turkish alliance in its theory of an international conspiracy against the Kurds. According to this, The U.S., Iran and Turkey are all together implementing a plan against the Kurds. This "conspiracy" is to be countered with a "revolutionary people's war."

Just as those who have given endless credits to the AK Party's stance marked by the ruthless bombardment in Kandil have been presenting us for days with "notes from wonderland," the "theories" of the "PKK leaders in the mountains" also seem quite "fantastic."

Now since the Iran-PJAK cease-fire is in effect, a new "theory" has to be found. And, who are those "friendly circles" that have mediated between Iran and PJAK? Can it be Syria?

What is Iran's real intention?

Without reading Iran correctly and without understanding the "modus operandi" in the region, it is not possible to reach an exact conclusion.

What was, I wonder, the true address of Iran's attack in mid-July on Kandil given that it appeared to target PJAK? Had PJAK, as of mid-July, become a real threat, to an extent incomparable to the past?

I would think Iran's Kandil attack has a direct relation with Turkey's distancing itself from Syria, its growing closeness to the U.S. and its increasing stance against Damascus which includes hosting Syrian opposition in Turkey.

The land connection that allowed Iran to form a "strategic axis" with Syria is Turkey and Iraq – especially Iraq's north, that is, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran's military operation in Kandil aimed to keep the Iranian-Syrian corridor open, and for that to give the following message to the Kurdish administration in Arbil: "Don't dally with Turkey too much. Stay apart, we are here and we are able to shatter Kurdistan's stability." How else can we understand the hasty visits of Iraqi Kurdish leaders to Tehran, starting with Neçirvan Barzani?

To consider that the PKK-PJAK is Iran's real military target rather than just being the mail box to which this message is being sent is a bit naive. Let us not forget, the western side of the Kandil mountains is Iraq; the eastern side is already Iranian territory. The Iran-PJAK clash was entirely on the borderline.

Wide angle on the Middle Eastern stage

Other than that, it is quite possible that Iran might have planned to add the PKK as a stronger "card" to the "card deck" it holds in its hand with the attacks on Kandil and its vicinity. With the PJAK cease-fire, it has become easier to reach this aim.

Adopting both the discourse and the method of struggle of the 1990s on the PKK issue, as well as assuming that a result can be obtained through this way, is equivalent to not understanding the regional Kurdish environment at all in the year 2011 and not being able to see the Middle East.

In a Middle Eastern stage where Turkish and Israeli relations will remain tense, at least for a long time, to assume that the PKK can be exterminated as a combat force in northern Iraq and to make plans based on that carries the risk of wasting Turkey's near future.








Writing recently in the Washington Post, Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior adviser at the Rand Corporation think tank, claimed that the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago were not a strategic success for al-Qaeda. He's right. Osama bin Laden's strategy did fail, in the end – but not for the reason that Jenkins thinks.

Jenkins argues that Osama bin Laden believed the United States was a paper tiger because it had no stomach for casualties. Kill enough Americans, and the United States would pull out of the Middle East, leaving the field free for al-Qaeda's project of overthrowing all the secular Arab regimes and imposing Islamist rule on everybody.

In bin Laden's 1996 fatwa declaring war on America, Jenkins pointed out, he claimed that the U.S. would flee the region if attacked seriously. Indeed, bin Laden gave the rapid U.S. military withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and the equally rapid retreat of American forces from Somalia in 1993 after 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in Mogadishu, as examples of American cowardice.

Other al-Qaeda commanders disagreed, Jenkins says, warning that the 9/11 attacks would enrage the United States and "focus its fury on the terrorist group and its allies, but bin Laden pushed ahead. When the United States did [invade Afghanistan], bin Laden switched gears, claiming that he had intended all along to provoke the United States into waging a war that would galvanize all of Islam against it."

Jenkins is quite explicitly saying that bin Laden never realized that the United States would respond violently when his organization murdered thousands of Americans. He would have been dismayed when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and destroyed his training camps. And therefore, the think-tank expert concludes, the U.S. did not fall into a trap that bin Laden had deliberately laid for it when it invaded Afghanistan.

Well, that's one point of view. Here's another. Bin Laden was fully aware that the U.S. would invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, and he wanted it to do so. He believed that the U.S. would then get mired in a long and bloody guerilla war in Afghanistan, a replay of the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s in which bin Laden himself had first risen to prominence.

Military commanders are always planning to re-fight the last war; terrorist commanders are no different. Bin Laden hoped that a protracted guerilla war in Afghanistan, with American troops killing lots of Muslims, would indeed "galvanize all of Islam" against the U.S.

So why didn't he say that beforehand? Why did he claim that the U.S. would flee screaming at the first atrocity, if he really expected it to invade Afghanistan? Because revolutionaries who resort to terrorism always talk freely about their goals, but they NEVER publicly discuss their strategy for achieving them. They can't, because the strategy is so profoundly callous and cynical.

Terrorists generally have rational political goals – usually a revolution of some kind. In bin Laden's case, he wanted Islamist revolutions across the Muslim world, but he had been notably unsuccessful in whipping up popular support for such revolutions. So how could he build that support? Well, how about luring the U.S. into invading a Muslim country?

Revolutionary groups often resort to terrorism if they think they lack popular support. Their aim is to trick their much more powerful opponent (usually a government) into doing terrible things that will alienate the population and drive it into their arms: it's the political equivalent of jiu-jitsu.

They are trying to bring horror and death down on the population by triggering a government crackdown or a foreign occupation, in the hope that it will radicalize people and turn them into supporters of the terrorists' political project. But the people they seek to manipulate must believe that it was the oppressors or the foreign occupiers, not the terrorists, who pulled the trigger. That's why bin Laden lied about his strategy.

He probably didn't even warn his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan that he was planning 9/11, because they would not have welcomed the prospect of being driven from power and having to fight another 10-year guerilla war against another invading superpower.

Bin Laden's strategy was not original with him: he had been fighting as a guerilla and a terrorist leader for 15 years by the time of 9/11, and people of this sort have ALWAYS read all the standard texts on their chosen trade. The notion of using the opponent's strength against him absolutely permeates the "how to" books on guerilla war and terrorism, from Mao to Marighella.

So bin Laden dug a trap, and the U.S. fell into it. In that sense his strategy succeeded, and the guerilla war that ensued in Afghanistan did much to turn Arab and Muslim popular opinion against America. (The invasion of Iraq did even more damage to America's reputation, but that really wasn't about terrorism at all.)

In the long run, however, bin Laden's strategy failed, simply because his project was unacceptable and implausible to most Muslims. And the most decisive rejection of his strategy is the fact that the oppressive old Arab regimes are now being overthrown, for the most part nonviolently, by revolutionaries who want democracy and freedom, not Islamist rule.

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







The private entrepreneur has emerged as the third actor in addition to the soldier and the diplomat in Turkish-Israeli ties. Business has become an area immune from political upheavals, as the trade volume between Turkey and Israel is today at its highest level in history.

Diplomatic relations were established in March 1950 as Turkey became a supplier for agricultural products and raw materials for Israel, which was hit by the boycott of Arab countries in 1946. The Israeli company Salel-Boneh built the highway connecting the Istanbul city center to the airport. Another Israeli construction company built the residential complex for parliamentary deputies, known as the Israeli houses in Ankara. In addition, a direct air corridor opened between Istanbul and Tel Aviv in 1950, while Israel was invited to take part in the international industrial fair in İzmir in 1951.

Trade relations became almost non-existent in the 1970s in an economic context marked by the two oil crises. Nevertheless, the late Turgut Özal, a former president and prime minister, considered bilateral diplomatic relations as an open window to Israel which would allow Turkey to play an important role in the resolution of the problems of the Middle East.

The Free Trade Agreement, or FTA, between Turkey and Israel was signed in May 1996, and the bilateral trade volume increased by 211.4 percent in the initial years of the FTA.

Since then, trade volume has increased consistently, growing from $1.3 billion in 2001 to $3.5 billion in 2010, the first year that saw trade volume exceed $2 billion. Although diplomatic relations took a turn for the worse following the May 2010 flotilla attack, the free market has been winning thanks to the FTA and economic growth. Israeli companies generally operate in joint ventures with Turkish companies, making their Israeli identities invisible in Turkey.

Turkey is Israel's eighth largest export market, and its top economic partner in the region. Israel's contribution to Turkish trade might not be significant; but while quantitatively negligible, business relations with Israel matter qualitatively.

Contrary to trade with other Middle Eastern countries, Turkish exports to Israel are highly diversified and include a wide range of semi-processed goods. The Turkish-Israeli FTA also offers Turkey a gateway to the American market.

Many Israeli companies are highly specialized in research and development and are looking for partners in developing new products and technologies. In a world first, the northwestern province of Bursa has started manufacturing the Fluence Z.E., an electric car from Renault and Nissan, thanks to a deal signed with the Israeli company Better Place.

From computer software to water irrigation systems and information technology to medical equipment, Israel provides access to technology for the Turkish economy, as most of the software Turks use in everything from cell phones to medical equipment is made in Israel. Israeli companies, especially in the agricultural and water technology industry, provide equipment to local Turkish governments. Meanwhile, Israel's kibbutz exports to Turkey during the first quarter of 2011 grew by 12 percent.

With the decoupling of economics from politics, business pragmatism is trumping political tensions because the well-integrated web of private interests constitutes the strongest bond between the two countries and societies. There is a pressing need to go beyond the sterile polemic about "who needs whom the most," as these intense economic interactions verging toward interdependence point at the ever-increasing costs of a disruption in these ties.

*Dr. Burcu Gültekin-Punsmann is a senior foreign policy analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV.




The first call center in Turkey was established in the early 1990s. Today there are about 150 call centers in Turkey with more than 50 seats and around 1,500 smaller ones where approximately 15,000 people are employed. The offerings of call centers have largely been embraced by banks and technology firms; almost all banks in Turkey have a call center. Banks employ about 40 percent of the workforce, followed by mobile telephone service suppliers. In terms of distribution by sector, the wholesale/retail, finance, healthcare, electronics & IT, telecommunication technologies and transportation/logistics sectors are among the leaders. While most of the call centers are located in Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, there are call centers in Antalya, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Erzincan, Gümüşhane, Malatya, Sivas, Uşak, Kayseri, Bursa, Düzce, Afyon, Eskişehir and Yalova as well.

In the early days the first movers were international giants like Siemens. Today there are many local firms who are doing great business such as Callpex and Global Bilgi.

According to Invest in Turkey, the call center sector in Turkey has great potential for development in the years ahead thanks to the availability of its educated, qualified and young labor force, the high number of universities and schools providing vocational education, the accessibility of high value-added call center services and the existence of a large number of foreigners living in Turkey, as well as the fact that Turkish people do not speak foreign languages with a distinguishable accent, that the country is extremely attractive for foreign investors and that a great many investors designate Turkey as the center for carrying out their operations in other countries.

Call center business is very attractive to all the countries where there is an abundance of highly educated new graduates such as Turkey's main rivals, India and China. The rest of the Asian countries are also trying to make a name for themselves. Therefore Turkey needs to reinvent itself in the call center industry because getting into a competition based on price with Asian countries is impossible.

Callpex's Sales Director Burçak Kozanoğlu states that in the new era Turkey must move from targeting easy mass contracts to "Business Process Outsourcing," in which more sophisticated solutions are needed. Callpex and other big players are not only implementing basic customer relations management solutions, but they innovate and create their own products as well. They are now moving into process management, field services and collection solutions. You can even have a social media campaign via a call center.

What is even more interesting to me is the fact that this industry is one of the fastest ways to re-distribute wealth to less developed cities. Kozanoğlu says they will be employing 750 people in Van, where it is one of the hardest cities to find a decent job in Turkey. Global Bilgi has centers in Erzurum and Diyarbakır. These investments change the cities they are built in. Women and disadvantaged citizens are regularly employed thus they are empowered in cities where life would be harder on them.

Kozanoğlu gives good news that via home agents they can employ anyone anywhere as long as they are willing to work. These new developments will certainly help Turkey's long run income distribution in a positive way that will enable people to take their future into their own hands.

Government is doing its best as well. Call centers are now being subsidized by the government. Thus it is expected that the industry will develop even faster now.






Quetta has suffered increasing violence during the past few years – and it seems that there will be no respite. As they have done in other places time and again, the bombers who claimed more than 21 lives and injured over 80, struck early in the morning. The twin explosions, which took place within five minutes of each other, occurred in the heavily protected Civil Lines area, close to the commissioner's office. The principal target, it appears, was the deputy chief of the Frontier Corps paramilitary force. The first suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near DIG FC Farrukh Shahzad's car. The second entered his home and set off explosives that killed Shahzad's wife and several guards, injured Shahzad, and brought down the house. The Pakistan Taliban have reportedly claimed responsibility for the blasts; they have said that the blasts are revenge for the arrests of three high-ranking Al-Qaeda men. The men were apprehended in Quetta in what is being called a joint Pakistan-CIA operation.

This was an audacious bombing in an area that is supposed to be heavily secured. The attack is alarming evidence of just how powerful the terrorists are – they were able to mount a large operation soon after three of their own were arrested. And it appears that the authorities have no means at their disposal of ending the violence. It is not clear if a strategy is being worked out to deal with the situation and step up security. Attacks such as these can only demoralise the very security forces that have waged a long, hard battle against the militants. Sadly, victory does not appear to be in sight. What we need to see is action at the highest levels that reflects a change in thinking and a readjustment of tactics. This, after all, is the primary duty of any government. The Supreme Court, while taking notice of the law and order situation in Karachi, has already commented tersely on the failure of provincial authorities to improve the situation. This latest bombing is yet another reminder that we have failed to rein in the militants who retain a fearsome ability to strike even in the most protected areas of our country.





One can imagine a political scientist studying Pakistan right now, exhausting all his models and theories to make sense of politics in this country and finally putting away his bag of tricks and throwing up his hands in exasperation. After all, how do you make sense of the political circus that Karachi has become? On one TV channel, Zulfiqar Mirza is spewing allegations against Rehman Malik and the MQM in his trademark frenzied style. On another channel, MQM's Mustafa Kamal is rejecting all of Mirza's allegations, and urging the chief justice to take action. In the middle of all this, Supreme Court proceedings are ongoing, in which none other than the DG Rangers has admitted that the situation in Karachi is worse than in Waziristan. With each passing day, the role of political parties in the violence has become clearer, as has the incompetence of Sindh's law-enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, various voices have kept calling for Mirza to be summoned to the court and the court has finally said that if Mirza has something to share, he should submit an affidavit and file a petition.

Amid all this, elected representatives remain sitting in assembles; the flurry of 'high-profile' meetings continues; and fear of blood still rules the streets. One commentator has even said that while the SC hearings were a sincere effort, ultimately the CJ too might be left holding his head. The CJ has asked the Sindh attorney general why he is concealing facts from the court and under whose instructions. As the economic hub of the country is pushed towards the precipice, all stakeholders – the PPP, MQM, ANP, Mirza and others – need to come clean. They need to find the courage to grip the political tensions and dwell on how their own stock will be impacted if the situation is not controlled. Political forces need to stop being preoccupied by parochial concerns and take a 'big picture' view. The machinery of paralysis will only reap disaster.





The recent decision to teach Chinese in Sindh's secondary schools is a little puzzling given the problems that exist within our education system, particularly with delivering 'the basics'. At one level – the purely abstract and intellectual – the teaching of Chinese (presumably Mandarin) is something that is beginning to preoccupy educationalists globally. The Chinese language is in the ascendant, particularly in our part of the world, and we may expect that in a generation's time a lot of business will be conducted in Chinese, and some of our students will be enrolled in Chinese universities. So learning Chinese makes sense, particularly as we are close friends with China which is a state that has proved to be an all-weather friend.

Looked at from a more practical perspective the decision is quite possibly perverse. Chinese is among the more difficult languages to learn. Those who teach languages are of the opinion that it cannot be learned to a level of fluency that would be required to teach it other than in a Chinese-speaking country. Fluency is almost never attained if Chinese is learned 'at home'. It requires deep immersion for a minimum of 18 months, and the kind of dedication that might be expected of a top athlete. We would need to send several thousand teachers to China for a minimum of three years if they are to be able to speak and write Chinese with sufficient proficiency, and for them to be able to teach it – which makes the 2013 start date for the programme unrealistically optimistic. Alternatively, we could bring several thousand native Chinese speakers here to teach the children of Sindh – which at least has a 'plug and play' advantage, and our teachers could learn alongside their erstwhile students. Who will pay for this we know not, and there is as yet no academic evidence that such a programme is going to be of a value which exceeds the expense of setting it up and running it. Pakistan has a number of pressing educational problems, not the least of these being a root and branch revision of the curriculum across the country. Our teachers need training in modern classroom methodologies, and training in the teaching of Urdu and English. Teach Chinese as an option, but let us not lose sight of larger and far more important goals.





 In her article on the economy in the August 24 issue of The News, Dr Maleeha Lodhi has sounded a serious and timely warning about the looming economic crisis. The message conveyed in her article was that the real threat to the survival of the country was not from India, the US or from terrorism, but from an economic collapse that may be closer than people think if certain policy actions are not taken. She has competently used key macroeconomic indicators to establish that the country is heading towards a train wreck but somehow the government, the opposition and other stake holders continue to ignore the warning signals.

Let me summarise in simple terms the main trigger points of the economy:

The commodity producing sectors are showing low growth. The rate of inflation is much higher than what the official statistics show. The budgetary situation is much worse than what the budget documents reveal or the Ministry of Finance projects. Budget subsidies are substantial and going to the wrong people. Several public-sector enterprises are bankrupt.

The balance sheets of banks are loaded with lending to the government and its bankrupt enterprises on the invalid assumption that sovereign debt cannot be in danger of default. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has no control on its own balance sheet, which is being driven by government borrowing, and it has no autonomy in practice to formulate an independent monetary policy even when the revised SBP Act provides for it.

The private sector is dormant and capital flight is at an all time high. There is no plan for water management to promote agricultural output and the industry is suffering from a shortage of gas and electricity. The underground economy is expanding relative to the recorded economy. The medium term balance of payment situation is much more precarious than what the foreign exchange reserve position reflects.

The state of governance is very poor. In spite of relentless efforts by the judiciary, corruption and pilferage are on the rise. The government is barely functioning and the country's finance minister has no effectiveness in the chaotic political system. Even with a parliamentary system of government, the prime minister is just a figurehead and the president, having no statutory powers, is in effect running the government. The army is engaged in fighting militancy and seems to have no interest or influence to help stabilise the sinking economic ship. The judiciary is being defied by the executive with impunity. In these chaotic governance conditions, nobody is paying any attention to the real threat to the existence of the country that is emanating from a collapsing economy. The underlying depressing economic trends are being covered up by slogan mongering, false promises, window dressing and statistical jugglery by the government.

While Dr Lodhi has used several macroeconomic indicators to point to the precarious state of the economy, I will focus on two major threatening economic storms that are brewing and that she has already mentioned. On the domestic front, the country is headed towards runaway inflation. On the external front, debt default is a real possibility. Both of these crises will have serious economic, social and political implications and once in progress will be difficult to manage and control.

For the last several years the country is in the grip of sharply rising prices and is headed towards the stage of hyper inflation. A part of high inflation is attributable to supply shortages reflecting lopsided economic performance, slow growth of commodity producing sectors and the effects of natural calamities like floods but it is mainly driven by demand pressures from unbridled printing of notes by the State Bank, which is supposed to be the custodian of monetary stability. Unmindful of the consequences, the government continues to use inflationary sources of financing the budget, fearing the public reaction to imposition of taxes or curtailment of expenditure. People are losing confidence in the country's currency and dollarisation and real estate holdings are being used as hedge against inflation. If the government does not change its method of financing the budget and bankrupt public-sector enterprises, hyper inflation is just around the corner.

Inflation is the cruelest form of taxation hitting the poorest segments of society the hardest and creating social and political unrest. It hurts growth, adds to poverty and economic crimes and generates a dual society that will ultimately promote a class war and social and political disorder. The government has little awareness that in using inflationary methods of budget financing it is on a slippery and dangerous slope.

The second area of vulnerability mentioned by Dr Lodhi is possible external debt default with enormous consequences for the country and its future. With export volume stagnating and imports rising, and remittances and bilateral foreign assistance likely to dry up, and with no prospect of a meaningful and sustainable stabilisation programme with the IMF, very soon foreign exchange reserves will begin to get hit by heavy payments for imports and debt servicing, including large repayments to the IMF. Once reserves begin to decline, market psychology will turn negative and accelerate the process of depletion of foreign exchange reserves. The fear of external debt default or actual default will adversely affect international trade, the exchange rate, remittance inflows and private investment and lead to commodity shortages and a sharp rise in prices. External debt default or even an eminent threat of it will set in motion an economic chaos that would threaten the very existence of the country.

Time is running out for the government and the country. The government needs to act, and act now. It must undertake major economic reforms to stabilise the economy and avoid hyper-inflation on the domestic side and breakdown of the balance of payment on the external front.

Dr Lodhi's warnings should be taken seriously and not brushed aside as a usual dooms day scenario of a pessimist. It may be pointed out that she very optimistically edited a book recently entitled "Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State" and predicted that "the country may yet escape its difficult first sixty-three years, resolve its problems and re-imagine its future. But doing so will need a capable leadership with the vision and determination to chart a new course."

We all are waiting for the beginning of that period of vision and determination by a capable leadership that would create hope and promise for the country.

The writer is former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.







The 9/11 decade symbolises a perpetual state of turmoil. Since Sept 11, 2001, terrorists, warlords, drug barons, and in particular the oil industry tycoons have been pushing the world towards chaos. They are supporting fundamentalists to keep conflicts alive so that the war industry earns more profits. The ultimate beneficiaries of the "war on terror" are industry tycoons selling weapons worth billions of dollar.

The fundamentalists and self-proclaimed reformers preached hatred and justified killings in the name of "faith." They passed fatwas (edicts) promising paradise to of their followers who support their so-called jihad and condemnation to hell for those who opposed it, although no such power is delegated to them by Allah. This is to say nothing of the more "enlightened" owners of the Western war industries who control democracies in the United States and the West. During the war against the USSR in Afghanistan, these "defenders of free world" created mujahideen, whom they now denounce as terrorists.

9/11 was used as a pretext by the United States and Nato for the invasion of Afghanistan. The decision for the invasion had already been taken at a Nato ministerial meeting in Berlin in November 2000. The driving force for the US and its Western allies was the Turkmenistan Gas Pipeline Project in which powerful corporate entities had financial interests, not apprehensions about the presence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Bush appointed a former aide to the American oil company UNOCAL, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, as special envoy to Afghanistan nine days after the US-backed interim government of Hamid Karzai took office in Kabul. This appointment underscored the real economic and financial interests at stake in the US military intervention in Central Asia. Khalilzad was intimately involved in long-running US efforts to obtain direct access to the oil and gas resources of the region, largely unexploited but believed to be the second-largest in the world after those in the Persian Gulf.

As an advisor for UNOCAL, Khalilzad drew up a risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. He participated in talks between UNOCAL and Taliban officials in 1997, which were aimed at implementing a 1995 agreement to build the pipeline across western Afghanistan. UNOCAL was the lead company in the formation of the Centgas consortium, whose purpose was to bring to market natural gas from the Dauletabad field in southeastern Turkmenistan, one of the world's largest energy reserves.

The $2 billion project involved a 48-inch-diameter pipeline from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, passing near the cities of Herat and Kandahar, crossing into Pakistan near Quetta and linking with the existing pipelines at Multan. An additional $600 million extension to India was also under consideration.

Khalilzad also lobbied publicly for a more sympathetic US government policy towards the Taliban. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post, he defended the Taliban regime against accusations that it was a sponsor of terrorism. ''The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran,'' he said. ''We willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction. It is time for the United States to re-engage the Afghan regime."

The ''re-engagement'' suggested by Khalilzad would of course have been enormously profitable to UNOCAL, which was otherwise unable to bring gas and oil to market from landlocked Turkmenistan. The oil industry connections of Bush and Cheney were playing the dominant role in US Afghan policy but the entire Western media was portraying it as a "war on terror."

There were only a few dissident voices, like that of Frank Viviano. who observed in The San Francisco Chronicle of Sept 26, 2001: ''The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word: oil. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world's principal energy sources in the 21st century.... It is inevitable that the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America's Chevron, Exxon, and Arco; France's TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal Dutch Shell and other multinational giants, which have hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the region.''

In its business section on Dec 15, 2001, The New York Times , carried an article titled "As the War Shifts Alliances, Oil Deals Follow." It said the State Department "is exploring the potential for post-Taliban energy projects in the region, which has more than 6 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and almost 40 percent of its gas reserves.''

The Times noted that during a visit in early December to Kazakhstan, "Secretary of State Colin L Powell said he was particularly impressed with the money that American oil companies were investing there. He estimated that $200 billion could flow into Kazakhstan during the next 5 to 10 years.'' Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham also pushed US oil investments in the region during a November visit to Russia, on which he was accompanied by David J O'Reilly, chairman of ChevronTexaco.

The subsequent invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies for the destruction of its non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as US ambassador to both Afghanistan and Iran proved beyond any doubt that the "war on terror" was nothing but part of the quest for oil. The same, at least in part, is proving to be true for the Arab Spring.

This is the reality of the "war on terror" and the essence of the 9/11 decade. It has exposed the hidden agenda of the US and its Western allies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere to use fundamentalism to threaten powerful China and India, promote arms conflicts, grab oil and gas resources and enforce acceptance of their economic policies benefiting huge multinational corporations in which the Western ruling elites have substantial interests.

The writers are adjunct professors at the

Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Emails: and






A respected professional and friend recently emailed me to comment on an interview I gave. Coming from a very mature person, the email deserves a public reply, more so because the individual concerned belongs to the Indian intelligentsia.

What excited him was the headline of an interview quoting me saying: "As long as Army exists, Pakistan exists." Let me recount the details of the extended interview, "You need a well-funded army, there is no question about that. Given the country's precarious law and order situation and ongoing efforts against insurgencies, now is not the time to slash defence spending to curtail fiscal deficits. As long as the Army exists, Pakistan will exist. The day you make the Army weak, you will not survive. Praising the efforts of the country's armed forces, the noted defence analyst argues that counter insurgency has been very successful in the country but there is no counterterrorism force in Pakistan. He contends that such a force is direly needed to combat the wave of extremism and violence that has swept across the nation. The biggest and most vicious problem faced by Pakistan is ideological. A small minority feels that by the force of arms they can rule over the majority."

To quote my Indian friend, "I do appreciate an alternative point of view. And I mean that. Because brought up on a culture of viewing dissent and debate as not only part of a dialectic process but as an essential part of (a) democratic country where free speech (is) enshrined not just in the Constitution but in our DNA, this is our lifeblood. However, I simply cannot fathom how a Muslim country founded by a "non believing-practicing Muslim," who initially wanted to created a secular democratic state, is now a haven for radical Islam and regional instability. And that becomes the justification for a strong army which invades all aspects of life including numerous occasions of disrupting democracy, promoting violence within and outside its own borders, usurping legitimate people power, and finally perpetuating its own mandate. Surely as a fine intellectual you cannot be believing in this deeply inside barring the fact that is politically current to defend army strength in antediluvian thought at best? This is not a personal diatribe but a strong view from across the border who watch Pakistan on the brink (witness our peaceful and vigorously debated Anna Hazare protest, a peaceful revolution at best) where solutions to its angst and future direction have come from one source for over six decades...the army."

First of all, Jinnah was not a "non-believing Muslim" as my friend has stated; the founder of the nation was very much a believer. Realising that the force of democratic numbers would reduce the Muslims to a minority in the face of the virulent hatred of the small clique who ruled over the majority Hindus, he decided that the only option was a separate homeland for the Muslims. Being the greatest advocate of Hindu-Muslim friendship and a member of Congress – why did he leave Congress and decide in favour of a separate homeland? Initially he would have even settled for a confederation with two separate Muslim majority provinces on each side of the vast Hindu majority mainland, but when Jawaharlal Nehru made clear that on independence from Great Britain, this arrangement would be annulled, he decided that there was no option but to go for a separate homeland where Muslims would be in the majority.

Of all the religions in the world Islam is the one that is most secular. With the creation of Pakistan, the greater majority of Muslims were still left in India as a minority of less than 20 percent compared to the majority Hindus who comprised nearly 75 percent of the population. The Quaid's "secular" thinking fit in neatly with his desire not to abandon the Muslims left in India to second-class status. Because of the spate of Hindu-Muslim riots, particularly in Bengal, he was afraid of this spreading throughout India with adversely effects for Muslim minorities. He was hoping to forestall the expected assault on the Muslim few by a bigoted section of Hindus who virulently hated Muslims. This would invite a reaction against Hindus and Sikhs in the areas comprising "Pakistan," snowballing into massive violence, bloodshed and consequent physical migration.

Unfortunately, this could not be avoided despite his Aug 11, 1947 speech inviting all minorities in Pakistan to remain in place: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state...We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state...I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state."

Despite being a balanced man of the world, the raw Indian hatred for the Pakistan Army seeps and clearly in what my friend wrote to me. Their own recurring propaganda makes the Indians see the ISI and the Pakistan Army behind everything horrible happening in South Asia. This is not only untrue, but most unfair! To see how violently RAW interferes in Pakistan, he should see Ajmal Pahari's explicit interview on YouTube. However, with far more problems than Pakistan in many spheres of life, India has incidentally many times more terrorists per square mile than Pakistan. After all who are the Naxalites? And what about the states surrounding Bangladesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizarian, Manipur, etc?

While we admire the tremendous economic progress India has made, what about more than 700 million living below the poverty line? What is discouraging is that the views expressed are clearly shared universally by the intelligentsia and the elite; with such a mindset how can we ever hope for peace with India? However, peace with India is imperative and we must change the basic Indian animosity for our men in uniform. Even though they throw brickbats at us, we must reply with flowers. Nobody in his right mind would want to see mushroom clouds blooming all over South Asia.

We must share this vision with India, "A place under the sun where we can live, with dignity, without prejudice and/or discrimination, without fear and want, with confidence in ourselves and secure in the knowledge that our hopes and aspirations for our country, rich in human and material resources and with abundance of talent and ingenuity, is grounded in sound and effective institutions that deliver social services and equitable justice in a fair and transparent manner, and that we do not fear any external threat or covet any territory beyond our frontiers, or are susceptible to or are subject to any influence and/or dictation from any forces external or internal, whose interests are in conflict with the basic values that define us as a state".

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:





Entering the Asian Society's exhibition "The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara", with its zen atmosphere and gentle lighting, I would never have guessed that the back story to this exhibit read like a diplomatic thriller. A meeting with Shahbaz Sharif, interventions by Hillary Clinton, and persistent efforts of Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, all to secure art loans and ensure their safe transportation to New York. This adventure was fraught with twists and turns from the Pakistan Ministry of Culture's initial reluctance to send pieces to the US to the devolution in decision making to provincial governments regarding art loans. As if this wasn't complicated enough, the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, an ally of the exhibition, was a big blow. In the ensuing months, anti-American sentiments triggered by CIA operative Raymond A Davis' shooting of two Pakistanis in Lahore, and further fuelled by Osama bin Laden's killing in May, put in doubt whether the exhibition would even take place.

Luckily this story has a happy ending, thanks in large part to the endless efforts of the director of the Asia Society Museum, Melissa Chiu, as well as people on both sides of the Atlantic. She felt that it was important to display the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan despite its volatile relationship with the US over the past eight months.

"The Asian Society's mission has been to bring Asians and Americans closer together through a greater cultural understanding and in this case through art exhibitions we're able to see another dimension to Pakistan beyond the headlines. It is one of our key goals in wanting to do these kinds of projects."

She has succeeded in doing this. Following the 2009 exhibition "Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art of Pakistan", this exhibition on Gandharan art shows that art can act as an effective ambassador for a nation. For a country that is predominantly Muslim, this exhibition showcases its rich Buddhist heritage through the 75 pieces on display. Though Pakistan is often mentioned alongside terrorism, the Gandharan art with its cultural influences from Scytho-Parthian to Greco-Roman tradition, illustrates that the region has a history of pluralism and tolerance.

Since its opening on August 9, the exhibition has received thousands of visitors with many more expected before it closes on October 30. Most of the pieces on display are from the Lahore Museum and the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. The exhibition is divided into three sections: "Classical Connections" which examines western Hellenistic influences in contrast to that of Indian Buddhist art. The second section highlights the diverse imagery of Buddha and bodhisattvas in Gandhara. The third, "Narratives and Architectural Context" showcases stories from Buddha's life on various panels and explains it in the context of religious establishments.

It has been over 50 years since there has been an exhibition on Gandharan art in the US. One of the reasons for holding the exhibition now is that thinking on Gandharan art has changed in recent years with more emphasis being placed on the multitude of cultural influences in Gandhara. Historically, the position has been that Gandharan art has had very western influences but in the last few years there has been a greater appreciation of the eastern and Asian influences. This is illustrated through some Indian pieces that were selected to showcase this in the exhibition.

This exhibition also illustrated that globalisation and cosmopolitanism are not concepts specific to our time. The Gandhara region was where a number of different cultures intersected and where ideas were exchanged.

"We wanted to also say in the ancient world there were these marvels of great cosmopolitanism that is comparable to today." Said Melissa Chiu

Interestingly, many American visitors had no idea that the Gandhara region had such a rich Buddhist heritage that promoted tolerance and pluralism. Others with ties to Pakistan had no idea that these pieces existed in the Lahore Museum and the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi.

One American woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that she came to the exhibition because she had lived in Lahore in the 1960s. She thought that the exhibition portrayed a different image of Pakistan and before this exhibition she was unaware that it had a Buddhist heritage.

Lorraine Matys, a former newspaper editor, said that she was fascinated by the exhibition. She had a peripheral knowledge of Gandharan art but this exhibition really gave her a more in-depth understanding. She also felt that the exhibition portrayed a different aspect of Pakistan that Americans would like to see

Erik Yates, a musician from Oakland, California became interested in the exhibition when he read an article on the obstacles of bringing this exhibition about. He found it interesting that there were both western as well as Asian influences on the pieces. He hadn't had much exposure to art from Pakistan until this exhibition.

He said, "Art is a good way to strengthen ties between countries. The willingness of people to overcome the difficulties described in the article I read illustrates its importance."

These views reveal that art can be a valuable tool in shaping and in some cases changing people's perceptions about a country. For Pakistan, it allows people to see beyond the headlines. Showcasing art in its multiple forms gives people outside Pakistan a chance to appreciate its rich and diverse heritage as well as its continually evolving culture. After all, sometimes pictures speak louder than words.

The writer is a freelance contributor.






The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

There is a limit to how many wounds a body can sustain, to how much blood can be lost before the heart stops beating and life, at best, can be sustained only on machines which keep the systems running artificially.

Karachi now appears to be fast approaching this point. The death toll continues to mount in this city which has been turned into a mass graveyard where mourners live along every street in some localities. The scale of the violence is on par with that seen in the early 1990s – when the Nawaz Sharif's government in the centre called in the army in 1992, leading to yet more deaths in a city that has known far too much violence.

That violence has lately taken an especially ugly turn: body bags are turning up with increasing regularity, at secret locations torture chambers are run where the bodies of victims are drilled, burned or beaten to pulp before the victims are killed and people – many of them merely poor labourers in Karachi to earn a living – are pulled away from homes or corner shops at random and shot dead in cold blood.

Parts of the city resemble Beirut before the 1989 peace accord signed in Taif, Saudi Arabia, brought the conflict that had lasted over a decade to an end. The Lebanese Civil War pitched the Shia Amal militia, Palestinians, leftists and Christian Druze fighters against each other.

The warfare in Karachi, in a somewhat similar fashion, pitches groups living within the city against each other – even though the lines of divide run more along ethnic than religious lines, with a dangerous political twist added to the fighting. In localities like Lyari bullet holes pock walls everywhere and washed stains of blood are visible.

Karachi needs a political deal, such as the one finally hammered out in Lebanon and pushed forward by veteran politicians in the country, with some external pressure of the same kind. The complex power-sharing formula has remained largely intact, allowing the beautiful city of Beirut to once more live in peace.

The people of Karachi dream of just such a day. Sadly, there is no evidence that it is coming. There is no real demonstration of political maturity or the kind of responsible stance that is needed from all major parties. Instead, from time to time, we have comments and remarks that only make matters worse. Perhaps they are intended to do just this.

The outburst from former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza last week, which appears to have left his own party as startled as the opposition, is hard to make sense of. It has certainly added to the tensions; what is still more frightening is that some of his accusations are almost certainly true.

Games of various kinds are being played in the city by grandmasters who see people as nothing more than pawns deployed on a chessboard, powerless pieces that can expect to be sacrificed to save the more powerful and help them tighten their grip on the field of play.

Reports have suggested that details of cases against Altaf Hussain and the MQM have been sent to the British government as a means of exerting pressure on the party. Altaf has retained his iron hold on his party from headquarters in London since the early 1990s and appears before people on giant television screens to make the emotional, dramatic addresses for which he has become known.

We, as citizens, have no real means of ascertaining how much of what we hear and read is true. But there is no denying the brutal reality of death and the terror it brings along. People in Karachi have become alarmingly familiar with the sense of threat they live with. Schoolteachers in Orangi, Lyari and elsewhere speak of small children drawing pictures of bodies strewn on streets. The impact of trauma and the degree of its impact on the lives of people has not been sufficiently examined; the difficulty people have in coping with the situation has not been tackled at all.

Amidst the violence we have been hearing more and more calls for the army to be called out. It is unlikely that this would lead to any lasting peace. The problem Karachi faces is not strictly one of law and order or an administrative breakdown. This is essentially a political problem, which requires a political solution. In fact, there is potential danger in army deployment. It could well lead to further complications and a political mess that is even more difficult to clean up.

The PPP – and some neutral observers – believe an army operation may lead to cries of victimisation from the MQM, as part of a political ploy, no matter how even-handed the action may be. There are other dangers involved in having the army get embroiled in problems that belong in the civilian sphere.

This means the onus on the political leadership to sort out matters is great. So far it has failed completely in this task. There is less and less time to lose. At least 1,400 people have died in Karachi this year alone – 400 of them since July. We cannot afford more bloodshed. What is still more alarming is the fact that Karachi is dividing up into ethnic pockets with more and more hatred for each other among the members.

This is visible in many localities where groups speaking different languages had previously lived harmoniously. Scenes of television channels show Pakhtuns and Urdu-speaking groups shouting accusations at each other across streets as the cameras whirr on.

It is uncertain if the media depiction of such animosity is in any way helpful. Indeed, it serves only to heighten tensions. This is something Karachi can simply not afford. The city, to which tens of thousands of people from all parts of the country have migrated over the years in search of work and a better life now consists of over 16 million residents. Some way has to be found to enable them to live in peace. If this does not happen, we will see repeated eruptions of violence.

Only the political parties can end the killings. They must play their part in this. Otherwise we will have only greater chaos and there is grave doubt over how much more of this we can sustain before the ability to survive fades away permanently from a city where old scars have been torn open again.







 David Petraeus has become head of a CIA whose mission has changed in recent years from gathering and analysing intelligence to waging military campaigns through drone strikes in Pakistan, as well as in Yemen and Somalia.

But the transformation of the CIA did not simply follow the expansion of the drone war in Pakistan to its present level. CIA Director Michael Hayden lobbied hard for that expansion at a time when drone strikes seemed like a failed experiment.

During 2010, the CIA "drone war" in Pakistan killed as many as 1,000 people a year, compared with the roughly 2,000 a year officially estimated to have been killed by the SOF "night raids" in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Sep. 1 Washington Post.

During the four years from 2004 through 2007, the CIA carried out a total of only 12 drone strikes in Pakistan, all supposedly aimed at identifiable high-value targets of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

The Bush administration's policy on use of drones was cautious in large part because General Pervez Musharraf was considered such a reliable ally that the administration was reluctant to take actions that would risk destabilising his regime.

Thus relatively tight constraints were imposed on the CIA in choosing targets for drone strikes. They were only to be used against known "high-value" officials of Al-Qaeda and their affiliates in Pakistan, and the CIA had to have evidence that no civilians would be killed as a result of the strike.

Those first 12 strikes killed only three identifiable Al-Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban figures. But despite the prohibition against strikes that would incur "collateral damage", the same strikes killed a total of 121 civilians, as revealed by a thorough analysis of news media reports. A single strike against a madrassah on Oct 26, 2006 that killed 80 local students accounted for two-thirds of the total of civilian casualties.

In mid-2008, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell returned from a trip to Pakistan determined to prove that the Pakistani military was covertly supporting Taliban insurgents – especially the Haqqani network – who were gaining momentum in Afghanistan.

A formal assessment by McConnell's staff making that case was produced in June and sent to the White House and other top officials. That forced Bush, who had been praising Musharraf as an ally against the Taliban, to do something to show that he was being tough on the Pakistani military as well as on the Afghan insurgents who enjoyed safe havens in northwest Pakistan. Bush wanted the drone strikes to focus primarily on the Afghan Taliban targets rather than Al-Qaeda and its Pakistani Taliban allies.

In the second half of 2008 CIA immediately increased the level of drone strikes to between four and five per month on average. The CIA finally had the major drone campaign it had originally anticipated.

Two years ago, Petraeus appeared to take a somewhat sceptical view of drone strikes in Pakistan. In a secret assessment as Centcom commander on May 27, 2009, which was leaked to the Washington Post, Petraeus warned that drone strikes were fuelling anti-US sentiments in Pakistan.

Now, however, Petraeus's personal view of the drone war may no longer be relevant. The CIA's institutional interests in continuing the drone war may have become so commanding that no director could afford to override those interests on the basis of his own analysis of how the drone strikes affect US interests.

The writer is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in US national security policy.









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.






To charge market prices for public preschools is "destructive and short-sighted" ... Professor Tony Vinson. Photo: Steven Siewert

THE NSW government has displayed a noble commitment to bring its budget back into the black, but its decision to introduce fees at publicly run preschools smacks of counterproductive Scroogism.

Buried deep in Tuesday's budget papers was an announcement that parents of children attending the state's 100 publicly run preschools will soon have to pay a fee for the service, albeit on a means-tested basis. The government bills this as a measure to bring government preschools more into line with community-based preschools, which, if applied in full, potentially exposes parents to fees of up to $50 a day. But if bringing the public school sector into line with privately run operations is the rationale, what is next? Fees for public primary schools, to bring them in line with private schools?

This dangerous bit of muddle-headed thinking requires a better explanation. The government has failed to spell out any details of how a means test of these fees would apply and how much it hopes to save with the measure.

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What is well known, and well established in the literature, is the vital role preschools and other early learning opportunities play in a child's education. Children who attend preschool get a head start that helps them through every stage of their subsequent education.

A 2006 study by the respected educationist Tony Vinson found some children start school with no idea what to do with a pen, paintbrush or book. Outraged, Professor Vinson has described the proposal to charge market prices for public preschools as ''destructive and short-sighted''. We agree.

Preschooling provides an important opportunity for children to acclimatise to a group-learning environment. It also provides an introduction for parents and children to their local community. This is all the more important for children from low socio-economic areas where publicly funded preschools are predominant. Indeed, about 24 of the preschools at which the O'Farrell government intends to introduce a fee-for-service model are in Aboriginal communities.

Charging for such preschooling, and potentially putting it out of reach for some children, flies in the face of all the research the importance of early childhood intervention. It is also at odds with the federal government's focus on early learning.

The state government has serious questions to answer. It must provide a detailed explanation of why this measure is justified and does not just represent dangerous penny pinching. Parents, and children ultimately, deserve as much.


Own goals in education

EDUCATION is not just something we do for our own young. Increasingly, Australia has been one of the main providers of education and training for the children of the ambitious new middle classes expanding rapidly in east and south-east Asia, the subcontinent and the Middle East. The sector ranks up close to iron ore and coal exports in the earnings pumped into our economy - and most of it comes to the south-eastern states.

But we got complacent. Visa rorting and shonky colleges distorted the sector's purpose. Many foreign students came to feel we were only interested in the dollars they spend. The rash of attacks on Indian students in 2008 created an impression of actual hostility. Now the doubts are compounded by the drastic rise in the Australian dollar. Enrolments by international students are falling sharply - 9.4 per cent overall and double that figure for vocational and English-language colleges. Universities, even the best on global rankings, are struggling to maintain numbers.

If it were just the high dollar, we could say that universities and colleges simply have to do their best on the competitive rating of their degrees and diplomas, fees, and quality of student life here. But it's not yet clear Australia has emerged from the reputational damage of 2008 - as much as police forces have improved safety for students (and shown attacks generally were not racially motivated) and authorities have helped cheated students.

One problem seems to be an overcompensating tightening of visa requirements for would-be students. This is now under study, but the evidence of falling enrolments and abundant anecdotes about long delays and excessive demands for financial proofs and guarantees should already be convincing Canberra to ease up.

The other is the welcome we extend, and the accommodation available for overseas students: sometimes only a bunk in a subdivided house, flat or even room rented at an exorbitant rate. Better-endowed institutions are investing in new residences to address the housing shortage.

As for the welcome, there is one practical and symbolic step - extending the student transport concession to foreign students in the two states where it does not apply, NSW and Victoria. The NSW budget has just knocked that idea on the head. If they are rich enough to meet visa requirements, says the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, they have enough for full fares. Time for a tied allocation to be carved out of federal transfers to the states - to protect Australia's reputation and the high-quality employment in this sector?






AFGHANISTAN'S history is a warning to any invader. The might of the British Empire and the Soviet Union was not enough to avoid humiliation in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Age supported the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, but warned of the risks of relying on military muscle and neglecting the battle for hearts and minds. The more recent emphasis on building infrastructure, institutions and relations with Afghans was welcome, but this strategy has suffered serious setbacks.

The latest concern is that detainees captured by the International Security and Assistance Force, including prisoners taken by Australian forces, have been tortured after being handed over to Afghan intelligence services and police. Transfers have been suspended until the findings of a pending report by the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan have been investigated. This follows the news of Australian involvement in stepped-up ''capture or kill'' operations in which civilians have been killed.

Both developments cloud the prospects of successfully completing the Australian mission by 2014. The strategy depends on training Afghan troops and police and creating the institutions of civil society with community support. That won't happen while the forces taking over from Australian troops cannot be trusted to keep the peace, obey the law and protect the innocent.

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No reconstruction mission is simple, especially in such a fragmented, brutalised and tribalised country. The difficulties are compounded by increasing conflict. Australian troop losses - 29 dead and nearly 200 wounded - have mostly been in the past two years. Since a foreign troop ''surge'' last year, more civilians have been killed than before. About three in four deaths have been caused by the Taliban. The bottom line, though, is that the success of the Australian mission, based in the southern province of Oruzgan, depends on creating a secure environment in which local people feel protected and trust authorities, institutions and the law.

Australian forces are not accused of torture or of deliberately killing civilians. They do operate under strict rules of engagement, although these are less transparent than they ought to be. However, foreign forces have a strict legal duty of care for prisoners. Since August 1 last year, Australian soldiers have captured 899 Afghans. One prison named in the report is in Tarin Kowt, where the main Australian base is located. The military is also obliged to do all it can to avoid civilian deaths. Any deaths must be properly investigated. So far this year, NATO special forces, including Australians, have mounted 1879 missions and captured or killed 916 ''targets'', a threefold increase on last year. The concern is that insufficient weight is given to local peoples' accounts that conflict with intelligence used.

Even as Australia accelerates the handover of bases, with three out of four solely under local military or police control, these forces cannot always be trusted to act lawfully and in the interests of local communities. Only 14 Oruzgan residents enlisted with the Afghan army last year. Militias that are replacing Australian troops are loyal to local strongmen rather than the central government and extort money from villagers, the UN reported in March. Australia's key ally in Oruzgan is warlord and alleged drug boss Matiullah Khan. He is now the province's chief of police. While some prisoners are mistreated, others pay bribes to be released and return to battle. Afghan troops reportedly make deals with local Taliban to keep the peace around their bases. This is said to be an ''Afghan solution''.

All this is reminiscent of the doomed US and Soviet attempts to use local proxies in Vietnam and Afghanistan. The question that won't go away is whether the emerging ''Afghan solution'' justifies the great human and financial sacrifices being made by Australia and our troops. The creation of a free Afghanistan governed by the rule of law increasingly seems like a wishful fantasy.






IT IS regrettable that Dutch politician Geert Wilders appears to be planning a trip to Australia to promulgate his objectionable views on Islam. It is shameful that federal Liberal MP Cory Bernardi has embraced Mr Wilders' ideas and indicated he would be willing to help with arrangements for such a visit.

Mr Wilders, whose Freedom Party holds the balance of power in the Dutch parliament, has poisonous anti-Islam views. He has called the prophet Muhammad a paedophile. He has described the Koran as ''an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror'', and likened it to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. It is notable that the perpetrator of the July 22 Norwegian massacre, Anders Breivik, mentioned Mr Wilders 30 times in his anti-Muslim ''manifesto'', discovered after Breivik's murderous rampage.

The British government sought to refuse entry to Mr Wilders in 2009 on the grounds that he was an undesirable person (the ban was overturned on appeal). The Age would be reluctant to advocate that he be banned from Australia, in the absence of evidence that a visit would pose a threat to our national security. We certainly believe Mr Wilders' views are divisive, abhorrent and plainly wrong. But a tolerant and open democracy such as ours should err on the side of freedom of speech. We have confidence that Australia's multicultural society is mature enough to be able to see off a visitor whose ideas are so evidently repugnant.

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Nonetheless, Senator Bernardi's giving of succour to Mr Wilders' views presents an important test of leadership for Tony Abbott. In an interview with The Age's Michael Gordon in April, the Opposition Leader said he had ''jumped on Bernardi'' after the South Australian senator made anti-Muslim remarks in February. Asked if another transgression would cost Senator Bernardi his job as parliamentary secretary to Mr Abbott, the Liberal leader replied: ''If he does it again, watch this space. But I don't expect he will.'' Now, it has happened again.

Senator Bernardi had lunch with Mr Wilders in May during a European trip to study the impact of immigration on Western nations. This week he said he had told Mr Wilders that he would ''assist him with his schedule or arranging appropriate meetings'' if he went ahead with a visit to Australia. Senator Bernardi and Mr Abbott are emphasising that the Coalition is not organising any such visit. That is not enough. If Senator Bernardi does not dissociate himself from Mr Wilders' views, as shadow treasurer Joe Hockey did yesterday, then Mr Abbott must send him to the backbench.







Elected for a second term with an unprecedented majority, Mr Salmond set out a legislative programme which makes up in bulk what it lacks in daring

Wanted: a Scottish opposition leader. Please apply to Holyrood, and soon. Must have firm views, ability to revive own party and lots of luck. Willingness to tackle Alex Salmond essential. All reasonable offers considered.

Yesterday, in the absence of such a figure, Scotland's first minister once again presented himself as the master of his nation. Elected for a second term this year with an unprecedented majority, Mr Salmond set out a legislative programme which makes up in bulk what it lacks in daring. His poll rating is strong and his opponents are in disarray. Both Labour and the Conservatives are searching for leaders, while Lib Dem support shrivels. The Tory frontrunner had to propose the abolition and rebirth of his own party to attract attention in England: an idea whose merits may attract everyone other than Scottish Conservatives.

Even a modest man might have cause to be pleased with himself in such circumstances, and Mr Salmond is not known for his modesty. In that lies both his strength and his weakness. He set out a government programme that includes a the creation of a Scottish police force and plans for a minimum price on alcohol but he did little to confront Scotland with the more serious challenges ahead. These have less to do with the independence referendum that may come at some point (and what polls suggest is growing but still minority support for a breakaway) than financial reality.

Since devolution Scottish governments have made their reputation by spending money differently to the rest of Britain. From now on they are going to have to start saving it and raising it as well. Indeed, as important to Scotland's future as the SNP programme is the Scotland bill, a piece of legislation that deserves greater scrutiny than it is getting. This implements the report of the Calman commission and, among other things, gives Scotland a great deal of freedom to raise or lower taxation, and borrow a limited amount money. UK taxation in Scotland will be reduced, leaving Scots to make up the difference as they wish. It is, one Lib Dem minister told the Lords this week, "the biggest transfer of fiscal responsibility within the UK since the Act of Union in 1707".

This is an important step towards a more mature form of devolution, perhaps limiting Mr Salmond's ability to present himself as the champion of Scottish interests against English interference. It also increases the need for a functioning Scottish political opposition. Labour needs a new leader who can "cut through the fog of politics", Alistair Darling told the BBC yesterday. Perhaps the party should consider knocking on the door of its Scottish former chancellor turned author.





A top rate of around 50% is modest by the standards not merely of postwar Britain, but postwar America too

The economics of taxation are complicated, but the social psychology is simple enough. The rich – and those in their pay – have an instinctive aversion to levies directed at them, and devise arguments to rationalise this.

Several signataries of the Financial Times letter demanding the abolition of the new top tax rate earn big money from business, but it must be admitted not all of them do. The undoubted qualifications of the 20 economists would have earned them a hearing if they had been spelling out economic logic. The curious thing is that this ivory tower of professors did no such thing, instead rehearsing lazy slogans about wealth-creating entrepreneurs and footloose talent. One would have hoped that members of a profession which bought all the City bull about derivatives being ingenious devices for managing risk (as opposed to complex bets for ramping it up) would now be more circumspect about what they put their names to. Especially because – and here's the really unforgiveable thing for supposed financial scientists – hard data about the 50p rate is not yet available, and will be before too long.

The theory is entirely ambiguous as to whether high marginal rates really lead to the wealthy staying in bed, or instead make them work harder. Even assuming (and it's quite an assumption) that top earners are motivated by money, they might equally work extra hours to make up for what the taxman has snatched as decide that slogging no longer pays. A top rate of around 50% is modest by the standards not merely of postwar Britain, but postwar America too, and there is simply no evidence that the temptation to shirk will overpower the urge to work harder with this sort of number.

The plausible concern is not that 50p will stop the rich earning, but rather that it will encourage them to dodge tax in other ways. Going abroad is one option, but despite occasional threats (some would say promises) from the likes of Paul Daniels and Tracey Emin to flee these shores, only a tiny minority will do so. Even faceless capitalists have families they like to have around. But if moving one's self is always a hassle, moving one's money is not. Funds can flow abroad, income can be magicked into capital gain, or invested to attract tax relief. The wealthy already do all these things, and may do them more with the new top rate.

There is, however, precious little evidence that there will be enough dodging for the tax to self-defeat. One over-quoted study suggested that possibility on the basis of the extra top income which came into the tax net after Nigel Lawson's rate-slashing 1988 budget; it entirely ignored the wider forces – from privatisation to the big bang – boosting top pay at that time. A recent tightening of pension rules should contain the tax leakage now. While George Osborne slights 50p, his officials' published best guess continues to be that it is raising serious cash.

Ideologues like Eric Pickles, who became the first Cabinet minister to bluntly say axe the tax, are entitled to speculate that it is costing more than it raises, because there is no real evidence yet. It starts coming in next January, when returns relating to 50p's first year in force have to be filed. But it is shaming for academics to rush into similar prejudice, instead of enduring the short wait for the numbers.

As for Mr Osborne, whatever his prejudices, he would do well to pause and consider the public. Middle England is stumping up more VAT and making other sacrifices. Polls confirm it will not take kindly to the ditching of this attempt to make the rich share the pain. It would be suicide for the Lib Dems to sanction the move, unless perhaps they could get their mansion tax in exchange. But already risking war with core Tory voters over planning, does Mr Osborne really want to open up a second front by setting the taxman on their homes? The economics of 50p might be disputed, but the shrewd politics point only one way.







Daphni Leef, one of the organisers of the original Israeli tent protest, deserves particular praise

If 430,000 people, 7% of the population, had taken to the streets in any other part of the world demanding social justice, fairer rents and a lower cost of living, every placard would have been poured over for signs that the long-awaited revolution had at last arrived. But because those people are Israelis, the protest has been treated as a summer season curio. It should not be. Every one of those protesters deserve credit for building a serious popular movement which did not riot, but which questioned the values of the hypercapitalist age in which we all, to some extent, collaborate. Daphni Leef, one of the organisers of the original tent protest, deserves particular praise. Not just for a speech in which she looks at democracy straight in the eye ("not a collection of lonely individuals who each sit in front of one box, the TV, and once every four years put a slip in another box – the polling urn") but for the inclusion, too, of those who are at the bottom of the pile in every sense of the word – the Bedouin. The discrimination suffered by Israeli-Arabs who make up one-fifth of the population is the elephant in the room of any debate on social justice. This is a universal not a sectarian demand and once launched on its path, is difficult to stop at any barrier. Few would have predicted that a tent protest would end up in the sort of scenes we saw on the streets last Saturday. Leef addressed not just the inequality of Israeli society, but the inequalities inherent in it. Long may that line of thought continue.







SINGAPORE — As Chinese President Hu Jintao greeted his Philippine counterpart Benigno Aquino in Beijing recently at the start of a state visit, the official Xinhua news agency laid out terms for a sustained improvement in relations between the world's second biggest economy and its much smaller and weaker Southeast Asian neighbor.

The agency said it had to be acknowledged that a stable and sound bilateral relationship should be underpinned not only by strong trade ties but also by commitment to a proper settlement of maritime disputes in the South China Sea, where Beijing's sweeping claims are disputed not only by the Philippines but also by Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

"China has always made itself loud and clear that it has indisputable sovereignty over the seas's islands and surrounding waters, which is part of China's core interests," Xinhua said. "That is based on unambiguous and undeniable historical facts."

Two days earlier, on Aug. 29, as Yoshihiko Noda awaited confirmation as Japan's new prime minister, Xinhua had set out China's terms for better relations with Tokyo.

Among the series of conditions, was that Japan "respect China's core interests" in the East China Sea, where Beijing claims to be the rightful owner of the Senkaku Islands administered by Japan. It calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

Xinhua added that Beijing was willing to shelve differences and jointly explore with Japan for oil, natural gas and other resources in the waters and seabed surrounding the islands, "on condition that Tokyo recognized China's complete sovereignty over the archipelago."

The labeling by Xinhua of both the South and East China seas as Chinese "core interests" appears to raise Beijing's assertion of jurisdiction over contested islands, waters and seabed in the region to a new level.

After senior U.S. officials said they were told by Chinese counterparts last year that the South China Sea was a "core interest" on a par with Taiwan and Tibet, Beijing evidently dropped the term because of the alarm raised in Asia. It implied that China was prepared to use force or the threat of force to secure control of vast swathes of strategically vital maritime territory off the east coast of Asia.

The South and East China seas are separated by Taiwan. Xinhua's bracketing of the two seas as Chinese "core interests" suggests that Beijing is hardening its position as it seeks to complete what it regards as China's legitimate post-1949 reunification under communist rule.

Of course, proclaiming territorial rights and enforcing them are two different things.

Even though the new Japanese government is riven by factionalism and grappling with difficult economic problems, it is unlikely to be a pushover for China. Prime Minister Noda is committed to strengthen Japan's alliance with the United States as a counterweight to China's rise.

He wrote in a Japanese magazine article published last month that China's "high-handed foreign posture, backed by its military capabilities and recently put on display in the South China Sea and elsewhere, is stoking fears that China will disrupt the order within the region."

The Aquino administration in the Philippines has also turned to its U.S. ally for support to counterbalance China. But President Aquino has just returned from Beijing with a swag of promised Chinese economic support to expand trade, investment and jobs that are urgently needed in the Philippines.

Whether he will tilt China's way remains to be seen. The acid test will be whether Manila proceeds with plans to invite local and foreign energy companies to carry out offshore exploration in a part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea that Beijing also claims.

In its effort to secure Southeast Asian compliance, China has been focusing its diplomatic and other pressure on the Philippines and Vietnam because they stand in the immediate way of its southwards push into maritime Southeast Asia.

Beijing is wielding checkbook diplomacy by promising the struggling economies of both countries major economic benefits in the form of greatly increased Chinese trade, investment and tourism.

In the case of the Philippines, Beijing is playing on Aquino's ethnic Chinese ancestry while seeking to exploit the disproportionate commercial influence of Chinese Filipinos.

In the case of Vietnam, China is playing on its political affinity and ideological links with the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party in Hanoi.

China's State Councillor Dai Bingguo, the top foreign policy adviser to Chinese leaders, is visiting Vietnam this week to co-chair the Guiding Committee for China-Vietnam cooperation with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan. Relations sank to their lowest point in years in May and June, after China said it opposed oil and natural gas exploration off Vietnam's coast in areas covered by the Chinese territorial claim encircling about 80 percent of the South China Sea.

At the height of the tension, Chinese vessels several times interfered with survey ships operating inside what Vietnam says is its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

After high-level talks, China said in late June that it had reached a consensus with Vietnam to solve South China Sea disputes through friendly consultations and avoid making moves that might aggravate or complicate the issue.

If Beijing can induce Vietnam and the Philippines to accept its terms for managing their offshore conflict, it will then be easier to negotiate similar deals with the two more southerly claimants in the South China Sea, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as with Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy and the current chair of ASEAN.

Although Indonesia does not claim any of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese claim overlaps the EEZ that extends northward from Indonesia's Natuna Island.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.





HONG KONG — In the 19th century, Japan, unlike China, responded to Western pressure to open up to trade not by fighting back but by transforming itself so that, while still geographically in Asia, it became in effect a European country.

Japan decided to hop on the imperialist bandwagon and to become imperialist in every sense of the word.

It acquired the imperialist taste to subjugate other peoples so as to acquire colonies. In this, it outdid its Western mentors, quickly turning Korea, which had recognized China as its suzerain, into a colony and then turned its eyes on the main prize — China itself — and all of Southeast Asia.

From the late 19th century on, it forced wars on a weak and dispirited China, wars that Japan with its modern navy and armed forces trained in Western military techniques easily won.

During World War II, Japan allied itself with two leading Western countries, Germany and Italy. But it turned out that it had chosen the wrong countries to ally itself with.

After its defeat, Japan was put under American occupation and tutelage. And then, lo and behold, the two countries, victor and vanquished, formed a close alliance. Big brother America helped Japan develop democratic institutions and rise from the ashes of war until Washington saw itself challenged, peacefully this time, by Japan for the leadership of the capitalist world.

Still, even though Japan was geographically in Asia, mentally it saw itself as part of the Western camp of nations, joining together in the fight against communism.

The Liberal Democratic Party was very much America's partner in this endeavor. Especially in the early years after the war, Japan saw the United States as a Technicolor country, while the rest of the world was drab gray.

The U.S. could meet all of Japan's needs. Japan had no need for Asia.

But this half-century-long dream came to an abrupt end with the rise of China. Or, one should perhaps say, with the return of China to its rightful place in Asia.

For China is very much the heart of Asia. Asia cannot do without China even though other Asian countries did join the American embargo against the communist government after the Korean war erupted. But as soon as China opened up, Asians came knocking.

However, the rise of China, coupled with what is widely seen as an inevitable decline of the West, has caused the Japanese in recent years to reflect on just who they are and what their role should be in the global order.

Little by little, Japan saw China's influence expand. For decades, the U.S. was simultaneously Japan's military ally and its biggest trading partner. The two seemed to go together quite naturally. But then the unthinkable happened when, in 2007, China overtook the U.S. and became Japan's biggest trading partner.

Once this happened, the U.S.-Japan alliance was in trouble because it meant that Japanese interests were divided. Can Japan have close economic relations with China — relations that are vital to Japan's very survival — and at the same time remain a military ally of the U.S., whom many in China perceive as their deadly enemy?

Like it or not, Japan is being torn by different loyalties and interests.

That was when the Democratic Party of Japan entered the scene in 2009, promising to rebalance Japanese policy with an emphasis on Asia, which of course means China. Certainly, its proposal for an East Asian Community caused anxiety in Washington, fearful that it would be shut out of the world's most dynamic region.

However, in the last two years, China had shot itself in the foot through its policies toward the Korean Peninsula and Japan. This has resulted in Japan's new ruling party putting as much emphasis on the alliance with the U.S. as the Liberal Democrats ever did.

However, economic forces are such that Japan, and particularly the business community there, is eager to have closer relations with China.

And yet, it seems, China will not take yes for an answer. No sooner had Yoshihiko Noda been chosen as the new prime minister than China issued a demand that he "needs to respect China's core interests."

If China will only allow the situation to develop on its own, the countries of Asia may well come to accept its status as the leading power in the region. But arrogance and threats are unlikely to win China any friends — certainly not in Japan.

Frank Ching is a veteran journalist based in Hong Kong.





The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Of all the lies that the American people have been told the past four decades, the biggest one may be this: We'll all come out ahead in the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial society.

Yes, we were counseled, there will be major dislocations, as there were during the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, but the America that will emerge from this transformation, like the America that emerged 100 years ago, will be one whose citizens are ultimately more prosperous and secure than their industrial-era forebears.

What a crock.

On Labor Day 2011, the America that's replaced the vibrant industrial giant of the mid-20th century is a basket case. We've lost the jobs that created the broadly shared prosperity that made us the envy of the world. In their place, when we've created jobs at all, they've generated neither prosperity nor security.

The most prescient writer on post-industrial America offered a sobering perspective. In his 1972 book "The Coming of Post-Industrial Society," sociologist Daniel Bell predicted a future of service jobs, rising consumption, compensatory entitlements and wars over taxes.

Even as Bell's prophecies began to be borne out, though, the champions of the new economic order — from General Electric's Jack Welch to every New Democrat and any old Republican — assured us that America would flourish as a post-industrial innovator in the new global economy, crafting the cutting-edge technologies whose actual assembly we could relegate to less-skilled workforces on distant shores. Thirty years ago, when defenders of American manufacturing first suggested that the nation commit to a "domestic content" standard in the goods we bought, they were howled down by nearly every economist and editorial writer in the land. (A friend counted 98 newspapers that editorialized against it, and none that wrote in favor.)

Today, the economy that arose on manufacturing's ashes has turned to ashes itself. The Wall Street-Wal-Mart economy of the past several decades off-shored millions of factory jobs, which it offset by creating low-paying jobs in the service and retail sectors; extending credit to consumers so they could keep consuming despite their stagnating incomes; and fueling, until it collapsed, a boom in construction.

We are only now beginning to understand the toll this economy has taken on America's workers — and on our working men in particular. A stunning study from Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of the Hamilton Project, published in the Milken Institute Review, reveals that the median earnings of men ages 25 to 64 declined 28 percent between 1969 and 2009. Within this age group, the median earnings of men who completed high school but didn't go on to college fell 47 percent, while the median earnings of male college graduates also declined, if only 12 percent.

Part of this decline stems from the shrinking share of working-age men with full-time jobs, which fell from 83 to 66 percent between 1960 and 2009. The other part stems from the fall in inflation-adjusted median yearly earnings of working-age men who have full-time jobs, which have shrunk by about $5,000 since the mid-'70s. Combined, write Greenstone and Looney, these two declines explain why the earnings of American men "haven't been this low since Ike was president and Marshal Dillon was keeping the peace in Dodge City."

Anyone seeking to understand the pessimism, frustration and rage of working-class men needs to begin here, with Greenstone and Looney's two-by-four-to-the-head tale of decline. White working-class men in particular have become a disproportionately receptive audience for those who scapegoat immigrants and minorities for the damage that has actually been caused by economic and political elites blissfully blind to the devastation ushered in by their vaunted new economy.

Since that new economy blew up three years ago, many of those elites have been disabused of the financial fantasies that ordinary Americans long ago ceased to entertain. The fact that Greenstone and Looney's study emerged from the Hamilton Project — a pillar of new-economy thinking, founded by Clinton Treasury secretary Robert Rubin — is evidence of a paradigm shift in economic vision. From centrist Democratic groups such as the Progressive Policy Institute and Third Way, to economists such as Hoover Institution Nobel laureate Michael Spence, to chief executives and former chief executives such as Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris and Intel's Andy Grove, the new watchword for America's future — however challenging it may be to get there — is manufacturing.

Post-industrial America turned out to be a bust. The time for neo-industrial America has arrived.

Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of American Prospect.




The Tokyo High Court in a retrial on Aug. 30 acquitted three former executives of the defunct Nippon Credit Bank of undervaluing bad loans and submitting false financial statements for fiscal 1997. The ruling followed a similar ruling in July by the Supreme Court, which acquitted three former executive of the defunct Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan.

The focus of the trial was whether it was legal to use the Finance Ministry's old guidelines for assessing nonperforming loans. In 1997 the ministry issued new, stricter guidelines. Fiscal 1997, which started in April 1997, was a transitional year for the government's financial industry policies.

The three were arrested in July 1999 by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation squad. In the original trial, they were found guilty of failing to follow the new guidelines and of concealing ¥159.2 billion in bad loans and given suspended sentences.

But in 2009, the Supreme Court ordered the Tokyo High Court to retry the case. It said that the new guidelines contained room for "interpretation" and that using the old guidelines was acceptable.

In fact, many banks were using the old guidelines, under which there was no need to treat problem loans as a loss if their borrowers had rational reconstruction plans or had prospects of receiving additional financial support.

In the retrial, the prosecution said that the borrowers in question had no prospect of reconstruction even if they received financial assistance.

The Aug. 30 ruling said that the possibility of getting back even part of the loans, rather than the possibility of reconstruction, should be the basis for judging whether the borrowers deserve bank assistance and that various viewpoints should be allowed in business decisions. Thus it acquitted the former executives.

Apparently people's anger over injection of trillions of yen in tax money into banks suffering from bad loans prompted the prosecution to arrest the bank executives.

The possibility cannot be ruled out that it followed a premeditated scenario to indict the bank executives.

It also must be remembered that bank executives truly responsible for making problem loans during the bubble years were not indicted because the statute of limitations ran out.


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