Khandu’s Death Calls For Safer Flying S
orrow over the untimely death of former Aruanchal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu will be accompanied by deep regret and bewilderment over the belief that he may have been responsible for the fatal accident which claimed his life as also of those accompanying him in his helicopter flight. In a curious coincidence, a parliamentary committee headed by Sitaram Yechury noted on the day that Khandu’s body was found that VIPs often forced their pilots to take off in adverse conditions. Considering that the same fears were aired after former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter crash in 2009, the committee was evidently on the right track. It can be recalled that the former BJP president, Rajnath Singh, once forced his pilot to take off in pitch darkness with only the headlights of a few cars lighting the runway. Singh was lucky to survive, but as the committee has pointed out, “such violations of rules have led to fatal accidents”. Apart from Khandu and Reddy, former Lok Sabha Speaker G M C Balayogi had died in a helicopter crash in 2002. A year earlier, Madhavrao Scindia died when his chartered plane crashed. Compounding the effects of a disregard for safety is the unreliability of the crafts which, to quote the committee again, lack the necessary equipment to fly in hilly terrain. Doubts have also been raised about the qualifications of pilots, which is not surprising considering the recent scandal about those with fake licences flying commercial jets. Evidently, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has much to answer for, including the reason why a large number of posts in the DGCA are lying vacant. While Khandu’s death has refocussed attention on the many flaws in the aviation sector, the delay in finding the bodies points to poor surveillance capabilities, which can hinder rescue operations in cases where there may be survivors. The fact that villagers near the crash site were the first to locate the bodies while satellite imagery and flying missions could not despite repeated sorties over five days does not speak well of the country’s technological capacities in this regard.

minDSPACe The Audacity of Pretence T
he victory cry “Geronimo EKIA…” has effectively shattered the audacity of pretences that the world and more importantly India has cocooned itself within. In the euphoria following the killing of Osama bin Laden it is necessary to list the pretences for what they represent, a charade of words bridging the gulf between reality and self-deception. Pretence No 1: Pakistan is a functioning state. Never before in history have a people been held hostage by its rulers. The republic of 175 million people is virtually being deployed as a human shield by the sponsors of theological terror. The political and military oligarchs know they can because the civilised world worries Pakistan is “too big to fail”. Its rulers have capitalised on its geography and poverty to sponsor demagoguery and set up the outsourcing centre for international terror. It is home to seven of the deadliest terror outfits of the world and the only member of the United Nations to have a state agency — the ISI — described as a terror outfit by the US State Department. It is beyond a failed state. Asif Ali Zardari blamed “state-less actors” for the horrendous 26/11 attacks. He is right; there is no State of Pakistan. Pretence No 2: Pakistan is shamed, isolated and hence weakened. Shamed maybe, isolated yes but shame is a temporary emotion and isolation is always contextual. It may seem so but it would be fatuous to indulge in the myth of a weakened Pakistan. It would be perilous to underestimate the capillary network of franchisees spawned by Pakistan to retail terror. Indeed, what India particularly should be concerned is that the consequences of “humiliation” could visit us in the immediate neighbourhood. Pretence No 3: Pakistan is a victim of terror. Pakistan is an ardent proponent of terror as state craft. Every terrorist hunted by US has been harboured within 100 km radius of the Pakistani military establishment. Not just Osama. The world’s most wanted terrorists Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubeida, Yasser al-Jazeeri, Abu Faraj Farj, Ramzi Binalshibh, Umar Patek were all captured in the cities of Pakistan. The planners and perpetrators of the


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The Third eye | Shankkar aiyar

Shankkar Aiyar, analyst and senior journalist on sabbatical, specialises in the interface of politics and economics. E-mail: shankkar.aiyar@gmail.com


Abandon Fatalism on Population Growth

worst terror attacks from the 1993 serial blasts of Mumbai to the 26/11 attacks are all privileged guests of Pakistan. Twenty-four terrorists “most wanted” by India — from Dawood to Hafiz Saeed — are roaming the streets of Quetta and Karachi, if not Islamabad. Pakistanis are victims, not Pakistan. Pretence No 4: Pakistan was not in the loop. The US has every reason to not trust the Pakistani establishment, particularly given the ISI’s love for Laden. Yet the claims of both sides demand scepticism because truth is the first casualty of war. The “outrage” of the Pakistanis and the “stealth” of the operation could be part of a mutually convenient pact. The failure of Pakistani air space controllers, the absence of the legendary inner ring that protected Osama or how neither the civil police nor the military reacted to the 100-plus decibel clatter of four choppers beats imagination. Most likely Osama was offered as a trophy to the US. The quid pro we know, the quo we will discover soon enough. The killing of Osama is just one episode in a planned serial. The K factor of geopolitics will soon occupy prime time slots. Pretence No 5: US-Pak relations have worsened. From the deceitful rescue of Taliban terrorists by the ISI from Konduz in 2001 to the harbouring of Osama bin Laden 800 metres from the Pakistan Military Academy in 2011, Pakistan has alternately capitulated to and manipulated the US. Indeed what action did US take against Pakistan on nuclear proliferation — that too to Pyongyang and Tehran? Perfidy is the cornerstone of this marriage of convenience. Pretence No 6: The US is now our Uncle

Sam. It is a delusion peculiar to India. From Kargil to Kandahar hijacking, from the attack on Parliament to 26/11, the United States has played nanny to Pakistan, intervening only to prevent retaliation by India. The mocking presence of India’s most wanted in Pakistan despite petitions to Washington is evidence of who is the favoured nephew. The expectation that NOW America will forsake Pakistan — particularly when it needs Islamabad badly to engineer the “good Taliban” regime and pull out of Kabul — betrays naiveté. Pretence No 7: Dialogue must continue. Yes, but with whom and why. Is it because the US deigns it? Thirty months after 26/11 no perpetrator of the terror attack has been punished. Pakistan has failed to deliver what India wants and India will not deliver Pakistan’s dream. This will be a dialogue of the deaf. The theory of rogue elements may serve as diplomatic rouge but what is the worth of guarantees issued by a crashing bank? Aman ki Asha will need to be more than a man ki asha! Pretence No 8: Pakistani Army can deliver peace. For six decades and more Pakistan is ruled directly and by proxy by the Pakistani Military Industrial Complex. The war of a thousand cuts was crafted by and is perpetuated by Pakistani Army. The involvement of ISI and Pakistani Army in sponsoring terror is now well documented. And we still believe in the hypothesis of a peace loving Pakistani Army. Pretence No 9: India can execute surgical strikes. One hopes so. But let us not confuse capability with capacity. Indians in uniform are as brave as any. The state though has repeatedly displayed lack of capacity to take the call from Kandahar to Mumbai 2008. Provocation has been countered with pusillanimity. Pretence No 10: Peace can be won with moral indignation. Morality matters in war but so does action. Nations become superpowers by aligning, negotiating and fighting for their interests. The US is a superpower because it has repeatedly displayed the ability to walk its talk. Operation Geronimo could have failed, Obama could well have been the next Carter but he dared. To act. Playing the innocent victim has its limits.

Sympathy for Osama Misplaced
Al Qaeda has encouraged terrorist outfits in J&K and separatist leaders of Kashmir calling Osama a martyr is proof of their sympathy to al Qaeda. The US deserves praise for successfully conducting the operation, without seeking the help of Pakistan.
T R ANANDAN Coimbatore

US Should Do More Such Operations
Apropos of ‘War on Terror Must Not End With Osama’, Osama bin Laden’s Waterloo has just shattered the fools paradise where terrorists live under delusion. India should follow suit with the US in admonishing Pakistan to crack the whip against the fundamentalists. The US operation has nailed Pakistan’s lie denying the presence of Osama in its soil. In the interest of global peace the United States should do more such flush-out operations.
S ElANgovAN Kanchipuram

Pakistan is a Terror Haven
The killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden is the great success of the US. It is a boost for the US intelligence community. The US led by President Obama deserves congratulation on ending Laden era but not terrorism. Obama is a global leader who translates his commitment into action. Death of Laden has proved Pakistan is a sanctuary of terrorism which India has been reiterating for years now.
ARchANA PANIgRAhI Dhenkanal

opulation projections by the United Nations show that India’s population will peak at 1.718 billion in 2060, ie, 35 years after China’s population would have peaked at 1.39 billion in 2025. By the turn of the century, India’s population would be double that of China. Today India’s median age is 25 years, lower than that of China, Africa and the developed world. But by the time India steps into the 22nd century, the average Indian would be older than the average person even in the developed world. If the present and future demographic figures are juxtaposed, it would evoke mixed reactions. Population can be seen both as an asset and a liability. It will be an asset, if India is able to provide the young and future generations opportunities for economic growth. This calls for setting up more schools and colleges, increasing food production and providing jobs. If, on the other hand, no planning is done, India will have the world’s largest, malnourished and illiterate population. Even today, over six decades after attaining Independence, the economic growth rate has made only a marginal impact on an overwhelming majority of the population, which survives on less than $2 a day. The UN projections should, therefore, be seen as a challenge to the planners and rulers. If China, which had the same kind of economic situation as India when the communists came to power in the mid-Forties, could achieve better results, there is no reason why India can’t. It is also possible to halt the exponential growth in population by resorting to a mix of incentives and disincentives to popularise family planning. A study by the Asian Development Bank says 70 per cent of India’s population will be middle class within the next 15 years. In other words, it is within India’s capability to prove the present UN projections wrong by significantly curtailing population growth.

Dressing Up Comes a Full Circle
by Suman G Pai
lothes have always fascinated mankind right from the early times when human beings used barks of trees and leaves as clothes. Over time, the type of clothes used has changed. But of late our society seems to have gone back to those ages when human beings dressed in the sparsest of clothes. Back in the early Sixties and Seventies, in Bombay (now Mumbai) my convent teachers wore frocks, and wore sarees only for festive occasions. The dress they wore caused eyesore and made us teenagers giggle away. Our physical training teacher made us wear bloomers under our divided skirts as we had to do yoga and gymnastics on the parallel bars. This habit stood us in good stead as our travel by the double-decker bus had us go to the top while the lower segment was always full as indicated by the conductor! Now the whole apple cart of the meaning of decent clothes has completely disappeared from the social scene. Female characters portrayed by actors in serials, movies, reality shows display a peculiar trend where the amount of clothes they wear shrink with every passing day and all this in the name of fashion and show producers who might be probably playing to the gallery. It’s rather equally strange that all the male characters in these shows are fully dressed from head to toe, seeming too determined to keep the decorum. At this point I recall the time my sister had come down from the US. She had caught her daughter in a supposedly short dress, one of her own, cavorting and gyrating to some Hindi song from a film that was playing on a TV channel. She severely reprimanded the little girl and asked her to refrain from such antics in the future. Recently, my husband’s college-mate and wife had come down from Michigan. The wife expressed her surprise on seeing the disappearance of the saree and the long skirt from the social scene in Kerala as also the excessive use of jeans and hip hugging tops among youngsters (and also among those not-so-young-people). She wondered for whom were the advertisements for sarees in print and visual media meant for! In reality prudence and decorum in clothes is fast disappearing. It reminds me of Mark Twain’s words: “Clothes began when modesty ended and modesty will return only when there are no clothes”. Now some are awakening to the point of laying down rules in clothing for men and women. Of course Talibanisation in the matter of decorum in clothes has been going on in certain countries and even in India. But even now there are restrictions on the kind of clothes one can wear to educational institutions as well as work places. Recently there was a ‘foreign bank’ laying down restrictions on the kinds of clothes its employees, male and female, are supposed to wear. Then there is the ‘khap’ in north India, issuing a directive banning a certain type of apparel which women wear, as it attracted indecent overtures by men. All said and done, ‘charity begins at home’ should be the ruling factor of ushering decency into our homes by being role models ourselves. One need not cover oneself from head to toe to be decent but a little thinking on how and what one should wear would go a long way in making life better for everyone.

Obama is a Good, Effective Leader

She wondered for whom were the advertiSementS for SareeS meant for

Regarding the photograph carried on page 11 (War on Terror) titled ‘Front Row View on May 4, what struck me was the relatively insignificant position Obama was occupying in the Situation Room, when compared to that of US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and others. This is a lesson for our leaders. The reins should be given to the right person at the right time. A good leader is a person who allows the system to function without putting a spoke in the wheel.
RAghU S E-mail


Social Justice Argument is Rather Specious

A Sting Operation of a Different Kind
by t P Sreenivasan
A recording of the scene is still available on Youtube. President Barack Obama is in the White House, giving a serious interview on live television. A fly enters and hovers around the president, much to his annoyance. He gets distracted, tries to chase it away with his hands. The fly settles down on his knee and the president, as it befits the supreme commander of the armed forces of a superpower, kills the fly with a sudden swift blow and throws the carcass on to the white carpet. The interviewer stares first at the president and then at the fly reeling in pain in its last moments. The president resumes the interview as though nothing has happened. My experience, though similar to Obama’s, ended differently. First of all, it was not a fly, but a wasp that came into the studio as I was recording my weekly programme. I had the possibility of stopping the recording and dealing with the wasp, but I did not want to interrupt the lively conversation with my guest. When the wasp settled down on my right hand, I should have killed it with my left hand. But not being trained even in Kerala’s martial arts, I decided to follow the principle of coexistence. But the wasp had not heard of such principles and did what comes naturally to him/her, a sharp sting that sent shivers into my spine. The producer must have noticed the grimace on my face, but he realised that I had no intention to ask for a cut. I proceeded to ask the next question and the next till I finamusing advice was that I should see a doctor if swelling lasted for more than four hours, reflecting a commercial about a tablet meant for a different purpose. Theories too were in abundance. Someone suggested that the wasp was sent by someone who had an argument with me on an election campaign recently. Another had no doubt that it was a diplomatic sting, a tit-for-tat for the diplomatic stings I may have inflicted on others. (He mentioned Fiji specifically) Yet another thought that my views on endosulfan may have provoked the wasp. But actually my view that the poisonous insecticide should be banned should be helpful to insects. The best description of the action of the wasp was that it was a sting operation. A touching comment was simply ‘sad’. Someone even claimed responsibility for the sting and threatened to do it again, if I did not improve! Someone recalled the scene in Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, in which King Dushyant enters on the pretext of saving a damsel in distress, being chased by a bee. Struck by the infinite beauty of Shakuntala, he was waiting in the wings to get close to her. We know the consequences of the bee episode in the play. All is well that ends well. I did not appear cruel to animals on the screen. The avil tablet and some shallot juice did the job and I can now play golf and even manage a Bharatanatyam mudra with my right hand.

We Cannot Repeat a US in Pakistan
The US, in its hunt for the world’s most dreaded terrorist, smoked a hole in Pakistan and came up with a dead Osama. Many in India are nudging the government to take a cue from the US Navy SEALS operation. What these people do not understand is that our forces do not have the sophisticated technology nor the resolve to carry out such a daredevil act. Moreover, US can afford to go about with its plans because Pakistan is running on US dole. That is not the case with India.
SyED KhAN Chennai

he Tamil Nadu government’s refusal to adhere to the new norm of the All India Council for Technical Education on minimum marks for admission to engineering courses comes as no surprise. It was just last year the government relaxed the minimum marks, fixing it at 50 per cent for general category, 45 per cent for Backward Classes, 40 per cent for Most Backward Classes and 35 per cent for SC/ST students. Though the move was made out to be another effort aimed at upholding the avowed principle of social justice, the real reason was to enable private engineering colleges fill up their seats. It is an open secret that engineering seats are sold across the counter. The unchecked proliferation of engineering institutions in the state — 471 colleges and 23 deemed universities last year — has seen thousands of seats going unfilled in the past years. With many politicians owning colleges in the state, where running an education institution is a lucrative business for those with money and land to invest, a demand to bring down the minimum marks was raised, only to be readily accepted by the government. Now with the AICTE suddenly cracking the whip, the government quickly responded with a firm ‘no’, only to receive support from other political parties, which have conveniently raised the bogey of a possible miscarriage of social justice. It may be true that more students from marginalised communities could pursue engineering courses if minimum marks are lowered but going by the cut-off marks in the single window scheme of those who gained admission in government institutions in the past, students with low scores gain entry only in low end private colleges, lacking in basic infrastructure. Sure, it will help the college make money. But does that not make the social justice argument rather specious?

ished the programme. I am sure, the viewers noticed the change in my demeanour, but thought that the subject was too serious to permit a pleasant face. The sting, I found, is in the tail as I watched my hand growing in dimension as hours passed. Remedies were suggested by everyone who saw my hand or an image on facebook posted by me to alert the world about the hazards of broadcasters. These ranged from taking an ant-histamine tablet (which is what I did on my way back from the studio) to going to a doctor immediately for an injection.. Home remedies like rubbing shallot juice, warm salt water, turmeric paste and lime juice were suggested. The most

Govt Should Rein In Striking Pilots

It is unfortunate that in spite of the Delhi High Court restraints and summons issued for contempt of court orders, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association is continuing its stir which bleeds the debtridden national carrier `30 crore/day. The ministry of civil aviation should take stern steps. Simultaneously, the government should ensure that private operators do not take advantage of the situation by hiking their fares.
R SEKAR E-mail

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