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TheIndian EXPRESS
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NEW DELHI l THURSDAY l JULY 12 l 2012

The Indian EXPRESS
BECAUSE THE TRUTH INVOLVES US ALL

ADANANDA Gowda has resigned and Jagadish Shettar will be sworn in as chief minister, but the BJP in Karnataka is still far away from a happy ending. It isn’t just that Shettar is going to be the third BJP chief minister in one year. Or that the intra-party tug-of-war is now joined by Gowda — the man who started off as B.S. Yeddyurappa’s choice to replace him as CM, who then turned into Yeddyurappa’s rival and is now, almost overnight, a Vokkaliga leader in his own right. Gowda joins the factional war armed with his own cache of loyal MLAs and powers of bargaining and blackmail. It isn’t just that with assembly elections due next year, the BJP government is set to be convulsed all over again by wrangling over cabinet berths and the constitution of committees. At the bottom of it, the story of the BJP-in-Karnataka is about a party that has frittered away the possibilities of building on its first foray into a southern state. It is a sad saga starring too many chief ministers and a sharpened caste polarisation, a receding governance agenda and a fraying pact between political representatives and the people. There has traditionally been rivalry between Karnataka’s dominant castes, the Vokkaligas and the Lingayats. When it came to

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When will the BJP in Karnataka change the subject from itself, address the people’s needs?
power four years ago, the BJP’s success was seen to be anchored in the Lingayat vote, while the Vokkaligas were considered to be more partial to the JD(S). But the protracted bickering between BJP leaders has given a brand new edge to the enduring caste competition. With Yeddyurappa seen as the main mobiliser of the Lingayats, and the party’s central leadership repeatedly caving in to his blackmail, the BJP may have acquired the tag of a “Lingayat party”. In the end, however, next year’s elections may well hinge on larger questions. For instance, what counts more when the voter casts her vote — allegations of corruption and infighting that have scarred the BJP government’s tenure, or the populist schemes and doles launched by Yeddyurappa followed by the general toning up of the administration under Gowda? The new chief minister, Jagadish Shettar, may not have the time to make an impression. If the BJP wants to change the subject to governance, it has no time to lose. There is a droughtlike situation in parts of Karnataka. The ruling party’s preoccupation with itself so far has meant that there is little political monitoring of vital relief measures and programmes, and hardly any political outreach. The party can remain so self-absorbed only at its own peril.

The third CM

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More choice in the financial sector bodes well. MCX must provide robust competition to NSE
economies, the combination of shallow liquidity and high rates has encouraged a raft of companies to move their financial requirements overseas. In the calendar year 2010, before the economy tumbled, the total primary issue was only Rs 48,654 crore. Compared with an aggregate bank credit of Rs 35,82,048 crore, this looks paltry and shows the extent to which the Indian economy depends on the latter. This asymmetry needs to be addressed. To the extent that the new exchange is able to make retail investors come in to trade and small enterprises to list, the depth of the markets will improve. But before that, the promoters of the new exchange will need to show that they will follow the spirit and letter of the Sebi licence to instil best practices. As the rule stands, promoter groups have to keep their holdings in the exchange within 5 per cent of the total equity. This is the understanding with which MCX-SX has been given the licence, after a long court battle, which must be respected.

Exchange benefits

HE approval for MCX-SX to set up India’s third major stock exchange comes in a year when interest in the financial markets among retail investors has reached its nadir. So, as a move to perk up interest among investors, this is a step in the right direction. The primary justification for a stock market to exist is to provide liquidity to companies listed there and create an easy investment avenue for the middle class. As the world economy lurches through a prolonged recession, with daily liquidity at the cash market in India’s National Stock Exchange plummeting to just about Rs 12,000 crore, it will be interesting to observe how the new exchange is able to ramp up liquidity. For the Indian economy, this will be the measure of the success of this bold new venture. The Indian financial sector has lagged behind the rest of the economy as a means to raise funds to maintain a trend GDP growth rate of 8 per cent per annum. Since interest rates too are higher in India than in comparable

HE House of Lords reform rode again in London. A fortnight after Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, introduced a bill to reform the Upper House, the House of Commons on Tuesday passed the second reading. But the House of Lords Reform Bill still encountered a huge roadblock. After a bill is read a second time, there has to be a timetabling motion on how the rest of the bill will be taken through. The Labour Party objected to a tight time table — according to the government’s “programme motion”, the amount of time MPs could spend discussing the proposed changes would be 10 days. Since there were many dissatisfied Conservatives — unhappy both with their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and with the reform that may challenge the primacy of the House of Commons — who could have joined the Labour Party to defeat the government motion, the timetabling motion has been withdrawn until autumn. The reformation of the House of Lords has been on the agenda for a century now. In 1911, at the end of an epic battle between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Lower House won and passed the first Parliament Act. It took away the power of the House of Lords over issues of taxation, budgets and anything involving money. It also removed the power of the Upper House to reject bills passed by the Lower House more than twice. (In 1949, this was reduced to once.) The act also promised in its preamble that this was just a stop-gap measure and a thorough reform of the House of Lords to make it reflect the people’s will would passed soon. That promise has not been fulfilled. The House of Commons has changed. It has been based on universal adult franchise since 1928, and has women and ethnic minorities as its members. The

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Peer pressured
House of Lords reform bill is stalled for now. Sometimes, change can take a century
MEGHNAD DESAI
House of Lords has changed even more, but it is still unelected. In 1911, there were only hereditary peers passing on their seat to the eldest male heir. In 1958, women were allowed to sit and life peers were introduced. But the desire for reform flickered on. As the House of Lords improved in its quality of debate, the reform movement, paradoxically, had a setback. In 1968, Harold Wilson tried to remove the rights of hereditary peers to vote. In the House of Commons, there were those on the left, led by the Labour Party’s Michael Foot, who wanted the Lords to be abolished, and there were those on the right, like Enoch Powell, would be kept back. The Blair reform package also ensured that no party would have a majority in the House of Lords. In the House, there are the three major parties — the Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats plus cross-benchers who belong to no party. There are around 850 members — roughly 300 each of Labour and Conservative, 100 Lib Dems and 150 cross-benchers. There are also 26 bishops of the Church of England. About five years ago, the House of Commons surprised itself when it voted overwhelmingly to have 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected members in the

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The draft bill had problems. One was the jealousy of the House of Commons about its primacy over the House of Lords. Would an elected House of Lords — now to be called the senate — challenge the House of Commons?
who wanted no reform. They cynically combined and wasted so much parliamentary time on procedural motions that the government had to abandon the bill. Fast forward to 1998. Tony Blair partly kept the promise to reform the House of Lords by removing the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote. But there was a battle. Despite the large majority in the House of Commons, Labour was in a minority in the House of Lords, where there were 750 hereditary lords and only around 500 life peers. So a compromise was agreed on — until a “proper” reform that would lead to an elected House of Lords, around a hundred hereditary peers House of Lords. So in 2010, all the parties made a commitment in their manifestos to have an elected House of Lords, but each still had a lot of caveats. The House of Lords is overwhelmingly against its reform. (I belong to a minority in favour of reform.) The House of Commons is now different from its previous self after the election, and with a coalition at the helm there are tensions between the two parties. The Liberal Democrats are fiercely committed to reform. The other two parties won’t say it, but they want to make life difficult for the Liberal Democrats. Finally, in June 2012, Clegg introduced the bill to reform the House of Lords.

A draft bill had been published in 2011 and scrutinised by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament. The draft bill had problems. One was the jealousy of the House of Commons about its primacy over the House of Lords. Would an elected House of Lords — now to be called the senate — challenge the House of Commons? Secondly how would the senators be elected? It was proposed that senators would have a term of 15 years, but no right to shift to the House of Commons later. They were to be elected by proportional representation on a list system for a group of members. There would be 450 members in all, with 360 elected and 90 appointed. What would be the powers? Why change the system when it works fine? These questions were raised again. To meet the criticism that the new senate will be expensive, the senators won’t be paid salaries but daily allowance as the peers are paid today. (The British public hates to give money to its representatives if it can help it. No lal batti gaadi for anyone, no Lutyens bungalows.) The question is: Will the bill pass this time? Wait and see. If the House of Commons does pass the bill, the House of Lords will reject it. Will the coalition government assert the rights of the House of Commons to override the veto of the House of Lords by reintroducing the bill one year later and passing it again? Maybe the champions of the Women’s Reservation Bill, now stuck in the Rajya Sabha, can take heart from this story. A week is a long time in politics, as Harold Wilson said. But a century is a short time when it comes to radical parliamentary reform. Maybe the women’s bill will pass before the next century. The writer is an economist and Labour peer
express@expressindia.com

EDITOR
A class apart
Chidambaram allegedly remarked that the middle class was willing to spend on icecream and bottled water but not willing to put up with a Re 1 hike in the price of wheat or rice, which would help poor farmers (‘Chidambaram in “middle class” row’, IE, July 10). However, it is government policy that is responsible for the plight of farmers in the first place. For instance, foodgrains are left to rot in warehouses instead of being distributed among the poor. The interests of farmers have been consistently neglected by the government. — H. Parshuram Mumbai
■ THIS refers to ‘Making the cut’ (IE, July 10). Niti Bhutani has rightly pointed out the flaws in Delhi University’s admission procedure. A preliminary test, along with the cut-offs, would be better suited to assess the quality of students being admitted. It would also give aspirants from state boards where the marking is stricter a fighting chance of admission in DU. It is time to take stock of the situation and introduce a better admission procedure — one that will help DU attract the best talent and maintain its position as the premier university in India. — Altamash Aiman New Delhi ■ UNION Home Minister P .

Letters to the

Admit it

NIVEDITA MENON

VEN when the deep communist dream shattered to smithereens from Moscow to Bucharest, it lived on, cossetted, in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. It thrived in the graffiti on its library walls, in the impassioned speeches in hostel messes and in the torch-lit processions that called out to Ho Chi Minh. Now, the citadel of the SFI, the political nursery of some of the CPM’s tallest leaders, including general secretary Prakash Karat, has cracked. The university’s SFI unit has been disbanded after it echoed the lines of Prasenjit Bose, also a former student who resigned from the CPM protesting the party’s decision to support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee as president. Supporting Mukherjee’s candidature appeared to be a pragmatic step for the party that had lost power in both its bastions of Kerala and West Bengal and clout in

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Disbanding of SFI unit in JNU frames the CPM’s enduring troubles with persuasion and dissent
national politics after parting ways with the UPA. The decision to support Mukherjee had found critics in Kerala as well, but what the state leaders could come to terms with as politics in praxis seems to have been lost on comrades schooled in theories in the university. Out of power, the CPM is finding it hard to explain its programmes to its young believers even in what has long been considered its ideological heartland. But the CPM’s instinct to shut shop in the face of dissent comes at an awkward time for the party. There aren’t too many places where the shutters are indeed kept open. When the party should be harnessing energies to expand its base, when it should be invested in expanding its footprint, the reflex to expel can only be counterproductive. With only rebellion and no reins in its hands, it must think harder about where it is headed from here.

Hammer and tongs

HE story of Pinki Pramanik and her partner can be pieced together like any other story of intimacy gone bad. After all, human beings invariably encounter pain and betrayal in intimate relationships, just as they encounter joy and desire. No relationship is free of power, whether produced by individual personalities or by social structures — patriarchy, the assumption of heterosexuality as natural, caste, class, race. Why then has Pinki’s story become about something else altogether? Because we assume that our bodies are “naturally” male or female. But would anyone pass a gender test? Three sets of characteristics are said to determine sexual identity: genetic — the XX female and XY male chromosomal pattern, hormonal — estrogen (female), androgen/testosterone (male), and genital. However, sex chromosomes have been known to exhibit other patterns, such as X0 (females with only one X chromosome), XXY, XYY, XXX, or a “mosaic condition” in which different cells in the same individual’s body have different sex chromosomes. This is why the Olympic games suspended gender verification tests in 2000, after enough evidence had emerged that “atypical chromosomal variations” are far too common. Scientists are also coming to the conclusion that the three characteristics of sexual identity are not necessarily linked. Thus, if a body has female genitals, it would not necessarily have pre-

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Pinki Pramanik’s ordeal must force us to rethink the notion that gender is rigidly bipolar
ponderantly female chromosomes and female hormones. Most bodies marked male and female would not pass “gender tests” if the perfect congruence of these three factors is being examined. But we are not routinely tested for gender once our sex has been assigned at birth. The question arises only in sex-segregated activities like competitive sports, and only for women, because it is assumed that male characteristics offer an advantage. Of course, women athletes disqualified for chromosomal, hormonal or physical variations that cast doubt on their “femaleness” do not get categorised as “men”. They are still excluded cepted natural advantage, and different ethnic groups have different physical characteristics, like height and build. Competitive sport does not sort out competitors on the basis of comparable physical features and athletic ability — there is no level playing field. Men of different physical attributes, levels of training, and differential natural advantages such as height and strength, compete against one another, as do women. Why is the only standard of difference applied that of an assumed gender bipolarity? All men do not run faster than all women, all men are not stronger than all women, all men do not jump higher than all term “modernity”, inaugurated in Europe around the 16th century and universalised through colonialism. Even in Europe, it was only from the 17th century that hermaphrodites were forced to choose one established gender and stay with it, the punishment for failing to do so being death. Since the dominant understanding now is that a body must be unambiguously male or female, large numbers of bodies that do not fit this description are designated as diseased. For instance, intersex infants born with no clear determining sexual characteristics, eunuchs, men and women who have some characteristics that are “nonmasculine” and “non-feminine” respectively. All these are disciplined into normalcy through medical and surgical intervention, or declared abnormal or illegal. Our very language, held implacably in the bipolarity of gender, falters in attempting to refer to such bodies. Is an intersex child he or she, avan or aval, voh karega ya karegi? If the experience of Pinki forces us to rethink the notion that sexual identity is rigidly bipolar, then the humiliation she is undergoing may not have been in vain. The writer teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is the author of ‘Recovering subversion: Feminist politics beyond the law’
express@expressindia.com.

Body of proof

Poor show

Why should athletes not be categorised on the basis of physical characteristics relevant to the sport, rather than on the basis of sex?
from men’s sports events and professions reserved for men. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it continues to be assumed that every human being can be assigned to one of two sex categories. Thus the Olympic Committee retained a policy of “suspicion based testing” on a case by case basis, as did other sports bodies. This policy resulted in two women athletes — South African Caster Semenya and Indian Santhi Soundarajan — being disqualified after winning their events. They had failed their “gender tests”. But are all natural advantages considered illegitimate in sports? Height in basketball is an acwomen. Why should athletes not be categorised on the basis of physical characteristics relevant to the sport, rather than on the basis of sex? We are not clearly bounded male and female bodies with definite male and female characteristics, from which only a few abnormal people differ. Maleness and femaleness are not only culturally different, they are not even biologically stable features over a lifetime. The rigid division of bodies into “male only” and “female only” occurred at a particular moment and place in human history — at the inception of the constellation of features that we

Lankans training at IAF station shifted’(IE, July 7), the UPA government has shown feet of clay by caving in to pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu and sending Sri Lankan military personnel training in Chennai to Bangalore. The Central government cannot allow itself to be pressured into such decisions. It should have found a way to pre-empt or halt such protests. Political parties cannot push their vested interests at the cost of India’s relations with neighbouring countries. The Centre should keep in mind that cordial relations with our neighbours are vital to long-term interests. — Satwant Kaur Mahilpur

■ APROPOS ‘TN protests: Sri

Unkind cut

WORDLY WISE
Thomas A. Edison

The body is a community made up of its innumerable cells or inhabitants.

FTER more than a year of bloody repression in Syria — and Hafez, at the height of the Cold War. Such ties — which include both stalemate at the United Nations — Russia’s apparent commit- trading relationships and significant migrant populations — are not easment to stop sending arms to the murderous regime in ily unravelled. That said, calling a halt to arms sales, even only to Damascus looks like real progress at last...There are two forces new shipments, has considerable symbolic value. Moscow is not at work here. One is the Russian leadership’s strong desire to yet off the hook. Its support remains a vital prop for a regime avoid being bounced by the UN into another military interventhat has proved itself wholly barbaric. Refusing to provide Damtion. Libya is far from forgotten, as Vladimir Putin’s tart refer- PRINTLINE ascus with weapons and warplanes to use against its own peoences to “unilateral moves that are contrary to international ple is the least Russia could do. But it is welcome, nonetheless. law” this week attest. It would also be a mistake to overlook the strong historic bonds between Russia and Syria, which stretch back to Assad’s father, From ‘The Independent’, London

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Moscow’s arms embargo on Syria is welcome — but not enough

Russian roulette

in his book that former prime minister P Narsimha Rao sat .V. in prayer and did little to stop the Babri Masjid from being demolished (‘Babri: Rao remained a silent witness, says Kuldip Nayar book’, IE, July 6). Such allegations are perhaps unjust and uncharitable. It is also not clear why Nayar chose to break his silence two decades after the event took place. — Mookhi Amir Ali Mumbai
■ THIS refers to ‘Rocking chair design for father fetches city student first prize at national contest’ (IE, July 9). Student Ajay Kale’s simple innovation underlines the fact that there is no dearth of talent in our country. Sadly, it does not often get the right platform to flourish. — Najmuddin Pata Pune

■ KULDIP NAYAR has alleged

Rocking talent