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October 1, 2012

NYT loses its Punch

No one called him by his full patrician name, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, scion of the family that owned the New York Times , arguably the most influential newspaper in the world.

Few called him even Mr. Sulzberger.

He was Punch to everyone he met, from the coffee boy at the old New York Times building just off Broadway, to the most musty of Editors. It was a nickname that Mr. Sulzberger had gotten in his childhood when he and a sister, Judy, would stage Punch and Judy skits for the entertainment of the family.

So Punch it was, always Punch and that too, with such a cheery smile that

everyone who ran into him somehow felt uplifted. He would invariably have a joke or two in the elevator. And sometimes, on a whim, he would invite anyone he met for a meal at one of New Yorks fanciest restaurant. Punch loved his food.

He loved his family newspaper most of all. And had it not been for Punchs sturdy stewardship during the 1970s and 1980s when advertising was migrating to suburban publications, magazines and, of course, television the august Times would have most likely been extinct by now. Punch once told me that it was hard to imagine the Sulzberger family without The Times , and hard to believe The Times wouldnt have the Sulzbergers at its helm.

The transformation he undertook to save The Times was simple on the face of it. Instead of cutting back on the

papers coverage of everything from world politics to local culture in New York, he and his star Executive Editor, Abe Rosenthal, added new sections that would appeal to sophisticated urbanites sections such as leisure, home decoration, healthy lifestyles. Parts of the daily read like a lively magazine.

Mr. Rosenthal a mentor of mine, just like Punch Sulzberger would often say, In times of trouble, we dont make the soup thin. We add tomatoes to the soup.

Readers appreciated that. And The Times was again on the path to profitability. It acquired several regional newspapers, strengthened its foreign bureaus, stepped up coverage of its own backyard, New York, and expanded reporting on an America whose social mores and politics were changing.

For some people it was hard to accept that this mild man would have the nerve and courage to institute such changes. As with Kathleen Graham, Publisher of the competing Washington Post , Mr. Sulzberger had steel in his spine, and, also like her, his adrenalin kept pumping. Little wonder that under their leadership their respective papers flourished.

I was a young man then when I joined The Times , just starting out in journalism. In a few years, The Times posted me to Nairobi, Kenya, to cover sub-Saharan Africa. Punch came to visit Nairobi along with Abe. He wanted to see everything, meet everyone who mattered, talk with everyday people. It was impossible to keep up with this much older man.

He liked travel. He enjoyed landing up in places where The Times had bureaus. He wanted to see for himself how his correspondents worked in the field. He had no wish to play the unseen hand.

That is not to say that he didnt give Abe Rosenthal a free hand to shape and re-shape The Times , which in time became the worlds most influential newspaper. But Abe adored Punch, and Punch was terribly fond of Abe. Few Publishers and Editors have been in such sync.

Years after he had retired and handed over the reins of the company to his son, A.O. Sulzberger Jr., I was having lunch with Punch at The Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan. In the perception of many readers, the paper had lost its edge; Editors who succeeded Abe Rosenthal did not edit

from their gut, as Abe did, a quality that Punch appreciated.

I asked Punch straight out, And how do you like The Times these days?

Punch reflected on that question for a bit. I think he was wrestling with the idea that it would be unseemly for him to criticise his son, who was now the Publisher. Finally he said, I think the golden age of The Times was when Abe and I were there.

That said sensibility.




Hes gone now, the last of the titans of a golden generation of Publishers and journalists. The Times itself is now focusing more on its digital versions. Who knows what the paper will be in five or a dozen years.

But whatever its avatar, the paper will always contain a bit of Punch in it his good cheer, his unflappability, his genuine concern for the dispossessed, his insistence on a journalism of fairness an integrity.

I was privileged to work under him and Abe Rosenthal. What a life they led. And what a life they gave me, a life where I travelled the world and reported on it for America, a life of a story teller in the bazaar. How does one repay that debt? How does one replace giants, how does one replace friends?

(Pranay Gupte was a staff reporter and foreign correspondent for the New York Times . E-mail:

Arthur Ochs Sulzbergers stewardship in the 1970s and 80s made the newspaper the force it is today October 1, 2012

A salary plan that changes nothing

Recently during a press conference called by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Minister of State (Independent Charge), Krishna Tirath, proposed the formulation of a bill through which a certain percentage of a husbands salary would be compulsorily transferred to his wifes bank account to compensate her for all the domestic work she performs for the family. According to the Minister, this percentage of husbands salaries would not be taxed and would provide women the much needed source of income to run the household better, and more

importantly, to spend on her own, personal consumption. In a later clarification, the Minister identified this payment as an honorarium and not a salary which is to be paid to wives for all the services they otherwise render for free.

This proposition has not gone down well, especially with women of higher income brackets who see such proposed action as unnecessary intervention in the realm of the private, i.e. the realm of familial relations. Many such women also believe that this government intervention amounts to reducing wives into glorified maids who need to be paid every time they walk into the kitchen, wash the baby, sweep the house, etc. Sadly, what is sidelined amid all the clamour and jokes about commercialisation of the mia-biwi relationship is the necessity of recognising the back-breaking work

performed by women to sustain their families. Of course, what we also lose sight of is the sheer hollowness of such proposed legislation. For example, such legislation, if implemented, would not provide women a source of income which they earn independently of their husbands. Instead, women would continue to depend on their husbands earnings and employment status, and thus, remain dependent on the family structure for their individual financial sustenance. Indeed, the problem with the proposed legislation is not that it is unnecessary and demeaning, but that it is informed by a poor understanding of economics surrounding household work and womens labour in general. Clearly, the question then is whether the Indian state is even serious about uplifting the position of the woman within the home and in recognising her contribution to the national economy.

Historical issue

Assigning an economic value to womens domestic labour is a longstanding debate. The international womens movement has continuously debated the question and reached many important conclusions. It is now time for the larger society to engage with the movements propositions seriously. First, as a society we must learn to accept that there is sheer drudgery involved in day-to-day household work. The fact that such work is performed by a woman for her husband and other family members in the name of care and nurturing cannot be used to conceal that this is a thankless job which the majority of women feel burdened by. Just because some women do not have to enter the kitchen every day since their maid does the needful, we cannot write-off the helplessness with which

the average woman walks towards her kitchen hearth, every day without fail. Here, there is no retirement age, no holiday, and definitely, no concept of overtime.

Second, we must realise that the process whereby womens domestic labour has been rendered uneconomic activity , is a historical one. It was with the emergence of industrial society and the resulting separation between the home and the workplace that womens housework lost value whereas mens labour outside the home fetched wages. Third, as a society we must accept that while many are uncomfortable with providing an economic value to womens domestic labour, chores such as washing, cleaning, cooking, child rearing, etc., are already assigned such a value by the market when need be. After all, many middleclass homes buy such services through

the hiring of maids, paying for playschool education, crche facilities, etc. Fourth, womens domestic labour must be accounted for in the economy precisely because it is one of the contributing forces in the reproduction of labour power expended by this countrys working masses. In fact, because a womans domestic labour is devalued by the economy, a mans wage can be kept low. For example, if all families were to pay every day for services like washing, cooking, cleaning, etc., because women of the household did not perform such duties, the breadwinners of each family would need to be paid higher wages so that they can afford to buy such services off the market.

The solution

This being the reality surrounding womens unpaid, domestic labour,

where does the actual solution lie? Does it lie in redistributing limited family incomes between husband and wife, or, in redistributing the national income so as to enhance individual family incomes, and hence, the womans share within the improved family consumption? Importantly, while pressing for valuation of womens domestic labour, the progressive womens movement has always argued that if the value of unpaid housework is paid but does not add to or increase the total household income, such remuneration amounts to nothing. Hence, one of the most important conclusions reached on this question of unpaid domestic labour is that the state should pay for it, especially by providing women gainful employment, special funding, subsidised home appliances, free health care, etc. In this way, women would earn through an independent source of income and be freed of an

overt dependence on the family structure for their consumption. There would also be a gradual undermining of the sexual division of labour which has resulted in women being tied to their homes and unable to do little else.

Of course, what has not won much attention so far is the fact that the proposed legislation posits wages for housework rather than employment for women as a long-term solution. Indeed, questions have been raised whether the proposed legislation is implementable, but not whether it does the needful. For example, will the government be able to put in place the required administrative machinery? How exactly is the value of womens household work to be calculated, or simply put, how many bais will equal a wife? Will the number of family members she rears determine whether she is entitled to

greater compensation? And what of widowed women who do not have a husbands salary to draw on?

Absolves the state

However, implementation is far from the real problem with such legislation. Mechanisms can always be put in place if administrative sincerity prevails. The real problem with the Ministrys endeavour is the rationale by which it is driven. The proposed legislation should be criticised because it absolves the Indian state of the responsibility it owes to women who contribute daily in sustaining the national economy. Indeed, if the proposed legislation is formulated and implemented, it will only result in undervaluing and underpaying womens domestic labour.

To elucidate, if we actually sit down to calculate the cost of all the different household chores a wife does for free, the figure would easily touch amounts that in no way can be compensated by a small percentage of the husbands wages. Furthermore, with varied family incomes, such legislation would result in women being remunerated differently for the same kind and same amount of domestic work. In the case of the average working class or lower-middle class family where the total family income is anywhere between Rs.2,000 to Rs.10,000 per month, such legislation would assign women a pittance as an economic value for their back-breaking housework. This pittance will not empower the woman as the total family income remains the same. Without a growth in the actual family income, neither will such families be able to change their consumption pattern, nor will the nature of household work change so as to

enable women to do other things instead of just labouring at home.

Clearly then, the issue at stake is how to minimise housework for women so that they too can step out of the home to earn, to enhance family incomes and to have greater say in family as well as public matters. Greater employment generation for women by the state, and widespread introduction of facilities like crches at all workplaces, subsidised home appliances, unhindered promotion post child birth/maternity leave, etc. are the need of the hour. While direct employment helps to create women who are financially independent, the provision of the latter helps women to remain in the labour market, despite starting a family. If the average woman is to be freed of the yoke of household drudgery then it is evidently the Indian state which has to pay by creating concrete conditions

for her greater economic participation outside the home.

(Maya John is an activist and researcher based in Delhi University.) October 1, 2012

Man who was Bharat sarkar

Life grudges courtesy. Death nudges it.

Brajesh Mishra, on crossing over, has received the praise many held back when he was with us.

The Prime Ministers thoughtful and sincere tribute to the former National Security Adviser restores ones faith in the future of civility in politics. It also gives us a definition of an ideal public

servant and, more specifically, a rolemodel of an NSA.

During the five years that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, his safari-suited Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser was, after the charismatic PM himself, the nearest that anyone came to embodying Bharat Sarkar.

Facts are facts. Hard facts are harder facts.

A poet in politics, Prime Minister Vajpayee thought lyrically and spoke in what sounded like free verse. If such an intellectual aesthetes stewardship of the country could see India become a nuclear weapons state and, at the same time, make strategic moves for a composite dialogue with Pakistan, then the verser had to have

had a grammarian helping him. And that was Brajesh Mishra.

The signet of power needs an indelible inking pad and a very sharply chiselled and firmly fonted seal pressing on it. Vajpayee and Mishra together made the imprimatur of the State. True, the Cabinet had a powerful Home Minister, a very visible Defence Minister and an articulate Foreign Minister. Yet, if the magnetic field of Atal Behari Vajpayees government had one single lodestone charging the terrain and holding it together, that was Brajesh Mishra.

The then Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and NSA was and was not an official. He had his politics but did he belong in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Bhavan? As a quintessential member of the Indian Foreign Service, he was rehearsed in diplomacys book of

scores but his mind was no singing prisoner of a cuckoo clock.

As NSA, Brajesh Mishra had a certain weight of political intelligence and a height in terms of diplomatic experience. The two together translated into influence, impact. And so when he held the position of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and National Security Adviser, one that no one had combined in himself earlier, he was already a non pareil . To that he added another plus , which came from the Prime Ministers total and unwavering trust in him. The Brajesh Mishra impact over the NDA government and, by extension, over the India under NDA could well be called his BMI Brajesh Mishras weight in credentials divided by his height in metres of impact squared.

His former colleagues in the Indian Foreign Service either liked him to the point of looking up to him or they resented him for his supreme selfconfidence which could seem arrogant if not offensive. One former diplomat who had an ease of equation with Mishra without sharing his political predispositions was the Nehruvian 10th President of India, K.R. Narayanan. Three reasons can be identified for President Narayanans high comfort level with the NSA. First, his seeing a desirable equilibrium at work between Prime Minister Vajpayees lyrical idealism and the NSAs prosaic pragmatism. Second, his seeing the NSAs Patelesque resoluteness as that of a patriot and not that of a warmonger. Third, the Presidents intellectually arrived-at respect for the office of NSA as a lightning conductor on the edifice of the state and its deeply grounded lodestone.

Brajesh Mishras departure, amid widely-expressed cross-party admiration for his work as NSA, is a natural occasion for us to reflect on the office of the NSA, whether conjoined to the office of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, or otherwise. In times when the nation engages in fluctuating negotiations with neighbouring governments two of which are nuclear weapons states with belligerent anti-India elements and opposition groups in some of those countries, dangerous non-state adversaries with possible collaborators within India, cyberintrusions both insidious and overt, and several forms of restive and open violence working within the country, the nation needs a security pivot outside the multi-member, multiparty, multiplex of the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister, for many a year to come, may neither be able to

afford to be a Chamberlain nor risk affecting a Churchill. He will, by the logic of our geopolitical circumstance, have to quest patiently for conciliation while keeping the guard against shocks high. He will, also, need to be an unflagging and earnest idealist in the matter of universal disarmament while knowing all that deterrence entails. Only a bold NSA can suggest some form of unilateralism along with a universalist approach towards a nuclear global zero.

Fortunately, even incredibly, the NSAs who have succeeded Brajesh Mishra have combined calm intellection with no-nonsense realism. One does need to watch him from the inside or too closely to see that our present NSA does not conflate security with paranoia, nor political intelligence with a craving for intercepts. More pertinently, that he becalms posturers, sabre-rattlers and mood-

jitterers among political and nonpolitical entities, while keeping our security nodules on the qui vive .

The Prime Minister of India and the NSA form a twosome-ness that is distinct, exclusive. It is in the trust that one reposes and the other receives in the confidence of their consultations transacted in the white heat of emergencies, that suraksha lies. Whether the Prime Minister acts as a Chamberlain or a Churchill, the NSA has to be a Chanakya. But in the sense of being versatile, not just clever.

The secured chamber of security planning needs to open a window. And that is the window of sharing our security policys broad trajectory with the country. Security planning need not be an Eleusinian mystery, a secret doctrine involving rites known only to the initiated. Not in the alert and open-eyed Republic that is India.

There was a touch of the elusive and the mysterious about Brajesh Mishra. This did not strengthen his BMI. If his great contribution to Indias security method is to be systemically strengthened, it will have to rise above some of our first NSAs own masterly elidings.

(Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former Governor of West Bengal)

Brajesh Mishras political intelligence and diplomatic experience together translated into unmatched influence over the Vajpayee government October 1, 2012

The feminisation of old age

According to the World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision , the

current youth bulge in the country is expected to last till 2025, after which, the growth rate of the elderly is likely to take over. It is imperative that the current needs of the youth and the emerging needs of the elderly are addressed simultaneously within the diverse demographic fabric of the country. In 2009, there were 88 million elderly people in India. By 2050, this figure is expected to soar over 320 million. Between 2000 and 2050 the overall population of the country is anticipated to grow by 60 per cent whereas population of people of age 60 years and above would shoot by 360 per cent. The ratio of the dependent population to that of the working population is defined by the dependency ratio. Investment in the elderly population is no longer a question of choice.

By 2050, women over 60 years would exceed the number of elderly men by

18.4 million, which would result in a unique characteristic of feminisation of the elderly population in India as is being experienced in many provinces of China. In fact, the two most populous nations will together contribute to 38 per cent of the global elderly population.

Ageing differently

The predicament of elderly women is aggravated by a life time of genderbased discrimination. The gendered nature of ageing is such that universally, women tend to live longer than men. In the advanced age of 80 years and above, widowhood dominates the status of women with 71 per cent of women and only 29 per cent of men having lost their spouse. Social mores inhibit women from remarrying, resulting in an increased likelihood of women ending up alone.The life of a widow is riddled

with stringent moral codes, with integral rights relinquished and liberties circumvented. Social bias often results in unjust allocation of resources, neglect, abuse, exploitation, gender-based violence, lack of access to basic services and prevention of ownership of assets. Ageing women are more likely to get excluded from social security schemes due to lower literacy and awareness levels.

Angst of ageing

While narratives may vary, the stories of ageing women are those of loss and loneliness. During my interactions with residents of an old-age home it was evident that many are forced to either live in a house uncared for or leave their homes with nowhere to go to. Consumed by isolation, Radha Sanyal{+*}confided that she decided to walk out with dignity before her

family could actually propose the same. But living in temple premises, public parks and pavements deprives her of the dignity that she wrestled to preserve in the first place.

Although the degree of isolation may vary, with urbanisation and nuclear families on the rise, elderly women living in metropolitan cities are more likely to feel socially alienated than their rural counterparts. Challenges of health security get aggravated by the fact that elderly women often tend to underplay their ailments. Preoccupation with nursing an ailing spouse, lack of awareness, nutritional deficiencies or simply neglect are some of the reasons that often take an adverse toll on their health.

While investing for old age is important it is equally critical to safeguard ownership of assets. Religious dogmas on liberation serve

to allay the brutal contours of existence. That explains why widowed destitute elderly women seek refuge at pilgrim spots. The promise of salvation after death helps them in embracing the hardship that dominates the last years of their lives.

Longevity dividend

Just as all things end, so would the effects of Indias youth dividend. When people live longer, it offers society a chance to reap a longevity dividend. This implies that the elderly continue to contribute significantly for an unprecedented period of time.

In order to address this unprecedented demographic shift it is necessary to to understanding the challenges of an ageing population. A joint study by the United Nations Population Fund and Helpage

International called Global Report on Ageing seeks to fill the knowledge gap. It is to be released nationwide on October 1, 2012, on the International Day for Older People.

It has been a decade since the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (Mipaa). Its bold agenda focused on three priority areas: older persons and development; advancing health and well-being into old age; and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

As a signatory to Mipaa, India has the responsibility to formulate and implement public policy on population ageing. Issues of poverty, migration, urbanisation, ruralisation and feminisation compound the complexity of this emerging phenomenon. Public policy must respond to this bourgeoning need and

mainstream action into developmental planning. Gender and social concerns of elderly, particularly elderly women, must be integrated at the policy level. The elderly, especially women, should be represented in decision making. Benefits of social schemes must percolate to the grassroots. Increasing social/widow pension and its universalisation is critical for expanding the extent and reach of benefits. Renewed efforts should be made for raising widespread awareness and access to social security schemes such as National Old Age Pension and Widow Pension Scheme. Provisions in terms of special incentives for elderly women, disabled, widowed should also be considered.

Innumerable reasons add up to make ageing women in India one of the most vulnerable segments of the population. Their social and health

security can no longer be compromised. In a country of ageing women, India must step up to the challenge to offer more than just the solace of promises. Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre for India and Bhutan

(Frederika Meijer is UNFPA Representative, India/Bhutan) October 2, 2012

No room for haste

The past year has witnessed unprecedented official efforts to rein in the growing tuberculosis epidemic. In 2011 alone, 1.2 million new TB cases were reported while 60,000 patients already inflicted died. In reality, the real incidence, most likely was much higher the number of new cases diagnosed and treated by private practitioners has not been factored in. It is to change this that TB was made a notifiable disease in May

this year. The government had to bite the bullet as effective interventions can be taken only if a system is in place to capture the true incidence and prevalence of the disease, including the drug-resistant cases. Herein lies the biggest challenge ensuring every new case diagnosed by the private health sector is accounted for. This can be achieved only if the government engages with the private sector by first taking it into confidence. The draft versions of the Joint Monitoring Mission (JMM) and the National Strategic Plan for TB Control, 2012-2017 have made strong recommendations to engage the private health sector to stem the spread of TB. The government, which very recently sent out guidelines on notification, requires every private health institution, including laboratories, to provide the personal details of a patient name, address, mobile number and unique identification number (Aadhar or

driving licence). The objective is to provide a support system to patients seeking private healthcare in terms of treatment initiation, adherence, follow-up and default retrieval tasks that are beyond the private sectors capacity.

The goal is laudable but it is quite unlikely that the TB Control programme can achieve all of its highly ambitious objectives in the short term. The most significant obstacle will be the reluctance of patients and some doctors to part with personal data. This despite the fact that such sharing is mandatory in the U.S. and many other developed countries, and that the Medical Council of Indias code of ethics warrants such sharing. Hence, consensus and confidence-building measures have to be undertaken on a massive scale to bring private healthcare providers on board and

make them open to the idea of sharing details. According to the draft JMM report, about one million TB cases per year are not reported. While the National Rural Health Mission has found some innovative ways of increasing manpower, urban areas lack the infrastructure to handle additional cases. This needs fixing. Most importantly, the TB control programme, which uses the interrupted regimen, has to show flexibility and allow the private sector to continue following the WHO recommended daily fixed-dose regimen. October 2, 2012

Lets not overrate foreign investment

With the intention of signalling a strong commitment to reforms, the UPA government has announced a hike in the price of diesel and liberalisation of foreign direct

investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, justifying the measures as growthenhancing and inflation-dampening. They have been termed bold by Indias corporate sector and burdensome by an Opposition united across the ideological spectrum. In his speech to the nation on September 20, the Prime Minister stated that the governments move is motivated by concern for the ordinary Indian. Given the conflicting responses, there is room here for analysis.

Strengthen infrastructure

The interesting thing about public sector pricing, in this case of diesel, is that keeping prices steady as input costs rise would be as political in content as raising them is. As stated in an editorial in this newspaper some days ago, the government need not have waited so long to raise the price. It would seem that the government

had no intention of doing so while Parliament was in session. Be that as it may, there is a strong case for eliminating the subsidy on all fossil fuels and transferring the saving thus made into public infrastructure. Apart from the symbolism of soaking the SUV-driving rich, the building and maintenance of public infrastructure are more likely to help the poor presumably the PMs aam aadmi than the current regime of subsidies.

The creation of infrastructure employs the poor directly as it is they who build it. Secondly, the provision of the producer services afforded by the infrastructure sustains private economic activity which generates employment. The idea that the poor would benefit more from public investment than the present subsidy regime, described by some as welfare state for the rich, has not really been sufficiently debated. For Indias

political class, subsidies are the easiest path to being seen as benefactors while being relieved of the task of managing the process of building and maintaining infrastructure, arguably a nonnegotiable aspect of governance in a democracy. So, even a small hike in the price of diesel can be the beginning of a realignment of government expenditure from consumption subsidies to investment in infrastructure, and the poor may be expected to gain from this. Finally, the gains from macroeconomic stability cannot be legitimately ignored when evaluating the prospects for the poor. Macroeconomic instability spares nobody, and Indias current account deficit by now exceeds the figure for 1991. Fuel subsidies have enormous consequences for the balance of payments, as 80 per cent of our oil consumption is imported.

When it comes to FDI in retail, the beneficial impact on the aam aadmi is altogether less obvious than in the case of lowering the diesel subsidy. What FDI in this sector may be expected to do is to take the shopping experience in India to the next level. Surely, cavernous supermarkets make it easier to shop for those with deeper pockets. Precisely because the supplier caters to this cohort the quality of the groceries may be expected to rise. In fact, we have already seen this happening, even without FDI, with organised retail spreading in India. But those on a daily wage and no ready cash are unlikely to patronise these suburban behemoths. They may be expected to prop up the kirana with its infinite capacity for apportioning their stuff to suit the customers purse and willingness to extend her credit. So the Opposition may well be crying wolf over the imminent disappearance of the corner store.

But the governments claim of a winwin with higher prices for farmers and lower prices for customers with the advent of FDI may be somewhat exaggerated. For precisely because the large retailer must cut through the supply chain to deliver this outcome, there would be some displacement in the middle. The government counters this reasoning by pointing to investment at the backend, in cold storage and such. This is possible of course, but we would want to wait and see the full combined effect once all effects have worked their way through the economy. Some part of the corner-store complex will survive purely because there are too many poor people in this country yet, generating a substantial demand for low quality food with lower mark-ups. But the position that a policy is only as good as its direct impact on employment is surely untenable. To reject outright a move on the grounds

that it does not directly put the poor to work would be folly. Productivity growth is often first employment displacing but it also lowers prices and raises demand. The point is that it not only raises demand for the good in question but for all other goods in the economy, as real income is higher following the rise in productivity. Overall employment in the economy may be expected to expand.

Little to offer

It is when it comes to inflation though that the present round of announcements by the government has little or nothing to offer. The suggestion, first made when the proposal was mooted some months ago, that FDI in retail would dampen inflation is difficult to fathom. The source of the current inflation is a veritable excess demand for vegetables and a manufactured excess

demand for the principal foodgrains. The latter stems from the governments procurement and storage policy. By mopping up almost the entire marketed surplus of grain as it comes into the wholesale markets and then allowing it to rot by unaccountable stock management, the Government of India abets hunger in the name of supporting the farmer. The entire political class is united in not calling attention to this travesty.

The RBIs argument that the fiscal deficit is the source of the inflation may deflect attention from its own incapacity in the present context, but does not do much to enhance our understanding of policy options. The Central governments fiscal deficit is lower today than it was when the present bout of inflation commenced about two years ago. Thus the hike in the price of diesel would have to be justified on counts other than its

presumed impact on inflation via a lower fiscal deficit. The current inflation is rooted less in macroeconomic imbalances than in structural ones emanating, as explained above, in the market for food. As a corollary, macroeconomic intervention via fiscal or monetary policy can have only a limited impact. As an aside, they can only compress output, a sequence of events playing out in the guise of a slowing manufacturing sector. It is by now clear that only microeconomic policy intervention can make a difference to the food situation and thus inflation. In India the cost of producing food is high in relation to per capita income. FDI in retail can make no difference here. It can at best only deliver more efficiently what has been produced at cost. The government can hardly be accused of not knowing of the importance of micro interventions.

For instance, it has been observed that vast sums of money spent by the government on irrigation were not showing up as increase in irrigated area. This was at least five years ago. Now there are reports of an irrigation scam involving Rs 20, 000 crore in Maharashtra, a State for all purposes governed by the UPA. It is quite extraordinary that the current foodprice led inflation has been in existence for over two years now and the government has not been able to come up with a single measure addressing it, even if its impact may be felt only in the medium term. When it is not actually stoking inflation by raising the procurement price of grain it comes up with window dressing in the form of FDI in retail.

It would be appropriate to conclude by asking whether the government makes too much of foreign

investment, desirable as it is. With respect to its heroic recent announcement, there is the issue of the suppliers response. Walmarts Asia President Scott Price is reported to have already stated we are not in any rush to enter India. But there is a query more general than the likely response of foreign investors to the overtures being made presently. In the two decades since 1991, India has not attracted much FDI, giving us an idea of what may be expected in a future with or without FDI in retail. Some perspective is to be had from looking at the Chinese experience. For an idea of the relative roles of FDI and domestic investment in generating growth in that country, note that FDI as a share on the domestic product had peaked in 1993. It was only 6 per cent even then, and has declined progressively since to a figure less than half that. This suggests that Chinas double-digit growth cannot be explained by alluding to the FDI it

attracts. Is our own government overrating the power of foreign investment to transform Indias economy?

(The author is on the faculty of Economics at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. He may be reached at

The governments claim that it will

dampen inflation, bring higher prices

for farmers and lower prices for

customers may exaggerated



October 2, 2012

Historian in the Marxist tradition with a global reach

WIDELY READ, INFLUENTIAL AND RESPECTED:In a profession notorious for microscopic preoccupations, few historians such as Hobsbawm have ever commanded such a wide field in such detail or with such authority. PHOTO: WESLEY/KEYSTONE/GETTY IMAGES If Eric Hobsbawm (June 9, 1917 October 1, 2012) had died 25 years ago, the obituaries would have described him as Britains most distinguished Marxist historian and would have left it more or less there. Yet by the time of his death at the age of 95, Hobsbawm had achieved a unique position in the countrys intellectual life. In his later years Hobsbawm became arguably Britains

most respected historian of any kind, recognised if not endorsed on the right as well as the left, and one of a tiny handful of historians of any era to enjoy genuine national and world renown. Unlike some others, Hobsbawm achieved this wider recognition without in any major way revolting against either Marxism or Marx. In his 94th year he published How to Change the World , a vigorous defence of Marxs continuing relevance in the aftermath of the banking collapse of 2008-10. What is more, he achieved his culminating reputation at a time when the socialist ideas and projects that animated so much of his writing for well over half a century were in historic disarray, and worse, as he himself was always unflinchingly aware.

In a profession notorious for microscopic preoccupations, few historians have ever commanded such

a wide field in such detail or with such authority. To the last, Hobsbawm considered himself to be essentially a 19th-century historian, but his sense of that and other centuries was both unprecedentedly broad and unusually cosmopolitan.

The sheer scope of his interest in the past, and his exceptional command of what he knew, continued to humble those who talked to him and those who read him, most of all in the fourvolume Age of ... series in which he distilled the history of the capitalist world from 1789 to 1991. Hobsbawms capacity to store and retrieve detail has now reached a scale normally approached only by large archives with big staffs, wrote Neal Ascherson. Both in his knowledge of historic detail and in his extraordinary powers of synthesis, so well displayed in that four-volume project, he was unrivalled.

Reading Marx

Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria, a good place for a historian of empire, in 1917, a good year for a communist. He was second-generation British, the grandson of a Polish Jew and cabinetmaker who came to London in the 1870s. Eight children, who included Leopold, Erics father, were born in England and all took British citizenship at birth (Hobsbawms Uncle Harry in due course became the first Labour mayor of Paddington).

But Eric was British of no ordinary background. Another uncle, Sidney, went to Egypt before the First World War and found a job there in a shipping office for Leopold. There, in 1914, Leopold Hobsbawm met Nelly Gruen, a young Viennese from a middle-class family who had been

given a trip to Egypt as a prize for completing her school studies. The two got engaged, but war broke out and they were separated. The couple eventually married in Switzerland in 1916, returning to Egypt for the birth of Eric, their first child, in June 1917.

Every historian has his or her lifetime, a private perch from which to survey the world, he said in his 1993 Creighton lecture, one of several occasions in his later years when he attempted to relate his own lifetime to his own writing. My own perch is constructed, among other materials, of a childhood in the Vienna of the 1920s, the years of Hitlers rise in Berlin, which determined my politics and my interest in history, and the England, and especially the Cambridge of the 1930s, which confirmed both.

In 1919, the young family returned to settle in Vienna, where Eric went to

elementary school, a period he later recalled in a 1995 television documentary which featured pictures of a recognisably skinny young Viennese Hobsbawm in shorts and knee socks. Politics made their impact around this time. Erics first political memory was in Vienna in 1927, when workers burned down the Palace of Justice. The first political conversation that he could recall took place in an Alpine sanatorium in these years, too. Two motherly Jewish women were discussing Leon Trotsky. Say what you like, said one to the other, but hes a Jewish boy called Bronstein. In 1929, his father died suddenly of a heart attack. Two years later his mother died of TB. Eric was 14, and his Uncle Sidney took charge once more, taking Eric and his sister Nancy to live in Berlin. As a teenager in Weimar Republic Berlin, Hobsbawm inescapably became politicised. He read Marx for the first time, and became a communist.

Hobsbawm could always remember the winters day in January 1933 when, emerging from the Halensee SBahn station on his way home from his school, the celebrated Prinz Heinrich Gymnasium, he saw a newspaper headline announcing Hitlers election as chancellor. Around this time he joined the Socialist Schoolboys, which he described as de facto part of the communist movement and sold its publication, Schulkampf (School Struggle). He kept the organisations duplicator under his bed and, if his later facility for writing was any guide, probably wrote most of the articles too. The family remained in Berlin until 1933, when Sidney Hobsbawm was posted by his employers to live in England.

The gangly teenage boy who settled with his sister in Edgware in 1934 described himself later as completely

continental and German speaking. School, though, was not a problem because the English education system was way behind the German. A cousin in Balham introduced him to jazz for the first time, the unanswerable sound, he called it. The moment of conversion, he wrote some 60 years later, was when he first heard the Duke Ellington band at its most imperial. Never satisfied to be anything less than the master of anything that absorbed him, Hobsbawm spent a period in the 1950s as jazz critic of the New Statesman , and published a Penguin Special, The Jazz Scene , on the subject in 1959 under the pen-name Francis Newton (many years later it was reissued with Hobsbawm identified as the author).

Learning to speak English properly for the first time, Eric became a pupil at Marylebone grammar school and in

1936 he won a scholarship to Kings College, Cambridge, where at one point he had rooms on a staircase on which his only two neighbours were A.E. Housman and Ludwig Wittgenstein. It was at this time that a saying became common among his Cambridge communist friends: Is there anything that Hobsbawm doesnt know? He became a member of the legendary Cambridge Apostles. All of us thought that the crisis of the 1930s was the final crisis of capitalism, he wrote 40 years later. But, he added, It was not. When war broke out, Hobsbawm volunteered, as many communists did, for intelligence work. But his politics, which were never a secret, led to rejection. Instead he became an improbable sapper in 560 Field Company, which he later described as a very workingclass unit trying to build some patently inadequate defences against invasion on the coasts of East Anglia. This, too, was a formative experience

for the often aloof young intellectual prodigy. There was something sublime about them and about Britain at that time, he wrote. That wartime experience converted me to the British working class. They were not very clever, except for the Scots and Welsh, but they were very, very good people.

Hobsbawm married his first wife, Muriel Seaman, in 1943. After the war, returning to Cambridge, Hobsbawm made another choice, abandoning a planned doctorate on north African agrarian reform in favour of research on the Fabians. It was a move which opened the door to both a lifetime of study of the 19th century and an equally long-lasting preoccupation with the problems of the left. In 1947, he got his first tenured job, as a history lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, where he

was to remain for much of his teaching life.

With the onset of the Cold War, a very British academic McCarthyism meant that the Cambridge lectureship which Hobsbawm always coveted never materialised. He shuttled between Cambridge and London, one of the principal organisers and driving forces of the Communist Party Historians Group, a glittering radical academy which brought together some of the most prominent historians of the post-war era. Its members also included Christopher Hill, Rodney Hilton, A.L. Morton, E.P. Thompson, John Saville and, later, Raphael Samuel. Whatever else it achieved, the CP Historians Group, about which Hobsbawm wrote an authoritative essay in 1978, certainly provided a nucleus for many of his first steps as a major historical writer.

First book

Hobsbawms first book, an edited collection of documents from the Fabian era, Labours Turning Point , published in 1948, belongs firmly to this CP-dominated era, as does his engagement in the once celebrated standard of living debate about the economic consequences of the early industrial revolution, in which he and R.M. Hartwell traded arguments in successive numbers of the Economic History Review . The foundation of the Past and Present journal, now the most lasting, if fully independent, legacy of the Historians Group, also belongs to this period.

Hobsbawm was never to leave the Communist party and always thought of himself as part of an international communist movement. For many, this remained the insuperable obstacle to an embrace of his writing. Yet he

always remained very much a licensed freethinker within the partys ranks. Over Hungary in 1956, an event which split the CP and drove many intellectuals out of the party, he was a voice of protest who nevertheless remained.

Yet, as with his contemporary, Christopher Hill, who left the CP at this time, the political trauma of 1956 and the start of a lastingly happy second marriage combined in some way to trigger a sustained and fruitful period of historical writing which was to establish fame and reputation. In 1959, he published his first major work, Primitive Rebels , a strikingly original account, particularly for those times, of southern European rural secret societies and millenarian cultures (he was still writing about the subject as recently as 2011). He returned to these themes again a decade later, in Captain Swing , a

detailed study of rural protest in early 19th-century England co-authored with George Rude, and Bandits , a more wide-ranging attempt at synthesis. These works are reminders that Hobsbawm was both a bridge between European and British historiography and a forerunner of the notable rise of the study of social history in post-1968 Britain. By this time, though, Hobsbawm had already published the first of the works on which both his popular and academic reputations still rest. A collection of some of his most important essays, Labouring Men , appeared in 1964 (a second collection, Worlds of Labour , was to follow 20 years later). But it was Industry and Empire (1968), a compelling summation of much of Hobsbawms work on Britain and the industrial revolution, which achieved the highest esteem. For more than 30 years, it has rarely been out of print.

The Age of series

Even more influential in the long term was the Age of series, which he began with The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 , first published in 1962. This was followed in 1975 by The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 and in 1987 by The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 . A fourth volume, The Age of Extremes: 1914-91 , more quirky and speculative but in some respects the most remarkable and admirable of all, extended the sequence in 1994.

The four volumes embodied all of Hobsbawms best qualities, the sweep combined with the telling anecdote and statistical grasp, the attention to the nuance and significance of events and words, and above all, perhaps, the unrivalled powers of synthesis (nowhere better displayed than in a classic summary of mid-19th century capitalism on the very first page of the

second volume). The books were not conceived as a tetralogy, but as they appeared, they acquired individual and cumulative classic status. They were an example, Hobsbawm wrote, of what the French call haute vulgarisation (he did not mean this self-deprecatingly), and they became, in the words of one reviewer, part of the mental furniture of educated Englishmen.

Hobsbawms first marriage had collapsed in 1951. During the 1950s, he had another relationship which resulted in the birth of his first son, Joshua Benathan, but the boys mother did not want to marry. In 1962, he married again, this time to Marlene Schwarz, of Austrian descent. They moved to Hampstead, and bought a small second home in Wales. They had two children, Andrew and Julia.

In the 1970s, Hobsbawms widening fame as a historian was accompanied by a growing reputation as a writer about his own times. Though he had a historians respect for the Communist partys centralist discipline, Hobsbawms intellectual eminence gave him an independence which won the respect of communisms toughest critics, such as Isaiah Berlin. It also ensured him the considerable accolade that not one of Hobsbawms books was ever published in the Soviet Union. Thus armed and protected, Hobsbawm ranged fearlessly across the condition of the left, mostly in the pages of the CPs monthly Marxism Today , the increasingly heterodox publication of which he became the house deity.

His conversations with the Italian communist, and now state president, Giorgio Napolitano date from these years, and were published as The

Italian Road to Socialism . But his most influential political writings centred on his increasing certainty that the European labour movement had ceased to be capable of bearing the transformational role assigned to it by earlier Marxists. These uncompromisingly revisionist articles were collected under the general heading The Forward March of Labour Halted .

By 1983, when Neil Kinnock became the leader of the Labour party at the depth of its electoral fortunes, Hobsbawms influence had begun to extend far beyond the CP and deep into Labour itself. Kinnock publicly acknowledged his debt to Hobsbawm and allowed himself to be interviewed by the man he described as my favourite Marxist. Though he strongly disapproved of much of what later took shape as New Labour, which he saw, among other things, as

historically cowardly, Hobsbawm was without question the single most influential intellectual forerunner of Labours increasingly iconoclastic 1990s revisionism.

His status was underlined in 1998, when Tony Blair made him a Companion of Honour, a few months after Hobsbawm celebrated his 80th birthday. In its citation, Downing Street said Hobsbawm continued to publish works that address problems in history and politics that have reemerged to disturb the complacency of Europe.

Later years

In his later years, Hobsbawm enjoyed widespread reputation and respect. His 80th and 90th birthday celebrations were attended by a Whos Who of left wing and liberal

intellectual Britain. Throughout the late years, he continued to publish volumes of essays, including On History (1997) and Uncommon People (1998), works in which Dizzy Gillespie and Salvatore Giuliano sat naturally side by side in the index as testimony to the range of Hobsbawms abiding curiosity. A highly successful autobiography, Interesting Times , followed in 2002, and Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism in 2007.

More famous in his extreme old age than probably at any other period of his life, he broadcast regularly, lectured widely and was a regular performer at the Hay literary festival, of which he became president at the age of 93, following the death of Lord Bingham of Cornhill. A fall in late 2010 severely reduced his mobility, but his intellect and his willpower remained unvanquished, as did his social and

cultural life, thanks to Marlenes efforts, love and cooking.

That his writings continued to command such audiences at a time when his politics were in some ways so eclipsed was the kind of disjunction which exasperated right-wingers, but it was a paradox on which the subtle judgment of this least complacent of intellects feasted. In his later years, he liked to quote E.M. Forster that he was always standing at a slight angle to the universe. Whether the remark says more about Hobsbawm or about the universe was something that he enjoyed disputing, confident in the knowledge that it was in some senses a lesson for them both.

He is survived by Marlene and his three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. (Dorothy Wedderburn died on September 20,

2012) Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

A tribute to a historian in the Marxist tradition with a global reach October 2, 2012

Paralysis is not an option

Deferring a decision on a contentious issue can be a short-term tactic, but never a long-term strategy. If the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh government were looking for further proof of popular support for a separate State of Telangana in the region, it came in the form of the Sagara Haaram rally in Hyderabad on Sunday. As tens of thousands gathered to demand statehood for Telangana, the Congress government reacted as if it were another law and order challenge, nothing more than an

evenings headache for the police. Quite astonishingly, even years after the revival of the Telangana struggle, and evidence of growing support for statehood demonstrated through byelections and mass agitations, the Congress and the governments it heads at the Centre and in the State are still hoping they can eventually wear down the movement by their inaction. The Congress tactic is, of course, engendered by the fear that any decision either for or against Telangana could set off violent reactions, either in Telangana or in Coastal Andhra, where large sections of the people are opposed to any division of the State. But inaction does not guarantee peace; indeed, there is no alternative to dealing with this political issue head-on. Instead of trying to find a consensus on the basis of the B.N. Srikrishna Committee report, which offered various viable options for it to consider, the government was happy doing nothing

at all. However, there is a price to pay for being reactive and defensive. Those on the streets are now the agenda-setters, with the government constantly in crisis-aversion mode.

The Sagara Haaram must be seen as another opportunity to engage with the advocates of Telangana and explore the way to a solution on the basis of a structured consensusbuilding process started with the help of the Centre. But both sides need to give up their maximalist positions. For instance, questions relating to the post-bifurcation status of Hyderabad which is within the Telangana region but is a cosmopolitan city with links to the whole of undivided Andhra Pradesh will have to be sorted out through broad-based consultations. What the Centre and the AP government ought not to do is equally clear: make a solution part of a political deal between the Congress

and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti. Irrespective of whether the offer of TRS president K. Chandrasekhara Rao to merge his party with the Congress in the event of statehood being granted to Telangana is a political ploy or not, the dangers in such a barter deal are self-evident. Political exigencies and electoral compulsions should not be allowed to decide the future of Andhra Pradesh. October 3, 2012

Securing the rhinos future

The bouncing back of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros from perilous decline is a century-old example of successful conservation. The iconic animal recovered dramatically from a long phase of colonial era hunting and habitat loss. Assam in general and Kaziranga in particular have nurtured the maximum number of rhinos. As per the 2012 census, the population

estimate is of the order of 2,505 animals. The conservation challenge in the 21st century is to protect the rhino during the annual flooding of Kaziranga National Park and its contiguous areas. Recent incidents make it clear that poachers will stop at nothing. The world has seen the shocking spectacle of rhinos being shot as they fled flood waters to safer highlands, and their faces hacked for the horn a compact mass of keratin fibres that commands staggering prices in the international market. The response to this crisis has to be internationally coordinated and twopronged, aimed at choking off illegal trade channels using improved field intelligence and creating secure migration paths for the animals on the ground.

All critically endangered flagship animals need habitats that have viable size, and adequate protection. In the

case of the great Indian rhino, the earliest measures date back to 1908, when 56,544 acres were set apart as reserved forest and hunting was banned. Kaziranga, which harbours the largest number of rhinos, has the reputation of being better-policed than other national parks. Park security was significantly strengthened two decades ago by setting up anti-poaching camps. Armed patrols here make it risky for poachers to enter, as they can be shot. Many have died in such attempts. Unsurprisingly, attacks on rhinos now often take place during the flooding season, when they migrate to areas where ensuring security is difficult. It may therefore be worth examining the possibility of further expansion of the park boundaries, and creation of additional conservation highlands. The Assam Forest Department and the Indian Army built such highlands after devastating floods in Kaziranga killed

many rhinos in 1998. Restoration of wildlife corridors north and south of the Brahmaputra river to provide an escape route for rhinos may also be beneficial. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureaus investigations into the recent poaching incidents should lead to coordinated Centre-State action on smuggling syndicates. The Assam governments move to enhance armed park security is also promising. In the long term, it is crucial to create migratory corridors for rhinos and other animals to use during floods, and secure these pathways. October 3, 2012

Washing off this stain will need more

The Supreme Courts unyielding criticism of the government for not eradicating the practice of manual scavenging was the springboard for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to introduce the

Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012 in the Lok Sabha on September 3. Welcomed as a panacea for the historically iniquitous, casteordained practice of manually handling human waste, the new Bill indicates renewed commitment but lacks a detailed vision for liberating manual scavengers. Such lack of detail in the new Bill is more pronounced when contrasted with a competent 2011 Draft Bill prepared by P.S. Krishnan, former Secretary to the Government of India.

The 1993 Act

The debasing inhumanity of manual scavenging for a living drove Dr. Bezwada Wilson to found the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), of which he is now the National Convener. An unorganised movement (1986) turned organisation (since 1996), the SKA has

relentlessly striven to educate the State governments and courts on the continuance of this practice across the country. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act was enacted in 1993. The unfortunate condition under this Act was that the States had to formally adopt and enforce it, a process that has taken over two decades.

A few States have remained silent on the matter, notwithstanding the Public Interest Litigation petitions filed by SKA in the Supreme Court in 2003 (with requisite photographic evidence against States and PSUs, including Indian Railways). The PIL litigants sought to enforce their fundamental right against untouchability under Article 17 of the Constitution, read together with Articles 14, 19 and 21 that guarantee equality, freedom, and

protection of life and personal liberty, respectively.

Drafted by the Ministry of Urban Development under the Narasimha Rao government, its legislation under Entry 6 (public health and sanitation) of the State List in the Constitution of India is the major lacuna in the 1993 Act. This is because privileging public sanitation accords only marginal importance to the objective of liberating persons employed as manual scavenging labour. And a tangential focus on manual scavengers explains the other lacunae in the Act: the narrow definition of a manual scavenger and the absence of a clause on rehabilitation for them.

The decision to amend the Act to fill the lacunae was foregone to avoid a lengthy and painful amendment process, since the Ministry of Law is understood to have objected to

amendments to the 1993 Act under any other Entry but Entry 6 .

The new Bill legislated under Entry 24 (welfare of labour and working conditions of the Concurrent List) may be appreciated for: (1) a somewhat broadened definition of a manual scavenger; (2) its clause on prohibition of hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks; and (3) clauses on severe penalties and rehabilitation. However, these provisions stop short of taking the bull by the horns when compared to the 2011 Draft, thoughtfully titled Total Liberation, Comprehensive Rehabilitation & Humanisation of Working Conditions Act, 2011.

Laudably, the opening declaration of the 2011 Draft is a national apology on behalf of the state to the sanitation workers, expressing deep regret for the humiliation and

untouchabilty to which the latter have been subjected over centuries. The Draft subsequently cautions against interpreting manual scavenging thinly and includes within its ambit, sewage and septic tank cleaning (in the wake of egregious human rights violations associated with manhole deaths across India).

Dilution of clauses

In contrast, the new Bill dilutes the significance of the clause that prohibits the employment of persons for hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks. It selectively mandates that a person handling excreta with the help of protective gear shall not be deemed a manual scavenger. This is problematic insofar as such protective gear becomes a mediating technology that helps sustain, if not perpetuate, the employment of persons for hazardous cleaning. It

contradicts the stated intention of rehabilitating these workers out of such dehumanising squalor.

For specific Scheduled Caste (SC) communities that are forced to render manual scavenging labour, it is the burden of caste worsened by casteist mindsets of those who forcefully employ them and aggravated on account of economic necessity and unavailability of alternative jobs. Therefore, the liberation of manual scavengers cannot be conceptualised in isolation (lest they lose their only source of income), without a meticulous roadmap for meaningful rehabilitation.

The 2011 Draft demonstrates sincerity and thoughtful intent in proposing time-bound, universal rehabilitation for manual scavengers. Inter alia , it obliges previous employers to extend

monthly pension to manual scavengers in recognition of the long years of service rendered to society under adverse conditions; and assist in securing alternative employment for such pensioned elderly manual scavengers who are unwilling to be idle. It further recommends rehabilitation (unconnected with sanitation work) as service providers and cooks for anganwadis and midday meal schemes or as railway staff assisting the elderly, the disabled or children.

In addition to training them as caretakers of public parks/gardens, plumbers or electrical repair workers, the 2011 Draft directs the Ministry of Railways to set aside a quota to absorb ex-scavengers as railway catering staff. It also duty binds the Central and State governments to provide proper housing with adequate sanitation, road infrastructure and,

most importantly, quality schools up to Class XII for the children of all SC communities from which manual scavengers are drawn. A remarkably detailed rehabilitation plan in the 2011 Draft is motivated by a threefold realisation: (1) to restore the dignity of life to the entire community of sanitation workers; (2) to secure, through educational opportunities, better vocations for future generations traditionally vulnerable to being recruited as manual scavengers; and (3) to clearly spell out the tasks of every Ministry, PSU, and private sector organisation in order to make them enforceable.

Unlike the 2011 Draft, the clause on rehabilitation in the new Bill is similar to a checklist of items on offer. It is seemingly benevolent in monetary terms but is measly in vision. Moreover, it conceives rehabilitation to be targeted and subject to

eligibility, based on identification surveys in rural and urban areas. Strikingly, it proposes that final lists of urban manual scavengers born out of the survey be displayed publicly to invite objections from general public, further dictating inclusion or exclusion of persons. This is akin to a public pillory, believes independent law researcher Dr. Usha Ramanathan, exposing the workers to public scorn and ridicule, for fear that a few extra might get rehabilitated. The government is relying on the MoRDs Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011 enumeration for identification of manual scavengers in rural India. The new Bill is silent on the use of SECC (already under criticism from the Right to Food activists for its insensitive methodology and high likelihood of exclusion errors in identifying BPL families).

A truly laudable provision in the new Bill is its unsparing penalty for offence (both cognisable and non-bailable). It imposes an initial fine of Rs. 50,000 or imprisonment up to one year or both. Appallingly, no offender has been prosecuted in the last two decades under the 1993 Act. A stringent penalty clause then ought to entail retrospective punishment for offences committed and not exempt public servants from prosecution. For purposeful enforcement, a body like the National Monitoring and Enforcement Authority, proposed in the 2011 Draft, should be instituted. Besides eminent social workers, including Scheduled Caste persons, this body should also provide representation to the invisible workforce of devoted individuals (members of the SKA, Garima Abhiyan and similar organisations) whose unwavering struggle in fighting for the rights of manual scavengers remains unrecognised.

Not too late to apologise

Different from most other draft legislations, the 2011 Draft achieves a tone of unparalleled sensitivity that is a necessary prerequisite for any legislation seeking to remedy historical exploitation rooted in caste. Such sensitivity in the Draft conveys neither pity nor empathy, but a profound apology for the humiliation faced by manual scavengers on account of our indifference and the illimplementation of the 1993 Act by the past and present governments.

The new Bill was rightly placed in the care of the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment with the intention of privileging not sanitation for public but justice, equality and dignity for the sanitation worker. However, for the new Bill to be

effective, the government ought to look at P.S. Krishnans 2011 Draft as its guiding document and prepare for, without further loss of time, the total liberation and thoughtful rehabilitation of manual scavengers in India.

(The author is an alumna of the University of Oxfords Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and is an independent researcher based in Delhi.)

October 3, 2012

Justice in Maharashtra (local Muslims need not apply)

HEAVYWEIGHT AT HOME:From the number of Gujarat cases transferred out, it has to be concluded thata fair

trial in the State is seen as a near impossibility. PHOTO: PTI Amit Shah, Gujarats former Home Minister, accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter killing of 2005, will now stand trial in Mumbai, not Gujarat, the scene of the encounter. His clout in his home state is obviously the main reason for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) asking the Supreme Court to transfer the case. When you consider that two other major cases of the 2002 Gujarat violence were also sent to Mumbai for trial by the Supreme Court, the conclusion is clear. In Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Gujarat, a fair trial is an impossibility when the accused are Hindu BJP supporters, and the victims are Muslims.

This assumption was proved wrong by the recent Naroda Patiya judgment convicting 32 Hindus. But this was a case monitored by the Supreme

Court. And, it came after nine years of continuous intervention by the apex court after the farce in the name of justice that was being played out in Gujarat immediately after 2002. Public prosecutors sympathetic to the ruling party were making sure that the Hindu accused got away in cases already botched up by communal policemen.

Thus the Best Bakery case, named for the incident during the 2002 riots in which 14 persons were burnt alive, saw all 21 accused acquitted in Gujarat. Tried in Mumbai, nine were convicted. The Bilqis Bano case had 12 of the 20 accused convicted in Mumbai.

It seemed obvious then, that away from the ruling partys malevolent influence, a fair trial was possible. A thrilled Maharashtra Home Minister,

basking in the flattering implications of the cases being sent to his State by the highest court, promised to do everything to ensure justice. And he delivered. In the Best Bakery case, sent here in 2004, he appointed P.R. Vakil, one of Mumbais best criminal lawyers as the public prosecutor. The judge assigned to the case was also one of the best. The Bilqis Bano case was investigated by the CBI, which chose the public prosecutor from Gujarat, and ensured that the main eyewitness, Bilqis, was protected. But the location of the trial was crucial guaranteeing a neutral, nonthreatening court machinery.

The 1990s riots

So why does this treatment of Mumbai as a haven for justice seem like a tasteless joke to Mumbaikars?

In the same city, with its formidable judiciary and lawyers, its own citizens have failed to get justice. The 1992-93 riots that ravaged this city arent history. Some riot cases are still going on. Here too, as in Gujarat, there are politically powerful Hindu accused and helpless Muslim victims. Here too, cases have been botched up by communal policemen and thrown away by indifferent, if not communal prosecutors. Of the riot cases, 60 per cent were simply closed. Maharashtra too had a ruling party determined to shield its wrongdoers. When the Shiv Sena defeated the Congress in 1995, some riot cases were underway, most of them blood-curdling incidents that had the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) (TADA) Act applied to them. Most of the accused were Shiv Sainiks. All were acquitted, without the defence having to do much: the eyewitnesses, all Hindu, turned hostile. In one case where the main witness, a Muslim and the only

surviving victim, stuck to her stand, the TADA judge insisted on corroboration, agreed with the technical objections raised by the defence lawyer and acquitted the Shiv Sainiks. In most of these cases, the defence lawyer was the son of a Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member.

Only in three cases, were the accused convicted. They were all Muslims. The Supreme Court acquitted them.

In 1998, the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry submitted its report indicting the Sena and the police. Of course the ruling party rejected it.

This kalyug came to an end in 1999. Secular forces defeated communal forces. The bulk of the riot cases remained to be heard. Sena MP Madhukar Sarpotdar was the most important accused, charged with hate

speech; leader of the Opposition Gopinath Munde and his secretary Pradip Moitra were other important offenders, charged under the Arms Act. Did the Congress government appoint a special prosecutor and fasttrack these cases? Did it reopen the closed cases? Did it vigorously start implementing the Srikrishna Report? You must be joking.

One of the prosecutors appointed in Sarpotdars case resigned after not being paid for six months. As the seven accused took turns not to appear in court, magistrates went through the motions.

Charges were framed in 2000, after a tabloid front-paged the state of affairs. Even then, it took a conscientious magistrate presiding over a special court to try riot cases seven years later, to convict Sarpotdar and two others. Vilasrao Deshmukh,

then chief minister, promised to appoint a special prosecutor to fight Sarpotdars appeal. Four years later, it is a promise that is still to be kept. The appeal meanders from court to court, each prosecutor more clueless than the other. Mundes case died a silent death.

The other VIP accused were policemen charged with murdering innocent Muslims. The minority-loving Congress booked them only when forced by the Supreme Court, and then made sure they went unpunished. Former Commissioner R.D. Tyagi, charged with killing eight Muslims, was discharged thanks to a lacklustre prosecution. The government didnt go on appeal. But for sub-inspector Nikhil Kapse, charged with the killing of six Muslims, the same government ran to the Supreme Court to stay the High Court-ordered CBI inquiry against him.

The CBIs closure report exonerating him is now being challenged by a victim, just as Tyagis discharge was. The ruling saviour-of-Muslims party is nowhere in the picture.

24/7 TV coverage of the violence, a host of NGOs, a proactive National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Supreme Court, and international attention have ensured justice for Gujarats Muslims. Mumbais Muslims had only a commission. No wonder they laugh when another Gujarat case is sent here.

(Jyoti Punwani is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

Mumbais victims of communal violence have failed to get justice because

the accused are as politically powerful as those in Gujarat October 4, 2012

Health care is more than access to medical services

NOT ENOUGH:Universal health cannot be achieved by managed care. PHOTO: B. VELANKANNI RAJ Gita Sens article in The Hindu Getting Indias Health Care System out of the ICU (The Sunday Story, Sept. 2, 2012) does an elegant job of masking the technological fix that grips the imagination of those who are redrafting the 12th Plans approach to Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Thus, Sen consistently uses the term health care when actually she means medical care. The latter only

addresses illness, but the former includes the treatment of illness, along with all national programmes and welfare measures that determine health. This makes it convenient to mislead the reader into believing that the public health care system is seriously broken merely because there are no free drugs, lack adequate staff and equipment, and treat patients with scant respect. The deliberate actions of an elitist state for over 20 years in starving the public sector of resources, subsidising the private sector, and promoting the growth of the burgeoning corporate sector, (although partially acknowledged by Sen) have not been linked to the broken state of the public health care system.

Ensuring universal health care is a major concern of governments the world over, may sound good as an apologia for state intervention, but

the fact is that different nations have different visions and contexts. The United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico have been mentioned approvingly by Sen, but without comparing poverty levels, the proportion of GDP invested in health, and most critically the fact that costs of health care in these countries are sky rocketing. Through this generalisation, therefore, Sen ignores how the Indian public health system has been commercialised and medical care opened to commercial and corporate medical care providers, merely to add to the revenue of a state driven by a neo-liberal commitment to economic growth, even though the gap between rich and poor widens and health indicators stagnate. It is only by concealing these linkages that an appealing argument can be made that one cannot ignore the reality of the private health sector and it ought to be made to

play its part in the move towards universal health coverage.

Can UHC be provided without prescribing minimum standards for food, drinking water, housing and public sanitation (a point so vividly made almost 35 years ago by the Alma Ata Declaration)? What is the process of defining an adequate package of health care? Will epidemiological priorities and the needs of the marginalised determine health care, or the cost-efficiency of technologies and the need for revenue generation? Why is the Health Ministry opposing the recommendations of the draft chapter on health for the 12th Plan prepared by the Planning Commission, if its objective was that, a strengthened public sector must be the bedrock of reforms? Sen evades these questions by merely highlighting management reforms to back up more investment,

regulation of ad-hoc publicprivate partnerships and land subsidies and tax-breaks to ensure accountability, and independent bodies that would ensure standard treatment guidelines for high quality clinical services through cash-less smart cards! This methodology of clinical medical practice widely known as managed care is the thrust of the 12th Five Year Plan. Designed by insurance companies to optimise their profits and control providers, it has failed globally to provide even good clinical care, what to speak of comprehensive primary health care.

Citizen participation and accountability are the other buzzwords that Sen uses even though, in this regard, the failures of the panchayats and the district health committees in ensuring the rights of the underprivileged are well-known

and the High Level Expert Group (HLEG) report has nothing on social monitoring mechanisms. The reality is that if the public sector service is to be made transparent, responsive and responsible, with a focus on the health-care needs of the most needy, then a relook at its priorities through an epidemiological and socioeconomic lens, a review of its technological choices, and rejuvenation of its demoralised and corrupted personnel are the nonnegotiables. This service may not fully provide the rest of the welfare inputs but it must prescribe objectively the standards for these and demand that these be provided by other sectors if health for the people is to be achieved. Health-care planning has to recognise the complexity of public health and judiciously use clinical facilities to change the history of disease and not to simply use them to enhance medical markets and revenues. It has taken the state over

20 years to undermine what was built in the first 40. To tackle the complexity of health care and ensure peoples right to it will take at least another 10 to 15 years so that a public sector can be rebuilt to act as the most critical regulatory force for the private sector.

To emphasise only the urgency of UHC based on creating access to medical care services is to deny the complexity of public health and peoples right to it.

(Imrana Qadeer is retired professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, JNU.) October 4, 2012

Pouring oil over troubled borders

REASON TO SMILE:The two Sudans agreed to resolve all outstanding issues through peaceful negotiations. A file picture of South Sudans President Salva Kiir (right) and Sudans President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (second from right) in Ethiopia. PHOTO: AFP On a cloudy Sunday morning this September, a gaggle of reporters and photographers walked past a large, stuffed lion to sit amid a collection of bone china and assorted curios in a waiting room of the Presidential Palace in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Somewhere in the vast palace, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, was in conversation with Ethiopias Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, discussing, no doubt, the imminent presidential summit with Salva Kiir Mayardit, the leader of South Sudan.

These are difficult times for the two Sudans. Last year, when South Sudan seceded from its northern neighbour after decades of conflict, it did so with two-thirds of the regions oil, but no oil processing or transport facilities, and barely 100 km of asphalt road. Sudan, by contrast, was bereft of its principal source of foreign exchange, and saddled with $40 billion of outstanding external debt.

Yet the summit was as much a test of the facilitators as of the participants. Hailemariam Desalegn was presiding over his first international summit after taking office after the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years and oversaw a muscular and interventionist foreign policy. Meanwhile, Thabo Mbeki, former South African President and panAfrican statesman, was determined to

illustrate that the African Union could contain the fallout of the division of Sudan, till recently the continents biggest country, without external supervision.

Oil deal

The summit was expected to address a number of post-secession issues, most importantly an oil-agreement that would give South Sudan access to northern ports and processing plants. In January this year, a dispute over transit fees had lead to the suspension of all oil production in the South and, as every reporter in the palace had noted, denied South Sudan 98 per cent of its state revenues.

Whats the remaining two per cent? asked a wondering hack as the crowd rushed to observe Mr. Bashir, brandishing an elegant walking stick

inlaid with blue enamel, make his way out of the palace and into an armoured SUV bound for the Sheraton Hotel. The pattern continued for the next four days as reporters watched the Presidents get into and out of cars, conference rooms and hotel elevators even as spokespersons insisted that a deal was likely to be concluded tomorrow. The crucial oil deal had been hammered out in August, granting South Sudan the right to process and transport the oil for between $11 and $9 a barrel depending on the pipeline in use; but the Presidents struggled to find a consensus on the exact contours of a safe demilitarised zone between the two armies or the status of Abyei, an oil-bearing territory claimed by a settled community allied to the south and itinerant Arab pastoralists from the North.

Most evenings, a pianist in the Sheraton lobby played darkly appropriate tunes like Frank Sinatras My Way and the Casablanca classic, As Time Goes By, as delegates and negotiators swapped desultory gossip; in the outdoor Office Bar, an American diplomat shuffled awkwardly as a singer with a peroxide-blonde comb-over sang Adeles breakout hit, Rolling In the Deep, the lyrics ominous for anyone striking a deal on behalf of a country emerging from war Finally I can see you crystal clear./Go ahead and sell me out and Ill lay your ship bare.

And where are you from? a South Sudanese official asked this correspondent, who replied that his family settled in New Delhi after the Partition in 1947. Ah, the British, he replied sagely, Always, they cause the problems. The problem, in this instance, being the opposite of the

subcontinental experience; in Sudan, the ethnically diverse south and predominantly Arab north were united into one political and administrative unit with catastrophic results.

Test for Africa

When the press was finally ushered into the high-ceiling ballroom on the fifth day, the agreements signed offered an insight into the sheer complexity involved in separating two nations. When I arrived here on the 22nd of September, said President Kiir in his address, I thought I would then proceed to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. I came to be surprised that things were really very difficult.

Apart from the expected deal on oil and a demilitarised zone, the

countries hammered out procedures to finalise international boundaries, to interconvert currencies, to share historical and government archives, preserve cultural heritage sites, and pay pensions and retirement benefits to government workers who served one government only to find it replaced by another.

The South also agreed to pay the North $3.028 billion as a one-time transitional financial agreement and the two countries agreed to jointly lobby for a reduction in Sudans $40 bn external debt, failing which the two countries will resume negotiations to agree on how best to apportion the sum.

Perhaps the most heartening agreement, for a region destroyed by civil war, is the Cooperation Agreement that commits both states to resolving all outstanding issues

through peaceful negotiations; yet, diplomats suggested, both sides would first have to overcome half a century of mistrust.

In his closing comments, Mr. Mbeki spelt out the stakes of the past week of negotiations. These two countries are very critical to the future of our continent, he said, If they fail, the continent will fail and if they succeed, Africa will succeed.

The agreements between Sudan and South Sudan reveal the complexity of separating two nations while testing the African Unions ability to contain

the troubles without external help October 4, 2012

Understanding the obligations of ruling India

The year was 2002. Two days after bloody riots erupted in Gujarat, I got a call late in the evening from an Ahmedabad-based officer of the Indian Police Service. The policeman simply said: Sir, I am embarrassed to make this call. I am told that a local BJP legislator in Mehsana district is planning to undertake a massacre of Muslims tonight. And I am ashamed that there is no one here who will listen. The police officer gave me the name of the village and taluka where the BJP leader had invited the village for a feast before the mob could be worked up to march on to a nearby village with a large concentration of Muslims.

Overwhelmed by the enormity of the imminent crime, I rang up my friend Brajesh Mishra. Fortuitously, Mishra picked up his mobile. I simply narrated to him what I had been told from Ahmedabad. He heard me out, noting down the sketchy details, and said: Let me see. Next morning I got another call from the police officer, who was obviously relieved and said: Sir, I do not know what you did or to whom you talked; within two hours, an army posse reached the spot, rowdies were made to stay put, and their bloody plans sabotaged. Over 100 lives were saved. Thank you.

A few days later, when I went over to the Prime Ministers Office to have my weekly tea with Mishra, I thanked him profusely. With becoming dignity and gravitas he observed: Those of us who have the good fortune to work in this office for the Prime Minister of

India can never become indifferent to the obligation of social harmony.

Golden principle

Suddenly it was clear that the man who wore two hats the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister and National Security Adviser was laying down the golden principle for administering India. The state can never abandon its neutrality nor become ambivalent about social harmony. In that moment, Brajesh Mishra revealed himself to be a keen student of P.N. Haksar, another practitioner of enlightened statecraft who served another Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, with great distinction.

Haksar had presciently spelled out a vital link between internal cohesion and our national security: Secularism or its failure affects vitally social

cohesion in our society, without which we cannot discuss our security. The fundamental basis for ensuring security of any state is its inner unity, cohesion and coherence of the society. A society which is torn between conflicting religions is bound to be an easy prey to internal forces of disintegration and external forces of destabilization.

Although Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Partys mascot, had managed to notch up an impressive victory in the 2002 Gujarat election by positing a Mian Musharraf-MadarsasMuslims linkage, Brajesh Mishra (as well as his boss, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) was profoundly unhappy. It was clear to him that if the BJP had any long-term hopes of ruling the country, surely the Modi prescriptions and slogans were totally unhelpful. Those were the heady days of the post-9/11 war on terror. Indian

statesmanship demanded that the polity be spared the debilitating polarisation of a civil war.

Mishra was convinced that only a Centre able to practise secular values and respect our countrys plural traditions could conduct superior diplomacy and pursue a robust strategy, especially vis--vis Pakistan. And, he was equally convinced that an amicable solution to the Kashmir problem could be attempted only from a higher secular moral ground. The political discourse would have to be detoxed of its Gujarat-centric delinquencies.

It is possible to argue that it was only after the Gujarat carnage that the Vajpayee-Mishra duo embarked on seeking some kind of reconciliation with Pakistan, an effort that culminated in January 2004 in Islamabad. Mishra was painfully

aware that the Advani-Modi faction had so precipitously damaged the social fabric throughout the country that our national security had become vulnerable. Sensible statecraft demanded engagement with Pakistan.

The second principle that Mishra believed in was that those who were fortunate enough to get the privilege of governing or hope to govern this country do not have the luxury of pettiness. History is witness that whenever a Prime Minister allowed his pique to get the better of sane impulses, the outcome has been a morally and politically inferior response. On a number of occasions he would hint how Prime Minister Vajpayee was under pressure from the NDA hotheads to use the states coercive instruments against political rivals; and, how he was able to help the Prime Minister ward off the sangh parivars efforts at dirty tricks. He

once pronounced: A Prime Minister of India has an obligation to decency and decorum.

Like Haksar, Mishra was a great believer in centralisation of resources and power in pursuit of national ambitions and purpose. Just as Haksar helped Indira Gandhi accumulate power of oversight and co-ordination in the Prime Ministers Office, Mishra helped Vajpayee restore the aura and authority of the PMO. Though Mr. Vajpayees circumstances were vastly different from those of Indira Gandhi, Mishra was aware of the toll that two years of the United Front government had taken of our national will. The wobbliness in the PMO had to be corrected and that is precisely what he achieved.

In his autobiography, My Country, My Life , L.K. Advani unwittingly reveals how efforts were made by him and

others to cut Brajesh Mishra to size. The Kargil Review Committee Report was flaunted to argue that Mishra should not combine two roles of Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser. Mr. Advani plaintively notes how Mr. Vajpayee stood by Mishra: We repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to bifurcate the two posts held by Brajesh Mishra. Atalji, however, had a different view and did not implement this recommendation. It was, of course, the Prime Ministers prerogative to do so. In my view, the clubbing together of two critical responsibilities, each requiring focused attention, did not contribute to harmony at the highest levels of governance.

Command structure

Presumably neither Mr. Advanis suggestion nor Mr. Vajpayees

rejection of it was personal. At issue was a certain notion of a command and control structure that should be available to the Prime Minister of India. I remember vividly that within a few weeks of the UPA government coming to power in May 2004, Mishra told me crisply and precisely: If you have any influence with the new crowd of our new rulers, please tell them to dismantle the disastrous trifurcation in the PMO. The Manmohan Singh government had experimented with a three way division of Mr. Mishras responsibilities a Principal Secretary (T.K.A. Nair), a National Security Adviser (J.N. Dixit) and a Security Adviser (M.K. Narayanan).

Mishra would have violently disagreed with Mamata Banejree who recently decreed that India cannot be governed from New Delhi. Inherent in Ms Banerjees formulation is an

emasculated and enfeebled Centre. Mishras, on the other hand, hinged on a national mobilisation, not a fragmentation of political power; on a pan-Indian vision, rather than a region-centric calculus; and, on a summoning of our best civilisational instincts and traditions, rather than the sangh parivars shoddy feudal animosities. The Mishra-Vajpayee duo rescued the exercise of power from the BJPs preference for pettiness and provincialism. It was a six-year long struggle between the two approaches and the balance perhaps tilts slightly against the Vajpayee-Mishra team.

Once the realisation dawned on the country that the BJP was not inclined to abide by the Vajpayee-Mishra approach, it was only a matter of time before the NDA was voted out of power.

(Harish Khare is a veteran commentator and political analyst.)

Brajesh Mishra was convinced that only a Centre able to practise secular values and respect the countrys plural traditions could pursue a robust strategy vis--vis Pakistan October 4, 2012

Five days in Assam

Women and children at a relief camp at Bijni in Chirang district. PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR As the tension and violence in Assam fades out of the media spotlight, there is one key issue to which little attention has been paid.

This is the critical delay in calling out the Army to deal with the acute burst

of bloodshed between July 20-25, when violence peaked especially between Bodo and settler Muslims of Bengali origin, with the latter bearing the brunt of it. Yet, it is an issue that cuts across the gamut of Centre-State relations, raises issues of Constitutionality and the law, and defines the role of the Army/defence roles in situations of civil conflict. The delay arguably led to the death of scores and the largest internal displacement since Partition.

A brief recap: After a set of attacks and counter-killings on July 19-20, the violence was unquenchable until the Army moved in on July 25. By then over five lakh people were homeless and sheltering in relief camps. Nearly two lakh people still remain in these squalid settlements which have been housed in local government schools, more than two months after the first riots.

Procedural issue

The deployment of the Army was delayed because of a procedural issue. After communal rioting nationwide following the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992, the Ministry of Defence has developed what a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) where the Ministry reviews calls for the Army to come to the aid of the civil administration during communal (read also ethnic and linguistic) disturbances and decide how and when to act. The procedure is coordinated with the nodal ministry for law enforcement, the Ministry for Home Affairs.

A senior retired Army officer says the effort is to stop State governments from calling the Army out at the drop of a hat for the Army must be the

last resort. The Assam therefore, is worth examining.


Operations in Assam

The Army is already in operation in the State where, under the shelter of the Disturbed Areas Act, it can use as much force as it wishes under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) to tackle any problem. All of the following powers cordon and search, destruction of weapons dumps, arrest without warrants or on mere suspicion, searches of private premises and even shooting to kill upon suspicion are available under AFSPA. Although the insurgency situation has vastly improved in the State, the Army remains in a state of readiness groups and there are frequent reports of it apprehending various suspects in different areas of Assam and even encounters there and elsewhere in the Northeast. A

united command structure, where civil and military organisations coordinate, is in place. Significantly, nowhere in AFSPA does it specify that military action is against armed insurgencies: the Act says that the Army will come to the aid of civil authority. If, in relation to any State or Union Territory to which this Act extends, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union Territory or the Central Government, in neither case, is of the opinion that the whole or any part of such state or Union Territory, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary, the Governor of that State or the Central Government declare the whole or such part of such State or Union Territory to be a disturbed area. Thus, AFSPA can be used to combat rioting in aid of the civil power. And it is not the Army which decides that: it is the government,

acting through the Governor, who is bound by the advice of the Cabinet, the Centre or Union Territory administrator.

An appeal by the Assam Chief Secretary, the Deputy Commissioners of Kokrajhar (the worst-affected district) and Dhubri districts to local army commanders requisitioning their services was referred to the Ministry of Defence. This, despite the fact that various major strike formations were located either in Assam or neighbouring States, not far from the areas of strife. The first reference was made to the Ministry of Defence on July 20 and authorisation to deploy was given on July 25. Five critical days were lost as mayhem ruled and groups of fighters, armed with automatic weapons on one side, went on the offensive while large mobs of the other community attacked, with spears and daos (machetes) wherever

they found vulnerable targets. Homes were burned which meant that documents relating to land and property went up in smoke as did money and valuables. For five days, despite the pleas of the State government, Assam burned.

Existing law

There is an existing law, which overrides the SOP; the latter is nothing more than an administrative procedure. The major provisions of law are Sections 130 and 131 of the Criminal Procedure Code read with relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code. It is absolutely clear here that the Army must respond to summons from civil authority which is best placed to decide whether a situation has gone beyond the capacity of local law enforcement forces to deal with it and whether the Army is needed. This is the law of the land, a constitutional

mandate which surely overrides both AFSPA, which is a creature of the night, designed in 1958 (without even naming an insurgent group) or a mere procedural order.

The Army and the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which at least has acknowledged the delay and wants the Defence Ministry to scrap the SOP cannot take shelter under the plea of procedural delays.

An investigation into this failure must be conducted urgently. Culpability must be fixed: the report must be made public (unlike the Justice Reddy Committee Report which reviewed AFSPA and submitted its report in June 2005 and which the government still hasnt made public). In addition, the State government has to act firmly on the issue of illegal weapons, which continue to strike fear in the Bodoland

areas. Otherwise, normalcy can never return to a region where weapons dictate the law and intimidation is a way of life.

(Sanjoy Hazarika is Director, Centre for North East Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia. Email: )

The Armys delayed response to the Gogoi governments pleas for help to deal with the recent episode of communal bloodshed is inexcusable and needs to be investigated

October 4, 2012

Join the party, Mr. Kejriwal

When Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal came together 17 months ago, the air throbbed with magic and hope, the response was sensational, and India seemed on the brink of heady, inspirational change. But like all transient curiosities, the pair that promised to banish corruption from public life has faded from memory even as the scams and scandals it fought against have attained a size and scale unimaginable in an earlier time. This is not all. In an ironic imitation of the politics that Team Anna relentlessly lampooned, it has split vertically, with one faction led by Mr. Kejriwal deciding to enter the electoral arena while Anna himself continues to be implacably opposed to politics, seeing it as a cesspool that only the irredeemably venal would plunge into. Why did the movement not reach its objective? Team Annas maximalist position on the Jan Lokpal Bill, which it projected as a one-stop cure for all problems, scared away

even those committed to probity in public life. Political support which was forthcoming in the early stages of the Bills formulation, disappeared in part because of a genuine concern that the Jan Lokpal was designed to be structurally overarching and in part because of Team Annas vilification of politicians and even politics.

Over the following months, as Annas repetitive rallies and fasts began to attract fewer and fewer crowds, the veteran and his team found themselves hard pressed to answer a hostile counter question: If politics was so dirty, why not assume responsibility and clean it from inside instead of grandstanding from a safe distance? It is to Mr. Kejriwals credit that he did not resist the idea for too long. Annas estranged lieutenant has taken courage in his hand and floated a party with idealistic goals in an environment heavily contaminated by

sleaze money and big corporate interests. As he ponders the next steps, Mr. Kerjriwal will surely experience for himself the challenge of practising politics without its attendant ills. He will also find the going tough in the absence of the charismatic Anna who drew his legitimacy from being seen as a selfless, modern-day savant. And yet Anna often failed to distinguish between sincere supporters who wanted a systemic overhaul and rightwing elements who infiltrated his campaign to further their divisive agenda. Though initially taken with the likes of the hugely popular Swami Ramdev, Mr. Kejriwal realised in time that neutrality was vital for his kind of politics. If he makes even a small difference to the popular perception of politics, he will have done a lot. October 5, 2012

(Mis)treating Ms Gandhi

Politicians should be cut some slack for making exaggerated claims and launching strong and satirical attacks on their rivals in the heat of electioneering. But Gujarats Chief Minister Narendra Modi has displayed shockingly bad taste in making an issue about the money allegedly spent on Congress president Sonia Gandhis foreign travels in recent years, often for medical treatment. First, he repeated, on the basis of an unsourced newspaper report, that the Centre had spent a wildly improbable Rs. 1,880 crore on her overseas trips. When he came under fire for this unsubstantiated attack, Mr. Modi simply changed tack. All right, he argued, if it was not Rs. 1,880 crore tell us how much? And then, in a hugely unconvincing attempt to retrieve a hopeless situation, he demanded the United Progressive Alliance government disclose how much public money was spent on her foreign trips from 2004, or well before

she took ill. With the Central Information Commission clarifying that Ms Gandhi had not sought any reimbursement from the Centre for her medical expenditure, Mr. Modis attack seems even more malicious and insulting. That he chose to score points off a political rivals illness shows the moral depths he is prepared to plumb in his pursuit of power.

It is possible that Mr. Modi simply put his foot in his mouth in levelling this wild allegation. But his recent election speeches suggest that targeting the Gandhi family is part of a larger political strategy. First he attacked Rahul Gandhi for having a mother who was born outside India, saying that he could win an election in Italy if he liked. And now this. Mr. Modi may well believe that identifying the Gandhis as his principal rival is a clever way of signalling his ambition

to climb the national political stage before the 2014 general election. While he must be unreservedly condemned for saying what he did, the likelihood of such a controversy erupting would be far less had there not been such an impenetrable veil of secrecy drawn over Ms Gandhis medical condition and treatment. An individuals medical treatment is private information and, as the CIC has correctly pointed out, any personal expenditure on it cannot be the subject matter of an RTI application. But Ms Gandhi, as Chairperson of the UPA and the National Advisory Council, is a public figure and the degree of secrecy surrounding her medical condition is unusual for a democracy. While her privacy, like the privacy of all citizens, is paramount, the Congress high command should realise it is precisely the absence of any authoritative information that provides fertile

ground for rumours and canards to spread. October 5, 2012

Obama can keep the change?

The young African-American stepped forward as if to make a solemn political statement. And he did pop one that took his audience by surprise. He and his six friends (all African-Americans, ages ranging from 13 to 30) had just held their New York subway audience spellbound with a stunning exhibition of break-dancing.

As they wound up, one of them walked around, not with the usual hat or tin to collect small cash, but with a big bucket. The message, quite rightly, was that they deserved to be well compensated for their show of extraordinary skill.

Then the spokesman said his piece, deadpan: And remember folks, Obama wants change. Pause. We want dollars. Obama can keep the change. As brilliant a line as you could hope for. The White folks in the enthralled audience seemed embarrassed, unsure whether it was politically correct to giggle. The young African-Americans in the audience, however, cracked up in raucous laughter. The irony, the pun, the promise of Mr. Obama and the parody of his performance all of it seemed to hit home at the same time. Mr. Obamas Yes, we can and We need change slogans had swiftly become the fodder of ad jingles and shows by stand-up comics.

That was a year before the presidential campaign debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on October 3 took the parody

further. The Presidents most skilled drum-beaters in the media could not find a generous word on his performance. However, it wasnt just that Mr. Obama did badly in the debate he did. Or that Mr. Romney fared better he did. Nor does it mean that this election is over with this debate. It isnt. What sticks out is how pathetic this debate format is. And how poorly Mr. Obama has delivered on the modest promises he made four years ago.

Its a huge problem when you shill for the same corporate constituency your opponent does only you cant be as clear cut as he can be about it. When you have not punished but rewarded the Wall Street mob that tanked the economy in 2008. When Mr. Obama allows his adversary to get away with some of the worst statements ever made by a U.S. presidential candidate. Till last week, it looked as if Mitt

Romney was shoring up the Obama campaign, so crazy were his mistakes. Take his comment that 47 per cent of Americans paid no income tax, saw themselves as victims and so my job is not to worry about those people.

That should have sunk him. That it didnt is also a measure of how much credibility Mr. Obama has lost in the past four years.

Daunting numbers

As he enters the final lap of his reelection bid, the jobless numbers are daunting, and the unemployment rate is above 8 per cent. No President seeking re-election since Franklin D. Roosevelt has had to contend with such figures. Most of the jobs that have been created in the past several years are low-wage and low-skill ones. About half of the over 12 million

jobless workers collect few or no unemployment benefits at all. And some 40 per cent of those out of work have been seeking it for six months or more. Millions more who want fulltime jobs cant find them.

The latest data from the U.S. Census on income and poverty (out just three weeks ago) are not joyous. Real media household income declined between 2010 and 2011, says the Census report. This is a second consecutive annual decline.

Yet, as economist Paul Buccheit points out in Nation of Change : Based on IRS figures, the richest 1% nearly tripled its share of Americas after-tax income from 1980-2006. Thats an extra trillion dollars a year. Then, in the first year after the 2008 recession, they took 93 per cent of all the new income. Corporate profits doubled in less than 10 years. As Buccheit writes:

Corporations pay even less than lowwage American workers. On their 2011 profits of $1.97 trillion, corporations paid $181 billion in federal income taxes (9%) and $40 billion in state income taxes (2%), for total income tax burden of 11%. The poorest 20 per cent of American citizens pay 17.4% in federal, state and local taxes.

Yet, the word inequality did not come up in the Obama-Romney debate. Neither in terms of a question from moderator Jim Lehrer. Nor in the exchanges between the two. Mr. Obama even stressed that he and Mr. Romney had similar positions on social security which needed tweaking. He felt they both agreed the corporate tax rate was too high and needed to be lowered. (Though he wanted the better off to give a little bit more for societys wellbeing).

Having agreed the corporate tax rate was too high, both candidates traded clichs on how to protect, nourish and serve the middle class. Neither mentioned that 160 million Americans could see their tax bills soar after January 1. Thats when the temporary payroll tax holiday expires. The hikes that it will bring, says The New York Times , would be about $95 billion in 2013 alone. That change, it quotes experts as saying, could cost the economy a million jobs.

This debate did not extend much to foreign policy (that will come up in another debate). It only touched in passing the two wars that America has fought in the past decade. One in Iraq launched on lies by the Bush administration and which saw that countrys overall mortality rate more than double. (From 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons before the war began

to 13.3 per 1,000 persons by late 2006). The other in Afghanistan which Mr. Obama portrayed as a good war in 2008, as against the bad one in Iraq. His surge has failed. This is already Americas longest war. And the sheer misery of Afghanistans people is beyond description. No one knows exactly how many civilians have died. The two wars have cost trillions of dollars. No points in the debate, though, on the human and financial costs of the wars.


U.S. presidential election debates, no matter how many millions may watch them, are now a farce. They are more tightly choreographed than a ballet. Pre-scripting by arrangement is the norm. Well before the event, the camps of the two candidates even negotiate which and how many of their family members will join their

stars on stage. After the non-debates, the pundits will debate for days on who looked more presidential. On who had the better lines, the quicker response. And who missed which opportunity to score a point. But theres worse.

In a piece on on Rigging the Presidential Debates, consumer rights crusader Ralph Nader shows how the debates are set up. Mr. Nader scoffs at a supine media that does not seek even basic facts from the candidates. Such as those on the secret debate contract negotiated by the Obama and Romney campaigns that controls the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the campaigns corporate offspring.

In the 2004 George Bush-John Kerry debates, both parties agreed in advance not to seek any further

debates. They also agreed to shut out other candidates. And not to accept any television or radio air time offers that involve a debate format. As Mr. Nader (himself once a presidential candidate) puts it: Were this deal to be between two corporations, they could be prosecuted for criminal violation of the antitrust laws. One unwritten agreement in all such debates, it appears, is to keep off corporate crime. Not a whisper on the guilty of 2008 this time. The one vaguely-related mention of it being from Mr. Obama in terms of reckless behaviour to which he quickly added not just on Wall Street.

Yet, these debates will be minutely post-mortemed by the media for days to come. The Oracles of the airwaves will study the entrails of Wednesday nights engagement and their blah and the opinion polls will feed into each other. In fact, the post-debate

coverage could do more to stir up the voters than the debate itself. The Romney camp, cheered by their mans win, will crow about it. Which makes the likelihood of another giant gaffe from him even greater. The Obama crew will soon launch an offensive, seizing on what it feels were damaging positions that Mr. Romney took. E.g.: I wont put in a tax cut that will add to the deficit. I will not reduce the share paid by high income individuals. (When will they hold him to it after the elections?)

The scripted debates are not over. Nor is the race. Theres a lot yet to rise on the blah barometer.

U.S. presidential election debates are

now a farce, more choreographed than a ballet October 5, 2012


The message from the north

After decades of dealing with the Indian hand in their countrys domestic affairs, Nepali politicians are now confronted with another assertive neighbour China. Moving from a relatively detached approach to high-profile engagement, Beijing has now started making its views known about Nepals political transition.

In the past, efforts by sections of Nepali politicians to play the China card by projecting China as a stakeholder to counter Indian influence and pressure New Delhi usually failed. Both the former King,

Gyanendra, and the Maoist chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, tried it the former when he imposed an autocracy against Indian advice, and the latter while stoking an ultra-nationalist campaign.

China made it clear to both that it could not be a substitute for New Delhi. It did not show interest in getting enmeshed in the messy Kathmandu political theatre, was happy to work with any government in power, and stayed away from contentious political issues.

Accumulating influence

But over the last five years, Beijing has also worked to deepen contacts with the Nepali state apparatus, political class, and non-state actors.

High-level Chinese delegations of the Communist Party, government departments, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), business chambers and academics have visited Nepal. Not a fortnight passes without a set of Nepali politicians, bureaucrats, security officials, businessmen or journalists, travelling to the northern neighbour. Chinese development assistance has increased. A Chinese company has signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a major hydro-power project, West Seti, with the Nepal government. Beijing is keen to develop an international airport in Pokhara, and a Chinese non governmental organisation has expressed interest in investing $3billion to develop the greater Lumbini area both projects have however hit roadblocks. Chinese tourists to Nepal have increased, while more Nepali students are going to China for higher studies.

Beijing has used its increasing influence for a clear purpose to ensure zero anti-China, read proTibet, activities in Nepal. In March 2008, free Tibet protests had erupted in Kathmandu. The Chinese government was unhappy with what it thought was Nepals unwillingness, or inability, to come down on the protests ruthlessly.

Since then, China has extracted repeated commitments from all Nepali leaders to the one-China policy. It has also developed links directly with Nepali security agencies and bureaucracy. As a result, longterm Tibetan residents have found it difficult to exercise refugee rights; Nepal has been firm in not allowing any Tibetan political activity; Chinese pressure, among other reasons, led to the exit of the United Nations Human Rights Office, which it saw as being sympathetic to Tibetan protesters.

China also kept vigil in the northern Nepal districts that border Tibet, where communities share linguisticcultural links with Tibetans.

Now, domestic politics

In recent months however, Chinas diplomacy in Nepal appears to have entered a new phase of seeking to influence the domestic political issue of federalism. Several high-level political sources, all of whom spoke to The Hindu on the condition of anonymity, revealed the image of a more interventionist Beijing. Despite repeated attempts, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu did not respond to requests for an interview.

At the end of June, a month after Nepals Constituent Assembly failed due to differences on the issue of federalism, Ai Ping, a senior Chinese

party official, visited Nepal. Political leaders who met him say that China clearly communicated it had security concerns if Nepal adopted federalism. A very senior Maoist leader told The Hindu : Their message was China prefers a unitary Nepal, but if federalism has to happen, it should not be based on ethnicity. This is the first time that China has intervened so directly in our domestic affairs.

After his meeting with the visiting official, Maoist chairman Prachanda, who supports identity-based federalism, is understood to have been taken aback. He had spent some days with Mr. Ai in Shanghai a few years ago, and both the nature of the message and its curt delivery surprised him. Subsequently he called in the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, and told him federalism was necessary given Nepals diversity, and

expressed displeasure at the Chinese advocacy against it.

A Nepali Congress (NC) leader, who is close to the influential Koirala family, added: China has told us not to go for federalism. If at all we do so, there must be as few states in the north as possible. They dont want to deal with multiple power centres across their border, in the same manner as India too would prefer as few states in the south *of Nepal+. A similar message was passed to the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), with which Beijing has shared close traditional links. This was music to the ears of NC and UML leaders, who are at best reluctant federalists. Chairman of the radical Maoist splinter outfit, Mohan Vaidya Kiran, also visited Beijing soon after splitting from the parent party. On his return, he told reporters, China is not against federalism but it is opposed to foreign

interference on the issue of federalism. Beijing has been engaging closely with Mr. Kirans outfit, which has kept open the possibility of reverting to violence and has adopted a stridently nationalist read anti-India political posture. Incidentally, the NC, the UML and Mr. Kirans party have recently joined hands to organise a movement against the Baburam Bhattarai-led government.

Two reasons

Observers point to two reasons for Chinas concerns. First, Beijing fears ethnic states in the mid-hills and north could become a base for Tibetan unrest. They also see ethnic politics as funded by western powers, and conclude that politicians from indigenous groups would do their bidding.

And two, China calculates that federalism will result in an increase in the political power of the Madhesis. A senior Madhesi leader, who has dealt with foreign affairs and visited China, says, China is influenced by the old Nepali nationalist mindset which sees Madhesis as Indians. So they think a Madhes state means that Indian influence will expand. China will support royalists, hill chauvinists of mainstream parties, and so-called nationalist leftists.

Political scientist and State Restructuring Commission member, Krishna Hachhethu, responded to Chinas concerns in an article in the English daily, Republica . He noted that Chinese diplomats were getting influenced by those defaming identity-based federalism, by calling it ethnic federalism. Provinces in Nepal would not be created on a solely

ethnic basis and no group will have preferential rights. Instead, he argued, what is being proposed in Nepal is aimed at ending inequality between social groups.

He warned that the failure to address Janjati aspirations that could breed an ethnic conflict in the hills.

Geo-political balance

Chinas entry into the tricky territory of domestic politics could divide the Nepali political class and society right down the middle. Sources say that Beijing is providing political support to groups which are pro-unitary system or territorial federalism, and encouraging an alliance among such forces. But their move is sure to be resisted by another section, particularly the Prachanda-led

Maoists, and marginalised social groups like the Madhesis and Janjatis backing identity-based federalism.

The new Chinese assertiveness has implications for Delhi, which has refrained from getting involved in constitutional debates despite lobbying by contending Nepali factions. In a rare role reversal, as the China card becomes a potent political reality in Nepal, India is watching quietly. But there is a likelihood that the two powers will end up backing rival political groupings.

A highly placed Indian diplomatic source says, We have stayed away from the federalism debate, and have not pushed a line either in public or private. It is for the Nepali people to decide what form this will take. But we recognise the inevitability of federalism, and feel it should happen

quickly if Nepal is to be stable. If there are forces pushing an anti-federal agenda, the risk of a conflict increases.

Chinas attempt to back Nepals conservative forces threatens to complicate the countrys political transition, as well as jeopardise the fragile geo-political balance in the new republic.

After increasing pressure to curb Tibetan activity, Chinas diplomacy in Nepal has now entered a new phase of influencing domestic political outcome on federalism October 5, 2012

Five points on the future of nuclear power in India

In response to my recent article in The Hindu, The real questions from Kudankulam (edit page, September 14, 2012), supporting nuclear power and arguing for an independent regulatory authority, I received much feedback, largely positive, some critical; some of which deserves a response. Many of these points have been made by others, repeatedly, but some are new to me.

1) Independent oversight: Two credible people said that I was too critical of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and particularly the current regulatory authority, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which they said has been doing its job without fear or favour. This may be true (indeed, Indias nuclear safety record is outstanding) but, if the Kudankulam mess teaches us anything, it is that perceptions

matter as much as reality. A truly independent AERB successor, the proposed Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA), with transparency, significant powers and, ideally, international representation, would also serve the cause of safety in future. That the AERB has acted fairly and independently so far does not guarantee that it will always do so.

Another point is that the NSRA cannot draw on independent nuclear expertise in India because none exists outside the DAE (one reason for international representation). We should encourage investments by the private sector, subject to NSRA oversight, and encourage leading nonDAE institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, to develop programmes in nuclear engineering. Meanwhile, the NSRA will require civil engineers, seismologists, radiation safety specialists, and other experts

besides nuclear scientists, who exist independently of the DAE.

2) Risks and reality: The probability of a nuclear catastrophe may be very low but is not zero. How can we expose people to such a risk? Indeed, statements from the DAE like Kudankulam is 100% safe are not credible and a proper risk assessment is required. But, based on experience, the risk of a catastrophic accident at a nuclear plant seems minuscule compared to a similar risk at unscrutinised chemical factories everywhere: despite Bhopal, which is yet to be cleaned up adequately, there is no demand for bans on such factories. Most nuclear accidents have had few or no fatalities and no leak of radiation. In the past 25 years (since Chernobyl), only Fukushima has resulted in significant radiation exposure to the public. Few industries can claim a better record of safety.

As for nuclear liability: all of us deserve answers on this. It is not consistent to assert safety while denying liability, as the government apparently seeks to do.

What of military or terrorist attacks? Israel attacked an Iraqi plant in 1981 and a putative Syrian plant in 2007, but neither plant was loaded with fuel. An attack on Iran could have graver results. To cause a meltdown, such an attack would have to destroy the cooling system but keep the nuclear fuel confined. This looks unlikely, but Im not a nuclear scientist and the question should be addressed by the DAE. Terrorist threats on the ground look still less likely to succeed. As for a 9/11 type attack: according to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations website, no one knows what would happen if a commercial airliner crashed into one of the older U.S.

plants, though many of them are built to withstand impacts from light planes. However, experts rule out a nuclear explosion. A conventional explosion can still spread radiation, but not on the scale of Chernobyl. These are points that, I believe, the DAE should address.

3) Emergency preparedness and liability: In the event of a disaster at Kudankulam, it is impossible to evacuate such an area rapidly, and medical facilities are inadequate. But this is not unique to nuclear power. Cyclones, floods, industrial accidents all occur regularly and we have not learned our lessons. The DAE should take the lead in ensuring disaster preparedness near its installations, but cannot be blamed for our countrys larger failures.

4) Local consent and involvement: In such projects, to what extent is local

peoples consent required? This is perhaps the trickiest point of all. The needs of the many can conflict with the needs (and rights) of the few. The states ability to seize land for public use (eminent domain) is asserted from communist China to capitalist U.S. (where it was upheld by a rightleaning Supreme Court). In a democracy like India, we cannot insist that no private land ever be acquired for any purpose, but we should insist on proper resettlement. And our record is terrible. However, Kudankulam is not a case of forcible dispossessment even the opponents allege only misleading villagers. The land was acquired at fair rates over two decades ago. Perhaps some protesters are suffering sellers remorse, but most come from at least a few kilometres away, and seem motivated by unscientific fears of the plant.

5) The future: Unwarranted scaremongering is a problem on all sides. First, genuine concerns are diluted when bundled with alarmist nonsense. S.P. Udayakumar claims in his Thirteen Reasons Why We Do Not Want the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (Transcend Media, August 2011) that the radiation from a nuclear plants normal operation is dangerous (this was addressed in my previous article), that coolant waste will affect fish populations (studies show no observable effect), and that the VVER-1000 reactors are untested (the design was developed between 1975 and 1985 and is in use in several countries since 1980, and new safety features in Kudankulam are in addition to, not replacing, existing features). It may be tempting to use these claims to discredit the anti-nuclear activists, but the good points that they make should not be ignored, especially when going forward to new nuclear installations.

Second, this makes it hard to conduct a rational dialogue, or to address genuine worries while dispelling unfounded ones.

In his article in The Hindu , Why Kudankulam dissolved into fission and acrimony (Op-Ed, September 25, 2012), Mohit Abraham suggests that the DAEs new openness and engagement with the public has backfired, because this engagement was half-hearted: previous projects, shrouded in secrecy, saw no protest. One hopes that the lesson drawn for the future is wholehearted public engagement, not an attempted (and futile) return to the secrecy of earlier days.

(Rahul Siddharthan is with the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, an autonomous institute under the Department of Atomic

Energy. The opinions expressed are his own.) October 6, 2012

Premium on regulation
At first blush, the wave of financial sector reforms unveiled by the government on Thursday appears to have pulled off the impossible. The rapturous surge witnessed on the stock market tells us the investing classes are happy, while the somewhat muted reaction of Opposition parties suggests the insurance and pension sector initiatives cannot easily be painted as anti-people. If the entry of multinational retail behemoths raises fears about the potential loss of jobs and livelihoods, insurance and pension reforms hold out the prospect of better social security for the middle class without the immediate danger of a employment displacement effect.

In insurance, at least, the reform being contemplated is also quite modest: foreign insurance companies will be allowed to hold 49 per cent equity in their Indian operations but this still does not make for majority control. The private insurance sector is starved for capital and the increase in foreign equity cap will enable foreign partners to pump in money. Whether they will actually do so is another matter, given their own financial problems and their inability to crack the Indian market. For those squeamish about opening the pension sector to foreign investment, the reform has a silver lining: the regulator for the sector will finally acquire teeth. Banks and some mutual funds have already evinced interest in offering pension fund products and passage of the pension Bill will facilitate this process.

As junior partners restricted to a 49 per cent equity share, foreign pension fund companies may not be the threat some believe them to be. But the pension reforms being introduced are hardly a remedy to the absence of a viable and well-funded system of social security in India. On the positive side, millions of private sector employees and the self-employed most of whom have no viable pension plans to subscribe to today may get new options as a result. Remember, the government is in no mood or position to offer its services here; some of its own employees are now governed by the National Pension Scheme. On the negative side, the Western, especially American, private pension model has not exactly been an unqualified success on its home turf. Millions of Americans are unprotected or their retirement benefits have been compromised because of insufficient regulation and the lack of official oversight. As for

insurance, many of the companies looking to enhance their positions in India were key players in the 2008 global financial meltdown. That is why Parliament needs to focus sharply on the quality of the regulator and regulations that will govern the pension and insurance business from now on, especially since it will increasingly be in private hands. October 6, 2012

There is no right not to be offended

SALMAN RUSHDIE: One of the big subjects in the book is the opposition between hatred and love, between friendship and hostility. And I certainly think I was fortunate in my friends, who both publicly and privately, gave me an astonishing degree of support. PHOTO: SYRIE MOSKOWITZ

OUTRAGE INDUSTRY:A file picture of protesters at New Delhis Jama Masjid burning an effigy of Salman Rushdie. PHOTO: AFP A phone call on February 14, 1989, Valentines Day, altered Salman Rushdies life forever. He was told that Ayatollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa calling for his death for allegedly insulting the Prophet and the Quran in The Satanic Verses . His recently launched memoir Joseph Anton is a transfixing account of the nine years spent in hiding that is at once overtly political and deeply personal.

Religion and secularism, truth and falsity, friendship and enmity, hope and despair, bravery and cowardice, love and betrayal, collide in the pages to form a highly-charged battleground of ideas about a world poised for an uncertain future.

In this phone interview, Salman Rushdie talks about the novel that robbed him of a decade and the lessons it has taught him about free speech, religious fundamentalism and the importance of standing up for what you believe in.

It is a coincidence that Joseph Anton is being launched at a time when there is a storm over the Innocence of Muslims film and the caricatures in a French newspaper. But since the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988, there has been a virtual explosion in what novelist Monica Ali called the marketplace of outrage this phenomenon of people, not necessarily Muslim, being offended and sometimes violently so. In retrospect, do you see The Satanic Verses as the forerunner of this narrative of blasphemy, insult, indignation and violence?

Yes, of course I do. In fact, I explicitly state in the book that I see this as a prologue rather than an isolated event. In the years that followed, there were attacks across the Muslim world on other writers and intellectuals who were accused of exactly the same crimes these medieval crimes of heresy and apostasy in a language that, in a way, one hadnt heard since the Spanish Inquisition.

For example, the Turkish journalist Ugur Mumcu was killed by Islamic fundamentalists. In Egypt, the philosopher Farag Foda was killed and Naguib Mahfouz was stabbed in the neck. In Algeria, the novelist Tahar Djaout was murdered by Islamic fundamentalists and so on. This has been a broadening attack and the combination of fanaticism and this

outrage industry has become a very powerful force in our times.

You have used the expression manufactured to describe this outrage, which you now refer to as industry. This is accurate inasmuch as the protests are usually carefully planned and coordinated. But do you think this ignores the fact that people could also be genuinely upset or hurt by what they construe as religious insult?

Thats their problem. The world is full of things that upset people. But most of us deal with it and move on and dont try and burn the planet down.

There is no right in the world not to be offended. That right simply doesnt exist. In a free society, an open society, people have strong opinions, and these opinions very often clash. In

a democracy, we have to learn to deal with this. And this is true about novels, its true about cartoons, its true about all these products.

A question I have often asked is, What would an inoffensive political cartoon look like? What would a respectful cartoon look like? The form requires disrespect and so if we are going to have in the world things like cartoons and satire, we just have to accept it as part of the price of freedom.

One of the parallels one notices between the nature of the responses to The Satanic Verses and the rage today is the random pattern of the attacks. The U.S. cultural center was attacked in Islamabad back then..

Which had absolutely nothing to do with the book.

Exactly. And the U.S. consulates have been under attack recently thanks to the controversial film. Is there a larger theme running here, something that emerges from a climate of hostility and distrust of the West, particularly America?

I think you could say that some of it is caused by a particular kind of antiAmericanism, which might well be fuelled by recent American military excursions. You could say that some of it is out of a kind of economic despair, where you have a body of young men whose own prospects are very slim and whose hopes of making a good life are very small. And that engenders all kinds of disappointments and anger which can be channelled in this direction. There is a whole series of causes and they are not the same in every place. In Iran, fundamentalism was fuelled to

an extent by the regime of the Shah being supported by the West.

Of course there are geopolitical reasons. But I think there are educational reasons as well. The mistake of the West was to put the Sauds on the throne of Saudi Arabia and give them control of the worlds oil fortune, which they then used to propagate Wahhabi Islam. This very minor extremist cult, Wahhabism, was suddenly propagated across the Muslim world through madrassas and has created generations now who are steeped in this harsher, more paranoid, more confrontational version of Islam.

The book shows you were opposed, or at least left unsupported, not merely by radical Islamists but also those who would regard themselves as liberal, a number of who were on the Left. What was the main reason for this

this opposition, as it were, from within?

I was always bewildered by it. I confess I am still a little bewildered by it.

Could it be because they felt you brought it on yourself? This idea that you knew exactly what you were doing when you wrote The Satanic Verses , or at least the Mahound chapter?

It is a number of things. I think partly, and I think I say this somewhere in the book, it is this kind of reflex of the old Left that the people cant be wrong. If a large number of people of any community object to a certain person, that person must be in the wrong. Its not possible that there can be an erroneous mass response to an event.

Or was it also because Left-Liberal opinion has become more and more influenced by a moral and cultural relativism? Have we taken respect for other peoples beliefs and feelings too far?

Of course, thats true. Moral and cultural relativism is a very dangerous phenomenon. What you routinely hear from some extremist Muslim pundits, whether religious or political, is a discourse that is anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic. The same Leftists would not tolerate that coming from any other group. But somehow people turn a blind eye to it because it is coming from this group.

The book reveals that many people in Britain openly called for the implementation of the fatwa . I was really surprised to read that this

included Cat Stevens [aka Yusuf Islam]. I mean this was the man who sang of dreaming of the world as one and invited us to glide on his peace train..

Yes, the peace train, I knowwell, I guess the peace train didnt travel to this particular station ( laughs ).

But isnt exhorting people to kill another person a clear incitement to violence? Isnt this an offence under British law? Why werent people who did this prosecuted?

Not one single person in England was prosecuted for any offence even though thousands upon thousands were demanding my death and standing up in mosques every Friday and saying they were ready to do it. I did ask myself, supposing this had been not me but some other figure in

Britain, suppose it was the Queen, for instance. It is impossible to think people would not have been arrested and prosecuted if they were standing up in their thousands and saying We will kill the Queen.

I am only saying the Queen to dramatise my point. But you see what I mean? It seemed very odd that this particular person could be threatened in that way, whereas other people would never have been allowed to have been.

By this particular person, you mean a mere writer?

Or this mere writer. Maybe another writer would have elicited another response.


Not a brown-skinned writer.

Ah, I was trying to tease that out of you.

( Laughs )

Joseph Anton reads in parts like a thank you work a way of acknowledging the bravery and loyalty of the few who stood by you in those years of darkness.

Well, I certainly think that one of the big subjects in the book is the opposition between hatred and love, between friendship and hostility. And I certainly think I was fortunate in my friends, who both publicly and privately, gave me an astonishing degree of support. We have all sat on these secrets for more than 20 years.

And it has been a pleasure to say, here is what people did, here is how it was done.

Even the British police came to really admire my circle of friends because they saw how determined they were to keep secrets, to be totally dependable.

Your son Zafar recently told the Evening Standard that he had no wish that it (the fatwa ) hadnt happened because it made him who he is underlining that it taught him to deal with adversity. I am sure it taught you to do so as well, but do you still find yourself wishing it never happened even today? Or do you not think about it at all?

Obviously, given a choice, I would be better off if it hadnt happened. I would have had a much more

pleasant ten years. I was in a very good place in 1988, after the publication of Midnights Children and Shame . It would have been much more pleasant to have continued an ordinary literary life and bring up my child in an ordinary way.

Absolutely. But my question was whether you still think about it and wish it had never happened.

You cant regret your life in the end. And that is what Zafar is essentially saying in that interview as well. What happened is what happened and everybody has learnt from it and moved on. One of the reasons for waiting this long to write the book is that I didnt want to be affected by ideas of What if. I didnt want to be excessively possessed by anger, resentment, whatever. I felt I should wait until I was in a calmer and more peaceful place so that I could look

back on this period of my life with tranquillity and objectivity and tell the story as truthfully as possible.

You are pretty hard on yourself about that period when you caved in, apologised and declared you were a good Muslim

Well, its important in an autobiography that the author is selfcritical. Because, otherwise, it reads like an excuse, an apology, or a selfjustification. The reader needs to feel that the person writing the story has a pretty clear or unvarnished idea of himself. I wanted to make it clear that I know there are all kinds of things I wished I hadnt done, or should have done differently, or better. And that there are a few things that I am proud of having done. But I think you need to present this just in the same way as you are creating a fictional character.

You have to present dimensional character.


You describe yourself as having been stupid in your Why I am a Muslim phase. How much of this was a result of sheer despair, of being not in the right mental state? And how much of it was cold calculation the hope of a deal that would end the torment of hiding?

I will tell you what it was. Reading my journals of this period, it was quite clear the person writing them was in a very low state of mind something very like despair. So, there was that internal contradiction. But also externally, there was an enormous amount of pressure on me in those days from the media, from politicians and even from opinion polls being taken in Europe.

The general attitude was that this was my fault and I was the one who needed to find a resolution to it that I broke it, so I should fix it. And when I tried to argue that this was not the case, this was called arrogance. My refusal to withdraw my book was proof of not only my arrogance but also my financial greed. Nobody would see there was a principled reason for doing this.

All of this, over the course of two years, wore me down to a point to which I clutched at a straw. I thought maybe this is a way of breaking the logjam. But of course, this was dishonest, I am not a religious person, and I shouldnt have said I was. I immediately felt dreadful about it and understood it was a kind of selfbetrayal.

But in retrospect, it was a clarifying moment, it made me understand that

it was a mistake to go down that road of appeasement. It made me clearer no more apologies, no more excuses, no more appeasements, no more compromises. I am just going to say my piece, argue my corner, and try and stand up for what I believe in. And if people dont like it, tough.

That moment of failure turned me into a much clearer, much stronger person.

The book reveals how much of your novels the people, the places, the events have been drawn or loosely based on real people, places and events. The novels of imagination are also novels of experience.

If you read the work of Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, James Joyce or Marcel Proust, you will probably find there is an enormous amount of personal

experience as source material. Now somebody will say I am comparing myself to those writers, but I am not. I am talking of writers I admire.

But the act of writing a novel is a journey. And the beginning of the journey can often be personal experience. The end product is something else. That journey from personal experience to finished book is the imaginative leap. That is the act of writing.

I thought it would be interesting for people to get a sense of how my writing moved from personal experience to finished work. The grandparents in Midnights Children are not like my grandparents, but they had things in common. They didnt look through a hole in a sheet.

You are pretty critical about some people in your book you dont like. One of them is Marianne [Wiggins, Rushdies second wife+, who is portrayed as almost delusional. I know she has said and written damaging stuff about you. But dont you think people like her are likely to be hurt by some of the things you said in the book? Does this bother you?

What bothered me most was to tell the truth. The things that Marianne said about me were extremely unpleasant and characterised by blatant untruth, including allegations that I was interested to have a meeting with Muammar Qadhafi, which is a ludicrous kind of escalation of untruth.

I think you just have to decide when reading the book whether you feel you are reading the truth or not. In my view, I am telling not just the exact

truth, but truth for which there are many witnesses.

This is how she behaved and this is the reason why our marriage ended. It was something that made my life extraordinarily difficult.

The purpose of writing a book like this is to say what happened. I am not fantasising, not fictionalising, I am actually toning it down. What really happened was even worse than that.

Did you show any of the parts to people you were once close to? Padma [Lakshmi, his fourth wife] doesnt get very good press either.

She knows what is in the book. I rewrote a couple of passages that she asked me to. I think I have tried to show there was a long period in which

we were in love. And that it was a good relationship for a time. But I said to her, I am talking about the end of the marriage and it was not my choice to end. So you are going to get that perspective on it.

There are some satirical passages about her having left you for someone with more money.

Yes, I think that was perfectly reasonable. After she talked to me every day for eight years about how I was too old for her, she left for somebody at least a decade older. So you can draw your own conclusions, as I do.

What next?

Truthfully, I dont know. Obviously, we still have work to do to launch this

book for the next couple of months. There is also the movie of Midnights Children , which is just about coming out now. Ive got this TV project, a 60minute drama series, an idea that I have been developing in America with Showtime Networks called The Next People , which is a kind of political science fiction.

I have some ideas for novels. But truthfully I dont know whether any of them are any good.

no more apologies, no more excuses, no more appeasements, no more compromises. I am just going to say my piece, argue my corner, and try and stand up for what I believe in.

Salman Rushdie on religious insult, freedom of expression and the dark years spent in hiding October 6, 2012

Using hate to challenge modernism

Last month, two men stood on a Mumbai sidewalk, holding up posters to a furious mob that was demanding a ban on a movie said to have blasphemed against the Prophet. The counter-protesters hand-written placards had some simple advice: Dont watch it. For their pains, the men were threatened and then roughed up.

Familiar with the story? Probably not. The counter-protesters go by the name of Dileep DSouza and Naresh Fernandes. The protesters were pious

Bandra boys not the Kalashnikovwaving Muslims who have ably helped television stations rake it in these past weeks. The film in question was Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal , a Bollywood flop that appalled the faithful because, according to the Vatican news agency Agenzia Fides, a priest is portrayed as a lottery maniac. The church withdrew its objections after cuts were made; to no ones surprise, the Mumbai Police hasnt been falling over itself to prosecute the assailants.


Indias outrage industry has had a busy few weeks. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee has threatened to seek a ban on Harry Potter author J.K. Rowlings new book, which includes a hairy man-woman Sikh character. Hindu priest Rajan Zed, tireless in his pursuit of publicity, has

held out dark warnings about Kevin Limas forthcoming Mumbai Musical , which tells the Ramayana from the point of view of monkeys.

Large swathes of tropical forest have been expended, in recent weeks, to printing commentary seeking to explain Muslim rage the wave of anger that is purported to have gripped believers from North Africa to Indonesia, because of the release of the crude anti-Islam film, The Innocence of Muslims .

From an Indian optic, as this autumns epidemic outbreak of clerical madness demonstrates, it is far from clear that the problem is centred around either Muslims or rage. There is a far larger crisis unfolding in what used to be called the Third World, a breakdown of the modernist project that has empowered a variety of politics based

around narrow ethnic and religious identities.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of Muslim rage is the absence of evidence that it exists; that is, as a force that shapes the political actions of believers, as opposed to a propagandistic tool useful to Islamic neoconservatives, anti-Islam bigots and confused liberals alike. The Innocence mobilisation was propelled, in each case, by reactionary politics, not spontaneous outrage. In Egypt, competition between establishmentarian and revolutionary Islamists, combined with anti-police hooliganism, fanned the riots; in Libya, warlords sought religious legitimacy; in Pakistan, the vanguard was made up of jihadists backed by the military establishment to undermine the civilian order. The bulk of the 23 people reported killed in Pakistan died at the hands of riot

police; their targets included liquor stores.



Yet, the Innocence violence is hardly exceptional. Ethnic and religious conflicts routinely claim a far larger toll of lives on a regular basis: Sri Lankas Buddhist chauvinists, Indian Hindutva groups, and African ethnic groups all have records rivalling the Islamists. Many of these movements have been as successful as the Islamists in transcending geography. The malaise cannot therefore be seen as something intrinsic to what is carelessly called the Muslim world; there are larger forces at work here.

In 2002, the British Marxist, Kenan Malik, shocked many with this proposition: all cultures are not equal. The real crisis flagged by 9/11, he argued, was not the rise of religious fundamentalism; it was instead growing liberal pessimism

about the prospect of a better world. Mr. Malik argued that scientific method, democratic politics, the concept of universal values these are palpably better concepts than those that existed previously, or those that exist now in other political and cultural traditions. These ideas, he went on, were western but emerged there not because Europeans are a superior people, but because out of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution flowed superior ideas.

Post-colonial radicals of an earlier generation would, more likely than not, have been entirely comfortable with this argument. The radical C.L.R. James, Mr. Malik noted, condemned imperialism, but applauded the learning and profound discoveries of *the+ western civilisation.

Frantz Fanon, despite his trenchant criticism of colonialism, conceded that the elements of a solution to the great problems of humanity have, at different times, existed in European thought.

Precisely these emancipatory ideas guided the great tide of change that swept nationalists to power across the world in the middle of the last century. In a magnificent speech now available online, Egypts former President Gamal Abdel Nasser recalled that the Muslim Brotherhood had offered peace in 1953 if only the government made women wear the tarha , or headscarf. Nassers audience laughed uproariously at what then seemed surreal; let him wear one, a man shouted.

Begum Akbar Jehan Abdullah, the wife of the Kashmiri politician, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, urged women

to leave purdah ; her successors, like the Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti, cannot but seem to endorse it. Jawaharlal Nehrus atheism; Dr. B.R. Ambedkars savage attacks on caste: these are almost inconceivable for a modern Indian politician.

No great insight is needed into why this retreat came apart and the religious right became resurgent. Post-colonial societies have been through an extraordinary rippingapart of their cultural fabric over the past century and more. English steam and English free trade, as Karl Marx noted in his now unfashionable but remarkable 1853 essay on colonial India, had produced a social revolution; post-colonial industrialisation and neoliberalism have accentuated it. In the context of countries like Egypt, Libya and Pakistan, authoritarianism, and its

opportunistic alliances with religion, further de-legitimised the secularnationalist project.

Large doses of metropolitan liberalism, as well as establishmentarian politicians, have confused the inequities of capitalism with the modernist project itself thus legitimising, as scholars like Meera Nanda have pointed out, the worst kinds of political reaction which emerged out of the post-colonial crisis. Instead of building a political vocabulary based on citizenship, the republic degenerated into a series of political claims based on identity. Not giving offence to these identities was valorised as a means of engaging with the tide of hate washing across India. The defenders of M.F. Husain, for example, were compelled to argue that his paintings were deeply respectful of the Hindu tradition

not that he was entitled to offend who he chose.

Veto over intellectual life

Ever since the 1970s, Indian ethnic and religious reactionaries have thus come to enjoy a veto over Indias intellectual life. The Hindu s Hasan Suroor has ably documented the huge volume of literature and knowledge, from Aubrey Menens Ramayana to James Laines Shivaji or the anonymously-authored al-Furqan alHaqq . It is hard to imagine that a mainstream press would today publish a popular version of D.N. Jhas work on beef-eating in Vedic India, or Maxime Rodinsons speculations on the roots of prophetic revelation in epileptic disorders. Each of these acts of censorship represents an act of assault on critical inquiry.

The triumph of this vicious antipolitics has been to comprehensively shape our political imagination and language. There are closer affinities between the upmarket metropolitan liberals who coo over handicrafts and the aesthetic world of the communal terrorist than we care to acknowledge.

Lucius Seneca, the great stoic philosopher and statesman, spoke of the perils of the poisonous culture we find ourselves mired in. He pointed, wryly, to a populace which, defending its own iniquity, pits itself against reason. The relentless march of unreason, he went on, meant a mistake that has been passed on from hand to hand finally involves us and works our destruction. It is the example of other people that is our undoing.

India desperately needs a new modernist project not the backward-looking search for authenticity which has so impoverished our public life. This ought to be the real lesson of the Innocence riots, though such reflection is improbable; there have been no shortage of opportunities to awake, and none of those was heeded.

The recent violence over an anti-Islam film is part of a wider clash with the idea of

the modern republic October 8, 2012

Awaiting the new foot soldiers of community health care

The Medical Council of India (MCI) has finally given the green signal to a 3{+1}/{-2}year medical course BSc in Community Health. This has the potential of changing the face and functioning of more than one lakh primary health centres (PHC) in the country, especially in remote rural and tribal areas and mountainous terrain.

The move reverses a historic decision taken by Sir J.W. Bhore, chairman of Indias first health survey and development committee in 1952, to abolish the Licentiate in Medical Practice (LMP) and establish a single medical qualification, a university degree MBBS, as the requirement to become a doctor.

Unfortunately, MBBS doctors taught in urban medical colleges have been unwilling to serve in far-flung and inaccessible areas. At present, 26 per cent of doctors live in rural areas, serving 72 per cent of Indias population. The density of doctors in urban areas is nearly four times that of rural areas. This anomaly has long needed to be corrected.

During his visit to China, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is said to have seen for himself the effectiveness of bare foot doctors in rural areas similar to our health sub centres, and wanted this model replicated in India. But the process began on February 6, 2010, when experts in medical education and public health who had gathered in Delhi for a two-day national consultation, gave their full backing to the ambitious project of the Union Health Ministry and the MCI to launch

the Bachelor of Rural Medicine and Surgery (BRMS) course.

In September 2011, the Planning Commission and its expert group gave their approval to the 3{+1}/{-2}year long BRMS degree. They even recommended that as a career progression incentive, a BRMS candidate may be promoted to the level of public health officer after 10 years of service.

Finally, a year after that, the MCI has endorsed BRMS under the new name BSc in Community Health. This should not be seen as something substandard dished out to second grade citizens of the country. At the level of the PHC, this medical qualification will suffice. The ideal best should not become the enemy of a do-able good.

Checks and balances

Many hypothetical catastrophic scenarios have been predicted. Will they not be tempted into private practice? Wont they not migrate to urban areas and compete with MBBS doctors? Will they be required to take government jobs in rural areas as a condition of admission? Who will control/ensure the quality of their education?

But there are some precautionary measures in place. BRMS graduates cannot affix the prefix Dr. to their names. The candidates are locally recruited to serve government health institutions under a service bond. They will have a clear career progression path as health officers up to the district level. The course is designed to produce health workers who will be an effective link between basic health workers and the doctor at

the PHC or community health centre (CHC). They will be taught to treat minor ailments, help in delivery and administer first aid; but most importantly, when and where to refer a pateint promptly, in case of complications. They will be used for implementation of national programmes also.

The decisions to accept and implement the course are now with State governments. Chhattisgarh, where this model was adopted in 2001, has shown that it can be successfully implemented with good results.

Aside from the shortage of doctors, it was the point-blank refusal of MBBS doctors to go to remote PHCs that compelled Chhattisgarh to launch a cadre of rural medical assistants (RMA) a decade ago. Opening new medical colleges was not a solution at

that time: it would mean a waiting period of six years with no surety that those who graduated would join government service. Thus, six colleges began training RMAS from 2002 about 150 of them every year. The MCI did not agree to the project, and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) even challenged it in court, but the course and certification survived with a change of name. The graduates got a diploma, not a degree, in modern and holistic medicine even though the course was similar in content to the MBBS programme.

In May 2006, the first batch passed out, and completed a years internship a month in a sub health centre, three months in a PHC, four in a CHC, and four more in a district hospital.

By early January this year, in 18 districts of Chhattisgarh, 1,233 RMAs were posted in PHCs and health sub

centres, out of whom 490 were women. The State had created 741 regular posts out of its own budget in addition to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funded contractual posts. Though 361 PHCs (managed by Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy or AYUSH and paramedical staff) did not have an MBBS doctor in August 2008, they all now have RMAs.


In 2009, a study was undertaken to assess the performance of health-care providers at the PHC level based on the knowledge, attitude, behaviour and practice including community perception. Titled Which doctor is for Primary Health Care? it was carried out by the Public Health Foundation of India and National Health Systems Resource Centre, New Delhi along with the State Health Resource

Centre, Chhattisgarh. It found the prescription ability of RMAs to be on a par or better than that of medical graduates at the PHC level in relation to commonly prevalent diseases based on five clinical case management scenarios on pneumonia, malaria, preeclampsia, diabetes and diarrhoea and one referral case (TB). The study is available online at

Monitoring data shows better utilisation of PHC services after the posting of RMAs. Assam has already replicated this model.

Let the efforts of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the MCI take root and show results in four years. The medically marginalised people of rural India should be the judge of its success or otherwise.

October 8, 2012

A controversy we can do without

A national project to study fundamental particles called neutrinos has suddenly been drawn into an unwarranted controversy by V. S. Achuthanandan, the former CPI (M) Chief Minister of Kerala and leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, in association with an environmental activist, V.T. Padmanabhan.

The project involves the construction of an underground laboratory, called the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO), to be located in a cavern under a rocky mountain in the Bodi West Hills region of the Theni district, about 110 km west of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

What are neutrinos? After photons, they are the most abundant particles in the universe. Among the known fundamental particles, they are also perhaps the strangest. They interact very feebly with other particles. Therefore, all forms of matter, including the earth, are nearly transparent to them. About 100 trillion neutrinos from the sun and other cosmic sources pass through our bodies every second without causing any harm.

Rare interaction

As they interact very rarely, they are not easily detected and, therefore, not well studied. The large background flux of other particles in the cosmic rays presents an additional complication in their detection. Neutrino detectors are, therefore,

usually placed deep underground, typically a kilometre or deeper. The large overburden of rock or earth above the detectors reduces the background particles by a million times or more. While almost all neutrinos pass through freely, a few interact in the detectors and can be detected. Many neutrino detection experiments are on in different parts of the world and, with growing interest in neutrino physics, many others are being proposed and built. The INO is one such that has evinced worldwide interest.

It is now known that neutrinos come in three types (electron-neutrino, muon-neutrino and tau-neutrino). Once thought to be massless, they are now known to have very tiny masses. But their individual masses remain unknown. Of the three neutrino flavours, the heaviest has at least one 10 millionth the electrons mass.

Which flavour is the heaviest? The ordering of neutrino masses too is unknown. This is called the mass hierarchy question, which the INO is well suited to investigate.

The strange particles also have the ability to morph from one type to another as they pass through space, people, matter and the Earth itself, rarely interacting with anything in their path. This is called neutrino oscillation. While the details of two oscillations are known fairly well, the third the switching of tau-neutrino to electron-neutrino is not well characterised and forms one of the main objectives of the INO.

The idea for a neutrino observatory in India was first mooted in 2000 at an international conference in Chennai. The proposal was further refined and consolidated at the 2001 Neutrino meeting in Chennai, when the INO

consortium of collaborating Indian institutions was formed. In 2002, a formal proposal was submitted to the Department of Atomic Energy, which has since been the nodal agency for the project.

The project has now been identified as one of the mega science projects in the XII Plan with an investment of Rs. 1,350 crore by the DAE and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). At present, 26 Indian institutions which include Calicut University and about 100 scientists are involved, with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, as the nodal institute.

It is therefore bizarre that Mr. Achuthanandan and Mr. Padmanabhan should allege that the INO is a project of Fermilab, USA, initiated along with the controversial Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. It is a totally

indigenous project, conceived jointly by scientists from many Indian research institutions and initiated long before negotiations for the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal began in 2005. Nor was Fermilab, USA, anywhere in the picture then. The project is a basic science experiment that has nothing to do with radioactivity or any other hazardous nuclear activity. Nor does it have any defence or strategic implications.

A site within the complex of the hydroelectric project PUSHEP of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board at Singara, near Mudumalai Sanctuary in the Nilgiri Hills, was identified in 2002 as the best option for the project from the geological, environmental and infrastructure points of view. The TNEB prepared the detailed project report in 2007. But, after prolonged delays, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department rejected the proposal in

2010, despite the project being located entirely on the TNEB land.

The reason the site fell in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and the elephant corridor connecting the Eastern and the Western Ghats. Interestingly, the notification declaring the area as a tiger reserve was issued only in 2008, six years after the INO project was proposed and two years after the DAE applied to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department for approval. More pertinently, a report by Dr. R. Sukumar, an expert on the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, had clearly stated that the project would not be detrimental to the wildlife and environment of the region. It may be pointed out that, at the same time, there is no serious effort to stop the ever-increasing tourist and vehicular traffic and mushrooming resorts in the region.

The location in Bodi West Hills was chosen as the next best site. The main INO laboratory will be located in a cavern 1.3 km below a mountain peak. There, an entirely indigenously built magnetised iron calorimeter detector, weighing about 50 kilotons, will be used to detect both natural and man-made neutrinos. The cavern will be linked to the outside world by a 1.9 km long main tunnel.

In Phase I, however, INO will study only neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the Earths atmosphere. In Phase II, it could be used as a far detector for using beams from future accelerator-based neutrino factories in Japan, Europe and the U.S. The INO is expected to become operational in 2017 when the first module of the detector will start taking data.

Contrary to Mr. Achuthanandan and Mr. Padmanabhans accusations of secrecy and lack of transparency, all the details about the project are available on its website Among other issues they have raised is that, because of the project sites proximity to the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, permission from the Kerala government should have been sought. In their view, during the rock-blasting for construction, the project could seismically impact the Mullaperiyar dam that is about 100 km away. It is also alleged that neutrino beams from Fermilab would adversely affect the biodiversity of the region.

According to M.V.N. Murthy of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai another key institution involved in the project a proper geotechnical analysis has indeed been done. The measures adopted to

minimise the projects environmental impact have been detailed in the Environmental Impact Assessment report and also briefly described in the FAQ, both of which are available on the INO website. This includes controlled blasting that will be adopted in the initial reaches to dampen noise and vibration. Even this is expected to last only for the initial few months when the first few hundred metres of the tunnel are built.

Minimal vibrations

Blasting for the excavation of the cavern and associated laboratory infrastructure is expected to cause only minimal vibrations. The INO, says the FAQ, will undertake ground vibration monitoring and other rock mechanics studies during the actual blasting. Appropriate blasting pattern and modern blasting techniques

based on the actual site geology will be followed so that the vibration is minimised. But, more pertinently, there are hundreds of granite quarries in the Theni-Idukki region where constant rock blasting goes on throughout the year, which are not known to have had any impact on the dam.

As regards the INO possibly receiving neutrinos beamed from Fermilab, which may happen 10-15 years hence, that has to do with physics and not some ulterior U.S. strategic motive as is being imagined. Also, since neutrinos rarely interact with matter, just as the atmospheric neutrinos, these neutrinos too will pass through without disturbing anything along their path, in particular the biodiversity as is being apprehended.

As it is, the inability to proceed with the project at the original Nilgiris site

has set back the project by at least sixseven years. Consequently, China has upstaged INO in one of its main science goals. Only in 2004 two years after the INO proposal did China propose an experiment to use neutrinos from a nuclear reactor at Daya Bay and a detector located in an underground tunnel under a nearby hill. That experiment started taking data last year and, in March 2012, measured a key unknown parameter relating to oscillation between tauneutrino and electron-neutrino. This was subsequently verified in April by a similar Korean experiment, RENO, initiated in 2006. It also began operation last year.

The already much-delayed and important physics project can do without another needless controversy at this point of time.

Politicians are doing a great disservice to scientific advance in India by whipping up unfounded fears about the neutrino project October 8, 2012

The two faces of Narendra Modi

SIDE BY SIDE:The Gujarat Chief Ministers reputation as an able administrator is linked to his authoritarian approach.PHOTO: PTI As the Gujarat Assembly elections approach, the Indian voter is deluged with two conflicting images of Narendra Modi. The battle lines appear to be drawn between those who glorify the achievements of Modi the administrator, and those who view the Gujarat Chief Minister through the prism of the 2002 carnage. In a climate rife with recurrent scams, lack of governance,

economic slowdown and political instability, the first of the two images is a persuasive one. Without dwelling long and hard on the administrative prowess of Modi for that entails a debate different from this one it is not too difficult to see that Modi presents to the urban Indian electorate, an alternative leadership capable of leading the country out of its morass.

Global examples of development

However, are the two faces of Narendra Modi mutually exclusive? Does a rejection of Modi automatically signal our preference for a politics of corruption and malfeasance? Alternately, do the sympathisers of Modi believe that his politics of development will trump the politics of communal hate, once he is voted to power?

The flaw in both of these propositions lies in the assumption that the two faces of Modi are orthogonal to one another. In fact, not only do they share a close relationship, but also constitute the core of a politics where religious chauvinism or other forms of social authoritarianism become prerequisites for economic development.

There are many examples of rapid economic development under authoritarian regimes. South Korea recorded miraculous growth under a military regime, until democracy was established in 1987. Singapore too emerged as an example of a shining economy under authoritarian rule.

There are also cases of democratic establishments sliding into authoritarianism in times of adversity. There is perhaps no example better

than Germany of the 1920s. Reeling from the adverse economic clauses in the Treaty of Versailles, particularly in the years of the Great Depression, the Germans elected Hitler on planks of anti-Semitism and Pan-Germanism.

Coalition vs. a majority

In a multi-cultural democracy such as India, the presence of a wide array of cross-cutting cleavages means that it is almost impossible to garner majorities along a single axis. The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is a classic example of such a government comprising political parties with widely varying casteist, communitarian and regional agendas. As a result, it functions at a low level of efficiency, and frequently degenerates into chaos. The lack of political stability also engenders corruption, as politicians pursue selfserving agendas in their limited time

in office. The severe maladministration under UPA rule is then a symptom, at least partly, of the fragile political equilibrium in our country.

Conversely, Narendra Modis success as an administrator has much to do with the political majority he enjoys in the Gujarat Assembly. Taking over from Keshubhai Patel in 2001, Narendra Modi reversed the sliding fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the State, and did so in a lasting manner. It is also a well-known fact that the religious polarisation following the carnage of 2002 was central to Modis electoral fortunes a few months later. Ever since then, he has steadily consolidated his reputation as an able administrator, albeit authoritarian in his approach.

Is there fertile ground for Narendra Modi to replicate the Gujarat story on

a nationwide scale? Viewed objectively, the answer would be, no. The sheer heterogeneity of identities and interests in national politics will probably ensure that polarisation along the axis of religion will be difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. In particular, the upsurge of regional parties in national politics, as well as the emergence of States as the centres of political decisionmaking, will pose considerable challenges to the unbridled exercise of authority by Narendra Modi.

In that case, what promise does a government led by Narendra Modi hold for India? Which of his two faces can we expect to see, should he assume the office of Prime Minister? Given the widespread consensus on Modis authoritarian attitudes, it is not premature to assume that he will pull out on all stops to acquire the mandate necessary to implement his

ideals. The manner in which such a politics will pan out may not be crystal clear immediately; however, if history is an indicator of things to come, the two faces of Narendra Modi will almost certainly parade side-by-side.

(Simantini Mukherjee has completed her PhD in political science from Rutgers University, U.S. and is now based in London.)

His politics of communal hate is not separate from his agenda of development. Together they form the core of a programme in which one becomes a prerequisite for the other October 8, 2012

So many degrees of separation

After a triumphant tour of western Europe in June, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has just completed a coast-to-coast journey of the United States. She met U.S. President Obama and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, addressed audiences at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and other prestigious institutions. Even as her tour unfolded, Myanmars President Thein Sein came calling in New York, fresh from his visit to China. He addressed the U.N. General Assembly and met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who expectedly announced the U.S. decision to ease sanctions further. Mr. Obama chose not to receive Thein Sein, but the latter is already being hailed as Myanmars Gorbachev.

Now that Suu Kyi has collected her awards and Thein Sein has praised her in public, can they all live happily ever after? Is Myanmar now well and truly

set on the path of reform and progress? Are the changes irreversible? Since the November 2010 elections, Myanmar has indeed changed significantly, but its journey has just begun. The road ahead looks bumpy. Myanmars elite may need to display much wisdom in steering the state in the right direction.

Six differences

It is easy to find similarities between todays Myanmar and South Africas transformation from an authoritarian apartheid regime into a democracy. Suu Kyi and Thein Sein are being compared to Mandela and F.W. de Klerk. While common trends are discernible, differences in the situation of the two countries are more instructive. As an Indian diplomat who served as ambassador in Myanmar and high commissioner to South Africa, I outline here six such

differences. First, the black majority, with support from Indians and many whites and coloureds, was united enough to form a rainbow coalition in South Africa under Mandelas inspiring leadership. In contrast, the Bamar or Burman majority community stands divided, with the bulk being supportive of Suu Kyi while a sizeable section is still beholden to the real power wielder, the army. Further, besides Suu Kyi, three other power centres have emerged the President, the Speaker and the Commander-in-Chief who all may covet the presidency in 2015. When first democratic elections took place in South Africa in 1994, Mandela was the natural choice. Second, the minority in Myanmar comprising at least eight ethnic groups represents 32 per cent of the total population, much larger than the whites in South Africa then at 19 per cent. The latter gave away political power, but retained much of economic power

that they enjoy even now. Ethnic groups in Myanmar, however, suffer from deprivation and alienation. First democratic leaders and then generals tried but failed to eliminate this alienation. Thein Sein is making fresh endeavours, but can he achieve much without involving Suu Kyi and other political forces?

Third, there is no Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Myanmar. Victims of oppression in Myanmar are being asked to forgive without establishing truth and promoting reconciliation. South Africas Truth and Reconciliation Commission did valuable work, but this is not even contemplated in Myanmar. Suu Kyi is saint enough to forgive, but can others do it? Fourth, the African National Congress was and remains a powerful political organisation, but the National League for Democracy is truly a one-woman party, a car

running on fuel of the ladys charisma. Working from behind her are octogenarian uncles who seem to be blocking its renewal. Where are its future leaders?

Fifth, unlike South Africans who crafted a new constitution through genuine multiparty negotiations, Myanmars constitution is the armys gift. It has failed to satisfy the National League for Democracy (NLD). It bars Suu Kyis election as president. It has certainly deepened disillusionment of most ethnic minorities which resent continuation of a strong central rule under a new garb. Constitutional reform is now becoming a major issue. Finally, new South Africa emerged as the Cold War between U.S. and Soviet Union had ended. Change in Myanmar coincides with the possible beginning of a new U.S.China Cold War in East Asia. The U.S. needs allies, and focusing on

Myanmar makes strategic sense as the latter has been heavily dependent on Beijing so far. The U.S. may now woo the Myanmar military with offers of dialogue, training and more.


Suu Kyi has urged the world to distinguish between genuine progress and what is just progress on the surface. She believes that, like life, Myanmar has many shades of grey. Thein Sein agrees, stressing that the transformation process would be complex and delicate that requires patience.

Burman leaders will need to achieve more harmony among them. They should display magnanimity towards ethnic minorities, adopting the essence of federalism with an adequately strong central

government. They may have little choice but to undertake major surgery on the constitution. The leadership must focus on economic progress and inclusive governance that benefit the common man. Myanmar will also need resilient diplomacy to leverage its newly established strategic importance for the West.

As for Daw Suu Kyi, she is and will remain an Asian leader.

(Rajiv Bhatia is Director General of Indian Council of World Affairs. The article reflects his personal views.)

Myanmars reconciliation process is often compared to South Africas but the entirely different conditions make it far more complex October 9, 2012

Bring me my machine gun

INSIDE STORY:As the nation approaches two decades of freedom from apartheid, violence has come to distinguish South Africa. An August 2012 picture of striking miners at the Lonmin mine near Marikana. PHOTO: AP When the time came to march, Siphiwo grabbed one thing before he left his home in the impoverished community near the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.

His weapon.

The piece in question was a knobkerrie, a long stick. Its a traditional marker of manhood in South African cultures, including Siphiwos own Xhosa group.

Its used to protest, said Siphiwo. Its not violent. Its a symbol.

Siphiwo asked that his surname not be used. But he didnt mince words about what happened next on the afternoon of August 16: he and his friends clutched their sticks powerlessly as police unleashed a barrage of semi-automatic fire, killing 34 protesters.

They did not help, he said of the sticks and spears he and his colleagues held. They shot us with rifles.

At 25, Siphiwo is too young to have been part of the violent struggles against South Africas apartheid government. But its clear that that

legacy lives in him and his young friends, who are citizens of one of the worlds most violent nations.

The Marikana Commission

Violence, either outright or implied like the sticks and spears carried in nearly every protest is everywhere in this nation of 50 million people. And as the nation approaches two decades of freedom from apartheid, violence has come to distinguish South Africa.

About 50 people are murdered each day. A shocking one in four men admitted to committing rape and half of those men said theyd done it more than once.

Why is violence so pervasive in South Africa?

Its one of the many questions that the Marikana Commission of Inquiry will try to answer in upcoming months as it studies the acts that led to more than 44 deaths in those six weeks of violent mine strikes.

The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation devoted years to studying this seemingly simple question. And after exhaustive research, in 2010 they came up with a 66-page study that can be summarised thusly: Violence is cheap. Violence is easy. And violence works.

The report notes how unbalanced South Africas society is, with a tiny group of haves atop a huge population of have-nots. A stunning one-quarter of South Africans are unemployed. Traditional routes to prosperity are not always available

the education system has been rocked by scandal after scandal, including a recent dust-up that saw loads of textbooks dumped into a river in rural Limpopo province.

So for many young men, it logically follows: get what you want by hook ... or by crook.

Failure of institutions

The report also notes that the nations enforcement agencies are weak. At one point, authorities acknowledged that poor police work, a slow system and lack of resources added up to one million unsolved murders per year spectacularly good odds for an aspiring killer.

In the Marikana case, South Africas problems have been compounded by

what appears to be a widespread failure by the government and its institutions which have shown themselves to be prone to missteps and to political backlash.

A court charged some 270 survivors of the shooting with murder of their colleagues under a little-used common purpose law that was used during the apartheid era against black activists. That court decision was widely met with incredulity and anger. But that charge was almost immediately dropped though might be reinstated after investigation after Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe queried it. Even though the murder charge was roundly condemned, the sudden dropping of the charge declawed the courts.

Violence is also easy to justify. In South Africa, political violence is seen

as legitimate, and has historically been protected. No one justified it better than the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela, when he founded the armed wing of the African National Congress in 1961.

As Mandela said at the time: We felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or take over the government. We chose to defy the law.

But somewhere along the way in the intervening decades, that nuanced and thoughtful defence has been

forgotten. remained.




Still, how can one explain the shocking callousness of individual acts, such as the grainy cell phone video that emerged earlier this year showing a 17-year-old, mentally disabled girl being raped by seven men in a Johannesburg township.

In another terrifying incident, robbers entered a home in July and drowned a 12-year-old boy in boiling water. They gang-raped and killed his mother.

Leaving aside the twisted pathology of these criminal minds, the reasoning for these tactics is horrifyingly simple: they work. Who, after all, wouldnt turn over the valuables to save their child?

Violence also gets attention. Journalists everywhere respect that old adage, If it bleeds, it leads.

That adage seems to have been embraced by the nations politicians, who have used violence in their campaigns a sign of how deeply entrenched it is in the South African psyche.

Disgraced former youth leader Julius Malema, who has called on miners to make the mining sector ungovernable calls his movement a revolution.

President Jacob Zuma, even used violence as a tenet of his presidential campaign. During that campaign, he performed and danced to a popular traditional song.

The song was called Bring Me My Machine Gun.

(Anita Lakshmi Powell is an IndoAmerican journalist based in Johannesburg.)

Why is South Africa so violent? Because violence is cheap, its easy and it works October 9, 2012

The Queen and her unwritten writ

The BBC has received some predictably unwelcome publicity about the revelations by its security correspondent Frank Gardner, live on the flagship Radio 4 news programme Today , that the Queen had said, at a private occasion in 2008, that she

could not understand why the radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza had not been arrested and that she had approached a minister asking why he was still at large. The Corporation has tendered an apology to the Queen for breaching a convention that whatever the monarch says outside occasions of state is off the record, but the fact that the Queen expressed her opinion to a minister could be a breach of the constitutional settlement of 1688, under which the monarchs were allowed to keep their respective heads but Parliament took, and has since kept, legislative sovereignty. The Queens question to the minister might count as unconstitutional lobbying for an action or a policy, but the issues raised are almost insoluble because the United Kingdom has no codified Constitution.

Complicated separation

There has, therefore, never been an uncomplicated separation between the monarch and the executive. When Queen Victorias Whig Prime Minister and royal favourite Lord Melbourne resigned in 1839 following a defeat in the House of Commons, Victoria refused the incoming Tory Prime Minister Sir Robert Peels request that the monarch, in accordance with convention, replace her Whig ladies of the bedchamber with Tory ladies. Peel resigned over the snub, and Melbourne and the Whigs returned to office. In 1851, having failed a year earlier to get the Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston, sacked, Victoria took advantage of the latters congratulatory message to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte on his coup in France to ask Prime Minister Lord John Russell to remove Palmerston, which he did.

The present Queen certainly takes what happens in government very seriously. Her schedule includes reading up to 10 boxes of Cabinet and other government papers daily, and she receives up to 60 ambassadors and high commissioners telegrams twice a day; she also grants the serving Prime Minister a weekly audience, which can last over an hour. Yet, while her aides express great admiration for her commitment and energy, not all observers agree that she has no impact on government. As head of state, the Queen ratifies a large number of nominations for high appointments, such as senior judicial posts, bishoprics, colonelships of regiments, certain chairs at the older universities, and national honours, several of which also refer to a longextinct British Empire; in addition, many other honours are exclusively in the monarchs gift.

Inevitably, many of those who covet such things, such as ex-politicians, civil servants, high military officers, and bishops, feel they have to act in ways they think will not displease the monarch; this could be particularly important in respect of honours which only the monarch can bestow, though most aspirants conduct may in practice have more impact on how they are viewed by those who make the nominations, such as the Prime Minister or other Ministers, than they do on the Queen herself.

Equally inevitably, this assemblage of conventions, purportedly traditional customs, and tacit understandings is often criticised. Opponents, including those who want the monarchy abolished, contend that the Queen herself has lobbied for policies, for example by talking at length with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair before a bill to outlaw hunting with dogs was

put to Parliament in 2004 and telling him that ordinary people as well as social elites hunt with dogs. The House of Commons later passed the bill, a Labour Party manifesto commitment, but the Speaker then had to override the unelected House of Lords by invoking the Parliament Acts of 1911, and 1949, with the latter implying the Salisbury-Addison doctrine, a convention whereby the upper chamber does not block legislation enacting the ruling partys manifesto promises.

Several Labour Party members and followers have further reason to be suspicious of the current monarchs loyalties. In February 1974, an inconclusive election produced no outright winner but gave Labour 301 seats to the Conservatives 297, and yet the incumbent Prime Minister and Conservative leader Edward Heath tried to form a government over the

next few days; some Labour supporters were very angry that the Queen had not immediately invited the Labour leader Harold Wilson to Buckingham Palace to give him that task, and saw the delay as confirming a monarchical preference for the Conservatives. It is, in addition, only a convention that the invitation to form a government goes to the leader of the party that wins an election; in theory, the Queen can appoint any of her subjects Prime Minister.

The Queen is not the only current royal to have attracted this kind of criticism, and Prince Charles in particular is sometimes very explicit about policies he favours. The heir to the throne is said to have infuriated Mr. Blair by opposing genetically modified food; he has also had discussions with the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, George

Osborne, and Education Minister Michael Gove.

Jumble of statutes

While secret exchanges between the monarch, or her family, and the executive might perhaps casuistically be described as fulfilling a royal desire to be informed about the issues of the day, the fact that the British Constitution is uncodified makes it almost impossible even to decide what is or is not constitutionally correct, or who has the authority to rule on it. As the former senior Labour MP Tony Wright has said, there is only a jumble of statutes, common law, customs, and guidebooks; moreover, apparently constitutional laws have no special status, and can be repealed by an ordinary vote in Parliament.

That in turn means the system contains some utterly arbitrary elements. The pressure group Republic, for example, is scathing about the monarchs power to dismiss a government at any time for any or no reason; in 1975, the Queens appointed representative in Australia, the Governor-General, did just that, and ended the political career of the then Prime Minister, Labours Gough Whitlam. The Canadian GovernorGeneral also used this power in 2008, proroguing the dominions Parliament for several weeks.

Prerogative powers

Republic also criticises the royal prerogative powers, which are vested in the British government, and are effectively beyond scrutiny or restraint by Parliament. The most notorious prerogative is the power to declare war, which Mr. Blair used for

the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003; he did allow the House of Commons a vote on the war, but the opposition Conservatives overwhelming vote in favour meant that the combined vote for a negating amendment by 139 Labour rebels and all the Liberal Democrats was easily defeated. In any case the prerogative power meant that Mr. Blair would have been under no obligation to resign if he had lost the vote, and certainly under no obligation to cancel the invasion.

Partly as a result, demands arose for publication of the prerogative powers, but Mr. Blairs government resisted, and then published only a partial list. The powers include recognising foreign states, and also keeping the peace within the realm, which a court decision has confirmed include ministerial powers to issue baton rounds to police without the consent of the given forces local authority.

If any wider picture emerges from this tangle, it is the remoteness of the electorate from major decisions on policy and legislation. Rights lawyer Andrew Puddephatt has said that the 1688 settlement was a carve-up between the monarch and Parliament. Such rights as then emerged had only to do with the assemblys rights in relation to the monarchy; since then, party discipline in the Commons has rendered even Parliament progressively more remote from the key decisions. As for Abu Hamza, Vikram Dodd notes in the Guardian that when tried in the U.K. in 2005-6, the cleric told the court of his long contact with the British security services, who had told him his fiery sermons were all right as long as we dont see blood on the streets. According to a secret service infiltrator he was a useful if unwitting source of information on other extremists, even though British

Muslims who reject extremism were already giving the authorities information of their own accord. Perhaps Her Majesty could have avoided a possible constitutional impropriety by asking the right officials why Abu Hamza was allowed to remain in her realm.

The monarchs question to a minister on

Abu Hamza may be unconstitutional but

the issues it raises cannot be solved because

the U.K. has no written Constitution October 9, 2012

Where camp is a fourletter word

MORE BATTLES:While the availability of milk and nutritious supplements for children varied from camp to camp (below), there was no evidence anywhere of educational services. A relief centre in Dhubri district. PHOTOS: RITU RAJ KONWAR, PTI

The latest wave of floods in Assam has affected over a million people in 16 of the States 27 districts. More than two lakh people displaced by the rising waters that submerged nearly 2,000 villages have sought refuge in over 160 so-called relief camps in Assam. Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are also reeling from flash floods and landslides that have claimed at least 35 lives across the three States.

The question is what happens after the initial drama of rescue operations, evacuations, airdropping of food, et al , ends. After all, the present crisis merely compounds the lingering misery and penury from an earlier round of floods, which inundated more than 5,500 villages in 23 districts from mid-June onwards, caused at least 125 deaths, and devastated the already precarious lives of nearly 2.5 million people, washing away homes, livelihoods, livestock and crops.

On a sunny day just before the onset of the renewed deluge, women in Boramari Kocharigaon, a hamlet in Lahorighat block of Morigaon district accessible only by boat, displayed remarkable stoicism as they told visitors that half their village had been lost to the river. They seemed resigned to the prospect of eventually losing their own homes, too, but may not have imagined that their worst

fears would come true so soon. Many, if not all, of them must now have joined previously displaced neighbours living in makeshift shelters on either side of a narrow mud path at a slightly higher level than the surrounding areas.

Erosion, silent factor

Many such slender ridges host recurrent batches of refugees dislocated over the years by the mighty, magnificent and capricious Brahmaputra, brimming over now, shifting course every now and then. Some have been living in such temporary homes for years. It is difficult to imagine where others currently residing along the crumbling banks of the river and its tributaries sure to be dislodged sooner rather than later will retreat to.

The silent emergency of erosion does not make news but it has reportedly claimed nearly 4,000 square kilometres of land, destroying more than 2,500 villages and displacing over five million people in Assam. According to a recent study by Archana Sarkar of the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) and R.D. Garg and Nayan Sharma of IITRoorkee, 1,053 sq. km. was lost to erosion between 1990 and 2008.

The figures come to life as a young civil servant mentions in passing that his own village no longer exists. Further probing into this astonishing statement revealed that not only his village, South Salmara in Dhubri district, but several neighbouring ones had also vanished. He estimates that nearly 70 per cent of the South Salmara-Mankachar subdivision is now in the Brahmaputra. The NIH/IITR study confirms that on the north

bank of the river Dhubri has lost the maximum area (104 sq. km.) to erosion.

Assams State Disaster Management Authority is reportedly seeking recognition for erosion as an ongoing disaster requiring an urgent, concerted, multi-pronged and sustained response that can address the short- and long-term basic and livelihood needs of the affected population, as well as environmental concerns.

The recent rains must have also worsened the situation in several socalled camps where large numbers of people continue to live in abysmal conditions over two months after being displaced by the conflict that erupted in late July in parts of Lower Assam located within the Bodoland Territorial Administrative District. A substantial section of the nearly five

lakh people who fled to nearly 350 camps then have apparently managed to return home. But close to 40 per cent of them are still in over 200 camps, having lost their houses and assets to arson and looting, or held back by the land verification process initiated by the State government and the Bodoland Territorial Council, or simply too frightened to return to villages in areas dominated by the other community involved in the violence.

A day after the latest downpour began, the camp in Bhawaraguri in Chirang district was already ankledeep in water. Camp is actually a misleading misnomer. People from seven nearby villages, including some Bengali-speaking Hindus, who had sought sanctuary in the village boasting a significant number of educated, professional Bengalispeaking Muslims, have had to vacate

local schools to enable them to reopen. They were in the process of fashioning provisional shelters for themselves in the low-lying school ground, using whatever materials they could somehow secure. Members of the Bodo and Rajbongshi communities still staying at the Mongolian Bazar camp in Noyapara (Chirang) faced the prospect of moving into the slushy school compound as classes were soon due to resume after the extended break. In Gambaribeel (Kokrajhar), the space where temporary housing was to be provided for the Bodo families currently living in and around the local school was also waterlogged. The rudimentary shacks housing well over 10,000 Bengali-speaking people in a huge open field near Kembolpur in the Gossaingaon subdivision of Kokrajhar district were hardly weatherproof either.

Health services

Considering the health hazards posed by such living conditions it was encouraging to learn that delivery of public health services was fairly regular and on the whole satisfactory, though mental health is obviously a neglected area despite the evident trauma induced by violence, fear and displacement. Nutrition is clearly a problem, with official food relief essentially restricted to rice and dal , occasionally augmented by potatoes. While the availability of milk and nutritious supplements for children varied from camp to camp, there was no evidence anywhere of educational services. Local schools are belatedly beginning to reopen but they are unlikely to be able to accommodate all the displaced children, especially from densely populated camps. Residents of Bhawaraguri were worried about the future of older

students, too, with persistent safety concerns preventing them from travelling to attend college. Clothes were also in short supply, with most people having fled homes in panic and few usable garments distributed by way of relief, official or nongovernmental.

No one seems to know if and when the nearly two lakh people still living in camps at least 85 per cent of them Bengali-speaking Muslims will be enabled to return to their villages or provided with decent temporary accommodation elsewhere. Livelihood remains a challenge for many of those who have ventured home but face an unofficial economic boycott. With winter approaching, the issues of housing, clothing, and so on, assume even greater urgency. Clearly there is much to be done long after the water recedes and violence subsides.

(Ammu Joseph accompanied the Oxfam India team visiting areas where the organisation is providing humanitarian assistance to disaster and conflict affected people in Assam. Email: )

With winter approaching, addressing the issues of livelihood, housing and clothing for those displaced by floods and strife assumes greater urgency in the shelters in Assam October 10, 2012

IAC and DLF: point counterpoint on Vadras deals

DLFs reply: We wish to categorically state that the DLF has given NO unsecured loans to Mr. Vadra or any of his companies.

An amount of Rs.65 crore was given as business advances for the purchase of land as per standard industry practice comprising the following two transactions.

M/s Skylight Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. approached us in FY 2008-09 to sell a piece of land measuring approximately 3.5 acres approximately just off NH 8 in Sikohpur village, district Gurgaon. This was licensable to develop a commercial complex and the LoI from the government of Haryana to develop it for a commercial complex had been received in March 2008 itself.

DLF agreed to buy the said plot, given its licensing status and its attractiveness as a business proposition for a total consideration of Rs.58 crore. As per normal commercial practice, the possession of the said plot was taken over by DLF in FY 2008-09 itself and a total sum of Rs.50 crore given as advance in instalments against the Purchase consideration. After receipt of all requisite approvals, the said property was conveyanced in favour of DLF. The average cost of the licensed property in the hands of DLF works out to approx Rs.2,800 psf of FSI, which was comparable with similar transactions in that area. The price of the said property has significantly appreciated today to the benefit of DLF and its shareholders.

M/s Skylight Group of companies also offered us in FY 2008-09 an opportunity to purchase a large land

parcel in Faridabad and accordingly, DLF agreed to advance Rs.15 crore in instalments simultaneous to the commencement of due diligence of the said land parcel. After concluding that the said land had certain legal infirmities, we decided against its purchase. Accordingly on DLFs request, the Skylight group refunded the advance of Rs.15 crore in totality.

To reiterate, at no stage was an interest free loan ever given to the Skylight group. There were two sets of Business Advances against purchase of property, one of which amounting to Rs.50 crore resulted in a satisfactory conclusion of purchase of commercial land and the second advance of Rs.15 crore was fully refunded.

IACs rebuttal DLF has said that no unsecured loans were ever given. This

is far from the truth for the following reasons:

a. If one looks at the 2009-10 balance sheet of Real Earth Estates Pvt. Ltd. (Robert Vadra (RV) group company), there is an entry called Loan from DLF Ltd Rs.5 crores. This has been declared as an unsecured loan in the return filed by them in Registrar of Companies.

b. In the same year, Rs.50 crore has been given by DLF to Sky Light Hospitality Private Ltd (SLH), which is another RV group company. According to DLF, SLH sold its land at Manesar for Rs.58 crore to DLF and Rs.50 crore was an advance paid to SLH. Interestingly, this Manesar land was acquired by SLH just a year back for Rs.15.38 crore. How did the price of this land soar to Rs.58 crore? DLF claims that DLF made an advance payment of Rs.50 crore and took

possession of this land in 2008-09 itself. This is completely incorrect. The balance sheet for the year ending March 31, 2011 shows that the advance made by DLF as well as the land at Manesar are both still in the possession of SLH. Is it a normal business practice to give an advance of 90 per cent of the amount of transaction and let it remain with the seller for more than two years without even bothering to take possession of land? Is it a normal business practice to let this advance remain interest free? DLF itself borrows money from several sources at quite high cost. Interestingly, SLH used this advance to purchase 50 per cent equity in DLFs own hotel.

c. SLH received another Rs.10 crore from DLF as Advance from DLF Ltd (Land account). This is also interest free. This money was received by SLH

in 2008-09 and remained with them for more than 2 years.

d. DLF advanced another loan of Rs.15 crore in 2008-09 to SLH. DLF claims that this was meant as an advance for some property in Faridabad in which, some legal problems were discovered later. After using that money for about a year, SLH returned it to DLF. DLF did not charge any interest on that. Does that appear to be a normal business practice?

e. What is the difference between the unsecured loans received by Kanimozhi and Robert Vadra?


Mr. Vadra purchased one apartment for his personal use in Aralias in September 2008 at the then prevalent

market price of Rs.12,000 psft. The total purchase consideration of Rs.11.90 crore was paid by Mr. Vadra, for which the apartment was conveyanced in his favour. We may also mention that while Aralias was initially launched at Rs.1,800 psft, Mr. Vadras purchase at Rs.12,000 psft is among the highest prices at which the company sold the apartments in Aralias. The alleged figure of Rs.89 lakh as total purchase consideration is completely incorrect.

IACs rebuttal In the balance sheet of Sky Light realty (SLR) Pvt. Ltd. for the year 2009-10, the Aralias flat is shown to have been purchased for Rs.89.41 lakh. However, in the next years balance sheet, there is an increase of Rs.8.57 crore in the property at Aralias. Why did that happen? For how much was this property purchased and when was it purchased? A story appeared in the

Economic Times in March 2011 raising questions about Mr. Robert Vadras properties. Was this amount increased immediately thereafter? DLF in its response has said that the flat was purchased by the Vadras in 2008 for their personal use and it was transferred to them in the same year. Then how is it that the value of the flat is shown at Rs.89.41 lakh in 200910 and suddenly it becomes Rs.10.4 crore (including furniture) in 2010-11.


As part of its real estate business, Skylight group had invested in Magnolias apartments at a price of Rs.10,000 psft in March 2008, which was the prevalent offer price of the company for all its customers. The initial launch price was only Rs.4,500 only at which price a large number of customers made their purchases from the company. The Skylight Group also

booked some apartments in the companys Capital Greens project at the then Companys offer price of Rs.5,000/6,000 psft which was availed by more than a thousand other customers.

There is no question of offering, let alone selling, Mr. Vadra or his group companies any property at a throwaway price. The allegation that 7 apartments in Magnolias were sold for Rs.5.2 crore only is also completely baseless.

At NO stage was a property ever sold to the Skylight group below the then offered price to all customers. The gains, if any, made by Skylight group, by subsequent retrading would be similar to the gains made by those customers and in line with applicable market price appreciation experienced by all DLF customers in general.

IACs rebuttal DLF has said that the Magnolias flats were sold at Rs.10,000 psf to Sky Light Group. At that rate, the cost of each Magnolia flat comes to Rs.5 crore. But in the balance sheet for the year 2009-10 for SLR Pvt. Ltd., it is clearly mentioned in Current assets DLF Ltd 7 flats Magnolias Rs.5.232 crore. Did Vadra file a wrong balance sheet with the Registrar of Companies?

DLFs reply:

An attempt is being made to confuse the Magnolias project with an independent project of 350 acres which was tendered by the Haryana State Industrial and Imports Development Corporation (HSIIDC) for

a Recreation and Leisure project by a series of well advertised international tender processes in 2009. DLF emerged as the successful bidder after a thorough technical and commercial bidding process carried out in a highly transparent manner. The project is still at a nascent stage.

It may be clarified that DLF secured the project on its own merits by fulfilling the eligibility criteria through a competitive bidding process and NOT through a discretionary allotment by the Haryana government as alleged. We further state that DLF has not been allotted any lands by the State governments of Haryana, Rajasthan or Delhi.

IACs rebuttal Some of the favours given by the Haryana government in this project:

1. International bids were invited for this project. Three parties applied DLF, Country Heights and Unitech. Financial bids of Unitech and Country Heights were not even opened. They were rejected at the technical stage saying that they did not have experience in constructing and maintaining a golf course. This condition was introduced at the time of evaluating technical bids. Doesnt it raise suspicion whether this was done to reject other parties and to grant this contract to DLF? From news reports, it is understood that the other two bids were much more than DLFs bid. This means that the government suffered a loss by giving it to DLF.

2. Out of 350 acres, 75.98 acres of land was owned by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and 275 acres of land belonged to HSIIDC. HSIIDCs mandate is to

encourage industry in Haryana. It normally uses the land in its possession to carve out land plots for industrial use. HUDA uses its land for residential purposes. However, in this case, they were expected to simply transfer their land to DLF.

3. Out of 275 acres of land with HSIIDC, 91.97 acres of land is forest land covered under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA). SC has ordered that lands covered under PLPA should be treated as forest land and cannot be used for non-forest purposes. 161.03 acres of land is under Aravali plantation. This also cannot be used for any other purpose. The Haryana government has assumed the responsibility of seeking permissions from all Central and State government authorities to facilitate it for DLF. Interestingly, the Haryana government has given all this land to

DLF without even getting these permissions.

4. No Environmental Impact Assessment was done. The process is believed to have been started but was cancelled midway.

5. As mentioned above, HUDA had to part with 75.98 acres of land for this project. HUDAs job is to develop residential and commercial plots for the common people. They have done so in the past by developing various sectors in Gurgaon. HUDA had acquired this land a few years ago from the farmers of Gurgaon saying that this land would be used for Public purpose for various sectors in Gurgaon, constructing roads, etc. However, now this land was being transferred to DLF, not for public purpose but for private profit. This was a fraud on those farmers who had sacrificed their land earlier.

Source: Press Releases from India Against Corruption and DLF October 10, 2012

More than law, a question of propriety

SHOW THE WAY:Congress spokesmen are likely to dismiss the suggestion outright, but these are difficult times and require radical approaches. PHOTO: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY The focus of the debate on the Robert Vadra-DLF real estate dealings has been on the legality of the transactions. Congress spokesmen insist that no evidence has come forth to show illegality and, therefore, rule out the need for an enquiry, while the opposition has somewhat mutedly asked for one. Though it is important to ascertain if any laws were violated, it is also necessary to go beyond the

realm of the law and into the territory of propriety.

Notions of propriety have changed since our freedom movement and the early years of our independence. This matter, and the revelations of the past few years, tell us the distance our polity and society have travelled since that time, unfortunately, in the wrong direction.

We live in cynical times and any reference to probity in political and social life evokes only derision and an admonition to get real. Nevertheless, the times demand of us now more than ever before to reflect on what Gandhiji would have thought of all this. Gandhiji had advised those in public life that if they were ever in doubt about a policy or action they should think of how it would impact on the poorest of the poor. What would he have said to public men and

their family members on contacts and dealings with businessmen? He would have certainly not suggested that they give up their trade or profession and take sanyas or not be friendly with them. Perhaps he would have recommended a simple test: that they ask themselves if a proposal or deal would have been offered to them had they not held a particular office or not been part of the family of such an office holder. This is the principal question that Mr. Vadra and his family have to address. The law may demand a direct nexus to a quid pro quo for corruption to be established but propriety makes a greater demand: that no personal benefit of a financial nature is derived on account of such a relationship.

It would be entirely appropriate for Mr. Vadra to become a successful businessman on the strength of his commercial acumen and skills and

venture into new fields including real estate, but in a manner that is manifestly straightforward and transparent. Greater public scrutiny is the inevitable price a family member of those in high places has to pay.

Then and now

There is also little doubt that once apparently credible questions are raised, Gandhiji would have rejected any recourse to claims of privacy and would have demanded full disclosure. Obviously, public officials and their family members have to be protected against frivolous and malicious charges of wrongdoing. But if prima facie, the questions raised are credible, then it is only proper that they clear doubts. Nothing vitiates a polity more than dark clouds of doubt regarding the conduct of public figures and their kith and kin. Clearly these prescriptions apply to all those

in public life and their families and become more rigid and compelling as the office or position in public affairs gets higher. They also apply to Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan. The former must clarify if he adhered to the Civil Services Conduct Rules while he was in service, for criticism of the government is forbidden so long as one is on government rolls. The latter must tell us if his familys property dealings meet the scrutiny not of legality but of propriety.

The lives of our public men immediately after independence were generally austere and frugal. The perks and privileges given to ministers were far less than what they enjoy today. One telling example was in the number of cars given to cabinet ministers. Only one car was allotted and that too only for official purposes. All cabinet ministers possessed small private cars which they and their

family members used for their personal travel. Of course, times have changed and security considerations have to be taken into account. That generation of leaders evoked respect through the strength of their character and their record of public service and not the use of the symbols of state authority such as flashing red lights and noisy sirens.

Acid test

The Vadra-DLF matter is above all an acid test of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. His ministers have spoken of the law. He must rise above this and dwell on propriety. That he must uphold the law and the Constitution is obvious. However, the nation expects more; it wishes that he sets the moral tone of his times. This hope and expectation is often not expressed but it is ever present in the public consciousness. Dr. Singh is also

uniquely placed for he has lived a life of absolute financial integrity. His frugal and austere living is what Gandhiji and our earlier leaders would have applauded. It is all the more creditable because he has so lived in times marked by consumerism. Also, through all the years of his public life no one has ever alleged that his family has taken advantage of his position. The Prime Minister is the formal leader of the country. It is now for him to judge and inform the nation whether the transactions between Robert Vadra and DLF meet the test of propriety or not. There is no doubt that the nation will respect his judgment.

Congress spokesmen and others are likely to dismiss the suggestion outright for they will claim that the Prime Minister is not the authority to take such action and there is no precedent of this nature and nor

should one be set. But these are difficult times and they require radical approaches.

Bhishmapitamah was asked if the times fashion a ruler or a ruler fashions his times. After deep thought he said that it is the ruler who sets the tone of his age. The Prime Minister has put his stamp on the economic and commercial life of our country. Will he do so on its public morality?

(Vivek Katju is a diplomat who retired as Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, earlier this year.)

Can the Prime Minister reassure us that the Gandhi family connection had no role to play in the Vadra-DLF transactions? October 10, 2012

Rising yuan in the land of setting yen

The directors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank return to Tokyo this week for their annual meetings after a gap of 48 years. Its a different Japan. The ageing of the host nation, the rise of China, the shift of the epicentre of global growth to mainland Asia, in more ways than one, have subdued what was in 1964 when the Fund and Bank last met here the land of the rising Yen. The shocks administered to the global economy by the recent trans-Atlantic financial crisis have further accelerated these shifts, and the Yuan now rises where the Yen once shined.

First Asian-origin president

While the Bank arrives in Tokyo with a South Korea-born American as its first Asian-origin president, the Fund arrives with its first Chinese deputy managing director, who got the job as part of a deal with the European Union. This would rub even more salt into the wounded pride of a Japan that tried hard for long to get one of the top jobs and repeatedly failed because the West would not accommodate Asia till China stared it in its face.

Not surprisingly, therefore, while much of Asia celebrates the eastward power shift, Tokyo remains more cautious and concerned. This came through explicitly in a paper that Japans former Defence Minister and now chairperson of the national executive of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Yuriko Koike, wrote for a conference last week on the theme The Currencies of Power and

the Power of Currencies, organised by the Geo-economics and Strategy Programme of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

China is currently deepening its commitment to the global financial system observed Ms Koike, By gaining experience as a responsible stakeholder, China should be expected to play an important role in working for global financial stability. But that is a test that has yet to be held.

Many at the conference agreed with Ms Koike that the jury is out on Chinas credibility as a manager of the global financial system, but few shared the recent concern expressed by Brazils Finance Minister Guido Mantega that the global economy was being destabilised by currency wars between China and the United States. Two years ago, the former managing

director of the IMF Dominique StrausKahn gave public expression to Mr. Mantegas worries at the Fund-Bank meetings in Washington DC. These worries have been revived by the third round of liberal monetary policy, dubbed quantitative easing (QE3), launched by the U.S.

Participants at last weeks IISS-GES conference seemed less worried than Mr. Mantega or the man who has since articulated this view in an international bestseller ( Currency Wars: The making of the next global crisis , 2011), James Rickards (USA) who was challenged at the IISS conference by John Williamson (U.K.), Surjit Bhalla (India) and Zha Xiaogang (China), who in turn argued that currency wars may be a thing of the past, with China entering a new phase of domestic demand led growth that would ensure sustained appreciation of the renminbi (RMB).

Mr. Williamson, former chief economist of the World Bank to whom we owe the phrase Washington Consensus, questioned the Brazilian view that QE3 was a beggar-my-neighbour initiative aimed at devaluing the U.S. dollar. Rather, he saw it as an effort to boost domestic consumption and global growth. Mr. Bhalla, who has just published a persuasive account of how currency under-valuation provides an impetus to growth, Devaluing to Prosperity: Misaligned Currencies and Their Growth Consequences (2012) asserted that China had in fact won the currency war of the past two decades and has now declared currency peace with a focus on domestic economic growth.

Seeming to go along with these views, Mr. Zha, from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, underscored

Chinas role as an importing power and a source of foreign direct investment. Mr. Zha was most direct in linking the RMBs future role to Asian geo-politics, curiously echoing Ms Koikes concerns. The internationalisation of the renminbi, especially in East Asia, will strengthen Chinas economic links with its neighbours Mr. Zha believes, and its influence on regional economic and financial cooperation (intra-regional trade, Asian regional capital markets, crisis prevention and management), which is critical for stability in Chinas backyard. (sic)

Therefore, while the Funds directors are unlikely to worry about currency wars at their meetings in Tokyo, and Christine Lagarde can be expected to be more diplomatique in dealing with the issue than her boisterous predecessor, the growing weight of China in the global economy, and

certainly in its backyard, as well as in the management of the Bretton Woods sisters will be on top of the mind of this years hosts of the annual meetings, and many other Asian economies.

The IMF is duty bound by the provisions of its Articles of Agreement to insist that each member undertakes to collaborate with the Fund and other members to assure orderly exchange arrangements and to promote a stable system of exchange rates and that they all avoid manipulating exchange rates or the international monetary system in order to prevent effective balance of payments adjustment or to gain an unfair competitive advantage over other members.

Currency wars

In the past, the Fund has failed to avert currency wars and it remains to be seen whether it will succeed in the months ahead. Ensuring exchange rate stability and discouraging beggarmy-neighbour policies is vital to the stability of global markets as well as to the revival of global growth. It is the Fund that must grapple with this challenge rather than allow some recent attempts to take this matter to the World Trade Organisation to succeed. Stable exchange rates are no doubt a trade facilitator but they are not a matter for trade negotiations. They are the pillars of a stable global economy.

For China to seek a larger role in the management of the global economy it must win the confidence of all, especially Asia, in its policies being transparent and fair. Equally, the U.S. and Europe have to regain their lost

credibility for their management of macro-economic policies.

(Sanjaya Baru is director for geoeconomics and strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies and Hon. Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

China should convince all nations that

its policies are transparent and fair to

gain credibility as a manager of the

global financial system October 11, 2012

History happens sleeping and waking

Nearly some two centuries ago, the heavy-duty Hegel pronounced that India has no history. It is a repeat of the same old majestic ruin.

Marx in his early days concurred with that summation until of course, thanks to his need for money and the willingness of the New York Daily Tribune to make him an offer, his intimacy with India deepened profoundly, yielding some of the most far-reaching commentaries on the nature of the historical process in India.

In America

As we write, if anything, history seems only too rampantly underway in this sanaatan land where all change is thought to be mere mirage and hallucination, and its avid harbingers men and women of wicked

propensities, out to dislodge the timehonoured hierarchies of virtue and value. Conversely, until the recent collapse of Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs in America inaugurated a fresh bout of history in those settled lands, it was in America largely that history seemed to have ended.

I recall some two decades ago, during my last visit there as a Fulbright Fellow, responding to importunate advice that I stay and work there by bemoaning that outside of reading and writing I would not be a part of anything alive and kicking, since few people seemed to want to make any collective effort to change anything. I remember pointing my friends to an insistent trend in Hollywood productions in which, much of the time, only critters, or creatures, or aliens, or robots, or viral beings and other suchlike seemed to hold sway;

as though interest in anything human had long been exhausted and been swallowed in shopping, jogging, and hogging. Activities that, incidentally, seem so quickly to have caught up with an aspirational India.

I remember pleading that back home in India there were myriad histories in the making, often brutal, frustrating, relentlessly prone to chicanery and intellectual and moral abuse, but that I wished to be a part of all those.

Thankfully, the ravages wrought by a blind and blinding capitalism have over the last two years brought the human collectives out on to the streets, as they seek to occupy that one per cent of the globe that bleeds the other 99 per cent. Something is afoot where only a dead and deadening complacence ruled.

Here at home, of course, the renewed history of class antagonism now afloat in the western world is deepened and layered over by struggles that stretch across a plethora of other social indices. And however oppressive states globally bring to bear the full regalia of domination and suppression, these struggles seem for now not to be deterred as conclusively as home-grown and foreign imperialists might wish. Didnt that doyen of democratic poets, Walt Whitman, once say that the grass will grow everywhere, no matter how heavy the cement and mortar? And the grass he thought to be both the handkerchief of the lord and a metaphor for the masses of common people who will not let what is unjust and ossified last?

Unfortunate it is that many of us who live comfortable lives, wherever we be, tend often to conflate history with

our own individual lifetimes. Nothing could be more hopelessly and unforgivably solipsistic. We forget that the man who found out why the apple falls rather than flies, unbeknown to him, made it possible for us to go about in airplanes without the fear of falling. He did his work in his apportioned time and space; we ought to do the same.

(Prof. Badri Raina is a Delhi-based writer.) October 11, 2012

Rid our body politic of communal poison

Though many Hindus and Muslims in India are today infected by the virus of communalism, the fact is that before 1857 there was no communal feeling at all in most Indians. There were, no doubt, some differences between

Hindus and Muslims, but there was no animosity. Hindus used to join Muslims in celebrating Eid, Muslims used to join Hindus in celebrating Holi and Diwali, and they lived together like brothers and sisters.

How is it that around 150 years later, suspicion, if not animosity, has developed between the two major religious communities on our subcontinent? Today, Muslims in India find it difficult to get a house on rent from Hindus. When a bomb blast takes place in India the police, incapable of catching the real culprits (because they have no training in scientific investigation), solve the crime by arresting half-a-dozen Muslims. Most of them are ultimately found innocent in a court of law, but after spending many years in jail.

This has resulted in tremendous alienation among Muslims in India. In

Pakistan, things are even worse for the minorities who often live in a state of terror, scared of extremists and religious bigots.


1857 is the watershed year in the history of communal relations in India. Before 1857, there was no communal problem, no communal riot. It is true there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, but then there are differences even between two sons or daughters of the same father. Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully, and invariably helped each other in times of difficulty.

No doubt, Muslims who invaded India broke a lot of temples. But their descendants, who became local Muslim rulers, almost all fostered communal harmony. This they did in

their own interest, because the vast majority of their subjects were Hindus. They knew that if they broke Hindu temples, there would be turbulence and riots, which no ruler wants. Hence almost all the Muslim rulers in India promoted communal harmony the Mughals, the Nawabs of Awadh, Murshidabad or Arcot, Tipu Sultan or the Nizam of Hyderabad.

In 1857, the First Indian War of Independence broke out, in which Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After suppressing the revolt, the British decided that the only way to control India was to divide and rule. Thus, the Secretary of State for India, Sir Charles Wood, in a letter to the Viceroy, Lord Elgin, in 1862 wrote, We have maintained our power in India by playing off one community against the other and we must continue to do so. Do all you

can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling.

Divide and rule

In a letter dated January 14, 1887, Secretary of State Viscount Cross wrote to Governor General Dufferin: This division of religious feeling is greatly to our advantage and I look forward for some good as a result of your Committee of Inquiry on Indian Education and on teaching material.

George Hamilton, Secretary of State for India wrote to Curzon, the Governor General: I think the real danger to our rule in India is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas and if we could break educated Indians into two sections *Hindus and Muslims+ we should, by such a division, strengthen our position against the subtle and

continuous attack which the spread of education must make upon our system of government. We should so plan education textbooks that the differences between the two communities are further enhanced.

Thus, after 1857, a deliberate policy was started of generating hatred between Hindus and Muslims. This was done in a number of ways.

Religious leaders bribed to speak against the other community : The English Collector would secretly call the Panditji, and give him money to speak against Muslims, and similarly he would secretly call the Maulvi and pay him money to speak against Hindus.

History books distorted to generate communal hatred : As already

mentioned, it is true that the initial Muslim invaders broke a lot of Hindu temples. However, their descendants (like Akbar, who was the descendant of the invader Babur) who were local Muslims rulers, far from breaking temples, regularly gave grants to Hindu temples, organised Ram Lilas and participated in Holi and Diwali (like the Nawabs of Awadh, Murshidabad and Arcot). This second part of our history, namely, that the descendants of the Muslim invaders, almost all, promoted communal harmony, has been totally suppressed from our history books. Our children are only taught that Mahmud of Ghazni broke the Somnath Temple, but they are not taught that the Mughal emperors, Tipu Sultan, etc., used to give grants to Hindu temples and celebrate Hindu festivals (see online History in the Service of Imperialism by B.N. Pande).

Communal riots deliberately instigated : All communal riots began after 1857; there was none before that year. Agent provocateurs deliberately instigated religious hatred in a variety of ways e.g., by playing music before a mosque at prayer time, or breaking Hindu idols.

This poison was systematically injected by the British rulers into our body politic year after year, decade after decade, until it resulted in the Partition of 1947. We still have nefarious elements that promote and thrive on religious hatred.

Whenever a bomb blast takes place, many television news channels start saying that an email or SMS has been received claiming that the Indian Mujahideen, the Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islamia has owned responsibility. Now an email or an SMS message can be sent by any

mischievous person, but by showing this on TV and the next day in print a subtle impression is created in Hindu minds that all Muslims are terrorists who throw bombs (when the truth is that 99 per cent of all communities are peace loving and good).

During the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, a section of the media (particularly the Hindi print media) became kar sevaks.

Panic in Bangalore

Recently, SMS messages were sent to northeast Indians living in Bangalore and other cities stating that they had killed Muslims in Assam and so they had better get out of Bangalore otherwise they would be massacred. This created panic. When the Muslims of Bangalore came to know of this mischief, they organised a feast for

the northeast Indians and told them that someone had played mischief, and that Muslims are not against the people from the northeast.

It is time Indians saw through this nefarious game of certain vested interests. India is a country of great diversity, and so the only path to unity and prosperity is equal respect for all communities and sections of society. This was the path shown by our great Emperor Akbar (who, along with Ashoka, was in my opinion the greatest ruler the world has ever seen), who gave equal respect to all communities (see online my judgment Hinsa Virodhak Sangh Vs. Mirzapur Moti Kuresh Jamat ).

When India became independent in 1947, religious passions were inflamed. There must have been tremendous pressure on Pandit Nehru and his colleagues to declare India a

Hindu state, since Pakistan had declared itself an Islamic state. It was the greatness of our leaders that they kept a cool head and said India would not be a Hindu state but would be a secular state. That is why, relatively speaking, India is much better off in every way as compared to our neighbour.

Secularism does not mean that one cannot practise ones religion. Secularism means that religion is a private affair unconnected with the state, which will have no religion. In my opinion, secularism is the only policy which can hold our country together and take it to the path of prosperity.

(Markandey Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court and Chairperson of the Press Council of India)

Indians must defeat all those elements that promote and thrive on religious hatred October 11, 2012

Grass-root politics, down in the weeds

Women in Tamil Nadus Karur district at a panchayat meeting. PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT There are two underlying themes of India Against Corruptions new party: the induction of good people and peoples power through consummate decentralisation. The vision document sets out a quest for swaraj, peoples right to selfdetermination. This ideal of selfdetermination has been conflated with direct democracy. Thus the vision document indicates that as far as possible, decisions will be taken

through gram /ward sabhas , referendums, and local primaries to decide the partys candidate nominations.

No person who professes a commitment to democracy will argue against political decentralisation. However to assume that decentralisation is synonymous with democracy is erroneous. Putting everything local administrative decisions, legislations/policy, electoral candidates to a vote can be majoritarian and hence counterdemocratic. There are also legitimate questions of capacity and practicality. These three main ideas as put forward by IAC require further thought:

People, not party high command, nominating candidates: IAC has suggested having local open primaries to nominate candidates with both party workers and local people eligible

to vote. This is an excellent idea. However more thought is required. First, India does not have a system like the United States where primaries are conducted by the public administration. Therefore voters are not registered for a particular party. It will be thus difficult to control raiding where workers of a political party deliberately vote for a weak candidate of another party. Second, running a credible internal election machinery will require large-scale resources and expertise, and it is unclear if a fledgling party can do so. A closed primary (only registered party workers may vote) may also pose problems of manipulation by local leaders, given that party organisation in large parts of the country is rudimentary/non-existent. Perhaps a better idea at this stage would be to define principles through public consultations and give party tickets in a transparent manner based on these principles.

Referendums: The vision document states that people must be consulted directly on key national decisions. The government must elicit public views on key issues in a democracy; however what entails meaningful and practical consultation is unclear. Complex policy initiatives do not lend themselves to the sort of binary response a referendum will necessarily entail. Team Anna conducted a referendum in Union Minister Kapil Sibals constituency for the Lokpal Bill but the questions consisted of issues where there was disagreement between the government and IAC. The possible options for selection were only two: government and Anna. If a referendum was to be done on the Lokpal Bill, how many questions would one need? A meaningful question would not be whether the Lokpal should be independent of the government or not but how would

this independence be ensured. This question alone would require going into the minutiae of the appointment committee, selection process, financial/administrative autonomy, etc. And there will be tens of such questions. Furthermore referendums are susceptible to majoritarianism, such as the recent ban on minarets in Switzerland and Proposition 8 in California (2008), which amended the definition of marriage to exclude same sex couples. Having the public decide on personal economic policy is also not necessarily a good thing since voters may not be driven by the states fiscal health. Many people trace the Californian budget crisis to the 1978 referendum which severely decreased property taxes. Finally there are concerns that referendums may be manipulated by organised and well-resourced special interests.

Local self-governance: The rhetoric of an aam sabha presumes a homogenous society with no internal conflict. However social hierarchy, imposed by caste in villages and class in urban areas, will impede (meaningful) participation. The consent of the gram sabha is invoked in issues such as displacement, where there is likely to be general consensus however villages themselves become the locus of marginalisation for access to limited public goods. In urban areas, there is often a conflict of interest between immigrants/unorganised sector and the middle-class. In addition the often uncertain legal status of the migrant class can stifle participation. Therefore, mere devolution of powers and resources by itself may not lead to participation or egalitarian outcomes and work is needed on the nature of supportive structures and social conditions needed for functional self-governance.

The purpose of a political party is to articulate a distinct vision for the future of the country, and mobilise the electorate around that vision. For a vision to be credible, one must also define a plausible road map for its attainment. However IACs current pronouncements are a mish-mash of non-cohesive ideas and a preoccupation with procedural points. Decentralisation as defined in their vision document is based on a worldview of adversarial binary division between the state and people, disregarding cross alliances and intra-group conflicts. This doesnt necessarily increase democracy and appears to be motivated by a desire to curb the state. In any case, decentralisation must be contextualised within an ideology if its not to remain an operational goal. IAC has shown courage in entering electoral politics, in a landscape riven by primordial divisions, hijacked by

money and muscle. Their entry has been disruptive in a system marked by complicit silence, and thus there is a great deal of energy and anticipation around their activities. However to go beyond capturing an anti-incumbent sentiment to create a true political alternative will require real vision.

(Ruchi Gupta is affiliated with the National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information. Email: )

India Against Corruption should realise the aam aadmi needs not only decentralised power but also a lofty vision October 11, 2012

Include the poor in biodiversity conservation

THE CATCH:Agreeing on ways of governments and markets increasing the flow of ecosystem services for the poor is important.The picture is of the mangrove forests near Pichavaram inTamil Nadu. PHOTO: AP Protecting biodiversity is humanitys insurance policy against the unprecedented biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation which has occurred in recent decades, undermining the very foundations of life on earth.

This is why this weeks 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, which India is hosting, is so important. The thousands of

experts and officials representing nearly 200 countries attending the conference carry the enormous responsibility of facing the difficult trade-offs that lay at the heart of biodiversity management.

In the race to increase national income, countries around the world are over-exploiting biodiversity by failing to integrate environmental measures in fisheries, agriculture, infrastructure and mining. This approach is understandable when governments are trying to quickly raise living standards but the risk of mismanaging biodiversity far outweighs short-term gains, reducing the ability of the environment to sustain the present generation, let alone meet the needs of future generations.

A key theme of the conference is the impact of biodiversity loss on the

poor. Dependent directly on nature for food, clean water, fuel, medicine and shelter, poor households are hit hardest by ecosystem degradation.

Community-based models

In India, where ecosystem services account for 57 per cent of a poor households income and nearly a quarter of the countrys population depends on non-timber forest produce for their livelihood, important community-based models for managing diversity are showing impressive results.

An example of this is the village of Gundlaba in Odisha where the 1999 super cyclone destroyed habitats and livelihoods, mangroves and forests belonging to coastal villages. Fearing that their community may not recover, the village women formed a

Forest Protection Womens Committee. During the past 12 years, the committee has worked together to regenerate mangroves and other forests. Forest cover has gone up by 63 per cent and fish catch has increased from one to five kilograms per family.

The story of Gundlaba shows that the weight of ecosystems in the lives of the poor represents an important opportunity for achieving broader social and economic goals. Proper and intelligent management of ecosystems at the local level can help to turn local economies around and give destitute households a chance to increase their incomes. This is an important lesson to share with the world.

Investing in the protection of biodiversity is another important lesson. A government of India

initiative to increase coral reef cover in the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve on the Tamil Nadu coast, which the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environmental Facility are proud to have supported, has resulted in diversified livelihoods at the local level and increased income. As a result of this programme, more than 24,000 women now have access to more credit from microenterprises and thousands of young people have taken up new vocations after receiving technical training.

Recognising our shared responsibility to promote proper management of biodiversity, the UNDP at the global level has worked closely with partners in 146 countries to develop a Biodiversity and Ecosystems Global Framework to accelerate international efforts to reverse biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. The

framework represents an important shift in focus towards harnessing the positive opportunities provided by biodiversity and natural ecosystems, as a driver for sustainable development.

The framework takes into account the real value of biodiversity and ecosystems to societyin relation to secure livelihoods, food, water and health, enhanced resilience, preservation of threatened species and their habitats, and increased carbon storage and sequestration and calls for innovation to achieve multiple development dividends.

The officials and experts attending this weeks conference will have the chance to debate important issues related to biodiversity management. With so much at stake, we hope that participants are able to establish an effective governance system for

making and implementing decisions on matters affecting biodiversity and ecosystems and discuss candidly the capacity of markets to reflect the real value of ecosystem goods and services and the true costs of losing them. Agreeing on ways that governments and markets can increase the flow of ecosystem services for the poor is equally important.

(Lise Grande is U.N. Coordinator and UNDP Representative in India.)

Resident Resident

Intelligent management of ecosystems can help to turn local economies around and give destitute households a chance to increase their incomes October 12, 2012

Chavez victory will be felt far beyond Latin America

The transformation of Latin America is one of the decisive changes reshaping the global order. The tide of progressive change that has swept the region over the last decade has brought a string of elected socialist and social-democratic governments to office which have redistributed wealth and power, rejected western neoliberal orthodoxy, and challenged imperial domination. In the process they have started to build the first truly independent South America for 500 years and demonstrated to the rest of the world that there are, after all, economic and social alternatives in the 21st century.

Central to that process has been Hugo Chvez and his Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. It is Venezuela, sitting on

the worlds largest proven oil reserves, that has spearheaded the movement of radical change across Latin America and underwritten the regional integration that is key to its renaissance. By doing so, the endlessly vilified Venezuelan leader has earned the enmity of the United States and its camp followers, as well as the social and racial elites that have called the shots in Latin America for hundreds of years.

So Chvezs remarkable presidential election victory on Sunday (October 7) in which he won 55 per cent of the vote on an 81 per cent turnout after 14 years in power has a significance far beyond Venezuela. The stakes were enormous: if his oligarch challenger Henrique Capriles had won, not only would the revolution have come to a juddering halt in Venezuela, triggering privatisations and the axing of social programmes. So would its

essential support for continental integration, sponsorship of Cuban doctors across the hemisphere as well as Chvezs plans to reduce oil dependence on the U.S. market.

Western and Latin American media and corporate elites had convinced themselves that they were at last in with a shout, that this election was too close to call, or even that a failing Venezuelan President, weakened by cancer, would at last be rejected by his own people. Outgoing World Bank president Robert Zoellick crowed that Chvezs days were numbered, while Barclays let its excitement run away with itself by calling the election for Capriles.

Its all of a piece with the endlessly recycled Orwellian canard that Chvez is a dictator and Venezuela a tyranny where elections are rigged and the media muzzled. In reality, as

Opposition leaders concede, Venezuela is by any rational standards a democracy, with exceptionally high levels of participation, its electoral process more fraud-proof than those in Britain or the U.S., and its media dominated by a vituperatively antigovernment private sector. In reality, the greatest threat to Venezuelan democracy came in the form of the abortive U.S.-backed coup of 2002.

Re-election formula

Even senior western diplomats in Caracas roll their eyes at the absurdity of the anti-Chvez propaganda in the western media. And in the queues outside polling stations on Sunday in the opposition stronghold of San Cristobal, near the Colombian border, Capriles voters told me: this is a democracy. Several claimed that if Chvez won, it wouldnt be because of manipulation of the voting system but

the laziness and greed of their Venezuelans by which they seemed to mean the appeal of government social programmes.

Which gets to the heart of the reason so many got the election wrong. Despite claims that Latin Americas progressive tide is exhausted, leftwing and centre-left governments continue to be re-elected from Ecuador to Brazil, Bolivia to Argentina, Brazil to Uruguay because they have reduced poverty and inequality and taken control of energy to benefit the excluded majority.

That is what Chvez has been able to do on a grander scale, using Venezuelas oil income and publicly owned enterprises to slash poverty by half and extreme poverty by 70 per cent, massively expanding access to health and education, boosting the minimum wage and pension

provision, halving unemployment and giving slum communities direct control over social programmes.

To visit any rally or polling station during the election campaign was to be left in no doubt as to who Chvez represents: the poor, the non-white, the young, the disabled in other words, the dispossessed majority. Euphoria at the result among the poor was palpable: in the foothills of the Andes on Monday groups of redshirted hillside farmers chanted and waved flags at any passerby.

Of course there are also no shortage of government failures and weaknesses the Opposition was able to target: from runaway violent crime to corruption, lack of delivery and economic diversification, and overdependence on one mans charismatic leadership. And the U.S.-financed Opposition campaign was a much

more sophisticated affair than in the past. Capriles presented himself as centre-left, despite his hard right background, and promised to maintain some Chvista social programmes.

But even so, the Venezuelan President ended up almost 11 points ahead. And the Oppositions attempt to triangulate to the left only underlines the success of Chvez in changing Venezuelas society and political terms of trade. He has shown himself to be the most electorally successful radical left leader in history. His reelection now gives him the chance to ensure Venezuelas transformation is deep enough to survive him, to overcome the administrations failures and help entrench the process of change across the continent. Venezuelas revolution doesnt offer a model that can be directly transplanted elsewhere, not least

because oil revenues allow it to target resources on the poor without seriously attacking the interests of the wealthy. But its social programmes, experiments in direct democracy and success in bringing resources under public control offer lessons to anyone interested in social justice and new forms of socialist politics in the rest of the world.

For all their problems and weaknesses, Venezuela and its Latin American allies have demonstrated that its no longer necessary to accept a failed economic model. They have shown its possible to be both genuinely progressive and popular. Cynicism and media-fuelled ignorance have prevented many who would naturally identify with Latin Americas transformation from recognising its significance. But Chvezs re-election has now ensured that that process will continue and that the space for

21st-century alternatives will grow. (Seumas Milnes book, The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century, is published next week.) Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

Social democracy is starting to build the first truly independent South America for 500 years October 12, 2012

Testing the tensile strength of HollandeMittal

Lakshmi Mittal has decided to shut down the blast furnaces in the ArcelorMittal steel plant in Florange, north-eastern France, a region deeply hit by recession and deindustrialisation. With the automobile industry in the doldrums and a global recession in manufacturing, the

demand for steel has nosedived, he says.

Probably the most disliked and certainly the least trusted man in France today, Lakshmi Mittal is the Chairman of ArcelorMittal, the worlds leading steel manufacturer. In 2006, Mr. Mittal, wrested control of Arcelor, a company that once had a strong French government stake and which, in 2006, had public holdings in Spain, Belgium and Luxemburg.

It was one of the nastiest takeover battles in recent times, not least because it was the first time an Indian, a person from the under-developed south was eyeing a first world plum. Dominique de Villepin, then Prime Minister of France, and Thierry Breton, his minister for Finance and Industry, engaged in some impressive sabre-rattling against these Indians, even though the French state had long

since divested itself of its stake in Arcelor. Now, shades of that same xenophobia are resurfacing in France.

Symbol of worker malaise

On Thursday Mr. Mittal was called to the lyse Palace for a dressing down by President Franois Hollande who told him hed better look sharp and find a buyer rather than close down the plant as he has hinted he might do. Restart the furnaces or put them up for sale, Mr. Hollande reportedly told Mr. Mittal. The steel magnate reportedly said he would do so if a buyer showed up. But in these hard times that is not a serious possibility.

The fate of the blast furnaces at Florange has become a symbol of worker malaise in France and Lakshmi Mittal has inevitably become the villain of the piece. The number of

jobs lost at Florange is unlikely to exceed 600. And yet, with 14,000 job losses and the shutting down of the Aulnay plant near Paris, Philippe Varin, the CEO of PSA Peugeot Citroen gets far less flack and union invective than Mittal, who is invariably described as a rapacious predator.

However, Peugeot and ArcelorMittal are not the only companies to announce job cutbacks. The former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, had reportedly asked several businesses to delay their restructuring announcements to after the election and now there is an entire harvest of cutbacks including at business majors like Alcatel-Lucent, Air France or Sanofi. The bombast of Arnaud Montebourg, the new minister for Industrial Renewal, rings hollow when he declares that the French state will intervene to prevent massive job cuts in companies that continue to post

profits. But in a liberal economy there is little the State can do and Mr. Hollandes impotence in the face of investor logic is adding to the Presidents unpopularity.

In terms of popularity ratings, Franois Hollande has little to envy Lakshmi Mittal. In five months his stock has touched rock bottom with a nostalgia wave for ousted President Sarkozy amongst centrist voters who plumped for Hollande last May. After having assured the French that he would preserve the countrys welfare model, Mr. Hollande has announced austerity measures totalling 30 billion. This is the most austere budget France has seen in the past 30 years and it aims to bring down the countrys deficit from 4.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the acceptable three per cent by 2013 with a balancing of

the books by 2017, when the next Presidential election is due.

Large companies will be taxed 10 billion, the government will cut spending by another 10 billion and wealthy households and capital gains will yield another 10 billion with a higher tax slab of 45 per cent of income for 6.2 million households. The super rich who earn over 1 million per year will see 75 per cent of their income going to the taxman. Capital gains will be taxed like ordinary income and various tax breaks will be removed, including a limit on wealth tax.

There has been a volley of criticism from the Opposition and from business leaders who say the new levies will prove a disincentive for investors or creative and talented people to work in France. A group of start-up businessmen calling

themselves Genopi, an acronym of pigeon (French slang for victim or dupe) said the new capital gains tax will lead to the ruin of entrepreneurs wishing to sell off businesses or start new ones. They argued the measure would lead to a massive flight of capital and forced the government to take its first step back. Finance Minister Pierre Moscovoci hastily announced measures to pacify venture capitalists saying those who reinvest capital gains in new businesses will not be taxed.

As The New York Times put it: Mr. Hollandes problem is that in the middle of the euro crisis and flat growth, with pressure from Brussels and the markets, it is hard to live up to the hopes of his voters for the traditionally Socialist cure of higher public spending.

In short, the President is caught in a cleft stick between pressure from workers asking that their benefits and jobs be preserved and pressure from Brussels which has declared a war on public deficits. Mr. Hollande has very little wiggle room and will have to walk a thin line between two totally contradictory sets of demands and expectations.

The French President is finding it difficult to live up to the hopes of his voters, caught as he is in the middle of the euro crisis and flat growth October 12, 2012

Let grass roots decide on Walmart

There is the United States of America and then there is the idea of USA that exists in the minds of significant

portions of the middle classes all across the globe. How this looks in real life varies slightly according to the region of the world, reflecting specific aspirations and anxieties. In the subcontinent, the latter idea is increasingly not made in a Hollywood basement, given the IT-coolie-fired traffic to the U.S. One important element of the newer idea of USA that flows back daily by television, Skype, photographs, phone conversation and emails is the ease of the consumer experience in multi-brand retail stores as big as football stadia, with the variety of wares on offer seemingly endless from bananas to bikinis and beyond. Walmart is unquestionably the most prominent of these chainstores, a super-brand. Viewed in another way, it is a shop whose name is more famous than the brand names of the things it sells.

The shopping experience

I have been living in the U.S. for the last few years, more or less in east coast cities. The last six have been in the Boston area. Many separate municipal towns constitute much of the Boston area. My location however deprives me of the quintessentially American experience of shopping at Walmart. I live in Cambridge and hence I am at least 10 miles away from the two Walmarts in the vicinity. Given that I use public transport and my bicycle to move around, both these locations are quite inaccessible for me. Walmarts and stores like that cannot exist in the U.S. in the absence of the stupendous subsidy to the highway systems that make the stores viable, not to mention the mass culture of individual car ownership that makes such stores reachable. If one were to look at a map of Walmart locations across the U.S., it corresponds very well with a population density map of the nation.

That said, the absence of Walmart in my neighbouring areas and the preponderance of such stores all over the nation is a phenomenon that needs to be explained.

It is not that Walmart did not want to set up a store in my vicinity. In fact, it tried and tried hard. When I was a student, as a part of my on-campus job as a server and bartender for the Harvard University Dining Services, I would be deputed to various addresses around the area to serve at parties, clean dirty dishes and do similar chores. One such assignment was in the neighbouring municipal area of Watertown. When I was going into the house, I saw a sign on the lawn that said No Walmart No more big boxes. Big box incidentally is the nickname for Walmart and other such stores, for that is what they look like. Given that I knew there werent any such stores in the area, I

wondered what this was about. After my working hours, I talked to the house-owner and he told me he was part of the burgeoning local citizens movement, Sustainable Watertown, which was opposing a proposed Walmart big-box store near the central square of Watertown. In the U.S., citizens of towns and villages have a say in what happens to their areas, and elected officials can veto proposals be they of setting up stores, building highways or railways. He informed me that they had been getting a lot of support, which had translated into some elected city councillors getting pressured not to court Walmart.

Fast-forward a few years. In November 2011, the incumbent vicepresident of the City Council came very close to being defeated by a candidate fighting almost solely on the agenda of stopping Walmart from

gaining a foothold in Watertown. In June 2012, Walmart announced it was shelving plans to set up shop in Watertown. At the same time, it also suspended plans to build in a store in the neighbouring town of Somerville.

The Walmart spokesperson said, In the case of the Somerville and Watertown sites, we made a business decision that the projected cost of investment would ultimately exceed our expected return. There was another thing common to these two towns both had popular citizens initiatives opposing the entry of Walmart in their areas. In response to this, Barbara Ruskin of Sustainable Watertown issued a statement that read We, the members of Sustainable Watertown, applaud the news of our campaigns success and pledge to continue to work with town residents and members, supporting neighbourhood groups, taking an

early role in planning and development projects, and providing venues for discussions of sustainability. We will continue to advocate on behalf of the town for a positive vision of a healthy, just and prosperous community.

Gaps in the network

This is not a long-winded argument against Walmart or other large multibrand retail chain stores and their pros and cons vis--vis the local community. This simply is a reminder that there are gaps in the network of stores Walmart wants to establish. Those gaps are populated by real people, who, like most of us, are consumers who love low prices. But at the same time, many of them feel that they would have to pay a very high price in other aspects of life in their community if they bite the low price bait. These gaps, in the shadow of the

glorious network of Walmart, when joined together by an alternative perspective of what really matters, also form a United States. It extends beyond Watertown and Somerville and beyond the faux anti-corporate sensibilities of affluent white hipsters. Among the cities, towns and villages all across the nation which have put a low upper limit to the maximum area that can be covered by a shop, one can count Ashland (Oregon), Oakley (California), Madison (Wisconsin), Ravalli County (Montana), Sante Fe (New Mexico), San Diego (California) and many more. Join the dots and the contours of a nation emerge. This is a USA of Walmart-gaps that few hear about, but it exists nonetheless.

The UPA government has cleared foreign direct investment in multibrand retail. This adds diversity and capital-power to the already existing scene of Indian multi-brand retail

giants. In a rare and cunning gesture to State rights, it has added an enabling rider so that individual States can choose to not permit the entry of foreign multi-brand retail entities in their respective areas. The Centre has made a lot out of this enabling clause, and has waxed eloquent about its commitment to States rights as well as democratic principles. It has also driven home the opposite point that the refusal of a certain province should not hold up the power of other areas to host Walmarts. This is quite reasonable, in my opinion. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If the Centre is indeed sensitive to the differing aspirations and development trajectories of different regions, why does it not have such clauses across the board, in all aspects of trade and commerce and beyond that, in much of what are called the Central and Concurrent lists?

The Indian Union never tires to tout its successes in the devolution of power by the Panchayati Raj system. In fact, taking the logic of devolution to its logical end, why does it not allow the lower units of the local government to veto decisions and policies that the local body thinks are inimical to the interests of the area? By feverishly canvassing for the rights of the individual as a consumer, this apparently libertarian rhetoric is exposed when the Centre devolves powers to local bodies without giving them veto powers over most decisions that govern life on the ground, including the right to refuse certain kinds of entities to set up shop in an area. As long as the fundamental rights of the individual citizen are not compromised, what does the Centre fear? If the gram panchayats could decide the fate of what comes up in their areas, future Nandigrams could be avoided. They might choose to have Walmarts. Or not. On being

liberated from Lutyens notions of constitutionality, that is what democracy looks like.

(The writer is postdoctoral scholar in Brain and Cognitive Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)

If we are going to buy American, why

not adopt the American way of giving

local bodies the right to refuse entry to

super stores in their area

October 12, 2012

A loo of ones own

BIJLI, SADAK, PAANI ...SHAUCHALYA: The need for toilets is not a trivial issue. A file picture of an awareness campaign against open defecation in Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu. PHOTO: M. MOORTHY Lets forget about what Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said and focus on what he is trying to do. It is not an easy campaign to launch and run. Imagine someone asking what do you do? And having to answer, I promote toilets toilet construction and toilet use. Most activists would happily say I work on land rights, or housing rights, or equal wages, or the right to education. How many of us would stand up, proud, without batting an eyelid and say, I work on toilet rights? Saddled by both a yuck factor and funny factor, its a tough sell. Dealing

with defecation, and its stench is yes, yucky. And scatological jokes, a dime a dozen.

Also, toilets appear trivial, fairly low down on our list of stated development priorities. Right to food is up there on top. Then the bijli, sadak, paani slogan takes over. Adding house w/toilet seems a stretch. Almost a luxury that poor people somehow do not deserve. At best, middle-class India will accept a toilet rights movement only so it cleans up our streets and roadsides, and we do not have to gingerly step over mounds of fly covered excrement when we take our morning walk. Its the same sentiment that makes us want to remove or cover up slum dwellings and shanties. Remove the eyesore, so we can go about our pleasant lives without having to look at the unpleasant lives of our fellow citizens. And we can defecate every

morning in the privacy of our tiled toilet, fitted with a flush, wondering why on earth those people think open defecation is their birthright.

Anyone who has spent time working with Indias have-nots (in this case those without toilets) whether in rural or in urban areas, will know that open defecation is a bit of a euphemism. For women generally, there is nothing open about it, save for the sky above their heads.

In large parts of rural India, women wake up pre-dawn, and carry a vessel of water to a quiet spot, doing their business under the cover of darkness, managing to retain a bit of privacy and dignity. God forbid nature calls in the middle of the day, just hold it in. Never mind the cramps, chronic constipation, piles and poor digestion that will plague them for life. I recall a stroll at dawn many decades ago,

along a small river in a backward periurban part of Uttar Pradesh. The sloping bank was dotted with squatting women, rows of exposed skin, but every face fully covered with a ghunghat . I understood something about the many ways women held on to their dignity since they had no choice but to expose their bare bottoms for the world to see, they made sure no one could identify their faces. They were, quite literally, saving face.

Assam visit

On a recent visit to Assam with Oxfam India, among the few humanitarian aid agencies working there in both flood and conflict districts, I developed new appreciation for the toilet. When asked just what Oxfam was doing in the relief camps, I learnt it was distributing buckets, mugs, hygiene kits and constructing toilets.

Toilets are their big thing (they have a target of 200 latrines) quick semipermanent constructions taking no more than two days to build, with a deep disposal pit, concrete slabs for squatting, in a plastic-sheeted cubicle. Visiting camp after camp I understood the priority. Imagine a camp with 12,000 displaced people, crowded into scores of tiny tents, in an open field that the incessant rains have turned into a swamp, with everyone defecating where they can. It is a health nightmare. Or, imagine another camp, where people walk to the nearest water body a pond, a lake and defecate in the same place from where they will later draw water for cooking. Sickness in these camps will spread like wildfire.

Women in the camps were the most appreciative of the toilets, for they clearly needed them most desperately. A half-hour boat ride

away, in a flood stricken village partially swallowed up by the Brahmaputra, a woman came up to us. Oxfam had constructed a toilet about 20 feet outside her hut. She meekly asked if they could extend the tarpaulin screen from the side of her hut to the toilet, so that people in the village did not have to know every time she used it. Even in a time of such crisis, having lost everything else, she was trying to hold on to a bit of her dignity.

The fact is that toilets are not a trivial matter. Toilets are a sanitation issue, a health issue, a privacy and dignity issue, and yes, a gender rights issue. Its time we took them seriously.

(Farah Naqvi, a writer and activist, is a member of the National Advisory Council. The views expressed are personal. Email: )

For much of India, toilets are all about an issue of sanitation, health, privacy and dignity, and gender rights October 13, 2012

Black September
Though Bangladesh has a reputation of being a country of harmony, it witnessed a bout of communal violence recently, in which the minority Buddhist community was the worst affected. The incidents, in which fanatics launched a premeditated attack in Ramu, Ukhia, Teknaf and Patiya on September 29 and 30, have no parallel in the countrys history.

Ramu, a Buddhist dominant area was the worst affected, with the attack being well-orchestrated. Seven Buddhist monasteries, some of them over a century old, and three Sima

Biharas were burnt and around 200 houses belonging to the minority community, ransacked and looted. A Buddhist temple and two Hindu temples were vandalised in Patiya.

Not only had the attackers mobilised support holding rallies and processions, but also used gunpowder and petrol in the attack, which has displaced hundreds of people.

The Buddhist religious sites, some of them over a hundred years old, are repositories of an invaluable cultural heritage. As news spread, condemnation, poured in from across the country, with government officials and media personnel rushing to the spots.

Independent reports have suggested unprecedented acts of subversion in minority populated villages, revealing

an unprovoked, premeditated and well-orchestrated operation.

What is however left to be unravelled is the identity of those who masterminded the unprecedented acts of desecration since Bangladeshs independence.

Facebook post

The attack was reportedly sparked off by an offensive Facebook post, allegedly by a young Buddhist man of the locality, although nothing concrete was known about the origin and authorship of the post. Locals have said that the followers of a fundamentalist party, led by several leaders, took out a procession alleging that a photo was uploaded on Facebook to defame the Quran. However, many Facebook users said the man did not post the photo but

had linked it from another Facebook ID, and was in no way responsible. There is a strong feeling that the agent provocateurs may have then jumped in to exploit unfolding events.

Bangladeshs long tradition of harmonious coexistence between people of various creeds, especially in the Coxs Bazar area has been dented by this. Questions are being asked about the failure of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to protect places of worship for minorities and their property despite advance intelligence. Perhaps the unfolding disaster could have been averted had pre-emptive measures been taken.

A couple of days before the incidents, it was reported that a militant Bangladesh outfit was trying to establish its base in the inaccessible hilly area of the Chittagong Hill tracts. Locals say that a section of the

Rohingya refugees, who were persecuted in Myanmar, had played a crucial role. Many are also of the opinion that the motive was to foil the ongoing trial of war criminals of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.

There is growing demand for an impartial enquiry, identifying the instigators and awarding exemplary punishment.

After visiting the affected areas, Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said the government would take action through the Speedy Trial Tribunal (STT). A few hundred suspects are in custody.

For the Hasina government, the incidents in Ramu, Ukhia, Teknaf and Patiya are a wake-up call.

The mood in the country is clear: the perpetrators must be punished, victims amply compensated and the monasteries and temples rebuilt. The government has promised to rebuild the structures and ensure the security and rehabilitation of the victims.

(The writer is a Bangladesh journalist and writer. Email: )

Recent incidents in Bangladesh, which targeted the minorities and their religious sites, have dented its tradition of communal harmony October 13, 2012

Making it for the people again

The one significant question being thrown us by the India Against

Corruption (IAC) movement is this: is the movement for or against the countrys much revered democracy? The answer, as often in questions relating to society or politics, is neither a clear yes nor no. It is antidemocratic in as much as democracy has become the equivalent of the holding of elections and the forming of governments. Once elections have been held and governments formed, any questioning of the rights or, more important, the legitimacy of any act of our elected representatives or of the elected governments, except through the due processes of law, is immediately pronounced antidemocratic. There are institutions and provisions within the democratic structures available to citizens to express their dissent, we are assured; any movement outside of these structures itself becomes illegal, and therefore illegitimate.

But the institutions and structures also have a life and a mutable character. When these have turned, or have been perceived to have turned, into fortresses for the defence of the rights and decisions of those who have been elected and those who find favour with them, never mind through what manner or means, and when these rights and decisions are perceived to be in conflict with the very lives of those who have elected them, the legitimacy, if not strictly the legality, of the institutions and structures lends itself to grave questioning. Let us remember that the declaration of the Emergency in 1975 was perfectly legal; it was its dubious legitimacy that led to the defeat of the ruling party in the elections of 1977.

Today, once again, there are serious doubts about the legitimacy of the whole system of governance which

has spawned unforeseen corruption and, above all, an economy that increasingly concentrates wealth at the very thin upper crust leaving the 99 per cent to fend for themselves. Corruption, while being an issue in itself, is indeed the instrument of the implementation of economic policies that have created, and are constantly creating fissures between the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent; and corruption is not merely monetary in nature; it is corruption of the whole system of governance that is at stake. Corruption of the electoral process which sends a third of elected leaders with self-declared heinous crimes like murder, kidnapping, rape and the rest to virtually every Assembly and the Lok Sabha. The judiciary has also been shown to be less than lily white. The democratic institution of periodic elections offers no way out for those at the receiving end, for periodic recirculation of power among the political parties has only brought a

periodic redistribution of wealth among them and their cohorts. They are all quite happy with it.

Not exclusive

Indeed, what is happening in India is not exclusive to it; in some ways the redistribution of wealth and its concentration at the upper end is happening in a major chunk of the planet we inhabit, following the same economic doctrines. The forms of popular resistance to it are also similar outside the framework of the legal and institutional systems. The slogan We are the 99 per cent originated in New York as did the Occupy Wall Street movement, although it did not impact the U.S. polity substantially. But growing awareness of the inequities of the paths of growth around the world is in itself a significant phenomenon denoting a restlessness that is often a

precursor to encompassing metamorphoses. Even now, a different regime of economy is being experimented within parts of Latin America, to an extent in Brazil, but especially in Venezuela.

Is IAC then seeking an overthrow of the system of democracy that has evolved in India over the past 60-odd years? At any rate, is it possible at all to do that? Not quite; neither of these. The fact that a branch of IAC, led by Arvind Kejriwal, will participate in elections and seek the popular mandate to govern, should put paid to any suspicion on that score.

Right from the days of Anna Hazares fast at Jantar Mantar last year, the loud cry being heard was that he is undermining the countrys hallowed democratic institutions, although he would have found the competition to do so with elected representatives

very hard to win. Not allowing Parliament to function when you do not have a majority does not quite enhance the spirit of democracy, and lest we forget, no party has patented an exclusive right to this practice. IACs actions on the streets and in public places, often verging on the absurd, highlight the conflict that has got entrenched between the institutions of governance and the aspirations of the people, contrary to the very premise of democracy which emphasises a symbiosis between the two. The movement is a clarion call to the system as a whole to redefine the polity and the economy to restore the symbiosis so crucial to an orderly functioning; it is a call for reforming from within rather than the threat of an overthrow.

(Harbans Mukhia was a professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.)

The movement by India Against Corruption is a call to the system as a whole

to redefine the polity and the economy October 13, 2012

In dubious battle at heavens gate

On September 8, 1962, the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army surrounded a small Indian Army post in Tsenjang to the north of the Namka Chu stream just below the disputed Thagla ridge at the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. The Indian post came to be established as a consequence of the asinine Forward Policy which was adopted by the Indian government

after the Sino-Indian border dispute began hotting up, particularly after the flight of the Dalai Lama to India. The Chinese couldnt have chosen a better place than Tsenjang to precipitate a military conflict with India. For a start, Tsenjang was to the north of the de facto border, which at that point ran midstream of the Namka Chu. The PLA also commanded the high ground. By surrounding Tsenjang, the Chinese had flung down the gauntlet at India. India walked right into it, chin extended.

Government warned

On September 10, the then Defence Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, conveyed his decision that the matter must be settled on the field, overruling the vehement objections of the Army Chief, General P.N. Thapar. Gen. Thapar warned that the Chinese had deployed in strength and even

larger numbers were concentrated at nearby Le, very clearly determined to attack in strength if need be. He warned that the fighting would break out all along the border and that there would be grave repercussions. But orders are orders and, consequently, the Eastern Command ordered Brigadier J.P. Dalvi commanding 7 Brigade to move forward within forty eight hours and deal with the Chinese investing Dhola. Having imposed this order on a reluctant Army, Krishna Menon left for New York on September 18 but not before slyly conveying to the press that the Indian Army had been ordered to evict the Chinese from the Indian territory. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru too was abroad having left India on September 7 only to return on September 30.

The Indian Army was under pressure but Gen. Thapar was still not prepared

to bow to sheer stupidity. On September 22, at a meeting presided over by the Deputy Minister, K. Raghuramiah, Gen. Thapar once again warned the government of the possibility of grave repercussions and now demanded written orders. He received the following order signed by H.C. Sarin, then a mere Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Defence: The decision throughout has been as discussed at previous meetings, that the Army should prepare and throw out the Chinese as soon as possible. The Chief of Army Staff was accordingly directed to take action for the eviction of the Chinese in the Kameng Frontier Division of NEFA [North East Frontier Agency] as soon as he was ready. It was unambiguous insomuch as it conveyed the governments determination to evict the Chinese, but by leaving the Army Chief to take action when he was ready for it was seeking to pass the onus on to him. With such waffling

skills, it is no small wonder that Sarin rose to great heights in the bureaucracy.

Pressure from MPs

Under the previous Army Chief, General K.S. Thimayya, the Indian Army had developed a habit of winking at the governments impossible demands often impelled by its fanciful public posturing. The posturing itself was an outcome of the trenchant attacks on the government in Parliament by a galaxy of MPs. One particular MP, the young Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was particularly eloquent in his quest to put Jawaharlal Nehru on the defensive. He and others like Lohia, Kripalani and Masani would frequently thunder that every inch of sacred Indian territory must be freed from the Chinese and charge the government with a grave dereliction of duty. Nehru finally obliged by

initiating the stupid Forward Policy and resorting to the use of more extravagant language to signal his own determination to the Indian public. A general summed this policy succinctly by writing: we would build a post here and they would build one there and it became a bit of a game, to get there first!

Nehru returned on September 30 and was furious that the Chinese were still not thrown out from the Thagla ridge. He was tired of the Indian Armys refrain of grave repercussions. He shouted at the hapless Army Chief: I dont care if the Chinese came as far as Delhi, they have to be driven out of Thagla. Unlike Gen. Thimayya, Gen. Thapar was possibly a more obedient soldier, probably even less understanding of the governments compulsions and hence took its orders far more literally and seriously than it deserved.

Within the Indian Army, there were serious reservations about the efficacy of the governments orders. The GOC, Northern Command, Lt. Gen Daulat Singh, warned the government that it is imperative that political direction be based on military means. The 33 Corps, which was responsible for the sector, sent its candid opinions on the order. Its Brigadier General Staff, Jagjit Singh Aurora, who later won enduring fame as the liberator of Bangladesh, called up his friend Brigadier D.K. Palit, the then Director of Military Operations, and berated him for issuing such impractical orders. Not only were the Chinese better placed in terms of terrain, men and material, the Indian troops were woefully ill-equipped, illclothed and had to be supplied by mule, trains or airdrops. They were acutely short of ammunition. The objective of evicting the Chinese from Thagla itself was of no strategic or

tactical consequence. The nation clearly needed a greater objective to go to precipitate an unequal war.

Bureaucratic chicanery

The governments reaction was a typical instance of political and bureaucratic chicanery and cunning. It ordered the establishment of the 4 Corps culled out from 33 Corps and appointed Maj. Gen. B.M. Kaul, a Nehru kinsman and armchair general who had never commanded a fighting unit earlier. Gen. Kaul was from the Army Supply Corps and earned his spurs by building barracks near Ambala in record time. He was a creature peculiar to Delhis political hothouse and adept in all the bureaucratic skills that are still in demand there. He had the Prime Ministers ear and thats all that mattered. And so off he went, a dubious soldier seeking dubious battle

and dubious glory that might even propel him to much higher office. Welles Hangen in his book After Nehru Who? profiled B.M. Kaul as a possible successor. The rest is history, a tale of dishonour, defeat and more duplicity about which much has been written.

Fifty years is a long time ago and the memory of 1962 is now faint. But what should cause the nation concern is that the lessons of 1962 still do not seem to have been learnt. If at all anything, the Indian Army is now an even greater and much more misused instrument of public policy. If in 1962, it was a relatively small army with 1930s equipment, it is a million man army in 2012 with 1960s equipment. Let alone the Chinese PLA, almost every terrorist and insurgent in Jammu and Kashmir has better arms and communication gear than our soldiers. Even the Border Security

Force has superior logistics, vestments and small arms. We persist in benchmarking against the Pakistanis when we should be benchmarking against the Chinese, if not the Russians and Americans.


Governmental decision-making is still characterised by ad hocism and a tendency to grandstand. It was this tendency that cost us so many lives in Kargil when we went into quick battle mostly to assuage public opinion and for domestic political gain, without thinking through the tactics. It is only the unquestioning soldiers of the Indian Army who will still charge like the Light Brigade.

But does anyone of consequence in India, including in the Indian Army, commiserate these days over the

futile and quite unnecessary loss of over 7,000 lives, so much of humiliation as a consequence of so much of foolishness by men holding high offices? In 1962, lyricist Pradeep wrote the now famous song whose first line runs aye mere watan ke logon, zara aankh mey bhar lo paani, jo shaheed hue hain unki, zara yaad karo qurbani . When Lata Mangeshkar sang this to an audience that included Jawaharlal Nehru, it is said that tears flowed from every pair of eyes. The song still has that magical quality, but few now seem to know what train of events caused those poignant words to be written and what emotions put that enduring magic in Latas voice.

If politicians cannot find the time or the attention span to read some of the numerous books and articles written on the subject, they should at least listen to the song and shed a tear

for our fallen warriors. We owe them that much for they have, as Kaifi Azmi wrote in 1964: kar chale hum fida jaan aur tan sathiyon, ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyon !

(Mohan Guruswamy is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

We seem to have learned nothing as a country from the Indian Armys defeat

and dishonour in 1962 October 13, 2012

English language learning must go hand in hand with multilingualism

WITHIN THE BOARD:English language and literature must be brought into the fold of the literatures and habitat of postcolonial India. PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM In the classic Odia short story of the late 19th Century called Daka Munshi , Fakir Mohan Senapatis memorable character, Gopal Babu, the English educated postmaster, treats his father Hari Singh as a fool and an imbecile, showering upon him gratuitous English blows for his ignorance of English. It is an iconic tale that is marked by the debate over the English language and its selective appropriation by the emerging bourgeoisie in the colonial State. While education is strongly upheld by the author as a major objective, westernisation, primarily seen propelled through the English

language, is often equated with the colonising agenda of the British.

Colonial tropes

Fakir Mohans dark foreboding about the menace of English, recurrently found in his works, would appear outright apocalyptic in the context of the language scene in the globalised world today. Consider the following statistics: English is used by about 750 million people, only half of whom speak it as a mother tongue. More than half the worlds technical and scientific periodicals are in English; English is the medium for 80 per cent of the information stored in the worlds computers. Three quarters of the worlds mail, telexes and cables are in English. As McCrum and McNeil (1986) state, Whatever the total, English at the end of the 20th Century is more widely scattered, more widely spoken and written than any other

language has ever been. It has become the language of the planet, the first truly global language. (Peirce, Bronwyn Norton, 1989).

Sumanyu Satpathys article in The Hindu, Let a hundred tongues be heard (editorial page, September 27, 2012), draws our attention to the baneful dominance of English (and Hindi) at the expense of the Indian languages. In my response, primarily focusing on English, I shall try and map out an alternative scenario to the one Professor Satpathy has outlined.


I shall, in the first instance, acknowledge the importance of the widespread desire for English in India, Second, I shall argue that this desire, traditionally seen as antagonistic to the interests of indigenous languages

and literatures, need not be so if we were to frame the debate differently, (our postcolonial location offers such a possibility!) and finally, I shall suggest that new techniques and practices must be found urgently to combine English language learning with multilingualism.

The globalisation of the Indian economy in the 1990s seemed to signal the need for a globalised workforce. Academic and ideologue Kancha Illiah notes that since the backward class people of India had no entry to the colonial English world, the new move to teach English in all government schools becomes a welcome one. Illiah disagrees with the upper caste contention that English will destroy the culture of the soil. Logically speaking, he says, the next step would be the abolition of the gap between the prevalent English

medium schools and the government school in terms of both teaching and infrastructure. (Dalit and English, Deccan Herald , September 27, 2012)

New expertise

How can we fulfil the widespread demand for English learning? Could this perhaps be done by the introduction of new variants of English, say of the basic kind that the English critic I.A. Richards had spoken of? Additionally, I would argue that in the given scenario, we must have a national policy for English language learning with matching resources and increased institutional support.

Indian English has come of age, and has been accepted as a legitimate category the world over. Consequently, we must develop our

own expertise suitable to our own conditions. English language and literature must be brought into the fold of the literatures and habitat of postcolonial India. It is here that the teachers of English must address their task in an innovative and professional manner.


And finally, the question of English and multilingualism: we must develop new paradigms and tools for the teaching of English in India. Instead of an approach that upholds a cordon sanitaire between English and Indian languages, English teaching must not be context neutral. To be effective, it has to take into account factors like learner position, textual implication, assumptions underlying teaching methodology, etc. (Mishra and Murali Krishna, 2007).This could also be furthered by critical bilingualism:

the ability to not just speak two languages but to be conscious of the socio-cultural, political and ideological contexts in which the Languages operate (Walsh, 1991).


What then is our vision of the global English of the brave new world? It is to indigenise and localise the teaching of English language and literatures even as we aspire to play our legitimate role in the global turf. English language learning in India must go hand in hand with multilingualism. By such actions, we will be sensitive to plurality in the classroom situation and relate to the varied language/caste/class backgrounds the students come from. This must be as true of our cultural politics as of English teaching in the classroom.

(Sachidananda Mohanty is professor and former head, Department of English, University of Hyderabad.) October 15, 2012

In defence of the politician

Harbans Mukhias article in TheHindu , Making it for the people again (OpEd, October 13, 2012), has endorsed the campaign against graft led by Arvind Kejriwal as a movement that has the potential to make democracy once again for the people.

He argues that the movement highlights the growing crisis of legitimacy of the whole system of governance and squarely restrengthens democracy and the democratic content of public institutions by making them more

accountable, in tilting them in favour of the 99 per cent. While the article correctly notes that what is legal, like the Emergency of 1975, need not necessarily be legitimate, it assumes, however, that what is popular is unambiguously democratic and singular.

The problem with campaigns such Anna Hazares and now Mr. Kejriwals is that they assume a seamless continuity between social campaigns and political mobilisation. If one is serious about democracy, one cannot afford to overlook the consequences of these two different plains and their implications for democracy. While it is easy to correlate popular will with social activism against corruption, the moment it enters political/electoral politics the dynamics undergo dramatic transformation. It is relatively easy to generate consent and consensus in the social domain

especially against issues such as corruption; every individual and social group can afford to concede the point that corruption is illegitimate, morally degrading and undermines democracy. However, politics has to do with concrete interests and wider social, and cultural beliefs and prejudices of individuals and social groups and does not have the privilege to pick and choose issues. This is where democracy is a far more complex game than what we are given to believe by Mr. Kejriwal, and academics like Prof. Mukhia and Yogendra Yadav.

If democracy is all about articulating and representing popular will, then one needs to be equally concerned about the content of that popular will. When the popular is not democratic in content but popular amounts to democracy, how does one work towards reconciliation between the

two? The recent spate of events in Haryana, and the pronouncements by the leaders of the Khap panchayats, which found resonance in the views expressed by the Ministers in the Congress government, explains the inherent conflict within democratic processes. In this case what is popular and by the people is not necessarily democratic in content, but political leaders are expected to represent the popular will, and to that extent were legitimate in expressing the popular beliefs of the constituency they represent. Politics, therefore, unlike social campaigns, cannot have the privilege of selectively picking and choosing issues that are perceived to be unproblematically and morally correct, and can generate consensus.

Nature of democracy

Politics includes everything from the public to the private, and the nature

of democracy is decided by how politicians respond and negotiate between multiple issues that are often conflicting. It is for this reason that we expect politicians to have an opinion on everything. It is pertinent while talking of democracy to remember that not only is the popular not necessarily democratic but the people are not necessarily united but have conflicting interests. Politics and democracy are essentially an art of generating a consensus-majority amidst these conflicting interests, on the one hand, and negotiating and representing social views that are uneven sometimes democratic but many a time regressive on the other.

Corruption, therefore, has roots not merely in the economy but also in the nature of the polity and society itself. It is in negotiating with what could sometimes be irreconcilable differences between social groups,

and in accommodating interests that cannot be easily accommodated, that corruption finds its place in what we often refer to as populist and corrupt measures, including offering money, liquor, and other imaginative and sometimes unimaginable sops.

Again, while Prof. Mukhia is right in pointing out that we have adopted an economic model that impoverished the majority, even here it has impoverished different social groups to different extents and in different ways. The ways the tribals of Chhattisgarh have got displaced and impoverished is markedly different from the way the backward classes have been treated. People always perceive inequality not in absolute terms but in relative terms, and it is for this reason that even the urban middle classes feel they have had it rough with economic reforms. Democracy heightens and brings into

play these nuances and uneven impacts that are not imagined but real. How to tilt the popular will in favour of the poorest and the most deprived keeping these open, conflicting and representative mechanisms in place is the real challenge and the most effective way of making it for the people again and not in generating a moralistic critique of politics and politicians holding a moral high ground for generating consensus through social activism and around selectively and prudently chosen issues.

Undermining this difference, far from strengthening democracy will actually undermine it. Imagining a simplistic consensus for the people has always given rise to authoritarian regimes, which is what partially explains why all campaigns against graft, even in the past, have tilted towards right-wing modes of mobilisation, including that

led by Jayaprakash Narayan. Politicians of the day need to be critiqued and held accountable but the avocation of politics and the creative image and role of a politician in a democracy need to be avowedly defended.

(Ajay Gudavarthy is at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.) October 15, 2012

A liability for our nuclear plans

In the context of the ongoing debate on Kudankulam, the question of nuclear liability has come to the fore again. As a person who engaged with this question almost 50 years ago, I would like to throw some light on the subject. As a lead member of the Indian team negotiating the Tarapur

contract with the Americans, it fell to my remit to address this matter. General Electric and Westinghouse, who were the serious bidders, explained to us the practice in the United States whereby the owneroperator of the plant assumed the nuclear liability risk. The operator indemnified suppliers of equipment because the financial risk of a nuclear accident, though very remote, could not be reasonably factored in by the chain of suppliers involved in a nuclear project, in their contracts. The owner-operators of nuclear power plant, who were mostly investorowned utilities, were asked to take insurance up to a limit available in the market. The U.S government assumed liability beyond the insurable limit up to another limit set under the PriceAnderson Act, passed by the U.S Congress. The limit set under the Price-Anderson Act has been increased progressively from time to time.

Protection in the contract

General Electric, chosen to build Tarapur, wanted an indemnity protection similar to what it was extended in the U.S. Initially, it insisted that there should be legislative protection. On the Indian side, we felt it was premature to pass a law as we were then thinking of building only a small number of nuclear power units to demonstrate the economic feasibility of nuclear power under Indian conditions. We persuaded G.E. that a protection in the contract, which was in any case approved by the Government of India, would be adequate. When an agreement with the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) was drawn up for building the first two reactors at Rajasthan, a similar indemnity protection was extended to AECL and its suppliers. Since India took up

building nuclear power units of its own design, indemnity protection has been a part of nearly all supply contracts.

One may ask, in hindsight, if India did the right thing in extending such nuclear liability protection in the past. If we had not done so, we would not have been able to import our first two reactors from the U.S., nor the second pair from Canada. There is no doubt whatever that India gained a great deal by building the Tarapur reactors with U.S. collaboration. India learnt early the problems of operating nuclear power units in our grid systems and also in managing a complex nuclear installation with our own engineers and technicians. In the case of cooperation with Canada, India was able to get the basic knowhow of the pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR). Thereafter, we progressed on our own to design

and build 16 PHWRs in seven locations. Now we are building four 700 megawatt PHWRs of our own design. Four more will follow soon and possibly another four will also be built, thus making a total of 12 PHWRs of 700MW each. Therefore, early cooperation with Canada helped us to become a designer and builder of nuclear power plants.

Let us look at the way an owneroperator manages a nuclear power plant. Even where a plant has been supplied by a single entity under a turnkey contract, many vendors, often running into thousands, would have supplied many components. During operation, the operator incorporates many changes and modifications to improve the reliability, ease of operation and efficiency. They may or may not have been done in full consultation with the original suppliers of equipment. Chances that

sub-suppliers would be consulted on changes are very small. Moreover, nuclear power plants operate for 50 years or longer; our first two Tarapur reactors have in fact completed 43 years. So on objective grounds, the operating entity being solely responsible for nuclear liability is grounded in sound reason. There are about 430 reactors operating in 30 countries the world over. All of them, without exception, have been built under arrangements where nuclear liability flows to the operator. The operator, depending on the political system prevailing in the country, covers the risk to the extent possible by insurance. The government of the country takes up the liability beyond the insurance limit; it may also define an upper limit to its own liability, through legislation. Under the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, a multilateral convention, participating states can

also share the liability risk to a defined extent.

India took up the task of drafting a nuclear liability Act whose primary purpose was to ensure prompt compensation to any member of the public who might have suffered injury, death or damage to property due to a nuclear accident. Much of the debate in India took place in the context of the Bhopal tragedy, which was also being considered by Parliament at the same time. In this atmosphere, the legislation that was passed included a right of recourse for the operator against the supplier in case of latent or patent defects or wilful misconduct. We must remember that for our own projects based on our own technology, we depend on a large number of Indian suppliers. The value of these contracts may run into several hundred crores or maybe as low as a crore or less. These suppliers

cannot be expected to cover themselves for large value risks of long duration. Therefore, under the rules to be drafted, the Department of Atomic Energy has tried to inject realism by defining the duration of the risk to be the product liability period or five years, whichever is less, and a cap on the risk being the value of the contract. We find that long-standing suppliers of DAE and NPCIL are unhappy to go along even with these caps, as they feel that carrying large contingent liabilities on their books hurts their credit ratings. They, therefore, prefer to move to nonnuclear activities, even though they have acquired valuable nuclear expertise on work done earlier.

In much of the debate in the media and in our courts, it is often suggested that the nuclear liability legislation has been written to suit foreign MNCs.

The fact is that after 2008, when India signed nuclear cooperation agreements with the U.S, France and Russia (and some other countries), not even one contract for the import of reactors has been signed to date. With France, discussions have covered technical and safety issues, and commercial discussions are in progress now. In the case of the U.S., the discussions are still on technical and safety issues. Only in the case of Russia was an agreement signed in 2008 for Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam, essentially as an extension of the agreement covering Units 1 and 2. Prices have been derived for Units 3 and 4 using the earlier price as a basis. The loan agreement also is based on the earlier pattern.

The 2008 agreement

The 2008 agreement provides that India would extend indemnity

protection for Units 3 and 4, on the same lines as Units 1 and 2. I had in fact negotiated the earlier agreement in 1988, in keeping with the prevailing international practice. If India wants the Units 3 and 4 agreement to comply with its 2010 liability legislation, there is a danger that the entire 2008 agreement may be reopened.

Some of our legal experts point out that the law of the land is Polluter Pays. This may be so on paper. In practice, all our thermal power stations are putting out carbon dioxide, which is a pollutant. Are they paying for that? Similarly, all our cities are putting out sewage and solid waste to the environment. Again, sadly, they are not paying for that. In fact nuclear energy poses the least pollution hazard; there is no fly ash, acid rain, or carbon dioxide released into the environment. Units 1 and 2 of

Kudankulam were built under a contract entered into in 1988 (and renewed in 1998), before our liability legislation of 2010. We are finding great difficulty in moving ahead with Indian designed and built projects due to some of the provisions of the 2010 legislation. We must arrive at a solution whereby electric power generation growth is assisted to the maximum extent possible, while ensuring that the safety of the people is in no way adversely impacted. With regards to Kudankulam 1 and 2, the delay of one year has already pushed up the tariff from Rs. 3 per KWH to Rs 3.25 per KWH. Any further delay will similarly increase the cost of power to the consumers.

(M.R. Srinivasan is a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission)

Tough provisions in the 2010 law are

making it difficult to move ahead even

with projects designed and built by India October 15, 2012

Time to play the Gender-card

GILLARDS BLAST:Her speech will resonate around the world, including in India as it is rare for a woman leader to make such a forthright speech on the subject. An October 12, 2012 picture of Julia Gillard (left) and Tony Abbott (right). PHOTO: REUTERS Julia Gillard, Australias first female Prime Minister, recently launched a

blistering attack on sexism and misogyny in Parliament, that should serve as mandatory viewing by all our parliamentarians prior to her forthcoming visit to India. Her epic speech was provoked by Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition, where she told him to look in the mirror if he wanted to know what sexism and misogyny looked like.

The speech was delivered in the course of a debate about whether the Speaker of the House should resign over the publication of a series of sexist and misogynistic texts that he allegedly sent to one of his staffers. The Opposition leader argued that the failure to sack the Speaker would make Gillard complicit in the sexism. The Prime Minister promptly turned to Abbott and declared, I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever. She then proceeded to skewer Abbott,

detailing a litany of sexist and misogynistic remarks that had been made by him more generally as well as specifically against the Prime Minister. The list ranged from Abbotts questioning whether it was a bad thing that men have more power than women to his characterisation of Australian women as housewives who are busy with ironing. The Prime Minister accused him of catcalling her in Parliament as well as for standing next to a sign at an anticarbon tax rally that stated Ditch the Witch.

Familial factor

Gillards speech has been hailed as a pivotal moment not only in Australian politics, but also globally as it is rare for a woman leader to make such a forthright speech on sexism in public life. There is often a fear that she will be accused of playing the gender

card despite the statistics in most liberal democracies that gender is a significant issue at the level of both leadership in political life as well as in the workplace. Gillards blast resonates around the world, including in India. While in India, and a number of South Asian countries, there have been any number of women leaders starting most obviously with Indira Gandhi, there has not been any memorable moment when a woman leader has dared to challenge the sexism that is so deeply embedded in the body politics of this region. In order to combat sexism, it is important to name it as that also provides space then to do something about it.

The presence and role of women leaders within the South Asian context have often been cast in familial terms. That is, she derives her credibility as a dutiful daughter of a great fallen

leader, as in the case of both Indira Gandhi or Benazir Bhutto, or as maternal and nurturing, a label sometimes used to describe Sonia Gandhi, or as a dutiful wife carrying out her martyred husbands legacy as in the case of both Sonia Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, who was the first female head of government, and widow of assassinated Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike.

Rife but invisible

Sexism in Indian politics is rife, but it remains invisible as long as womens public roles remain cast in familial terms. Creating space outside of these familial frameworks becomes both a challenge as well as necessary pursuit if the glass ceiling is ever going to be broken. Even in Australia, stepping outside of the familial fold encourages attacks on successful women and

their being viewed with considerable suspicion. Prime Minister Gillard is not married and has a live-in partner. Nor does she have children, which prompted a conservative parliamentarian to describe her as deliberately barren. She challenges what are the accepted norms of gender in her society, which is why her speech resonates for women globally and has gone viral on the internet.

In India, it remains a sad fact that women constitute only 11 per cent of the current Lok Sabha. The Womens Reservation Bill remains a stalled project. Representation of women in the central cabinet over the decades has remained appallingly low, with women put in charge of soft ministries reinforcing Abbotts view that men by philosophy or temperament are more adapted to exercise authority or to issue

command. Implicit is the assumption that the citizenry should feel more secure in the commanding hands of men. Women continue to be poorly represented in the judiciary, where the Supreme Court has seen only a handful of women justices in its entire history. In the public and private sectors alike, women remain underrepresented. It is essential for women leaders to use their positions of power to speak out on sexism and misogyny and not to ignore it any longer. It is a part of responsible leadership and accountability. While it may be a precarious line to tread, and such comments can be put down as being un-statesmen like, they can serve to validate the experiences of many women in public positions who have experienced sexist comments or misogyny in the course of doing their jobs. The forthcoming visit of the Australian Prime Minister is to be welcomed for many obvious economic and trade reasons. But it should also

be welcomed in light of the honest, eloquent and resolute oration, to the attention that she has brought to the issue of sexism in political life. Hopefully her words will reverberate in the Lok Sabha and encourage a more confident and determined stand against the incorrigible sexism that women in leadership and politics continue to face.

(Ratna Kapur is Global Professor of Law, Jindal Global Law School, Sonepat.)

Coverage of the forthcoming visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India must also focus on the attention that she has brought to the issue of sexism in political life October 16, 2012

Prince who danced with the devil

Cambodias Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who died of heart failure on Monday in Beijing at the age of 89, acted for 71 of those years as though he were centre stage of a world drama.

And he was, in a manner of speaking, because that dramas larger themes included the developing worlds struggle against western colonialism, the great ideological clash of the Cold War between the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union, the rise of non-alignment, and the emergence of China and India as global powers.

For many of those years, Sihanouk shared that stage with other Asian players such as Jawaharlal Nehru,

Zhou Enlai of China, U Thant of Burma, and Ho Chi Minh and Pham Van Dong of Vietnam.

He was the last of those leaders, and his death ends an era that began in 1941 when Sihanouk became Cambodias monarch and featured figures whose legacies endure on the world stage. For Nehru, there was the legacy of non-alignment, of a belief that science and technology would help ameliorate the poverty of his nation and other former colonies. Zhou, as Prime Minister, helped temper the ideological excesses of Mao Zedong, and his legacy of moderation later found its way into the playbooks of Chinas contemporary stewards who embraced Communism and capitalism simultaneously.

U Thant is remembered for his attempts albeit ultimately

ineffective to keep the United Nations from being unduly influenced by the U.S. and the USSR. Ho Chi Minh and Pham Van Dong, then of North Vietnam, fought the good fight against French colonialism, and then extended that fight against the American presence in South Vietnam. But what was Sihanouks legacy? After he became monarch again in the 1970s, and up till his death, he floundered in the shadow of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who dominated the Cambodian scene (and still does). Compared to his contemporaries, then, Sihanouk was not a major actor but a bit player in regional politics who seemed out of his depth on international issues.

To a large extent, that was inevitable. Cambodias population is 14 million nowhere near that of the nations of his peers. He is still resented by many in Cambodia for his support of Pol Pot,

the despot who ordered the death of nearly two million Cambodians. Sihanouk paid a heavy price personally for his Faustian pact: Pol Pots Khmer Rouge regime killed five of his children and 14 grandchildren, even as Sihanouk remained as figurehead. In view of this ugly collaboration, its mystifying that virtually every home in Cambodia today displays a picture of Sihanouk. His picture, in fact, had adorned Cambodian homes since 1941, when he was selected by France to be a titular but powerless king to succeed his uncle, Sisowath Monivong. The French were in for a surprise: Sihanouk, in an early display of the ability to shift allegiances that was to characterise his relationship with the United States and China, started clamouring for independence. The French granted it in 1953 around the same that their rule in neighbouring Vietnam was being challenged by Ho Chi Minh, and just

after Sihanouk returned to Cambodia from a self-imposed exile in Thailand.

Skilful player

Sihanouk devoted the years after independence to economic development of his resource-rich but impoverished country. But economics was almost always trumped by politics. He skilfully played the French against the United States; from the latter, Cambodia received nearly $100 million in supplies and equipment, in addition to support for Sihanouks military. (That aid was discontinued in 1963, as the Vietnam War began to heat up, drawing Cambodia into a larger Indochina conflict that pitted the U.S. against indigenous Communist forces.)

Sihanouk said during that time that he did not wish Cambodia to be allied

with either the Americans or North Vietnam. Privately he averred that he was, in effect, practicing the nonalignment preached by his friend Nehru. Publicly, he held that Cambodias French traditions were incompatible with U.S. military doctrine and world perspective, which was to contain Communism.

Even as Sihanouk became increasingly uneasy about North Vietnams military ambitions, Cambodia was being wracked by internal agitation, with reports of bloodshed caused by Sihanouks forces as they fought guerrillas affiliated to the antimonarchist Khmer Serei. (Much later, Western scholars said that during this period Sihanouk reportedly executed more than 1,000 men and women suspected of being members of Khmer Serei.)

Clearly, the domestic situation in Cambodia was becoming untenable. Sihanouk accused South Vietnam of making a land grab in border regions. He established diplomatic relations with China in the belief that it would influence North Vietnam to be less hostile to him.

In early 1970, Sihanouk was deposed by Lon Nol, who immediately pardoned some 500 political prisoners said to be affiliated with Khmer Serei. Sihanouk always held that Khmer Serei was secretly backed by the U.S. (which, of course, it was). Just before he was deposed, Sihanouk had gone to France for medical treatment; in his absence, the Cambodian Parliament voted to kick him out, and the U.S.backed Lon Nol who had been Prime Minister became the countrys new leader, who promised a new era of economic growth and political stability.

But peace and prosperity scarcely came to Cambodia. The region was too engulfed by conflict to permit that. The U.S. expanded its bombing of North Vietnam to include Cambodia on the grounds that it was being used as a conduit for Communist guerrillas headed toward South Vietnam. From his exile in Beijing, meanwhile, Sihanouk announced the formation of Front Uni National du Kampuchea more popularly known as FUNK that would serve as an umbrella group for organisations opposed to Lon Nol. Lon Nol himself had been deposed by Pol Pot, a former schoolteacher whom Sihanouk had befriended and encouraged to create a guerrilla unit known as Khmer Rouge. The ultraMaoist Khmer Rouge asked Sihanouk to return to his homeland in 1975 and made him a figurehead king.

The Khmer Rouge regime collapsed in 1979. Sihanouk, perhaps out of misguided loyalty, continued to support the guerrillas as they were driven into the dense forests of Cambodia and rallied against the Communists of Vietnam and the new Cambodian regime of Heng Samrin and, later, Hun Sen.

Despite such tension, Sihanouk continued to lead a personally varied life, producing movies and composing music. But finally he had had enough, and in January 2004, he went into exile in North Korea and then moved to Beijing. Wracked by cancer, diabetes and heart disease, Sihanouks last years were not pleasant. But those who visited him said that he was always cheerful.

(Pranay Gupte is a veteran journalist and author. E-mail: )

His alliance with the murderous Khmer Rouge and shifting allegiances on the global stage left

a troubled legacy for Cambodia October 16, 2012

Bridge over the river Cauvery

The Cauvery dispute has taken a turn for the worse. Confrontationism prevails, and we seem to be witnessing a return to the spirit of 1992, though not to violence of that order. What has gone wrong? This article is an analysis and an appeal.

Let us go back to 2007 and imagine that on the announcement of the

Final Order of the Cauvery Tribunal, the disputant States did not file Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) before the Supreme Court but only submitted clarificatory petitions to the Tribunal. Alternatively, let us imagine that the States did file SLPs before the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court refused to admit the SLPs on the ground that there was a bar on the jurisdiction of the courts. In either case, the Tribunal would have proceeded to deal with the clarificatory petitions and might have given a Further Report in about six to eight months or perhaps a year, i.e., by early 2008. The Final Order and the Further Report would then have been gazetted. The Cauvery Management Board mandated by the Tribunal would have been set up and might have become fully operational by mid2008. Thus, there would have been a machinery to deal with situations of drought and distress like the present one. Unfortunately, that imaginary

scenario did not happen. The Tribunal was (or claimed to be) unable to deal with the clarificatory petitions because the status of the Final Order itself was plunged into uncertainty when the States went to the Supreme Court with SLPs.

The Supreme Court did two inexplicable things. First, it admitted the SLPs forthwith without any explicit consideration of the bar on the jurisdiction of the courts provided for by Article 262 and incorporated in the Inter-State Water Disputes Act 1956; and second, having admitted the SLPs in 2007, it has unaccountably failed to take them up for hearing in five years time.

Shortage sharing

Turning to the Tribunals Final Order, it failed to include a method or

formula to deal with the crucial problem that lies at the heart of the Cauvery dispute, namely shortagesharing in distress years. In years of normal rainfall, more water flows from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu than the quantum laid down by the Interim Order or the Final Order. The problem of how much should flow from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu becomes contentious only in years of low flows. This should have been central to the Tribunals Final Order, but the Tribunal offered only generalities, and left it to the proposed Cauvery Management Board to deal with the problem. Further, was it really necessary for the Tribunal to take the view that the SLPs to the Supreme Court made it impossible for it to proceed with the clarificatory petitions? Why could it not have heard those petitions and given a Further Report? The view that the pendency of the SLPs prevented it

from functioning was a self-limiting one taken by the Tribunal itself.

Legal positions

The State governments and the State politicians have contributed to the impasse by adopting strident, confrontationist postures and rhetoric instead of conciliatory, solutionseeking approaches; and by rousing and not calming popular anger. Both State governments must be blamed for this; neither has made any effort to see the others case.

It needs to be added that both governments have taken untenable legal positions. Tamil Nadu started by taking its stand on long-established prior use, which is a relevant but not a clinching argument. However, being a lower riparian it had eventually to accept realistically that it must learn

to manage with reduced flows. Karnataka persists in holding fast implicitly to the assumed primacy of upper riparian rights, for which there is no basis in national or international law. There is no meeting point between those two divergent positions.

The institutional arrangements are not working. The Tribunals Award has no sanctity. The Cauvery River Authority, presided over by the Prime Minister, is hardly an Authority. The only institution with any authority seems to be the Supreme Court. Tamil Nadu keeps knocking at its doors, and now Karnataka is reported to be filing a review petition. One hopes that this process will reach finality soon.

The Central government has proved to be a weak and ineffective force, unable or unwilling to play its constitutional and statutory roles.

What can one say about the propriety of Central Cabinet Ministers becoming partisan advocates and implicitly questioning their Prime Ministers decision?

In such situations, one would expect intellectuals and persons of goodwill in either State to give wise counsel to the people, remove misperceptions, calm down excitement and anger, and promote goodwill and understanding. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much evidence of any such thing happening.

One does not know what advice the eminent Counsel representing Tamil Nadu and Karnataka give privately to their respective clients; that is confidential and privileged communication. One can only hope that they do advise their clients

against holding legally wrong and indefensible positions, against being confrontationist, and against defying judicial and constitutional authorities.

Cauvery family

The one positive element in this entire unedifying spectacle of State against State and people against people has been the Cauvery Family a loose and informal group of Cauvery basin farmers from both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu which is now known internationally. Unfortunately, while it has brought about remarkable mutual understanding and goodwill between the farmers of the two States, it has not so far been able in spite of several meetings to arrive at an agreed settlement, including a distress-sharing formula, which can be presented to the Tribunal and the Supreme Court. Even the understanding and goodwill achieved

by it is under threat in the present situation of conflict and hostility between the two States, at both official and non-official levels.

In the light of that analysis, what needs to be done? I would submit the following set of appeals for consideration:

1. To the Cauvery Family: Please continue and accelerate your work, promote understanding and goodwill and correct misperceptions in either State, and come up quickly with (a) minor adjustments to make the Tribunals award acceptable to both States, and (b) a formula or method for shortage-sharing in years of low flows.

2. To the Tribunal: Regardless of the pendency of the SLPs in the Supreme Court, please take up the clarificatory

petitions and issue a Further Report as soon as possible.

3. To the Central government: In order to enable the Tribunal to function, please fill the vacancies in it immediately.

4. To the disputant State governments: Please withdraw your SLPs from the Supreme Court and press the Tribunal for a Further Report.

5. To the Honble Supreme Court: Please take up the SLPs for hearing without further loss of time (assuming that the SLPs are not withdrawn).

6. To the eminent Counsel representing the two State governments: Please consider advising your respective clients against

adopting legally or constitutionally untenable positions, or going against the spirit of federalism, or taking confrontationist public postures that make the dispute even more intractable than it is already, or persisting in endless litigation. I hope that this appeal will not be considered improper.

7. To the intellectuals and respected public personalities in either State: Please clarify issues, correct misperceptions and errors of understanding, and promote goodwill and friendly relations between the two neighbouring States, both at the governmental and at the people-topeople levels.

8. To the media (print, TV): Please adhere scrupulously to fair and objective reporting norms, and play your part in promoting goodwill and understanding.

It will be noticed that the appeal to the Cauvery Family has been put first in this list of recommendations. That is an indication of the importance that I attach to that impressive initiative. It must not be allowed to fail. It is true that any understanding or formula arrived at by the Cauvery Family will have no legal force; it will have to be placed before the State governments. However, if the farmers of the two States are able to present an agreed formulation, it will surely carry great weight.

(Ramaswamy R. Iyer is a former Secretary, Water Resources, Government of India.)

Amid the grandstanding by political leaders, it is the Basin farmers who must take

the lead in removing misperceptions about the Tribunals award October 16, 2012

A forgotten Hamzanama
The extradition of Abu Hamza alMasri, the convicted rabble-rouser, to the United States after a marathon legal battle one of the longest catand-mouse games in Britains legal history has caused an outbreak of celebration and backslapping. Even Prime Minister David Cameron couldnt resist a shot at grandstanding: he was absolutely delighted that Hamza is now out of this country.

Like the rest of the public, Im sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay

at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can't get rid of them, he said.

Facts were, of course, not allowed to spoil a good party. So nobody bothered to ask how come a one-time bouncer in a London nightclub and mocked by Sunday papers as a cartoon character got to assume such Frankenstein proportions in the first place?

Egyptian-born Hamza (real name: Mustafa Kamel Mustafa) and his Jordanian mentor Abu Qatada, who Britain is still struggling to deport, are typical beneficiaries of the British security agencies covert links with foreign extremists Kashmiri and Sikh separatists, LTTE activists, boys from the Muslim Brotherhood, militants from Yemen and Chechnya who flocked to Britain in the 1980s and 1990s claiming to flee persecution at home.

Despite the serious allegations of terrorism against them in their own countries they were allowed to settle in Britain and carry on their activities. Some, such as Qatada, had even been convicted back home and were the subject of extradition requests. The British Governments softly-softly approach to them has been put down to a covert covenant of security in which fugitive foreign extremists were left alone in exchange for an assurance they would not harm Britains national security.


So, the security agencies looked the other way when Hamza and his goons forcibly seized control of a major London mosque the Finsbury Park mosque in north London founded by Muslim immigrants from India from

its traditionally moderate management and turned it into a base for his militant activities targeting enemies abroad.

Muslim protests were summarily dismissed. MI5 famously described him as just a noisy trouble-maker. It was to emerge later that Hamza had been using the mosque not just to brainwash vulnerable young Muslims but to raise funds to send potential jihadis to terror training camps abroad.

In 2003, when the police finally raided the mosque as part of the post-9/11 crackdown on terror, they found a large cache of arms, forged passports and a pile of inflammatory material. Hamza seemed to have been running a terror cell under the very noses of Scotland Yard and MI5. Even after the mosque was temporarily closed, Hamza continued to lead prayers and

preach inflammatory sermons on the streets outside in full view of the security forces. It took another year before he was jailed for inciting hatred and soliciting murder. By then, he had already been implicated in a series of alleged terror acts in Yemen and the U.S. the reason why the Americans wanted him.

There is a cynical view that security agencies may have continued to ignore Hamza had he not started to bite the very hand that had been feeding him i.e. not launched a campaign against the British state a move interpreted as a breach of the supposed covenant of security. The joke is that the last straw was his description of Britain as a toilet.

Agents claim

Reda Hassaine, a left-wing Algerian journalist who was drawn into the shadowy world of intelligence in the wake of the civil war in his country and later worked as an undercover agent at the Finsbury Park mosque, is on record as saying that Scotland Yard and MI5 ignored his detailed reports about Hamza and Qatadas activities. In newspaper interviews, he has said he personally saw them collect thousands of pounds from their congregations to pay for young British Muslims to go abroad to train as suicide bombers. He calls it astounding that the duo who between them offered the most ugly face of Islamist extremism in Britain were left untouched for more than a decade after he blew the whistle on them.

I told MI5 and Scotland Yard time and again how Qatada and his followers laugh behind their backs.

They hate Britain and want to turn this country into an Islamic state, he said.

Hassaine was attacked and beaten up by Qatadas men after they found out he was spying on him. He wants to sue MI5 for 1million for dropping him like a hot stone and failing in its duty of care to him after his cover was blown. More significant, however, is why he thinks MI5 dumped him: because it did not want to prosecute Qatada.

I gave the British authorities everything they could possibly want about Abu Qatada and for what? he asked in a newspaper interview.

Hamza and Qatada are not the only ones with whom MI5 had cosy links. Two other alleged extremists Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul

Bary extradited to the U.S. along with Hamza have also revealed their contacts with the agency. One analyst wrote that the two men benefited from the reluctance of the British authorities to clamp down on the growing number of Islamist extremists who were using London as a base to advocate violent confrontation with the West.

Khaled al-Fawwazs lawyer told the High Court during a hearing on his appeal against extradition that he was in regular contact with MI5 in the mid1990s. He said when his client asked MI5 if he would be breaking the law by remaining in contact with Osama bin Laden after his 1996 declaration of war on the U.S., he was told it would be okay so long as the two did not discuss any criminal conduct.

The cloak-and-dagger world of spooks has always fascinated writers and

film-makers. British novelist Ian McEwans new book, Sweet Tooth , is a brilliant spoof on the workings of MI5 the cynical ploys it gets up to, the ruses it is capable of pulling off, the webs of deceit it can weave and how for all the bluster and swagger it can often get it disastrously wrong. While McEwans story is about MI5s Cold War shenanigans, perhaps one day someone would offer a literary take on its Hamza project. Suggested title: Sour Taste .

The Egyptian-born London imam who was extradited to the U.S. on terrorism charges was a typical beneficiary of the covert links between its intelligence agencies and foreign extremists October 17, 2012

Iraq suffers from its chaotic foreign policy

Iraq has no national foreign policy. For the past decade, a lack of unity among its ruling elite has failed to allow for a unified approach towards its international relations one that could have protected the country from becoming a playground for outside powers, with disastrous consequences for its political and security stability.

The consequences are particularly telling today. The conflict in neighbouring Syria has placed Iraq in a pivotal position: sitting between Iran and Syria, but also bordering Turkey, it can either help bring the end of the Assad regime or complicate those efforts.

Since the withdrawal of U.S. troops last year, Iraq has certainly become more assertive internationally under the leadership of its Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who has just purchased Russian arms worth $4.2bn, in defiance of the United States and to the concern of the countrys Kurds, who fear these weapons could one day be used against them.

Yet, despite this assertiveness, Iraqs ability to influence regional events, as well as preserve its own national interests, is hampered by its fractious political process, presided over by comparably powerful factions and figures.

On the one hand, Iraq has become a conduit through which Bashar alAssads regime is propped up and supplied with weapons, funds and in some cases fighters, most notably

from Iran. Like Iran, Maliki and his Iranian-backed Shia allies fear the threat a Sunni Islamist-controlled Syria across the border would pose.

Iraq is thus a crucial vanguard in the effort to maintain Assads rule over Syria and central to the proxy war unfolding in Syria between the Sunni axis of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states ranged against the Shia axis of Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah.

Yet, because divisions in the region are reflected within Iraq itself, the countrys pro-Assad camp, despite doing its utmost to sustain the regime, find their efforts undermined by Sunni Arab rivals in Iraq (backed by Turkey and the Arab world) and the Kurds, whose region to the north has the benefit of a mix of cordial relations with the U.S., Turkey and Iran, largely because of the extensive autonomy it

has and the stability it has enjoyed in contrast to the rest of Iraq.

Role of regional government

For example, much to the dismay of Maliki, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) continues to train anti-Assad Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are being trained by elite Peshmerga forces to prepare Syrian Kurds for the power vacuum in Syria as well as the stabilisation of an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region.

The KRG controls an important border crossing point alongside the Syrian border, through which it has been able to penetrate Syrian territory.

So important was the crossing point that Maliki, possibly under Tehrans orders, recently sent units from the

Iraqi army to take control of the crossing, threatening to spark a KurdArab civil war. In the end, they were stopped by KRG forces and forced to retreat after a standoff. Similarly, Iraqs Sunni-dominated northern provinces along the Syrian border have sent fighters to Syria to join the uprising, essentially returning the favour to brethren who supported and formed a key part of the post2003 Iraqi insurgency.

The problem is not entirely of Iraqs making. Lack of security, exacerbated by neighbours who allowed a flood of terrorists to enter Iraq in the aftermath of the war and in some cases orchestrated the attacks themselves, has stunted the states progress toward maturity. This has allowed regional neighbours to exploit the country for its important strategic location, rich resources and ethnosectarian diversity, to the detriment of

Iraqs broader national interests and efforts to develop a coherent foreign policy. Yet, todays broader instability in the region means that these tougher neighbours find their own politics and stability tested as the war of attrition in Syria continues and the region deals with the aftershocks of the Arab Spring upheavals.

Turkey has for long conducted crossborder attacks on suspected PKK targets in Iraqs Kurdistan region. However, in addition to the irony of defending its own territory from Syrian shelling aimed at Syrian rebel targets, the emergence of an autonomous Kurdistan in Syria means that Turkey must reconsider its policies toward its restive Kurdish population as well as the PKK, the rebel group it has fought over the past 40 years and whose sister organisation, the PYD, has

uncontested control Kurdish region.



Iraqs elites have had one particularly unified foreign policy approach. Apart from a minority of the countrys political contenders, Iraqs major parties mostly recognise the importance of a strategic relationship with Iran, which has its tentacles rooted in almost every political faction. Efforts have been made to move away from this, but placating Iranian interests remains at the forefront of foreign policymaking.

The Iraqi state, a decade on since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, continues to linger between the moribund and the non-existent. Iraq could be leveraging its strategic location and rich resources by maximising on the vulnerability of its regional neighbours in what has emerged as a critical geopolitical proxy war.

But the decentralised and conflicting foreign policy ambitions of Iraqs autonomous political actors has allowed for the countrys broader national interests to be sacrificed, as they look toward the Syria conflict as an opportunity to weaken opponents within Iraq, rather than beyond. (Ranj Alaaldin is a Middle East political and security risk analyst.) Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

Baghdads ability to influence regional events, particularly in neighbouring Syria,

is hampered by its fractious political process October 17, 2012

Make the right diagnosis

I read with mounting concern the Prime Ministers statement lamenting this mindless atmosphere of negativity and pessimism that is sought to be created over corruption which, he holds can do us no good.

My worry, though, is different. For one, this is not our good PMs style. Off target he is often; but acerbic? No, not that. If he has changed his style then our worry is limited. If, on the other hand, some able (sic) speech writer gave him this tautological hyperbole to declaim, and the PM simply did so, then our concern takes altogether a different hue and that shrill epitaph mindless boomerangs to the declaimer, which is not at all a happy consequence.

Political atmosphere

Our countrys polity, Mr. Prime Minister, is comatose and has taken the economy with it. I urge you, therefore, to get Raghuram Rajan, (who features in the same issue of Foreign Affairs ) to do an executive brief of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and Jame Robinson. The former is an economist like you; his co-author Robinson, a political scientist. They believe that economic development hinges on a single factor: a countrys political institutions, in other words the political atmosphere.

In the context of the prevailing atmosphere, therefore, I invite the PM to reflect on my theory of reverse jurisprudence. Unlike our inherited philosophy of innocent until proven guilty, in public life,

unfortunately, if accused, you will be treated as guilty until you prove yourself as innocent. Decades ago, I had shared this very thought when Bofors had invaded our polity; I am greatly saddened that I have to do so again.

Amongst several I now choose three factors as the prime contributors to our political travails generating this atmosphere, about which the PM complains. But first, Mr. Prime Minister, who has fouled our political atmosphere? The corrupters or the complainants? Then this novel political experiment inflicted by you and your mentor, which is really a mindless diarchy of shallow convenience. It is this that today pushes the country towards negativity and pessimism. As for that rather despairing conclusion it can do us no good, I agree. But the

cure, too, is not so difficult, provided you diagnose as I do.

The other factor wounding our polity is your disconnect with the people of India. Why try and deceive us by these claims of being a resident of Assam? Such prestidigitations rob the head of the government of moral authority, without which you cannot govern.

And equally critical is your neglect of Parliament, as also the institutions that it spawns. Of course, as advocated, the government must have its way, but the opposition, too must have its say. Find an equilibrium. It is your duty, not the oppositions. You are the head of the government.

Which takes us to our second great concern of the day: the state of our economy. There, above all, I make

one request. Please, do not mislead us, the economically uneducated, about what constitutes reform. It is not administrative correctives that can ape the real.

I share, therefore, four concerns on the economic front.

Firstly, the economic philosophy of the Congress party: to what do you now really subscribe? At the 1931 Karachi session of the Indian National Congress, the socialist pattern of development was declared as the goal for India. This lay at the core of Jawaharlal Nehrus economic philosophy. Then, after independence came the 1955 Avadi meet of the Congress and a reiteration of the socialistic pattern of development. A year later, the Indian Parliament too adopted this as official policy. Thereafter, we skip many decades, also many intervening events until the

word socialist got adhesived to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, in 1976. This was a by-product of that fraudulent Emergency of 1975.

But I move too fast because in between, as the swan-song of our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, came the amendment of the Congress partys constitution, in 1964, in Bhubhaneswar. This is where Nehru suffered a stroke and within four months, his life was over. I was then a soldier, on a tank gunnery training course in the U.K. and learnt of his death, with great sadness, from an Englishman. But this dip into memory is not central to our enquiry. The amended Congress constitution stated: The object of the Indian National Congress is the establishment of a socialist state This is now but memory, despite the addition, at Panditjis suggestion, of a footnote: The (above) amendments

demand a more vigorous party organisation at every level for achieving socialistic state, etc.

We come then to 1991, and late Premier Narasimha Raos coalition government. He fathered the reform process, of which Dr. Manmohan Singh has now become the stepfather claiming sole credit for it. The wags were right, after all: paternity can always be disputed.

Of these reforms, fiscal management of our economy was the obvious and correct priority. No marks for guessing whose profligacy caused it in the first instance. But it was in 1991 that the country moved away from the Congress partys socialistic pattern to a free market economy. Of this transition I am reminded of two aspects. The first was the then Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singhs justification amongst others,

on the grounds that the economy then had developed structural faults (which it had); and had become a rentier economy (or words to that effect), generating unacceptable levels of crony capitalism. The other was the great scandal of the Banking and Securities Fraud. I remember, as a member of that parliamentary enquiry, having then commented that freer the markets the stronger must be our regulatory mechanisms; and that free markets are not any excuse for a free for all.

Therefore what, after years of reform, is our state now? No more crony capitalism? Or an abundance of it? You now say reforms have increased corruption. Why? Also please concede that central to this reform process was a moving away of the government from its stranglehold on the economic vitality of the country.

Other aspects of getting the state off the citizens back and vacating space for releasing the citizens energies mandated freedom from the thraldom of petty bureaucracy; drastically reducing discretionary powers of the political and other executives; of sane and non-expropriatory tax policy administered with patent honesty; of encouraging domestic savings, thus domestic investment; and freeing our banking from the States mismanagement; plus attending to our farmers. If we do this, money will flood India as investible foreign direct investment, not hot funds chasing short-term gains. Getting the state out of the business it has no business to be in is true reform; selling assets of the state, for correcting consequences of fiscal profligacy, through misdirected disinvestment is not.

Nazi policy

In any event, as commented upon by Sydney Merlin in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the word privatisation first entered academic literature to describe the Nazi partys policy at facilitating the accumulation of private fortunes by its members This has disturbing similarity with UPA-II policies; witness the proliferation: 2G, Commonwealth G, Coal G and so on. This amounts to stripping the assets of the state, not a healthy moving away of the state from superfluous and inefficient nonactivity.

One more caution about reform. This is not a synonym for unbridled consumerism of a variety which is alien to our cultural ethos. It is distressing in the extreme to witness today, as Avishek Parin has observed, that we purchase to consume incessantly, even as (what we

purchase) consumes us back with its spectacular superfluity. We must not become a consumerist society; Walmart, Sears-Roebuck and their ilk are not our yardstick of economic progress. There are values beyond money and markets, too.

I conclude with a request. Do please heed our cautions, dear Prime Minister; a government, any government, based on this variety of diarchical concentration of power; unchecked privilege and usurpation (destruction?) of our Republic can simply not do good, or survive. I pray that in the process, it would not inflict such wounds on dear India as would take long to heal. For, surely, you recognise that India, despite venerating daridra narayan suffers a wide chasm separating our poor from the rich.

(The writer is Member of Parliament.)

Reform is not a synonym for unbridled consumerism. There are values beyond money and markets too October 17, 2012

Between thin air and firm ground

Two days before Kerala emerged in a blaze of publicity, a parliament was convened under a shamiana outside the Palakkad District Collectorate, bringing environmentalists together with members of the GAIL Gas Pipeline Victims Forum. The pipeline, to be laid by the Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL), is routed through 18 panchayats and two municipalities in Palakkad district. The victims at the parliament on September 11, 2012,

were landowners who had yielded right of use to the government.

The landowners object to two aspects of the project: lack of safety assurances and the way GAIL acquired right of use over their land.

The 900-km pipeline will pipe imported natural gas through Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It will bring Kerala into the national gas grid, according to K.P. Ramesh, Deputy General ManagerConstruction, who is in charge of pipeline construction in the three States. The stated cost is Rs.3,240 crore. Eventually, tenders will be floated for distribution of gas for cooking.

Tanker explosion

Ramesh says GAIL has sought exemption from the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008 on the grounds that the pipeline is a public utility. Over the past few years, local and State governments have given permission for the pipeline to cut through rivers and roads. But some private landowners were caught unawares when they received notice to state their objections to the right of use within 21 days. The sudden appearance of lorries unloading pipes in Ongallur, Palakkad district, riled many landowners, especially since it coincided with the August 27 explosion of an LPG gas tanker in Chala, near Kannur. The explosion burned vegetation, houses and people up to half a kilometre away. It killed 20.

Following the explosion, residents along the pipeline route became

fixated on its dangers. An explosion can cause 100 per cent fatalities up to a distance of 680 m, according to a study of the Jamnagar-Bhopal gas pipeline by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (a Government of India body). On the other hand, natural gas pipelines have been delivering cooking gas for years in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and other crowded cities. Ramesh says accidents have to be understood in proportion, as with plane crashes and road accidents.

The project, he says, is regulated by the Oil Industry Safety Directorate (under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas), which will conduct precommissioning inspections and audits. It will also be audited for safety by the Chief Controller of Explosives and third parties such as the British Safety Council, apart from the internal auditor.

In Kerala the pipeline runs through farms, villages and towns in seven districts. The GAIL Gas Pipeline Victims Forum was formed in January 2012, as affected landowners began to receive notices. Says Narayanan Nambeesan, Chairman of the Forum, Data is still being collected on how much land will be lost, the number of houses, the residents affected, the schools, churches, temples, hospitals in the route of the pipeline.

Protest often looks like Keralas most active industry, but these landowners are not speaking in rehearsed phrases. Mangalam from Mannur, Palakkad district, voiced her fears at the parliament. We have five cents of land [just over 2,000 square feet] and an ordinary house, she said. We havent plastered it. Its just my husband and me and our two girls. Her voice became wobbly. We dont

want money. We are just frightened something will happen to what we have built with such hardship.


For the right of use to lay a pipeline, the landowner is paid compensation at 10 per cent of the governmentdeclared fair price. He continues to pay taxes on the land, and after the pipeline is in place he can cultivate only bananas, vegetables and paddy. He cannot plant trees or dig a well. He cannot erect a fence, compound wall or building. He may sell it, provided he can find a buyer under those conditions.

The first set of hearings, during which landowners can state their objections and grievances, is over, says Ramesh. However, V. Subramanian, Convener of the Forum for Palakkad district,

insists hearings were not held in all the affected areas. He also says that most landowners at the hearing he attended felt the officials were there to persuade them to cooperate, not hear them out. Indeed, K.V. Vasudevan, Additional District Magistrate, described them as conciliation meetings. Subramanian has a copy of a Malayalam flyer that GAIL distributed to residents of Pappadi village. It assures them the pipes will be thick enough to resist rupture, that if houses are demolished owners will be compensated, and that GAIL is not acquiring their land, only exerting right of use. It also promises them cheaper cooking gas.

Safety can indeed be ensured in populated areas by increasing the pipe thickness and by burying it 2 m deep rather than 1.2 m, according to a senior executive of a company who agreed to be identified only as an

expert in the subject of gas pipelines. But the supply to rural consumers is not commercially viable, he says. They *GAIL+ are not in the business of charity.

Farmers will, therefore, lose paddy land and residential land so that gas can be supplied to urban consumers. For Lakshmi Ammal, 78, thats an old story. She and her husband shifted to Akathethara 40 years ago after they lost their four acres in Malampuzha panchayat to the Fisheries Department. Their land, now divided among three sons and three daughters, is planted thick with paddy, coconut, banana, ginger and cheera (greens). The pipeline will leave unusable strips in all their portions, her youngest son says. Weve wandered from place to place and now Im old, says Lakshmi Ammal. Cant I have a quiet place to drink my kanji ?

At an anti-GAIL march on October 3 in Malappuram, close to Kozhikode, the rhetoric was more explosive than in Palakkad three weeks earlier. On and off stage, people spoke of blocking roads and stopping lorries from unloading pipes. They spoke of Bhagat Singh and over my dead body.


K.P. Ramesh says the Government of Kerala has given the project blanket permission for clearances, but the Environment Ministry at the Centre has not cleared the Kerala stretch, according to official central government sources who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject in view of looming deadlines. The pipeline was to be commissioned in March 2013. The Petroleum and Natural Gas

Regulatory Board has turned up the heat, warning that it will scrap the Kerala venture if it does not take off by this December.

The next few weeks will be crucial. If the Prime Minister succeeds in establishing the National Investment Board to speed through infrastructure projects, overruling the ministries that were designed to regulate them, the GAIL gas pipeline may well find a bypass route to completion.

A natural gas pipeline project has raised safety fears and concerns over restrictions on property rights of those in its path October 18, 2012

Pushing boundaries for justice

When the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) held its latest hearing in New York city between October 6 to 7, it once again affirmed that peace was impossible without justice. A civil society initiative, this tribunal documents and exposes the violations of international human rights law against the Palestinian people. Similar sessions have already been held in Barcelona, Cape Town and London on issues ranging from corporate complicity in the Israeli Occupation to the crime of apartheid.

Though the recommendations of the Russell Tribunal are not legally binding on the parties to the conflict, they have played an important role in laying out the context and documenting the evidence of violations of international law by the Israeli government. With a jury of eminent persons such as Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a Nobel Peace

Laureate, Alice Walker, American author and poet, and Yasmin Sooka of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and now with the Foundation for Human Rights, the findings of such a tribunal will be hard to ignore. This high profile Peoples Tribunal on Palestine has also initiated a discussion regarding the role played by such unofficial or civil society processes not only to document and highlight serious human rights violations but also provide a larger basis for action against such crimes.

In South Asia

South Asia, particularly India has a tradition of official commissions of inquiry, generally constituted to investigate communal violence, massacres and other forms of human rights violations. The reports of these commissions of inquiries have,

however, repeatedly failed to break away from the legal formalism associated with investigating and reporting crimes by quasi-judicial bodies. Whether it is the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the communal riots of 1989 or the Tewary Commission to establish the violations that occurred during the Nellie massacre in Assam in 1983, the government has avoided implementing even the mild recommendations of these official commissions. The government has not even made these reports public for a debate. Besides, these official commissions of inquiry do not systematically record the testimonies of victims or their families and their demands in their final reports.

With the recent developments in transitional justice and international law, there is growing recognition that victims and their testimonies must be

central while ensuring justice for gross human rights violations. Article 68 (3) of the Rome Statute states that the Court shall permit the views and concerns of victims to be presented and considered at stages of the proceedings. This is why peoples tribunals become important.

Unlike governmental commissions of inquiries, these civil society initiatives have broadened the investigation and documentation processes by drawing from mass movements as well as incorporating testimonies of victims of human rights violations themselves. Moreover, they present final reports that not only reflect the legal violations but also the political or social contexts that may have allowed for these violations to happen. For instance, in conflict situations, torture or extrajudicial killings forms a part of the human rights discourse. However, the impact of militarisation, unfair

land acquisition or the psychosocial aspects may not get adequate attention. A peoples tribunal or civil society-led processes can contribute to understanding the enabling courses for human rights violations and thus assist in formulating an effective mechanism for redressal.

Even though these civil society initiatives cannot hold perpetrators accountable, they create an exhaustive documentation that can be used for subsequent legal processes. In conflict or post-conflict situations, civil society tribunals add to the existing documentation on violations of civil political rights such as torture, collective punishment, or enforced disappearances, particularly when no genuine official commissions are involved in investigation and documentation. Given the lack of accountability for serious crimes in Sri Lanka, in January 2010, a Permanent

Peoples Tribunal conducted investigations, heard first-hand testimonies, and held that the Sri Lankan government was responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly during the last stages of the war against the LTTE in 2009.

Communal violence

Moreover, peoples tribunals can also help to disseminate the truth about injustice or ongoing human rights violations at the time. The Iraq war and the subsequent World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) organised by the international civil society is an example. The moral indictment by the WTI through its public hearings helped to substantiate the claims of gross violations and culpability of the American coalition forces in Iraq.

In situations of communal violence, peoples tribunals can push the boundaries of human rights advocacy and justice. In fact, a Concerned Citizens Tribunal was formed even after the Gujarat pogrom, which documented exhaustively transgressions of international human rights and criminal law committed during the riots in 2002, and made concrete proposals to provide justice to the victims and prevent a recurrence of such violence.

Mode of resistance

Finally, a peoples tribunal can also act as a mode of organised or symbolic resistance. A recent tribunal on fabricated cases was organised in September 2012 by an umbrella of civil society groups in Delhi. It heard testimonies from victims and family members of persons from Manipur, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh

and other States besides lawyers, journalists and activists who have been incarcerated for years without sufficient evidence of their involvement. Peoples tribunals or oral histories can be effective in bringing out these issues and confronting them headlong in situations where State-led official processes are either unwilling or unable to do so.

The history of peoples tribunals in India and elsewhere is replete with interesting and important ways in which they have contributed to advancing agendas of truth, justice and reparations.

When the RToP convened in New York to hear the testimonies of violations of international law and the rights of the Palestinians, its resonance was felt across the Atlantic to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. If Israel or its

supporters, especially the United States, choose to take note of the recommendations this time around, it will provide essential guidance to move forward towards a permanent peace.

At home, the government too needs to engage rather than ignore the legal and policy recommendations of peoples tribunals and the civil society processes because it would only help to deepen and institutionalise justice. For these peoples tribunals are in some ways the upholder of our collective consciousness.

(Warisha Farasat, a lawyer, is currently working with the Centre of Equity Studies on issues of justice and reparations for victims of communal violence in India.)

Peoples tribunals are more effective than official commissions of inquiry in

the investigation of rights violations and in formulating effective redress mechanisms October 18, 2012

Alarm bells ring for RTI

A recent Supreme Court judgment and Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs openly expressed views in favour of privacy have raised concerns that attempts are being made to dilute the spirit of the RTI Act and limit its use. Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, the RTIs movements leading lights, share their worries with Vidya Subrahmaniam .

Seven years after its enactment, has the RTI Act even partially fulfilled its

objectives? Has it been empowering for the common people?

The RTI Act has had, and continues to have a significant positive impact on democratic governance in India. This is because the Act has been owned by the common people. The prime mover of the Act is the ordinary person.

The Act has, in one stroke, delegitimised the norms of secrecy imposed by a colonial and feudal past with its continued legacy in independent India. Equally significant has been its capacity to empower those who use it by changing power relationships between the ruling classes and citizens. Today it has become the most important means by which ordinary people can fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power. While there are obvious shortcomings in the Act and its implementation a fundamental

transformation from a culture of secrecy to one of complete openness is still a long way off nevertheless, in its short history, this Act has built the basic architecture of a transparent regime.

What are your views on the Prime Ministers speech at the recent convention of the Central Information Commission?

The RTI Act needs all the support it can get. Yet, it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister repeatedly speaks of irritants when these have been addressed and allayed several times. At a time when its detractors are looking for helpful signals to dilute the Act, we had hoped Dr. Singh would celebrate the Act as an achievement and promise stronger implementation towards building a transparent and accountable democracy.

Dr. Singh raised three specific issues: frivolous and vexatious applications, privacy, and exclusion of publicprivate partnerships (PPP).

While the Prime Minister did mention in passing that the RTI has strengthened democracy, the focus was on areas of concern. There have been attempts, primarily through amendments to rules, to keep out frivolous and vexatious applications. Since neither can be objectively defined, any such amendment will result in huge rejection, affecting mostly the poor and the marginalised. This issue has been repeatedly deliberated. The Department of Personnel and Training dropped the amendment move after its website was flooded by adverse comments.

The National Advisory Committee too has rejected the amendments. However, the Prime Minister continues to raise the same issue over and over.

The law has adequate provisions under Section 8 to reject applications that are not legitimate and Dr. Singh does not qualify why the exemption for privacy under section 8(1) J is inadequate to protect personal privacy.

Nor has the government laid out those cases in which personal privacy has been infringed because of the RTI Act. The Prime Minister referred to Justice A.P. Shahs report on privacy. However, it is our information that this report has recommended that any privacy law should be in harmony with, and subject to, the RTI regime.

As for excluding the PPPs, this is absolutely unacceptable, as more and more essential public services are being outsourced to the private sector. In such cases, they should be held to a higher standard of transparency as the private sector can easily escape the accountability provisions of the public sector. In fact, many ordinary people see the PPP as a ploy by the government to escape its responsibilities and accountability.

The Supreme Court, in a recent judgment, has mandated two Commissioner-Information Commission benches with the additional caveat that one commissioner must be a judge or judicial officer.

There is no doubt that there were many legitimate complaints about the functioning of the Information Commissions and Commissioners. The

appointment process is certainly opaque and non-consultative. To begin with, the government has a 2-1 majority in the selection committee which enables it to push through a nominee of its choice. Second, while the spirit of the Act calls for commissioners across sectors, the majority of commissioners appointed have been former bureaucrats. The RTI campaign had suggested that a nominee of the Chief Justice be on the appointment committee along with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

The RTI law does not prescribe a process of appointment. Nor has the government framed rules to address the issue. So, it would have been of great value if the court had rectified the defect by suggesting or mandating a transparent and consultative process. This was a great opportunity before the court. But the solution it

has offered only creates more problems. A big problem with the commissions was mounting pendency and delays. This judgment will have the immediate effect of at least doubling this delay. Another problem was the absence of standards and norms and the judgment has failed to address that lacuna.

Our information is that work has halted in a number of State commissions.

Work has halted in many commissions, including in the Information Commission of Rajasthan, where we live. If the Supreme Courts orders are followed, all commissions may have to stop work. The Central government has filed a review petition, and the State governments are disinclined to begin the process of selecting individuals with judicial backgrounds. Chaos prevails.

If the commissions become courts of sorts, isnt there a danger that the common RTI user will be forced to hire lawyers to argue his case which will defeat the purpose of the Act? Wont the stress on judicial adjudication complicate the process of information delivery which must be quick in order to be effective?

The commission was designed to be citizen-friendly. Judicial procedures will usher in a judicial mindset. While this may be very important in administering justice in criminal or civil law, it may defeat the quick and effective delivery of information. The custodians of information who can hire lawyers will benefit, and the ordinary will be placed at a disadvantage.

Dr. Singhs speech and the court judgment have the privacy concern in common. The running thread in the judgment is that privacy must be protected. It emphasises the exceptions under section 8 of the Act and says only a judicially-trained mind can decide when information ought not be disclosed. So, from a situation of not getting enough information are we going towards a situation where information will be routinely denied?

That is certainly a very troubling aspect of this judgment. The emphasis seems to be on the exemptions. The RTI Act has a clear presumption towards disclosure, and even the exemptions contain a proviso of a public interest override.

Actually only about five per cent of the cases go up in appeal to the commissions. But, the commissions set the tone for compliance. This

judgment could pass a message not only to information commissioners, but also to Public Information Officers that a more liberal use of the exemptions under the Act would be permissible. October 18, 2012

Follow the money, find the leader

The point is not whether Barack Obama wins re-election as President. The point is not whether Mitt Romney can win. The point is that you cant dream of contesting without a billion dollars. That figure merely ensures you can run, not win. Especially if the other guy can spend even more. All but the tiniest sliver of the elite stands priced out of the game. A democracy neatly labelled in another context, by

economist Joseph Stiglitz, as: Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.

The two main candidates, their parties and outside money will likely splurge $2.5 billion by the time the campaign fog clears in November. Throw in spending on the Congressional races, says the Centre for Responsive Politics (CRP) the countrys foremost pollspending tracker and the total would close in on $6 billion. (Thats roughly Rs. 32,000 crore. A sum on which you could run the mid-day meal programme for 120 million Indian school children for three years).

Less than one per cent

If we take it that the two presidential campaigns burn equal sums of money, the campaign that wins will have spent over $1.25 billion, all sources included. Say Mr. Romney triumphs

and hopes to run again in 2016. Just raising the same war chest means hed have to, on average, secure over $850,000 every day of his four-year presidency. That leaves you little time for anything else other than pushing bills your funders want. Ask Mr. Obama. When it comes to the polls, then, its a fraction of that 1 per cent that calls the shots. (Allowing for variances in scale and form, it sounds a lot like the way Indian elections are or will be going).

Being hostage to money power is no myth. As Dave Lindorff points out in , the biggest contributors to the Obama campaign in 2008 were mostly financial companies. Apart from other big corporations. These included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup, who gave him close to $2.5 million via Political Action Committees (PACs).

Another $1.5 million came from two more big banks, UBS and Morgan Stanley, as well as General Electric, which less than a year later bought a bank. GE did that in order to gorge on the governments bailout with billions of rescue dollars from public money.

Mr. Obama repaid those debts, Mr. Lindorff points out. Among other things, he made Tim Geithner his Treasury Secretary. Mr. Geithner, as head of the New York Federal Reserve branch during the Bush era, had ignored the derivatives scandals that brought on the financial crash. Mr. Obama also made Lawrence Summers his top economic adviser. The same Summers who as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, had pushed for the deregulation of derivatives, and for allowing banks to merge with investment banks. There

were other such jobs for the boys, too. Yet, this time around, Mr. Romney has collected more Wall Street money than Mr. Obama.

It might appear that direct spending in 2012 by both presidential campaigns is less than it was in 2008 though not by much. But thats if you look only at what the candidates or parties are doing. Theres also big spending by Super PACs. These are groups that can raise unlimited amounts. Technically, they are not allowed to coordinate their advertising with the candidates. In truth, they act as de facto adjuncts to the campaigns. And after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that threw out the rules on independent expenditures by corporations directly, theres a lot more money flowing.

There are no limits on the sums that Super PACs can raise from

corporations or others. Nor on how much they spend to support or defeat a candidate. (They cannot directly fund a candidate. And must submit details of their donors to the Federal Election Commission).

The CRP reckons that as of October 16: 935 groups organized as Super PACs have reported total receipts of over $433 million. And total independent expenditures of close to $375 million in the 2012 cycle.

Most of the millions spent by outside groups went into television advertising, says the New York Times . In Iowa alone, the two campaigns and linked independent groups have run more than 100,000 ads to win the states six electoral votes.

Meanwhile, the pundits are swooning over the energy of the second

Obama-Romney debate. This one was more spontaneous. Whats more, it had a town hall format. Well, yes, if town hall audiences can be handpicked by organisers. And if the town hall audience actually had to have a rehearsal with the moderators (as they did here). Thats apart from submitting all their questions for advance scrutiny not quite a town hall practice.

Once again, neither man mentioned the word inequality at any point in the debate. That is the issue that sparked the Occupy movement in countless towns across the country last year. It is an issue that worries several leading economists in the U.S. It is one that reflects in recent IRS data. It shows up in the Census data on poverty out barely a month ago.

But the word was as taboo as corporate crime. The only mention

of it came from a questioner who wanted to know why women were paid 72 per cent of what men received for the same work. The closest Mr. Obama ever came near it was when he charged Mr. Romney with wanting folks at the top to play by a different set of rules. Neither mentioned the word even in his replies to the question.

Compensation on Wall Street rose by four per cent last year to $60 billion, says the New York Times . Higher than in any year except 2007 and 2008. And the average pay packet of securities industry employees in New York state was $362,950, up 16.6 % over the last two years. Meanwhile, about 25 million people who want full-time jobs cant find them. The number of those on food stamps is at record levels. And 50 million people suffer food insecurity in a nation where, as economist Paul Buchheit

points out: The 10 richest Americans made enough money last year to feed every hungry person on earth for a year.

There were a couple of other things in the debate that should interest Indians. Both candidates agonised over petrol prices speaking to an audience that clearly felt the need to regulate those prices. Even more interesting: In the time given to the energy crisis, Mr. Obama never once mentioned nuclear energy as an option. He did not even club it under clean energy. (Though hes happy with India holding to that belief). Wind, solar and bio-fuels was his mantra. Mr. Romney mentioned nuclear once but gave it no special status.

Setting up debates

And now more on who sets up the debates and how they are run. Last week, we ran Ralph Naders point about the secret debate contract negotiated by the Obama and Romney campaigns that controls the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the campaigns corporate offspring. Their grip on the process is stifling, dishonest and total. It wasnt always that way. Till 1987, the debates were sponsored, for over a decade, by the League of Women Voters.

Why did that change? Why did the League, which ran an independent show, lose control over the debates? Why did it feel compelled to walk out, or was it forced out of them, in 1987? I asked the League and received a prompt emailed reply from Betsy Gardner, its Administrative Coordinator. The party campaigns were exerting huge pressures and

control. Whether in choosing a debate format, in picking a moderator, or on the questions to be asked. The League also sent us the 1987 statement of its then President, Nancy M. Neuman. That was the period of the George H.W. Bush-Michael Dukakis race.

Ms Neumans statement of the time says, among other things: Between themselves, the campaigns had determined what the television cameras could take pictures of. They had determined how they would select those who would pose questions to their candidates They had determined that they would pack the hall with their supporters. And they had determined the format. The campaigns agreement was a closeddoor masterpiece. The agreement was a done deal, they told us. We were supposed to sign it and agree to all of its conditions. If we did not, we were told we would lose the debate In

Winston-Salem, they went so far as to insist on reviewing the moderators opening comments.

It turned out that the League had two choices. We could sign their closed-door agreement and hope the event would rise above their manipulations. Or we could refuse to lend our trusted name to this charade.

The League of Women Voters is announcing today that we have no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.

The victorious campaign in the U.S. presidential elections will have spent over $1.25 billion by November and the winner will spend his term repaying his funders in many ways

October 19, 2012

Clear the smog around climate change information

The threat of climate change has galvanised the Indian government and industry into action. Every corporate worth its salt is proclaiming that it is doing something to fight climate change. A cursory glance at corporate web pages gives us an idea of its importance. The Tata page says: The Tata group is facing up to the challenge of climate change and making it integral to its processes, while Infosys claims that it is one of the top 25 performers in Caring for Climate Initiative. On the sustainability review page of Mahindra, climate change is linked to productivity and competitiveness. The Prime Ministers Council on Climate Change created the National Action Plan on Climate Change which has

eight missions, everything from energy to agriculture to water and Himalayan ecosystems. Besides the initiatives of the private sector and the government are those undertaken by non-governmental organisations.

The study

So it is interesting to note the results of a study done in India on Climate Change in November-December 2011 and released in August this year. Titled Climate Change in the Indian Mind, the survey sampled 4,031 adults from rural and urban India with the intention of investigating the current state of public climate change awareness, beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behaviours, as well as public observations of changes in local weather and climate patterns and self- reported vulnerability to extreme weather events .

The survey found that only seven per cent of those sampled knew a lot about global warming while 41 per cent said they had never heard of it or replied I dont know. In a follow-up question, when respondents were given a brief explanation of what global warming was, 72 per cent of the total believed it was happening.

A basic question that arises from this data is the role of information dissemination and concomitantly engaging with the population in fighting climate change. And if there is any information sharing, its quality needs to be ascertained for its retention ability in public mind space.

Does leaving the population in the dark have a feudal basis? Not divulging information is one way of retaining power and maintaining

status quo; it also prevents panic among the populace. Could the lack of information on climate change in the public domain be giving the private sector and the government carte blanche to proceed with their plans unhindered increasing the number of coal-fired thermal power plants, pushing sales of sport utility vehicles and diesel cars, etc? Fifty-six per cent of the respondents pointed the finger at human activities when asked about the cause of global warming. This figure indicates that people make the connection between current energy production systems, consumption choices and climate change.

Another interesting number from this survey is about the percentage of 70 per cent the number of respondents favouring a national programme to inform citizens about global warming. This desire to be informed points to an information

deficit between those working on the issue and the rest of the public. It also questions whether it is enough to switch off lights globally in an annual event or sign petitions or use energy efficient lighting without understanding the rationale. There seems to be a distinct lack of causal evidence put forth in the public arena, indicated by respondents acknowledging changes in weather patterns but unable to define it as a scientific phenomena that threatens the planet. Causal evidence can greatly impact consumer behaviour and also force governments to change their policies and companies to manufacture products that have less impact on the climate.

Government and industry need to make note of the findings of the survey because 41 per cent of the respondents felt that the government should be doing more to address

global warming. To another question on when India should reduce emissions, 38 per cent were in favour of India unilaterally reducing emissions without waiting for other countries. This suggests that Indians want the government to play a more proactive and positive role in the climate negotiations.

Other findings

To another question on whether they were worried about climate change, 20 per cent claimed to be very worried while 41 per cent said they were somewhat worried. This worry can then be directed towards creating more informed consumption choices. Products come with a list of ingredients for consumers to make a purchase decision. There are already vegetarian, child-friendly and chlorofluorocarbon free labels that are prominently displayed on many

products. Giving information on a products impact on the climate is another avenue to share information on climate change and making the consumer responsible for his choice.

The recently approved draft 12th Five Year Plan should not only take cognisance of this report but also a relook at its emphasis on climate adaptation. The numbers speak for themselves; people recognise the human causes of climate change and want the government to act more proactively.

Can the fight against climate change be successful without involving or informing the larger public? The challenge that lies before us is manifold; first is understanding the predicament of being in the same boat, then appreciating the fact that many hands make light work and, finally, finding ways to involve

everyone. Putting out more information in the public domain gives more people an opportunity to act collectively to save themselves a fact that the government should recognise.

(Samir Nazareth is an environmental and socio-economic issue commentator. Email: )

A survey reveals that people think government efforts at spreading the word about global warming are inadequate October 19, 2012

For hardy political ethic, a battle of survival

WHEELS WITHIN DEALS:Usually, the media unearths scams and political parties act as amplifiers. Now, civil society activists are taking the lead. (From left) Robert Vadra and Ranjan Bhattacharya.PHOTOS: PTI, ASHOK VAHIE

The civil society formation, India Against Corruption, is a beast most find stunning and enthralling, yet few are able to define its precise nature. The confusion over IACs personality arises from the many simultaneous roles its activists have arrogated for themselves. They are Indias muckrakers, exposing the underbelly of its politics and ferociously working as a democracy watchdog, considered the defining features of the media. They have usurped the role of the Opposition parties, albeit outside Parliament, providing the government no quarter and demanding accountability for its action and

inaction. In fact, over the past two years, they have become the Opposition, launching a popular movement, setting the countrys agenda, and dominating the national consciousness all traditionally considered attributes of a party/coalition waiting to replace the one in power.

Some of their multiple roles are in conflict with each other. They are the Opposition, yet wish to have no truck with political parties classified under the same rubric. In firing salvos against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, they have simultaneously positioned themselves as both anti-ruling and antiOpposition parties. They are now set to enter the electoral arena, believing they must acquire at least a modicum of power to curb its rampant misuse. Yet the wish to acquire power hasnt deterred them from becoming the

nations conscience-keepers, not just through rhetoric but through audacious exposs that reveal the unconscionable side of Indian politics and the weakening of many institutions.

Vadra and DLF

Take IACs sensational revelation about the business deals between Robert Vadra and real estate giant DLF. It was in March 2011 that The Economic Times featured a story on Vadras entry into the realty business, in a tone bordering on laudatory, yet revealing most of the aspects IACs Arvind Kejriwal disclosed earlier this month. For more than a year, the media ignored the story. They then blithely splashed Kejriwals charges in banner headlines, even as they desisted from providing the precise context of the deal, until first The Hindu and then Business Standard

explained its intricacies. Did we journalists keep silent because of our fear of a possible blowback from the powerful? Or was our silence a consequence of our middle class prejudices which dissuaded us from railing against one of the Gandhis? Do we court silence over allegations of corruption against other politicians, say, Laloo Prasad Yadav, whose wealth was inquired into because of the lavish wedding he held for his daughter?

The medias reluctance to investigate the Vadra-DLF deals prompted political scientist Yogendra Yadav, now a member of IAC, to write that the political class is shaken and stirred because Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal have violated a code of silence observed in Delhis corridors of power. To bolster his argument, he added, During Atal Bihari Vajpayees regime, everyone knew about (his

foster son-in-law) Ranjan Bhattacharyas role in the PMO, or the late Pramod Mahajans multifaceted adventures. Yet neither the media nor the then opposition spoke about it in public.

Centaur hotels

Outlook magazine , where I worked from July 2000 to February 2012, did feature a story on the complicity between big business and Vajpayees Prime Ministers Office (PMO), but was silenced through raids on its proprietor. In 2005, a year after the ouster of Vajpayees National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from power, journalist Rajesh Ramachandran worked over three months to establish a link between Bhattacharya and the companies to which two Centaur Hotels in Mumbai were sold. The story had been cleared as a cover, but a day before the

magazine was to go to the press, it was summarily pulled out. The editorin-chief displayed ample candour in disclosing to senior editors, of whom I was one, that the story had been withdrawn at the proprietors behest.

Ramachandran handed over the Outlook cover story to journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Prashant Bhushan and CPI (M) MP Dipankar Mukherjee, who as the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation, under the jurisdiction of which Centaur Hotels fell, had then recommended a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry into the Centaur Hotel deals. The details of the deals were disclosed by the trio at a press conference on July 27, 2005 in Delhi. You would have thought the ruling Congress party, perpetually sniping at the BJP, couldnt possible forsake the

opportunity to weaken its principal rival.

But the trios press conference didnt set the Yamuna ablaze. The nation now knows why. Congress leader Digvijay Singh declared this week, We dont target people who are not in politics. This is ethicsFor example, Ranjan Bhattacharya was not in politics but he was living with Vajpayee. Have we ever said a word about Ranjan? When told the Congress perhaps didnt have evidence against him, Singh replied, Dont ask me that, we have enough evidencebut we would not (raise it).

The consensus among politicians not to target each others kith and kin is bewildering, particularly as families dominate our democracy and their progeny often deploy parental power to amass wealth. The political class

has its own hierarchy, at the top of which are perched a clutch of families, protected from investigations by media barons, editors and even political rivals. This is precisely why the Opposition parties relinquished the chance of developing the details reported in The Economic Times to pillory the Congress in Parliament. It is into this vacuum that IAC has stepped, turning on its head what had been traditionally the process through which issues are brought into the public domain. Usually, the media unearths scams implicating the dispensation in power; political parties then raise them in Parliament, as also outside it, demanding probes. Precisely the opposite seems to be happening now civil society activists raise issues of corruption and the media and political parties follow it. From initiating a movement to adopt a Jan Lokpal Bill, an issue pending for decades, to making a series of revelations implicating

political bigwigs, IAC appears, as of now, to straddle the entire opposition space.

No wonder then, IAC has also become the nations conscience-keeper, a role normally performed by those outside the matrix of electoral politics. Like them, IAC activists seek to reform the nature of the political class and its ethos, in the process inventing a new political idiom. In a country witnessing an expansion of the urban middle class, to which most IAC activists belong, they seem to have opened an avenue for its most robust participation. They have, inadvertently or otherwise, discovered a new method of building a political party, the direction in which IAC is decisively headed. They are entering the electoral arena not through just rhetoric and promises but through political action that displays their intent and resolve to

extricate India from the cesspool of corruption.

It is said the best advertisement for any publication is the story it publishes. You can now say that the best advertisement for an emerging party is to repeatedly expose, in the full glare of the media spotlight, the sheer hollowness of the existing political class.

(Ajaz Ashraf is a Delhi-based journalist. Email: )

India Against Corruption has broken the unwritten code that politicians will not target each others kin, and in doing so has taken over the role traditional Opposition and media should be playing

October 19, 2012

Rage that cannot be wished away

Two trends were visible in the rage in the Muslim world against America and other western countries over the antiIslam film: the hostile, often violent, outbursts will continue; and, the degree of violence is inversely proportional to the state of democracy in a country.

There are enough extremists on both sides to keep the pot boiling. The supply of suicide bombers and militants on the Muslim side seems inexhaustible. On the other hand, the ranks of what the International Herald Tribune calls the hatemongering fanatics in the United States seem to be swelling.

Historical animosity

Thomas Friedman, in his column in the IHT of 21 September, argues that Arabs and Muslims, who hate the West for the anti-Muslim venom, do not say a word against anti-Christian and anti-Jewish propaganda spewed in their countries. He is right, but his argument is in the nature of scoring debating points; it is not going to solve anything. One wrong cannot justify another. While Friedman is not condoning Islam bashing, his argument could be used by the fanatics in his own country to create more antipathy between Islam and other monotheistic faiths. He also ignores the deep historical animosity between the followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism going back to the Middle Ages and crusades, and the disparaging way in which Islam and Prophet Mohammad were portrayed in the West. If the Jews

could go back more than 2,000 years for their territorial claims, surely a relatively more recent history cannot become irrelevant.

An important plank in the agenda of the jihadis and extremists is the continued denial of justice to the Palestinian people. It is not selfevident that those who invoke the Palestinian cause for their anti-West rhetoric, hatred and violence do genuinely care about the fate of the Palestinian people. It is not clear if even the Arab governments truly worry about the Palestinian cause. Nevertheless, as long as the Palestinians are not enabled to establish their own independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital, it will remain a potent instrument for fomenting anti-West and anti-Israel sentiment.

For the Arabs and Muslims at large, the most conspicuous manifestation of Americas unjust policy is its perceived collaboration with Israel in denying the right of national selfdetermination to the Palestinian people, the very right which America and others invoked while creating the state of Israel. This sense of injustice combined with anti-Muslim actions by the Christian extremist fringe creates and will continue to create explosive situations periodically.

The present Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been consistent. He had opposed the Oslo accords when they were concluded in 1993. He has been relentless in creating facts on the ground in the form of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank to the extent that hardly any land, certainly any contiguous land, will be available for the future Palestinian state. It is

understandable that he does not approve of Barack Obama who tried, unsuccessfully, to pressure him to stop settlement construction. No wonder, Mr. Netanyahu is working for Mr. Obamas republican rival in the American presidential election.

Shaul Mofaz, the leader of the opposition in the Israeli Knesset, recently asked Prime Minister Netanyahu: Which administration are you trying to change? The one in Tehran or the one in Washington? Mr. Netanyahu no doubt realises that the more he tries to unseat Mr. Obama, the more support the latter will get from his people, including American Jews who realise, more and more, that American interests are not the same as the Jewish states. If Mr. Obama does win despite Mr. Netanyahu, he is likely to be more forceful, and hopefully more successful, in his second term in

working for the solution of the Palestinian problem. Mr. Obama certainly cares about his legacy and the aam admi in Israel does not want his country to make an enemy of its most important ally and benefactor.


Mr. Obama for his part does not see his way clearly through the mess in the Middle East. His biggest challenge is Syria where President Assad is in no mood to oblige by resigning and where the rebels are simply unable to unseat him on their own. Mr. Obama also has new challenges caused by Innocence of Muslims , the extraordinarily scandalous anti-Islam film produced in California. It has rightly aroused the ire of Muslims everywhere just as the killing of the American ambassador in Benghazi has justifiably generated universal condemnation. What is somewhat

incomprehensible is the reaction in America which is best summed up in Hillary Clintons reported remark: How can this happen in a country which we helped liberate? The Americans are genuinely baffled by this display of ingratitude, as they see it, of the Libyans, Egyptians and others, for the huge favour America has done to them by ushering in democracy in their countries.

In Libya, no doubt, Muammar Qadhafi would not have lost power and his life if the West had not intervened because there was hardly any genuine peoples revolution there. The spring in the Arab Spring was present only in Tunisia and Egypt. In both these countries, outsiders made absolutely no contribution to it. Secondly, western intervention in Libya was not inspired solely, or even largely, by democratic impulses; the oil factor had an important role in the exercise

since Qadhafi had stopped being generous in negotiations with oil companies. But even if the West was guided entirely by selfless motives, one does not expect gratitude in international relations.

The American dilemma in the Middle East is real. In view of recent events, should the U.S. disengage from the region? Should it withhold or suspend economic and military assistance to countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya for their ingratitude and inability or unwillingness to prevent attacks on American diplomatic missions? In other words, should America send a clear message to these countries that they need America more that America needs them? It is highly probable that America will avoid taking a clear-cut decision. It will loudly cheer antiAnsar ul Sharia militia actions in Libya in justification of continued engagement in the region. Similarly, in

Egypt, the Administration will adopt a pragmatic or realpolitik approach, given the strategic importance of Egypt in the region, especially the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. The Egyptians also will make sure in not pushing Washington to a breaking point since good relations with America are essential for many sound economic reasons. Pragmatism will prevail on both sides.

Violence and democracy

As for the relationship between violence and democracy, the reactions in various Islamic countries have clearly shown that the most hateful and violent response has come from non-democratic countries. India, which has about 170 million Muslims, witnessed the most peaceful and mature reaction to the film. This is a testimony to Indias genuinely pluralistic nature and to the

integration of the Muslim community with the mainstream of our society, and we can be proud of this fact.

In South East Asian Muslim nations, where democracy prevails, the reaction has been largely subdued. Pakistan has witnessed the worst violence, testifying to the fragility of its democracy as well as the strong anti-America sentiment which goes beyond the offending film. In Egypt, the authorities were able to control the situation after the initial outburst; that Mohamed Morsi is an elected President had no doubt something to do with it.

Democracy allows for small eruptions, for the most part peaceful, to take place from time to time, but it manages to avoid major, violent outbursts. Democratic governments also do not need to tolerate or encourage violent demonstrations

since they do not need to divert attention to external factors away from domestic dissatisfaction; there is enough scope and permissiveness for citizens to express their anger in peaceful ways.

(The author, a former Permanent Representative of India at the United Nations, is a commentator on international affairs.)

As long as Palestinians are denied their right to an independent state, the world will continue to see violent outbursts of anger

by Muslims such as the recent protests over the anti-Islam film October 20, 2012

Building deterrence for peace

Recent demonstrations in China over Japanese claims on the Senkaku Islands indicate a new belligerence and nationalism among the Chinese populace that does not augur very well for India-China relations. While Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and other contested spaces in Chinas immediate neighbourhood occupy pole position when it comes to the dominant nationalistic discourse, a stronger India has started figuring actively in the academic discourse.

From being seen as a mere irritant on the periphery that can be tackled anytime, India is now being seen as a competitor and a spoiler in Chinas quest for total dominance in Asia. Current geopolitical realities offer some space for India to navigate and manoeuvre in the South East Asian

landscape and convince China that it stands to benefit from a reconciliatory, rather than a confrontationist approach towards India. On that count, India has been nimble to diplomatically and militarily engage with a host of countries like Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar in its Look East strategy; not with any aggressive intent, but with a hedging posture that seeks to revive memories of the Bandung initiative of 1954 that attempted to build capacities and propagate peaceful coexistence in the region.

Unfortunately, India has the habit of an either/or strategy vis--vis China that tends to ignore concurrent development of deterrent and coercive capabilities when some success is perceived to have accrued in the diplomatic space. This is fraught with danger and this time around

there cannot be any let-up in building up military capability on our northern and eastern frontiers with China while concurrently seeking diplomatic gains from our hedging strategy in S.E. Asia. Deterrence for Peace could be a posture that merits wide articulation, both within the domestic constituency and the international community.

Then and now

The military lessons of the 1962 IndiaChina conflict have been widely debated and need very little amplification beyond reiterating some important ones that would allow us to introspect. At the strategic level, notwithstanding the success of the Indian military in the 1947-48 conflict, the post-independence politicobureaucratic establishment looked at the military as a wasteful remnant of Indias colonial past whose need was only grudgingly acknowledged. Even

the opposition was guilty of pressuring Nehru in the late 1950s to reduce the defence budget even when there was overwhelming evidence that despite economic woes, China was maintaining a defence budget in excess of five per cent of GDP. There was no attempt to understand war as an extension of politics hence the ill-fated forward policy that overlooked imperatives of mountain warfare like clothing, shelter, suitable weapons, logistics support and air support plans for casualty evacuation and resupply. Given the strong WW II pedigree and battle experience of a number of senior army and air force officers, particularly in the Burma campaign, it is perplexing that the senior military leadership failed to actively participate in a national defence strategy to counter China.

In fact, one of the concerns of Mao was the core fighting ability of the

Indian Army, which is why he interestingly put together an attacking force with a ratio of 5:1 against existing norms of 3:1, which were considered essential for success in the mountains. Inadequate firepower and the complete absence of air power meant that India was lacking in two vital ingredients of modern warfare that have the potential to cause physical degradation and psychological shock in what was primarily an attrition battle in the mountains. The total absence of aerial reconnaissance by the Indian Air Force meant that field commanders had no real time idea of the strength of forces that Mao was amassing for his attack.

The Indian Armed Forces have come a long way since 1962 and are in a consolidation phase in the current Five Year Plan (2012-2017). There has been a slow shift in our politicomilitary strategy from a primarily Pak-

centric orientation, to one that seeks to balance two adversaries on multiple fronts; much more needs to be done to ensure that this strategy is backed with intent and speedy capability build-up. There is a perception that alarmist signals regarding the imminence of a ChinaIndia confrontation in the next five years have been precipitated by vested western interests that seek Indian military build-up as part of a hedging strategy to deflect Chinese attention from the Pacific and South China Sea.

While there may be some merit and an element of realpolitik in this, there is overwhelming evidence of military and infrastructure build-up in Tibet including increased fighter aircraft activity that points at a methodical and typically Chinese chess-like build-up towards supporting and sustaining a modern

high altitude campaign against a strong adversary. While there is no way in which India can currently match the Chinese infrastructure in Tibet, what is the way out in the short and medium term? A high survivability-high visibility-high attrition deterrent strategy that revolves around preserving own forces in the face of a ferocious initial assault and inflicting unsustainable losses to integrated application of firepower, whilst continuing to see what the enemy is doing with near 24x7 recce and surveillance, seems to be the surest way of combating the Chinese threat. India has no territorial ambitions and hence can ill-afford to work on manoeuvre strategies that look at capturing ground as part of any trade-off strategy. Lessons from the China-Vietnam war of 1979 and the subsequent lack of battleexperience of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) makes it vulnerable to

attrition warfare, both in the air and on ground.

Whether the Chinese have the stomach to take high casualties in pursuit of a nationalistic objective on its extreme peripheries that has few tangible benefits is highly debatable. The maritime domain too is a space that can be exploited and contested by India. With both India and China heading for a two-carrier fleet and blue water capability, strategic analysts predict that a future ChinaIndia conflict may not be restricted to only a localised high altitude conflict over desolate terrain. It may well spillover to vital sea lines of communication that run through the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Final analysis

A militarily strong India that seeks to defend its sovereignty with strength and dignity is not an aggressive or belligerent India. It is an India that seeks peace in the region on respectable terms. China has to be respected as a strong adversary with an emerging penchant for regional hegemony, something that has to be contested by India, should it threaten its national interests. A China strategy, which is short on rhetoric and long on capability, is the only way to cope with an increasingly assertive China. While Mao did pronounce that power flows from the barrel of a gun, India can well twist it to say that peace too can flow from the barrel of two matching guns.

(Arjun Subramaniam is a serving Air Vice-Marshal in the Indian Air Force. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views of the IAF or the Indian government.)

A strategy short on rhetoric and long on capability is the only way to cope with

an increasingly assertive China October 20, 2012

Behind the war, a genesis in Tibet

Fifty years on, how the events leading up to 1962 were perceived by China remains almost entirely absent in Indian narratives of the war. Unlike the wars with Japan and in Korea that have a central role in Chinese propaganda about a national revival led by the Communist Party ending a century of humiliation, the conflicts with India and Vietnam, where China was the aggressor, are largely

airbrushed from todays Chinese history textbooks. Few Chinese students are even aware of 1962.

In marked contrast to the current reexamination of the events of 1962 under way in India on the 50th anniversary, the Chinese Statecontrolled media is still largely reluctant to discuss a sensitive chapter in bilateral relations, resulting in very limited insights into the war from Chinese perspectives.

However, declassified Chinese documents, which include internal memos sent from Chinese officials in New Delhi to Beijing and notes detailing negotiations from 1950 until 1962, provide fresh insights into Chinese perspectives and decisionmaking in the decade leading up to 1962.

The Chinese documents provide a far from conclusive history of the war, and are only a reflection of Chinese perspectives some merited and others unfounded and the costly misperceptions that led to 1962. This series of articles will, drawing from the documents, look to simply present, rather than evaluate, the perspectives in Beijing that led to Chinas decision to launch an offensive on October 20, 1962.

As many as 12 years before Chinese forces began their offensive against India on October 20, 1962, Chinese officials, in an internal diplomatic note, expressed concern over the Indian governments long-term designs on the status of Tibet. The note, dated November 24, 1950, reported on talks between India and China that had discussed the continuation of Indian privileges in Tibet, which had been enshrined in

earlier treaties with Britain. In general, the note said, it was exposed that India has interfered in Chinas internal affairs and has hindered China from liberating Tibet. India pretends not to have any ambition on Tibetan politics or land, the note concluded, but desires to maintain the privileges that were written in the treaties signed since 1906.

The November 1950 note marked the beginning of growing Chinese suspicions which were, on occasion, based on slight evidence and driven by Chinas own internal insecurities on Indias intentions towards Tibet, resulting in a turbulent decade during which the Tibetan problem emerged as the central issue in ties between the neighbours.

The occupation of Tibet by the Peoples Liberation Armys (PLA) in

1950 marked a fundamental shift in how the Chinese viewed relations with India. Months after the PLAs occupation of Tibet, as China began strengthening its grip over the region, Chinese officials began to object more vociferously to Indian activities. Even as India voiced support to China on the Tibetan issue in 1950 by not backing appeals at the United Nations, the Chinese, internally, continued to suspect Indian designs to destabilise Tibet.

On July 28, 1952, an internal note from the Communist Partys Central Committee instructed authorities in Tibet to crackdown on Indian business delegations, accusing India of spreading reactionary publications in the Tibetan language. In a meeting with the then Indian representative in Beijing, R.K. Nehru, on September 6, 1953, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made clear its displeasure with

Indias continued case for privileges, even describing the Indian incumbent government as holding an irresponsible position on Tibet.

Turning point in 1954

In 1954, Jawaharlal Nehru softened Indias stand by recognising the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as a part of the Peoples Republic of China and giving up privileges, in the likely hope that ties would improve. However, that same year, India, for the first time, printed new maps delineating its northern and northeastern frontiers, which Nehru declared was not open to discussion with anybody a development that ultimately sowed the seeds of the boundary dispute. The documents make clear that Tibet, more than the unsettled boundaries, was by far the fundamental issue that concerned China in the 1950s. They do not, however, shed any conclusive

light on whether Beijing might have been open to a compromise on the former issue in return for Indias major concession on Tibet a question ultimately rendered irrelevant by Nehru deciding not to link the two issues.

The centrality of the Tibetan issue for the Chinese was evident in 1956, when armed revolts broke out across Tibetan areas. With rising tensions in Tibet, the Dalai Lama travelled to India that same year, ostensibly to attend a Buddhist conference but also considering seeking asylum. While Nehru persuaded the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet, he also arranged for two key meetings between the young Tibetan spiritual leader and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who happened to be on a visit to India at the same time.

The meetings appeared to cement in the Chinese perception the status of India as a major actor in any eventual resolution of the Tibetan problem. In the first meeting, on November 1, 1956, the Dalai Lama told Zhou that there was no democracy in the way the Standing Committee of the TAR was operating. Yesterday, we visited their Parliament and saw many representatives were debating, the Dalai Lama said. I think they are doing better than us on this pointOur Standing Committee of the TAR rarely debates and the content of the discussion is only the letter and word problems.

The situation in Tibet continued to worsen ahead of their second meeting on December 30, 1956. Zhou conveyed that Mao Zedong wanted the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet as soon as possible because now some people in Lhasa want to rebel there

while the Dalai Lama is not in Tibet. Accepting the root of the problem was in the Chinese-led reforms in Tibet, Zhou said Mao had decided that reforms would be shelved and reconsidered six years later and only if the Dalai Lama granted his consent.

Zhou also hit out at Tibetan separatists who were active across the border in Kalimpong in India, and warned the Dalai Lama that the Peoples Liberation Army would suppress any dissident activity: They want to be independent and separate Tibet from China; it is betrayal of China. We must not allow it to go on and the PLA will always protect its peoples interests and take selfdefense measures Zhou added he would rouse Nehrus attention about such activities in India.

On October 8, 1962, 12 days before the Chinese offensive, Zhou Enlai reflected on his 1956 talks with the Dalai Lama in a candid meeting with the Soviet Unions Ambassador in Beijing, suggesting that it was a turning point in how he viewed Indias role in the Tibetan question and intentions regarding the boundary dispute. According to the minutes of the meeting, he said India had, in 1956, exposed their desire to collude with the Dalai Lama and attempt to maintain Tibetan serfdom.

At that time, I found Nehru inherited British Imperialist thoughts and deeds on the border issue and the Tibet issue, Zhou said. However, considering the friendship of China and India, we took a tolerant attitude and did not convey this to Nehru. In 1958, serfs in Tibet, Xikang [Sichuan] and Qinghai rebelled. Nehru could not wait and took advantage of the border

issue to interfere with Chinas internal affairs. The Dalai Lama rebelled in 1959 and fled to India, and this was caused by Nehrus inducement. Zhous views largely characterised the thinking in Beijing three years later, when the Tibetan uprising began to unfold in 1959. Chinas leaders, internal documents show, became increasingly convinced on the basis of questionable evidence India was to blame for their own failings in Tibet and that the resolution of their Tibetan problem was inextricably linked to the boundary dispute a conviction that would have fateful consequences.

Recently declassified Chinese documents underscore the centrality of the issue

to the 1962 conflict and to any future resolution of the boundary question October 20, 2012

The Grand Old Man & his miscellanea

The spring of 1901 was a moment of despair for Dadabhai Naoroji, then in residence in London. While struggling to secure a new constituency from where he could attempt to re-enter the British Parliament, the Grand Old Man had to contend with increasingly retrogressive Tory policies toward India and flagging spirits within the Indian National Congress. But on 24 April, Naoroji received news of a different yet equally troubling variety: his toilet was malfunctioning. The plumber has done what he can to rectify the defects of the water waste preventer, & we regret that it is not

now satisfactory, FW Ellis, builder and estate agent in Upper Norwood, London, grimly informed him by post.

Detailed picture

Amidst the reams of important correspondence in the Dadabhai Naoroji Papers a collection of some 30,000 documents held at the National Archives of India in Delhi one regularly comes across unexpected material such as Ellis note. The Naoroji Papers, which I have consulted for over the past 20 months, provide stunning new insight into early Indian nationalism. Additionally, they paint an extraordinarily detailed picture of the life of one of Indias greatest leaders in the pre-independence era. Naoroji, it appears, decided to keep all of his correspondence for posterity. As a result, letters from Indian and British political luminaries jostle alongside

everyday receipts, prescriptions, random newspaper clippings, and the 19th century equivalent of junk mail. Such minutiae are easy to dismiss at first. Yet, taken together, they help us reconstruct the careers of Naoroji and other Indians who lived and worked in the United Kingdom, telling us how they navigated life in a strange and foreign society.

From the Papers, we know a smattering of what is, on the surface, completely trivial information about the Grand Old Man. A receipt, for example, indicates that on 9 January 1897 he purchased hand-made boots from a cobbler in southwest London that cost him precisely one pound and one shilling. We know that his family servant in Bombay was named Baloo. Naoroji might have invested in a company developing the tram system in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as the first garden city in England: I

located share fliers for both ventures early in my research. A newspaper cutting from the early 1900s suggests he took an interest in the llama, the resourceful South American pack animal. And several months ago, I stumbled across his eyeglass prescription from 1894 (a friend of mine, a doctor at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, diagnoses Naoroji as being far-sighted).

Digging a little deeper, it is possible to piece together greater significance from such random and bizarre information. Investments in South America, the United Kingdom, and India show that Naoroji adopted a very international outlook in his personal finances finances that he put to productive use by funding nationalist activity. Even his malfunctioning toilet tells us that Naoroji was privy to some of the latest available technology: the waste

water preventer was a relatively new invention that was revolutionising sanitation in Victorian England.

Since Naoroji was the senior-most Indian resident in the United Kingdom, he was regularly consulted by his countrymen who travelled to the imperial metropole for study, work, or pleasure. There are literally thousands of letters in the Naoroji Papers from such Indians documenting incidents of racism, financial trouble, or plain homesickness and nearly all of them received a prompt and detailed reply from the Grand Old Man. Naoroji functioned as a guardian of sorts for many Indians in Britain. Around 1 am on 2 January 1891, for example, he was awakened by a telegram from a London police constable informing him that a Mr. CK Desai was under arrest for public drunkenness and wanted Naoroji to

bail him out of jail. Aside from such correspondence, there are reams of letters from concerned parents in India who asked Naoroji to keep tabs on their sons (and, increasingly, daughters), making sure that they were being financially prudent and not consorting with Englishwomen.

The Papers also provide an insight into how Naoroji and his fellow nationalists in London adapted and reacted to life abroad. In addition to collaborating on the formulation of various economic critiques of the Raj, Romesh Chunder Dutt used Naoroji as a character reference for securing his flat in Forest Hill in 1898. While Dutt eventually returned to India in 1903, his fellow Bengali, W.C. Bonnerji, the first president of the Congress, took to London so much that he and his family put down permanent roots there, purchasing a house in Croydon that they christened Kidderpore. The

extent of their Anglicisation was evident when Naoroji in January 1893 invited the Bonnerjis to attend, in Indian attire, a function held in Central Finsbury to celebrate his election to the House of Commons. I am extremely sorry to say that we have not an Indian dress in the house, a family member responded.

Others dearly missed the staples of Indian life while in England. In January 1906, the radical nationalist Madame Bhikaiji Cama staying with a family member in North Kensington invited Naoroji and his grandchildren over for a Sunday Parsee lunch, an offer the Grand Old Man must have leapt at given the boiled and bland fare otherwise on offer in London. Some cultural adjustments were easier. Although in his sixties and seventies, Naoroji appears to have taken a fancy to English sports. He was the president of the football club

in his parliamentary constituency, Central Finsbury, and the vicepresident of a north London cricket club. A tantalising clue about Naorojis affinity for the gentlemans game is offered by his campaign secretary, who in 1895 wrote to Naoroji that, One would really imagine you to be a God of Cricket.

But there was one great cultural challenge in Britain that Naoroji had great difficulty in surmounting: people just could not spell his name correctly. In newspapers, posters, and his incoming mail, the Grand Old Man was addressed by creative variants such as Dedabhan Naorji, Devan Novoriji, and Dadabhai Nowraggie. Matters improved slightly once his campaign secretary suggested that he simply go by D. Naoroji. After he won election to Parliament by a mere five votes, he was frequently referred to as Dadabhai Narrow-Majority, which

was presumably easier to remember and spell.

Naoroji and his fellow nationalists, however, were guilty of their own spelling bloopers. The Grand Old Man regularly ended his letters with the valediction Yours truly, adding an unnecessary apostrophe. When the Bengali painter, Sasi Kumar Hesh, visited London in 1899, Romesh Chunder Dutt wrote excitedly of the various pourtraits the artist intended to undertake. Madame Cama loved semi-colons; her letters to Naoroji are simply replete with them. What is particularly striking is how so many of Naorojis correspondents chose to communicate in broken English rather than in languages where they had a shared greater proficiency, such as Gujarati or Hindustani. But English, even bad English, was a status symbol then, as it remains today. The surprisingly few Gujarati letters in the

Naoroji Papers are mostly from his family members.

Common headache

While mastery of English was a challenge to some upwardly-mobile Indians, deciphering one anothers handwriting was a headache shared by all. I have probably done serious damage to my own eyesight by trying to make sense of the scribbles found in the Naoroji Papers. Understanding them was evidently a challenge to the original recipients over a century ago. Naoroji occasionally admonished Behramji Malabari, the prominent Parsi journalist and social reformer, to write neatly. William Wedderburn, one of the British stalwarts in the early Congress, grumbled to Naoroji in August 1891 that he could not read letters from Dinsha Wacha, the longtime Congress general secretary (But you must not tell him this, he

added). And Allan Octavian Hume, while attempting to go through a draft of Naorojis presidential address to the 1893 Lahore Congress, confessed to Naoroji that your handwriting is rather hard to read. Perhaps it is appropriate that, toward the end of his life, Naoroji helped fund a bright Maharashtrian inventor, Shankar Abaji Bhise, who was working on new models of typewriters.

Encountering such unexpected miscellanea is a treat to the historian, providing a moment of levity while sifting through otherwise heavy and complex matter. But these miscellanea also perform an important role in our understanding of early Indian nationalists. Individuals such as Naoroji, Dutt, Ranade, and Gokhale have in both scholarship and our popular conceptions of history too often been cast as staid, unapproachable, and even downright

dull people. The paper trail they left behind tells us quite a different story: it exposes us to the particularities of their lives, their complex characters, their foibles, habits, and everyday routines. It humanises these leaders. Maybe this is one reason why Dadabhai Naoroji, while organising his personal papers during his retirement in Versova, chose to preserve his prescriptions, receipts, and correspondence with his London plumber.

(Dinyar Patel is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Harvard University. Some of the material quoted here will be published in the forthcoming volume, The Grand Old Man of India: Selections from the Dadabhai Naoroji Papers (Oxford University Press), which he is co-editing with S.R. Mehrotra.)

The paper trail leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji have left behind offers a rich insight into the lives of early Indian nationalists and our understanding of them October 22, 2012

From Tibet to Tawang, a legacy of suspicions

Chinas suspicions about Indias intentions with regard to Tibet in the 1950s, unfounded or otherwise, were not Beijings only major consideration in the lead-up to 1962. Declassified internal Chinese documents detail how the Forward Policy, by the summer of 1962, began to be seen in Beijing as an attempt by Nehru to unilaterally grab territory that had to be firmly stopped. The changing dynamics between China, India and the Soviet Union emerged as another factor in Mao Zedongs decisionmaking. Nevertheless, Chinese

internal communications from the time establish that the Tibetan issue emerged as perhaps the most significant driving force behind Chinas decision to launch an offensive against India on October 20, 1962.

Following the March 10, 1959 uprising in Tibet and the Dalai Lama heading to India in exile, Chinese officials began to be alarmed by the political climate in India. In an internal diplomatic note sent to Beijing, Chinese officials quoted a leader of an Indian Opposition party as describing the relationship between India and Tibet as like between a mother and her child. When the son is being attacked, can his mother be a silent passer-by? the leader was quoted as saying. Tibets issues are issues that affect Indias flesh and blood, and it would be wrong to view Tibets issues as Chinas internal affairs.

On March 25, 1959, Mao convened a meeting of top leaders to discuss the situation in Tibet, during which he blamed India for the unrest, declaring that China would not condemn India openly but would instead give India enough rope to hang itself. Outwardly, Chinese leaders continued to affirm good relations with India. The Foreign Ministry, in a note to the Indian government on March 29, said it welcomed a statement made by Nehru of not interfering in Chinas internal affairs. China has never interfered in Indias internal affairs, never discussed Indias internal affairs in its National Peoples Congress or its Standing Committee, and thinks that it is impolite and improper to discuss the internal affairs of a friendly country, the note said.

According to an internal note dated March 30, the Communist Party directed the Peoples Daily newspaper

to publish a friendly observer comment on April 15, declaring that Sino-Indian friendly relations shall not be harmed by the Tibetan problem. While the commentary pointed out that it had been a public secret that Tibetan rebels had established a foreign base in Kalimpong and colluded with Imperialists to plan a rebellion, it added that those who dislike SinoIndian friendliness are attempting to take the opportunity of the Dalai Lama being in India to incite Tibetans.

Indian expansionism

Privately, however, Mao became increasingly convinced of Indian expansionist designs on Tibet. Mao appeared to have little evidence to back this conviction instead, he increasingly began to deflect the responsibility for the unrest in Tibet,

sourced in the colossal failures of the Communist Partys reforms, on to India. On April 19, he directed the Xinhua news agency to issue a commentary which he personally revised, as John W. Garver notes in his essay Chinas Decision for War with India in 1962. The commentary, which finally appeared on May 6, 1959, accused Nehru of encouraging the rebels in India, arguing that Nehru and the bourgeoisie in India had sought to maintain Tibet as a buffer and restore its semi-independent status. Maos suspicions were fed by internal notes from Lhasa. A January 15, 1960 note from the Foreign Affairs Office in Lhasa in great detail reported of Indian expansionist activities in Kalimpong. The Indian expansionists cannot be reconciled to their failure, and have not given up their conspiracy on Tibet, the note said. They have a set of practices such as.. maintaining reserve forces. If the Indian expansionists lose their

relationship with these Tibetan serfowners, all of their plans will have no way out. Therefore, they try every possible way

In April 1961, the Foreign Affairs Office in Tibet in another memo said Indias attitude on Tibet had gotten worse in the two years after the uprising. The note explicitly linked Tibet to the boundary dispute, and put forward suggestions for revising the 1954 agreement on Tibet. The present Tibet has been radically changed when compared with that in 1954, the note said. The Indian attitude is worse; it was friendly to China then and now India opposes China. The Sino-Indian border issueis the pretext India uses to oppose China and has become an essential issue for present Sino-Indian relations.

Chinese suspicions that linked Tibet and the border continued to heighten towards the end of 1961, when the Forward Policy began to be implemented. By then, Zhou Enlais 1960 visit to New Delhi had ended in stalemate. The deadlock was further reinforced by Indias demand for the Chinese to withdraw from the Aksai Chin region before any talks could be held. Nehrus demand further stoked Chinese suspicions. Nehrus insistence on Chinese abandonment of Aksai Chin established a link in Chinese minds between the border issue and Chinas ability to control Tibet, Garver writes in his essay, as the road connecting Xinjiang and Tibet was crucial to China sustaining military posts. Garver concluded that very probably the powerful but inaccurate Chinese belief about Indias desire to seize Tibet led to an incorrect Chinese conclusion that Nehrus insistence on Aksai Chin was

part of a grand plan to achieve that purpose.

East west swap

Chinas concerns on its sovereignty in Tibet continue to cast a shadow on the boundary dispute. As Garver notes in his seminal work Protracted Contest, China twice proposed or at least, hinted at an east west swap to resolve the boundary dispute. The swap involved China giving up its claims to Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh, whose geography is crucial to Indias defence of the northeast. India would, in turn, give up its claim to Aksai Chin, which provides the Peoples Liberation Army the most crucial land link between Xinjiang and Tibet. The first hint was during Zhou Enlais 1960 visit, and the second suggested by Deng Xiaoping in 1980. India rejected the swap offer for Nehru, giving up Aksai Chin in the

political climate of the time appeared politically untenable.

When the sixth round of border talks between India and China began in late 1985, as Garver notes, China for the first time pressed its claims in the eastern sector on Tawang, south of the McMahon Line. The Indian side was stunned, Garver writes. They had assumed that China implicitly accepted that line While the current status and progress on the boundary talks is unclear given the secrecy it is shrouded in, China has appeared to hold on to this position since. One Chinese scholar, who did not want to be identified citing the sensitivity of the issue, said from Beijings point of view, Tawang was now the central question at the heart of the boundary dispute. As long as China fails to arrive at any kind of resolution with the Dalai Lama and remains concerned about stability in

Tibet, China is unlikely to entertain the thought of giving up all its claims on Tawang, the scholar suggested.

With increasingly frequent invocations of Chinas claim on Arunachal Pradesh as south Tibet in State media outlets since the 2000s and harsh denunciations of the Dalai Lama, the Communist Party, the scholar added, would perhaps even find it difficult to sell a settlement that involved conceding its claims in the eastern sector, particularly against the rising tide of nationalism and criticisms of a weak government evident during recent anti-Japan protests. The history of Chinese suspicions on Indias intentions on Tibet, even if unfounded, remains hugely relevant to the boundary question even five decades later.

Chinas concerns about Tibet, a significant force behind its 1962 offensive, continue to cast a shadow on the boundary dispute with India October 22, 2012

A state of criminal injustice

Even criminals, back in 1953, seemed to be soaking in the warm, hope-filled glow that suffused the newly free India. From a peak of 654,019 in 1949, the number of crimes had declined year-on-year to 601,964. Murderers and dacoits; house-breakers and robbers all were showing declining enthusiasm for crime. Large-scale communal violence, which had torn apart the nation at the moment of its birth, appeared to be a fading memory. Bar a Calcutta tram workers strike, which had paralysed the city for three weeks, there was no largescale violence at all.

The sun wasnt shining in the stoneclad corridors of New Delhis North Block, though, where police officials had just completed the countrys first national crime survey the National Crime Records Bureaus now-annual Crime in India .

India, they concluded, faced a crisis of criminal justice. For one, India faced a crippling shortage of police officers. Then, poor training standards meant there had been no improvement in the methods of investigation. No facilities exist in any of the rural police stations and even in most of the urban police stations for scientific investigation, the report went on, there had been a fall in the standard of work. The result, Crime in India, 1953 recorded, was plain: intelligence capacities had diminished; cases were failing; criminals walking free.

Stinging indictment

Last month, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association, a New Delhibased human rights advocacy group, brought out a stinging indictment of policing in independent India. In studies of 16 cases involving the Delhi Polices lite counter-terrorism unit, the Special Cell, the report found evidence of illegal detention, fabricated evidence and torture. Each case, the report states, ended in acquittal but not before protracted trials destroyed the lives of suspects.

Delhi Police officials have responded by arguing that the report cherry-picks cases where the prosecution collapsed. Sixty eight per cent of the 182 individuals tried for terrorismrelated crimes from 1992 have been convicted. In addition, they claimed to have secured convictions in six of the

16 cases of illegal possession of arms and explosives.

This line of defence is profoundly wrong-headed. Even if there was evidence that even one of the 16 suspects was framed or wrongfully prosecuted, that in itself would constitute a scandal. The Delhi Polices failure to initiate an independent review of the cases does the force no credit.

In using the cases to argue that terrorism related prosecutions are driven by communal malice, though, the JTSA study falls into serious errors of its own. The stark truth is that convictions for every kind of crime are in free fall, engendering a state of criminal injustice no republic can tolerate and hope to survive.

Figures on rape prosecutions graphically demonstrate the need for caution before making the deductive leap that the police are simply framing innocents to serve communal biases, or hide their incompetence. In 2003, less than a quarter of alleged rapists were eventually convicted. In most Indian rape prosecutions, the testimony of victims is key. To suggest that the high levels of acquittals are evidence of the framing of suspects by the police would be to suggest that a large percentage of women who file rape complaints are lying a selfevidently ridiculous proposition in our social context.

It is entirely possible that another kind of police bias against women might account for this high level of acquittals; male-chauvinist police officers would, after all, conduct poor investigations. It isnt only alleged rapists, though, who are being

acquitted in record numbers. Kidnapping convictions have fallen from 48 per cent in 1953 to 27 per cent in 2011; successful robbery prosecutions from 47 per cent to 29. In 2003, less than a third of completed murder trials ended in a conviction; in 2011, the last year for which data has been published, the figure remained under 40 per cent (see table).

Thus, a 30 per cent conviction rate in terrorism cases a widely-used figure, albeit of uncertain empirical provenance, that also finds mention in the JTSA report would be entirely consistent with the overall police record. From the NCRBs crime data, this much is evident: if the Delhi Police have indeed secured convictions in 68 per cent of terrorism cases since 1992, it is a sign of stellar competence.

Interestingly, the police have had stellar results in explosives and arms

cases, where cases revolve around material recoveries: half or more of all prosecutions since 1983 have ended in convictions. This points us in the direction of the real malaise. Investigators seem good at sniffing out hidden guns and bombs, sometimes after crudely beating information out of suspects, but not so competent in the complex process of marshalling a chain of credible evidence.

This is not to suggest that there is no bias in policing. In 2010, the last year for which NCRB data on Indias prison population is available, 17.74 per cent of the 125,789 convicts in the countrys prisons were Muslims somewhat higher than their share of population, which the 2001 census put at 13 per cent, and is now estimated to be over 14 per cent. The overrepresentation of Muslims among prisoners facing trial was even more

marked: 22.2 per cent of 240,098 that year shared this religious affiliation.

Evidence of bias

These figures make clear that Muslims are not only disproportionately likely to be convicted for an offence but also more likely to be arrested for a crime for which they are eventually acquitted.

For two reasons, though, it is unclear that communal chauvinism alone accounts for this overrepresentation. First, Muslims were significantly overrepresented among the prison population in some States with a record of non-communal administration. In West Bengal, for example, 5,722 of 12,361 prisoners under trial were Muslims a staggering 46 per cent, against a share of the general population of around

25 per cent. Uttar Pradesh had 15,510 Muslim prisoners under trial, out of a total of 55,872 27 per cent though the religious community made up less than 20 per cent of its population in 2001.

West Bengals numbers were not dramatically different from highly communalised Gujarat. There, 18.3 per cent of prisoners under trial in 2010 were Muslims, who make up just 9 per cent of the population. Even Gujarat did better than Maharashtra, where a staggering 32 per cent of prisoners under trial, and almost 31 per cent of convicts, are Muslims though just over 10 per cent of the population are of that faith.

Muslims, secondly, arent the most overrepresented category in Indian jails. Just over 1 per cent of Indias 365,887 undertrial prisoners and convicts held post-graduate

qualifications; three quarters were either illiterate or had failed to pass the 10th grade. Three-fifths of Bihars 5,260 convicts serving time in 2010, for example, belonged to the Scheduled Tribes, the Scheduled Castes or the Other Backward Classes a pattern evident in many States. Muslims are among the poorest and most educationally deprived segments of Indias population, a fact of significance.

Finally, local factors for example, the historic character of organised crime in Mumbai or Ahmedabad might have played a role in the making of these figures, too. It ought to be no surprise that Hindus would account for a high share of terrorism suspects in Manipur or Assam; nor that Muslims might be overrepresented in Jammu and Kashmir or Sikhs in Punjab.

High quality empirical studies to establish just how much communal bias influences the criminal justice system are desperately needed and their absence is evidence of the chronic deficits in the policing system as a whole.

The bottom line is this: even as far too many innocent people are ending up suffering punishment for crimes they never committed, even greater numbers are walking free after perpetrating hideous acts of violence.

Every word of the authors of the 1953 Crime in India could be republished in a crime survey today without emendation. The police remain understaffed, under-trained and under-equipped to conduct meaningful investigations.

Dismal ratio

Little has been done to address chronic deficits in staffing either. Last year, the Union Home Ministry told Parliament it had pushed up the ratio of police officers to the population to 174:100,000, inching towards the global norm of 250:100,000 or more, and up from a painfully-anaemic 121:100,000. It neglected to note, though, that its claims were based on the 2001 census; adjusted for population growth, the ratio is still an appalling 134:100,000.

Forensic facilities also remain rudimentary and training is cursory: it bears recalling that the forensic evidence that links 26/11 gunman Muhammad Ajmal Kasab to his handlers in Pakistan emerged as a result of work by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not Indias police. The central academy for police

investigation skills proposed in 1953 still doesnt exist.

Ever since 26/11, there has been big talk on police reform but precious little action. The results are evident, scarring the life of every citizen.

The conviction rate for every kind of crime is in free fall, engendering a breakdown of law that no republic can survive October 22, 2012

A lesson in propriety, from one Nehru-Gandhi son-in-law

BTE NOIRE OR ACHILLES HEEL?By the metric of todays political culture, Feroze Gandhi seems naive. Robert Vadra, on the other hand, is anything but a misfit. (Left) Sonia Gandhi and Robert Vadra at Veer Bhumi, New Delhi and (right) Jawaharlal Nehru and Feroze Gandhi in Mumbai. PHOTOS: R.V. MOORTHY, THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

Among the primary lessons in statistics is that comparisons must be made only of things that are similar in nature. Chalk cant be compared to cheese. But sometimes it is useful to indulge in such a comparison if only to drive home the contrast between the two. In substance, texture and taste.

Like Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the legendary parliamentarian, Feroze Gandhi, also married into the ruling partys first family. His wife Indira

Gandhi, was the Jawaharlal Nehru.



Feroze, unlike Robert, entered public life very young, participated and led agitations on the street, landed up in jail and finally represented Rae Bareli, from where he was elected to the Lok Sabha, until his death. He did not owe his rise in politics to being Jawaharlal Nehrus son-in-law and his political fortunes did not balloon after marriage. Feroze was not known to have acquired property at any point in his life.

Robert is not a politician and he cannot be blamed for the absence of a glorious movement like the freedom struggle which his wifes grandfather had plunged into as a young man. It is also unfair to blame him for not having entered public life or fought an election. He chose not to. Like Feroze, who could not have imagined he was

marrying the future Prime Ministers daughter when he wed Indira Gandhi, it cannot be anyones case that Robert married Priyanka Gandhi in pursuit of fame and fortune. Their wedding took place in 1997 and at a time when Sonia Gandhi was merely a special person in the Congress party; the party, led by Sitaram Kesri was sustaining the United Front government from outside. In the year of his marriage, this young man simply set up a brass handicraft business; hailing from Moradabad, it was only natural for him to indulge in brassware.

But then, a few years after his mother-in-law became the most powerful person who could instruct the Prime Minister on anything and everything and had the entire Congress party at her beck and call, the son-in-law expanded his business, entering uncharted areas including

real estate and hospitality, two sectors that recorded exponential growth. The huge increase in his assets that occurs during this time has been commented on by Arvind Kejriwal and India Against Corruption, who allege the existence of a nexus between Robert and real estate giant DLF. If DLF was indeed being helpful to him, only the naive will agree that its benevolence had nothing to do with Vadra being Sonia Gandhis sonin-law.

Dalmia, Mundra cases

For Feroze Gandhi, even the whiff of impropriety was enough to set him off on a crusade. Despite being a Congress MP, he emerged as a whistle-blower against the Congress government headed by his father-inlaw. It was Feroze who raised the scandalous ways in which Ramakrishna Dalmia, a leading

businessman then and also a Congress supporter, was siphoning funds collected as insurance premium to further his own business. Neither did Congressmen hurl innuendoes at Feroze nor did Nehrus government shun him. Instead, the government decided to nationalise the insurance industry and thus the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India came into existence.

The Feroze Gandhi saga did not end there. It was his expos, on the floor of the Lok Sabha, that the LIC had, under instruction from the then Finance Minister T.T. Krishnamachari, indulged in bad business decisions to bail out Haridas Mundra, a businessman known to have been one of the donors to the Congress election funds.

Krishnamachari was Nehrus Man Friday, yet he was asked to quit the

Union cabinet. And it was in this process of exposing the Mundra scandal by Feroze Gandhi that the then Lok Sabha Speaker, Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, ruled that the scope of Article 105 of the Constitution to empower MPs to use as documents even correspondence marked confidential in the course of exposing an act of wrongdoing by a public servant.

It is unfair to compare chalk and cheese. Future chroniclers will note how both sons-in-law reflected the nature of their times. If earlier propriety was everything, property now is king. By the metric of todays political culture, Feroze Gandhi seems naive, an underachiever and a misfit in the world of his chosen vocation. Robert, on the other hand, is anything but a misfit.

(V. Krishna Ananth is Associate Professor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Sikkim University.)

Feroze Gandhi and Robert Vadra couldnt be more apart. But then the times are

so different too. October 23, 2012

Dont shrink the scope of the Mental Health Act

Mental illness, of course, is not literally a thing or physical object and hence it can exist only in the same sort of way in which other theoretical concepts exist.

Thomas Szasz

During depression the world disappears. Language itself. One has nothing to say. Nothing.

Kate Millet

These quotes show how much the world is divided when it comes to mental illness. We see people with mental illness everyday in our own family, neighbourhood, on the streets but the field of psychiatry, involved in the care of this neglected group of patients, faces a lot of criticism. The early history of psychiatry and nonevidence-based modes of treatment that existed before medications made their debut could have been a reason. It could also be due to the political misuse of psychiatry to silence opposing voices, especially by the Nazis and other dictatorial regimes. The most important factor seems to

be the combination of years of negative propaganda and the influence of the media, especially the visual and print media, which have contributed to generating fear and apathy towards psychiatry. It is worth asking if this has helped the most vulnerable, mentally unwell person on the street, neglected by family and walking naked, lost in strange beliefs and perceptual disturbances.

Appropriate treatment helps patients with mental illness get better. Most developed countries have moved away from asylum-based treatments, and have embraced community integrated psychiatry as the treatment model. It also entails treating patients in the acute wards and moving them as soon as possible back to the community, where they would continue follow-up. In providing care, especially in acute settings, and for patients with major mental illnesses

like schizophrenia and severe depression, psychiatrists often face patients with poor insight into their condition and impaired judgment. It is difficult to provide care to the patient who does not have the capacity to decide on getting treated or cannot make an informed choice about the best treatment option. Treatment is then provided involuntarily, keeping their best interest in mind. This doesnt mean a collaborative effort is not attempted.

In Australia and India

As per the Mental Health Act (MHA) in Australia, acutely ill patients are admitted using an Inpatient Treatment Order (ITO), if any doctor feels that the patient requires specialist psychiatric care, but is unable to seek care on his own. The involuntary order is reviewed by a psychiatrist within 24 hours of its

issuance and it is decided if the patient needs to remain on it. Once made involuntary, the responsibility of patient safety and treatment is under the treating team. Another important aspect in Australia is the presence of the Guardianship Board a body with judicial powers that needs to be notified of every involuntary treatment order soon after it is made. Patients, who feel the ITO was uncalled for, can appeal to the board against it. The board conducts a hearing in the next few days. After hearing the evidence from the treating team and the patient, it decides if the ITO is to continue. This prevents the misuse of power by the treating team. Most developed countries have provisions in their MHA to protect patient interests and to make a mental health-care plan after discussing the merits and demerits of the treatment with patients, their family or friends.

In a country like India, where the burden of illness is huge and facilities for psychiatric care are minimal, it is essential that adequate acute care is provided in every district. It is impossible to ensure care for the patient without a suitable MHA, which would simplify access to treatment, and at the same time prevent misuse. The Indian governments plan to integrate mental health care with primary health care is ambitious. However, the role of the private sector and non-governmental organisations cannot be ignored. It is important that all the available treatment facilities (in government and private medical colleges, private hospitals, charity institutions) are covered within the ambit of the act and stringent checks put in place to ensure the safety and recovery of patients.

In this context, it is disheartening to know that the formulation of the new MHA is shrouded in mystery and that various activists are raising their doubts about its possible impact. Any draft MHA, without adequate debate and discussion, and feedback from all concerned, may not be able to capture the actual needs of patients. The experience of countries, where this has already been achieved, should be sufficient to warrant its necessity. Hence, it is time that authorities share information regarding important proposals and changes and convene discussions with the public to dispel misconceptions. Worst-case scenarios do not make the rule, but can be accommodated within the MHA as a means of audit and for checks and balances to prevent its misuse.

(Dr. Jayakumar neuropsychiatrist

Menon at the

is a Royal

Adelaide Hospital, Australia. Email: )

India needs to look at the experience of countries that have moved away from asylum-based treatments and embraced community integrated psychiatry as the treatment model October 23, 2012

For licence to hit and run

It was a perfect scenario. Horrific violence by Muslims against policemen and the media, handled sensitively by a police force known for its anti-Muslim prejudice. The entire community apologetic for the violence of a few. Revulsion against rabid religious leaders. Respect for a courageous Police Commissioner.

This was the scene in Mumbai immediately after a meeting on August 11 called by some Muslim religious leaders turned violent midway. Called to condemn the violence against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar and the inaction of the government, the meeting attracted a 20,000-strong crowd, carrying placards with inflammatory and abusive images and slogans.

Back to square one

Two months later, things are back to square one: Muslims are bitter about the police and the government, all signs of remorse have disappeared, and the Urdu press is at its irresponsible best. If theres any ray of hope, its with the courts.

The blame for this has to be laid at the door of the Maharashtra government. Two days after Raj Thackeray took out an (illegal) rally demanding the ouster of the Police Commissioner and the Home Minister for allowing Marathi policemen and women to be attacked by Bangladeshi Muslims who had come to Mumbai from Bihar and U.P., Commissioner Arup Patnaik was sent packing (to a punishment posting). The message to Muslims couldnt have been clearer no cop worth his uniform can be soft when you guys riot. The second but equally important message was that a known instigator of communal violence like Raj Thackeray could call the shots with the secular Congress.

That wasnt all. No arrests were made at the spot of the violence but Muslims who returned at night with friends to collect their bikes parked there were pounced upon, assaulted,

arrested and charged with offences ranging from murder, to rioting with arms, to molestation. Twenty of them are still in jail, with the police vehemently opposing bail, though by their own admission, they do not figure in the videos of the violence. A magistrate found that 12 of them were so badly assaulted in Arthur Road Jail by jail staff that three days later, their bodies still bore marks of injury. His report, submitted more than six weeks ago, is yet to be acted upon.

It was only after the Bombay High Court observed during the bail hearing of two of these 20, that prima facie charges of murder and attempt to murder were not made out against them, that the new Police Commissioner acknowledged publicly that these charges had been wrongly applied before he took over, he added pointedly. He took over on

August 23. What was he doing since then? The parents of these 20 youth and social workers have since made umpteen trips to the police asking that these particular youngsters be let off on bail. Why didnt the Commissioner order that Sections 302 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code be removed, so that bail could be granted?

Glaring inequity

Then theres the glaring inequity of the rabble-rousers being left untouched. The organisers of the August 11 rally were named as accused in the FIR filed on the day of the incident. They made inflammatory speeches, to which the crowd responded with slogans, says the FIR. It even names the man after whose speech 3000 from the crowd started moving out excitedly. But none of these organisers has been arrested.

Why, ask the families of the youngsters behind bars. They arent unaware of these mens political links. Everyone has seen State Home Minister R.R. Patil of the NCP come calling at the residence of one of them, whose brother is an NCP corporator. Another, a known rabblerouser, heads an organisation involved in another riot in 2006, in which two policemen were lynched in Bhiwandi. Asked to explain their inaction, the police simply reply: We are going through the evidence. Thats the same reply they give when asked why they are opposing bail to the first batch of 20 youth arrested! For one group of accused, that explanation means a licence to roam free; for another, an obstacle to even conditional freedom.

Perhaps it is this typically cussed and arbitrary conduct of the police and the government that makes even the

families of the boys caught in the video footage of the incident, defiant. Some point out that though their sons can be seen in the video, they are just standing there. Others, whose sons can be seen holding a matchbox near an OB van, or a police rifle, or kicking the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial, are hard put to deny the guilt of their progeny. But their acts are ascribed to other factors: incitement by irresponsible leaders in the month of Ramzan when fasting makes you short-tempered; lack of education and, interestingly, of street-smart guile; even the absence of job reservation for Muslims which would have given their sons regular jobs and made them act more responsibly.

These excuses are perhaps understandable. What is not is the common defence taken by these relatives everyone indulges in violence, but only Muslims get

punished. This comes straight from the Urdu press, which, if one is to believe these families, has now begun to continuously report instances of violence from across the country adding that no one has been arrested for them. The vandalism of Raj Thackerays men tops these reports.

But no one gets away with attacking the cops, you say, not even Shiv Sainiks. Immediately come the counter-questions what about Congressmen attacking cops in Orissa, a female constable being molested during the Ganpati festival in Lalbag? Was anyone arrested? Some people are above the law, you explain, but there are no takers for that argument, as there shouldnt be. Then where is justice? Is this democracy? ask veiled mothers aggressively.

So, the chickens have finally come home to roost. Decades of

appeasement of political Hindutva, and dominant caste rowdies, have resulted in others asking for the same. A community known to stay quiet once it was taught a lesson, now refuses to do so. If vandalism by a select few goes unpunished, why should we be punished for doing the same, asks the new generation of Muslims. This logic, coming from the vandalisers, though repugnant, is perfect. But coming from the press?

Selective reporting

The Urdu press in Mumbai is aware that the Muslim rioters of August 11 werent just attacking the media and police in an outburst of secular pent up rage. It was an outburst of communal mayhem not rage for the videos make it clear those burning the vans were having a great time. The police have shown community leaders and journalists the videos. The

latter have heard the abusive slogans raised by the rioters. Photographers attacked that day can testify to the fanaticism of their assailants. Muslim eye-witnesses have shared experiences of conduct by the rallyists that can only be explained by hatred for all non-Muslims. But the Urdu press has chosen not to report any of this to its community, like the Gujarati press in 2002, which blacked out the violence by many Gujarati Hindus, and focused only on the burning of the Sabarmati Express by some Godhra Muslims.

Like the Urdu press, Muslim community workers too, refuse to engage with this new generation of lumpens, who laugh as they recount how they brandished sugarcane stalks grabbed from stalls (they werent swords, just sugarcane), how their compatriots dived into police vans to pick up rifles and dance with them

(they didnt use the rifles). Most of those caught on video are selfemployed school dropouts, living in large joint families in poor ghettos, doted on by grandmothers (he wouldnt sleep till I fed him with my own hands), namazis who obey their local imam, have no contact with other communities, but own the latest mobiles equipped with Bluetooth et al .

Many of these youngsters belong to the NCP and even Raj Thackerays Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Loyal Congress workers had been asked to stay away from the openly antiCongress rally. Today, neither the NCP nor the Congress can afford to be seen helping even the innocents among these boys. But behind the scene efforts are on to reach Madame in Delhi. Interestingly, its common knowledge that Prithviraj Chavan, the Congress Chief Minister,

had for long resisted ally NCPs demand to replace Commissioner Patnaik with the current incumbent.

Thats one more phrase thrown at you by relatives of the accused Its all politics. Our poor boys just got caught.

(Jyoti Punwani is a Bombay-based journalist and writer)

Appeasement of all kinds of influential

law-breakers over decades has led the Muslim community and Urdu press to demand similar treatment for the Azad Maidan rabble-rousers October 23, 2012

Looking spaceward, feet firmly on the ground

Dr. K. Radhakrishnan , Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Secretary, Department of Space, spoke to Madhumathi D.S. on the national space programmes present concerns and what is in store for it as it grapples with global competition and rising internal demand. Excerpts:

The national space programme faces a double whammy: a transponder deficit on communication satellites and a delay in achieving the capability to launch our own communication satellites. How is ISRO addressing this problem?

First, I would like to stress that applications are our thrust unlike, say, in Russia, the United States or China

which are after human space flights, space stations and such activities. We are very clear about being down to earth.

We have a capacity augmentation plan. Increasing capacity, enhancing capability and creating advanced technologies, these are all taking place in parallel. Thanks to the promotion of satellite communication and new services in it, there is a large demand [for transponders]. One objective is to increase capacity in the Ku and C bands. The other is to enhance capability, for example, with digital multimedia broadcasting on GSAT-6.

To remain state-of-the-art in communication satellites, we are going in for high power and higher frequencies like the Ka band. A multibeam system with 24 footprints and uplink in the high-power Ka band will

come with GSAT-11 in two years. Our target is to be contemporary in this area in five or six years.

Then there are the GSAT-6, 7 and 11 series, and GSAT-15 and 16. In remote sensing, the continuity of services is important for institutional and infrastructure planning, water resources, agriculture, afforestation, disaster management and the like. You need to improve spatial resolution from the present 0.8 metre to 0.6 metre and 0.3 metre. In microwave remote sensing we have to get into L, X and S bands.

We have two established application areas in communication and remote sensing. Now navigation satellites will add a new dimension of locationbased services. Gagan is our spacebased augmentation to GPS mainly for the civil aviation sector. GSAT-10 carries the second of three Gagan

payloads. The first satellite of our own regional navigation system, the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System, will go in 2013.

What is being done to mitigate the transponder shortage on Insat/GSATs for broadcasting and telecommunication purposes? Of the 263 transponders available today, ISRO has leased 95 on foreign satellites.

A [few] weeks ago we released advertisements for leasing transponders because VSAT and direct-to-home (DTH) operators require them. The process may take up to two months.

Today we are not talking about replacements of the leased capacity but about how to meet requirements. We have 168 transponders of our own

[provided by the domestic Insat/GSAT fleet].

If you look at the upcoming satellites, you get more than 100 [Indian] transponders [in the short term]. GSAT-10 [launched on September 29] is going to immediately give us 30 transponders from November onwards. GSAT-14 will give another 12 if [its launch vehicle] GSLV performs well. GSAT-9 will mean another 12 transponders, GSAT-15 will add 24 in the Ku band and GSAT-16 another 36.

With these 100 transponders being added, will the leases go back?

I dont think they will go back but the usage will be more. There is nothing wrong in using [them] provided they are available at a reasonable price.

Has the queue for DTH levelled out? There are seven DTH operators now and these and new players want more satellite capacity.

India is a large market. Today you have some 600 TV channels and DTH has revolutionised the services. Every [broadcaster] is looking for enhanced capacity, because high-definition TV is coming in. This is a worldwide phenomenon. There will always be some gap between what they want and what is available. This is dynamic. The positive thing is, the demand is very high today.

Where do we stand in the launch vehicle programme, particularly the delayed GSLV?

If you look at the queue, the GSLV cryogenic stage has to get ready and fly. The GSLV Mark III cryogenic stage

has to be developed and then the semi-cryogenic stage which is approved. All are progressing. First we have to prove the GSLV. We had problems due to small issues. There is nothing wrong with the vehicle per se, but the problems were attributable to certain components. Of course, GSLV cryogenics have to be developed and tested. The next thing is to improve the reliability of the vehicle which will take us to [a capability to lift] 2.2tonne satellites to geostationary transfer orbits.

Cryogenic testing for the next GSLVD5 vehicle is going on. Two crucial tests have to be completed: testing in vacuum and the endurance of the fuel booster turbo pump. If they are successful we can say it is flying on the ground.

GSLV Mk III is making good progress. It will take us to four tonnes. Its

cryogenics are to be developed fully. During the 12th Plan period we want to do two to three flights of Mk III.

What improvements are happening with communication and remotesensing satellites? Our Insat/GSAT communication satellites, for example, are in the 3,000-kg, 36transponder class, while the world has moved towards spacecraft double and triple that size and capacity.

We, too, have to [do that]. Not [just] larger, it is in terms of power, bandwidth, mass and features like having 100 transponders in one satellite. Whether it is six or ten tonnes is one aspect, how much power it can carry is another.

[Elsewhere] today there are satellites with power levels of 16-17 kilowatts. From the 100-watt Ariane Passenger

PayLoad Experiment (APPLE) experiment [in 1981], we moved on to 5,500 watts of power in GSAT-8 [in 2011].

In 1995 we were the best civilian remote sensing satellite operator with IRS 1C and 1D. TES and the Cartosat-2 series have 0.8 m resolution. We, too, are getting to 0.6 m, 0.5 m and better.

You have spoken of nearly 60 satellite and launch missions in the next five years, planetary exploration and more. What are the plans for infrastructure and manpower to make future programmes possible?

ISRO has to enhance capability for the next five years. We also have to sow the seeds now for what we will do 10 years on; for R&D, for future technologies. We need to identify

groups in the country and within the organisation for such activity.

The Space Research Complex [coming up] on 540 acres in the Science City near Challakere in Chitradurga will be ISROs resource for the next 25-50 years. What we will do there will evolve in one or two years. It could be planetary explorations, space habitat; astrobiology. The Department of Atomic Energy, the Defence Research & Development Organisation, the Indian Institute of Science, ISRO and the Karnataka government are working together there on a township and common amenities.

Right from the 1980s our manpower has remained around 16,000 while the number of missions has grown because of the industry participation. That number will increase by 2,0003,000 to both replace and supplement our people.

Because of the actions taken in the 1970s on partnering the industry, today we have almost 500 firms contributing to the space programme. Where things are standardised and operational one can look for a larger role for industry in realising goals or taking responsibility for it. This is a major initiative that we are working on. October 24, 2012

Everything is at stake at Delhi University

What is the Third Estate? Everything. What is it being reduced to? Nothing. What does it aspire to be? Everything (modified version of questions asked and answered by Abbe Sieyes, France, January 1789).

Currently in the midst of a Delhi University Teachers Association

(DUTA)-led indefinite relay hunger strike, DU, over the last three years, has witnessed agitations by students, teachers and non-teaching employees rooted in anxieties about all that is happening to higher education and our workplace, the university:

1. The terms and conditions of work are becoming worse, more burdensome and increasingly insecure especially for the rapidly expanding number of ad hoc teachers beginning to negatively impact academic activity and even intimately private domains;

2. Our work itself teaching, learning, research is being emptied of depth, creativity, meaning and the possibilities for inspiring critical thought, in a word, quality, as rapidly as it is being taken out of our real control, arbitrarily and thoughtlessly semesterised and variously

reformed from above, and subjected to meaningless and demeaning forms of bureaucratic monitoring, quantitative measurements and accountability; and

3. Our 90-year-old University is being consciously destroyed and dismantled to pave the way for the large-scale commodification of higher education.

It is unfortunate though hardly surprising that apprehensions expressed by large numbers of teachers regarding unmanageable chaos that would ensue and the catastrophic consequences for academic standards and students futures especially of the most vulnerable resulting from major structural changes thrust upon DU in a mad rush in the form of semesterisation for example, are coming true. Students and teachers

have become collateral damage of hurriedly taught, hastily cobbled courses, rampant administrative adhocism, and the collapse of systems of examining and evaluating performance. The next wave of shock and awe is set to hit DU in 2013 as the Administration drags us mindlessly into four-year-study schedules and meta-Universities.

One moment supremely symbolises the destruction and impoverishment being wrought at DU: the decision taken by the VC-in-Academic Council to excise A.K. Ramanujans brilliant essay, 300 Ramayanas from the UG syllabus even at the cost of legitimising prejudice and the politics of hurt sentiments, a politics that has been central to fascistic mobilisation on a world scale.

Teachers and students anxieties are compounded by the fact that the VC

and his team, entrusted with taking on board our fears, suggestions and concerns are refusing to even meet with us, declaring instead that the DUTA, the most important democratically elected teachers body whose struggles have contributed immensely to teachers lives all over the country, is an illegal welfare association.

This is reminiscent of November 7, 1942 when Hitler, rolling through Thuringia on his special train, suddenly saw the awed faces of his wounded soldiers staring in at him from their tiered cots in a hospital train. Angered, he ordered the curtains to be drawn, thereby denying himself the miraculous human moment of reaching over to a wounded soldier. This would have meant Hitler acknowledging the nightmarish results of his military adventure, an intrusion into his reality

that he so dreaded, he preferred pretending it out of existence.

The DU VCs refusal to meet with teachers and their representatives is corroding his own humanity apart from the fact that neither the DUTA nor resentments and concerns will cease to exist for lack of acknowledgement. If anything, this is only fanning the flames of discontent at DU.

An attack on freedoms

In fact, DU continues to be in turmoil above all because the wider restructuring of higher education being pushed through by the Indian state at the behest of Capital has meant an attack on freedoms, democracy and rights, without which no university can hope to flourish. Those meant to ensure that our

institution remains a public University free of violence, harassment and discrimination so that we may read, write, think, love and evolve without fear have been doing their utmost to terrorise and humiliate teachers and non-teaching employees, blanket the university with fear, turn it into a prison and squeeze the life-breath out of it. They continue to crack down on unions and trample upon hard-won rights, including the invaluable rights to organise and protest in a bid to turn DU into a machine, and employees and students into courtiers and slaves.

Let us be clear about the enormity of what is happening. Teachers, tasked with bringing the universe into classrooms, encouraging students to explore, interrogate and debate, teaching them to think critically, act independently and together as equals and discover the meaning of being

fully human, are being told NOT to think, NOT to speak, NOT to participate as equals. Teachers, students and non-teaching employees are, being silenced and robotised, losing control over work and workplace while our university is savaged at the hands of administrators, bureaucrats and Capital.

This is the darker meaning of forced semesterisation, the continuing refusal by the DU Administration to debate further academic reforms, the violation of University Ordinances and democratic procedures by them, and the string of repressive measures, including the cancellation of all categories of leave for teachers on days of protest.

If we allow fear to rule DU, give up the right to organise and protest and allow cultures of democracy to slip

away, we stand to lose everything, including the capacity to fight for improvements in, and increased control over the work-process, to debate and struggle for quality and meaning in academic pursuits, and to demand equal participation in imagining the impossible within the university and beyond. The DU agitation today is driven by the clear awareness that everything being at stake, and the defence of liberties and rights paramount, different forms of protest, including a future general strike may be the only ethical options available. This is what Savio meant perhaps when he said in 1964, Theres a time when the operation of the machinemakes you so sick at heart, that youve got to make it stop, a speech reminiscent of Camus words, There are times when the only feeling I have is one of mad revolt.

It is also driven by the imperative that the right to protest and other rights like the right to take different categories of leave have been fought for and won by generations of women and workers over the past two centuries. We owe it to our past and present as working people to strengthen these instead of allowing an authoritarian administration to take away something they have never given in the first place. Human beings have survived, and the meaning of being human expanded through protest, including through the hunger strike, incidentally the commonest form of protest during the centuries of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Among the messages of these hunger strikes were: we will not be property; we will not be labour power; and we will not let you eat us alive.

Sometimes, as in the present moment at DU, hunger strikes and a general

strike may be the only ways of protecting our rights, keeping alive the Sieyesian imagination and recovering control over work, workplace, our lives and dreams. It is this that will create a university that is inclusive, free and academically, culturally and intellectually rich.

(Mukul Mangalik is Associate Professor of History, Ramjas College, University of Delhi.)

Its shock and awe as administrators, bureaucrats and capital are savaging the institution, destroying teaching, learning and research October 24, 2012

Amenities matter, not size

It is natural for some of those who had attended Eric Hobsbawms lectures to remember him at this time. Most vividly, I remember his The New Century which appeared over a decade ago and in which he discusses problems as they appear today with the Italian journalist, Anton Polito. Their conversation begins with the opening remarks: It is a part of life and business to question ourselves about where the future is leading. Thereby hangs a tale. Whether I like it or not, I have begun to wake up each day with a feeling of dread about where the future is leading. The morning of October 2 was particularly dreadful, for that day, aside from all those reassuring images of Mahatma Gandhi, the papers reported extensively statements of the Minister for Urban Development about the future of Delhi. My own lifelong experience in architecture and urbanism turned irrelevant in the light of the Ministers resolve to determine

the future of Delhi through high-rise multi-storeyed building. I write this therefore as part of ones life and ones business to question oneself as well as the Ministry about where the future of Delhi is heading.

Haute couture

This question could be answered in one sentence or a longer descriptive series of paragraphs. Both are here. For the one sentence answer I have inserted an expression from Hobsbawm Delhi, and much of urban India, is being re-designed a little like haute couture, to a particular political objective in smart clothing, so that the elites, the educated minorities which govern can impose their version of urban living on the rest of the people. Fortunately, the Minister, while making his plea for help, did let slip in some doubts, when

he said: Okay, then what do we do? Give me an answer.

High-rise and low-rise have very little relevance in planning for people who live in a city. The density of people who live there and the public amenities available to them determine the quality of life in a city, not the height of buildings. Densities are crucial to habitations and are measured for countries, states or regions in person per sq. km (e.g. Census 2011), for cities in persons per acre/hectare, and for individual plots in built sq. ft / metres per person or dwellings per acre/hectare. Officials, politicians and builders like their pet planners to talk about Floor Area Ratio (FAR), or Floor Space Index (FSI). This measures the real estate opportunity, the asset potential, and the speculative profit in rupees per sq. ft. of sale. The FAR/ FSI of an area has little to do with the potential quality

of life that the city offers in terms of its public spaces and amenities or the infrastructure it provides. Pathbreaking research findings in a study by Shiresh Patel, Alpa Sethe and Neha Panchal show the long-term damage that is being done to our cities by the officials in charge of planning on the basis of FAR or FSI. They have provided new analytical tools to determine the most critical and the most ignored criteria for planning Indian cities Public Ground Area per person and Buildable Plot Ratio (Urban Layouts, Densities, and Quality of Urban Life, EPW , June 2007).

The average built-up space per person in Mumbai is 7.7 sq. metres. In Manhattan, it is 63.7 sq. metres. If one takes a four floor building in Mumbai where some families are living, each of whom has 7.7 sq. metres of space, and moves all those

families to Manhattan where they could then live like New Yorkers and enjoy 63.7 sq. metres of space each, they would need a building that is 33 floors high. What matters to a city inhabitant is the infrastructure (public amenities, electricity, water, health care, schools, etc.) available, not the building height. Density or the number of people living in the vicinity is the relevant issue. For instance, if the 27-floor Ambani Altamount was to house a host of Mumbai families living at 7.7 sq. metres per person, there would be utter chaos on the ground below and the entire infrastructure would have to be re-laid.

Shirish Patel and others have explained how, in cities, residents need a variety of spaces to share with other known or unknown inhabitants. These spaces include common amenities, recreation, footpaths, roads, public parking, civic amenities,

etc. These requirements are linked to densities of persons who use the area. Night use is different to use during the day, which also needs to be understood. All of this has nothing to do with high-rise or low-rise buildings. What matters in any city, and particularly in India, is the proportion of the total urban area (in a ward or block) that can be set aside for circulation, temples, hospitals, schools, parks, police stations, etc. as a proportion of the available built areas for residence and commercial and industrial activities.

Patel and others have devised the Built Up Ratio as a tool to judge the adequacy of public amenities in any area as a proportion of the number of people who live and work in the area. Using this ratio as a standard, the authors have shown that Mumbai needs one-and-a-half times more public amenities per person compared

to Manhattan. Every time planners increase the built accommodation or commercial space on a plot by making it multi-storeyed, they increase the pressure on the public amenities since FAR or FSI regulates built area alone on a plot and does not link it to public amenities. Generally speaking, we have observed that raising the height of a building and increasing the middle class density in the area without regarding public amenities adequately tends to gentrify the city, drive out its self employed and provides the new high-rise inhabitants with Manhattan like spaces, thus further polarising the urban population.


The process, methods and objectives of urban planning in Delhi, Mumbai and other Tier I cities have become meaningless in the last few decades.

Officials and politicians have been driving a variety of agendas intended to emulate western cities, and now Shanghai. My feelings of dread get further intensified when one realises that the entire process of master planning, the Delhi Development Authority, all urban development boards in Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore as well as Gurgaon and any other city are dinosaurs that should have been put to grass a decade ago.

One year after Rajiv Gandhi died, Parliament passed the 73rd and 74th Amendment to the Constitution. The first dealt with Panchayati Raj and the second with strengthening municipal governance. According to the 12th Schedule in the 74th Amendment, municipalities are to be empowered to prepare plans for urban development, master plans, land use regulations, building volumes, and economic and social development.

The Ministry as well as all the urban dinosaurian boards have simply extended their patrimony and blocked the devolution of powers to the municipalities. One of the arguments made by their officials is that only they possess the technical skills and specialist knowledge required for planning. But as the work of Patel and others has shown, this behind closed doors possessed technical skill and specialist knowledge are hopelessly and dangerously out of date. They have given us gated communities surrounded by vast stretches of poverty and slums, as well as the unsustainable growth of mega-cities to the utter neglect of smaller cities. My answer to the Ministers dilemma about what he should do is a single sentence response. Implement the 74th Amendment and sleep peacefully at night.

(Romi Khosla is an architect and Editor of Margs Book, The Idea of Delhi .)

In any city, it is the proportion of the

total urban area that can be set aside

for temples, hospitals, schools, parks

and police stations which is crucial October 24, 2012

I have a problem with the makeover of tribal culture

Niranjan Mahawar , 75, is a selftaught ethnologist of Chhattisgarh. He spent almost five decades in southern Chhattisgarh to study the life and art of the Bastar tribes. It was his familys

rice production business that first took Mahawar to southern Chhattisgarhs Bastar region in the early 1960s. At that time, the family was not aware that Mahawar a masters in Economics from Sagar University in Madhya Pradesh had enrolled as a member of the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) of India in 1955. Later, while administering the rice mill, he started the CPIs first district unit in Dhamtari of Chhattisgarh, eventually joining the CPI-M after the division. While the family finally managed to delink him from the Communist Party, Mahawars love for Bastar especially tribal art and culture kept growing. Today, Mahawar who was made famous in a series of interviews by the writer Dom Moraes is considered an authoritative voice on central Indian folk art, folklore, tribal myths and theatre. He spoke to Suvojit Bagchi extensively on his work. Excerpts.

It was difficult to find out your house in Raipur as nobody knows you here, not even your neighbour

Yes, that is a problem. A woman came from USIS in Mumbai once. She said the same thing.

But in the early 1980s, Dom Moraes wrote a lot on you and possibly you are known since then especially among people who are interested about Bastar art.

Thats correct. Dom came here with a friend as he was planning a visit to Bastar. That was in the early eighties. He came twice and we had a long chat over lunch.

He visited Bastar and wrote a book, Answered by Flutes: Reflections on

Madhya Pradesh . It had two pages on me. He then wrote more on me. Well .after that, the journalists started pouring in and a lot [has been] written on me in mainstream magazines.

So what is there in those articlesor more precisely, what exactly do you mean by Bastar art? The bell metal artefactswrought iron onesthe wood carvings?

Well, everything. But first let me say, I wont call it bell metal but bronze.

Why is it called bell metal?

Bells of temples were made of the metal which is pure bronze. And as you said, besides bronze artefacts, there are wooden carvings, wrought iron, masks, combs I have about 200

combs. They are all Bastar art. They all tell a story.


Like this woman Tallur Muttai ( shows a picture of a woman in bronze, embracing a child with her left hand and holding a stick with a funnel on top with her right ). She, in tribal myth, lives in palmyra fruit trees. To the tribals, palmyra juice is the breast milk of Tallur Muttai. She, therefore, is the earth mother. But then there is the massive Hindu-isation of the tribal myth and the earth mother is made to sit on a tiger as Hindus prefer their goddesses on the tiger. I have a problem with this makeover. If the tribal gods are comfortable on the trees, let them be...why make them a Hindu? Besides, the market forces are also changing the artefacts.

So, in spite of the overlapping of the images of the icons, a tribal is in no way a Hindu?

P.N. Haksar, while heading a national committee on the tribals, once asked that. I said, tribals dont believe in chatur-varna or the caste system that is the basis of Hindu society. Tribals lived with their native tradition and for over five thousand years refused to get dominated by Hindus. Hence they are not Hindus.

So, the difference with Hindus has been there for a long time?

Of course. In the Ramayana , you have the demon. Remember the woman, Tadoka, the demoness. The word Tar or palmyra is in her name too. I assume, she is the same Tallur Muthai and she, like other rakshas, got a snub-nose. The Gonds have a snub-

nose. So while Ram represents the upper caste Hindus, the Aryans, Tadoka and her friends represent the tribal society, the Dravidians. This resistance against the outsiders was documented in modern times by the British gazetteers, anthropologists. They published how the locals resisted them. When the British tried to enter the region, one of the kings of the area, the Raja of Kanker, asked them to refrain. The kings, however, were small and while they also were outsiders, always avoided confrontation with the Bastar tribals.

You mean, Bastar almost always accepted the local rulers, but not the big imperialist forces?

Yes. They will not accept you easily. Even now, you would find tribals while talking among themselves would call you a thug a cheat. They dont trust outsiders. Now, associate this

thought with todays mining. Bastar will resist mining and outsiders.

You mean the State and its mining policies will not be able to penetrate Bastar?

I cannot say that for sure. The Indian state is far more complex and powerful now.

Maybe this has helped the Maoists

Of course. Maoists used this sentiment to their advantage. But I think they are extortionists and not Communists.

You yourself were a Communist. What or who really inspired you?

Yes. I joined the party in 1955. Initially I was influenced by writers like Premchand, Yashpal, Saratchandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore or Gorky. I had a science teacher, Surendra Bhatnagar, whom I met in school in Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh, as we migrated from Alwar. He was a CPI sympathiser and influenced me. Soon I joined the family business and did two things in my factory. Paid women and men equally and asked the workers, who were paid peanuts, to organise themselves. This seriously unsettled my father and uncle ( laughs ). Eventually I went to study at Sagar University, Madhya Pradesh, and met Sudhir Mukherjee, the legendary CPI leader. I joined as a whole timer.

Anything that you did as a CPI activist in the 1950s?

Well.the usual party work. But we used to run a party unit among

students in the university, which grew fast. We started the first party office in Dhamtari. See, it was a time, when we all thought that Communism is around the corner as the Korean War of 1950 was interpreted as Stalins victory. Stalin was a hero even in these remote areas like Dhamtari ( laughs ).

But things changed

Yes. It did. From the early sixties the debate within the CPI started distracting us. I was in the party class in Gwalior in 1960, where different groups, within the party, spoke in favour of and against Nehru. B.T. Ranadive, Homi Daji and Dr. Gangadhar Adhikari were there. I was not really aware of the developments but slowly came to terms with multiple opinions within the party. Finally the split took place, albeit for

different reasons, and after some vacillation, I joined the CPI(M).

Eventually left the CPI(M)?

Yes, but that was not necessarily because I was disillusioned with politics. My family was creating a lot of pressure on memy fatherhe requested me to leave the Communist Party as it was bad for the business. I was upset, took a sabbatical and went to Kolkata. After a brief stay I came back to Chhattisgarh and started working in the rice mill.

And started studying Bastar art?

I have been visiting Bastar and documenting tribal folk lore, tales, music, theatre and every other forms of art in the region even before I left Chhattisgarh briefly.

But you have not written any full scale book other than monographs until recently when you published Bastar Bronze. Why is that so?

Somehow it could not be organised but now I have several books and monographs in the pipeline. I did publish some translations of Verrier Elwins works.

After the formation of the new State of Chhattisgarh, the State government commissioned you to write two major books on the crafts and the performing arts of Bastar. You were paid a fee as well. I assume it was about a decade ago. Why did the government not publish the books, after commissioning?

I dont want to talk about that.

Apparently the department of culture where you submitted the manuscripts, did not even want to return the manuscripts?

Let us not talk about that.

It was only after Governor Shekhar Dutts intervention that the manuscripts were returned is that correct?

Yes, that is right. But let us not discuss that.

I have been told, that you refused to assume the post of the president of Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) when they requested you recently, even though you were an active activist at one point.

That is because of my health, my kidneys are not fine, I told them.

Is life difficult in Chhattisgarh as an independent academic or human rights activist?

I dont know. I avoid activities as I am not well.

Do you think your Communist identity and love for tribals prevented the government from acknowledging your work?

I dont want to comment.

Maybe that is why you are not even known in your colony

Thank you.

Thank you very much. October 25, 2012

Europe deserves its Nobel

The European Unions receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize has occasioned much scornful laughter, some of it deserved. Yes, there are undoubtedly other worthy laureates, such as Malala Yousafzai, the young and courageous Pakistani peace activist shot this week by the Pakistani Taliban. But it is worth reflecting for a moment on the underlying logic of this award, and making a clear distinction between the grand European project on the one hand, and its troubled outgrowth, the Eurozone, on the other.

Tony Judts brilliant history of the continent, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 , quotes Hegels wistful aphorism that world history is not the soil in which happiness grows. Periods of happiness are empty pages in it. The European Union has won the Nobel Prize for a simple reason: its post-war chapters are mostly composed of empty, happy years relative to the preceding centuries of cyclical war and cataclysm.

It may be difficult for newer generations to understand this, but there was simply no guarantee that the continent would come to see prosperity and peace after 1945. It had suffered unimaginable ethnic cleansing, some of which was prosecuted by the victorious allies themselves. Western Europe itself was in tatters. Germany had 20 million people homeless. In France,

vigilante groups would slaughter 10,000 people accused of collaborating with Nazis. Between 1945 and 1949, a majority of Germans held the opinion that Nazism was a good idea, badly applied. Hunger was widespread, and worsened by the vicious winter of 1947. There was no assurance that wartime resistance groups would disarm willingly. As the German joke went, Enjoy the war, the peace will be terrible. And it was terrible but then, more quickly than almost anyone could have imagined, it was not.

It might be argued that, from such an enfeebled position, Europe would likely have grown rapidly anyway. But it might also have torn itself apart before it got anywhere.

Against these uncertainties, the Schuman Plan, which tied together Frances steel industry and Germanys

coke and coal supplies in a resource cartel, and became the foundation of later European integration, was a key moment. It was an ingenious way of calming bitter Franco-German distrust, and it worked spectacularly. There had been customs unions in Europe as early as the 19th century, but this was something else altogether. By 1954, France had dropped its bitter opposition to West German rearmament a remarkable turnaround, scarcely a decade after the Nazi occupation.

The critics argue that Europe is undeserving of these plaudits because the United States played the crucial role. To some extent, this is true. The French would never have tolerated an armed West German state were it not for the protection of NATO, formed in 1949 with American military power at its core. As Lord Ismay famously noted that year, the point of NATO was to

keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.

The Alliance may have frayed in recent years, in Afghanistan and Libya, but it succeeded eminently in all three of those core objectives, and could not have done so without U.S. troops, tanks and nuclear weapons sprawled across Europes previously war-torn territory. At its peak, the U.S. stationed 277,342 in Europe more than double the peak numbers in Afghanistan.

American cash was also important. By 1952, when the Marshall Plan finished, the U.S. had spent $13 billion on assistance to Europe, far outstripping all its previous aid spending combined. In current terms, Marshall spending would amount to over $100 billion. All this allowed the sheltered Europeans to build up welfare states, which helped dampen

the extreme populist movements that plagued the first half of the century.

And yet, none of this negates Europes own hand in the process. After all, the United States also kept a major presence in Asia but, there, wounds did not heal as they did in Europe. Compare the pairing of France and Germany, where war is now utterly unimaginable, with South Korea and Japan, two rivals that still view one other with considerable suspicion. Only two months ago, Japan angrily condemned South Koreas illegal occupation of islets in the Sea of Japan.

France and Germany squabble over economic issues, but neither harbours such grievances or suspicion. European fear of Germanys military power is confined to football chants and now politically incorrect British comedy.

Even as American forces trickle out of the continent to turn their attention to the Pacific, this condition prevails. The transformation of Europe is deep and abiding. Europe could not have achieved peace without the U.S., but the European Union and its institutional predecessors still did much of the heavy lifting.

Europes peace was an admittedly ugly one. It accommodated fascists, in Spain and Portugal; allowed colonial atrocities, in places like Kenya and Algeria; and struggled to deal with mass ethnic violence on its doorstep, in Yugoslavia. But, in the final instance, the core members of the European project never went to war to settle their differences, and have now arrived at a point where war is unthinkable. That is a stark exception in world history, and a feat that

vanishingly few groups of countries can claim to have achieved.

(Shashank Joshi is a doctoral student at Harvard University, and a Research Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute. Email:

The award is in recognition of a continents journey from wilful selfdestruction to a state where war cannot be imagined

The Schuman Plan tied together Frances steel industry and Germanys coke and coal supplies

The transformation of Europe is deep and abiding and can sustain itself without the U.S. October 25, 2012

When war passes for foreign policy

Take the profit out of war, said Kevin Zeese, one of the more important activists of the Occupy Movement in the United States, and you take out war. His audience was made up mainly of U.S. war veterans gathered in New York to observe and protest the 11th anniversary of the conflict in Afghanistan. That is the longest war the United States has ever waged. The veterans ranged from those who had seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan to many who had fought in Vietnam. There was also one 88year-old World War II veteran.

That link between profit and war sticks out in a recent Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation. The U.S. Congress could be spending $3 billion on tanks the army does not want. That includes repairing many M1 Abrams tanks the army wont use. As Aaron Mehta, one of the authors of the CPI report puts it: the army has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the hulking, clanking vehicle from top to bottom. Congress disagreed.

Of course, the lawmakers batting for the tanks spoke about jobs. Their concern, in theory, is for the workers involved. If their factories shut down, the workers making the tanks could lose their jobs. But it seems the lawmakers own jobs were the real cause of their worry. The tanks manufacturer, say the reports

authors has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade. A sound move, it seems. The CPI studied spending and lobbying records that showed donations targeting the lawmakers who sit on four key committees that will decide the tanks fate. It also found that: Those lawmakers have received $5.3 million since 2001 from employees of the tanks manufacturer, General Dynamics, and its political action committee.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost anywhere between $2.5-$4 trillion. In a nation with a $16 trillion debt, that should count for something. In the third and final Obama-Romney debate (on foreign policy), it didnt. Those numbers didnt merit the slightest mention by either man. Obama claimed to be holding the line on military spending. Romney promised to raise it. As early

as 2008, economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz co-authored a book with Linda J. Bilmes (an expert on U.S. budgeting, at Harvard) titled The Three Trillion Dollar War . That prophecy is pretty much on track. It could even prove an underestimate. As Bilmes pointed out in The Boston Globe , Half of all U.S. veterans from this (Afghan) war are claiming disability benefits, racking up trillions of dollars in long-term support costs.

The link with the economy, apart from with foreign policy, point out Stiglitz and Bilmes, is huge. Spending on the wars and on added security at home has accounted for more than onequarter of the total increase in U.S. government debt since 2001. And this war was pursued without raising taxes. Indeed, with tax cuts for the rich thrown in at the same time, in both wars, during the Bush years.

Human costs

About 6,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thats twice the number of victims in the dreadful attacks of 9/11. Besides, suicides among soldiers on active duty now average one every 24 hours. The death count does not include hundreds of others working for private military contractors. Elsewhere in the world, theyd be called mercenaries. Many dirty chores were outsourced to such forces as the U.S. tried to wind down its presence.

Obama said in the debate that he had come with a promise to get us out of Iraq and we did that. He had, therefore kept his promise of 2008. He failed to mention that in that year, he also ran with the line that Afghanistan was a worthy war. As President, his surge adding 30,000 troops there for a while has

failed. The real task is how to get out without disgrace.

The debate had not a word on the numbers of casualties and deaths. Not a word on the financial costs of the wars and their link to the economy. Not a whisper on the lessons to be drawn for U.S. foreign policy. That, in a debate on foreign policy.

The human costs to others have been awful, too. No one knows for sure how many civilians have died as a result of the two wars. The estimates range from one hundred thousand to several times that number. As reported in these columns in 2008, a little over three years after the war in Iraq began in 2003, over 6,50,000 Iraqis were estimated to have lost their lives. A survey by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and Al Mustansiriya

University in Baghdad had put it bluntly: As many as 6,54,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under prewar conditions. The deaths from all causes violent and non-violent are over and above the estimated 1,43,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion. The survey has been attacked, but few deny the death count has been massive. Iraqs overall mortality rate more than doubled from 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons before the war began to 13.3 per 1,000 persons by late 2006. Also, many more civilians have died since the time of that study.

By late 2006, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had come up with other kinds of numbers. Close to 1.8 million Iraqis had fled their country since the war began. Another

1.6 million made up the internally displaced.

What an incredible waste of human life these wars inflict, Paul Appel, a Vietnam war veteran, told us at the October 7 meeting in New York. Looking back, I was having to face that before I even left for Vietnam. I was given the job of letting parents know their sons had died in the war. I had to go along with the army priest. Once, I was left to do it on my own. Appel is a farmer from Illinois. With him was Dud Hendricks, a former sports coach from Maine. And many others from modest backgrounds. A few hours after we met, they were all arrested and led away in cuffs. The vets wouldnt leave the Vietnam War Memorial where they had gathered, by 10 p.m. A highly embarrassed police squad took them away.

None of the four candidates for president or vice-president has ever served in the military. At the debate that night, Romney declared his firm support for using Drones in the way they are now employed in Pakistan. Obama smirked. It was a policy he had driven big time. That these have caused very high civilian casualties did not matter. The drones are now over Libya as well. His trump card, of course, was the killing of Osama bin Laden. His huge foreign policy achievement. Yet several groups associated with Bin Laden were not overwrought by his death. Their disconnected leader had become an embarrassment.

The debaters revelled in clichs. Obama: America is the one indispensable nation in the world. (So there are many that are dispensable?) Ive got a different vision for America. Romney:

America must be strong. Im optimistic about the future.

So where does it go from here? It goes to a zillion more television ads adding even more to this insanely expensive contest. The pundits are already working out in which states the campaigns will cut back on spending in order to push more money into some swing states.

It is not easy to beat an incumbent American President. In the last 112 years, only four elected presidents seeking re-election have been defeated. (Gerald Ford who lost in 1976 does not figure in that list. He was not elected but became President when Richard Nixon quit in disgrace. In 80 years since 1932, only Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992) have been beaten.

Yet, Obama, while having that great edge, does not have it all sewn up. Its easy to forget that in 2008, just before Wall Street hit the fan, John McCain was slightly ahead of Obama in the polls. The meltdown that year transformed the scene. The state of the economy hardly gives Obama a great boost this time around.

Meanwhile, the pundits are back to guessing whose body lingo was better in the final debate. Who looked more presidential. A more cutting response to that process, though, comes from Andrew Levine in What does being a better debater have to do with anything? Presidents dont debate. The candidates might as well compete by jousting or polevaulting.

In the last Obama-Romney debate, there was absolutely no mention of the financial costs, casualties and lessons from Americas military outings October 25, 2012

Crossing the point of no return

Bhai-bhai times:Jawaharlal Nehru with Zhou Enlai in Beijing on October 19, 1954. Three weeks ahead of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlais landmark 1960 visit to India, Chinese officials prepared an internal note discussing how they viewed the political and economic situation in India and its bearing on the boundary issue. The April 1, 1960 note, among documents from 1949-65 that were declassified

recently by the Chinese government, was prepared to brief the Chinese leadership ahead of Zhous April 20 visit.

The note is revealing of how Beijing perceived rightly or wrongly the influence of the political climate in India on driving the tensions on the border. Since the implementation of the Second Five-Year Plan in April 1956, Indias economy has been deteriorating and its economic policy has moved increasingly towards the right, the note observed. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. The road of Indian bourgeois reformism has become narrower and narrower.

The U.S.-led Imperialist countries, the note continued, are taking advantage of Indias economic difficulties and tightening control over

India through aid and private investment. In early 1958, the United States provided for the first time a large number of loans to India to buy equipment. The U.S. also colluded with Britain, West Germany, Japan, Canada and other countries to aid India. The note concluded, The strength of the Indian big bourgeoisie has increased and intensified collusion with foreign monopolies and attempted to intervene in the arms industry to reap higher profits by taking advantage of the Sino-Indian border issue.

We came in vain

Chinese officials saw the 1960 visit as a real opportunity to negotiate and reach a settlement. In 1960, we first came to Delhi to negotiate, but it was in vain, Zhou Enlai told the Soviet Union Ambassador on October 8,

1962, 12 days before the Chinese offensive. While Zhou never openly or formally declared that China would accept an east west swap deal where India would recognise Chinese claims on Aksai Chin and China would give up its claims on the eastern sector, he made it clear that Beijing was willing to negotiate. In a meeting with R.K. Nehru in New Delhi on April 21, 1960, Zhou said in the east, a settlement can be found. Our aim, he said, is still to explore ways of a settlement.

The McMahon Line on the eastern section of the Sino-Indian border is illegal and has never been admitted by Chinas governments. Nevertheless, in order to keep peace of the border and help peaceful negotiations, we suggested before negotiations that armed troops do not cross the line, Zhou told the Soviet Ambassador. India never surveyed

the line and only after Indian border defence troops arrived did they know what it was. The topography is favourable for them and thus they drew it on the map.

Zhous meetings with Jawaharlal Nehru on April 25, 1960, however, ended in bitter deadlock. Zhou recounted, according to the October 8 note, that Nehru had rejected out of hand all his proposals. We suggested that bilateral armed forces respectively retreat for 20 kilometres on the borders and stop the patrols to escape conflicts. They did not accept the suggestion. Later, we unilaterally withdrew for 20 kilometres and did not appoint troops to patrol in the area in order to evade conflicts and help negotiations develop smoothly. However, India perhaps had a wrong sense that we were showing our weakness and feared conflicts India is taking advantage that we withdrew

for 20 kilometres and did not assign patrols, and has invaded as well as set up posts.

Chinese thinking

Two revealing internal notes prepared shortly after Zhous trip shed light on Chinese thinking following the visit. One note prepared on May 31, 1960 alleged that the Indian government had distorted the exact words of Premier Zhou in the translations of the press conference held in New Delhi and in the official press releases subsequently circulated. The note listed 11 different ways in which Zhous words had been misconstrued. For instance, it said that Zhou had stated that the dispute in the middle sector was relatively small; the Indian governments version read very small.

Zhou said the eastern section of the disputed area has been Chinas administrative jurisdiction area for long. The Indian version, the note claimed, said China had administered the area for once. The Indian version, it further alleged, deleted Zhous statement that the Chinese government has never accepted the McMahon line. The note said Zhou had also wrongly been quoted as saying that in the eastern section, we are willing to maintain the present status, adding that the words before the settlement of the border had been deleted from the end of the sentence.

The sense of acrimony was clearly evident in Zhous meetings in New Delhi, particularly during his interaction with Morarji Desai, the then Finance Minister, on April 25, 1960. The bitterness of the visit is reflected in K. Natwar Singhs detailed

account of the meeting in My China Diary . Discordance started at the very beginning, Mr. Singh recounts. After trading barbs on Tibet, Desai accused Zhou of being unjust. Zhou told Desai he had said enough. The Chinese Prime Minister said more than enough, the Finance Minister retorted.

The bitterness of the exchange was further evident in a second internal Chinese government note, prepared on July 31, 1960, that reviewed Zhous visit and came to the conclusion that India was not interested in a settlement. The note concluded that the Indian Establishment wanted to provoke the border event so as to oppose China. The Chinese government ultimately linked the failure of the 1960 visit perhaps based on questionable evidence to Indian designs on Tibet. After the Tibetan rebellion was put down, a

series of progressive reforms would be carried out which would have great influence on India, the note said.

The Indian government, it concluded, was afraid of this because Indian people under such influence would complain more about their own governments inability. In addition, the Indian government is facing up difficulties and resembles a mother who lacks milk The Indian people hope to get on with China; troubles are made by the Establishment. K. Natwar Singh, in his book, writes that by the time Zhou landed in India, the point of no return had almost been reached. By the time Zhou arrived back in Beijing, the two notes suggested, the Chinese came to believe that point had already been crossed.

After Zhou Enlais 1960 trip to India ended in acrimony, Beijing concluded that Nehru was not interested in resolving the border dispute October 25, 2012

Polio endgame not immune to politics

Eradicating a disease is a bit like landing a man on the moon, or, as the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner recently did, parachuting down to the earth from the edge of space and living to tell the tale: its a risky venture requiring single minded determination to succeed, technical expertise, generous funding and a huge helping of luck.

The global campaign to eradicate polio will require all of this if it is to succeed. The polio virus remains stubbornly entrenched in pockets of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and

the campaign is set to miss a 2012end deadline to end transmission of the wild, or natural polio virus globally.

Eradication campaigns are the most ambitious and technically complex of global health programmes. Consider what polio eradication involves: it aims to wipe off the face of the earth the virus that causes polio. This virus is one of the most basic forms of existence on earth a sliver of RNA encased in a protein coat, visible only through powerful electron microscopes. This speck of genetic material has to be hunted down and driven to extinction. Because it can only reproduce in human beings, if enough humans are immune to it, the virus will eventually find no place to reproduce and will die out. The polio campaigns strategy is to build enough population immunity through largescale immunisation campaigns to

drive the virus to extinction. But with hundreds of thousands of nonimmune children born every minute in countries where the polio virus still exists, this is not an easy task.

Time critical

Eradication campaigns also have to be time bound. They are expensive, high intensity public health programmes that only make sense if they meet their goals within a defined time. If they drag on too long, they pull resources away from other public health priorities.

The campaign missed its original target of 2000 and it would take a miracle for it to meet its current 2012end deadline. What will happen after that? Will funding keep coming if there are no tangible signs of progress in these countries? Or will the polio

campaign go the way of the vast majority of disease eradication campaigns that the world has seen. Ambitious programmes to eradicate malaria and yellow fever had to be shelved when the technical knowledge of the disease that the campaign had been based on proved to be faulty. Smallpox has been the only successful eradication campaign so far. Will polio eradication go the way of malaria and yellow fever, or will it prove to be successful like smallpox?

The polio eradication campaign argues that all that is required is a greater effort by the governments of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan to implement their polio immunisation campaigns more effectively so that large numbers of children are not missed.

But it is more than a question of greater effort. Disease control and eradication programmes are not merely about health; they are also about politics and governance. Health and politics are intertwined, and global disease eradication campaigns are where the global and the local meet and often clash.

Caught in the fault lines

One reason Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are struggling is because the polio campaign has become enmeshed in the geopolitical fault lines of the post 9/11 world. In all three countries, the polio campaign is seen by Islamist militants and clerics as a proxy for western interests. In Pakistan, tribal leaders in North Waziristan have banned polio immunisation teams from entering the province in protest against U.S. drone attacks against suspected

Taliban targets. The use by the CIA of a Pakistani doctor to get intelligence on Osama bin Laden through a hepatitis B vaccination campaign threw a cloud of suspicion over all international immunisation campaigns.

In Afghanistan, many parts of the 13 districts in the south where polio persists are no go areas for polio vaccination teams. The polio campaign hopes that importance of eradicating the disease will triumph over politics and vaccination teams will be allowed to work in the midst of conflict.

Local versus global

This could happen but it does not mean that local communities will embrace the idea of polio vaccination. Polio is not a major public health issue

in the countries it exists in. Malaria, measles, diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory tract infections and malnutrition are the major causes of illness and death in children. Yet when their children suffer from these common illnesses, people often need to travel long distances and pay money to get medical care. In contrast, vaccination against polio is delivered to their doors free. This raises suspicion and anger: why has polio been give such priority, and if it is possible to deliver polio vaccine like this, why cant other more urgent health care also be brought to peoples door steps?

Issues like this tend to be dismissed by the polio campaign as stemming from ignorance, and elaborate communication campaigns have been devised to get people to accept polio immunisation. But those who refuse polio vaccination for their children are

not ignorant; they are pointing to the gap between their health priorities and health priorities set by international organisations. Polio has been difficult to eradicate partly because of this gap between local and global priorities. A key lesson for future global health programmes is to find ways to reduce this democratic deficit between what people in developing countries feel their greatest health needs are, and the kind of programmes that are developed at the global level by the WHO and international donor agencies.

The polio eradication campaign is a crusade, and like all crusades, is eternally optimistic about the chances of success. But with time and money running out, the future of the polio eradication programme is still an open question.

(Thomas Abraham is director of the Master in Journalism programme at the University of Hong Kong. He is writing a book on the campaign to eradicate polio. E-mail: October 26, 2012

Gadkari and the business of politics

The current shadow of controversy that hangs over Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari has its roots in the distinctive nature of Maharashtra politics, dominated by owners of sugar mills, cooperative banks, dairies, and educational institutions, sometimes by all four at once. Its a trend which might cause alarm elsewhere but which Maharashtras politicians like to present with a benign spin, that there is nothing wrong with padding your political base and bank balances as long as it is

also in the public good. Who knows, perhaps in its early years this formula might have made for a certain kind of progressive politics, absent in the cow-belt States. But 50 years down the line, those same cooperative banks and sugar mills have been milked dry and run to the ground. The States businessmen-politicians have expanded into areas of hard commerce like hotels, malls, and luxury apartments. As a natural corollary, builders and contractors have been made MLAs, MLCs and MPs. Today, Maharashtra regularly makes headlines as the perfect Petri dish for everything that ails contemporary Indian politics: cronyism, conflict of interest and sometimes, outright corruption.

Mr. Gadkaris own business career reflects the perils of that model.

As a late entrant to Maharashtras politician-businessman club, Mr. Gadkari began with a sugar mill in Vidarbha in 2001, ostensibly to encourage the regions distress-hit cotton farmers to turn to a less risky crop. Except he chose to locate his plant on the outskirts of Nagpur, somewhat removed from the cottongrowing, suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha. At any rate, his description of himself as politician-cum-social entrepreneur would apply, if at all, to Purtis early days. Very swiftly, Purti expanded into areas that made it hard to justify outright social benefit, like ethanol and alcohol, which it supplies, among others, to Vijay Mallyas UB Group. When Purti decided to expand into power, Vidarbhas sunrise sector, it brought Mr. Gadkari in conflict with his own party, which opposed the diversion of water from Vidarbhas irrigation dams to a rash of new power projects. On Purti Groups website, one of his group companies,

Avinash Fuels, says it has applied for coal mining in Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. (The website has since disabled all such pages). But it retains Purtis basic description as Vidarbhas leading business group, a Rs. 3000 million company which only shows how far Mr. Gadkari has come from his self-description as a patron of Vidarbhas poor.

While all of this may have opened up Mr. Gadkari to questions of conflict of interest, our investigation has raised more serious questions about the source of the capital that financed Purtis rapid growth.

In its regulatory filings, Purti Sugar and Power Pvt Ltd.s start-up finance came from a paid-up capital of Rs. 68 crore, raised through the sales of six crore shares. About 70 per cent of these shares are owned by 18

companies. Their identity is impossible to ascertain since, as NDTV reporters discovered, none of them have given accurate addresses. For example, Earnwell Traders and Swiftsol India, which own shares for about Rs. 5 crore in Purti, gave their address as Govind Karman Chawl in Malad East. The residents of the chawl had never heard of these companies. Similarly, another set of investors in Purti, Chariot Investrade, Regency Equifin and Leverage Fintrade, also gave a false address in Malad East. One company, Sterlight Fincom, has changed its address three times in five years. And so on.


When we asked Mr. Gadkari in studio last week about the identity of his mystery investors, he was evasive. He first said Purti was owned by 10,000 farmers, and he cannot remember

each of their names or addresses. We pointed out that these so-called farmers own only 10 per cent of Purti, and that the rest are owned by 18 companies. He then said he approached many people from the society: industrialists, traders, businessmen and investors ... and also NRI people.

But several of these companies have Mr. Gadkaris personal staff as their directors. Ashwami Sales and Marketing, which invested Rs. 3.2 crore in Purti, has as its director Manohar Panse, Mr. Gadkaris driver. Sterlight Fincom, which invested about Rs. 4 crore in Purti, has as its director Vishnu Sharma, Mr. Gadkaris astrologer. Why would the cashstrapped president of a political party borrow money from his own (presumably even more cashstrapped) employees?

Moreover, Mr. Gadkari has advanced loans to at least one of these companies that he is borrowing from. The balance sheet of Regency Equifin, which bought about 40 lakh shares in Purti, shows an unsecured loan from Nitin Gadkari of Rs. 26 lakh in 2009, which is reduced to Rs. 16 lakh in 2010. So not only is Mr. Gadkari borrowing from companies run by his personal staff, he is also lending money to those companies.

In his defence of the BJP president, senior party leader Lal Krishna Advani has said the allegations *against Gadkari] are about standards of business and not about misuse of power or corruption. But in the words of a chartered accountant, companies that exhibit such features ghost directors and addresses, cross-holdings, cronies as directors fit the pattern of shell companies used to convert black money into white.

According to this CA, somewhere, six layers back, these companies would be making cash deposits into a bank account, most likely in a bank with weak regulatory framework. And while these market practices, however dubious, are not unusual for businessmen looking for quick cashto-cheque conversions, Mr. Gadkari is no ordinary businessman. Congress leader Digvijay Singh was quick to allege that Mr. Gadkari is routing kickbacks via these shell companies.

Mr. Gadkari has vehemently denied this. But one of the early investors in Purti (and the only one whose identity is known) is Ideal Road Builders, a subsidiary of Maharashtras biggest toll road company, IRB Infra Developers Ltd. During Mr. Gadkaris stint as PWD Minister between 1995 and 1999, Ideal Road Builders received six contracts worth Rs. 63 crore. Just a year after Mr. Gadkari

demitted office and started his sugar factory, Ideal picked up shares worth Rs. 1.85 crore in Purti, later increasing their shareholding value to Rs. 2.8 crore. D.P. Mhaiskar, a director in IRB, also picked up Purti shares worth Rs. 4 crore on an undisclosed date. In 2010, Global Safety Vision, a company with Mr. Mhaiskar as director, loaned Purti Rs. 164 crore, which Purti used to wipe out its entire debt. Globals balance sheet shows a paid-up capital of only Rs. 1 lakh. Mr. Mhaiskar told The Times of India this week that he had raised the money by selling a chunk of his personal stake in IRB.

Question of equity

Mr. Gadkari seemed aghast at the suggestion that ex-PWD Minsters should not accept investments or loans from road contractors. He said the tendering process to Ideal Road Builders was above board, a claim

contested by the NCP. Mr. Gadkari also said taking equity is not a fraud. Equity is not a corruption, equity is a shareholding. True. But for a politician and an ex-Minister, it is important to explain the source of equity. Equity from a road contractor to whom he has awarded tenders carries a strong whiff of conflict of interest. Equity from sources whose identity he has not been able to explain carries more serious implications. Mr. Gadkari has offered himself and his companies up for an enquiry. The government has responded with far greater alacrity than it demonstrated in the case of Robert Vadra, ordering enquiries by tax authorities and the Registrar of Companies into Purti and its investors.

Regardless of the UPAs blatant double standards, the very fact that he is being probed will do no good to Mr. Gadkaris political career, poised

as it is at a critical juncture. This is quite apart from the damage any potentially damaging findings would cause. Would he in hindsight agree, as some in his own party do, that business and politics do not make for a healthy mix?

(Sreenivasan Jain is Managing Editor, NDTV. He anchors the ground reportage show, Truth vs Hype on NDTV 24x7. E-mail:

The BJP presidents financial dealings reek of cronyism and conflict of interest, and could jeopardise his political career October 26, 2012

Winner takes all in this legal world

Measured for clout and power, Indian citizens fall broadly into four categories. At the very top, and outranking others by a colossal margin, is the creamiest layer from the political-civil service-corporate class. This elite force can prise open the toughest doors, bend any and all rules, and pull off the choicest bargains.

Systemic bottlenecks that torpedo the ordinary folk slink out of sight when a club member wants a wish fulfilled. Whether it is a fancy vacation, one or more luxury apartments, a share in business contracts, or a political favour in return for the contracts, there is no product that cannot be express delivered in this world: Because business here is by compact and networks forged within each segment and across the segments.

It is not beyond the imagination of the velvet set to get an entire hillside for the asking. In a November 3, 2010 interview to DNA newspaper, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar offered a fascinating account of how he came to be associated with the controversial Lavasa project in Maharashtra: It is 100 per cent true that I selected the site for Lavasa, he said, adding that he spotted the picturesque backwaters of the Varasgaon dam while overflying it on a helicopter. Mr. Pawar, who was then Chief Minister, introduced the site to friend and industrialist Ajit Gulabchand, and with permissions and paperwork a mere, internallyarranged trifle, things went swimmingly for Indias first privately built and managed hill station in which his family held and sold lucrative shares.

The point of this narration is not to insinuate illegalities in the project. Indeed, distinguished names have celebrated the Lavasa vision. Yet through last year, the township was engaged in a pitched battle with the Union Environment Ministry over a range of violations. More serious charges were recently levelled by former IPS officer and activist Y.P. Singh. But leaving aside all this, one thing is indisputably clear: When the powerful decide to conjure up magic out of nothing, the laws will conspire to create that magic.

In second place are the salaried people, some of them with comfortable incomes but nonetheless bound within an accountable system that lops off taxes at source and limits opportunity for financial profligacy. The less fortunate in this lot will scrimp and save to buy a home, accepting the punishing lending

conditions of banks, including finding guarantors and paying monstrous equated monthly instalments. If, at the end of this, the dream home vanishes like a dream, there is no recourse because while the buyer is obliged by draconian contracts to pay up on time or face a penalty nothing binds the builder to deliver as promised. In the absence of real estate regulation, the buyer inescapably gets caught in a pincer between the nightmare of his iffy property and the high interests he continues to pay on his loan.

Favouring some

Just how skewed the system is can be seen from DLFs differentiated treatment of its clients those with lineage like Robert Vadra who can get impossible sums as advances and those whose lot it is to be harassed by delays, non-delivery and price

escalation. In August last year, the Competition Commission of India slapped a fine of Rs.630 crore on DLF on complaints from buyers. DLF went in appeal and secured a stay order. DLF home owners were fortunate in that they could mobilise the resources to fight the realty giant, not so the millions of ordinary householders who face ruin because their entire savings are invested with dubious builders.

The third category is formed by the lower rungs of the middle and working class. Aspirationally mobile, these men and women desperately crave a better future, the starting point of which is being able to save minuscule amounts in a bank. Yet opening an account can be an ordeal with banks insisting on address proof and other documentation. A decade ago, I took my domestic help to a nationalised bank assuming my introduction would help her open an

account. The bank manager was livid: his bank was not for ayahs and maid servants. Today, political correctness has ensured that there are standing instructions from the Reserve Bank on allowing the poor to open zerobalance (now basic) accounts with minimal conditions. But the guidelines have been lost on banks, and the plight of the domestic help who has no permanent address and therefore no proof, remains the same. Her only saviour then is the unsafe chit fund with its fantastic penal clauses. As the Sachar Committee found out, banks have designated red zones, among them Muslim-majority and low income colonies, where they dont like to provide services.

Any property purchased by this section can only be in unauthorised colonies because buying a proper home means borrowing and elaborate bank documentation. From where

does a driver or a cook or a menial worker get a salary certificate? But life in an unauthorised colony has its own threats of papers being questioned, of demolition, stigmatisation and being refused services. It is a vicious circle where the victim is first forced to commit an illegality and then punished for committing that illegality. This is the mirror opposite of what happens to the club class whose members get interest-free loans for property which they sell back to the lender for a profit.

And finally, the landless labour class that forms the overwhelming majority of Indias working force. Property and bank accounts can seem surrealistic to a people engaged in livelihood struggles. Consider the unbeatable irony of Mr. Vadra hitting the headlines for his property adventures in the same week that tens of thousands of people set out on a

march to Delhi to demand their right to land.

Gadkari and Vadra

Arvind Kejriwal was dead right when he alleged collusion between the political big bosses. It is a law of nature that those feeling the same threat will unite. Politicians know that their carefully built empires of wealth are models of each other, and if one crumbles so will the rest. Sushma Swaraj, the sharp-witted leader of the Opposition whose tweets are eagerly watched for the political signals they could convey, tweeted every hour on the day the Vadra news broke but on all subjects except on the doings of the First son-in-law. That same day, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Nitin Gadkari was on TV admitting knowledge of the Vadra papers but arguing that they did not constitute evidence.

It is an interesting piece of news that Ajit Pawar, the Union Agriculture Ministers nephew, has turned out to be the common factor in two recent exposs the Maharashtra irrigation scam and Lavasa, both of which happened when the nephew held powerful positions in the State government. So when Mr. Kejriwal charged Mr. Gadkari with wrongdoing in the first, the senior Mr. Pawar rushed to his defence. The BJP chief returned the favour when the Pawars were questioned for facilitating Lavasa.

Since then Mr. Gadkari has landed himself in more serious trouble with allegations that he has set up a maze of dummy and benami companies. But significantly, the sharpest attacks on the BJP chief have come, not from the Congress, but from a BJP faction

that wants Mr. Gadkari replaced by Narendra Modi.

It is not a coincidence that the same justification gets offered each time a new web of deceit is uncovered. The Congresss single defence with respect to Mr. Vadra was that he committed no illegality. Lal Krishna Advani has similarly argued that l'affaire Gadkari is about standards of business and not corruption. This is in fact the crux of the problem: that the standards of business are horribly different for one set of people. Whether or not the charges against Mr. Vadra and Mr. Gadkari are ever proved in a court of law, what has already been proved is the ability of the power elite to lubricate the wheels of delivery to the exclusion of all but itself. If unsecured, interest-free loans are legitimate, why do they unerringly reach only those already powerful? If Mr. Vadra is rich enough to legitimately own dozens

of high-end apartments, why cannot the SPG guard him in one of these locations, rather than in prime government housing presumably paid for by taxpayers?

The pessimism can only deepen when Team Kejriwal too cites legality to defend its members against counterallegations. Whether it is Prashant Bhushan acquiring vast tea estate land via rules relaxed by the Himachal Pradesh government or Anjali Damania admitting to commercial use of farm land, India Against Corruptions fiercest defence has been that its members acted within the four corners of the law.

Cattle class victims would be entitled to ask: why does the law constrict us while it bends and crawls before you?

What stands proved already is the ability

of the powerful to secure express delivery from the system, for themselves October 26, 2012

A last opportunity, missed

On July 17, 1962, three months before China launched its offensive, the countrys Ambassador in New Delhi, Pan Zili, sent a note to the leadership in Beijing discussing the stalemate in negotiations with India, and expressing concern about ties between the neighbours. Pan was of the opinion that Indias unwillingness or inability to negotiate and agree to a settlement reflected internal troubles. In the contacts we

have had these days, we have found that India has reached a deadlock with China on political and military issues because of its own economic difficulties, Pan wrote. The note was among documents from 1949-65 recently declassified by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives in Beijing.

India, Pan added, does not get on with its neighbours and conflicts among its internal factions are fierce, particularly on the issue of Nehrus succession. Pan wrote that the then Defence Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, in his opinion, showed the desire [to negotiate] and seemingly he considered that once India failed in war, his position would be greatly affected.

Pan noted that handcuffed by domestic pressures, India would not

be able to make any kind of concession that would lead to a mutually acceptable settlement. India, he said, had settled on a dual-track approach: On the one hand, India seemed to be willing to negotiate peacefully; on the other hand, it looked for loopholes on the west border. It went forward into our interior, increased its posts, and changed the settled facts in order to bargain with us. The Ambassador concluded that China needed to strengthen military struggle on the west border and prevent India from going forward. But, he cautioned, we should be careful and not provoke military conflicts. Additionally, we may make more contacts with the India side.

An opportunity and a warning

The Chinese government followed Pans advice, arranging two last-ditch

meetings in Geneva between its Vice Foreign Minister, Zhang Hanfu, and R.K. Nehru, and between Foreign Minister Chen Yi, a vastly experienced former Peoples Liberation Army General, and Krishna Menon. The Chinese leaders saw the meetings as a final opportunity to ask Nehru to halt advancements in the west and avert a military confrontation.


In a July 20, 1962 note, the Foreign Ministry appeared to come to the conclusion that the meeting with R.K. Nehru was fruitless. He did not put forward new issues, the note said. Our side emphasised that the border issue was serious and if India did not withdraw troops, it should bear all the results. Reflecting on his meeting with Zhang, R.K. Nehru later acknowledged the significance of the

warning, as A.G. Noorani recounted in a Frontline article. Nehru said: *Zhang+ said, in their notes they sent to us they had indicated, It is bound to lead to a serious military conflict. May be the nature and scale and magnitude of the conflict was not anticipated, but I am not prepared to say that they did not give us sufficient warning that military encounters might follow. My own interpretation is that as in India, so also in China, there were various schools of thought. May be the military elements, coming on the top, wanted a clash.

Disagreeable breakfast

Three days later, on July 23, Chen Yi met Krishna Menon in Geneva over breakfast. In a note of the meeting, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Chen had complained of Indias continuing advancements in the west. Menon suggested that both

sides make clear western border lines and *regard+ the area between the two lines as a controversial area, the note said. In the area, both sides could establish posts, but they would not attack each other. There should be a distance between posts of each side. Personnel in each post should be roughly equal, and patrols of each side should not cross the border line that it required. Mr. Chen instantly opposed the suggestion and said it was in fact to circle an area in China as an area where Indian border guards could walk freely. China could not agree it. Chen suggested both sides issue a communique stating India and China would negotiate on the border to avoid conflict. Krishna Menon declined.

The two meetings left the Chinese convinced that negotiations would lead nowhere. On August 24, 1962, Ambassador Pan, sent a note to

Beijing attacking Jawaharlal Nehrus unwillingness to negotiate. Nehru made the negotiation door seem open and closed, and overestimated his own cunningness. He suggested to Beijing that the government make efforts to publicise its position more widely. Our aim must be to make the Indian masses and middle classes know that it is actually China that desired to negotiate and ease the tension, Pan said, and that Nehru did not have sincerity for negotiation.

Twelve days before China launched its offensive, Zhou Enlai, the Premier, almost appeared to lay out an explanation for military action in a meeting with the Ambassador of the Soviet Union in Beijing. Without offering any evidence, he claimed India would possibly wage a largescale war on the eastern section of the Sino-Indian border. If they

launch the attack, he said, we will definitely defend ourselves. Zhou also hit out at Soviet military support to India. Indians have used MiG helicopters, made in the Soviet Union, to throw objects on the western and eastern sections of Sino-Indian border and transport military necessities. They sometimes even used transport airplanes from Soviet Union. It affects Chinas soldiers on the front that India carried out provocation by aircraft made in the Soviet Union.

Zhou and the Chinese leadership saw the final three months as making a military confrontation inevitable, and blamed Nehru entirely for the course of events. This serious Sino-Indian border conflict is completely caused by the Indian Governments long-term deliberate attempt, Zhou alleged in a November 13, 1962 letter to Ayub Khan in Pakistan. The failure of the two meetings in July had emerged as

a final turning point. Following his meeting with Krishna Menon in Geneva, Chen Yi flew to Beijing the next day and reported to Zhou Enlai. After hearing Chen Yis report, Zhou commented, It seems as though Nehru wants a war with us, John W. Garver writes in Chinas Decision for War with India in 1962 . Yes, Chen replied. Menon had showed no sincerity regarding peaceful talks, but merely intended to deal in a perfunctory way with China. At least we made the greatest effort for peace, Zhou reportedly replied. Premier, Chen replied, Nehrus forward policy is a knife. He wants to put it in our heart. We cannot close our eyes and await death.

(The series, China Files 1962, is concluded.)

Three months before the war, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanfu warned R.K. Nehru of military action if India did not stop its advancements in the western sector October 27, 2012

Media, where is thy sting?

On the face of it, paid news may seem no more than advertising camouflaged as reports or editorials. Naveen Jindals shocking reverse sting aimed at exposing how two editors of the Zee network attempted to cut a shady deal with his company shows that it can be much worse than this. It is a reminder of how easily the culture of paid news can lead, ineluctably, towards extortion. There is only one word for promising to back off on an investigation in exchange for lucrative advertising revenue: blackmail. And that is the essence of Mr. Jindals allegation

against Zee. Of course, the hidden camera recordings, which seem to show the two editors making such an assurance, need to be assessed on many counts, including authenticity and the context in which the conversations took place. The Zee editors have denied all wrongdoing, claiming they were victims of an attempt to bribe them, implying they played along because their channels were conducting their own sting operation. But it boggles the mind why the two should have been discussing an advertising contract with executives of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd at a time when their channels were running a series of investigations on the companys coal block allocations.

While it is for the police and courts to probe, and decide on, the facts of this case a case of extortion has already been filed against Zee Mr. Jindal

has thrown a spotlight on an issue which has begun to darken the Indian mediascape: the increasing number of deals between corporate houses and media outlets, whether in the form of paid news or private treaties, to guarantee favourable press and, whenever required, to black out unfavourable news. If his so-called reverse sting creates a ripple of fear among those in the media industry who think nothing of cutting such extortionary deals, then there will be a positive takeaway from the sordid revelation. Such illegal and unethical practices only serve to strengthen the voices that would like some control over the media in the form of external regulation. It was only this May that a private members bill seeking to regulate the working of the press and the electronic media was introduced in Parliament. The media itself must refrain from conducting itself in a manner that harms its own argument that any regulatory mechanism must

come only from within. One should remember that the ongoing Leveson Inquiry in the U.K. was a result of the phone hacking scandal and the increasing public disenchantment with the ethical standards in the British press. While there is no reason for external control, the Indian media should refrain from giving those who want this, the handle to push in that direction. October 27, 2012

False ceiling that hides nothing

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation has rolled out the new estimates of the urban housing shortage in the country. The technical group it had constituted has pegged the current deficit at 18.78 million dwelling units, which is six million fewer than what it was in 2007 and 7.75 million less than what housing

experts of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan had predicted for 2012.

Enthused by the reduced numbers, the cheerful government has claimed that the new figures prove the effectiveness of its housing programmes, improved bank funding and an increase in per capita income. But the question is, do they?

A careful sieving of the numbers reveals that the lower figures have more to do with the changes in the calculation method than in substantial changes in the ground situation. The hard truth lurks behind the apparent reduction: the housing deficit has not been bridged and the poor remain the worst affected. Of equal concern are the recommendations made by the technical group. Their brief prescriptions could encourage the state to indulge in shallow policy tinkering, reduce allocation and

withdraw further social housing.



Four categories

Four categories of housing conditions are taken to calculate the shortage: houses that are obsolete; nonserviceable kutcha houses dwelling units with roof and walls made of temporary materials; the number of households living in congested conditions and the number of homeless. Of this, the first three categories are common to both the Tenth Plan calculation and the new estimate. The fourth category the number of homeless is a new addition.

The technical group makes a critical departure from the earlier methods of calculation by omitting the deficit arrived at by subtracting the total

number of households and the total housing stock that is available. As the table shows, this deletion dramatically and instantly reduces the housing shortage by many millions from the 2012 estimates. Otherwise, the number of houses needed remains woefully high.

If we assume that this method is reliable, necessary correction has to be applied to the 2007 calculations as well. In which case, the resultant figure shows that the urban housing shortage has only increased and not decreased in the last five years. What was 17.24 million in 2007 has now risen to 18.78 million. Even if we add the number of homeless to the 2007 calculation it would not significantly alter the status.

Given the fact that the most of the existing government programmes for housing are way off the target, this

could be the correct conclusion. For example, the Interest Subsidy Scheme for Housing the Urban Poor which commenced in 2008 has benefited only 8,734 people as against the 2012 target of 3,10,000. Similarly, only about 40 per cent of houses planned for the poor under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission for the period 2005-2012 have been built.

Using vacant houses

Despite these facts, disappointingly, the technical group concludes that future policy response need not focus on constructing new dwelling units. Its foremost recommendation is to bring the large number of houses that are vacant to use. This would reduce the shortage by half without having to build any new houses, the technical group unconvincingly asserts.

Based on the 2011 census figures, it infers that 9.43 million residential units are lying physically unutilised and concludes that if they are brought to use through taxation and incentive policies, the housing need would tumble to a manageable number.

There are many reasons why this recommendation would not work. The bulk of the shortage 95 per cent pertains to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Low-Income Groups (LIG).

The 9.43 million vacant houses, bought by investors and held back for want of well paying tenants or other reasons, would be beyond the reach of these income groups in terms of price and size. As studies in many cities such as Chennai and Bangalore show, the smallest and cheapest

houses produced by the private real estate market are larger than 500 to 600 sq.ft and priced above Rs.25 lakh.

Going by the Ministrys definition of affordable housing, EWS and LIGs can afford dwelling units priced at or less than four times their annual gross income. By this measure, a person belonging to the EWS, earning less than Rs.5,000 a month, under current market rates, can only afford dwelling units of size 80 to 100 sq.ft. Similarly, an LIG person, earning between Rs.5,001 and Rs,10,000 per month, can afford only 150 to 200 sq.ft.

It is highly unlikely that the large numbers of vacant houses are in the affordable band. In which case, it would be impractical to grossly subsidise the large units through tax incentives and make them available to the poor either to own or rent. The release of vacant houses may at the

most help the middle and higher income groups.

Additional rooms

The second major recommendation of the technical group creating congenial policy environments to enable construction of additional rooms in existing houses would also not reduce the need for constructing new housing units.

More than 12.5 million households are living in houses less than or equal to 300 sq.ft in size. They live in crowded conditions and go through physical and social hardships. As the technical group itself admits, only about 80,000 households have the scope for building additional rooms within their built-up area. In the other units, it would be impossible to construct additional rooms since they

are invariably a part of a multistoried building.

There is no escaping the fact that the supply of affordable housing has to be increased. To suggest that the housing problem could be solved without having to build new houses may appeal to the government, which is keen to reduce welfare subsides. But any scaling down of the allocation for social housing would prove disastrous. Without doubt the policy thrust should still be on increasing housing supply.

Declaring housing as infrastructure or industry to incentivise construction activities may help as the technical group envisions. But it has to be accompanied with caveats. Any concession has to help produce more affordable housing.

Behind the new and lower estimates of the shortfall in urban dwellings lie two hard facts the deficit has not been bridged and the poor remain the worst affected October 27, 2012

Whats in a NaMo? A troubling cult

In our puerile preoccupation with the antics of a self-anointed corruptionbuster, not enough attention has been paid to a truly disturbing development in Gujarat. That blessed State now has a new television channel named NaMO, a favourite sobriquet for the leader, Narendra Modi. This is perhaps the first instance of a leader outside Tamil Nadu getting a channel named after him. But the difference is

that while the AIADMK, the DMK and the DMDK whose leaders have television channels named after them are regional outfits, Mr. Modi belongs, at least putatively, to a national party.

It is not known whether the BJPs central leadership was consulted in the Gujarat party channels naamsanskaran , but we do know that the saffron party has for over three decades taken a principled stand against all manifestations of personality cult, a weakness its leaders so damningly attributed to the Congress during the heyday of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. Now there is quiet acquiescence in Mr. Modis insistently personalised claims.

Tip of the iceberg

The new channel is only the tip of the iceberg. Disquietingly enough, the BJP and its apologists remain untroubled over the in-your-face authoritarian formulations and posturing by the Gujarat Chief Minister. Rather, the inclination is to concede his every single demand or fancy, because he is deemed to be an achiever, a man who has transformed Gujarat and a man who delivers electorally. And, we are now being tempted with the relevance-of-the-Gujarat-model-forthe-entire-country thesis.

Essentially Mr. Modi and his authoritarian model of leadership are first and foremost a threat to the BJP as well as the sangh parivar. The harsh reality is that the Chief Minister has garnered sufficient electoral, monetary, political and administrative clout to declare a kind of functional independence from the national leadership and its legitimate control;

rather, important central leaders are dependent on him to get into the national legislature.

It is now a matter of historical record how, after the 2002 massacre, the Gujarat Chief Minister was able to mobilise sentiments in the BJP against the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his exhortation to Mr. Modi to observe the rites of rajdharma . Since then, the party has continuously found itself trapped in Mr. Modis communal leadership format. And though the Chief Minister has assiduously sought to suggest that he has moved on to a development agenda, there can be no confusion that at the very core Mr. Modi has wilfully marketed himself as a deeply divisive personality, unafraid to summon the instruments and rhetoric of violence. This subtle but essentially authoritarian promise of violence

remains the defining feature of Mr. Modis so-called Gujarat model.

The BJP central leadership finds itself in a bind. It has for long fashioned itself as the embodiment of an alternative political culture and has denounced the Congress partys stifling high command style; unlike the Congress, the BJP has talked itself into encouraging strong regional leaders but eventually found it necessary to tame State-level satraps who grew too big for their boots be it a Kalyan Singh in Uttar Pradesh or Yeddyurappa in Karnataka. Mr. Modi now presents a new test. The uncertain and confused leaders holding court at 11, Ashoka Road, are confronted with Mr. Modis my way or the high way choice. These mealymouthed leaders have already subscribed to Mr. Modis Gujarat asmita mantra, as if the State enjoyed a special status like Nagaland

or Jammu and Kashmir. However, if the BJP wants to be taken seriously as a national party, with a central leadership capable of arbitrating morals and manners among its country-wide rank and file, then it would be interesting to see how it resists a hostile takeover bid from the Modi corner.

Today, the Gujarat BJP is unquestionably Mr. Modis pocketborough. He brooks no challenge to his leadership, his authoritative choices and preferences prevail down to the taluka level. No party leader or activist can prosper without the Chief Ministers blessings. His Cabinet colleagues have been reduced to the status of glorified clerks. In the socalled development model, the Chief Minister relies on the district level administrative machinery to collect huge crowds, which helps in manufacturing the illusion of a mass

following. A leader has emerged bigger than the organisation. And that cannot be very comforting to any democratic soul.

Mr. Modis supreme authority has prospered not just at the expense of the BJP; the sangh parivar too should have reason to worry. The RSS brass will ponder over the fact that today all its frontal organisations the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad have reason to feel marginalised and humiliated by an over-bearing Chief Minister.

But all this is between the CM and his party and the sangh parivar. What ought to be a cause for concern to democratic India is the effortless manner in which Mr. Modi has acquired a monopoly over political truth, a basic requisite in an incipient

authoritarian show. Any individual or group that dares to question the Chief Minister and his ways has been rendered illegitimate and inimical to Gujarat. Dissent has been virtually shut out of Gujarats democratic marketplace.

Recently when that grand old man of the milk revolution in India, Verghese Kurien, died, newspapers recalled a January 2004 confrontation between the Amul Man and Mr. Modi. The two had shared a platform at Anand, Mr. Kuriens karambhoomi . The Milk Man gathered the courage to tell the Chief Minister that the 2002 communal violence had brought a bad name to the State and narrated the adverse observations of a visiting Japanese dignitary. According to newspaper reports, Mr. Modi bluntly ticked Mr. Kurien off: After years of suppression, we have got into the habit of taking certificates from

foreigners. Should we be taking certificate from this lady in Japan who came here only for a few days? It was vintage Modi, massaging Gujarati subnationalism. (Soon Mr. Kurien found himself at the receiving end of the Chief Ministers anger.)

A few months ago, the same Mr. Modi was in Japan. Soon his propaganda machinery was flaunting certificates to his visionary leadership from obscure Japanese functionaries, just as a visit from a British envoy has been tom-tommed as a massive endorsement of the Chief Ministers accomplishments.

Like an old fashioned authoritarian, Mr. Modi has seen to it that he alone has the licence to speak for Gujarat. Admittedly, he cannot be blamed for aggressively dominating the discourse in Gujarat. His political foes within and outside the BJP have failed to come

up with a rival imagination, and other voices have become feeble and ineffective. And, the Chief Minister has demonstrated a remarkable capacity for politics as theatre, using government resources to stage massive spectacles like Vibrant Gujarat Investment Melas, Sadbhavana Uppvas, Vivekananada yatras, etc. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether under Mr. Modis supposedly dynamic leadership, the BJP can better the Congress record of winning more than 140 Assembly seats.

Strongman offer

Gujarat may have nicely got used to the miasma of soft authoritarianism but must the rest of India buy into this thinly disguised strongman offer? Mr. Modis handlers and apologists can be expected to merchandise him

as the perfect practitioner of noble will power, a decisive and seemingly incorruptible leader who will shepherd the country out of the current spell of indecision and drift. The gullible middle classes and sections of the media have already shown a remarkable appetite for the vendors of unorthodox solutions, like the handing over of Gestapo-like powers to some kind of a Lok Pal. Mercifully, there is only small hurdle that Mr. Modi may face in hawking his brand of maha adhinayakvaad, or cult of the great leader: in these last eight years, India has come to cherish its pluralistic values and democratic habits too much to fall for offers of leadership from would be strongmen. L.K. Advani found this out in 2009.

(Harish Khare is a veteran commentator and political analyst.)

Narendra Modis authoritarian model of leadership is a threat to the BJP, the RSS and India October 27, 2012

For U.S. voters, foreign policy needs to reflect immediate economic goals
BROUGHT TO THE TABLE:These observations track closely with a recent report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on U.S. public attitudes toward international affairs. Every year, the top foreign policy goal is the same: protecting the jobs of American workers.PHOTO: AFP The defining image from the October 22 debate between President Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is of the two candidates passionately disputing their prescriptions for the

U.S. domestic economy. The moderator, veteran TV journalist Bob Schieffer, caught the spirit of the evening with his final words before inviting the debaters to make their closing comments I think we all love teachers. A visitor from Mars might be forgiven for not realising that this was a debate on foreign policy.

Schieffers choice of subjects for the debate is revealing, and sheds light on the most immediate voter concerns. Three of the themes had to do with the Middle East: Libya; Syria; and Israel and Iran. Despite Americas political polarisation and Romneys months-long drumbeat for a more muscular approach to Irans nuclear programme, there was striking similarity in the views of the two candidates.

A fourth theme, Afghanistan and Pakistan, extended the discussion of Americas difficult relationships in the Muslim world. Both candidates stressed that the United States was leaving Afghanistan; gone were Romneys earlier hints that he would slow down the departure and consult the military commanders. Despite a provocative question from the moderator, neither wanted to divorce Pakistan. Again, little discernible difference.

Very important goal

The two final themes were broader: a wide open question about the U.S. role in the world, and a final theme combining China and security challenges for the United States. Both themes in practice shifted the discussion back to domestic policy. Indeed, fully 13 pages out of the 36-

page transcript were about the domestic economy. This is more air time than the candidates gave to any international topic. In fact, however, this reflects one of the important insights the debate provided about how American voters look on foreign policy: it matters, but the U.S. economy is a more immediate concern. Both men made the case either implicitly or explicitly that the greatest boost to an effective U.S. foreign policy would come from an economic turnaround.

These observations track closely with a recent report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on U.S. public attitudes toward international affairs. This organisation has covered this subject matter in highly respected surveys every two to four years over several decades. Every year, the top foreign policy goal is the same: protecting the jobs of American

workers. This year, 83 per cent of those surveyed cited this as a very important goal. Respondents still list as top threats international terrorism and Irans nuclear programme, though the majorities are now 67 and 64 per cent respectively, down from 90 per cent plus in 2002. Only 14 per cent still believe that promoting democracy abroad is very important.

Tellingly, the Chicago Council report found Americans weary of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only 17 per cent thought the United States should keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Two-thirds majorities believed that neither war had been worth the cost in blood and treasure.

Some respondents were still willing to see the United States engage in military action overseas but fewer than in past years, and on a highly selective basis. Majorities favoured

the use of U.S. troops to prevent genocide, to avert humanitarian disaster, or to secure the oil supply. Less than half favoured using U.S. troops to respond to invasions of Israel, Korea, or Taiwan. There was strong support for diplomacy, including talking with leaders of hostile countries such as North Korea, Cuba and Iran, and surprising support for multilateral efforts.

The percentage of Americans who consider Asia the most important region for the United States is steadily growing. In this report, for the first time, a majority of Americans 52 per cent agreed with this view. Consistent with this was the widely shared judgment that the United States needed to engage with China, and that U.S.-China economic relations were of critical importance. A majority continues to back the U.S. having the worlds strongest

military, but solid majorities oppose military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Turkey.

With a handful of exceptions, views on top foreign policy goals and on threats were widely shared across the U.S. population. Republicans, for example, scored 20 points higher on the importance of maintaining U.S. military strength and in their concern about illegal immigration; by a similar margin, Democrats felt more strongly about ending world hunger. More surprisingly, Independents were less committed to international engagement than those who identified themselves as either Republicans or Democrats. Americans under 30 were the least internationalist of any age group.

Three points

The debate and the Chicago Council report, taken together, suggest a few broad conclusions about prospects for American foreign policy.

First: The U.S. electorate is more moved by short-term issues than by long-term ones. This helps explain the astonishing omissions in that nights debate. No India, no Japan, no Europe, only a cursory mention of Russia, no Korea, China mentioned only as an economic rival, Latin America only as an economic opportunity. Surveys suggest that none of these places is considered unimportant. However, none is now in crisis, and the candidates and debate organisers gave their primary attention to crisis countries.

Second: Among the long-term structural issues in U.S. foreign policy, the broader view of Asia that

this administration has developed President Obama referred to the pivot to Asia is likely to continue. Both the Americans surveyed in the report and the two candidates clearly believe Asia matters meaning both East and South Asia. The electorate and officeholders alike are influenced both by the regions security importance and by its economic prominence.

Third: Despite the profound polarisation of the U.S. political scene, much of the substance of current U.S. foreign policy will carry over even if there is a change of president. However, the tone of the debate and the way the candidates handled broad questions like Americas role in the world suggest that a Romney administration would project a more unilateral and assertive style, and the Chicago survey confirms that this would play well with his base.

(Teresita and Howard Schaffer are former U.S. ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia. They are co-founders of Howard Schaffer teaches at Georgetown University; Teresita Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution.)

The October 22 debate between Romney and Obama offered a perceptive glimpse of the most urgent short-term international worries of the electorate October 29, 2012

In post-war Jaffna, a slow piecing back of life

Pavalochini and her husband Ravikumar make a living selling bicycles. They sell them for Rs.49 a kg, for scrap is what the bikes are: rusted, twisted, bent out of shape, the tyres long gone after three years out under the scorching sun at the bicycle graveyard near Mullaithivu.

From their home in the Konapulam camp for the displaced in Valigamam, Ravikumar sets out once or twice a week on the 95-km journey to the graveyard.

There, Pavalochini said, he goes about collecting every scrap of metal left behind by civilians and the LTTE as they retreated stage by stage to a narrow strip of land in Mullaithivu in the final stages of the war in 2009.

Buses, vans, cars, and thousands of bicycles, damaged by the heavy

shelling and their remaining parts rusted, are still heaped by the side of the road. Scrap hunters like Ravikumar forage for the good bits, especially bicycles, and bring them back home to sell.

There are some Muslim dealers who buy these cycles for Rs.49 per kg, said Pavalochini, as we sit talking in the shade of a mountain of bicycles in her front yard. It might fetch Rs.65 a kg if we took it to Colombo and sold it ourselves in the scrap market, but think of the transporting costs.

Many others in the camp are in the same business. The other day, said Pavalochini, she had to feed the children in the neighbouring house. Both parents went off scrap hunting to the graveyard, and did not return for two days.

The wartime scrap heap is a reminder of how recently the fighting ended. It also underlines how Jaffna and its people are still struggling through a layered past and present to come out of three decades of conflict and war.

Post-war Jaffna is very different from what it used to be. For one, there is no more the blanket of darkness and fear that used to fall at night, the dread of the torchlight-flashing sentry at checkpoints, and the long whistle of shells as they flew in the air before landing on their target with a deep explosive thud.

The hotelier

There are no checkpoints, the physical presence of the Army more discreet now. Shops are open late into the night and people are out on the streets at all hours. In place of the

ubiquitous bicycles and the old Morris cars that ran on kerosene, defying the petrol blockade, all manner of vehicles now clog the streets.

Among the changes is a large hotel opposite Duraiappah stadium. The owner, Thilak Thiagarajah, is perhaps the biggest private investor in Jaffna today. Mr. Thiagarajah left Jaffna when he was 17 years old, and is a realtor in the United Kingdom.

His 42-room hotel, Tilko named after himself and his wife Kokila is a symbol of the hope, at least his, that Jaffna will regain what Tamils like to call its lost glory.

My belief is that to have peace, you have to develop the economy. What we should do is create jobs, create grassroots industry, said the 56-yearold hotelier, who divides his time

between Jaffna and his large suburban home in Chigwell outside London where his chartered accountant wife and two children live.

I want to show that Tamils can make it work in Jaffna, he said, as he recounted his familys struggles in 1970s Sri Lanka, forcing him to leave at a young age.

Military presence

But he does not have much company. Most other diaspora Tamils came in after the war, saw, and flew right back. In the months after the fighting was over, banks rushed to the Tamildominated peninsula to make good on what they believed would be a postwar boom. The expected revival, though, has yet to happen.

A recent hike in interest rates, has put a damper on business across Sri Lanka. Jaffna suffers additionally from a continuing atmosphere of uncertainty. The province continues to be ruled directly by Colombo, and the presence of nearly 18,000 soldiers, and the authority with which the military entirely Sinhalese conducts itself, add to the uncertainty.

Also, after years of dislocation and displacement, people neither have the documentation or the security demanded by banks for advancing loans, for business or even for house building.

Last years grease devil incidents further heightened peoples fears. A number of women in parts of the country, but more so in Jaffna, reported being attacked by a grease coated figure. The incidents got

attributed to the Army, and enveloped Jaffna in an atmosphere more reminiscent of the war years.

So everyone is waiting and watching. No one is investing, said C. Jayakumar, president of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce.

No industry

The local economy is made up mainly of retail trading. Agriculture and fishing are picking up slowly as people return to their homes. In Achuveli, which boasts Jaffnas famed fertile red soil, farmers who have regained possession of their lands from the security forces are growing vegetables and fruits for the local market. Grapevines are a common, if surprising, sight.

What is lacking is industry, which means jobs are limited. Before the conflict turned into a full-fledged war, Jaffna had a state-run cement factory, in Kankesanthurai. There is no talk of reviving that. A cold storage plant would have given a boost to fisheries, but there are no plans for one.

The only job opportunities are in shops or in the small service sector. There is only one university, which has limited seats. Most students discontinue their education after their A-level exams, which makes jobs harder to get. Young people are not interested in staying. All this makes people suspect it is a deliberate plan to deplete Jaffna of its population, and colonise it with Sinhalese settlers.

Road projects, with Chinese help

Spiralling property prices in Jaffna, and the construction activity all over the peninsula provide a more optimistic picture. Everywhere, people with means which in Jaffna means those with relatives abroad who send them money are repairing properties that were damaged, abandoned and fell into disuse during the years of conflict. Malls and other commercial buildings are coming up.

The thick construction dust over Jaffna, however, is from road construction: armed with $423.9 m from Chinas Exim Bank, the governments Northern Road Rehabilitation Project is building 512 km of roads in the Northern Province.

A large part of the contract was given to the China Railway no. 5 Engineering Group, which in turn has subcontracted the road works to Sri

Lankan companies. China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation is the other main contractor, which has sublet works to Sri Lankan firms.

Already, the A9 highway that connects southern Sri Lanka to the northern peninsula, has been refurbished. Once known as the highway of blood for the deadly battles over it between the LTTE and the security forces, it now eases the passage of goods and traders between Colombo and Jaffna.

But Tamils see roads as a doubleedged facility: it eases their travel but also helps southern Sri Lanka send its goods to the North, while there is not enough in Jaffna to send to the south. Suspicious Jaffna minds see the new road network as preparing the Northern province to be more liveable for Sinhalese.

We never asked for roads. Development is necessary, but we should be able to decide for ourselves, said Mr. Jayakumar, what kind of development we want. For that, what we need right now is a political settlement.

The Tamils in the northern part of

the country are struggling to rebuild their lives after three decades of conflict October 29, 2012

A long journey to peace

Exactly nine years ago, Atal Bihari Vajpayee made the first road trip from the only airport in Nagaland at Dimapur to Kohima, the capital, by an Indian Prime Minister. Reflecting on that journey, Mr. Vajpayee wryly remarked, in his inimitable style, at a public reception: I was told that, of all the roads in the State, this is the best. If this is the best, it is difficult to imagine how bad the worst is. Well, the four-lane highway that the Prime Minister announced at that meeting in 2003 is still being built but the political gaps among the Naga proindependence groups that were enormous when his predecessors P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda and Inder Gujral began the process, have substantially shrunk although crucial differences remain.

It is worth remembering here what Mr. Vajpayee said in 2003 because

that set the tone and pace for a possible Naga settlement and it is worth quoting at length because no one in the successor government has that flair for oratory, that touch of sensitivity or compassion. In his public appearances, Mr. Vajpayee emphasised a key phrase: peace with dignity and honour several times, for he had been well advised on the Naga belief in these values and those remarks were greatly appreciated.

Era of peace

For too long this fair land has been scarred and seared by violence. It has been bled by the orgy of the killings of human beings by human beings. Each death pains me. Each death diminishes us. My government has been doing everything possible to stop this bloodshed, so that we can together inaugurate a new era of

peace, development and prosperity in Nagaland. The past cannot be rewritten. But we can write our common future with our collective, cooperative efforts Rather than remaining tied to the past, we have to take care of the present and look to the future This is the time for reconciliation and peace-making. It is true that, of all the States in India, Nagaland has a unique history. We are sensitive to this historical fact.

That sensitiveness was not on display from the 1950s to the 1990s when the state showed that it was prepared to bludgeon the Nagas into submission. This was followed by a recognition that political issues could be resolved only politically, not by military means. As a result, ceasefires and cessation of hostilities and operations began to herald a fresh political process in Nagaland and other States blighted by armed confrontations, including

Assam, Meghalaya and, to a lesser degree, Manipur. Yet, problems remain including the existence of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in key States, despite the virtual end of organised violence by armed separatist groups.

It is thus encouraging that negotiators for the Government of India and the principal Naga militant group that goes by the acronym of NSCN (I-M) are hunkering down for what could arguably be the most difficult and decisive phase of over 15 years of dialogue and ceasefire. A range of key issues is yet to be finalised and it would be foolish to discount their importance.

These include the phrasing of the constitutional amendments that will give the Nagas greater cultural and political space without providing territorial gain (the most contentious

issue in the region that affects Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh), giving the former underground groups and their leaders a political role in the State of Nagaland, and rehabilitating the Naga fighting cadre in existing formations of the Indian army such as the Naga Regiment, the paramilitary forces or the State police.

This challenging stretch of talks has begun with efforts to convince the States of Manipur, Assam and, to a lesser degree, Arunachal Pradesh of the need for a settlement and that this will not harm their interests. Officials on either side indicate that efforts are on to enable a package to be announced before Nagaland goes to the polls for a new Legislative Assembly in April 2013 although there have been reports about a Christmas or New Year announcement by the Centre.

The latter appears unlikely despite growing pressure from leaders like Chief Minister Nephiu Rio, whose Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, aligned to the Bharatiya Janata Party and bidding for a third term, has offered to resign along with the other 59 members of the State Assembly to pave the way for the Naga rebels to take charge of the State before the elections.

New actors and factors

All this is also taking place in an environment that has seen the growth of several new actors and factors: one is the emergence of an increasingly articulate civil society that resists being pushed around by one side or the other, especially the armed groups; a second is a clear demand for reconciliation among the factions, a process which is finally taking place led by civil society and church forums

(it should be noted that this is happening after decades of internecine blood letting which at times has been as brutal as the conflicts with the Indian forces); a third is the growth of a younger generation that, while passionate about Naga rights, is not as committed to the larger goals of the older generation; many younger Nagas today also see virtue in living in a larger and more flexible political and economic framework and are visible in universities, professions, the service and other industries.

The developments have been pushed forward by the accession of the main NSCN to a role within the Indian Constitution, although the latter would have to be amended to reflect Naga interests and needs. The 30-odd demands put down by the NSCN (I-M) at the start of a formal dialogue with New Delhi have been narrowed down.

The negotiations have been held in as diverse settings as Malaysia and South Africa, the Netherlands and Switzerland. And while the Indian interlocutors have changed from Swaraj Kaushal to K. Padamanabhiah, former Home Secretary, and currently to Raghaw Pandey, former Nagaland Chief Secretary who is credited with the Communitisation (greater selfgovernance) Programme that has won international acclaim, the Naga leadership in the NSCN (I-M) has remained the same: Isak Chisi Swu, the chairman of the group, and Th. Muivah, the general secretary.

Those demands have now been narrowed down as both sides have agreed on a separate flag for Nagaland, new names for its Assembly and Governor, and a pan-Naga cultural and social body (that can protect the cultural interests of the Nagas wherever they live). Whether

this body will eventually become a formal political structure, spanning State boundaries, is a difficult and tricky issue. Manipurs response and that of Assam will be critical to this effort, especially as there are major criminal charges against leaders of the Naga organisations in these States. Will an amnesty mean that such cases would be dropped?

In addition, once an agreement is inked, the NSCN (I-M) will have to reinvent itself as a political party for its political goals would have to be changed and its armed cadres would need to serve in Indian units. In addition, AFSPA should be removed from Nagaland and other parts of the northeast as a Confidence-Building Measure.

There are problems within Nagaland itself, not to be confused with the demands for a united Naga homeland

that the NSCN has been making. Thus, the Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organization wants a Frontier Nagaland state to be carved out of four districts inhabited by six tribes, saying they have not benefited economically or politically over the past decades.

These show how tough the road to accord will be. Other militant groups may cry foul but must be persuaded that this is in the best interests of the Nagas at a time of relative peace. The journey has been long in the making, well over 60 years, and obviously an agreement will not satisfy all groups. That is the nature of political dialogue and the process of political resolution. But it should replace the ill-will and lack of understanding that has long characterised relations between the Nagas and the rest of India with goodwill.

(Sanjoy Hazarika is Saifuddin Kitchelew Chair and Director of the Centre for North East Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and founder of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research in the northeast.)

An agreement on Nagalands status will replace the lack of understanding that has long characterised the relations between the Nagas and the rest of India with goodwill October 29, 2012

Our policy is to reprocess all the fuel put into a nuclear reactor
Post the Fukushima disaster, one of the key issues protesters raise is nuclear waste generated by a nuclear plant and its final disposal. Sekhar

Basu , Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, has worked extensively on several aspects of nuclear reprocessing and waste management. As Chief Executive of the Nuclear Recycle Board, he is responsible for the design, development, construction and operation of nuclear recycle plants involving reprocessing and waste management. He has designed and built reprocessing plants, fuel storage facilities and nuclear waste treatment facilities at Trombay, Tarapur and Kalpakkam. He has taken up the design of the first Integrated Nuclear Recycle Plant which will take the nuclear recycle programme to maturity. He spoke to R. Prasad about nuclear waste generation, reprocessing and final disposal. Excerpts.

What is the amount of nuclear waste generated compared with coal power plants?

The nuclear energy programme will move in parallel paths. One is to produce power. Since we generate power there will be some waste. And this waste is only two to three per cent of the total fuel we put into the reactor. Entire spent fuel is not waste; plutonium and uranium are recycled which contribute to about 97-98 per cent of the spent fuel. So only the remaining two to three per cent of spent fuel is waste. This is unlike our coal power stations where whatever coal you put into the plant turns into waste (like ash) and other emissions.

The second part is the amount of coal that has to go into a power station for the same capacity. If we compare it with nuclear power plants, uranium requirement is about 30,000 times

less. So the amount of coal we carry to make a power station of some capacity is much more. All I am saying is that in terms of waste volume there is no comparison between coal and nuclear power stations.

But will not nuclear waste remain radioactive for a long time?

Now the problem with nuclear power waste is that it will remain radioactive for a few hundreds of years and even more. Now again you see, this waste can be divided into two parts one where within 300 years, 99 per cent of the waste becomes non-radioactive and the rest is going to remain radioactive for a longer time.

So we are working towards the development of a process where we can separate waste that becomes non-radioactive within 300 years.

At what stage of development is the technology to separate waste which is radioactive for about 300 years and that beyond 300 years?

A pilot plant will become operational [to separate the two types of waste] next year. Process development in the lab was completed some time back. The pilot plant will be followed by a demonstration plant, and then by commercial plants.

Where is the pilot plant coming up?

Tarapur, Mumbai.

When will the demonstration plant come up?

In our case, after the pilot plant is fully operational, we will come up with a demonstration-scale plant at Tarapur. It is at a design stage and will be integrated to the nuclear recycle plant at Tarapur. This will be a large-sized plant. The plant will be designed for reprocessing 600 tonnes of spent fuel.

How do you take care of the waste that will become non-radioactive within 300 years?

Taking care of the waste that remains radioactive for about 300 years is not of much concern. Properly designed buildings and structures can stand for 300 years.

The waste is first vitrified in the vitrification plant operational in India. It will be put in steel canisters, which in turn will be put in steel over-packs. Over-packs will again be put in

another steel casing. So there will be three to four layers of steel casing in addition to vitrification. It will finally be kept in concrete structures/buildings. Concrete buildings are used for structural, shielding and ventilation purposes.

Whereas when it is beyond 300 years some other methods are necessary. That is why we talk of putting them in repositories.

So the waste that becomes nonradioactive within 300 years will not go into repositories?

No, that is not essential if we are able to separate it from the long-lived ones.

There is waste; there is long-lived radioactive waste. But it is a very

small quantity. So taking care of that should not be much of a problem.

Have you identified a location for repositories for waste that will be radioactive beyond 300 years?

If you see the Indian map, we have granite rock formation spread all over the country. So it can come up anywhere wherever the rock formation is suitable.

We need to identify a site and people should be convinced that there is no real problem. Then this will be possible. Today somehow the atmosphere is different. We can only continue our research for identification of a location.

So anywhere you have granite rocks of proper quality, they will be studied.

During the studies, you look for some evidence for lack of migration. So you take a rock sample and see for water or other elements that have stayed over there for a very long time.

Is there another way of handling

long-lived radioactive waste?

We can bombard the waste with highenergy neutrons to kill or burn radioactive elements. This is called transmutation. Transmutation is the way of handling actinides that have long half-lives. It can be done either in faster spectrum reactors where neutrons of higher energy are used or accelerator-driven system (ADS).

What do you mean by burning?

Burning means you bombard radioactive elements having longer half-lives with high-energy neutrons and convert them into some other elements that will have much shorter half-lives thereby mitigating the concerns of long-lived radiotoxicity. So if you have a large reactor programme, you can have a reactor specifically for burning the waste. It can be done either in fast spectrum reactors or an ADS. This is the scientific solution to waste management. India is one of the countries doing a lot of work on this.

How close are we to reaching this goal?

We already have fast reactors, so we will be only extending the technology. The ADS programme is being taken up in a big way in the 12th Plan. We have started pursuing it and

Visakhapatnam is the place for the ADS programme. It will take 15 to 20 years to come up because multiple technologies are involved.

When will the Integrated Nuclear Recycle Plant come up?

Right now it is at a sanction stage; a proposal is with the government for sanction. Somewhere in 2020 the project should come up.

Our policy is to reprocess all the fuel that we put into a reactor. Reprocessing and waste management will follow the main reactor programme. There will be a gap of up to 10 years because the fuel has to take some time to cool. So far, the reprocessing programme was smaller, but we will expand it as the reactor programme is expanding.

Are you expanding the reprocessing plant capacity?

We are almost doubling the [reprocessing plant] capacity at Kalpakkam [near Chennai]. The Kalpakkam plant will reprocess fuel from [reactors based in] South [India] and is likely to be operational by 2014. October 30, 2012

Northern Europe needs to listen to hardy Greece

In Athens, not just the ruins of the Acropolis or of the Temple of Zeus but the walls of the bustling city also speak. And the writing on them reflects a grand constant in Greek thought individual virtues, not robust bank accounts, make for good

citizens. Whether the right-wing Golden Dawn, the radical left-wing Syriza or the spanking New Democracy has a better appreciation of what constitutes virtue is of course problematic, but it remains a quintessentially Greek discourse. The walls dont echo the financial language of TV channels, of interest rates, exchange rates, growth rates and graphs.

During a short holiday in Greece this October, I could not shake off a throwback to Shakespeares Timon of Athens . Timon, a nobleman of great virtue, generously shared his riches, to a fault, and was reduced to a pauper. Then, hounded by creditors, he went off to a desolate cave, only to discover a treasure of gold with which he repaid them, remaining generous, though somewhat bitter, towards the end of the manuscript.

Merkel visit

Apparently, the play was never completed. Nor is the worst of the present financial crisis in Greece by any means over. In the run-up to German Chancellor Angela Merkels visit to Athens on October 9, news broke that Greek officials had located a list containing the details of some 2,000 Greeks who were account holders in Swiss banks. Apparently, the list was received two years ago from the then French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, by the Greek government and was delivered to a special prosecutor by the head of Greeces economic crimes unit. Along the streets and cafes of Plaka, the question asked that evening was: could this treasure not suffice for the bailout that the government needed?

Obviously, the treasure is big, but not big enough for the Greek government

debt, reckoned at 346 billion or 179 per cent of its GDP. The financial crisis is unmistakably spilling over into an economic depression that threatens to engulf the euro zone. In the perception of the Greeks gathered at Syntagma Square to protest Ms Merkels visit, it was the portents of the latter, rather than the former, which had propelled her to Athens. They were demanding that their national leadership drive a harder bargain with the troika of the International Monetary FundEuropean Union-European Central Bank (IMF-EU-ECB) that Merkel seemed to represent on this occasion and not capitulate to the power of finance capital. Further austerity cuts in wages, pensions and social security, on which Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had already garnered a parliamentary consensus, were unacceptable to them.

Did the Greeks misread Ms Merkels motives on this mission? Her advocacy of patience with Greece and success in persuading the IMF to allow more time for deficit reduction might suggest it was simply a supportive gesture. However, the German Chancellor runs deeper than that. Most likely, she senses what others in northern Europe do not the longterm bargaining strength of Greece vis--vis the northern countries in the euro zone and the need to work with the people rather than a recently trussed-up government, for the EU to survive.

Displaying grit

What are the strengths of Greeks to tide over the crisis? A young Greek woman in Monastiraki offered me some insights. Her father, she said, was a fisherman who owned a boat and a bit of land in north Greece. He

lamented the fact that 80 per cent of the fish eaten in Athens came from Chile and Argentina. She did not reckon her parents would be thrown out on to the streets as it might happen to families in many north European cities in case of a depression. They would fish and grow crops and survive.

This sounded a bit like the grit of The Old Man and the Sea , but I had to admit that throughout history, the Greeks have shown an extraordinary ability to struggle and survive turns in fortune. Thanks to the 19th century land reforms, most Greeks own small farms and the idyllic climate along with the long coastline supports agriculture. Time and again, they have weathered financial turbulence. During the depression of the 1930s, protectionist policies and a weak drachma helped Greek industry to grow.

The economic miracle from the 1950s on was spectacular. Its glorious islands today attract hordes of tourists. Greece continues to excel in shipping. With bread and fish to eat and olives and grapes to sell, they will survive even if their bloated modern services sector takes a blow. If they were to be thrown out of the euro-zone, they would revert to a very weak drachma, good for their exports, even if useless for any imports. For the rest of the euro-zone, this would mean even greater anxieties about the euro surviving, the collapse of several French banks that routed derivativesdriven loans and a rising spiral of unemployment in the northern cities, with little for them to fall back on.

With 30-odd years of a protesters career behind her, perhaps Ms Merkel looked beyond the negotiating table at the righteous indignation of the

demonstrators on the streets. She may have been astute enough to recognise their economic strength or wonder, at any rate, if the government she was dealing with was at all representative of the public weal, which sang a tune very different from the parliamentary consensus on austerity cuts.

Mirroring Hazare

The outrageous arrest and release of Kostas Vaxevanis, the intrepid editor of Hot Doc , on October 27, for publishing names from the Lagarde list, bear an uncanny resemblance to the ham-handed manner in which Anna Hazare was treated by the Indian government two years ago when he stepped out for his fast against corruption in high places. The high-handedness of government in the case of Anna led to such public anger that Parliament was forced

ultimately to swallow its pride and issue a Sense of the House resolution guaranteeing three essential features of the institution of an ombudsman that Anna had been demanding. The repressive act in Greece not only adds to the public distrust of the newly elected government led by New Democracy, but also thereby, queers the pitch for any meaningful negotiations between the elite troika of the IMF-EU-ECB and the present government whose credibility is at stake.

While the troika needs to realise its own vulnerability and appreciate the difference between the real and the money economies it is dealing with, the government in turn needs to be mindful of the will of the people to reclaim economics as a moral science. Hopefully, the charges of breach of privacy that Mr. Vaxevanis faces will be viewed by the magistrate not only

in the context of the public outcry against tax evasion by the rich and powerful but also in the light of Aristotles famous dictum: Privacy is idiocy, the breeding ground of all criminality.

(Amitabh Mukhopadhyay is a New Delhi-based commentator on social issues. Email: )

The major financial institutions in Europe should sense the long-term bargaining strength of Athens and the need to work with the people October 30, 2012

A visit Manmohan must make

The pre-condition Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been insisting on for a visit to Pakistan that there must first be something solid to achieve defies the sound rules of diplomacy and is one which the selfconsciously powerful impose unwisely. History has vindicated Churchill and proved Truman wrong in rebuffing Stalins pleas for a summit. Doables are more clearly determined at the summit level itself and Dr. Singh knows what they are. It seems that he has all but abandoned the agenda on which he so bravely worked during his first stint as Prime Minister.

What message is he seeking now to convey to Pakistan and Kashmiris? Expect nothing from me?

Ideal atmosphere

Ironically, the atmosphere for a visit to Pakistan was never better and there is something which he alone, at the highest political level, can accomplish finalise an agreement that settles the Sir Creek dispute. Though it is of limited dimensions, its removal from the agenda of disputes awaiting settlement will provide an impetus to the resolution of the others and improve the atmosphere. Dr. Singh briefed the on-board media while returning from the Non-Aligned summit in Tehran on August 31 that he had told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari when they met there that there must be a genuine feeling that Pakistan is doing all that it could do to deal with terrorism directed at India from Pakistans soil. The court trial on the Mumbai massacre is a crucial test of Pakistans sincerity.

But he did not stop at that. He added, significantly, I also said Sir Creek,

which we had talked about during his visit to Ajmer *in April+, was doable. Nor is that all. Credible reports have it that when Pakistans Interior Minister Rehman Malik met Indias Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on the sidelines of the SAARC Home Ministers Conference in the Maldives late last month, he gave a verbal assurance of access to Indian investigators to the accused in Pakistans prisons and the evidence already collected. This is an area which can be fully explored only in frank talks at a high level.

Sir Creek has been doable for at least the past five years. The joint statements issued on May 21, 2011 and June 19, 2012 speak of demarcation of the land boundary in the Sir Creek area and the delimitation of [the] International Maritime Boundary between Pakistan and India. A joint survey of Sir Creek

was conducted in January and February 2007 which resulted in a joint map of the area. It was authenticated by both sides at the fourth round of talks when copies of the joint map were also exchanged.

Boundary-marking and making

As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar once remarked, boundary-marking is the task of a surveyor; boundary-making is the task of a statesman. Both countries, parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, submitted their claims to the extended Continental Shelf with the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Their claims remain on hold, pending a settlement. If they continue to disagree on the limits of the EEZ or the Continental Shelf, the matter will have to be decided by arbitration (Articles 279-299 of the Convention).

Is that what we want? Why not do the doable?

There are two other matters on which India can take the initiative. One is a no-war pact. Both sides came very close to an agreed draft in May 1984. India had sent an aide-memoire to Pakistan on December 24, 1981 setting out the principles. Pakistan sent its draft on January 12, 1982. In Islamabad, formal talks began in May 1982 when Pakistan presented a complete draft of a no-war pact. India followed up by presenting a draft Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation in August 1982. Indira Gandhi wantonly injected new elements on bases and alliances. Meanwhile, an agreement on a Joint Commission was signed on March 10, 1983.

Talks resumed at Udaipur and Delhi on March 1 and 2, 1984. There was a

breakthrough in May 1984 on the two sticking points. The Shimla formulation on bilateralism and the criteria for NAM membership, adopted at Cairo on June 5, 1961, was acceptable to India on bases and alliances. Pakistan did not send its draft on them as it had promised. The Rajiv Gandhi-Zia-ul-Haq summit in Delhi on December 17, 1985 imparted momentum to the dialogue. Talks were held in 1986 but they petered out.

In 2012, bases and alliances have lost their relevance; but Article 8 of the India-Bangladesh Treaty can be adopted. It used a standard formulation for reciprocal pledges not to enter into or participate in any military alliance directed against the other party nor allow the use of its territory for committing any act that may cause military damage to or

constitute a threat to the security of the other.

The no-war pact proposal was formally revived by Nawaz Sharif when he was Prime Minister, in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 1997: I offer today from this rostrum to open negotiations on a treaty of nonaggression between India and Pakistan. He renewed it in a television interview on December 11, 2008 after the Mumbai blasts: We should sign a no-war pact for peace.

Almost there

Existing drafts can be meshed together. Not much work is involved. When this writer asked M.K. Rasgotra, Indias Foreign Secretary during the May 1984 talks, how much time it

would have required, he raised his index finger and said, one hour.

There is another matter on which the summit will help. For some time, the Pakistan Peoples Party government treated the Musharraf-Manmohan consensus on the four-point formula on Kashmir as something the cat had brought in. That is no longer the case. Pakistan is prepared to adopt a constructive line on the formula. Last month, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar clearly indicated to Iftikhar Gilani of DNA that, we need a relook *on Kashmir], we need to do some homework for that. In an interview to Barkha Dutt of NDTV around the same time, former PPP Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani specified the subject of the homework: There had been some formula earlier which was decided between General Musharraf and the Indian government. But there had been some loopholes which we

wanted to tighten, aur uspe hum kaam kar rahe the [and we were working on it] when there was a change of government here in Pakistan.

Tightening the loose ends would be a more accurate description for the exercise. Only a summit can accomplish that. And, that is where the havoc wrought since 2008 must be repaired. As Churchill said in a historic speech to the House of Commons on May 11, 1953, soon after Stalins death, If there is not at the summit of the nations the will to win the greatest prize and the greatest honour ever offered to mankind, doom-laden responsibility will fall upon those who now possess the power to decide. At the worst the participants would have established more intimate contacts. At the best we might have a generation of peace.

(A.G. Noorani is an advocate, Supreme Court of India, and a leading constitutional expert. His latest book, Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.)

Only a summit between India and Pakistan at the highest political level can lead to a forward movement on Sir Creek, a

no-war pact, and the Kashmir formula October 30, 2012

Nuclear safety before vendor interests

In 2010, under pressure from multinational nuclear suppliers, the Manmohan Singh government pushed through a law to protect them from

the consequences of a nuclear accident. The law makes it impossible for victims to sue the supplier, even for an accident that results from a design defect. Liability is effectively transferred to the Indian taxpayer, first to the public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) and then the government. Even this is capped at a maximum of Rs.2,500 crore and victims need not be compensated for any additional damage.

However, the law also includes a clause that, under certain circumstances, allows the NPCIL, although not the victims, to sue the supplier and recoup the money it has paid out. It is this relatively minor clause that nuclear suppliers, and their friends in the Indian establishment, have been railing against for the past two years.

The Russian Deputy Prime Minister warned India, on his recent visit, that if the Russian company Atomstroyexport (a subsidiary of Rosatom) was forced to obey this law, then the cost of power from the Kudankulam third and fourth reactors would go up. He must have been hoping that no one would try and square this threat with earlier claims of safety made about these plants.

In a paper, published by Nuclear Engineering and Design in 2006, three NPCIL officials claimed that, in any given year, the probability of a severe accident at these plants was one in 10 million. If Atomstroyexport can persuade insurers that this figure is correct, then to obtain cover even for accidents where the highest possible liability of Rs.2,500 crore is applicable, it would need to pay a premium of only about Rs.2,500 per year. For the 1,000 MW Kudankulam

reactors, operating at an 80 per cent load factor, this should lead to an increase in tariff of about a third of a millionth of a rupee per unit!

This absurdly low figure arises because both the factors in the calculation earlier make little sense. As preliminary data from Fukushima shows, a nuclear accident can cause economic damage that is more than a hundred times larger than the artificial cap on liability in the Indian law. Moreover, empirical evidence in a total of about 15,000 reactoryears of operation, there have been several core-damage accidents including Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island suggests that the probability of severe accidents is about a thousand times higher than what the industry claims.

Suppliers have successfully wielded their influence in other countries to

avoid economic liability for accidents. Their argument that the Indian law will lead to cost escalations is meant to veil the real reason for their worry: the law sets a bad precedent and, in the future, either in India itself or in another country, it may lead to a more rational law centred on victims rather than the industry. In such a law, there would be no cap on liability, and suppliers would be held jointly responsible with the operator for paying out damages.

In fact, the Supreme Court has already admitted a petition, by the lawyer Prashant Bhushan, requesting precisely these changes in the law. Making the operator and supplier share liability is not only fair but crucial from the point of view of safety.

Design and accidents

The history of nuclear power shows that design failures have played an important role in all severe accidents. This is true of Fukushima, where the underlying problems with the Mark 1 design had been recognised many years earlier. The Kemeny Commission, set up by Jimmy Carter, to analyse the Three Mile Island accident pointed out that the suppliers, Babcock & Wilcox, shared culpability. The disaster at the Chernobyl reactor, which was built by the Soviet predecessor of Rosatom, was caused by a combination of two grievous design features: a positive void coefficient of reactivity, and the lack of appropriate containment.

Apart from the untenable claim about higher tariffs, nuclear suppliers and the Indian government have made other disingenuous arguments to get rid of the clause on supplier liability.

One of them is that the law is hurting Indias domestic manufacturers, some of whom are involved in supplying small parts of the plant.

In general, as in other industries, exposing all manufacturers along the supply chain to tort claims helps make them more conscious of safety and quality. Manufacturers who are supplying parts to a hazardous industry need to be more careful about reliability.

Nevertheless, the law does not, as such, prevent the NPCIL from signing subcontracts that indemnify smaller suppliers along the chain. The NPCILs problem is that it is politically infeasible to extend this indemnity to the manufacturer of the plant itself, as it discovered when it tried to provide blanket indemnity to Atomstroyexport for the Kudankulam third and fourth units.

Industry on Indian law

The nuclear industry also argues that Indias current law is out of sync with international conventions on nuclear liability. This is a poor argument because these conventions were all drafted under pressure from nuclear manufacturers who, historically, were in a stronger position than they are now. In the early days of nuclear power, American suppliers exploited this to impose the idea that liability should be channelled to the operator. Later, suppliers from other countries also adopted this self-serving argument.

Until recently, the United States itself never joined any international liability convention, because under its domestic law, called the Price Anderson Act, victims retain the right

to sue suppliers. Economic compensation is channelled through a complicated insurance system, but manufacturers can be found legally liable and this has consequences.

In 1997, the U.S. engineered the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), with a special rider for itself. When Bush communicated the convention to the U.S. Senate for ratification, he emphasised that The United States in particular benefits from a grandfather clause that allows it to join the convention without being required to change certain aspects of the Price-Anderson system that would otherwise be inconsistent with its requirements.

Indias own law is largely borrowed from an annex of the CSC. After showing no inclination to join any of the existing treaties for half a century,

the Indian government rushed to sign this discriminatory convention soon after the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. This shows that it was acting under external pressure, and not out of any concern for potential victims.

Even granting that suppliers should be liable in principle, many well-meaning people argue that India must acquiesce to the demands of the industry because it desperately needs electricity. Leaving aside the debate on the role of nuclear power in general, it is clear that Indias push towards importing reactors has less to do with electricity, and more to do with other factors.

Kakodkar article

Even by the standards of UPA II, the process of handing out multi-billion dollar contracts for reactors to various

multinational companies has been opaque and arbitrary. In Jaitapur, the government has promised to buy up to six European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) from Areva. No EPR is in commercial operation anywhere in the world and in France and Finland, Areva is running into severe construction-difficulties. Two nuclear complexes have been promised to the U.S., again involving designs that have never been built before.

In a rare candid admission, the former chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, provided the rationale behind these seemingly bizarre decisions.

Writing in the Marathi daily Sakaal , in January 2011, Kakodkar explained: America, Russia and France were the countries that we made mediators in the efforts to lift sanctions, and hence, for the nurturing of their

business interests, we made deals with them for nuclear projects.

As the debate on liability continues both in public and in the courts, the question that the country must ask is whether it is willing to compromise on its laws, and the safety and rights of its citizens to protect the business interests of reactor vendors.

(The authors are physicists) October 31, 2012

Pragmatic stance
The second quarter monetary policy review has further reinforced the Reserve Bank of Indias credentials as a pragmatic inflation fighter, not swayed by either market expectations or overt signals from the Finance Minister favouring a cut in policy rates. The traditional monetary policy dilemma of supporting growth versus

reining in inflation has remained. Growth considerations are behind the decision to lower the cash reserve ratio (CRR) by 0.25 percentage points to release Rs.17,500 crore of primary liquidity while leaving the repo rate unchanged. Thus over two consecutive policy statements, the RBI has chosen to influence interest rates through liquidity-augmenting CRR reductions rather than through the more traditional method of policy rate cuts. The expectation is that fresh injections of liquidity will induce banks to lower interest rates. A repo rate cut, on the other hand, might convey the impression that the central bank is loosening its monetary policy prematurely. In the event, the RBI has done well to emphasise the point that managing inflation and inflation expectations must remain the core focus of monetary policy, especially when inflationary pressures have persisted even as growth has moderated. Headline inflation for

September has been at a 10-month high of 7.8 per cent and is expected to ease only by the fourth quarter of the year. Of particular concern has been the stickiness of core inflation due to supply constraints and the cost-push effects of the rupees depreciation. The RBI has raised its inflation forecast for March 2013 to 7.5 per cent from 7 per cent indicated in July.

In line with expectations, the RBI has lowered its growth forecast for the current year to 5.8 per cent. Almost all private forecasters and several international agencies, including the IMF, have already downgraded Indias growth prospects. The slowdown is attributed to the worsening global environment, weak industrial activity and slower than anticipated growth in services. The large current account and fiscal deficits continue to pose significant risks to both growth and macroeconomic stability. The RBI has

obviously not been swayed by the governments recent policy announcements aimed at attracting foreign direct investment. They might have positively impacted sentiment, but need to be followed up with concrete action on the ground to revive investment. Much also depends on how efficaciously the government implements the fiscal consolidation map outlined by the Finance Minister on Monday, according to which the fiscal deficit is to be contained to within 5.3 per cent of GDP by March 2013 and then to 3 per cent over a five-year period. October 31, 2012

It is business as usual in Pakistan

World over, efforts are afoot to ensure that 15-year-old Malala

Yousafzais blood counts for something. Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie suggested her name for the next Nobel Peace Prize and an online campaign to advocate her case is being signed up by government representatives in various countries.

Former British Premier and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, has declared that November 10 a month after the attempted assassination of Malala will be observed as Malala and the 32 million girls day to help realise her dream of educating the 32 million out-of-school girls across the world.

And, of course, there is pop diva Madonna dedicating a song to Malala and inscribing her name on her lower back; revealed during a striptease routine at a concert. These are just a few examples but, ironically, all help

build the narrative in Malalas home country that she was nothing but a western agent, out to give Pakistan a bad name.

Consigned to news bulletins

A fortnight after the shooting, it is back to business as usual in Pakistan. Malala is now just a mention in news bulletins, a face on posters being brought out by civil society organisations in an effort to keep the issue alive, a hashtag on Twitter Meanwhile, the might of the state has spoken through inaction. No doubt, all concerned gave right-sounding statements but, together, they fell way short of the resolve shown by the young teen in standing up to terrorists.

Malala and her father Ziauddin who encouraged her to hold her ground in

a milieu hostile to speaking out, especially for women can be dismissed as being foolhardy, but the question many are asking is: can Pakistans decision-makers ignore the writing on the wall even now, when children are being marked for just wanting access to education? Another girl from Swat, 17-year-old Hina Khan, is also apparently marked this time on the outskirts of Islamabad for the same reason.

At the risk of parroting the U.S. do more line, many had hoped that the revulsion triggered by Malalas shooting would force the powers that be to abandon their use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft and do more not for Washingtons sake but for Pakistans own survival.

But even as the platitudes were being served out by Pakistans political and military leadership, the counter-

narrative had begun. No one is quite sure how an operation in North Waziristan got injected into the mainstream narrative. But this became the expected response to Malalas shooting and that was enough to generate all kinds of conspiracy theories the sum and substance of which was that the young girl was an American agent and the whole episode was orchestrated to mount pressure on Pakistan to pursue Washingtons agenda.

Now that the International Marxist Tendency has posted a report following the attack that Malala had attended a National Marxist Youth School in Swat in July, another line of conspiracy theories is sure to emerge regarding how she was a communist and la-deen (irreligious). Sometimes, these conspiracy theories are actually inspired by Hollywood flicks for which there is a huge market in Pakistan

despite the Americanism.



Sample this. After Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Birmingham, where Malala is currently undergoing treatment, put out a detailed bulletin on the nature of her injuries, including the trajectory of the bullet, people immediately saw a pattern straight out of the movies featuring CIA agents. This is how the theory goes as told by an owner of a restaurant frequented by upwardly mobile children of Islamabad: The hospital said Malala was shot at point blank range, still the bullet travelled underneath the skin along the side of head and neck without penetrating the skull. Only the CIA could have done such a neat job without actually causing too much damage. The Taliban couldnt have done this. This, after the Tehreek-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP) issued not one, not two, but at least half-a-dozen

statements detailing the reasons for trying to kill Malala, and asserting that she would be targeted again should she survive.

Even as die-hard optimists cried themselves hoarse in the hope that this would be the turning point, Malalas shooting just ended up raising Pakistans ability to absorb brutality by a notch or two. No doubt the ranks of those anguished by the state of affairs in Pakistan swelled at the sight of the teen being wheeled in and out of hospitals, but it also brought up close the warped thinking that has come to dominate the nations mindscape.

Pakistans chattering classes often insist that the silent majority is not radical and this may well be true. But in their silence, the other side is gaining in strength and getting emboldened. Emboldened enough for

a policewoman at an airport security post to tell a Pakistani woman that her marriage is not in order because she had married outside the religion to a westerner. Emboldened enough for a doctor in an Army hospital to insist on prayer as medication when a senior officers wife went to him with a medical condition. These can be dismissed as stray incidents but their frequency is growing by all accounts. Together, they reflect a mindset that is no longer peripheral.

Blind to reason

In fact, the entire discourse generated by Malalas shooting showed how blind to reason the apologists are becoming; rather, have become. One of the earliest off the mark was Samia Raheel Qazi of Jamaat-e-Islami (J.I.). Daughter of former J.I. chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, she is being held responsible for a photograph

circulating on the Internet showing Malala and her father with former U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke. She tweeted the photograph with the comment Malala Amreeki fauji hukaam ke saath (Malala with American military), insinuating that she was a CIA agent. This photograph was actually from a meeting the American diplomat had with NGOs after the military had taken control of Swat from terrorists. At the meeting, Malala was quoted as saying if you can help us with education, then please do.

Then there was the usual line of thinking which claimed that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was a creation of a mix of foreign intelligence agencies, predictably the CIA, Mossad and RAW. Of course, no answers to the counter question why,

then, should the TTP be treated with kid gloves.

Not to be left behind, cricketerturned-politician Imran Khan and his supporters brought in their choice arguments that all this would end once the U.S. left the region and holding out an olive branch was a better option than a military offensive. They completely ignore the historical fact that the Swat Taliban, an offshoot of the TTP which is being held responsible by Pakistan for the attack on Malala, pre-dates 9/11 and the U.S. Armys overt presence in the region. And that successive peace deals have only allowed terrorists to consolidate at the expense of the states writ.

In fact, Khans Pakistan Tehreek-eInsaf (PTI) riding as it does on its steadfast opposition to the U.S. presence in the region amid rising

anti-Americanism truly queered the pitch for the political class as it is wary of upsetting the apple cart ahead of the elections.

As a result, a bid by the government to table a resolution in Parliament calling for action against terrorism got scuttled by the main opposition party that feels most threatened by the PTI since both are eyeing the Punjab electorate.

Barring the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and some leaders in the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Awami National Party, all remained ambivalent in their response condemning the attack without naming the TTP which has links to jihadi organisations working within the country. Reports from Punjab suggest that many mainstream political parties are exploring pre-

election tie-ups with some of these outfits to bag their captive votes.

The military leadership, for its part, lobbed the decision on a North Waziristan operation on to the political class, literally setting the cat among the pigeons. Although the Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani sought to take ownership of the war on terror earlier this year, nothing in subsequent months has shown any change in Pakistans Janusfaced policy on terrorism which, today, is harming the country more than any other.

As the Malala Yousafzai effect fades away, Pakistans response to terror is in danger of slipping into even greater levels of tolerance October 31, 2012

Modi fuels this bizarre convergence

SINGLE PHASE:There is a merger of interests between a Congress determined to silence the corruption issue by simultaneously creating a hype over economic reforms and establishing moral equivalence between Robert Vadra and Nitin Gadkari, and that section of the BJP which wants to deny Narendra Modia national role. PHOTOS: S. SUBRAMANIUM, VIVEK BENDRE

Even before the brutal nature of the Stalinist regime was formally admitted by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, many well-meaning socialists throughout the world were aware that what existed in the Soviet Union was a travesty. Yet, a great many of these idealists chose to look the other way in the belief that criticism would

weaken the socialist state, encourage counter-revolutionaries and weaken the bigger fight against fascism and imperialism.

Having to choose between upholding what the British philosopher Roger Scruton termed common decencies and endorsing the lesser evil has confronted political activists for long. In the past year, this hoary debate has surfaced in India following a spate of corruption scandals that have seriously undermined the credibility of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance-2 government. Far from being celebrated as a mildly progressive dispensation concerned with nurturing socio-economic entitlements for the poor and the marginalised, the magnitude of corruption has created a widespread impression that the apparent concern for the aam aadmi is a cover for riotous crony capitalism.

Vadra and the Congress

Matters have come to a head following the flood of disclosures of the dodgy business practices of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Media reports indicate that Vadra leveraged his privileged relationship with the Gandhi family to circumvent rules and procedures and make a fast buck for both himself and DLF, one of Indias largest listed real estate companies. It is also alleged that Vadra cleverly anticipated crucial decisions by Congress-controlled governments in Haryana and Rajasthan to make windfall profits what in common parlance is called insider trading.

The details of Vadras entrepreneurship are revealing for

what they tell us about the realty business in Indias boom towns. Politically, however, the issue is far more consequential. For the first time since 1974 when the CPI(M) MP Jyotirmoy Basu infuriated Indira Gandhi by raising awkward questions about Sanjay Gandhis Maruti project in Haryana, the Gandhi family has been directly hit by a money scandal. Sonia Gandhi may have reportedly brushed away the allegations by asserting that Vadra is a businessman but that hasnt insulated her from the charge that she did nothing to prevent her exalted family name to be used for disreputable advantage. Since the tone of a government is set by its leadership, the first family of the Congress may well be accused of embellishing the architecture of Indias all-pervasive crony capitalism.

Without doubt, the business ethics of Vadra, not to mention his sneering sense of entitlement, has created a large hole in the moral edifice of the Congress. This, in turn, is certain to shape popular perceptions in the runup to the general election unless, of course, the UPA is spectacularly successful in shifting the attention of voters away from sleaze.

For the Congress, unflinching loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family is an article of faith and, as such, it occasions little surprise that party leaders have fiercely protested Vadras innocence. For opinionmakers who are loosely supportive of Nehruvian values, the kerfuffle over corruption has raised awkward questions. While they are not inclined towards encouraging venality in public life, there is concern that the erosion of the Congress credibility will benefit the principal Opposition party. In

particular they are petrified that the disgust over economic mismanagement and cronyism will trigger a fascination for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a leader who, at least BJP supporters believe, combines decisiveness with fierce personal integrity. Since, in liberal eyes, Modi personifies an authoritarian mindset, if not outright fascism, prudent politics demands that the fight against corruption the proverbial lesser evil be shelved till another day.

Gadkari and his defence

Paradoxically, this is a position that has cast a shadow over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which, as the principal parliamentary Opposition, stands to gain most from the erosion in the Congress support. The plethora of questions over the seed capital of BJP president Nitin Gadkaris business

empire, and the lack of credible answers to these, have both embarrassed and outraged his party. Since the BJP doesnt have dynastic pretensions and still sees itself as favouring value-based politics, there has been less inclination to rush to Gadkaris defence with the same passion that the Congress demonstrated in the case of Vadra. Even those who have proffered the template defence of Gadkari having offered himself to an impartial inquiry can scarcely conceal their disquiet over the immoral equivalence being drawn between the BJP and the Congress. It is significant that apart from L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj, few of the BJPs front-ranking leaders and no chief minister have spoken up for Gadkari.

Yet, the scepticism in the ranks over showcasing damaged goods hasnt succeeded (so far) in removing

Gadkari. On the contrary, emboldened by the bewildered ambivalence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Advanis mystifying distinction between business practices and public life, and Swarajs unequivocal support, Gadkari has taken recourse to brazenness as was evident in his show of strength in Nagpur last Monday. To the outside world, Gadkari has successfully managed to convey the impression that, never mind the accompanying ridicule and potential loss of a political plank, the parivar and party are behind him. The BJP president has wilfully overstated the quantum of backing for himself. But he has been able to get away with this hype by craftily exploiting the prevailing uncertainty over what follows a possible resignation. Actually, it is more than uncertainty. There is considerable fear in a small but powerful section of the BJP that the failure of the Gadkari experiment will facilitate a hegemonic

role for Modi assuming he wins the Gujarat Assembly election conclusively. The Gujarat leader is unquestionably the man most BJP activists and BJP-inclined voters believe is best suited to both taking on the Congress and stealing the thunder of the anti-corruption crusaders. Whether unattached voters who are disgusted by the moral decline of the country also agree with this faith in his leadership is still untested. But what isnt in any doubt is that Modi threatens the cosy somnolence of bipartisan deal-making involving the main political parties. For many in the BJP, Modi isnt merely a challenge; he constitutes a threat.

There is an unholy convergence of interests between a Congress determined to put a lid on the corruption issue by simultaneously creating a hype over economic reforms and establishing moral

equivalence between Vadra and Gadkari, and that section of the BJP which wants to deny Modi a national role. As of now, the battle lines are confined to the opinion-forming industry in which the intelligentsia and the middle classes play a disproportionate role. In the coming months, as the general election approaches, the issues are going to percolate the social ladder. Will the aam aadmi also choose to overlook corruption as something inherent in the Indian way? Alternatively, will there be an angry vote, perhaps even for a different way of doing politics? In that case, which is the lesser evil?

(Swapan Dasgupta commentator.)



The excuses the Congress and the BJP are making for the business dealings

of Robert Vadra and Nitin Gadkari seem driven by a shared fear of Narendra Modi October 31, 2012

Victors justice bedevils the new Libya

The death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 has focused attention once more on the security situation in the country. No doubt, after 42 years of undemocratic rule it is reasonable to expect a slow transition into normalcy. A new government elected in July operates without control of its territory, and with institutions that are not yet fully functional.

The central government based in Tripoli is an island linked to Libyas other towns and cities, where urban militias govern through the armed

force of two hundred and fifty thousand fighters. A U.S. State Department cable from Tripoli to Washington on August 8, 2012 cautions that the absence of significant deterrence has contributed to a security vacuum that is being exploited by various elements, including former regime elements and Islamist extremists. The individual incidents have been organized, writes the embassy official in this leaked cable, but this is not an organized campaign. Rather, the violent incidents amount to a confluence rather than a conspiracy. It was this confluence of violence that escalated the protest in Benghazi that led to the death of the Ambassador.

Attempts to investigate the events of September 11 in Benghazi have come to naught. The Libyan government has not been able to do more than a cursory study of the site. The U.S.

team cannot go to Benghazi, where the security situation remains unsettled. The day that the U.S. investigation team arrived in Tripoli, three separate militia groups attacked the Rixos hotel, where the General National Congress is based. Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the leaders of the Ansar al-Shariah militia, sat down with journalists in a Benghazi hotel on October 18 to mock the idea of an investigation of the fateful hours at the U.S. consulate. Abu Khattala suggested that he had close relations with the pro-government militias, such as the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade, which was also on site during the consulate attack. No investigation would take place, he suggested, because there was little that would be found.

Hanging over the Libyan security situation is the lack of accountability for war crimes during the February-

October revolution of 2011. On May 2, 2012, the Libyan National Transitional Council granted blanket amnesty to those who committed crimes during the revolution, including murder and forced displacement. Law 38 (On Some Procedures for the Transitional Period) essentially allowed the militias the confidence of impunity. It emboldened them to disregard the war crimes conducted last year, and to consider that their actions in the present will also be similarly forgiven. The danger of victors justice is that it creates a political grammar that affects the new terrain, allowing the militias institutional support for their lawless behaviour.

Rights report on militias

A new report from Human Rights Watch ( Death of a Dictator: Bloody Vengeance in Sirte , October 2012)

details how the main Misrata-based militias ( al-Nimer , Tiger Brigade, alIsnad , Support Brigade, al-Fahad , Jaguar Brigade, al-Asad , Lion Brigade, al-Qasba , Citadel Brigade and Ussoud al-Walid , the Lions of the Valley Brigade) not only conducted extrajudicial assassinations of Muammar Qadhafi and his son Mutassim, but also killed over 66 prisoners in the Mahari hotel in Sirte on October 20, 2011. Two NATO air strikes had already killed about 103 members of Qadhafis convoy (many of them wounded patients from the Ibn Sina hospital, trying to flee the scene of the battle). Cellphone images and photographs, as well as interviews with survivors, showed the investigators that the dead were killed in custody. Human Rights Watchs investigation is clear that war crimes had been committed at Sirte. The Misrata chief prosecutor balked at an inquiry, saying that it would be too dangerous to carry out an

investigation in Sirte at the time, a situation that seems unchanged.

The Misrata militias are particularly prone to lawlessness. They are accused of the forcible displacement of the 30,000 dark-skinned residents of the town of Tawergha, and in the cellphone images from Sirte, their members routinely use racist epithets (black snake, for example) against their prisoners. There has been little attempt to resettle Tawergha.

The Misrata militia has laid siege to the city of Bani Walid, where there has been less enthusiasm for the new Libya, and whose citizens have been accused of kidnapping and killing Omar Bin Shaaban, a 22-year-old Misratan credited with the murder of Qadhafi. Misratas militias are acting with the authority of the government, which passed Resolution 7 on September 25 to allow them to go in

and capture those who killed Bin Shaaban. The militias are not constrained to simply go and arrest the accused. They want to subdue Bani Walid. As Mohammed el-Gandus, a spokesperson for the militias put it, If we win this fight, Libya will finally be free.

The atmosphere of impunity does not only shroud the activities of the militias. The passage of Resolution 7 and Law 38 demonstrate that the Libyan government has not taken the regime of human rights seriously. The International Criminal Court (ICC), so eager to enter the conflict in February 2011, has also taken a back seat. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 gives the ICC jurisdiction over the Libyan theatre at least during the conflict phase; it has utterly failed to honour these obligations. Furthermore, NATO entered the Libyan conflict to protect civilians in the name of the human

rights regime. Nevertheless, NATO and the Atlantic powers have refused to allow any evaluation of their use of firepower against Libya with resulting civilian casualties whose numbers are unaccountable (as I showed in When Protector Turned Killer, The Hindu , June 11, 2012). NATOs casualties include the dead in Sirte. Its drones struck the convoy, leaving them at the will of the Misrata militias.

U.S. presidential campaign

Benghazi entered the U.S. presidential campaign as a proxy for a debate over foreign policy between Obama and Romney. Neither has taken honestly the consequences of the U.S.-led NATO intervention, and neither is capable of understanding the grave situation in Libya where certain militias act with impunity. A U.S. State Department document from August remarks that the Libyan government

has acknowledged the problem of the Militias in torture and detentions, but it admits that the police and Justice Ministry are not up to the task of stopping them. On Tuesday, it sent out a text message on all cellphones, pleading for the militias to stop. The U.S. worries that Libya might become a failed state. What is not recognised is that it is precisely the lack of seriousness toward accountability and law that fuel the failure of new institutions to emerge. Ambassador Chris Stevens was not the only victim of this lawlessness. He is one among many.

(Vijay Prashad, a contributor to Frontline, is the author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, LeftWord, 2012.)

Blanket amnesty to those committed crimes during

who the

revolution is allowing the militias to indulge in lawless behaviour November 1, 2012

Can we stop the language of domination?

In a multilingual postcolonial society like Indias, linguistic hierarchy exists in a layered manner. It does not simply have a two-level hierarchy of Hindi and English versus the rest of the Indian languages. The whole linguistic profile of our country forms a pyramid having multiple broad levels, with English at the top and languages with less than 10,000 speakers at the bottom which are omitted from being reported by the government. In between the two levels fall the 22 scheduled languages, their dialects, the non-scheduled languages and their dialects in that order.

One language, many roles

There is a heterogeneity involved in the relationship Hindi shares with the various Indian languages. With languages such as Brajbhasha , Chhattisgarhi , Haryanvi , Nimadi , etc. which are spoken in the Hindi belt, its relationship is hierarchical because these languages have always been viewed as dialects of Hindi. In the popular discourse, dialects are considered inferior to languages. However, that is not really the case with regard to the other Indian languages like Gujarati, Bengali, Malayalam, Kashmiri, etc. because like Hindi, they too are listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and hence enjoy a similar status. In addition to this, the notions of the mother tongue, first language, and second language have a very fuzzy position in a multilingual society like

ours. In any Indian classroom, a language, for example Hindi, may simultaneously be the mother tongue of some students, first language for some others and second language for a different set.

On the other hand, English has more or less a constant position except in the Northeast and in the elite schools of metropolitan cities where English may be the neighbourhood language for many and mother tongue for a minuscule few.

There is no denying that grouping many languages under one has a repercussion on the identities of these languages and their speakers, leading them to dissociate themselves from or unlearn their native languages in favour of the language dominant in education and in the job market. However, the process of dissociation from ones mother tongue or

neighbourhood language goes on at a much larger scale in a much more intense manner with regard to English.

Of aspiration

Thus, be it Hindi the lingua franca or languages like Tamil, Malayalam, etc. with a rich and ancient literary tradition, or the other scheduled languages of India, all of them become a casualty of peoples aspirations and compulsion to learn the international language, English. The postcolonial mindset of linguistic subjugation has further intensified in the past two decades of liberalisation and English has become a language of opportunities and power not just in India but also in other countries. Technological advancement and economy are some of the major factors that have led to English becoming a super language. In fact

there is a strong correlation between the expansion of Anglo-American powers and expansion of the language. These countries have been investing heavily in English to promote linguistic imperialism, with an agenda of strengthening their economic and political powers globally.

Hindi, on the other hand, is a language of desire in a very restricted domain and sense; in fact, it is rather absurd to equate the two languages in this regard. It is mainly in the Hindi belt that the native speakers of the socalled dialects of Hindi are expected to master standard Hindi, used outside the informal domain. In multilingual societies with a colonial legacy, languages are visibly the markers of class and power. In the hierarchical linguistic structure of such societies, shifting from one level to another level facilitates entry into the higher stratum of society. Also,

linguistic aspirations of individuals are determined by their geographical location in the sense of whether they belong to a metropolitan/nonmetropolitan urban area or rural area. The shift usually is to the next level in the hierarchy; skipping an intermediate level rarely happens. For example, a Pahari or Sadri speaking person from Himachal Pradesh or Jharkhand, respectively would desire to have a command over Hindi first. Her aspiration to acquire English and become a part of the higher socioeconomic class would come later.

Expansion versus promotion

The expansion and promotion of a language may generally be witnessed at three levels: official/administrative, educational and societal. There have been all out efforts to promote Hindi ever since it was declared the official language of the country. Various

departments and commissions were set up to promote the use of Hindi primarily in administration. In addition to this, the mandate of government agencies like the central Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology (CSTT) was to create terminologies in all the major Indian languages , used officially in different States. However, large-scale national level efforts and a major focus have been on Hindi much to the chagrin of many non-Hindi speakers, mainly in the Southern States. As for the promotion in education and society, the story is quite different. The increasing dominance of English in the educational sector at the cost of Indian languages is significantly linked to societys postcolonial outlook towards indigenous languages (and knowledge) that have flourished on Indian soil. Added to this is the disciplinary hierarchy where the only valid language that has some ranking in education is English.

Though there have been no official efforts to promote English, the language has been expanding consistently in urban India. In the past two decades of globalisation especially, its use has increased exponentially, governed by seeming fascination but underlying compulsions in the subconscious of people to survive in the system driven by a market economy and technological advancement. Since the medium and lexicon of market and technology is English-centric, familiarity with it is the route to enter the system and become its beneficiary. Thus, if we juxtapose the two scenarios of English and Hindi, we find that in spite of all the official measures taken to promote Hindi, its use has remained at the free will of the people. On the other hand, the same will of society, born out of compulsion, led to the consolidation of the position of English in education

not only as a subject but also as a medium. In fact government measures have caused serious damage to Hindi by developing a heavily Sanskritised and artificial officialese . This has led to people forming the perception that Hindi is essentially a dull and complex language and not developed enough to be used as a medium of academic discourse. Also, it is not an enabling language in the sense that it does not equip students with requisite skills and smartness to fetch her recognition in society. This hinders the expansion of the language in various domains and it remains a language of the masses, not transcending to classes, a language of informal conversation, not of formal discourse. This probably is the plight of the other major Indian languages as well.

To ensure the coexistence of languages, social acceptability of all

the 1,652 mother tongues in the linguistic hierarchy is a prerequisite, not just from the point of view of equity but because every language indeed has a well-defined structure governed by its own rules. The existence of a language depends on its use in various informal-formal domains. Therefore, opportunities to use multiple languages must be enhanced and knowledge creation must happen in at least the major Indian languages; translated knowledge is not the solution. In education, fresh perspectives need to be harnessed, backed by democratic principles and critical pedagogy. Also, it is absolutely necessary to give students the choice of Indian languages as a medium of education so that an unfamiliar language is not an impediment in enabling equal access to knowledge for all.

(Mukul Priyadarshini is with the Department of Elementary Education, Miranda House, University of Delhi. Email: )

In a multilingual society like India, social acceptability of all mother tongues must be ensured. An unfamiliar language should not be a barrier to enabling equal access to knowledge for all November 1, 2012

Rise of the Libyan resistance

Spin doctors in the United States are finding it hard to explain the September 11 strike in Benghazi that killed Ambassador John Christopher Stevens. Nobody, including powerful lobbyists, politicians, public relations gurus, mainstream media, has managed to present a credible and

logically consistent account of the tragedy. The fog engulfing the assassination is rising from the campaign for the U.S. presidential elections scheduled on November 6. In the heat of an electoral battle where princely sums are paid to create perceptions rather than establishing facts, neither the Republican camp of Mitt Romney nor Barack Obamas legions seem interested in confronting the truth till such time as the votes have been cast and the last ballot box has been sealed.

Intelligence failure

The debate ahead of the elections is not just about who killed the ambassador, and how, but also the context. The Republicans, who may be in striking distance of the presidency, argue that he was a victim of a

planned al-Qaeda attack. The killing was, therefore, a result of either a huge intelligence failure or unforgivable administrative laxity which prevented the authorities from responding to the red flags raised about the possibility of a strike in Benghazi or elsewhere.

Mr. Obama has acknowledged that Ambassador Stevens was the victim of an act of terror. There have been several articles in the mainstream media that quote unnamed intelligence officials as saying that the assailants, who attacked the cluster of villas occupied by the ambassador and his staff, mounted an opportunistic attack, taking advantage of the protests that had been organised in Benghazi against the tasteless b-grade video film that was disrespectful of Prophet Muhammad. The theory of an opportunistic attack is far less damaging to the current

administration. It spares President Obama and his team culpability in inaction, because it shows that the attack was not pre-planned, was difficult to predict and, therefore, harder to prevent.

Neither of the two narratives offered to the American electorate may, however, pass careful scrutiny. The Republicans assertion that the alQaeda masterminded the strike cannot be accepted at face value. Copious reams of material are available which show that jihadist groups with strong al-Qaeda ideological connections were, with American and NATO support, at the forefront of the military campaign that toppled Muammar Qadhafi, the former Libyan leader. Ambassador Stevens, who had famously arrived in Benghazi in April 2011 aboard a Greek cargo ship, became the lynchpin

coordinating the administrations ties with the armed Islamist groups.

The ambassadors bonding with the Islamist fighters was well known. He shifted base from a Tripoli hotel after he escaped an assassination attempt outside its premises to the more secure villas of Benghazi, the hotbed of jihadists. So confident was he about his security that he enjoyed jogging on the streets of Benghazi teeming with jihadi groups many with wellestablished connections to the Afghan Mujahideen and the al-Qaeda.


The opportunistic attack scenario, painted by Mr. Obamas supporters, in which the assailants weaved their way into an ongoing protest against the blasphemous film and struck when the opportunity arose, appears

equally flawed. It assumes that a protest was under way outside the gated villas in Benghazi, which presented the attackers a smokescreen to infiltrate. However, eyewitness accounts suggest that there was no assemblage of protesters outside the villas on the fateful evening of September 11.

McClatchy news service quotes an eyewitness interviewed on September 13 as saying: The Americans would have left if there had been protesters but there wasnt a single ant. The area was totally quiet until about 9.35 pm, when as many as 125 men attacked with machine guns, grenades, RPGs, and anti-aircraft weapons. They threw grenades into the villas, wounding me and knocking me down. Then, they stormed through the facilitys main gate, moving from villa to villa.

In an article published on the website, researchers Mark Robertson and Finian Cunningham identify the eyewitness as a 27-yearold who was one among the eight Libyans involved in protecting the villas used by ambassador Stevens and his staff. He suffered five shrapnel wounds in a leg and two bullet wounds in the other during the course of fighting. If the account is true, the opportunistic attack theory collapses as the assailants did not have the crowds to infiltrate and mount an assault.

Obsessed with the projection that a free and democratic Libya is emerging from 40 years of tyranny of the Qadhafi-era, it appears that no one in the U.S. establishment and NATO is inclined to speak the truth that a green resistance movement of proQadhafi loyalists, systematically targeting the former leaders chief

adversaries, has been mushrooming in Libya. The killing of the ambassador was only the latest act that capped an aggressive and effective campaign of the movement called Tahloob in local parlance. Not headlined by the mainstream media, the Tahloob has carried out a string of attacks including assassinations, chiefly of those who betrayed Qadhafi in his last days.

Its victims include Shukri Ghanem, a one-time celebrated Oil Minister, whose lifeless body was found floating on the Danube on April 29. In a classic betrayal, Ghanem had switched sides, joined NATO, and began living the good life, first in London and later in Vienna. Less than a month after Ghanems death, the movement claimed responsibility for killing General Albarrani Shkal. The former military governor of Tripoli had been accused of demobilising 38,000 men

under his command. His act opened the floodgates for the entry of foreign troops into Tripoli, resulting in the success of Operation Mermaid Dawn, crowned by the unceremonious sacking of the Libyan capital. Another celebrated defector, Special Forces commander AbdelFattah Younis was also killed as was the judge investigating Younis assassination, in June this year.

The killing of Ambassador Stevens marked a sharp escalation in the green movements campaign. The motive was obvious, given Washington role and the critical contribution of the ambassador in toppling Qadhafi.

There were other factors that might have impacted the timing of the attack. Six days before the Benghazi attack, Mauritania had extradited to Libya Abdullah Al Senoussi, Qadhafis

high-profile intelligence chief. This infuriated the resurgent Tahloob. Senoussi had made the ill-fated choice of seeking refuge in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, where he was promptly arrested upon arrival on March 17. At the time of his arrest, Mauritania was firmly in the lap of the western camp.

While the green movement has not claimed responsibility, it will be surprising if it is not on the list of those suspected to be involved in the attempt to assassinate Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on October 13. For public consumption, the al-Qaeda is being blamed for the attack although the official version states that the President was lightly injured in a friendly fire incident involving his own troops.

There was another reason that could have hastened the green movements decision to target Stevens. A day before the Benghazi attack, two Qadhafi loyalists Abdul Ati Al Obeidi, a former Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Head of State, and Mohammed Zwai, former head of the legislature were put on trial. Both were accused of squandering public funds by paying compensation to the tune of $2.7 billion to the families of the victims of the attack on the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Bitter conflict

In the aftermath of Ambassador Stevens death, a new chapter of bitter conflict seems to have opened up between Qadhafi loyalists of the green resistance and the NATO backed militias which have assumed power in an increasingly fractured

Libyan state. Bani Walid, the city loyal to Qadhafi, which was the last to fall last year, has been attacked and the people of the Warfala tribe, loyal to Qadhafi, who reside in strength in the city, are being subjected to collective punishment. Rumours are swirling that Khamis, Qadhafis youngest son, has been killed and Moussa Ibrahim, Qadhafis one-time spokesman, captured. The resistance offered by Bani Walid under the leadership of the green movement illustrates that whoever occupies the White House next year is unlikely to escape the blowback from Libya, where many reject the regime change engineered under the generic deception called the Arab Spring.

Although the U.S. is in denial, there is

every reason to believe that it was Tahloob,

a movement of pro-Qadhafi loyalists, that killed Ambassador Stevens November 1, 2012

Swinging away from the U.S. voter

The U.S. Declaration of Independence may claim that all men are created equal, but the countrys voters certainly arent. In American presidential elections, states matter, not individual citizens. The archaic electoral college system splinters the national vote into 51 separate elections (the states plus the capital, the District of Columbia). A victory in each of these polls wins the candidate a certain number of electors, an invisible species of political being who seem to exist merely as points on the

television graphs that will besiege the American public on November 6. This manner of electing the president can produce situations, like George W. Bush's victory in 2000, in which the loser actually wins the popular vote; Bush did not have a popular mandate, only the dubious blessing of a majority of the countrys faceless electors. The great absurdity of the system is not simply that it disregards the will of the people, but that it cheapens the very act of voting.

As early as May of last year, pundits were confidently isolating the seven or eight swing states closely split between Republican and Democratleaning voters that would determine the 2012 vote. Predictably, it is mostly in these states the likes of Colorado, Florida, and most importantly Ohio that the election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is being contested. While the

candidates lavish their treasure on a handful of swing states, political tumbleweed blows through much of the rest of the country.

The candidates dont bother wooing voters in safe states. Here, in New York, the election is a fait accompli . New York along with several other dense, coastal states has long been destined to vote for Obama. Some of the countrys most populous areas, including its biggest cities, are therefore entirely overlooked by the campaign (in 2008, 98 per cent of campaign funds were spent on just 15 states). The undecided Midwestern voter looms large in the American imagination, while the denizens of its cities its centres of change and innovation recede into the background.

The system discourages electoral participation in places where one

candidate expects to enjoy a healthy margin of victory. It reduces the presidential campaign to a series of cynical calculations. The votes of people in states leaning strongly in either direction weigh far less than those of voters in swing states still in play, so the former can be safely ignored.

Not representative

Why should the votes of a few count more than the votes of others? Like much else in the politics of this country such as the sanctity of firearms the logic of the electoral college system lies in the early years of the American republic. Politicians and thinkers of the time briefly considered the popular vote as a means to elect the president, but eventually dismissed it. They feared that without proper national parties already in place and with a largely

agrarian electorate, the popular vote would only encourage crude regionalism; voters would rally around familiar candidates, a habit that would inevitably favour the bigger, more populous states at the expense of the smaller ones.

The spectre of regionalism no longer looms over the nation. Both the Democrats and the Republicans, two incredibly developed perhaps overdeveloped national parties, are established in every state. Americans themselves are far more mobile than their late 18th century predecessors. This continent of a country is now bridged by highways of asphalt and broadband.

More than anachronistic, the electoral college system is fundamentally elitist. The founding fathers did not trust the general public. To curtail the full power of a popular vote, they

instituted the intermediary screen of electors. Writing in the Federalist Papers , Alexander Hamilton defended the rationale for the system by arguing that the electors will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary and violent movements. From its advent, the electoral college system was conceived to keep the people at bay. A popular vote, in the view of the Framers, would only open the door to tyranny and mob rule.

America has changed

Contemporary defenders of the electoral college tend to be rightwing. They may not use the same language, but they too fear the implications of a popular vote. Were a system of popular vote in place, candidates would be forced to spend more time in densely-populated

areas, particularly in multicultural cities like those on the coasts.

If you listen to much of the rhetoric of these presidential campaigns, America can appear as a land of cornfields, church steeples, and sleepy small towns. It is not. A popular vote would encourage a more inclusive politics, and not just pander to the parochial interests of a few states. The concerns of the urban poor, of immigrant communities, and other oft-neglected constituencies would have to be better addressed by candidates of both parties. The tone of American political discourse would shift ever so slightly to the left.

Introducing the popular vote in the U.S. presidential elections is not at all an outlandish possibility. Already, nine states have passed a law that would force electoral votes in each state to be delivered to the winner of the

overall popular vote and not to the winner of the state election. Several more states must pass the law before it crosses the threshold of operability, but it has already stirred the ire of the right wing. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell bloodily urged his comrades to fight its progress: We need to kill it in the cradle before it grows up. If not strangled in its infancy, the popular vote movement promises a more democratic future for a republic stubbornly set in its idiosyncratic ways.

(Kanishk Tharoor is a Writer in Public Schools fellow at New York University. )

In the presidential elections, states matter more than individual citizens. The national vote is fragmented by

the archaic electoral college system that is fundamentally elitist November 2, 2012

Govern more, politick less

Deepa Dasmunsi, the new Union Minister of State for Urban Development, seems to be labouring under the illusion that her office is best used to further petty political rivalries rather than delivering good governance to the people of India. While she is entitled to believe her appointment was part of a grand Congress strategy to counter the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Ms Dasmunsi cannot be allowed to use the powers and resources at the command of the ministry to carry on a political battle in her home State. One of her first actions as Minister was to announce a probe into the West Bengal governments spending under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban

Renewal Mission. Of course, there is an urgent need to tighten the monitoring of the utilisation of Central funds, including those under the JNNURM, but Ms Dasmunsi seems singularly focused on the TMCcontrolled Kolkata Corporation for all the wrong reasons. She described her own appointment and that of two other ministers from West Bengal as a fitting reply to the Trinamool, and made no attempt to hide her intention to use this elevation to strengthen the Congress at the State level. Sure, Ms Dasmunsi may fancy herself as a vocal and fierce political rival to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but she should not wield the Urban Development Ministry as a weapon in her hand. Governance must not be sacrificed in a game of political oneupmanship.

Disconcertingly, Ms Dasmunsis actions and words seem like a throwback to the era of Congress dominance at the Centre, especially during the period of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister, when States ruled by Opposition parties were constantly under pressure from Union ministers. While no one would grudge the new minister the right to oversee the use of Central funds or to check any misuse, any overbearing Big Brother attitude on the part of Central ministers could have adverse consequences for Centre-State relations and the democratic functioning of political institutions. The message Ms Dasmunsi succeeded in sending out was that the Centres attitude to West Bengal hinges on the relationship between the Congress and the Trinamool, and that she is the one tasked with ensuring the latter behaves in a manner politically acceptable to the Congress. Clearly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

needs to disabuse Ms Dasmunsi of the notion that her primary duty is expanding the political space for the Congress in West Bengal. If taking on the Trinamool is what interests her, Ms Dasmunsi should opt for organisational responsibilities in the Congress, and not waste her time and effort in the Urban Development Ministry. November 2, 2012

Mental health legislation must be more therapeutic, humane

The article in The Hindu Dont shrink the scope of the Mental Health Act, (Op-Ed, October 23, 2012) on the Mental Health Act, by Dr. Jayakumar Menon, is timely. There are many issues which generate a lot of heat and dust among the stakeholders of mental health and illness. They include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, the

media, non-governmental organisations, government and, most importantly, patients, their family members and caregivers.

Why is legislation required for mental illness? On the one hand the proponents of holistic health argue for clubbing mental health with physical health so that the stigma is avoided. On the other, social activists do battle for a separate and unique law exclusively for psychiatric disorders; lest they are marginalised and made outcastes.

The fact is that legislation does help in implementing health services provided by the state. The political promises and executive actions function better. Guidelines can be established by the law which would be binding on policy-makers. It would enable funding, accountability and

availability of the services to the needy.

Mental health services: The history of mental health services in India is linked to the history of mental hospitals in the country. Initially, lunatic asylums were meant for European soldiers who were insane. All these asylums were run on the jail model with similar rules being in force. Due to overwhelming criticism about these hospitals, a more humanistic approach evolved, with mental hospitals replacing asylums. The number of mental hospitals has gone up to 45 from 31 in 1947.

The recent shift of providing mental health services from a specialised hospital to a general hospital setting has its advantages. The very model of sickness has turned towards a biological model from one with psychological and social roots.

However, the more important and urgent challenge is in ensuring how soon mental health services reach the community. The ambitious National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) has been a failure if not a non-starter.

The Mental Health Act, 1987: The MHA 1987 is in itself a great effort forward, replacing the century-old Indian Lunacy Act 1912 which was in force for 80 years. The Mental Health Act, drafted by the Indian Psychiatric Society in 1950 received the assent of the President in 1987 but was implemented from April 1993 only. Though the Act is conceptually far ahead of its predecessor, the drawbacks are so many that it needed a revision in less than 20 years. On the positive side, the act presents a more humane approach; clear guidelines were enumerated for admitting various categories of the mentally ill, a proper method of establishing State

and Central mental health authorities was made and discharges simplified. However the Act lacked the direction in providing simpler mental health services at the community level. The role of the family, which is so essential in management, is completely ignored. The boundaries between rehabilitation centres and mental health centres are very blurred, leading to a lot of confusion.

What needs to be changed: The State and Central mental health authorities need to be given both administrative and financial powers. The Act exempts government hospitals in stipulating norms which is absolutely unfair. Does it mean that the government can run the organisation with no staff and infrastructure? It may not surprise many that a few government hospitals have well-trained doctors, nurses and psychologists. Why should a general nursing home be asked to get a

separate licence if it were to admit patients with any mental illness? If an individual with a head injury develops abnormal behaviour, should the hospital transfer such a patient to a nursing home where there are no facilities to deal with head injuries at all but has the licence to admit patients? No word is written about rehab programmes nor is any direction envisaged.

New Mental Health Care Bill: The Mental Health Care Bill 2011 is likely to get parliamentary approval sooner than later. The significant step in the Bill is the exemption of attempted suicide from prosecution, which is welcome. But the Bill takes a retrograde step in legislation of a particular method of treatment. The electro convulsive treatment (ECT) for children and without anaesthesia is barred, much against scientific and logical thinking. Such things are best

left to the experts. Surprisingly the Bill also restricts the period of treatment which should again be a professional case-by-case decision.

The Mental Health Bill, as Dr. Menon hopes, should not shrink the scope of the mental health services. Any mental health legislation should be more therapeutic than legal and more humane than regulatory. Because you are dealing with the sick, not with litigation.

(Dr. N.N. Raju is general secretary, Indian Psychiatric Society, and viceprincipal and professor of psychiatry, Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam. E-mail: )

The challenge is to ensure that mental health services reach communities quickly November 2, 2012

The unlearned lesson of 1962

Our extensive retrospection on the drubbing we contrived to suffer in October-November 1962, ought to be as salutary as it is necessary, but the right questions must be asked and by the right people. What went wrong, who were the villains, can there be a repeat, are we better prepared all these carry many lessons but the comprehensiveness of our failures points to an equally comprehensive weakness: we could not behave as a state capable of looking after its affairs. Beyond material strengths, it is how one functions that counts. Without underestimating all that we have since

achieved, we must realise that our bad habits have not improved while the vitiating pressures have become even more alarming.

Assess challenges

Any state expecting to be taken seriously must first organise itself to behave seriously. Assess the challenges you may face, distinguish between the imminent and contingent, inform yourself as fully as possible on relevant data, with specific intelligence on what the sources of challenge might be up to, assess the capabilities of yourself and others calculate whether you have or can develop those capabilities up to required levels, whether you need to temporise or seek external balancing arrangements, not least consider how the global situation might affect your interest; then plan, prepare, implement. These elements

of statecraft are so rudimentary, they shouldnt need enumeration, but statecraft is precisely what we have lacked: 1962 was the culmination of many years of what might most politely be called amateurishness in all these respects.

Just how badly we lacked the two essentials of statecraft careful judgment and appropriate action were underlined by two different authors of our debacle. Jawaharlal Nehru himself confessed to the first, telling Parliament on October 25: We were getting out of touch with reality in the modern world, and were living in an artificial atmosphere of our own creation. Todays realities are no less compelling, but no less lost in the artificial atmosphere we persist in creating for ourselves. Is there any part of our political spectrum in the least interested in learning from any aspect of 1962?

On our second failure, just how unbelievably we acted is brought out vividly, if unintentionally, in B.N. Mulliks Chinese Betrayal . The title itself betrays a fault: the shocked, hurt, accusatory blaming of others, blind to ones own responsibility. What did the Chinese betray, except our folly? They behaved as states do and we did not: work with care and calculation towards chosen ends. In that process, they made fools of us but whether that reflects their duplicity or our ineptitude is quite a question.

Still apparently revered in our intelligence ranks, Mullik, virtually the first Indian head of the Intelligence Bureau, depicts a handful of courtiers milling around as though trying to anticipate what a Shahinshah would like. As in a court, a mere handful of favourites appear to run everything

Defence Minister Krishna Menon, Foreign Secretary M.J. Desai, Defence Joint Secretary Harish Sarin (a fine officer caught in a quandary) and, of course, our ubiquitous author, with the Army Chief and some others periodically roped in. The Cabinet hardly mattered, the Secretary General, External Affairs, and the Defence Secretary had no role, no structured, systematic decisionmaking process was ever attempted the Defence Ministers daily meetings, triggered by September 8, seem to have been occasions primarily for Mr. Mullik to poke his nose into Army affairs.

Mullik records innumerable examples of egregiousness. By August 1962 *Lt. Gen. B.K.] Kaul and Krishna Menon were practically not on speaking terms. On September 17, KM accordingly rejects Mulliks urgings to call Kaul back from leave as CGS. But

on October 1, he somersaults, appointing Kaul Corps Commander against Mulliks professed objections. The only reason the Minister thought it would please Nehru to see a fellow Kashmiri appointed. Then comes surely the most bizarre conduct of battles in history: the front Commander evacuated from the front, issuing orders to it from his sickbed 1000 km away in Delhi, with the Defence Minister, the Army Chief and the great IB Director in nightly attendance.

Confusion in Assam

The episode that would be most farcical of all, were it not the most heartbreaking, was the withdrawal of civil administration from northern Assam. Mullik recalls the Cabinet ordering the civil administration to remain in place. He arrives with Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tezpur

to learn that, instead, it has been ordered out of all the north. Rushing back to Delhi, he discovers the Assam Governor persuaded Cabinet Ministers to change their original orders but the Prime Minister has no idea how the change was made! To cap it all, our hero decides to leave the IB and return to Assam to organise guerrilla resistance when the Chinese moved in apparently forgetting that a ceasefire and withdrawal had been proclaimed three days earlier.

One day he is recommending various Army appointments, even a new Army Chief, another he is flying off to the front to have his say on operations, shuttling back and forth thrice in the crucial week. As late as two weeks before the Chinese attack of October 20, he is insisting that the only real danger is Pakistan, where Ayub was on the prowl; seven years after being proved wrong, he still insists he was

right. That he had no business being involved in any of these things, but sticking to providing intelligence, never enters his mind.

Let us not just blame individuals: the whole system, if one can call it that, was sheer Alice-in-Wonderland. Every leader specially trusts someone, consulting him/her even on extraneous matters, but such wholesale meddling, or Krishna Menons manipulations and prejudices, which most of all undermined the Army morale and efficiency and corrupted policy, are the hallmarks of old, personalised, court-style government. Lately, the fashion has grown to criticise Panditji for everything that went, or is, wrong with us. Given his surpassing command of the country he cannot, of course, be spared: even allowing for the still underestimated intrigues to misuse the China crisis to unseat him

(with no little encouragement from external sources), his responsibility for mishandling is undeniable. He was so great, we owe him so much, and need his kind of approach to building up India so badly, noting his faults is no diminution of his stature, but that is not our Indian way: our heroes are faultless, our villains wholly evil. Such attitudes leave no scope for objective, dispassionate, impersonal thinking.

Of course individuals matter in India far more than in countries where institutions and methodical processes minimise the idiosyncratic but to let them take over or bypass institutions and run things by whim is to sink back into medieval ways. In that respect, how different is today from then? Despite our successes in consolidating democracy, we have still not accepted the concept of the state as an entity intended to serve all of society and demanding the loyalty of

all citizens above all their other affiliations. For us, the state is the ruler, which readily leads into the habits of the Mughal court habits so prevalent by 1962, that they more than anything else led to our humiliation much as at Plassey. They are now rampant.

Contrast in attitude

There is a lesson even in the contrast between our commemoration of what happened 50 years ago and Chinas studied silence. We are spared the mortification of her celebrating a victory, not because what weighs so heavily on us was a minor episode to the Chinese: enough has come out to indicate how purposefully they planned their major enterprise (though misreading us too). The current show of indifference represents the calculated pursuit of

national ends, as against excitable, ad hoc ways.


From misreadings of what might happen, to the north-eastern chaos following defeat, how we handled affairs then displays a state simply not organised to cope with major challenges. Doubtless, we now have more professionalism in many ways. The NSA and the NSC apparatus constitute a vast improvement; there is also an incipient strategic community to guide public opinion. But public opinion has become less open to guidance, political circles have become even more impervious to facts, reality or sense, and our politico-administrative complex is more cumbersome, unproductive and parochial. Whether our military are better equipped, or have the required infrastructure or intelligence inputs, etc., are vital questions but secondary

to our overriding concern: how mature is the Indian state now?

One only has to ask to start worrying.

(K. Shankar Bajpai is former Ambassador to Pakistan, China & the U.S., and Secretary, External Affairs Ministry)

We lacked statecraft 50 years ago. But

we are no better today, as our bad habits persist while the vitiating pressures have become even more alarming November 2, 2012

A pearl in the emerald isle

At the other end from Jaffna, on the map and in every other way, is what some Sri Lankans refer to, only halfjokingly, as Sri Lankas new capital.

Hambantota is located about 220 km from Colombo, on the southern coast that is the islands bulgy bottom. It falls in the parliamentary constituency of Namal Rajapaksa, son of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The constituency has long been in the Rajapaksa family. Still, it bears little resemblance to the small fishing harbour town it was about a dozen years ago, when Rajapaksa senior, elected from here, was a cabinet minister-in-charge of fisheries in Chandrika Kumaratungas government.

Fast track

For one, getting there does not take as long as it used to. On a flashy new four-lane expressway, the 96 km drive from the capital to Galle, takes exactly one hour, one-third of the time it used to previously. From there to the Rajapaksa fiefdom is another three hours.

Built with grants from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan by the China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd., and inaugurated in November 2011, the smooth expressway cuts through lush green forests and hills, as scenic in its way as the coastal two-lane Galle Road.

With funding from Chinas Exim Bank, the expressway is proposed to be extended by about 35 km to Matara, and will eventually connect the remaining 70 km to Hambantota. This

time, China National Technical Import and Export Corporation is the builder.

But driving on Sri Lankas first expressway is not cheap. The toll costs SL Rs.400 one-way, one reason it has not yet pulled in enough traffic.

Reflective of Lankan policy

Forget the road though. The government expects people to be flying to Hambantota soon. An international airport is rapidly coming up at nearby Mattala. The contractor is the same as the one who built Hambantotas new inland port China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd.

The Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port itself is meant to be symbolic of what President Rajapaksa wants his

country to be: sleekly modern, confident, proud of itself, and not beholden to western powers, or in his words, a reflection of Sri Lankas nonalignment and friendship with all.

Put another way, Chinas Exim Bank is financing 85 per cent of the cost of the $1.5 billion project, with the balance coming from the Sri Lankan government. Of this, the cost of the first phase, with its four berths and buildings, was $508 million.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the completed Phase 1 dazzled impressively under the blazing sun, the blue of the quay buildings tastefully merging into the colour of the sea.

Kasun Dasantha, the young project engineer assigned to show us around, underlined that China had only loaned

the money, at an interest rate of 6.5 per cent, and that the port will have to start showing results in order to begin repayments by the scheduled calendar of May 2013.

For months after its inauguration in November 2010, residents of Hambantota heard deep explosive blasts from the port, reportedly strong enough to cause cracks in some houses in the town. But the engineer dismissed as gossips reports that a rock had been belatedly discovered at the mouth of the port, and had to be blasted out of the way. The sounds, he said, were from the breaking of the buffer wall, so that the seawater could be let into the port to operationalise it.

From April 2012, ships have been calling at the port. The berths are not equipped yet with cranes. At the moment they offer only roll-on, roll-

off facilities, ideal for car shipments. Hyundai India is also using the port for trans-shipment, given that the charges are near zero.

Unfortunately, the ports opening has coincided with bad times for the economy the world over. In addition, Sri Lanka has slapped heavy taxes on car imports. Late last year, the declining Sri Lankan rupee, and ballooning imports necessitated a series of extreme measures to contain credit growth and curtail imports. Many imports were taxed, among them automobiles. Automobile imports have since slowed significantly. As a result, ships are arriving with fewer cars; and The Sunday Times reported recently that more than 5,000 cars were going to be sent back because they had no takers.

But work at the port continues apace. An Indian sugar firm and a Pakistani cement company, the local trading house Hayleys and a Singapore petrochemical company have been roped in to set up their factories close to the port. They enjoy an extended tax holiday, whose terms are said to be much better than in the export processing zones in India.

In phases

Work on Phase 2 is also ongoing, and expected to be completed by 2014. Phase 3 is still in the conceptual stages and could take as long as a decade more. The completed port is being designed as the largest port in South Asia, with a capacity for 33 vessels.

More than a container terminal, however, the port sees itself as

offering bunkering and ship handling services on a scale unimaginable at Colombo port. A massive oil tank farm has come up at one end. Eventually, it is planned also as storage for aviation fuel to refuel planes that will land at the international airport.

An avant-garde sculpture of a ship in concrete looms at the ports entrance, over the sea view, a massive metal buoy balanced on top of it.

Engraved on the sculpture is President Rajapaksas mission statement: the blessed port bestowed upon the great nation after the glorious victory of the century, which has been constructed in line with the crusade of making Sri Lanka the miracle of South Asia.

Aside from the names of engineers and others who worked on the port, the sculpture also carries prominently

the names of 385 families displaced by the new port.

The government acquired about 4,000 acres of land for the port, and the displaced have been relocated in Hambantota New Town. With its wide roads and massive government buildings, the Nay Pyi Taw-look alike is coming up a little distance from the original fishing town.

The jewels in this crown are a botanical garden, zoned residential precincts, parks, a fast rising stateof-the-art convention centre, a massive modern stadium, already functioning, and a modern auditorium. Shangri La, the Chinese hotel chain, is readying to construct a five-star property soon.

The mind-boggling scale of infrastructure development seems to

be ahead of demand, and compared to the rest of the country, even overthe-top. For instance, it is not clear if there would be enough traffic for an international airport at Hambantota. Some even question the prospects of the port.

But in Rajapaksa country, there can be no half measures. Ask the street lights. Mounted on poles are rotating lamps, with pictures of all the important Rajapaksas on their glass panes, fittingly powered by their own individual windmills and solar panels.

When the port is completed, said Dasantha, the ports project engineer, it would provide direct employment to 5,000 local people. At the moment, that number is about 250. An equal number of Chinese and Sri Lankan workers were involved in building Phase I.

The Chinese are also noticeably involved in other projects in town. A Chinese firm is doing the Hambantota hub development road/project. At a clover interchange in the bypass road junction, Chinese road signs alongside English ones announce detours and work in progress.

If India is concerned at the Chinese involvement in Hambantotas development, it seems keen not to be seen that way. But it now has a consulate in this town (It is the only diplomatic post here.) The consulate issues about 800 visas a year, and hosts well-attended cultural shows in the Japanese-built auditorium.

(The series Letter from Lanka is concluded.)

The planned metamorphosis of Hambantota, from a small fishing harbour to a flashy new city with a modern port with Chinese help is symbolic of what President Rajapaksa wants the country to be November 3, 2012

Garbage as our alter ego

That's the whole meaning of life ... trying to find a place for your stuff George Carlin

The iconic American comedian, and that brilliant dissector of the human condition, George Carlin, had in a

1986 sketch about The Stuff shown us how our tendency to acquire more and more stuff material commodities generates great anxieties about how and where to store them. Even your house is not a home, but a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. What Carlin did not tell us, at least in this sketch, is that much of the stuff does not find a place, it ends up as garbage: as waste, trash and refuse.

If there is one thing that is symptomatic of the modern human condition, but hardly recognised as such, it is garbage. Garbage is capitalisms dark underbelly, its pathological alter ego. That is why we keep disavowing it, refusing to believe it exists.

Vilappilsala standoff

But the more we deny it, it rears its ugly head, as most recently, in Vilappilsala panchayat in Kerala where the standoff between the local people, who are opposed to the reopening of a waste treatment plant, and the State has left 2 lakh tonnes of solid waste lying unprocessed, threatening an environmental disaster.

It is, therefore, remarkable that the current boisterous debate on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail in India has completely ignored the question of garbage. By focusing only on the supposed virtues of waste reduction in perishable goods (like fruits and vegetables) brought about by the better storage facilities of retail conglomerates, the issue of the latters humongous ecological footprint (for example, in terms of sprawl, increase in driving, and the

proliferation of non-biodegradable waste) has been bypassed.

According to a report from The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Washington, D. C., in the 20-year period from 1990, the same period in which Walmart grew to be a behemoth, the average number of miles that a U.S. household travelled for shopping increased by around 1000. And from 2005 to 2010, despite Walmarts initiation of a reduced waste programme, its reported greenhouse gas emissions shot up by 14 per cent.

Big-box stores dont just improve efficiency in consumption, they also increase consumption manifold, which ultimately results in phenomenal amounts of trash. The garbage generated by Americans annually reportedly amounts to 220 million tonnes, and 80 per cent of U.S. goods

are used only once before being trashed.

In the mythologies of modernisation and development, we sing paeans to skyscrapers and nuclear plants. But there is no accompanying dirge about the costs we have had to pay for them. If there was, then we would have heard of Puente Hills the largest active landfill/waste dump in the United States, which is a 1,365acre monstrosity as much as we have about the World Trade Center or the Empire State Building.

It is ironical, Edward Humes tells us in his book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash , to call Puente Hills a landfill, for the garbage mountain has long ceased to fill a depression in the land and rises now an unbelievable 500 feet above the ground, a space capable of holding 15 million elephants. It takes, of course, a

gargantuan effort, as Humes describes, to keep the toxic substance that leaks out of the 130-million tonne waste (which includes 3 million tonnes of soiled disposable diapers another important invention of modern life) from poisoning groundwater sources.

Nevertheless, waste is seen, in popular development discourse as a third world problem, the ubiquitous mountains of garbage that blight the face of cities and towns in the poorer parts of the world one of the first tasks that the newly-elected President in Egypt had was cleaning up the garbage mess in Cairo. And the citizens of the third world have internalised this discourse, seeing themselves as part of the dirty developing world blissfully unaware of the cost at which a clean developed world is maintained. Thus the story of the Somali pirates plundering the high

seas has become a part of global lore but not that of Somalia being a (cheap) dumping ground for some of the most toxic garbage, including nuclear and medical waste, from Europe for the last two decades and more. As long as the streets are clean in Frankfurt and Paris, does it matter that children are born in Somalia without limbs?

Waste imperialism

It is in this context of waste imperialism that the question of garbage needs to come out of its subterranean existence and occupy centre stage in any discussion on development, including FDI in retail. It is not accidental that dumping grounds, and waste treatment plants are invariably located in places where the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of the population live,

whether in the developed or developing worlds. Not surprisingly, garbage has become an important political tool in the present with garbage strikes and struggles around garbage taking place in various cities in the West and elsewhere. The contestation in Vilappilsala has been going on since 2000 when the waste treatment plant opened with serious ecological impact.

We would be living in a mythical world if we think that the problems of waste can be solved only with better rational planning, management or recycling. In the U.S., even after decades of environmental education, only around 24 per cent of the garbage is recycled with nearly 70 per cent of it going into landfills.

Simply throwing trash into the recycling bin hardly does anything to reduce the production of rubbish; on

the contrary it might lull us into a false sense of complacency as Heather Rogers, the author of Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage argues. This is because household waste constitutes a minuscule percentage of the total waste produced, the vast majority of which is constituted by waste from industrial processes. As she shows, the mantra of recycling and green capitalism has been adopted by corporations and big business because it is the least threatening of the options to profit margins no wonder, the rate of production of goods and, consequently, trash has only increased. More importantly, in this greenwashing, the responsibility of cleaning up the environment is displaced from corporations to people themselves in their own individual, personal capacities.

Economy of zero waste

To be sure, there are rare examples like Germany, which have nearly eliminated landfills, and recycle up to 70 per cent of the waste. But the fact that the Crbern Central Waste Treatment Plant in Germany, one of the most sophisticated plants in the world (built at a cost of $ 135 million), has been allegedly involved in criminal garbage profiteering by illegally securing solid waste from Italy (to sustain the operations of the plant) shows how tenuous and fragile the economy of zero waste is.

Ultimately, the problem of waste cannot be fathomed without recognising the order of capitalism, which is built on the relentless production of commodities and the philosophy of planned obsolescence, in which goods are built to have short shelf life. As Sarah Moore of the

University of Arizona has pithily pointed out the contradiction: Modern citizens have come to expect the places they live, work, play, and go to school to be free of garbage to be ordered and clean. These expectations can never be fully met, however, precisely because the same processes of modernization that have produced them have also produced a situation in which garbage proliferates.

The golden age of capitalism is thus also the golden age of garbage. Just between 1960 and 1980, solid waste in the U.S. increased by four times. This is the exponential growth in garbage the world over, which has rendered the Pacific Ocean awash with plastic particles thus making plastic outnumber zooplankton at a shocking rate of 6:1. And this is the growth that has ironically made garbage and its disposal a multi-billion

dollar business, and has made the mafia enter and control it, as in Italy.

Developing countries like India, with almost non-existent waste disposal systems, catastrophically seek to move to the next (superfluous) stage of consumption by imbibing the culture of Walmart. In this scenario, if justice for both human beings and nature has to be ensured, the alter ego of garbage can no longer be hidden under the carpet. It has to be confronted head on.

(Dr. Nissim Mannathukkaren is Associate Professor, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University.)

Trash is capitalisms dark underbelly, the product of the very modernisation

that helps create clean spaces. But it is treated as a third world problem November 3, 2012

Steered along, with a little help from Sandy

Both politics and the media follow a cute routine when a natural calamity strikes during a major U.S. election campaign. On the campaign trail, the first step is to express solidarity and anguish. The second is to make swift symbolic gestures (e.g. Romney collecting food bags for Hurricane Sandys victims at what were scheduled as political rallies). The third is to call off major campaign events (or paint them differently) as a sign of sensitivity. The fourth is to express horror at the very thought of politicising natural disaster and human misery. (Subtext: thats what the other guy does. Not me.) The fifth is to go berserk politicising it and

grabbing all the photo-ops it offers. Candidates must look presidential while soothing Sandys victims.

Reporting better

The media did a lot better this time than they did with Hurricane Gustav during the 2008 campaign. Gustav crippled the Republican Convention at St. Paul, Minnesota. The partys leaders tied themselves in knots, speaking of making the event lowkey. And of taking the politics out of many sessions. Worse, the ghosts of Hurricane Katrina floated on Gustavs wings. Which Republican wanted to recall that 2005 disaster? President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney remained on vacation for some days after the disaster (Katrina) struck. And Bush went back to DC before visiting the hurricane-hit region in September. Secretary of

State Condoleezza shopping.



As Gustav approached in 2008, one television anchor declared: This is a good time for a timeout on politics. Then proceeded to the political fallout without batting an eyelid. (While adding the line: Weve got a lot of reporters watching that hurricane.) The dilemma? Openly discussing the politics of the disaster, more so in campaign terms, could seem pretty ghoulish. With Hurricane Sandy, theres been a greater effort to report better. That too by the media within the zone of disaster and also affected by it. Talking heads on television are another story, of course.

The truth is there is no escaping the politics of the disaster. And that politics goes way beyond the campaigns though surely impacting

on them. It goes to big differences on the role of government. (Romney wanted, not so long ago, to privatise disaster response.) It goes to models of industry and employment that work with far fewer skilled personnel than are needed. Models that have gutted skilled gene pools with profitdriven cost-cutting. It brings Climate back into some kind of focus and the Visible Hand of human agency in that sphere. (Former Vice-President Al Gore is already speaking of Dirty Energy leading to Dirty Weather, etc.)

Talking about the climate

Climate Change was almost entirely absent in the presidential debates. But its back in the last lap of the campaign with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsing Obama. The billionaire political independent presides over a city that has lost at least 40 lives in the storm. Bloomberg

believes global climate change has to be taken more seriously now. Even if Sandy may or may not be the result of it. Based on how Obama responded to the storm, the Mayor believes him to be the best candidate to take on global climate change. Obama never once tackled it during the debates. But Bloombergs aye has him excited. The President now finds climate change is a threat to our childrens future, and we owe it to them to do something about it. There are those other issues that the calamity has thrown up. Some of which are a threat to American children in the present. But with the death toll closing in on 100 and millions of people battered by Sandy, it will be a while before those issues figure.

The death toll will go up when the flooded areas are cleared. In New Jersey, close to two million

households are without power (Including this reporters). Across the coast, close to six million homes and businesses are without power. And it is not clear when that will be restored. Phone networks and services have collapsed across all these regions. In its 108-year history, the New York subway has not seen anything like the level of flooding and damage Sandy has wrought. Over 18,000 flights have been cancelled and more might go that way.

Praising Obama

Which way will Sandy impact the race? Obama was in New Jersey on Wednesday, looking presidential and decisive. Thats very important for television. Obama tells New Jersey: We are here for you, run the headlines. It also goes in favour of the President that the states Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, is singing

his praises. I cannot thank the President enough for his passion and concern. I was able to witness it today personally. A staunch Romney supporter, Christie had been trashing Obama not long ago. Simply: in such a crisis, the incumbent does get to look more presidential for TV than the challenger. After all, he is already President and wields that power. Christie does need the funds that Obama is pushing New Jerseys way. And sharing photo-ops with the President in the crisis zone does the Governor no harm either. Christies ambitions run to a second term in his post and beyond. His public praise for Obama has rattled the Romney camp.

Sandy can, however, have other effects. It could affect voting on November 6 as much of the hurricanehit region may not have limped back to normalcy by then. Quite a few

people may be unable to vote on that day. There is already discussion on whether a voting date can be postponed for specific states. And if that could be done legally. There is also the fact that people battered by a major calamity and plunged into darkness and hardship for days can vote in anger against a government or leader. Al Gores campaign against George Bush in 2000 dimmed with the drought of that time. And it does seem that even if the post-storm response favours Obama in the hurricane-hit states, most of these favoured him anyway.

Yet, into the fifth day of Sandys impact, it does seem the Force is with Obama. Hurricanes are strange political players.

When a natural calamity strikes during the intensely media-scrutinised American presidential campaign, there is no escaping the politics of the disaster

November 5, 2012

Kudankulam on shaky legal ground

The debate over nuclear energy will go on, but the issue with the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is one of the several illegalities on which it is founded.

In 1988, India inked the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant deal with the former Soviet Union. Two key elements in it were: the highly dangerous and toxic Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) would be shipped back to the Soviet Union; and the massive

volumes of fresh water required to cool the plant would be supplied from Pechiparai dam, in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) formally granted approval on May 9, 1989 on this basis. But there was no further progress until 1997.

In 1997, India signed another agreement, this time with Russia, to revive the KKNPP.


Between 1989 and 1997, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notifications were issued in 1991 and 1994 mandating compulsory clearances by environmental regulators before any new plant could be set up.

The CRZ prohibited all industrial activity within 500 metres of the high tide line. The only exception to this was industries and projects of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) directly requiring waterfront or foreshore facilities. The KKNPP today claims exemption from CRZ notification. This is untenable. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), which set up the KKNPP, is registered under the Companies Act as a commercial venture to engage in the business of power projects and to enter into partnerships with any person, including private entity or any foreign investing entity. The NPCILKKNPP is thus, under law, only a Company and not a project of the DAE. The Supreme Court has consistently held that government departments are distinct from government companies. Further, merely because it draws seawater, it does not become an industry

requiring waterfront facilities as per the decision of the Supreme Court in the shrimp farming case. Thus the KKNPP is not exempted from CRZ and the plant has been built in violation of the CRZ notification.

The EIA notification stipulated that for notified industries, environmental clearance is mandatory for new projects or expansion or modernisation of existing ones. Nuclear power is a notified industry and as per EIA notification, an EIA report must be prepared and made public. A public hearing should be conducted to record objections. The entire record would be considered by an independent Expert Appraisal Committee before environmental clearance is granted. Clearances are valid for five years. If the project does not commence within the five-year period, then fresh clearances will have

to be obtained after fresh public hearings.

The NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the MoEF all claim that the EIA notification is not applicable to KKNPP as it has obtained clearance in 1989. Is this claim valid? An explanatory note to the EIA notification says that in respect of existing projects as of 1994 (the year when the EIA notification was promulgated) only those which have completed the land acquisition process and which have obtained the Consent to Establish from the State Pollution Control Boards are exempt. The KKNPP has not even applied for Consent to Establish from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board; nor was the land acquisition process completed.

Hence the repeated assertions of exemption from environmental

regulations are untenable and seriously compromise environmental safety. The NPCIL started construction work only in 2001. More than 12 years had gone by since the grant of approval in 1989.

Two significant changes

There were two significant changes to the project. The first was that, contrary to the original proposal to ship out the SNF to Russia, the highly radioactive SNF from the nuclear power plant was to be stored, transported and reprocessed within India.

The second change was equally major: the freshwater requirement was now to be met by the construction of six desalination plants instead of sending piped water from Pechiparai dam. The environmental impact of the

desalination plant on coastal ecology and marine life are serious concerns with implications for the livelihoods of the fishing community.

The environmental impact of storage, transportation and reprocessing of spent fuel as well as the impact of six desalination plants on marine ecology were not assessed at the time of initial clearance, and not since.

After launch of construction, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) prepared an EIA report in 2003. Even in this report the environmental impact of spent fuel and desalination plants was not assessed. It is important to note that generally for all EIAs the baseline data on air, water, flora and fauna in and around the proposed plant are vital to assess the likely impact of the plant on them.

In the EIA for plants three to six, NEERI used baseline data from the Coast of Travancore on the west coast though the KKNPP is located in the east. The NEERI concluded that the heat from the coolant water from the KKNPP on the east will not affect marine life on the west coast, although it doesnt require scientific expertise to arrive at such a conclusion.

The NPCIL and the AERB (the MoEF also agrees) put forward the erroneous proposition that spent fuel is no issue at all; it is actually an asset; it can be safely stored at the plant site for five years, then safely transported and reprocessed safely in a facility at a location which is yet to be decided. What is the supporting material for this assertion? Nothing.

In the U.S., Japan

No country has ever been able to reprocess more than a third of spent fuel. Even that involves significant quantities of High Level Waste which is equally radioactive and has to be stored.

In the United States, licences for nuclear power plants have been subject to the Nuclear Regulatory Commissions (NRC) assurance in 1984 that a permanent storage by way of a geological repository would be available for all SNF by 2007-09 and spent fuel can be safely stored on site at the plants until then. In 1990 the deadline was extended to 2025. In December 2010, it was revised to conclude that a suitable repository will be available when necessary and in the meantime the spent fuel can be stored safely on site. This ruling was challenged before the U.S.

Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In State of New York, et. al., vs Nuclear Regulatory Commission and USA the court ruled that spent nuclear fuel poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk. It will remain dangerous for time spans seemingly beyond human comprehension. The court struck down the NRCs ruling on two grounds. First, in concluding that permanent storage will be available when necessary, the commission did not calculate the environmental effects of failing to secure permanent storage a possibility that cannot be ignored. Second, in determining that spent fuel can be safely stored on site at nuclear plants for 60 years after the expiration of a plants licence, the commission failed to properly examine future dangers and key consequences. In other words, no EIA was done by the NRC before coming to such a conclusion.

The real lesson from Fukushima is not merely on improved technical safeguards at plants from tsunamis and earthquakes. The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission appointed by the Japanese Parliament warned that the disaster was man-made. The commission found that it was the government of Japans single-minded pursuit of nuclear power which resulted in collusion between the government, the regulators and the plant operator, TEPCO leading to the practice of resisting regulatory measures and covering up violations.

(The writers are advocates. V. Suresh is also National General Secretary, PUCL. Email: )

Violations of Coastal Regulation Zone and Environmental Impact

Assessment notifications make official claims questionable November 5, 2012

Pakistans hot nuclear greenhouse

Forty-seven years ago this month, Pakistans then Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while on a visit to Vienna, had an unscheduled chat with a young, obscure nuclear scientist called Munir Ahmad Khan. I briefed him about what I knew of Indias nuclear programme and the facilities that I had seen myself during a visit to Trombay in 1964, Dr. Khan was to recall soon after Pakistans 1999 nuclear tests. Indias plans added up to one thing: bomb-making capability.

Less than three months earlier, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Pakistans

military ruler, had led his forces into the war of 1965: an adventure that began with an ill-planned raid in Kashmir, and ended with Indian tanks massed on the outskirts of Lahore. Dr. Khans meeting with Bhutto led to another meeting the following month at the Field Marshals suite at the elegant Dorchester Hotel in London. I must say Ayub Khan listened to me very patiently, Dr. Khan recalled, but at the end he said Pakistan was too poor to spend that much money.

Civilisational difference

In 1972, his nation torn apart by the force of Indian arms, now Prime Minister Bhutto decided no cost was too high to pay. His concerns were focussed, though, on something far larger than India his nations civilisational destiny. From the death row cell to which he was eventually

despatched, Bhutto wrote: the Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilisations have this capability. The Communist powers also possess it. Only the Islamic civilisation is without it.

The programme Dr. Khan seeded has grown into an extraordinary nuclear weapons greenhouse: Pakistan now has the fastest-growing arsenal in the world, with 90-110 warheads, up from 65-80 in 2008 and ahead of Indias 60100. It has refused to sign the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which seeks to cap global weapons stockpiles.

Even the capacity to obliterate Indias cities, evidently, hasnt addressed the existential anxieties Pakistan felt back in 1962. The production of warheads in the nuclear greenhouse is suggestive of the existence of a strategic paranoia at the heart of the Pakistan militarys thinking a

pathology that will, if unaddressed, have huge consequences for India.

Pakistans nuclear pursuit is not entirely severed from reason. Indias smaller arsenal gives it the capacity to annihilate Pakistan; Pakistan needs more warheads to inflict proportionate damage. Islamabad fears, moreover, that New Delhi might render its warheads ineffective through pre-emptive strikes, or eventually develop anti-ballistic missile defences. The Pakistan army is deeply concerned about its growing asymmetry with Indias armed forces.

Brian Cloughey, a sympathetic historian of the Pakistan army, has suggested that if Indias two armourheavy mechanized infantry strike corps managed to penetrate to the line joining Gujranwala-Multan-Sukkur and to the outskirts of Hyderabad in the south, then it is likely Pakistan

would have to accept defeat or employ nuclear weapons.

Lieutenant Colonel Syed Akhtar Husain Shah, writing in a Pakistan army publication in 1994, was already noting that in future wars, the probability of the application of nuclear devices at the strategic and tactical level will be high. These strikes may be pre-emptive or reactionary, at any stage of the battle. Much of Islamabads recent nuclear pursuit has been focussed on providing it the nuclear teeth needed to fight just such a war for example by seeking to arm the 60-km range Hatf9 missile with a nuclear warhead.

Experts arent convinced, however, that more tactical nuclear weapons are making Pakistan more secure. In a 2010 paper, A.H. Nayyar and Zia Mian argued that the use of tactical nuclear weapons would be of little use if

Indian armed forces had prepared for a nuclear attack and were able to rapidly disperse. In addition, using tactical weapons even on Pakistans own soil could provoke retaliation something Indias Cabinet made clear, in a 2003 statement, it would be prepared to do.

NATO, whose Cold War tactical nuclear programme appears to provide a template for the current Pakistani thinking, eventually pulled back because of not-dissimilar concerns. However, as analyst Shashank Joshi has noted in a thoughtful commentary, NATOs rollback was facilitated by its technology-driven conventional warfare superiority over the Warsaw Pact. In the India-Pakistan case, though, the gap is increasing, meaning its reliance on nuclear weapons will grow.

This proposition tallies with what Pakistanis themselves have been saying. In December 2011, the Director of Arms Control at Pakistans Strategic Plans Division, Air Commodore Khalid Banuri, stated that the precise number of nuclear weapons Pakistan needed could not be quantified. And in a 2010 letter to The Daily Telegraph , Pakistani diplomat Wajid Shamsul Hassan linked his countrys programme to Indias potential to produce 280 nuclear weapons annually.

Since the early 1990s, it has been repeatedly shown that the threat of one nuclear bomb hitting one of its cities has proved adequate to deter India: in this sense, it matters little to New Delhi whether Islamabad has a hundred nuclear weapons or a thousand. India decided not to retaliate against Pakistani support for the Kashmir jihad, chose not to cross

the Line of Control in 1999, and again held back its forces in 2001-2002.

Asymmetries of power

No other nation, moreover, has reacted to asymmetries of power with an open-ended nuclear pursuit. India is not seeking to grow its nuclear arsenal to outstrip China. Though China is modernising its nuclear delivery systems and technologies, it hasnt sought to rival the arsenals of the United States or Russia.

So just what is keeping the nuclear greenhouse hot? Essays in the Green Books , collections authored by Pakistani army officers for internal debate, offer some insight into the question. Perhaps the first reference to a nuclear weapon appeared in the 1990 Green Book , when Brigadier Mushtaq Ali Khan argued India was

following a policy of destabilising every country in the region and then moving in as the saviour with its armed forces. It had succeeded in doing so because both the superpowers have been silently accepting such ventures. Therefore, he went on, an alternate deterrence measure has to be developed. Put another way, while the immediate military threat might be from India, Pakistans larger concern was the world.

From the invasion of Iraq by the United States, anxieties about Islamabads relationship with Washington became more explicit. Russians bending on their knees on the superpower chess board has made the USA the only actor to play its flip [sic throughout] by unfolding a new world order suiting the American interest and Zionists in particular, wrote Brigadier Sayyed Ifzal Hussain in

the 1991 Green Book . Pakistans nuclear policy is a pinching needle for a master of new world order, particularly after dismantling a potential military titan, Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Farooq Maan, writing in 1992, expanded on this theme, warning of a full fledged air, land and sea attack by U.S. using the Indian Ocean and Indian territory as a base in collaboration with Indian forces and coalition forces such as were gathered against Iraq. It may, he went on, involve the U.S., Israel and India to undertake such an operation.

In the post-9/11 era, these concerns solidified. The West, argued Brigadier Muhammad, believed a nuclear *and Muslim] Pakistan has to be kept in control, lest it leads the Islamic world towards the formation of a new and powerful economic and military bloc

in competition with or antagonistic to the western alliance. Brigadier Khalid Mahmud Akhtar, also writing in the 2002 Green Book , saw an American strategy of economic warfare to force Pakistan to abandon her nuclear programme. Bhutto, clearly, still speaks from his grave: the nuclear greenhouse produces weapons to protect Pakistan from a world hostile to its ideological raison detre .

The nuclear greenhouse will cool down only when Pakistan makes peace with its place in the world. Its strategic fears are unlikely to be stilled even by progress on Siachen or Kashmir: no soldier will be moved to give up his gun by shows of benevolence by adversaries he believes have malign aims.

Pakistans relationship with India and with the world will be shaped by the struggle now under way to shape the

countrys relationship with itself a contestation that has pitted democrats against an alliance of ultranationalists and Islamists with an intensity never seen before.

It is imperative that India continue to do what it can to secure progress in its relationship with Pakistan. It is just as important, though, to remain aware that dtente, until this epic struggle is settled, will stand on a firmament more closely resembling quicksand than bedrock.

The worlds fastest growing arsenal is

being produced not just because of the fear of India but a strategic

paranoia exacerbated by existential anxieties November 5, 2012

The princeling from the grass roots

When Xi Jinping arrived in Liangjiahe, a small village of a few dozen households hidden among the Loess mountains of central China, he was anxious and confused, he recalled in an essay he wrote in 1998. But when he left the Yellow earth of Shaanxi province seven years later, he reflected, my life goals were firm and I was filled with confidence.

Liangjiahe today, its residents say, is not much different from the village that Xi Jinping lived in for seven years, from 1969 to 1975. The village sits at the end of a sandy road that turns off

National Highway 211, an expressway that runs from Yanan, a bustling centre of the oil industry and Red tourism Yanan served as the revolutionary base for the Communists from 1936 until 1948. Liangjiahe is located in a narrow valley sandwiched by sandstone-coloured mountains. Its residents, as they did four decades ago, live in cave homes that have been carved out of the Loess hills. They make a living tending corn fields. The only major difference, 40 years later, is that there are no young hands in sight farmers in their sixties and seventies watch over the fields, while their children are away working in the booming urban centres of Xian and Yanan.

At Liangjiahe

When Xi arrived here, one of millions of young Chinese sent down to the countryside by Mao Zedong during

the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the villagers knew he was no ordinary youth. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was one of Shaanxi provinces most famous sons a Communist Party revolutionary who rose to the position of Vice Premier after the Peoples Republic of China was founded. The older Xi was sidelined in 1965, and during the Cultural Revolution was made to suffer public humiliation at the hands of Mao Zedongs Red Guards. He was purged in 1969 and sent to prison.

That same year, his son was sent to Liangjiahe. He was no different from the others, recalled one farmer who knew Xi. At that time, even he did not have corn to eat here, and survived eating the skin of wheat! He was like any one of us, added one woman in her eighties. He could eat bitterness, she said, using a Chinese phrase, che ku , that is

used to describe ones tolerance of hardship. The seven years he spent in Liangjiahe, Xi later reflected, profoundly shaped his political outlook. During my seven or eight years in Shaanxi, he said in a 2003 interview with State broadcaster CCTV, I got to know what pragmatism was, what seeking truth from facts was, and what the general public was. It is something that will benefit me throughout my life.

Pragmatism is perhaps the word that best defines the rise of Xi Jinping. Xi, who joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) during his last year in Liangjiahe, has risen through its ranks by crafting an image of a middle-ofthe-road leader, unwedded to any particular ideology, who forged ties across the CPCs many interest groups, from reform-minded liberals to the Peoples Liberation Army.

Sweeping transition on Thursday

On November 8, when the CPCs 18th National Congress opens in Beijing, the party will embark on a sweeping leadership transition to the fifth generation of its leadership. When the congress concludes on November 15, Xi Jinping, as the partys next General Secretary, will lead out on stage at the Great Hall of the People the members of the next Politburo Standing Committee the body that effectively runs China.

Xi will come to power at a time of unprecedented challenges facing the party. In the months leading up to the transition, the CPC has been dealing with the biggest political crisis it has faced in decades, surrounding the fall of Politburo member Bo Xilai. Bo was expelled from the party in September,

and will stand trial facing corruption charges and allegations that he helped cover up the murder of a British business associate of the Bo family, who was poisoned by Bos wife, Gu Kailai. The scandal has underscored the difficulty the CPC faces in taming rampant corruption, even at the highest levels of the party.

The Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao decade has seen breakneck economic growth, but it has also left behind many challenges that Xi will have to grapple with. During the past 10 years, per capita incomes have risen five-fold. The Hu government emphasised sustainable growth, boosting investments in rural areas in Chinas hinterland. Under Hu, China managed effectively the financial crisis of 2008, unveiling a stimulus programme that funded a massive infrastructure boom whose legacy includes the worlds biggest high-speed rail network.

Rebalancing the economy

But a decade on, Chinas export-led growth model is seen to be nearing the end of its shelf-life, increasing the urgency for rebalancing the economy. The Hu decade has also left behind widening income inequalities between rural and urban China a gap that is 68 per cent higher than in 1985. Rising unrest at the grassroots has reignited calls for taking forward stalled intraparty political reforms, while moves to reform State-dominated sectors are mired in debates between various interest groups.

Zhang Chunhou, a political scientist at Yanan University, hoped that Xis time in the provinces would have impressed upon him the urgency of addressing the pressing issue of inequality and unrest at the

grassroots. Moves to expand democracy at the village-level, he said, have stalled in recent years. While the central government continues to enjoy legitimacy following three decades of rapid development, there is widespread resentment at local-level corruption which sparks tens of thousands of mass incidents every year. Corruption, Zhang said, was the biggest threat to the partys legitimacy. Reinforcing its commitment to serve the people, he added, must be Xis priority; doing so would address perceptions of a party elite increasingly out of touch with the people.

Return to Beijing

The seven years Xi spent in Liangjiahe are a central part of the official narrative of his rise that the party has constructed, to portray him as a

leader who, despite his privileged status as a member of the party elite, was in touch with the grassroots. On returning to Beijing in 1975, Xi joined the elite Tsinghua University. He then spent three years working in the General Office of the Central Military Commission, the PLAs top ruling body, forging connections in the military. In 1982, when he could have chosen a high-profile posting in Beijing, Xi instead returned to the countryside, working in a poor Hebei county called Zhengding and further burnishing his credentials as a leader in touch with the grassroots. Xi then served in the booming coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, establishing a reputation as a business-friendly leader open to economic reforms.

Even in Liangjiahe and surrounding villages, the challenges awaiting Xi as he takes office are evident. Farmers

said in interviews that they hadnt seen the local party chief in years. He lived in Yanan, villagers said, more preoccupied with his business interests than the affairs of the village. One farmer, who lives down the road from the cave home where young Xi lived, complained of corrupt local and county officials. We are living in hardship, the farmer said, holding back tears.

When Xi was staying in Liangjiahe, his lasting contribution to the village, according to his official biography, was a biogas plant that he had installed. Shi Chunyang, the party secretary at the time, said an enterprising young Xi who read a report of biogas being used elsewhere in China travelled to Sichuan and returned with a proposal to set up biogas facilities in the village. Several facilities were subsequently installed. When Xi returned to visit a few years

ago, when he was Vice-President, he spoke proudly of having the technology upgraded in 2007 so as to continue to serve the people.

Today, residents said in interviews, the facility was no longer functioning. It is not working anymore, said one farmer. Just as he was speaking, a car carrying four men, who claimed to be from the county government, drove up the village road.

You are not allowed to visit Liangjiahe without permission, one of them said, telling the farmer to leave and warning he would call the police. This is a special village. November 6, 2012

Race & Money and the money in the race

Its just a few hours to the end of the race, but Race isnt going to end anytime soon. It was pretty ugly in the 2008 presidential poll, too. Yet, 2012 makes that year seem benign. On the last lap, Mitt Romney is running as the Great White Hope, a Captain America against the illegal immigrant from Kenya (which is how many Republicans paint Mr. Obama). Earlier, Mr. Romneys campaign cochair John Sununu accused Gen. Colin Powell of choosing race over country. He claimed Gen. Powell had endorsed Mr. Obamas re-election bid on the basis of colour. Right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and his crew have described Mr. Obamas health care plans as reparations (compensation to the descendants of slaves). Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has freely used racist slang in attacking the President.

White voters

No surprise, then. Mitt Romney has more White voters, especially males, with him than the last challenger did. But this unfolds in an electorate that is increasingly less White. And the Republican Party is poised to do worse than it ever has amongst Black and Hispanic voters. Race remains a major factor in the U.S. presidential election.

In 2008, when he ran and won against John McCain, the powerful Fox News Network sought to expose the real Barack Obama. It dug up some deadly sins. Mr. Obama, it turned out, had personally known a couple of Pakistanis in his younger days. Worse still, he had once visited Pakistan. (Thats pass now, with Mr. Obamas drones making those visits daily). The other 2008 tack, that he is a foreigner himself, is more in favour. Never mind

the mans been President of the country for four years.

Barack Obamas stunning 2008 victory makes it easy to forget two things. First, in September that year, his rival John McCain had in fact moved ahead in several of the national polls. Race played a role then, too. Then came the financial meltdown. Wall Street did its thing and drowned the Republicans. The second is that Mr. Obamas great win in the electoral college vote 365 to 173 was not matched by his showing in the popular vote. There, his margin was much narrower. Just around 7 per cent. Even though voter turnout was at its highest at 57.48 per cent in perhaps 40 years. Again, race played a role in that. Yet, Mr. Obama got more White male votes then, than he is likely to get now.

There have been worse popular vote margins. George W. Bush actually lost the popular vote (-0.51 per cent) in 2000. He still beat Al Gore on the electoral college count in the dubious election that year. But Mr. Obamas 2008 popular vote margin was far lower than his emphatic win in the electoral college count. This time, it will be hard to improve on it. To see it fall further quite possible, even likely would be an embarrassment.

The kind of polarisation thats emerging, with race so major an element in it, will haunt the United States in elections to come. In the South, it draws on legacies of hatred going back to slavery and the Civil War. It is not that White people as a whole are opposed to Mr. Obama. He couldnt win if they were. But Mr. Romney has been clearly able to draw a lot more White voters in his corner

in a racially-charged situation. On this trend, things can and will get worse.

At the same time, while Mr. Obamas election in 2008 was a huge symbolic moment for African-Americans, its not as if he brought them all on board. Or that all of them agree with him. Voices within the community critical of Mr. Obama have been growing. African-Americans will indeed vote massively in his favour. Yet, most of those who will vote for him were always Democratic Party supporters. That Mr. Obama is one of them (in a limited sense) might give him an edge. But a huge number of them have voted overwhelmingly for other Democratic presidential candidates (like Mr. Clinton) in the past. The sharp polarisation promises another thing. If the result is close CNNs poll suggests a photo-finish that result will be bitterly disputed. There will be demands and fights over

recounts. Get ready for endless lawyering. This is a nation where, anyway, that profession chokes the major institutions. Well over a third of all members of the U.S. House of Representatives are lawyers. In the Senate, thats more than half. Yet other members of both houses may have a law degree but have not declared themselves lawyers. There is also a huge overlap between the legal world and that of lobbyists, making their domination worse.

Impact of Hurricane Sandy

In 2008, the Wall Street meltdown destroyed John McCain. Many believe Hurricane Sandy will do that to Mr. Romney. And indeed, his television presence during the crisis has helped and will help Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney, as one analyst put it, simply found no way to work himself into the news cycle during those days. This

was true. But what lies beyond is not quite simple. Hurricane Sandy can have an adverse effect on voter turnout. And there is also growing anger amongst the affected after the cameras have left. Long lines for, and panic buying of, gasoline continue. There are thousands whose homes were simply blown away. As many as 40,000 people may have been left homeless in New York alone. Wrecked neighbourhoods face a crime wave and looting.

Costliest and most cynical

Meanwhile, were just hours from the conclusion of what has been the costliest and most cynical U.S. presidential election campaign in history. The two main rivals have spent half a billion dollars in just three battleground States Florida, Ohio and Virginia. And nearly thrice as much in the remaining States.

(Counting spending by the candidates, their parties and Political Action Committees).

The country was subjected to its greatest barrage ever of political commercials. Over a million ads ran on broadcast and national television through October. More than ever before. Some 40 per cent more ran in the same month in 2008. Its worth remembering that in 2008, Mr. Obama hugely outspent Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama out-advertised his rival by a ratio of four to one. This time, though, his rival has given him something of a run for his money, overall. If youve raised a billion dollars (as incumbent President) as Mr. Obama has but are still struggling, things arent too bright. But Mr. Obama still held the edge in the ads race. Anything goes in that race, from innuendo to outright lies.

Congressional contests

Then there are the Congressional races. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs. The Center for Responsive Politics the countrys foremost poll-spending tracker had reckoned total costs closing in on $6 billion ( The Hindu , Oct. 18, 2012). That mark will be met and breached. Indeed, of this, the presidential race alone might have seen spending close to $3 billion. The trends are also reflected in the composition of the U.S. Congress. As Occupy DC had pointed out quite some time ago: 1 per cent of Americans are millionaires. But over 47 per cent of members of the House of Representatives are millionaires. So are 56 per cent of Senators. (the median wealth of a Senator, says the CRP, is $2.38 million).

Mr. Obama has had a fight on his hands at all stages, this time around. Two features have been constant for a while. Bad unemployment figures. And a lack of relish and enthusiasm. The zest for the action seemed to be far more in the media. (Which is also the biggest beneficiary of the wild spending). The raw enthusiasm and energy we saw in 2008, spurred in part by the meltdown, has been missing. The kind of blunders that Mr. Romney made take his infamous 47 per cent comment should have sunk him. They didnt. Hes stayed in the fight despite them.

There are also those from all communities who cannot recapture the magic of 2008. They could never vote Mr. Romney. And some could go with the logic put out by one writer: My enemys enemy is my President. But some might not vote at all. They have seen a Corporate-World-Rules-

as-Usual regime for four years. They have wearied of the wars and their costs. They know firsthand that most of the jobs coming up in the recovery are low-skill, low-wage ones.

Mr. Obama has only gained after he gave up playing to a right-wing Democrat gallery and returned to the populism of 2008. That came very late in the campaign, yet, helped him out of a hole. Mitt Romney could find himself in one, that he might blame on Hurricane Sandy. He did have Mr. Obama on the mat, more than once. And while important pollsters speak of a dead heat and say correctly that either can win, its harder for Mr. Romney to do so. Beating an incumbent U.S. President would be quite a feat.

The polarisation that is emerging between the U.S. presidential camps, with colour as a major element, will haunt America in elections to come November 6, 2012

On Iran, the strategists are wiser

The fact that senior security officials in the United States and Israel have publicly opposed an attack on Iran indicates considerable anxiety among them over the intentions of their elected representatives, but it also diverts attention from other very serious issues. To start with, some of the U.S. professionals concerned may be trying to ensure that the advice they give the politicians now is not treated with the contempt President George W. Bush showed them over the cautionary analyses they gave him about the claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or with the indifference the then British Prime

Minister Tony Blair showed his publicservice advisers when they questioned the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

This time, the officials have been very explicit. The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, is only one of a panoply of current and former officers who have stated that an Israeli attack on Iran will only delay Irans development of a nuclear weapon and will not stop it. General Dempsey added that he did not want to be complicit if Israel chose to make an attack. In Israel, Meir Dagan, the former head of the intelligence service Mossad, has said that a pre-emptive attack on Iran was the stupidest idea he had ever heard; many other senior Israeli officers have also opposed an attack until all other means have been exhausted.

Further opposition comes from the British government; the Attorney Generals Office has advised the Prime Ministers Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence that as Iran is not a clear and present threat, it would be a clear breach of international law for the United Kingdom to assist forces that could be involved in a preemptive strike. Although the U.K. has not ruled out war altogether, it has surprised Washington by resisting informal U.S. lobbying for use of the British islands of Ascension in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as bases for war with Iran.

Could escalate uncontrollably

A pre-emptive attack would also present formidable technical difficulties and could easily escalate uncontrollably. The former Clinton administration aide Heather Hurlburt,

now of the National Security Network, writes in the online journal The Daily Beast that the likely targets are much further away than the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, which Israel destroyed in an unprovoked attack in 1981; the Israeli bombers had to be fully fuelled so that they did not need to refuel, and may also have benefited from negligent Iraqi air defence. Hurlburt points out that Israeli aircraft cannot carry the heavier U.S. bombs needed to damage the reinforced Iranian sites, and that the whole of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure cannot be destroyed in a short operation. Furthermore, as in Libya, some of the plants are in civilian areas, though western officials concerns about civilian casualties would ring hollow after the mass deaths caused by sanctions on Iraq and the civilian deaths which followed the invasion.

Many of the critics, however, neglect central political issues. Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that even if Iran had the bomb, no intelligent person with one nuclear weapon would attack a country which had 5,000 of them.

Second, as Glenn Greenwald notes in The Guardian , Thomas Donnellys paper A Strategy for a Nuclear Iran is clear about the real reason for U.S. hostility to an Iranian nuclear weapon: The surest deterrent to American action is a functioning nuclear arsenal. The clear assumption is that anything that prevents the United States from attacking any country is a threat. As if in confirmation, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has recently said, when you have a nuclear weapon, nobody attacks you.

Donnelly, one of the authors of the American conservative document

Project for the New American Century , wrote his Iran paper in 2004, when the Iranian uranium enrichment programme which even Israeli intelligence accepts is partly for medical purposes was no doubt far less advanced than it is now. Yet continuing U.S. hostility to Iran is manifest; Democrat Representative Brad Sherman says that if sanctions harm the Iranian people, Quite frankly, we need to do just that.

Cuban crisis

Any U.S. president might hold and act on such opinions. Noam Chomsky, recalling the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis for The Guardian , cites recent work on President John F. Kennedys declassified tapes to show that Kennedy authorised several covert operations against Cuba and that during the crisis he was far more confrontational than earlier accounts

had taken him to be. It was probably through sheer luck and nothing else that nuclear war did not occur. Although Second Captain Vasili Arkhipov of the Soviet submarine B-59 decided not to fire nuclear torpedoes when the U.S. aircraft carrier Randolph started depth-charging his vessel off Cuba, another officer might have acted differently. Chomsky also cites U.S. officers who detail errors, confusions, near-accidents and miscomprehension in the crisis and who state that official commanders had no way of preventing a rogue crew-member from starting a war; many of the U.S. military personnel also held their political leaders in contempt. Today, there is little or nothing to ensure that, irrespective of the security professionals opinions of the politicians, they will not be ignored over Iran, just as they were over Iraq.


But there is no guarantee that politicians will heed the opinion of security professionals in the U.S., Israel and Britain against attacking Iran November 6, 2012

At sea over marine conservation

What does 50 million U.S. dollars get you? The eleventh Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has just concluded in Hyderabad this October. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made the Hyderabad Pledge of $50 million for biodiversity conservation, and enhancing human and technical

capacity for conservation. For the next two years, India is president of the CBD and is expected, both normatively and administratively, to take a lead in seeing through decisions taken at the CBD. Most significantly, India now has a serious chance at reimagining its conservation policies.

Many firsts for COP 11

There are several firsts at this CBD. This was the first conference of parties for the implementation of the time-bound Aichi targets, set to root out biodiversity loss. These targets, decided at the last CBD conference of parties in Nagoya, relate to planning, ecosystem services, invasive species, food security and climate change among others. They are a serious departure from the sort of myopic, single department-centred approach that conservation has had in our country. The 20 Aichi targets set out

to establish that biodiversity conservation has to do with nearly every aspect of our life, and subsequent well-being. Crucially, the Aichi targets are wholly dependent on national action plans made by parties as per their national circumstances.

Several decisions have been made at the CBD which set the tone for domestic action plans. I would like to emphasise some of the decisions most relevant for the Indian context: on marine and coastal biodiversity, invasive alien species and protected areas. Crucially, these decisions have to be looked at through the time frame provided for the Aichi Targets from this year to 2020, which is also two years into the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity. Equally, while this is the closest biodiversity targets have ever got to a deadline-oriented framework, this entire framework also runs the risk of never getting

implemented, being wholly contingent on domestic action.

Existing policies

I really dont know whats down there, a forest department official remarked once, referring to the rich coral reefs of Gujarats Marine National Park. I have encountered other officials who believe that coral reefs are inanimate rock, rather than the sensitive, connected, and alive polyps they really are. But the concern of the official who doesnt really know whats down there is a valid one and should not be discarded. India has almost 8,000 kilometres of coastline, including its islands. India is also the country that took the lead in declaring marine conservation as one of the five themes for the high-level segment for this CBD meeting. It was decided in Hyderabad that marine areas which

are ecologically and biologically sensitive will begin to get identified.

Is this a turning point? For India, it certainly can be. We have accepted voluntary guidelines for keeping biodiversity in perspective while conducting Environment Impact Assessments related to coastal and marine projects; it was India that mooted an open and evolving process at the CBD to begin identifying marine areas of significance through robust, scientific processes.

But the real question to ask is the one posed by the forest official: do our policy implementers know what is down there, and what will they do, since they do know? Is our forest department, historically set up to manage forests, curtail grazing, make plantations and fell timber, equipped to deal with marine conservation? The

answer, clearly, is a no. While we have available science at our disposal for marine conservation, it is not an applied science for our forest department, who have been made the custodians of protecting all manner of wildlife. And that leads us to an even more significant question: are our present conservation policies capable of dealing with marine conservation? What we have in our kitty today is the Wildlife Protection Act, Tree Preservation Acts (at State level) and Environment Protection Act, none of which deal in any comprehensive way with marine conservation. Coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the sea, and sea grass beds are no less life-giving than terrestrial grasslands, which form a primary food base for many species. But it is clear that a tree of the sea, or a grassland of a sea, cannot be protected by terrestrial policies, which have so far shaped our conservation policy landscape.

Just one example is that of dugongs, large marine mammals which feed on sea grass meadows. Nicknamed seacows, they are rapidly disappearing from their ranges in Gujarat and the Andamans. The sea cow nickname is testimony to how we familiarise ourselves with new concepts through terms we know already: here, that of a cow. But the sea-cow, for all the familiarity its name evokes, is fast disappearing, prey to poaching on land and threats in the sea.

What we need today are separate laws for marine conservation. At the cusp of finding new marine Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) for India and implementing targets for marine conservation, what will truly benefit marine conservation is taking marine conservation out of the box it presently is in: protection accorded to

just familiar groups of marine species, and protection through marine protected areas, legally imagined as analogous to terrestrial protected areas.

Alien species and protected areas

On the question of protected areas (PA), the new text makes an important point: it calls for other effective area-based conservation measures. This marks a departure from the heavily guarded and enforced PAs which dot the country and coastline, and, in a majority of cases, have alienated traditional dwellers in and around PAs. Other effective systems can mean biodiversity heritage areas, community reserves and important bird areas, which should call for a management regime approach (seasonal or otherwise), rather than strict protection. Invasive alien

species, like the omnipresent Lantana, have caused considerable economic and ecological damage, sweeping over natural habitats, as well as cityforests. But India has never felt the need to have a policy for alien species, despite the risk they pose to the mainland and the biodiversity hot spot of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The new text on invasive alien species calls on countries to address threats from these species, check pathways and spread. This is especially important for a country as massive and megadiverse as ours: where even native species can be alien the House Crow, for example, is a serious threat to the biodiversity of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Post-CBD, the money is where the mouth is; now comes the allimportant question of creating responsible domestic policy and

action plans for it. As a host country and as CBD president, this is a chance for India to ensure CBD decisions and recommendations dont remain paper tigers. Or just paper.

(Neha Sinha is with the Bombay Natural History Society. The views expressed are personal. E-mail: )

India took the lead in highlighting endangered sea sites as one of the five top-level themes at the Hyderabad CBD. It is odd therefore, that the country does not have any comprehensive law that deals with this important subject November 7, 2012

Yes he should, four years later

Four years ago, almost to this day, I flew to my home in New York from my base in Dubai in order to vote for Barack Obama.

I could have cast an absentee ballot in Dubai, of course, but this was history in the making the first AfricanAmerican president of the United States was about to be elected and I wanted to be able to say that I was there when it happened.

So I voted in New York. On the evening of Election Day 2008, I went to the home of Ted Sorensen, who was President John F. Kennedys closest aide, and his speech-writer. Ted and his wife Gillian traditionally hosted an election-night dinner, and on this occasion there were a number of high-profile guests such as the economist Jeffrey Sachs.

When CNN announced that Mr. Obama had defeated the Republican candidate Sen. John McCain and would become the 44th president of the United States, there wasnt a dry eye in the Sorensens living room. I still recall how Professor Sachs kept saying, Oh my, oh my.

And now it is four years later. Ted Sorensen is gone. Im not sure that the Sorensen dinner has been continued by Gillian. President Obama is about to be re-elected to a second term, if polls are right, and Im in New Delhi, not New York.

Supporting the campaign

I decided not to fly across to vote in person. I decided to stick to my schedule of research and interviews in India for a forthcoming book. The excitement of 2008 had diminished.

After all, you can only vote once to elect the first black president for the first time. The second time around, hed already become what he became.

I kept rooting for Barack Obama, to be sure. As a professional journalist for nearly five decades, however, I should have kept my political views to myself; the rules of the game suggested that I should have been even-handed about the two candidates Mr. Obama, the Democrat, and Willard Mitt Romney, the Republican.

But in my reckoning, there was such a chasm between the two men, such a difference in their respective visions for governance, and such contrary views about Americas role in dealing with the developing world including India, my native country, and the Gulf, my adopted region that it fetched no hesitation

whatsoever to signal my political preference. The rules be damned.

And so I gave money to the Obama campaign not a huge amount, but a figure that nevertheless made a dent in my pocketbook. I posted articles endlessly on Facebook about the presidential campaign. I diligently even obsessively followed the polls. I was even tempted to place a bet on InTrade.Com, the global betting site with a record for accuracy.

Most of all, I kept hoping that decency and fair play would triumph. It wasnt that Mr. Romney was an ogre; it was simply that his candidacy offered little comfort that he would look sympathetically at a wider world constituency consisting of more havenots than haves.

Barack Obama possessed the sensibility that an American president arguably the single most powerful political leader in the world needed for the United States to relate better, to relate more sensitively to that constituency. The days are long gone when America can dominate the global bazaar; it may be the worlds only military superpower, but now it has to contend with upcoming economic players such as China, India, and Brazil. Mr. Romney never really told us how he would deal with this rapidly changing scene; indeed, did he have any thoughts to relay beyond American triumphalism?

In my mind there was little doubt that, although the man elected on November 6, would initially have to make Americas troubled economy a priority, he would need to reassure the bigger international community that the United States cared that it

cared enough to help uplift vast cohorts of people from poverty and ensure that they had a fair chance for a secure and prosperous life.

I felt Mr. Romney wasnt that man. Mr. Obama was in his thoughts, in his general foreign policies, in his temperament. His background was one of personal familiarity with the larger world the Third World nestling outside the shrinking elitist confines of Americas rich and privileged.

This is not to say that the next American president would significantly alter the dynamics of that world in the short run. There are simply too many fissures, too many problems of maldistribution of wealth, malfeasance and malgovernance in the Third World. But I felt that President Obama grasped those realities far better than his opponent;

after all, hed already had four years in the White House.

Four more years, and he would refine his sensibilities about the Third World whose peoples constitute the overwhelming majority of the global population of nearly seven billion.

We will see. As with all things political, the promise doesnt always play out. But I know that Barack Obama has his heart in the right place just as I do in supporting him.

(Pranay Gupte is a veteran journalist. E-mail: )

Americas dominance in the global bazaar is past. The next president needs to reassure the international

community that the U.S. can relate to it more sensitively November 7, 2012

The lost audacity of hope

I had the following items in my soccer ball-shaped backpack that day in June 2010 at JFK airport: a vuvuzela, an envelope full of ticket stubs from the matches I attended in South Africa, and a stack of books about the history of the World Cup.

The last question I expected to be asked by the New York airport security agent was this: What were you doing there?

I was naive hopeful we called ourselves because I thought the election of Barack Obama might end these indignities that I and many

other South Asians face upon entering the United States.

I should have known better.

What were you really doing there?

I wanted to point to the U.S. soccer jersey that my brother Munir was wearing. I wanted to tell the security officer that my brother and I, Indian Americans born and raised in the U.S., had planned our trip to South Africa for years, that we scoured for weeks to find tickets to the U.S. games, that we cheered from the fourth row when the U.S. scored its last minute miraculous goal against Algeria.

But the questions continued: Whom were you rooting for?

I wanted to take out my identification badge issued by the United States House of Representatives, the one with my photo imprinted on it, the card that verified I was a senior foreign policy aide in the U.S. Congress.

But I could not get myself to say these things. I was tired and my stomach tensed up, as it always does when I feel humiliated, and suddenly all I could say was this: I have become very sick in South Africa. Can I use the bathroom?

No, the officer said. We cannot allow that. Security reasons. He pointed to the side and made us stand. We waited there next to Arabs, South Asians and Latinos, with the odd white guy thrown in to make this process look random.

My brother, a cardiologist in San Francisco, pleaded with the security guard to let me use the bathroom, lest my stomach problem worsen.

The guard stood firm. No.

I remember the night of November 4, 2008 so well. I had invited a dozen friends over to my Washington DC apartment to watch the election returns. One of my friends even made cupcakes in the shape of the Obama logo.

The screams from the street were so loud that every time Obama won a state we could hear them eight floors above. When Obama was proclaimed president, we poured on to the streets and stood at the centre of the intersection of 14th and U Streets. It was at that exact spot that race riots broke out after the assassination of

Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But those racial tensions seemed so distant that night.

White people hugged black people. Gay and straight people danced together. No one cared or asked, as they do on so many other days, if you were a foreigner.

Throughout the campaign, the Obama slogan was Yes we can but we edited it that night.

Yes we did, we shouted.

We were foolish but why not? We had just endured eight years of George W. Bush an administration that brought two wars, a further sullied U.S. image abroad, and a determination to target anyone who was perceived to be Muslim.

How could Obama be any worse, we thought, as we danced the night away.

I wonder what has changed. We have a president who boasts about drone strikes in Pakistan (which have largely targeted civilians), a president who has deported more people than Bush, and a president who is yet to roll back legislation that curtails basic civil rights. This is, after all, the same president who did not show up when seven Sikhs were gunned down this past August in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, but decided to appear at a movie theatre when a gunman fired at moviegoers.

Indeed, Obama is not worse than Bush. Bush set the bar so low that its sort of like that Eddie Murphy joke: when you are used to stale biscuits,

even a wilted piece of bread will taste good. But America needs more right now.

Before I came to Ahmedabad a few weeks ago, I went to the polls in California and checked off Obamas name on my ballot. On the drive to the polling station, I told myself all things I needed to do to justify this decision: he is better than Romney, he has tried to improve the U.S. healthcare system, he is solidly pro-gay rights, he respects a womans right to chose what happens to her body, he knows that daal is a dish and not a country.

As I stood in the voting booth, I kept thinking about that moment at the airport and the questions far too many Americans still ask of me: are you really an American? Really?

When I was in South Africa at the U.S.Algeria game, an African-American pulled out a massive American flag and spread it over the entire cheering section. He did not care who was under the flag. It was big enough, he told us, for all.

I had that feeling when I voted for Obama in 2008. I loved that feeling. I miss it.

But now I know better: it is gone.

(Zahir Janmohamed is a freelance writer living in and writing about Juhapura, the Muslim neighbourhood of Ahmedabad. He previously served as the Advocacy Director for Amnesty International and Senior Foreign Policy Aide in the U.S. Congress. Follow him on Twitter @zahirj )

In 2008, as news of Obamas win spread, racial tensions seemed as distant as that momentous night. But now, the magic is gone November 7, 2012

Sustaining the myth of hostility

There was in India now what didnt exist 200 years before: a central will, a central intellect, a national idea, wrote Vidiadhar S. Naipaul in 1990 in India: A Million Mutinies Now , his third book on the land of his forefathers. Sir Vidias construction of the Indian nation, his views on certain major episodes in contemporary history, his interpretation of Islam, and the role of minorities in secular India have always been controversial. Last week, they came under attack again, this time from Girish Karnad.

Since then, some have rushed to Naipauls defence, others to Karnads. As a historian, I too would like to join the debate.

To remind readers, Naipauls ancestors left India in the early 1880s as indentured labourers for the sugar estates of Guyana and Trinidad. He returned to India with An Area of Darkness , advertised as tender, lyrical, (and) explosive. Thereafter, he chronicled the histories of a wounded civilisation and a million mutinies in India. In between, he aimed salvos at Islam not once but twice, in laboured projects.

Indigestibility of Muslims

Naipaul wholly subscribes to the views of Samuel P. Huntington, a controversial American political scientist who earned his reputation by

arguing that the New World Order is based on patterns of conflict and cooperation founded on cultural distinctions and identifications. He talked of the indigestibility of Muslims and their propensity towards violent conflict, which makes them threatening.

Naipaul too warns readers of Islamic parasitism, and endorses the Orientalist belief that Islam as a coherent, transnational, monolithic force has been engaged in a unilinear confrontational relationship with the West. His essentialist reading of history allows him to sustain the myth of an inherent hostility between two antagonistic sides.

I am not qualified to judge Naipauls standing in the literary world, but I have no doubt in my mind that he is ignorant of the nuances of Islam and unacquainted with the languages of

the people he speaks to. He records and assesses only what he sees and hears from his interpreters. In the most literal sense, he finds the cultures indecipherable, for he cannot transliterate the Arabic alphabet. He had known Muslims all his life in Trinidad, but knew little of Islam. Its doctrine did not interest him; it didnt seem worth inquiring into; and over the years, in spite of travel, he has added little to the knowledge gathered in his childhood.

He continues to subscribe to the illogical mistrust of Muslims he had been taught as a child: a particular greybeard Muslim, described in An Area of Darkness , has come to embody every sort of threat. Much like Nirad Chaudhuri, who was guilty of disregarding common sense to feed his own petty prejudices towards the Muslim communities, Naipauls

encounters with them are suffused with a sense of youthful bigotries.

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey is permeated with the sentiment that Islam sanctifies rage rage about faith, political rage, and that Muslim societies are rigid, authoritarian, uncreative, and hostile to the West. In Indonesia, he runs into Imamuddin who confirms him in the stereotype. In Iran, Behzad leaves him convinced that, now in Islamic countries there would be the Behzads who, in an inversion of Islamic passions, would have a vision of society cleansed and purified, a society of believers. In Pakistan, he reminds us of the power of religion and the hollowness of secular cults in a fragmented country, economically stagnant, despotically ruled, with its gifted people close to hysteria.

In most of the description, otherwise nicely woven into a coherent story, there is hardly any reference to the debilitating legacy of colonial rule. The civilised, innovative, and technologically advanced West stands out as a vibrant symbol of progress and modernity, whereas the Muslim societies Naipaul encounters, despite their varying experiences and trajectories, are destructive, inert, and resentful of the West. With Naipaul relegating colonialism and imperial subjugation of Muslim societies to the background, the West appears an open, generous and universal civilisation.

In fact, it is the West that is consistently portrayed as exploited by lesser societies resentful of its benign, or at worst natural, creativity: Indeed, as scholar Rob Nixon points out, Naipaul is so decided in his distribution of moral and cultural

worth between the cultures of anarchic rage and the universal civilization that he ends up demonizing Islam as routinely as the most battle-minded of his Islamic interlocutors demonize the West.

Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted People (1998), chooses Islamic bad faith as its theme, portraying the same primitive, rudimentary, unsatisfactory and reductive thesis that the Muslims having been converted from Hinduism, must experience the ignominy of all converted people. In India: A Million Mutinies (1990), the 1857 revolt is regarded as the last flare-up of Muslim energy until the agitation for a separate Muslim homeland. So far so good. But when Naipaul finds the Lucknow bazaars expressing the faith of the book and the mosque, for example Aminabad, a crowded marketplace, serving the

faith, it becomes too much to swallow.

On Babri Masjid

Two years after A Million Mutinies , Naipaul defends the destruction of the Babri Masjid by calling it an act of historical balancing. Ayodhya, he reportedly told a small gathering at the BJP office in 2004, was a sort of passion Any passion has to be encouraged. I always support actions coming out of passion as these reflect creativity. Whose passion? Of those Muslims who, despite the bitterness since December 1992, still weave the garlands used in the temple and produce everything necessary for dressing the icons preparatory to worship?

The fraternity of writers to which Naipaul belongs strongly contests not

only his reading of the calamitous effect of Islam, but also his virtual justification of vandalism in the name of Islam. Salman Rushdie and others have written with infinitely greater sympathy and comprehension, and cultivated a distinctly secular point of view which had grown out of a reaction against Partition. Many others write convincingly about Islam as a living and changing reality, what Muslims mean by it is constantly changing because of the particular circumstances of time and place. They study it in its historical reality, without value judgments about what it ought to be.

There is however no place for these sentiments in Naipauls jaundiced views. To him, Hindu militancy is a necessary corrective to the past, a creative force. He therefore rejects the possibility of Islam, a religion of fixed laws, working out reconciliation

with other religions in the subcontinent. This is, in short, the clash of civilisations theory.

Karnad is right

Girish Karnad is right. Naipaul is as illinformed about India as Huntington was about the world outside the western hemisphere. One more related point. He talks of a fractured past solely in terms of Muslim invasions and conveniently forgets the grinding down of the Buddhist-Jain culture during the period of Brahmanical revival. He fumes and frets even though a fringe element alone celebrates the vandalism of the early Islamists who were driven more by the desire to establish the might of an evangelical Islam than to deface Hindu places of worship. With anger, remorse, and bitterness becoming a substitute for serious study and analysis, Naipauls plan for Indias

salvation collapses like a pack of cards.

Hence the devastating enunciation of his Beyond Belief by Edward Said: Somewhere along the way Naipaul, in my opinion, himself suffered a serious intellectual accident. His obsession with Islam caused him somehow to stop thinking, to become instead a kind of mental suicide compelled to repeat the same formula over and over. This is what Id call an intellectual catastrophe of the first order.

In the recent debate over Karnads remarks, several analysts have considered Naipauls interpretation of Islam as valid. I take issue with them. I believe writers like him widen the existing chasm between the Muslim communities and the followers of other religions. We need writers, poets and publicists who create

mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue rather than create distrust and promote intolerance.

Peter Geyl reminded us that the historian should be interested in his subject for its own sake, he should try to get in touch with things as they were, the people and the vicissitudes of their fortunes should mean something to him in themselves. Let Colour Fill the Flowers, Let Breeze of Early Spring Blow, wrote the Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

If ever Naipaul wants to write a travelogue on Muslim countries, the sense of Islam as something more than words in texts, as something living in individual Muslims, must emerge from his pen.

(Mushirul Hasan is a historian and Director General of the National Archives of India.)

To Naipaul, Hindu militancy is a corrective to the past. He therefore rejects the possibility of Islam reconciling with other religions in the subcontinent November 8, 2012

GM crops should go back to the lab

Some weeks ago, I was addressing students of molecular biology at the Kerala Agricultural University campus in Thiruvananthapuram. During the question-answer session, I asked how many of them would like to take up agricultural biotechnology as a career. To my surprise, only a couple of hands went up.

The answer I got probably points to the future of agricultural biotechnology in India. Most students wanted to go into animal biotechnology and human genetics, but not into crop biotechnology. The reason they gave was that they did not see a future for crop biotechnology, given the social backlash against it. Well, I am aware that this class is not an exact representation of the national mood among students, but surely it tells us a lot about the way society, more importantly the younger generation, perceives genetic engineering.

So, when the Supreme Courtappointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) recommended a 10year moratorium on all field trials of GM food crops, I was not surprised. The expert panel had merely echoed the concerns and apprehensions that

society at large has towards such crops.

Knowing the casual manner in which large-scale field trials are held across the country, the absence of a regulatory mechanism, and the failure to document the damage transgenic crops have inflicted on humans and the environment during, before and after such trials, the committee has called for invoking the precautionary principle.

Reports recommendations

A few months ago, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture tabled on August 9 its report Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops: Prospects and Effects . After an exhaustive interaction with stakeholders, and considering the impact genetically modified food

crops have on biodiversity, human health, the environment and the future of farming, it recommended: for the time being all research and development activities on transgenic crops should be carried out only in containment, the ongoing field trials in all States should be discontinued forthwith. In a way, the Parliamentary Standing Committee and TEC are saying the same thing.

In support of GM

Three years after Bt Brinjal which, if allowed, would have been Indias first GM food crop was put on indefinite hold, the reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and the TEC are pointers to swelling opposition to the manner in which GM crops are being pushed. Although many State governments have already refused permission for field trials of GM crops, I don't understand why

Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is time and again appealing to Chief Ministers to put GM research back on the agenda. Chairman of the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SAC-PM), Dr. C.N.R. Rao, too has lamented the lack of a scienceinformed, evidence-based approach in the debate.

In a desperate bid to support GM crops, it is often said that conventional agriculture technologies may be inadequate to meet Indias food security challenges. The other objection is that the debate is not science-based. Let us look at both arguments. As far as the role of GM crops in boosting food security needs is concerned, this argument is not evidence-based. First, there is no GM crop anywhere in the world which increases crop productivity. In fact, even the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledges that the

productivity of GM soya and GM corn in the U.S. is less than the conventional varieties. Moreover, the prevailing drought in the U.S. has conclusively shown that it is only nonGM crops that have withstood the vagaries of weather.

In India, on June 1, a record 82.3 million tonnes surplus of wheat and rice was stored. This surplus existed at a time when an estimated 320 million people went to bed hungry. Mr. Pawar is making all efforts to export a large chunk of food stocks or make open market releases, but no serious effort is being made to feed the hungry. In fact, since 2001-03, India has been holding on an average anything between 50 to 60 million tonnes of foodgrains and yet its ranking in the Global Hunger Index shows no improvement.

Food insecurity

Food insecurity, therefore, is not the result of any production shortfall. To ensure that farmers do not produce more, and thereby add to existing storage problems, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) has frozen the wheat price at last years level. Paying more to farmers would entail more production. This does not make any economic sense. After all, the farmer too is impacted by rising inflation. Why penalise farmers for the governments inability to handle and store surplus foodgrain?

The fact remains that food production is being deliberately kept low, and only enough to meet basic food security needs. Provide market price to wheat and rice growers, and I am sure production will go up manifold.

SAC-PM is a committee made up of distinguished scientists. Although the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had given the green signal for commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal, the SAC-PM should take note of the 19-page submission by the then Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh; the analysis is the best science-based justification for stopping GM food crops.


Even when the Bt Brinjal debate was hot, I had pointed out the inability of the scientific community to conduct long-term feeding trials on rats. Internationally, the practice is to have 90-day feeding trials, which corresponds to 24 years of human lifespan and thats what the GEAC followed. I had always wondered why the industry as well as the scientific

community was not conducting feeding trials for two years, which means the entire human lifespan. Professor Gilles-Eric Sralini, professor of molecular biology at the Caen University in France, finally did it. He recently published the findings of the two-year study on the long-term toxicity of GM maize NK 603, engineered to resist Roundup herbicide and as expected the industry was up in arms.

In these first-ever long-term feeding trials on rats, published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology , Prof. Sralini and his team observed that females developed fatal mammary tumours and pituitary disorders. Males suffered liver damage, developed kidney and skin tumours and experienced problems with their digestive system. The team also found that even lower doses of GM corn and Roundup weedicides

resulted in serious health impacts. Moreover, 50 per cent male and 70 per cent female rats died prematurely. The tumours were 2.5 times bigger than what would normally appear in the control population.

As expected, the study was branded bogus, inadequate and of course unscientific. Sralini answered the industrys main criticism pointing out that the species of rat used was the same that the biotech giant Monsanto had used in its research trials. Moreover, the sample size was as per the recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) protocol for GM food safety toxicology studies. Sralinis experiment has amplified the need for long-term human safety trials, which I think the SAC-PM should be primarily asking the Department of

Biotechnology to focus on. SAC-PM needs to review more scientific literature before making any broad and sweeping assertions.

At a time when GM crops hold no promise of higher crop production, the latest long-term scientific research on the impacts on health warrants repeated trials under all environments. As suggested by TEC and the Standing Committee, more experiments are needed on farm animals.

Since science is answerable to society, and cannot be allowed to operate in a vacuum, this is the least India can do to dispel any fear.

(Devinder Sharma is a food and trade policy analyst. He blogs at Ground Reality. )

As they do not spell increased crop production, new long-term scientific research on health impacts should involve extensive trials November 8, 2012

Talking their way out of war

The recently launched peace talks in Oslo between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government are the fourth such attempt in 30 years. Will they bear fruit this time around? If so, why?

Much is at stake. This is the longest standing armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. The FARC were founded in 1966 as part of the wave

of guerrilla movements that spawned in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. Though many of their counterparts in the rest of Latin America were defeated, some were not. The Sandinistas brought down the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, and one of their leaders, Daniel Ortega, is now President. The Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) in El Salvador, after quitting the armed struggle and morphing into a political party, elected their candidate, Mauricio Funes, to the presidency in 2009. Elsewhere, former urban guerrilla leaders who spearheaded the fight against military rule in the Southern Cone (and spent time in prison for it), like Presidents Jose (Pepe) Mujica in Uruguay and Dilma Roussef in Brazil, serve now as elected heads of state.

Yet, a military defeat of the Colombian state by FARC, or the

Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), the other guerrilla group active in Colombia (and one not taking part in these talks), was never on the cards. With a population of 45 million and a land mass of over one million square kilometres, Colombia is much too big a country to fall prey to a band of armed insurgents that has never been larger than some 20,000 to 30,000 men and women (though, amazingly, they managed to control as much as a third of the national territory at one point in time). The question, rather, is how they have managed to survive for so long.

Geographical factors

One reason is the fragmented and rough nature of the extensive and extreme Colombian geography, marked by the high Andes mountains (the second highest in the world, after the Himalayas) and enormous rivers

like the Magdalena. Vast swathes of land, some of seemingly impenetrable jungle, have never been under the effective authority of the Colombian state. This leaves ample space for insurgent groups to ply their trade, in provinces like Putumayo, Narino and Caqueta in the South, but also in the rest of rural Colombia. On the other hand, the drug trade has allowed FARC to access ample financial resources (hence the term narcoguerrillas). This is supplemented by kidnappings, extortions and other such unsavoury activities, though the latter have been drastically reduced under relentless assault by the Colombian military. Reported kidnappings have dwindled from 3,572 in 2000 to 305 in 2011. The murder rate is at a low of 32 per 100,000 (in Honduras, it is at 82 per 100,000 and in El Salvador it is at 66 per 100,000; the average worldwide rate is 8 per 100,000). Still, according to some estimates, the FARC,

described by BBC as the worlds richest rebel movement, have already stashed away so much money that they could go on for a long time, making do just with the interest on it.

If so, why this renewed attempt at making peace?

As a recent report of the International Crisis Group (Colombia: Peace at Last?) concludes, a stalemate obtains. Thanks to the considerable build-up of the Colombian military (whose numbers have gone up from 132,000 in 2002 to 283,000 in 2010, with the police reaching 132,000) and the U.S.-supported Plan Colombia, which has provided about 7 billion dollars in military hardware and training programmes over the past decade, and their sweeping, nationwide actions, the FARC are on the defensive. Many of their leaders, from Manuel (Tiro Fijo) Marulanda,

to Raul Reyes, el Mono Jojoy and Alfonso Cano, have fallen in the battlefield. Vast numbers of guerrillas have been killed, captured or otherwise demobilised. No more than 8,000 to 9000 FARC members are estimated to be in the field, down from 16,000 in 2001.

For President Juan Manuel Santos, bringing peace would be quite a feather in his cap. A former Defence Minister during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), in his short two years in office, he has shown his mettle (and made the cover of TIME Magazine). Aware that more inclusive social policies are needed to redress Colombias abysmal inequality, he has moved in that direction on a variety of fronts. This includes legislation to provide compensation to over 4 million victims of violence. With a 0.55 Gini coefficient, Colombia has one of the most unequal income

distributions in the worlds most unequal region (in India, the Gini, as measured in 2004, is 0.36 probably higher today in Norway, the least unequal society, 0.25 ). Colombias current economic boom, driven by massive foreign investment in mining and oil exploration projects in lands long considered off-limits because of the armed conflict, would acquire an additional impetus from a successful peace process. In fact, the Colombian economy is doing so well that the country is being considered for OECD membership (the rich countries club).

A detractor

Although 74 per cent of Colombians support the peace process, former President Uribe does not. After falling out with Mr. Santos, he spends much of his time attacking him, often on Twitter, of which he is an avid user (

Twitter has taken off among Colombian politicians; another avid user is Gustavo Petro, the mayor of Bogota, and a former guerrilla himself, sometimes accused of spending more time tweeting than on running the capital city). Mr. Uribe, whose government was blamed for harbouring the paramilitary squads that have taken justice into their own hands in Colombia, leading to many human rights violations, does not consider FARC a legitimate interlocutor but a criminal organisation. He believes peace negotiations only give them time to regroup and get ready to fight another day.

Yet, as opposed to what happened in the past, this time there is no ceasefire on either side. In the early 2000s, under President Andres Pastrana, FARC secured a large sanctuary in Southern Colombia as

part of the conditions for a previous peace negotiation. They used it for enhanced training and smuggling operations. On this occasion, the relentless military offensive of the government continues, and the FARC understand that these are the new rules of the game.

What role does the international community play in all this?

Although the negotiating parties are all Colombians, foreign countries are very much involved. Norway, an impartial and honest power-broker with no axe to grind in a far-away country, is hosting the first phase of these talks, and is one of its guarantors. Another is Venezuela, where the government of President Hugo Chavez has had an off-and-on relationship with FARC. A third is Cuba, where the talks will move to for the second phase. Havana is the only

Latin American capital where FARC leaders feel safe, and the Castro brothers have been advising them for a long time to give up the armed struggle. Chile, as chair of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and whose President, Sebastian Pinera, is a friend of Mr. Santos, is also part of the process.

Santos statecraft

It is a measure of Mr. Santos statecraft that he has not only repaired the frayed state of Colombias relations with Venezuela left to him in a shambles after years of bickering over many issues, from border disputes to how to deal with FARC but also with Cuba. In fact, Mr. Santos owes Cuba big time. The Sixth Summit of the Americas, held last April in the Colombian port city of Cartagena, almost blew up in

the host countrys face. A number of countries questioned the absence of Cuba at the summit, and threatened to boycott the meeting. It was only after a visit by Mr. Santos to Havana and a hurried back-and-forth with Fidel and Raul Castro, that the Cuban government expressed it had no objection to not being invited to Cartagena, thus saving the meeting.

The conditions for a breakthrough in these peace negotiations are there. The ambitious agenda includes integrated agrarian development, political participation; termination of the conflict; solution to the problem of illegal drugs and preparation for lasting peace. The current Colombian government has the standing to offer credible guarantees to the FARC leadership. It must be kept in mind that in the 1980s, when another generation of guerrilla leaders, the M19, gave up their weapons to form a

political party, the Union Patriotica, and ran for office, several thousands of them, including their presidential candidate, and many elected Congressmen, were shot and killed by paramilitaries. In turn, despite the high turnover in their top leadership, FARC retain a significant degree of control of their membership and operations, making them a partner the government can do business with. An orderly transition to peace would be in everybodys best interests, especially the Colombian population, exhausted after half a century of la violencia.

(Jorge Heine is CIGI Professor of Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, in Waterloo, Ontario. His Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, co-edited with A.

Cooper and R. Thakur, is forthcoming in 2013 from Oxford University Press.)

A breakthrough in the recently launched talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels raises hopes of an orderly transition to stability November 8, 2012

Obamas eastern pivot, made in Asia

We live in an era that feeds off slogans and lives the clichs. For the Obama campaign it was the rallying cry Forward. And it seems that despite the ruminations of the pundits, who will complicate a straight line, the U.S. has given The President of the United States of America (POTUS) the mandate to march on, without the pressures of having to fight another election. The onus is

now on President Obama to deliver on the many domestic challenges that confront his country and certainly on his vision for positioning the U.S. strongly in a rapidly changing world.

So far, the subtleties of the multipolar world a place where America is a declining Chairman of the Board, beset by new board members with ever-growing market share had not allowed for a bumper-sticker view of what was going on. Obamas first term administration articulated its response to this new world in a verbal shorthand. Discussions on American foreign policy and grand strategy have been punctuated with the liberal use of terms like Asia Pivot, Strategic Rebalance, and Asia Focus, popularised by U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Attempts to truly decipher the underlying motivations of this new focus on the Indian and

Pacific Oceans and what it means practically in policy terms have come to very little in terms of U.S. force posture, budget (and cuts) and doctrinal shift. In other words, beyond the bumper sticker, what are we really talking about here? And how will this pan out in the second Obama administration?

Looking at the region

It must be clearly understood that the Asia Pivot or its various avatars do not signal greater U.S. engagement in and with Asia. It is a powerful historical fact that ever since the country emerged from being an isolated continental island, it has been fundamentally engaged with Asia. The U.S. has been a primary Asian Power since the dawn of the post-WWII world. Its strategic partnerships and security blanket in the western Pacific and in South-East Asia have

underwritten the progress and stability of the region. It is undeniable that U.S. deployments, East of the Suez, in the 1960s, and in the Malacca Straits have secured trade routes, as well as the movement of energy and wealth that have benefited the Asian economies, just as much as it has helped preserve U.S. oil and market interests in the region.

So why the new slogan about Americas interest in Asia now? What does the U.S. seek to achieve? And how will this change the configuration of U.S. engagement in the region? The official American take on this subject reveals very little and certainly does not answer the pertinent strategic questions. But behind this apparent vacuum, something profound is happening.

First, the Asia pivot is all about transitioning from a world where a

single great power reigned, to one where others ascend to great power status. By locking in new and old allies and strengthening its strategic position in the region, America hopes to cushion the blow of a relative global diminution in power. History is replete with examples of premier countries attempting to fight off growing rivals (Edwardian Britain and Wilhelmine Germany come to mind).

Washington is hoping to demonstrate strategic strength as a reassurance to allow for a peaceful realignment, wherein China continues to rise without its ascendancy provoking military conflict. As an American policymaker grandly stated, we are in the midst of a novel experiment where the only Hegemon is allowing the transfer of power peacefully (and grudgingly) to a newly-rising power. The only way this works is for basic

American interests in the region to be reinforced.

Second, a lot of the Asia pivot narrative is about internal American discussions; it is as much a call to action allowing America to rouse itself, as it is a reaffirmation of commitment to its allies and new partners. Such a new strategy does away with the most indelible image of America in the new multipolar world, where it is often seen as Uncertain Sam or The Reluctant Eagle. The pivot to Asia serves as a rallying cry of decisiveness. It is also a blueprint for budget priorities, redeployments and a new and more efficient force architecture that the new administration will need to define given its campaign commitments.

Third, the pivot narrative is a comment on the changed dynamics of the Indian Ocean. Soon there will be

the possibility of two or three new powerful navies (India, China and Indonesia) operating in the region. Doubtless, there will be new contests and competition for the role of commissioner of the seas.

Ranged against this, are declining American oil and natural gas interests in play as the coming fracking revolution in America itself allows for a dramatic new domestic growth in energy production. The Asia pivot at once answers why America should continue to care about what goes on in the rest of the world; America may not get its oil from Asia, but all the countries it finds itself interdependent with do. Thus, the Asia pivot sells continuing American engagement to a weary and economically overburdened American public. So, in the end, this is a bumper sticker that actually says something.

And the response

While all this may explain the American pivot, what is even more interesting is how the region itself will respond. For Asia is, but an artificial grouping of nations painted with one brushstroke. A unified character is indescribable and its evolution is characterised by a mosaic of individual national experiences or, at best, by developments of subregions like Asean.

Today, Asean in a seemingly chaotic manner has accommodated the U.S. as an Asian Power while at the same time economically aligning its path primarily with that of China and some other emerging centres. Asean has in many ways already learnt the fine art of using the U.S. as a strategic balancer; for example during recent Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, Asean drew the U.S. in as a

very useful offshore balancer. Aseans finely-calibrated balancing act is likely to continue.

In the short to medium term, India is a key to the Pivot Paradigm. For India, China is a natural neighbour. Difficult as the relationship may be, trade between the newly emerging economic giants will only increase, whatever the strategic pitfalls ahead. As the relative economic and political weight of China grows, it is the Indian response that could well befuddle most American planners. Proud of its strategic autonomy, the Indian reaction to the pivot will be an outcome of the Chinese approach to and engagement with India. Recent developments show that while China is keen to avoid pushing India to a place where a U.S. partnership seems reassuring, the new-found chauvinism and assertiveness emanating from Beijing is disturbing New Delhi.

Therefore, China itself will ironically determine the contours of the American pivot; the biggest game changer may well be the upcoming changing of guard in Beijing the mood and demeanour of the new leadership led by Xi Jinping. Paradoxically, and the ultimate sign that we do live in a very different era from the preceding one of American dominance, the form and content of the U.S. pivot to Asia may be determined more by Asians than Americans. And this will test the skills and will of Obama 2.0.

(Samir Saran is a vice-president at Observer Research Foundation and Dr. John C. Hulsman is the president of a strategic consultancy firm.)

In his second administration, the form and contours of Americas Asia Focus

will be determined more by Asians than the U.S. November 9, 2012 Lighter wallets and lost contests Luxury Apartments, Kochi - Near CUSAT, Kalamassery. Starts @ Rs 17.5 Lac. Top Amenities. Enquire Ads by Google NICHOLAS CONFESSORE JESS BIDGOOD SHARE PRINT T+ At the private air terminal at Logan Airport in Boston early on Wednesday, men in unwrinkled suits sank into plush leather chairs as they waited to board Gulfstream jets, trading consolations over Mitt Romneys loss the day before.

All I can say is the American people have spoken, said Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and one of Mr. Romneys top fund-raisers, briskly plucking off his hat and settling into a couch.

The biggest single donor in political history, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, mingled with other Romney backers at a post-election breakfast, fresh off a large gamble gone bad. Of the eight candidates he supported with tens of millions of dollars in contributions to super PACs *political action committees+, none were victorious on Tuesday.

And as calls came in on Wednesday from some of the donors who had poured more than $300 million into the pair of big-spending outside groups founded in part by Karl Rove

perhaps the leading political entrepreneur of the super PAC era he offered them a grim upside: without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country.

But while outside spending affected the election in innumerable ways reshaping the Republican presidential nominating contest, clogging the airwaves with unprecedented amounts of negative advertising and shoring up embattled Republican incumbents in the House the prizes most sought by the emerging class of megadonors remained outside their

grasp. President Obama will return to the White House in January, and the Democrats have strengthened their lock on the Senate.

Top self-financed candidate

The elections most lavishly selffinanced candidate fared no better. Linda E. McMahon, a Connecticut Republican who is a former professional wrestling executive, spent close to $100 million nearly all of it her own money on two races for the Senate, conceding defeat on Tuesday for the second time in three years.

Money is a necessary condition for electoral success, said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. But its not sufficient, and its never been.

Even by the flush standards of a campaign in which the two presidential candidates raised $1 billion each, the scale of outside spending was staggering: more than $1 billion all told, about triple the amount in 2010.

Mr. Obama faced at least $386 million in negative advertising from super PACs and other outside spenders, more than double what the groups supporting him spent on the airwaves. Outside groups spent more than $37 million in Virginias Senate race and $30 million in Ohios, a majority to aid the Republican candidates.

The bulk of that outside money came from a relatively small group of wealthy donors, unleashed by the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited

contributions to super PACs. Harold Simmons, a Texas industrialist, gave $26.9 million to super PACs backing Mr. Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate. Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Mr. Obama over federal spending.

Helped Romney stay afloat

Flush with cash, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic ones by an even greater margin than in 2010. But rather than produce a major partisan imbalance, the money merely evened the playing field in many races.

In several competitive Senate races, high spending by outside groups was offset to a large extent with stronger fund-raising by Democratic

candidates, assisted at the margins by Democratic super PACs. For much of the fall, Mr. Obama and Democratic groups broadcast at least as many ads, and sometimes more, in swing states than Mr. Romney and his allied groups, in part because Mr. Obama was able to secure lower ad rates by paying for most of the advertising himself. Mr. Romney relied far more on outside groups, which must pay higher rates.

Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor who helped Mr. Rove raise money for American Crossroads and its sister group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, said that without a blitz of coordinated anti-Obama advertising in the summer, the campaign would not have been as competitive.

I believe that some of that money actually kept Romney from getting beat down by the carpet-bombing he underwent from the Obama forces, Mr. Barbour said. I did look at it more as us trying to keep our candidates from getting swamped, like what happened to McCain.

Some advocates for tighter campaign financing regulations argued that who won or lost was beside the point. The danger, they argued, is that in the post-Citizens United world, candidates and officeholders on both sides of the aisle are far more beholden to the wealthy individuals who can finance large-scale independent spending.

Unlimited contributions and secret money in American politics have resulted in the past in scandal and the corruption of government decisions, said Fred Wertheimer, the president

of Democracy 21, a watchdog group. This will happen again in the future.

But on Wednesday, at least, the nations megadonors returned home with lighter wallets and few victories.

As the morning wore on at Logan Airport, more guests from Mr. Romneys election-night party at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center trickled in, lugging garment bags and forming a small line at the security checkpoint.

Its going to be a long flight home, isnt it? said one person, who asked not to be identified.

The investor Julian Robertson, who held fund-raisers for Mr. Romney and gave more than $2 million to a pro-

Romney super PAC, arrived with several companions. Mr. Robertson spotted an acquaintance: Emil W. Henry Jr., an economic adviser and a fund-raiser for Mr. Romney, to whom Mr. Robertson had offered a ride on his charter.

Aww, group hug, Mr. Henry said. (Ashley Parker contributed reporting.) New York Times News Service

While the money spent in the U.S. elections merely evened out the playing field, there is the danger of unlimited contributions and secret money bringing back scandal and corruption to the corridors of power November 9, 2012

A Secular Front for 2014

who congregate in Surajkund today for an internal conversation ( samvad ) have a fairly clear-cut task on their hands how to start thinking and behaving like a political party. As it were, the Surajkund dialogue is taking place after the party performed a much-needed rite of democratic mobilisation last Sunday at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. On that day, the Congress did manage to demonstrate an organisational temperament that behoves the oldest political formation in the country. It was arguably the first non-election mass rally the Congress leaders had felt excited enough to organise since the UPAs birth in 2004, and, that too in defence of their own governments policies. Above all, the Ramlila Maidan show sent out an unambiguous message that the party has rolled back its collective self-doubts on its own moral disintegration that was being sought to be imposed on it by a crafty

cabal of civil society activists and sangh parivar conspirators.

Discourage sycophants

At Surajkund, the Congress leaders will do themselves a favour if they were, first, to recognise and acknowledge that after more than eight years in office at the Centre, there is no nor can there be any distinction between the party and the government. The self-styled loyalists and professional sycophants should be discouraged from attributing all political difficulties to the government and claiming all the redeeming impulses for the party leadership. That fiction was perhaps workable in 2009; it will not wash in 2014.

The Congress congregation will do well to remember that a decade in office at the Centre has spawned new

rivals and enemies, who may have sufficient reason and enough resources to join hands with the partys old adversaries. This, however, is a normal democratic process and a smart political party does itself a favour by keeping track of emerging aspirations and discontents in society. And, like any other government, UPA-I and UPA-II have had their share of aberrations and absurdities which did not find approval with the arbiters of political correctness.

Nor can the leaders wish away the simple fact: exercise of power, especially of the governmental kind, inevitably produces political consequences and ethical dilemmas. The UPAs uninterrupted tenure at the Centre has necessarily bestowed undue advantages and benefits to some sections of society, and, similarly visited undeserved unhappiness and disadvantages on

others. There are winners and losers, and there is a political economy of pleasure and pain.

Whether it likes it or not, the Congress will need to answer for the so-called sins of the Manmohan Singh government; the mature and sensible approach should be to assess calmly what the government has accomplished and to claim credit for its achievements. Especially, as a political party, the Congress is obliged to tell the voters how many of its promises it has kept. A government in a democratic context is anchored in public trust and acceptability; the citizens and voters expect to be told honestly and sincerely to what extent a party in power was able to fulfil the terms of its mandate.

The Congress, on its part, can take very legitimate credit for having refurbished the countrys secular

ethos and edifice. The primary reason the sangh parivar has launched such a vicious attack on the party leadership is the UPA governments success on the secular front. It is not only the minorities but also the vast majority in the law-abiding majority community who have reason to be thankful for the Manmohan Singh governments becalming stewardship. Today, India is much more at peace with itself than it ever was in recent memory.

And, if the Congress leaders are inclined to think out of the box, they can toy with the strategic choice of declaring an intent to dissolve the UPA before the 2014 battle and putting in its place a Secular Front. It makes no sense for the Congress to remain overly burdened with too many unattractive allies. A Congressled Secular Front will provide incentive for some sections of the left and other progressive voices to come

together to beat back the challenge of right-wing authoritarian forces, masquerading as untainted performers.

Recover the voice

Meanwhile, Sujrajkund should help the party recover its voice. For too long, the party has allowed the noisy vendors of public morality in the media and civil society to set the discourse. In such a scenario, the advantage inevitably lies with the bogus preacher, hawking apocalyptic moralism. Imagine the Congress silence when a recently retired general, after having presided over the most coercive arm of the Indian state, joins the Anna Mob at Jantar Mantar and recites Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, the great poet of defiance! No one from the Congress had the courage to point out this democratic absurdity.

Admittedly, a marked personal predisposition for decency at the very top of the UPA establishment has discouraged the Congress from joining the political and policy arguments. The unhappy result is that many institutions, especially sections of the judiciary and the CAG, have periodically asserted a maximalist interpretation for their mandates. At Surajkund, the Congress leaders should recognise that their reticence and reluctance have combined to produce an unhealthy and undemocratic imbalance in our constitutional equilibrium.

Moreover, the Congress has so far been reluctant to debate governance issues internally. For too long, bureaucratic solutions have been sought for essentially political problems. Take, for example, the proposed National Investment Board.

Apart from the administrative absurdity of having the Prime Minister preside over clearances for projects, the sticking point is one of political and ideological coherence. Is it not possible for Jayanthi Natarajan, Jairam Ramesh, Kishore Deo, P. Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, and Anand Sharma ALL belonging to the Congress to politically agree on terms of harmony and balance? Both the Prime Minister and the Congress have been unwilling to impose some kind of a balanced solution.

Prioritise party

But, if after eight years of exercising power at the Centre, the Congress Ministers do not have clarity on how to produce a harmonious and honourable trade-off between growth, equity and environment, they have no business seeking another five-year term. Similarly, why is it not

possible to find the words and the courage to tell the nation that Jaipal Reddy, an honourable man, an honest man, had to be moved because he refused to accept the Prime Ministers policy priorities? Or, why is a wilfully indecisive Defence Minister being allowed to slow down national defence preparedness? Maybe at the beginning of the UPA innings these differences, some contrived, some genuine, could have been a source of governmental wholesomeness; now, when the Congress is moving into slog overs, these serve no political or administrative purpose. What is more, none of these honourable ministers has felt strong enough to summon the courage of a believer to resign and walk. The Surajkund exercise will have justified itself if all participants can resolve to prioritise the party above their personal image and the interests of their bureaucratic and corporate cronies.

And, indeed, the most significant strategic dilemma before the Congress remains: how to project the potential of a Rahul Gandhi leadership without debunking the Manmohan Singh achievements and record? This is a delicate and inherently difficult task but the Congress leaders will do well to remember that capturing power for the party and its leadership cannot be an end in itself. Building on the UPA record of achievements and accomplishments these eight years, the Congress owes to itself to clarify its own sense of political purpose and, in the process, renew a shared sense of national destiny.

(Harish Khare is a veteran commentator and political analyst.)

The Congress which is congregating at Surajkund today should think of

dissolving the UPA, and forging a

new unity with progressive forces November 9, 2012

An Afghan exit plan for Obama

One cannot but sympathise with Barack Obama despite the four more years he has just won himself as President of the United States.

Both the wars his country launched in the new millennium the war of choice in Iraq and the war of necessity in Afghanistan have cost trillions of dollars and over 7,500 lives, besides thousands more wounded and tens of thousands suffering from post-conflict trauma. Both wars have gone sour from the American

perspective. Iraq has not only not emerged as a model for democracy, either for its own people or for the region as a whole, it has emerged as a dependable ally of Iran and has openly sided with the Assad regime in the ongoing civil war in Syria in which the U.S. and a host of external powers are firmly in the anti-Assad camp. Iraq, under its Shia Prime Minister Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, is engaged on the Shia side of the sectarian conflict which is now playing havoc in the region, with probable consequences for other parts of the world.

Exit policy

As for Afghanistan, The New York Times admitted in an editorial last month that it was changing its view and advising the Administration to get out of Afghanistan in not more than a year, and as soon as we safely can. Two more years of sending

American troops to die and be wounded is too long, it argued, noting the Afghan army and police would never become an effective counterinsurgency force. The Taliban, far from being defeated, will surely come to occupy many provinces as well as, most likely, official positions in the governing set-up in Kabul.

The twin pillars of the exit policy reintegration and reconciliation have not worked. A very small proportion of the insurgents have integrated which is more than offset by the large number of desertions and green-on-blue attacks. As for reconciliation, the Taliban have always known that the distant power will not stay engaged forever and that time was on their side. They are the ones who set conditions for even talking about reconciliation. The term reconciliation is misleading in the Afghan context. Reconciliation

presupposes the existence of two or more parties which must reconcile among themselves. In Afghanistan, clearly defined or structured parties do not exist. Even the Taliban, obviously one side, is a fractured movement with several groups, but at least they agree on one leader in the person of Mullah Omar whose decision everyone will accept. But on the other side, there is not even this kind of a party. President Hamid Karzai was elected in his individual capacity, not as head of a political party. Does he have the political authority to reconcile with the Taliban? Even the High Peace Council is a nominated body. In any case, the reconciliation talks were to take place between the Taliban and the Americans who do not represent any segment of the Afghan population.

Mr. Obama is a pragmatic leader. He was criticised for prematurely

announcing the date for the departure of American troops, but he was right in doing so. His main, and only concern, is with the lives of his troops. From his perspective, America has done more than its share to help the Afghan people achieve stability and prosperity. If the Afghan leaders and Afghanistans neighbours will not allow the country to remain peaceful, it cannot be the concern of America. If there is aprs nous, le deluge, certainly America and others cannot be held responsible. It is this decision of Obama that made Afghanistan a non-issue in the presidential election. The rest of the international community wants to fight the Taliban till the last American.

Re-election and more flexibility

Having won a second term gives more flexibility to Mr. Obama. He can decide how many, if any, troops he

should leave behind in Afghanistan in four or five camps or bases post-2014. (He did not leave any in Iraq.) The precise function of this force is not clear. Would they want to get involved in the armed unrest, even short of a full-fledged civil war, which might engulf the country following the next election? Would they be stationed to rescue the next President in case he comes under a commando attack? Will they go after the insurgents if the latter make gains in controlling more and more territory? Will they pursue the Taliban on Pakistani soil? Will they be in charge of the drone campaign which is likely to continue and even expand? Since the U.S. has decided to cut its losses and pull out, they might as well not leave any young men and women behind in harms way. Mr. Obama would not be the first President to do so.

The U.S. ought to ponder over what kind of Afghanistan it will leave behind after its withdrawal. As The NYT editorial points out, even most of its downsized objectives would not have been fulfilled. The Taliban will form part of the government at some stage. Al Qaeda, with whom the Taliban are in cahoots, is supposed to have been decimated but is alive and will probably start kicking post-2014. It is very much active, lethally so, in many other parts of the mainly Islamic world. Nevertheless, President Obama, keen as he is on the U.S. evacuating with dignity, might want to try to promote some kind of stability. The one avenue, which he has not explored so far, is to try and promote a regional pact among Afghanistan and its neighbours not to interfere or intervene in one anothers internal affairs.

Principle of staying out

The Bonn agreement of December 2001 recognised the crucial importance of this principle and called upon the United Nations, in an Annexure, to guarantee noninterference, etc in Afghanistans affairs. This provision, for inexplicable reasons, has not received the slightest attention from the international community, including the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. The gist of this principle was adequately incorporated in the declaration of the Istanbul conference last year, but not acted upon, in effect abandoned, subsequently. It is not too late to attempt to revive it. All that is needed is for the U.N. Secretary-General to appoint either a single person or a group of persons, all highly respected internationally, to talk to the regional parties to see whether they would agree to conclude a solemn undertaking not to interfere, etc. The Secretary-General would need the

backing of the Security Council which should be forthcoming since it will not cost anything to any country.

It has been argued, with some validity, that the mere signing of a declaration is meaningless without some teeth to enforce it. The teeth can be in the form of U.N. observers with the necessary mandate. The task of the observers will not be to use force to stop interference; that would not be practicable. Rather, it would be in the nature of a complaints mechanism. If any country suspects another of violating its obligations under the pact, it would lodge a complaint, with supporting evidence, with the observers. The country against whom the complaint has been filed must cooperate in the investigations; refusal to cooperate would be tantamount to admission of guilt. A country which refuses to be part of such a pact would also raise

suspicions about its intentions. This idea can be further refined during the course of consultations.

No idea, however impractical it may sound, should be abandoned without at least a serious consideration at the hands of those professing concern for Afghanistans stability.

(Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, a former Permanent Representative of India at the United Nations, is a commentator on international affairs.)

Reintegration and reconciliation have not worked in Americas war of necessity.

In his second term, the President should promote a regional non-

interference pact among Kabul and its neighbours. WASHINGTON, November 10, 2012

At State Department, expect new face but no big shift

In a world boiling over with political and social crises, Team Obama will have little time to sit back and savour its triumph in the U.S. elections. While there is little doubt that the President used his first term to successfully steer the country into a new, postBush paradigm, every burning policy issue from continuing instability in West Asia to Chinas relentless push for economic and political dominance, will call for a rapid but careful recalibration in the White Houses foreign policy calculus and a fresh approach where failure has been imminent.

An important, even critical, factor in this will be the choice of the next Secretary of State after Hillary Clinton who is planning her exit after clocking nearly a million air miles travelling to over 102 countries and laying the groundwork for President Obamas first-term thrust towards multilateralism, regional cooperation, United Nations-focused sanctions and interventions, and, above all, the move away from war.

Will her successor, determined, prove as nimble-footed to avoid in any single regional across the world?

yet to be focused and getting mired entanglement

Once he has put in place his new foreign policy team, the big shift in Mr. Obamas global game will come from the fact that re-election is no longer an issue.

This is not to say he can ignore the fact that American voters continued to place their faith in a Republicancontrolled House of Representatives, or that the popular vote was as much a win for Mr. Romney as it was for him. Paradigm-shifting foreign policy changes are unlikely. For example, a slight increase can be expected in backdoor diplomatic pressure on Israel, but the U.S. would be unlikely to back suggestions that the U.N. be the new platform for negotiations between the conflicted parties.

Similarly on Iran, Obama 2 may continue to remain unreceptive to arguments that a negotiated outcome on uranium enrichment such as the one that involved Turkey and Brazil may deliver success.

The one driving force behind American foreign policy over the next four years that will not change, however, is economics. There is wide support for the view that the loss of its position as the worlds economic superpower will constitute the greatest threat to the U.Ss national security. Mr. Obama can thus be expected to relentlessly keep his boot to the throat of nations that are perceived as lucrative markets for American investment and a source of job creation here.

India will lead that list of nations. Few eyebrows should be raised, then, when both soft diplomatic pressure and strident calls for greater market access in India accelerate over time. November 10, 2012

A reward for Mr. Naipaul

With the Mumbai Literary Festival recently honouring V.S. Naipaul for lifetime achievement, the ironies of rewarding Naipauls work have been resurrected. So have predictable arguments. Naipaul is a great writer. Writing has no room for politics. Great men are eccentric. Girish Karnad should have spoken about theatre, not Naipaul.

A continuum

Girish Karnad was absolutely right to speak up at the venue where Naipaul was honoured. Karnad has reminded us that for writers, all texts, literary debates and political questions form a continuum. As for propriety, why is it that great men like Naipaul are allowed departures from propriety, but not the great and not-so-great writers at home?

Karnad added that Indian writers, especially those writing in English, have not challenged Naipauls views. Like their counterparts in other spheres of middle class Indian life, many writers are wary of making a political statement, or taking on the great especially the great in London or New York in public. But to set the record straight: I am aware of at least three Indian writers in English who have responded to Naipauls statements in public. In a festival session at Neemrana in 2002, the Great Man threw darts at two of his fears: women and Muslims. He said women writers are banal; he finds them boring. In response, Shashi Deshpande said she found Naipauls preoccupation with the loss of an imaginary India boring.

Naipaul cut off Nayantara Sahgal as she spoke of post-colonialism, again complaining of banality. Ruchir Joshi

made a sharp, timely intervention. Naipaul was not just being rude; he felt Sahgal had not gone back far enough in identifying the colonisers of India. When did colonialism begin? he asked, implying that it began with the Muslims. This is exactly what Girish Karnad refers to when he speaks of the questionable assumption of a pristine Hindu past sullied by Muslim invaders.

Writers are not necessarily historians; but they are not precocious children with a knack either. Nor are they hermits. Any intelligent reader knows that the written work is informed by the writers take on history, politics, socio-economic contexts.

Two important questions emerge when we debate an Indian honour conferred on Naipaul. One is on the context in which Naipauls work is located. The other is about the books

and writers we choose to reward and what these choices say about us.

To revisit Naipauls view of the world, I went back to an essay I wrote when Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature. What I wrote then is relevant to the present debate. On receiving the Nobel in 2001, Naipaul paid tribute to England, *his+ home, and India, the home of *his+ ancestors. Trinidad, where he was born and where he grew up, did not merit a mention though it was home to admirable work such as The Mystic Masseur , Miguel Street and A House for Mr Biswas . But then Naipaul thinks Trinidad is unimportant, uncreative, cynical *with+ an indifference to virtue as well as vice.

In fact, Naipauls early novels responded to the painful contradictions in these societies struggling to create a coherent

narrative of their postcolonial lives. But the later work, particularly Naipauls considerable body of nonfiction, took his acute eye and graceful sentence elsewhere. This elsewhere, where mutinies abound (not dissent or movements) are chaotic halfworlds. All of them are, without exception, non-western countries. Many of them are yet to recover from their colonial legacies; many still grapple with chauvinist or opportunist rulers, appropriate successors to their colonial masters.

Naipaul places himself outside these struggling worlds. He dissects them fastidiously to arrive at deadly diagnoses. Trinidad is a place where the stories were never stories of success but of failure. India is a decaying civilization, where the only hope lies in further, swift decay. Africa has no future. So, uncreative

Trinidad. Wounded India. Future-less Africa.

Caricatured societies

These caricatured societies, so dirty, so anarchic, so full of people lost as soon as they step out of their societies into one with more complex criteria, do serve one purpose. They serve as a perennial foil to the refined, cultivated European ethos. In an earlier time, Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness established this tradition of postulating the other world antithetical to the European one. A 20th-21st century heir to Conrads legacy, a brown heir, seems a cruel anachronism. Just as Conrads European travellers glide like phantoms in Africa, cut off from the comprehension of [their] surroundings, Naipaul glides nervously, unhappily, across the

prehistoric world from the Congo to Bombay.

In the West Indies of 1960, he discovers that the history of the islands can never be satisfactorily told. Brutality is not the only difficulty. History is built around achievement and creation; and nothing was created in the West Indies. In the Congo of 1965, Naipaul is accosted by native people camping in the ruins of civilization. In Naipauls Africa, the bush creeps back as he stands there.

India is equally threatening. It reduces him to facelessness in the crowd. Everyone in the crowd looks like him. What then makes him distinct? (Conrad echoes from the past: What thrilled you was the thought of their humanity like yours) In A Wounded Civilization , Naipaul writes, An enquiry about India has quickly to go beyond the political. It has to be

an inquiry about Indian attitudes; it has to be an inquiry about the civilization itself, as it is. And the verdict: No civilization was so little equipped to cope with the outside world; no country was so easily raided and plundered, and learned so little from its disasters.

By the time Naipaul wrote India: A Million Mutinies Now , he found some redeeming signs of change. He now sees that what *he+ hadnt understood in 1962, or had taken too much for granted, was the extent to which the country had been remade; and even the extent to which India had been restored to itself, after its own equivalent of the Dark Ages after the Muslim invasions and the detailed, repeated vandalising of the North, the shifting empires, the wars, the 18th century anarchy The country is full of the signs of growth, all the signs of an Indian, and more

specifically, Hindu awakening. This Hindu awakening struck Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and has struck other parts of the country since.

It is not surprising then that after terrorists attacked New York and Washington in 2001, Naipaul should describe Islam, (not terrorists of any or no religious persuasion), as calamitous; worse than colonialism much, much worse in fact. Was it an accident that Naipaul finally got his Nobel in the same year?

Small army of faithful

Then and now, a small army of the faithful anxiously explains to us how Naipauls work must be read. I wish we could assure these interlocutors that Naipauls transparent prose makes what he is saying clear to most readers, even if they are Indian; even

if they are women. Less dogmatic admirers have admitted that Naipauls writing and pronouncements often make them deeply uneasy. But writers, they say, must be judged by their writing alone.

How exactly do we do this? Separating what the writer says from her craft makes the work toothless. It is difficult to believe that this is what any writer intends. Why not acknowledge that the writer deals with ideas, with ways of looking at the world, and hopes to do it with skill? Though Naipaul has unkindly cast aspersions on Indian intellectual life, we can recall these axioms when debating the politics of rewarding literature.

If we choose to reward Naipaul for his lifetime achievement as a person of Indian origin, what does this say about us as readers and writers? It

may mean we cant find Indian writers worthy of reward. It may mean we are not confident enough to reward writers unless they are great men in the West. But rewarding Naipaul certainly means affirming, not just his great craft, but also his idea of India, and the world at large.

(Githa Hariharan is a writer.)

Honouring Sir Vidia for lifetime achievement means affirming not

just his great craft but also his idea

of India November 10, 2012

Shadow-boxing with drones and terrorism

A bad marriage, which both partners have no choice but to plod through

With little difference in the positions of President Obama and Mitt Romney towards AfPak in general and Pakistan in particular, there was never an expectation that the election, irrespective of the winner, would improve the course of the relations between the two countries. That much was clear from the last presidential debate on foreign policy when Mr. Romney essentially articulated the current U.S. policy towards Pakistan, only using different words.

Yet, Pakistan emerged as the only country to prefer the Republican candidate over Mr. Obama among the 21 countries surveyed for a poll conducted for BBC World Service. While 14 per cent of the respondents in Pakistan wanted to see a Romney

White House over the 11 per cent who wanted Mr. Obama, 75 per cent expressed no opinion, indicative of the widely held view that status quo would prevail whatever the result.

Though the two governments are working hard to put their blow hot and cold bilateral relationship back on track after it went into deep freeze for seven months following the 2010 NATO bombardment of a Pakistan Army outpost in Bajaur tribal agency killing 24 soldiers, they have failed to cap the anti-Americanism whipped up over the years. It maintained an upward trajectory right through the Obama years, and is still rising.

On Kashmir

For Pakistan, Mr. Obamas first stint was a series of disappointments starting from his reneging on the 2008

election promise of devoting serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in [Kashmir] to figure out a plausible approach. The subsequent years saw him shift to noninterference in Kashmir, billing it a bilateral matter.

If this was not disappointing enough for Pakistan, there was the hyphenation with Afghanistan in place of his original proposal to have a special envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It needled Islamabad even more because India had managed to work its way out of that formulation and decouple from the India-Pakistan prism through which the U.S. had previously crafted policies towards New Delhi.

Though the Indias dehyphenation from Pakistan had begun before Mr. Obama took charge, the appointment of a Special Representative for

Afghanistan and Pakistan currency to the AfPak coinage.


Worst of all, in Pakistans view, was the U.S. push for India to assume the role of a regional power.

While all this is of interest to foreign policy wonks, on the streets Mr. Obama has become synonymous with drones and is the man who violated Pakistans sovereignty even further by sending in Navy Seals to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the heart of the country. The Obama years have seen drone attacks multiply, making it a major irritant in bilateral relations.

And, he is unlikely to budge unless Pakistan goes after terrorist havens in the tribal areas, especially North Waziristan now regarded by Washington as terror central.

Pakistan has for years warded off pressure to do more in North Waziristan, particularly against the Haqqani network which the U.S. holds responsible for many of the attacks inside Afghanistan. Now, with NATOs withdrawal from Afghanistan imminent, Islamabad is unlikely to shift policy and risk losing its influence in Kabul in the post-2014 scenario by antagonising the Afghan Taliban. As things stand, four more years for Mr. Obama could see more of the usual bickering that goes on in a bad marriage that neither can afford to walk out from at this juncture.

Islamabad will continue to have a blow-hot, blow-cold relationship with Washington

November 12, 2012

When hard times down a Penguin

Deep anguish and nostalgia, but ultimately there is a weary sense of dj vu: so, there goes another British cultural icon. No, not the BBC. Not yet, though with its licence fee frozen and the pressure to find alternative sources of income mounting nobody is betting on its future.

For now, the concern is over the loss of Penguin, Allen Lanes revolutionary paperback invention about which George Orwell said that they were such splendid value for six pence...that if other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them. It is not, perhaps, widely known that Penguin has a historic Indian connection which pre-dates Penguin (India); V.K. Krishna

Menon was the founding editor of its non-fiction imprint, Pelican, launched way back in 1937.

By this time next year, Penguin would have ceased to be an independent stand-alone imprint having merged with German-owned Random House as a junior partner. Under a deal, announced recently, Penguins current owners Pearson, who also publish The Financial Times , will have a minority stake in the merged company Penguin-Random House while Random Houses proprietors, Bertelsmann, will control 53 per cent.

The official spin is that the two imprints will continue to enjoy independence and the freedom to decide which books to publish and how best to publish them. But even those who understand the business logic behind the merger are not

convinced that Penguins identity will be protected.

Pure guff, is how one prominent critic dismissed the claim even as he acknowledged the pressure on the publishing industry to consolidate the market for printed books as it struggles to overcome increasing competition from digital books, notably Amazon which now sells 114 ebooks for every 100 printed books.

The fears

Fears that Penguin will be swallowed by its bigger partner may be exaggerated, but critics point out that to pretend that nothing will change and it will be business as usual is to miss the point that the aim of the merger is to achieve economies of scale by shedding jobs and streamlining (read cutting down)

editorial output. They reckon that Penguin, as a junior partner in the new company, is bound to lose its identity as invariably happens in an unequal union.

The myth is when you combine two great companies you get one even greater company. This will end up a complete takeover of Penguin. It isnt by chance that every Tesco looks the same, said Andrew Franklin of Profile Books, a leading British independent publishing house. Big publishers, he said, claimed to promote diversity and localism but thats not how it works.

Writers fear that the merged company, billed as the worlds largest consumer publisher with a 25 per cent share of the U.K. and U.S. markets, will reduce competition and result in a narrow range of books being published besides driving

down advances and royalties. There have been calls for competition authorities to look at the deal closely, given the size of the merger.

Commentary on Britain

But what will it mean to Penguin readers? After all, this is not the first time that a popular publisher has been poached. Corporate mergers and takeovers involving some of the biggest names in publishing Jonathan Cape, Secker & Warburg, Macmillan and, of course Random House itself, to name just a few have been going on for years with most readers barely noticing the change. So, why the fuss over Penguin?

But Penguin is different, according to Ian Jack, former editor of Granta .

No other imprint in the world has meant so much to its readers to the point where at one time, the penguin colophon was as big a recommendation as the authors name. It was the first serious attempt to introduce branded goods to the books trade, wrote Edward Young, the artist who drew the Penguin from life at London zoo, and it was a glorious success from the start...Penguin marked their owners out as progressives as well as cultural self-improvers, Mr. Jack commented in The Observer .

If a book was ever judged by its cover, then a Penguin cover was a winner from the moment it rolled off the printing presses. Will it ever be the same again?

But a more important question raised by Mr. Jack and others is: what does Penguins merger with Random House say about Britain?

The move was announced the same week that we were told that Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Polices historic Central London headquarters, was to be sold as part of a 500 million savings plan, and another of Londons tourist landmarks the 100-year-old Admiralty Arch on the Mall just yards from Buckingham Palace was sold to a Spanish investor for 60 million to build a luxury hotel. It is a sign of what the post-industrial decline has done to this once great imperial power that it is busy selling off some of its most precious assets from marquee names in car manufacturing and high street banks to retail stores and premier football clubs. According to the Governments own Office for National Statistics, 41 per cent of British

businesses are now owned by foreigners and, with no respite from the economic crisis in sight, more are waiting to be flogged to the highest bidder.

In England, England , Julian Barness brilliant farce on Britains future, a tourist theme park a replica of the old country in all its past glory goes on to become a thriving independent country while real Britain regresses into oblivion. Although Barness novel failed to win the Booker Prize for which it was shortlisted in 1998, his dystopian view could well yet prove prophetic given Britains current trajectory. With its status as a political and economic power in seemingly terminal decline, a Barnes-style theme park might be a good idea to preserve the memories of a Britain that didnt need a 500,000 global campaign to put the Great back into Great Britain.

The announcement of the publishers merger with Random House came the same week that Scotland Yards headquarters and the Admiralty Arch in London were sold off, a sign of what post-industrial decline has done to Great Britain November 12, 2012

The rise of Americas BRICS

If Barack Obamas election as Americas 44th President in 2008 was historic, as surely it was, with him becoming the nations first black head of state, his re-election marks an epochal transition in the political and electoral landscape of the United States. Demography indeed became destiny on November 6, 2012. Americas receding white electoral

majority continued giving way to a new majority-minority ascendance. The historical significance of this transition and its implications for the future of America and the world should not be underestimated.

White nation

The founding fathers on up to even The Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln were so bent on the vision of America as a white nation that uppermost on the agenda of solving the race problem was: free the slaves and ship them back to Africa (which inspired Liberias founding, burdening the Mano River region of West Africa with an Americo-Liberian settler problem); and exterminate as many native Amerindians as possible. Meanwhile, the fledgling American political system became enthralled to a southern slavocracy, the legacy of

which is only now being overcome through the Obama elections of 2008 and 2012.

Until now, the southern U.S. OlDixie has been the tail wagging the dog of American politics. No longer. What was once a solid South of racially-based, Christian fundamentalist-grounded, and promilitarist reaction has eroded amid a major demographic transition that has been under way in the U.S. for decades beginning with the outlawing of racial segregationist Jim Crow in the 1960s. This happened as a result of a civil rights/black power movement that ushered in an era of national socio-racial and class upheavals and wrought profound changes in the American body politic.

President Obamas ascendant blackHispanic-Asian rainbow coalition joined by women, younger age

cohorts and university educated and professional classes is, in many respects, a legacy of the1960s-70s black movement (black activism having catalysed other American social movements, and the rise of identity politics: womens liberation, anti-war protest, counter-cultural assertion). But this legacy has begun making itself felt in electoral terms only after an extremely costly but unavoidable interregnum of white backlash political polarisation.

The partisan political identity reversals of the two-party system were a dramatic outcome of President Lyndon Johnsons decision to commit the Democratic Party to regional political suicide in dismantling the Souths racial dictatorship. The Republican party of black emancipation from slavery grabbed the Dixiecrat mantle from Democrats

who became the party of civil rights and black political empowerment!

In this political transfiguration, other things happened. As the northern Catholic-southern Dixiecrat alliance underpinning Franklin Roosevelts New Deal crumbled, Johnson ceded the South to a Republican party that was increasingly beating Democrats to the anti-communist punch while assuming the ideological mantle of law and order. This was in the form of white backlash resistance to urban black protest and political assertion, counter-cultural New Leftism and perceived liberal elitism. Republicans discovered a southern strategy to victory in presidential elections, reinforced by a power shift within the GOP from Northeast-Midwestern Lincoln-Rockefeller Republicans to new elites hailing from the southwest in a sunbelt rim extending from Orange County in southern California

through Texas all the way to the Florida panhandle with its influx of anti-Castro Cubans.

The presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and those of Bush the elder and Bush the younger reflected this GOP electoral lock on the White House. Democrats had to adapt to this new sunbelt regionalism in the southern fried liberal presidencies of Jimmy Carter (Georgia) and Bill Clinton (Arkansas). Otherwise, the other part of Johnsons legacy was the Democratic Party becoming the home of the politicisation of AfricanAmerican ethnicity. This regionally polarised northern politics as whites fled the cities for the suburbs, taking their tax bases with them.

Republicans were able to successfully play a racial politics of isolating the black electorate while mobilising a conservative majoritarian white

coalition. That is, until converging demographic forces of black migration back to the South (from where blacks had fled during the racist terror at the turn of the 19th-20th century) and Latino-Hispanic immigration gained momentum. This involved Puerto Ricans moving into the Northeast and Midwest interacting with Mexican immigration into the southwest and the Rocky Mountain west.

Altering social landscape

All combined, the social landscape upon which electoral strategies are built began to alter. This occurred to a point where Democratic strategists began taking another look at the South as a potentially competitive region that need not be conceded to the GOP; this was especially the case in the upper South of the Mid-Atlantic focusing on detaching Virginia (seat of the old Confederacy of Jefferson

Davis) and North Carolina from the Bible Belt of deep southern states: Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Overall, the white American population, in a mirror image of its European counterpart, is both ageing and shrinking. This is really what amounts to notions of the decline of the west amid the rise of the rest. The last census found that nonHispanic whites accounted for 49.6 per cent of all births in the U.S. while minorities blacks, Hispanics, Asians and those of mixed race accounted for 50.4 per cent of all births. This represented a majority for the first time in the countrys history. According to the U.S. Census, in the first decade of the new millennium, the Asian-American population rose 43.3 per cent, the African-American population 12.3 per cent, the Latino

community 43 per cent and the white population just 5.7 per cent.

In electoral terms, this demographic transition is accelerating exponentially with each national election. Thus, according to leading pundit Jonathan Chait, every year, the non-white proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 per cent, a huge amount in a closely divided country.

New majority-minority ascendancy

Combined with the emergence of women and the most universityeducated of all races, the new majority-minority ascendancy within the electorate underpins increasingly prophetic projections of a Democratic Party comeback in what has now

become the liberal guide to strategy formulation: The Emerging Democratic Majority by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira (2002).

A take-off on The Emerging Republican Majority by one-time Republican strategist Kevin Phillips (1969) upon which Richard Nixons southern strategy had been based, Judis and Teixeira were a bit ahead of their time given the defeat of Senator John Kerrys challenge to George W. Bush in 2004. Even then, it was apparent that the white electoral base upon which the GOP was banking its fortunes was an eroding one. Yet, Mr. Obama, with his Muslim moniker, seemed an unlikely young-gifted-andblack in the lyrics of the late great jazz soloist Nina Simone prince of prospects to suddenly shoot into the spotlight of Democratic political imagination as the partys new lease of life against what seemed an

interminable right-wing ascendancy in American politics.

What is particularly intriguing about Mr. Obama is that, with his focus on community building in pursuing nation-building at home, he transcends the African-American integrationist-nationalist divide that always retarded black political potential. Yet the black electorate has emerged as his nationalist firewall at the core of the rainbow coalition he has constructed in reconfiguring the American electoral landscape. As a harbinger of things to come, this is where the new majority-minority underpinnings of the Obama presidency bear close watching as a sort of an American BRICS of emerging non-white minorities setting what, over time, will be a new American agenda. For, herein resides the potential for a much less jingoistic

and militarist constituency.



After all, there are already burgeoning kinship ties binding this new American demographic with BRICS and other emerging economies in the world at large. As White America fades into the sunset, metaphorically, a convergence of the American BRICS within with the emerging BRICS without may hold the keys to the future global order.

(Francis Kornegay is senior fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue in Johannesburg, South Africa and alumnus of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars and editor of the forthcoming volume: Laying the BRICS of a New Global Order.)

With the white population shrinking,

the black-Hispanic-Asian coalition

that powered Obamas victory has

the potential to set a new, more

progressive American agenda November 12, 2012

Home-grown western terrorists are new threat to India

The French Interior Ministry has released a report pointing to massive intelligence failures in the handling of Mohamed Merah, the young Pakistani-trained terrorist from Toulouse, south-western France, who killed seven people including three Jewish children last March and who,

according to his conversations with the police, planned to attack the Indian Embassy in Paris. Vaiju Naravane talks to Mathieu Guidre , Professor of Islamic Studies and Culture at the University of Toulouse. Mr. Guidre is also the author of The New Terrorists (in French) and The Historical Dictionary of Islamic Fundamentalism (Scarecrow 2012). He led the Strategic Information Centre at the French Defence Ministry from 2003 to 2007. Excerpts.

According to you there appears to have been a shift in the type of persons attracted by terrorist activity. If Mohamed Atta and the 9/11 attackers were all well-educated, sophisticated young men, the new terrorists come from deprived and often criminal backgrounds. Could you explore that thesis?

The emergence of new terrorists can be traced to the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda, when the ideologues of al-Qaeda along with the leaders of some radical Pakistani Islamic movements, reflected on a new strategy that could keep them active, relevant and at the centre of the international scene. They viewed the Arab Spring as a development that could marginalise them and they argued that the best way to remain at the forefront of the Islamic and world stages was to promote what they called global proxy terrorism as against the global terrorism they had practised earlier. Simply put, this means that organisations such as theirs that are unable to carry out attacks far away from home territory use outsiders to perpetrate such attacks for them. These individuals are not an integral part of such terrorist outfits (they could be monitored and traced back to the parent body and

therefore pose a risk) but they are given designated targets so that the terrorist organisation can then claim responsibility for the attacks. So the new trend is towards global proxy terrorism of implanted urban terrorists who are remote-controlled by distant terrorist outfits, mostly in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan or between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir front. The other aspect of this trend is that many of these home-grown terrorists come from deprived backgrounds and have a history of early criminal activity. So the violence linked to criminal activity is then converted into terrorist activity.

Coming to the recent arrest of terrorists in France, were you surprised that these cells were located in cities as far flung as Strasbourg in the north east, Cannes in the south, Toulouse in the south west or the

Paris region in northern France? Do you find this disquieting?

This is not a new phenomenon at all. The United States has experienced similar developments since 2009 with terrorists there having similar profiles. You might recall the cases of Nidal Hassan, Shazad from Pakistan and most recently the Bangladeshi terrorist Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis arrested in the U.S. All these persons were remote-controlled by handlers in Asian countries. What is new in France is the shift from criminal activities to terrorist activities. Also new is French citizens moving against targets in France (whether French or otherwise), for the benefit of terrorist organisations located outside France.

How does someone who is reasonably low on the social scale, a petty delinquent or a criminal get

transformed into a terrorist? What is the radicalisation process? What, for example, happened to Mohamed Merah?

In this process we should distinguish between the triggers and the motives. These are two different things. The trigger is mostly an international geopolitical event such as a drone attack in Pakistan or Israeli acts in Gaza or French action in Mali or elsewhere. This is the trigger that makes a person shift from being a normal person or a delinquent or criminal to being a terrorist.

As for the motives, they are both psychological and ideological. The psychological motive is linked to the notion of revenge for something or someone. The dynamics of revenge is either for oneself or for lost family members or acts against the Umma.

There is a feeling of resentment, of being wronged.

The ideological motives are articulated against the concept of hegemony. This is based on the terrorists perception that there is a hegemonic power or state that is keeping them down and in a state of subjection India versus Pakistan, U.S. towards Egypt, France towards Algeria. The hegemonic power in their minds can change. Until 9/11 it was almost always the U.S.

If one looks at the new terrorists such as Mohamed Merah and their profile, these are people who come from deprived backgrounds, with low schooling, a history of delinquency and living on the margins of society. Do they reason in terms of intellectual concepts such as hegemonic power or do they simply have a grouse against

society, which finds its outlet in terrorism?

I do not agree with the notion of social determinism as an explanation for terrorism. Many studies, including my own, show that many very poor and marginalised people, whether in France, India, the U.S. or elsewhere, have not shifted to terrorism. Social determinism can be used as an alibi, an excuse for terrorism but its not convincing as an argument. If this was true, it would lead millions of people to radicalism and that has not happened. I also do not agree that these people are intellectually poor, incapable of conceptualising. Police transcripts in the case of Merah show us that although he was marginal, and poorly educated, his level of understanding was very sophisticated. People might not have degrees or formal education, but they read a lot, especially on the internet and the web

plays a major role in how the radicalisation process takes place.

How worried are you about this phenomenon in France? How big is it? After all, France with some five million Muslims has the largest Muslim population in Europe.

In France the problem is probably huge. Its a new phenomenon, we have little knowledge of it and it is growing because the geopolitical environment is not under control. By that I mean that on the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea you have countries like Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya where weak, pro-Islamic governments have come to power after the Arab Spring. They are no longer in control of society and more importantly, they are not in control over the internet propaganda machine. This uncontrolled terrorist, Islamic fundamentalist internet

propaganda is spreading across the world and given the proximity between the two banks of the Mediterranean, this propaganda has begun infecting French society. That is why the influence of this trend is growing and could lead to more radicalisation in the near future.

Given the fact that Mohamed Merah told the police he had wanted to target the Indian embassy, do you think that India could become a target in France or is already a target because of the Pakistan-Afghanistan link? Merah visited both these countries and received terrorist training there.

The security services know that India is already a target here just as it is a target in the U.S. because of the conflict between Pakistan and India on Kashmir. This is not new. What is new is that Indian interests in the

West are being targeted by western people. In the past the perpetrators were either Pakistani/Afghan or Bangladeshi. Now the problem is that certain westerners are joining hands with them to target Indian interests in the West.

How would you describe the cooperation on counterterrorism between India and France? Are the Indians aware of this new emerging threat?

I think the Indian government is not fully aware of the new threat. It knows that Indian interests abroad are targeted by Pakistani services and people but they are not fully aware of the kind of threat posed by western forces here home-grown terrorism in the West. The cooperation on counterterrorism is good. Its really good.

November 13, 2012

Lets not be overoptimistic about Burma

In an interview to Nirupama Subramanian , Myanmars icon of democracy says that she looks forward to rebuilding democratic ties between the two countries. She arrives in India today on her first visit after almost five decades to the country where she spent her formative years. The interview took place in Myanmars capital Nay Pyi Taw on October 31.

In a few days time, you will be going to India, where you grew up, went to school, college. Its going to be 50 years since you were last there. What are your expectations from this visit, at a personal level, and for Myanmar?

On a personal level, Id like to see my old friends again, and, just to talk with them, just to be with them. And Id like to see the old places, the places where I spent time as a teenager; Lady Shri Ram College, see how its doing thats on a personal level. On a political level, I would like to establish closer relations between the peoples of our countries. I feel that perhaps in recent years weve grown apart as peoples, because India took a road which is different from ours, or rather we changed route. At one time both of us were dedicated democracies and we were close together, on the ideological front as well as in other ways. Id like to see a closer relationship between our two peoples, because Ive always felt we had a special relationship India and Burma because of our colonial history, and because of the fact that the leaders of our independence movement were so close to one another.

Did it surprise you that India took a different path?

Well, I have to tell you that nothing surprises me anymore; Ive come across so many twists and turns of fate. I dont think anything will surprise me anymore. Pleased, displeased, happy, unhappy maybe. But surprise, no.

Youve often said Gandhi and Nehru are your greatest inspirations after your father. In your own political battle of the last two decades, were you disappointed that the land of Gandhi and Nehru moved away from you?

Disappointed? Im trying to work out whether Im still capable of disappointment. Yes, to a certain

degree, I was disappointed. But on the other hand, the fact that ones not surprised means that ones disappointment was mitigated. In a sense what it means [is] that you had worked out in your calculations that this was a possibility. Of course, one would rather that it had not been like that. One works out what the possibilities are and of course one would prefer that possibility which is most after ones heart, but that doesnt always happen. And I think, sometimes I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India through my friends as well as because of the friendship that existed between my father and Jawaharlal Nehru, because of the closeness that existed between the countries. So rather than disappointed, I was sad that it had to be like that.

How do you expect the political relationship between yourself and India to be now?

I think this depends a lot on how far we can go towards democracy because as we progress towards democracy, I think it would be easier for official relations between the two countries to be more clear-cut. I can understand that India had some problems choosing between the opposition and the government that was in power and that happens very often in international relations. But if Burma is established as a democracy as I wish it to be, that would mitigate problems of not inconsistency deciding between the two sides.

In what specific ways can India help Myanmar at this stage of its political transition?

Its to be able to take a good hard look at what is really happening. Not to be over-optimistic, at the same time to be encouraging of what needs to be encouraged; because I think too much optimism doesnt help because then you ignore what is going wrong, and if you ignore what is not right, then from not right it becomes wrong. And from wrong, it gets worse. So I think good friends sometimes have to be tough. And say this is not on.

Can you be a little more specific?

For example, at the moment of course everybody is mainly interested in Burma because of its investment policies. I think we have to face this fairly and squarely. But investment has to be done in the right way. And also we have to keep in mind that we are just at the beginning of the road to democracy, and as I keep saying, its a road we have to build for

ourselves. Its not there ready and waiting. The Constitution that was adopted in 2008 was not in any way a smooth road to democracy. And we have to do all that building ourselves, and I think this needs to be recognised by India and by the rest of the world that we are not on the smooth road to democracy. We still have to be given the chance to build the road to democracy.

So if there is one message that you would want to give to Indian investors, what would you tell them?

I would like to say, of course we are interested in basics such as job creation, on the job training. But I would like India to focus attention on strengthening local government. We are a union made up of many ethnic nationalities, and I would like wouldbe investors to focus on how to bring us closer together as a union. But at

the same time, to be fully aware of the fact that development is no substitute for democracy. And that the aspirations of our ethnic nationalities go beyond mere development.

There is a tendency to project India and China as competing for influence in Burma? How do you view this triangle?

Its natural that people should see it that way. Theres some truth to it. After all, these are the two giants and both happen to be our very close neighbours. But if you look back, we can take heart from the fact that Burma always retained good relations with both countries after independence, even when China was rigidly Communist and India a working democracy. And we ourselves were a democracy. And in spite of that we managed to maintain good relations

with both countries. And this is something that we will always have to try to do. I always say that you cant move away from your neighbours. You may divorce a spouse, but you cant move away from your neighbouring country. So its very important that you maintain good relations. And again, I think, its people to people relationships which are most important. Its not government to government. Governments come and governments go. But the peoples of the countries, they remain. And if we manage to establish genuine friendship between our peoples, then the future will be good for us. Thats not impossible.

You spoke about not being overly optimistic, and how the 2008 Constitution was not a smooth road to democracy? What remains to be done in that respect, what milestones

would you like to see covered, and in what time frame?

Well, there are so many things to it, but roughly speaking the 2008 Constitution gives too much power to the military. The military may take over the powers of government if they think its necessary; and of course, 25 per cent of all the assemblies, both at the national and regional level, are made up of military nominees, unelected. It doesnt worry me unduly, because it gives us an opportunity to engage with members of the military; but of course, it is hardly what you would call a democratic way of going about it. And then, the regional governments do not actually have real power. Its still a very centralised system and such a centralised system is not going to promote democratic values, but more important than that, its not going to promote ethnic harmony.

Would you like to see all this change before the 2015 election, is that a time frame that you are looking at?

I think some of the most important sections will have to be amended before 2015, if 2015 is going to establish us firmly on the road to democracy.

Would you also aim to change the provision in the Constitution that bars you from running for President?

Yes, not because it bars me from running for the office of President, but *because+ I think its not right that any Constitution should have been framed with one person in mind.

Do you want to be President of Myanmar?

I would like my party to win because it has the people behind it, and in that respect, Id be prepared to take over the position of President. Not so much because I want to be President of a country but because I want the President of the country to be elected through the will of the people.

You are saying you dont want power for powers sake

Oh we need power for the sake of making change. Let us not be pusillanimous about it. If we want to bring about the kind of changes we want, we need power, not power for the sake of power, but power for the opportunity of bringing about the changes we would like to bring about.

In the last few days, theres been concern internationally and in Myanmar that the incidents in the Rakhine region between the Buddhists and the Rohingyas may cause a setback to the process of reforms, and also theres the other fear that it could snowball into a security threat for the entire region if it leads to the radicalisation of the people there. Do you share these worries? Are you concerned? You havent said much about it

Of course we are concerned. I think in many ways the situation has been mishandled. For years I have been insisting, and the National League for Democracy also, that we have to do something about the porous border with Bangladesh because it is going to lead some day or the other to grave problems. But nobody, of course, paid attention because the problems were not there yet. Also we have

emphasised the need for law and order, the rule of law. And again, the perception was these were communal problems.

I emphasise rule of law, one has to emphasise rule of law because communal differences are not settled overnight. In fact, they often take years to sort out. In the meantime, if they had concentrated on rule of law, they could have prevented violence and human rights violations breaking out, and that would at least have kept tensions under control. And until tensions are under control, how can we try to bring about communal harmony? You cant. When people are committing arson, rape and murder, you can hardly ask them to sit together and talk, sort out their differences. Its not practical. So we have to make sure these kind of troubles should not erupt in the first

place, which is why I emphasise the rule of law.

There were those who were not pleased, because they wanted me to condemn one community or the other. Both communities have suffered human rights violations, and have also violated human rights. And human rights have been grossly mishandled in the Rakhine by the government for many decades.

What do you see as the long-term solution to the problem?

First I think we will have to put law and order in place. I hate to use the expression law and order because when the military took over in 1988, they called themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council; so law and order is an expression we approach with great caution. We

would rather say rule of law, rule of justice that well have to establish peace and security.

How difficult has it been for you to make the transition from being a worldwide hero and icon of democracy and freedom to a politician who has to make compromises?

Im glad you asked this question. I find it surprising because Ive always been a politician. People talk as though I were sort of an icon or on a pedestal, but they seem to forget that throughout, my party and I have been criticised of course, reviled by the military government but criticised even by other organisations, by some countries, because we were, they said, not prepared to compromise. We were always prepared to compromise, and weve always offered to compromise all along the

line. And Im surprised when people say to me that now Ive got to be a politician. I want to ask them what do you think Ive been all these years.

Youve always talked about being true to principles, does it bother you that in the everyday practice of politics you may have to forsake principles for compromise?

Weve never had to forsake principles. Theres no need to forsake principles for compromise, especially in my case because our principles are not rigid. Our principles are very basic principles of, if you like, human and political decency. Weve always been prepared to compromise. Weve never stood on our pride, as it were, or on our vanity. Of course, Ive always said negotiations mean give and take. Give and take means you give sometimes, and they give sometimes. And there are times when you have to give,

times when you take. You cant insist on being the taker all the time. And weve always said this. Actually, the truth is that the world has woken up to our cause only very recently, in general. Theyve been aware of what we were doing, but not really alert to what we were doing, or what our principles were, or what our stand was. Very, very few people know, the times weve tried to compromise with the military regime, or if they know about it, theyve forgotten about it.

Do you think the military is completely on board this process? When you say dont be overly optimistic, do you fear that it hangs by the reformmindedness of one individual, President Thein Sein?

In fact, the President is quite apart from the military. The military is the military, and the executive is the executive. This is what I mean by

saying that the Constitution is hardly democratic. So until we know the military is solidly behind the reform process, because the President certainly does not represent the military, then we cant say this is irreversible.

What is the test of that, for you to believe that it is irreversible?

I think the test would be their preparedness to consider changing the sections in the Constitution that are not democratic.

How much credit would you give to President Thein Sein for his role in this whole process?

I think he needs to be given credit, but I do not think hes the only one who brought it about.

Is it Burma or Myanmar?

Well, I think its up to you. Ill explain why I use Burma. Burma was known as Burma since independence. Suddenly, after the military regime took over in 1988, one day, just like that, out of the blue, without so much as a by your leave from the people, they announced that Burma was going to be known as Myanmar in English from now on officially, and it would be Myanmar at the U.N. and so on. And the reason they gave is this, that Myanmar referred to all the peoples of this country whereas Burma, first of all, is a colonial name; and secondly, it had only to do with the ethnic Burmese.

To begin with, I object to a countrys name being changed without reference to the will of the people,

without so much as the courtesy to ask the people what they might think of it. That of course is the sort of the thing only dictatorships do. So I object it to it on those grounds. And then secondly, its not true that Myanmar means all the ethnic peoples of Burma. I think its just the literary name for Burma, which is the ethnic Burmese [usage]. And thirdly, this business of colonial name, that it is a name imposed by the colonial power, I think that is the kind of reason which is based on xenophobia rooted in lack of self-confidence. Look at India, look at China, look at Japan. The biggest most powerful nations in Asia: none of the names are native to them. And look at Indonesia, look at the Philippines. So I think this is petty and narrow-minded. And some say it was because of astrological calculations, and that of course puts my back up entirely.

There were those who wanted me to condemn one community or the other [for the violence in Rakhine]. Both communities have suffered human rights violations, and have also violated human rights. And human rights have been grossly mishandled in the Rakhine by the government for many decades.

India and the rest of the world need to understand that Myanmar is just at the beginning of the road to democracy, and that its present Constitution does not make the road smooth, says Aung San Suu Kyi November 13, 2012

Controlling the auditor

Sometimes, what separates the seemingly innocuous from the sinister is the context. At another time and in another situation, Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office V. Narayanasamy could have gotten away with his statement that the Central government was considering making the Comptroller and Auditor General a multimember body. After all, the Centre is sitting on a report by the committee headed by former CAG V.K. Shunglu, which went into the charges of corruption in the conduct of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, recommending such a course of action. But not now, not when the government has been at the receiving end of a series of damning reports by the CAG on 2G spectrum, the Commonwealth Games and coal allocations. After his remark stirred up a national controversy, the Minister did make a feeble effort to distance himself from the news report, saying he was misquoted and that he had

not specifically replied to any question on the constitution of the CAG. But, by then, he had already set off alarm bells in the ranks of the Opposition, and among anti-corruption activists and the rest of the civil society. Not surprisingly, almost everyone smelt a conspiracy to undermine the independent functioning of the CAG, and interpreted the move as directed at the incumbent, Vinod Rai, whose term is not due to end before 2014.

Whether or not Mr. Narayanasamy intended his remarks as a trial balloon to gauge public opinion, the hostile reaction he has provoked should serve as adequate warning to the government against pushing ahead with any such radical restructuring of the supreme audit institution of India. Indeed, any change in the nature and structure of the CAG is unwarranted in the current context. Whether or not a multimember body is better than a

single-member body is open to debate, and any change should be preceded by wide-ranging consultations. An isolated recommendation in one of the reports of a committee is surely no reason to bring about a change that could have far-reaching implications for the CAG. Nothing in the functioning of the current CAG calls for such radical reconstitution. Instead, the government would do well to strengthen Indias premier audit body, allowing it to function with greater autonomy and freedom and with an updated mandate that unambiguously covers public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the use of public monies by non-governmental organisations. If at all there is a case for any change, it is in making the appointment of the CAG more transparent, free from any sort of political considerations. In all else, the government must stay its hand. November 13, 2012

The commanding heights of Nehru

The most admired human being on the planet may be a one-time boxer named Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. To spend three decades in prison fighting racial oppression, and then guide and oversee the peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy, surely ranks as the greatest personal achievement since the end of the Second World War.

For the capaciousness of his vision and the generosity of his spirit, Nelson Mandela has sometimes been compared to Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Mandela is both a reconciling figure and a universal figure, admired across the social spectrum in his own land and in other lands too. There are also odd personal details that bind them: Mandela was a friend of

Gandhis second son Manilal, Mandela and Gandhi were both lawyers, Mandela and Gandhi both lived in Johannesburg, Mandela and Gandhi were both incarcerated in that citys Fort Prison. This prison now houses South Africas Constitutional Court, on whose premises one can find permanent exhibits devoted to the life and example of Mandela and of Gandhi.

Appealing and impressive

Mandelas comrade Ahmad Kathrada, his fellow prisoner in Robben Island, once asked why he admired Gandhi. Mandela answered: But Nehru was my hero. To his biographer Anthony Sampson, Mandela explained his preference as follows: When a Maharaja tried to stop him he [Nehru] would push him aside. He was that type of man, and we liked him because his conduct indicated how we

should treat our own oppressors. Whereas Gandhi had a spirit of steel, but nevertheless it was shown in a very gentle and smooth way, and he would rather suffer in humility than retaliate.

In the 1940s, Mandela closely read Jawaharlal Nehrus books, including his autobiography. His speeches often quoted from Nehrus writings. A phrase that particularly resonated was there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, used by Mandela in his first major political speech, made in September 1953. Decades later, the phrase found its way into Mandelas autobiography, whose Nehruvian title is Long Walk to Freedom .

In 1980, Nelson Mandela was given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. Since Mandela was in prison, his comrade Oliver Tambo who had left South

Africa to canvass support overseas, while travelling on an Indian passport came to New Delhi to accept the award on his behalf. Nelson Mandelas captors may wish to ponder the fact, remarked Tambo in his speech, that Jawaharlal Nehru, who was no stranger to imprisonment and was in no way destroyed by it, served the world community, including the British, far better as a free man than as a political prisoner. Nelson Mandelas 18 years imprisonment has in no way destroyed him, and will not.

Jawaharlal Nehru appealed to Mandela and Tambo on account of his political views. As a socialist and modernist, Nehrus ideas were, to these South African radicals, more congenial than Gandhis. But there was also a practical reason for their appreciation; the fact that, as Prime Minister of India, Nehru worked

tirelessly to arraign the apartheid regime in the court of world opinion. Thus, as Tambo noted in his speech in New Delhi in 1980, if Mahatma Gandhi started and fought his heroic struggle in South Africa and India, Jawaharlal Nehru was to continue it in Asia, Africa and internationally. In 1946, India broke trade relations with South Africa the first country to do so. Speaking at the Bandung Conference in April 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru declared: There is nothing more terrible than the infinite tragedy of Africa in the past few hundred years.

Shortly after the Bandung Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Soviet Union. When he spoke at Moscow University, in the audience was a young law student named Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Decades later, Gorbachev recalled the impact Nehrus speech made on him.

Obviously, we *students+ were still very far from understanding the principles of democracy, he wrote in his memoirs: Yet, the simplified black-and-white picture of the world as presented by our propaganda was even then considered rather sceptically by the students. Jawaharlal Nehrus visit to Moscow in June 1955 was an unexpected stimulus for me in this respect. This amazing man, his noble bearing, keen eyes and warm and disarming smile, made a deep impression on me.

Thirty years after hearing Nehru speak in Moscow, Gorbachev helped bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War while permitting a transition to democracy in Eastern Europe. Unlike Soviet rulers in 1956, 1968 and 1979, he did not send troops into Soviet satellites whose people wanted an end to Stalinist one-party regimes. It appears the early exposure to

Jawaharlal Nehru played at least some part in the reformist and reconciling politics of the mature Gorbachev.

I quote these appreciations for three reasons: because they are littleknown, because Mandela and Gorbachev are both considerable figures, and because their admiration runs counter to the widespread disapprobation of Nehru among large sections of Indias youth, middle-class, and intelligentsia.

Turning anti-Nehruvian

Greatly admired within India during his lifetime, Nehru witnessed a precipitous fall in his reputation after his death. This accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, when his ideas on the economy, on foreign affairs, and on social harmony all came under sharp attack. There was a vigorous

campaign to free entrepreneurs from all forms of state control and regulation; a major, countrywide movement to redefine Indian secularism by making it more Hindu in theory and practice; and a clamour from the media and business elite to abandon Indias non-alignment in favour of an ever closer relationship with the United States.

India has experimented now with 20 years of anti-Nehruvian policies in economics, social affairs, and foreign policy. These radical shifts have shown mixed results. Creative capitalism is being increasingly subordinated to crony capitalism; aggressive Hindutva has led to horrific riots and the loss of many lives; and the United States has not shown itself to be as willing to accommodate Indias interests as our votaries of a special relationship had hoped.

His ideas remain relevant

Among reflective Indians, there is a sense that these decades of Nehrubashing have been somewhat counterproductive. It is true that Nehru was excessively suspicious of entrepreneurs, yet some form of state regulation is still required in a complex and unequal society. His ideas of religious and linguistic pluralism remain entirely relevant, or else India would become a Hindu Pakistan. And it suits Indias interests to have good relations with all major powers China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States rather than hitch its wagon to the U.S. alone.

Nehrus respect for democratic procedure, his inclusive social vision, and his independent foreign policy all remain relevant. Other aspects of his legacy are more problematic: these

include his neglect of primary education, his lack of interest in military matters, and his scepticism of political decentralisation. However, a balanced appreciation of Nehrus legacy its positive and its negative aspects is inhibited by the fact that the ruling Congress Party is controlled so closely by individuals related to him and who claim to speak in his name.

In a recent interview to The Hindu , Nayantara Sahgal pointed out that it was Indira Gandhi who created the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, not her father. This is absolutely true. In a book published in 1960, the editor Frank Moraes (by that time a sharp critic of the Prime Minister) wrote that there is no question of Nehrus attempting to create a dynasty of his own; it would be inconsistent with his character and career. When Nehru died in 1964, another bitter critic, D.F. Karaka, nonetheless praised his

resolve not to indicate any preference with regard to his successor. This, [Nehru] maintained, was the privilege of those who were left behind. He himself was not concerned with that issue.

Living outside India, insulated in their daily lives from the consequences of the deeds or misdeeds of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi, both Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev could appreciate the sagacity and moral depth of Nehrus political vision. We who live in India are however inhibited from doing so by the unfortunate accident whereby control of our most powerful political party has passed on to Nehrus descendants.

(Ramachandra Guhas new book, Patriots and Partisans , has just been

published by Penguin/Allen Lane. Email: )

The deeds and misdeeds of his descendants prevent many in India from fully appreciating the political vision of

the countrys first Prime Minister November 14, 2012

Primal emotions drive political affiliations

Just one look at the dejection on the faces of Romney supporters or the jubilation of Obama supporters on election night should tell you that politics is first and foremost a very emotional affair.

Ann Romney was crying while her husband delivered his terse concession speech, not because a majority of Americans voted against his economic policy, but because of the personal and highly public rejection of Mitt Romney as their next President.

Nor were President Barack Obamas supporters ecstatic because his health care policy would not be overturned. Rather, both camps were in the grip of powerful emotions akin to the passion of spectators rooting for their team at a sporting event.

Oh, yes, Democrats will wax passionately about social justice and income inequality, and Republicans will carry on about the pernicious nature of big government and the virtues of individual achievement.

But political affiliation is not driven by ideas alone. Most people do not choose a political party by carefully analysing its policies or even its track record for competence. Instead, some social scientists argue that people select their political party in early adulthood the way they choose their friends or social groups: They go for the party that has people who resemble themselves. Once youve selected your party, you are likely to retrofit your beliefs and philosophy to align with it. In this sense, political parties are like tribes; membership in the tribe shapes your values and powerfully influences your allegiance to the group.

So strong is the social and emotional bond among members of a political tribe that they are likely to remain loyal to their party even when they give it low marks for performance. Yankees fans dont jump ship when

their team loses any more than Republicans switch parties when they lose an election.

Research has shown that when a team wins an athletic contest, fans the next day speak about how we won, and feel generally more optimistic, stronger and self-confident. Conversely, the losing side feels depressed, defeated and angry.

Interestingly, some studies found that testosterone levels rose in a group of male fans whose team went on to win and fell in fans whose team was defeated. Testosterone is well known to elevate both mood and aggression. Thus, winning or losing doesnt just change your mood; it changes your physiology and brain function.

Political defeat unleashes similar painful emotions, and there is some

preliminary evidence that it has biological consequences as well. For example, a study in 2009 found that during the 2008 presidential election, a group of McCain voters had an increase in the stress hormone cortisol after the announcement that Barack Obama had won, while those who had voted for Mr. Obama had no significant change in their cortisol levels. Cortisol is secreted by the body in response to acute and chronic stress. The clear implication of the study was that political defeat is a biologically stressful experience.

Not just that, but political contests have an element of thrill and expectation that is a bit like gambling. Intrade, for example, gave real-time market predictions about the probability of winning for each presidential candidate. Everyone who voted essentially bet on a candidate and expected a reward. We are hard-

wired to go after various rewards and get a squirt of dopamine in our brains reward circuit when we get one. This dopamine signal confers, among many things, a sense of pleasure. Conversely, when we dont get the reward we expected, the activity in our reward circuit is suddenly depressed and we dont feel very good.

What makes political loss particularly painful for followers is the defeat of their leader, whose appeal derives in large part from the ability to make followers feel understood and cared for. In this sense, an effective leader arouses feelings in supporters that resemble the feelings children have for their parents. Thats why watching your presidential candidate go down is a bit like seeing your father get fired or beaten up.

But what is the experience of defeat like for the candi