Wednesday, March 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India






National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

War on terror, this?
U
nmindful of the worldwide condemnation, oblivious of the protests within the USA itself, President Bush has begun the final countdown to a war on Iraq in typical Rambo style. The definitive ultimatum has been given to Mr Saddam Hussein: get out within 48 hours or face the entire military might of the superpower.

Exit of Marandi
T
he resignation of Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi on Monday and the election of 34-year-old Arjun Munda as the new leader of the BJP legislature party was not entirely unexpected. Ever since his government was reduced to a minority, Mr Marandi was unwilling to step down from office. 

Malaysia-India ties
T
he last minute pull-out of the Indian hockey team from the prestigious Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament is the correct response to the indifference of Malaysia in taking action against the police team that roughed up Indian IT professionals for no apparent reason over a week ago. 



EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
 
OPINION

India and the Iraq crisis
Painful indifference to a world-defining war
S.Nihal Singh
B
elatedly, members of Parliament bestirred themselves last week to seek a clear enunciation of India’s policy on the US-led war on Iraq. They received some satisfaction from the government, with Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee making his clearest denunciation to date of the country’s opposition to a unilateral march towards war without an explicit authorisation from the UN Security Council.

MIDDLE

Match-making and match-fixing
D.K. Mukerjee
T
here is always a beginning, a middle and an end. Most muddles occur in the middle as in the case of our cricketing heroes who went down under when down under when playing the Down Under, but made a startling recovery from being dubbed zeroes. The muddle is happily over and the end is in sight as I write this “middle”. The cup brimmeth over.

REALPOLITIK

The grim story of shrinking job prospects
P. Raman
T
he Malaysian government is yet to come out with a convincing explanation for the arrest and harassment of 270 aliens who have been rounded up in midnight raids last week. Barring a few Pakistanis, they were all Indian IT professionals hired by Malaysia to work for their New Information Technology Corridor. Apparently, the action contravenes the accepted norms of international work permit system and human dignity.

TRENDS & POINTERS

Male sweat brightens women's mood
S
weating it out over a big date this weekend? If you’re a guy, that could be just the ticket, according to a human biology study. Biologists at the University of Pennsylvania said they found male perspiration had a surprisingly beneficial effect on women’s moods.

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

Top





 

War on terror, this?

Unmindful of the worldwide condemnation, oblivious of the protests within the USA itself, President Bush has begun the final countdown to a war on Iraq in typical Rambo style. The definitive ultimatum has been given to Mr Saddam Hussein: get out within 48 hours or face the entire military might of the superpower. As it happens in spaghetti westerns, time is ticking by while the cowboy has the hands in position to draw the gun. Things have come to such a head that now only a miracle can avert the outbreak of hostilities. Mr Hussein has gone back from the brink many times in the past but this time that is an extremely unlikely scenario. As far as America is concerned, it too has gone too far to do an about-turn at this stage. But President Bush is so isolated on this move that he must be as tense about the consequences as the Iraqi dictator. Perhaps that is why he provided a photo opportunity to TV cameramen while playing with pets, as if he was trying to deny his nervousness. Things can unfold in an unpredictable manner and the repercussions are going to be felt on a global scale. It can either turn out to be a clinical massacre of an ancient but helpless civilisation or Vietnam-II. Either way, it is going to be a cataclysmic event.

Whatever happens in the days or weeks to come, the United Nations is already a casualty. In one stroke, the USA has made it almost redundant. From now on, even if it survives, it will be a toothless tiger which can do no better than growling occasionally at small and impoverished nations. The mighty ones now have a precedent to humiliate it the American way. The USA is likely to keep the casualty of its own soldiers and that of its few allies down to a minimum because it knows that once bodybags start flying home, the public support that he has for his action is going to evaporate in no time. He is not going to have similar compulsions about the damage heaped on the other side because the civilian and military targets within Iraq exist cheek by jowl and the loss of civilian populace can be conveniently described as “collateral damage” as it happened in the case of Afghanistan. But the rest of the world may not be quite as heartless. Once pictures of mangled bodies get beamed to the countries across the globe, the sense of revulsion is going to be palpable. Whether or not this unites the world in confronting the American juggernaut, the avowed war to finish terrorism is likely to become counter-productive. And what a price the world will have to pay for this ill-thought-out aggression!
Top

 

Exit of Marandi

The resignation of Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi on Monday and the election of 34-year-old Arjun Munda as the new leader of the BJP legislature party was not entirely unexpected. Ever since his government was reduced to a minority, Mr Marandi was unwilling to step down from office. He perhaps expected a miracle at the last minute and was hopeful of wooing the dissidents back to his fold. But it was not to be. Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari, who spearheaded the dissident movement against Mr Marandi and was himself in the race for chief ministership, convened a special session of the State Assembly on Monday, directing Mr Marandi to seek a vote of confidence. Governor M. Rama Jois’ diplomatic silence to Mr Namdhari’s decision demonstrated that he was not inclined to give more time to Mr Marandi to prove his majority. Had Mr Marandi refused to step down before the commencement of the session, he would have faced the ignominy of being voted out of office. His resignation and subsequent election of Mr Munda as the legislature party leader were tactical moves by the BJP high command in not only making the no-confidence motion infructuous but also puncturing the ambitions of Mr Namdhari. The minority nature of Mr Marandi’s government was never in doubt after seven non-BJP ministers withdrew support to the ruling coalition, demanding a change in the leadership. The national BJP leaders, however, dithered and refused to change Mr Marandi. When the dissident ministers were firm in their resolve, they had to buckle under pressure and sacrifice him.

The only concession extended to Mr Marandi by the party leadership was to choose his successor. Mr Arjun Munda, a loyalist of Mr Marandi, was sworn in as the new Chief Minister on Tuesday. He was first elected to the Assembly on a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha ticket from Kharsawan in Saraikela district in 1995. He later joined the BJP and won the same seat in the 2000 Assembly elections. His selection is being considered in political circles as a strategic move by the party leadership to keep Mr Marandi’s critics at bay. Mr Marandi’s challenger, Mr Namdhari, lacked the tribal credentials of Mr Munda. The issue in question now is whether the people of Jharkhand can expect any governance in the new dispensation. The state paid a heavy price because of continued dissidence in both the BJP and its allies. Apparently, the two ruling coalition partners — the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United) — seemed to be working independently of their Central units. If only the latter infused some discipline in the rank and file of their state units, the situation would not have come to such a pass. Whether Mr Munda sits in the driver’s seat or not, the state is in need of a stable government for effective governance.
Top

 

Malaysia-India ties

The last minute pull-out of the Indian hockey team from the prestigious Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament is the correct response to the indifference of Malaysia in taking action against the police team that roughed up Indian IT professionals for no apparent reason over a week ago. Had the incident occurred on the eve of the departure of the team for Ipoh there would have been no case for the extreme step that the Ministry of Sports in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs was forced to take. The tournament starts on March 22. And the Indian team had been given the flight schedule when the decision of the government was conveyed. The unhappy decision is a grim reminder of the critical state of Malaysia-India relations after the Palm Court police mistreatment of 270 Indian IT professionals. The statements by three Malaysian ministers on the issue on Sunday were evidently not enough for repairing the fractured bilateral relations between countries that have a long history of fruitful economic and cultural cooperation. India has taken the extreme step after diplomatic efforts for a thorough enquiry into the episode failed to yield results. India is not likely to budge from its present position until the Malaysian authorities offer a satisfactory explanation for the incident and take punitive action against the guilty police team.

The only redeeming feature of the Palm Court incident was the intervention by Acting Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Bidawi on Friday. He expressed regret for the incident and directed the Inspector-General of Police to personally investigate the episode and submit a report to him. That initiative was taken last Friday. Thereafter Mr Abdullah's intervention remains the only correct, responsible and proper reaction to the condemnable episode. The promised IG-level enquiry, it now appears, was an eye-wash. Over a week after the roughing up of the 270 IT professionals from India not much has been done to suggest genuine remorse. The usually mute Malaysian media has been unsparing in criticising the government for its inexplicable indifference. It pointed out that the Cabinet at its meeting last Wednesday failed to realise the gravity of the Palm Court incident and its impact on Malaysia-India ties, the country's international image after the 13th NAM summit, its ambition to be an IT super power, the future of Multimedia Super Corridor [MSC] and national economic recovery plans. Malaysia should not ignore the fact that the IT professionals who were ill-treated by the police belong to the world's fifth largest software house, Infosys, and its owner T. N. Narayanmurthi is an adviser to Malaysia's MSC. If the Malaysian authorities fail to take action against the police team involved in the Palm Court incident, their country will lose more than India. India had played a key role in stabilising Malaysia's economy by becoming a major importer of palm oil. Malaysia has also emerged as a destination for Hindi and Tamil film-makers. Is the diplomatic stand-off over an incident of police highhandedness worth the risk for Malaysia to lose goodwill and the opportunity of rapid economic growth? Only the Malaysian authorities can answer this question.
Top

 

India and the Iraq crisis
Painful indifference to a world-defining war
S.Nihal Singh

Belatedly, members of Parliament bestirred themselves last week to seek a clear enunciation of India’s policy on the US-led war on Iraq. They received some satisfaction from the government, with Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee making his clearest denunciation to date of the country’s opposition to a unilateral march towards war without an explicit authorisation from the UN Security Council.

The Vajpayee government continues to oppose a Parliament resolution on Iraq pleading that the fast-changing situation needed flexibility. But there has been confusion in government ranks, as among politicians of other parties, on the need not to offend Americans gratuitously on a matter close to their geopolitical designs with squeamishness in discussing the issue.

India’s immediate concerns are clear: arranging for the possible evacuation of its large labour force in the region, should circumstances warrant it, and safeguarding essential supplies of oil. But the larger picture tended to get lost. The banner of the American war on Iraq is based on a new declared policy of a US right to attack any sovereign country on self-assessed perceptions of threat, untrammelled by the United Nations or any other constraint.

It does not take a great leap of imagination to infer that, cordial as Indo-US relations generally are today, the present or a future Bush administration might try to force India’s hands on nuclear weapons or Kashmir or another issue that takes its fancy tomorrow. In other words, there is no option for India but to oppose the pernicious theory of a country, however powerful it might be, giving itself the right to order a “regime change” if it does not like the visage or policies of another country’s leader. This is irrespective of the “war on terror” or any other justification that is sought.

The troubling questions posed by the Iraq crisis do not end with the government or the parliamentarians. Even more disturbing is the pitifully small no-war demonstrations that have taken place around the country. When hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and walks of life have demonstrated around the world, even in countries supporting Mr Bush’s Iraq war and in the USA, the token protests in India offer a sad commentary.

Two factors seem to be at work. Increasingly, India is turning inward to its parochial concerns, except when it affects trade and industry and the achievements of the Indian diaspora. This is apparent from a glance at the mainstream media, which revel in tremendous trifles often to the exclusion of significant world developments and trends. Second, there is an element of resignation that has percolated from the establishment elite to the common man that India can do little to influence world events. An ancillary factor at work in the reluctance to oppose American policies is the 1.7 million-strong American Indian community and its linkage to the ruling elite. It would be a revealing exercise to enumerate the progeny of the highest in the land, including former prime ministers, settled and prospering in the USA.

The Indian elite, whether in the ruling establishment or in the professions, is indeed remiss in guiding the people in a more complex world. Indian politicians still tend to live in the past, with diminishing bands of fervent supporters of the non-aligned movement opposing the American war on Iraq against those generally aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party supporting the USA on whatever it does, or not opposing it in public.

Sometimes, it seems that India is living in a time warp, with the communist parties retaining their names and formats and the leader of the once pro-Moscow Communist Party of India justifying the Chinese march to capitalism as an exercise in creative communist practice. For some Congress legislators, the world has not changed since Jawaharlal Nehru enunciated the concept of nonalignment. But for most politicians, international affairs are a distraction, except for such evocative issues as problems with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka.

A war in Iraq, therefore, boils down to the welfare of Indian workers in the Gulf, the rise in the price of petrol at the pump and the disruption of trade and airlines services. India is a continent in itself and there are enough absorbing domestic problems to contend with and the almost continuous drumbeat of elections to attend to. Understandably, opposition to VAT, the value-added tax the world has adopted, provokes impressive demonstrations to the detriment of the world-defining crisis over Iraq.

Little wonder then that the Vajpayee government has been taking the easy option on Iraq by saying as little as possible, except at such forums as the recent nonaligned summit at Kuala Lumpur, while zealously guarding improved relations with the USA. Rather, the priority is to bewail a perceived American reluctance to pressure Pakistan on cross-border infiltration in Kashmir although it is clear to the dullest mind that the USA has overarching interests in Pakistan’s cooperation in the “war on terror”.

Essentially, India seems to have opted out of the Iraq crisis, resigned to its marginal role in influencing events, hoping that the war will end quickly and not scar the country too deeply in its economic development. Traditionally, the BJP or members of the Sangh Parivar have little interest in the wider world, except in promoting their version of the Ram Rajya and their affinity with NRIs, non-resident Indians more responsive to the Sangh ideology than the resident native for maintaining their tenuous link with the motherland.

For a preoccupied India, the Iraq crisis has come at the wrong time. The BJP’s attention is diverted by the Herculean task of fighting a string of state assembly elections leading to the general election next year. And the BJP’s defeat in Himachal Pradesh has done little to encourage the party to ruminate on world affairs. Foreign affairs are truly foreign to the bulk of the BJP members.

There is little time or inclination to demonstrate against the American war on Iraq. The domestic agenda is crowding the world out. For the present, India is an island unto itself.
Top

 

Match-making and match-fixing
D.K. Mukerjee

There is always a beginning, a middle and an end. Most muddles occur in the middle as in the case of our cricketing heroes who went down under when down under when playing the Down Under, but made a startling recovery from being dubbed zeroes. The muddle is happily over and the end is in sight as I write this “middle”. The cup brimmeth over.

The story of every human life has also the three major events of “hatching, matching and despatching”. The muddle arises about “matching” with all the middlemen wanting to strike a deal and earn their commission or loot. It is there in cricket or politics as in life.. One cannot just get away from “middlemen”. They reappear as “satta” gamblers when denied entrance to cricket grounds or access to innocent looking weather and pitch reports from gullible, or not so gullible, cricketing heroes. In politics Rajiv Gandhi tried to remove the middlemen from defence deals but had the Bofors ghost haunting the corridors of power for decades. Our present Prime Minister and our present President have avoided bowling “maiden” overs. But is that good cricket?

In cricket the “hatching” part consists of all the planning, the financing, the constructions, the codes of behaviour and fishy contracts intended to rob Peter to pay Paul.

The “despatching” is mainly the zone of the media with television commentators mouthing their colourful hyperboles and expertise about how the game should have been played out there in the field — a superior knowledge which was not with them in their own playing days but, as is common with life, is an afterthought. “Experience” as one commentator would have liked to quote, ‘is a toothbrush handed over to us by fate when all our teeth have fallen’!

The “matching” part has been the 14 nations engaged in the thrilling “swayamvara” to win the prized possession of the World Cup and bring it home to be cherished and honoured, and for people to go ga ga over it for decades to come. The former bride has been with us for over 20 years and hints of crow’s feet are there round her brow. A younger one would be welcome.

Even if we do not land the bride we should be happy with her handmaiden whose hand would surely be offered to us if we miss the bride. Let us hope our Arjuna (not Ranatunge) brings down the fish and lets the Aussies get her handmaiden.

Top

 

The grim story of shrinking job prospects
P. Raman

The Malaysian government is yet to come out with a convincing explanation for the arrest and harassment of 270 aliens who have been rounded up in midnight raids last week. Barring a few Pakistanis, they were all Indian IT professionals hired by Malaysia to work for their New Information Technology Corridor. Apparently, the action contravenes the accepted norms of international work permit system and human dignity.

The Malaysian authorities themselves have not so far tried to defend the police action against the Indian workers. Why then did the local authorities pounce down on the lawful workers with such fanfare? Behind this is the grim story of the shrinking job prospects under the global competition, legal sanction for bringing in workmen at cheaper rates and the increasing protests against this from the local unemployed. Local authorities, with or without the tacit approval of the higherups, have acted under local pressures.

Malaysia imports cheap labour to meet their growing needs. Some reports put the number of expatriated Indian professionals for the New Information Technology Corridor at as high as 40,000. Unprotected and exposed to exploitation, the outside workers hired by the contractors come cheaper almost by half. There have been frequent protests and threats to disrupt work by the affected local job-seekers. Since the law permits labour import, the resenters resort to intimidation and unofficial harassments. This is what the local authorities explained as it being “part of an ongoing drive against the illegal migrants”.

Local indignation against imports of professionals is a phenomenon that prevails in the entire developed world. In some countries it takes a racial form. Governments resort to dubious methods to give preference to the whites, if available. While the private employers enthusiastically go in for cheaper labour wherever available from, the affected domestic job-seekers and under popular pressure the governments, try to put hurdles. Things go well so long as the boom days last. Most countries, especially the USA and Europe, have strict immigration laws.

Just this week, the Government of India has requested Germany to relax the rules to provide work permits and green card for Indian professionals. With strict labour laws to protect the workers’ rights, there has been stiffer resistance in Europe to outside labour. This week, again, came reports from the UAE announcing stricter visa curbs to check inflow of “illegal immigrants”. There are moves in UAE to draw up lists of non-permissible kind of labour imports.

Over the years, outsourcing of work, combined outcome of globalisation and the communication explosion, has brought about tremendous opportunities for developing countries like India. But it has also brought its own problems and a bigger sort of resistance from the labour in developed countries. Outsourcing began with medical transcription. Then came ITES (IT-enabled services) and BPOs (business process outsourcing) which includes call centres and software processing by the professionals without going abroad. Thanks to the much maligned Macauley, we have definite advantages in call centres.

Most of those in Europe and America are unaware of the fact that their enquiries from the local banks are answered by some one in a far away city in India. About one-fourth of the ‘500 Fortune’ companies are in the process of transferring their work to outside call centres. Analysts in the USA have predicted some 3.3 million jobs worth about $ 136 billion will be transferred outside the country if the plans fructifies in the next decade or so. For firms in developed countries it means cost cutting by more than three-fourths on the labour content.

India has already acquired the status of a “call centre super power”. This has induced our “new economists” — like new economy — to put forth the theory that India has successfully skipped the manufacturing stage to directly reach the more sophisticated service industry. India’s weakest link in development has been manufacturing and now we have skipped it. This theory suffers from two infirmities. First, even the globalisers of the West have realised that you need a strong brick and mortar industry to sustain the ‘new’ economy, a term coined by the stock brokers.

Second, India’s superior advantages in the service sector has been due to its cheap labour, a product of the awfully poor GDP. Moreover, new technologies can any day reverse the process like the dotcom burst and the brick-and-mortarless growth. Thus one has to be aware of the temporary nature of this super power advantage. In fact, outsourcing is the other side of the globalisation of capital and trade. The MNCs and the best placed countries are keen to take advantage of both the processes so long as the rules of the game suit them.

Movements in the West against BPOs and ITES are fast catching up. At least five US states are in the process of enacting bills to curb state contracts for various kinds of outsourcing to firms outside America. The New Jersey Bill also prohibits use of state funds to employ people residing outside the USA. Maryland, Connecticut, Missouri and Wisconsin are other states. Incidentally, even Indian workers in the USA on H1b visa are favouring the curbs on outsourcing. Indian companies have now appointed PR firms to lobby against the bills among the senators.

In Europe, where the trade unions still enjoy tremendous influence, the resistance is stiffer. The British Telecom Union has opposed the company’s move for opening back offices in India. For the UK firms, Indian call centres can do the work at one-tenth of the domestic cost. Luckily for us, our business from Europe is not substantial.

Last month alone, US firms have “axed” 3.08 lakh jobs, raising a bigger recession scare. This has pushed the unemployment rates to 5.8 per cent. In manufacturing alone, job cut in February was a record 53,000, bringing the number of factory jobs lost since April 1998 to nearly 2.5 million. The aviation industry has “furloughed” thousands of workers and are pressing the rest for a 35 per cent labour cost saving. This is what increases the domestic pressures against outsourcing.

The biggest anomaly of the globalisation concept has been its disdainful disregard for the human factors. The economic fundamentalists treat the workers as machines. The worker can be discarded as they replace their manufacturing processes by more sophisticated production lines. The very concept of competition is efficiency which means lesser labour content. Thus while investment, GDP, production, sales and profit go up, employment declines. This is what is happening the world over after globalisation. Forget about the sufferings and suicides of the jobless. They are meant for “hiring” and “firing”.

Unfortunately, the worker is also a consumer. If they can’t buy, the department stores in the West get closed down and it hits the factories. Even assuming that the workers continue to retain the same level of purchasing power, every improved production process is bound to throw out more from the job. In this vicious circle of competitive efficiency and job loss, more induced consumption alone can keep up the employment level. This too has a limit. Possibly, we are experiencing the early symptoms of this process.
Top

 
TRENDS & POINTERS

Male sweat brightens women's mood

Sweating it out over a big date this weekend? If you’re a guy, that could be just the ticket, according to a human biology study.

Biologists at the University of Pennsylvania said they found male perspiration had a surprisingly beneficial effect on women’s moods. It helps reduce stress, induces relaxation and even affects the menstrual cycle.

In a study to be published in the journal Biology of Reproduction, researchers collected samples from the underarms of men who refrained from using deodorant for four weeks. The extracts were then blended and applied to the upper lips of 18 women, aged 25 to 45. The women rated their moods on a fixed scale for a period of six hours. The findings suggested something in the perspiration brightened their moods and helped them feel less tense. Blood analyses also showed a rise in levels of the reproductive luteinizing hormone that typically surge before ovulation.

There was no sign women were sexually aroused by male perspiration. In fact, the women never suspected they had men’s sweat under their noses and believed they were helping to test alcohol, perfume or lemon floor wax. Reuters
Top

 

God alone knows the Truth about everything. Most often our judgement is entirely wrong. When we realise this, we repent. Our suspicious thoughts give us no rest. They harass the mind again and again. Therefore, trust in God and leave everything in his hands. Have faith in Him. You will then enjoy unbroken peace.

—Swami Shivananda, Peace Your Birthright
Top

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
|
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
|
123 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |