RS shows the way
FDI at the next store
Changing US perceptions
HUMAN RIGHTS DIARY
Walk, don’t run, from holiday madness
RS shows the way
THE Rajya Sabha has stolen a march over the Lok Sabha in its response to the cash-for-questions scam that hit Parliament. On the recommendations of the Ethics Committee of the House, its member, Dr Chhattrapal Singh Lodha, has been suspended till the committee gives its final report. The member, who belongs to the BJP and was suspended from the party, has been given two days to give his version of the incident in which Operation Duryodhana caught him on the camera accepting cash for asking questions in the Rajya Sabha. Among the 11 members of Parliament, exposed by cobrapost.com, Dr Lodha alone belongs to the Upper House. It is in the fitness of things that the House of elders has adopted a tougher attitude in the matter.
Unlike corruption charges against politicians and bureaucrats, which take time to prove or are difficult to be proved, in the instant case, these MPs have been shown shamelessly demanding and accepting money for doing what should have been their duty. They brought disgrace to Parliament and lowered its dignity. They do not deserve any mercy. Members of the Lok Sabha should join hands as in the Rajya Sabha to ensure that the guilty are summarily expelled from the House, which needs to pass only a simple resolution.
While it may not be proper to ask for their disqualification straightaway as such a power can be misused in future, there is a strong case to disqualify them for all electoral posts. Maybe political parties can evolve a consensus on a Bill that debars any member who brings such disrepute to the august institution from contesting elections. Given the utter indignation their conduct has caused across the country, it is not surprising that protests were spontaneously organised against them in their constituencies as in Gwalior. They need to be told that they can never be representatives of the people under any circumstances. Expulsion from the House before the current session of Parliament ends on December 23 should mark the end of their public life.
FDI at the next store
Hoping that India’s retail could open to FDI in five-six months, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not only given an invite to the ASEAN business, but also set a sort of deadline for his Left allies to make up their mind. The BJP’s swadeshi lobby and the communists are united in their opposition to foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail. Their chief grouse is it would ruin small traders. Global firms can dump cheap goods in the world’s second largest market after China and force domestic players out of competition. Since retailing does not require large investments, foreign firms would remit most of their profits.
There is some truth in these objections. But going by the experience of other developing countries, the over-all effect of retail FDI has been positive. While providing better services and setting new standards in work culture, MNCs can ensure a better global market access for Indian goods. If some jobs are lost, a lot more are created. China has attracted $22 billion retail FDI and much of it has gone into labour-intensive manufacturing. According to McKinsey figures, traditional retailing has grown in China along with organised retailing. It is only in mid-category stores that jobs were affected.
Farmers will benefit from FDI in retail. In India fruits and vegetables worth Rs 50,000 crore go waste annually for lack of transportation, storage and processing facilities. A World Bank study says India needs to invest $28 billion in food processing to meet the rising demand. Foreign retailers will offer better prices for farm produce, eliminate middlemen, cut waste through better supply chains and provide global market access to Indian processed food. After China opened its retail to FDI its agricultural exports to the US trebled in five years. Exports of non-farm goods like textiles, handicrafts, gems and jewellery and leather goods could shoot up, benefiting small and medium industries. In balance, the advantages of letting in FDI in retail certainly outweigh the disadvantages.
WHAT’S in a name, asked the Bard. “There is a lot”, Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh would promptly answer. Otherwise, why should he initiate the process of changing Bangalore into Bengalooru? Obviously, he is guided by the renaming of Calcutta as Kolkata, Bombay as Mumbai, Madras as Chennai and Trivandrum as Thiruvananthapuram. The logic is the same – in all these cases, the names were anglicised by the British, who could not pronounce the original names. It’s a different matter that the natives, other than the Malayalees, would never be able to pronounce properly Kozhikkode, which had a simpler “English” name, Calicut. Non-Kannadigas have no choice but to get used to the tongue-teasing Bengalooru.
But does name really matter? Have not Bangalore and Bengalooru co-existed for so long without any problem? In China it is a common practice for tourist guides to introduce themselves in names like John or Jack if the tourists are from Europe or the Americas. Their logic is simple: the relationship between a guide and his client lasts till the trip is over. Any name that smoothens communication between the two is what is required. If a Chinese guide realises that his clients are all from India, he would willingly call himself Ram or Shyam. Imagine an Indian tourist guide changing his name for the interest of his business. Rather, he would proudly tell his clients that his name is Shankara Venkata Giri Parameshwara Aiyer.
But are Indians sticklers for single names? In fact, every person in India is known by several names. He or she has a pet name and an official name, besides being called by altogether different names by his colleagues, spouse, children and neighbours. Nothing surprising as our Gods and Goddesses, too, have countless names and yet they remain the same, omnipotent and omnipresent. So why can’t Bangalore and Bengalooru co-exist? But, then, decisions of this kind are seldom taken on the basis of cold reasoning. Politicians have their own reasons, sometimes sentimental, often political.
With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost. — Lewis Carroll
Changing US perceptions
Located in the heart of Washington DC, the Indian Embassy is an impressive building, now adorned with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, just opposite its entrance. The statue, built with special approval accorded by the US Congress, is a tribute by the Americans to India’s apostle of peace and nonviolence. Visiting the embassy last week, I could not help noticing how much perceptions about India had changed in the United States since I worked in the embassy a quarter of a century ago as Political Counsellor. Twentyfive years ago the only Indians one saw in Washington were embassy and World Bank employees and taxi drivers. India was then seen as an economic basket case dependent on the World Bank and the IMF for economic survival. Indians were generally spoken to condescendingly.
The Americans today see India as a vibrant democracy with a booming economy. India manages disasters like the tsunami and earthquake, without demeaning itself by seeking foreign aid. The two million-strong American Indian community is respected as a group of high achievers. Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai are virtually household names as technology-savvy Indians manage American corporate accounts and online systems repairs.
When my Internet connection in San Francisco failed, a young engineer from Chennai quickly set the problem right. American corporations recognise that their global competitiveness is bolstered by Indian support in office management and in research and development. If China is seen as the industrial power-house of the future, India is seen as a growing knowledge economy. I had an opportunity for a candid exchange of views with American academics, officials and legislators on a wide range of issues in Washington. The visit was particularly enjoyable, as it was undertaken with some very articulate, knowledgeable and young Members of Parliament - Mr Suresh Prabhu, Mr B.J. Panda, Mr Sachin Pilot, Mr Salim Shervani and Mr Ashwani Kumar.
Dr Manmohan Singh is highly respected in the US for his integrity and commitment to economic reforms. His visit to the US and the July 18 statement signed with President Bush provide the framework for wide-ranging economic cooperation. American cooperation is important if our agriculture sector is to move beyond the Green Revolution of the 1960s to value- added and exported-oriented areas. In a very persuasive presentation, one of the members of the Indian side in the Aspen-CII Strategic Dialogue, Mr. Harpal Singh, Chairman of Ranbaxy Laboratories, noted that by 2020 the US would be spending over 20 per cent of its GDP on health care — an unaffordable amount even for an economy as strong as that of the US. The possibility of collaboration in health care involving the facilities in India undertaking the work now being done exclusively in the US will reduce American costs and improve health care facilities in India. Similar structures involving the Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management could bring new vistas of cooperation in education. These should be major issues when President Bush visits India towards the end of February 2006.
The 2001 CIA report entitled “Global Trends 2015” held that while then India would continue to grow vibrantly, its neighbours like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal would become increasingly integrated with the Indian economy and would face serious internal problems. There is concern in Washington that radical Islamists are gaining greater influence in Bangladesh and that the King seems unaware of the realities of discontent and Maoist following in Nepal. The Bush Administration realises the importance of working together with India in dealing with these issues.
Americans believe that General Musharraf is their best bet in Pakistan. There is a reluctance to openly acknowledge that it is the military establishment in Pakistan that is responsible for terrorist violence in both Afghanistan and India, despite extensive evidence of the ISI-supported terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. Managing these differences with the US is going to be a challenge. Washington should be advised that “bright ideas” like “demilitarisation” and dividing J&K into “autonomous regions” floated by General Musharraf and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are non-starters.
The US now recognises the importance of India’s role in its Indian Ocean neighbourhood. Hence the growing interest in India’s ties with ASEAN, its East Asian neighbours and the Persian Gulf and Central Asian regions. Americans are concerned about China’s growing economic and military muscle. There are fears that an increasingly jingoistic China could seek hegemony in Asia. While there is no desire to either confront or contain China, there is a growing American recognition of India’s importance in promoting a stable balance of power in Asia.
Virtually everyone in the US appears to be preparing for a showdown with President Ahmedinejad in Iran. His pronouncements about “wiping out” Israel have evoked universal outrage. American analysts believe the young Iranian President is trying to assert his role over that of Ayatollah Khameini and former President Rafsanjani. India has little choice but to support the moves by the US and the European Union, perhaps backed by Russia, to get Iran to adopt a responsible approach to nuclear and regional issues.
The July 18 Washington Declaration stipulates measures by India and the US for American and international sanctions on our nuclear programme to end. While President Bush is committed to this deal, influential groups led by former Clinton Administration officials like Mr Strobe Talbot and an entire tribe of the “Grand Ayatollahs” of nonproliferation are mounting a determined campaign to scuttle the deal by placing unacceptable conditions on India. The non-proliferation “Ayatollahs” complement China in seeking to “cap and roll back” India’s nuclear programme.
Unfortunately, the US establishment erodes its credibility by adopting double standards when dealing with nuclear and missile proliferation by Pakistan and China. Under the agreement, India is responsible for “identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities and programmes in a phased manner and filing a declaration regarding its civilian facilities with the IAEA.” India has also to sign an “Additional Protocol” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while placing its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. India will, however, have to keep an adequate number of facilities for military uses. Under no circumstances should it compromise in developing a substantial and survivable nuclear arsenal that constitutes a “credible” nuclear deterrent. New Delhi should, nevertheless, formulate a credible plan for the separation of its civilian and nuclear facilities.
There appears to be little possibility of legislation approving the July 18 nuclear deal being passed by the US Congress before the forthcoming visit of President Bush to India. But the visit would have a positive impact if the Bush Administration at least presents legislation to the US Congress to amend the Nonproliferation Act of 1978 before Mr Bush embarks on his visit to New Delhi.
DICTIONARY defines ragging as outbursts of organised horseplay working in defiance of authority.
The outbursts are often obscene, vulgar and sexist. The facile alibi trotted out is that it is practised to initiate newcomers into the mainstream of campus life. That it rounds up the angularities of fresher’s personality. It does neither.
Ragging mirrors hidden sadistic urges of the modern youths. Thus, in fact,it becomes a celebration of violence.
Ragging in professional colleges goes beyond bounds of decency or fun. It degenerates into graffiti. It looks as if graffiti has stepped out of the loo into the campus!
A fresher asked to dance a sexy number in high heels is likely to suffer an injury. She undergoes a traumatic experience, which leaves a scar on her psyche.
The “elitist” seniors look upon juniors as “poor cousins.” Among the girls two kinds are targeted: extremely beautiful and Plain Janes. The latter get it because the seniors look down upon them as if they were second-grade students admitted by chance or mistake. The former are “prize” targets.
Aldous Huxley has observed that the violence practised in the name of fun, entertainment and pleasure is at the root of unruly behaviour in society. “Every organised distraction becomes more and more imbecile,” he says.
Ragging is becoming more and more imbecile with passing of time.
Eveteasing in Hindi films is shown leading to the girl eventually falling into the arms of her tormentor. What can prevent a senior university student to ape his role model when opportunity for this “fun” comes?
The problem is not merely “legal”. Ban serves no purpose if permissive public opinion permits it: ‘No one really minds. Girls secretly enjoy it.’
It is a question of cultural values. It shows abating sensitiveness to others’ feeling, and failing to draw a line between liberty and licence.
Ragging moves in circles. One batch of students inflicts it upon another, which waits for its turn the following year. It is like the bicycle chain. This one needs to be broken!
HUMAN RIGHTS DIARY
Violations of an individual’s rights are the worst in the diplomatic field. Officers take upon themselves the responsibility to undo what governments want to achieve. Something like that some Pakistani officers are trying to do.
The atmosphere in India and Pakistan is beginning to change from hostility to friendship, from a negative approach to something positive. It is a long way to go. Still people are set to cover it. But their difficulties multiply due to officials’ mindset. They are the ones who stall normal progress. One such example was visible at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi this week.
A distinguished editor of Deccan Herald, Bangalore, Mr Shanta Kumar, was denied a visa to visit Pakistan. It was the same mindset, the same unhelpful attitude. I do not know what the Pakistan High Commission scored by adopting such an attitude.
Were their new instructions from Islamabad to refuse visa to editors? Or was it the nonchalant attitude of officials who took things easy. The explanation given is that the High Commission wanted Shanta to meet someone high at Islamabad and since it could not arrange such a meeting, there was no option except to return his passport.
Even otherwise the estimate of knowledgeable circles is that the Pakistan High Commission is issuing fewer visas than the Indian High Commission at Islamabad. The figure of Pakistan is reportedly 250 a day against India’s 3,000.
The Pakistan High Commission has been summoning even senior citizens before issuing them a visa. This was not the case a few days ago. How can the commission take such steps in the face of President General Pervez Musharraf’s assurance on strengthening people-to-people contact?
But then bureaucrats have their own prejudice to feed. I wonder if the High Commissioner knows what is happening under his nose. He should at least write a letter of apology to the Deccan Herald’s editor who has given up the idea of playing up the denial of visa to him. “I am flabbergasted,” says Shanta. “Why should the Pakistan High Commission stop me from visiting the country?”
A Pakistan drama team, Tehrik-e-Niswan, visiting Lucknow had no problem with the visa. But they had to face the wrath of their hosts because the play they staged was considered “anti-America”. The play was funded by the Ford Foundation.
Not only was the play stopped but the group was also asked to leave India in two days with a threat that their visa would be cancelled and the police informed. The group could not perform at Varanasi and Bhubneshwar as was the schedule.
The hosts had the audacity to write on the visas of Pakistan dramatists that they must leave India within 24 hours. Rightly, the Immigration Authority at Delhi airport did not bother about the dictates of the Lilliputs.
Human rights activists in Lucknow, Delhi and elsewhere have strongly condemned “the insult heaped on artistes.” Unfortunately, among the directors of the trust which sponsored the Pakistani group are Syeda, a Planning Commission member and Nirmla Deshpande, a member of Parliament.
Welcome news for human rights activists! The case of the late J.S. Khalra, who drew the country’s attention to the cremation of unidentified bodies during the police suppression of militancy in Punjab is making progress. Two of the police personnel have been sentenced to imprisonment and some more are likely to be punished in the near future.
Khalra, a leading human rights activist himself, issued a press note on January 16, 1995, under the caption “Disappeared-Cremation Grounds” to say that a large number of persons were cremated by labelling them as “unidentified”.
The Supreme Court held on Khalra’s press note: “It is horrifying to visualise the dead bodies of a large number of persons — allegedly thousands — could be cremated by the police unceremoniously with a label ‘unidentified’. Our faith in democracy and rule of law assures us that nothing of the type can ever happen in this country.”
The CBI Director was asked to investigate. He held the inquiry which indicated that 585 bodies were fully identified, 274 partially identified and 1,238 unidentified. In all, there were 2,097 bodies cremated without any effort to find out who were the persons concerned.
However, it goes to the credit of Justice Kuldip Singh, who pursued the case and said that the CBI report disclosed “flagrant violation of human rights on a mass scale”.
The Supreme Court sent the report to the National Human Rights Commission. The latter announced its decision this week.
No doubt, the commission has cogently dealt with the remarks made by Mrs Nitya Ramakrishna, counsel for the Committee for Information and Initiative of Punjab (CIPP), that the commission should go deep in the case because “the high expectations of the people would remain unfulfilled as the matter concerns a tumultuous phase in modern Indian history where the state lost control of the situation and those who wielded the coercive force of the state ran amuck.”
Strong words, no doubt, but this only indicated the helplessness of human rights organisations to get the guilty to book. Ten years have gone since Khalra’s press note. He too has been eliminated since.
True, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the police. Probably, the commission is not to blame because it cannot take a “larger exercise” when the Supreme Court has “restricted” action to 2,097 bodies.
But what do human rights activists do when they find that the commission has confined itself to three police stations, although the Supreme Court had said in its order that “all issues that may be raised by the learned counsel”.
A body like the National Human Rights Commission is their only bet. Whether it has the requisite powers or whether it can go beyond the CBI report is a technical matter or at best a legal one. Those bodies which have not been identified is a mark against the CBI and the commission. How they find the unidentified is their job, not of human rights activists.
Walk, don’t run, from holiday madness
Ah, the joys of the holiday season. A time of giving, goodwill and unending cheer. A time of frivolity, family and obligatory self-reflection.
So why, in the midst of such bounty, do you increasingly feel like you’re becoming a black hole, gathering dark matter until you exhaust all your fuel, collapse into your own enormous gravity field and suck every atom nearby into an inescapable spiral of death?
Okay, maybe that’s just me. Maybe you’re just feeling stressed, irritable and distracted by the holiday hustle.
Either way, we can empathize. And the last thing we want to do is add another item to your to-do-or-die list. So this week (and this week only) we will lay off our 30-minutes-of-exercise-or-else finger wag and our scare speeches about how sedentary living increases risks of death, body odor and blood pooling in your socks. Instead we offer this simple, sane advice: Take a walk. Just a walk. Daily.
Don’t kick yourself over a missed gym session or a night spent spearing pigs-in-a-blanket instead of doing the “Buns of Steel” tape. Skip your jog, miss your Curve, defer your swim ... all fine with us.
Just put on a hat and your shoes. Forget the heart rate monitor, the pedometer, the calorie-burn calculator, the does-this-count-as-moderate-exercise angst, and proceed to somewhere pleasant (a park, maybe), away from the Muzak and the list-wielding hordes, and stroll. (Go ahead and take along the iPod. We’re okay with that.) Walk for as long as you like, or for as long as your nutty schedule permits. Repeat once each time the earth turns on its axis.
“Studies do show that exercise helps (relieve) depression and lower stress,” says William O. Roberts, associate professor at the University of Minnesota and a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. “And the busier you are, the more you need the relief.” Exercise, he offers, is like a holiday pain drug.
“A 10-minute walk is worth a pill or two,” Roberts says. “Any break at all, even just five minutes, if that’s all you can spare, will help clear the cobwebs.” And, he adds, it doesn’t hurt to move a few calories out of the debit column during this season of indulgence.
Michael Craig Miller, physician and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, explains that exercise activates the “reward circuits” in the brain, loosing such feel-good chemicals as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, the same ones boosted by expensive antidepressant medications. The immediate high is “not as robust a hit as a drug,” he says, but a walk can help you feel consistently better.
“Even 1 1/2 to two hours a week does have a positive effect on mood. If you are sedentary, you don’t need to go out and exercise for an hour straight. Even a 15-minute walk will help.”
As we said: It’s holiday break time. If you can keep up with your regular workouts, raise a toast to your fortitude and go for it. But if you can’t, just take your exercise prescription of one walk daily.
— LA Times-Washington Post
It’s a familiar sight on any high street at this time of year - the drinker who has had one too many and is disgorging their night’s intake. The chemicals in alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach, prompting the body to expel them by vomiting.
Most alcoholic drinks are high in sugar, calories and carbohydrates, so that you may not want to eat because you feel full, even though your body is not getting any nutrients. The sugar also triggers the production of insulin, which in turn reduces blood sugar levels. This explains those hungover feelings of trembling and hunger the next morning.
In the long term, regular, heavy drinking can lead to peptic ulcers, inflammation of the pancreas and cancer, while alcohol impairs the small intestine’s ability to process nutrients and vitamins. Continued disruption of insulin production can lead to diabetes.
First there’s the “beer goggles” effect - when you end up in bed with someone you wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole because your emotional and behavioural barriers are down.
Reduced inhibitions can lead to unsafe sex, with abortion clinics reporting a rise in appointments in January. On the other hand, drinking depresses the nerve impulses that cause erections and can lead to so-called “brewer’s droop”. Heavy intake causes a drop in testosterone levels in men, leading to shrinkage of the penis and, in some cases, long-term impotence and problems.
Alcohol is absorbed into the blood from the stomach and intestines and passes through the liver before circulating around the body. Thus it is the liver that has to deal with the highest concentrations of damaging chemicals.
Alcohol acts like an anaesthetic in the bloodstream, so that after a drink or three, your limbs become more relaxed and you are less likely to feel pain.
More worryingly, alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, resulting in the softening and weakening of bones that can lead to osteoporosis. Drinking can also weaken muscles and cause pain and spasms in the arms and legs.
The damage to the body’s central nervous system by alcohol can cause permanent tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes.
Alcohol causes temporary disruption to the body’s antidiuretic mechanism, which is why there are always long queues outside the toilets of pubs and clubs.
It’s not all bad news of course. Numerous studies have shown that moderate intake of red wine can protect against colds, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Scientists believe that red wine contains chemicals called polyphenols that interfere with the formation of endothelin-1 - the substance in the body that causes arteries to clog and raises the risk of heart attacks.
However, the latest study on the subject, published in The Lancet last week, rubbished that theory and said that the risks far outweigh the benefits.
Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it makes the peripheral blood vessels relax in order to allow more blood to flow through to the skin and tissues.
Even one unit quickens your pulse rate, as your heart begins to work harder in order to pump enough blood to your organs.
In the short term, this just makes you breathe slightly faster and contributes to that “high” feeling while you drink. But in the long term, alcohol weakens the heart muscle and its ability to pump blood through the body. It causes high blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
— The Independent
From the pages of
There is considerable uneasiness in the public mind regarding the probable outcome of the labours of the Rowlatt Committee. It is being freely said that what is expected of the Committee is that it will recommend permanent legislation on the lines of the Defence of India Act which, of course, is a purely war measure. We can scarcely believe either that any responsible man expects the Committee to make such a recommendation or that the Committee itself, which is presided over by an English judge and which contains two more High Court Judges, one of whom is an Indian, will make it.
The working of the Defence of India Act, even as a temporary and emergency measure, has created the greatest dissatisfaction in all parts of the country. Any attempt to incorporate any of its main provisions in the permanent law of the land is sure to give rise to a storm of opposition of unprecedented magnitude.
It is not how much you do not but how much love you put into the doing and sharing with others that is important.
Money can fetch you bread alone. Do not consider it as your sole end and aim.
The dark chambers of death are not the end of road; merely a pause in the eternally turning wheel of life.
Brahmins are born, not so Brahminism. It is a quality open to be cultivated by the lowliest or the lowest among us.