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EDITORIALS

Scope for diplomacy
Six weeks for tackling the standoff on Iran
S
O, finally, the Iranian nuclear proliferation issue is being referred to the UN Security Council. This is the result of Russia and China accepting the view of the US and European Union-Big Three (UK, France and Germany) on Monday.

Towards better airports
After Delhi, Mumbai focus on others
B
Y selecting private partners for upgrading the airports at Delhi and Mumbai, the UPA government has managed to stick to the January 31 deadline, though the selection process has already taken 16 months and is still open to a legal battle and facing a strike by misguided employees of the Airports Authority of India.



EARLIER STORIES

Airport blackmail
February1, 2006
Delayed IT refunds
January 31, 2006
Cabinet Mark II
January 30, 2006
Serious journalism must remain part of democratic dharma
January 29, 2006
Crisis continues
January 28, 2006
Go ahead with N-deal
January 26, 2006
Go home, Buta
January 25, 2006
Return of Raja Bhaiya
January 24, 2006
Speaker has no other choice
January 23, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Fuel on the moon
A little science, a little moonshine
I
F you thought looking for a fuel that would provide limitless energy and be pollution-free was asking for the moon, you are right. Many scientists believe that the Helium-3 isotope, found in the lunar crust, could be converted to energy through thermonuclear fusion.

ARTICLE

The Bihar verdict
Defections are the concern of Speaker, not of Governor
by K.N. Bhat
N
ormally, after the Supreme Court on October 7, 2005, pronounced that the Presidential proclamation dated 23-5-2005 dissolving the Bihar Assembly was unconstitutional, but at the same time permitted fresh elections to go ahead, the “reasons to follow” would have been of interest only to academicians and lawyers collecting precedents.

MIDDLE

Kajrare Kajrare
by G.S. Aujla
A
FTER the inebriating snake dance of “Nagin” of the fifties of the last century it was five decades later that the nation danced to the tune of “Kajrare”, a sensuous feat of music and dance put together. What contributed to the unprecedented mystique of the song was the subject mater of a spirited debate between my friends who got together on a Lohri bonfire.

OPED

Recast Rashtriya Rifles
by Lt-Gen (retd) G.S. Sihota and Brig (retd) A.I.S. Dhillon
R
ashtriya Rifles, the Army’s only counter insurgency force, has received accolades from all quarters for its ongoing and sterling contribution towards the goal of stabilising the situation in J&K. It has eliminated countless militants and created a relatively secure platform for speedy progress of development schemes and often lent a helping hand in their completion.

Women’s heart disease harder to diagnose
by Rob Stein
M
ANY women suffer from a form of heart disease that is fundamentally different from the type that strikes most men and is easily missed by standard tests, researchers reported Tuesday.

US without Greenspan
by Rupert Cornwell
A
FTER a reign of more than 18 years, Alan Greenspan stepped down as chairman of the Federal Reserve on Tuesday, pushing through a valedictory 25-basis-point increase in its key short-term interest rate, and hinting that yet further increases could be on the way.


From the pages of

 
 REFLECTIONS

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Scope for diplomacy
Six weeks for tackling the standoff on Iran

SO, finally, the Iranian nuclear proliferation issue is being referred to the UN Security Council. This is the result of Russia and China accepting the view of the US and European Union-Big Three (UK, France and Germany) on Monday. The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany reached a consensus on the crucial question when they held an emergency meeting before the February 2-3 extraordinary session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. The IAEA resolution — its wording is not yet known — will be referred to the Security Council during the next few days, but it will not take action on it till March. This means there is still time for more diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to give up its resistance to the IAEA moves to avoid a standoff. Significantly, Iran has not outrightly rejected the Russian proposal — that Teheran can select a site in Russia for shifting its controversial nuclear facilities to satisfy the world community (read the US) that its nuclear programme is meant for peaceful purposes only.

The consensus among the P-5 is an important development. The casting of votes at the IAEA Board of Governors’ meeting, if at all it takes place at the prompting of Cuba and Venezuela as expected, can turn out to be a formality now. India wanted a consensus on this vital issue and it is there, almost. The Prime Minister has said at his Press conference that India will disclose its stand only after seeing the resolution. But it is almost clear that New Delhi will respect the P-5 viewpoint, which gives everyone, including India, a breather until March and during this period diplomatic efforts will be made to persuade Iran to fall in line. No other course suits India’s national interests.

With Russia and China, apparently now taking a softer line on the US move, the dice is getting loaded against Teheran. Only the Iranian leadership can reverse the course of action. At this stage no country can afford to side with it. The only honourable course left for Iran is to respect the world opinion and cooperate in finding a way-out.

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Towards better airports
After Delhi, Mumbai focus on others

BY selecting private partners for upgrading the airports at Delhi and Mumbai, the UPA government has managed to stick to the January 31 deadline, though the selection process has already taken 16 months and is still open to a legal battle and facing a strike by misguided employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The UPA government is prepared to meet both the legal threat as well as the challenge from the employees. There might be some last-minute changes in the selection process, but that does not suggest any favouritism process, which, no doubt, could have been more transparent.

The agitating employees’ argument that the AAI is capable of taking up airport modernisation work is not tenable. First, the AAI does not have sufficient funds. Its present reserves of Rs 1,200 crore are meager compared to even the short-term expenditure involved — Rs 2,800 crore for Delhi and Rs 2,400 crore for Mumbai. Instead of exhausting all its resources on the top two airports, the AAI can focus on developing smaller airports. Secondly, the government has ruled out any retrenchment. Most employees will be absorbed by the selected companies. Thirdly, the AAI will gain from revenue sharing, which was the chief criterion for awarding the contracts. And finally, the employees’ alternative plan scored poorly in the technical evaluation.

India cannot wait too long for building world-class airports matching its emerging economic status. It has to keep pace with the rising air traffic. A few interested groups cannot be allowed to hold it back. The Leftist-backed employees can look at China, which is furiously improving its airports. Beijing is set to have the world’s largest airport. Having spacious airports in every city is China’s top priority and foreign investment is pouring in — more than it can handle. India has only taken the first step towards building better airports. The Civil Aviation Minister needs to go ahead with modernization of all airports in the country and at speed.

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Fuel on the moon
A little science, a little moonshine

IF you thought looking for a fuel that would provide limitless energy and be pollution-free was asking for the moon, you are right. Many scientists believe that the Helium-3 isotope, found in the lunar crust, could be converted to energy through thermonuclear fusion. A couple of years ago, when George Bush outlined America’s plans for space, he talked about a permanent moon base; with “the first extended human expedition…no later than 2020.” Energy hawks were over the moon. Go for a Helium-3 monopoly, they cried.

Estimates of Helium 3 vary, going up to 500 million tonnes. Even one million tonnes can power the earth for thousands of years. One space shuttle load of 30 tonnes can run the US for one year. The Russians didn’t take long to sound the alarm. The US moon plan was decried as an aim to control the energy source of the future. So the Russian space corporation announcement the other day, for plans for a base and large scale delivery of Helium-3 by 2020, is no surprise. The Cold War has seen its share of space, nuclear, and missile races, so as the earth lurches towards an energy crunch, the next big race could indeed be for a magic fuel. And no one is discounting China, which surprised everyone with a successful manned space flight.

Whether it can be done, and in that time frame, is doubtful. But then, there are budgets to be made and funds to be fought for. And there is another little problem. Even if someone could deliver a load of Helium 3 to earth today, nobody would know what to do with it. The technology for thermonuclear fusion, with or without using Helium-3, does not exist yet. The ambitious International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which India is joining, itself has a long time frame. The first “plasma operation” is not expected before 2016. ISRO has a modest moon mission, Chandrayan-1, in the wings. An upgrade may be in order, as evidently, there is some science somewhere in all that moonshine!

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Thought for the day

For all sad words of tongue or pen,/The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’

— John Greenleaf Whittier

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The Bihar verdict
Defections are the concern of Speaker, not of Governor
by K.N. Bhat

Normally, after the Supreme Court on October 7, 2005, pronounced that the Presidential proclamation dated 23-5-2005 dissolving the Bihar Assembly was unconstitutional, but at the same time permitted fresh elections to go ahead, the “reasons to follow” would have been of interest only to academicians and lawyers collecting precedents. However, in the Bihar case, the reasons were eagerly awaited not only by Governor Buta Singh but also by the UPA government itself — the future of both were expected to be affected by the naming of the father of the “unconstitutional acts”. That is why every day that elapsed after the completion of the Bihar elections without any news of the promised “reasons” led to wild speculations — though lawyers are accustomed to longer periods of gestation of judgments.

The judgment of the majority is the binding declaration of law by the Supreme Court — hence reference is made only to it. The two dissenting views highlight the position that more than one view is possible in a case like this. The court, as expected, found Mr Buta Singh guilty — just as the nine-judge Bench in the Bommai case in 1994 found the then Karnataka Governor guilty of sending a baseless report to the Central government against the state government. The allegation of the then Karnataka Governor, as in the case of Mr Buta Singh, was also that “horse-trading” was imminent, and hence his resort to Article 356 the only remedy. In the Bommai case, Sawant J, representing the majority view of the court, said:

“….We are of the view that this is a case where all cannons of propriety were thrown to the wind and the undue haste made by the Governor in inviting the President to issue the proclamation under Article 356(1) clearly smacked of mala fides. The proclamation, issued by the President on the basis of the said report of the Governor and in the circumstances so obtaining, therefore, equally suffered from mala fides. A duly constituted ministry was dismissed on the basis of material which was neither tested nor allowed to be tested and was no more than the ipse dixit of the Governor. The action of the Governor was more objectionable since as a high constitutional functionary, he was expected to conduct himself more firmly, cautiously and circumspectly. Instead, it appears that the Governor was in a hurry to dismiss the ministry and dissolve the Assembly. The proclamation having been based on the said report and so-called other information which is not disclosed was, therefore, liable to be struck down.”

In the Bihar case the court held: “When the facts of the present case are examined in light of the … ratio decidendi of majority opinion of Bommai’s case, it becomes evident that the challenge to the impugned proclamation must succeed.”

“In the absence of the relevant material much less due verification, the report of the Governor has to be treated as personal ipse dixit of the Governor. The drastic and extreme action under Article 356 cannot be justified on mere ipse dixit, suspicion, whims and fancies of the Governor...” The mirror image of Karnataka of 1989 in Bihar of 2005 makes one to suspect the existence of a library of templates and Buta Singh only signed what was designed elsewhere. In this context, the following pronouncement assumes importance:

“In the facts and circumstances of this case, the Governor may be main player, but the Council of Ministers should have verified facts stated in the report of the Governor before hurriedly accepting it as a gospel truth as to what the Governor stated. Clearly, the Governor has misled the Council of Ministers, which led to aid and advice being given by the Council of Ministers to the President leading to the issue of the impugned proclamation.” The alternative to reading this as a damning verdict against the Central Government also would be admitting that those who advised the President were just some babes.

Recently, Mr Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister and leading lawyer appearing on a TV channel, made a grouse that the responsibility to ‘verify the facts’ contained in a report of the Governor is a new prescription by the court. And, therefore, the government should not be faulted for not following the rules that were introduced after the game was played. May be, he was not refreshed with the Bommai case verdict where the court said:

“Of course, the President under our Constitution being, what may be called, a constitutional President obliged to act upon the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers (which aid and advice is binding upon him by virtue of Clause (1) of Article 74), the satisfaction referred to in Article 356(1) really means the satisfaction of the Union Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as its head.” Elsewhere in that judgment different judges emphasised that the expression “President” means the Union Council of Ministers.

It need not be over-emphasised that the highest decision-making body in the country, the Council of Ministers, will have to verify the facts before getting satisfied about a serious issue of great consequence such as imposition of President’s rule and dissolution of a state assembly.

The Bommai case also dealt with the situation where the President — the Union Cabinet, in reality — may resort to Article 356 even contrary to or on matters not covered by the Governor’s report. The satisfaction can also be “otherwise” than the report of the Governor. In the present case, it was open to the Cabinet to find out whether the majority claimed was on account of “cobbling up” through ‘horse-trading’ or was it through neat stitching in accordance with the mode prescribed in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. It may be recalled that the Constitution permits 2/3rd or more number of members of a House belonging to a political party to merge with another party, without attracting the wrath of anti-defection law.

Facts apart, in this case the Governor straying into the Tenth Schedule was a pure question of constitutional law — the anti-defection area is reserved for the Speaker. The court held, “The Governor cannot refuse formation of a government and override the majority claim because of his subjective assessment that the majority was cobbled by illegal and unethical means. No such power has been vested with the Governor.” Is it too much to expect the Central government to appreciate this legal position settled in Kohito (1992) ?

In the present case, when the election results were announced on March 4, 2005, it was known that both major groups had the support of 92 MLAs — 30 short of the number required to cross the majority mark. When the Presidential proclamation of March 7 kept the Assembly under “suspended animation”, the purpose clearly was to allow the political parties to work out a majority group in accordance with the law. With no further results pending, such a majority could be achieved only through the process of realignments or merger or otherwise as permitted under the tenth Schedule.

And according to the Supreme Court, “There was no material, let alone relevant, with the Governor to assume that there were no legitimate realignment of political parties and there was blatant distortion of democracy by induced defections through unfair, illegal, unethical and unconstitutional means.”

The allegation was that the hope and expectations of the Governor and the powers behind him of “our good guys” managing to “stitch up” the required majority were belied — instead the “bad boys” “cobbled it up” and, therefore, the hurried resort to dissolution. This was accepted and the Governor’s action was branded as “mala fide”.

The writer is a senior advocate, Supreme Court of India.

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Kajrare Kajrare
by G.S. Aujla

AFTER the inebriating snake dance of “Nagin” of the fifties of the last century it was five decades later that the nation danced to the tune of “Kajrare”, a sensuous feat of music and dance put together. What contributed to the unprecedented mystique of the song was the subject mater of a spirited debate between my friends who got together on a Lohri bonfire.

What made it a bewitching number, according to a businessman friend of mine, was the sexy gyrations of the former Miss Universe dressed up in the rustic Choli-Ghagra — symbolising the emancipation of the rural womenfolk much to the delight of their male admirers. It led to a mass catharsis of both male and female susceptibilities.

To a male chauvinistic friend it was the co-featuring of the father-son Bachchan duo — the matinee patriarch on the one hand and his promising son on the other — each vying for the attention of the dancing beauty. The fairytale heroine’s simultaneous dalliance with both father and son got kudos from the old and young alike. If old was gold the young was more spicy.

The protagonist of the third viewpoint argued that it was the musical ensemble of Shankar - Ehsan - Loy which mesmerised the audiences. The rejuvenating beat of drums was perhaps the best backdrop for a lilting dance sequence.

Whatever may have been the main constituent of the success of the dance - song, one thing was clear that it was a heady concoction of music and choreography which rang in the New Year at all parties, emerging as the natural winner at all celluloid award giving ceremonies.

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Recast Rashtriya Rifles
by Lt-Gen (retd) G.S. Sihota and Brig (retd) A.I.S. Dhillon

Rashtriya Rifles (RR), the Army’s only counter insurgency force, has received accolades from all quarters for its ongoing and sterling contribution towards the goal of stabilising the situation in J&K.

It has eliminated countless militants and created a relatively secure platform for speedy progress of development schemes and often lent a helping hand in their completion.

It has ensured the safety of Amarnath Yatris year after year and has earned considerable goodwill of the public by saving lives during natural calamities. When the October 2005 earthquake brought misery to so many, RR was in the forefront in providing rescue, rehabilitation and succour to mitigate the sufferings of hapless Kashmiri victims.

We keep hearing stories of the valour and sacrifice of its men and officers. It has bagged the lion’s share of awards on Republic Day. Some isolated aberrations in the conduct of operations have occurred, but these are rare. Overall, the human rights record of RR is impeccable.

Since Independence the responsibility of internal security duties and security of the rear areas was generally assigned to the paramilitary forces (PMF), central and state police organisations.

The growth of these forces was not based on any grand design or plan which catered to the needs of low-intensity conflicts or based upon a formal counter insurgency doctrine. The raising and expansion of PMFs/CPOs were as a result of reaction to emerging situations. Growth of these forces took place on as required basis.

These were structured and equipped to handle either peace-time border guarding or maintenance of law and order. These forces have performed well within their capabilities. Many of these forces had police roots and imbibed its ethos.

Assam Rifles was the only PMF organised, equipped and trained for handling low-level rural area insurgency in the east. Later the Border Security Force (BSF) too was committed to this task, albeit on a small scale. By 1988-89 a plethora of such forces had mushroomed under the umbrella of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

In time of war these forces were also to be made available to supplement the regular Army resources through a cumbersome and unwieldy plan of redeployment which has never been fully tested.

The increased threat perception to rear areas and lack of confidence in our ability to coordinate arrangements to shift PMFs and CPOs to vital border areas is a matter of anguish to Army hierarchy. During mobilisation, large numbers of regular troops were needed for rear area security, protecting lines of communication and vital areas.

Such a drain on our combat power was unacceptable. We needed a force with Army ethos which could mobilise and operate under its direct control. It was thus proposed to raise such a force without diluting the overall strength of the Army or impinging on its financial resources.

This force was originally planned to be composed of 70 per cent ex-servicemen and the remainder made up through deputation from the regular Army. To prevent undue alarm by the international community it was to be funded by the MHA and designated as a PMF.

However, the ground realities in two aspects had an immediate impact on the raising sanctioned in 1990 i.e. lack of adequate ex-servicemen volunteers for RR and the rapidly worsening situation in J&K taking the shape of a full blown insurgency.

There was no option but to enlarge the scope of employment of this force from the rear area security to counter insurgency and man it purely from the regular army. The situation necessitated raising the force speedily to assist the regular Army, PMFs and CPOs to tackle insurgency in J&K.

Initial hasty decisions to raise the force with a temporary mandate for a limited period, funding by the MHA, rank and file to be a mixture of ex-servicemen and regular troops and calling it a PMF resulted in large number of anomalies.

After 15 years of its existence, we have failed to correct the shortcomings despite the fact that the parameters on which the force was raised have undergone a major change. RR is no longer being funded by the MHA.

It has been progressively expanded to a level in keeping with its commitments and has largely taken over the counter insurgency load of the Army. By proving its worth time and again it has secured its future and has come to stay.

The international community has fully grasped India’s internal security imperatives and the expansion of this much needed force no longer raises eyebrows. Yet, surprisingly, within the decision-making elements in the country the future of this elite force continues to remain in a state of limbo by repeatedly granting periodic extensions to its existence. Another example of our “babudom” mentality!

Consequently on ground the gallant RR soldier continues to countenance danger and hardship around the year — the man, who on enrolment swore allegiance to serve in the Army is thus languishing as a PMF trooper! The force surely deserves better.

Besides bringing in-house reforms in RR, the Army has been engaged in seeking changes in the policy to further enhance the effectiveness of the force. But it has failed to convince the authorities in power to give it a permanent mandate and remove the tag of a PMF.

RR commanders in the field cannot reconcile to the fact that PMFs and CPOs are willing to operate under the control of the regular Army but are not inclined to take instructions from commanders of the force/sector headquarters of RR unless given a reciprocal mandate.

Terming RR as a PMF and thereby generating reluctance in other PMFs and CPOs to function under its senior commanders in live counter insurgency environment creates an unnecessary obstacle towards the setting up of a unitary command so vital for the success of joint operations.

What it often results in is lack of coordination, duplicity, wasteful effort, blame game and non-achievement of optimal results. This scenario is all the more ridiculous when regular Army formations and units have no hesitation in operating under RR force/sector headquarters. So why have this needless PMF tag around the RR neck? Remove it.

It is time for us to be resolute and pragmatic and give RR its rightful recognition by granting permanent mandate to the premier counter insurgency force. We need to stop beating about the bush and integrate RR fully with the Army as its component in all aspects.

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Women’s heart disease harder to diagnose
by Rob Stein

MANY women suffer from a form of heart disease that is fundamentally different from the type that strikes most men and is easily missed by standard tests, researchers reported Tuesday.

Instead of developing obvious blockages in the arteries supplying blood to the heart, these women accumulate plaque more evenly inside the major arteries and in smaller blood vessels, the researchers found. In other cases, their arteries fail to expand properly or go into spasm, often at times of physical or emotional stress.

These abnormalities, which appear to be particularly common in younger women, can be as dangerous as the better-known form of the disease, strangling vital blood flow to the heart muscle, causing severe and sometimes debilitating pain and fatigue, and sometimes triggering life-threatening heart attacks, the researchers found.

The findings may help explain why some women suddenly have heart attacks even though their arteries look clear, in some cases leading doctors to send them home without treatment or refer them to psychiatrists. Their symptoms are often unusual: instead of the classic crushing chest pain, sweating and shortness of breath, they often complain of vaguer symptoms — fatigue, an upset stomach or pain the jaw or shoulders.

Even when they do get medical attention, these women may not benefit from standard drugs and therapies, such as bypass surgery and angioplasty to reopen clogged arteries, the researchers said.

Researchers have long known that women with heart disease tend to be diagnosed later and fare more poorly. The usual explanation has been that women do not seek treatment as early as men and doctors do not treat them as aggressively.

Researchers have been reporting partial results slowly for years. But in the hope of stimulating a fundamental reassessment of heart disease in women, they have for the first time collected their findings in a comprehensive set of papers, which is being published with the latest data in the Feb. 7 issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“We’re trying to paint an overall picture that really questions the dominant paradigm,” said C. Noel Bairey Merz of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angles, who leads the WISE study. “What we’re saying is that in many cases heart disease is a fundamentally different disease in many women in ways that we need to pay attention to.”

The studies were released yesterday, the same day the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, published another set of papers about heart disease in women.

The WISE study showed that many women whose arteries looked clear in angiograms and other standard tests had a significantly elevated risk of having a heart attack or dying within four or five years.

When the researchers used ultrasound and other more sophisticated techniques to examine their arteries, they found that many actually had abnormalities. The women also tended to score higher on certain tests, such as those measuring levels of inflammation.

The researchers emphasized that many women do have the same kind of heart disease that afflicts men, and they benefit from the same preventive measures and treatments that help men — a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But the WISE findings could help explain some of the disparities between the genders and should alert both women and their doctors to the alternative manifestations of the disease, they said.

— LA Times-Washington Post

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US without Greenspan
by Rupert Cornwell

AFTER a reign of more than 18 years, Alan Greenspan stepped down as chairman of the Federal Reserve on Tuesday, pushing through a valedictory 25-basis-point increase in its key short-term interest rate, and hinting that yet further increases could be on the way.

Almost simultaneously, the US Senate formally approved Ben Bernanke, a former colleague of Mr Greenspan on the Fed’s governing board and from May 2005 President Bush’s chief economic adviser, as the 14th man to lead the central bank since its establishment in 1913.

Tuesday’s decision, widely expected by markets, was the 14th consecutive such increase of the current tightening cycle which began in June 2004 — when the benchmark federal funds rate stood at 1 per cent, its lowest level since the Eisenhower era. The cost of fed funds is now 4.5 per cent.

His reputation still at its zenith, the 79-year-old Mr Greenspan enters a “retirement” that is likely to see him write a book, set up a financial consultancy here, and join the lucrative speaking circuit, commanding fees of up to $150,000 per appearance. For Mr Bernanke, however, the task will be more arduous, as he takes the Fed’s helm at a particularly delicate moment.

The immediate question is whether the latest increase in rates is the last of the series — and in its minutely scrutinised statement, the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee predictably gave no clear answer to that question.

Although “recent data is uneven”, the statement noted, underlying expansion appeared solid, while longer-term inflationary expectations remained “contained”. But in the next breath it warned that potential for inflation still existed, and that “some further tightening may be needed”.

Ultimately, Mr Bernanke’s hand could be forced by elements largely beyond his control, most notably the country’s huge federal budget and current account deficits — this latter now running at more than $700bn (£400bn) at an annual rate, equivalent to more than 6 per cent of GDP.

These have been mainly financed thus far by massive investment inflows from China, Japan and other surplus countries, enabling the Fed to keep interest rates relatively low. The inflows also explain in part what Mr Greenspan calls the “conundrum” whereby long-term rates have held steady or fallen even as short-term rates have risen.

As a result, mortgage rates have stayed low, fuelling a house price boom that has enabled homeowners to unlock equity, and thus underpinned consumer spending. But that spending is now showing some signs of slowing — unlike the internal and external deficits.

This is the shadow that overhangs Mr Greenspan’s legacy. His fiercest critics concede he has been a masterful handler of financial crises, from the Wall Street “Black Monday” crash three months after he took over in July 1987, to the Asian and Russian financial collapses a decade later. He is also credited with steering the economy adroitly through the mini-recession of 2000-2001, and the trauma of 9/11.

But he has also passed on to his successor a country burdened with debt and deficits without parallel. He is accused of being too soft on what he once termed “irrational exuberance” — first in the stock market boom that crested in 2000, and now with the housing “bubble”. He is also blamed for backing the massive tax cuts, early in Mr Bush’s first term, that have contributed mightily to the current deficit.

Alan Greenspan will leave the US Federal Reserve with a reputation to die for — and his personal chair as a memento.

— The Independent

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From the pages of

July 18, 1924

Trade unions in India

THE progress of trade unionism in India is very slow and the labouring class is not exhibiting qualities that make for unity and strength, and without it cannot influence employers. In Bombay, which is an important industrial area, it is said that the number of members of the existing trade unions is decreasing, subscriptions are not paid regularly and the funds at the disposal of the unions are too small to enable them to work efficiently. Moreover, workers in certain important industries have not taken advantage of the facilities for forming unions. These imperfections are, however, only to be expected at this stage of the country’s progress. Trade unionism in a purely Western form is no unmixed blessing and does not appeal to the working classes who desire to secure what they want by a more simple method, if possible. Their wages are too small at present to enable them to pay regular subscriptions to form a union fund to fight out their case by setting up paid executive agencies.

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Brothers they may be, but when princes battle before the cheering subjects, each fights to win the greater admiration. The restless crowd shouts encouragement to both. The battle started in fun turns deadly.

—The Mahabharata

The only immortal part of us is the soul.

—The Upanishads

Just like the bullock of the oilman though near home thinks it far, it is useless if one has perfected yogasanas but failed to attain the mind’s desires.

 —Kabir

Do not led astray by the temporary glitter of the evil-doer. Sooner or latter, his deeds will catch up with him. Then you will see him mourning and suffering the evil results of his acts.

—The Buddha

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