SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Regulatory shake-up
SEBI steps in for the small investor
FULFILLING just the kind of regulatory role it was set up for, the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) has come down hard on unscrupulous stock market players who used benami demat accounts to corner large chunks of shares meant for the retail investor.

Record victory
Jammu and Kashmir roots for democracy
This was the first popular election that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had contested and what a victory he scored! The record margin of over 58,000 votes by which he won the Bhaderwah Assembly seat gives solid legitimacy to his government. His margin is better than even that of the late Sheikh Abdullah.



EARLIER STORIES

Divisive quota
April
28, 2006
Explosion in Lanka
April
27, 2006
King climbs down
April
26, 2006
Jan Morcha again
April
25, 2006
It’s official
April
24, 2006
Hasten cases in consumer courts: Justice Mongia
April
23, 2006
Costlier oil
April
22, 2006
Monsoon tidings
April
21, 2006
Officers, not gentlemen!
April
20, 2006
Nuclear commitments
April
19, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Gas from Uzbekistan
India needs it for energy security
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s one-on-one talks with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov during his recent visit have cleared the way for gas and oil supplies from this Central Asian country. The two sides signed seven memoranda of understanding, including one on oil and gas exploration by Indian public sector companies in Uzbekistan, the 10th largest gas producer in the world.

ARTICLE

Change in Nepal
Gloomy view is unwarranted
by Pran Chopra
Within a matter of days, if not hours, Nepal has emerged out of an unprecedented crisis to knock at the doors of a kind of opportunity it has never had before. It is not certain yet that it will be able to sustain the chance till its fruition. There are some imponderables in the way. But more about them later.

MIDDLE

Ball bearings
by Ranjiv Dalal
I remember walking to our primary school with other children of the colony everyday with bags loaded on our backs. Often we’d come across an old man sitting on a bench clutching his knees.

OPED

MiG-25: The FoxbatFaster, higher, out of reach
The nation says farewell to the MiG-25 Foxbat
by Vijay Mohan
For 25 years it was India’s elusive eye in the sky, keeping a constant watch over the enemy deep inside his own territory and yet remaining beyond his reach.

  • Fast-forwarding the sun

Markets are essential, so is regulation
by Johann Hari
This is the story of two great political experiments. The first has been conducted in the United States over the past 25 years, increasingly setting corporations free from regulation and safeguards. The second experiment has been conducted in Argentina over the past five years, and lies at the opposite end of the political spectrum.


From the pages of

 
 REFLECTIONS

Top








 

Regulatory shake-up
SEBI steps in for the small investor

FULFILLING just the kind of regulatory role it was set up for, the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) has come down hard on unscrupulous stock market players who used benami demat accounts to corner large chunks of shares meant for the retail investor. The names in the sweeping 256-page order issued on Thursday read like a virtual who’s who of top banks and brokerages, and to SEBI’s credit, it has pulled no punches. While the market opened on Friday morning and promptly crashed by almost 500 points, it quickly recovered once SEBI clarified that customers of the banned entities would still be able to trade, but will have to transfer their shares out.

The recovery is a measure of the credibility the regulator enjoys and a virtual thumbs-up for its action. The benami demat accounts were a major distortion in the Initial Public Offering (IPO) system. SEBI investigated 105 IPOs during 2003-2005, including major ones like Maruti, TCS, Jet Airways and the NTPC. Retail investors (investing less than Rs 50,000) have a separate quota. When the shares debut on the stock market, it is often at a price higher than the IPO allotment price, and the investor can make a profit. But manipulators opened thousands of benami accounts, transferred the allotted shares to themselves before the listing on the market, and made a killing on debut.

SEBI believes that 60,000 such fake demat accounts existed. At one stage, the finance ministry was even thinking of doing away with the retail quota, which would have been counter-productive and unfair to small players. It is interesting that for this order, SEBI only investigated those cases where more than 500 benami entities transferred shares into a single account before listing. The scam may be even larger, thus justifying the large net that the regulator has cast — targeting 24 brokerages, 12 depository participants (banks) and 85 financiers. More banks are under watch, and SEBI has directed the National Securities Depository Ltd to check if their demat accounts are genuine. All players should cooperate with the regulator, as genuine investors and the market as a whole stand to gain. 
Top

 

Record victory
Jammu and Kashmir roots for democracy

This was the first popular election that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had contested and what a victory he scored! The record margin of over 58,000 votes by which he won the Bhaderwah Assembly seat gives solid legitimacy to his government. His margin is better than even that of the late Sheikh Abdullah. But more than being the triumph of party A or B, it was a victory for the voters of Jammu and Kashmir who braved the threats of militants and came out to vote in such large numbers. That only goes to show that their democratic aspirations are alive and kicking. The results will, hopefully, send a strong message to all those who swear by the bullet instead of the ballot. Their propaganda that the general populace is with them now stands discredited.

There will be a fallout on the political situation in the state as well. The ally of the Congress, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has fared poorly while the National Conference is on a comeback trail. While the PDP paid for several tactical errors, there are also dark rumours that it lost because Congress cadres were quietly told to back the National Conference candidates instead of going all out for the PDP. Whether true or not, this impression will have a bearing on the relations between the Congress and the PDP in the days to come. One just hopes that the political turbulence will not affect the development work adversely.

While in Jammu and Kashmir, the main focus is on the victory of democratic forces, elsewhere the question of which party triumphed is the most significant one. The huge margin of 65,000 votes by which the BJP defeated the Congress in the Patna West Assembly constituency should be a matter of concern for the latter because it snuffs out its hopes of a quick revival in Bihar. If it is any consolation for the Congress, it managed to retain the Visakhapatnam-I seat in Andhra Pradesh. The common determinant in these two byelections was the sympathy factor.
Top

 

Gas from Uzbekistan
India needs it for energy security

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s one-on-one talks with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov during his recent visit have cleared the way for gas and oil supplies from this Central Asian country. The two sides signed seven memoranda of understanding, including one on oil and gas exploration by Indian public sector companies in Uzbekistan, the 10th largest gas producer in the world. Uzbekistan also has big reserves of uranium, gold, silver and other such metals. India, which is a late entrant, is being treated on a par with other countries engaged in oil and gas exploration. Indian companies will be working on the basis of a formula applicable to the European Union, the US, China, Russia and South Korea. This means that the output of the explorations in the blocks given to India will be shared equally by the two countries.

However, there is a problem in bringing gas from Uzbekistan in the absence of a pipeline facility. The supplies through other means add to the cost considerably. The pipeline plan from Turkmenistan can be of great help. India needs to increase its focus on the republics of the former Soviet Union for meeting its fast growing energy requirement, as most of them are rich in hydrocarbons. That is one reason why the region is witnessing what has come to be known as the Great Game involving the world’s major players.

India’s understanding on exploration reached with Uzbekistan is significant from another angle. In August last year India suffered a major loss when ONGC Videsh Ltd lost an opportunity for oil exploration in Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan government had floated a tender for PetroKazakhstan which went in favour of a Chinese company under controversial circumstances. India’s presence in Kazakhstan’s neighbour, Uzbekistan, is bound to make it easier for gaining entry into the hydrocarbons sector in Kazakhastan.
Top

 

Thought for the day

You cannot catch a child’s spirit by running after it; you must stand still, and for love it will soon itself return.

— Arthur Miller
Top

 
ARTICLE

Change in Nepal
Gloomy view is unwarranted
by Pran Chopra

Within a matter of days, if not hours, Nepal has emerged out of an unprecedented crisis to knock at the doors of a kind of opportunity it has never had before. It is not certain yet that it will be able to sustain the chance till its fruition. There are some imponderables in the way. But more about them later. In the meantime a round of warm applause is fully in order for the transformation which has been posted so far, and for more of the same which has been put on the cards.

Most of the credit must go to the people of Nepal who, in their own untutored and spontaneous ways, have generated political currents of a kind which no country in this region has seen before since the time nearly 50 years ago when Sheikh Mujib-ur- Rehman lighted the torch which showed the way out of Pakistan to Bangladesh. The fervour which was then seen in the streets of Dhaka shook Nepal also during the past couple of weeks.

Fortunately, the powers that ruled Kathmandu until a few days ago woke up sooner to their responsibility than did those in Pakistan who put Sheikh Mujib in jail and kept him there till it was too late.

But what is of more immediate interest to India in the present times is that those in charge in New Delhi have shown more foresight and wisdom in recent weeks than did their predecessor who once ordered the Indian Air Force to stage flights over Sri Lanka on the pretext of dropping “food packets” and ordered the Indian Navy to take up positions at a gun shot distance from Colombo.

The situation in Nepal till the last week of April this year was as worrisome for India as the one in Sri Lanka was then. The word “Maoists” has the same ominous ring for India today as the words “Tamil Tigers” had then. Some Indian media are as jingoistic about Nepal today as they were about Sri Lanka then.

But the difference is that a very welcome culture of moderation and reasonableness prevails in New Delhi today and did not then. They have the will to be firm when the occasion calls for it, as during the current nuclear engagement with USA. But their preference is to see first which doors goodwill can open today so that more may be opened in the same way tomorrow without risking an avoidable breakdown which may then call for measures of last resort.

That’s how King Gyanendra was first cajoled to take the first essential step which only he could take, that is to reconvene parliament; then the parliamentary parties were persuaded to seize the chance which only they could seize, that is to resolve to elect a constituent assembly; this gave the “Maoists” the chance to capture power with their decidedly superior vote power instead of running into the danger which was already looming ahead, the unpredictable behaviour of armed mobs.

There was a growing suspicion that the army would love to get into action once the King’s provocateurs had done their job of inciting the street.

There was still the risk that any of these actors, from the King downwards ( or upwards ) could put down conditions unacceptable to others, as for example whether the King’s army should return to barracks first or the irregulars should be disarmed first.

But two precautions had been set in motion already : a public commitment by two top leaders, Prachanda and Bhattarai, that attacks on the army would be suspended once parliament agreed that its first task would be to arrange early and unconditional elections for a constituent assembly, and consultation were arranged between the Maoists and top leaders of Indian communists who are already and clearly committed to the parliamentary and constitutional process.

The whistle was blown for this train of events to move when in the course of the 26th and 27th April all the seven traditional parliamentary parties agreed to unite behind the former Prime Minister, Mr G.P. Koirala, until the proposed new constituent assembly took over to start preparing the new constitution. That was progress enough to put a stop to all other controversies which were beginning to raise their heads, like whether the people or the King would be in charge till then.

Once constituted, the constituent assembly would be the maker of the constitution and all other authorities, including the King, would be only interim institutions and their future role would be defined only by the constitution.

But the train suffered a huge jolt when a sudden indisposition prevented Mr Koirala from coming to the function where he was to take the oath of office. Completed on schedule, this would have been a strong even if symbolic event, confirming the start of a more important process of recovery than any that Nepal has seen since Pandit Nehru enabled King Tribhuvan to open the chapter of rule of Nepal by Kings instead of the Ranas. A bigger cause of worry since then has been whether, in the state of health he is now proved to be in, Mr Koirala will be able to give the guidance he was expected to give to the parliamentary and constitutional process, whether anyone else from the parliamentary side of the politics of Nepal would be able to step in effectively if he lacked the unanimous support Mr Koirala was able to demonstrate only a few days ago, and if there is none then what will that do to the desirable level of balance between the parliamentary and extra parliamentary forces in the country.

Does that question mean the end of all that was so patiently achieved with the assistance extended by India in recent weeks ? With a bit of luck events might show that such a gloomy view is not warranted. First of all any overt attempt by the Palace to undo it all can be and probably will be quenched by indigenous resistance to it, whether by the street or by parliamentary or revolutionary actors. Second, the nearly universal disapproval of what the King’s quarters were trying to do, and the equally universal praise in recent days for the events which were shaping will supply their own constraints and encouragement of the right kind. Thirdly, and most importantly, given this demonstration of the power of protest first and of reconciliation after that, no one will be able to erase the gains made by the people of Nepal in recent weeks.

Top

 
MIDDLE

Ball bearings
by Ranjiv Dalal

I remember walking to our primary school with other children of the colony everyday with bags loaded on our backs. Often we’d come across an old man sitting on a bench clutching his knees. We would, sometimes gather around him and ask: “Babaji kee hoya (What’s the problem!)?” “Kutte phel ho gaye, puttar!” “What’s that, babaji,” we’d ask in astonishment. “You won’t understand,” he would sigh philosophically and wave us away.

Once I passed my junior school, I was handed down my elder brother’s cycle. I was bursting with excitement unmindful of bruised elbows, bleeding knees, swollen shin bones and torturous applications of “spirit”.

On a hot summer afternoon, I stealthily took out my cycle and was out on colony roads cycling excitedly. Suddenly, the chain went free.

Fearing bashing at home for damaging the cycle, I hurriedly took it to a repairwallah and pleaded to set it right quickly. He surveyed the pedal and chain and said: “Kaka, kutte phel ho gaye.” Images of the old man flashed across my mind and I trembled. Sensing the fears of an adolescent, he kindly said: “Puttar tera kasur nahi, cycle hi purani ho gayee hai.”

He opened the wheel with his “chabi”, took out a couple of shining balls, rubbed them clean, replaced the wornout ones, rolled them into fresh grease and shoved them into the wheel cavity and fixed the wheel back. Lo and behold! The chain was tight again. Happily, I pedalled back home.

I happened to join the police service on completion of university education. For young officers, discussing seniors was a favourite pastime whenever brought together for VVIP duties etc. On one such occasion, while we were exchanging notes about seniors fretting and fuming on juniors while being meek and mild before those who mattered, a hardboiled DSP who was overhearing our conversation said: “Sir, seniors ke kutte phel ho jande hain. The disease has started affecting young officers, too”.

Sensing trouble we changed the subject.

Life moved on; until four years ago when I got posted to the Academy at Mussoorie, for a second stint. One of my younger colleagues insisted on my accompanying him to 13000-ft Dharwadhar range during a trekking expedition for trainees. My wife argued against my going reminding me of my middle age. Yet the younger colleague’s enthusiasm prevailed.

We started our trek from the mountain base along with a group of trainees. It was a steady climb for the next seven to eight hours.

We had trekked for just two hours when suddenly one of my knees collapsed. I couldn’t move a step forward. I was sitting clutching my knee. A doctor amongst the trainees ran up to me and after examining said “Sir, it’s the setting in of osteoporosis”. My younger colleague who had heard stories from me gave a mischievous smile and remarked “Sir, kutte phel ho gaye! Is it both literally and figuratively?”

He waited for an answer!
Top

 
OPED

Faster, higher, out of reach
The nation says farewell to the MiG-25 Foxbat
by Vijay Mohan

A MiG-25 pilot in his high-altitude suit.
A MiG-25 pilot in his high-altitude suit. 
Photos courtesy: IAF publication Touching the Sky

For 25 years it was India’s elusive eye in the sky, keeping a constant watch over the enemy deep inside his own territory and yet remaining beyond his reach. It was the awesome MiG-25, capable of flying too fast and too high to care much about enemy radars, fighters and missiles.

After all those secret missions over Pakistan and China, the MiG-25s are now set to retire. They are at the end of their lifespan, and so prohibitively expensive to maintain and operate. The formal de-commissioning ceremony is scheduled to be held at the Bareilly Air Force Station, where these aircraft are based, on May 1. The present MiG-25 squadron members as well as officers and personnel who had served in the squadron earlier, including those who have retired, would be attending the ceremony.

It is no secret that the MiG-25 flew in hostile airspace as a matter of routine, though, of course, there are no public records to validate this. One incident which lends credence to this is a “sonic boom” heard over Islamabad in May 1997, which is attributable to a MiG-25 deliberately going supersonic to pique the Pakistanis. The boom caused panic amongst the residents of Islamabad. According to reports, the Pakistani Air Force scrambled its F-16s, but the MiG-25 was too fast and too high for them.

Cruising in the outer fringes of the atmosphere, the 40-tonne MiG-25 had no parallel in the arena of gathering high value intelligence and strategic reconnaissance, and gave the IAF an immense advantage. Flying at nearly three times the speed of sound at altitudes above 90,000 feet, it was too high and fast for any fighter to intercept or missile to lock on to. Their task would now be taken over by satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles, supplemented with combat aircraft equipped with reconnaissance pods.

The MiG-25s are also believed to have monitored Chinese troop movements in NEFA following reports of incursions in the eighties and early nineties, photographed militant training camps across the Line of Control, mapped enemy positions during Operation Vijay in Kargil in 1999 and kept a close eye on Pakistani formations during Operation Parakram in 2002. Given the capabilities of its high-powered cameras, it could have accomplished much of the work while flying within Indian airspace.

It was in 1981 that the Indian Air Force procured eight MiG-25R single seat reconnaissance aircraft and two MiG-25U conversion trainers from the erstwhile Soviet Union. These were flown to India in a dismantled state and assembled and flight-tested by the Russians at Bareilly. The induction of these aircraft led to the IAF raising the highly secretive No.102 Squadron, nicknamed Trisonics, with Wg Cdr A. Singh as its first Commanding Officer (CO). Codenamed Foxbat by NATO, the aircraft was christened Garuda by the IAF, after the high flying celestial mount of Lord Vishnu in Indian mythology.

The MiG-25 made its official debut in Indian skies on August 25, 1981, when the then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal I.H. Latif flew a sortie in a two-seater trainer. A month before he retired, he took a MiG-25 up to 90,000 feet.

For induction of the MiG-25, a 14-member team of pilots and engineering officers were sent to Russia for training. “It was an intense course lasting six months, consisting of theoretical classes as well as practicals” Air Cmde S.S. Bisht (retd), who was among the Trisonics’ founding members, said. Normally, such pre-induction courses last 3–4 months. “There was a lot of work to be done in the initial stages and the aircraft were in the air every day. Regular night sorties were also flown,” he added.

A mere handful of lucky pilots got to fly the mean machine. Only officers of the level of wing commanders and above who had sufficient experience flying fighters were selected for the squadron. “Given the requirements, we wanted pilots who were senior enough and since flying was restricted due to the nature of operations, pilots who had almost finished their active flying life were chosen,” former Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal P.S Brar said.

Air Marshal Brar also had a chance to fly in a trainer version and he termed the sortie as a “phenomenal experience”. He said that one can count on his fingertips, the number of people who get to fly at nearly three times the speed of sound at a height of over 20 kilometers.

The MiG-25 was designed for reconnaissance and high altitude interception as a counter to the US SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft and the XB-70 Valkyrie strategic bombers, both of which were capable of Mach 3 performance. While the super-secret Blackbird remained in US service for several decades, the Valkyrie never went into production.

On October 5, 1967, the MiG-25 set a record of 1852.61 mph (2981 kmph) and carried a 2,000 kg payload to an altitude of 98,349 feet (30 kms). Soviets have taken a MiG 25 to an altitude of 1,23,000 feet.

A slew of altitude and speed records broken by the MiG-25 led to former US Secretary of the Air Force, Robert Seamans describing the MiG-25 as “probably the best interceptor in production in the world today”. Two versions were developed, one a combat version armed with four AA-6 Acrid long range air to air missiles and the other a reconnaissance version carrying several cameras in its nose. A two-seater version for conversion training was also developed.

On September 6, 1976, a defecting Soviet pilot, Lt Viktor Belenko landed his MiG-25 at Hakodate in Japan, giving western experts an opportunity to closely examine it before it was returned.

The IAF closely guarded its precious assets, keeping the MiG-25 terminal off limits to even air force personnel. Even the authorities at the Bareilly airbase were not involved with the squadron’s operations and flying activities. “Given its strategic role, all tasking was directly from Air Headquarters.” Air Marshal D.S Basra (retd) who at one time commanded the Bareilly airbase said.

In the squadron’s operations room, only the mission commander, pilot and the technical officer were permitted entry to discuss a particular sortie and the information remained closeted with other squadron members not involved. The pilot was briefed by the mission commander on the requirements and the technical officer’s responsibility was to ensure serviceability of all onboard surveillance equipment and the inertial navigation system.

After the sortie, the mission commander debriefed the pilot, which included observation of any hostile activity. Pictures taken by onboard cameras are developed and analysed and then sent up the chain of command through secure channels. All pictures are archived according to laid down procedures and categories.

Recalling a visit to the Bareilly airbase, Wg Cdr D.P. Sabharwal said that while he was posted as an instructor at the Air Force Technical College, he wanted to make a comparative study on the engine inlets of the MiG-25 and the MiG-29, but he was not allowed near the tarmac. It was only after special permission was obtained that he was allowed access.

Over the years, due to attrition, the IAF’s inventory has come down to four MiG-25s which includes one trainer. In 2003, No.102 Squadron was “number-plated”, that is disbanded, and the surviving MiG-25s were handed over to No.35 Squadron, the “Rapiers”. The MiG-25 initially had a service life of just 14 years, and were to be decommissioned in 1995. Life extension programmes gave them another 10 years and the final life extension for a year came in 2005. The Russians no longer manufacture this aircraft and are reported to have even done away with technical literature and drawings. Nor are spares available. The IAF had developed indigenous methods for their upkeep, but these aircraft still had to go to Russia for major overhaul. 

 

Fast-forwarding the sun

On October 24, 1995, two IAF pilots, Gp Capt S. Mukherjee and Wg Cdr Y.S. Babu, flying a trisonic MiG-25 witnessed for the first time in history, a total solar eclipse from an altitude of 80,000 feet. They were flying from Kalpi to Ikadala, south-west of Kanpur. This is an excerpt from Wg Cdr Babu’s account of the sortie, published in an official air force journal, Flight Safety:

Our attention was focused on flying parameters and it was only when the red glow of the instruments panel filled the cockpit that we realised that the sunlight had gone. It had become a dark night and the sky was filled with stars all round. In spite of the foresight, planning and expectations, it was all so sudden, so eerie and so exciting. The whole process was like rapidly fast forwarding a sunset and then a sunrise.

At 80,000 feet (25kms) above sea level, pilots do see stars and the sky appears grey rather than blue because of the absence of dust, air and water molecules. But this time, during totality, the sky suddenly turned inky dark without notice. The curvature of the Earth could also be seen from this height.

At a speed of Mach 2.5, we got to see about 90 seconds of totality, while those on ground got to see only 55 seconds. 
Top

 

Markets are essential, so is regulation
by Johann Hari

This is the story of two great political experiments.

The first has been conducted in the United States over the past 25 years, increasingly setting corporations free from regulation and safeguards. The second experiment has been conducted in Argentina over the past five years, and lies at the opposite end of the political spectrum. It asks: what if you took hundreds of businesses from their owners and handed them to their workforces to run, in assemblies based on one-worker, one-vote? What if you tried democracy not just at the level of the nation-state, but also at the level of the workplace?

These experiments are captured in a twin-set of superb documentaries: Enron - The Smartest Guys In The Room, already out, and Naomi Klein’s film about Argentina, The Take, to be released later this year.

At a time when we are encouraged to think that there is only One True Way to make a market economy work, these films reveal a bigger truth. Markets are essential (every country that has suppressed them has quickly regressed to universal poverty and famine), but they come in a thousand different forms. It is foolish to speak about “capitalism” as one big homogeneous block.

Let’s look first at America’s grand experiment in regulation-trashing. Enron bankrolled Bush’s road to the White House with the biggest donations in town and the Republicans proceeded to dismantle all the laws and regulations that had been built up during the 20th century.

The firm “financialised” the industry, moving from dealing with the dull, old gas that came down the pipeline to trading energy as if it consisted of stock options.

Enron used a hundred accounting tricks to create the appearance of industry whereas in reality there was next-to-nothing. It continued unchecked until the lights started to go out all over California.

The company found a great way to push up the electricity stock-price: plunge the state into blackout. Enron execs phoned and paid lackeys at power plants across the state telling them to “get creative” and find an excuse to turn out the lights.

The American right’s grand experiment revealed - as the great economist Karl Polanyi warned in the 1940s - that markets are not “self-regulating”, they need government regulation, and lots of it, or they spiral out of control.

In Argentina, throughout the 1990s, the International Monetary Fund undemocratically imposed Enron-capitalism on Argentina. It demanded that the government dismantle all democratic controls and regulations on businesses, promising this would lead to greater economic growth.

In reality, it led to the biggest economic collapse in the country’s history. In 2001, Argentina’s economy — previously the most successful in Latin America — collapsed virtually overnight. Some $ 40 billion was wrenched from the country in 24 hours, and there were no regulations left to stop it.

A middle-class country was suddenly pauperised. Children who once ate American fast food were reduced to rummaging through trashcans. But in the rubble, an experiment began. Many of the factories and hospitals in Argentina were abandoned by their foreign owners, so the workers, rather than succumb to starvation, decided to take them over and run them as democratic co-operatives.

As with new co-operatives across the country, the management now consisted of an elected core accountable to monthly meetings of the workforce. The result? The factory has become more successful than ever, increasing output by 20 per cent and taking on reams of new staff. This pattern has been repeated in the hundreds of Argentina’s impromptu co-ops.

From the wreckage of market fundamentalism, one more democratic form of market economics has precariously emerged as an example to the world.

By arrangement with The Independent
Top

 

From the pages of

February 8, 1945

Three dishes for Punjabis

Funny food control experiments are being made. And of all the provinces the Punjab, which has not experienced any acute shortage of foodstuffs, has been chosen for this purpose. Here one has to be content with a three-course dinner. The lunch or the dinner begins with a dish of soup and ends with a dish of pudding. So the choice is practically confined to one dish. The curb is not only placed on taste, but also on appetite. One rubs one’s eyes and wonders if one has come to Khyber Pass! Next door, in the United provinces, no such absurd restrictive orders are in force. One can have any number of dishes. The number is, of course, regulated by one’s eating capacity. 
Top

 

Marriage loses its sanctity when its purpose and highest use is conceived to be the satisfaction of the animal passion without contemplating the natural result of such satisfaction.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Through test and trial, I have found that nothing (no austerities or penances) equals the contemplation of God’s Name.

— Guru Nanak

The highest wisdom is in the contemplation of the Word of God.

— Guru Nanak

A man with a hundred desires sleeps uneasy.

—The Upanishadas
Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |