Perspective | Oped


Indo-US interaction
Making a mountain out of a molehill
by Premvir Das
HEN then US Secretary of Defence, William Perry, came to New Delhi in January, 1995, to sign the first Indo-US Minute on Defence Cooperation, neither side could ever visualise that professional engagement between the armed forces of the two countries would progress to the level that it has.

Rain-maker from Ballia
by Harihar Swarup
T is an extraordinary career of a prodigy that began in an improvised village of Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh and blossomed in Washington finally getting one of the prestigious awards of the world.


Reign of the unruly
April 26, 2008
States must do their bit
April 25, 2008
Enforcing RTI
April 24, 2008
Services and sloth
April 23, 2008
Revolt by Munde
April 22, 2008
Tenants redefined
April 21, 2008
Drama of sycophancy
April 20, 2008
Checkmated King
April 19, 2008
Maya Pradesh
April 18, 2008
Mother and son
April 17, 2008


Crisis of governance
Streamlining Haryana’s higher education
by Rajbir Parashar
ITH the announcement of 2008 as the Education Year, the Hooda government in Haryana has displayed a keen interest in reforming the system of education. It is taking drastic steps to reorient the thrust of higher education with quality as the key goal.

Recession to hit Europe too
by Sarah Arnott
PP, the world's largest advertising group, has issued a stark warning to businesses across Western Europe, revealing that the crisis in the financial sector has already spilled over into the wider economy, with the most serious effects being felt since the beginning of March.

On Record
Futures trading helps farmers
by Vibha Sharma
HARAD Joshi is one of the most articulate spokespersons of the new farmers’ movement. He is also a member of the Abhijit Sen Committee formed to study the impact of futures trading on commodity prices.



Indo-US interaction
Making a mountain out of a molehill
by Premvir Das

WHEN then US Secretary of Defence, William Perry, came to New Delhi in January, 1995, to sign the first Indo-US Minute on Defence Cooperation, neither side could ever visualise that professional engagement between the armed forces of the two countries would progress to the level that it has.

The agreement was signed in the aftermath of the collapse of the erstwhile USSR and suspicions, on both sides, were acute and spread across every aspect of the proposed interaction.

The Pentagon was chary of dealing with a former Soviet “ally” and our own defence establishment, given the US fascination for Pakistan, equally resistant.

It is, therefore, quite remarkable that we have come where we have in this short period of just over a decade despite the fact that the envisaged cooperation could not really begin until after 2000, given the tension in relations following American sanctions imposed after the 1998 Pokhran blasts.

All three wings of the Services, – the Army, the Navy and the Air Force – have exercised with their American counterparts several times in operations of increasing complexity and fared very well eliciting admiration, possibly grudging, of the other side.

This engagement with the most professionally competent military in the world has enabled our forces to assess their own capabilities, both of men and material, and to make course corrections where needed. This is an essential and continuous military process which decades of insularity had inhibited, turning our armed forces into "frogs in the well".

The fact that in many of these exercises they have matched and even outscored their "opponents" must have added loads to their confidence in training and deployment practices.

The ten-year 1995 agreement expired in 2005 and has been replaced by the New Framework of Defence Cooperation and should lead to a stronger and even more coherent relationship between the two militaries.

In this same period, we have come out of the well, literally, and now interact with several militaries, including the Chinese PLA.

Credible cooperation between two militaries does not come from just some pieces of paper signed by leaders. It depends on trust and confidence between peoples and these are not generated overnight.

As highlighted earlier, the 1995 agreement came after four decades of mutual suspicion and distrust. Gradual and continuing engagement between personnel, at different levels, was an absolute must and it must be said to the credit of military leaders on both sides that 13 years down the line the deficit of trust, to quote former US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, is significantly reduced, even if it has not still disappeared altogether.

This must be further built upon, not because the two countries are part of any military alliance or group but because as two credible Asian powers, one by virtue of its global interests and the other because of geography, they have no option but to engage with each other in the furtherance of their own respective interests.

These can extend over many areas, including relief during natural disasters and calamities, peace keeping, prevention of terrorism and safety of movement of sea-borne commerce. In the stretch extending from the Suez on one side to South East Asia on the other, India's military is, possibly, the only regional force capable of playing a useful role in conjunction with that of the US.

For us, on the other hand, engagement with the Americans not only helps in securing the objectives mentioned above but also facilitates interfaces with other like minded militaries in the region.

In the emerging security environment in which non-traditional threats are coming centre-stage, these relationships are absolutely vital. So, the rationale for cooperation is clear.

It is, therefore, amazing that a set of utterly routine issues are creating the frustration that they are. These are the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), the Communications Interoperability Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and the End User Memorandun (EUM) which have not yet been concluded; in fact, these have been so politicised by the Left that they are touted as compromising India's sovereignty.

The fact, however, is that these agreements are of so ordinary a nature that they should be approved and signed by officials of a quite low level. It does not require retired US Admiral Dennis Blair to tell us these home truths as he did during a recent conference in New Delhi.

The LSA simply means that the two militaries can meet various administrative and logistics needs of each other such as berthing of ships in each other's ports, airfield usage charges, supplies of fuel and rations and medical facilities etc through book transfers and adjustments as against cash payments as at present.

In fact, there is just no reason why this agreement cannot be concluded between the Services without bringing in the civil establishment at all. How such a trivial issue could have become a serious political issue defies imagination.

Similarly, the CISMOA is also something which the Services should sign amongst themselves a only operational issues are involved. It enables us to use classified communication systems used by the Americans during joint exercises.

As for the EUM, the Americans have this clause in force with every country to whom they supply anything military, including their closest allies. It is part of their legislated process. We do not understand this because in our system all such things are in the realm of the Executive.

To link just about everything to infringement of sovereignty is to behave like a little country with severe complexes of inferiority and insecurity rather than one which is a nuclear weapon state with aspirations of global power.

Surely, India is not going to kowtow to any dictates from anyone, even the super power, if it feels that its interests require it to act in a certain way.

To those who give so much weight to the intrusive and restrictive elements of the EUM, it may be pointed out that these did not prevent even a very weak Pakistan from using the F 104s, F 86 Sabres and Patton tanks in its wars with India.

So we should not hoist ourselves with our own petards. The first two of these agreements are clearly advantageous to us more than to them and as for the third, we can negotiate for change in phraseology.

With the kind of military acquisitions on line, the Americans, especially their companies like Boeing, Lockheed and Grumman, are going to lobby on our behalf but even if no substantive changes are possible, this is no cause to lose any sleep. In short, making non-issues into issues is not the best way of taking the engagement forward.

Finally, there is an obsession in India with the tactical rather than what is strategic. Two decades from now, unless things go very horribly wrong, India will sit on the Asian high table along with China, Japan and Russia, and the USA.

This scene will, by and large, be replicated on the wider international stage with some others thrown in. We must take stock of what the security equations will be at that time and prepare our own positions starting now.

Clearly, networked relations with major players must determine the strategy that we should adopt and America has to be recognised as the most important of them, not just today but even 20 years later.

If we look at Indo-US Defence cooperation with this backdrop, right choices will automatically fall into place. Making mountains out of mole hills is not going to be one of them.

The writer is a former Director General, Defence Planning Staff



Rain-maker from Ballia
by Harihar Swarup

IT is an extraordinary career of a prodigy that began in an improvised village of Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh and blossomed in Washington finally getting one of the prestigious awards of the world.

Born in Mirdha village of Ballia, Dr Jagadish Shukla has been decorated with the International Meteorological Award for his study on climate change predictability.

He has been hailed by science journals as a “ rain-maker”. Now a Professor at George Mason University, Dr Shukla’s findings have made it possible to make accurate weather predictions.

Dr Shukla’s village, Mirdha, had no electricity, no road or transportation and no primary school building when he was born as far back as 1944. Most of his primary school education was received under a large banyan tree.

He passed his high school examination in the first division with distinction in maths and Sanskrit but was unable to study science as none of the schools near his village included science in their curriculum.

His father, the late Chandra Shekhar Shukla, advised him to read science books during summer vacations. When young Shukla was admitted to a colleage in 
Ballia town, he knew beforehand his science course.

Having completed his education at Ballia, he joined Banaras Hindu University, where he excelled. Having obtained his BS (Hons) in the first division, he obtained MS in geophysics. He earned his MS in geophysics in 1964 and Ph.D in 1971.

It looked as if Shukla was destined to lead a conventional life as a government employee having obtained a civil service post in Pune. A last minute-trip to Japan to attend a conference transformed his career.

In Japan, Shukla, who was barely 24-year-old, met Jule Charney, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the world’s most eminent meteorologist, leaving a good impression on her.

At her behest, Shukla joined the Massachusetts Institute and did his doctorate in meteorology.

His studies and, more importantly modelling experiments at MIT and subsequently at NASA, led him to a breakthrough concept in climate predictability.

Though Shukla went from strength to strength in his career, he never forgot India and his native village. He was instrumental in creating weather and climate research centres in India.

When India received its first super computer from the US under a special agreement for monsoon forecasting, he was invited by the government to be the scientific leader in establishing the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in New Delhi.

He helped recruit and train the scientific staff and implemented a global model to make weather forecast for India.

Shukla decided to give something back to his native village of Mirdha, where he grew up and where some of his family members, including brother Shri Ram, still live.

He helped establish Gandhi College in his native village for education of rural students. He has been quoted as saying: “My efforts are not only intended to improve the lives of the people in Mirdha, but also to alter the mindset; to show the people that change is possible and that some degree of change can be good.”

To advance his goal, Shukla recently decided to devote 10 per cent of his time to Mirdha, matching his previous commitment of 10 per cent of his salary.

His impromptu reaction after staying in his native village was: “After five days at a house without electricity or running water, I often find myself looking for a comfortable hotel. Change is difficult but possible and I am the living proof that change changes us all.”



Wit of the week

Prime Minister Manmohan SinghAll political parties should eschew the temptation of politicising the misery of the people and should not create an environment of scarcity, which will only encourage speculators and hoarders.

— Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

The government must remember that they need us to get the Finance Bill passed.

— A.B. Bardhan, CPI leader

Food prices have shot up by 40 per cent in the last one month. Is this a more important issue or is it more important to ban the telecast of Indian soaps on Afghanistan’s TV channels?

— Former Afghanistan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah

Maoist leader PrachandaRight now, I cannot renounce every kind of violence. We want to lead this process to a logical conclusion and we want to create a model of peace. Through this we want to renounce reactionary violence.

— Maoist leader Prachanda

We are seeing a more urban face of hunger. We are seeing again people’s diets changing so maybe their caloric intake is the same but their nutritional status is deteriorating. We are seeing people cut out on health care and education.

— Josette Sheeran, Executive Director, World Food Programme

The only thing that has held back higher grain production is complacency. There is plenty of new technology available to increase food production.

— Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug

K.P.S. GillLet not sports ministers talk of accountability or responsibility. Most of them don’t know anything about sports and have never done anything for hockey. In the past five years, have you seen these ministers doing anything?

— K.P.S. Gill

skipper Yuvraj SinghThis is my first tournament as a captain. It has been tough initially. But I know nothing comes easy in cricket. I have made mistakes in the earlier games, but I’ve also learnt from them. Surely as the league goes on I’ll only improve as a captain.

— skipper Yuvraj Singh

I’ve won the states we have to win—Ohio, now Pennsylvania. If you look at the broad base of support that I have accumulated, it really is the foundation on which we will build our victory come the fall.

— Hillary Clinton

The armed forces cannot sustain the continuation of poor intake of officers and the current wave of resignation requests. In case of jawans, the recruitment trend will continue for a few more years, but their motivation level will drop.

— Gen. N. C. Vij, former Army Chief



Crisis of governance
Streamlining Haryana’s higher education
by Rajbir Parashar

WITH the announcement of 2008 as the Education Year, the Hooda government in Haryana has displayed a keen interest in reforming the system of education. It is taking drastic steps to reorient the thrust of higher education with quality as the key goal.

The government is now concentrating on a reorganisation of the university and college level education with a vision and direction that can enhance the employability.

The Education Secretary, of Haryana has come out with a perspective paper spelling out problems of higher education and remedies required. His 12-point list of problems mainly relates to K.U., Kurukshetra, M.D.U., Rohtak, and their affiliated colleges.

In fact these institutions together are identified as the most backward and traditional zone of higher education in Haryana. This reorganisation is directed towards them only.

The steps recommended are the introduction of a credit-based semester system of examination, teaching of multiple subjects upto 15 at the UG level and beginning of five-year integrated degree courses only in economics, commerce, mathematics, applied sciences, management, law, information technology, bio technology and other professional courses in the university.

The introduction of computer education at the UG level and expansion of universities are other urgencies that it proposes.

These recommendations are already a part of an action plan to be implemented from the session 2008-2009. But it is imperative to supplement these endeavours of the government with issues that are otherwise marginalised, absent or merely referred in its vision and action plan.

The state has to be cautious in its Gurgaon-centric approach to higher education. It is heartening to acknowledge that in the last three years Haryana has attracted investment worth Rs. 33,000 crore and proposals worth Rs 68,000 crore are in the pipeline.

This situation is likely to generate employment opportunities for which the system of higher education has to gear up. Steps have to be taken to make higher education “relevant to the local and global job market”.

At the same time, the policy-makers have to “ensure that the system of higher education also produces adequate intellectual capital for sustaining development”. The government should not deride or reduce humanities, arts and social sciences simply by saying that they produce only teachers.

The basic understanding of reforms emanate from an alarming dichotomy between languages/literature/social sciences and market-oriented subjects, societal needs and market urgencies.

The policy-makers need to be aware of the fact that the much talked-about “knowledge society” basically unleashes compulsions of direct interaction and living together with a wide variety of people. Haryana is largely unexposed to this challenge.

In reality, it is constantly facing embarrassment due to dismal HRD factors, including the imbalanced sex ratio, rampant female feticide and social issues like discrimination against dalits and extra-constitutional assertion of Khap panchayats.

An average Haryana student at the UG level requires a constant and rigorous engagement in the processes of language learning, especially English. This is necessitated by the deficiency carried from the school level. While framing the syllabus of languages, the universities should take due cognizance of concrete realities of the intake from schools. Instead of “clubbing languages with other subjects”, which the government intends to do, there is an immediate need to enhance communication skills of students with proper re-orientation of the curriculum as well as teachers.

In the targeted institutions, K.U., Kurukshetra, M.D.U, Rohtak, and their affiliated colleges — a considerable space of the curriculum and campus is already occupied by its eschewed list of subjects. In order to promote the study of science at the plus two level the government has endorsed the shifting of these classes as pre-engineering classes to self-finance engineering colleges. This has caused widespread resentment among common people, parents, students and college and school teachers. The government should not go ahead with this decision which is totally contrary to its patronising attitude towards science and technology. It is better to assign this responsibility to the government and government aided private colleges, which have formidable infrastructure and faculty for it.

The affiliating system has overburdened the existing universities. The remedy is offered in establishing autonomous colleges or centres of excellence. This will help the already well-developed institutions to the gross disadvantage of the colleges in the rural areas where the intake in higher education has already declined. Enrollments under distance education in both universities have led to an internal crisis of governance. The examination branches are the worst affected and objectively speaking, incapable of embracing the challenges of the proposed semester system. The state government should establish an open university so that the expansion, accessibility and quality in higher education is practically ensured.

Moreover, the only Women University at Khanpur and CDLU Sirsa, have no burden of affiliation of colleges. To make the affiliating system more functional and result-oriented, colleges can be transferred to them also.

In fact, to resolve such key matters regarding the growth, governance and autonomy of universities, the government should come out with long-term solutions. For this, the most significant step would be the constitution of a higher education council as an independent body with adequate representation of the academic community. Only this step can liberate the system of higher education in Haryana from the bureaucratic manoeuvring of policy formation.

The most neglected side of colleges in Haryana is the library. There is an utter lack of library culture. It is not a part and parcel of the vision of governance at the grassroots level. Funds are lavishly spent on non-academic infrastructural developments. Government colleges generally lack funds for books and the government-aided colleges are totally directionless in this regard.

In majority of B.Ed and engineering colleges. Libraries have a token existance. Unless managements are made accountable for these lapses, the situation is unlikely to improve. There is an urgent need for well-sustained efforts to strengthen the update the library system in the colleges as it is directly linked to quality education and overall development of students and faculty.

Any genuine proposal of reforms in higher education should take notice of the erosion of ethical governance in the self-financing courses and institutions of higher learning in Haryana. The mushroom growth of B.Ed and engineering colleges which are around 400, has added an alarming element of under-the-table culture. There are gross anomalies in the projection and reality of infrastructural facilities, fee structure and donations, and the salary of the teaching and non-teaching staff.

Financed by the dominant castes and influential people, its responsiveness to principles of access and equity is nowhere in vision and practice. At this transitional juncture, the government should take bold steps so that this multi-layered system is governed efficiently with equal opportunities to SC/ST/OBC/Physically challenged and women at all levels.

A comprehensive approach of monitoring the reservation policy, fee structure, wages and working conditions of the teachers in self-financing institutions is urgently needed.

Indeed of addressing the ills of higher and school-level education in a separate, selective, incoherent and whimsical manner as the successive governments have done, the present government should treat the sphere of education organically and come out with a comprehensive plan to seek long-term solutions.

The writer teaches English at RKSD College, Kaithal



Recession to hit Europe too
by Sarah Arnott

WPP, the world's largest advertising group, has issued a stark warning to businesses across Western Europe, revealing that the crisis in the financial sector has already spilled over into the wider economy, with the most serious effects being felt since the beginning of March.

WPP said on Friday that despite the widely held view that the US has already moved into recession, it was actually suffering much more seriously in Europe, where sales in the first quarter increased by just 3 per cent compared with the same period a year ago, damaged by a particularly lean March.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, said that while the stability of WPP's US earnings appeared puzzling, it reflected the different approach on opposite sides of the Atlantic taken towards the threat of an economic slowdown.

Whereas US manufacturers are able to pass on their rising costs to consumers, thanks to a series of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts that have boosted household budgets, Sir Martin said the "pretty awful" situation in parts of Europe reflected the reluctance of central banks to cut borrowing costs aggressively. The European Central Bank has been particularly reluctant to reduce interest rates in the face of a sharp rise in inflation.

"It is a combination of rising prices in the US and the difference in economic policies," Sir Martin said. "Because of that difference, it is logical that Europe would be affected first – next year will be the more difficult year in terms of a slowdown in the US."

The views of Sir Martin and WPP are widely followed because the scale of the advertising group exposes it to a wide range of different businesses around the world. Sir Martin said yesterday that his European clients felt the effects of the credit crunch on the wider economy had really begun to bite in March. "If you go to the TV companies, particularly in France, Spain and Germany, they are seeing pretty awful months," he said.

So far, WPP's UK business has escaped the worst of the gloom on the Continent, but only bec-ause it is starting from a lower base. Year-on-year, WPP's sales rose 2 per cent during the first quarter of 2008 in the advertising company's worst performing market, but this was in line with growth rates over the past three years. "The bad news about the UK is that it is low growth" Sir Martin said. "But the good news is also that it is low growth, so nobody's got any great expectations."

Nevertheless, other UK advertising groups said yesterday that their prospects were increasingly dire, with some groups slashing forecasts for growth in 2008 to close to zero. Alan James, the chief executive of the Outside Advertising Association, said: "For the last three years, growth has been at between 4 and 7 per cent, but this year we are expecting 1 or 2 per cent – and that is with a fair wind."

Advertising agencies are also feeling the pinch. The quarterly bellwether report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) this month revealed that one in five companies was revising marketing spends downwards, the sharpest fall in eight years. Moray MacLennan, the president of the IPA, said: "Agencies in London and Western Europe are beginning to feel the effects of marketing budgets going down,for the first time in two or three years... in the last month or so in particular the economic climate has begun to have a direct effect."

The gloomy predictions follow similar alerts in other areas of the economy. Royal Bank of Scotland said last week that March's worsening financial climate was one factor in its decision to launch a £12bn rights issue.

By arrangement with The Independent



On Record
Futures trading helps farmers
by Vibha Sharma

Sharad Joshi
Sharad Joshi

SHARAD Joshi is one of the most articulate spokespersons of the new farmers’ movement. He is also a member of the Abhijit Sen Committee formed to study the impact of futures trading on commodity prices.

Joshi says there is no evidence of prices going up due to futures trading and that a ban on futures trading hurts farmers. According to him, futures trading helps farmers get good prices as they can sell their produce at the farm itself at expected prices after six months.


Q. How do farmers benefit from futures trading?

A. From the point of view of producers, the futures market is a boon. It gives farmers advance knowledge of prices to expect at harvest. It provides an iron-clad guarantee that farmers will get that price. Under the current system, the CACP recommends a minimum support price but there is no guarantee that farmers will get that price.

In many cases an MSP acts as the maximum price that needs to be paid to farmers. The futures market brings together producers and consumers. On one side are producers who like to have prices that will be available three to four months after the harvest.

On the other side are consumers or customers like say biscuit or atta producers who would like to purchase wheat after some time.

Q. Don't the futures markets have inflationary effects?

A. What is the characteristic of futures trading? For the buyer it is the price he is prepared to pay to take the delivery six months from now and that includes the cost of storage and insurance.

For example, the current price of wheat is Rs 1000 per quintal. If I am a trader, I will take into account what will the commodity cost me after six months. If Rs ,1000 is the cost of wheat and Rs 100 will be the cost of storage, insurance etc. So my cost will be Rs 1,100. And if I find that in the futures market I am able to purchase wheat at Rs 1050 rather than Rs 1,100, I would prefer to purchase in futures rather than on the spot.

If there are reasons that prices are going to decline, I would not purchase on the spot but six months later because it will save me the price of storage. But if indications from the futures market suggest that at that time the cost of wheat will be Rs 1,200, I will purchase on the spot.

Q. But doesn’t it encourage hoarding and black marketeering?

A. Hoarding is an illegal practice like gambling. As far as the futures market is concerned, the upper and lower limits are well laid down. The problem is that the Leftists have a deep prejudice against markets. They feel that anything governed by demand and supply is bad. You can have a Harshad Mehta even on the commodity market but there are ways of dealing with it.

Q. What are the ways of regulating the futures market?

A. As a farmer I am sowing a crop and I know it will take four months to ripen. According to my calculations, my cost will be around Rs 1,000. I find that in the futures market someone is willing to pay Rs 1,100 for it. I can lock the bid and at the time of the contract also give a premium that gives me a buy-back option.

If I find that at the end of six months the futures market price is Rs 1,100 and the spot price is Rs 1,200 I have the option of walking out. It would be the job of the FMC to adjust key points to ensure that markets run smoothly.

Q. What is your take on the news that farmers in Punjab and Haryana are not at liberty to sell their produce to private traders?

A. It is not fair to them. As not only does the government give them less money, it also makes it impossible for them to get a better price by not allowing private traders. Why do you think sugar factories are not allowed to be set up in Punjab? It is to ensure that farmers do not get out of the wheat-paddy trap.

Q. What is the way out?

A. We are asking farmers in Punjab to grow organic food which is in high demand. Let the government import inferior quality wheat and farmers can export their good quality organic wheat at the price they can demand. The problem is if you do organic farming on an isolated area, pest attacks are more frequent. If you want to call your produce organic, there has to be a certificate that no pesticides have been used. This means that some large areas have to be identified where such farming can take place.


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