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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Asatyam
Corporate India’s image in a shambles
B
Y inflating profits and showing fictitious assets, Satyam chairman B. Ramalinga Raju has not just disgraced himself but jeopardised the future of some 53,000 employees of the company he founded.

Son of Pakistan
Admit the truth and hand over the guilty
T
HE Pakistani complicity in the attack on Mumbai was never in doubt. The arrest of Ajmal Kasab, one of the 10 men who came from Pakistan on a dinghy and wreaked havoc on the metropolis, provided clinching evidence of his Pakistani origin.



EARLIER STORIES

Right to ask
January 8, 2009
Chief Justice acts
January 7, 2009
Fund of goodwill
January 6, 2009
Painkillers, not a cure
January 5, 2009
Fight against terrorism
January 4, 2009
Warning from Assam
January 3, 2009
LeT’s admission
January 2, 2009
Hasina returns to power
January 1, 2009
Generational change
December 31, 2008
Sonrise
December 30, 2008
Voters’ victory
December 29, 2008


Shekhawat is willing
The BJP is getting the jitters
T
HE decision of former Vice-President of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha election — health permitting — is a clear break indeed from convention because those who have held the high posts of President and Vice-President have always kept away from electoral politics later.
ARTICLE

Ruthless & remorseless
America blindly backs Israel
by Inder Malhotra
E
VEN by Israel’s standards of arrogance and aggressiveness, the current Israeli attack on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is staggering in both scale and ferocity. At the time of writing the relentless Israeli aggression, beginning with merciless bombing and later extended to ground action by tanks and artillery and shelling from sea, has been nothing short of barbarous.

MIDDLE

The auntie syndrome
by Nonika Singh
A
unty…! The first time you hear this word, your first instinct is to scream and holler back — for heaven’s sake, I am not your aunt. Later, when the anger subsides, you rush to the mirror and look for those telltale signs — the crow’s feet, greying hair, laughter lines — that betray your age. Or may be not.

OPED

Return of democracy
Bangladesh tries to end politics of confrontation
by Kuldip Nayar
W
HEN I was at Dhaka after the liberation, my first visit, I saw at the airport a frustratingly long queue inching past the immigration authorities and confusion at the luggage counter.

Why are Palestinians angry?
by Mark Steel
W
hen you read the statements from Israeli and US politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like “Visual Carnage Responsibility Back To Front Upside Down Massacre Disorder”.

Delhi Durbar
Satyam: a blot on IT sector
R
amalinga Raju of Satyam Computers is absconding but the company has tried to cover up for its assets by acquiring Maytas Infrastructure, which was a personal firm of Raju. What is really baffling is that Satyam is a US listed company and the bloated balance sheet never came up for scrutiny in that country either.

 


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EDITORIALS

Asatyam
Corporate India’s image in a shambles

BY inflating profits and showing fictitious assets, Satyam chairman B. Ramalinga Raju has not just disgraced himself but jeopardised the future of some 53,000 employees of the company he founded. More than causing a massive financial loss to the shareholders and shaking the faith of the company’s customers worldwide, the Satyam management has shamed the entire India Inc, more particularly the country’s once-shining IT sector, which has been widely regarded as a model of corporate governance. It has sullied corporate India’s image in a bearish economic environment and made every Indian firm a suspect. Ironically, only last year Satyam was awarded the coveted Golden Peacock Global Award for excellence in corporate governance.

Driven by greed, profit and compulsions to perform in a cut-throat business world, egocentric company CEOs, deified by business newspapers and TV channels, may be tempted to fudge accounts to live up to their high-profile image. But if a fraudster goes undetected for years, that points to a systemic failure. The regulator, Satyam’s independent directors and the auditor, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, have much to explain. The botched purchase of two firms owned by Raju’s family and the World Bank banning Satyam from undertaking its offshore work failed to alert the regulators in India as well as the US. Americans jokingly considered Raju more dangerous than Osama bin Laden for destroying US jobs through outsourcing. Now, he has actually become a rogue who deserves a place in jail, along with his accomplices.

To be fair, Raju had raised Satyam to be India’s fourth biggest technology company and had won several Fortune 500 companies as clients — Unilever, Nestley, GE and Sony among them. The reverberations of Satyam’s fall will, therefore, be felt far and wide as the company was listed in New York and Amsterdam too. US investors may move courts for recompense and hold both Satyam and PwC accountable. Satyam is not the first or the last villain in the corporate world. Frauds have occurred in well-regulated regimes too. Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia and Madoff are only recent examples. A system’s real test lies in how fast and efficiently it brings wrong-doers to justice. India has a chance now to redeem its image.
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Son of Pakistan
Admit the truth and hand over the guilty

THE Pakistani complicity in the attack on Mumbai was never in doubt. The arrest of Ajmal Kasab, one of the 10 men who came from Pakistan on a dinghy and wreaked havoc on the metropolis, provided clinching evidence of his Pakistani origin. There was no need for such evidence when his father told a Pakistani television channel that Kasab was indeed his own son. Yet, Pakistan kept itself on the denial mode claiming that no Kasab existed in the national register of citizens. Not just that, the Pakistani terrorists also left behind a whole lot of equipment like mobile and satellite phones, guns and grenades with Pakistani markings and toothpastes and shaving creams made in Pakistan. Interrogation of Kasab has given a fair idea of how the whole operation was planned and carried out.

The kind of training they received helped them target the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Taj and the Oberoi with precision. That is why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the sophistication with which the attack was carried out indicated the involvement of some official agencies in it. With such overwhelming evidence, Pakistan National Security Advisor Mahmud Durrani was compelled to admit that Kasab was indeed a Pakistani citizen. But within hours of making this admission, he was removed from office. This proves beyond a shadow of doubt that what Pakistan has been doing all through is nothing but obfuscation. The world is convinced that terror has been a part of Pakistan’s foreign policy. It has been using it with telling effect in Kashmir, Afghanistan and other places.

There are no takers for Pakistan’s claim of innocence. Mr Durrani has himself admitted that at least two persons — Zarar Hussain and Lakhvi — had contact with the Mumbai attackers. Instead of trying to pick holes in the evidence India has handed over to Pakistan, it should forthwith accept that the terrorist strike was planned and executed by its own people. It should also hand over all the wanted men to India so that they can stand trial in this country. Nothing less than this will satisfy India.
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Shekhawat is willing
The BJP is getting the jitters

THE decision of former Vice-President of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha election — health permitting — is a clear break indeed from convention because those who have held the high posts of President and Vice-President have always kept away from electoral politics later. But if there is a big turbulence in the BJP over the issue, it is not entirely due to the unconventional departure, which has been likened to “somebody who has taken a dip in the Ganga going for a swim in a well”. The flux in the BJP is because the former Chief Minister of Rajasthan may become yet another claimant to the Prime Ministerial gaddi thereby upsetting the applecart of Mr L.K. Advani. Mr Rajnath Singh, too, foresees a threat to his position. The fault lines in the party have become more pronounced with the surprise announcement.

Mr Shekhawat indeed has a point when he says that he is not even a member of the BJP any longer, having ceased to do so when he became the Vice-President. But obviously, that has not done anything to assuage the fears of the BJP bigwigs. Perhaps, the discomfiture will only increase when Mr Shekhawat meets Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee as planned. In the post-poll scenario, Mr Shekhawat may be more acceptable to other parties than Mr Advani. Even a section of the BJP may like to go along with him.

Mr Shekhawat has kept the issue of prime ministership wide open by saying that the decision would be taken at a later stage. Mr Rajnath Singh has categorically said that he will not be given party ticket. Mr Shekhawat has skirted the question whether he intends to form a party of his own, but his citing of the example of C Rajagopalachari, first Indian Governor-General of India, later returning to active politics and even forming the Swatantra Party, tells its own story.
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Thought for the Day

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it. — Agatha Christie
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ARTICLE

Ruthless & remorseless
America blindly backs Israel

by Inder Malhotra

EVEN by Israel’s standards of arrogance and aggressiveness, the current Israeli attack on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is staggering in both scale and ferocity. At the time of writing the relentless Israeli aggression, beginning with merciless bombing and later extended to ground action by tanks and artillery and shelling from sea, has been nothing short of barbarous. Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians, including women and children, have been slaughtered. In one case a UN-run school was bombed, killing 40 children. By comparison the Israeli casualties have been negligible. Of the four Israeli soldiers killed, three were done to death by a shell fired by an Israeli tank.

Sadly, no prospect of an early end to this barbarity is in sight, An Egyptian-French resolution, submitted to the UN Security Council, suggesting an immediate ceasefire and negotiations on the future arrangements that would satisfy both sides is said be gathering support. But it is still mired in debate and dissension in New York. All other resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional ceasefire — which is what the bulk of the international community wants and the one and a half million hapless Palestinians, caged, cribbed and confined in a narrow strip of land need — were blocked by the US that blindly supports the Jewish state, regardless of its egregious excesses.

There is widespread expectation that President-elect Barack Obama would reverse the Middle East policy of the dying Bush administration. How realistic this hope is can be known only after January 20, which gives Irsrael the time it needs to pummel the Palestinians.

Remarkably, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert turned a deaf ear to French President Nicolas Sarkozy who travelled to Jerusalem personally to plea for a ceasefire to stop the carnage. The only concession Israel has made to the growing international rage is a three-hour daily pause in bombardment. But as experience has shown this is not at all enough for hundreds of thousands of families to buy food and medicines or for humanitarian aid to get through.

To be sure, Israel has had provocation because Hamas has been firing, and continues to fire, rockets into a swathe of southern Israel. But so rudimentary are the Qassam rockets used by Hamas that in the last 10 years these have killed barely a dozen Israelis. In retaliatory action, Israel has killed over the same period not less than a thousand Palestinians, mostly civilians. It is not a question merely of Israel using utterly disproportionate force in “self-defence”. Israel’s greater crime is that all through the period since Hamas took over Gaza as a result of elections in which it defeated Palestine’s more moderate and secular faction, Fatah, Israel has constantly blockaded Gaza, converting it into a virtual prison.

Moreover, ignoring the electoral mandate Hamas got, Israel calls it a terrorist organisation and taunts those who take up Gaza’s cause as supporters of terrorism. Of course, terrorism cannot be tolerated.But the question is what can a country occupied by a predatory neighbour for 41 years do. The two-state formula was prescribed by at least two UN resolutions, and endorsed by the 1993 Oslo accords. The road map of the Contact Group called the Quartet also commended it. At the Annapolis conference last year, President Bush boasted that it would become operational during his watch. The dream has been blown sky high.

Without beating about the bush, let it be said that Israel’s objective is to destroy Hamas completely. Its deputy chief of staff, General Dan Harel, is quoted as having told a group of mayors: “By the time we are finished, there won’t be a Hamas building left standing”. But even he has had the good sense to add: “The worst is yet ahead”. The Israeli people need to be told that Hamas would not disappear any more than Hizbollah, the better armed Shia militia in Lebanon did in 2006 when Israel mounted a similar attack on it.

The forthcoming election in Israel is a major contributory factor behind Israel’s current carnage in Gaza. That is why all the contenders for power are supporting this meticulously planned and brutally executed military action.

The latest Israeli pronouncements both at the UN and in Jersusalem make it clear that Israel has no use for a ceasefire unless it is accompanied by a watertight guarantee that Egyptian and European observers would ensure that Hamas is never rearmed. By the same token isn’t Hamas justified in demanding that a ceasefire must be accompanied by an Israeli commitment never again to blockade Gaza? Also, Israeli leaders should heed the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, their dialogue partner who rules the larger area of West Bank, that Israeli is legitimising the killing of children and women.

One of the many Middle Eastern (West Asian) myths is that Israel never negotiates with those that do not recognise its right to exist. The reality is that the six-month truce with Hamas that ended on December 19 was negotiated with it by Israel through Egypt. Similarly, Israel has been negotiating with Syria, with the help of Turkey.

Another myth is the Arab unity and solidarity behind Palestine’s cause. There is nothing of the sort. Although the foreign ministers of 22 Arab countries that met in Egypt jointly approved the resolution that Libya moved in the Security Council, to no avail, the Saudi foreign minister was candid enough to admit that there was “disunity” among the Arabs. Iran and Syria both support Hamas. Yet the two are at loggerheads with each other. Similarly, Egypt and Saudi Arabia do not always see eye to eye. Nor is it a secret that there is no love lost between Fatah at Ramallah and Hamas I Gaza City. Understandably.

Israel and its supporters exploit this to the hilt. During recent years, Indian policy towards the region we call West Asia has been under fire for having turned mealy mouthed, gone soft on Israel and somewhat oblivious of the traditional support to the Palestinian cause. Luckily, this time around, New Delhi took a proper and principled stand.

At first, the Indian National Congress issued a statement in favour of the Palestine’s cause. The Union government’s pronouncement the next day was ambiguous and inane. But as the Israeli brutality mounted, South Block “condemned” it in no uncertain words. It also announced sensibly a million dollar worth of humasnitarian aid to the long-suffering people of Gaza.
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MIDDLE

The auntie syndrome
by Nonika Singh

Aunty…! The first time you hear this word, your first instinct is to scream and holler back — for heaven’s sake, I am not your aunt. Later, when the anger subsides, you rush to the mirror and look for those telltale signs — the crow’s feet, greying hair, laughter lines — that betray your age. Or may be not.

Seriously, in India, words auntie and uncle are used with such liberal largesse that one can’t quite figure out whether it is a token of respect or a rude reminder of your advancing years. Perhaps, invariably it’s the latter. Though when the auntie juggernaut might hit you, can’t really be said.

On the right side of forties, the wrong one of thirties or you could be an aunt of several unknown and unidentified wandering entities in early twenties too. For out of all the English words that pan-India has adopted, clearly auntie and uncle take precedence over all else. From the sabzi wallah to the milk vendor to domestic help to your friendly neighbourhood ‘ s grown up children, all seem to be in love with the (word) auntie. The only other that vies for competition is, of course, uncle.

Though when the word seized India’s collective consciousness, replacing all other traditional forms of address like bhabhi, didi, even beeji, bauji ought to be of great interest to sociological thinkers. But for the layman the word is here to stay and sting. Why smart under it? What is in a manner of address, you are likely to quiz in the inimitable Shakespearean way. Plenty, if you ask those who have been “auntied” and “uncled” relentlessly. Their verdict will be unanimous — it’s no less than an indictment.

Having been a victim myself (who isn’t?), I resolve not to do to others what I wouldn’t want others to do unto me, hoping the “not so sensitive” would take a cue. In keeping with cold but civil European manners, as I decisively use the impersonal Mrs so and so, I find myself on the other side of the age divide, clubbed right into their elderly age group. Surprisingly in a nation that puts so much premium on age and hence wisdom, everyone wants to be young and wise, even young and foolish but not wis(z)ened old.

Back to square one, none the wiser, only more resentful and bitter…. was I reading too much into this auntie business? Oh yes! And the revelation dawns at a grocery shop. As a young girl breezes in and chirpily calls the young boy no more than twenty “uncle”, my eyebrows, so used to the “uncle, auntie” assault, go right up. In all fairness, the mother of the girl admonishes her daughter. But the young man remains unflustered. “Oh its okay”, comes his nonchalant reply. Perhaps, he a slow learner to the world, understood more than the sharp and astute us that the use of words auntie and uncle is merely perfunctory.

In the antiseptic times that we inhabit, perhaps the good old ways of address — imagine calling strangers mausi, maami, chacha — would be almost blasphemous . Thus auntie, uncle is but another substitute for — hey Mr or Mrs. So, next time the not so becoming words cross your path … don’t think it’s a signal to change your hair colour as one ad would have you believe. The “auntie, uncle” users mean no harm. Only, they know (you) no better.

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OPED

Return of democracy
Bangladesh tries to end politics of confrontation
by Kuldip Nayar

WHEN I was at Dhaka after the liberation, my first visit, I saw at the airport a frustratingly long queue inching past the immigration authorities and confusion at the luggage counter.

Still I heard passengers shouting “Joi Bangla” (Long Live Bengal). They looked like people returning to the promised land.

I found signs of strain on their faces but pride was writ large on every one of them. They seemed to say: “I have done it.” I have no doubt that they are ready for another liberation struggle, this time against want and hunger and say: “We have done it”.

Sheikh Hasina sensed the mood of the people. She won 85 per cent of the seats in the 300-member House. Khalida Zia plugged the old line of sovereignty and religion which did not sell. Her party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was reduced to a rump of 30.

Therefore, the refrain of Sheikh Hasina’s election speeches was: Let us build a developed and secure Bangladesh. What probably made the voters put their faith in her after having defeated twice earlier was her fervent appeal to do away with the politics of confrontation and to develop a healthy political culture.

Imbued by that spirit, she offered the BNP a share in her government. It is a pity that Khalida Zia did not respond positively because the pattern Sheikh Hasina had in mind could transform the politics of confrontation that has beleaguered the region.

That Khalida Zia’s party members did not take the oath is ominous. Does it mean there will be endless hartals and bandhs once again?

I do not think that the people will respond to such calls because they have opted for peace and development. In fact, the return of democracy in Bangladesh is the biggest news. 

The manner in which the outcome of election has been cheered around the world shows that it may pin its hope on Bangladesh as a modern Islamic state in place of Pakistan, which is sinking because the army and the extremists have made a joint front to defeat any democratic combination that comes to power.

In the last seven years, when there were no elections, there were efforts to see if any other individual or a new system could be put in place to work so that Bangladesh would have relief from the two “Battling Begums.”

But nothing came out of this exercise. It looks as if the backers of such proposals realised that a Bangladeshi was so independent that he or she could not be co-opted into an arrangement that was imposed on the nation. A system in Bangladesh has to come from the grassroots. Otherwise, it would not be acceptable.

When I visited Dhaka a few weeks ago, I wondered whether the armed forces would quit after having cleansed the Bangladesh stable to a large extent. The Chief Adviser, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, who ran the caretaker government for two years meticulously and honestly, told me that the army would never take over.

I was surprised over his emphatic “no”. Slowly and gradually, I have come to realise that the Bangladeshi loves his liberty, which embodies democracy, so much that he cannot be suppressed.

Had elections been again postponed, people would have come on to the streets. They had given enough indication to the army that people had not won freedom from the Pakistan military to lose it to the men in khaki in their own country.

India is not only relieved but also surprised over the landslide victory of Sheikh Hasina. The general impression was that fundamentalism had taken over Bangladesh.

It was presumed that the Jamaat-e-Islami, a coalition partner in the government of Khalida Zia, has changed the ethos of the liberation struggle, a democratic pluralistic society, into bigotry and extremism.

The Bangladeshis have once again proved that when the purport of their liberation is challenged, as the BNP and the Jamaat tried to do, they cannot and will not take it lying down. The turnout of the voters was more than 70 per cent. Sheikh Hasina stood firmly against the rightist forces and fundamentalists. Even General Ershad’s Jatiya party, which won 27 seats, entered into a secular alliance with the Awami League.

The BNP has come to represent the ugly face of anti-liberation struggle. Khalida Zia had among her supporters some who opposed independence from Pakistan. Her husband, General Zia-ur-Rehman, was always considered a reluctant partner in the liberation struggle.

As for the Jamaat, it won only two seats and lost many of its stalwarts, including its chief. The party has done enough of damage—it has opened 40,000 madarassas and 9,000 kindergartens. Really speaking, Mujib-Ur-Rehman, father of the nation, once again stalked the land, reminding the voters that the task of economic freedom, for which he had fought a relentless battle in the seventies, had not even been started.

His daughter and the Awami League have rededicated themselves to the ideals of Bangladesh and placed before the nation a programme-based manifesto—Charter of Change. She neither played a religious card nor whipped up anti-India sentiment. 

New Delhi expects that Sheikh Hasina will not allow her country’s soil to be used by terrorists against India. They once again struck at habitations at Guwahati a few days before she was sworn in. Her proposal to have a joint machinery to uproot terrorism from the region is worth considering.

In the meanwhile, she should dismantle the training camps, which have been operating under the ISI supervision, for preparing the cadre of anti-India terrorist organisations.

The real problem is going to be whether Sheikh Hasina can deliver what she has promised in the election manifesto and her speeches. The country of about 180 million people with practically no resources will find it hard because the conditions have become harsher after the global financial meltdown.

Yet the confidence and faith which I saw at Dhaka after a few weeks of liberation convinces me that the Bangladeshi can overcome any difficulty. He has to be inspired as Sheikh Mujib-Ur-Rehman did or as Sheikh Hasina has been doing during the election campaign.
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Why are Palestinians angry?
by Mark Steel

When you read the statements from Israeli and US politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like “Visual Carnage Responsibility Back To Front Upside Down Massacre Disorder”.

For example, Condoleezza Rice, having observed that more than 300 Gazans were dead, said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible.”

Someone should ask her to comment on teenage knife-crime, to see if she’d say: “I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there is no hope for peace.”

The Israeli government suffers terribly from this confusion. They probably have adverts on Israeli television in which a man falls off a ladder and screams, “Eeeeugh”, then a voice says, “Have you caused an accident at work in the last 12 months?” and the bloke who pushed him gets £3,000.

The gap between the might of Israel’s F-16 bombers and Apache helicopters, and the Palestinians’ catapulty thing is so ridiculous that to try and portray the situation as between two equal sides requires the imagination of a children’s story writer.

The reporter on News at Ten said the rockets “may be ineffective, but they ARE symbolic.” So they might not have weapons but they have got symbolism, the canny brutes.

It’s no wonder the Israeli Air Force had to demolish a few housing estates, otherwise Hamas might have tried to mock Israel through a performance of expressive dance.

The rockets may be unable to to kill on the scale of the Israeli Air Force, said one spokesman, but they are “intended to kill”.

Maybe he went on: “And we have evidence that Hamas supporters have dreams, and that in these dreams bad things happen to Israeli citizens, they burst, or turn into cactus, or run through Woolworths naked, so it’s not important whether it can happen, what matters is that they WANT it to happen, so we blew up their university.”

Or there’s the outrage that Hamas has been supported by Iran. Well that’s just breaking the rules. Because say what you will about the Israelis, they get no arms supplies or funding or political support from a country that’s more powerful than them, they just go their own way and make all their weapons in an arts and crafts workshop in Jerusalem.

But mostly the Israelis justify themselves with a disappointing lack of imagination, such as the line that they had to destroy an ambulance because Hamas cynically put their weapons inside ambulances.

They should be more creative, and say Hamas were planning to aim the flashing blue light at Israeli epileptics in an attempt to make them go into a fit, get dizzy and wander off into Syria where they would be captured.

But they prefer a direct approach, such as the statement from Ofer Schmerling, an Israeli Civil Defence official who said on al-Jazeera, “I shall play music and celebrate what the Israeli Air Force is doing.”

Maybe they could turn it into a huge nationalfestival, with decorations and mince pies and shops playing “I Wish We Could Bomb Gaza Every Day”.

In a similar tone Dov Weisglas, Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, referred to the siege of Gaza that preceded this bombing, a siege in which the Israelis prevented the population from receiving essential supplies of food, medicine, electricity and water, by saying, “We put them on a diet.”

It’s the arrogance of the East End gangster, so it wouldn’t be out of character if the Israeli Prime Minister’s press conference began: “Oh dear or dear. It looks like those Palestinians have had a little, er, accident. All their buildings have been knocked down – they want to be more careful, hee hee.”

And almost certainly one of the reasons this is happening now is because the government wants to appear hard as it wants to win an election. Maybe with typical Israeli frankness they’ll show a party political broadcast in which Ehud Olmert says, “This is why I think you should vote for me”, then shows film of Gaza and yells: “Wa-hey, that bloke in the corner is on FIRE.”

And Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues, and the specially appointed Middle East Peace Envoy, could then all shake their heads and say: “Disgraceful. The way he’s flapping around like that could cause someone to have a nasty accident.”

— By arrangement with The Independent
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Delhi Durbar
Satyam: a blot on IT sector

Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computers is absconding but the company has tried to cover up for its assets by acquiring Maytas Infrastructure, which was a personal firm of Raju.

What is really baffling is that Satyam is a US listed company and the bloated balance sheet never came up for scrutiny in that country either.

Another unfortunate aspect is that there will be no buyers for the company even at zero value since Raju was trying to create value through balance sheet management. The development, which has shocked the country, is certainly a blot on the IT sector which was hitherto perceived to be clean as compared to other sectors.

Tighter security at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has a new security apparatus in place in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

When the apex court reopened on January 5 after the Christmas-New Year break, a third tier security had been added with new metal detectors installed at all outer gates. Even the second ring of security, which was earlier a few metres after the reception, has been moved adjacent to it.

Anyone wearing the lawyers’ robe could walk past all the checkpoints without being frisked or his identity card checked, but it is not possible any longer. Having become used to easy access, lawyers take quite some time to take out their I-cards and show these to security personnel posted at the entry points.

Earlier, even policemen could gain entry without establishing their identity. This practice has also been stopped.

What is in store for BJP?

2008 was a great year for the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani. The BJP and Advani’s success story began with the victory in Gujarat and almost till the end of 2008 the BJP’s winning spree continued.

But come the Mumbai terror attacks and things started becoming a bit unpredictable for the BJP and Advani.

First, people reacted strongly to Advani rushing off to Mumbai, leaving behind the Prime Minister, with whom he was initially scheduled to go to present to the country a united face of the top political leadership in the face of the audacious terrorist strikes.

Then the Delhi and Rajasthan assembly poll results arrested the BJP’s winning spree. But come 2009 and things really look ominous for them. First, the theft of Rs 2.6 crore cash from a safe vault in the party office.

Then media reports alluding to differences between Advani and Rajnath over the leadership issue and now the latest of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat throwing his hat in the ring by showing his keenness to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP blames it all on the media and, therefore, held a major in-house session on Wednesday on how to handle news hungry journalists, meaning what not to tell them.

Contributed by Bhagyashree Pande, R Sedhuraman and Faraz Ahmad

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