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EDITORIALS

Don’t bank on others
Review treaties with Pakistan
A
few of the former foreign secretaries and senior ambassadors — 10 of them — have demanded suspension of the so-called peace dialogue with Pakistan. There is ample merit in their well-meant call.

Casual by nature
Conduct unbecoming of Cabinet ministers
P
RIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh is not known to fret and fume as he keeps his cool even in adverse circumstances. That is why the news of his getting upset in the last Cabinet meeting made it to the front page of The Tribune.

Getting tough, rightly
Oil officers’ blackmail was irresponsible
T
HE oil officers’ two-day-old strike that had threatened to bring the entire country almost to a halt came to an abrupt end on Friday after the government acted tough, giving them a clear message: return to work or lose your job and face arrest.



EARLIER STORIES

Policing the people
January 11, 2009
Prosecute Raju
January 10, 2009
Asatyam
January 9, 2009
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


ARTICLE

Lessons from J&K polls
High voter turnout surprised everybody
by Balraj Puri
M
R Omar Abdullah received a massive reception when he arrived in Jammu a day before taking the oath of office on January 5 as the eleventh Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. In July-August his effigies were burnt in Jammu for a word in his much-acclaimed speech in Parliament on the confidence motion.

MIDDLE

A forgetful experience
by Shelly Walia
O
UR cottage up in the mountains is only four hours drive away from the pressure and stress of contemporary life. Sparsely populated and blessed with abundant natural beauty, the surroundings are quiet and deeply stimulating for the muse to take possession of even the most uncreative minds.

OPED

Israel’s war crimes
West is also complicit in savagery
by Robert Fisk
S
O once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night’s work in Gaza by the army that believes in “purity of arms”. But why should we be surprised?

Caring for climate
by Michael McCarthy
O
N December 7, the UN Climate Conference will open in Copenhagen and the world community will try to agree a solution to the gravest threat it has ever faced: global warming.

Chatterati
Ashok Chavan comes calling
by Devi Cherian
I
T takes time to get used to Delhi’s high-flying ways as the new Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan, recently realised when he came to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The PM was busy. So the Chief Minister was kept waiting.





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Don’t bank on others
Review treaties with Pakistan

A few of the former foreign secretaries and senior ambassadors — 10 of them — have demanded suspension of the so-called peace dialogue with Pakistan. There is ample merit in their well-meant call. The holding of peace talks after the 26/11 assault on Mumbai, indeed, has become meaningless and irrelevant. Peace talks and terrorism cannot go together, particularly when Pakistan is not honouring its commitment not to let its territory be used for terrorism. On the contrary, its agencies have been found abetting terror strikes against India. After Mumbai, Islamabad’s word cannot be taken seriously. It is clear that it does not want to abandon terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Under such circumstances, any meaningful dialogue is not possible and the peace process needs to be indefinitely called off.

The 10 senior diplomats have rightly cautioned the government against reliance on outside powers to persuade Pakistan to give up the path of terrorism. Experience proves that dependence on outside powers for tackling Pakistan will just not work. All the other countries India has been dealing with since 26/11 have been — as is their wont — advising it to exercise restraint. The US Ambassador to India now tells us to give Pakistan time to deal with terrorist groups. This is a strange plea, and if accepted by India it can make us again complacent in the absence of a guarantee that there would not be another terrorist attack launched from Pakistan. Ultimately, India has to tackle its problem with Pakistan on its own.

The diplomats want India to scale down its diplomatic presence in Islamabad to send out a clear message that New Delhi means business. They have also suggested that India must stop dealing with the companies engaged in defence supplies to Pakistan. Of considerable significance is their view that India should tell Pakistan that it might review all the treaties and agreements reached with Pakistan unless it deals with terrorist groups to India’s satisfaction. Perhaps for diplomatic reasons they have not spelt out which treaties they want to be reviewed, but apparently the hint is at the Indus Water Treaty, which governs the flow of river waters from India to Pakistan. It is not a bad idea if Pakistan does not stop terrorist mischief against India. Treaties between neighbours have no meaning if one side does not behave according to the norms meant for nations.

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Casual by nature
Conduct unbecoming of Cabinet ministers

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh is not known to fret and fume as he keeps his cool even in adverse circumstances. That is why the news of his getting upset in the last Cabinet meeting made it to the front page of The Tribune. He had every reason to be angry with the cavalier attitude of two of his Cabinet colleagues. The whole country was worried over the strikes launched by the truckers and the officers of public sector oil companies, which affected almost everybody, either directly or indirectly. Yet, Transport Minister T.R. Baalu, who should have attended the Cabinet meeting and briefed his colleagues about how his ministry had been handling the strike, chose to play truant. For all one knows, he might have gone to his constituency to attend a marriage or lay the foundation stone of a project that may or may not come up before the elections.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora’s case is somewhat different. He was dutifully present with a two-page statement prepared by his officials, which he read out to the distinguished gathering as if he was addressing Parliament. But when the Prime Minister and others asked specific questions about the damages being done to the oil industry by the oil officers’ strike and other relevant aspects, he had no explanations to proffer and had to turn to the Secretary to the Petroleum Ministry for help. Small wonder that even a usually unflappable PM gave him a piece of his mind. Also, he was forced to summon the Transport Minister to the Capital to handle the situation.

The situation caused by the oil strike could be gauged from the closing of most of the fuel stations all over the country and the long queues of vehicles found at the stations where oil was available. It was left to explain how well the oil officers who had gone on strike were being paid. The ministers directly concerned with the strike seemed to be supremely unconcerned about the problems being caused by the irresponsible unions in two vital sectors of the economy. Because of their conduct unbecoming of Cabinet ministers, they deserve more than a professorial reprimand. The country can do without the ministers who are so casual about their sense of responsibility.

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Getting tough, rightly
Oil officers’ blackmail was irresponsible

THE oil officers’ two-day-old strike that had threatened to bring the entire country almost to a halt came to an abrupt end on Friday after the government acted tough, giving them a clear message: return to work or lose your job and face arrest. To show its seriousness the government sacked 70 executives. Being in an essential service and aware of their potential to cripple normal life and cause widespread public discomfort, the officers of the state-run oil companies had perhaps thought the government would buckle under pressure and give in to their demand for higher salaries. However, after a cabinet meeting, Home Minister P. Chidambaram took a firm stand and forced the blackmailers to call off the strike unconditionally.

The strike could have been avoided had the Petroleum Minister handled the issue firmly right from the start, especially when it was clear that their demand was irrational and the government could not afford to yield to pressure. The government’s line of action could have been decided before, instead of after, the strike. The officers are not under-paid or exploited. They get fairly good salaries. A junior middle-level officer, according to media reports, draws a fixed salary of Rs 9.44 lakh a year against the market average of Rs 10.11 lakh. If they had a reasonable case for a pay hike, it could have been discussed across the table. Since the officers had gone to the Delhi High Court for justice, they should have at least waited for the court’s verdict.

The essential services have to be maintained regardless of the cost or the officers’ lack of sense of responsibility. As in the case of the banking and telecom sectors, the government should encourage private participation in oil marketing. Its policy of administered prices has driven private companies out of business. An emerging economic power like India cannot afford to send a signal to the outside world that a few thousand employees can hold the country of a billion-plus people to ransom. The government’s tough stand on the oil officers’ strike was called for.

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Thought for the Day

You may break, you may shatter the vase, if you will,/ But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.

— Thomas Moore

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Lessons from J&K polls
High voter turnout surprised everybody
by Balraj Puri

MR Omar Abdullah received a massive reception when he arrived in Jammu a day before taking the oath of office on January 5 as the eleventh Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. In July-August his effigies were burnt in Jammu for a word in his much-acclaimed speech in Parliament on the confidence motion. He had remarked that “we will sacrifice our life if an inch of our land was taken by an outsider” (the reference was to outside members of the Amarnath Shrine Board).

The word “we” was misinterpreted as meaning the Muslims of Kashmir. A youngman provoked by this word committed suicide with a statement that “we can also sacrifice our life”. His suicide revived the tempo of the agitation which had subsided after the resignation of the Chief Minister on July 7, 2008.

In July-August Jammu was full of anger against all Kashmiri leaders. Sangharsh Samiti leaders would not talk to the Governor or to the all-party committee sent by the Prime Minister till Kashmiri leaders left Jammu. The enthusiastic reception to Mr Omar Abdullah does not mean that Jammu is reconciled to its present status.

Many were surprised over the change in the mood of Jammu. There were more surprises in the changing mood of the people in the Kashmir valley. The year 2008 was, in fact, full of surprises. For the first few months, the separatist movement was at its lowest ebb. Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani was a persona non grata during General Musharraf’s regime in Pakistan and isolated even in the separatist camp in Kashmir.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the leader of the moderate factions, did not stop praising the General even after he was overthrown by a democratic revolution in Pakistan. The new government instead invited mainstream leaders like the Mirwaiz and Mr Omar Abdullah and gave them recognition and warm hospitality.

Many read in this situation an end to the secessionist movement. But it was a misleading impression. For the underlying causes of alienation of Kashmiris had not ended. It soon became obvious from the reaction over a rather exaggerated impression that the land transferred to the Shrine Board would be used to settle outsiders and thus threaten the demography and identity of Kashmir.

Big protest demonstrations were held throughout the valley against the government order for the transfer of land. Hurriyat leaders found a godsent opportunity to revive their relevance. They sought to turn the agitation into a movement for self-determination and Azadi. But they misread the popular mood as the agitation subsided when the government revoked the order of transfer of land to the Shrine Board.

The separatist leaders again got an opportunity to lead a popular movement when the people got agitated over the reports of blockade of the Jammu-Kashmir highway. The Fruit Growers Association gave a call for “Muzaffarabad chalo”. As an alternative to the Jammu-Kashmir highway, they called for a route across the LoC to market their fruit which was perishing. The separatist leaders provided leadership to the agitation which was basically motivated by an anti-Jammu sentiment and diverted it to a movement for self-determination and Azadi. In this agitation many people lost their lives in clashes with security forces.

In this surcharged atmosphere, the Governor’s administration announced the election in the chilly weather. Nobody expected the people to come out to cast their vote despite the boycott call by the leaders leading the Azadi movement. But the surprise of surprises was when 61.5 per cent votes were polled, a record during the last two decades of militancy.

There were no serious allegations of coercion of voters by the security forces. Nor was there any serious threat by the militants to impose the boycott call. The Election Commissioner acknowledged that the higher voter turnout was due to the lack of the fear factor. Only three political killings were reported this time whereas 101 political workers and leaders were killed during the large-scale attacks on election rallies and polling booths in 2002. Dr Farooq Abdullah thanked Pakistan and militants for not interfering in the elections.

It would again be misleading to interpret the high polling percentage as a vote for the status quo or the end of the Kashmir problem. When asked, people standing in long queues invariably told reporters that they wanted Azadi as well as good governance. They would not postpone their needs for development, employment, hospitals and schools till they get Azadi. At some places, the same people, after attending a rally for Azadi, would rush to the polling booths. None could explain what was their concept of Azadi.

The mainstream parties had made enough allowance in their manifestos and election campaign for popular sentiments. They conceded that the election was no substitute for a settlement of the Kashmir issue and that they would facilitate the process for that. Everybody has to learn lessons from the series of surprises that we witnessed during 2008, culminating in the election.

The separatist camp, too, must be wiser after the election. Syed Ali Shah Geelani admitted that such a high voter turnout was something he had never thought would happen. He said, “our people have shown a weak resolve and this voting has pushed us far back in our struggle for freedom.” He expected the new government to fulfil the promises made during electioneering.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq went a step further, calling for a need to “introspect and rethink”. He conceded that the separatists lacked rapport with the common man. He acknowledged that people had genuine problems like “bijli, pani aur sarak” which the “Hurriyat is in no position to address”. He would appreciate if the Omar Abdullah government played a positive role in arriving at the resolution of the crisis and offered his cooperation.

Another separatist leader and chairman of the People’s Conference said, “the ongoing movement had received a setback not due to heavy polling but an improper strategy adopted by the Hurriyat leadership.” In his view, “if people are annoyed with the Hurriyat and took part in the elections to seek the redresses of their day-to-day problems, they should not be blamed.”

In the Jammu region, the disillusionment with the election is no less obvious. The Sangharsh Samiti, which led the movement over the land row, drew popular support owing to the widespread feeling of discrimination against the region during the last 61 years. It did not offer any positive solution to this feeling. Among its constituents were parties which wanted a separate Jammu state as a solution to Jammu’s problems. But most of their candidates lost their security deposits.

The BJP, the main constituent of the Samiti, did win 11 seats against one in 2002. But in the previous election the Congress swept the poll in the region by projecting Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, a leader from Jammu, as the Chief Minister. In the Lok Sabha election of 2004, the BJP had won a majority in 15 assembly segments. The main weakness of the party lies in the fact that it can neither come to power nor share it with any Kashmir-based party. It was the Congress which played a very passive role during the Jammu agitation and election, and despite its depleted leadership, it could choose its partner and share power.

But unlike the last time, it had to concede chief ministership to the National Conference for the full term of the assembly. Even quantitatively and qualitatively, leaders from Jammu are somewhat inferior to those from the Kashmir region. Thus, the Shrine Board agitation has not helped its leaders in either of the regions to take their respective agenda forward. But the two main problems that the election has projected. Azadi — a nebulous and vague idea which has to be defined and concretised — and regional tension, the solution of which has to be sought through constitutional and institutional changes) cannot be dismissed. Both sentiments feed each other. The agitation in both regions demonstrated that the populist slogan did not represent the interest and aspirations of the people.

The absence of an all-state party either in the government or the opposition is a major weakness of post-election Jammu and Kashmir. The PDP, with an image of a soft separatist party espousing the cause of Kashmiris and Muslims, and the BJP with its traditional Hindutva and ultra-nationalist agenda would be pulling the government in divergent directions. Young Omar Abdullah, who with all his qualities and high ambitions has raised high expectations, must take cognizance of the realities, some of which are less than helpful.

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A forgetful experience
by Shelly Walia

OUR cottage up in the mountains is only four hours drive away from the pressure and stress of contemporary life. Sparsely populated and blessed with abundant natural beauty, the surroundings are quiet and deeply stimulating for the muse to take possession of even the most uncreative minds. The few whose fields and farmhouses dot the hillsides live in harmony with the land that has shaped their lives. The natural beauty of the mountainous landscape and snow-capped peaks is indeed breathtaking.

The sun peeps in at 5 in the morning and within moments it enters our living room, our bedrooms, and even the cupboards. Rather crisp it is through the year except when the clouds begin to nonchalantly enter as if it was their home. We can put in about four hours of uninterrupted work in our study before we set off for a coffee in Barista on the Mall or a packed lunch at Naldhera Golf Course, which is about 20 km away. And if the mind is lazy, we just snooze, snorkel or sozzle. Interestingly, and to our relief, our place is a hide away, unlike Kasuali, as one relaxes without bumping into fashionability or the Louis Vuitton classes.

Of one such drive up we shall never forget. A film of dust had begun to rise from the road as we neared Pinjore. It was the middle of June and the heat in the plains was getting to be cruel. We were headed for our cottage, the cool breeze beckoning us to leave behind the blazing sun.

As we left Chandigarh gusts of sand began to blind us as we slowly edged through the first bottleneck of Pinjore and heaved a sigh of relief on reaching Kalka. One deterrent of taking this route and going to the hills are these terribly jam-packed roads that one has to negotiate.

As luck would have it, a truck had broken down in the middle of the bazaar in Kalka. We were stuck in the burning hell with the sun beating down proudly and sharply. We do keep an ice box in the car which was of some relief. The AC was not too effective with the sun assiduously burning on the outside. The sun had gone beyond the middle of the sky, before we crawled out of Kalka and reached Parwanoo. Here too there were a few hiccups before the much awaited cool air began to hit our face, a pleasant relief from the torrid heat we had left behind.

And as I listened to the soothing strains of Handel’s Water Music Suite, we gradually moved towards the higher reaches of the mountains. When all of a sudden, my wife cried out, “Where are the Keys to our cottage.” “You should be knowing,” I replied. I braked and painfully realised we had left the keys in the drawer of our study. The torture of driving back to Chandigarh was dreadful.

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Israel’s war crimes
West is also complicit in savagery
by Robert Fisk

SO once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night’s work in Gaza by the army that believes in “purity of arms”. But why should we be surprised?

Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties.

“Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties,” yet another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre.

And every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of Tuesday night’s butchery on their hands. Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.

What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I’m afraid, it was.

After covering so many mass murders by the armies of the Middle East – by Syrian troops, by Iraqi troops, by Iranian troops, by Israeli troops – I suppose cynicism should be my reaction.

But Israel claims it is fighting our war against “international terror”. The Israelis claim they are fighting in Gaza for us, for our Western ideals, for our security, for our safety, by our standards. And so we are also complicit in the savagery now being visited upon Gaza.

I’ve reported the excuses the Israeli army has served up in the past for these outrages. Since they may well be reheated in the coming hours, here are some of them: that the Palestinians killed their own refugees, that the Palestinians dug up bodies from cemeteries and planted them in the ruins, that ultimately the Palestinians are to blame because they supported an armed faction, or because armed Palestinians deliberately used the innocent refugees as cover.

The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel’s right-wing Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel’s own commission of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing.

When Israel was blamed, Menachem Begin’s government accused the world of a blood libel. After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was a lie.

The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another lie.

The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents.

Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn’t even apologise. Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women.

The Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we’ll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We’ll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we’ll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie.

And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn’t. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale.

This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Caring for climate
by Michael McCarthy

ON December 7, the UN Climate Conference will open in Copenhagen and the world community will try to agree a solution to the gravest threat it has ever faced: global warming.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 officials, advisers, diplomats, campaigners and media personnel from nearly 200 countries, almost certainly joined by limousine-loads of heads of state and government from America’s President Barack Obama down are expected to meet in the Danish capital in one of the most significant gatherings in history.

All the world’s major governments, including the once-sceptical administration of the US President George Bush, now formally accept that temperature rises have already begun, are likely if unchecked to prove disastrous for human civilisation, and are being caused by emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from our power plants, factories and motor vehicles.

But if all the major governments now accept it, getting them to agree on how to tackle it still seems a very long way off indeed. The essential problem, to use the jargon, is burden-sharing. We know the world has to cut its CO2 emissions drastically, and soon. But which countries are to cut them, by how much?

The Chinese, for example, with their scarcely believable economy growing at 10 per cent a year, have now overtaken the Americans as the biggest carbon emitters; but historically, America has emitted far more; and on a per capita basis, US emissions still dwarf those of China. So the Chinese have felt (so far) that they have a moral right for their economy to grow unchecked, and their carbon emissions to grow with it; but many Americans have felt (so far) that they see no reason to act unilaterally to cut their own CO2 if the Chinese are not willing to do the same.

Differences like those stubbornly percolate the whole negotiating process and make achieving a universal agreement mind-bogglingly hard. “This is the most complicated deal the world has ever tried to put together,” says Tom Burke, visiting professor at Imperial College and an adviser on climate change to the Foreign Office. “In effect, you’re asking nearly 200 countries to align their energy policies – to create a common world energy policy. If you look at how hard it has been for the member states of the European Union to align their energy policies, you get an idea of the difficulty of attempting it with the whole world.”

Yet it has to be done, and the penalty for failure could not be higher. It is just 20 years since the world woke up to the danger of rising carbon emissions destabilising the atmosphere. Two decades ago it seemed a fairly distant threat, prefigured principally in supercomputer climate prediction programmes; something that was likely to happen a comfortably long distance away, such as at the end of the 21st century.

Three things have altered since then. First, the changing climate is now visible, not just in computer predictions, but all around us: spring in southern Britain, for example, is arriving about three weeks earlier than it did 40 years ago. At this time last year a red admiral butterfly, an archetypal creature of the summer, was photographed perching on a snowdrop, a flower of the winter – a previously unheard-of occurrence.

Second, it has become clear in the past five years that the earth is responding to the increasing CO2 loading of the atmosphere much more rapidly than scientists initially thought. There are numerous examples but to instance just one, the summer sea ice of the Arctic Ocean is melting far more quickly than anyone imagined.

Third, it has become apparent, even more recently, that global emissions of CO2 are shooting up at a rate that far exceeds anything the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thought possible when it sketched out future emissions scenarios in a special report in 2000. Even though we have had 20 years to think about emissions cuts, and 11 years of the Kyoto protocol, the treaty which actually prescribed the first cuts for the industrialised countries, emissions are soaring as never before.

Some leading climate scientists are now openly voicing concerns that this makes it increasingly unlikely we can meet the aim of keeping global temperature rise to about 2C above the pre-industrial level, which is generally regarded as the most that may be endured by human society without mortal danger. (We are now at about 0.75 degrees C above pre-industrial, and another 0.6 of a degree is thought to be inevitable because of the CO2 which has already been emitted).

Certainly, if we are to have any chance at all at holding the increase to two degrees, there is wide agreement that global emissions have to peak very soon – probably by 2015 or 2016 – and then rapidly decrease, to 80 per cent below present levels by 2050. The later the peak, the greater (and therefore more difficult) the subsequent decrease would have to be.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Chatterati
Ashok Chavan comes calling
by Devi Cherian

IT takes time to get used to Delhi’s high-flying ways as the new Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan, recently realised when he came to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The PM was busy. So the Chief Minister was kept waiting.

The Prime Minister’s officials were amused when they saw him whipping out his visiting card and handing it over to them to pass it on to the P.M.

The officials informed him that as a VVIP, he need not send his visiting card as the Prime Minister knew he was there to meet him. It will take quite some time for Chavan to get used to the PMO protocol and to the ways of the A.I.C.C.

Well, Ashok Chavan had an unusual guest, tantrik Chandraswami. The controversial guru seldom gets an audience with Congress leaders now. Chandraswami is seen more in the company of BJP chief ministers Narendra Modi and Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Gains from Lalu brand

Lalu is at it again. He is an answer to marketing gurus as the biggest and most durable brand of Bihar even more than Shah Rukh. This is despite scandals galore during his party’s 15-year-long reign in Bihar and despite being behind bars for his alleged involvement in the notorious fodder scam.

His one-liners, earthy wit, inimitable mannerism and uncanny ability to play to the locals sells. From candle-sellers to toy-makers, everybody has made an effective use of Lalu’s USP as his “brand ambassador”. Now an animation film is being made on Lalu. Lalu’s personality and appeal has emerged as a mega cartoon-strip character like Tom and Jerry and Donald Duck.

This Lalu brand was started in the early nineties when he was accused of leading the state into the dark age.

Inspired by his many gimmicks a tiny leaflet called Lalu Chalisa in 1993 in which he eulogised the so-called messiah of social justice with 40 couplets written on the lines of Goswami Tulsidas’s Hanuman Chalisa which sold like hot cakes.

Also available is a computer game on Lalu and his wife, Rabri Devi’s happy conjugal life too. Lalu dolls and Lalu Prasad dressed as a Spiderman are there too. Lalu Sattu Cola — Bihar’s answer to soft drinks — and Lalu Khaini, a tobacco sachet, are also a hit. In fact, a marriage season called “Lalu lagna” was also named after him last year which facilitated the matrimony of poor people outside the regular wedding season. Lalu is happy that his name is being used for commercial gain. After all it helps them run their kitchen.

Now Lalu is off on a 10-day lecture tour of Japan. He will speak on how he turned around the Indian Railways into a profit-making public sector undertaking. He will also utilise the visit to study high-speed bullet trains in Japan and understand the functioning of the railways there to find out what more can be done by the Indian Railways to become a world-class institution.

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