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EDITORIALS

Restoration of Chief Justice
Zardari loses to civil society
T
HE crisis that had gripped Pakistan seems to have been defused somewhat with the government accepting the demands of the agitating lawyers and Mr Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N). The judicial status quo ante will be restored with deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry to be reinstated. The restoration of Mr Justice Chaudhry as Chief Justice after two years of the lawyers’ agitation meets Mr Sharif’s key demand.

Divided before birth
Too many aspirants for PM’s chair
I
T is hardly surprising that the third front, touted by its promoters, mainly the Left, as a credible alternative to the fronts led by the Congress and the BJP, has run into difficulties even before its birth. The meeting of its intended constituents in New Delhi on Sunday, followed by a dinner hosted by BSP supremo Mayawati where an announcement on the third front’s formation was expected, ended with a realisation among participant leaders that a “structured” third front could emerge only after the elections.



EARLIER STORIES

Deepening crisis in Pakistan
March 16, 2009
Manifesto of an unborn party
March 15, 2009
Third Front
March 14, 2009
Pakistan on the brink
March 13, 2009
Army’s warning
March 11, 2009
Et tu, Naveen?
March 10, 2009
Limits of protest
March 9, 2009
Underachievers at school
March 8, 2009
Mahajot in Bengal
March 7, 2009
Pawar at play
March 6, 2009


Aman Kachroo’s death
SC takes serious notice, rightly
T
HE Supreme Court has rightly sought explanation from the Himachal Pradesh government and the Principal and Registrar of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College at Tanda in Kangra for the death of 19-year-old student Aman Kachroo allegedly due to ragging by his seniors on March 8. In a directive on Monday, a Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly has asked why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for Aman’s torture and cold-blooded murder.

ARTICLE

Tree of terrorism
How to dry its sources of sustenance
by Prem Prakash
A
T a recent meeting in New Delhi, Gary Kasparov, the famous Russian chess grandmaster, posed a question to Gen Pervez Musharraf that for terrorism to grow in a big way in Pakistan, it needed the necessary wherewithal — resources to buy weapons, sustain itself and then attack. Kasparov likened it to a tree. You cannot control a nasty tree by only cutting its branches or trimming it.

MIDDLE

Destiny
by Harish Dhillon
T
ALES of snakes, thieves and property dealers always trigger off a chain reaction, with each member of the group eager to relate his own experience in the field. I was party to one such session and recount the story I found most entertaining.

OPED

How not to govern
Punjab government shows the way
by Gobind Thukral
A
S everybody knows militancy in Punjab that took away several thousand innocent lives was the direct outcome of dreadful politics and horrific rule. But no lessons seem to have been learnt from those days of terrorism. Otherwise, how could poor governance, rampant corruption and lack of equitable development be explained?

Tips to stave off climate disaster
by Geoffrey Lean
I
T has been a really bad week for the climate. Each day brought depressing news as scientists meeting in Copenhagen told us global warming is taking place more rapidly than expected. The seas are rising faster than predicted; the polar ice caps are melting more quickly; and the Amazon rainforest is doomed unless urgent action is taken.

Delhi Durbar
Maulana corners Musharraf
Pervez Musharaf, who was in the capital for the India Today Conclave last week, appeared uncomfortable almost throughout the question-answer session after his address at the function as the participants shot a volley of embarrassing questions at him.





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Restoration of Chief Justice
Zardari loses to civil society

THE crisis that had gripped Pakistan seems to have been defused somewhat with the government accepting the demands of the agitating lawyers and Mr Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N). The judicial status quo ante will be restored with deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry to be reinstated. The restoration of Mr Justice Chaudhry as Chief Justice after two years of the lawyers’ agitation meets Mr Sharif’s key demand. The PML (N) leader, twice a Prime Minister, had refused to enter into any kind of deal on this question, which increased his following among the public considerably. The judicial issue had, in fact, acquired emotional overtones because of the support of civil society. The achievement on the judicial front is, therefore, a victory for civil society.

Perhaps, there was belated realisation on the part of the Pakistan government that the lawyers’ Long March to Islamabad could lead to an uncontrollable situation. Clashes between the police and the marchers, particularly in Punjab province, were leading to serious trouble, including dissenstion in the civil and police ranks. The situation could have taken a turn for the worse if the initial plan of preventing Mr Sharif from leading the protesters from Lahore had not been abandoned. Mr Sharif, fully aware of the disenchantment of the people because of the Asif Ali Zardari regime’s non-performance, has succeeded in forcing the government to move the apex court for a review of the verdict debarring him and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, a former Punjab Chief Minister, from electoral politics.

The truce between Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari has come about obviously with the intervention of Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani. It seems the Army had been in favour of conceding the demands of Mr Sharif, though hated by top Generals, to ensure that he was not able to make use of the lawyers’ agitation for his wider political objectives. That is why Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is in the good books of the Army, had been trying to convince Mr Zardari for a few days to take the course he has chosen after much loss of face. But Mr Zardari committed the blunder of ignoring Mr Gilani’s counsel for which the President has had to pay now. Mr Zardari’s position in the process has weakened enormously and it is not certain if he can retrieve it.

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Divided before birth
Too many aspirants for PM’s chair

IT is hardly surprising that the third front, touted by its promoters, mainly the Left, as a credible alternative to the fronts led by the Congress and the BJP, has run into difficulties even before its birth. The meeting of its intended constituents in New Delhi on Sunday, followed by a dinner hosted by BSP supremo Mayawati where an announcement on the third front’s formation was expected, ended with a realisation among participant leaders that a “structured” third front could emerge only after the elections. Ms Mayawati herself set the tone by declaring that she would go it alone in the coming Lok Sabha elections by making it known that her party will field as many as 500 candidates. With a galaxy of leaders seeing visions of donning the prime ministerial mantle, and policies and principles taking a back seat in the face of personal ego clashes, it could not have been more than a dinner with a varied menu that might have served the host’s purpose, not the guests’ cause.

While Ms Mayawati’s representative S. C. Mishra had announced at a preliminary meeting in Tumkur, Karnataka, that the BSP’s objective was to see her climb to the prime ministerial chair, the irrepressible AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa made her intentions clear by directing her representative to skip Ms Mayawati’s dinner that followed the so-called third front meeting in New Delhi. Another aspirant for prime ministership, the TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu was more subtle when he declared that the front would decide its nominee for the coveted post through consensus after the elections. With Mr Sharad Pawar watching from the sidelines asserting that it is regrettable that no Maratha has been PM, at the same time preferring Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, and the BJD’s Naveen Patnaik gravitating towards the third front in one breath while sending out feelers to the UPA in the other, the theatre of the absurd is in full cry. Even Mr Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP, a constituent of the UPA, has made it known that if the Prime Minister has to be a Dalit, he is better qualified than Ms Mayawati — a statement by a UPA partner meant to spoil Ms Mayawati’s pitch.

Amid all this jockeying for prime ministership, rank opportunism rules the minds of politicians of all hues and there has been little thought among the Tumkur brigade about evolving a common minimum programme. With such a self-seeking approach at work, it is anybody’s guess how third front politics would play out post-elections except its promise that it will be a non-Congress, non-BJP platform.

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Aman Kachroo’s death
SC takes serious notice, rightly

THE Supreme Court has rightly sought explanation from the Himachal Pradesh government and the Principal and Registrar of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College at Tanda in Kangra for the death of 19-year-old student Aman Kachroo allegedly due to ragging by his seniors on March 8. In a directive on Monday, a Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly has asked why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for Aman’s torture and cold-blooded murder. Justice Pasayat has squarely blamed the state government and the college administration for the horrendous incident which has caused national revulsion. Indeed, he has observed that financial aid should be cut off to the institutions that permit ragging. A similar incident in Andhra Pradesh the other day in which a girl student of the Bapatla Engineering College had attempted suicide after she was allegedly forced to dance in nude by her seniors shows that the menace is not confined to one state or region but is widespread. The Bench has also issued notice to the AP government.

The college authorities’ brazen indifference to Aman’s murder is particularly glaring because they have done precious little to save him from the clutches of the hoodlums even though he had complained to them about ragging. The Supreme Court had after the Raghavan Committee report ruled that no institution should neglect or ignore a complaint of ragging; it had warned that the complaint should not be suppressed or let the accused go without exemplary punishment if the guilt is proven. Despite complaints against the four accused students earlier (now in custody), no action was taken against them. This shows the negligence of the authorities and as such are culpable and unfit to run an institution which has to train doctors.

Shockingly, the Centre and most states have failed to enact an anti-ragging law so far. The Central Bill has been pending for the last three years.

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Thought for the Day

One hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after.

— A proverb

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Corrections and clarifications

  • The caption of the AFP photo of the Dalai Lama and Pandit Nehru (March 10) should read as “mark the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising…” and not “apprising”. The name of the first Prime Minister of India is Jawaharlal and not “Jawahar Lal”.
  • The page-one report “Tech-savvy way to learn English” (March 9) carried a paragraph on “erroneous usages” of English in India. The examples given are not errors but separate words meaning almost the same — “thrice” and “three times”, “cot” and “bed”, and “gas” (American) and “petrol” (British).
  • With regard to the headline “Sukhbir tackles opposition to Bhutal’s re-entry in SAD” (March 9), the correct expression is “re-entry into”.
  • It should be “human rights violations” and not “violation” in the headline “UP tops human rights violation” (March 16).

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error. We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Amar Chandel, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is amarchandel@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief

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Tree of terrorism
How to dry its sources of sustenance
by Prem Prakash

AT a recent meeting in New Delhi, Gary Kasparov, the famous Russian chess grandmaster, posed a question to Gen Pervez Musharraf that for terrorism to grow in a big way in Pakistan, it needed the necessary wherewithal — resources to buy weapons, sustain itself and then attack. Kasparov likened it to a tree. You cannot control a nasty tree by only cutting its branches or trimming it. You need to cut the source of water that sustains it, he pointed out before asking why Pakistan or General Musharraf had failed to stop that supply of water to the tree of terrorism.

Articulate that he is, General Musharraf tried to wriggle out of the question by saying that Pakistan did not provide water to the tree. He was visibly at pains to explain himself away even as he tried to blame it all on the drug trade in Afghanistan. He conveniently sidestepped the fact that Pakistan itself had a huge flourishing trade in drugs and that poppy is grown all over the North-West Frontier Province. The tragedy for the world is that water for this tree of terrorism originally came from the United States, Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle-Eastern countries when they created the Mujahideen to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

The rag-tag force of Mujahideen was fully sustained, including their salaries, by this group of nations, and Pakistan profited from the great effort. Howsoever much Pakistan may deny that it has had no hand in creating the Taliban, or that it is not an asset of its army, this author was a witness to the first Taliban hordes that entered Kabul. They were none other than those akin to the regulars of the Pakistan Army, highly trained and disciplined. That perhaps was the most successful hour for the Army of Pakistan. They acquired the expertise of conducting proxy wars. They had taken over a country — Afghanistan — albeit via proxy. Pakistan now had its much-cherished depth to wage a full-scale proxy war against India in Kashmir. The US had withdrawn from Afghanistan and left the Taliban and the Mujahideen in Pakistan’s care. It was Pakistan that sustained them with Saudi support.

This is where Osama bin Laden entered the scene with his own ambition to spread radical Islam all over the world and teach America a lesson for having abandoned them after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. Terrorism now had a country. It must be noted here that the only two countries that recognised the Taliban regime in Kabul were Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, the Taliban had a very useful patron as this country was also a close ally of the US. Thus access to all strategic information about the US became easy for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

The US woke up after 9/11, which was waiting to happen. It then realised the challenge that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda posed to the civilised world and that these forces had the active support of Pakistan. Thus the famous call from President Bush to General Musharraf - either you are with us or against us. The articulate and commando General knew well how to respond. His immediate response without blinking an eye-lid, “Of course, we are with you.” This begins the huge game of double-dealing.

It was General Musharraf’s task to keep the US mollified while his Army and the ISI continued their cooperation with the Taliban behind the scenes. The tree continued to receive water even as the US tried its best to cut it. If anything, with the presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan itself became the hunting ground for the Taliban. They needed their own space to carry on. And carry on what? The Taliban and their real supporters want them to bring about radical Islam — nay Wahabi Islam — to the whole world.

In this scenario the semi-autonomous tribal belt bordering Afghanistan came in handy for the Taliban to settle down. Since then, they have spread themselves into Balochistan, and now they virtually control Swat, once the holiday resort of Pakistan. Iran, too, is on their radar screen.

At a time when the US began to realise the double-game of Pakistan, its then President, General Musharraf, ran into rough weather with his people and was finally ousted. Pakistan has always presented alibis for the spread of Islamic extremism and terrorism. It can be the attitude of the West towards Islam; it can be India’s excesses in Kashmir; it can be Palestine and so on.

How do India and the world handle this situation and ensure that this tree of Islamic terrorism stops getting water to grow further. First and the foremost is to be real with Pakistan and let its people know directly that it is in their own interest to bring their Army and the government on to the right path. It is also time the Government of Pakistan and its Army were told by the West that there were no more bailouts for its economy if it did not firmly stop Islamic extremism.

The extremists have not just taken over Swat and parts of the NWFP; they have now systematically started to destroy the tolerant Islam of the subcontinent. The recent destruction of Rahman Baba’s mosque in Peshawar should be an eye-opener to the people of the subcontinent, particularly the Muslims. This mosque was built about the same time as the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. It has been destroyed because it was named after the Pushto Sufi poet. How can you be excused for destroying a mosque where Muslims pray even today?

If the extremists of Pakistan or the Taliban have now started destroying mosques where Muslims prayed, would they stop anywhere till they achieve their nefarious designs?

It is also time the West and the rest of the world took notice of the manner in which elements in Saudi Arabia have been funding the spread of Wahabism. It is the availability of this running water tap of funds to the extremists that has brought about the kind of changes that one witnesses today in such humane Islamic societies as in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and even parts of India.

It is heartening to note that in its recent pronouncements, the Islamic seminary at Deoband is beginning to take note of the aims of these extremists. Perhaps they need to tell the financiers in Saudi Arabia to stop their Wahabism and leave the Muslims of the subcontinent alone.

At the end of the day, the key lies in the hands of the US. They have very close relations with Saudi Arabia. The US somehow has not taken much note of the support that Saudi money has given to spread extremism. The Saudis should know that the ultimate objective of Al-Qaeda is to capture Saudi Arabia. Internally, the Saudi authorities are trying to use a carrot and stick policy to control this threat. They try to rehabilitate the captured extremists with the help of huge funds.

They show stick, nay guns, to those who do not come around. This may be good as far as it goes for the Saudis. It does not solve the problem for the rest of the world.

It is time the flow of funds to the Muslim communities in the world under the cover of rebuilding or repairing mosques is stopped. It remains a fact that the US has been bankrolling regimes in Pakistan. The Americans and the Saudis remain at the top of a grouping known as the “Friends of Pakistan”. By all means, be friends of Pakistan, but not in a scheme of things that is today leading that country towards the Stone Age. The time has come to stop watering that tree.

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Destiny
by Harish Dhillon

TALES of snakes, thieves and property dealers always trigger off a chain reaction, with each member of the group eager to relate his own experience in the field. I was party to one such session and recount the story I found most entertaining.

The Indian middle class had none of the upward mobility which characterises it today and the aspirations of our protagonist were limited to achieving a higher echelon in babudom and being allotted the government flat in which he had been born and brought up. His father died while still in government service and the son inherited, not only the balance of an outstanding loan, but also the allotment of the father’s flat. The next 10 years saw the repayment of the loan and also a steady climb in the office hierarchy. 

But all in all, it remained a hand to mouth existence. One Sunday morning his mother said: “Clear your father’s cupboard and give the children some storage space”. He took an old bedcover, put all the papers in it, and dumped the bundle on the balcony.

“Sort it out and get rid of all the rubbish,” his mother protested.

He sifted through the papers.  There was little to save, except for a 40-year-old title deed to a plot of land.

“Don’t get your hopes up”, his mother warned. “He may have sold it.”

This opinion was shared by the neighbourhood property dealer, who promised to look into the matter nevertheless.

 “The plot is very much there,” he said a week later. “It has been encroached upon by a family who are using it to run a dairy.  We’ll  have to arrive at a settlement. How much do you have in your Provident Fund?”

“I think about two lakhs”.  The property dealer smiled. “We’ll have to do better than that. Look, I’ll put up all the expenses and we’ll go fifty fifty on the proceeds”. Our man knew he was being exploited but fifty percent was better than nothing.

It was the only one thousand square yard plot still vacant in the colony and they found a rich NRI who wanted only a one thousand square yard plot and only in that particular colony.  They sold it for an astronomical amount.

With his share of the money he bought a large flat in one of the new group housing societies and made some other eminently suitable investments.

At the housewarming party the property dealer found his host in a pensive mood. “What is troubling you my friend?”

“I was thinking how unfair destiny is. If I had found the deed after my father’s death we would have been spared all the troubles we had to go through.”

“On the contrary, destiny has been generous. There was no boom then. You would have got a couple of lakhs for the plot and used the money to settle your loan and you would still have been living in that cramped government flat”.

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How not to govern
Punjab government shows the way
by Gobind Thukral

AS everybody knows militancy in Punjab that took away several thousand innocent lives was the direct outcome of dreadful politics and horrific rule. But no lessons seem to have been learnt from those days of terrorism. Otherwise, how could poor governance, rampant corruption and lack of equitable development be explained?

Many of the leaders come to rule by hook or crook and stay in power as long as they can manage to. Many indulge in corruption, the worst kind of nepotism and return again to rule. One set of nincompoops is replaced by another at the time of elections. This goes on as people have little choice.

 During this short budget session some Akali and BJP members exchanged less of pleasantries and more of choicest abuses. The Congress, the main Opposition, was forced to withdraw from the session. The Punjab Assembly reached another nadir when it took barely 15 minutes to conclude legislative business and pass seven bills unanimously in the absence of the main Opposition party. No legislator had questions or objections to the bills, which included five amendments and replacement of two ordinances.

Even after Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon asked the legislators to debate the bills, no one responded. All the bills were passed unanimously without any discussion. For legislators no debating skills are required. Shouting is all that they need. How satisfying it must be for stalwarts like Parkash Singh Badal, who has spent a life time either in jail or in the Punjab Assembly!

To measure up Punjab’s mismanagement, one report from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India should suffice. It throws sufficient light to understand how Punjab’s finances are managed by its rulers. How taxes which people pay through their noses are squandered.

Punjab’s young, educated finance minister has often expressed his dissenting views on subsidies that now total a whooping Rs 4,200 crore [2009-10], opposed the present style of governance and then withdrawn his profound statements. He did not present a budget this time on the feeble ground that the annual plan has not been approved etc.

Punjab is passing through a serious fiscal crisis with falling tax revenue. The government has to borrow to pay even salaries. Its electricity board is in deep red. And observe the cavalier fashion in which precious money is spent. The government spent Rs. 922 crore on March 31 last year after keeping the money allocated in the budget all year long.

Pointing to a rush of expenditure, particularly in the closing month, as a major breach of financial regularity in Punjab, the CAG report reveals that in certain cases almost 100 per cent of the budgeted money was spent in March, 2008. Rules of the Finance Department affirm that government funds should be spent evenly throughout the year.

In two cases, industries and capital outlay on civil aviation, the entire budget was spent in March, 2008. In as many as 12 more heads of accounts, 50 to 87 per cent of the total expenditure was incurred in the last quarter of the year, of which 36.46 per cent was spent in the last month of the financial year.

There are several breaches of financial disciple and the laws pertaining to that. The state government cares little for the Punjab Assembly as it has not taken care of getting the necessary legislative approvals to spend a huge money like Rs 4,214 crore.

The CAG report states that while it is mandatory for the state government to get any excess grants and appropriations approved from the legislature as per the Constitution to ensure legislative control over funds, excess expenditure to the tune of Rs. 4,214 crore from the years 2004-07-08 still awaits regularisation from the Assembly.

Another Rs. 895 crore excess expenditure was incurred in 2007-08 and requires regularisation by the legislature. Terming these as a major drain on the state’s resources, the report says there was a 100 per cent rise in the subsidy bill of the state in 2007-08 from Rs. 1,424 crore to Rs. 3,020 crore.

The subsidies were more than projected in the budget. These ate away 11 per cent of the total expenditure during 2007-08. There was also a lower realisation of projected taxes.

It is well known that this kind of spending often leads to corruption. There is always a buying spree by some departments to exhaust funds in the last days of March when the financial year comes to a close. It violates all principles of good fiscal management and rules framed by the state and Central governments.

Indicating deterioration in the quality of expenditure in state finances, the CAG report states that in 2007-08, the ratio of revenue deficit to fiscal deficit in Punjab rose to 83 per cent, showing the extent to which borrowings were used to meet revenue expenditure.

All other parameters such as a decline in capital expenditure (reflecting expense on creation of social and physical infrastructure) to 1.5 percent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), a high percentage of committed expenditure (salaries, pension and interest payments) and a high ratio of fiscal liabilities to the GSDP indicate lack of prudence in fiscal management.

How would the Badal government explain that by March last year as much as Rs 2,034 crore was outstanding as sales tax from the dealers? A part of which of course is the legacy of the earlier Congress regime. The government departments pay little attention to audit observations as by June 2008 over 8,600 observations involving Rs 2,942 crore had not been replied to.

The CAG test of various taxes revealed a non-levy, under-assessment and short-assessment of taxes to the tune of Rs 363 crore in just 2.036 cases. How good is the government?

It is natural that every year there is an increase in debt. At the close of 2007-08, the debt burden had shot up to Rs 52,923 crore. For the past some years, Punjab’s annual rate of growth has been less than the national average of 7.8 per cent. Let the finance minister do something besides reciting couplets.

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Tips to stave off climate disaster
by Geoffrey Lean

IT has been a really bad week for the climate. Each day brought depressing news as scientists meeting in Copenhagen told us global warming is taking place more rapidly than expected. The seas are rising faster than predicted; the polar ice caps are melting more quickly; and the Amazon rainforest is doomed unless urgent action is taken.

The main solutions are widely agreed. The world needs to forge a much tougher treaty this year to replace the failed Kyoto Protocol. Global emissions of carbon dioxide must be cut by at least half by the middle of the century, much more in industrialised countries.

Using energy more efficiently is essential, as is rapidly increasing it from renewable sources. Nuclear power and biofuels are much more controversial, but are likely to be used to some extent. But new, much less familiar solutions are also emerging.

Here are a few of them.

Sweep away soot: Cutting soot emissions from car exhausts, factories and open fires is probably the fastest way to tackle global warming, and there are calls for a treaty to achieve this. Scientists say the pollutant is the second biggest culprit in climate change after carbon dioxide. Black carbon, which gives soot its colour, has two main effects. It heats the atmosphere by absorbing radiation from the sun and releasing it into the air. And it darkens snow and ice when it falls on them, causing them to reflect less sunlight, heat up and melt – in turn exposing land or water, which also warms rapidly.

Save the ozone: Measures to save the ozone layer have so far been the most effective steps to combat climate change, as many of the chemicals that attack the protective layer in the atmosphere are also global warming gases. Experts want measures to remove the chemicals from equipment such as old fridges, where they acted as coolants, when these are scrapped, saving the equivalent of 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Make connections: Renewable energy is often unreliable: the sun does not always shine, the wind does not blow for ever. But the European Commission and other bodies are drawing up plans to get round this by tapping clean sources and linking them up, so that there will always be enough to meet all Europe's electricity needs. Tides would be tapped along Britain's coasts. Huge wind farms would be erected in the North Sea, and these would be balanced by hydropower in mountainous areas such as Norway, storing water behind dams and releasing it on calm days. It would all be linked by a continent-wide electricity grid.

Wise up the grid: The present "dumb grid" just delivers electricity from generators to consumers; the smart one would enable them to communicate with each other. So, it can make fridges and washing machines and other appliances use power when it is abundant and cheap, and avoid peak times when it would be much more expensive. Smoothing out demand in this way means that the grid needs fewer power stations, and can accommodate renewable energy more easily. It would also provide a huge boost to a "rooftop revolution", where households generate their own electricity from the sun or the wind and sell what they do not need to the grid.

Rethink cars: Motoring could be revolutionised if cars were marketed like mobile phones – in a manner that would cut carbon dioxide and reduce the cost of driving. Motorists would get subsidised – or possibly even free – electric cars in the same way that customers currently get mobile phone handsets. In return, they would take out a contract for miles, rather than minutes, entitling them to get power either by plugging in to recharging points (at home, in car parks or on the street) or exchanging batteries at filling stations. The idea is the brainchild of a thirty-something former dot-com entrepreneur, Shia Agassi, who believes it would halve motoring costs. It sounds too good to be true, but Israel, Denmark, Hawaii and San Francisco are already starting to put the system in place.

Embrace scum: Slimy scum could prove our saviour, as algae are emerging as one of the most promising and environmentally friendly sources of biofuel. Algae can grow extraordinarily fast, doubling in weight several times a day. They produce at least 15 times as much fuel per hectare as conventional crops like corn or oilseed rape, and do not take up farmland needed to grow food; they can be grown in lakes, the sea or even in the process of cleaning polluted water. Air New Zealand has already mixed it with ordinary jet fuel for test flights. Cars have run on pure algae biofuel, and big oil companies are investing in it.

Pay for trees: Felling forests, especially in the tropics, is the second biggest cause of carbon dioxide emissions after burning fossil fuels, accounting for a fifth of the world's total. But people and governments have no incentive to leave them standing when they can make money by selling the timber, or farming the cleared land. Now international negotiators are beginning to work out how the world as a whole could compensate them for setting aside the chainsaw. In practice, of course, the money would end up coming from rich countries. Halving emissions from deforestation is estimated to cost about $20bn (£14.3bn) a year, but would avoid pollution costing at least five times as much.

Reform taxation: Green taxes are beginning to come back into fashion after being eclipsed for years by sophisticated schemes for trading carbon emissions. They would work best as part of an "ecological tax reform", which would reduce taxes on employment – such as income tax and national insurance – at the same time.

By shifting the burden from "goods", such as work, to "bads", such as pollution, it becomes cheaper to lay off barrels of oil than to fire people, reducing pollution and increasing employment. The European Union has estimated that this could create at least 2.7 million jobs across the continent, while combating global warming.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Delhi Durbar
Maulana corners Musharraf

Pervez Musharaf, who was in the capital for the India Today Conclave last week, appeared uncomfortable almost throughout the question-answer session after his address at the function as the participants shot a volley of embarrassing questions at him.

However, what perhaps made the former military ruler of Pakistan look stunned was Maulana Madani’s blunt message to him to refrain from trying to alienate Indian Muslims by his remarks on their condition, both at home and abroad, from time to time.

“Indian Muslims are capable of solving their own problems. At least 70 per cent of the people in India support our cause. We don’t need your advice”, Madani told Musharraf, evoking a thunderous applause from the gathering. Musharraf was obviously not prepared for this.

“I have no problem if you are happy with your condition,’’ said the former President of Pakistan with a sheepish look on his face.

An emotional moment

The who’s who of the Congress party and Delhi’s social circles were in full attendance at the function to release a book on Madhavrao Scindia in the capital last week. Priyanka and Robert Vadhera were there too.

However, leaders from the Opposition parties, barring the CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechuri, were missing from the gathering when the biography of the youthful leader was released by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

During her address, Sonia became emotional while recalling her long association with the late Maharaja of Gwalior. Madhavrao was wedded to Congress ideology, she said and narrated how he used to assist her in the Lok Sabha.

The biography, co-authored by Vir Sanghvi and Namita Bhandare, has been brought out by the Madhavrao Scindia Foundation and Penguin Books India.

Paying tributes to the late leader, Singhvi told the august gathering that the function had been organised to remember Madhavrao and what he had done for the country.

Publicity gimmicks

Every election season certain things can easily be predicted. One is the parties holding elaborate press conferences to introduce some supposedly important leaders joining them.

Ram Vilas Paswan, who also aspires to be the prime minister despite heading a relatively small outfit called the Lok Janshakti Party, also needs to flaunt new entrants before each election.

There is a rather impressive looking gentleman, Kesri Singh Gujjar. Before every election, he joins Paswan’s party. This time he has joined the LJP as the national president of the Dehat Morcha Party. What happens to him after the election season, no one knows.

The same is the case with the lone JD-S MLA in Delhi, Shoaib Iqbal. He too joins Paswan’s party before every election and after the polls he sets off for his own autonomous political activity.

Contributed by Ashok Tuteja, Anita Katyal andFaraz Ahmad

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