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EDITORIALS

The electoral odyssey
Overall turnout gives cause for satisfaction
In the gigantic Indian electoral race, the fate of nearly half the Lok Sabha strength of 545 members lies locked in EVMs as the second phase of the five-phase election ended on Thursday.

Spreading menace
Check the Naxalite problem on a war footing
Not a day passes without the Naxalite violence at one place or the other. The Naxalites are striking at will in Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. They bomb important installations and kill security personnel and innocent people alike.


EARLIER STORIES

Saving Tamil refugees
April
23, 2009
Eye in the sky
April
22, 2009
Threat to Kashmir voters
April
21, 2009
Aid for Pakistan
April
20, 2009
Voting for democracy
April
19, 2009
Democracy alive and well
April
18, 2009

Polls now, tie-ups later
April
17, 2009

A state within a state
April
16, 2009
Not by violence
April
15, 2009
Heed the EC
April
14, 2009
Criminal cases on the rise
April
13, 2009


THE TRIBUNE
 SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

 

As poisonous as ever
The scourge of Budhha Nullah continues
Despite the promise of prompt action by the Punjab government to clean up the Buddha Nullah, and the court orders calling for stringent measures against the polluting industries, a clean Budha Nullah remains a mirage. Its high level of toxic sullage continues to play havoc with the health of the city’s residents living on both banks and in the villages along the nullah. Diseases have not only shortened the life-span of most residents but also burdened them with expensive medical treatment, beyond their means.
ARTICLE

Flawed intelligence gathering
Need to revamp the system
by Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (retd)
The Kargil Review Committee headed by Mr K Subrahmanyam had analysed the many shortcomings plaguing India’s intelligence acquisition, analysis and dissemination system. Though most of its recommendations were accepted by the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the Prime Minister to study its report, not all of them have as yet been implemented.

MIDDLE

Prayer as a therapy
by Bhartendu Sood
All of us face upheavals in life. There comes a time when one feels totally shattered, beleaguered and broken. Generally in such situations we are overtaken by anxiety and fear and crave to know when the time would change. We turn to fortune-tellers, tantriks, tricksters and other such people. What is most paradoxical is that this behaviour is not only confined to the illiterate, but highly educated people also frantically look for a magic band or talisman to come out of the crisis and their eyes open when incalculable harm is already done.

OPED

India Votes
The political bond
Indian Americans active in elections
Dateline Washington
by Ashish Kumar Sen
After a full day’s work at Penn State University, where he is a professor of engineering and department head, Dinesh Agrawal returns to his home in State College, Pennsylvania, and promptly turns on his computer to indulge his passion for politics. But it’s not the daily duels between Democrats and Republicans in America that transfix him. Dr Agrawal’s attention is focussed laser-like on the election season drama playing out halfway across the globe.

Walking out on Iran’s President was childish
by Adrian Hamilton
Isn’t it time western diplomats just grew up and stopped these infantile games over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? All that this play-acting over boycotting of conferences because of his presence and walking out because of his words achieves is to flatter his ego, boost his poll ratings at home and play into the hands of an Israel that is desperate to prove Iran the gravest threat to its existence.

Weeding out criminals in politics
by Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Will Durant, the last century’s great philosopher and historian, perhaps had India in mind when, dwelling on the subject of democracy, he wrote: The last stage of matter (democracy) is gangmen rule. Criminals flourish happily in cities because they are guaranteed full protection and cooperation of the law.


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The electoral odyssey
Overall turnout gives cause for satisfaction

In the gigantic Indian electoral race, the fate of nearly half the Lok Sabha strength of 545 members lies locked in EVMs as the second phase of the five-phase election ended on Thursday. The magnitude of the task before the Election Commission can be gauged from the fact that there were 1.86 lakh polling stations in the first phase for 124 seats and 2.33 lakh such stations for 141 seats in the second phase.

A total of nine lakh polling staff was deployed in the first phase and 10 lakh in the second. Considering the enormity of the task, there is cause for satisfaction that barring incidents of Naxalite violence in some strongholds of these groups, the elections have passed off peacefully.

The turnout was 58-62 per cent in the first phase but initial estimates for the second phase peg it at 55 per cent. Significantly, in both phases, the Naxal-infested states have recorded a relatively low turnout, a reflection of the fear psychosis that the extremists were able to generate through attacks on civilian voters. Yet, there is no denying that the resilience of the Indian voter and the maturity of the electorate come out in bold relief when seen in the overall context.

In the 17 seats of U.P. and 13 of Bihar that went to the polls in the second phase, the low turnout of 44 per cent in both could be partially attributed to migrant labour being away due to harvesting. That the highest voting was recorded in the more literate states of the north-east is hardly surprising.

With many heavyweights in the fray in the second phase, there is heightened interest on how a strong contender for the prime ministerial “gaddi”, Mr Sharad Pawar, would perform and how Congress heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi would come through his ordeal of fire. In Andhra, which sends 42 members to Parliament, with elections to all the seats completed, the fate of Chief Minister Rajsekhar Reddy, his TDP challenger Chandrababu Naidu and matinee idol Chiranjeevi is being watched with great interest. All in all, there should be relief that a major part of the electoral exercise is over and done with.

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Spreading menace
Check the Naxalite problem on a war footing

Not a day passes without the Naxalite violence at one place or the other. The Naxalites are striking at will in Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. They bomb important installations and kill security personnel and innocent people alike. The audacity with which they hijacked a passenger train in Jharkhand in broad daylight on Wednesday and took 700 passengers hostage speaks volumes about their strength.

Luckily, all of them were released unharmed after a six-hour siege, but only after the Naxalites bombed a railway station, torched some oil tankers and caused panic. The threat has become more serious because a chunk of the police force has been deployed on election duty. It seems targeting infrastructural facilities is a part of their strategy.

Unfortunately, the state governments seem to be failing to track down the Naxalites and tackle the menace. There is failure of intelligence at various levels. The Naxalites invariably use landmines as in the Nalco bauxite mine attack in Orissa’s Damanjodi last week. Their modus operandi is simple: they carry out their operation, tip off the police about their presence at a particular spot, plant the landmine and trigger it soon after their arrival or departure.

Clearly, if they have an upper hand over the state governments today, it is mainly because of their advanced operational techniques in terms of access to intelligence and intimate knowledge of the terrain. A source of concern for the police and paramilitary forces is that the Naxalites have hi-tech VHF sets with scrambler facility, satellite phones, crude rockets and pressure and wireless-activated mines.

In view of the increasing Naxalite attacks, the Centre and the states need to rethink their strategies. The Centre and the state governments must demonstrate the necessary political will and play a leadership role in finding a lasting solution to the crisis. As the roots of the crisis lay in growing socio-economic inequalities and the lack of basic infrastructure and services, the Centre and the states would do well to address these issues also.

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As poisonous as ever
The scourge of Budhha Nullah continues

Despite the promise of prompt action by the Punjab government to clean up the Buddha Nullah, and the court orders calling for stringent measures against the polluting industries, a clean Budha Nullah remains a mirage. Its high level of toxic sullage continues to play havoc with the health of the city’s residents living on both banks and in the villages along the nullah. Diseases have not only shortened the life-span of most residents but also burdened them with expensive medical treatment, beyond their means.

The Tribune has during the last five years been campaigning for steps to clean up the Nullah and save the residents living along its banks from dying a slow death. The courts also have been issuing directives to the Punjab Pollution Control Board. However, action has at best been confined to temporary disconnection of power to the small-scale polluting units.

More recently, yet another deadline given to the dyeing units to upgrade effluent treatment plants passed away without any action. The rampant discharge of effluents into the nullah shows little sign of abating. Studies by scientists have pointed to the presence of toxins and heavy chemicals in the food chain as vegetables and crops cultivated along the watercourse after Ludhiana are irrigated with the contaminated water. The ground water supply, too, has been adversely affected. Still, the successive governments but for making the right noises have done little else.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, admitted the need to take necessary steps to clean up the nullah. Yet, instead of taking concrete steps to stem the rot that now defines Buddha Nullah, he urged ardent environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, who has done a commendable work to clean up the Bein, to take a similar initiative with Buddha Nullah.

Individual efforts and people’s movement contribute to some extent in preventing environmental pollution. These, however, do not absolve the state government of its responsibility to do its job. The state government has to act fast to ensure that the nullah, which cuts through Ludhiana, does not kill more people than it has already.

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Thought for the Day

A man should have the fine point of his soul taken off to become fit for this world. — John Keats

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Flawed intelligence gathering
Need to revamp the system
by Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (retd)

The Kargil Review Committee headed by Mr K Subrahmanyam had analysed the many shortcomings plaguing India’s intelligence acquisition, analysis and dissemination system. Though most of its recommendations were accepted by the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the Prime Minister to study its report, not all of them have as yet been implemented.

The Kargil Review Committee had pointed out: “The resources made available to the Defence Services are not commensurate with the responsibility assigned to them. There are distinct advantages in having two lines of intelligence collection and reporting, with a rational division of functions, responsibilities and areas of specialisation… the Indian threat assessment is a single-track process dominated by RAW… The Indian intelligence structure is flawed since there is little back-up or redundancy to rectify failures and shortcomings in intelligence collection and reporting …”

The task force on intelligence headed by Mr G. C. Saxena, one of the four task forces constituted by the Group of Ministers (GoM) appointed by the Prime Minister to examine the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee, evaluated the essential requirements of military intelligence for dedicated military satellites, airborne optical and electronic surveillance capabilities and independent networks and recommended that these capabilities be established under an integrated Tri-Service Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), if future Kargils are to be avoided. The DIA was established after the GoM’s recommendations were accepted by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

The scale and sophistication of non-intrusive electronic intelligence gathering capability of the armed forces also need to be upgraded by several orders of magnitude to keep pace with the diverse voice and data communications capability of India’s adversaries and the numerous mercenary terrorist outfits spawned by them. 

The inputs from military intelligence and RAW as also those from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the intelligence agencies of Central para-military and police forces and the state governments must be collated, synthesised and analysed at the national level to arrive at net intelligence assessments for long-term national security decision-making and contingency planning so that the nation is better prepared to meet the emerging threats.

The responsibility for the collection, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of external intelligence is solely that of RAW. This includes strategic intelligence relating to nuclear weapons and missile development programmes, military deployments and movements, the location of operational and strategic reserves and military plans and intentions of India’s adversaries. 

The Director-General of the DIA is primarily responsible for undertaking integrated tri-service assessment of the intelligence gathered by the intelligence agencies of the armed forces and has only limited intelligence gathering capability.

The Director-General Military Intelligence (DGMI) and his naval (DNI) and air force counterparts are responsible mainly for tactical-level intelligence. The DGMI’s only real capability for acquiring external intelligence is provided by the unobtrusive electronic eavesdropping efforts of the Signals Intelligence (SI) Directorate. 

The SI people have provided invaluable information about the infiltration plans and routes, hideouts, arms caches, casualties and the state of morale of militants in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states throughout the last decade of militancy and violence. The foresight exhibited in planning the development of this independent capability has stood the Army in good stead. 

However, the SI’s equipment has the fastest obsolescence rate in defence equipment due to the rapid advances being made in communications security and the introduction of digital communications technology. This capability must be frequently upgraded and even replaced with concomitant capital costs having to be incurred.

The BJP-led NDA government had established several coordination groups for managing intelligence in a more cohesive manner. It established an Intelligence Coordination Group (ICG) for the “tasking” of various intelligence-gathering agencies at the apex level. The Group is chaired by the NSA and has the Cabinet Secretary, the secretaries of the Home, Defence and External Affairs Ministries and the intelligence chiefs as members. 

A Technical Coordination Group was also established for enhancing technical capabilities for intelligence gathering. It is headed by the NSA and includes the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minster, the intelligence chiefs and the proposed CDS.

The National Technical Reconnaissance Organisation (NTRO) has been set up as a single window for providing all technical intelligence, including satellite imagery. The National Information Board, headed by the NSA, was also established to oversee India’s information security architecture.

However, “boards” are advisory bodies that meet rarely and are not equipped to do justice to day-to-day analyses and assessments. What is really lacking is a comprehensive intelligence assessment centre at the apex level at the Centre. It could possibly be called the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and should take a holistic view of all the bits of intelligence that come in from different sources, evaluate the accuracy of each, synthesise all to obtain a cohesive picture, analyse the whole dispassionately to arrive at an assessment and then disseminate the end-product to the concerned agencies for action, including the armed forces.

Had such an apex-level body been in existence at the time of the Mumbai terror attacks, the various bits of intelligence that had been available with different intelligence agencies could have been synthesised to arrive at an accurate assessment of the impending attack, the likely mode of attack and, possibly, even the time-frame.

The NIC should also be responsible for long-term intelligence assessments on all aspects of national security, including those pertaining to defence acquisitions, research and development and industrial capabilities of India’s present and future adversaries. In certain cases, the nuclear weapons and missile development programme also need to be tracked carefully. Comprehensive intelligence assessments must be disseminated to all concerned to enhance the quality of defence planning. As the old saying goes: forewarned is forearmed.

As the threat of terrorism is increasing day by day, it is also necessary for the NIC to initiate and then maintain a comprehensive data-base on terrorist organisations and groups operating against India --- their ideology, weapons, catchment areas for recruitment and their sources of funding.

The operational and ideological linkages between various groups must be explored and monitored constantly. Such a data-base must be shared with the intelligence agencies of strategic partners and other friendly foreign powers on a reciprocal basis so as to enhance the quality of intelligence available to India.

In the prevailing “proxy war” scenario, where the line between conventional military operations and the sub-conventional conflict, including terrorism, is blurred, accurate intelligence assessments are necessary for policy-making, governance and military operations along the nation’s borders as well as to counter dangerous situations created by the mercenary terrorists of inimical foreign powers. Such a capability can be provided only by an apex-level National Intelligence Council (NIC).

The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

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Prayer as a therapy
by Bhartendu Sood

All of us face upheavals in life. There comes a time when one feels totally shattered, beleaguered and broken. Generally in such situations we are overtaken by anxiety and fear and crave to know when the time would change. We turn to fortune-tellers, tantriks, tricksters and other such people. What is most paradoxical is that this behaviour is not only confined to the illiterate, but highly educated people also frantically look for a magic band or talisman to come out of the crisis and their eyes open when incalculable harm is already done.

Recently I visited Amritsar where I was employed at one time. During normal enquiries about the old colleagues I was shocked to know that a staff cadre woman employee, when she developed a terminal disease, married off her beautiful daughter to an aged tantrik on being assured by him that the wedlock would relieve her of that disease. 

The girl emotionally became ready to make sacrifice for her mother whose father found her wife’s life more valuable to him than the future of his daughter. In the absence of right medication that woman died before time and the tantrik disappeared after leaving her daughter high and dry.

Why should it happen? There are two reasons. The first is our failure to appreciate that life is a mixed bag of good and unfortunate happenings, and it is true for everybody whether a king or a pauper. Every night is followed by the day but then night has also its duration. 

We fail to exercise patience, tolerance and resistance in such moments. Our mind is so closed that it looks at only closed doors though there are many doors which are open also. We don’t look at those countless instances of the persons who after being in similar situations re-emerged as a phoenix from the ash.

The second reason is that we don’t keep in mind that we are governed by the law of karma. We can’t escape the fruit of our deeds. Even Rama and Sita had to spend 14 years in exile despite being perceived as the rightful inheritor of the throne of Ayodhya.

What should be done under such situations? There is an urgent need to realise that God is great and there is no better resolver than Him. His ways and means to solve our problems are generally beyond our comprehension. Therefore, the best therapy is to have belief in God, pray to Him. No other talisman gives as much strength as the honest and sincere prayer to the Almighty.

But this has to be accompanied by the right line of action also. For example, it is the prayer that gives strength and shows the way, but cancer cannot be cured unless we go in for right medication by consulting a qualified doctor.

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India Votes
The political bond
Indian Americans active in elections
Dateline Washington 
by Ashish Kumar Sen

After a full day’s work at Penn State University, where he is a professor of engineering and department head, Dinesh Agrawal returns to his home in State College, Pennsylvania, and promptly turns on his computer to indulge his passion for politics. But it’s not the daily duels between Democrats and Republicans in America that transfix him. Dr Agrawal’s attention is focussed laser-like on the election season drama playing out halfway across the globe.

A former president of the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP), Dr. Agrawal is part of a dedicated band of Indian Americans that is drumming up support for political parties in India.

From the recently concluded U.S. elections to the month-long contest in India, the past few months have been exciting for Indian Americans.

But for some, the excitement of a historic U.S. presidential election pales in comparison with what’s happening in India.

“We were very enthusiastic about Barack Obama because we have a vote here. But in India, even though we cannot vote, we have a much stronger emotional involvement,” said Dr Agrawal.

This bond has drawn Indian Americans from as far away as Chicago and New Jersey to work on campaigns in places such as Chhattisgarh and Gujarat.

This concept of “karambhoomi” and “matribhoomi” does not extend to the second generation of Indian Americans, a large majority of whom are significantly more detached from India and Indian politics.

U.S. arms of major Indian political parties — the OFBJP and the Indian National Overseas Congress — have been working hard to create awareness among Indian voters about the importance of supporting their respective parties and candidates.

Group members across the U.S. have been calling in for teleconferences to discuss strategy. Some Indian Americans are travelling to India to help candidates with their campaigns.

Nimesh Dikshit, an Edison, New Jersey-based IT consultant, is volunteering on BJP campaigns in Gujarat.

“As a soldier of the party, I will go and do whatever is asked of me,” Mr Dikshit said. “If there is a need in my town, which is near Baroda, I would probably also give money.”

It is illegal for U.S. citizens to donate money to Indian politicians or their campaigns and most Indian Americans are quick to point out that they do not contribute to candidates.

But there are some — for example, an NRI whose brother stood for election in Chhattisgarh in a previous contest — who admit giving money to their “relatives” in India.

Dr Surinder Malhotra, New York-based president of the Indian National Overseas Congress, says members of his group don’t believe in getting financially involved with Indian politicians.

“That is both immoral and unlawful for us as U.S. citizens,” he explained, adding, “Other parties are using religious institutions and charities to funnel money to parties in India. Our job is to see that money is not used for social disharmony.” He declined to elaborate on his accusation.

Columbia, Maryland-based Dr Prasad Adapa, president-elect of the OFBJP, says his group also does not raise funds for the BJP. “We volunteer our services. What we get in return is self-satisfaction,” he said, adding, “If anyone is close to an individual in India they give their own personal contributions.”

“It’s very hard to track the flow of money,” said Vijay Prashad, a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. “Everyone says they are going to volunteer their time, not give money.”

The OFBJP has spent money on placing advertisements in newspapers in the U.S. and India — including Gujarat Samachar, Indian Express and India Abroad — telling readers to “call your family members and friends in India and urge them to vote and campaign for the BJP.”

Dr Malhotra has also been busy drumming up support for the Congress in India. “The government’s record speaks for itself,” Dr Malhotra said, adding, “Even the BJP will acknowledge that we have never had such an honest prime minister as Manmohan Singh.”

Maintaining that the Congress has “wide support” among NRIs, Dr Malhotra said: “The Congress has been strong on combating terrorism. There have been historic achievements on its watch — we have a civilian nuclear deal with the United States. India is no longer a nuclear pariah.”

Arguing that the Congress stands for secularism and social harmony, and has been strong on the economy, he added: “Look at how even as a financial crisis grips the rest of the world India has not been affected much by it.”

But Dr Malhotra admits he is worried about the impact a recent clean chit from the CBI for Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 riots case will have on support for the Congress from the Sikh community.

“The Sikh community is very angry about this... I hope it will not alienate the community as far as the Congress is concerned,” he said.

At the end of the day, Dr Agrawal is hopeful that his efforts will pay off. “We people from America... our message carries much weight in India,” he contended.

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Walking out on Iran’s President was childish
by Adrian Hamilton

Isn’t it time western diplomats just grew up and stopped these infantile games over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? All that this play-acting over boycotting of conferences because of his presence and walking out because of his words achieves is to flatter his ego, boost his poll ratings at home and play into the hands of an Israel that is desperate to prove Iran the gravest threat to its existence.

True, Iran’s President is not the world’s most endearing character. Some of the things he says are certainly contentious. But he is far from the most offensive leader on the block at the moment.

With Silvio Berlusconi sounding off about women and sex, and Nicolas Sarkozy sounding off about everything from the quality of his fellow leaders to the unsuitability of Muslims to join the civilised nations, and a Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, giving his views on gays, Europe could claim its fair share of premiers who should not be allowed out in public.

Read Ahmadinejad’s address at the UN conference on racism in Geneva this week and there is little to surprise and a certain amount to be agreed with.

His accusations against the imperial powers for what they did with colonial rule and the business of slavery is pretty much part of the school curriculum now.

His anger at the way the economic crisis originated in the West but has hit worst the innocent of the developing world would find a ready echo (and did) among most of the delegates.

It was not for this, however, that the countries of Europe and North America gathered up their skirts and walked out of Ahmadinejad’s peroration.

The UK’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Peter Gooderham, rather gave the game away when he said afterwards: “As soon as President Ahmadinejad started talking about Israel, that was the cue for us to walk out. We agreed in advance that if there was any such rhetoric there would be no tolerance for it.”

The Iranian leader, he went on to say, was guilty of anti-Semitisim. Just how you can accuse a man of anti-Semitisim when you haven’t stayed to hear him talk is one of those questions which the Foreign Office no doubt trains its diplomats to explain.

But what basically was our representative trying to say here? That any mention of the word Israel is barred from international discussions? That the mere mention of it is enough to have the Western governments combine to still it?

In fact, Ahmadinejad’s speech was not anti-Semitic, not in the strict sense of the word. Nowhere in his speech did he mention his oft-quoted suggestion that Israel be expunged from the map of the world.

At no point did he mention the word “Jews”, only “Zionists”, and then specifically in an Israeli context. Nor did he repeat his infamous Holocaust denials, although he did reportedly refer to it slightingly as “ambiguous” in its evidence.

Instead, he launched the time-honoured Middle Eastern accusation that Israel was an alien country imposed on the local population by the West, out of its own guilt for the genocide; that it was supported by a Zionist take-over of Western politics and that it pursued racist policies towards the Palestinians.

Now you may find these calls offensive or far-fetched (if there is a Zionist world conspiracy, it is making a singularly bad job of it) but it is pretty much the standard view in the Muslim world.

Western support of Israel is seen as a conspiracy, and it is not just prejudice. There are now books by Western academics arguing that the pro-Israeli lobby wields an influence in the US out of all proportion to its numbers. If the Western walkout in Geneva did nothing else, it rather proved the point.

Nor is it far-fetched to charge Israel with being a racist state. As the only country in the world that defines itself and its immigrants on racial grounds, it could be regarded as fair comment.

And if you doubt that this founding principle leads Israel into racist attitudes to non-Israelis, then you only have to read the comments of its new Foreign Secretary, Avigdor Lieberman, to disabuse you.

Of course, Ahamadinejad was playing to his home audience. He is a politician facing re-election at a time when his domestic economic record makes him vulnerable.

Most of the educated class are fed up with his cavorting on the world stage while his country goes from wrack to ruin. And, of course, international conferences of this sort, intended to spread sweetness and light, are not the most appropriate forums for such tirades.

But on these issues he does speak for the majority not just in Iran but in the region. Deny that view a hearing and you will only increase the resentment and the sense of a Western world set up against them. Which is precisely what our oh-so-sanctimonious representatives achieved this week.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Weeding out criminals in politics
by Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Will Durant, the last century’s great philosopher and historian, perhaps had India in mind when, dwelling on the subject of democracy, he wrote: The last stage of matter (democracy) is gangmen rule. Criminals flourish happily in cities because they are guaranteed full protection and cooperation of the law.

If they belong to the organisation (political party), or have friends in it, they have every assurance that if they commit a crime, they will not be arrested; that if arrested, they will not be convicted; that if convicted, they will not be sent to jail; that if jailed, they will be pardoned; that if un-pardoned, they will be permitted to escape.

If, in the practice of their profession, they should be killed, they will be buried with the grandeur and ceremony due to a member of the ruling class, and memorials will be erected in their honour.

Criminals have captured a vast space in the political domain of our country. Their weeding out from the political system has become a big task. Some public-spirited persons have launched campaigns to prevail upon the political parties not to nominate candidates with a criminal record.

However, the political outfits have not bothered much about the concern shown against criminal elements in politics. It is evident from the first phase of elections for which polling was held on April 16. In the first phase, there were 1,715 candidates for 124 constituencies.

The Association for Democratic Reforms, which scrutinised the affidavits submitted by these candidates to returning officers, has found that of the 93 candidates put up by the Congress 24 (25.8 per cent) have a criminal record.

And of the 79 candidates nominated by the BJP 23 (29 per cent) and of the 88 fielded by the BSP 17 (19.3 per cent) have a criminal record.

The Samajwadi Party put up 23 candidates and of these 10 (43.5 per cent) have a criminal record. That means efforts to get criminal elements removed from the political system have come to naught.

Why? Actually, without addressing the basic issues, it would not be possible to remove criminals from the country’s political arena. It will not be a surprise if their dominance in the system of governance becomes stronger in future.

We have seen political parties buying MPs and MLAs to save or break governments. We have seen MLAs and even MPs defecting from one party to other en masse. If that sort of democracy is not hypocrisy, then what is it?

Our is an unjust democracy where to be in power the use of all sorts of foul means, even putting up murders and scoundrels as candidates, has become the primary objective.

Reason: to be in power means establishing control over a big business that the system of governance generates in the form of corruption, under-hand deals to sell government assets to private players, payoffs, black money and cuts from big financial deals.

The very system of governance protects criminals from facing the law of the land and being put behind bars. Some hard criminals, even murders and looters, after joining politics, have become leaders of big standing.

They have been looting the country and states but when the wheels of law start operating against them, they immediately start saying that the action against them was politically motivated.

During the past 62 years, no ruling party — either at the Centre or in the states — has tried to establish an independence creditable agency to investigate criminal and corruption cases against politicians because politicians know that if such an agency was established then it would not be possible for them to escape the law.

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