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EDITORIALS

Regional satraps in demand
Cobbling up numbers would be no mean task
W
ith there being clear indications that neither the
Congress nor the BJP would be able to get anywhere
close to the half-way mark in the just-concluded Lok
Sabha elections, the focus is now on the regional
parties that are being wooed by both sides. Regional
satraps, especially Mayawati, J. Jayalalithaa,
Chandrababu Naidu, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Naveen
Patnaik, are much in demand because they would be
crucial to the formation of the next government.


EARLIER STORIES

Well-done, EC
May 14, 2009
Can’t be just goodwill
May 13, 2009
Before and after
May 12, 2009
Plunder of Aravali
May 11, 2009
Caught in the crossfire
May 10, 2009
A shocking give and take
May 9, 2009
Obama to Zardari
May 8, 2009
Wanted: Partners
May 7, 2009
Get back black money
May 6, 2009
Crisis in Nepal
May 5, 2009
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Comrades on board
Congress and Left have few options
C
ommunists are not known to speak out of turn. That is why heads turned
earlier this week when Subhas Chakravarty, a senior West Bengal minister
believed to be close to the grand old man of the CPM, Comrade Jyoti Basu, was
quoted as saying that the Left would be foolish to again stay out of the impending
government in New Delhi.

Stress-free learning
Academic reforms are imperative
P
anjab University students have reason to rejoice. In the ensuing academic session, they will have access to their evaluated answer-sheets. Nearly two and a half years ago, a similar move was made by Punjabi University, Patiala. Such a measure deserves to be welcomed since it would inject transparency into the evaluation system and also help students overcome their shortcomings.

ARTICLE

Shocking CRPF job scam
It’s proverbial tip of the iceberg
by Inder Malhotra
I
N the midst of the heat, dust and cacophony of the elections, a horrendous recruitment scandal in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has gone practically unnoticed. But the country can ignore it and its ramifications only at its peril. For, what has been exposed to the light of day is but the proverbial tip not of an iceberg but of a glacier.

MIDDLE

Hand-me-downs
by Harish Dhillon
A
nyone who has been the youngest sibling in a middle-class family will know the indignity and humiliation of being the recipient of hand-me-down clothing. Admittedly the hand-me-downs are usually of top quality and in a pristine condition. Yet there is an aching disappointment in always having to wear clothes that have been contoured by someone else’s body, clothes that will always carry a whift of someone else’s smell.

OPED

LTTE India’s Taliban?
Delhi does not want Sri Lanka to split
by Kuldip Nayar
A
US think-tank has said in a report that the LTTE is India’s Taliban, as much out
of its control as are the Taliban in Pakistan. There is, however, one big difference.
True, New Delhi trained and armed the LTTE to protect the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
But India jettisoned the force in no time when it discovered that the LTTE had
developed an ambition to carve out a territory from Sri Lanka to have an
independent state of Eelam.

New York Times in trouble
by Stephen Foley
W
e’re not selling The New York Times”. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jnr, chairman and scion of the storied family that has owned the bastion of American journalism for 113 years, has gone blue in the face saying it. But not only does the commentariat continue to speculate about the paper’s future, the line of acquisitive billionaires queuing round the block at the company’s Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper headquarters in Manhattan seems to lengthen by the day.

A one-woman battle for environment
by John M. Glionna
T
HE slight woman in the slate-gray monk robe was taking a meditative walk in the woods when she happened upon bulldozers. She had spent more than a decade in solitude, leaving her rural monastery only for outings in the nearby forest. But this hike, on a spring day in 2001, was different. The harsh whine of the machines, their garish colors contrasting with the lush green of the woods, almost made her weep.


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Regional satraps in demand
Cobbling up numbers would be no mean task

With there being clear indications that neither the Congress nor the BJP would be able to get anywhere close to the half-way mark in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections, the focus is now on the regional parties that are being wooed by both sides. Regional satraps, especially Mayawati, J. Jayalalithaa, Chandrababu Naidu, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Naveen Patnaik, are much in demand because they would be crucial to the formation of the next government.

There is another layer of regional leaders like Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee who are currently committed but may change sides if they are offered an attractive deal by the rival grouping. It all adds up to an atmosphere of great fluidity.

Indeed, both the UPA and the NDA are aware that they have to strike a balance between their existing allies and the ones who they are negotiating with to come on board. Just as Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav are deeply inimical towards each other and would not reconcile to being part of the same grouping, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi are at dagger’s drawn and cannot be under the same umbrella.

So brazen is Mulayam Singh that he would support only that grouping that agrees to dismiss the Mayawati government in U.P. Likewise, Jayalalithaa would bargain with the two groupings to jettison the DMK government in Tamil Nadu in return for her support. Chandrashekhar Rao of the TRS has pledged support to the NDA because of a promise that it would grant statehood to Telangana if it assumes power at the Centre. Such quid pro quos are not healthy for democracy and amount to virtual blackmail. Predictably, the political jockeying would intensify once the results are out. The first targets would be the Third Front constituents, many of which are waiting to see the impending results. The Left has already given indications of going with the UPA if it comes to the crunch.

While the party or grouping that is first invited to form the government would have a distinct edge in getting through a vote of confidence, there can be no guarantee that the nascent government would not be defeated in the trust vote, given the expectations of parties from their alliances. All in all, it is an election with myriad possibilities and it is to be hoped that parties and their leaders would show wisdom in using national interest as their dominant standard.

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Comrades on board
Congress and Left have few options

Communists are not known to speak out of turn. That is why heads turned
earlier this week when Subhas Chakravarty, a senior West Bengal minister
believed to be close to the grand old man of the CPM, Comrade Jyoti Basu, was
quoted as saying that the Left would be foolish to again stay out of the impending
government in New Delhi.

He went on to elaborate that not joining the United Front government at the Centre in 1996, and, of course, not allowing Jyoti Basu to become Prime Minister was a mistake that the Left parties repeated in 2004 by extending support to the UPA government from outside.

The implications of Chakravarty’s observations are that if the opportunity presents itself again, the Left Front should not be averse to sharing power at the Centre, even if there is opposition from hardliners like CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. When the CPM politburo meets in Delhi next week, Mr Karat may actually find himself isolated if he continues with his opposition to the Congress.

As it is, his position within the politburo is likely to weaken considerably by Saturday this week if the Left Front’s strength in the Lok Sabha falls dramatically, as is being suggested by almost all the exit polls so far. Mr Karat may also find other constituents of the Third Front keen to join the government and strike a hard bargain with the Congress to extract their own pound of flesh. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine the likes of Mayawati, Jayalalithaa, Deve Gowda or Chandrababu Naidu spurning an opportunity to share power at the Centre.

Neither the Left Front nor the Congress seem to be left with too many options if the exit polls are to be believed. The Left Front cannot afford to sit in the opposition and let the BJP-led NDA form the government. Nor will the Congress like to let the BJP walk away with the mantle.

Despite their intense and mutual dislike, therefore, the Left Front and the Congress may again come together, “in national interest” of course. As for Mamata Banerjee, she could well find herself winning the battle but losing the war.

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Stress-free learning
Academic reforms are imperative

Panjab University students have reason to rejoice. In the ensuing academic session, they will have access to their evaluated answer-sheets. Nearly two and a half years ago, a similar move was made by Punjabi University, Patiala. Such a measure deserves to be welcomed since it would inject transparency into the evaluation system and also help students overcome their shortcomings.

Recently, Panjab University had adopted the semester and credit system that will allow students to try new permutations of subjects. While these are praiseworthy steps, the existing examination system, especially at the school level, is still crying for a radical overhaul.

A high-level committee on higher education said that India’s higher education
system, both private and public, neither “excites students” nor “equips graduates
for the real world”. Besides, as things stand, education in Indian schools creates
a great deal of avoidable stress. The exam-centric system of education that
breeds anxiety both among parents and their wards has to give way to student-
friendly approaches to learning.

Time and again, the need to reform the education and examination pattern has been felt. The issue has been raised at various foras, but significant reforms are still to be implemented. Suitable alternatives have to be found to the much- feared make or break one-time annual examination. Plus, the emphasis has to shift from rote learning to problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.

The CBSE has often expressed its resolve to make education child-centric and taken measures to do so. Already, some weightage has been given to internal assessment. Prior to the Class X and XII board exams, it started a website to answer syllabus-related queries and a helpline to help students cope with the exam stress. In the offing now is its nine-point scale grading system.

With provision for improvement in grades, it is likely to decrease pressure on students’ minds and discourage unhealthy competition. Competition might egg some students on towards excellence. However, both parents and educationists have to understand the difference between competition and competence.

The ultimate purpose of education is to create competent individuals with knowledge and skills. Abnormally high percentage of marks ought not be the only yardstick of assessing students’ intelligence. Education is much more than marks and grades.

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Thought for the Day

Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended. — Alfred North Whitehead

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Shocking CRPF job scam
It’s proverbial tip of the iceberg
by Inder Malhotra

IN the midst of the heat, dust and cacophony of the elections, a horrendous recruitment scandal in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has gone practically unnoticed. But the country can ignore it and its ramifications only at its peril. For, what has been exposed to the light of day is but the proverbial tip not of an iceberg but of a glacier.

No isolated case this, it is indeed symptomatic of the established pattern of recruitment to not only the CRPF but also to other Central para-military forces and, more importantly, to the police forces in the states. Whatever afflicts any one them proves contagious to others.

In this context what has come to light so far needs to be examined minutely. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested and produced in a Patna court nine persons - including an Inspector-General, a Deputy Inspector-General and two battalion commandants of the CRFP - for amassing Rs 225 crore in the last few years by allegedly extorting bribes from those scrambling for jobs in the force.

Among those taken in custody are also some civilians, including a husband-wife team. Obviously, they are the “touts” acting as go-betweens the jobseekers and CRPF officers. It should also be evident that a racket of this dimension cannot go on without the knowledge, if not connivance, of the officials at the very top.

According to the CBI’s investigations so far, the modus operandi of those with a gift for the grab is to let loose the touts on applicants with a view to collecting up to Rs 3 lakh each. The proceeds are then distributed.

Examination papers are leaked to those who pay and interview boards for them are “fixed” or “manipulated” carefully. Eventually, the flourishing scandal burst into the open only because those unable to pay screamed in protest. In the documents submitted to the court, the CBI has alleged that the Inspector-General now brought to book was suspected of indulging in the “same corrupt practices” also two years ago. But he escaped punitive action because of insufficient evidence though his superiors made adverse remarks in his annual confidential report.

Significantly, the arrests made so far are confined to the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. But the Union Home Ministry that called in the CBI has also directed it to investigate similar complaints about the CRPF recruitments in UP, Punjab and Haryana. In fact, this alone would not do. A thorough and high-level inquiry into the entire system of recruitment and promotions in various security and police forces is called for.

Several years ago in Punjab the then chairman of the state public services commission was arrested for allegedly demanding bribes for both fresh recruitment and promotions for those already in service. Crores of rupees in cash were recovered from the residence of the individual concerned.

It was disclosed that police inspectors with an ambition to become Deputy Superintendents of Police had to cough up Rs 2.5 lakh each. No one knows what has become of that case or whether the obviously influential accused was prosecuted at all. Any number of other instances, including the “auctioning” of “lucrative” police stations, can be cited but need not be.

Suffice it to say that politicisation of all police forces, incompetence or worse of investigative agencies and endless judicial delays have contributed materially to making corruption the low-risk, high-growth industry in this country.

Some may argue that if corruption is so rampant as to have become a countrywide cancer without cure, why single out the Central and state police and security organisations in this connection? There may be something in this, but there are two very painful problems that arise.

First, that if every constable has to pay lakhs of rupees before getting the job and every inspector another few lakhs to climb a rung on the ladder or a high officer has to bribe his political boss to secure a coveted post, wouldn’t it have a multiplier effect on the loot on a scale to boggle the mind?

Secondly, if the right amount of money can get anyone into a security organisation, wouldn’t terrorist outfits, foreign and homegrown, find it easy to infiltrate these sensitive departments? Of course, the same question can be raised about the armed forces, especially the Army. But there is a crucial difference. The Army has counter-intelligence and field security units. The armed police, Central or state, does not.

This brings one to an even more agonising subject. The Indian Army, very unwisely, increased in 1976 the duration of a jawan’s service under the colours from seven to 17 years. Later, it realised its mistake because the Army tended to get older than it should be. On the other hand, it had to worry about the future of young soldiers having to leave after only five to seven years of service.

All concerned hit upon a brilliant idea: Let this trained, disciplined and youthful manpower be absorbed, after due selection, into the numerous and expanding para-military forces and given a year’s training to enable them to cope with their new responsibilities. But there was no go. No one wanted to give up his monopoly on recruitment into his service.

The Fifth Pay Commission that reported in 1997 had asked the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) to conduct a study on this subject for it. The commission appreciated the institute’s suggestions but did not include them in its recommendations. The Sixth Pay Commission ignored the matter completely.

Leave alone 26/11, armed constabularies of affected states have been unable even to deal with the Naxalite meance. The deficiencies of the Central para-military forces have also been evident, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army is, therefore, called in.

This cannot go on. Internal security has to be the responsibility of state and Central police organisations. But this cannot happen until all the police organisations are liberated from servitude to the politicians in power and made the servant of the law.

That is where the crying need for police reforms comes in and no story can be more dismal than this one. An unexceptionable Supreme Court directive on police reforms - issued in September 2007 after 11-year hearing of a public interest litigation by a former Director-General of Police, Prakash Singh - should have been operational since March 2008. But it is still hanging fire because of obstruction and obfuscation by state and Central governments.

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Hand-me-downs
by Harish Dhillon

Anyone who has been the youngest sibling in a middle-class family will know the indignity and humiliation of being the recipient of hand-me-down clothing. Admittedly the hand-me-downs are usually of top quality and in a pristine condition. Yet there is an aching disappointment in always having to wear clothes that have been contoured by someone else’s body, clothes that will always carry a whift of someone else’s smell.

Once in a while, however, wearing a hand-me-down can be a source of great warmth and comfort, and, yes, even strength. During the Second World War my father was prisoner of war in Singapore. Through the years of the usual deprivation and hardship that all prisoners’ of war experience, one of the bright spots was a pair of trousers that had come to him in a Red Cross parcel.

It was of a light woollen material woven in a unique self embossed herring bone
design. He used it sparingly, and, after the war, not at all, though it remained
hanging in his clothes’ cupboard. I asked him about it and he said: “I am saving
it for you.”

In due course I did come to own it. It was an inch short for me, the colour had dulled and the style was so old fashioned it drew amused glances. But I didn’t mind. I found warmth in the knowledge that my father had once worn it, and I found strength in the fact that even while he was a prisoner of war he had kept me so closely in his heart.

A friend had a similar story to tell. He was very close to his grandfather. The enduring memory of his childhood was of his grandfather in a beautiful Burberry trench coat. My friend wished that he could wear the coat and when his grandfather died he asked for and got it.

All through the winter he wore it and when he couldn’t wear it, he carried it with him. Then perhaps, inevitably, because of his insistence on carrying it around, he forgot it on a train. He was miserable. He missed it with the deep and long abiding pain of an amputated limb.

Then a few years later, he found himself in front of the Burberry Store on Oxford street and, yes, he found an identical trench coat. But when he did finally slip it on he was disappointed. There was the absence of something essential in the coat.

It took him a moment to realise that it was the absence of the lingering smell of his grandfather’s tobacco and with it the ambience of those long winter evenings in his grandfather’s study.

He realised that he had coveted the coat as a symbol of his grandfather’s love and the bond he had shared with him. The old coat had been a reminder of his grandfather’s presence, the new one was a reminder of his absence. At the first suitable opportunity he gave it away.

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LTTE India’s Taliban?
Delhi does not want Sri Lanka to split
by Kuldip Nayar

A US think-tank has said in a report that the LTTE is India’s Taliban, as much out
of its control as are the Taliban in Pakistan. There is, however, one big difference.
True, New Delhi trained and armed the LTTE to protect the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
But India jettisoned the force in no time when it discovered that the LTTE had
developed an ambition to carve out a territory from Sri Lanka to have an
independent state of Eelam.

New Delhi’s purpose was to put pressure on Colombo to make it treat the Tamils on a par with the majority, the Sinhalese. New Delhi never supported the LTTE’s plan to secede the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka to constitute an independent country. In fact, India supplied arms to Sri Lanka to make amends for the mistake of propping up the LTTE at one time.

Pakistan, on the other hand, owned and lionised the Taliban even when they took over Afghanistan after polluting the atmosphere with fundamentalism. It gave the Taliban government recognition straightaway.

Islamabad did not realise that it had released a genie from the bottle until it began hurting the country. The Pakistan army started action only after America put pressure and opened the tap for aid both for military and civil purposes.

There are reports that the ISI still assists the Taliban and want them to capture Afghanistan to give Pakistan its “strategic depth.” One thing sure is that the LTTE, like the Taliban in Pakistan, is going to harass and hound Sri Lanka for a long time to come. The LTTE may go back to guerrilla warfare which Colombo had faced when the LTTE had begun its operations for the first time in the eighties.

It may penetrate the Tamil population all over Sri Lanka. The military defeat is not enough, the LTTE has to be repulsed politically. In fact, the reverse of the LTTE had begun when the eastern province was wrested from its hands some four years ago. The rest was a matter of time.

It is unfortunate that both the DMK and the AIDMK, the two main parties in Tamil Nadu, have never sought a solution to the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. The two have used it for their electoral purpose. They have now backed the demand for Eelam, without even thinking how embarrassingly dangerous it can be for their own country.

How would they react if some foreign country were to say that it would like certain parts of India to be independent so as to accommodate one ethnic group or the other? Understandably, the demand by DMK leader Karunanidhi and AIDMK leader Jayalalithaa is election rhetoric. But the effect on the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka has been devastating. The battle for votes may cost India dear.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has somewhat saved the situation by criticising the demand as inconceivable. He has rightly debunked the cry raised to have a Bangladeshi-type operation to establish Eelam in Sri Lanka because it was out of place and out of any norms.

The new government in New Delhi should take the first opportunity to assure Sri Lanka, as has been done in the past, that as far as India was concerned it stood behind a united Sri Lanka.

This does not, however, mean that the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka has come to an end. Tamils, both in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu, feel emotionally close to each other. But their aspirations are different. Tamils in Sri Lanka are loyal to it. Their only grievance is that they are not equal citizens in their own country.

On the other hand, Tamils in India do not want Sri Lankan Tamils to feel that they have been abandoned. They want them well in their own country. But for that they must denounce the LTTE, a group of fanatics, which is not possible when the stake is getting electoral support.

The sympathy which the people in Tamil Nadu have for the Tamils in Sri Lanka may go once Colombo finds a way to give the Tamils the feeling of equal citizens. I recall when the Amendment 13 was discussed at Colombo to decentralise power, the then President, Jayawardhare, was very forthcoming. He told me that there was no discrimination against the Tamils and cited the example of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice at that time. He was a Tamil.

Yet, such individual examples do not mean that the ethnic minorities enjoy the best of facilities in a state. It all depends on the majority. It has to make them feel that they are in no way inferior to members of the majority. An agreement to transfer power to the northern and eastern provinces, where the Tamils were in a majority, was signed in 1987. The Amendment 13 is all about it. But when it came to the implementation, very little was done.

Even moderate Tamils were thrown into the lap of the LTTE. Once again such an opportunity has come in the way of Colombo. It can retrieve the Tamils by empowering them. Colombo concedes that the Tamil problem is political. It should take the initiative to decentralise power and transfer it to the different provinces so that the country becomes a federation in the real sense.

New Delhi will find it increasingly difficult to contain Tamils within India if Sri Lanka does not shed its military-like posture and does not think on the lines of converting the government it has into a federal structure.

At present a huge tragedy is being enacted in northern Sri Lanka, once the stronghold of the LTTE. Tens of thousands of civilians are caught between the advancing military and Tamil Tigers are using them as human shields.

The shocking pictures showing atrocities committed on them have reached the people all over the world through satellite. The UN has called it a “blood bath.” Colombo does add to its jaded image by deporting British journalists who, however overzealous, were doing their professional job.

The Sri Lanka media itself is under pressure. Colombo has had the world’s support so far. It should not fritter it away by indulging in such things or violating human rights, the stories of which are in abundance.

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New York Times in trouble
by Stephen Foley

We’re not selling The New York Times”. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jnr, chairman and scion of the storied family that has owned the bastion of American journalism for 113 years, has gone blue in the face saying it. But not only does the commentariat continue to speculate about the paper’s future, the line of acquisitive billionaires queuing round the block at the company’s Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper headquarters in Manhattan seems to lengthen by the day.

Muscling his way towards the front of the queue this week – David Geffen. The music and movies mogul, who cofounded the Dreamworks film studio with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, was foiled in an attempt to buy the Los Angeles Times three years ago but has now turned his eye on an even bigger prize. Earlier this month, he made an offer for the 20 per cent stake in The New York Times held by Harbinger, the hedge fund run by Philip Falcone, which invested disastrously in the company last year.

Mr Falcone has turned him down for now, saying he wants someone to pay above the market price, which is all Mr Geffen was offering. But with the value of the stake bumping along at levels not seen since the early eighties, and with Harbinger apparently sounding out as many people as possible as buyers and finding little joy, even from deep-pocketed Google, it seems Mr Geffen may well get a second chance.

Meanwhile, Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms mogul who is the world’s second-richest man, helped The New York Times stave off bankruptcy earlier this year by extending a high-interest loan and could emerge with 19 per cent of the company.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, has long been rumoured to want to add the Times to the financial news empire that made – and bears – his name. Rupert Murdoch, too, who snatched ownership of The Wall Street Journal from another storied newspaper family, the Bancrofts, two years ago, also covets the Times.

“Newspapers are not playthings exactly,” says Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at The Poynter Institute, a Florida school for journalists. “But they are kind of like a sports franchise. Owning one gives you a lot of standing in your community – and in this case, it would be a national community. The New York Times has the strongest reader base of any paper of size in the country.”

But remember Mr Sulzberger’s mantra. We are not selling The New York Times. He is the fourth generation of the Ochs Sulzberger family to be publisher of the paper, and certainly doesn’t want to be the last. His 28-year-old son is already climbing his way through the ranks with an eye on the top job. And the family seems locked in place.

While Messrs Slim and Geffen may duke it out for a large stake in the non-voting shares of the company, the Ochs Sulzbergers control a majority of the voting shares and therefore of the composition of the board. As an added layer of protection, if individual family members sell out, their shares are converted into non-voting shares.

So only two things will dislodge the family: bankruptcy, which would transfer the company to its creditors, or an all-at-once decision by the family to give up its legacy. Let’s take bankruptcy first.

For all the might of The New York Times, the No 3 best-selling paper in the land and a beacon of serious, liberal journalism, and of its website, nytimes.com, the best-read of any newspaper site in the world, with 20 million readers a month, bankruptcy loomed as a very real possibility at the start of this year.

However, the $250m loan from Mr Slim in January and a $225m sale and leaseback deal on its towering headquarters have tackled the immediate crisis. The company has met its immediate obligations and also bought back a chunk of debt due next year, which gives it more breathing room.

Some of the other assets held in the parent company, such as the Boston Red Sox baseball team, are up for sale to raise further cash. The journalists’ union at its second-largest paper, The Boston Globe, agreed to concessions on job security and on salaries that could help cut losses and eventually make it easier to sell the title.

The New York Times Company’s $1bn debt burden remains high, however, and the company could still be unglued by a prolonged recession and the continued erosion of the old newspaper industry business model, as readers and advertisers drift away to the fragmented news offerings on the internet.

Newspaper executives and journalists across the industry are looking to the Times to see how it wrestles with these seismic issues. Although loathe to cut into the quality journalism that is its hallmark, the Times has cut newsroom jobs.

It has also set up two internal “task forces” to examine how it might reconfigure the news operation to reflect the internet landscape and how to make new revenue from the website and other digital platforms, such as the Kindle e-reader.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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A one-woman battle for environment
by John M. Glionna

THE slight woman in the slate-gray monk robe was taking a meditative walk in the woods when she happened upon bulldozers. She had spent more than a decade in solitude, leaving her rural monastery only for outings in the nearby forest. But this hike, on a spring day in 2001, was different. The harsh whine of the machines, their garish colors contrasting with the lush green of the woods, almost made her weep.

“A certain sadness came over me,” recalled the 52-year-old, who goes by the single name Jiyul in accordance with her Buddhist faith. “On my way back to the monastery, I decided I couldn’t help but do something.”

After some investigation, the monk discovered the unthinkable: The South Korean government was preparing to drill an 8-mile-long railroad tunnel beneath her monastery, piercing the heart of a mountain Jiyul considered sacred.

She had always viewed nature as a gentle mother who nourished the planet’s residents. In her eyes, to wreak such damage just to shave a few hours off a commercial train trip was criminal.

Mentors warned Jiyul against leaving the monastery, but her mind was made up. Displaying an iron will that vexed many bureaucrats, the 5-foot, 90-pound monk went on to wage a one-woman battle that included dozens of sit-ins, hunger strikes and arduous pilgrimages that involved walking three steps and then lying down on the ground, repeated for hundreds of miles.

But instead of Jiyul’s effort changing the world, it would be the world that changed her. “The monk is very lonely. It really hurts me,” said friend Kim Jong-chul, a former English-literature professor and editor of an environmental magazine.

“If she had known how much this society has been corrupted and spoiled, she would never have come out from solitary.” It turned out Jiyul simply wasn’t ready for modern life.

“I was naive — I had been in isolation for so long, I didn’t even know there were cell phones and computers,” she said. “I didn’t realize how big a challenge I was facing. Once I stepped through that door, there was this huge picture I had never seen before.

“The speed that the culture was moving at — it was too fast.” For years, Jiyul had kept her own counsel. For days on end, she would lose herself in meditation. Then came the grinding noise in the forest.

After that fateful hike, she pored over the details of the government project to build a bullet-train tunnel through Mount Cheonseong. Slowly, Jiyul devised her plan: Armed with a camera and compass, she would get to know the mountain intimately, taking hundreds of walks to document its wildlife and record its sounds, smells and feel.

Her quest, she said, was more than aesthetic. The mountain ecosystem supports a dozen streams and 24 wetlands that she said would be irreversibly altered by this man-made intrusion.

She wanted to show how the wildlife on the mountain — which once had been legally protected by the government — would be altered by the vibration of the train in the tunnel.

Over the ensuing years, she would stage hunger strikes, each time alone, subsisting on salt, water and tea. One lasted 45 days, another 58. They were followed by two that went on for about 100 days each.

“I tried to be careful in the outside world. I was really timid after so many years in isolation,” Jiyul said. “It was painful to overcome my own personality. I didn’t get hostile or agitated. No matter what the critics said, it’s only important if it is based on truth.” Last month, the South Korean Supreme Court upheld those charges, saying the monk’s methods of civil disobedience were “not reasonable.”

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Corrections and clarifications

The headline related to the report on RBI (Page 15, May 14) should read “ RBI to phase out high value cheques”.

On Page 11 (May 14), in the report related to the apex court’s direction to Haryana, the Supreme Court has been spelt incorrectly.

In the front page report (May 11) regarding PM wrapping up campaign in Ludhiana, it should read ‘battle lines’.

In the report related to a murder (Page 10, May 14), it should read, ‘police raided the house on a tip-off’.

In the report from Ludhiana on free sops to migrants before polling ( Page 4, May 14), ‘ vehras’ of migrants referred to barracks or ghettoes.

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
and Friday.

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

H.K. Dua

Editor-in-Chief

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