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EDITORIALS

Vision for growth
Political mindset needs to change
W
HEN much of the world grapples with recession, anyone talking of 8-9 per cent GDP growth can easily be dismissed as a daydreamer. Not so if the person happens to be Dr Manmohan Singh, who is never given to overstating a case.

UT high-ups get the rap
Their callous indifference deserves much more 
T
HE Punjab and Haryana High Court’s condemnation of the Chandigarh Administration’s attitude towards the functioning of the government-run institutions like Nari Niketan and Ashraya could not have been more severe, but the administration fully deserved the rap. 


EARLIER STORIES

Beware! It’s not milk
June 10, 2009
MP or a murderer?
June 9, 2009
Arrest of a terrorist
June 8, 2009
Terror Down Under
June 7, 2009
Washington has erred
June 6, 2009
President speaks
June 5, 2009
Pak flexes muscles, again
June 4, 2009
Treading the beaten path
June 3, 2009
Friends, or foes?
June 2, 2009
Better days ahead
June 1, 2009
The fury of cyclone Aila
May 31, 2009


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Ending cronyism
Bill will free babus from ministers’ whims
I
T may turn out to be a massive task, but Dr Manmohan Singh’s new government will be making a good start if it can begin shaking up the usually lethargic and indifferent administrative structure. 
ARTICLE

After Swat operation
Threat to Pakistani nationhood
by G. Parthasarathy
T
HE Americans appear overjoyed at what they seem to believe will be an early end to the Taliban control over large tracts of Northwest Pakistan following the ongoing military operations in Swat. The military action was literally forced on the army as fears grew that the Taliban would spread its wings to the very heart of the national capital, Islamabad, if no serious efforts were made to prevent it. But within two weeks of the commencement of the military operations, the country faces a new crisis, which threatens Pakistan’s national solidarity and unity.

MIDDLE

The Bluegrass State
by Shriniwas Joshi

I am in Boone County of Kentucky (American pronunciation is Kentaaky). Although most of the Indians recognise it as Fried Chicken State yet its common nickname is Bluegrass State.

OPED

The menace of piracy
UN should deploy a task force
by Admiral Arun Prakash (retd)
P
irates have been the scourge of mariners since ancient times, and locations as widespread as the Caribbean, the Barbary Coast, and even the western seaboard of India have been known, historically, for their depredations. Contrary to the romantic, swashbuckling image projected by Hollywood, pirates are actually ruthless cut-throats whose motivations are entirely mercenary.

Dematerialising growth
by Madhav Mehra
T
HE most harrowing challenge confronting the humanity today is whether growth we have been used to since the Second World War is sustainable. Is Thomas Malthus going to have the last laugh? Will the 21st century be a century of peace, prosperity and promise or of doom, desperation and despair?

Health
More choices  of milk than  ever before
by Laura Vozzella
N
OT long ago, consumers had to ponder only one thing before buying milk: How much fat did they want? Then, more than a decade ago, organic started showing up in traditional supermarkets.

 

 


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Vision for growth
Political mindset needs to change

WHEN much of the world grapples with recession, anyone talking of 8-9 per cent GDP growth can easily be dismissed as a daydreamer. Not so if the person happens to be Dr Manmohan Singh, who is never given to overstating a case. In fact, such is the investor confidence in him that his observation lifted the BSE Sensex by 800 points in two days. There is a reason for this. In the last fiscal when the World Bank and the IMF had predicted India’s growth rate in the range of 5-6 per cent, Dr Manmohan Singh had pinned his hopes on the 7 per cent figure. The country surprised many doomsayers at home and abroad by clocking 6.7 per cent growth.

Though there are signs of recovery in major economies of the world, including the US, China and Japan, financial analysts and fund managers have reposed their faith in India’s future, especially after the return of political stability at the Centre with Dr Manmohan Singh as the leader. Though he has emerged stronger after the massive mandate for the Congress, he faces two major problems: a shortage of cash and political opposition to reforms. Realising this, he has told Parliament: “We cannot spend our way to prosperity” and “money does not grow on trees”. To meet the challenge of development, the political class needs to abandon its usual games and adapt to the situation with a new mindset.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s message was obviously meant for the UPA allies like the DMK and Trinamool Congress, which have lately made public their opposition to the government’s plans to raise money through PSU disinvestment. Even though the Left parties and the BJP may still be lying low after their recent drubbing in the polls, their opposition to some bits of reforms is well known. It is not enough for a country to have a vision for growth; efforts are required to build a broad political consensus, especially within the UPA, on how to achieve it. Internal bottlenecks may prove more daunting than external challenges. Dr Manmohan Singh will have to ensure that his colleagues follow his line and conduct themselves with a sense of responsibility.

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UT high-ups get the rap
Their callous indifference deserves much more 

THE Punjab and Haryana High Court’s condemnation of the Chandigarh Administration’s attitude towards the functioning of the government-run institutions like Nari Niketan and Ashraya could not have been more severe, but the administration fully deserved the rap. Its handling of the Nari Niketan rape case was shockingly callous and insensitive. In spite of the fact that a mentally challenged girl had been violated in the institute by one of the guards, it first tried to deny the incident and then went slow on the investigation. The court has criticised the handling of the investigation by the investigating officer and the UT Administration and observed that both were trying to protect the accused. “The fact that a hapless inmate was allegedly raped by none other than one of her guardians at the institute tells the tale of criminal and administrative negligence and the indifferent attitude of those at the helm,” a High Court Bench consisting of Justice Suryakant and Justice Augustine George Masih was constrained to comment. Its anguish was all too clear when it added: “We strongly deprecate the manner in which such state-run welfare institutions are being managed. If the allegations are true, this is an eye-opener for the higher echelons of the Administration, the officials need to introspect and carry out sweeping administrative reforms”.

But will they? It is a matter of regret that such laxity has been taking place in a city which is barely the size of a sub-tehsil and is yet choc-a-block with administrators who are keen for what they think are cushy postings. Girls living in Nari Niketan were at the mercy of these administrators, which they did not show, leading to the shocking rape case.

The “peculiar” incident has posed a moral and legal dilemma for society. Should the victim’s pregnancy be aborted? Since the girl is mentally incapable of deciding for herself, and none of her relatives and guardians are available to take a decision, who will decide for her? The High Court has constituted a panel of experts comprising doctors from the PGI and an Additional District and Sessions Judge to give its opinion on the issue of termination of pregnancy. One just hopes that such a dilemma does not befall any other court or victim. Things have come to such a pass only because the much glorified administration has callously abdicated its responsibility. They deserve more than a rap.

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Ending cronyism
Bill will free babus from ministers’ whims

IT may turn out to be a massive task, but Dr Manmohan Singh’s new government will be making a good start if it can begin shaking up the usually lethargic and indifferent administrative structure. There is welcome news that the government as a first step is readying legislation that will not only ensure fixed-tenure postings for senior bureaucrats thus safeguarding them from whimsical postings and transfers, but also protect them from political interference in their daily functioning. Along with this is the comforting thought, which forms part of the soon-to-be-tabled Civil Services Bill, 2009, that performance will guide postings and promotions of IAS and IPS officials to begin with.

For too long now there has existed an unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucrats leading to favouritism, cronyism, vendetta and a “revolving door bureaucracy” syndrome. Feudal-minded politicians are known to prefer loyalty and servility over merit and professionalism, while many unscrupulous bureaucrats and police officers are known to lobby politicians for collaborative gains. In many states, the bureaucracy is vertically split between key political parties while a section of honest and public service-minded bureaucrats are finding themselves silenced or shunted to the sidelines. It has thus become a norm for almost every incoming state government to replace senior bureaucrats and police officers with those who are perceived to be pliable. Transfers are a punishment for those who do not fit into the politicians’ scheme of things. The recent mass transfer of scores of IAS and IPS officers by Ms Mayawati is one such example. Other Chief Ministers are not innocent of the game; the difference is only of the scale.

With the Bill proposing to ensure fixed tenures at senior levels, there is hope for improvement in efficiency and decision-making. Politicians will no longer be able to play favourities. Given the government is in a position to get the Bill through in Parliament, it will have to make some effort to take Chief Ministers along. They are going to resist the reform of a system that has benefited them. 
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Thought for the Day

Parting is all we know of heaven,/ And all we need of hell. — Emily Dickinson

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After Swat operation
Threat to Pakistani nationhood
by G. Parthasarathy

THE Americans appear overjoyed at what they seem to believe will be an early end to the Taliban control over large tracts of Northwest Pakistan following the ongoing military operations in Swat. The military action was literally forced on the army as fears grew that the Taliban would spread its wings to the very heart of the national capital, Islamabad, if no serious efforts were made to prevent it. But within two weeks of the commencement of the military operations, the country faces a new crisis, which threatens Pakistan’s national solidarity and unity.

Speaking in Peshawar about the growing numbers of the people (described as internally displaced persons or IDPs) who have fled from their homes following the military operations, the Information Minister of the North-West Frontier Province, Mr Iftikhar Hussein, revealed on May 29 that 2.8 million people had abandoned their homes after the recent operations. He added that this was apart from the 600,000 other Pakhtuns (Pathans) who had been forced out of their homes in earlier army operations in the province’s tribal areas.

As more and more IDPs pour into refugee camps, Pakistan’s resources are being strained. It has appealed to the UN and donor countries for urgent financial aid. But more important than the economic implications of the refugee influx is the political fallout of the military operations. It is now clear that fearing the spread of Talibanisation, major provinces like Sind and Punjab are refusing rehabilitation facilities for the displaced Pakhtuns.

In Sind province, Sindhi nationalist organisations have joined the main Muhajir political party, the MQM, now a coalition partner in the provincial government, in warning that they will not accept the Pakhtuns who are IDPs. The MQM has made it clear that any influx of refugees into Karachi could lead to ethnic violence. Even before these developments, ethnic clashes between Muhajirs and Pakhtuns had rocked Karachi.

What has, however, surprised many Pakhtuns is the attitude of the largest province of Pakistan, Punjab. According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, who is one of Pakistan’s most respected journalists, even the Punjab government, headed by Mr Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has let it be known that it would not provide facilities for camps for IDPs in the province and that camps should be set up within the NWFP for this purpose.

Alluding to these developments, an anguished Yusufzai asks: “Is it asking for too much from politicians who are in and out of power and are supposed to show the way to the nation to be sensitive to the pleas of IDPs instead of rubbing salt in their wounds? Or, according to their interpretation, should the IDP issue be the concern of the NWFP and the Pakhtuns only? If this is the case, then one should be worried about the damage this attitude is causing to the concept of the nationhood of the federation of Pakistan”.

The military operations in Swat against the Taliban commenced in the middle of May. How is it that in barely two weeks 2.8 million people have left their homes? The fact is that whenever the Pakistan Army commences operations against its own people, it uses excessive force. This was evident in Bangladesh in 1971, when army brutality led to 11 million people fleeing as refugees to India.

In the operations in Baluchistan in 1973-1974 and thereafter during the Musharraf dispensation, the army used air power and artillery indiscriminately, even going in for air power to target the respected octogenarian Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti. The Baloch used to describe former Pakistan Army chief Gen Tikka Khan as the “Butcher of Baluchistan”. Use of excessive force was also manifest in the Pakistan Army operations in rural Sind in 1983 and thereafter between 1992 and 1996 against the Muhajirs in Karachi.

What are the implications of more violence of this nature against the Pakhtuns of the NWFP? In the NWFP, the Pakistan Army is today operating against the kin of those whose cause it had purportedly championed in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion of that country in the 1980s and, thereafter, in backing the Taliban in Afghanistan. Worse still, the army and the ISI have continued to provide haven and support to the Afghan Taliban leadership led by Mullah Omar in the capital of Baluchistan, Quetta, over the past seven years or more and similar support and haven to Afghan Taliban commanders like Jalaluddin Haqqani in the tribal areas of the NWFP while simultaneously acting against the Pakistani Pakhtuns, who support their Afghan kith and kin.

For how long can this contradiction persist? Are the Pakhtuns so naive that they cannot see through such intrigues? Finally, for how long will Pakhtun soldiers and officers, who constitute over 20 per cent of the Pakistan Army, tolerate such duplicity? Moreover, are the Americans so naive that they will not take note of such duplicity and turn on the heat for action against the Afghan Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies?

There has naturally been concern about the spread of Taliban influence eastwards towards India’s borders. It has, however, to be remembered that the Taliban is predominantly a Pakhtun phenomenon. What is, however, now happening is that the influence of the groups allied to the Taliban, made up predominantly of Punjabi Pakistanis, is now spreading across the Punjab province of Pakistan. These organisations have cells in virtually all towns and cities in the province. Recent attacks in Lahore on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the police training facility and the ISI headquarters are evidently the work of those now called in some circles as the “Punjabi Taliban” or the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Punjab.

Conservative Wahabi Muslim practices are being increasingly advocated and even sought to be enforced by these groups in Punjab province. Can these challenges be overcome in Pakistan’s most populous province bordering India, given the jihadi inclinations of the army establishment and the ISI? The Lahore elite and India’s “liberals” seem oblivious to and in a dangerous denial mode on these developments.

Given these challenges and the country virtually bankrupt and under constant American pressure to act militarily on its borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan’s leadership will not be able to effect any change in its usual hackneyed rhetoric on relations with India. This was obvious from the recent comments by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Jammu and Kashmir. The more important question, however, is whether, given the army’s failure to act quickly and decisively against the Taliban, General Kiyani will seek to divert attention by escalating terrorist violence across Pakistan’s eastern borders.

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The Bluegrass State
by Shriniwas Joshi

I am in Boone County of Kentucky (American pronunciation is Kentaaky). Although most of the Indians recognise it as Fried Chicken State yet its common nickname is Bluegrass State.

The grass is green and not really blue but when one sees it from distance, its blue-purple buds lend a bluish tint to the landscape. The residents of Shimla can see the Kentucky bluegrass on the lawns of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Its botanical name is poa pretensis and it is native to Europe. The Red Indians named it ‘Whiteman’s track’ as it followed the whites wherever they went in the US. Easy to grow, it is raised everywhere in the present day America. I get tempted to roll on the smooth velvety texture spread upon open spaces and meadows but then I do not want to indulge in any activity without knowing the laws of the State.

The laws are strange here. In Owensboro, a town in Kentucky, a wife cannot buy a hat legally without the permission of her hubby. Also all bees (not humans) entering the State shall be accompanied by certificates of good health.

Kentucky is also known for its Derby. The annual kickoff event for the Derby is firework thunder over Louisville, the largest city here. I had the opportunity of seeing this sparkler display, the biggest in North America, over the Ohio River on a freezing cold wintry evening in 2005. It is said that the gathering that year was less but how fewer could it be from six lakh plus that had been the average attendance there. I found people jostling for space to witness the thunder from prime locations.

The standard joke about Derby horse race held at Churchill Downs in Louisville is that the winner would get a prize of $ 3 million at the rate of $3 per year for a million year. In my youth, I had positioned my palm in front of an astrologer claiming an international reputation who had foretold me, “no accident: no fire: no theft: no lottery”, so instead of trying my luck in the Derby dip I had preferred to die much younger than a million year old.

I would be injudicious to Kentucky if I do not inform my readers that it is also known for popular Bourbon Whisky having reddish colour and unique taste. And laws in Lexington, Kentucky define a drunkard tossing cuss-words and dirty names at another as sober so long he holds onto the ground but the moment he is off-feet, may be silent, the provisions of the laws on inebriation ensnare him. When I told my Punjabi neighbour here that I have travelled from the Beer State (Solan’s MohMeak) to the Whisky State, he compared Himachal and Kentucky as, “Two cans of beer in, banda there ka there, / Two cans of whisky in; banda up in the air.” 


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The menace of piracy
UN should deploy a task force
by Admiral Arun Prakash (retd)

Pirates have been the scourge of mariners since ancient times, and locations as widespread as the Caribbean, the Barbary Coast, and even the western seaboard of India have been known, historically, for their depredations. Contrary to the romantic, swashbuckling image projected by Hollywood, pirates are actually ruthless cut-throats whose motivations are entirely mercenary.

Little has changed with time. Piracy had always tended to impact negatively on seaborne trade and commerce, but with the modern day grid-locking of international markets, and the utter dependence of economies on steady energy supplies, the effect of any maritime perturbations can become exponentially magnified. Regrettably, the international response to piracy has been largely confused and ineffective.

Dominated by the Horn of Africa (HoA), the Gulf of Aden forms a funnel for 24,000 merchant ships annually transiting the Suez Canal carrying energy and raw material to Europe and finished goods to Africa and the Middle East.

The abjectly poor Somalian Republic, which occupies most of the Horn, has been in a state of turmoil for nearly two decades, and is only notionally governed by a transitional federal government.

The rich Somalian fishing grounds, have for many years, been ruthlessly exploited by foreign poachers, and this is adduced as one of the reasons for deprived local fishermen taking to the lucrative occupation of piracy.

From just 10-15 incidents in 2004, the waters of the Gulf of Aden saw acts of piracy and hijacking spiraling rapidly to 80 in 2008, and growing increasingly audacious in nature.

In an attempt to tackle this menace, the UN Security Council first adopted Resolution 1816 in June 2008, authorising nations to deploy warships for counter-piracy operations in Somali territorial waters.

This was followed by Resolution 1838 in October 2008 urging all maritime states to despatch naval units to fight piracy, off the HoA.

Despite naval task forces and many individual warships, including our own, having been deployed, piracy continues unabated, leading to great unease amongst seafarers world-wide.

Should this trend persist, shipping companies and marine insurers will be forced to hike their rates. This could deal a further blow to the tottering world economy, and India will suffer too.

India has had encounters with piracy earlier, but, like other maritime nations, it has been reluctant to take resolute action against Somalian pirates, due to the complexities of legal, jurisdictional, human rights and sovereignty issues, as some examples will show.

In October 1999 the Japanese owned and manned bulk carrier Alondra Rainbow plying under the Panamanian flag was hijacked in the Indonesian waters. Having set the master and crew adrift, the pirates changed the ship’s name and set sail westwards for the open waters of the Indian Ocean with $14 million worth of cargo.

After a dramatic high seas chase involving India’s Coast Guard as well as the Navy, the vessel was captured and pirates brought to justice. After six years in jail they were released by a Mumbai court for want of technical evidence of their trans-national crimes.

In February 2006, an Indian dhow named Bhakti Sagar registered in Porbandar was hijacked by Somali pirates while on a passage to Kisamayu, and 25 Indian crew members had been held for a large ransom.

Naval HQ dispatched a destroyer for Somalian waters, but the mission was aborted because the MEA was loath to be seen exercising anything remotely resembling “gunboat diplomacy”.

While the issue was being debated in New Delhi, the dhow owner was able to secure the release of his vessel and crew after paying ransom.

The more recent episode involving 22 Indian crew members of MV Stolt Valour being released after long captivity on payment of a huge ransom to Somalian pirates was a little different, because the vessel happened to be foreign owned.

But the fact remains that we are still not quite sure how to deal with this menace. As the crew’s families agitated in New Delhi, there was a great deal of fumbling and groping in the corridors of the South Block before we could formulate a delayed response.

As a sovereign democracy, India has a clear moral obligation to ensure that not only its 8.5 million tonnes of national merchant shipping, its trade and energy lifelines but also a hundred thousand Indian seafarers plying on the high seas under different flags are accorded protection, wherever possible, from pirates and hijackers.

Modern warships are not equipped to retain the custody of prisoners for extended periods and trial in the home country would, in any case, be impracticable for want of evidence and/or witnesses.

Most neigbourhood maritime states would be very reluctant to take pirates into detention; unless it could be proved that their own nationals or assets were involved.

This menace is obviously here to stay for some time, and a mere show of force is no substitute for well considered, coordinated and legally justified action, preferably under the aegis of the UN.

The most practical and expeditious way of countering this burgeoning threat to the safety of international shipping and lives of mariners would be for the UN to take the initiative and:

l authorise the formation of regional multi-national anti-piracy maritime task forces flying the blue UN ensign.

l frame certain rules of jurisprudence (using assistance of the World Court if required) for the trial of individuals apprehended while committing acts of piracy on the high seas or territorial waters of ungoverned nations like Somalia.

lconstitute special international courts to undertake the expeditious trial of these culprits. The courts should assemble in the nearest littoral state or at least within the region to facilitate easy production of evidence and witnesses.

The UN already has tremendous experience in the field of multi-national military operations for peacekeeping worldwide and a well-oiled organisation to support them. Deploying an anti-piracy maritime task force is an urgent requirement that should not pose a problem for the UN.

The writer is a former Chief of Naval Staff

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Dematerialising growth
by Madhav Mehra

THE most harrowing challenge confronting the humanity today is whether growth we have been used to since the Second World War is sustainable. Is Thomas Malthus going to have the last laugh? Will the 21st century be a century of peace, prosperity and promise or of doom, desperation and despair?

Charles Dumas of London-based Lombard Street Research notes that, at purchasing power parity, China now generates a little over a quarter of world economic growth in a normal year, while emerging and developing countries together generate 70 per cent. Even at market exchange rates, the growth of China’s gross domestic product is as big as that of the US in normal years for both countries.

Today almost two-thirds of humanity lives in high-income or high-growth countries. That proportion is up from less than a fifth 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the remaining 2 billion live in countries with stagnant, or even declining, incomes.

Even within countries and within regions there are stark disparities that have sharpened since globalisation. What makes this really worrying is the accentuation of inequity with the rise in population. World population would rise by 30 per cent and the income 4½ times by 2050. Some two-thirds of the three billion increase in global population expected will live in countries today enjoying little or no growth.

The first question aptly asked by Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute is whether the planet will have room enough for 7-10 billion people by 2050. The power of technology has helped the developing countries like India and China to grow phenomenally during the past decade and rightly so.

The question is what is the cost of this growth? Our fundamental problem is that we have not been able to price the natural capital and account for the impact of human activity on it.

Our economists and accountants simply write off the loss of natural resources from the base line growth analyses as externalities.

Our economic system has a price for everything we can do without but not for priceless things like air, greens, glaciers, rivers, forests and oceans.

Despite all our talk of productivity we have not succeeded in getting more for less from nature but destroyed the planet wantonly counting as income what in fact is blatant destruction of natural capital.

The result is massive glacier melt, ground water depletion, habitat destruction and more toxic chemical and pollutants.

The overriding challenge is to bring the billions living in developing countries to industrialised countries’ income levels as rapidly as possible and empower poor countries to earn their standing among the high-growth category.

This issue is addressed by the recently published Growth Report, product of a commission consisting mainly of policymakers from developing countries, under the chairmanship of Michael Spence, a Nobel-laureate economist at Stanford University.

The report is based on an analysis of 13 countries that have managed growth of 7 per cent a year over the last 25 years. They are diverse: Botswana, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

The report proposes “ingredients” of rapid growth such as investment of at least 25 per cent of gross domestic product, predominantly financed by domestic savings, including investment of some 5-7 per cent of GDP in infrastructure; and spending by private and public sectors of another 7-8 per cent of GDP on education, training and health.

They also include: inward technology transfer, facilitated by exploitation of opportunities for trade and inward foreign direct investment; acceptance of competition, structural change and urbanisation; competitive labour markets, at least at the margin; the need to bring environmental protection into development from the beginning; and equality of opportunity, particularly for women.

Is GDP growth the ultimate satisfier of human specie? Richard Layard of the London School of Economics and the UK’s House of Lords produced an elegant, brief and influential exposition of the new doctrine two years ago.

He argues happiness is the sole goal of human activity. Second, happiness is measurable. Third, we know what makes people happy and unhappy. Finally, policy should aim at achieving the greatest happiness.

The key question that needs answering is whether this materialistic model of growth ushers happiness. Does high income always leads to happiness? We know far too many rich people who are the most miserable people in the world. Should not the main objective of policy makers be to eliminate extreme poverty and save environment?

Even more important to ask is what will happen to this planet if all eight billion people own cars, cookers, refrigerators, washing machines, plasma televisions and flush their toilets with the same intensity of water as only a few millions can afford today?

The saving grace of poverty is that the per capita use of natural material by the poor countries is a fraction of rich countries. Do we realise we are able to breathe fresh air only because five billion people live in poverty? Is our obsession with materialistic growth not a recipe for disaster? Should we not concentrate all our effort on dematerialising growth?

The writer is the founder President, World Council for Corporate Governance, UK

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Health
More choices of milk than ever before
by Laura Vozzella

NOT long ago, consumers had to ponder only one thing before buying milk: How much fat did they want? Then, more than a decade ago, organic started showing up in traditional supermarkets.

Today, the world of milk is even more rarefied — and more confusing, because the milk trucks are moving more quickly than the science. Researchers can’t even agree if milk “does a body good,” much less which kind is best.

While consumers can have their pick of more milk varieties than ever before, they also have more questions about a product considered to be a cornerstone of childhood nutrition.

There’s milk from grass-fed cows, said to be more nutritious and better for the environment. Milk with added omega-3 fatty acids, touted as boosting brain function. Non-homogenized milk that fans are willing to shake before drinking — in glass bottles, no less — on the premise that their bodies won’t absorb as much fat if it hasn’t been blasted into tiny bits.

Ultra-pasteurized. Low-pasteurized. Unpasteurized “raw” milk. With soy, rice and almond milks suddenly mainstream fare, the dairy case has become more crowded than a feedlot. And none of it is cheap.

Just last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Purdue University foods and nutrition professor Connie Weaver wrote that milk is an important source of calcium and other nutrients, improves bone health and reduces the risk of stroke and some cancers.

Research has put to rest concerns that it might increase prostate cancer, she noted. But in the same issue, University of North Carolina nutrition scientist Amy Joy Lanou argued that milk increases prostate and ovarian cancers. Her advice: Stay away from the stuff.

Even the experts who think milk is healthful don’t agree on much else.

The National Dairy Council and other industry groups contend that all milks are created equal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agrees, finding “no significant difference” between organic milk and what flows from cows given synthetic growth hormones to boost production.

But food-safety and sustainable-farming advocates maintain that organic milk is safer. Even if the synthetic hormones, approved by the FDA in 1994, do not show up in conventional milk, they say, they seem to raise the level of other, naturally occurring hormones in the milk that could pose problems for humans. They also contend that artificial hormones are rough on the cows, causing more infections that, in turn, lead to more antibiotic use on the farm.

In any case, these advocates say, there are too many unknowns. “I think there’s a real void in the science,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a consumer group based in Washington.

There is one point of consensus: Cows that feed on grass produce milk that’s higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, beta-carotene and an antioxidant called conjugated linoleic acid — all good stuff for the body.

To make milk worthy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic label, cows cannot be treated with antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. The animals must be given feed produced without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And the cows must have “access to pasture.”

The pasture part is problematic because the government has not spelled out what “access to pasture” means. As for milk marketed as “grass-fed,” the FDA has not defined the term at all.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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