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EDITORIALS

Banning Maoists
The Centre has taken the needed steps
B
y clamping a ban on the Communist Party of India ( Maoist) across the country, including West Bengal, New Delhi has taken a decisive step in its fight against the Maoists. The move signals a sense of purpose in dealing with the rebels’ overthrow of the state by violence. No government can tolerate the kind of challenge to its authority as posed by the Maoists’ revolt at Lalgarh, declaring it a “liberated zone”.

One more attack
Officials pay the price for honesty
One more official has been attacked in Punjab – just three days after the murderous assault on a Ludhiana tehsildar. Though the identity and motive of the Amritsar assailants are yet to be established, the police has arrested an employee of the Punjab State Electricity Board against whom the official had taken disciplinary action. Reports also point to a link between the attack and the raids the official had conducted to check the theft of power.





EARLIER STORIES

Varun said it all
June 23, 2009
BJP at sea
June 22, 2009
People have right to know
June 21, 2009
Enforce the norms
June 20, 2009
PM’s offer well-meant
June 19, 2009
Beyond the handshake
June 18, 2009
Mayawati again
June 17, 2009
No changers win
June 16, 2009
That sinking feeling
June 15, 2009
Sahibs and Burra Sahibs
June 14, 2009


CPM admits mistakes
But where are the correctives?
A stinging electoral drubbing has made the CPM leadership admit, rather grudgingly, that it had made “mistakes”. Yet, its general secretary Prakash Karat has refused to take the blame for setting an unrealistic goal of forming a Third Front government. In typical Left-speak, he says: “I, as the general secretary, have taken the responsibility of implementing the party line… To that extent, I am also responsible, along with the Central Committee.”

ARTICLE

Combating climate change
Time to think of nature-oriented policies
by Pritam Singh
G
lobal climate change is the single most important challenge humanity is faced with today. In order to understand our responsibilities regarding the way we deal with this challenge at different levels — governmental, institutional and individual — it is important to understand a set of three key dimensions: the meaning of climate change and why it occurs, the seriousness of the problem and how to deal with it.

MIDDLE

A long trial for power
by Sanjeev Singh Bariana
O
ne bad experience on a sweltering June night changed my image of the linesmen in the electricity department. The nature of job surely needs hearts of stone, particularly in the context of a dilapidated infrastructure coupled with moods of an ill-tempered public.

OPED

Power crisis in Punjab
The government must review its policy
by Ranjit Singh Ghuman
T
he Union Government and almost all state governments, except Punjab, have been depending heavily on public sector power generation during the 11th Five Year Plan. The Electricity Act 2003 and the National Electricity Policy 2005, too, do not bind the government to generate power only through the private sector.

Sarkozy’s Louis XIV moment
by John Lichfield
N
icholas Sarkozy on Monday trod where no French president for 161 years has dared, or chosen, to tread when he spoke to parliament.

The tragic face of Iran’s uprising
by Peter Popham
J
oan of Arc she was not, nor the Unknown Protester who stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square, because that young man, 20 years ago, chose his fate and his prominence, deliberately stepping out of the crowd into the tank’s and the cameras’ sights.



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EDITORIALS

Banning Maoists
The Centre has taken the needed steps

By clamping a ban on the Communist Party of India ( Maoist) across the country, including West Bengal, New Delhi has taken a decisive step in its fight against the Maoists. The move signals a sense of purpose in dealing with the rebels’ overthrow of the state by violence. No government can tolerate the kind of challenge to its authority as posed by the Maoists’ revolt at Lalgarh, declaring it a “liberated zone”. This, as it appears, finally prompted the Home Ministry to update the list of organisations banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The new firmness of purpose is specially welcome in view of the senseless violence unleashed recently by the Maoists in several states, including Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand, and their increasing belligerence. Detonation of remote-controlled landmines has killed over 50 policemen this month alone and the Indian state, it is clear, could no longer afford to treat the Maoist menace lightly.

The Left Front’s reluctance to ban the Maoists, although somewhat hypocritical, is seemingly consistent with its political stand. The West Bengal Chief Minister had reiterated in July last year the state government’s plan to deal with the Maoists politically and through administrative action. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s explanation on Monday that party cadres were being targeted in West Bengal by the Maoists largely because the CPM had been politically opposing the rebels was also meant to stress this line. The clash between the Marxists and the Maoists is an old one, dating back to the 1960s. But even then it should have been clear to the CPM that the plan had not quite worked out in West Bengal. Or else the Left Front government’s police would not have been forced to abandon Lalgarh in November last year, only to return this month under the protective umbrella of the Central Reserve Police Force. The Maoists, the CPM knows, can’t be contained by it in any way.

An official ban does serve only the limited purpose of restricting public activities of the banned outfits. It also helps the state in detaining and arresting people found with banned literature or those sheltering the rebels associated with the banned outfits. But while the ban by itself is unlikely to stop largely underground bodies from mischief, the difference of opinion between the West Bengal government and the Union Government is unfortunate. One expects a national consensus on the need to combat the Maoists and also concerted action against the armed rebels by the Centre and the states, including West Bengal. No one can be allowed to play with the country’s security.

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One more attack
Officials pay the price for honesty

One more official has been attacked in Punjab – just three days after the murderous assault on a Ludhiana tehsildar. Though the identity and motive of the Amritsar assailants are yet to be established, the police has arrested an employee of the Punjab State Electricity Board against whom the official had taken disciplinary action. Reports also point to a link between the attack and the raids the official had conducted to check the theft of power. In both cases the officials, known for their honesty and courage, had earned the wrath of their assailants in the discharge of their duties.

It, therefore, becomes the bounden duty of not only the government to ensure the safety of all such officials, but also of the public to help them, if and when they are in trouble. Public passivity only emboldens anti-social elements. Besides, police investigations often flounder for want of witnesses. In the Ludhiana case the police bias was apparent since the accused were politically connected. The SHO concerned even lodged them in an air-conditioned room. In Amritsar, the police acted with commendable alacrity, perhaps, because of the instructions from the Chief Minister.

Ideally, the law should be the same for the commoners as well as the well-heeled. In reality, the law-abiding are harassed, while the influential law-breakers get their way. In Punjab, as also elsewhere in the country, the nature and pace of police action depends on the social, economic and political standing of the accused. Public activism, however, can make a difference. Had the media, political parties, revenue employees and the public not reacted the way they did at the Ludhiana outrage, the Amritsar incident would not have warranted an intervention from the Chief Minister. Crime flourishes only when punishment is denied or delayed. The administrative, police and judicial system must respect the innocent and proceed against the guilty without pressure from politicians or influence of the moneybags.

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CPM admits mistakes
But where are the correctives?

A stinging electoral drubbing has made the CPM leadership admit, rather grudgingly, that it had made “mistakes”. Yet, its general secretary Prakash Karat has refused to take the blame for setting an unrealistic goal of forming a Third Front government. In typical Left-speak, he says: “I, as the general secretary, have taken the responsibility of implementing the party line… To that extent, I am also responsible, along with the Central Committee.” In other word, he has conveniently deflected criticism on the pretext of “collective responsibility”. Yet, the fact remains that it was he who stretched the party line on a third alternative to the breaking point. Such was the haughtiness and misplaced bravado that he asked the Congress to support a Third Front government if it wanted. All this, while there was no real Third Front in existence.

The deed is done and the party has shrunk to a record low of 16 seats. What matters is the future course of action by which it can hope to claw its way out of the ditch in which it finds itself today. Unfortunately, it seems to be all at sea, quite like the BJP. There seems to be an ingrained hesitation to look deep into what really went wrong and what made it have such exaggerated notions about itself that it talked about forming a Third Front government merely on the basis of alliances in just four states. At the time of withdrawal of support to the UPA government on the nuclear deal, it was given out that there was “near unanimity” in the party. Only now, it is being admitted that there were differences.

What the Left has to realise and admit is that even after nearly nine decades, it is not suitably tuned into Indian ground realities. It claims to represent the masses but is loathe to listen to them. That is why it has not been able to connect with them in spite of the fact that India happens to have a large populace which is deprived and downtrodden.

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Thought for the Day

Perfect freedom is reserved for the man who lives by his own work and in that work does what he wants to do. — R.G. Collingwood

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ARTICLE

Combating climate change
Time to think of nature-oriented policies
by Pritam Singh

Global climate change is the single most important challenge humanity is faced with today. In order to understand our responsibilities regarding the way we deal with this challenge at different levels — governmental, institutional and individual — it is important to understand a set of three key dimensions: the meaning of climate change and why it occurs, the seriousness of the problem and how to deal with it.

There are two key inter-related aspects of the recent global climate change: global warming and global environmental instability which means higher incidence of both snowfalls and heat waves or floods in one year and drought in the other. Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the earth's near-surface air and oceans. There can be two reasons for the rise in this average temperature: one natural and the other human social activity. The UN’s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that natural phenomena such as solar variation and volcanoes produced most of the warming from pre-industrial times to 1950 and had a small cooling effect afterward.

However, since the middle of the 20th century, the main cause of global warming has been human activity related to fossil fuel burning and deforestation. These human activities lead to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations which result in trapping the sun’s radiation in the earth’s atmosphere leading to warming of the earth. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) of which carbon dioxide is the most important. Of the total greenhouse emission in 2004, 77 per cent was contributed by carbon dioxide emissions.

It is important to understand that it is not the generation of greenhouse gases in itself but the very high increase in the generation of these gases that is responsible for the rise in the earth’s temperature. A low dose of greenhouse gases is, in fact, necessary for preventing the continuing cooling of the earth.

The high increase in the generation of the greenhouse gases is a product of the manner in which our modern socio-economic system runs and our way of life shaped by this socio-economic system.

The socialist economic system that developed in a number of countries in the twentieth century made important contributions to reducing inequality, ensuring employment and social security but it was an utter failure on the environmental front. This failure of the socialist project was the result of the duplication by this system of the capitalist logic of more production and more consumption. Raising the GDP per capita as the desirable goal of economic policy was as much central to this so-called socialist alternative as it is to the capitalist economic system. Therefore, this socialist alternative did not provide a new paradigm to deal with the problem of more production, more waste, more pollution and rising global warming.

This brings us to the second dimension of the global climate change — why is it that global warming is a serious problem? The rate at which global warming is taking place is frightening. The 1998-2007 decade is the warmth decade recorded in human history. Since the earth temperature started being recorded in 1850, the 11 warmth years have occurred in the past 13 years. The consequences of global warming are melting of ice-caps, a rise in sea levels and flooding. Flooding destroys crops and lands, and contributes to food shortages. Global warming can also lead to water shortages in some areas and even to desertification and thus further contributing to food shortages and deterioration of the sanitation systems. Conflicts over water use and food availability make the world more vulnerable to the use of violence in dealing with these conflicts. Some of the other consequences of global warming are deaths due to rising malaria epidemic, heat strokes and salmonella (food poising).

According to a recent report of the Global Humanitarian Forum, a think tank set up by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300 million people. The study projects that increasing severe heat waves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030. The report warns that if greenhouse emissions are not brought under control within the next 25 years, 310 million more people will suffer adverse consequences related to temperature increases, 20 million more people will fall into poverty and 75 million extra people will be displaced by climate change and would become environmental refugees.

The world’ attention is currently more focused on global terrorism but if we look at the possible consequences of global warming, it is undeniably true to say that the global warming is a far bigger threat to humanity’s survival than terrorism. Terrorists can kill only in hundreds or in thousands. Global warming will kill in millions. Political and military establishments have a vested interest in overstating the problem of global terrorism because there is a ring of immediacy about it, but from the viewpoint of humanity as a whole, what is more urgent is the threat of global warming.

That leads us to the third dimension of the climate change. One way to deal with this is through mitigation — reduction in greenhouse gase emissions — and the other is through adaptation, preparing for some of the inevitable consequences of global warming. From a mitigation point of view, research by the Potsdam Institute suggests that average emissions will need to be reduced by at least 60 per cent of the 1990 baseline by 2030. This, in fact, means that the developed capitalist economies will have to reduce their emissions by 90 per cent by 2030. Meeting this target will require a global agreement at the Copenhagen conference in December 2009 to develop a framework in the post-Kyoto protocol which expires in 2012. This will have implications for governments, institutions and individuals.

The governments will have to develop a framework of greater reliance upon renewable sources of energy and a system of incentives to environmentally friendly economic activities and disincentives such as a ban or fines to environmentally damaging activities. The institutions will have to at least devise energy efficiency schemes, and individuals will have to abandon the present craze of seeking happiness through more and more acquisition of goods. The great environmental ethic of three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — should shape our living styles rather than the current consumerist lifestyle.

Even the best of mitigation efforts will not be able to fully arrest the harmful consequences of the damage already caused by global warming to the eco-system. Therefore, adaptation systems need to be put in place in anticipation of those harmful consequences. In brief, this means upgrading the health systems to deal with large-scale deaths of human beings, especially of the more vulnerable old people and children. Rise in animal deaths will pollute water and air and spread the risk of diseases. Flood control systems need to be developed in advance and resettlement policies need to be in place to accommodate environmental refugees.

The governments, institutions and individuals all need to realise that combating climate change and global warming requires a paradigm shift from the current market-driven systems to human and nature-oriented policies and programmes.

The writer teaches environmental economics at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, and is currently a Visiting Fellow at JNU, New Delhi.

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MIDDLE

A long trial for power
by Sanjeev Singh Bariana

One bad experience on a sweltering June night changed my image of the linesmen in the electricity department. The nature of job surely needs hearts of stone, particularly in the context of a dilapidated infrastructure coupled with moods of an ill-tempered public.

One day when I reached my home in the evening, there was no power supply. I was already feeling streams of sweat gush from different pores in my body. I went to the market and got an electrician who checked the power supply. He charged me his fees and said the fault is outside the house and it was not his job.

I went to the electricity complaint centre. “Go home, our men will come shortly”, the official said curtly. When no one came for one hour, I once again went asking for help. The staff on job, in the field, had switched off their mobiles. I had no option but to sit and wait.

It was getting dark when the person on duty said: “you listen to the public complaints. I will check you connection.” He cycled to my residence. A telephone rang and I picked it, immediately. A burly voice on the other side flooded me with curses in choicest Punjabi. I kept my cool. “You better come immediately, otherwise, I will come there and break you legs”, he said before banging the phone.

There were at least five more calls, and except for an elderly lady, everyone was bossing. The helpful employee came back and said: “I have made a temporary arrangement. The problem can only be sorted out tomorrow”.

To my bad luck, the system did not work even for an hour and I had no choice but to stay for the night at a friend’s place. Next day, courtesy my contacts with a senior official, an electrician reached my home. “The wire on top of the pole, opposite your gate needs to be corrected. Do you have a  ladder?” the powerman said. 

Without waiting for my answer, he arranged for a ladder from a neighbour. He went up the electricity pole with great difficulty and did his job. He told me that the “department does not provide any ladder. In fact, the department does not provide us many basic tools.” Shortly, the power meter showed the connection had been restored. I was happy and almost ran upstairs to check. I switched on the fan and it refused to budge. I called the electrician who was about to leave. He once again came and checked the meter. “The meter is fine. The job beyond the meter, to the house, is to be handled by a private electrician”. 

It dawned upon me that my trial period was not yet over.

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OPED

Power crisis in Punjab
The government must review its policy
by Ranjit Singh Ghuman

The Union Government and almost all state governments, except Punjab, have been depending heavily on public sector power generation during the 11th Five Year Plan. The Electricity Act 2003 and the National Electricity Policy 2005, too, do not bind the government to generate power only through the private sector.

According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the public sector (Central and states) commissioned 7472.2 MW (79.45 per cent) thermal power out of the total of 9404.7 MW during the first two years of the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12).

The share of the public sector in the targeted additional capacity building, during the remaining three years of the 11th Five Year Plan, is 36025.2 MW (69.66 per cent) out of the total of 51718.2 MW.

It is significant to note that the private sector commissioned zero units of hydro-electricity during the first two years of the 11th plan. Its share in the under construction project capacity in hydro-electricity during the remaining three years the Plan is 28.82 per cent (3,491 MW out of the total of 12,115 MW). Clearly, the public sector has the predominance in the additional capacity building during the 11th Plan.

Contrary to national policy and wisdom, Punjab is depending wholly on the private sector for additional capacity building in the power sector. Even the neighbouring states, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are relying heavily on the public sector generation of electricity.

It seems that Punjab has not learnt any lesson either from the experience of others (e.g. Enron in Maharashtra) or from its own experiences (the GVK Company). The inordinate delay in the initiation of the Goindwal Sahib Thermal Power Project in Punjab is a typical example of private players’ irresponsible and non-committal attitude.

The Punjab Government signed its first MoU with GVK Company in 1997, renewed it in 2004 and restated it on February 6, 2007. The likely date of commercial operation of the project is 2012-13.

The power purchase agreement for Talwandi Saboo (Bathinda) was signed with Sterlite Company in September 2008 at Rs. 2.86 per unit of electricity. It is learnt from reliable sources that the company is adopting delaying tactics to start construction.

For the Rajpura plant, there was a single bidder, Lanco, at Rs 3.38 per unit of electricity. It is learnt that the Punjab Government is going to invite fresh bids for this plant.

One, however, wonders why the Punjab Government is not inviting the PSEB to undertake the task of capacity addition in the power sector. The PSEB has already completed three thermal power plants (Bathinda, Ropar and Lehra Mohabatt). Moreover, the PSEB’s trained manpower (engineers and others) can be engaged in the new projects.

The only hindrance seems to be the 20 per cent equity for which the Government of Punjab can give the guarantee. Alternatively, the PSEB can go in for a joint venture with NTPC. The latter is a central agency and enjoys a great deal of credit worthiness.

Given the past experience with the private sector players, the Government of Punjab should not entirely depend on the private sector. It should rather encourage the PSEB and joint ventures with NTPC.

An essential service like electricity cannot be left entirely at the mercy of the private sector alone. Such a strategy may prove counter productive. Even the most liberal economists and supporters of the market economy the world over have advised against leaving essential services to the market forces alone.

The increasing gap in the supply of and demand for electricity will put more and more financial burden on the financial health of the PSEB, which is already in a very serious condition. According to the CEA, Punjab will suffer a shortage of 6,703 million units of electricity during 2009-10.

The cost of power purchase increased from Rs 1,508.40 crore in 2002-03 to Rs 7,264.61 crore in 2009-10. This figure may go up to Rs 13,098.58 crore in the 2012-13, when the Goindwal Sahib project is likely to generate electricity.

The unit cost of purchased power, particularly the power purchased through traders, is rising by leaps and bounds. It increased from Rs 3.24 in 2005-06 to Rs 6.67 in 2007-08.

The share of cost of purchased power in the annual revenue expenditure of the PSEB increased from 29.76 per cent in 2002-03 to 46.91 per cent in 2008-09. This is likely to increase further in the coming years. In the absence of purchased power the state will witness serious power cuts.

The commutative revenue gap of the PSEB increased from Rs 1,802 crore in 2007-08 to Rs. 6,980 crore in 2009-10. The amount of loan increased from Rs 10,588.76 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 19,532.79 crore in 2009-10 and the interest component increased from Rs 972 crore to 1,566.21 crore during the same period.

Even the working capital of the PSEB is being met with loans which increased from Rs 2,316.68 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 6,500 crore in 2008-09. The PSEB is, thus, facing a severe debt-trap. The issue of the PSEB’s financial health needs to be addressed on a war-footing otherwise normal life and development activities in the state are bound to suffer.

There is, thus, an urgent need to generate additional power in the public sector in order to make electricity available to the marginalised sections of society and for the development of the state.

It is high time that the Punjab Government review its policy and strike a balance between the public and private sectors for additional capacity building in the power sector.

The writer is a Professor of Economics and UGC Research Awardee, Punjabi University, Patiala.

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Sarkozy’s Louis XIV moment
by John Lichfield

Nicholas Sarkozy on Monday trod where no French president for 161 years has dared, or chosen, to tread when he spoke to parliament.

After a constitutional change, completed a few hours before, M. Sarkozy addressed both houses of parliament gathered in the Palace of Versailles to explain his vision of the future of France and of the world.

Presidential Question Time it was not. The parliamentarians were forbidden to intervene while the President was speaking. They were forbidden to ask questions. The President’s 50-minute speech was followed by a debate but M. Sarkozy departed before it began.

As a result, Green and Communist parliamentarians boycotted the speech. Socialists listened in silence but boycotted the debate. President Sarkozy’s centre-right supporters gave him a rhythmic standing ovation.

The whole event – transporting both houses of parliament, the government, the Republican Guard and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to Versailles – cost the French taxpayer €400,000. One Green deputy suggested that it was “the most expensive press conference in history”.

In his speech, President Sarkozy attempted a brilliant balancing act. The man who had been elected two years ago to impose “rupture” on French politics said the global recession had demonstrated that the “French model” was the best in the world. However, he said, this did not mean that “radical” reforms were no longer needed.

Despite the explosion of the indebtedness of the French state, he said there would be no tax rises and no “policy of austerity”. Instead there would be a new form of “state loan” – but only for productive investment.

He took a few minutes aside from the macro-politics to address a burning headline issue of the day. The French government is split on whether or not there should be a ban on the burqa, or full-body Islamic veil. President Sarkozy said that the burqa was not a religious symbol but a “symbol of servitude”. He supported proposals for a parliamentary inquiry, without saying specifically that he supported a legal ban.

French presidents have been barred constitutionally from addressing parliament since 1875. None has done so since 1848. President Sarkozy pushed through a constitutional change last year, requiring the president to speak to both houses of parliament at least once a year, in the name of “transparency” and the “modernisation” of the French state.

Despite the modesty and humility of these aims, the event rapidly became clothed in monarchical trappings. Satirists and opposition politicians had a field day. President Sarkozy was portrayed by French cartoonists on Monday in the long wig and robes of the absolutist Roi Soleil, King Louis XIV.

President Sarkozy entered the chamber alone, the parliamentarians were forbidden to sit in their political groups. They were seated alphabetically. A debate followed but only after the President had departed. There was no official reply from the Prime Minister, François Fillon.

Opposition politicians and commentators said the event marked the further humiliation of M. Fillon and the prime ministerial office, marginalised by M. Sarkozy’s frenetic activity since he became President two years ago.

A lightly reshuffled government – Fillon 2 – was announced on Tuesday. Rather than making wholesale changes, President Sarkozy has decided to do little more than replace two ministers – Rachida Dati (Justice) and Michel Barnier (Agriculture) – who are going to the European Parliament. One government deputy said: “Why bother to reshuffle the government when everyone knows that the real government is the Elysée Palace?”

— By arrangement with The Independent

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The tragic face of Iran’s uprising
by Peter Popham

Joan of Arc she was not, nor the Unknown Protester who stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square, because that young man, 20 years ago, chose his fate and his prominence, deliberately stepping out of the crowd into the tank’s and the cameras’ sights.

Not so Neda: the young Iranian woman whose quick, brutal death from a Basiji militia man’s bullet during a demonstration on Saturday created the Iranian uprising’s first figurehead chose nothing except to be there.

Having found the courage to come out on to the street, she may have quailed: video shot moments before her death show her and her companion looking on from the sidelines as demonstrators surge back and forth. Should they go back? Had they made a mistake coming? She was in jeans and headscarf, the uniform of the city’s young women, aged 26 or 27, we understand, therefore under 30, like 60 per cent of Iran’s population: a modern Iranian Everywoman. She worked at a travel agency, so she was connected with the great world every day.

This is vague because all journalists have been banished from these terrifying streets. Yet within hours of her death a thousand bloggers and twitterers had immortalised her, ducking and diving through the regime’s increasingly demented efforts to isolate their country, transforming her from a blood-soaked corpse into a heart-rending symbol of the uprising.

The launch pad for Neda’s posthumous glory was a bare minute of shaky film. She goes over backwards in the throng and the man with the mobile phone spots the movement and leaps towards it. The camera catches her splayed legs, the blood already oozing onto the street. Those near her crowd around to help but the cameraman moves beyond them and for a long moment focuses on her white face which is flat on the pavement, the eyes swivelling but the head deathly still.

Then suddenly the blood surges from nose and mouth and it’s like a scene from a slaughter house, the people who have come to her aid scream, but it is somehow poetically appropriate that her companion chooses this moment to cry, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, Neda my dear, don’t be afraid...” Because she’s already dead, and there is indeed nothing more to fear. As one of the bloggers who eulogised her wrote, quoting the 13th century Persian poet Rumi: “When you leave me/ in the grave,/ don’t say goodbye./ Remember a grave is/ only a curtain/ for the paradise behind...”

Rarely has the butchery of an innocent – the bullet came from a rooftop sniper – been captured with such cruel completeness; never has such a scene been sent so quickly around the world, despite everything the authorities could do to thwart it. The consequences, too, were almost instantaneous. Protesters vowed to rename the street where she died Neda Street. A protest in her name drew 1,000 people to Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran before police broke it up. Officials prevented her supporters holding a memorial service in a mosque yesterday. One blogger wrote of Neda as “my sister”: “I’m here to tell you my sister had big dreams,” she wrote. “My sister who died was a decent person ... and like me yearned for a day when her hair would be swept by the wind ... and she longed to hold her head up and announce, ‘I’m Iranian’... my sister died because injustice has no end...”

— By arrangement with The Independent

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