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EDITORIALS

Riots in Urumqi
Chinese have a problem in Xinjiang
T
HE long-persisting divide between the Han Chinese and the Uighurs (Muslims) in China’s Xinjiang province has come into sharp focus with one of the worst ethnic riots rocking its capital, Urumqi, for the past four days. 

Spending more on defence
Modernisation must be given a push
I
T is heartening that the Manmohan Singh government has hiked the allocation for defence by 34 per cent over the previous year in this year’s budget. With both Pakistan and China arming themselves to the teeth, India’s allocation at 2 per cent of the GDP is still way below what our two neighbours have been spending year after year as a percentage of the GDP. 


EARLIER STORIES



Tigers are not for killing
They have also the right to live 
W
HAT was known all along, that the tiger population in the country has been plummeting, is now official. The Centre has admitted in the Rajya Sabha that the situation in 16 of the country’s 37 tiger reserves is truly alarming. 
ARTICLE

Beyond N-deal
India still waits for dual-use technology
by G Parthasarathy
N
O international issue in post-Independence India has evoked as much domestic and international controversy as the Indo-US nuclear deal, concluded on July 18, 2005, between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush. Paradoxically, the heat and controversy generated in Parliament worked to India’s advantage, as New Delhi was able to secure assurances from Washington on issues like guarantees of uninterrupted fuel supplies and reprocessing of spent fuel, which would have otherwise not been forthcoming.

MIDDLE

Sacrifice at Kharo
by Maj-Gen Raj Mehta (retd)

As a young Commanding Officer of a newly raised armoured regiment in early 1992, one of my responsibilities was to build team spirit and josh. I collaborated with the CO of the neighbouring battalion for a joint 250-km trek in the Sugar Sector.

OPED

Smart public diplomacy & outreach
US Ambassador-designate prepares a new plan 
Dateline Washington by Ashish Kumar Sen
P
resident Barack Obama’s nominee for the post of U.S. ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, is looking forward to sharing with his Indian counterparts the lessons the US learned in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks as part of a joint effort to prevent terrorist attacks like those in New York and Mumbai from happening again.

Punjab lags in infrastructure
by Upinder Sawhney
E
conomic reforms in India at the national level have been widely debated, evaluated and analysed by the policy makers, media as well as the academia. One of the areas where sufficient attention has not been paid by the policy makers is the area of sub-national reforms. These have differed in pace and pattern across states. Some of the states have been pro-active in pursuing the national policies thereby creating an enabling climate for increased domestic and foreign investment as also creating strong infrastructural base in the states. 

Pope criticises world economic systems
by Jacqueline L. Salmon
P
ope Benedict XVI criticized the world’s economic systems Tuesday and called for a new global structure based on social responsibility, concern for the dignity of the worker and a respect for ethics.


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Riots in Urumqi
Chinese have a problem in Xinjiang

THE long-persisting divide between the Han Chinese and the Uighurs (Muslims) in China’s Xinjiang province has come into sharp focus with one of the worst ethnic riots rocking its capital, Urumqi, for the past four days. The use of force on a large scale to control the situation has led to the killing of at least 156 persons and arrest of over 1400, mostly youngsters, though the unofficial figure may be much higher. The seriousness of the crisis can be understood from the fact that President Hu Jintao cancelled his plan to attend the G-8 meeting in Italy on Wednesday. Troops in large numbers have been deployed in Urumqi to restore normalcy, but people seem to be more defiant this time than earlier. Men armed with clubs, axes, steel rods, etc, belonging to both groups, have been damaging property of each another wherever they can.

The Chinese government has blamed the riots on the exiled Uighur leaders, who want the Xinjiang autonomous region to be declared an independent homeland for the Uighurs, having cultural similarities with the people of Central Asia. Whatever the nature of the incident that might have sparked off the riots, essentially the violence has been caused by the Uighurs to air their long-standing grievances against the Hans. The Chinese authorities swooped down on the protesters with full force, the way they are known to react in such situations, but apparently they have the reason to feel concerned.

What has happened in Urumqi is being compared by the world community with the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, but Beijing is worried for a different reason. It cannot allow fomenting of trouble in a sensitive region on any pretext because this can be exploited by Al-Qaida or its allied organisations in Central Asia for their own larger destructive agenda. The Uighurs, on the other hand, accuse the government of doing little to end their economic deprivation. They have also been alleging religious persecution at the hands of the government controlled by the Hans. The complicated situation requires to be handled by Beijing with imaginative policies and sensitivity.

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Spending more on defence
Modernisation must be given a push

IT is heartening that the Manmohan Singh government has hiked the allocation for defence by 34 per cent over the previous year in this year’s budget. With both Pakistan and China arming themselves to the teeth, India’s allocation at 2 per cent of the GDP is still way below what our two neighbours have been spending year after year as a percentage of the GDP. Besides, over the years, much of the defence spending has been going into the payment of salaries of the defence staff, leaving little for modernisation of the armed forces through the induction of sophisticated weapon systems. Even of what was left for upgrading the firepower of the armed forces, the Ministry of Defence was guilty of allowing a sizable part of it to remain unspent. Last year, of the total capital outlay of Rs 48,000 crore, as much as Rs 7,007 crore remained unspent. Despite this, mercifully, the allocation for capital expenditure this time is a substantial Rs 54,824 crore. It is now up to the Defence Ministry to take advantage of this and to spend the money in a way that gives an edge to India’s defence capability over the threat to its security.

The shopping list of the Services includes virtually all types of weapons and systems, including big guns, fighter aircraft, armoured vehicles, radars, missiles and naval vessels with longer reach and equipped with better weapons. It is vital that the $10 billion purchase of 126 fighter jets that it is planning goes through so that the Indian Air Force acquires the much-needed firepower. The other ambitious plan of building a optic-fibre cable network exclusively for the armed forces would also be a big step towards modernisation. The additional six submarines that the Indian navy has planned must also be inducted without delay, keeping in mind India’s maritime needs in view of the Chinese growing influence in the Indian Ocean and beyond.

While it is imperative that the government steps up modernisation of its forces, it is important too that the morale of the armed forces personnel be raised. In that direction, while the Sixth Pay Commission has done its bit, the budgetary acceptance of the plea for “one rank, one pension” for the soldiers who retired before January 1, 2006, is a step in the right direction. The next logical step would be to extend this principle to officers also.

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Tigers are not for killing
They have also the right to live 

WHAT was known all along, that the tiger population in the country has been plummeting, is now official. The Centre has admitted in the Rajya Sabha that the situation in 16 of the country’s 37 tiger reserves is truly alarming. Of the remaining sanctuaries, while nine barely pass muster, only 12 reserves are in what is being called a “good condition”. Despite ambitious schemes like the Project Tiger and the Prime Minister’s personal concern over tiger killings, India’s national animal is not only under threat but possibly also facing extinction. Clearly, the government’s best efforts have not been good enough.

Merely sounding the red alert, as it did a few months ago, and earmarking more funds have not made much difference. Stricter laws on poaching have to be framed as the existing wildlife laws have not been able to tackle trading in tiger parts --- skin and bones. Since the new Environment and Forest Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, has rightly admitted that tigers will not be bred in captivity, there is an urgent need to improve its habitat where it can find its prey. The nation is now left with just 1,411 tigers while the poachers are increasingly going ahead with satisfying their greed.

The Environment Minister’s plan to shift people living in tiger reserves to buffer zones is in sync with the axiom that “it is essential to set aside inviolate areas devoid of human presence”. The move to form a social protection force involving Vangujar families as in the Jim Corbett Park can pave a new conservation movement. Involvement of the local community, driving home the benefits of tiger tourism and the tiger’s ecological significance is crucial. However, state governments have also to be serious about implementing conservation measures. Or else the tiger, considered the living flame of the forest, might go the way of the extinct cheetah.

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Thought for the Day

The fundamental defect of fathers, in our competitive society, is that they want their children to be a credit to them.— Bertrand Russell 

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Beyond N-deal
India still waits for dual-use technology
by G Parthasarathy

NO international issue in post-Independence India has evoked as much domestic and international controversy as the Indo-US nuclear deal, concluded on July 18, 2005, between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush. Paradoxically, the heat and controversy generated in Parliament worked to India’s advantage, as New Delhi was able to secure assurances from Washington on issues like guarantees of uninterrupted fuel supplies and reprocessing of spent fuel, which would have otherwise not been forthcoming.

Most analysts agree that while the opposition BJP made valid points and expressed genuine concerns on the possible impact of the agreement on India’s strategic nuclear programme and its ability to conduct nuclear weapons tests in the future, the arguments put forward by the communist parties, alleging that the agreement would undermine the pursuit of an “independent” foreign policy, then and even now, remain specious. The opposition of the communist parties, which led to their withdrawal of support for the UPA government, strengthened the perception that their actions only complemented the opposition being mounted internationally by China against the termination of international nuclear sanctions on India.

The UPA government, in turn, failed to cogently explain to the people in India that what was being undertaken was an effort supported strongly by then Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac to end global nuclear sanctions on India. Even today few people realise that with the global demand for oil set to outstrip supplies, oil prices, in the long-term, are likely to rise significantly and become increasingly unaffordable.

Moreover, with concerns about global warming and environmental pollution rising, India has to look for non-traditional and non-hydrocarbon routes to meet its energy needs. With India unable to import uranium ore because of global nuclear sanctions, the existing nuclear power plants with a capacity of 4100 MW were generating barely 1500-1600 MW. Following the nuclear deal, imports of uranium from sources ranging from France and Russia to Kazakhstan and Australia are now possible.

Energy security for the country can be enhanced significantly only by stepping up indigenous power production. This process would be accelerated if we tap the virtually unlimited reserves of thorium within the country. But utilising thorium reserves in significant quantities is a complex and time- consuming process, spanning two decades. This process would involve initially running the nuclear reactors based on imported uranium ore and then using the reprocessed spent fuel for plutonium-based fast-breeder reactors, the first of which is to become operational shortly.

With Indian scientists, according to Dr Anil Kakodkar, having “mastered” the use of thorium-based fast-breeder technology, the third stage will be the serial production of thorium-based indigenous fast-breeder reactors. The crucial advantage of this route is that recycled fuel can produce 60 to 90 times the energy derived from current processes of fuelling reactors exclusively with uranium ore. It is important to remember that if we maintain the present rate of economic growth, we would have to import three times the total electricity we produce today by 2050 unless we devise alternative indigenous energy options.

Contrary to the fears expressed when the nuclear deal was signed, India is not moving in a any great hurry to conclude agreements with the United States till its concerns on guarantees of fuel supplies and reprocessing of spent fuel are credibly addressed. What has happened instead is that Russia has taken the lead, with agreements to build two more rectors of 1000 MW each in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, with arrangements in place to build eight such reactors in the coming years. Moreover, sites have been identified in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Orissa, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, which can each accommodate nuclear power reactors producing around 12000 MW of power.

But India needs to act quickly on issues like handing over a separation plan of its nuclear facilities to the IAEA and enacting legislation consistent with the provisions of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for nuclear damage if it is to cooperate on nuclear power generation with countries like France, Canada and the United States, where nuclear power companies, unlike in Russia, are privately owned.

While there were initial doubts on whether the Obama Administration would abide by the letter and spirit of the “123 Agreement” concluded on July 22, 2008, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has clarified: “The Civil Nuclear Agreement helped us get over our defining disagreement, and I believe it can and should also serve as the foundation of a productive partnership on nonproliferation.” There are indications that the Obama Administration is working to address issues like the reprocessing of spent fuel which have to be unambiguously clarified before India can sign any agreement with American companies, which are now largely Japanese owned and operate out of countries ranging from the UK to South Korea. Despite this, it has to be admitted that those who believed that the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal would clear the way for India getting access to dual use high-tech items from the US have yet to be proved right. There is nothing to suggest that there has been any easing of such restrictions since the Obama Administration assumed office. This has to be an item of high priority for discussions when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits India.

Speaking in Washington on March 23, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Shyam Saran made it clear that while India remained committed to its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, there were serious reservations about the CTBT because the Treaty was not “explicitly linked to nuclear disarmament”, and the manner in which it was adopted was obviously meant to circumscribe Indian nuclear options.

Moreover, he added that while “we cannot be part of a discriminatory regime where only certain states are allowed to possess reprocessing or enrichment facilities”, we would be willing to work with the US to curb nuclear proliferation. Another crucial issue which Mr Saran alluded to was India’s readiness to accede to the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, provided that it was a “multilateral, universally applicable and effectively verifiable” treaty. India has to insist on the treaty being non-discriminatory and internationally verifiable, given China’s readiness to transfer fissile material and nuclear weapons knowhow to Pakistan.

Finally, India could take the moral high ground internationally by calling for the outlawing of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and for de-alerting nuclear arsenals worldwide. Given the opinion of the World Court, which declared the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons as inadmissible in international law, such moves by India will enjoy widespread international support.

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Sacrifice at Kharo
by Maj-Gen Raj Mehta (retd)

As a young Commanding Officer of a newly raised armoured regiment in early 1992, one of my responsibilities was to build team spirit and josh. I collaborated with the CO of the neighbouring battalion for a joint 250-km trek in the Sugar Sector.

Both of us along with our officers and men went backpacking the Rohru, Basleo Pass, Rampur Bushahr, Sungri and Sarahan areas. We crossed the fierce, unforgiving Sutlej river several times in flimsy ‘baskets’ on tenuous, frayed cables slung across the raging river.

I recalled that the river rises along with the Kali from under the shadows of the snow-covered Kailash peak in the Trans Himalayas. Its source is in the Mansarovar - Rakshas Tal complex, along with the Indus and Tsang Po (Brahmaputra). Racing west, the Indus passes through Ladakh before it hugs the Great Himalayas near Nanga Parbat in Pakistan.

Running east, the Tsang Po similarly hugs the Great Himalayas in a bend above Dibrugarh to become the Bramhaputra in India. The Sutlej races like a dagger towards Shipki La where it enters India, Sugar being the name of a village of a few huts after which the sector is named. The Kali proceeds towards Nepal. These rivers write the destiny of most of the subcontinent as well as Tibet and Eastern China.

The savage Sutlej also wrote the destiny of 34 of the bravest of the brave – the deathless men of 18 Engineer Regiment who died while constructing a bridge across the swirling, unforgiving waters of the Sutlej at Kharo in July 2005 – but attained immortality in the minds of the Army, their families, the Sapper brotherhood and certainly the Colonel of the Sapper Group – Gen S Pattabhiraman, then the Western Army Commander.

Unlike some others who may have little idea of the power and wanton destruction that mountain rivers can cause, I had been to Sumdoh on the Indo-Chinese border a few days earlier. The Spiti river is mild, almost feminine, in the languorous way it curves through the Spiti Valley. That is, till Sumdoh, where the foaming Pare Chhu races down from the Tibetan mountains to join the Spiti river.

I saw the horrendous damage caused by the Pare Chhu in Tibet and its unleashing of a tidal wave at Sumdoh, when this river went rabid in July 2005 because of bursting of a “dam” on the river in upper Tibet, caused by landslides. In my mind’s eye I could imagine the final moments of the Sapper brave hearts as they hurtled towards their deaths. They never had a chance.

These dauntless men must have sensed their doom the sickening moment the bridge gave way. This is the spirit that got the Sappers their Victoria Crosses (equivalent of today’s Param Vir Chakra). The men have died but their Sapper spirit is deathless and lives on.

When the horrific news came into HQ Western Command at Chandimandir, the Army Commander was about to take off for a war game at Jalandhar. An officer who lives by an ironclad code of ethics and morality, who feels and senses the pulse of his command needs to display a role model outlook while handling bad news. No witnesses were required to gauge the Army Commander’s loss or his feeling of personal loss when he arrived at the war game on schedule.

Behind his calm demeanour, all of us present sensed his deep loss. For me and my colleagues, that perhaps was the best way of honouring the sacrifice of the Sappers who died at Kharo that day.

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Smart public diplomacy & outreach
US Ambassador-designate prepares a new plan 
Dateline Washington by Ashish Kumar Sen

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the post of U.S. ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, is looking forward to sharing with his Indian counterparts the lessons the US learned in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks as part of a joint effort to prevent terrorist attacks like those in New York and Mumbai from happening again.

Mr. Roemer testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, commencing his journey on the path to Senate confirmation. Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said he hoped Mr. Roemer would be confirmed by the time Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits India later this month.

Mr. Roemer said it was important for the U.S. to “recognise that while Pakistan and India are two sovereign and independent nations that there’s much that we can do to encourage these two countries to continue to talk, to exchange and to improve hotlines, in case something happens in a Mumbai-type of attack in the future.”

Mr. Roemer has experienced terrorism up close. He was on his way to Pakistan in September of 2008 when a truck bomber blew up the Marriott Hotel where he was due to stay later that day. Prior to that, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana, he sat on the intelligence committee and later was a member of the 9/11 Commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon on the outskirts of Washington.

“I am certain there are improvements we can impart to India, and there are best practices we can learn directly from them,” Mr. Roemer said, adding that in a recent meeting with Mr. Obama they discussed national security and how both of the U.S. and India can work together to address the common threat of radical extremism.

“The number of victims and attacks since 2001 has expanded worldwide—from Madrid and Mumbai to Istanbul and Islamabad,” he said.

Mr. Kerry said the Obama administration has a “genuine opportunity to forge a true strategic U.S.-India partnership — not as a threat or counterweight against any other nation — but based on shared interests and shared values. If we get this right, it will benefit not only our nations, but also the region and the world.”

He acknowledged that real progress can be made in the relationship. “First, we have to help India to break with the perilous politics of South Asia’s past. India needs no lectures: virtually no nation has suffered more from terrorism than India. South Asia is also a volatile nuclear flashpoint,” he said.

Senator Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr. Roemer’s national security experience will be put to “excellent use” as ambassador to India.

On the regional front, Mr. Roemer said the Obama administration will work closely with India to “promote stability, prosperity and development in the often volatile region of South Asia.”

On Pakistan, he said, “we need to continue to support improvement in the overall India-Pakistan relationship, including resumption of a dialogue process that will address issues vital to each country while still ensuring that Pakistan takes concrete steps to address the threat of terrorism.”

On Sri Lanka, Mr. Roemer said the US can engage with India and other regional and international partners to discuss issues such as providing for the large number of internally displaced persons, promoting political accommodation of minorities and coordinating reconstruction assistance in ways that will support peace and reconciliation efforts. “If confirmed, I will engage with the Indian government and seek their ideas on the most effective way to achieve this,” he said.

Mr. Roemer, who if confirmed will replace former President George W. Bush’s appointee David Mulford, plans to make “smart public diplomacy and outreach” part of his daily mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. “Our relationship with India is a good news story. And while our relationship has gone through different stages, we are certainly moving ahead on an upward trajectory,” he said, adding, “This is not a zero-sum game with winners and losers but a positive sum game — with India as a strong, stable global democracy increasing peace and prosperity for all.”

Mr. Roemer served six terms in Congress, and was a key sponsor of legislation to establish the 9/11 Commission, on which he later served. He currently serves as the president of the Centre for National Policy.

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Punjab lags in infrastructure
by Upinder Sawhney

Economic reforms in India at the national level have been widely debated, evaluated and analysed by the policy makers, media as well as the academia. One of the areas where sufficient attention has not been paid by the policy makers is the area of sub-national reforms. These have differed in pace and pattern across states. Some of the states have been pro-active in pursuing the national policies thereby creating an enabling climate for increased domestic and foreign investment as also creating strong infrastructural base in the states. Others have lagged behind and not responded to the opportunities thrown open by the liberal economic policies of the Government of India.

Punjab has a unique pattern of development among the more developed Indian states. It was at the forefront of economic development and continued to be the ‘numero uno’ until the beginning of the present century. Punjab saw a higher growth rate as compared with most states as well as the country in the decades of the 1970s and 1980s as it was able to create one of the best infrastructure facilities. But when the entire country started on the path of increased growth rate, i.e., from 1991 onwards, the growth rate of Punjab started declining. At a time when the Indian economy was growing at 7-8 percent per annum, in Punjab the growth was at almost half of that rate. One of the leading causes for this has been fast dwindling social and economic overhead capital coupled with a complete disregard for creating new infrastructure to keep pace with the growing needs of the economy. The social indicators in terms of gender ratio, literacy and health need serious attention by the policy makers. Infrastructure like clean drinking water, power, roads, etc. is in a shambles.

The story of Punjab has been that of political and administrative apathy and failure of the public policy initiatives specifically on infrastructure front, resulting in deteriorating quality of life of the people of Punjab. The citizens of Punjab have developed a kind of tolerance for poor quality infrastructure and successive governments are getting away without doing anything worthwhile to resolve either the power problem or absenteeism of doctors and teachers in government schools and hospitals.

Several reports by independent agencies as well as the World Bank have pointed this out but a reform-oriented response from the government seems elusive. Punjab has all the institutional mechanisms for the implementation of infrastructure reforms in place but has been one of the most laggard states in the country to abide by those Acts and regulations.

Unlike many other state governments which caught on to the new orientation after 1991, and started gearing up their administrative machinery to attract private investment in industry, Punjab failed to take advantage of the new industrial opportunities that were opening up.

Punjab was unable to attract private investment both domestic and foreign. It failed to provide incentives through infrastructure and left the large potential in the non-farm sector untapped. In fact there is an evidence of flight of capital from the state because of bureaucratic red-tapism and unkept promises by the authorities concerned.

The application of Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in Punjab is confined only to urban infrastructure like roads and bridges to a limited extent. The tapping of PPP route for building world class infrastructure for health and education, airports, Special Economic Zones and the hospitality sector is missing. Also there is no effort towards PPP initiatives in the agricultural sector. A prestigious project between HPCL and Mittal Energy Investment that started in 2007 at Bhatinda (HMEL) has run into rough weather with the Government of Punjab backing out on the incentives offered to the private partner at the time of initiating the project. Mittal Energy has threatened to pull out of the project if the exemptions given by Punjab are not at par with other states, if not better.

The revival of Punjab’s economy hinges on arresting deceleration in the agricultural sector. The fast growth of this sector will further enhance the pace of growth of the other two sectors. It is important to attract industry and develop the service sector potential in Punjab, especially to create rural non-farm employment opportunities. In order to be able to attract private sector players, the government has to create an enabling environment and must be credible and transparent in its policies and actions. The government seems oblivious to this fact.

The power sector reforms in the state are imperative as the shortage and poor quality of power transmission in Punjab are hampering both the industrial and agricultural growth of the state. The deferment of the decision to unbundled the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) every now and then reflects the indecisiveness and lack of commitment on the part of the government.

The unbundling of PSEB and the adoption of PPP model will disengage a lot of locked in resources of the state and help Punjab to come out of fiscal crisis to a considerable extent. Electricity access to agriculture, industrial and domestic consumers can be expanded greatly through PPPs.

A systematic and coherent policy for sub-national reform is the need of the hour in Punjab. The bureaucratic red-tapism and a corrupt and apathetic regime are responsible for scripting the dismal story of decline of Punjab from a glorious state to a state shunned by investors, both domestic and foreign. After all, how long someone can continue to bask in the past glory without sparing even a thought for the future. It will not be before long that the state will slip into the category of backward states.

The polity of the state, irrespective of its party affiliations, must wake up to this harsh reality and strive to attain the position that Punjab once enjoyed. The reform-orientation with a specific focus on basic infrastructure will not only bring in more private capital but also elicit a positive response from national and international funding agencies (notably the World Bank) , which have backed out in the recent past.

The writer is Chairperson, Department of Economics, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

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Pope criticises world economic systems
by Jacqueline L. Salmon

Pope Benedict XVI criticized the world’s economic systems Tuesday and called for a new global structure based on social responsibility, concern for the dignity of the worker and a respect for ethics.

“Today’s international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding human enterprise,” Benedict wrote in his latest encyclical, which is the most authoritative document a pope can issue. “Without doubt, one of the greatest risks for business is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limited in their social value.”

In the sweeping document, Benedict denounced the private sector and blamed “badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing” for causing the current economic meltdown. He said that the primary capital to be safeguarded is people, and cautioned that economic systems need to be guided by charity and truth.

“We have the globalization of economics, technologies and societies, without an accompanying growth in global ethics to guide these new practices,” said Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of politics at Catholic University’s Life Cycle Institute. “This encyclical tries to bridge these ethical gaps, applying ancient ethics to 21st-century problems.”

The encyclical comes one day before President Obama and leaders of other wealthy nations are set to gather in L’Aquila, Italy, to discuss the global economic crisis at a G8 summit. Benedict is scheduled to meet with Obama on Friday and is expected to raise the issues discussed in his encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth). He has been working on the document since 2007, but said he refrained from issuing it earlier in order to make updates that reflect the world’s current economic troubles.

In recent months, Benedict has frequently spoken out on the crisis, pushing for world leaders to make certain that the poor aren’t forgotten in the struggle to deal with the world financial crisis. In the encyclical, Benedict presented his view of the problems with globalization, saying that it limits state sovereignty and power, which humans had turned to in the past to address the challenges of the day. The current economic crisis was created primarily by the private sector, Benedict wrote, and states are having difficulty responding.

Therefore, he said, the world’s population must engage in new ways — through civil society, creative government collaboration and new international institutions.

Benedict also urged more respect for the environment, saying that more advanced countries must lower their domestic energy consumption, either through technology or great ecological sensitivity among citizens. He also advocated more research into alternative energy consumption and pushed for a worldwide distribution of energy resources.

“The fate of those (poorer) countries cannot be left in the hands of whoever is first to claim the spoils, or whoever is able to prevail over the rest,” he wrote.

The encyclical is unusual in that it addresses a current crisis, Love said. Normally, “the emergence of major Catholic teachings are often quite slow. It took the church centuries to ask forgiveness for the Inquisition.”

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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