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EDITORIALS

PM carries the day
Opposition loses argument in Parliament
Dr
Manmohan Singh won the round on Tuesday’s debate in the Lok Sabha on the India-Pakistan joint statement issued at Sharm-el-Sheikh. The speech he made was an effective reply to the cynical noises made by the BJP and other Opposition critics about India having given in to Pakistan during the talks at Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Omar comes out clean
No quitting, says Governor rightly
It
is heartening that Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra has rejected the resignation of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and given him a clean chit in the controversy pertaining to the 2006 sex scandal. This was indeed the only logical and right course after the CBI, which is looking into the involvement of ministers, bureaucrats and several other influential men in the sex scam, indicated unambiguously that neither Omar nor his father, Union minister Farooq Abdullah, figured in the investigations into the scandal. 


EARLIER STORIES

Prices and tempers soar
July 30 2009
Avoidable crisis in
J & K

July 29, 2009
Kargil to Arihant
July 28, 2009
Modi not above law
July 27, 2009
Redefining education
July 26, 2009
Who rules Haryana?
July 25, 2009
Musharraf in the dock
July 24, 2009
A disgraceful act
July 23, 2009
Better than expected
July 22, 2009
Two years for killing six!
July 21, 2009
Sharif’s triumph
July 20, 2009
Bringing out the best
July 19, 2009
No to wheat exports
July 18, 2009


Corruption in AICTE
Suspension shows rot ran deep
The
All-India Council for Technical Education was supposed to be a regulatory body to keep a check on infrastructure, quality of faculty, laboratory facilities and adequate student-teacher ratio. In short, it was to be a student-friendly ombudsman which was to maintain the standard of technical education in the country. When its members and even its chairmen indulged in rampant corruption, they not only indulged in illegal money making but also wrecked the entire educational edifice. 

ARTICLE

Need for strict monetary policy
India can’t behave like a developed country
by Jayshree Sengupta
India
is increasingly seen as a very important country by the developed and industrialised world and is often referred to as an “emerging power”. This new-found importance has been reflected in many ways, including the recent visit by the Prime Minister to Paris as the chief guest of France’s Bastille Day. He has also been invited as the first state guest of the Obama administration. One may already begin to feel that India is a part of the developed world.


MIDDLE

MRTP fiat
by S. Raghunath

I
n
the normal course, my path seldom crosses that of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Commission. I take the low road, so to say, and the august commission the high, but now I have a festering grouse against the MRTP Commission for thanks to its recent ruling, I am awash in toothbrushes of all sizes and colours and I have the dubious distinction of being the proud (and reluctant) owner of no less than 20 dozens of them.


OPED

Woman who dared wear trousers faces public flogging
by Katherine Butle
A
Sudanese woman arrested for wearing trousers and facing a public flogging as punishment, was applauded by democracy activists on Wednesday after she took a defiant stand against Sudan’s rulers and the repressive version of Islam she accuses them of enforcing in Africa’s biggest country.

Same rank, different pensions
by Lt Gen (retd) Raj Kadyan
Having
made a reference to the resolution of ‘one rank, one pension’ (OROP) in its 2004 election manifesto, the Congress-led government had rejected this long-standing demand of some two million ex-servicemen in the country. The rejection was announced in Parliament on December 11, 2008.

Financial crunch tests relationships
by Ylan Q. Mui
For
many couples, the financial crisis has come down to a test. How good are they at tackling tough money issues? The question for Lorne Epstein is this: business or pleasure?

 


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PM carries the day
Opposition loses argument in Parliament

Dr Manmohan Singh won the round on Tuesday’s debate in the Lok Sabha on the India-Pakistan joint statement issued at Sharm-el-Sheikh. The speech he made was an effective reply to the cynical noises made by the BJP and other Opposition critics about India having given in to Pakistan during the talks at Sharm-el-Sheikh. Speaking like a statesman and rising above petty party considerations, the Prime Minister stressed on how dialogue with Pakistan was important from the Indian point of view, looking at the larger South Asian perspective. Talking to Pakistan in no way meant that India was diluting its resolve to meet any threat terrorists posed to its security.

India will continue to emphasise its “concerns and expectations” on the fight against terrorism, as Dr Manmohan Singh told Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Egypt. As a responsible power, India should never give the impression of feeling shy of talks, but this does not mean that it can lower its guard against cross-border terrorism. Dr Manmohan Singh has rightly expressed the view that “dialogue and engagement is the best way forward”. After all, US President Barack Obama, too, has offered to engage Iran though the two countries have been at daggers drawn for over three decades.

Dr Manmohan Singh scored a major victory over the BJP when he pointed out that he was carrying forward the dialogue process begun by none other than Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The visionary in Mr Vajpayee had the courage of conviction to visit Lahore in 1999 in search of peace and again he went to Islamabad in 2004 despite the 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament. He also invited the then Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, for summit talks at Agra despite the Kargil war and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. Those who supported Mr Vajpayee are not justified in finding fault with what Dr Manmohan Singh is doing on the same lines. The BJP is being unfair to the Prime Minister in using harsh language of surrender or “sell-out”. Talks and diplomacy can be creatively used for advancing the larger national interest in the immediate neighbourhood as well as the country’s standing in the wider world beyond. The Opposition must be feeling surprised that the people at large in the country are happy about the prospect of resumption of the dialogue. Who, after all, in India would like to spurn peace and opt for war? 

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Omar comes out clean
No quitting, says Governor rightly

It is heartening that Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra has rejected the resignation of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and given him a clean chit in the controversy pertaining to the 2006 sex scandal. This was indeed the only logical and right course after the CBI, which is looking into the involvement of ministers, bureaucrats and several other influential men in the sex scam, indicated unambiguously that neither Omar nor his father, Union minister Farooq Abdullah, figured in the investigations into the scandal. Evidently, PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who disturbed a hornet’s nest when he alleged on the floor of the state assembly on Monday that Mr Omar Abdullah was under investigation by the CBI in the scandal, was guilty of falsehood and sensationalisation to de-stabilise the government and sow doubts about the Chief Minister in the minds of people. This lends fuel to the suspicion that this was an extension of the anti-national role that PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has been playing in recent times in collusion with separatist forces.

By declaring his resolve to quit soon after Mr Baig made his wild allegation, contending that he deemed himself guilty until proved innocent, Mr Omar Abdullah has risen in public esteem as a straightforward man with integrity and character. His charge now that former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had shut his eyes to the sex scandal in 2006 because his own partymen were involved in it appears weighty and worthy of notice.

There can be little doubt that by questioning the CBI’s clean chit and calling for a judicial probe, the PDP, whose credibility has suffered a major blow, is souring the pitch further for itself. The state is in need of effective governance and all those who value people’s welfare must desist from putting roadblocks in the government’s path. 

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Corruption in AICTE
Suspension shows rot ran deep

The All-India Council for Technical Education was supposed to be a regulatory body to keep a check on infrastructure, quality of faculty, laboratory facilities and adequate student-teacher ratio. In short, it was to be a student-friendly ombudsman which was to maintain the standard of technical education in the country. When its members and even its chairmen indulged in rampant corruption, they not only indulged in illegal money making but also wrecked the entire educational edifice. The way they had been demanding and getting bribes to bend rules shows that they revelled in diluting the standards of education for a consideration. Only a thorough inquiry can reveal how many dubious organisations they allowed to flourish by taking bribes, thus playing with the careers of students.

What is all the more shocking is that the loot went on for so many years. An internal inquiry of the HRD Ministry had revealed in 2007 that there was rampant corruption in the AICTE’s process of granting approval to new colleges and yet no action was taken. The then Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh decided to sit over the file. In fact, AICTE chairman R A Yadav, who has now been suspended following the recovery of unaccounted wealth worth crores, was promoted last year despite a vigilance inquiry marked against him for contravening rules. The nation needs to be told why such activities were considered an insignificant matter.

It is a crying shame that the body which was there to punish others for violations is itself in the dock for indulging in blatantly illegal and corrupt activities. No wonder, the standard of education is nowhere near what it should be. Now that the cleansing operation has begun, it should be taken to its logical conclusion and organisations like AICTE replaced by independent regulatory authorities, which are not in need of being regulated themselves. 

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Thought for the Day

Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself. — Walt Whitman

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Corrections and clarifications

In the report, “ Debate on foreign policy today”, published on the last page on July 29, it should have read “…the entire gamut of recent foreign policy issues…” and not ‘ entire gambit…’.

The report, “Rain brings cheer to farmers” (Page 4, July 29) erroneously reported that Ludhiana had received “ almost the highest rainfall in the state recording 142.8 mm rainfall.” The use of the word ‘almost’ was inappropriate with ‘highest’ and a report on the same page put the rainfall recorded in Hoshiarpur at 278.04 mm.

The headline in the Briefly column on Page 4 on July 29 should have read, “ Pak national sent back” in place of “ Pak prisoner”.

The headline, “ Just 29% seats filled in 36 colleges” (Page 4, July 29) failed to mention that the report related to only the Pharmacy course.

The report, “ Congress insists on CBI probe” (Page 20, July 29) states that Rita Bahuguna’s Lucknow house was ‘allegedly’ set on fire on the night of July 15. The sentence should have used the word ‘allegedly’ before the phrase “ by a group of BSP workers”.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

This column will now appear thrice a week — every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error.

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

H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief

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Need for strict monetary policy
India can’t behave like a developed country
by Jayshree Sengupta

India is increasingly seen as a very important country by the developed and industrialised world and is often referred to as an “emerging power”. This new-found importance has been reflected in many ways, including the recent visit by the Prime Minister to Paris as the chief guest of France’s Bastille Day. He has also been invited as the first state guest of the Obama administration. One may already begin to feel that India is a part of the developed world.

Indeed, in its generous gestures to neighbours and at the WTO talks alike, India is behaving like an industrialised country. WTO chief Pascal Lamy has asked India to host the Doha meeting in September. Is the elevation in world status really believable, or is it something that the western countries are propagating to suit their own interests?

If India were such a developed nation why would ordinary citizens face so many day-to-day problems? Why would there be so many deprived and underprivileged people living in our midst? Why so many slums, why so many malnourished children and why such irregular supply of power, bad roads and impure water from the taps?

The first sign of a developing country is that the price of food is high as compared to income. In India, food prices are currently in an unaffordable range for the “aam admi” and there is no respite in view. The rain deficit in the current monsoon season is already predicted to have an adverse effect on the kharif crop and there will be a fall in crop production of 4.7 per cent. Prices of essential food items in the next few months are bound to shoot up. In a developed country, food is cheap compared to other household items, and no one need buy 
bottled water.

Secondly, why is India behaving like a developed country at the WTO negotiations and waiting to see that the Doha round is completed by 2010? It will mean compromising our stand on agricultural subsidies and protection of farmers. Why should the US and the EU continue to subsidise their agriculture by spending $1 billion a day while insisting that we could have protection for farmers through duties only when there is an import surge of 25 per cent? Diluting our stand will not make us part of the developed world.

What really makes India a developing country is the dependence on monsoons and inadequate irrigation works. We also have millions of small farmers who have very little money to invest in their farms. Many are on the brink of starvation and when crops fail, they commit suicide. To sustain the livelihood of small farmers the government will have to give them protection from imports, as it would wipe away their meagre earnings.

Many would argue that competition is very healthy and they would have to compete or perish. Also cheaper food imports would benefit the consumers greatly. But such arguments seem facile when the actual number of the affected is taken into account.

Similarly, in the case of industrial products too, India will be allowing greater market access. Can we open up our doors freely to goods, specially “remanufactured goods”, from the industrial countries? They would swamp the markets with their cheap and better quality “used” or second hand products. Already, at the higher end of the market, foreign branded goods have made quite significant inroads. It would mean that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would get a raw deal. They also do not have access to cheap credit, technology, power, water and transport to enable them to withstand competition.

In fact, the SMEs have been severely impacted by the global crisis, and at least 94 per cent have said so. The government has tried to give them sops through the stimulus package but in a recent survey by FICCI, 73 per cent of the SME owners are not aware of the stimulus measures announced by the government. Clearly, the benefits are not percolating down to these enterprises. How can they compete? Labour cost alone is not important in the pricing of a product.

On climate change again, India is being treated by the developed countries as one of them. At least our Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had the guts to oppose this and stated that India was not about to sacrifice the much-needed economic growth to meet American expectations on global climate change targets. Of course, climate change will impact India more because it is a developing country and more livelihoods will be jeopardised, but caps on power plants will be even more disastrous. India has rejected any calls for legally binding emission targets. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has conceded that the US would not try to induce India to meet specific goals at the cost of growth.

India is being treated like a developed country by the First World for many reasons. Unlike the West, which is reeling under the impact of the global crisis, India is showing good corporate results. In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, 482 companies have posted better than expected 28.3 per cent rise in net profits. These are remarkable results when compared with corporate sector performance in most industrial countries. FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies did very well because of the decline in the cost of raw materials and excise duty cuts as per the government’s stimulus package. They experienced a 3.4 per cent increase in net sales while profits rose by 48.9 per cent. Only oil and gas giants have been showing poor results.

Except for capital goods and engineering goods companies, which have come out weakest in their quarterly performance, the cement, pharmaceuticals, sugar and telecom sectors have been showing buoyant sales and profit growth.

The result has been an influx of foreign institutional investment (FII) funds. The last 12 months have seen an inflow of $7 billion. The stock market as a result has been rising but has also become volatile. Receiving so much money so quickly could be dangerous especially if cheap loans are available, as it would mean the creation of another bubble that could burst.

India cannot behave like a developed country at this juncture and will have to have a strict monetary policy, which means not cutting interest rates further. The recent RBI monetary policy has prudently left the key rates untouched. It will have to supervise industrial recovery through a more pervasive stimulus package.

Leaving things to the market, so much favoured by the developed countries, may not work in India in health, education and housing sectors. Active participation of the government in poverty reduction programmes and seeing that food security is maintained for the poor are the main roles of the government which is in contrast to the role of the government in the industrial countries.

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MRTP fiat
by S. Raghunath

In the normal course, my path seldom crosses that of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Commission. I take the low road, so to say, and the august commission the high, but now I have a festering grouse against the MRTP Commission for thanks to its recent ruling, I am awash in toothbrushes of all sizes and colours and I have the dubious distinction of being the proud (and reluctant) owner of no less than 20 dozens of them.

When the toothbrush contest was announced, I let out a wild whoop of joy for entering slogan contests is the “in” thing with me and of course, I have nothing to show for my numerous forays into the contests arena except a red face and a gunny sackful of grievances and you can imagine my plight when I say that I have failed to bag even an “Early Bird” prize.

I made a mad dash to the nearest general store and frantically bought up toothbrushes. The tantalising first prize in the contest was an all-expenses paid, round-the-world air ticket and I could feel it in my bones (and molars and incisors) that the thing was in my (air) bag.

I got down to work thinking up slogans and in next to no time, a clutch of them was ready and off they went to the postbag address accompanied, of course, by empty toothbrush cartons.

I daydreamed about my imminent departure on that round-the-world air trip and drew up an elaborate itinerary in my fertile imagination. My first stopover after leaving Bangalore would be Singapore to shop for VCRs, handycams and other electronic goodies in the airport duty free shop Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu (with a surfing vacation on Waikiki beach thrown in as an add-on bonus), Los Angeles (to sightsee in Disneyland and chat up with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), Washington (to drop in at the White House and say hello to my old pals Barak and Michelle) and returning home via London, Frankfurt and Zurich.

In between spells of building castles in the air about my around-the-world junket, I bought up more toothbrushes till I had practically cornered the existing stocks of toothbrushes in neighbouring shops and action could have been taken against me under ESMA for hoarding.

Then one fateful morning, the shoe dropped and the cookie crumbled. The newspapers reported that the MRTP Commission, in a “landmark” judgement, had held the toothbrush contest illegal and a “restrictive” trade practice and had issued an “ex-parte injunction” — what an awful judicature phrase — against proceeding with it.

So here I am, saddled with some 240 soft, medium and hard toothbrushes with sterilised nylon bristles and angular, spring action handles that can reach the incisors in the upper storey and not quite knowing what to do with them.

In a desperate bid to reduce my hoarded inventory of toothbrushes, I have resorted to brushing my teeth, 24x7 so much so, I now have the shiniest white teeth among the denizens of Bangalore City Corporation, but with the toothbrush contest having gone “phut”, an eager world is deprived of a rare chance to take a long, hard “dekko” at my gleaming snappers.

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Woman who dared wear trousers faces public flogging
by Katherine Butle

A Sudanese woman arrested for wearing trousers and facing a public flogging as punishment, was applauded by democracy activists on Wednesday after she took a defiant stand against Sudan’s rulers and the repressive version of Islam she accuses them of enforcing in Africa’s biggest country.
UN worker Lubna Hussein is to stand trial in Sudan after sacrificing her right to immunity
UN worker Lubna Hussein is to stand trial in Sudan after sacrificing her right to immunity

Lubna Hussein, a local employee of the UN’s peacekeeping mission, was offered immunity from prosecution as a judge opened proceedings against her for “offences against the public taste”.

But in a dramatic step she announced to the court that she was sacrificing her UN job and the immunity that goes with it, so that her case would go to a full trial. “I wish to resign from the UN, I wish this court case to continue,” she told a courtroom packed with supporters, women’s rights activists, human rights workers and a handful of Western diplomats. She had previously turned down the offer of a pardon from Sudanese President Omar al Bashir. The case will now resume on August 4.

“First of all she wants to show she is totally innocent, and using her immunity will not prove that,” her lawyer Nabil Adib Abdalla said after the hearing. “Second, she wants to fight the law. The law needs to be reformed”. Ms Hussein is a former journalist who has written articles condemning the lack of political and social freedoms under Mr Bashir’s regime.

She made her court appearance wearing the same green trousers that provoked her arrest. In another act of defiance she ensured the event would be a public spectacle embarrassing for the military dictatorship, by printing invitations and emailing hundreds of friends and supporters. She said she wanted the public present at her flogging if she is convicted.

Mariam Alamahdi, a women’s rights activist managed to get into the courtroom. Afterwards, speaking to The Independent from Khartoum, she said that Ms Hussein’s decision to force the matter to trial was an uplifting and dramatic moment in a case that has drawn international attention to the plight of women in Sudan.

Islamic dress code

Iran: Women are obliged to cover their hair and wear loose unrevealing clothes in public. Skirts are discouraged and knee-length coats over trousers are the usual option. Those flouting the rules risk lashes and even imprisonment.

Sudan: Women in the Muslim north of Sudan, which is ruled under Islamic law, are subject to a dress code which requires head and body covering and frowns on trousers in public.

Saudi Arabia: Most women wear an all-enveloping black cloak called an Abaya, a hijab or scarf and frequently a face covering, or niqab.

Pakistan Although the law does not require Islamic dress code, there is a large degree of social pressure. In tribal or Taliban controlled areas strict rules are applied.

“When she said she wanted to resign from her job and be treated as an ordinary Sudanese citizen it was very moving,” she said. “She is real heroine”. Ms Alamahdi, who is also an opposition politician, said police harassment of women in Sudan was commonplace but that few had the means to defy it.

“This kind of thing is going on all the time in Sudan for young women who are weak and unable to stand up for their rights,” she added. “It is a means of harassing them and limiting their place in public life by treating them as if they should be ashamed of themselves. Lubna is empowered socially, economically and she is knowledgeable so she decided to refuse a pardon by the President. After all, why should she need a pardon for wearing trousers and a blouse? Then she refused immunity because normal Sudanese citizens don’t have this privilege. She has turned this into an issue for public debate and decision”.

But last night another Sudanese women’s rights activist suggested that the “trouser trial” may have been politically motivated and a pretext for Ms Hussein’s political enemies within the Islamic regime.

“This was not just about what she wore, it’s because she is so outspoken”, said Nawal Hassan, who promotes women’s involvement in the Darfur peace process. “She is really very critical of the government in her writings. They just found an opportunity to get her by attacking her clothes. There is little freedom of expression here but Lubna talks openly about the general political situation in the country and this is how they try to control her.”

Ms Hassan said the fact that the trouser affair would now go to trial would intensify the international focus on Sudan’s human rights violations. “This is not just about Lubna, it concerns all Sudanese,” she said. “And it is not just a women’s issue, it is about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of everything, it concerns all Sudanese. This is an issue of democracy and dictatorship. It is shocking that they have prosecuted Lubna and punished the other women, and she has done us a favour by turning it into a public relations disaster for the authorities. They will have to think twice in future before going after a woman in this way.”

Ms Hussein’s stand-off with the authorities over their interpretation of sharia began earlier this month when she and about a dozen other women were at a café/restaurant in the Riyadh district of Khartoum. All were wearing trousers although some were Christians from southern Sudan, to whom the Islamic dress code is not supposed to apply.

Police raided the café and ordered the group to a police station. A few days later, 10 of the women were summoned to return to the station where they were given 10 lashes each and fined, after a quick summary trial.

One of those who was flogged was “young and very thin”, according to Ms Alamahdi. Ms Hussein and two others involved a lawyer in order to challenge the charges and their cases were sent for trial with a possible punishment of 40 lashes if they are found guilty.

Sudan’s ruling party has implemented sharia vigorously but not always consistently, in the Muslim north of the country. Human rights groups accuse the regime of persistent violations.

Most Sudanese women conform to both tradition and Islamic codes by wearing a full-length shawl in bright colours draped over their clothes and covering the head.n

By arrangement with The Independent

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Same rank, different pensions
by Lt Gen (retd) Raj Kadyan

Having made a reference to the resolution of ‘one rank, one pension’ (OROP) in its 2004 election manifesto, the Congress-led government had rejected this long-standing demand of some two million ex-servicemen in the country. The rejection was announced in Parliament on December 11, 2008.

Dejected, the ex-servicemen went on a relay fast at Jantar Mantar on December 16, 2008. In their show of disappointment they also took to depositing their medals with the President. On February 8, 2009, they made a public commitment to support the Congress during the elections provided the UPA government implemented OROP. The party did not respond.

On March 17, the BJP made an announcement of implementing OROP in case it was voted to power. The party also included this in the election manifesto. On April 12, the ex-servicemen pledged support to the BJP. They followed the democratic norm where the voting pattern is largely decided by issues that affect the voter.

After the election results were announced, the ex-servicemen started planning their next phase of struggle. Happily, on June 4 the President included OROP in her address to the joint session of Parliament. This gave fresh heart to the ex-servicemen. They fervently hoped that this time OROP would be implemented.

The four-months-long relay fast at Jantar Mantar brought OROP on the national radar screen. The public got familiarity with the term. The media picked it up. The demand also found overwhelming support from the man on the street. That is not to say that all those who empathise with the veterans’ demand actually understand OROP.

It is hardly a secret that in order to retain a youthful profile, the military retires its members early. Nearly 85 per cent soldiers thus proceed on pension in the lowest rank of sepoy after 17 years of service when they are in their mid-thirties.

Not only do they lose means of livelihood, they also undergo a trauma of being unemployed in the prime of their life. They see that the fine traits of loyalty, discipline and dedication that they acquired during their years in uniform have no more value and are being wasted away.

To top it all, they find that the system for which they gave their all is not even giving them enough to survive. They have no choice but to look for lowly jobs to sustain their families.

The officers have been only marginally better. In view of the very steep pyramidal structure, a majority of them retired as Majors in their forties. Even today nearly 90 per cent officers retire at the age of 54 years as against 60 years applicable to all non-defence government employees. There is no compensation for this truncated service.

For nearly 25 years, the ex-servicemen have been demanding OROP. The demand implies that whenever the pay commissions enhance salaries and thus pensions, these enhancements should be given to the earlier pensioners as well.

Simply put, it means bringing old pensions equal to the present ones and keeping these equal as a principle. This provision is already in existence for our legislators, judges, Governors and many other categories. The retired soldiers rightly see this as a principle of equity as justice.

The government indeed showed political magnanimity in deciding to revisit OROP and had it included in the President’s address. However, it is not getting translated into action. So far while all pronouncements have used the term OROP; in their actions they have not touched it.

It needs to be understood that removing pension anomalies between distant past and recent past is not OROP; bringing the past with the present is OROP. The ex-servicemen are waiting for the last word from the government before deciding on their response.

The government machinery is notorious in finding a difficulty for every solution. Those opposed to OROP would undoubtedly do so again. One does hope the political leadership will show sagacity. This long-pending issue needs to be pushed and resolved once and for all. No one wants to see soldiers engaging in public airing of their just demands; least of all the soldiers themselves.

The writer is the Chairman, Indian Ex Servicemen Movement

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Financial crunch tests relationships
by Ylan Q. Mui

For many couples, the financial crisis has come down to a test. How good are they at tackling tough money issues? The question for Lorne Epstein is this: business or pleasure?

His wife, Alicia Korten, planned to take about a month off to recharge after more than a year of 80-hour workweeks at the consulting firm ReNual while writing a book called “Change Philanthropy.” Joining her on the trip would cost him about $2,000.

Usually, Epstein wouldn’t wince at spending cash for some quality time with his wife. But his contract position as a recruiter is almost up, and he’s still unsure where his next paycheck will come from. That $2,000 might be better spent invested in his side business developing an application for Facebook.

“We’ve been having to make hard decisions about what we’re doing and not doing,” said Epstein, of suburban Arlington, Va.

Some couples may be confronting job losses, home foreclosures or decimated 401(k)s. Even seemingly small changes such as eating out less can ignite larger debates. (Who will do the dishes?) Couples who have been married for years can be surprised by the rapid economic fallout and the ensuing stress on their relationships.

“The recession brought a kind of suddenness,” said Dave Ramsey, personal finance author and radio host. “The wind came, and we weren’t ready.”

When counselors advise couples on dealing with financial questions, their refrains are remarkably similar: communication, communication, communication. And recognizing that men and women often perceive money differently can make the conversation easier.

Ramsey said women often view money as a pathway to security. Women may rebound from financial problems more quickly than men but face more fear when dealing with the problem, he said. Men, on the other hand, think of money as a scorecard for a game they want to win. When times are tough, the male self-esteem takes a hit.

“It’s very, very explosive. You’ve got a dropping self-esteem on one side and rising fear on the other,” he said. “And whoa, the claws can come out.”

Several financial and relationship experts said the key to surviving a personal financial crisis is putting emotions aside to talk frankly about money. Couples should set financial goals together, but each partner should remain open-minded about how the other holds up the bargain.

A recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute focused on gender differences in retirement and found that men and women were equally likely to save for retirement and attempt to calculate how much they will need. But men were significantly more likely than women to put that amount at more than $1 million. And 28 percent of women predicted that their spending would be much lower during the first five years of retirement, compared with 21 percent of men.

At the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, President David Jones said the number of cases his group sees has doubled during the recession to about 4 million a year — and about 60 percent of clients are women.

“They’ll reach out for help much more quickly,” Jones said. “The male seems to be embarrassed more than females in admitting that their finances are not on a good footing.”n

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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