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EDITORIALS

NRI participation
Their share in investment must go up
T
he three-day annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in New Delhi have brought out the hard reality that the investment in the country by the Indian diaspora is abysmally small. India’s growth story is the result of investments mainly from within the country.

Bengal’s tragedy
Unending cycle of violence
T
he West Bengal Chief Minister appears to be in no hurry to visit New Delhi on summons from the Union Home Minister to discuss political violence in Lalgarh. With the Assembly election due any time now, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has much to think about.


EARLIER STORIES

Tackling 2G scam
January 10, 2011
MPs & lobbyists: The dividing line
January 9, 2011
Higher wages for rural poor
January 8, 2011
Debate Telangana report
January 7, 2011
Education as legal right
January 6, 2011
Doctors’ shortage
January 5, 2011
Put an end to acrimony
January 4, 2011
Politics of agitation
January 3, 2011
Indian exceptionalism amid ordered chaos
January 2, 2011
New vistas of cooperation
January 1, 2011

THE TRIBUNE
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TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS



Value for money?
IPL auction full of surprises
F
ormer Indian captain Sourav Ganguli is shocked and his Bengali fans are livid that he remained unsold even in the second round of the IPL auctions. They should not have been, because similar has been the fate of Brian Lara, Mark Boucher, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chris Gayle. Instead of picking holes in the strategy of the bidding teams, they should look for the definite method in this madness.

ARTICLE

WikiLeaks on bio-terrorism
India is vulnerable to attacks by novel organisms
by Suman Sahai
T
he media has been spilling the contents of the Radia tapes with salacious gossip about a minister running Air India into the ground to benefit private airlines, or the promiscuous ways of an industry tycoon. WikiLeaks is also getting space with stories of the less than reverential US attitude towards us despite all the soft-soaping going on in public about the power of rising India.

MIDDLE

Classic pride
by Roopinder Singh
O
h! Google, that child of cyber space, finally came out with its electronic book store, which promises to create yet another revolution in the way people use their screens, on computers and other devices, like cell phones, e-book readers and what have you.

OPED VISION

Education, health and roads are the three top priorities of the governments of both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The governments of the two hill states also plan to accelerate the process of industrialisation after the recent withdrawal of the Central incentives
Uttarakhand Focus to be on villages
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand has a very difficult and unique geographical situation. About 65 per cent land of the state is forest-covered. The agricultural land is very limited. Industries have so far been limited to two districts of the State but we endeavor to extend the reach of industries to all districts of the State.

Himachal's thrust will be on education
P
rem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief MinisterTo put Himachal Pradesh at the top is the vision of my Government for the year 2011. This vision will be realised in the near future when there are ample opportunities for employment.The State is self-dependent and every Himachali lives with pride.

Corrections and clarifications


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NRI participation
Their share in investment must go up

The three-day annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in New Delhi have brought out the hard reality that the investment in the country by the Indian diaspora is abysmally small. India’s growth story is the result of investments mainly from within the country. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia did well to tell the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) on Sunday that the country was not after their money. All these years the NRIs have been mainly airing their grievances and getting one concession after another. They have not done enough for the well-being of the people here. It is time for the NRIs to launch a drive on their own to increase their investment share substantially from the present 1.3 per cent of the total foreign direct investment.

This is, however, not to say that people of Indian origin are not welcome in the land of their forefathers. The Central government, which has a full-fledged ministry to look after their interests, organises Pravasi Bharatiya Divas every year and honours those who achieve distinction in different areas of activity. The country feels proud of them. But the people in general will have such feelings for the NRIs only when they contribute in a big way to India’s economic growth, as President Pratibha Patil pointed out. She made it clear that there are sufficient investment opportunities in sectors like infrastructure development, education and health care. They can be sure that if their investments benefit the resident Indians, the NRIs, too, will gain much.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Saturday, the government was going ahead with a scheme to merge the Overseas Citizens of India and the People of Indian Origin cards to accord visa-free travel and stay rights to all NRIs. Soon they will also be allowed to register themselves as voters to take part in the democratic process of the country. The NRIs are justified in expressing their disgust over corruption and red tape in India. It is vital that there be an efficient system for fast clearance of NRI schemes with no loopholes for their harassment and exploitation at any stage.

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Bengal’s tragedy
Unending cycle of violence

The West Bengal Chief Minister appears to be in no hurry to visit New Delhi on summons from the Union Home Minister to discuss political violence in Lalgarh. With the Assembly election due any time now, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has much to think about. While the current cycle of violence is traced back to the police firing in Nandigram in March, 2007, all parties in the state have been guilty of raising and protecting armed groups. Mr Bhattacharjee has consistently blamed the Maoists and Ms Mamata Banerjee for the never-ending violence while the latter predictably blames the Marxists for the mayhem in the state. Still, the latest carnage in which seven civilians , including two women, were gunned down by shots fired from a house converted into a camp by CPM cadres in Lalgarh, is shocking because of the inaction of the state and the police. Neither the administration nor the state police seems to be able or inclined to stem the tide of violence. They have instead allowed political rivals to battle it out on the street.

The West Bengal Governor, Mr M.K. Narayanan, like his predecessor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, has been a helpless spectator, unable to do much besides issuing statements and wringing his hands. “ No democracy can allow such violence; no civilised society can tolerate such wanton disregard for human lives and no state can accept such mindless discord,” said the Governor in the last such statement issued on Friday. If the Centre had been serious about its Constitutional responsibility, it would have taken reports by successive Governors more seriously and acted on them. Even at this late stage, the situation calls for the imposition of President’s rule. But such a decision appears unlikely because neither the Congress nor Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would like to let the Left Front walk away as martyrs following dismissal of the elected government.

Ms Mamata Banerjee is clearly unwilling to part company with the Maoists. The Left Front appears keen to regain the lost ground at gun-point before the election and with New Delhi reluctant to step in, there is no end in sight to the political tragedy unfolding in the eastern state. For the people in West Bengal, it is time to feel both sad and sorry.

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Value for money?
IPL auction full of surprises

Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguli is shocked and his Bengali fans are livid that he remained unsold even in the second round of the IPL auctions. They should not have been, because similar has been the fate of Brian Lara, Mark Boucher, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chris Gayle. Instead of picking holes in the strategy of the bidding teams, they should look for the definite method in this madness. The team managers are hard-boiled business men who have refused to act like star-struck fans. They have not gone for the names of the players, but the recent runs and wickets against their names. In Sourav’s case particularly, the die was cast when it became known that the captainship was to go to someone else — most probably Gautam Gambhir, who was picked up for a record Rs 11.04 crore. Knight Riders’ co-owner Shah Rukh Khan has said that Ganguly’s vast experience will be utilized in some other capacity, but that is only a consolation prize.

The new pattern of team making has laid stress on the merit and the players’ current form. That is why even little-known Australian Daniel Christian was picked up by the Deccan Chargers for as much as Rs 4.14 crore. The message is clear: international names do not matter. The all-important test is how much you can deliver and how easily you gel in a team. Everyone was out to make a winning combination with a youthful team. The Test or even one-day reputation is no guarantee of success in the T20 format.

Australian players were picked up liberally, while those from England and the West Indies were not that lucky. One reason was that a player had to be available for the whole duration to find favour with the bidders. All the teams laid stress on Indian players. As a result, even L. Balaji, Vinay Kumar and Murali Kartik fetched considerably high prices. A noticeable trend was that there was no extra eagerness to hire local heroes. 

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Thought for the Day

Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand. — Bruce Barton

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WikiLeaks on bio-terrorism
India is vulnerable to attacks by novel organisms
by Suman Sahai

The media has been spilling the contents of the Radia tapes with salacious gossip about a minister running Air India into the ground to benefit private airlines, or the promiscuous ways of an industry tycoon. WikiLeaks is also getting space with stories of the less than reverential US attitude towards us despite all the soft-soaping going on in public about the power of rising India. What went unnoticed in this milieu of gossip and innuendos was a set of postings having unnerving contents. Dealing with bioterrorism, these minutes of the meetings of US diplomats with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) reveal the US evaluation of India’s lack of preparedness to handle any kind of bioterrorism.

Indian officials have been aware of the threat of bioterrorism at the hands of jihadi elements for some time. Two years ago a terrorist apprehended in Kashmir was found to be carrying a sophisticated device looking like a fountain pen, which contained strange and toxic chemicals. According to a WikiLeaks document, MEA officials admit that Indian intelligence agencies have picked up the conversation of suspected terrorists discussing the use of bio-terrorism. According to this leaked report, jihadi groups have opened up channels to identify people with PhD degrees in biology and biotechnology to recruit those sympathetic to their cause. No guesses for figuring out what these PhDs should be doing for their jihadi masters.

Though old-style bio-terror agents like anthrax bacteria and cholera germs are still effective, antidotes are known for these and can be deployed fast if the state agencies are alert and can respond in real time. The real fear of bio-terrorism, however, now comes from the next generation of biological organisms that are being created in the lab using new tools like genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Advances in biotechnology have put in the hands of scientists and laboratory technicians several methods and techniques, all of them quite uncomplicated, that can be used to create new organisms with hitherto unknown traits.

Given that there are hundreds of labs engaged in the exercise of cutting and splicing genes from one organism to another and that all the equipment and chemicals needed to do this are easily available, the potential of creating God-knows-what in the lab is magnified several-fold. India’s rich biological diversity offers a range of bacteria and viruses and thousands of lethal toxins that can be obtained from sources like micro-organisms and plants. All these have the potential of being cut and spliced at will, creating dangerous new organisms that have no pedigree and for which no antidotes are known. These are the monsters on the horizon, waiting to be picked up by terrorists with mayhem and destruction on their agenda.

So far as bugs like anthrax are concerned, we know their structure and understand their way of functioning. We know how to control and destroy them. If there were to be an anthrax attack as it occurred in the US a few years ago, people would know how to contain the bacteria in a short time after the smallest number of casualties. In the case of new organisms created by genetic engineering or synthetic biology, nobody knows their structure or their properties. Since they are not natural, they are not related to other organisms, which could offer clues about their functioning. The spread of such new organisms in a population could cause devastation because we would have no way of containing them or knowing how to destroy them fast enough.

Since threats from such novel organisms are rated as serious, the technologies of genetic engineering and synthetic biology are highly regulated. In May 2010, when Craig Venter announced his breakthrough “artificial life” a newly constructed micro-organism made up of genes synthesised in the lab, one of his first actions was to notify the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues so that official circles were in the know about what he was developing and could keep track of it. Since then the Presidential Commission has issued a number of recommendations for the emerging field of synthetic biology, most notably for coordinated federal oversight of scientists working in both large and small institutions.

In India, it is a matter of concern that there is little such oversight. It is ridiculously easy to procure biological materials such as harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins from academic laboratories since the supervision in these institutions is notoriously lax. According to the WikiLeaks report, there is a real fear that getting into a supposedly high containment facility to obtain lethal bio-agents is not very difficult in India and that “India's notably weak public health and agricultural infrastructure coupled with high population density means that a deliberate release of a disease-causing agent could go undetected for quite a while before authorities become aware”.

Of a piece with all this is our shabby regulatory system for genetic engineering which is known to be full of holes. Premier academic institutions do not follow the rules and prescribed regulatory procedures. A few years ago the field trials of Bt brinjal being conducted in the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in Delhi had to be burnt down because they were being done in violation of the process laid down for such trials. The Mahyco company has been conducting field trials of Bt rice in Jharkhand in flagrant violation of all prescribed norms. When evidence of their violations, which were contaminating the native rice, was pointed out to the regulators, they refused to take action against the company and began to harass Gene Campaign instead for bringing this to light. There are rumours of even worse. That regulation can be influenced and clearances obtained for a price

In addition to leaky and compromised science and technology systems, India is particularly vulnerable to bioterrorism attacks because there is almost no coordination between the ministries and departments that would need to pull together in immediate response to such an eventuality. Turf guarding, lack of communication and the near-total absence of cooperation among key stakeholders from different departments is a glaring and dangerous impediment to the country’s capacity to respond to a bio-terrorist attack. For officials milling around inflated with self-importance, sober introspection about our terrifying vulnerability to modern bio-terrorism would appear to be an urgent requirement. It is high time this “emerging global power” got its house in order to protect the life of its citizens.

The writer, an expert in genetics, is the convener of Gene Campaign.

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Classic pride
by Roopinder Singh

Oh! Google, that child of cyber space, finally came out with its electronic book store, which promises to create yet another revolution in the way people use their screens, on computers and other devices, like cell phones, e-book readers and what have you.

Google has finally made an entry into the world dominated by Amazon.com Inc, a company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, which started as an online bookstore, but morphed into an online marketplace for DVDs, toys, CDs, MP3 downloads, computer software, electronics, apparel, video games and even furniture.

Amazon Kindle, an e-book reader that the company launched in November 2007, slowly changed the way people read books and a year later, Amazon’s Kindle-based library included two lakh titles.

The publishing world and the public at large were shaken up when in July 2010 Amazon announced that e-book sales outnumbered sales of hardcover books. The latest figures say that the company sells as many as 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover books.

Coupled with the enormous success of the i-Pad as an e-book reader, with Nook by Barnes and Noble and Sony e-book reader, there is a growing number of platforms for e-books and now Google has entered the game.

Actually, Google has been digitizing books since 2004 and has the largest digital library in the world, some 1.2 crore books and counting. They have been putting their copyright-free books and magazines like ‘Life’ online for years.

The new project, however, is different, it allows readers to buy or download free books and sync them across various platforms, thus you can read it on a computer in office, continue reading the book on your Internet-enabled cell phone while commuting, and then boot up your home computer to read on…. Sounds alluring, and thought most of us are usually so tired of watching the computer screen in office that the last thing we want to do is read from another screen.

While publishers debate about whether e-books will allow self-published volumes to swamp cyberspace and bemoan the inevitable loss of quality that will follow, I was quite amused to see the first title that Google Books had made available for the new service. It was the Jane Austen classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’, digitized in 2007 from the volume published by R. Bentley, in 1853.

Ah, the pride I felt at this selection. For me, the debate was settled there and then. Quality writing is timeless; it will always win, no matter which format it is presented in. The permanence of word written well transcends media, and indeed, limitations of time, too.

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Education, health and roads are the three top priorities of the governments of both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The governments of the two hill states also plan to accelerate the process of industrialisation after the recent withdrawal of the Central incentives
Uttarakhand Focus to be on villages
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Uttarakhand Chief Minister
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Uttarakhand Chief Minister

Uttarakhand has a very difficult and unique geographical situation. About 65 per cent land of the state is forest-covered. The agricultural land is very limited. Industries have so far been limited to two districts of the State but we endeavor to extend the reach of industries to all districts of the State.

Despite these challenges the state has scaled new heights of development over the last ten years. The state has managed to reach the third position in the country so far as the GDP rate is concerned. The GDP rate of Uttarakhand has reached 9.5 per cent, which was 2.9 per cent when the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh. The per capita income of the state has increased from Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 42,000. Similarly, the revenue is also increasing gradually.

The 13th Finance Commission of India has sanctioned an additional grant of Rs. 1,000 crore as an incentive in addition to the regular budget of the State because the Commission was convinced that Uttarakhand was utilizing the funds allocated to it properly and adequately. We have prepared a concrete action-plan of development under 'Vision-2020' and its implementation has started yielding positive results. We intend to develop and convert Uttarakhand into an 'Ideal State'.

The state has launched ‘Atal Adarsh Gram Yojna’ in 670 ‘Nyay Panchayat’ headquarters in Stage 1
The state has launched ‘Atal Adarsh Gram Yojna’ in 670 ‘Nyay Panchayat’ headquarters in Stage 1

I strongly believe that the welfare and development of the last man of society is directly proportional to the welfare and development of the State as well as the nation. Unless the poor and downtrodden people of society make progress, the country can't move ahead in the right direction.

We want to extend the reach of developmental activities to each and every person of the State. So we are trying to maintain co-ordination between the private and public sectors. With a view to ensuring the all-round development of the villages, we have launched 'Atal Adarsh Gram Yojna' in the 670 'Nyay Panchayat' headquarters at the first stage. As many as 16 departments have been included in this scheme and every department has been assigned fixed targets. All these departments will provide the villagers with all the basic facilities at the village level and they will reach their targets by the end of the financial year 2010-11.

We are also trying to make the youth of the State self-reliant. The government wants to utilise the 'pani' and 'jawani' (water and youth) properly in the interest of the State itself — something the previous governments could not do effectively. We have tried to link employment with tourism at the same time making tourism the chief source of livelihood for the local populace. We are also trying to bring forth the celestial natural beauty possessed by the State before the world. We are also determined to develop the State into an 'Educational Hub' and also to make it a 'Herbal State'.

Besides, for the first time a 'Special Hill Industrial Policy' has also been implemented in addition to the Industrial Incentive Policy. We are whole-heartedly committed to enhancing employment opportunities in the State. We have managed to provide employment to more than 2 lakh people through an industrial package. It was a great setback for the State that the Central government stopped the industrial package prematurely.

With a view to providing better employment opportunities to the unemployed youth of the State, the government has launched the 'Ashirwad' scheme. Under this scheme Ashok Leyland imparts world-class engineering training to students in the remote areas of the State, thereby creating employment opportunities for talented but poor students. The students are also getting scholarship during the training. A target of imparting training to 1,000 students during the year has been fixed. About 300 students are getting training at present.

We are also encouraging self-employment in the State with schemes, like, 'Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Swarojgar Yojna'. Tourist villages are also being initiated in all the districts of the State. We have also been successful in enhancing employment opportunities in the government sector. As many as 21,000 vacancies are likely to be filled ery shortly.

We are very shortly implementing our schemes to make wheat and rice available to the BPL families of the state at the rate of Rs. 2 per kg and Rs. 3 per kg respectively. A scheme of giving concession of Rs. 2.6 per kg in the wheat price and Rs. 2.45 in the price of rice to the APL families of the state has also been launched.

The services of the employees working on a daily wages/work charge/contract basis from the year 2000 or prior to the said date will also be regularised very shortly. This step of the government will benefit thousands of the employees.

We are committed to make Uttarakhand an 'Ideal State' of the country and we are engaged in developing it into a healthy, cultured, prosperous and green state. We want Uttarakhand to lead the world in all walks of life. My recent Mauritius visit also served the same purpose. We will not leave any stone unturned to attain the goals set under Vision-2020.


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Himachal's thrust will be on education
The government’s endeavour is to make Himachal Pradesh an education hub by opening institutions of excellence so that local students do not have to go to other states for getting quality professional and technical education
Prem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister

Prem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister
Prem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister

Prem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister To put Himachal Pradesh at the top is the vision of my Government for the year 2011. This vision will be realised in the near future when there are ample opportunities for employment.The State is self-dependent and every Himachali lives with pride. The betterment of the common man, speedy and balanced development of the State is the focus of all our policies and programmes, besides fulfilling the promises made to the people on the eve of last Assembly Elections.

Education, health and roads are the three top most priorities of the Government. The Government's endeavour is to make Himachal Pradesh an 'Educational Hub' of the country by opening institutions of excellence in the State so that students of Himachal need not to go to other States for getting quality professional and technical education. Besides, students from outside the State will be attracted to Himachal Pradesh for getting quality education. The State Government has decided to set up a Regulatory Body. Besides, the Private Universities (Regulation and Establishment) Act has also been enacted so as to ensure quality education in private universities being opened in the State. The approval for the opening of 16 universities in the private sector has been given. Of these, ten have started functioning.

Road, education and health are top most priority of the Government and 'Self-employment, Self-reliance and Self-respect' is the ultimate motto. For this emphasis has been laid on the speedy exploitation of natural resources available within the State. The State Government plans to harness 17,000 MW of power by 2017, which will not only go a long way in meeting the energy requirements of the country to a great extent but also help the State to become prosperous.

Industrial development has been given big boost for income and employment generation. Environment-friendly, income and employment-oriented industries are being encouraged in the State. The approval for setting up of 3,334 industrial units involving an investment of Rs. 13,365 crore and providing employment to 1.27 lakh persons has been given. 

Various new tourists circuits are being developed so as to attract tourists. Adventure, religious, heritage, rural and eco-tourism are being encouraged in the State. For the development of tourism infrastructure in the State, Rs. 428 crore will be spent. Of this 70 percent amount will be made available by the Asian Development Bank to the State through the Government of India and the remaining 30 percent will be spent by the State Government.

To promote rural tourism in the State 'Home Stay' and 'Har Gaon Ki Kahani' schemes have been started. A Hotel Management Institute has been set up in Hamirpur and a Food Craft Institute at Dharmasala is being set up soon. Heli Taxi Services are being started to facilitate high-end tourists. In this regard an agreement has been signed with three private entrepreneurs. An agreement for the construction of a ropeway between Shree Naina Devi and Anandpur Sahib is likely to be signed soon. Three ropeways -- Bhunter-Bijli Mahadev, Palchang-Rohtang, Dharamkot-Triund, Shahtalai-Deothsidh and Neugal-Palampur -- have also been planned.

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Corrections and clarifications

n The first sentence of the article “Governance reforms in Punjab to make administration responsive (Page 9, January 10) has been erroneously repeated as the first sentence of the accompanying piece “No space for social evils in Haryana”.

n The intro of the report “AP heading for President’s rule?” (Page 2, January 10) says “All indications are pointing towards such a scenario as turmoil over Telangana statehood issue shows no signs of subsiding”. Instead of ‘such a scenario’, a direct reference to President’s rule would have been in order. 

n In the report “Cops: unclaimed wheat bags belong to HAFED” (Page 7, January 10) there is a sentence which says, “He said there was an estimated 7.80 lakh of foodgrain at the storehouse”. It should have been 7.80 lakh tonnes…”. 

n In the headline “Sebi warns investors of two Sahara Group Cos” (Page 21, January 8) a more appropriate word than ‘warns’ would have been ‘cautions’.

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 appears twice a week — every Tuesday 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 [email protected]

Raj Chengappa Editor-in-Chief

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