The Hindu: October 12, 2015 01:53 IST
Honouring a robust civil society
The award of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the National Dialogue Quartet comprising the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, is richly deserved. This quartet of civil society institutions, that came together in 2013, had managed tortuous political negotiations for a consensus-based Constitution and a transition to a robust democracy in Tunisia. The UGTT in particular played a pivotal role, after massive protests erupted in 2013 against the Ennahda-led government. These followed the political assassination of left-wing dissidents and moves by the government to pack the independent bureaucracy with members of the ancien régime. The transition in Tunisia has been unique among the countries that experienced similar change. Tunisia was the site of the first set of popular uprisings in 2011, which came to be known as the Jasmine Revolution and triggered similar protests across the Arab world in what was termed the Arab Spring. Egypt saw the return of a "managed democracy" with a military leader coming to power following a political coup against the popularly elected but increasingly authoritarian Muslim Brotherhood-led government. Libya's uprising threatened to turn bloody, leading to the intervention of NATO, and following the death of Muammar Qadhafi that country descended into anarchy. Syria's woes have been well-documented.
Democratisation, as India's own history shows, is invariably a slow and tortuous process. Its success is predicated by the strength of civil society organisations, the legitimacy of political organisations, and the forbearance and foresight of exceptional individuals who are willing to look beyond the immediate and the expedient. The UGTT has a long history, having been formed in 1946. Its members constitute five per cent of the country's population. Its clout as an economic bargaining entity, its widespread presence in Tunisia and its leaders' extensive experience in the art of negotiations, helped bring political parties to agree to a new political road map in 2013. This led to the creation of a largely progressive Constitution in January 2014 and to parliamentary elections in October 2014. Legitimacy was accorded to the UGTT's negotiating role by the other members of the Quartet, which have also had a historical presence. The lesson from the story of Tunisia's unique success in the post-Arab Spring set of events in the Arab world is that a robust civil society with organised labour power as a pivot has an important role to play in any process of democratisation. Neither external intervention nor sporadic outbursts of street protests would do for that. The Nobel Committee must be commended for recognising this fact.
A group of four people playing music or singing together.
Full of twists and turns.
A person who opposes official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state.
A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.
Great sorrow or distress.
Patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.
(of an action) convenient and practical, although possibly improper or immoral.
A heavy blow with the hand or a hard object.
Occurring at irregular intervals or only in a few places; scattered or isolated.
· Jasmine Revolution may refer to:
The Tunisian revolution in which President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced out of the presidency by popular protests was called the "Jasmine Revolution" by many media organisations
The Arab Spring, which began with the Tunisian revolution, was also called the "Jasmine Revolution" by some
The 2011 Chinese pro-democracy protests in China that were inspired by the Tunisian revolution and was called the "Jasmine Revolution" by some of the organisers
The Hindu: October 12, 2015 01:51 IST
End the Sena's veto power
What the Shiv Sena could earlier do only with threats of violence, it can now do with a mere letter or an appeal. The organisers of concerts planned in Mumbai and Pune by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali were quick to cancel the programmes after the Shiv Sena asked them not to host a singer belonging to a "country which is firing bullets at Indians". A meeting with Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray must have convinced the organisers that the letter of request to cancel the show had the sanction of those at the very top of the Sena leadership, and that the "request" was no less than a threat in disguise. Now that it is in power, the Sena can effectively veto any cultural programme without even organising a public protest. The lesson that the organisers would have taken from the Sena's missive is that no help would be forthcoming from officialdom in a State where a party that draws support from lumpen elements is in power. From digging up the cricket pitch and forming balidani jathas to stop matches between India and Pakistan, the Sena is known to oppose any kind of cultural or sporting interaction between India and Pakistan. Now that it is in power, the Sena seems intent on its agenda of imposing a boycott on all things Pakistani without resorting to open threats or violence.
The irrationality seems to have struck all but the most ardent of the Sena's supporters. While Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal spoke to Ghulam Ali and persuaded him to agree to come to Delhi for a concert in December, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered to host him in Kolkata. But the issue is far more important than Ghulam Ali being able to perform in India. This is not on whether art, culture and sport can bring people together or worsen relations between nations. Whether they do one or the other depends on the peoples involved, and not on some intrinsic quality of these forms. The issue actually relates to the unbridled political power that the Sena wields in Maharashtra, a power that is not drawn from any electoral mandate, a power that is not accountable to any democratic institution. The Sena quite arrogantly assumes it can speak for all people when it asks for a show to be cancelled "considering the emotions of the citizens". If the Sena was so offended by a Pakistani artiste performing in Maharashtra, it could have asked its supporters to stay away from it. The Sena's senior ally in government, the BJP, and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, need to guard against a repeat of such incidents. What is at stake is not the right of a Pakistani artiste to perform in India, but the right of Indians to decide who they can listen to or watch in India.
A constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by a law-making body.
A letter, especially a long or official one.
(in Marxist contexts) uninterested in revolutionary advancement.
Enthusiastic or passionate.
IMF outlook is a warning to complacent policymakers.The October edition of the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook is subtitled "Adjusting to Lower Commodity Prices". A growing number of global economy-watchers are now moving from seeing the steady decline in commodity prices from a blessing to a rather ominous portent for the world economy. Initially taken as a welcome adjustment to a combination of positive factors - the rolling back of liquidity, an increase in supply and so on - the decline in commodity prices is now being viewed as an indicator of sluggish demand. Chinese growth is slowing down, Europe and Japan are experiencing insignificant growth and, most strikingly, the majority of emerging-market economies - which had come out of the 2008 crisis looking relatively resilient - are now in the doldrums, be they commodity exporters or importers. The report highlights the fact that this will be the fifth consecutive year in which emerging markets as an aggregate will have grown at a slower rate than the previous year. The updated growth estimates indicate that the global economy will grow by 3.1 per cent, slower than in 2014 - and, importantly, 0.4 percentage point slower than the IMF's April 2015 forecast. Although a mild recovery is expected in 2016, with the forecast at 3.6 per cent, this is also lower than the corresponding April forecast. Worse, the report assesses risks to these forecasts to be biased towards the downside.
As has been much hyped, India does stand out as something of an outperformer in this rather bleak scenario. India is expected to grow by 7.3 per cent in 2015, the same rate as in 2014, and by 7.5 per cent in 2016. China is projected to grow by 6.8 per cent this year, 0.5 percentage point slower than the last, and decelerate by a further 0.5 percentage point next year. These forecasts suggest that commodity prices will remain soft, not good news for economies like Russia, Brazil and South Africa, all large commodity exporters. They also imply that there is likely to be persistent underutilisation of global capacity, which is not conducive to an investment recovery in any product that is tradeable. As many emerging markets settle into a low growth phase, their currencies will tend to depreciate, bringing another element of competition in a stagnant global trade scenario. The IMF expresses concern about the lack of policy room as far as conventional monetary and fiscal instruments are concerned and emphasises the need for structural, productivity-enhancing reforms.
This message must be taken very seriously by Indian policymakers, who risk being driven into a trap of complacency because India will grow faster than China. Serious, broad-based and deep-penetrating structural reforms are the only way to emulate China's growth performance over the past three decades; a couple of years of growing at a faster rate do not take India anywhere close to that aspiration. The reform agenda is not unknown or obscure; every government since 1991 has, in varying degrees, moved along the same broad trajectory. But, it is all too clear that the two stumbling blocks that governments encounter time and again are complacency and political bottlenecks. The IMF's assessment should be seen as a warning that favourable global conditions will not offset domestic hindrances for some time to come. Clearly, India's economic future is now almost exclusively in India's own hands.
Giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen; threatening; inauspicious.
An essential or urgent thing.
A sign or warning that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen.
Slow-moving or inactiv
(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
A state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.
(of an area of land) lacking vegetation and exposed to the elements
(of an area of land) lacking vegetation and exposed to the elements
The state will get a new government, and the country an intimation of future politics.
India will hold its breath as Bihar goes to the polls today. So what's new? After all, in this country, every election strikes sparks — for the right reasons and wrong. Ours is still a country of a million political mobilisations, and, unlike in the West, politics has not settled into predictable or complacent patterns; it can still spring a rude surprise. At the same time, this is also still a country in which the vote's importance is a measure not just of the voter's power but also of her helplessness — it is her only weapon and assertion against an otherwise opaque and unresponsive system.
But India will watch this assembly election in Bihar that begins today with an especially keen eye.
Because this election will tell whether the Narendra Modi-led BJP is still on a winning streak, or not. It follows the party's string of successes in states after riding to power at the Centre on a large mandate a year and a half ago, broken only by the Delhi setback. The Bihar outcome will indicate to Team Modi whether the Delhi fiasco was an aberration or a warning that powerful state leaders can stall its bid to grow into India's natural party of governance, like the Congress of an earlier political era. This election, Bihar will be the staging ground not just for a stirring clash of two leaders who hold office at two levels of government — Modi vs Nitish Kumar, prime minister vs chief minister — but also for a competition between two bound political scripts. Modi brings to Bihar an appeal to the BJP-RSS's predominantly upper-caste Hindu base overlaid by a stoking of aspiration and the promise of change and friendship with the Centre. The Nitish-led maha gathbandhan, on the other hand, represents the politics of "social justice", which overturned the upper-caste domination of the state with Lalu Prasad and a bang in the 1990s, and its linking with a development vision under the Nitish-led project of the next decade. This sharply defined confrontation of men and ideas would be dramatic in itself. It is especially so in a state that has, in the past, been the crucible of radical political and social movements, and the arena for rampaging caste armies, where kidnapping acquired the status of industry. It remains the state, today, from which the young migrate, to lend their sweat and intellect towards the building of India in more enabling environments.
Much is at stake in this Bihar election. At the end of the process that begins today, on November 8, the state will elect a new government, and the country may get an intimation of the politics of the future.
Showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements.
A departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically one that is unwelcome.
Causing great excitement or strong emotion; rousing.
Oct 12 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Cry Of The Ganga
Getting the Territorial Army to help clean rivers is nice, but 100% sewage treatment is necessary
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has reiterated the government's intention to raise new Territorial Army battalions, comprising ex-soldiers and commanded by regular army officers, specifically for cleaning up the Ganga. This is a good move. TA battalions earmarked for ecological tasks have performed well in the past. Yet, given the sheer magnitude of India's river pollution problem, we need deeper, structural interventions and strict implementation of existing schemes.
This is important because the number of polluted river stretches in India has gone up 14 times in the last 26 years. The number of polluted rivers more than doubled from 121 in 2009 to 275 at last count, says the Central Pollution Control Board.
Sewage from our cities is the biggest problem. Around 75% of river pollution comes from municipal sewage from towns along river banks and 25% from industrial effluents.
Shockingly , though urban India gene rates some 57,233 million litres per day of sewage, we only have the capacity to treat about 37% of this. The rest goes untreated into our rivers, basically turning mighty rivers like Yamuna, in its Delhi stretch, or the Ganga, in its Varanasi stretch, into giant sewers.
They are now at breaking point. This is why the National Green Tribunal recently summoned senior officers of concerned departments to spell out a "clear stand" and to show the "one thing" they had done so far with any success.
Thousands of crores spent on river cleanup over the decades have gone down the drain. Since 1985, Rs 5,335 crore has been sanctioned for the National River Conservation Plan, over Rs 1,427 crore for the Ganga Action Plan (phases 1and 2) and over Rs 1,027 crore for the National Ganga River Basin Authority .
The Modi government has renewed focus on rivers with its flagship Namami Gange programme and significantly increased funding. It will do well to remember the lesson from the past: While we may know what is to be done the devil lies in the detail, in getting states and local bodies to work together with the Centre and in strictly enforcing anti-pollution laws, including those with an impact on religious practices. A holistic ecological vision and changing social attitudes around dumping waste in rivers are crucial if we are to reverse our sorry record in cleaning up our rivers.
Say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity.
Designate (something, typically funds or resources) for a particular purpose.
Nothing other than; unmitigated (used for emphasis)
Oct 12 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
Don't End SEZ Tax Breaks Abruptly
The government wants to end tax breaks for special economic zones (SEZ) as part of the clean-up drive to lower the corporate tax rate. This is a good idea in principle. Exemptions for encla ves or select sectors spell patronage and mess up the tax syst em. Policy should reduce tax exemptions. However, withdraw al of the tax breaks for SEZs must not be abrupt. The govern ment should set a cut-off date to end the exemption. New units in SEZs, set up after the deadline, will cease to get the tax break, but existing units should not be denied the benefit.
Units in SEZs enjoy 100% exemption from income tax on ex port profits for the first five years, 50% for the next five years and 50% of the ploughed-back export profits in the last five years. The government must ensure that it does not renege on the promise of the 15-year tax break offered to existing units. These units should be given time to adjust, considering that the internal rate of return on investment would have been worked out factoring in the tax bre ak. Also, a clear roadmap on the phase out of exemptions, put in public domain for feedback, will help decision-making.
The SEZ policy , approved in 2000, was meant to set up enclav es that would create their own infrastructure, manufacturing and transport networks, to promote export-oriented prod uction. Companies made a beeline to milk the tax breaks, but resources have been misallocated, and revenues forgone. A course-correction is warranted now to dispense with special enclaves. The entire country should become an SEZ if India is serious about raising its share in manufacturing. This is emi nently feasible with robust infrastructure, efficient adminis tration and transition to a goods and services tax that elimi nates cascading of taxes.
Quickly and without warning; "he stopped suddenly"
The support given by a patron.
Go back on a promise, undertaking, or contract.
n the most direct route
Distribute or provide (a service or information) to a number of people.
A portion of territory within or surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct.
(of water) pour downward rapidly and in large quantities.
view on the pro-EU campaign: getting to the nub
In his speech to the Conservative conference last week, David Cameron promised to "fight hard" in his renegotiation of European Union membership, but he gave only one example of the kind of victory he has in mind. "Britain is not interested in 'ever-closer union'," he said. "I will put that right."
This is a tactical game. The "ever-closer union" formula comes from the Treaty of Rome, the EU's founding text. Quitters see it as proof that the project has federalising momentum in its DNA; so only exit can save the UK from absorption into a United States of Europe. But it is an open secret in Brussels that some form of exemption from "ever-closer union" – a protocol attached to the treaties – is available in the negotiations. The PM is setting the bar symbolically high and practically low. The rest of the short negotiation wishlist reported on in the Sunday Telegraph was similarly emblematic – such as an "explicit" statement that the euro is not the EU's official currency, a mere nod at the established reality that sterling is here to stay. Downing Street insists it has not given up on grittier policy questions, but the emphasis on icons nonetheless represents an important realisation that a referendum fought defending the technicalities of a deal will be harder to win than one fought on the broader question of whether Britain is better or worse off inside the club.
That is how the message will be framed when the official "remain" campaign launches on Monday. The strategy is to make the case based on Britain's security and prosperity – to say that the challenges facing the country are global and that the EU, for all its flaws, provides the most effective forum for shaping our destiny. The chief merit to this argument is that it is true. The outers' hostility to "Brussels" on the basis that "Brussels" is hostile to the UK is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By refusing to engage, Britain marginalises itself and finds its voice diminished. The natural end to that process is separation and the surrender of influence, with grim consequences in the spheres of trade, policing, security and climate change.
An advantage to the slogan "Britain stronger in Europe", as unveiled on Monday by the "remain" camp, is its optimistic orientation. The pro-EU campaign has studied the lessons from Better Together, the unloved but not entirely ineffective project to persuade Scots to reject independence last year, which of course they ultimately did. The weakness in that campaign was its failure to counter the nationalist claim to a monopoly on Scottish interests with a patriotic account of Scotland's future made brighter by fellowship with England and Wales. Better Together relied on fraying historical loyalty and fear. There is no equivalent loyalty to the EU, and fear alone – lost jobs and shrunken investment – should not be the basis on which the country is invited to consider its standing in the world.
Inevitably the "remain" argument will play on the threat posed by a leap into the unknown. Moderate sceptics will hesitate before striding down the path indicated by a grinning Nigel Farage. But undecided voters will also be wary of a path illuminated by a political and financial elite for whom the joys of EU membership – the blurring of national borders for a freer flow of capital and labour – are self-evident. The task is to reassure waverers that the benefits of staying in accrue to the many not the few. That line is harder to sell when the eurozone struggles to shake off economic malaise and when EU institutions look paralysed in response to mass migration from the Middle East and North Africa.
The remain camp cannot pretend that all is well with the EU, but it can argue that the project is worth fixing, that Britain has something valuable to offer, and that other members want our contribution, recognising that the alternative is a lesser continent and a lesser Britain. There is a defeatist strain to the Brexit demand that can be countered with appeals to pragmatism and self-confidence as well as economic self-interest. This is what the prime minister was signalling in his speech: a relationship founded not on misty-eyed pursuit of "ever-closer union" but on realistic appraisal of where the country's long-term interests lie. Mr Cameron does not have permission from his party to express that as robustly as he would like, but he will soon have to move on from concessions to implacable Tory grassroots and speak to those who are open to persuasion. In this respect his interests and those of the country are aligned. He knows Britain would be weaker outside the EU and that he will be finished as prime minister if he cannot convincingly make that case in the campaign.
Of, relating to, or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.
Serving as a symbol of a particular quality or concept; symbolic.
Forbidding or uninviting
Feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems.
(waverer) one who hesitates (usually out of fear)
A person who expects or is excessively ready to accept failure.
Force (a part of one's body or oneself) to make a strenuous or unusually great effort
A thing that is granted, especially in response to demands; a thing conceded.
Unable to be placated.
Make (someone) less angry or hostile.