Sunday, 20 December 2015

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19 Dec 2015 editorials

19 Dec 2015 

editorials


The Hindu:Unseemly turn in Arunachal Pradesh


The saddest aspect of the political turmoil in Arunachal Pradesh is that its key actors have revived unedifying practices that one would have thought the Indian polity had left behind some years ago: dissident ruling party legislators joining hands with their political rivals to bring down an elected government, holding parallel or unauthorised Assembly proceedings, and the Governor playing a partisan role. The conduct of Governor J.P. Rajkhowa in the ongoing crisis facing the Nabam Tuki government, set off by a group of ruling Congress MLAs revolting against his leadership, is questionable. In S.R. Bommai in 1994, the Supreme Court decided that the only place for determining whether a Chief Minister has lost his majority is the floor of the House, and not the Raj Bhavan. When it appeared that Mr. Tuki had lost the support of many of the legislators, the Governor could have either asked him to prove his majority when the Assembly met on January 14, 2016, or, if the matter brooked no delay, requested him to advance the session for the same purpose. There was no justification for the Governor to advance the session to December 16 on his own, and a legitimate question arises whether the Constitution permits such action. In another partisan act, he sent a message to the House to take up ‘Resolution for removal of the Speaker’ as the first item on the agenda.

The Congress has been ruling the State with the support of 47 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly, but 20 ruling party legislators have rallied under former Minister Kalikho Pul and joined hands with the 11-member Bharatiya Janata Party group in a bid to unseat Mr. Tuki. They accuse the Chief Minister of financial mismanagement and corruption. In a pre-emptive move against the rebels convening the Assembly on the Governor’s order, the government locked down the legislature building and the Speaker disqualified 14 out of the 20 dissidents to bring down the number required for a majority. Disqualification under the anti-defection law is subject to judicial review and the rebels could have challenged the Speaker’s decision. Instead, showing unseemly hurry, the Deputy Speaker, a dissident himself, ‘revoked’ their disqualification. All the rebels, along with the BJP and independent MLAs, held a sitting of the ‘Assembly’ at a makeshift venue, and ‘removed’ the Speaker and then the Chief Minister through a ‘no-confidence motion’. With the Guwahati High Court keeping in abeyance all the decisions taken at the rebel ‘session’, and sharply questioning the Governor’s action in convening the Assembly, the rest of the crisis may play out in a courtroom. Nevertheless, it would be a travesty of democracy if the current crisis results in the imposition of President’s Rule without Mr. Tuki being given an opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the House. The Centre should avoid any impression that constitutional norms will not be respected while handling the issue.

un·seem·ly
(of behavior or actions) not proper or appropriate.

tur·moil
A state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.

un·ed·i·fy·ing
(especially of an event taking place in public) distasteful; unpleasant.

dis·si·dent
A person who opposes official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state.

con·duct
The manner in which a person behaves, especially on a particular occasion or in a particular context.

con·vene
Come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble.

re·voke
Put an end to the validity or operation of (a decree, decision, or promise).

a·bey·ance
A state of temporary disuse or suspension.

trav·es·ty
A false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.

The Hindu:

The challenge from France’s far-right


The failure of Marine Le Pen’s Front National to win even a single region in this month’s elections in France demonstrates that the majority of French voters are not yet ready to let the far-right party join governance. Had Ms. Le Pen’s anti-migrant, anti-European party seized at least one of the regions, it would have had dramatic consequences for the French polity. However, the election results, as the Socialist French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, himself had pointed out, are hardly a cause for triumphalism. The FN had done remarkably well in the first round of the elections, held weeks after the November 13 Paris terror attacks in which 130 people were killed. The party captured 28 per cent of the vote and came top in six out of 13 regions in that round. This alarming rise of the FN had forced the two mainstream parties — Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right Republicans and President François Hollande’s Socialists — to enter into a de facto deal. The Socialists had even withdrawn their candidates from two regions to support the Republicans against the FN. It took increased voter turnout and tactical voting by the main parties to deliver the final blow to the FN in the second round of elections.

However, the FN’s political momentum appears undiminished. What was an untouchable xenophobic far-right party on the fringes of French politics is now a force that cannot be ignored. In the regional election, it received more votes than ever before, and the number of its regional councillors tripled to 316. Ever since she took the reins of the party, Ms. Le Pen has been trying to “mainstream” the FN without changing its basic ideological premises. She isolated the overtly anti-Semitic, racist wings of the party, and projected the FN as a nationalist force with tough views on security, terrorism and migration. The rising security challenges in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the inflow of refugees fleeing the conflicts in West Asia and North Africa, and persistent economic slowdown and the crippling austerity policies of the government that have strengthened calls for protectionism have all helped Ms. Le Pen sell her sectarian narrative to a large section of French society. The way the mainstream parties blocked the FN in the election is commendable. But it’s not a sustainable strategy. If the material conditions that helped the FN grow continue to persist, how long can the Socialists and the Republicans keep them away from power through tactical voting? This is the biggest challenge French politicians face. If left unchecked, the influence of the far-right sections could redraw the French political landscape, endangering the values of liberty, equality and fraternity.

tri·um·phal·ism
Excessive exultation over one’s success or achievements (used especially in a political context).

main·stream
The ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.

tac·ti·cal
Of, relating to, or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.

xen·o·pho·bic
Having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

crip·ple
Cause (someone) to become unable to move or walk properly.

aus·ter·i·ty
Sternness or severity of manner or attitude.

com·mend·a·ble
Deserving praise.

Business Standard

A vote for gradualism




At its two-day meeting this week, the United States Federal Reserve (Fed) lived up to expectations and raised its baseline policy rate by 0.25 per cent. The impact on world markets was generally positive. US short-term bonds hit five-year highs, equity indices gained, and the dollar showed an expected strength. Asia-Pacific, which was closely watched, showed a calm gain, as the FTSE Asia Pacific index went up 1.1 per cent. In initial trading, the major European indices gained between 1.5 and two per cent. In many cases, the gains were led by financial stocks. However, this exuberance did not extend to commodity markets, which continued their sustained gloom.

The strong response in the markets was thanks to a Fed statement that emphasised that its approach to future tightening would be cautious, and gradual. The Fed noted that US domestic inflation was still below its two per cent target, and that there was still room for the labour market to improve. This set to rest any questions about whether a sharp series of hikes was possible in 2016, and investors were consequently relieved. The Fed also indicated that its balance sheet would stay at its current extraordinarily large size until the rate-normalisation process was properly underway. It is being seen as unlikely that any further hikes will come before March and probably not before June, and the overall schedule will depend upon a clear observable, namely US domestic inflation’s divergence from the Fed’s target. In this response, however, some important data points are being missed — such as the fact that the Fed’s committee, judging by its forecasts that were released, generally believes that there will be at least four more quarter-point rate increases by the end of next year.

Investors were also cheered by the Fed’s cautious optimism about the state of the US economy. Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, viewed US domestic spending as healthy and “growing at a solid pace.” On the overall picture, she said: “The economic recovery has clearly come a long way, although it is not yet complete.” In general, investors interpreted Dr Yellen’s view of the US economy as rosy, and noted also that she did not seem to emphasise the existence of any major overseas threats to financial stability and growth recovery. She did admit to being “surprised” by oil’s continuing slide in prices, but insisted that, once oil stabilised, inflation would resume its steady rise.

The deeper point here is that the US Federal Reserve and Dr Yellen have clearly learnt from the “taper tantrum” that resulted when the Fed almost casually let slip in 2013 that its bond-buying “quantitative easing” programme would begin to be reduced in scale. Clear and coherent communication of its intentions has allowed markets to gradually price in the future. It is also worth noting that this is, in some sense, the beginning of the end of the extraordinary policies that were put into place worldwide following the 2008 financial crisis. Too many economies, including India’s, have begun to grow accustomed to those extraordinary policies, and the excess liquidity they provided. While India’ external account is stable, the government and the central bank must remain watchful.

grad·u·al·ism
A policy of gradual reform rather than sudden change or revolution.

ex·u·ber·ance
The quality of being full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness; ebullience.

cau·tious
(of a person) careful to avoid potential problems or dangers.

di·ver·gence
The process or state of diverging.

tan·trum
An uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.

co·her·ent
(of an argument, theory, or policy) logical and consistent.

ac·cus·tomed
Customary or usual.

Indian Express

A flying start


A little over a half-century ago, when the mayor of New York decided to rename Idlewild, or New York International Airport, after John F. Kennedy two months after his assassination, he declared that “Our purpose in gathering here today is to honour our international airport and our city and not the man whose name we take for this place and occasion. The name is already assured of remembrance in the chronicles of these times and of all time. Thus, we do not pretend to add to the name’s lustre by adopting it even for this great crossroads of the world’s skyways.” In the 52 years since, the naming of airports, especially in this country, has become imbued with the opposite spirit. Tamil Nadu CM J. Jayalalithaa skipped the 2013 inauguration of the new terminal at Chennai, slighted by the rejection of her proposal it be named after her mentor and AIADMK founder M.G. Ramachandran. When actor-director Girish Karnad suggested that the Bangalore airport be renamed after Tipu Sultan, he was caught in a double jeopardy — Hindutva forces attacked him for promoting a Muslim ruler, while the Gowda community took it as an insult to Kempe Gowda, the 16th century chieftain widely accepted as the founder of the city after whom its airport is presently named.
In Chandigarh, too, controversy has been brewing on the naming of the new airport terminal at Mohali, shared between Punjab and Haryana. There has long been a demand to name it after Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary freedom fighter. The Punjab Assembly passed a resolution to this effect in 2009. The present Haryana chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, said in September that he had no objection to the proposal. Most other political parties in the two states also agree on naming it after Bhagat Singh. Yet, more recently, Khattar has sent off a proposal to the Centre asking that it be named after the late Mangal Sen, deputy chief minister of Haryana between 1977-79, and an RSS leader.
Those accusing Khattar of insulting Bhagat Singh’s memory are doing the martyr a disservice. Not having his name adorn an airport does not diminish Bhagat Singh. What would be best, though, is for Chandigarh International Airport to be left with its present secular appellation, a precedent-setter in breaking away from the increasingly fraught exercise of naming public assets, caught between competing claims of political parties, religions, castes and linguistic communities. In any case, those who want airports named after their heroes (or heroines) would do well to remember that no one, except the flight attendant making the landing and take-off announcements, refers to the airport in Delhi or Chennai or Mumbai by its given name.
as·sas·si·na·tion
The action of assassinating someone.

lus·ter
A gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface.

im·bue
Inspire or permeate with a feeling or quality

jeop·ard·y
Danger of loss, harm, or failure.

chief·tain
The leader of a people or clan.

brew
Make (beer) by soaking, boiling, and fermentation.

mar·tyr
A person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.

dis·serv·ice
A harmful action.

a·dorn
Make more beautiful or attractive.

The Guardian view on the European summit: symbols before substance


The European project is today in a more fragile state than it has been for many years. Battered by successive crises, it is also trying to cope with a sea change in European public opinion. In country after country, the attractions of a simplistic nationalism the continent thought it had left behind are growing and the habit of blaming any bad news on Brussels is becoming more entrenched, while the relations between European partners are increasingly quarrelsome. Elections keep punching home this dismal message, most recently in Poland with the victory of the Law and Justice party in October, and in the French elections earlier this month, when the Front National, although its attempt to take control of some of the country’s regions failed, demonstrated its increased political weight. Law and Justice’s decision to remove the European flag from behind the rostrum from which its prime minister conducts her weekly press conference can be seen as symbolic of this shift. There are counter currents – Law and Justice is now slipping badly in the polls, for example – but the overall direction is clear

After Ukraine, Greece, the refugee influx and the terrorist attacks in Paris, Europe cannot afford another crisis. Yet one threatens, in the shape of David Cameron’s risky bid for concessions on British demands for changes in its relationship with the European Union. That bid both increases European fragility, because a British departure from the union could lead to a more general unravelling, and gives the British prime minister leverage he did not have in the past. Britain’s needs have moved along the spectrum from being a nuisance toward being an existential threat to the European Union. Unimportant in themselves, because they are largely imaginary and symbolic, they now have to be dealt with more seriously because of the larger implications for Europe as a whole.

To be fair to Mr Cameron, he is not alone in needing symbolic coin to help him prevail politically at home. Chancellor Angela Merkel is engaged in a not entirely dissimilar operation in her attempt, now largely stymied, to get Europe to share the burden of looking after Syrian and other refugees in some systematic way. She knows that whatever system might be agreed would be unlikely to be effective, but she needs something to show her voters that other Europeans are ready to relieve some of the strain on Germany. Most other Europeans, reflecting on the fact that Mrs Merkel helped stimulate a large increase in the flow of refugees into Europe without even a brief consultation with her partners, are unsympathetic, but recognise her difficulty.

Those European leaders who support the union, still by far the majority, are faced with a conundrum which has been part of the European project since its early days. Ordinary people tend to blame the problems with which European countries would have to cope whether there was a union or not on their transnational institutions. The changes in the global economy, which have undermined employment in Europe, would have happened with or without the EU. The status of Ukraine could well have been contested with or without an EU. And a Syrian civil war would have happened regardless of Europe’s political arrangements. What is less unfair is the perception that the union is failing to deal competently with these challenges. The disarray evident in the European ranks in the last two or three years, the failure to agree, the readiness to postpone and the angling for national advantage has led many citizens to conclude that the EU is not very good at protecting and looking after them, or is even compounding the difficulties of their lives.

Mr Cameron was given an opportunity to present his case to other European leaders in Brussels on Thursday evening, speaking for 45 minutes at the summit dinner and then fielding questions. He spoke well, and the atmosphere was warmer than it has been. Even though they think he has brought it on himself, his peers grasp that he needs some symbolic baggage to take home with him. But everything he wants is difficult. “Ever closer union,” for example, has been effectively off the agenda in the European Union for years. Mr Cameron’s government knows that, yet it still wants those words struck out as far as Britain is concerned. It is a clear example of how dangerous the game of symbols has become. For want of concessions that are not real, what is real – an imperfect union that is nevertheless better than none at all, or one still weaker – could be thrown away.

sub·stance
A particular kind of matter with uniform properties.


frag·ile
(of an object) easily broken or damaged.

bat·tered
Injured by repeated blows or punishment

en·trench
Establish (an attitude, habit, or belief) so firmly that change is very difficult or unlikely.

dis·mal
Depressing; dreary.

un·rav·el
Undo (twisted, knitted, or woven threads).

sty·mie
Prevent or hinder the progress of

co·nun·drum
A confusing and difficult problem or question.

dis·ar·ray
A state of disorganization or untidiness.







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