Loose mouthed ministers

The UPA government has been running into rough weather due to incoherent opinion airing ministers and members. In the name of free speech, the UPA representatives have been foul mouthing about their own establishment. Of course, free speech is the hallmark of the Indian democracy. But most of the responsible people misuse their freedom and damage the government and the nation. In the cabinet system, members are entitled to differ, oppose and object to the policies and programmes proposed. Once the discussions are over and the proposal gets the cabinet nod then there is no question of difference of opinion coming from the cabinet members. This is like sleeping while on duty and shouting after the job is over. Immediately this kind of duty sleeping people should be kicked out of the government. Antara Dev Sen writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 28 May 2011 The damage control has begun. Three days after the minister of state for environment and Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) alumnus, Mr Jairam Ramesh, said that IITs and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) were not world-class institutions because their faculty and quality of research were not good enough, the government has protested. Yes, the IITs are world class, says Mr Kapil Sibal, Union minister for human resources development. Well, er, at least 25 per cent of the faculty is, anyway, since they are IIT alumni and Mr Ramesh says that the students are world class. And if their research work was not top international quality, it is because of the “ecosystem” — where the US spends $250 billion on research, India spends merely $8 billion. So while Mr Sibal declares that IITs are world class, his logic implies the reverse. Sure, we understand the constraints of the “ecosystem”. Though we may not accept that a quarter of their faculty is world class because they were once world-class students (which has no direct bearing on their quality as teachers). But what could the government do when the image of their top educational brand is trashed? The nation is paying an education cess, remember? This muddled, half-hearted, sarkari response characterises the attitude of the government in education. There are two issues here: the quality of our centres of excellence and the quality of education in India. First, the obvious. Are the IITs, apparently the crowning glory of our education system, world class? Depends. These are certainly excellent institutes. As Mr Ramesh said, they have some of our best students. And contrary to what he said, they do produce some remarkable research. But if the faculty is not “world class” it is because no one can fly high if tied to the apron strings of a stern yet callous government. Unless IITs — and other government-funded institutions — have the freedom to hire and fire teachers at their discretion and at better salaries, and the liberty to operate as they see fit, the best minds will escape to greener, freer pastures. Institutions may need regulation, but not crushing control. Also, the government has launched new IITs without hiring faculty, further pressuring existing IIT teachers. Besides, no government-linked institution in today’s India is truly world class, is it? Except for our institutionalised corruption, of course. According to Transparency International, India has an integrity score of 3.3, which makes it one of the most corrupt nations of the world. Happiness! A close second would be our institutionalised callousness. Take our home ministry dealing with top terror suspects from Pakistan — not exactly a low priority field. The error attacks in our attempts at cornering Pakistan with hard evidence are almost as terrifying as the terror attacks themselves. First we sent the wrong DNA sample, claiming it to be Ajmal Kasab’s. “A minor clerical error”, shrugged home minister P. Chidambaram. Then it transpired that two men on India’s list of most wanted terrorists allegedly hiding in Pakistan were in India — one in jail and the other out on bail. “An oversight”, said the minister. “A genuine human error.” Meanwhile, our investigative institution of excellence, the Central Bureau of Investigation, had reached Copenhagen to extradite Kim Davy, prime accused in the Purulia arms drop, with an expired warrant. Naturally, the Danish court refused. Yes, we are world toppers in institutional callousness. Anyway, returning to the IIT issue, it’s possible that the students make these institutes centres of excellence. Among 1.21 billion citizens, millions may be born with world-class intellect — then put into a system that meticulously constrains, limits, erodes and smothers talent and imagination. Naturally IIT students are brilliant — that’s why they are selected. And they have had less exposure to the harsh Indian social, political and cultural environment. The poor teachers have been dented, blunted, clipped and chipped by the system. This smothering of natural capabilities begins even before birth. We are killing more daughters than ever before through foeticide and infanticide. At 914 girls for 1,000 boys, this year’s census shows the worst child sex ratio ever. And criminal neglect of women also affects babies allowed to live. The mother’s health determines the health and development of the unborn child — and our pregnant and new mothers are so neglected that our future generations are born less healthy and already disadvantaged for learning. Poorer Indians grow up with less nutrition and fewer options for education, sometimes with no access to education at all. Worst off are girls and the lower castes, who face the double whammy of poverty and social discrimination. Successive governments have addressed these problems, though the education budget has rarely crossed three per cent of the gross domestic product. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan helped. The new Right to Education Act promising free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years offers huge hope. Integrated Child Development Schemes (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Schemes certainly help in giving nutritional support and incentives for educating the future generations. And starting hundreds of new schools may indeed offer new opportunities. But these are not enough. We need to look not only at quantity, but also the quality of school education. More than a quarter of schools do not have proper buildings or drinking water. Half do not have girls’ toilets. Most do not have proper teachers. Teacher absenteeism rages. Allotments for ICDS and MDM schemes are inadequate and do not always reach students. And endemic class, caste and gender discriminations spawn systematic deprivation of large sections of society, institutionalising disparity in educational achievements. Sadly, our attitude towards excellence is to neglect schools for the masses and focus on elite institutions of higher education. Sure, we need centres of excellence, but we can’t be proud of tiny islands of well-funded distinction in a sea of hopeless, life-sapping neglect and illiteracy. If we really want to debate our educational excellence, we should stop this elitist navel gazing. And focus on good primary and secondary education for all. That social vision could change our collective future. And make us truly world class.

Sex is like hunger. It is badly needed when there is a desperateness. Civilisation and moralism cannot stop human beings when there is over desperation. This final feeling drives people on the peak of popularity to leave everything on air and indulge in sexual acts. Be it molestation, rape or any unwanted and undesirable sexual conduct. Countless cases can be cited.  Recent case is the out of mind and in of the sexual urge of Domnique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced ex chief of IMF.

Maureen Dowd writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 20 May 2011

Oh, she wanted it.
She wanted it bad.

That’s what every hard-working, God-fearing, young widow who breaks her back doing menial labour at a Times Square hotel to support her teenage daughter, justify her immigration status and take advantage of the opportunities in America wants — a crazed, rutting, wrinkly old satyr charging naked out of a bathroom, lunging at her and dragging her around the room, caveman-style.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a thrice-married French seducer loses something in the translation.

According to the claims of the 32-year-old West African maid, what took place in the $3,000-a-day Sofitel suite had nothing to do with seduction. If the allegation is true, Strauss-Kahn’s behaviour, boorish and primitive, is rape.

Was the chief of the International Monetary Fund telling other countries to tighten their belts while he was dropping his trousers? Lawyers for the 62-year-old Frenchman, who had been a leading Socialist prospect to run against Nicolas Sarkozy next year, seem ready to rebut any DNA evidence by arguing that sex with the maid who came in to clean his room was consensual.

Will they argue that she wilted with desire once she realised Strauss-Kahn had been at Davos?
Jeffrey Shapiro, the maid’s lawyer, angrily rebutted that there was “nothing, nothing” consensual about the droit du monsieur. (It was not a “come in and see my monetary fund” kind of thing.)

“She is a simple housekeeper who was going into a room to clean a room”, Shapiro told the New York Times. He called the devout Muslim woman from the Bronx “a very proper, dignified young woman” and said “she did not even know who this guy was” until she saw the news accounts.

Strauss-Kahn’s French defenders are throwing around nutty conspiracy theories, sounding like the Pakistanis about Osama. Some have suggested that he was the victim of a honey-pot arranged by the Sarkozy forces.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a friend of the accused, says he is outraged at the portrayal of Strauss-Kahn as an “insatiable and malevolent beast”. He wrote on the Daily Beast: “It would be nice to know — and without delay — how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a ‘cleaning brigade’ of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet”.

At least he didn’t mention Dreyfus. For years, I’ve stayed at the Sofitel and other hotels in New York City, and I’ve never seen a “brigade”, simply single maids coming in to clean.

In Washington, they have now nicknamed the street that separates the IMF and the World Bank, where Paul Wolfowitz lost his job over financial hanky-panky with his girlfriend, the Boulevard of Bad Behaviour.

These are the two institutions that are globally renowned for lecturing the rest of the world on discipline and freedom, when it’s the West that’s guilty of recklessness and improvident behaviour. First in finance, then in sex.

People who can’t keep their flies zipped lecturing other people.

While the French excoriated the American system of justice — discouraging pictures of Strauss-Kahn handcuffed, which are illegal in France — Americans could pride themselves on the sound of the “bum-bum” “Law & Order: SVU” gong sounding, the noise that heralds that justice will be done without regard to wealth, class or privilege.

It’s an inspiring story about America, where even a maid can have dignity and be listened to when she accuses one of the most powerful men in the world of being a predator. (A charge that has been made against him before, with a similar pattern of brutal behaviour.)

The young woman escaped horrors in her native Guinea, a patriarchal society where rape is widespread and used as a device of war, a place where she would have been kicked to the curb if she tried to take on a powerful man. When she faced the horror here, she had a recourse.

Another famous European with a disturbing pattern of sexual aggression got in trouble over the help this week: The ex-governor of California, who got elected after his wife, Maria Shriver, defended him so eloquently against groping charges.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was also guilty of the raw assertion of male power. More than mere infidelity, The Sperminator was caught on lying and piggishness, having a son with a staffer around the same time Maria had their youngest son, who is now 13. He kept the staffer on the payroll and even may have brought the son Maria didn’t know about into the house. No wonder Maria fled to a Beverly Hills hotel.

We’re always fascinated with the contradiction that cosmopolitan, high-powered, multilingual people can behave in such primitive ways. But civilisation and morality have nothing to do with sophistication and social status.

The lesson of these two fallen grandees, as Bill Maher told Chris Matthews, is: “If you’re going to go after the household help, get a ‘Yes’, first”.

Osama’s end should end Pakistan’s evil designs

Egg on the face of Pakistan. Operation Geronimo had thrown foul egg kept secretly for the past one year. Now the evil state of Pakistan can’t deny that terrorists are staying on its soil. In fact it has been the breeding of terrorism for years. The ISI and political establishments although function divergently but convergences in terror matters. Especially the India matters  unites all wings of Pakistan.

Without catching red handedly, USA can do little against Pakistan. At this stage it is wise to use Pakistan with all attractions including a liberal funding and then end the evil designs promoted by the state and non state actors in Pakistan.

Christina Lamb writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 5 May 2011

Even those of us who did not believe that Osama bin Laden was producing his videos from a cave in a remote tribal mountain would never have guessed that he was, in fact, living in a “Come and Get Me” three-storey house surrounded by cabbage fields just down the road from Pakistan’s top military academy.

To many in Washington, here was final proof — if any were needed — that its supposed ally has been playing a double game; that, for the past 10 years, Pakistan has been playing the role of US ally (and taking more than $18 billion of American aid) while all the time sheltering the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“The game is up”, a senior Pentagon official told me the day after Bin Laden’s killing, admitting he felt “a darned idiot” for being played for so long.

Last year I went for lunch in Abbottabad, Bin Laden’s adopted hometown, which nestles in green hills about 90 minutes’ drive from Islamabad. It is one of those pleasant former British military cantonments that in colonial times were known as hill stations.

I didn’t notice a large compound behind 12ft-high white walls that never threw out its rubbish and had no phone or Internet connection. I did notice, though, that the town was crawling with military. It houses the Pakistan Military Academy, and is a favourite location for retired generals.

Little wonder that John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, says it was “inconceivable” that Bin Laden did not have a significant “support system” in Abbottabad. He did not need to say that the only organisation in Pakistan that could have supplied such support to Al Qaeda is its military intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Leon Panetta, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, told congressmen in a closed-door briefing, “Either they (Pakistan) were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be”.

So far, Pakistan’s establishment seems to have gone for the latter. An unnamed ISI officer said they were “embarrassed” at having missed Bin Laden. This from an agency that follows every movement of every journalist that comes into the country; that has thousands of agents in taxis and hotel lobbies, tracking every foreigner who arrives.

The problem with this defence is that Bin Laden’s choice of hideaway fits a pattern. Every top Al Qaeda operative arrested in Pakistan has been living in a city, often in military areas. First there was Abu Zubaidah, Bin Laden’s chief recruiter, picked up from a villa in Faisalabad in March 2002.

Then in March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was arrested from a house in a military cantonment in Rawalpindi, a mile down the road from Pakistan’s General Headquarters.

Why should any jihadi settle for a cave when Pakistani military neighbourhoods are so accommodating?
The truth, which has now become harder to ignore, is that Pakistan is the destination of choice for would-be terrorists.

It is home to a tangle of jihadi groups, initially formed with the intention of fighting in Kashmir. It is a land of training camps and safe houses, and of madrasas with their pools of potential recruits. A study by terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank of the New America Foundation has found that, of the serious terrorism plots or attacks against the West over the past seven years, 42 per cent had direction from jihadist groups in Pakistan and 52 per cent had training in Pakistan.

From the beginning, Pakistan’s double game has slowed Western progress in Afghanistan. The Taliban would never have recovered from being ousted in 2001 without their safe haven in the Pakistani town of Quetta. Those of us who went there to report on how the Taliban were openly regrouping and training found ourselves picked up by ISI (in my case at 2 am from my hotel room) and unceremoniously kicked out of the country.

After my deportation, the head of consular services at the British foreign office called me to his grand office in Whitehall to apologise at not having done anything to help. But, he said, “You have to understand we need Pakistan”. For a decade, the West has decided it was too much trouble to confront the problem — that it was easier, diplomatically, to turn a blind eye.

After Bin Laden’s capture, this is harder than ever. “We have to either grit our teeth, declare victory and move on — or declare war on Pakistan”, said a US official.

It looks as if the West wishes to grit its teeth yet again. For his part, Mr Brennan is focusing on what progress Pakistan has made. “It has captured and killed more terrorists inside its borders than any other country”, he says. “By a long way.”

Washington’s problem is that it still needs Pakistan’s help. According to Mr Brennan, a dozen of the top 20 Al Qaeda figures are still believed to be in Pakistan. Not to mention co-operation on possible plots being launched on the West.

Without Pakistan’s cooperation it would be hard for the American military to supply 140,000 Nato forces in landlocked Afghanistan. And of course who wants to take on a country that is estimated to have around 200 nuclear warheads? “We have all the leverage”, grinned a Pakistani officer I talked to in Rawalpindi last month.

But as the Bin Laden raid showed, the US does not always need Pakistan to go about its business. The mission was accomplished without informing Pakistani authorities, not even when Pakistan scrambled military jets to go after the intruder. This will encourage the powerful voices in Congress, who are arguing that support for Pakistan should stop.

Dana Rohrbacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told me, “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder… We were snookered — for a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards, drink whisky and look Western they fooled a lot of people”.

When Mr Panetta, the CIA chief, was interviewed by Time magazine this week, he said that “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission” because “they might alert the targets”. It is difficult to come any closer to accusing Pakistan of being in league with Al Qaeda. Opinion polls in Pakistan have long ranked America as a greater threat than Bin Laden.

Now the world’s most wanted terrorist has been found in Pakistani suburbia, it may indeed be the US that Pakistan has to fear.