EDITORIAL

Angel tree

If there has been an example of the use of a most appropriate expression it is that of "angel tree" in the case of a tree coming in the way of a major road accident in Nowshera tehsil in Rajouri district. It stopped a bus from rolling down into a gorge. At least 52 children had a miraculous escape as a result. That they were injured --- five of them seriously --- is no doubt a matter of concern. Yet, one would say, it is some relief considering the worst that could have happened. The facts of the incident are self-explanatory. The children were in their school bus. From the available details it appears that the vehicle was jam-packed and was being driven rather fast to cover a distance of about nine kilometres in 20 minutes on a hilly road. As it reached the Narian Army camp the driver lost his control while negotiating a sharp curve. The bus headed towards a nearly 300-feet deep ravine. Lo and behold! It suddenly came to a halt 40 feet of its frightening descent. It was held back by . .. ....more

A fort in Leh

Any mention of a palace in Leh immediately draws attention to the nine-storeyed imposing structure on a hill overlooking the Leh town. It was built by Ladakh's illustrious ruler Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. For long it has been in ruins but has been considerably retrieved now by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which has taken over it. Undoubtedly it is the most prominent showpiece of the district headquarters of Leh district which has the Stok Palace as well about 20 kilometres away across the mighty Indus. Between the . ....more

Mid year look
UPA must ensure stable governance

By S. Sethuraman

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh delivered a balanced appraisal of where the nation stands after 63 years of independence, the most significant part of his address on August 15 being that, "we do need to implement schemes we have started" effectively, minimising " ...more

NLA will scare
away suppliers

By T. K. Krishnamurthy

What was meant to be landmark legislation for this country-and for the most part it still is -- has been marred by the inclusion of certain clauses that are clearly at odds with the overall philosophy behind the bill.
For the first time in independent India, a contemporary liability framework for nuclear ..
....more

Restore peace in Valley

By O. P. Modi

Kashmir valley, the paradise on earth, has suffered hellish conditions for the last two decades. Year after year it has turned into a dangerous region particularly at the peak of tourist's season. This year the situation worsened when record number of tourists was in the Valley. Within a few days the scared tourists left the state. In the violent agitation that followed 63 persons died and over two thousand were injured within two and a half months. Yet there is no sign of an end to this unfortunate imbroglio. Obviously .........more

EDITORIAL

Angel tree

If there has been an example of the use of a most appropriate expression it is that of "angel tree" in the case of a tree coming in the way of a major road accident in Nowshera tehsil in Rajouri district. It stopped a bus from rolling down into a gorge. At least 52 children had a miraculous escape as a result. That they were injured --- five of them seriously --- is no doubt a matter of concern. Yet, one would say, it is some relief considering the worst that could have happened. The facts of the incident are self-explanatory. The children were in their school bus. From the available details it appears that the vehicle was jam-packed and was being driven rather fast to cover a distance of about nine kilometres in 20 minutes on a hilly road. As it reached the Narian Army camp the driver lost his control while negotiating a sharp curve. The bus headed towards a nearly 300-feet deep ravine. Lo and behold! It suddenly came to a halt 40 feet of its frightening descent. It was held back by a mighty pine tree which firmly held its ground bearing its full impact. It is a sight the very thought of which is enough to send a chill down one's spine: shrieking children in a bus virtually hanging in the air. Normally one encounters such spectacles only in our Hindi movies. It is a pity that the driver fled from the spot; he was arrested later. It is strange that human beings tend to develop cold feet when they are required to be at their best. Fortunately, some of us are made of different and stronger metal. The proximity of the spot of mishap to an Army site turned out to be the next best thing to have taken place after the tree.

The jawans rushed to evacuate the children and shift them to the Nowshera hospital in the Army vehicles. They have earned our eternal gratitude especially of the parents of the children. It is because of these saviours that we can look forward to celebrating the coming festive season with usual gusto. At the same time we should be obliged to the nature which has come to our rescue and concurrently reminded us of the necessity to save its precious assets for our own safety. The angel tree is actually a reminder to us of the angels on Christmas trees to herald the birth of the Messiah. It is said the fairy at the top of the Christmas tree was originally a little figure of the baby Jesus which in the late 17th century Germany became a shining angel. For us the Nowshera tree represents the virtual rebirth of more than 50 children.

Once again we are face to face with the issue of making sure that there is discipline on our roads. Prime facie it is reckless driving that nearly plunged all of us into grief in the present occurrence. When will we learn to be more careful? When do we realise the worth of our lives? Of course, there is another lesson to be learnt for us now. We should plant more trees on the slopes of our hills. These are good not only for our sight. These are good not only for our natural environment and splendour. These also act as buffer to save our lives at critical junctures.

A fort in Leh

Any mention of a palace in Leh immediately draws attention to the nine-storeyed imposing structure on a hill overlooking the Leh town. It was built by Ladakh's illustrious ruler Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. For long it has been in ruins but has been considerably retrieved now by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which has taken over it. Undoubtedly it is the most prominent showpiece of the district headquarters of Leh district which has the Stok Palace as well about 20 kilometres away across the mighty Indus. Between the two palaces one can study the history of the Ladakh region --- an idyllic land of brave and hard-working people many of whom are at present endeavouring to strike a balance between modernity and traditionalism. In between the two palaces there is on one side the Zorawar Fort built by Gen Zorawar Singh, the legendary army commander of Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of our unique but controversial state. An article in a recent Sunday magazine of this newspaper has rekindled the memories about the Zorawar fort. It is presently under the control of the Army and we are now told that the ASI is keen to occupy and maintain it. From all accounts it is a rare piece of history --- a heritage site. There is a difference between a palace and a fort. A palace is the home of royalty. A fort on the other hand is a fortified place or position occupied only by troops and bordered with a ditch, rampart or a parapet. The Zorawar Fort, it is stated, had housed 300 soldiers and 30 Artillery men to crush any challenge to Maharaja Gulab Singh's authority in the region. It is made of local material including mud bricks and has a moat around it. It is only too well known that after Ladakh Zorawar Singh had turned his attention towards Tibet --- a bold expedition during which he was killed. His exploits are thrilling.

It is relevant to recall an agreement signed between the Dogra rulers and Tibet and China after Zorawar Singh's forces put up a determined fight and avenged his death. Known as the Treaty of Chushul it says: "On this auspicious occasion, the second day of the month Asuj in the year 1899 we -- the officers of Lhasa, viz. firstly, Kalon Sukanwala, and secondly Bakshi Sapju, commander of the forces of the Empire of China, on the one hand, and Dewan Hari Chand and Wazir Ratnu, on behalf of Raja Gulab Singh, on the other -- agree together and swear before God that the friendship between Raja Gulab Singh and the Emperor of China and Lama Guru Sahib Lassawala will be kept and observed till eternity; for the traffic in shawl, pasham, and tea. We will observe our pledge to God, Gayatri, and Pasi. Wazir Mian Khusal Chu is witness." What has happened in Ladakh later especially in 1962 and in recent years has been witnessed by one and all. There is nothing permanent except change. But even to learn this we have to have some evidence around. Who will overlook the significance of the Zorawar Fort in this context?

Mid year look
UPA must ensure stable governance

By S. Sethuraman

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh delivered a balanced appraisal of where the nation stands after 63 years of independence, the most significant part of his address on August 15 being that, "we do need to implement schemes we have started" effectively, minimising " corruption and misuse of public money". Would it be too much to expect that it (implementation) would be the core of the agenda of his Government if UPA-2 is to scrape through the rest of its five-year term, with semblance of credible governance?
Pointers are not promising. Even in one of his earlier utterances on such a day, PM said he would not promise new programmes but would focus on implementing what had been promised. That is the promise we keep looking up to all the time to see some telling results. But the visions of a "New India" he often talks are ever receding. We are back to the vagaries of agriculture and its deleterious consequences for rural incomes, productive employment and food prices affordable prices for the vast majority of India's poor and low-income humanity, rural and urban.
It is these classes - some 700-800 millions - who have borne the brunt of food price inflation, conveniently overlooked by the UPA Government right from mid-2008. It is in this milieu that the 2009 electoral promise of food security net is being held up as an earnest of Government concern and that necessitates a relook at agriculture. Apart from any likely reinvigorated thrust in agriculture, some hope may also lie with the proposed Borlaug Institute of South Asia to be established in India to make available new and improved seeds and technology to farmers. We are prone to draw comfort from such extras.
Prime Minister took justifiable pride of India becoming the "fastest growing economy" earning the respect of the world and how Government remains committed to the vision of New India in which every citizen will have a stake. No doubt enactment of "rights" to information or education and the rural employment guarantee programme extended countrywide, were cited by him without minimising "serious challenges", including the large deficit in infrastructure building. The access to education for every child in theory has to be translated into reality, though it clearly falls within the sphere of states which, by and large, have become more assertive of their autonomy and making new demands on the Centre.
The Government certainly needs wider public support for tackling problems, whether in dealing with Naxalite violence or ensuring respect for law and order in several areas, notably in Jammu and Kashmir where unfortunately, it has not consistently pursued the parallel path of political consultations leading to a greater measure of autonomy, given the special circumstances of a state drawn into the vortex of international politics. We are treading the same ground after spells of inaction and relative neglect in many areas, not just J and K but also rights to livelihood as in land acquisition and other natural resources for the down-trodden.
Economic and Social development must, therefore, get closely integrated in the 12th plan, drawing lessons from the sad experiences so far, but this need not delay earlier actions such as on development plan for the tribal areas the Planning Commission is working on. Inflation will be an irksome drag on inclusive growth over the short term. No one complains of higher minimum support for farmers, cited by official sources as one of the factors, but that cannot cause an almost doubling of cereal prices. The Prime Minister was clearly on the defensive on inflation in his Independence Day address and expressed confidence of succeeding in the effort to bring down inflation.
The levies in the budget and post-budget rise-cum-deregulation in petrol/diesel prices have also contributed to surge in the wholesale price index. The Centre has blamed States for inaction, and we are yet to see what the committee of Chief Ministers, set up with a fanfare in January last at the height of food price inflation, produced by way of remedial measures. RBI has been calibrating monetary policy to lower inflationary expectations though it cannot be effective where supply-side deficiencies are concerned. With double-digit WPI inflation, RBI must continue to act as it deems appropriate, when it comes out with the first of its six-weekly reviews of global and domestic trends to strengthen its hold over monetary and credit policy in these extraordinary times.
Politically, the Government is coming under severe pressures, partly due to its own failings, and largely from a multi-faceted opposition with enough ammunition in their hands, as has been witnessed in Parliament from day to day. If BJP has risen from the electoral debris and is putting on muscle, Government has no comfort from the regional secular parties, with their own narrow sectional interests, and whose continued support from outside has become unpredictable. More frustrating for the UPA Government must be the internal differences even among Congress Ministers on major policy issues on the one hand and the open dissent of its two power-sharing regional allies, TMC and DMK.
The survival strategy for UPA-2 has involved a series of policy adjustments and compromises. Unobtrusively, issues of strength and stability for Government to make and implement policies have begun to arise in the murky political atmosphere. The Prime Minister has long delayed a reconstitution of the Cabinet, such as would give it a better image and engender a greater sense of confidence that Government would deliver on what it says. Public expectations from UPA-2 stand lowered and as of now, the political outlook is far from sanguine for the Government to address its own electoral promises and push through long-delayed reforms.
Adding to its difficulties would be the uncertainties surrounding the outcome of state elections, first in Bihar, then in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, before May 2011, and later UP in 2012. Questions have already come to the fore about the durability of the present DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu even though the Centre has so far put up with the nostrums of DMK Supremo Mr M. Karunanidhi. He is pitching his demands high and resisting GST in the context of forthcoming elections and his declared goal of consolidating Dravidian rule in Tamil Nadu. TMC leader Ms. Mamata Banerjee, who wants to oust Left in West Bengal, dictates her own terms for the Congress in the state and in going along with Centre in economic decision-making.
Two areas where Government wants to earn credit - growth and fiscal consolidation - should not be grudged. The Finance Minister was fighting a desperate battle to get on with the Goods and Services Act without alienating the states, along with the proposed Direct Taxes Code, for ushering in major tax reforms in fiscal year beginning April 2011. Even after the Finance Minister giving up a veto power, states are dragging their feet raising uncertainty of its introduction from April next. Equally. (IPA)

NLA will scare
away suppliers

By T. K. Krishnamurthy

What was meant to be landmark legislation for this country-and for the most part it still is -- has been marred by the inclusion of certain clauses that are clearly at odds with the overall philosophy behind the bill.
For the first time in independent India, a contemporary liability framework for nuclear damages has been put in place that eliminates the need for the victim to prove who is responsible for causing a nuclear incident, whether there is fault, negligence or intent, or whether there are any legal defences that might be raised. This has been accomplished by instituting 'strict' liability for the operator who, according to Clause 6 (1) of the act, has to cough up damages of up to a maximum of Rs. 1500 crore.
This is a major move forward, since both the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Public Insurance Act, 1991 are silent on the issue of nuclear damages. And in the absence of a separate liability framework for nuclear damages, compensation in the event of an incident would have been ad hoc and, at best, rather similar to the way in which victims of railway accidents find redressal or, at worst, would have resulted in a legal circus as in the aftermath of Bhopal.
However, all that is now in the past and a liability law that is broadly in consonance with the Paris Convention (1961), Vienna Convention (1963) and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (1997) is now in place, which not only employs a broad definition of nuclear damages but seeks to incorporate cross-border effects.
The operator liability cap of Rs. 1500 crore or roughly $ 322 million is fairly decent by international standards. France, a country which has a nuclear setup similar to India's, albeit much larger, calls for the operator to have a financial security amount of only 91 million Euros. The bad news for consumers, of course, is that the insurance premium will certainly be reflected in the cost of power.
Additionally, under clause 7(a), the Act enjoins upon the government to make good on losses over and above the limited liability of the operator, in the event of a nuclear incident. It also makes the Government liable in the case of an accident at a nuclear installation owned by it. The Act also calls for the setting up of a Nuclear Damages Claims Commission which can become an example for regulatory methods in other industrial segments as well.
From what we have seen above, it would seem that the Civil Liability Bill has managed to confer adequate protection to citizens while putting in place a liability framework that would allow India to engage in international nuclear trade to foster nuclear power development in the country as the best option to generate clean form of power.
Unfortunately, in reality it is not so simple. After initially drafting what, by international standards, is a very sound piece of legislation, political pressure has forced the government to incorporate a rather debilitating poison pill in this Act as represented by Clauses 17(a), (b) and (c) that allow the operator a 'right of recourse' vis-a-vis a supplier. The new wording of clauses 17(b) and (c) in particular will certainly act as deterrent for many suppliers.
Earlier, 17(b) had the words 'wilful act and gross negligence,' but these were deemed as vague by the parliamentary standing committee on the bill, and have been dropped. As a result clause 17(b) now reads: "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services." This means that 'strict' and 'no fault' liability have been extended to suppliers and this is at odds with standard international practice wherein liability is legally channelised only to the operator and the supplier is exonerated.
As a result, suppliers will now have to seek insurance for their supplied components in the country, which will naturally lead to an increase in the price of the same. This, in turn, would get reflected in the capital cost of nuclear power thereby putting it at further disadvantage vis-a-vis other sources of generation like coal that do not internalise the social cost of their pollution, which nuclear does.
Given that the bill has no provision for how the liability amount will be apportioned in the event that the right of recourse is exercised, industry will definitely be scared to participate in the nuclear sector, since not many may be willing pay $ 300 million for a fault in some minor piece of equipment!
Clause17(b) particularly disincentivises hundreds of small suppliers contributing to the existing three-stage nuclear programme, who are definitely not in a position to obtain insurance cover for potential liability that may be several hundred times their turnover. Small suppliers like Kaybouvet Satara now say that they are anxiously watching tender documents that will be issued by NPCIL in the coming months to see how these reflect clause 17(b) before they make a quotation.
The liability bill began as an exercise to bring nuclear governance structures in India to match with international standards and attract the global nuclear industry to participate in India. However, far from giving foreign suppliers what they seek, exoneration from liability, this bill has now managed to not only worry global majors, including the Russians, but also present a challenge to the domestic programme by scaring away existing suppliers. This will certainly have long term consequences for the pace of nuclear power development in India. (INAV)

Restore peace in Valley

By O. P. Modi


Kashmir valley, the paradise on earth, has suffered hellish conditions for the last two decades. Year after year it has turned into a dangerous region particularly at the peak of tourist's season. This year the situation worsened when record number of tourists was in the Valley. Within a few days the scared tourists left the state. In the violent agitation that followed 63 persons died and over two thousand were injured within two and a half months. Yet there is no sign of an end to this unfortunate imbroglio. Obviously this all is planned by none other than (ISI) the well known enemy of people of J&K. One of its strategies is to create greater and greater discontent among the people. What has happened in the Valley is extremely saddening. Only a stone hearted person would not be touched by the loss of life and injuries to such an extent. However, violence can be ended and normal conditions restored if everyone, particularly the separatists, dispassionately ponder over the following irrefutable facts.
Fact one: - All Ministers including the Chief Ministers take office under an oath that they will uphold the Constitution of India.
Fact two: - Cessation of any state or Union Territory is not allowed in the Constitution. Therefore every one who takes office under oath of upholding it is duty bound to fight any attempt to break away from the territory of India. It has to be thwarted, even by force if the dialogue process fails. There can not be any compromise over the issue of sovereignty and integrity of the country.
Fact three: - Violence begets violence and love begets love.
Fact four: - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are integral part of the State and they must remain so in the interest of trade commerce and industrial development which are interdependent.
Fact five: - It is imperative that all the three regions of the state should remain united to maintain the secular character of not only the state but also that of the entire country.
Fact six: - Despite the call for a non-violent agitation given by Hard Line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani the violence has continued and more lives have been lost.Fact seven: - Majority of the people of the Valley is not in favour of joining Pakistan as they are fully aware of the pathetic conditions there. Just recollect how large a number of men and women took part in the last Assembly elections in Kashmir.
Every one knows that there has never been a true democracy in Pakistan. Presently that country is torn by opposing forces like weakened ISI and the terrorist organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohamed, Al-Qaida, Jamait-U Dawa , and Pakistani Taliban etc. Bomb blasts have become a routine. Even Mosques have not been spared. The elements inimical to Democracy and peace are trying to capture power in there. The country is a pawn in the hands of USA. It has depended upon America for not only its arms supply but even for the salaries of its establishment.
Why is it not perceived by the separatists that people of Ladakh and Jammu are totally against separation from India? Most of them would like greater integration with the country. If the agitators that are clamoring for Azadi (independence) are aware of this truth then they should also ponder as to in what geographic and strategic position the Valley will be placed as an independent region. It will be a land locked region that is bound to become vulnerable to annexation by the expansionist countries. An independent Valley, devoid of any resources, will become a hot bed of international intrigues and conflict.
China has already grabbed part of Ladakh in Aksai Chin. It has swallowed Tibet the water store house in the Himalayan region from where major rivers like Brahmaputra, Sutlej and many others flow down the Indian sub-Continent. It is reported that China is planning to divert river Brahmaputra at the northern most tip of Assam to supply water to its adjacent parched lands. If it can do all that it should not be difficult for the separatists to realize that for China it will be a child's play to march through Ladakh towards the so called "independent Valley" of their dreams.
Another scenario as to what could happen to the "independent Valley" is that as soon as the Indian security forces withdraw from it LoC will become redundant and the dream land of the separatists will be overwhelmed by the Taliban of all hues turning it into another Afghanistan. Perhaps, the separatists and their followers' may be hoping that the tottering Pakistan will come to their rescue in that case!
Recall what happened in October-November of 1947. Several thousand 'Kabalis' (Tribals from North East Of Pakistan) with the support of Pakistan attacked the Valley plundering and even desecrating the religious places. They took away a number of women who were openly auctioned in Peshawar and other places in Pakistan. Those who forget the lessons of history are bound to suffer again.
It is for the people of the Valley to consider all the foregoing facts free from emotions and make concerted efforts to restore peace and normalcy keeping in mind the future of all the people of Jammu & Kashmir state.



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