EDITORIAL

Big loss, no doubt

It is a pity that a forest area of ten square kilometres has been lost to development activities in the State during the last two years. By all yardsticks it is a huge chunk of land. According to a recent report in this newspaper --- it quotes official sources --- forests are mainly losing to roads particularly those being constructed under the Prime Minister's Gramin Sadak Yojna (PMGSY). Well, it can't be our case that roads should not be built. We live in a tough terrain and suffer from poor connectivity. We do require an extensive road network for the sake of smooth life and .....more

Composite jewel

As and when there is a development about the twin lakes of Surinsar and Mansar in this region we feel thrilled. This is because it is a rare jewel in our planes which are starved of the likes of it. Gradually more and more people wanting a relief from the hustle and bustle of their urban habitats are visiting it. Only recently there has been reiteration in the State's official circles of the commitments made in the past to not only preserve it but also expand greenery all around it. The Union Government is said to have provided Rs 3 crore for the purpose. Its fascination for the task is evident from the fact that it has got the site included in the Ramsar list thereby joining a global pledge to rescue it as a wetland. Many of us may be aware that Ramsar is the Caspian seaside resort in Iran where a convention was adopted way back in 1971 for saving wetlands all over the world. The Ramsar Convention as the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is called is the only worldwide environmental treaty that deals with ....more

Learning from China
Regions as Engines of Growth

IN AND AROUND J&K
By D Suba Chandran

While China has been under extreme criticism in the national and regional media, during the recent months, there are lessons that India could learn on certain matters. Especially, in terms of how China has developed its peripheries; today cities like Kashgar, Kunming and Chengdu - capitals of Xinjiang, Yunnan and Sichuan respectively are world class cities. More than the growth in the urban centers of .. .. . . ......more

End of globalization as we know it

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

The world economy is showing some signs of revival. But this may be a false start. Globalization has encouraged the developed countries to transfer their advanced technologies to the developing countries. They no longer have absolute control of these technologies. ......more

JPC issue puts strains on polity

By Kalyani Shankar

The winter session of Parliament has ended without transacting any business with a frozen relationship between the ruling UPA and the opposition.
Both stuck to their position on the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the 2 G scam. The opposition and the government disappointed the public by not adopting a give and take policy but the rigidity is not . . .
....more

EDITORIAL

Big loss, no doubt

It is a pity that a forest area of ten square kilometres has been lost to development activities in the State during the last two years. By all yardsticks it is a huge chunk of land. According to a recent report in this newspaper --- it quotes official sources --- forests are mainly losing to roads particularly those being constructed under the Prime Minister's Gramin Sadak Yojna (PMGSY). Well, it can't be our case that roads should not be built. We live in a tough terrain and suffer from poor connectivity. We do require an extensive road network for the sake of smooth life and development. What is incomprehensible is why we are not able to compensate for the damage done to green wealth to the extent we eat into it. There is a system of compensatory afforestation. It is a widely accepted practice so that forests remain intact even while we proceed to develop a territory. Actually, our State has sufficient funds available for the purpose. Why are we not able to put them to good use? All proposals for diverting the use of forests are cleared by a high-powered body called the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), which is headed by the Chief Secretary. A perusal of some of its meetings suggests that it does go through the details, is circumspect while taking a decision but stops short of suggesting alternatives to compensate for the trees that will have to be cut. The Committee makes it incumbent upon the user agency not to dump debris on forest land and also sets the imposition of a heavy fine as a pre-condition for any damage caused. There is a clause by which it makes sure that there is no change in the ownership of the forest land "which shall return to the forest department free of any encumbrances when it is no longer required by the user agency and after rehabilitated properly by the user agency."
There does not seem to be any provision, however, by which the FAC seeks or can seek immediate raising of forests at alternative sites. In this context it is good to note that the draft State Forest Policy does have a healthy proposal. It notes that "significant forest area is lost due to diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes" and recommends: "(a) Diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes will be considered only as a last resort, after exploring all other alternatives, and not in a routine manner; and (b) in order to compensate for the loss of forest area on account of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes, other unutilised state lands appropriate for forestry land-use will be brought under compensatory afforestation."
It puts the issue in a better perspective and goes beyond merely roads: "…development processes have resulted in loss of forest area accompanied by an overall degradation of forest crop and forest soils… Further, due to continuous and unrestricted grazing, most of the forests in the State are deficient in regeneration. Other factors like forest fires, invasive weeds, unregulated tourist movement and lack of timely silvicultural operations also contribute towards failure of regeneration. Resultantly, more than 40% of forests in the State have slipped into the category of open forests." In brief, we have to reverse the present trend.

Composite jewel

As and when there is a development about the twin lakes of Surinsar and Mansar in this region we feel thrilled. This is because it is a rare jewel in our planes which are starved of the likes of it. Gradually more and more people wanting a relief from the hustle and bustle of their urban habitats are visiting it. Only recently there has been reiteration in the State's official circles of the commitments made in the past to not only preserve it but also expand greenery all around it. The Union Government is said to have provided Rs 3 crore for the purpose. Its fascination for the task is evident from the fact that it has got the site included in the Ramsar list thereby joining a global pledge to rescue it as a wetland. Many of us may be aware that Ramsar is the Caspian seaside resort in Iran where a convention was adopted way back in 1971 for saving wetlands all over the world. The Ramsar Convention as the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is called is the only worldwide environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem: "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world". The "wise use" has been defined as "the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development". "Wise use" has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind. For us it will be quite relevant and informative to recall the information about Surinsar-Mansar lakes, mentioned as a composite lake, in the Ramsar description: "Wildlife sanctuary, Hindu sacred site, freshwater composite lake, adjoining the Jhelum basin with catchment of sandy conglomeratic soil, boulders and pebbles, Surinsar is rain-fed with permanent discharge and, Mansar is primarily fed by surface run-off and partially by mineralised water through paddy fields, with inflow increasing in rainy season. The lake supports CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) and IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) red-listed Lissemys punctate (flap-shelled turtle), Aspideretes gangeticu (soft-shelled turtle), and Mansariella lacustris (medusoil colelentrate). This composite lake is high in micro nutrients for which it is an attractive habitat, breeding and nursery ground for migratory waterfowls like Fulica atra (coot), Gallinula chloropus (common moorhen), Podiceps nigricolli (black-necked grebe), Aythya fuligul (medium-sized diving duck) and various Anas (dabbling gucks) species. The site is socially and culturally very important with many temples around owing to its mythical origin from the Mahabharata period. Although the lakes support variety of fishes, fishing is discouraged for religious values. The main threats are increasing visitors, agricultural runoff, bathing and cremation rituals. Conservation is focused on awareness-raising."
It is recognised that wetlands constitute "a resource of great economic, scientific, cultural and recreational value for the community." The above short description tells us that we are in possession of unique aquatic wonder. By all means let us enjoy it. At the same time our approach towards it should be of utmost care. It will serve us only if we treat it with due respect.

Learning from China
Regions as Engines of Growth

IN AND AROUND J&K
By D Suba Chandran

While China has been under extreme criticism in the national and regional media, during the recent months, there are lessons that India could learn on certain matters. Especially, in terms of how China has developed its peripheries; today cities like Kashgar, Kunming and Chengdu - capitals of Xinjiang, Yunnan and Sichuan respectively are world class cities. More than the growth in the urban centers of these regional provinces in China, what is amazing to notice, is the policy space - domestic and foreign, that these regions enjoy vis--vis Beijing.
Beijing, over the years has invested heavily on the regions, especially in terms of building the regional towns into cities of world class; thanks to the infrastructural investment and better planning, these cities, far away from Beijing, are as colorful as any other major European or American cities. One could see, all the major international business organizations trying to find a space in these cities and expand their operations. Obviously, twenty years back, these cities were not anywhere close to what they are today. How did this change come about in the last two decades?
Three primary reasons could be identified for this transformation. First, a deliberate policy by Beijing, with a long term vision, backed by adequate investment at the ground level. Beijing over the years have made huge investments in all its provincial cities, with an objective, they will become the engines of provincial growth. Of course, there are critics, who will point out, such a strategy was implemented at the cost of rural China. In retrospect, one would agree, that the Chinese plans have succeeded - in making these cities as engines of growth in the provinces. One should visit these cities to understand the change, they have brought about.
Second, Beijing also allowed these provinces to become engines of regional growth. In particular, in terms of economic investment and foreign policy, the provinces were given space to pursue what is in their interest and desirable, as long as they do not affect the overall policy of Beijing. As a result, the provinces, could attract foreign direct investment and even pursue certain strategies vis--vis their neighboring regions outside China. For example, both Sichuan and Yunnan were given greater degree of freedom to work with the neighbouring Southeast Asia. Today, in fact, the Chinese foreign policy vis--vis Myanmar and the Mekong region, are pursued by these two provinces.
Third, and more importantly, the provinces grabbed the opportunity both vis--vis Beijing and the neighbouring regions. Both regions have been extremely successful in improving the infrastrutre, attracting foreign direct investment and more importantly, working with Myanmar and the Mekong region. The Kunming initiative, for example was the brainchild of Yunnan province, and Sichuan wants to improve relations with Myanmar, Bangladesh and India's Northeast. Not only in terms of infrastructure and foreign policy, but also in terms of intellectual investment, these provinces have gone much ahead. In variably, these Universities have specialized centers to study South and South east Asia, economic interactions, and Silk Route. The Sichuan University, even has a programme on Pakistan, when none of the Indian Universities have one!
What can India and J&K learn from this Chinese strategy? First and foremost, New Delhi should try to decentralize its foreign policy and look through India's sub regions - north, northeast and south. Each of these sub-regions have an important role to play vis--vis Pakistan and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Sri Lanka and Maldives respectively. Unfortunately, India's foreign policy is tightly woven from New Delhi's perspective and based very strongly in the South Block. India's Northeast, for long has been demanding a role in New Delhi's "Look-east Policy"; the Seven Sisters play a very crucial role vis--vis Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. Perhaps, they also have a major role to play vis--vis China, especially along the Stilwell Road.
New Delhi should also learn from Beijing in terms of treating its regions as engines of growth. How many cities in India's sub-regions in the north and northeast are world class cities? Are there any Kashgars, Kunmings and Chengdus in India? For long, in J&K and Northeast, New Delhi, invested more in terms of fire fighting - to address the insurgency situation, than to make them engines of growth. Accountability was not stressed and corruption was indirectly allowed to seep through; investment was more in terms of buying loyalty, than making the region - an engine of growth. Though the state capitals were flooded with funds, it went to fatten certain individuals, than creating world class cities in these regions. As a result, the state capitals even today remain merely a "town", congested, with no real economic opportunity.
Similarly, J&K can play a positive role vis--vis the Northern Areas, Tibet, Silk Route and even Central Asia. Is J&K ready and willing to play such a role? How can J&K contribute, and in return gain from such an interaction? Irrespective of New Delhi providing such a role to the regions, it will not hurt the State to make a set of proposals, based on a serious home work in terms of costs, benefits, advantages etc. New Delhi may ultimately see the logic in pursuing such a strategy - providing more space to the sub-regions in framing external relations; it may take place during the next decade or as Obama said in a different context - not during our life time. But it may and hopefully, it does.
J&K should prepare and pressurize New Delhi for such a strategy. Internally, it should start preparing for the intellectual investment. This is where the Universities have a major role to play; with the much experienced and forward looking Vice Chancellors like Prof Varun Sahni, Prof Riyaz Punjabi and Prof Siddiq Wahid in the helm of affairs in three Universities, J&K has a huge potential to make this intellectual investment now. It is important that the Universities invest in studies - from language, religion to economies, not merely in terms of teaching a course for a degree requirement, but from a perspective of knowledge. The State, then will have to make adequate space for this knowledge to be utilized; there is a need for more specialized research institutions and think tanks in J&K, which could attract the students from the Universities and provide policy inputs to the governments - both in the State and in New Delhi.
For long, J&K has become inward looking; historically, it has always been interacting with other regions. It is time, we start reading history and recreate that old magic. And pressurize New Delhi to ensure, that there are world class cities in J&K as well. Before doing that, let us do our home work and make the first investment.
(The author is Deputy Director Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies) New Delhi.

End of globalization as we know it

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

The world economy is showing some signs of revival. But this may be a false start. Globalization has encouraged the developed countries to transfer their advanced technologies to the developing countries. They no longer have absolute control of these technologies. As a result their erstwhile monopoly on advanced goods like computer servers, rockets, nuclear reactors, etc. has evaporated into this air. They are getting some royalty payments from the export of these technologies. But these decline with time. It is necessary to continuously generate new technologies to maintain the stream of income from royalty payments. This does not seem to be happening. In the fifty odd years after the Second World War many decisive technologies were developed. These included rockets, jet airplanes, computers, nuclear reactors, etc. But there has been no such development since the internet in the nineties. Thus they are now receiving fewer royalty payments but they have to compete with hi-tech goods produced in India and China. The low cost of labour provides a deep advantage to these developing countries. Developed countries will not be able to compete with hi-tech India. As a result the problems of the developed countries will only get worse.
This is inherent in the model of free trade on which present model of globalization is built. Globalization has actually made things difficult for the developed countries. It has encouraged them to transfer advanced technologies to the developing countries. For example, American and French companies are excited about transferring advanced nuclear power reactors to India upon the successful culmination of the nuclear agreement. In the result, American economy is fast losing its technological advantage and that country is slipping as seen in the hue and cry over outsourcing.
Globalization removes the comparative advantage of advanced technologies enjoyed by the developed countries till recently. Say the cost of production of nuclear power is Rs 2 per unit against Rs 4 per unit for thermal power. The cost of nuclear energy in the U.S. will be Rs 2. On the other hand India will have to produce thermal power at Rs 4 per unit if the U.S. does not export the technology of nuclear reactors. Consequently the cost of production of goods in India will be more and the U.S. can pay higher wages to its workers to that extent. But companies producing nuclear reactors will be deprived of profits from the export of their reactors. Corporations have an inherent tendency to make profits. They do not examine the long term consequences of their actions. In the result, they will supply advanced nuclear reactors to India, the cost of energy in India will also get reduced to Rs 2 per unit, and the U.S. companies will not be able to compete with India. Cheaper production in India will make it impossible for the U.S. companies to pay higher wages to their workers as they were paying previously.
Free trade has added to the woes of developed countries in another way. The daily wage of an unskilled worker in India is about Rs 200 against Rs 5,000 in the U.S. It has become profitable for U.S. companies to produce in India and export the manufactured goods to their home economy. Wal-Mart is procuring about 80 percent of its goods from China. Production of garments, toys and footwear has practically come to an end in the U.S. Such has happened because China and India have got the winning combination of advanced technologies and cheap labour. This is giving them a comparative advantage in a global marketplace. Wages of American people are under pressure for this reason.
Developed countries were protected against such competition previously. Advanced technologies were closely guarded. For example, India virtually begged for cryogenic engines for its space missions and super computers for its meteorological applications. These were denied at that time. Such restrictions are now pass. Instead Western companies are engaged in a fierce competition as to who exports most advanced nuclear technologies first to India. Developed countries had previously insulated themselves from competition from China and India in two ways-exports of advanced technologies was prohibited and imports of goods were subject to larger import taxes. It was possible for American companies to pay higher wages to their workers behind this protective shield which has since been dismantled.
The U.S. Government made a huge $700 billion stimulus package to bailout U.S. banks from the present crisis. The U.S. Government has indirectly bought these loans from crisis-ridden banks. This package was successful in lessening the immediate pain but it will wholly fail in solving the long term crisis. The stimulus package had has the consequence of artificially maintain high wages in the United States. The cost of production of American companies continues to be more than that of Chinese companies. American companies will therefore not be able to compete with India and China and the resulting downward pressure on wages of American workers will persist.
The solution for developed countries will come from adopting a protectionist stance. Developed countries will be better off if they impose high import tariffs. Such import taxes, when imposed on garments, for example, will lead to high cost of garments in the U.S. and, accordingly, it will become possible for U.S. companies to pay higher wages to the extent of import taxes. Import taxes will also put brakes in the penchant for exporting advanced technologies. Presently American companies are transferring advanced technologies, in part, because they want to import the goods produced. Use of advanced technologies lowers the cost of production in China and enables cheaper import of goods into the U.S. Higher import duties will lead to lesser imports and correspondingly lesser incentive for the export of advanced technologies. It is clear that present model of globalization has reached its end because there is no solace here for workers of the developed countries.
Where did the model go wrong? My reckoning is that there was misplaced trust in continuous development of new technologies. The U.S. left no stone unturned in having the TRIPS agreement included in the WTO. The underlying idea was that gains from exports of advanced technologies will be huge and more than compensate for loss of employment due to cheap imports. The gains were indeed huge-but only as long as new technologies were being developed. The model failed because new technologies failed to appear and the expected benefits from export of new technologies failed to materialize. The assumption that new technologies will continue to appear and provide a continuous stream of incomes to the developed countries has failed leading to collapse of globalization, as we know it.

JPC issue puts strains on polity

By Kalyani Shankar

The winter session of Parliament has ended without transacting any business with a frozen relationship between the ruling UPA and the opposition.
Both stuck to their position on the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the 2 G scam. The opposition and the government disappointed the public by not adopting a give and take policy but the rigidity is not going to pay in the long run as the issues are not going to go away. Chickens always come home to roost. If the political parties do not care about squandering public money there is bound to be more sessions like this.
Why is the government shying away from setting up a JPC? No proper explanation has come from the government or the Congress in this regard.
If the government has hardened its stand, the opposition too is equally adamant on accepting any other option. Reminding of the Bofors days, both are behaving in an uncompromising manner and the loss is to the exchequer, which is estimated to be more than Rs.150 crores.
The Congress has taken a conscious decision, even as it is under pressure from its UPA allies like Trinamool Congress and DMK (Both Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are going for Assembly polls next year) for considering a JPC. They would rather avoid corruption as a poll issue.
Why does the opposition want a JPC and why the government does not? The Parliamentary history shows that the opposition smells a rat when it finds that there is some prima facie case for demanding a JPC. The record shows that the outcome of Parliament's earlier JPCs had been not very successful on both establishing what had happened and punishing the guilty.
The Congress had setup two JPCs and the NDA had its share of two. In 1987, Parliament witnessed uproarious scenes resulting in the formation of a JPC, which was boycotted by the Opposition. Ultimately, the opposition rejected the JPC report and resigned en masse in 1989, a few months before the Lok Sabha polls.
The JPC setup to inquire into the Harshad Mehta stocks scam in 1992 did not succeed in its purpose. While Harshad Mehta was given a four-year sentence in 1999, the recommendations of the JPC were neither accepted in full nor implemented. However the government recovered the money owed by Mehta by selling his shares in the market.
The 2001 Ahmedabad share market scam involving Ketan Parekh resulted in formation of a JPC during the NDA rule. This too recommended sweeping changes in stock market regulations but they were diluted later but the money was recovered. The 2003 Cola JPC headed by NCP chief Sharad Pawar also did not pinpoint the defects in the system.
The government has said no to the JPC demand as most governments did earlier. With a four hundred plus majority the Rajiv Gandhi government learnt a lesson on the Bofors JPC. The usual tactics of the government is to resist the demand as long as possible just as the NDA did on the Kargil coffin scam or Tehelka.
Secondly, the Congress fears that the issue may be kept alive by the opposition for several months when the JPC would look into it and may lead to embarrassing media leaks.
Thirdly, there is an apprehension that a JPC could summon the Prime Minister but this may or may not happen. The JPCs formed on Harshad Mehta case and Ketan Parekh securities scam show that although they wanted to summon the then Prime Ministers, the idea was dropped and instead the Finance Ministers were called.
Fourthly, the real reason could be that the UPA may be in a minority in a JPC because of the strange arithmetic. According to the Congress calculations, in a 30 member JPC, the party may get just 14 members as the UPA has now 259 out of 545 as the others like the SP and the BSP support from outside. In the Rajya Sabha the UPA has only 91 out of 243. Ultimately, the two regional parties SP and BSP may hold the key, which the Congress wants to avoid.
The opposition is getting ready to take the corruption issue to the streets as elections to half a dozen assemblies are scheduled for next year. Secondly, this would give an opportunity for the left, right and centrist parties to come together on an issue which affects the public. They are planning for Bharat bandh, demonstrations and rallies. Thirdly, the opposition can keep the issue alive even in the next budget session and continue to stall the house. Fourthly the opposition argues that a JPC had wider powers than a PAC.
Parliament had been paralyzed on several occasions in all these years but is it good for democracy? There are so many vital issues like floods, price rise, inflation and even some of the laws are not debated. While it is true that the opposition has a right to demonstrate in the house there are other ways of making a point. Increasingly the members seem to believe that walking out and running to the well of the house give them media attention rather than making a good speech. While the Congress is talking of no work no pay concept, it needs a reform to bring in this culture. The government, on the other hand should realise that it is the job of the ruling party to run the house.
The winter session shows that there is lapse on the part of the government as well as opposition as they could have always found a via media. There should be some efforts to run the Parliament at least during the budget session rather than choosing the easy option of freezing it. (IPA)



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