30-Nov-2005

Two Scripts

From The Hindu:
In the Congress party the script is that the MLAs first say they leave the choice of leader to the high command; then an elaborate exercise is done to ascertain the wishes of the MLAs; and finally, a "leader" is elected who then takes office as Chief Minister.

The BJP turned the procedure on its head. The central leadership pronounced its wishes and "anointed" the leader, and then the MLAs went through the motion of electing him. To that extent Ms. Bharti's charge has some merit. But then she did not protest when she was "anointed" in a similar fashion.

A Half-Step Forward

The PMO has tried to disincentivise the adulterers by this step. But why not go the whole distance and remove the difference fully? Sloppy thinking?

Unions In BPO Industry

Union leaders may be dialling the wrong number in trying to unionise BPO workers, says The Telegraph. This is good inspite of the mixed metaphors:
...the unions are on a wild goose chase. Unless, of course, they are able to organize white-collar unions, customized for the BPO sector, with monthly meetings slated in local discotheques to discuss issues such as triple digit increments.
The article also notes that the BPO industry is now more than just call-centres:

The nature of the BPO industry itself is undergoing a radical change. Some of the best Mumbai law firms are now working for swish legal outfits based in New York and getting paid top dollar. European design houses are migrating high-end products to India, while Fortune 500 companies are increasingly relying on Indian firms to do data modelling, gather business intelligence and help them take the next big investment step in Dow using sophisticated software applications.

Would these well-qualified professionals spend their time in forming unions? Unlikely. But are unions needed in the BPO industry? I would say yes. How else would they organize themselves for the fight over that coffee maker that hasn't been working since last night?

Bitter Fruit

Lust for power says Mr Vajpayee. That settles the fruits-of-victory question.

29-Nov-2005

Land Rights For Tribals

The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Land Rights) Bill 2005 is attracting passionate criticism. I didn't know what to believe, before I read this in The Hindu. The article prompted me to go through the bill itself - why not see this evil bill with my own eyes, I thought. And the bill gives the lie to much of what the writer writes, in my opinion.

He says:
It may end up as a ploy to get the forestland in the name of the tribal people and then grab it from them.
I say: The bill clearly specifies that the rights are inheritable but not 'alienable or transferable'. Unless the legal meaning of 'alienable or transferable' are different from the dictionary meanings, grabbing the land from the tribals would not be possible. Not much more so than now, when the forest department owns the land.

He provides anecdotal evidence of how the forest tribes' conventional livelihoods may be vanishing, and suggests the tribals may not remain guardians of the forests. In fact they may destroy the very forests:
However, such is the force of technology, industry and development that in a few decades these sections [forest dwelling tribals] have aggressively exploited all the forest they could lay their hands on. They have drilled into the forest to mine for stone or ore. They have logged for wood and bamboo. They have, for their use, pushed for more monoculture plantations like eucalyptus. In short, they have brutally laid the forest low.
He does not specify where the things he mentions happened - are they isolated incidents or widespread? Judging by his citing the Gujjars, this does appear to be isolated. Whatever be the case, the Bill specifically prohibits such activities. It makes it clear that the land is for habitation or self-cultivation only, including use for grazing. Using the land for exclusively commercial purposes is nor allowed. Also, they can use only minor forest produce which is defined as:
all non-timber forest produce of plant origin including bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers and the like;
All other activities are offences and can lead to loss of the right to the land. The tribals also get the additional responsibility of protection, conservation and regeneration of forests, along with the authority of ownership.

Mr Soni admits that forests have been ravaged for development and that the diminishing habitat is the problem. He then surprisingly agrees "that the forest dwellers would not have allowed the pernicious forces of development to pillage the forests." If he believes that then why all the scare-mongering about mining and logging by the tribals?

Mr Soni then goes on to another point:
Reportedly, about seven per cent of India's population is tribal or wilderness based and only 8 per cent of the country's area is left with dense forest cover. If these two are to go together our prime wilderness will have the average population density of the country. By no account is this the definition of a wilderness and by all accounts it is a recipe for disaster.
...
Certainly, tribal people should have a stake in the management of the forests; the Bishnois in Rajasthan with their conservation ethos are some of the most passionate and effective protectors of forests and wildlife, but it is clear that all forest dwellers cannot live in the prime forests.
The Bill differs (9. Checks and Balances):
There is no distribution of land involved at all and Bill will not cover the entire 8.2 % ST population. Only tribes scheduled for the area living in the forests will benefit. A tribal from an outside area/State will not benefit. The Bill in actual terms will only benefit the tribal population on “as is where is basis”.
Who is already there, stays - so the situation won't change due to the bill. They already are in the forested areas. According to this from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs:
More than half the Scheduled Tribe population is concentrated in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand and Gujarat. The main concentration of tribal population is in central India and in the North-Eastern States.
That taken along with this map, makes that clear. And nowhere does the Bill say that the tribals will be given only prime wilderness. The overall forest cover is around twenty one percent. Presumably some of it may be inhabited currently by the scheduled tribes.

Like he says, giving land rights to the scheduled tribes and cooperative effort by the tribes and the forest department seems to be the way to go. So why exactly is the Bill evil?

Tone It Down

Says The Hindu about the very visible endorsement of Karzai by the Manmohan Singh govt, that has led, it suggests, to the Taliban targeting Indians and hence the Maniappan killing:
It is well within the grasp of Indian diplomacy to tread softly when it treads on other peoples' dreams. India could do well by emulating other regional powers or, better still, by reverting to the traditional policy toward Afghanistan followed by Delhi till the mid-1990s: emphasise people-to-people relations; proceed vigorously with technical and economic cooperation; maintain correct government-to-government relations but on a low key at least till the anarchic conditions change for the better.

26-Nov-2005

More Things Change - 2

More they remain the same. As it is in politics, so it is in sports. From IE:
...the Indian team came across an unusually greenish pitch that favoured the superior South African pace attack. While curator Prabir Mukherjee claimed that it was a ‘‘sporting wicket’’, it’s learnt that Dravid and coach Greg Chappell had wanted the grass to be cut.
One understood Ganguly when he asked for the grass to be cut, which he was reported as asking for many a time and loudly. Now, when He Who Is Afraid Of The Fast'ish Ball is not playing, one fails to understand why the new captain and coach are following in his footmarks.

PS: One worries about the Indian team after reading this in IE. Its members seem to have such fragile minds that they almost seem neurotic. Most of all, one worries for Laxman after reading about his tenuous (thin/dilute/flimsy) psyche.

25-Nov-2005

Numbers Didn't Add Up

For the UPA since they were anything but 'United' says The Telegraph. Link via Amit Varma.

A Life Like Any Other

With a plan for the future and a hope for happier times spent with wife and children:
When Maniappan was posted in Afghanistan he nurtured the hope that he would get that little extra cash as foreign posting allowance and risk allowance. (Even this was a pittance since he was a low-rung employee.) He wanted to build a house, set up an automobile workshop and look after his wife and two little children when his 20-year service with the BRO ended five years from now. In one fell swoop, a machete ended all his dreams in a pool of blood in the wasteland of ethnic conflict.
Why is there so much of a fuss about pre-marital sex but not about this death? Why are we in Afghanistan and Iraq anyway with the security situation as it is in both places?

Better Than Nuclear

Thermonuclear power. But it is at least 25 years away. Meantime, why is it that countries like the US impose such tight restrictions on nuclear power which could solve to a great degree the problems of countries like India?

False Dichotomy

T K Arun in ET, noting that it cannot be empowerment vs development, but both together for either to succeed. Along the way he has points out the short-sightedness of political parties as entities only meant for fighting and winning elections:
If [the Congress] thinks that investing big in health, education and social security, as promised by the Common Minimum Programme, will get it the votes it needs, it is sadly mistaken. Only when political parties actively lead, do sarkari measures deliver on the ground and people make a connection between leaderspeak and the actions of babus.

In other words, salvation lies in resurrection of the political party as an institution and redemption of political practice from the combination of rent-a-crowd and muscular influence-peddling it has been reduced to.Politics as patronage attracts opportunists and those on the make to the party.

Such people cannot perform a political party’s essential job of constantly mediating between the state and the people in a fashion that changes their lives for the better. That calls for people with a sense of public purpose, of commitment to society’s collective welfare. Such party workers can be attracted and retained only when the party stands for a goal over and above power and pelf.

Queer Pitch

I nearly did a delayed double-take after watching Arun Lal prod the pitch pensively. How come so much grass on it? Ravi Shastri had caught on: 'Remember, Ganguly is not playing this match. If the groundsman prepared more of these kind of pitches for the local matches, Bengal would be a far better team". Not much guessing needed as to what was going on in his mind. In another intriguing development, Ntini pulls out after falling down during a friendly football session, just twenty minutes before the toss. Meantime, it is official, NDTV has it straight from the bookies mouth:Indian: 77 paise, SA : 125 paise. India favourites.

24-Nov-2005

Laloo And Saurav

The inevitable comparison in this editorial form Hindustan Times. It also notes the anti-incumbency increasing rearing its head:
the macro picture presents a disconcerting fact that increasingly elections are not being ‘won’ by parties in India; rather they are being ‘lost’ by the incumbent. Barring West Bengal, where the word ‘change’ has become archaic in the context of political choices, most elections in the past decade have been negative votes. Among the handful of ‘positive’ mandates, the BJP’s victory in Gujarat was different to Sheila Dikshit’s return in Delhi because Narendra Modi rode to victory on the combination of the explicit slogan of ‘Gujarati asmita’ and the implicit plea of “vote me because I have taught ‘them’ a lesson”. Be it the case of the UPA at the Centre, the Congress in Andhra Pradesh or the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, all of them came to power because of the negative sentiment against the party in power.
It also notes that political parties become lethargic once they are voted out:
This brings us to the worrisome fact that political parties are increasingly getting struck by paralysis once they are made by the electorate to sit in the opposition benches. When the NDA ruled at the Centre, its best ally was the Congress and for the past year and a half, the BJP has spent more time to exorcise itself of ‘evil spirits’ than trying to combat the UPA government. Opposition parties have also limited their role to rumpus managers in Parliament and state assemblies while the more back-bending job of building mass movements is left to peripheral players — be it the jholawallahs, the anti-dam lobby or even Naxalites. We are thus becoming a nation of lethargic politicians who would rather wait for the adversary to make a mistake than try to take the bull by its horns. That even this strategy is succeeding must be noted by all leaders — especially Mulayam Singh Yadav, as Uttar Pradesh after Bihar might want to cast a ‘no’ against exclusivist politics and demand ‘development’ when polls are next held.
I think they are also struck by paralysis once they are made to sit in the government. Nothing happens for 5 years. Then they are voted out - anti-incumbency.

23-Nov-2005

The Voters Have Spoken

Now the editors have at it. DH and TOI call it a vote for change. DH urges the new government to concentrate on development and genuine social justice. The Economic Times calls it a defeat for identity politics, but add that caste still played a role - I need to think that one over. The Hindu counts the governor's rule and assembly dissolution as the main reasons for the defeat. It rues the decline in voter turnout - a measly 45% this time round. The Telegraph sees the defeat as the failure of a small-time politician - Laloo - who rose to power holding out a huge promise. It points out that law and order and keeping caste clashes in check need to be the top priorities, but hesitates to predict the impact on the centre. Elsewhere it calls the decision to stick with the RJD a fatal shift for the Congress, and notes that the poor also look for an alternative. Ashok Desai Malik of the Indian Express vents his anger against the Congress here, but for a more balanced view IE also carries an editorial from someone from the state itself, Prakash Jha, here.

More Things Change

More they remain the same. Tucked away in the corner of page 8 in DH, this nugget:
‘Criminals’ come up trumps
Patna, ians

Barring a few exceptions, most known criminal-politicians who contested the Bihar assembly polls emerged winners on Tuesday.

The JD (U), which is set to become the state’s ruling party, tops the list of parties with poll winners who have a criminal background.

Laloo Prasad’s RJD, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and the BJP follow JD (U). These criminal-politicians are locally called “bahubalis” for their combination of political and muscle power.
Italics, of course, mine. A political party does not arise out of nowhere, nor does it exist in a vacuum. It draws on the conditions surrounding it if it wants to contest and win elections. What is needed is a person who can change the conditions. Will Nitish Kumar be that person? Maybe. Will we shortly start hearing excuses like "It is difficult to change in five years what was in place for 15 years"? Again, maybe.

22-Nov-2005

Great Editors Think Alike

I read an editorial today in the Vijay Times dated 22 Nov 2005, which started off like this:
Day after tomorrowTomorrow, when Parliament's Winter Session begins, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Ministers will discover just how wrong things have gone for the UPA Government and, consequently, for the country in the past couple of months.

The Congress has managed to paint itself into a corner over issues ranging from corruption at high places to compromising India's national security and conceding ground to terrorists.
And it goes on. It is not very difficult to discern which way this paper leans politically - even before the owner joined the JD(S) - so the editorial was not very surprising. But what was surprising was what happened later. Deccan Herald has a 'What others say' column in its Panorama section. Today it had this extract:
When Parliament's Winter Session begins, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Ministers will discover just how wrong things have gone for the UPA Government and, consequently, for the country in the past couple of months. The Congress has managed to paint itself into a corner over issues ranging from corruption at high places to compromising India's national security and conceding ground to terrorists.
Yes, it is the same as the Vijay Times editorial. But wait! DH attributes this to The Pioneer! And truth be told, The Pioneer almost the same editorial. Here. I said "almost" because there is a difference. Day after tomorrow in The Pioneer editorial has become Tomorrow in the Vijay Times editorial. Makes sense, since The Pioneer's editorial appeared on November 21. Also, the Vijay Times editorial appears to be truncated and some passages from the original left out - at least in the epaper version. I'm not sure it is not so in the hard copy.

So what is happening? Editors thinking alike to the exact words? Someone handing out editorials to selected newspapers? Or plagiarism?

NDA Ahead

Trends in 155 seats, NDA combine ahead in 95, Laloo in just 38.

Update: Laloo routed comprehensively.

20-Nov-2005

Information, Propaganda

Via Poorman.
A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on “covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations.” In a “secret amendment” to Pentagon policy, the report warns, “psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies.” The report also concludes that military planners are shifting away from the Cold War view that power comes from superior weapons systems. Instead, the Pentagon now believes that “combat power can be enhanced by communications networks and technologies that control access to, and directly manipulate, information. As a result, information itself is now both a tool and a target of warfare.”
Italics added. Truly the Information Age has dawned. Or maybe afternoon'ed. Or whatever, like Sania says.

19-Nov-2005

14-Nov-2005

School Interviews

Back from an interview at a school for my son's admission. Phew! Hope that's the last one. Won't know till mid-December though.

Demilitarisation For Peace? Bah!

The Pakistani Prime Minister puts forward a ridiculous suggestion - that demilitarisation could be a step towards peace in the sub-continent. Doesn't he know that Punjabiat could be the key?

PS: If you don't want to wade through my verbiage here is the direct link to Ms Tavleen Singh's article. The issue-clinching quote is of course this:
Meanwhile, let us celebrate Punjabiat because, as analysts cleverer than I have pointed out, it could be the key to peace on our benighted sub-continent.

Power To The People

An glimpse into some steps proposed for private players' entry into the electricity industry and the lessons learnt thus far, by Prem Shankar Jha in DH.

12-Nov-2005

The Prodigal Son Returns

My ongoing thought on the continuing unsuccessful extradition of Salem was : Hell. Do India's concerns matter at all outside its borders? Hence naturally, my first reaction yesterday on hearing of the successful extradition of Salem and his lady was : So. India's voice is also carries some weight. Good show folks!

There is always the worm in the fruit though. It turns out the extradition was based on two conditions. No life sentence, no death sentence. The decision to accept these was the UPA NDA government's, NDTV newspapers report. The government will go on the mat once again, though it really shouldn't have to. Already there are reports of the court reacting angrily to the conditions.

The Portuguese must have a pretty low opinion of our judicial system if they put these conditions right? And our government must have displayed unpardonable weakness by accepting the conditions, no? No. The facts are different. The Portuguese have a law that bans extradition for crimes which are punishable by death. And Portugal has banned life sentences itself. So, it isn't such a bad deal at all, is it? The choice to me looks like this:
Abu Salem in India facing jail for a maximum of 25 years and the potentially huge amount of information he brings OR nothing.
Is it a really difficult choice to make? I think not.

11-Nov-2005

Mutlabi PM

Whose parliament votes against a measure to detain people without a charge for 90 days, up from the current 14. Who do we copy now?

09-Nov-2005

Metro Rail Meets Its End

So long, it was good to know you.
“The government is not against Metro Rail. But the project in its present form would increase the financial burden on the state government beyond its capacity,” Mr Sindhia [Finance and Industries Minister] said.

08-Nov-2005

Natwar Goes

Vijay Times said it best I think: Natwar becomes 'External' Minister. Of course why he still remains a minister without any work is good question. Why spend public money on him? They can't even take credit for doing the right thing - removing him from his External Affairs post.

Not to be outdone, the BJP has shot off a letter to the UN. They are acting like cats on a hot tin roof. Jumpy is the word. The Congress has too, but as Shashi Tharoor said on NDTV yesterday, it can't be blamed since the report mentions its name.

Also, a short history of the oil-for-food scandal. Some excerpts from a blog regarding the documents on which the Volcker report is based:
The alledged documents come from the Oil Ministry. You know, the one that Ahmed Chalabi heads. It seems strange in a country where oil output is about half of capacity during a time of high oil prices that the first thing he would do is fish Galloway's name out of a mass of paper. Particularly when Galloway had already won one libel suit. This is coming out of the Republican Congress because that is the only entity on the planet that wouldn't be sued for defamation on this.
...
Note that the memos haven't been produced, and will never be produced in such a form as to be open to examination. Given the long sordid history of manufactured memos, for example Yellowcake Forgery, it should be fairly clear that the credibility of self-serving documents from Ahmed Chalabi or anyone associated with the Administrations Iraq agenda are, to put it mildly, highly suspect.
Ahmed Chalabi being the guy who fed stories of Saddam having WMD to the US media and intelligence agencies and administration.

Staying with Iraq, U.S. Should Repay Millions to Iraq, a U.N. Audit Finds.

04-Nov-2005

Why Even Bother

Talking to the Americans? They keep coming up with more and more demands. On the other hand, this could be one more arm-bender for the upcoming Iran vote.

Most Misrepresented Report

Says the WB though not so explicitly. I was meaning to post on this sometime ago with link to a related presentation by the World Bank. But I the WB people have done it now. It was all based on a survey of 200 firms, half of them 'small firms'.

Silly Gowda.

03-Nov-2005

Volcker And The Oil-for-Food Probe

I refuse to believe anyone who looks like Natwar Singh could have ever taken kickbacks. I mean, surely that permanent angry look must stand for something? Most crooks flash wide smiles as they are led away by the constabulary. Not Mr Singh. He has something more serious on his mind than money and oil and even food perhaps.

If you are looking for more, let's say, mundane reasons for why he could not be involved, The Hindu has them here. I'll give a short excerpt here:
The second major problem with the investigative exercise was the composition of the "Independent Inquiry Committee." It was headed by Paul A.Volcker, former chairman of the chief occupying power's Federal Reserve Board. The two other members were Justice Richard J. Goldstone, a former judge of the South African Supreme Court and Constitutional Court who had made his mark in the law during the days of apartheid; and Mark Pieth, a Swiss law professor specialising in the tracking of transnational corruption, money laundering, and organised crime.

This composition explains the part Spanish inquisitional, part modern investigative, and, in consequence, biased and insufficiently transparent approach of the Committee. It explains the snap judgments and the loaded vocabulary of the report, starting with "manipulation" of the OFFP, "illicit income," and "humanitarian kickbacks." Functioning in the shadow of the U.S.-led military occupation of Iraq, the exercise fails to come clean on all its data sources, above all on the evidentiary basis of its listing of non-contractual political and other beneficiaries of Iraqi oil sales.
As an aside, the right-wing in the US has been tracking this probe with great anticipation. They don't want the UN to exist as it is. The president's nomination to the UN, Mr Bolton, has even said that nothing much would have been lost even if the top 13 floors (or thereabouts) of the UN building in New York is bombed. Mr Volcker himself is not very much in favour of it. This report could be so much red meat thrown to the packs.

Also, this episode has thrown up another joker. The reporter of the article asks him lots of question but one: why was he offered those millions by Saddam? What was the quid pro quo?

PS: I had Mr Bolton's comment on the UN wrong what he actually said was :
"If you lost 10 storeys, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
More fun quotes here.

IBM Acquires Land In Bangalore

Why, oh why can't they work out of rented apartments? Why do they need land? Aren't companies working out of rented premises providing jobs to Kannadigas? Why don't they listen? Are they going to start a malicious campaign too? Where will it all end?

02-Nov-2005

In A Spot - 021105

Next in the series. This time Tavleen Singh sees a grandiose clash between civil society and the political class in the Deve Gowda-Infosys spat. Like a true sage she foresees that the clash will only widen. Yeah, I'm sure people like Ramesh Ramanathan, who are working towards a partnership between these two, just don't get it.

Ms Singh recalls a recent visit to Bangalore and how she was impressed by the mid-day scheme run by ISKCON, and supported by Infosys. Enough to say airily:
It is my view that if Akshay Patra could be replicated in every district in India we could eliminate malnutrition and illiteracy.
Welcome to the real world ma'am. The political class beat you to it by at least 25 years, if not 50 years. They realised it and acted on the realisation, though learned people thought not very highly of their doing so. As one of the writers says:
Watching the 2004 drama unfold brought to mind a visit my colleague and I had made many years ago — 1980 to be specific — to Chingleput district, near Chennai. We made a round of visits to schools in villages run in sheds or under a tree to make a study of the Midday Meal scheme launched by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M.G. Ramachandran. Of course, the learned scoffed at the idea and the newspapers had dismissed it as a populist stunt.
Italics mine. One can always count on the learned to know better I guess. Also, the GOI launched the mid-day scheme in 1995 apparently, though the SC had to get into the act to force some states to go with it.

As for libraries, the government seems to have thought of that too. We used to and still have have City Central Libraries run by the government. There were no restrictions on who could go there. I myself finished reading Home's Iliad in one such library, a bit pretentiously I should add. They were good once upon a time, before the masses (including me) tore the books up and dog-eared them and wrote on them and then openly stole them.

This is not to say that Infosys, Infosys Foundation, Mohandas Pai, Sudha Murthy or Rohini Nilekani are not doing good. I have the utmost respect for what they are doing and are able to do. My crib is with Ms Singh who can be so "humbled" by individual private acts of goodness, but can only see government actions through a prism of negativity. I don't mean Mr Gowda when I say 'government'.

Blind Justice

Another development over the weekend was the indictment of a top government official, Scooter Libby, in the Bush administration. The background is this:

In the run-up to the Iraq war, as the Bush government tried to make the case for the war, some documents surfaced that seemed to show that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy some stuff in Africa that could be used for making WMD. The CIA sent a former diplomat to verify those claims. He found that the claims were false. But Bush had already included those claims in an important speech he made. The diplomat went to the press alleging that the administration falsified information to make the case for war stronger. The administration then started a campaign to discredit this person, by claiming that he was sent on the recommendation of his wife who worked at the CIA, and hence he was somehow not fit enough for the task and his opinion was worthless. Apparently, 'outing' a CIA agent is a felony in the US. The CIA asked for an inquiry as to how the name got leaked. After a 2-year investigation a special prosecutor has indicted the chief-of-staff of the vice-president. He is still investigating the political adviser to Bush, who may also be indicted. The current indictment is not for the act of 'outing' the agent, apparently there wasn't sufficient proof to bring that charge. It is for 5 other counts, one of them is obstruction of justice. Libby apparently tried to lead investigators down the wrong alley by lying at the beginning of the probe.

I watched the press conference of the special investigator. It was inspiring. He spoke in simple words. But the message was quite powerful. The guilty will be punished. At least in the US.

Republicans, even before the much-anticipated indictment were trying to spin it, saying that the indictment would not be for the actual crime, but would be based on 'technicalities', and so he should not bring the indictments. This is what the prosecutor had to say when a reporter asked him about this :
I'll be blunt.

That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, if you're trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven ... that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.

...

And if a truck driver pays a bribe or someone else does something where they go into a grand jury afterward and lie about it, they get indicted all the time.

Any notion that anyone might have that there's a different standard for a high official, that this is somehow singling out obstruction of justice and perjury, is upside down.

If these facts are true, if we were to walk away from this and not charge obstruction of justice and perjury, we might as well just hand in our jobs. Because our jobs, the criminal justice system, is to make sure people tell us the truth. And when it's a high-level official and a very sensitive investigation, it is a very, very serious matter that no one should take lightly.

Take that, youse! Now a criminal trial will start, but the indicted person has already resigned. For some more on the signifance of the forthcoming trial, read this from The Guardian, via DH.

The Delhi Blasts

One more attack. The K-problem needs to be solved fast, because it is very unlikely that our neighbour will help stop these attacks. One way not to go about it is what a front-page editorial in TOI (couldn't find the URL though) recommended. It concluded that this is war and that we need to put in place some tough laws, like the US has. This is not war, it is an act of terrorism. As for strict laws, what laws could we put in place that we don't have now? This Indian Express editorial, elaborates, taking lessons from Mr Blair's handling of the post-London bombing situation:
the message the government sent out was that there would be no compromising on national safety, whether at the political, social or legal level, even if it meant reversing some of the more liberal laws of entry, citizenship and prosecution.
It is difficult to disagree with that, but let me try. It is easy for the British and Americans to reverse 'liberal' laws of entry - they just hold people that don't look like them to a stricter scrutiny. We can't do that in our country - we all look alike, like south Asians. And even if we made entry tough - we have long borders where an entry could be affected, though not as easily. Laws of citizenship - the British say that they will send back anyone who preaches extremism. We are a country of 1 billion. Who will monitor who is saying what. As for laws of prosecution - the editorial is probably referring to holding suspects in secret, with recourse to legal help, with a little torture thrown in, a la Guantanamo. We already have that.

The Indian Express editorial is also funny in its belief that Mr Blair did something worthy of emulation post-bombings. Apart from the above, it notes:
The most important message sent out by the Tony Blair government was that it would not rest until it systematically got to the bottom of the entire episode and dug out the origins, methodology and purpose of the perpetrators. That steely determination was in itself a confidence building measure for a nation that had briefly lost its bearings.
Yeah, so he said he would find out what happened. Why does that even need to be said? What 'steely determination'? I think all he did was speechify in his usual high-sounding way. The changes to the laws effected may not suffice either. After all, the London bombers were British-born, British-educated citizens.

Of course, we need to catch the perpetrators before they do harm, but to rely only on that is to treat the symptom only leaving the root cause unattended to. And the root is finding a mutually acceptable solution to the core issue. The Hindu could be more relevant here.

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From a short visit to Hyderabad. Kingfisher does not provide their famous beer on this flights, but they do run on time. Hyderabad itself is nice - whatever we saw of it. Lots of things to see and do. We couldn't do too many things in the time we had, just a few. NTR park in the evening, washed out by the cyclone though. The award-winning Nehru zoo, clean and well-tended. It is huge, and we walked through all of it. It will leave you with a keen appetite, but extremely happy, especially if you have a wife and a 2-year-old with you. After that, you can take the safari ride and say hello to the lions and lionesses. Then Charminar, crowded beyond belief on account of Ramzan. The monument has been allowed to go to seed a bit, which is a tragedy. But the shopping around there is good. Lots of colourful things on sale during this season, and more than a handful people. Salarjung museum, very much worth the visit. The nice'ish drive along Hussein Sagar lake. The nicely-lit up Birla Mandir which we couldn't visit though. Boards advertising a mysterious Lasa and Lamsa Tea.

The place to quench that keen appetite is Paradise Hotel. We gorged ourselves with its biryanies. Apparently no one does anything else there. Three floors of seating and people still throng the takeaway counters. It does not even close during the late afternoon like we're used to in Bangalore. Maybe it was because of Ramzan. Whatever. I'm still pining for that biryani. And the kalmi kabab.