Search NEWS you want to know

Saturday, September 3, 2011

CVC to suggest changes in proposed Lokpal bill

The Central Vigilance Commission will suggest to the Parliamentary Standing Committee certain changes in the proposed Lokpal bill and pitch for greater powers to prosecute higher bureaucracy in corruption-related cases.

Senior officials in the country’s top anti—corruption body said that a detailed presentation explaining the Commission’s role in checking graft in government departments has been prepared for the perusal of the panel.

“There may be a conflict of interest in case the Lokpal comes into force in the form being envisaged by civil society.

The Commission is given wide powers to probe any complaints of corruption involving central government officials including those working in banks and public sector units, which will also be vested with the Lokpal,” a CVC official said, requesting anonymity.

The Commission, comprising Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar and two of his deputies R Srikumar and J M Garg, will present their views in this regard on September 7 before the House committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.

“We will explain that there has to be proper division of work between the CVC and proposed Lokpal. The powers of two bodies should not be made contradictory to hamper probe in corruption cases. We need certain changes in it.

“The panel should consider incorporating either the Central Vigilance Commissioner or one of the two Vigilance Commissioners into the Lokpal for smooth functioning,” the official said refusing to divulge further details on the CVC’s presentation.

Israelis hold ‘million-man march,’ call on Netanyahu for economic reform

An estimated 400,000 Israelis protested against high living costs on Saturday and poured into the streets of major cities, mounting pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to consider economic reform.

Organizers had called for a “million-man march,” while protest leaders called the movement a “moment of truth” for the Israeli government.

Protesters believe they not have felt the benefits of living in a nation that enjoys a growing economy and a low unemployment rate. Wage disparities and heavy tax burdens, on the middle class in particular, have caused thousands of demonstrators to call for reform.

Israeli news channel 10 estimated that 400,000 people were demonstrating in cities and towns across the Jewish state, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.
But Israeli police had declined to give estimates for crowd figures, despite giving figures for earlier protests which first began in July, inspired by groups of student tent-squatters.

The majority of protesters on the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday are mostly young and secular, AFP reported.

“An entire generation wants a future,” read one banner held by a protester, as demonstrators shouted “the people demand social justice.”

“Tonight is the pinnacle moment of a historic protest,” Amir Rochman, 30, an activist from Israel’s Green Party told Reuters.

Addressing the crowd in Tel Aviv, student union president Itzik Shmuli said the turnout showed the continued strength of the movement, AFP reported.

“They told us that the movement was slowing down. Tonight we are showing that it’s the opposite,” he said.

“We are the new Israelis, determined to continue the fight for a fairer and better society, knowing that it will be long and difficult,” he told the cheering protesters.

Protesters accuse Netanyahu of failing to take seriously their calls for sweeping economic change. Young people have spoken of their inability to find affordable housing, while many Israelis have also complained of rising food and commodity prices.

Demonstrators have laid blame on Israel’s main supermarket chains for unfair pricing. One sign carried by a demonstrator in Tel Aviv on Saturday read: “The land of milk and honey, but not for everybody,”

The popular movement has catapulted the economy onto Israel’s political agenda upstaging a diplomatic face-off with the Palestinians for UN recognition of statehood and posing the greatest challenge yet to Netanyahu, halfway into his term.

The weekly protests prompted Netanyahu − a champion of free market reform − to set up a committee now exploring a broad revamp of economic policies. The government has also announced housing and consumer market reforms.

But Netanyahu has warned he would not be able to satisfy all the protesters’ demands, ranging from tax cuts, to expansion of free education and bigger government housing budgets.

“Priorities must be set, one thing comes at the expense of another,” Roni Sofer, a spokesman for Netanyahu, told Israel Radio on Saturday, adding that the government would not break its budget.
Netanyahu’s governing coalition faces no immediate threat, but the protests have underscored the potential electoral impact of a middle class rallying under a banner of “social justice” and rewriting a political agenda long dominated by security issues.

Seif al-Islam Qaddafi near Tripoli and sees victory, says his spokesman

Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam has been travelling around close to Tripoli, meeting tribal leaders and preparing to retake the Libyan capital, his spokesman said on Friday.

In a telephone call to Reuters in Tunisia from what he said was a “southern suburb of Tripoli,” Moussa Ibrahim derided the ability of the National Transitional Council to run the country after its rebel fighters forced Gaddafi into hiding and said their Western backers should negotiate with the ousted leader.

And he mocked “the irony” that NATO was now allied to an Islamist fighter who once had contact with al-Qaeda and to whom the new government has given military command of the capital.

Sounding relaxed and speaking English in tones familiar from his many televised news conferences at Tripoli’s Rixos hotel during the past months of civil war, Ibrahim declined to be specific about where he was calling from -- though it was indeed a Libyan number which appeared on the caller-ID screen.

“I move around a lot and I don't have an Internet connection at the moment,” he said, after giving his current location as “a southern suburb of Tripoli.”

“Actually,” he went on, “Only yesterday, I was with Mr Seif al-Islam. I joined him on a tour circling Tripoli from the south.” London-educated Seif, long seen as Qaddafi’s heir apparent, had met tribal leaders and other supporters, he said.

“We are still very strong,” he added, giving no information on the location or condition of Muammar Qaddafi.

There was no way to verify his comments which, like those broadcast this week by Qaddafi himself and by Seif, serve as a public reminder to Libyans that the man who ruled with his family for 42 years remains at large and may pose a threat, at least by means of a guerrilla war, to the new authorities.

NTC officials say they believe Seif al-Islam and his father, both facing international war crimes charges, have regrouped around the desert town of Bani Walid, which lies 150 km (100 miles) southeast of Tripoli. The area, like Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte on the coast, is not in NTC control.

Echoing comments made by Qaddafi and his son in recent broadcasts from hiding, Ibrahim said: “The Transitional Council and the armed gangs do not control the country. Our army still controls many regions of Libya ... We will be able to capture Tripoli back and many other cities in the near future.”

“The fight is very, very far from over ... We can lead it from street to street, from house to house.”

Repeating allegations that Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the NTC military commander for Tripoli, is an al-Qaeda supporter, Ibrahim said: “For God’s sake, Tripoli is governed by ... a very famous international al Qaeda leader.”

“He’s a star of terrorism,” he added, in comments which may resonate with some in the West who have voiced concern about the role of Islamist movements in the Arab Spring revolts in Libya and elsewhere against secular autocrats.

“The citizens of the West need to understand that their politicians are ... aligning with the most evil forces.”

“Al-Qaeda is fighting with NATO against us.”

Security experts dispute that view. They say Belhadj, in common with many Arab dissidents who sought refuge in Taliban-run Afghanistan in the 1990s, had dealings with Osama bin Laden while there, but that he opposed al-Qaeda’s transnational, anti-Western campaign of violence.

Ibrahim said fighting would continue if the NTC and its Western allies did not accept a window of opportunity to negotiate now with the Qaddafis: “They need to negotiate with us ... otherwise they will never have a country to govern.”

A failure to talk soon could lead to “total war, not just in Libya,” Ibrahim said. “God knows what consequences that will have for Europe and the northern coast of the Mediterranean.”

Such fighting talk has been a staple of Qaddafi and it remains unclear what forces he can draw on, though analysts believe the threat of an Iraq-style insurgency is real. Less realistic, analysts say, is the ability of the 69-year-old leader or his sons to take back the power he seized in 1969.

Nonetheless, Ibrahim insisted: “Within even a few weeks, a few months, even a couple of years, we will have Libya back.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Qadhafi is fine, says son

Muammar Qadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam vowed on Wednesday to fight to the death, insisting nobody still loyal to the regime would surrender to the rebels. He said he was speaking from the suburbs of Tripoli and insisted his father was fine.

Loyalist leaders, meeting in the Qadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid have insisted “We are going to die in our land,” Seif al-Islam said in an audio statement was broadcast on Al-Rai television station. “No one is going to surrender.”

His statement came shortly after another statement by his brother, al-Saadi. Mr. Al-Saadi offered a softer tone, saying he’s ready to mediate talks with the rebels in order to stop the bloodshed.

“The most important is to stop the bloodshed,” al-Saadi told Al-Arabiya.

A rebel commander in Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, said earlier Wednesday that Mr. al-Saadi was trying to negotiate terms for his own surrender. When asked about that report, Mr. al-Saadi said he had talked to Mr. Belhaj and several other rebel officials, but there was confusion over the exact details of the offer. He said he was ready to surrender but only to stop the bloodshed.

The duelling audio statements came as the rebel forced pressed toward two of the loyalist main strongholds, Mr. Qadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and the desert town of Bani Walid. The rebels also say they are closing in on the elder Qadhafi, who has been on the run since rebels swept into the capital last week. Mr. Belhaj said earlier that Muammar Mr. Qadhafi is most likely no longer in Tripoli.


Loyal followers of Muammar Qaddafi are refusing to surrender

Loyal followers of Muammar Qaddafi are refusing to surrender to
those who have forced him into hiding, raising the prospect of new fighting in Libya when an ultimatum expires after this week’s Eid holiday

"Qaddafi not finished yet"

Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who as Qaddafi’s justice minister until turning against him this year has had ample opportunity to observe the survival instincts of one of the world's longest ruling autocrats, warned again on Tuesday:

“Muammar Qaddafi is not finished yet.”

“He still poses a threat to Libyans and the revolution. He still has pockets of support in Libya and supporters outside Libya, both individuals and countries,” Abdel Jalil said in the council’s eastern stronghold of Benghazi, according to Reuters.

In the Sahara far south of Sirte, the town of Sabha is among those where the writ of the ruling council does not run.

It was across the desert that Qaddafi’s wife and three of his children fled into Algeria. They arrived just in time for his daughter Aisha to give birth at the oasis of Djanet on Tuesday, according to Algerian officials who tried to soothe Libyan anger by insisting they granted refuge to the Qaddafis out of concern for the expectant mother and in the traditions of hospitality entrenched in local nomadic culture.

Algiers, wary of any threat the Arab Spring movements might pose to its own veteran rulers and fearful that a post-Qaddafi Libya might be helpful to its Islamist enemies, is not among the four dozen or so countries to recognize the National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya’s legitimate government.

But, according to an Algerian newspaper, it has decided not to give asylum to Qaddafi himself and would hand him over, if he arrived, to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which has indicted him, his son Seif al-Islam and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity.

The whereabouts of all three are unknown, though council fighters said intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi had been killed at the weekend along with Qaddafi’s son Khamis, a military commander. Both men had been reported dead before.

Ahmed Bani, a military spokesman for the council, again ruled out any negotiation with Qaddafi or his supporters and called on those holding out to give up quietly: “We will not negotiate with his murderers and the likes of him,” he said.


Libya's rebel leaders reject UN military personnel

Libya's interim leadership has rejected the idea of deploying any kind of international military force, the UN envoy to the country has said.

Ian Martin said the UN had considered the deployment of military observers.

Earlier, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) said the country did not need outside help to maintain security.

The news came as fighters loyal to the council approached the pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte from east and west.

The town's defenders have been given until Saturday to surrender.

However, fugitive ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, rejected the ultimatum, the Associated Press reports.

"No dignified honourable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs," he said in a telephone call to the AP on Monday night.

Mr Ibrahim reiterated Col Gaddafi's offer to send his son Saadi to negotiate with rebels and form a transitional government, the agency said.

'Special case'

Libya's deputy representative to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told the BBC that the situation in Libya was unique.

"They [the UN] put the possibility of deploying peacekeepers on the ground but in fact the Libyan crisis is a special case.

"It is not a civil war, it is not a conflict between two parties, it is the people who are defending themselves against the dictatorship."

However, Mr Martin said the UN did expect to be asked to help establish a police force.

"We don't now expect military observers to be requested," he said after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

"It's very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the UN or others," he said.

Mr Martin added that one of the greatest challenges for the UN would be helping the country prepare for democratic elections.

"Let's remember... there's essentially no living memory of elections, there's no electoral machinery, there's no electoral commission, no history of political parties, no independent civil society, independent media are only beginning to emerge in the east in recent times.

"That's going to be quite a challenge, sort of organisationally, and it's clear that the NTC wish the UN to play a major role in that process."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that growing humanitarian shortages in Libya demand urgent action and appealed to the security council to be "responsive" to requests from the transitional authority for funding.

Though stockpiles of medical supplies and food stashed away by the government were found over the weekend, water supplies are short.

"An estimated 60% of Tripoli's population is without water and sanitation," he said. The EU's humanitarian office says that pro-Gaddafi forces are responsible for cutting supplies.


On Tuesday, the UN Security Council let Britain release 1.86bn dinars ($1.55bn; £950m) in frozen assets to buy aid for Libya but an attempt by France and Germany to release an additional $8.6bn remains blocked.

Diplomats said that Russia was holding up Germany's request to release about 1bn euros ($1.4bn) in seized assets and France's move to unfreeze about five billion euros ($7.2bn) to buy humanitarian aid, Agence France Presse reports.

As anti-Gaddafi fighters converge on his birthplace of Sirte, interim leaders gave the town's defenders an ultimatum, telling them that they had until Saturday to surrender or face military force.

It has also emerged that Col Gaddafi's wife and three of his adult children fled to neighbouring Algeria in the early hours of Monday morning.

Col Gaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown, with suggestions he may be in Sabha, Sirte or Bani Walid. However, the deputy head of the NTC, Ali Tarhouni, said they had a good idea of where he was and were confident that they would catch him.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The recent incidence of unprecedented scale of graft and nepotism has raised serious concern about the functioning of Indian democracy. A widely shared apprehension is that the wealth of the nation is being appropriated by a few political operators by manipulating the system. The existing democratic institutions and administrative arrangements have not been able to deal with it effectively, so that an impression has gained ground that the country has succumbed to a culture of corruption. The ruling elite, both the political class and the members of the bureaucracy, are at the centre of this operation. It has assumed alarming proportions because of the opportunities created by neo-liberal policies to transfer public property to private entrepreneurs. This possibility has created a space for corruption on a scale that did not exist before. Consequently, India has earned the distinction of being one of the most corrupt nations in the world. More corrupt than even some of the authoritarian regimes in Africa. An unfortunate consequence of this development is that the beneficiaries of corruption, both those who receive and give, are setting the tone of social and political life. In all metropolitan cities much of the display of affluence by the upper middle class is an outcome of money appropriated through illegal means. The access to unearned money is morally corrupting, which over a period of time corrodes the vitality of society. During the last sixty three years Indian society has been witness to such a decline, which has now reached at the edge of a precipice. It would be necessary to devise harsh measures, if a deep fall is to be averted.
Corruption is not a new phenomenon in India; its history can be traced to the beginning of a formal administrative system in which individuals were vested with discretionary powers. Nevertheless, the nature of corruption is not similar across historical times. In different political and economic conditions it has undergone changes to take advantage of different administrative practices. During the feudal rule, for instance, proximity to the ruler was an enabling factor of corruption. The colonial rule provided an entirely different type of opportunity to the bureaucracy, as the common people could neither understand the language of administration nor its procedures. In collusion with a class of middlemen who mediated between the government and the people, the members of the bureaucracy was able to dispense favours for a price. The scope for corruption in these conditions was rather limited, because transactions were rarely very large to admit of enormous gratification.
Corruption in Neo-Liberal conditions
The corruption really became rampant during the post-independence era, particularly after the adoption of neo-liberal policies when the privatization of public undertakings and massive projects for infrastructural modernization involved huge amounts of money. The essence of liberalization was the transfer of public assets to private coffers. The politicians and bureaucracy manipulated these funds in a manner that a part of them went into their own kitty. It is popularly believed that the black money thus generated is either slashed away in Swiss banks, and hence cannot be assessed, or invested in real estate and mega commercial establishments in metropolitan cities. In these cities corruption has given birth to a neuvo riche class, to whom there are no limits for extravagance.
The revelations regarding the disinvestment of public undertakings, transactions in telecom industry, organization of Commonwealth games, illegal mining operations and so on underlined the extent to which the ruling elite is mired in corruption. But corruption is not confined to that stratum alone. In fact, what is really alarming is that it is a much wider phenomenon, which has seeped into all levels of administration. For common men it is not possible to get any work done in public offices- be it an electricity connection or a driving license or admission to school- without illegal gratification. As such almost every body is corrupt-either by giving or receiving bribe. The corruption has assumed gigantic proportion of a monster, threatening to bring the entire society under its vicious grip. It is this condition which has stirred the middle class to raise their voice against corruption. The liberal intelligentsia has now come to recognize corruption as the single most socially and politically debilitating force in Indian society. This realization has made the middle class upfront in highlighting the political and moral implications of corruption.
The anxiety of the middle class about corruption, however, has an element of hypocrisy. For the middle class has in the past condoned corruption, even indulged in it, for its own comfort and advantage. A major beneficiary of corruption in developing countries has been the members of the middle class, who have a say in the management of economic development. Their indulgence in corruption ranged from ensuring petty comforts to large scale monetary benefits. It is common knowledge that in all developing countries the greed of the middle class has adversely affected the economic growth and social improvement. In India the middle class has cornered all advantages of modernity . Yet, campaign about corruption tends to isolate the political class alone as responsible for corruption, whereas there is hardly any section of society with access to power which is not corrupt.
Politics and Corruption
The current manifestation of corruption has been a popular theme of discussion in the media, but it generally confined its focus on the misdemeanors of the political class. The members of the middle class being the opinion makers of society took the discussion to the public sphere, often with self-righteous indignation and comparison with the honest past. The reputation of the old guard of freedom fighters and social activists for honesty and public weal has placed the new generation in poor light. One of the consequences of this development has been a general distrust in politics and politicians who are universally believed to be corrupt. Corruption is considered as a necessary evil of politics. The bureaucracy is also believed to be equally dishonest and in cahoots with politicians. The opinion of the middle class is reflected in the work of the Non-governmental organisatons which claim to undertake development work without political considerations. They have spread the notion that politics is a dirty game and the reason for all ills in society is corrupt politics. However, the campaign against corruption has not been adequately sensitive to the criminal manipulation and private appropriation of public funds.
The role of the state in preventing corruption and punishing the corrupt has been very unsatisfactory. Innumerable instances of corruption have occurred during the last sixty four years in which politicians and bureaucrats were directly involved. Very rarely they are subjected to prosecution and punishment. Instead of taking action against them state tried to protect them, and if forced to proceed against them, they are handed out very mild punishment like transfer or suspension. This is not because there is no provision in law to punish them. There are a plenty, but what is lacking is political will to act. As a result, many leadng lights of society have a finger in the pie.
The presence of unaccounted money in civil society impacts upon social and political life in a variety of ways. The breeding ground of politics is corruption, as unprincipled politics can not be pursued otherwise. The democratic practice in India is a domain of the affluent and those who aim to be affluent. The majority of the members of the Parliament are either millionaires or multimillionaires, at least some of them acquiring that status by their association with the Parliament. No ordinary citizen can afford to contest an election, unless he or she or party she represents receives money from sources which are not always clean. In order to retrieve the money invested in election people’s representatives are forced to indulge in a variety of corrupt practices. Many of them have connection with organized gangs dealing illegally in real estate, mining, education, and so on. The criminalization of politics is a consequence of black money generated by corrupt practices. The politics and corruption have become complimentary to each other; corruption emanates from politics without idealism and politics without idealism gives rise to corruption. Indian democracy therefore faces the peril of succumbing to the power of money. This tendency gained ground from the time of Indira Gandhi, who did not hesitate to dispense idealism in favour of remaining in power. Subsequently Rajiv Gandhi was involved in Bofors scandal and Narasimha Rao is known for political corruption for staying in power.
The impact of corruption is not limited to the economic or political spheres alone, but embraces the social and cultural life as well. The enormous amount of money generated through corruption, particularly during the liberalized regime, has accumulated in the hands of a miniscule section of society, has given birth to a section of cultured middlemen.who have emerged as the custodians and promoters of a cultural zone in which a new way of life is being nurtured. This zone is preserved like a hot house in which the most advanced and most sought after cultural activity takes place. Those who inhabit this zone has a consumption pattern divorced from the rest of the society. there is aThe sudden mushrooming of cultural events and festivals during the last two decades draw sustenance from the money flowing out of corruption. The cultural life presented in such events is idealized by the neo-liberal affluent sections in metropolitan cities and have the support of the avant guard of the social and intellectual life. Understandably younger generation is attracted to this way of life. Many of them end up as rudderless boats in the open sea. The promotion and maintenance of such cultural islands have been possible because of the money generated by corruption.
The overwhelming power of corruption in public life has led to a general perception that it constitutes the most serious problem Indian society is currently facing. All other issues like poverty, caste oppression, gender discrimination etc have been pushed to the back foot. In doing so corruption is viewed in isolation, treating it either as a political or an economic issue, in the process overlooking its moral dimension. The definition now adopted both by the government and the activists are not adequate to deal with its comprehensive and social character. It only addresses corruption at the political or bureaucratic level and does not embrace the criterion of justice which should necessarily inform public conduct. For instance, if a lawyer charges fifty lakhs of rupees for a single appearance would it constitute corruption in a country in which about seventy percent people live with twenty rupees a day? Similarly does it amount to corruption if a business tycoon has a fourteen storied building to himself when majority of citizens live on the foot path? If they do the struggle against corruption has to be imbued with a moral dimension.
Impact on Democracy
The present campaign against corruption led by Gandhian activist gives the impression that the state and the middle class are at logger heads with each other. In fact, both the state and civil society share considerable interest in suppressing corruption. The proliferation and scale of corruption threaten to undermine the authority of the state, as the corrupt has occupied the corridors of power. At the same time concessions and privileges enjoyed by the middle class are also under threat. As such it has resulted in the convergence of interest of the state and the middle class.. Both the state and civil society are therefore engaged in finding a solution. The response of the state to Anna Hazare’s fast and the acceptance of the idea of a joint drafting committee of the government and the civil society are symptomatic of their shared interest.
The steps initiated by Anna Hazare in the name of civil society have a variety of implications for the functioning of democracy. The methods Anna Hazare and his team have adopted tend to impinge upon the legislative powers of the Parliament. In order achieve their objectives, which are indeed laudable, they have adopted means which are coercive and anti-democratic. While undertaking a fast unto death Anna issued an ultimatum to the government in a very dictatorial mode about the formation of a drafting committee of the Lokpal bill. He even conducted a referendum. His entire demeanor was authoritarian to which the government initially succumbed in panic, fearing the possibility of a mass movement. The government thus invested respectability to a small time NGO activist who was jointly sponsored and supported by obscurantist and communal forces. It took time for the government to realize the mistake and to assert the supremacy of the Parliament in legislative matters. Every citizen has a right to protest, suggest changes in the legislation and influence public opinion through legitimate means of mobilization of opinion. At the same time no citizen can arrogate to himself the function of the Parliament which is the representative institution of the country. The comparison of Anna Hazare’s protest with the Gandhian movement is totally misplaced. Gandhi was organizing passive resistance against a colonial government which did not have any representative character, whereas Anna was dealing with a democratic system, whatever its weaknesses are. Gandhiji was fighting for democracy, whereas Anna Hazare’s movement tends to undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions. While the government had hastened to compromise with Anna at the first instance, his ‘second coming’ has been handled in a high handed manner. The government imposed several restrictions on his fast, including the number of participants and finally arrested him and his followers. If the manner in Which conducted his agitation had the potential of undermining democratic values, the government is equally guilty of adopting authoritarian ways which would affect the principles of democracy.
The attitude of the state to the adoption of legislative measures for the prevention of corruption has been vacillatory. It has not shown any urgency in the matter. The legislation, undertaken by fits and starts have been pending for more than forty years. All attempts during this period to get legislative approval for an act to prevent corruption have fallen on the wayside for one reason or the other. Moreover, even the existing laws like the anti-corruption Act of 1988 have not been strictly implemented. The conditions have now come to such a pass that the government had to take some steps to pacify the middle class. Anna Hazare’s initiative provided a convenient opportunity to pilot a legislation which would earn popular support, without substantially affecting the interest of its social base.
Fundamental Questions and Solutions
A comparison between the Jan Lokpal bill drafted by Team Anna and Lokpal bill presented by the government understandably several common features. The difference is not in the basic character of the bills, but only related to certain provisions like the inclusion of the judiciary within their purview. The civil society activists believe that the government is not sincere in dealing with corruption as it has far too many skeletons in the cupboard. According go them the government is more concerned with shielding the corrupt rather than bringing them to book. The main weakness of the bill is that it does not mark a qualitative improvement in tackling corruption. The prevention of corruption, rather than the punishment of the corrupt are the key issue. Both Jan Lokpal and Lokpal have overlooked this question. The government bill has even left out the words ‘prevention of corruption’ from its preamble and has replaced them with the words ‘contain corruption’. As such the bills do not address systemic issues, but aims to deal only with superficial matters. It is, therefore, clear that these bills would not be able to prevent corruption. For punishing the corrupt there is no need for any new legislation, there is already sufficient number of laws to take cognizance of it.
There are certain tendencies in the agitation sponsored by Anna which have raised some disquiet among the liberal and secular intelligentsia. The movement is supported by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and Sadhus and sants are in the forefront. The crowd at the Jantar Mantar during the fast was a curious mixture of affluent middle class and activists of the RSS. A retired bureaucrat lke Kiran Bedi and former minister like Shanti Bushan who were part of the corrupt system are in the leadership. Anna Hazare is under the delusion that his movement is a second freedom struggle and he would symbolize the energy of the nation as Gandhiji did.
The prevention of corruption requires entirely different remedies. Two steps are particularly important in this context. The first is a fundamental change in the administrative procedures. At the moment administration is conducted with utmost sense of secrecy and the process of decision making is not known to the public. It gives considerable space to the bureaucracy and the political class to manipulate the system to their advantage. This should be replaced by a transparent system so that public could come to know about the processes and procedures, not after the event, but during the event.If people could know the terms of the disinvestment of public undertakings when the deal was being struck by Arun Shourie, the corruption involved in it could have been prevented. So would have been the case with telecom and Common Wealth Games.
Secondly, decentralization of power and decision making, so that responsibility becomes collective and not individual is a necessary pre-requisite for preventing corruption. The discretionary power vested in the individual is at the root of corruption. In other words, deepening of democracy is the only remedy. Neither the Jan Lokpal nor the Lokpal bill addresses these fundamental problems.
The weakness of the proposed legislation by the government is not limited to its failure to address basic issues; it is inadequate to achieve even what it is attempting to do. For instance, Lokpal is supposed to be an autonomous institution, capable of taking independent decision, without being influenced by the state. It is doubtful that in actual practice such an expectation would be fulfilled. On the contrary it might turn out to be a wing of the state. An indication for such a contingency is inherent in the mode of selection of the Lokpal. The committee for selecting Lokpal mainly consists of the representatives of the state, with only a symbolic presence of civil society.
The second drawback is its highly centralized structure, with an investigation and prosecution wings, vested with overriding powers. The centralization of authority is the principle the central government has been following in all its reform measures n recent times. The powers thus vested with the state can be a prescription for authoritarian rule, along wth the exception granted to the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and the members of Parliament from the operation of the Lokpal. Another implication of the centralized structure is that it will remain inaccessible to the common man. The remedy is to have a multi- layered structure reaching down to the level of the Panchayat. After all, Lokpal is meant to empower the common man.
The proposals of both the government and civil society members which are now in the public domain are not likely to prevent corruption. In fact, they share considerable common ground. The nature of proposed legislation, both Jan Lokpal and Lokpal do not challenge the structure of power which enables corrupt practices. Their proposals do not go much beyond some cosmetic changes. What they are quibbling over are only superficial matters. The Team Anna against whom allegations of corruption are being leveled, have trivialized the possible opposition of the people, by collaborating with the state on the one hand and side stepping pressing issues facing the people like poverty, rural insurgency and communalism.

Libya: new outburst of information war

Moscow,august 23: A flow of rather controversial information is coming from the Libyan capital city of Tripoli. Foreign media reports insist the city is almost completely in the hands of Muammar Gaddafi’s opponents, whereas the Colonel’s officials say the opposition only controls a fifth part. The more often rebels claim to have reached another success, the less credible their information appears.
The day before, Gaddafi rivals for the third time said to have killed his son Khamis before reports appeared that he was seen leading a military force towards downtown Tripoli to help his father.
This night, Seif al-Islam, the youngest of Gaddafi’s seven sons allegedly captured by opposition members, had a conversation with foreign journalists at the Rixos hotel in the Bab Al-Aziziya district. He denied assertions about Tripoli’s being under full control of the rebel army.
“Firstly I want to deny all the rumors. NATO and the West have modern technology and they blocked and jammed communications. They sent messages to the Libyan people through the Libyana network, I think. They stopped the (state TV) broadcasts, they’ve created a media and electronic war to spread chaos and fear in Libya,” Seif al-Islam said.
He also invited foreign journalists to accompany him on a trip around the capital, insisting that videos of the Tripoli’s seizure were made in another Libyan city.
Muammar Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain a puzzle as well. Seif al-Islam says he is in Tripoli, even though many people are doubtful about this, assuming that the Colonel could have departed to Venezuela, South Africa or neighboring Algeria. No one has so far managed to provide accurate data about this, with head of the National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil hoping that Gaddafi will be taken alive to face trial.
"He has no soldiers left, only a handful of volunteers and mercenaries. But these people are mistaken - the regime collapsed, Tripoli fell and the Gaddafi era is over," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said.
Such an assessment is not shared by director of the “Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace” organization Franklin Lamb who is also paying a visit to Tripoli. According to him, Gaddafi is simply luring the rebels into a trap and will soon launch a massive counter-attack. This could be true if we believe government spokesman Musa Ibrahim who claims there are 65,000 professional soldiers waiting to repel “NATO’s rebels” from entering Tripoli, Mr. Lamb said.
The information could be accurate indeed, with BBC reports arguing that the languishing Libyan rebels have already left Tripoli and other sources saying Gaddafi troops are moving along the city streets. Here we have an opinion from director of the International Institute of Political Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko.
"We have encountered an explicitly mendacious group of world media, reporting facts that were never confirmed. Obviously, this is not a mistake but a planned blatant disinformation attempt. As far as I understand, Tripoli is currently under Gaddafi control. It appears that there has been an initially successful operation by the NATO task force. Its failure may be used as an argument for bringing heavy armaments to Libya and carrying out a full-scale military operation. This does not look very nice and inflicts a severe blow to both the Middle East stability and NATO countries’ reputation," Yevgeny Minchenko pointed out.
The political analyst’s point of view is confirmed by a statement coming from Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, who said the rebel ranks include military advisers of the leading Western powers, as well as private protection agencies. There is only one question left in this context: how far is NATO ready to go in its desire to “liberate” Libya from Gaddafi?
From Moscow Time

It is a long journey ahead: Kejriwal

We want to pressure the government and assert our rights as citizens.'

Arvind Kejriwal received the Magsaysay award in the Emergent leadership category in 2006. A mere five years later, he has far surpassed that milestone, winning acclaim and notice for the way he conceived and crafted Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement. He talks to Vidya Subrahmaniam about the Jan Lokpal campaign, what it accomplished and why it often became controversial.

The scale and spread of the Anna movement have baffled many. How did this happen?

A movement cannot be created out of nothing. In this case, anger against corruption was at the point of eruption. Then two things happened. One, instead of merely echoing the anger, the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) offered a solution. Second, Anna emerged as a credible leader at a time of huge leadership crisis in politics. See, people did not understand the details of the JBL. They simply saw it as a “dawai” [medicine] for corruption. It is the combination of a solution and a figure like Anna — who lived in a temple with no assets — that clicked.

When we conducted referendums on the JLB, we used to try and explain its contents to people. But they said they did not want to understand the details. They just wanted to put a mohar [stamp] on Anna.

How did you communicate your message to such a large number of people?

Technology played a key role in this. When in January this year, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Shivendra suggested to us that we use Facebook to publicise our rallies, I dismissed it saying Facebook has a limited, urban following. But Shivendra went ahead. We had planned a single rally on January 30 at the Ramlila Maidan. But because we connected on Facebook, we were able to conduct simultaneous rallies in 64 cities. SMS texting also played a critical role. Our SMS communication was designed very intelligently. A company in Mumbai suggested we ask for missed calls as a mark of solidarity. Missed calls cost nothing. In March, we sent out two crore SMS messages and got 50,000 missed calls. Then we targeted the 50,000 callers, asking if they would like to enrol as volunteers for IAC. Initially 13 people responded. We sent two more rounds of messages to the 50,000 callers. And in just one week, the number of volunteers swelled to 800.

Surely television played a disproportionate role in projecting the movement.

TV certainly helped, both when Anna sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar and then at Ramlila Maidan. But the media cannot create a moment. They can at best magnify it. The crowds at Ramlila and the crowds that followed him when he left for Medanta hospital were not manufactured.

There have been reports of dissensions within the Anna camp. Also that the deadlock was broken only because Congress/government negotiators spoke directly to Anna.

Anna appointed Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and me to negotiate with the government. One day I was very tired and Kiran was also not around. So, Medha and Prashant went for the meeting. The next thing we hear [from the media] is that Kiran and I have been sidelined, that we are hardliners, and we are deliberately preventing Anna from breaking his fast. This was disinformation by the government.

You started with the maximalist position of “Jan Lokpal Bill by August 30 and any amendments only with Anna's permission.” From that to accepting a “sense-of-the-house” resolution that was not voted upon — wasn't it a climbdown?

When we started on August 16, there was such an overwhelming response that we thought the government would agree to our demands. People wanted the JLB. After a few days we realised that there was a serious leadership crisis in the government — negotiators were constantly backing off. In the last three days of the fast, it happened four times. The Prime Minister made a conciliatory statement, Rahul Gandhi went off on a tangent. Salman Khurshid, Medha and Prashant sat together and drafted a resolution. Next day [August 27], at 1.30 p.m., Salman said no resolution. It became clear to us that what we wanted — Parliament voting on a resolution containing Anna's three demands — was not going to happen. Therefore we had to change our strategy.

Are you satisfied with the resolution that was adopted? It is not categorical and leaves escape clauses.

We are satisfied because it contains Anna's three demands. It will not be easy for the Standing Committee to renege on Parliament's commitment. We will be keenly watching the Committee's proceedings and the MPs also ought to know that they are on watch. I know, of course, that it is a long journey ahead.

Kiran Bedi told a TV channel that at one point when all seemed lost, a miracle happened: L.K. Advani called her and gave her his word that a solution will be reached by the following evening [August 27]. She also said that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which until then was ambiguous on the JLB, changed its stand and offered full support to Anna.

We met the leaders of the main political parties thrice and as part of this we also met Mr. Advani. However, we have been clear that no BJP leader or leader of any communal organisation will share the stage with us. This is the decision of our core committee. As for Kiran talking about Mr. Advani, please put that question to her.

So are you an apolitical movement?

No, we are political but we are concerned with people's politics. The movement will always remain outside of political parties and outside of electoral politics.

You will not float a political party?

No, never. We don't need to get into the system to fight it. We want to pressure the government and assert our rights as citizens. Everyone who has a dream need not get into politics.

Doubts have been raised about the credentials of those who have donated money to IAC. Sometime ago, a citizens' group from Hyderabad wrote to you saying it was shocked to see some very discredited names in your list of donors.

A number of people have contributed money to the Anna movement. There is complete transparency from our side. Our receipts and expenditure are transparent. But we have no mechanism to go into the antecedents of our donors. And donations are streaming in, making it impossible to keep track. If there is a glaring case, we will certainly investigate it. I know, for instance, that there has been talk of the Jindal group. But those who donated to IAC are from Sitaram Jindal, not the Jindal mining group.

Your entire fight is about transparency and accountability. One of your NGOs, Public Cause Research Foundation, received donations on behalf of IAC and issued receipts in its name. But until August 29, there was no mention of Anna or the donations on the PCRF website.

That is an oversight. We will immediately update the website and provide a link to IAC.

Another of your NGOs, Kabir, received grants from the Ford Foundation (FF). According to the FF, Kabir received $172,000 in 2005 and $197,000 in 2008. The FF also sanctioned an “in-principle” grant of $200,000 for 2011, which you have not accepted so far. Why does Kabir not mention the FF and these specific details on its website?

We did not give the specific details because we also got some other NRI contributions and these were clubbed together. I will make sure that the website gives the break-up.

Fears have been expressed about the form of mobilisation we saw over the last four months. There was anger and impatience and, some would say, coercion in your methods. During the Ram Rath yatra, too, the BJP said people were angry because the mandir had not been built for 40 years. Aren't you setting a worrying precedent?

The two situations are not comparable. One was communal and divisive and went against the grain of the Constitution. We are not asking for anything illegal. Our demands resonate with the people and our movement has been unifying, non-violent and entirely within rights given by the Constitution. What is wrong if people demand a strong law against corruption? What is wrong if they ask for the Jan Lokpal Bill?

Why did you ask for Parliamentary due process to be suspended? You didn't want the JLB to go to the Standing Committee.

The JLB was drafted after wide consultations; it underwent many revisions based on feedback. Where is this kind of discussion in the drafting of any sarkari Bill? The purpose of the Standing Committee is to take multiple views on board. But not all Bills reach the Standing Committee, and in 90 per cent of the cases, the government does not accept the Committee's recommendations. So why the fuss only for JLB which has been widely discussed and debated?

The Hindu

WikiLeaks site comes under attack

The WikiLeaks website crashed in an apparent cyber attack after the accelerated publication of tens of thousands of once-secret State Department cables by the anti-secrecy organisation raised new concerns about the exposure of confidential U.S. embassy sources.

“ is presently under attack,” the group said on Twitter late Tuesday. One hour later, the site and the cables posted there were inaccessible.

WikiLeaks updated its Twitter account to say that it was “still under a cyber attack” and directed followers to search for cables on a mirror site or a separate search system,

The apparent cyber attack comes after current and former American officials said the recently released cables and concerns over the protection of sources are creating a fresh source of diplomatic setbacks and embarrassment for the Obama administration.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

The Associated Press reviewed more than 2,000 of the cables recently released by WikiLeaks. They contained the identities of more than 90 sources who had sought protection and whose names the cable authors had asked to protect.

Officials said the disclosure in the past week of more than 125,000 sensitive documents by WikiLeaks, far more than it had earlier published, further endangered informants and jeopardized U.S. foreign policy goals.

The officials would not comment on the authenticity of the leaked documents but said the rate and method of the new releases, including about 50,000 in one day alone, presented new complications.

“The United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts, it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security and undermines our effort to work with countries to solve shared problems. We remain concerned about these illegal disclosures and about concerns and risks to individuals.

“We continue to carefully monitor what becomes public and to take steps to mitigate the damage to national security and to assist those who may be harmed by these illegal disclosures to the extent that we can,” she told reporters.


Libya’s interim leader gives Qaddafi forces four days to surrender

Libya’s interim leader on Tuesday gave forces loyal to deposed ruler Muammar Qaddafi a four-day deadline to surrender towns still under their control or face military force.

“By Saturday, if there are no peaceful indications for implementing this we will decide this manner militarily. We do not wish to do so but we cannot wait longer,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of Libya’s interim council, told a news conference.

Anti-Qaddafi forces have converged on Sirte from east and west, but have stopped short of an all-out assault in hopes of arranging a negotiated surrender of Qaddafi’s birth-place.

NATO’s operations in Libya, meanwhile, are currently focused near Sirte, a spokesman for the Western military alliance said on Tuesday.

“Our main area of attention is a corridor... (leading up) to the eastern edge of Sirte,” spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie, speaking from Naples, told a NATO briefing.

Lavoie said NATO had also received reports about talks between anti- and pro-Qaddafi forces and described them as positive.

“We have seen reports from a few hours ago that there are discussions between anti-Qaddafi and pro-Qaddafi supporters, we see these discussions as encouraging signs and we see how they evolve in coming days,” he said.

Qaddafi has been on the run since his foes captured his Tripoli compound on Aug. 23 and his 42-year-old rule collapsed after a six-month uprising backed by NATO and some Arab states.

A spokesman for the National Transitional Council said it would seek to extradite Qaddafi’s relatives from Algeria, which is alone among Libya’s neighbors in not recognizing the NTC.

Nearly 60 countries have acknowledged the NTC as Libya’s legitimate authority. Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil are among those which have so far withheld recognition.

Algeria’s acceptance of Qaddafi’s wife and offspring angered Libyan leaders, who want the ousted autocrat and his entourage to face justice for years of repressive rule.

Just trial

They fear Qaddafi could rally an insurgency unless he is captured, although the reported death of Qaddafi’s son Khamis, a feared military commander, would be a serious blow to any chance of that.

“We have promised to provide a just trial to all those criminals and therefore we consider this an act of aggression,” NTC spokesman Mahmoud Shammam said.

“We are warning anybody not to shelter Qaddafi and his sons. We are going after them ... to find them and arrest them,” he said, suggesting the fugitives might seek to move on from Algeria to another country, perhaps in eastern Europe.

Algeria is to close the southern part of its border with Libya due to the “precarious situation” there, Algeria’s el-Watan newspaper reported, citing diplomatic sources.

Abdel Jalil, the NTC chairman, called on the Algerian government hand over any of Qaddafi’s sons on its wanted list.

”Major blunder”

Algeria, which previously voted against sanctions and a no-fly zone against Qaddafi, has an authoritarian government which is deeply concerned about Arab revolts lapping near its borders.

“I would argue the Algerian regime is making a major blunder, miscalculating monstrously,” Fawaz Gerges, an analyst at the London School of Economics, told the BBC.

“The Algerian regime itself is not immune from the revolutionary momentum taking place in the Arab world,” he said.

A visit to a Tripoli beach compound used by Qaddafi’s children and members of his elite revealed a life of opulence and privilege that many Libyans could barely dream of.

Saadi Qaddafi’s chalet was strewn with designer clothes, including some unworn suits, and about 100 pairs of shoes. Aisha’s house boasted 13 bedrooms and gold-plated cutlery.

Anti-Qaddafi fighters now sleep in the bedrooms of their former rulers, whose gated compound has tennis courts, football pitches and dining centres, along with magnificent sea views.

Many Libyans were overjoyed at the fall of Qaddafi, which followed that of longtime rulers in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year, but have been chilled by evidence of mass killings in Tripoli as his forces fought losing battles with rebels.

A week after Qaddafi’s overthrow, Tripoli’s two million people remain without running water or electricity. Banks, pharmacies and many other shops are still closed.

Despite local clear-up efforts, the stench of rotting garbage and sewage pervades the city. Men in jeeps cried “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)” as they toured neighborhoods, giving out containers of water from the Tripoli local council.

A council spokesman said the pumping station for Tripoli’s water supply that lies in the distant desert town of Sabha, still loyal to Qaddafi, had been damaged. The big military force needed to escort a repair team of engineers was not available.

Some residents were out shopping for food ahead of the Muslim feast that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Only small groceries and vegetable markets were open.

Libyan military officials trying to mop up Sirte and other Qaddafi strongholds said Khamis Qaddafi and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi had both been killed on Saturday.

“We have almost certain information that Khamis Qaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi were killed on Saturday by a unit of the national liberation army during clashes in Tarhouna (90 km southeast of Tripoli),” military spokesman Ahmed Bani said.

A US official said he could not independently confirm Khamis’s death but similar information was being received from “reliable sources.” Khamis has already been reported killed twice during the uprising only to re-emerge.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he may seek an arrest warrant for Khamis. The Hague-based ICC has already issued warrants for Qaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Senussi for alleged crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Watch said members of the Khamis Brigade, which Khamis Qaddafi commanded, appeared to have killed dozens of prisoners whose burnt bodies were found in a Tripoli warehouse.

The US-based Physicians for Human Rights said in a report it had found evidence of crimes including “murder, torture, rape, forced internment and disappearance” by Qaddafi forces during their siege of Misrata earlier in the conflict.