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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Defence review to enhance U.S. leadership in changing world

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the new Defence Strategic Review document that calls for a small and lean American Army and a strong presence in the Asia Pacific region along with better ties with India will enhance country’s leadership in a new world order.

“This new guidance is a critical element in our integrated approach to strengthening American leadership in a changing world. It enhances the capabilities and relationships we need to lead and meet our responsibilities for years to come,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

She said it promotes U.S.’ strategic priorities, including sustaining a global presence while strengthening its focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

The strategic priorities highlighted by her included “deterring our adversaries and fulfilling our security commitments; investing in critical alliances and partnerships, including NATO; combating violent extremists and defending human dignity around the world and preserving our ability to respond quickly to emerging threats”.

Her remarks came hours after President Barack Obama unveiled the document at the Pentagon.

Ms. Clinton said moving forward with this strategy, U.S. will continue to consult its allies and partners to address their shared concerns, to seize new opportunities, and bolster global stability.

The “21st Century Defence Priorities” unveil a new strategic guidance that reflects America’s 21st century defence needs and secures it’s leadership for the future, she said, adding that the Defence and State Departments will continue to work side-by-side to bring the full range of American assets to bear on our foreign policy.

“As the new strategy notes, meeting our challenges can not be the work of our military alone. Diplomacy and development are equal partners with defence in our smart power approach to promoting American interests and values abroad, building up our economic prosperity, and protecting our national security,” Ms. Clinton said.


Rhetoric Hides Failure in Durban: UPA's Bankrupt Climate Diplomacy

The current phase of climate change negotiations have now come to an end with the Durban Platform announcement of a new round of negotiations to arrive at a legally binding commitments for all countries by 2015, and implementation starting from 2020.

In the intervening period, a second commitment period for Annex I countries – cutting of emissions of Annex I countries – will start from 2013, with targets to be decided in the next one year. What is missing, as Raghu pointed out last week, is developed countries taking on the steep cuts necessary to save the globe. India made a lot of noise about equity, but in the absence of any concrete proposal of how it wanted the future climate agreement to be shaped appeared to be using this only as a ploy to avoid taking any future commitments that may be required.

The Durban results also showed the bankruptcy of the UPA Government in its handling of the climate negotiations. Instead of leading the developing countries as a climate champion, it aligned with the the emerging economies and the US. It refused to lead the call for asking the developed countries to take on immediate and steep cuts in their emissions and instead decided to play soft on the US and the EU. Its sole objective seems to have beenthe negative one of avoiding legally binding commitments in the future.

If we now look at the climate negotiations – not just at Durban – but from Bali onwards, there has been a continuous shift in which the focus has shifted from the Kyoto Protocol of developed countries needing to take actions to all countries. Copenhagen, Cancun and now Durban have been major milestones, but the thrust of putting the burden of cutting global emissions on all countries and not just the ones who have today the major amount of global greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – the stock -- has been the defining characteristic of the climate negotiations. Just to reiterate some numbers – countries who have about 20% of world's population have added about 74% of the CO2 in the atmosphere while the rest 80% have contributed only 26%. The available carbon space beyond which the 2 degrees centigrade rise would be difficult to contain is rapidly shrinking, as developed countries continue to occupy carbon space well beyond what is their fair share. The longer steep cuts can be postponed, the longer they can continue to occupy this carbon space, pushing the burden of cutting emissions on to all countries.

Climate change negotiations have always had two objectives – what is it that needs to be done globally to stave off disastrous climate change and how to share this burden of action. If 2 degrees centigrade rise is the target, it can be translated to a “budget” in terms of carbon space within which we all have to stay. As long as the discussion stay within this narrow framework, some general agreements are possible. The differences come up the minute we try to dice up this carbon budget in terms of countries and work out who will have to pay if a low-carbon path is to be chosen globally.

In any negotiations, the rich countries have always avoided any linking of per capita emissions to climate action. Again, a few numbers. India's current per capita carbon emissions are about 1.7 ton as against the US emissions of about 19 tons. What the US is arguing is that per capita emissions should not be the measure in climate change negotiations but the total emissions of a country. In this scheme, the US, China and India are all big emitters and therefore needs to be treated similarly, even if they have very different per capita emissions.

If it has to develop, every country needs energy. A right to development implicitly means a right to energy. If we take the high-carbon fossil fuel route, for every unit of energy, we will emit some carbon. If we take a low-carbon route, we will emit less carbon; the cost of energy using a low-carbon route is today much higher than that using a fossil fuel one. What the US is arguing is that the late developers should pay much more for their energy as the early developers have already grabbed the major share of the carbon space and would continue to do so in the future as they are “locked” into this fossil route. This is the grandfathering argument in climate negotiations. Since “we” already have grabbed most of the existing carbon space, this gives “us” a right to the remaining carbon space as well – the right to future carbon space is in proportion to what countries have already occupied. Therefore the argument that all big emitters have to cut their emissions in the same proportion irrespective of their per capita emission.

While the US argument for China and India being included with same obligations as other developed countries is an extreme one, most developed countries use a variant of the same while accepting some headroom for countries such as India. China has been clear about what it wants to do – it wants to grab as much carbon space as it can now so that when the climate change demands begin to bite, they would have already got their share of carbon space required for their energy needs. That is why a 2020 date suits both China and the US. US is not a part of Kyoto and therefore can continue to increase emissions and so can China.

It must be note here that China has per capita emissions that are 1/3rd of the US, therefore its wanting to increase emissions beyond current levels is very different from that of the US. But nevertheless, China is clear that will have to peak its emissions around 2020-205, so postponing action to 2020 suits China as well.

If we look at the global scenario, there are three groups of countries. One is the club of the rich, who has taken over most of the global commons in terms of carbon space and is now arguing that all the countries need to cut as we are reaching beyond what the atmosphere can bear. They have the major accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and therefore have the historical responsibility.

In Kyoto, all Annex I countries barring the US agreed that while all countries need to take on climate commitments, the developed countries need to do it first – therefore the formulation of a “common but differentiated responsibility” and the Kyoto 1st and 2nd commitment periods being applicable to only Annex I countries. Others would do according to their capacity and based on transfer of funds. The US never agreed to do this formulation and stayed out of Kyoto Protocol, while being a part of UNFCC.

The second group of countries are those that do not have a major share of greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere but have per capita flows today that are high, though in most cases still well below that of the rich countries. These are the emerging economies. Their flows – per capita emissions today – are above the global average of 4 ton of carbon and are also increasing. Even though they are below their fair share in terms of accumulated greenhouse gases, if they continue to emit or increase their emissions at the current rate, would definitely have to be brought, along with developed countries, under some kind of emission controls. China, South Africa, Brazil, Korea, etc., all belong to this group. By per capita emissions, India does not belong here though it sees itself as a part of the emerging economies.

The last group and this is numerically the largest number, are those countries whose per capita emissions are well below the global average of 4 ton of carbon. India is very much a part of this group of countries. They have small per capita carbon footprints, but if we lump all their population together, they do emit significant amounts. But either in terms of stocks or in terms of per capita flows, they are not the ones that currently should be under the hammer. Yes, if their per capita emissions grow or the global carbon budget shrinks, they also may need to be brought under emission controls.

It is important to understand that per capita emissions and per capita energy use today are strongly correlated – the higher the energy use per capita, higher are the carbon emissions. Similarly, development again is strongly correlated with per capita energy consumption. We are not aware of any country that has, for example, a high Human Development Index with a low per capita energy consumption. Therefore limiting carbon emissions could also mean limiting development. Or a much longer time to reach the same level of development as developing energy resources could become much more costly.

Of course all this could change if energy production could be de-linked from carbon emissions – if renewables became much cheaper than they are today. This is not the case currently, with renewables still being much higher in cost than fossil fuel based energy generation.

If we talk of carbon emissions, it might be argued that as carbon emissions damage the environment, why should countries emit at all – is this not a right to pollute? It is important to understand that the atmospheric commons as a global sink plays also the role of a resource. It can take a certain amount of carbon emissions and bury it in the sea as it does continuously. If we go beyond this amount, it starts to accumulate and this in turn triggers the greenhouse effect. When we are talking of a global carbon budget, we are talking of what is it that humanity can emit without disastrous climate change. This amount is obviously finite. The crux of the issue is how do we stay within this budget and how do we do it equitably.

Let us make one thing clear. Irrespective of the stage of development, we have to accept that the global carbon budget has overriding importance – if foregoing development or undertaking costly development is the only way to stay within the budget, countries like India have accepted or are willing to accept such limits. That is why India is putting money into costly renewables. Therefore the issue is not as Granada posed at Durban – "If you, develop we die". Countries such as India have already agreed to be bound when it agreed to the 2 degrees centigrade limit. What is under negotiations is how this limit is to be executed – with equity or without. What has emerged as the text in Durban is unfortunately without any mention of “common but differentiated responsibility” or “equity”. Instead, we have a formulation that every country will do the maximum it can.

The argument that India could have put in the climate change negotiations is that we recognise the need to limit climate change and therefore accept that the globe has only a limited carbon budget. That we are not talking of our fare share of carbon budget being achieved but how to share the remaining carbon space equitably. That this demands that the rich countries cut now and take on steep cuts while agreeing that if required, all countries have to cut or limit emissions based on some equitable arrangement. That any impact on development and taking on a more costly low-carbon path should be facilitated for at least the LDC's from those who have historically benefited from the low cost, high-carbon path to development. That technology for saving the global climate should be free of intellectual property “rents”.

All this demanded that India becomes a leader in the climate change negotiations. Instead, India took an entirely defensive position of not agreeing to bind itself in the future. The EU, while offering nothing beyond empty promises of a second commitment period, became the climate champions.

With Manmohan Singh and his Heilegendum declaration of India staying below the emissions of the developed countries, India started the long trek back from its Kyoto positions. Step by step, it has withdrawn from equity, diluting it in Cancun and now abandoning it in Durban. Its desire to play in the big league and not look after its national interest has landed it in a situation where it got itself isolated from its natural allies and outmanoeuvred. It will have to go back to the drawing board and retool its position completely if it has to protect the interests of the Indian people. What is at stake is India's future development. Mere rhetoric, as we saw in Durban, is not enough.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The saga of the Lokpal Bill - Prashant Bhushan

The drama in the Rajya Sabha showed that the UPA government was not willing to go even by the will of Parliament. This gives rise to fundamental questions about the functioning of Indian democracy.

The year 2011 will be remembered in India as the year of the campaign against corruption and for the Jan Lokpal Bill. The campaign began in January 2011 in the backdrop of the publicity that accompanied the several mega-scams that surfaced in 2010, notably those relating to the Commonwealth Games and the telecom spectrum allocations. It caught the public imagination with Anna Hazare's fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in April 2011. That forced the UPA government to constitute a joint drafting committee for a Lokpal bill. The civil society representatives in the committee proposed a bill called the Jan Lokpal bill, which became the basis for discussions. The basic principles on which the bill was drafted were culled from the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which required all countries to put in place anti-corruption investigative agencies that would be independent of the executive government and would have the jurisdiction to investigate all public servants for corruption.

The Jan Lokpal Bill thus provided for the selection of a 11-member Lokpal by a broad-based selection committee (comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, two judges selected by all the judges of the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner, the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the previous three chairpersons of the Lokpal), through a transparent process.

It sought to bring the anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Lokpal's administrative control. The Lokpal was to be given corruption investigative jurisdiction over all public servants (including Members of Parliament, judges and all sections of the bureaucracy), and those who may have abetted their acts of corruption (including corporations or non-governmental organisations). The Lokpal could recommend the removal of those officials who were charge sheeted for corruption and order the freezing of any assets that seemed to be acquired by corrupt means.

The Bill sought to provide that corruption trials would be put on the fast track and the courts would determine the loss caused to the public exchequer by an act of corruption — which would be recovered from the corrupt public servants and their abettors. It provided for citizens' charters to be framed by all public authorities, which would provide for time-bound delivery of public services; failure to do so would be actionable at the hands of officers working under the Lokpal. The bill required States to have Lokayuktas (covering State government officials) on the same lines as the Lokpal.

In order to ensure the integrity of the Lokpal institution, several layers of accountability were sought to be built into its working. Its functioning was made totally transparent by means of a requirement to put every detail of its investigations on a public website after the completion of investigations. The CAG was required to do an annual financial and performance audit of the functioning of the entire Lokpal institution. Any citizen could make a complaint against any member of the Lokpal to the Supreme Court, which had the power to order his or her suspension and even removal.

In addition, there were other important, anti-corruption provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill. It required every public authority to give out contracts, leases and licences with total transparency and by public auction, unless such procedures were stated to be impossible to undertake. Public servants were barred from taking up jobs with those organisations or companies with which they had been dealing in their official capacity. This was meant to prevent an insidious form of corruption whereby public officials would take jobs instead of bribes from the organisations that they had been patronising in their official capacity.

After nine meetings, the government terminated its engagement with the civil society members of the joint drafting committee and went on to draft and table its own Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament. This Bill incorporated some of the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill but fell far short of what was required to even set up an independent and comprehensive anti-corruption investigative organisation. It left the selection of the Lokpal to a government-dominated committee. Though powers for the removal of Lokpal members were vested in the Supreme Court, complaints against the Lokpal could only be made by the government, which retained the power to suspend them.

The government's Bill removed most public servants from the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, including the Prime Minister, MPs (insofar as their corruption pertained to their actions in Parliament), judges, and Class 2, 3 and 4 officers. Instead, it brought lakhs of NGOs (even those which were not funded by the government) within its jurisdiction.

Though the Bill kept the CBI with the government, it allowed the Lokpal to have its own anti-corruption investigative body. It eliminated the need to get prior sanction for investigation from the government. It provided for the confiscation of the assets of corrupt public servants and the recovery of losses caused by their acts of corruption from them. But it created a terribly cumbersome procedure for investigation, by which a preliminary inquiry and hearing of the corrupt public servant were made compulsory before investigation could begin. This ended the possibility of making surprise raids and seizures on the premises of corrupt public servants or their abettors.

Anna Hazare announced his second round of fasting in protest against this Bill, from August 16. This brought lakhs of people on to the streets across the country, and eventually forced the government to convene a special session of Parliament, where Anna's three minimal demands were accepted by a unanimous Sense of the House resolution. Thus, all government servants and the citizens' charter were to be brought under the Lokpal's jurisdiction. The Bill would provide for Lokayuktas in the States on the same model as the Lokpal. The government promised to bring forward and pass such a strengthened bill in the winter session of Parliament.

Thereafter, the Bill was referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament, which after three months gave a fractured report with many dissenting notes. The Bill, which was reintroduced towards the end of the winter session, not only did not accept the one useful suggestion of the Standing Committee (negating the compulsory step of a preliminary enquiry) but went on to eliminate even the investigative body from the Lokpal. Thus, the Lokpal would not only be selected and suspended by the government, it would also have to rely only on government-controlled investigative organisations for its investigation. Class 3 and 4 officers were still kept out of the Lokpal's ambit.

Those of us who worked on the mission with Anna Hazare had suggested 34 amendments to rectify the government's Bill, and we pointed out that four of these were critical to making the Lokpal a workable institution. These were that the selection and removal procedure should be made independent of the government; the CBI should be brought under the Lokpal's administrative control or, alternatively, the Lokpal should have its own investigative body; all government servants should be brought under the Lokpal's investigative ambit; and the procedure for investigation should be in line with the normal criminal investigation procedure. But the government was adamant in not accepting any of these either, and went on to bulldoze the passage of its Bill. It rejected all the amendments moved by the Opposition. The Opposition moved several of the amendments suggested by us, but the only amendment that the government accepted was one to allow State governments to decide when the Bill would be applied to them.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed a sordid drama. Several parties which had walked out in the Lok Sabha (the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party) or had not moved any amendments there (the Trinamool Congress) moved amendments in the Rajya Sabha and their representatives delivered fiery speeches opposing the provisions of the Bill. When it became clear that at least three of the amendments (those relating to the selection and removal of Lokpal members, the CBI being brought under the administrative control of the Lokpal, and the deletion of the chapter on Lokayuktas in the States) were likely to be passed, the government engineered disturbances in the House, resorted to filibustering and prevented the amendments from being voted upon. And the House was prorogued with the Bill hanging in the air.

The government was repeatedly telling us that by proceeding with protests while Parliament was considering the Bill, we were showing contempt for parliamentary democracy. We had responded by pointing out that by overlooking the wishes of the people as expressed in numerous polls, surveys and referendums, all of which showed that more than 80 per cent of the people favoured the Jan Lokpal Bill, the government was showing contempt for the people. The drama in the Rajya Sabha showed that the government was not even willing to go by the will of Parliament. This gives rise to fundamental questions about the functioning of Indian democracy. Is this form of representative democracy allowing the will of the people to be reflected in policy and law-making, or is it being held hostage to parties and their leaderships to be determined by their own whims or corrupt considerations? Has the time come for us to rethink and deepen our democracy by putting in place systems where laws and policies would be decided by decisive inputs of the people (through referendums and gaon sabhas, or village councils) rather than only by such “elected representatives”? We hope that this fundamental issue would bring about an even broader public engagement than what has been witnessed during this Lokpal campaign.

(The author, a Senior Advocate, is a member of Team Anna.)

The Hindu

Food as people's right - M. S. Swaminathan

India is on the threshold of a historic transition from a ship-to-mouth existence to implementing the world's largest social protection programme against hunger with home-grown food.

This is the season to count blessings. India's greatest blessings are its adherence to the democratic system of governance, an independent judiciary, a free and fearless media, and an Election Commission that inspires confidence. I hope that soon India will have an independent and effective Lokpal, which will pave the way for a corruption-free India, a pre-requisite for a hunger-free India.

The other major paradigm shift observed in recent years is the substitution of political patronage with legal rights. Thus, a few years ago, the United Progressive Alliance government, then supported by the Left parties, enacted legislation designed to confer entitlements to information, education and work, in the third case the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Tribal families and other forest-dwellers have been conferred the right to land. The brightest jewel in the crown of Indian democracy will be the conferment of the right to food through the National Food Security Act, recently introduced in Parliament. When it is implemented, this country will have taken the essential steps necessary to convert Gandhiji's dream of a hunger-free India into reality.

It is important to realise the significance of the Act in the light of the conditions that prevailed in India during the first 20 years after Independence. During the 1960s, India was the largest importer of food aid, mainly under the PL480 programme of the U.S. In fact, during 1966, over 10 million tonnes of wheat was imported, leading to India being labelled as a nation surviving on a ship-to-mouth basis. Today, India is set to commit over 60 million tonnes of home-grown wheat, rice and nutri-millets to fulfil the legal entitlements under the Food Security Act. When it becomes law, India will operate the largest social protection programme against hunger in human history. How did this transition occur? Here is the historical context in which we should view the Act.

Role of Green Revolution

The Bengal Famine of 1942-43, which claimed over two million lives, provided the backdrop to India's Independence in 1947. The country's population was then a little over 300 million, that is, 25 per cent of the current population. In 1947, not more than 30 persons could be fed at a wedding; today money is the only limit to the number of people who can be entertained on such occasions. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri even issued an appeal that every Indian should fast one day a week in order to enable the government to balance the food budget.

In 1947, our soils were both thirsty and hungry, and to quote Aristotle, “soil is the stomach of the plant.” Hardly 10 per cent of the cultivated area had assured irrigation, and the average consumption of NPK nutrients was less than 1 kg a hectare. The average yield of wheat and rice was about 800 kg per ha. Mineral fertilizers were mostly applied to plantation crops; food crops got whatever organic manure farmers could mobilise. During the first two Five Year Plans (1950-60), emphasis was placed on enlarging the area under irrigation and on fertilizer production. Scientists began extensive experiments in the 1950s to assess the response of rice and wheat varieties to fertilizer application. The varieties cultivated had tall and thin straw and the crop lodged when even small quantities of nutrients were applied. It became clear that varieties with short and stiff straw were needed to get positive response from water and fertilizer.

It is in this background that Dr. K. Ramiah, an eminent rice scientist, suggested in 1950 that we cross the japonica varieties of rice obtained from Japan with our indica rice varieties. The logic was that the japonica varieties were even then yielding over five tonnes a ha, while Indian varieties gave one tonne to two tonnes a ha. Thus began the indica-japonica rice hybridisation programme at the Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack in the early 1950s. The programme lost its priority after genes to develop semi-dwarf varieties of rice became available in the 1960s from Taiwan and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

After the Second World War, American scientists were examining the significant findings made in Japan both in agriculture and industry. Solomon, a biological scientist, was fascinated by the semi-dwarf wheat varieties developed by Dr. Gonziro Inazuka at the Norin Experiment Station. This variety had short and stiff straw but long panicles, and consequently a high-yield potential. Dr. Solomon gave seeds of the Norin wheat variety to Orville Vogel of Washington State University, who developed the semi-dwarf winter wheat variety Gaines, with a yield potential of over 10 tonnes a ha. Norman Borlaug, working in Mexico, obtained the seeds containing the Norin dwarfing gene from Dr. Vogel and started the Mexican dwarf wheat breeding programme. Winter wheats like Gaines do not do well under Indian conditions.

On the other hand, Dr. Borlaug's material was suited for the rabi season in India. I therefore approached Dr. Borlaug in 1959 for some of his semi-dwarf wheat breeding material. Dr. Borlaug wanted to see Indian growing conditions before making up a set of breeding lines, and paid a visit in March 1963. We tested the material at locations all over North India during rabi 1963. The multi-location trials revealed that the semi-dwarf wheats of Mexican origin could yield four to five tonne a ha, in contrast to about two tonnes a ha of the tall Indian varieties. It became clear that India had the tools with which to shape its agricultural destiny.

In July 1964, C. Subramanian became Union Minister for Food and Agriculture and he gave his whole-hearted support to spreading high-yielding varieties on a large scale, together with irrigation water and mineral fertilizer. In 1968, Indian farmers harvested about 17 million tonnes of wheat; the earlier highest harvest was about 12 million tonnes in 1964. Such a quantum jump in production and productivity led Indira Gandhi to announce the ‘Wheat Revolution' in July 1968.

In addition to the yield breakthrough in wheat and rice, hybrids of maize, jowar and bajra developed by Indian scientists in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, opened up opportunities to increase productivity and production of the crops. This led to the introduction by the Government of India in 1967 a High-yielding Varieties Programme in wheat, rice, maize, jowar and bajra. For the first time, yield consciousness was born in farmers' minds and they organised a National Tonnage Club of Farmers. The membership eligibility criterion was the production of an agreed minimum quantity of foodgrains per ha. The term Green Revolution coined by William Gaud of the U.S. in 1968, involved synergy among technology, services, public policies and farmers' enthusiasm. Farmers, particularly those in Punjab, converted a small government programme into a mass movement.

The Green Revolution was criticised by social activists on the ground that the high-yield technology involving the use of mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides is environmentally harmful. Similarly, some economists felt that the new technologies would bypass small and marginal farmers, for although the technologies are scale-neutral, they are not resource-neutral. This led to my coining the term “ever-green revolution,” to emphasise the need to enhance productivity in perpetuity without ecological harm.

Untapped reservoir

Looking ahead, the bright spot in Indian agriculture is the availability of a large untapped production reservoir. For example, the productivity of foodgrains in China is currently 5,332 kg a ha, while it is 1,909 kg a ha in India. A “bridge the yield gap” movement is needed. The dark spots in Indian agriculture relate to ecology and economics. The heartland of the Green Revolution, comprising Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, is in an ecological crisis, as a result of the over-exploitation of groundwater and the spread of salinity. This region will also suffer most if the mean temperature rises by 1 degree to 2 degrees C as a result of global warming. Conservation and climate-resilient farming will help check ecological hazards. The Food Security Act will confer double benefits – procurement at a remunerative price for the public distribution system will stimulate production, and consumers who need social support to ward off hunger will be able to have economic access to the food needed for a productive life.

One of India's major blessings is the rich store of experience and knowledge available in the rural and tribal areas. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently recognised the Traditional Agriculture System of Koraput, Odisha, as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System. This is because the system provides an outstanding contribution to promoting food security, biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity for sustainable and equitable development. The future of food security will depend on a combination of the ecological prudence of the past and the technological advances of today.

(The author is a member of the Rajya Sabha and Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai.)

The hindu

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Muammar Gaddafi Voted As Human Rights Hero Of The Year

Amnesty International is getting a taste of Karma and reality: Muammar Gaddafi is leading the Human Right Hero of 2011 award of Amnesty International USA's online poll

Dr Heidrun Eckert and Louis Szondy

Voting in an online poll by Amnesty International USA for "Human Rights Hero of 2011" is bringing up some human rights champions, that the western media have ignored. One favorite is Michael Jackson, and another is a human rights activist in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, while currently in the lead with more people still voting, is Muammar Gaddafi.

Allowing for the fact that Arabic names have numerous spellings, the race is clearly between Nabeel Rajab and Muammar Gaddafi. Votes are still for the entire month of January, so please continue to vote for Muammar Gaddafi, for reasons we elaborate upon below (and please use that exact spelling when voting).

Many people in the world are happy to see Muammar Gaddafi on the top of voting for the "Human Rights Hero of 2011" award, after he had been due to receive a United Nations award for his contribution to human rights, but instead one month before it was due, the United Nations allowed bankrupted western countries to wage a massive war on Libya, killing over 100,000 and razing entire cities to the ground, while the media focused on the spreading of rumors and disinformation.

Fears are that Amnesty International, which earned the nickname Amnesia International because of its failure to expose and oppose the massive human rights violations of NATO and its mercenaries in Libya, in spite of wide spread video, photographic and documentary evidence, will avoid giving him this prize too.

Yet for his many fans who marvel at the Green Charter Human Rights Document which was law in Libya, the prize is not the issue at stake. Voting for Muammar Gaddafi is a means of informing people:

When 1.7 million Libyans, one third of the entire population and 95% of the capital city were demonstrating for Gaddafi and the Jamahiriya system of direct participatory democracy, the main stream Western press did not even mention it, after having assisted yet another war on false pretenses "humanitarianism" while actually a grab for resources, destroying Africa's most wealthy infrastructure, while allowing a real humanitarian disaster in East Africa to go without aid.

Voting for Gaddafi via the West's leading human rights organ which many read cannot be ignored, so perhaps Amnesty International will forge or not mention the real results, as it is a big slap in the face to that organization and its outdated concept of human rights: the UN document which was drafted by oppressive colonialist governments in 1949. People will start thinking: Human Rights Hero Gaddafi? Then he cannot be what our politicians and press makes us believe. This inner change will be of consequences:

- Press needs readers. If they can no more sell their old stories, they will have to publish what people want: Truth. Or, more people will turn to truth news agencies such as Mathaba.

- All of us wish that the pilots of whatever army would refuse to execute inhuman orders such as bombing. By doing so they risk their existence and the existence of their families. As long as they are misinformed, they will hardly develop the needed courage to meet the consequences. But if they see:

"This Gaddafi is not the brutal dictator we were told, on the contrary. His followers are no fanatics but reasonable beings standing for Human Rights."

Then the chances are great that they obey the voice of their heart. Then more and more others will follow their example. Even the most criminal government can only act as long as there are people obeying their orders. Governments, knowing this, will be more cautious in giving orders when risking public disobedience.

- Last but not least: Imagine Hillary Clinton when learning about the votes for the man whom she wanted to be killed and who appears to be most alive in the hearts of people.

One drop of water is helpless. An ocean is most powerful. So there should be more such opportunities which are simple to handle in any place of the world. So please, you too cast your vote, and use the exact spelling Muammar Gaddafi because the disadvantage of having an Arabic name is that there is not one way to spell it in English, but dozens -- another clear indication of the significance of the voting for Muammar Gaddafi, as his vote is divided among many different spellings, and it is not certain Amnesty International will take the time to go through all the votes submitted to tally them together, even assuming they'll make this embarrassing announcement.

To vote, go to and add "Muammar Gaddafi" as Human Rights Hero. #