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Monday, February 20, 2006



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Business and Economy

  • In a contrarian move, The Reserve Bank of India has pared down its investments in US Treasury bonds by over USD 6 billion in 2005. While China, Japan, and Britain increased its holdings by large numbers, Germany, Honk Kong, and Singapore have followed the Indian mode of divesting in US Treasuries. Part of the disinvestment from RBI is the outflow from the maturity of the India Millennium bonds and also an increased need for foreign exchange from businesses to import more goods.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • Striking a defiant note, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said that the expulsion of the 10 Members of Parliament in the "cash-for-query" scam is "non-justiciable." Rejecting the notion that votes given by members of the Parliament can be challenged in court, he took responsibility for the secretariat not accepting any notice or orders from the Supreme Court. Last December 19, a TV show showed ten MPs taking bribes on hidden camera to ask questions in the Parliament. When the video was aired, a resolution in the Parliament expelled the MPs on Dec 22. Thereafter, 9 of them filed cases in the Delhi High Court and 1 in the Supreme Court asking for right to a fair hearing. Chatterjee convened an all-party meeting to discuss his position not to accept or respond to court notices. All political parties agreed to this position, although the Bharatiya Janata Party had said the decision should be communicated to the court through a lawyer. Thereafter an "emergency" meeting of presiding officers endorsed Chatterjee's stand. Chatterjee had constituted a 7-member inquiry committee to follow through with the allegation of TV channel by Jan 31. On Feb 15 party leaders met with Chatterjee deciding that the members facing the enquiry should not attend the session or any committee. However, this decision did not preclude the suspect members signing the roster, being evicted from their residences, or their positions being listed as vacant. This is what the MPs claim in their lawsuit that although they were asked not to participate in Parliamentary proceedings or committees, they were being hanged pending inquiry. The Constitutional questions are whether the Parliament proceedings are beyond purview of the court, Parliament has the right to interpret law, and Parliament is beyond judicial review. While the Indian Constitution allows the Parliament to make the laws, it defines the judiciary as the mechanism to interpret it. While the Constitution allows for creating policy through the interpretation of loopholes in law in a process called "judicial activism," there is no scope for the Parliament to interpret law. It will be very interesting to see how this will be worked out since there is no forum or appellate mechanism to deal with such questions.

  • The Enforcement Directorate reportedly questioned the disgraced former Foreign Minister Natwar Singh over the oil-for-food scam published through the Volker report. The oil for food scam arose from a report filed by former US Federal Bank Governor Paul Volker on the controversial oil for food program in Iraq. The program came into force after the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after the first Iraq war but allowed it sell oil for food and medicines. Human Rights organizations estimate that the economic blockade killed half a million children. The program got subverted when the erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime handed out oil vouchers to recipients, usually people with influence in host countries, so they an influence favor for Hussein's benefit. The recipients could then sell the vouchers at international prices to those wishing to export oil out of Iraq. Singh was one of the three people identified in India as having benefited in the scam.

Environment, Health and Education

  • The Supreme Court said that it has taken note of the French Government's position to recall Le Clemenceau, the condemned aircraft carrier, back to France for dismantling. However, it has direct the Government to appoint a team of technical experts including those from the Navy to formulate a set of rules to regulate the ship-breaking industry.

  • Chief Judicial Magistrate B.K. Jain found actor Salman Khan guilty of killing an endangered deer while shooting a film in Jodhpur in 1998 and set a jail sentence of a year. Khan's lawyer said he would use the month of suspended sentence to appeal the case in a Sessions court. This is one of the four cases against the actor for killing endangered animals. A different case of vehicular manslaughter against him is pending after he drove his SUV in an inebriated state and ran over homeless pavement dwellers. Like many cases involving poor victims and rich crime perpetrators in India, the surviving dwellers initially identified Khan but later turned hostile for unspecified reasons. Many suspect that the change of heart may be a combination of monetary compensation and physical threats. Khan and his co-accused have repeatedly abused the rickety and overburdened judicial system by not turning up for court hearings, filing postponement appeals, and even threatening eyewitnesses. Some actors, cricketers, and politicians exploit their fame, money, and connections to engage in illegal activities with impunity.

  • The dreaded H5N1 bird flu reached India in the tribal Nandurbar district of Maharashtra and about 50,000 poultry are suspected to have been infected. Displaying abject lack of seriousness or understanding, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Secretary said that as a precaution 300,000 birds within a 3 sq km radius would be culled. In most countries, entire districts are clamped down and poultry destroyed. Indian Health Ministry have been claiming that they were closely working with SAARC and ASEAN nations to monitor and manage the crisis but were unable to explain the sudden cases that appear in the West when migration happens from the East. India has an estimated 490 million poultry of which 60% are commercially grown. India lacks credible monitoring, reporting, evaluating, and response mechanisms to manage this virus, which could be disastrous for the nation. While the Government has called for calm, it is not rolling out education and response programs for rest of the nation. It has dispatched over a million vials of H5N2 virus vaccines and 'tamiflu' tablets.

  • Editorial : Cage This "Tiger"

  • Editorial : Regulate Ship Breaking Business

 

Hot Topics

India Milennium Bonds

Cash-for-Query Corruptions

Volkar and Natwar Singh

Clemenceau to Return to France

Khan and endangered deer

H5N1 Bird Flu Virus

Terrorism In Pakistan

Direction Des Construction

Bharatia Janatha Party

Iran Nuclear Program

United Nations commission of Human Rights

Danish Cartoons

Indo-Us Relations

Featured Analyses

National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme : Making Panchayat Raj Institutions Effective

The Bill on National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme seeks to provide guaranteed employment to one member of every rural household for at least 100 days a year for a minimum wage of Rs.60 per day.  Out of 260 million poor people in the country, about 200 million poor people are in rural areas. People in 45% rural India do not get work for six months in a year. 

The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah
Will Kashmir go the way of Aceh?
A Cry for Help
Watch the Dragon
Cage This "Tiger"
Dalits in India
Was Jinnah a Secularist?
Burying the Howitzer?
Smoking Out Smoking

Featured Edits

Bird flu: lethal and spreading fast
Prevent this clash of civilisations
India not to dilute N-deterrent capacity: Anand Sharma
In the Middle East, the third way is still a myth: look at Hamas 
Real issue behind cartoon sacrilege
Muslims and the Indian Army
Arcelor chief backtracks on remarks against Mittal
Existence of substance is eternal
Impending disaster
Inscription
South Indian Inscriptions

Ancient Indian dynasties documented their administration, significant developments, grants, and milestones as inscriptions in temples. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has documented these inscriptions from 1886. These pages contain inscriptions from Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Western Chalukya, Eastern Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Hoyasala, Vijayanagara, Vishnukundin, Kakatiya, Reddi, Vaidumba, Chinda, Eastern Ganga, Gajapathi, Kalchurya, Qutb-Shahi of Golkonda, and Moghul,  dynasties.

Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology

  • The US admitted that Kashmir-oriented terrorist camps exist in Pakistan and little is being done to dismantle them. In a Senate briefing, Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Richard Boucher said that although Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has made a "fundamental decision" to stamp out terrorism in Pakistan, several terrorist camps exist near the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan has always existed that no such camps exist there. While the Central Intelligence Agency has confirmed this, until now the State Government has never acknowledged its presence.

  • According to a Jane's Defence Weekly, the French conglomerate Direction Des Construction (DCN) has prepared a plan to export five conventional submarines to Pakistan. They will now submit this plan to the French Defense review committee, which is known to have rejected several applications by French manufacturers to sell arms to Pakistan as they feared that this will escalate tensions between the neighbors. They are also conscious of the larger Indian market and India's sensitivity to sales to Pakistan. Pakistan has also asked Germany's HDW and Spain's Navantia to submit bids for submarines. DCN was involved in the purchase of six Scorpene submarines to India for over USD 3 billion last year. DCN had supplied 3 Agosta 90B submarines for USD 984 million in 1994; 2 of them are in service and the third to join soon. Pakistan retired four French Hangor (Daphne) class submarines last month and plans to acquire 3 to 5 replacements within the decade. Meanwhile, the US said that it will be transferring free of cost eight older PC-3 Orion Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft (MRA) to Pakistan. They are funding a refurbishing of the aircraft aiming to empower Pakistan to monitor its porous border with Pakistan. However, Pakistan has said that it will use these to also monitor the operations of the Indian Navy, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf region. The value of the aircraft and the cost of the refurbishing and the time when the aircraft will be delivered to Pakistan are not known.

  • Accusing the Government of vote-bank politics, the Bharatiya Janata Party, staged a walkout in the Parliament over the controversial survey of Muslims in secular Government organizations. The Government insists that the information is to determine the social, economic, and educational status of Muslims so they can address these issues. Many political parties including the Government's allies question the rationale and logic arguing that poverty and development were common across all religions, sects, and castes. They question the motive of the Government to accord such status to people from a single religion leaving vast pockets of other citizens behind. Some say that while the intention is honorable the method is faulty. The BJP has threatened to take their agitation to the streets.

Neighbors

  • The Iran nuclear issue and Indian vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency has assumed a life-threatening form for the Government. The communist and his caste-oriented myopic allies from Uttar Pradesh are threatening to publicly quarter the Government. While the Samajwadi Party was a no-confidence motion to bring down the Government for national elections, the communists say that they only want a debate. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement providing the rationale for the vote including a detailed outline of the events leading to this vote. With the detailed explanation of Iran's nuclear weapons intention, the Bharatiya Janata Party has agreed with the Government decision that it is not in India's interest to have another neighbor with nuclear weapons. This is the first time in Indian coalition history that allies supporting the Government from the outside have such a stranglehold of the Government on domestic and foreign policy.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program

World

  • Five independent investigators of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights (UNHCR) asked the United States to shut down the detention center at Guantanomo Bay. Amid rising number of videos coming out showing naked prisoner being tortured in violation of the Geneva Convention, they asked the US to either bring these prisoners before a competent jury or release them. They say that holding them indefinitely violates their fundamental rights.

  • About 50,000 Pakistanis marched to protest the cartoons that depict Prophet Mohammed distastefully in Karachi. Multinationals companies, Christian cinemas, flew black flags to show sympathy to the marchers and also to avoid being attacked. Armed soldiers watched over the procession from rooftop but no violence was reported. A religious rally leader urged the rally to be peaceful and called on Pakistan to terminate relations with European countries that published these cartoons. Pakistan accused founder-leader of banned terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Toiba of violating prohibitory orders against demonstration and placed the under house arrest. They also detained 150 protestors. A Pakistani cleric offered reward to anyone who would kill the cartoonist. In India, a Uttar Pradesh Minister and senior Samajwadi Party member Yaqoob Qureshi shocked India by offering Rs. 51 crore in gold to the "avenger" who will behead the cartoonist; he said Muslim women will donate their jewelry to pay for the killing. He has violated various sections of the Indian Penal Code for abetting violence, exporting violence, and creating animosity between religious groups. If the Government acts on these charges, he can be jailed for 7-25 years or get the death penalty if someone should actually kill the cartoonist. The Andhra Pradesh Assembly unanimously voted to denounce the cartoons and urged the Government of India to communicate its reservations to Denmark, Norway, and other European nations where the cartoons were reproduced. Violent incidents in Hyderabad brought life to a standstill where irate Muslims burnt police assets, stoned shops, and attacked a place of worship.

  • An under-reported crisis that may hit Indo-US relations down the road is the question of US visas to Indian Government scientists and how Indians are being treated. Govardhan Mehta a former Director of the Indian Institute of Science complained of rude and irreverent attitude of US visa officials. Another scientist who was formerly Director of Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam also complained of the same treatment. This is not the first time that US visa officials and their ultra-rude Indian security staff have come in for criticism for undiplomatic behavior towards Indians-- regardless of age, sex, or purpose of travel. Many Indians have called for India to raise the issue bilaterally, but the Government of India has yet to make a decision on how it would like to deal with it.

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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