Oct 18, 2008

India - Pie in the Sky (V.G.Read)

Bibhu Ranjan Mishra & Praveen Bose

At dawn on October 22, a thousand staid scientists, all with alphabet soups of academic qualifications, will be braced to break out the bubbly. India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1

(C-1) is scheduled to launch about 10 minutes after sunrise from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on the little peninsula of Sriharikota, India’s spaceport on the Bay of Bengal.

Chandrayaan is the latest validation of India’s space programme which had its origins in 1963 when Vikram Sara-bhai laid the foundation for what has become one of the greatest success stories of India.

While India has put satellites galore into space, ISRO’s experience is thus far limited to operating assets at a distance of about 40,000 km. A moon mission is a whole new ball-game. It involves managing complex equipment at a distance of 400,000 km — enough to cause over a second’s lag each way in the radio signals that control those systems.

The sylvan green of Sriharikota with its vast acres of mangrove swamps and its winter arrivals of flamingos and other migratory birds is a charming, if apparently incongruous, setting for a high-tech space centre. However, although the 1,000-odd scientists and technicians camped there claim their surroundings help them relax, the location was chosen for hard-headed, practical reasons.

There is always an element of uncertainty in a rocket launch. If it fails here, it will land in the sea. In case of deviations from the proposed path or other malfunctions, the launch vehicle can be blown up. “Once the vehicle lifts off, nothing can be done. We won’t simply destroy because of a marginal deviation or malfunction. We destroy it only when there is a chance of it causing catastrophic damage,” says

V Krishnamurthy, general manager (safety) of the mission.

However, C-I is unlikely to fail — at launch at least. The PSLV is tried and tested, it has put 12 payloads into space. The objective of C-1 is to put a 1.5 metre cube into orbit, about 100 km above the lunar surface, for two years. Various experiments will be run and data of all sorts acquired. The unmanned, 11-payload mission also incorporates a moon impact probe that will crash into the moon itself and drop a tricolour on the surface, staking India’s claims to the moon.

The making of C-1 has involved very complex systems integration. The mission head of the project, M Annadurai, has had his fingers crossed since July 21 when the integration of the launch vehicle started. His team is “charged-up”. “People from the lowest to the top level are working round the clock with great excitement. All of them are self-motivated and don’t need to be set a target. We have not seen this kind of team spirit with any other project in the past,” says M C Dathan, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR.

At a distance of 384,000 km, the moon is the most visited celestial body. A few dozen manned and unmanned missions have been undertaken by Russia (then the USSR), USA, China and Japan. Russia and the US have landed robotic spacecraft on the moon; the US has landed astronauts as well. But no man has walked on the moon for over 30 years.

In May 1999, Atal Behari Vajpayee evaded the question of a possible moon mission while he was watching the launch of PSLV-C2. He took refuge in poetry, saying, “When man reached the moon, he did not find anything beautiful there.” ISRO did eventually get clearance for the missions and, at Vajpayee’s behest, it was named Chandrayaan. The numeric “1” suggests that it is the first of several missions and indeed C-2 is already in the pipeline.

C-1 is an exercise in developing technical expertise for ISRO as well as in global scientific cooperation. It carries six payloads and experiments devised and contributed by UK, Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria and the US (two payloads), apart from five designed by Indian scientists. If all work, it will send back enough data to generate 3-D maps, check for the presence of water and other chemicals and minerals, assess background radiation levels, measure the (tenuous) lunar atmosphere, study solar wind interaction, et cetera.

It will acquire unprecedented amounts of data and answer many questions about the evolution of earth’s mysterious satellite. “In spite of several missions to the moon, the origin of the moon is not fully understood. The theory that the moon originated due to a catastrophic collision of the earth with a Mars-sized body over 3 billion years ago is unproven. In this context, the data collection about the lunar surface and its chemical composition by C-1 may provide us insights into its origin,” says

G Madhavan Nair, chairman, ISRO. With luck, it will also throw up more questions that later missions can attempt to answer.

“The present unmanned mission from India is unique. Most moon missions so far have tried to unravel one side of the moon. We are now concentrating on the polar orbit, and wish to prepare a three-dimensional atlas which is unique and will help in mapping the topography,” says V K Srivastava, a senior scientist working with the project.

The moon impact probe aims at providing ISRO with technologies for future soft landings including possibly manned missions. Another target is to investigate the abundance of Helium-3, which is vital for fusion energy generation experiments. He-3 is very rare on earth and supposedly present in much larger quantities on the moon. While it may not be cost-effective in energy terms to mine it, its presence would spark new interest in lunar resources. “The moon has 2-3 million tonnes of Helium-3. This would be enough to produce energy for us on earth for about 8,000 years,” says U R Rao, former director of ISRO.

For ISRO, which runs a large and ambitious communication and remote sensing satellites programme, C-1 is a crucial mission. While ISRO chairman

K Kasturirangan had been lobbying since 1999, it was in November 2003, after G Madhavan Nair took over, that the project gained approval. Work started about four years ago. The C-1 spacecraft has been built using the indigenous capabilities of ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore with contributions from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, Thiruvananthapuram, Space Application Centre (SAC), Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad and Laboratory for Electro-optic Systems, Bangalore. As mentioned, the 1,380 kg spacecraft to be launched with the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) carries 11 scientific experiments.

Around November 8, when the satellite is in a polar orbit about 100 km above the moon’s surface, the moon impact probe will be ejected to hit the lunar surface. It will take a series of “close-ups” as it crashes and the instrumentation will transmit that data back. Other payloads will execute their functions over two years on the solar-powered satellite. The telemetry and data relay will be managed at the Deep Space Network Station in Byalalu near Bangalore.

The satellite has a mass of 550 kg (the weight on the moon is one-sixth that on earth due to lower gravity, but mass remains the same). “When it is in the moon orbit, our satellite will be about 550 kg, despite carrying 11 payloads on board. This is satisfactory,” says Srivastava. (Famously, astronauts eat caviar because it has the highest calorie to weight ratio, and weight is key to space missions.) Chandrayaan-1 will be launched using a PSLV variant. PSLV-C11 consists of four stages along with six strap-on rockets.

It is very cost-effective, with a price-tag of less than Rs 400 crore. A space shuttle mission from NASA, which only goes to 40,000 km (and comes back) costs about five times as much. The project cost of Rs 386 crore includes Rs 100 crore towards the cost of the launch vehicle, another Rs 100 crore for the Deep Space Network, which controls the mission, and Rs 185 crore for satellite and operations. “Actually, the moon mission’s cost of less than Rs 400 crore is just 10 per cent of the annual budget of ISRO. The money we have invested on DSN will help us with all future planetary missions including Chandrayaan-II,” a spokesperson for ISRO says.

ISRO, like any other public sector organisation, has to work under tight constraints. Insiders say it was really tough for the space research agency to accomplish the project on schedule within the given budget. ISRO outsourced non-core work to private vendors to minimise costs and speed up schedules. The major hurdle was post-Pokhran II sanctions that prevented technology transfer. As a result, the Indian payloads were developed indigenously. The failure of Insat 4C in July 2006 also slowed things down. Thankfully, all that is in the past.

ISRO and the Indian scientific establishment have a lot riding on C-1. It would make India a serious player in outer space and make it easier to attract and retain high quality scientists and engineers. The moon could eventually serve as a launch-pad for missions to other planets such as Mars. India would definitely like a seat in that game. The countdown begins on Wednesday.

Business - India;Jet to restructure cabin crew flying hours

Manisha Singhal

Jet Airways is working on a plan that will entail a reduction in flight duty hours of its unconfirmed cabin crew (that will reduce their take-home salary), withdrawing some perks and downgrading entitlements like hotels as part of a package to reduce manpower costs. Perks on the block include a weight allowance (given to cabin crew if they maintain a certain body weight) and allowances for staying abroad amongst others.

This plans follows Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal’s announcement at a drama-filled late night press conference yesterday that the airline would reinstate all 800 employees, mostly cabin crew, retrenched the day before.

The broad parameters of a compromise solution were discussed between Goyal and the reinstated staff at Mumbai's Trident Hotel today. Goyal had hinted at yesterday's press meet that he would sit around with the reinstated staff to see how they could work together to improve the efficiency of the airline.

The package might also include downsizing the number of expatriate cockpit crew who get 40 per cent higher salaries than their Indian counterparts. Jet Airways has over 700 expatriate pilots. A Jet Airways spokesperson, however, was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.

The broad plan also entails shifting experienced senior cabin crew from international operations to domestic routes, thereby reducing the number of the flying hours beginners would be clocking. The carrier has decided to withdraw many international destinations and also cut capacity 15 per cent.

Around 80 per cent of cabin crew salary is linked to the number of flying hours they put in, unconfirmed crew will obviously get a much lower overall take home salary. "The airline recruited cabin crew in hoards when it was expanding, now it does not know what to do with them," said a source in the airline.

Jet has at least 3,800 cabin crew currently. A general ratio between the aircraft and cabin crew is 1:5 or 1:7, depending on the aircraft type. For Jet, currently this ratio is 1:9. 7

Roughly 40 per cent of the cabin crew consists of members with over four years of service, about 1100 are beginners who were unconfirmed (and whom the airline planned to retrench) and around 1000 have eight months to a year-and-a-half of experience.

Although Goyal yesterday hinted that he had no role to play in the decision to lay off 800 staffers, the chairman met senior cabin crew twice, say sources, once on October 6 and then October 7 at Mumbai's Intercontinental and Mirage Hotel.

The senior cabin crew protested to the chairman about the substantial cut in their salaries because of reduced flying hours owing to a cut in capacity, the reduction in international flights and the presence of surplus non-confirmed cabin crew.

Sources say the move to lay off Jet's unconfirmed cabin crew was taken to primarily meet the growing opposition of the senior crew.

"Goyal was not happy about the fact that experienced staff was not getting paid enough because of the entry level staff," said a source.

The source added that the chairman was also apparently unhappy that the quality of service on the domestic sector was deteriorating.

Business - India;M&M to launch Ingenio by year end

The much awaited multi purpose vehicle (MPV) from Mahindra & Mahindra will hit the road end of the year. The MPV, named Ingenio, will be produced out of Nashik plant and will be a completely new platform. The company is considering a few brand names to christen Ingenio and will be finalising the brand name very soon. Further, the launch of seven seater variant of Logan has been indefinitely postponed given the tight credit squeeze in the market.

Pawan Goenka, President (automotive sector), M&M, said the MPV will be launched end of December and the name Ingenio which is the project name will be shortlisted soon.

“We have a few brand names in mind along with the name Ingenio. The name will be frozen shortly,” said Mr Goenka. He added that it could well go ahead with the name Ingenio, similar to what M&M did when it launched Scorpio. Mr Goenka refused to elaborate on the configuration of Ingenio.

On whether the current turbulence in the market will affect M&M's expansion plans and the planned product launches, Mr Goenka said that there is no deviation in the long term plans. “The Chakan plant work is on full swing and all product development is on schedule. The short term concerns are not stopping us from achieving the long term objectives.”However, the short term pressures definitely have got the company to tweak its planned foray into the US, taking its MPV and SUV into what is the world's largest automobile market. Mr Goenka said while there's no re-think on the US foray, the situation has prompted some re-adjustment. “One might have to take a call on the pricing position keeping in mind the input costs and lack of credit available to consumers," he said.

On an optimistic note, Goenka said that as market out there shifts from large gas guzzling SUVs to more fuel efficient SUVs, M&M, with its product offering, stands to gain. "We are looking at 10,000-15,000 units which are miniscule portion of overall auto market, but it's a big number for us," he stated.

Meanwhile, the seven seater variant of Logan launch has been deferred indefinitely. The variant (R 90 variant) was supposed to be the second offering under the Logan platform, but Mr Goenka said that it has been put on hold till market conditions improve.

“The right volume-investment mix is not justified. The volume we estimate in the current market conditions is not giving us the confidence of launching the variant," he said.

Even as Logan variant under the Mahindra-Renault (51:49) JV has been deferred, Goenka said that another variant (B 90), out of the Logan platform will come out of the Chennai plant been set up by Renault-Nissan for which M&M is in discussion with Renault for distribution of B 90. "Talks are still on," he remarked.

Business - Car market decline spurs fresh Big Three Merger talk

Renault on Friday denied it was in talks to buy Jeep from Chrysler as record low auto sales and the financial crisis spur fresh merger talk a bout the Big Three US automakers in a new global consolidation round.

General Motors Corp, Ford and Chrysler, seeking to maximize cash returns while battling with a declining home market due to high petrol prices and an economic recession, are expected to put brands both in the United States and overseas for sale or to seek tie-ups to slash production costs.

People familiar with the talks said private equity firm Cerberus was in talks to sell all or part of Chrysler LLC's operations to Renault SA and General Motors Corp as it considers a range of deals that could break up the No. 3 U.S. automaker. But a Renault spokeswoman denied this.

"There are no discussions. We are focusing on dealing with the current market situation," spokeswoman Frederique Le Greves said.

Renault last week appointed Patrick Pelata has chief operating officer to leave more time to chief executive Carlos Ghosn to focus on strategy, including mergers and acquisitions.

Ghosn is also chief executive at Renault's 44 percent Japanese subsidiary and alliance partner Nissan Motor .

Ghosn has never hidden his desire to see Renault return to the United Sates but the focus of expansion was on emerging markets such as China.

He said recently that the situation on the U.S. car market meant that "something will have to happen" and that any big deals would be opportunity driven.

The sources said that Renault had expressed an interest in Chrysler that has spanned possibilities from an alliance to an acquisition of Jeep, widely considered to be Chrysler's most valuable brand.

Any deal with Renault to buy Jeep would put the world's first and best-known sport utility brand back in the hands of the French automaker that sold it to Chrysler along with American Motors in 1987.

Chrysler assets under consideration for purchase by GM include its top-selling minivan line, a market segment Chrysler pioneered almost 25 years ago, and its truck production facilities in Mexico, one of the sources said.

Cerberus' talks with GM also have included the possibility of Chrysler buying GM's remaining 49 percent share of GMAC. In one scenario, GM would swap its GMAC stake for Chrysler's auto operations, sources have said.

The Wall Street Journal said that potential lenders were providing strong support for merger talks between GM and Chrysler as major banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co are eager to cut their exposure to the auto sector.

Japanese media said that Ford was finalizing plans to sell shares in Mazda Motor Co to about 20 Japanese firms including insurers. Ford is considering selling some of its 33.4 percent stake in Mazda.

Health - Got a rash?Blame your cellphone

LONDON: Doctors baffled by an unexplained rash on people's ears or cheeks should be on alert for a skin allergy caused by too much mobile phone us
e, the British Association of Dermatologists said.

Citing published studies, the group said a red or itchy rash, known as "mobile phone dermatitis," affects people who develop an allergic reaction to the nickel surface on mobile phones after spending long periods of time on the devices.

"It is worth doctors bearing this condition in mind if they see a patient with a rash on the cheek or ear that cannot otherwise be explained," it said.

The British group said many doctors were unaware mobile phones could cause the condition.

Safety concerns over mobile phones has grown as more people rely on them for everyday communication, although the evidence to date has given the technology a clean bill of health when it comes to serious conditions like brain cancer.

"In mobile phone dermatitis, the rash would typically occur on the cheek or ear, depending on where the metal part of the phone comes into contact with the skin," the group said in a statement.

"In theory it could even occur on the fingers if you spend a lot of time texting on metal menu buttons."

Nickel is a metal found in products, ranging from mobile phones to jewelry to belt buckles and is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, according to the Mayo Clinic in the United States.

Earlier this year Lionel Bercovitch of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and colleagues tested 22 popular handsets from eight different manufacturers and found nickel in 10 of the devices.

World - Ignoring Pak protest,US general visits Siachen

Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: Washington's response to Pakistan's complaint about the visit to Siachen Glacier in India by the US Army Chief General George Casey? Cold

Hours after Islamabad loudly remonstrated about General Casey's reported programme to the highest battlefield in the world, which Pakistan considers a disputed territory, a senior US official in Washington confirmed the outing, while pointedly ignoring the Pakistani protest.

"As you all know, Gen Casey is in India and he was up in Siachen today," Evan Feigenbaum, deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, told an Indian media round table on Friday on US-India relations. "Exciting things are happening in defense."

The remarks followed an unexpected protest from Islamabad over Casey's journey to the region to study Indian expertise and tactics in high-altitude battlefield conditions which could come in handy for US troops in Afghanistan's front with Pakistan.

A Pakistani foreign office spokesman said on Thursday that "any such visit to an area which is disputed and which is under discussion between Pakistan and India will certainly cast a shadow on the ongoing composite dialogue between the two neighbours."

The Pakistan objection seems to be more pro-forma than a meaningful one considering India has taken several foreign diplomats and generals to Kashmir, and even conducted military exercises in the region. It is now widely accepted in Washington that the boundaries between India and Pakistan, including the Line of Control, will not be redrawn, and any solution to the Kashmir issue will be within the ambit of the current boundaries.

While the Kashmir issue as a "dispute" has gradually receded into the background, saner voices are suggesting that the time is ripe for India and Pakistan to settle the matter broadly along existing lines.

"The Government of India has stated that maps cannot be redrawn. The Government of Pakistan has stated that the status quo is unacceptable. One way to proceed toward a settlement would be to accept both positions and devise new regional bodies that would overlay the current map of a divided Kashmir. These regional bodies could deal with trade, tourism, power generation, pilgrimages, and other matters," the Washington think-tank Stimson Center said in a recent paper on confidence building measures between the two sides.

For a section of the Pakistani establishment though, not redrawing the maps would amount to a status quo. But under pressure from Washington and the international community, Islamabad is being persuaded to move towards a solution on the existing lines, particularly in view of Pakistan's parlous situation that makes continued confrontation with India untenable.

The Stimson paper approvingly noted that a delegation of business leaders from Muzaffarabad recently has crossed the Line of Control dividing Kashmir to discuss the modalities of expanded trade. Pakistan's top peacenik rock band, Junoon, which arguably has a larger fan following in India than in its own home, was allowed by the Indian government to perform at Srinagar in the biggest musical event in the disputed valley in decades.

The objection to Gen Casey's Siachen visit is seen here as part of a series of confused responses from the out-of-kilter Pakistani establishment that seems to be working at cross purposes. While Pakistan's newly elected president Asif Ali Zardari has been pushing for peace with New Delhi, going to the extent of saying India has never been a threat to Pakistan, the military establishment, whose budgets depend on a confrontational posture with India, had been chafing at the bit.

Tech - Windows 7

The successor to Windows Vista now has a name: Windows 7. Although the new operating system is not due to hit store shelves until late next year, Microsoft felt that now was the time not only to unveil the name of the next version of the world's most-used operating system but, more importantly, the rationale for the abandonment of the "aspirational" naming scheme of recent versions of Windows.

But if you use Vista now, you don't need to wait over a year to get a Vista-like version of Windows that's leaner, less obnoxious, and indeed even snappier. There are steps you can take whip Vista into shape right now. What you end up with won't exactly be Windows 7, but it will be a whole lot more livable than the Vista you use now.

Tame User Account Control

UAC is the feature of Vista that users love to hate, and with good reason. It's responsible for those dialog boxes that read "An unidentified program wants to access your computer" any time that you try to open a file or run a program that could install itself or change files on your computer. The trouble is that 95 per cent of the time, you know exactly what you're doing when this dialog box pops up, and therefore it amounts to just another annoyance on your way to getting something done.

It's possible to disable UAC altogether, but if you do, you'll be removing an important security component from Vista, leaving yourself more vulnerable. Instead, you could turn to a new, free tool from Symantec called Norton UAC Tool (http://www.nortonlabs.com/inthelab/uac.php), which gives you more control over which types of actions UAC prompts you about.

The Norton UAC Tool adds some important options to the standard UAC dialog box. For example, after installing Norton UAC, if you double-click an "exe" file to install a program, UAC will prompt you as usual, but you'll also have the option to disable that type of prompt in the future by clicking a "Don't ask me again" check box.

Norton UAC also provides more information than the standard UCA about what's about to happen as a result of an action you just took. For instance, a UAC prompt that opens after you click some Control Panel applets lets you know that actions you perform might make changes to a protected directory. Again, the Norton UAC offers you the option to disable such prompts in the future.

Tone Down Aero

Aero - the Vista interface feature that enables semi-transparent windows - is pretty, but it's also a major resource hog. It's so demanding, in fact, that the edition of Vista called Windows Vista Basic, which is designed to run on less powerful machines, doesn't even include it.

Even if your copy of Vista does, you might want to disable it in order to regain some performance. To do so, right-click a blank area of your desktop, and select Personalise from the pop-up menu. Then click Windows Colour and Appearance. From the resulting Appearance Settings dialog box, select Windows Vista Basic from the "Colour scheme" list box, and click OK. You'll still have the look and feel of Vista. But without the Aero transparency effects, your PC will seem more responsive.

You can get another performance bump by disabling some other interface niceties that aren't necessarily tied to Vista. To do so, open the Vista Start menu, right-click the word Computer, and then select Properties from the pop-up menu. From the resulting System dialog box, click Advanced System Setting from the left-hand pane. The Performance Options dialog opens.

From there, deselect those interface options - such as "fade or slide menus into view" - that you can live without. Or simply click the option button labeled "Adjust for best performance," and click OK.

Turn off unneeded features

You'd be amazed at the number of optional features that Vista starts up by default, slowing down your computer in the process. Some of these features you likely will never need or use.

For instance, do you ever print documents over the Internet? Vista thinks you may want to, so it loads an Internet printing feature. Or do you ever use Windows Meeting Space? If you're not even sure what it is, you probably don't use it. But Vista loads drivers for it every time the operating system starts.

To get rid of the Internet printing feature, open Vista's Control Panel and click Programs and Features. Then click the "Turn features on or off" link in the left-hand pane. The Windows Features dialog box opens. Expand the Print Services section, and remove the check mark from the Internet Printing Client check box. Disable the Windows Meeting Space service in the same way.

And while you're in the Windows Features dialog box, spend some time looking at the other features that are enabled. Anything with a check mark next to it is. Not using games? Remove the check mark next to Games. Click OK when you're done, and Windows will spend some time deactivating the features you have de-selected

Disable services you don't need

Vista comes with a host of system-level services - enhancements tied closely to the operating system - that few people ever use. Yet the existence of these services means that resources are being wasted - and your computer is being slowed.

ReadyBoost, for example, is a service that allows you to use a USB flash drive to give Vista more memory, thereby helping the operating system to do more - theoretically. In practice, few people seem to notice much difference when a flash drive is inserted, and even fewer seem to use ReadyBoost.

Disable it by clicking Start, typing "services," without the quotation marks, and pressing Enter. In the resulting Services dialog box, find ReadyBoost, and double-click the entry. From the "startup type" drop-down menu, select Disabled, and click OK.

Removing Indexing

Vista comes with a host of system-level services - enhancements tied closely to the operating system - that few people ever use. Yet the existence of these services means that resources are being wasted - and your computer is being slowed.

ReadyBoost, for example, is a service that allows you to use a USB flash drive to give Vista more memory, thereby helping the operating system to do more - theoretically. In practice, few people seem to notice much difference when a flash drive is inserted, and even fewer seem to use ReadyBoost.

Disable it by clicking Start, typing "services," without the quotation marks, and pressing Enter. In the resulting Services dialog box, find ReadyBoost, and double-click the entry. From the "startup type" drop-down menu, select Disabled, and click OK.

Indexing, too, is a service that is resource-intensive and may either be foregone entirely or replaced by a less resource-intensive indexing application, such as Google Desktop or Copernic Desktop. To turn off indexing, remain in the Services dialog box, and locate the Windows Search entry. Double-click it. From the "startup type" drop-down list box, select Disabled. Click OK, and you're done.

Undoubtedly Windows 7 will amount to a lot more than simply the disabling of features, services, and interface elements. But if Microsoft has absorbed anything from the feedback it has received about Windows Vista, it's that users want less, not more, when it comes to things that get in the way of productivity. Take the steps outlined here to make Vista less intrusive, and you're likely to be a good bit closer to what Microsoft hopes to give you in Windows 7.

Courtesy: DPA

Lifestyle - Coffee can shrink women's breasts

LONDON: Ladies, please note -- drinking coffee in moderation may be okay, but downing more than three cups daily can shrink the size of your breasts,
a new study has revealed.

Researchers in Sweden have carried out the study and claimed that women who take more than three cups of the caffeine-fuelled drink a day could see their bra size drop, the 'Daily Star' reported.

Tests by cancer researchers found half of all women have a gene linking breast size to coffee intake.

Nearly 300 women were quizzed but Helena Jernstroem, of Lund University, said women should not worry too much.

She explained: "Coffee-drinking women do not have to worry their breasts will shrink to nothing overnight. They will get smaller, but the breasts aren't just going to disappear.

"Anyone who thinks they can tell which women are coffee drinkers just from their bra measurements will be disappointed. There are two measurements for a bra -- the cup size and the girth, so you wouldn't be able to tell."

The study showed regular hits of caffeine reduce the risk of women developing breast cancer.

Columnists - Khushwant Singh;The next PM ?

Manmohan Singh did well in saying that it was not yet time to decide whether or not he would run for a second term. There are still a few months to go before the next general election and the political scenario may change. He did even better by saying that there were others in his party as well, if not better-qualified than he to be Prime Ministers. He is a modest man not given to boasting. There are Pranab Mukherjee, Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, Arjun Singh and Kapil Sibal who have as much right to stake their claims to the top post as he. There are also outsiders like Digvijay Singh who have to be taken into reckoning. We are all aware that the final decision will rest with the President of the Congress Party. She knows our countrymen are not yet willing to have a foreign-born Indian at the helm of affairs. This is unfortunate but true. It is more than likely that she will choose Manmohan Singh for a second term because she can trust him and values his construction to the country. She will have to find him a safe constituency from where he can be elected to the Lok Sabha.

Manmohan Singh has his plus and minus points. A comparison with Pandit Nehru, our first and best Prime Minister, are pertinent. Nehru had a rich father who sent him to Harrow and Cambridge university. Manmohan comes from a poor family and won his way to Cambridge on scholarships and got the highest academic distinction. Nehru had no experience of administration. Manmohan Singh is a distinguished economist, has been a teacher, worked for the World Bank, was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, head of the Planning Commission and Finance Minister. Nehru made some miscalculations in planning his economic policies. Manmohan had a clear vision of what the country needed and put them into effect. Nehru indulged in nepotism and cronyism. He imposed men like Krishna Menon on the country, appointed his sister Vijaylakshmi Pandit as governor and ambassador. He appointed Padmaja Naidu as governor. Manmohan has shown no favour to his relations or friends; he has no cronies. Most people don’t even know that he has three daughters, all highly educated. There is not a breath of scandal of financial skulduggery associated with his name.

Singh’s minus points should also be kept in mind. He has no constituency or political base. He will have to rely heavily on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to win votes for the Congress Party to put him back in the Prime Ministerial chair. He has little charisma. He is not the paradigm of a martial sardar. He is not a great orator. He is very measured in his speech, never shoots his mouth, shouts slogans or indulges in rhetoric as most politicians do.

The principal contender for the post of the Prime Minister will be ex-Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani of the BJP. Since the time his party lost the last election, he has been prophesying Manmohan Singh’s imminent downfall, called him nikamma (useless). His record as far as money-making and kunbaprasthi (nepotism) is concerned is above reproach. He is also a good debater. The one thing I have against him is fouling the communal atmosphere in the country. He was the principal architect of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. All that has followed — bomb blasts in public places, attacks in trains, the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat can be traced back to the horrendous crime committed in Ayodhya, and the fact that none of those who took part in it were punished. I have said many times and say it again: crime unpunished breeds criminals. The fall of the Babri Masjid has bred criminals, both Hindu and Muslim. Advani has to atone for his sins.

Of the BJP leaders the only other possible contenders for the post of Prime Minister that I can think of are Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley, Vasundhara Raje, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha. All of them will have to cope with the minority animosity against Advani.

The Left parties are not likely to have a candidate of their own, but in combination with other parties may pick on Somnath Chatterjee, as the most acceptable candidate.

And finally there are the two ladies, Mayawati and Jayalalitha, with ambitions and firm political bases. Both ladies have ego problems and lack national vision: their willingness to be deified may be their undoing.

At the moment, it seems the cards are stacked in favour of Manmohan Singh to pre-eminence and his performance as the leader of the nation, one rarely hears sardarji jokes which portrayed them as simple-minded buffoons and the only culture they knew was agriculture or soldiering. In his own quiet and unassuming manner he has gained respect for his community as well.

Entertainment - Q&A A.R.Rehman

Rachna Dubey

In the city of much joy, music maestro AR Rahman is once again on a high after the music launch for Yuvraaj, his comeback venture with Subhash Ghai after eight years. Rachana Dubey hits the right chord with him in this free flowing chat about his mother, wife, kids, and above all, his music.

It’s taken you almost eight years to get back to work with Subhash Ghai. Why?
(Shrugs) We were working on other projects in the interim. There was Motherland, for instance.. fabulous story, six decent songs recorded. But he couldn’t get dates from his chosen hero. So the film and my tunes were shelved. He approached me for another film but this time I didn’t have the dates. After that, he got busy with his Whistling Woods institute.

How would you describe the score?
Well, it was something of a challenge. Yuvraaj is the story of an Indian family settled in Europe so Subhashji (Ghai) was looking for a western classical-meets-Bollywood kind of music. I think I delivered.

The Bombay Dreams experience must have come in handy?
Bombay Dreams had eclectic Indian compositions. It was a stage musical with lots of ballads. No, it didn’t really help inspire Yuvraaj.

What will happen to the Motherland tunes?
I don’t think I will use them. But Mr Ghai might want to use a song or two in one of his forthcoming films.

Subhash Ghai is known to take a special interest in the music of his films. Did he contribute this time too?
This film was a journey of discovery for both of us. We had long discussions before we zeroed in on a tune. The results on screen were gratifying. The songs look magnificent!

You’re known ask for a share in the music sales. That’s why you didn’t do Om Shanti Om. Did Ghai agree to your conditions?
Sharing profits is every composer’s right. Those who approach me know that and 99 per cent of the producers are okay with it. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t work with Farah Khan on Om Shanti Om. (Smiles) The reason I didn’t do the film was well publicised and it made life easy for me. I didn’t have to put my conditions across.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na is a huge hit. Now expectations from Delhi 6 are sky-high.
Jaane Tu.. was an out-and-out commercial score. Pappu can’t dance saala is a hot favourite with young people. I’ll do my best with Delhi 6 too.. then wait for the reviews.

Mr Bachchan really raved about one of the songs he’d heard on his blog. Someone sent me the link.

Slumdog Millionaire has got rave reviews..
(Laughs) I don’t think I contributed much there. I only worked with Sri Lankan artiste Maya. We composed more than 40 tunes in less than two weeks. Danny Boyle (the director) has used the music really well.

The CD is not out yet but some sound clippings are available online. The background score was heard on the festival circuit. I’m now waiting for the formal music launch. (Smiles) And more good reviews.

You were going to collaborate with Akon. What’s the update?
The wait is on. There was a query but since then there’s been no news.

You’re back on the reality show circuit with The Big Band..
Yeah. New voices emerge every five years and as a composer and music patron, I should go looking for them. Otherwise my songs will sound monotonous. So on this show I’m going to launch a search for a band that’s ready to make it Big.

You’ve introduced several newcomers over the years but after a couple of songs, they disappear.
I use a voice which can do justice to a song. I give breaks to newcomers but I can’t shoulder the responsibility of taking careers forward. I can give them a few hits but then they have to fend for themselves. Some keep going.. some go off track.

When will Himesh Reshammiya sing for you? We have been waiting for two years now.
I’ve finally got him. He’s going to be singing for me soon.

Have you seen Karzzz?
(Surprised) He’s done a movie? When did it release?

(Excitedly) Then I must book my tickets right away.

What’s happening with Ada — A Way of Life?
The promotions are yet to begin but I’m getting positive feedback from colleagues. The music is complex but that shouldn’t hinder its sales.

And Ghajini?
That’s a young and vibrant score. It’ll rock!

So your career is looking up again?
Ups and downs are a part of life.. and work. There were some lows on the graph. But they are gone now.

Do your children show signs of following in your footsteps?
They do. They are still studying but I plan to get them into the music industry by next year. (Smiles) They have always prayed for their abba.

And is your wife Saira?
(Smiles) She’s my biggest critic. Sometimes, I think she has a better ear for music than I do.

Sport - F1;Hamilton on Pole

SHANGHAI: McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday ahead of Ferrari rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.

Britain's Hamilton, who can become Formula One's youngest champion this weekend, put in a flying last lap in final qualifying to head the grid in a time of one minute 36.303 seconds.

Massa is five points behind Hamilton in the standings with BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, who disappointingly qualified 12th, the only other driver with title ambitions.

Sport - Cricket;West Indies to host World T20 Championship in 2010

The West Indies will host the World Twenty20 Championship in 2010, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced in Mohali on Saturday.

The event will be held in place of the Champions Trophy that was to be hosted by West Indies in 2010, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said at a press conference.

"With the Champions Trophy set to be hosted by Pakistan in 2009 after its cancellation this year, we decided to have a Twenty20 World Championship instead in April-May 2010 in West Indies," he said.

"Although World Twenty20 is to be held every second year, we decided to hold it on the trot to set the calendar right and ensure a better spread of tournaments."

The event, slated to be held from April 23 to May 9, will be staged at three venues to be chosen by the ICC Board in January 2009 following nominations from the West Indies Cricket Board.

"With the ICC Champions Trophy being the final major ICC event of 2009, and the ICC Cricket World Cup being the 50 over event in 2011, it makes perfect sense to have a tournament of a different format in between," Lorgat said.

"It means we will avoid staging the ICC Champions Trophy and the ICC Cricket World Cup close together, as happened in 2002-03 and 2006-07.

"We will aim to make both those events special to ensure we have a great blend of the ICC's three majors, with two ICC World Twenty20s (2009 in England and 2010 in the West Indies) as well as an the ICC Champions Trophy (in 2009) and an ICC Cricket World Cup (in 2011) over the next three years."

India won the inaugural World Twenty20 Championship in South Africa in 2007.

World - Amartya Sen backs Obama

Americans lolling about without confidence has pushed the US into a recession, but things could become normal if "cool" Democrat nominee Barack Obama wins the presidential election, feels Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

"It (US) certainly is in a recession already. There is no question about that. The question is how deep a recession it is," he told NDTV on his assessment of the US economy.

The 1998 Nobel laureate in economics said that economies are pushed towards depression when people suddenly lose confidence and that is what has happened in the US.

"It is that suddenly people have lost confidence. And, that's how depression has traditionally been. You lose confidence, you cut down your activities. That leads to the cut down of other activities," the economist said.

He was, however, of the view that Obama could play a major role in infusing confidence, although he would not be in office until January.

"His (Obama's) coolness is a real advantage in a financial crisis. And, when that happens, I think you might see the confidence... Turn around very quickly," said Sen, who was born in Santiniketan, West Bengal.

According to him, "the positive side (to any depression) is that just as it can decline by lack of confidence, when confidence comes in, it can also dramatically improve."

He also concluded that the current crisis in the US has not been caused by external factors and the problems were internal and more to do with lack of confidence.

Entertainment - Madonna to pay Guy 60mn pounds

Director Guy Ritchie is to get at least 20 million pounds (nearly $35 million) in cash, and properties worth many more millions in his divorce settlement with pop superstar Madonna.

According to thesun co uk, the 40-year-old Ritchie will get the 1,200-acre country estate and a London pub The money is to cover the London properties, which include a seven million pound family townhouse in Marylebone, a 10-bedroom, 6 million-pound property next door and two mews cottages worth 2 million pounds each.

The director also gets the pub in Mayfair, valued at about 2.25 million pounds - and the Ashcombe House estate in Berwick St John, Wilts, which is worth 10 million pounds.

The total value will be around 60 million pounds - enough for Guy to walk away satisfied, it was reported Friday night.

Madonna, 50, on tour in the US, keeps her New York and Los Angeles homes.

A source close to the couple said: "The negotiations were relatively painless. Guy knew what he wanted and Madonna knew what she was keen to keep. There was a spell when Guy was in a mood to dig his heels in, but he decided this arrangement seemed reasonable and a long battle over money would make life unbearable."

Madonna is being represented by well-known divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton, who played a pivotal role in protecting Paul McCartney’s fortune from his ex-wife Heather Mills this year.

Shackleton negotiated with Guy’s lawyers in a day of frantic phone calls. They are expected to reach a compromise over their kids - Lourdes, 12, Rocco, eight, and David Banda, three.

Books - Coetzee,Murakami on list for Australia's richest book prize

Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and Japan’s Haruki Murakami were Friday named on the longlist for the richest prize for fiction in Australia, officials said.
Recent Booker prize contender Michelle de Kretser and well-known Australian authors David Malouf and Janet Turner Hospital were also on the list for the inaugural Australia-Asia Literary Award worth 110,000 dollars (76,244 US).
Indian-born Indra Sinha was nominated for “Animal’s People” while “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” earned Mohsin Hamid, who was born in Pakistan and lives in the UK, a place on the longlist.
The award is for a work of fiction written by an author living in Australia or Asia, or a work primarily set Down Under or in an Asian country, and published electronically or in print.
Coetzee, who has twice won the Booker prize and who was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2003, earned his nomination for “Diary of a Bad Year”.
Born in South Africa, Coetzee has been living in the South Australian capital of Adelaide for some years and became an Australian citizen in 2006.
“It was a careful, thought-out decision to move at a certain stage in my life and I’m very, very happy in Adelaide,” he said recently.
The winner of the award, judged by Melbourne literary critic Peter Craven, Pakistani-born author Kamila Shamsie and the Hong Kong-based founder of the Asia Literary Review Nury Vittachi, will be announced on November 21.
Launching the award in April, Western Australia’s then premier Alan Carpenter said he hoped it could grow into an award comparable to the Booker or the Pulitzer prizes for writing.
“It is a relatively small amount of money, but in terms of literary awards around the world it is big time,” he said.
Australia-Asia Literary Award 2008 Longlist:
J.M. Coetzee Diary of a Bad Year
Matthew Condon The Trout Opera
Michelle De Kretser The Lost Dog
Ceridwen Dover Blood Kin
Rodney Hall Love without Hope
Mohsin Hamid The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mireille Juchau Burning In
David Malouf The Complete Stories
Alex Miller Landscape of Farewell
Haruki Murakami After Dark
Indra Sinha Animal’s People
Janette Turner Hospital Orpheus Lost

Lifestyle - Dalai Lama's teaching for Nirvana

Himanshu Bhagat

There was a time when the Dalai Lama was enamoured of Chairman Mao and communism. “Mao impressed me in many ways,” he writes in The Leader’s Way:Business, Buddhism and Happiness in an Interconnected World “He explained (communism) as a system where the capitalists would no longer exploit workers.” The admiration didn’t last. “(Mao) told me that religion is like poison. He knew that I was a Buddhist, so his comments made clear to me that the friendship he had shown was not genuine.”

And as it turns out, along with karuna (compassion) and ahimsa (non-violence), Buddhism also values free enterprise. “Buddha recognized entrepreneurship as a valuable activity,” the Dalai Lama writes. “He encouraged entrepreneurs to be successful by being reliable and having an eye for what should sell.” Now, he lays store by a “responsible free market” economic system as our best bet to achieve and spread happiness worldwide. So, when Laurens van den Muyzenberg, an international management consultant, requested him to address how Buddhist thinking could help capitalism “bring about a more peaceful and sustainable planet”, he agreed. The result is The Leader’s Way, the fruit of a long collaboration between the two.
Business, with its focus on “production, profit and growth”, might seem to have little in common with Buddhist teachings of compassion and welfare, admits Van den Muyzenberg, but he points out how a closer look shows that both are concerned with happiness and making the right decisions. The Leader’s Way essentially tells its readers to live and work according to the Buddhist concepts of Right View and Right Conduct. As van den Muyzenberg explains, Right View determines the intention behind taking a decision and Right Conduct, how that decision is translated into action by a company and its employees.
If you master these two “Rights”, according to Buddhism, you will attain happiness and also spread it. The key to this mastery lies in training one’s mind through meditation. By following the process of meditation as outlined in the book, one can learn to “eject” unwholesome tendencies and “replace” them with wholesome ones—so self-confidence ejects lack of self-confidence; humility ejects pride; equanimity ejects craving for power, wealth and fame; vigour ejects dullness of mind; and so on.
The book spells out the techniques of meditation and provides testimonials by CEOs on its efficacy. When her partner cheated Thitinart na Patalung, the chief executive of a successful Thai diamond company, of all her money, she became depressed and angry. But with meditation, she got rid of these negative emotions. Taiwanese architect Kris Yao trained his mind to stop craving to be the best and brightest in his field; instead, he focused on doing what was best for his clients. His creativity soared.

The benefits of meditation, Buddhist or otherwise, are well known, and The Leader’s Way doesn’t really tell us anything new. However, by its brief instructions, examples and illustrations, it does reach out to the uninitiated and point them toward a practical and possibly effective means of self-improvement.
The first section of the book is “Leading yourself”; then comes “Leading Your Organization” and finally “Leading in an interconnected world”. As the theatre and scope of action expands for the reader—from the individual to the global—the insights become less and less original.
The book doesn’t really say much that is new. It spells out the basic philosophy of Buddhism as it relates to the individual and individual action in simple, clear language; and it outlines some of the dilemmas and contradictions inherent in capitalism and globalization. But there is nothing fresh about its tips on how to negotiate these contradictions— at the personal, organizational or global level.
The Dalai Lama’s take on free market economy and globalization doesn’t tell us anything that magazines, books and college texts haven’t already told us. For instance, the Buddhist view of profit is: “Profit is a fine aim as long as it has been earned honestly.” Not very different from the non-Buddhist view, it turns out. Among other things, the CEO is exhorted to be mindful of extreme salary disparities, exercise corporate social responsibility, aim for a diverse workforce and invest in poorer parts of the globe. We are also told that “Money can’t buy happiness.” (Though, the section does succinctly analyse the nonlinear correlation between the two.) Case studies add some colour: Indian entrepreneur Tulsi Tanti’s quest for wind energy solutions; Unilever’s microcredit initiative in India; IBM’s determined push to increase workforce diversity and GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s successful health initiative in Ghana illustrate entrepreneurship and leadership. Linking them with Buddhist principles, though, seems tenuous. The logic seems to be: These initiatives exemplify Buddhist principles because they aim to do good.
The Leader’s Way then serves well as a refresher or primer of the universal values that should anchor our day-to-day conduct— as individuals and as members of a professional organization. Free marketers will be happy that the Dalai Lama—with his moral stature—has unequivocally backed capitalism and globalization, with the usual riders about mitigating its excesses.

Man Behind The Monk
Five books for more on the life and times of the Dalai Lama, and his philosophy

# The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by Pico Iyer, Knopf, 2008
Iyer’s family has known the Dalai Lama’s family for at least 30 years so this book is an incisive analysis. Iyer moves from Dharamsala to Lhasa to venues in the West, to examine the various paradoxes that characterize the life of the Dalai Lama.
# The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings, edited by Rajiv Mehrotra, Penguin, 2005

A selection of Buddhist and secular perspectives that form the basis of the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and the methods of achieving a happy, ethical and enlightened life. The collection brings together his teachings on his vision for humanity.
# Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother’s Story by Diki Tsering, Penguin, 2000
The story of Dalai Lama’s mother on the experience of her son being received as the living Buddha, watching him grow, the escape and exile from Tibet, and his becoming a global ambassador for his people and a voice for peace.
# The Dalai Lamas: The Institution and its History by Ardy Verhaegen, DK Printworld, 2002
The book chronicles the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet and the development of the country’s unique religious culture, the rise to prominence of the Dalai Lamas, and the role of the institution in Tibet and Asia.
# The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama by Zara Houshmand, Oxford University Press, 2003
A record of the discussions between five leading physicists, a historian and the Dalai Lama on theoretical quantum physics in the context of Buddhist philosophy.

Personality - Kathleen Taylor

Tara Kilachand

It may be testament to the Four Seasons’ employee vetting process that Kathleen Taylor’s entrance lacks the nervous twitter that usually surrounds a visit by the boss. I had dined there earlier in the week, and been left with nothing to complain about, but clearly, there could be improvements. Super secret chief operating officer tweaks that would confirm that yes, hotels do indeed have different standards for different people.
But no, the waitstaff at Prato, the fine dining Italian restaurant at Four Seasons hotel in Worli, Mumbai, is dismayingly consistent. They are unruffled when Taylor, in for the hotel’s official opening, walks in. There is no special menu, obsequious maître d’, or table visit by the Italian chef to announce a black truffle soufflé magically whipped up for the occasion.
Taylor, I had been told in advance by the hotel’s PR head, was discreet, which often is just PR blather, always at pains to emphasize the “normalcy” of their chieftains. Except this time, they seemed to be right. “I’m a little bit low key,” Taylor says cheerily, dressed neatly in a slate grey suit. “But for sure, employees in the hotel know who I am, so if I’m inside the four walls, the word gets around.”

As it should. Taylor, 51, is—after Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp—the No. 2 in control: All departments in the 81-property luxury hotel chain report to her, and she, in turn, to Sharp. She knows all 81 general managers personally, by name and property. And, in addition to her daily duties as president and COO, she oversees all 40 developments currently underway around the world.
Most of Taylor’s year is spent travelling from one Four Seasons hotel to another, and though she may be jet-lagged from whirlwind trips to Bali, Tahiti and Australia, it is exceedingly hard to cluck in sympathy. Taylor has, in anyone’s estimation, a sickeningly envious job. In essence, she must oversee new developments, make sure present ones are chugging along on schedule, keep an eye on storied properties such as those in New York and London, and occasionally check herself into competing five-stars.
“It does get more hectic, and you do take on more responsibility, but the important thing about that is to make sure you have people supporting the team, and the company and me personally, who are also taking on increasing levels of responsibility.” And then graciously, because to not do so would be simply churlish, Taylor concedes that her job is pretty fantastic.
“It’s always fun. Always fun,” she says, having spent the summer on a month-long trip through Italy with her three kids and husband. The Bora Bora resort is fabulous, “just fabulous” she points out, having been there recently. Taylor will soon take off for Bangalore, Maldives, Toronto, and then New York, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

Of course, this is not to say that anyone could do Taylor’s job. Her ascent through the ranks of the Canada-based company has been a gradual one, pleasingly spaced out over a nearly 20-year career.
One of five kids, Taylor grew up in the small Canadian town of Oshawa, becoming the first member of her extended family to attend university. After doing a joint law and business degree, Taylor accepted a position at Goodmans, a downtown Toronto law firm, from where she was hand-picked by a former colleague to work in the two-person legal department at the Four Seasons. “So it was a very glamorous beginning,” Taylor says. “My title was corporate counsel and I was ready for a change.”
Amazingly, Taylor didn’t know anything about the Four Seasons, at the time a groundbreaking luxury chain that was gaining impressive traction in North America and Western Europe. “I didn’t know anything about the hospitality business…like a lot of people I thought I’d stay there for two-three years, and see where my career takes me.” When Taylor’s boss left, however, Sharp gave Taylor the job as head counsel, a position that would catapult her to the management committee, executive vice-president, co-president, president of worldwide business operations, and eventually, in January 2007, to president and chief operating officer.
The waiter, having stayed away until now, finally arrives to take our order: the buffalo mozzarella salad and tuna appetizer for her; a potato and leek soup and salad for me. We chat briefly about the media world—the Four Seasons’ opening was being held in conjunction with the launch of the Indian edition of men’s magazine GQ—while servers glide around silently. The restaurant is beginning to fill up, and from the corner I see the maître d’ steer a young family with two shrill toddlers away from our table and tape recorder.
I note that Four Seasons’ presence in India has been late in the coming. “India for us has been a long sought after market. Physically, we’re relatively late, but we’ve been working on India as a development market for the better part of 20 years,” she says. There are already several properties in the pipeline—Hyderabad, Delhi, Kerala, Bangalore—as well as dozens more planned for central and East Asia.
There has been some questioning about the Four Seasons location in Mumbai—the choice of a business hotel as opposed to a resort, its proximity to low-income housing and a neighbouring slum, the sniffer dogs at the gate—but with its opening, the hotel has managed to sidestep most critics, partly by hiring a rigorously selected staff.
All employees were vetted through five rounds of interviews, including the housekeepers and kitchen cleaners, before being hired from the at least 11,000 applicants reviewed. “That’s the most important part of what we do, choosing the people who will join the company. And we always say we hire for attitude before skill.” Taylor, who says she can recognize a Four Seasons employee anywhere, and instantly, makes assiduous note of servers, waiters, concierges—anyone who leaves an impression.

A young man who approached her at an airport lounge in Abu Dhabi recently is but one example. The two got talking about Mauritius, the man’s hometown, and location of an upcoming Four Seasons. “Anyway, the young man said he would next see me in Mauritius because he was going to go there to get a job at our hotel when he was finished with his stint in Abu Dhabi. He said: ‘When you come, look for me. I’ll be in the fine-dining restaurant,’” Taylor marvels. “He was so cute and confident. Exactly the kind of personality we’re looking for. Just a delightful young man.”
Lunch is nearly over, and Taylor has other meetings lined up before she leaves the next morning. In parting, we talk about standards of luxury which, in the last few years, with pillow “concierges” and mattress menus, seem to have leapfrogged to absurd standards. She admits she doesn’t understand six and seven-star hotels that inundate guests with 16 kinds of amenities.
The Four Seasons’ strategy is very clear: Satisfy the basic requirements of the guest, then worry about additional perks. “A great bed, a soundproof room, and shower and bathroom that work,” Taylor says. “This is the essence of a great hotel room.”
Born: 25 August 1957
Education: A law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School; MBA from Schulich School of Business in 1984
Work Profile: Joined Four Seasons in 1989 as corporate counsel; appointed VP, general counsel, in 1992; promoted to executive VP, corporate planning and development, in 1997; promoted to president, worldwide business operations, in 1999; promoted to president and chief operating officer in 2007
Favourite Book: ‘Red Tent’ by Anita Diamant
Favourite Movie: Modern favourite movie is ‘Must Love Dogs’ and historic movie is ‘Gone with the Wind’
Favourite Holiday: Expedition travel such as bike riding in Morocco or Vietnam; and ski trips

Columnists - Vir Sanghvi;Can TV forecast the course of US politics ?

have not seen, but have read about a recent programme on British television, which made the point that the American presidential election closely mirrors the last season of The West Wing. For those of you who are not West Wing fans, here’s what happens in Season 7: a decent, experienced but old Republican senator is nominated as his party’s candidate. His opponent is an ethnic (Latino) Democratic Congressman with much less experience but who therefore holds out the promise of change. The two candidates are evenly matched and their one debate is a draw with neither managing to convert the other’s supporters.

Then, a few weeks from polling day, something unexpected happens. The Republican is a long-standing champion of nuclear power. So, when a nuclear reactor develops a leak, his policies are held responsible. He protests that nuclear power is generally safe and that a single accident at a nuclear plant should not be held against him. But it is too late. The Latino wins the election, becoming America’s first ethnic president.
You can see the parallels. For Arnie Vinick, the old Republican senator, we have decent, upright John McCain. For Matt Santos, the ethnic outsider who is a surprising choice for the Democratic nomination, we have Barack Obama.
And while there hasn’t been a nuclear accident, at least so far, there has been a relatively unexpected occurrence. The virtual collapse of Wall Street and the damage it has done the American economy have come to haunt John McCain. Despite his protestations to the contrary, voters treat him as one of those responsible — after all, isn’t he part of the Republican old guard that sang the praises of free markets?

It’s possible to carry this too far but the parallels are undeniable. My guess is that the only reason the makers of The West Wing who forever sought to push the envelope did not pick a black presidential candidate and opted for a Latino instead was because it seemed too far-fetched to imagine that a black outsider had any chance of winning the presidency. But even so, the parallels remain. In The West Wing, black voters are reluctant to support Matt Santos because blacks don’t like Latinos. At this election, Obama has had problems with the Latino vote (which went en masse to Hillary Clinton in the primaries) because, well, Latinos don’t like blacks.
I sometimes wonder whether any television scriptwriter could have dreamt up Obama’s successful nomination victory. Think about it: Here is a black man (well, half-black anyway) who has spent only one term in the Senate; whom nobody had heard of before the primaries began; whose middle name is Hussein; and whose last name rhymes with Osama. Who would have given him any chance of winning the nomination, especially when he had the Democratic establishment, in the form of Hillary and Bill Clinton, ranged against him?
My theory on this is also television related. I reckon that one reason why Americans no longer seem so surprised by the idea of a black president is because of President Palmer.
President who?
Well, if you’re asking me that you’re clearly no fan of 24.
While the action series is compulsively watchable and can be terrifyingly gripping, it has never been noted — unlike, say, The West Wing — for its cerebral content. But I reckon that it has played some role in shaping American attitudes during the traumatic years of the 21st century. The hero of 24 is a federal agent called Jack Bauer who thinks nothing of imposing the most extreme forms of torture on suspects. The message is: If you want to save America, then it’s fine to break the rules and to ignore diplomatic niceties, human rights, etc.
In the first season of 24, Bauer foils a plot to kill a black presidential candidate called David Palmer. In later seasons, Palmer actually gets to be president and is the very model of a perfect commander-in-chief. He is inspirational, intelligent and radiates integrity. In contrast, at least one of his white successors is a shifty Nixonian type.
My theory is that Americans got so used to the idea of a black man in the Oval Office because of 24 and President Palmer, that it did not seem that unlikely for Obama to be able to take the fictional Palmer’s place.
Of course, this is a massive oversimplification. I’m sure there are many other reasons — most of them considerably more substantial — to explain Obama’s success. But I fear that we ignore popular culture at our peril. It’s films, books and TV that create the stereotypes in our minds far more effectively than real life ever can.
For instance, throughout the 1960s the only significant work of fiction that put a black man in the Oval Office was Irving Wallace’s best-selling novel The Man in which the black president pro tem of Congress gets to be the commander-in-chief only because everybody else in the line of succession is wiped out. Such is the atmosphere of hostility that the poor man is persecuted by his own party, is charged with rape and impeached.
Four decades later, America could be only a few weeks away from having a legitimately elected black president. Among the factors that have helped shape public opinion is the role of popular media which now pooh-poohs scare scenarios such as the one created by Wallace.
Or take another example. My all-time favourite film about American politics is 1972’s The Candidate in which Robert Redford plays the charismatic, good-looking guy who is pushed into politics by a machine that moulds his policies according to polls and manipulates the media.
When it was released, The Candidate was regarded as a far-fetched work of fiction. Today, it would be treated as a documentary. All American political campaigns are run that way now.
So, who knows, in a month or so from now, a black president may well move from fiction to the front pages.

Entertainment - Bollywood's new style

Parizaad Khan and Seema Chowdhry

Suneet Varma can’t say he wasn’t forewarned. When the Delhi-based designer told actor Priyanka Chopra that he was styling the clothes for Kites, a film starring Hrithik Roshan and produced by his father Rakesh Roshan, Chopra cheekily asked him what product he used on his hair to get the spiked look. A somewhat baffled Varma replied that he gelled his hair. “That was when she laughed and told me that I could forget about gel till Kites was finished because Hrithik would make sure my hair stood up on its own,” Varma recalls with a laugh.
Roshan Jr may not have simplified Varma’s grooming regime, but the designer admits that the actor was “very involved”.
“He is a perfectionist and wanted to know everything about the way his character should look. I could not just pick up a good-looking jacket and say this will work. I had to convince him why it works for the character, why the character would be wearing it at that point and whether he would be able to afford such a jacket or not,” he says in a phone interview.

Varma and other designers such as Narendra Kumar, who have recently started styling for Bollywood movies, are discovering that Indian films are not what they used to be. Costumes are no longer only chosen to best showcase an actor’s vital statistics and film-makers are realizing that sartorial authenticity, never a USP of Hindi films, might not be such a bad thing.
“Today directors and actors value the opinion of a designer,” says Kumar, seated in his central Mumbai office-workshop. “We have a greater role to play and greater responsibility and accountability.”
Kumar is a rare specimen in the fashion industry. He’s one of the very few who believe that fashion is not about fantasy, but is, or at least should be, driven by current events and reflect the mood of the world around us. He used his Lakme Fashion Week show earlier this year to make a statement about the country’s new-found passion for sports; previous shows have had themes such as “Freedom from Illiteracy” and modern love.

One would think that automatically places him somewhere at the bottom of the list of designers the industry approaches to style their films. But Kumar’s resume lists Babul, No Smoking and the soon-to-be-released Fashion, in addition to four upcoming films starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Viveik Oberoi, Akshay Kumar and Neil Nitin Mukesh

After Manish Malhotra transformed a gawky and unstylish Urmila Matondkar into a short-red-dress-wearing siren in 1995’s Rangeela, the next turning point for costumes in contemporary Hindi films was Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), with its emphasis on in-your-face logos of international brands. “Karan is the original stylist of new Indian cinema,” says Anupama Chopra, film critic and author of books such as Sholay: The Making of a Classic. “But now there is definitely a thorough process that goes into creating a character; actors go through a complete change that includes hair, demeanour and costumes.”
Chopra points out that film styling’s latest watershed was after Dhoom, when Anaita Shroff Adajania proved that films do benefit by having a stylist. “Dhoom without her contribution would be a lesser film,” Chopra says. For Adajania, who is also fashion director of the Indian edition of Vogue, films were never a planned path. She started by styling songs for Karan Johar’s movies and then decided to try her hand at taking on entire films, such as Dhoom and Dhoom 2, Being Cyrus, Hope and a Little Sugar and Race. After years of working with high fashion for magazines, Adajania found herself hunting down policemen’s outfits. “I prefer to take on an entire project rather than dress just the lead stars. I want even the passers-by to look right,” she says.
Kumar, too, fell into the film world by chance. On John Abraham’s request, he started out by styling the actor’s character in Ravi Chopra’s Babul. Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion, starring Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut, is the first movie where he has been involved in the looks of all the characters, which he styled in collaboration with fashion consultant Rita Dhody.
Dhody, who supplies international fashion houses such as Armani, Valentino and Pucci with embroidery and who regularly visits various international fashion weeks, was as unlikely a candidate as Kumar. She started on the project as a consultant, “but before I knew it, I was soon styling it myself”. Dhody says a big challenge was not letting the clothes overpower the story; the script, not fashion, dictated the look. “I didn’t want the audience to be looking at the actor’s shoes in an emotional scene,” she says.
For Varma, who worked on Zooni and then on Cash, designing for films has not been a smooth ride. Zooni never took off, though he camped in Kashmir for almost a year while the project was on, and “the producers of Cash expected me to put everything together in three weeks,” he says. Varma, who has studied the history of costume at the London School of Fashion, usually takes about two months to design a custom-made wedding outfit for a bride. For Kites, however, he had almost six months to work on the looks of four characters. He had Polaroid shots of every outfit—complete with accessories— attached to his script and extra pairs of the same costumes prepared for important scenes like the long climax in which Hrithik will be seen in the same costume for about 20 minutes

He was approached by the Roshans last year after they attended a fashion show in Singapore where he was showcasing his clothes. Varma was unaware of the filmi family’s presence till he got a call from Rakesh Roshan a month later, asking him if he wanted to work on Kites, directed by Anurag Basu and starring Ranaut and model-actor Barbara Mori. “At that point, Hrithik’s Jodhaa Akbar had just released and his look was very different—traditional and steeped in Indian design. Since his character Jay in Kites is that of a guy based in LA and Las Vegas, they were looking for someone who could create a contemporary and international look for the film,” says Varma, who hotfooted it to Mumbai to meet the Roshans.
In a similarly serendipitous incident, Delhi designers and siblings Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra met Dia Mirza during the Femina Miss India 2007 beauty pageant for which they had designed clothes for the contestants and Mirza, the show’s anchor. “When Mirza signed up to play the role of a powerful, sexy gangster, Max, for Sanjay Gupta’s production Acid Factory, she suggested to the producers that we design and style her look in the film,” Nikhil says. The duo’s clothes had been used in films before, usually by stylists such as Adajania. “We have designed clothes for shoots but that has been on the basis of what a stylist wanted. To create a look and feel for a character from scratch is a first for us.”
To prepare, the two sat through a scene-by-scene narration and met director Suparn Verma.
The director deconstructed each scene and that helped the duo to figure out what Mirza would be made to wear. “The way Max would cross her legs, what her body language would be in a scene, whether she would be in a cable car or in a boardroom—all these factors defined what kind of outfit we should design for a scene.”
The clothes had to be elegant, stylish and upmarket—looks the Mehra brothers are comfortable with. “Since hers is an evil and powerful character, we included more reds and flame colours and some blacks. As far as the silhouettes go, we decided to keep the outfits fitted, and more structured with stark lines,” says Nikhil. They opted to work with luxurious fabrics such as silk, leather and stretch-satin. Even a fitted kimono jacket that has been designed for one of the scenes has been made from pure Merino wool with a satin lining. “The necklines are deeper and the hemlines shorter,” he adds.
Max’s character is modelled on Brigitte Nielsen’s character as the sexy power-dressing assassin Karla Fry in the 1984 Hollywood hit, Beverly Hills Cop II. “During the narration itself, we got a clear image of the character and that is where we did our preliminary sketches. Reading a script on your own cannot replicate the vision of a director,” Nikhil says.
Niharika Khan, the stylist for the Abhishek Kapoor-directed Rock On!!, agrees. She and Kapoor sat for hours discussing the back story of the characters, a step Khan says is very important to her. “That’s how you can work on really subtle details, which we hope came across.” Farhan Akhtar’s character was from a privileged family, so he could afford to dress in brands such as Diesel and G-Star. “On the other hand, Joe was not loaded, so though his T-shirts are similar looking, they are knockoffs or more affordable brands,” Khan says.

Khan’s current project, Aamir Khan Productions’ Delhi Belly, starring Imran Khan, Shahnaz Treasurywala and Vir Das, is an English language film targeted at international audiences, about contemporary India. The look for the cast, very much an East-meets-West vibe, uses the very MTV-sensibility of Indian pop culture cool. “Manish Arora does this look very well. The look portrayed in Indian films is sometimes very typical. In reality, we have evolved far beyond that,” says Khan. She says the younger generation likes to coordinate a piecemeal look—for example, an ikat-print skirt or block-print halter top works for them rather than a salwar suit.
The Mumbai-based 38-year-old silver jewellery designer and mother of two never thought she would be a Bollywood film stylist. She started out by styling the lead characters in Sudhir Mishra’s 2007 period film Khoya Khoya Chand because the film’s associate director and Khan’s friend, Sameer Sharma, was convinced she would be great for the job. Before Rock On!!, her first contemporary film, she had also worked on Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya.
Khan reiterates the fact that today, Bollywood film-makers realize the character should be bigger than the star. “It’s all about the character, not the actor,” she says. Khan has no qualms about making a character repeat outfits, if required, in the same film. “It keeps things authentic. We all repeat our clothes, so why shouldn’t a character?”
Added authenticity also comes in when stylists, used to putting disparate colours, fabrics and styles together, mix and match clothes by various categories of brands and designers, as opposed to being dressed in designerwear from head to toe, which is often the case when a fashion designer does an entire film. “The biggest difference between a designer and a stylist is that a designer is limited by their own aesthetic, while a stylist can borrow and combine many designers’ styles,” says Adajania.
As Dhody did for Fashion—luxury labels such as Lanvin, Versace, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana will be seen sharing space with Indian designers such as Gauri and Nainika, Shantanu and Nikhil and high street brands such as Miss Sixty and Guess. Besides putting together the film’s look, Dhody and Kumar, both fashion industry insiders, also helped Bhandarkar and his team with insights on how the industry works. “They wanted to know what the mood and energy is like backstage, what the audience in the first row chatters about and how designers sometimes graze work,” Kumar says.
As movie stylists, they are now insiders in film industry too. Khan says, with a laugh, that she knows the measurements of the stars she’s worked with (though she declined quite firmly to share them with us). Varma has custom-made most of Hrithik’s outfits because the star does not wear clothes off-the-rack. “About 95% of his clothes had to be tailored. He prefers them to be tailored to his size, since he has broad shoulders and a narrow waist,” Varma says. Adajania had taken a tailor along on a month-long schedule in Rio while shooting Dhoom 2, in case there were “fluctuating waistlines”, among other clothing malfunctions. But like most film industry insiders, they’re not sharing the juiciest gossip.

World - US;Dreaded attachment

Alexander Chancelor

The Bush presidency is ending its days with a flurry of fresh controversy about the death penalty, a punishment for which Bush has always shown a creepy degree of enthusiasm. Two new cases illustrate again how ghoulish and judicially flawed death sentences in America can be.

On Tuesday, Richard Cooey, 41, who had spent more than 20 years on death row, was executed in Ohio after the supreme court rejected his plea that he was too obese (at more than 125 kg) to be painlessly put to death by lethal injection. On Wednesday, the same court, in effect, gave the go-ahead for another execution when it refused to hear an appeal by Troy Davis, a 40-year-old Georgia man, after seven of nine witnesses who helped to convict him in 1991 of killing a police officer had subsequently recanted their testimony or changed their statements.

America’s dogged attachment to the death penalty in even the most dubious of circumstances is a hideous blot on its reputation for fairness and humanity that, alas, even Barack Obama has no plans to eradicate.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008

World - Pakistan,the fog refuses to clear

Nirupama Subramanian

While all parties agree that the country is “facing a grave challenge,” there is no sign that they are all agreed on the true nature of that challenge.

As an important joint session of Pakistan’s parliament continues discussions on the challenge posed by Al Qaeda and Taliban to the state, the fog of confusion surrounding the issues of militancy, extremism and terrorism has stubbornly refused to lift.

The extraordinary joint session of the National Assembly and Senate, only the third in Pakistan’s history to discuss a sensitive issue of national importance, was summoned on October 8 and was aimed at forging a national consensus on dealing with the terror threat to the country.

The session was thought necessary as Pakistan’s polity has been extremely divided over what this threat is and where it is coming from. But going by opinions voiced by some parliamentarians about the confidential session, the divisions between the political parties are intact or may have even deepened. Questions such as what is the threat to Pakistan and where is it coming from are still deemed unresolved. The conflation of the issues facing Pakistan with the opposition to the U.S.-led war on terror continues.

Meanwhile, the call for “dialogue” with the Pakistani Taliban militants has grown louder, even though no one knows what can possibly be offered to a group that has an openly medieval agenda, scoffs at modern notions of nation-state and democracy and has been recently described by a senior Pakistan official as “one and the same” as Al Qaeda.

In the sittings thus far, parliamentarians were first briefed by the new director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, on the operations being carried out in the North-West Front Province and in the tribal areas. At the sitting that followed, they put questions to him. Next, they were briefed by the government on its policy on the terror challenge. A discussion on national security is now ongoing.

If all this was meant to provide clarity on Pakistan’s dangerously deteriorating internal security situation and show the way forward, it is nowhere evident that this is happening. While all parties agree that the country is “facing a grave challenge,” there is no sign that they are all agreed on the true nature of that challenge, leave alone ready to formulate a consensual policy to deal with it.

Opposition parties emerging from the sittings are accusing the Pakistan People’s Party-led government of following the policies set by the previous Musharraf regime, and toeing the U.S. line that more military operations are the only way to clean out the tribal north-west frontier of militancy. The Pakistan Army has recently intensified operations in the Bajaur tribal agency, leading to a massive internal displacement that the U.N. has also flagged. Referring back to the government’s own earlier statements that “foreign” hands — a not-so-veiled allusion to India — are involved in stoking trouble in the tribal areas, some political parties are questioning the logic of military operations in those areas against the Taliban.

PML(N) critical

Bringing its role as the main opposition party to the proceedings, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) has been critical of the briefings, saying they provided nothing more than what was already in the public realm. Incomprehensibly, the party chose not to participate in the question-and-answer session with the ISI chief, which most political observers saw as an opportunity missed to find out more.

Later, party leader Nawaz Sharif sought to strike a more conciliatory note, asking his party men not to oppose everything that came from the government — possibly an indication of an in-the-works agreement for a modus vivendi between his party’s government in Punjab and the provincial PPP — he has also called for a dialogue with the extremists. He has also called on his party to formulate its own position on terrorism, leaving dumbstruck commentators wondering what the PML(N) had been doing all this while when bombs were going off, including in Punjab, its own backyard.

The Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami of Maulana Fazlur Rehman reportedly wanted representatives of the Pakistani Taliban invited to Parliament to present their point of view to the in camera session, leading the Daily Times to ask if Mr. Rehman was equating militants who have claimed responsibility for several acts of terror within the country with the Pakistan Army.

Mr. Rehman, who caters to a pro-Taliban constituency, has been critical of the government’s operations in the tribal areas, especially its tactic of persuading some tribes to set up “lashkars” or militias to battle the militants. This method is said to have contributed to successes on the ground for the military in Bajaur tribal agency, enough to have rattled the Taliban. A suicide attack last week on a tribal jirga in the Orakzai agency that was discussing the setting up of a laskhar against the militants, killing some 70 people, was stated to be a warning from the Taliban to the tribals not to go down that path.

Mr. Rehman is warning that setting one tribe against another in the frontier region could set off blood feuds and a civil war-like situation. At the parliament session, he is said to have called for a ceasefire and offered to mediate between the Taliban and the government.

In a statement plainly intended to sow more confusion in the minds of the parliamentarians, the Pakistani umbrella group of Taliban militants known as the Tehreek-i-Taliban, has offered to “lay down arms” if the government “relinquishes use of power.” For good measure, a spokesman of the group added that “we are sensible people and understand the survival and integrity of our country.” This came as media reported that the military was preparing for an imminent and “decisive” operation in Bajaur.

Those advocating “dialogue” with the militants are also riding the current signals from Afghanistan of talks with the Taliban. Individual commanders of the coalition forces are saying for the first time that the war “cannot be won” and they would not oppose talks with the Taliban. According to reports in western media, the Afghan government is already reported to be in secret talks with the Taliban through the Saudi government.

The ruling party in the NWFP, the Awami National Party, should have played an important role in the proceedings as the voice of secular Pakhtuns. But it is missing in action. It appears to have been completely demoralised by the October 2 attempt on the life of its leader Asfandyar Wali Khan. His unceremonious departure for London, as early as the second day of the session, though described by his party as previously scheduled, has caused dismay among its supporters and evoked contempt from detractors.

As such, after more than a week of sittings of the joint session, there are few expectations that Pakistan will be better off after it.

India - Global financial crisis;reflections on its impact on India

S. Venkitaramanan

The relative freedom from the contagion spreading from the global tsunami on the Indian financial system owes much to the wise and judicious policies of our central bank and the Government of India.

The U.S. financial crisis has had its reverberations on both developed and developing world. It is not possible to insulate Indian economy completely from what is happening in the financial systems of the world. Effectively speaking, however, the Indian banks and financial institutions have not experienced the kinds of losses and write-downs that even venerable banks and financial institutions in the Western world have faced.

By and large, India has been spared the panic that followed the collapse of banking institutions, such as Fortis in Europe, and Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual in the U.S.

The relative freedom from the contagion spreading from the global tsunami on the Indian financial system owes much to the wise and judicious policies of our central bank and the Government of India.

Discussions on this subject have proceeded on two lines. One is to point out that the Indian banks have taken less risks than their peers abroad. The less risk you take, the more will be safer you are. This, however, begs the question, “Why did the Indian banks take less risks?”

The answer lies in the wise regulations and meticulous supervision by the RBI. At a time when total deregulation was the order of the day in the 90s, Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister authorized a path-breaking study of the Indian financial system by an experienced central banker, M. Narasimham. He had the wisdom to foresee that the financial system had to be placed on a well-regulated basis. Mr. Narasimham’s classic reports gave the policy framework for the Government of India and the RBI to formulate the structure of India’s banks and financial institutions. Mr. Narasimham’s model was based on adequate capitalisation, good provisioning norms and well-structured supervision. Government of India and RBI accepted these recommendations and proceeded to implement them.

What was, indeed, important was that the model did not allow investment banking on the pattern of the American paradigm. In a sense, RBI enforced its own version of the U.S.’ Glass-Steagal Act of 1933, which insulates banks from capital market exposures. The RBI enforced strict capital adequacy requirements and if any financial institution or bank exceeded the specified limits of exposure to stock markets, it would have to provide more capital. This effectively insulated the banks and financial institutions from volatility of the bourses. Enforcement of the above instructions has paid good dividends. Erosion of capital of the banks and financial institutions has been reduced. These exposure limits, however, deserve to be reviewed from time to time.

The RBI must be congratulated for imposing Basel-II norms impartially and in a flexible manner. They have kept it in line with the Indian financial system. Observation of these limits, however difficult it may be in practice, will definitely help the Indian financial system to escape the kind of trouble, which is afflicting the financial system in other countries.

There is another observation, which has to be kept in mind in judging the relative freedom of Indian banking system from the catastrophic mess in the U.S. This is based on the important fact that the Indian banking system is basically owned by the public sector. The State owns many of the banks and financial institutions in the country. There is greater confidence of depositors in a state-owned bank than in a privately-owned bank. This is evident from the fact that in the latest version of the rescue package in the U.S., the government has come forward to infuse capital into distressed banks and financial institutions. Maybe, we can congratulate ourselves that India had already done what Washington is now doing in the midst of the crisis and therefore escaped much of the confidence problems.

Credit is also due to the Government of India and the RBI for having avoided the temptation of total capital convertibility. Had we embarked on total capital convertibility, we would have been exposed to much greater contagion from the current mess than we have been so far. The lesson is that in economic reforms, we have to proceed with caution. Striking the right balance between boldness and caution is where wisdom lies.

A continuing process

It is, however, fair to point out that we should not be complacent in regard to the process of reform. Reform is a continuing process. The latest contribution to the process of reform is a report produced by Dr. Raghuram G. Rajan, former Counsellor of IMF and at present Professor at Chicago Business School. The report incorporates a number of useful suggestions. Although one may have differences of approach with certain aspects, the report deserves to be examined and implemented to the extent possible to keep the Indian financial system modern and efficient.

In this connection, it is only appropriate to refer to the stabilising role of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in managing the difficult task of regulating our stock markets. Especially, attention has to be drawn to the role of Participatory Notes. In the present context in which private capital from abroad has been responsible for many problems in the Indian stock markets, SEBI must be congratulated for its cautious line on this subject, making appropriate relaxations as needed.

While the RBI is to be congratulated for its cautious and nuanced stance in regard to its regulation, one can argue that its regulation can sometimes be a little bit oriented towards management of banks. Whether it is appropriate for the central bank of a country to decide on where the branch of a bank should be located is a matter for discussion. In a recent debate, Dr. Raghuram Rajan had pointed out that a well-known foreign bank, which had applied for opening its branch in a rural area, was refused permission, notwithstanding the fact that no Indian bank had asked for permission to open a branch in that area. It is perhaps time to put a stop to such management of minutiae by the central bank, which should have its hands full with other more pressing issues.

While the RBI may legitimately pride itself on better regulation than the U.S. Federal Reserve, there are two topics on which it has to follow the example of U.S. Federal Reserve. One is concerning the distribution of profits of the central bank. The U.S. Federal Reserve had a profit of nearly $39 billion in 2006-07 out of which it had transferred $34 billion to the U.S. Treasury. This is in sharp contrast to the behaviour of the RBI, which appropriates the bulk of its profits of nearly Rs.50,000-60,000 crore to the so-called contingency fund and transfers only Rs.10,000 crore to the Government. If the RBI could follow the example of the U.S. Fed in this matter, Mint Street can fix half the fiscal problems of the North Block.

Another issue on which the Federal Reserve offers a good example to follow is regarding the measurement of inflation. U.S. Federal Reserve measures inflation on the basis of consumer price index and not on the basis of wholesale price index. This makes a substantial difference. In the U.S., in the last year the consumer price index increased only by 2 per cent, measured on the basis of what the Fed calls “headline inflation,” excluding fuel and food. Even if the consumer price index including fuel and food is considered in India, the RBI will come out with an inflation of 7 per cent as against the figure of 12 per cent, on the basis of wholesale price index. If we follow the consumer price index in measuring inflation, India can afford to have an interest rate of roughly 5 per cent lower than the one in force at present. This can make a significant difference to the fiscal fortunes and the growth of the Indian economy.

(S. Venkitaramanan is a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.)

World - Pakistan;Between survival & disintegration

Praveen Swami

Pakistan’s army chief has signalled that he intends to rein in the Inter-Services Intelligence. But can he bring about a change in the institution’s strategic vision — and does he want to do so?

“Since the birth of Pakistan,” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wrote to his daughter in 1978, “crisis has followed crisis in rapid escalation.” He went on: “The nation is gripped in her worst crisis, standing in the middle of the road between survival and disintegration.”

Last month, the chief of army staff, General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, made the latest of a series of moves to help Pakistan step away from that dangerous place. In a bid to stave off a potentially calamitous confrontation with the United States, he appointed Lieutenant-General Shuja Nawaz Pasha Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Lt. Gen. Pasha’s predecessor, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj — a distant relative of the former President Pervez Musharraf — became a focal point of global ire during the year he served as Pakistan’s spymaster. In the U.S., he was seen as the architect of a policy of continued Pakistani support for Islamist terror groups operating in Afghanistan. The U.S. troops responded by initiating cross-border raids into Pakistan, raising the spectre of a full-blown confrontation.

Lt. Gen. Taj’s tenure in the ISI also saw renewed skirmishes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, where an India-Pakistan ceasefire had held since 2002. Afghanistan and India held the ISI responsible for sponsoring the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, an operation investigators believe Pakistan’s covert service had sub-contracted to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. China, too, is believed to have grown increasingly restive following the ISI’s failure to act against the Taliban after two of its nationals were kidnapped in August.

By appointing Lt. Gen. Pasha, Gen. Kayani has signalled that he intends to rein in the Islamist hardliners in the ISI. But can he bring about a change in the institution’s strategic vision — and does he, in fact, want to do so?

In July, Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani met to discuss how the ISI might be reformed. Mr. Hayden persuaded Mr. Gilani to bring the ISI under the direct control of the Interior Ministry bureaucracy — sparking off a bruising battle between the fledgling political government and the generals. Not surprisingly, the politicians backed off. Predictably, tensions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border continued to rise, exploding in a series of fire exchange between the Frontier Corps and the U.S. troops.

Last month, Gen. Kayani lashed out at the U.S. for sending commandos into Pakistan, saying his forces would protect the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.” “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan,” he said just a day after Asif Ali Zardari refused to condemn the cross-border raids at his first press conference after being sworn in President. Gen. Kayani added: “There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border.”

Despite the polemic, it was clear that Pakistan would have to make some changes in the ISI to sustain its relationship with the U.S. Gen. Kayani, significantly, turned to a relatively junior officer, just promoted from Major-General, to head the ISI: a position that, ever since General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq’s years, has been considered more prestigious than commanding a corps.

As DGMO, Lt. Gen. Pasha’s performance was, at best, mixed. He was asked to coordinate operations against the Taliban-linked Tehreek-e-Nifaaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) after it took control of large swathes of the Swat valley last year. Lt. Gen. Pasha turned to the jailed former head of the TNSM, Sufi Mohammad, for help. For a while, it appeared the divide-and-rule tactic had paid off. In January 2008, Lt. Gen. Pasha announced that Pakistani troops had retaken the Swat valley. However, it soon became clear that what the army proclaimed as the TNSM’s defeat was in fact a tactical retreat into the hills. Soon, the Islamist group retook much of Swat — with support, some accounts have it, from the ISI — and a grinding battle still continues.

Lt. Gen. Pasha’s record in Pakistan’s Bajaur area was not dissimilar. In August 2008, operations were ordered against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Again, Lt. Gen. Pasha claimed to have delivered death blows to the Islamist armies, only to see his vanquished enemies regroup with the ISI’s assistance and again take on the Pakistan army and the Frontier Corps.

In practice, this record suggests, Gen. Kayani will be calling the shots in the ISI, which he headed from October 2004 to October 2007. His tenure was less than lustrous, marked by the breaking of the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation scandal, the insurgencies in Waziristan and Balochistan, and waves of suicide bombings in Pakistan. Worryingly, it saw a marked escalation of terrorist operations against India, including the 2006 serial bombings in Mumbai.

General Kayani’s Army

Last month’s transfers mark the birth of an army made in Gen. Kayani’s image, dominated by officers he has handpicked. Lt. Gen. Tahir Mehmood now heads the Rawalpindi Corps, considered the third-most important military position in Pakistan, after the Chief of Army Staff and the ISI Director. Pakistan’s Corps at Bahawalpur and Karachi also have new commanders, Lt. Gen. Muhammad Yousaf and Lt. Gen. Shahid Iqbal.

Well before last month’s transfers, a discreet purge of the former President Musharraf’s key aides had begun. Major-General Athar Abbas, whose three brothers are reported to be working in the media, was brought into head the office of Inter-Services Public Relations to smooth the troubled relationship between Pakistan’s feisty press and the General Headquarters. Lahore Corps commander Lt. Gen. Shafaatullah Shah was replaced by Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad, and Mangla Corps commander Lt. Gen. Sajjad Akram by Lt. Gen. Ijaz Ahmad Bakshi. Brigadier Asim Saleem Bajwa, Gen. Musharraf’s handpicked choice for the Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade — the formation which has spearheaded each coup in Pakistani history — was replaced by Brigadier Rao Fahim.

Each of these transfers, however, was handled with tact and care, to avoid the appearance of a witch-hunt. Both Lt. Gen. Akram, who was appointed in April 2006, and Lt. Gen. Shah, who was given his command in September 2005, were removed after substantial terms in office. Gen. Kayani personally attended a farewell dinner for Brigadier Bajwa, who was removed from 111 Brigade only after he had been cleared to attend a prestigious training course in the U.S. Lt. Gen. Shah was made Colonel-Commandant of the Baluch Regiment, Gen. Kayani’s parent formation, after having been moved from the Lahore Corps to the GHQ. Major-General Waheed Arshad, who was removed from the ISPR, was made Director-General of Planning at the GHQ, a position previously held by Gen. Musharraf’s close confidants Major-General Khalid Kidwai and Major-General Ahsan Saleem Hayat. He has now been made Vice-Chief of General Staff.

Even Director-General of Military Intelligence Major-General Mian Nadeem Ijaz — a relative of Gen. Musharraf who played a controversial role in the removal of Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhury — was given charge of the Bahawalpur-based 26 Mechanised Infantry Division after he had been relieved of his command. The army was at pains to dispel the notion that Gen. Ijaz was being punished for his political misadventure, noting that he had been appointed DGMI in February 2005 and was therefore due to be moved in the normal course.

Gen. Kayani has also reached out to his rank and file. He declared 2008 the Year of the Soldier, frequently visited forward positions and, on one occasion, invited a group of subedar-majors to the army headquarters for a conference on working conditions. Gen. Kayani’s personal background, some believe, has shaped his conduct. The son of a non-commissioned officer, he represents the changing class character of Pakistan’s military command — in particular, the rise of officers from the socially conservative middle and lower-middle class to top leadership positions.

Soon after taking office, Gen. Kayani ordered his officers to sever contact with politicians — a break with the Musharraf era that signalled his hopes of rebuilding an apolitical, professional army. What remains unclear, though, is what vision of Pakistan the institution he is rebuilding will stand for.

Escalation of violence

The army chief hoped to disengage his troops from a gruelling and unpopular counter-terrorism campaign. Instead, the violence in the northwest has escalated. His efforts to purchase peace by reaching an accommodation with Islamists have yielded nothing. Despite the horrific terrorism Pakistan has faced in recent years, its military establishment has chosen not to act against Islamist terror groups operating from its soil —organisations which include not just the Taliban but also the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Lashkar and the Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami. Few in Pakistan’s military establishment are willing to acknowledge that the urban terrorism in its cities, like the conflicts in the northwest, is the outcome of the state’s long-running use of jihadist terror as an instrument of foreign policy.

No great imagination is needed to see where this unresolved crisis could lead. Back in 1971, just two months after Gen. Kayani was commissioned into the army, civil war led to its decimation. It seemed inconceivable that Pakistan’s future could be anything other than democratic. Just six years later, though, an Islamist military despot overthrew Bhutto, leading the country into a still-unfolding crisis.

Once again, Pakistan is perched between survival and disintegration. Unless Gen. Kayani succeeds in making a decisive break with the past, he will more likely than not be sucked into the political swamps in which his predecessors found themselves mired.