Oct 25, 2008

Entertainment - India;ADLABs rebranded as Big Cinemas

MUMBAI: Adlabs Films Ltd, part of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG), has re-branded its Adlabs Cinemas across the country as BIG Cinemas, a top official said.

"Adlabs brand has now been replaced with BIG Cinemas. For example, Metro Adlabs will now be known as Metro BIG Cinemas," Adlabs Films chief executive Anil Arjun said.

The re-branding would come into effect from Oct 28, coinciding with Diwali, he said.

The new brand's signages, collaterals and promotional materials, designed by Singapore's Bonsey Design will reflect the vibrancy of BIG Cinemas, Arjun added.

Adlabs Films has 73 properties across the country, totalling 186 screens and 71,000 seats.

"The brand rollout for our 200 properties abroad, including the US and Malaysia, will also start shortly," he said.

He added that Adlabs Films would launch all its next level of cinemas under the brand name of BIG Cinemas in line with R-ADAG's aim to create one consumer entertainment brand, BIG.

Entertainment - India;Channels fight for 1 Vs 100

With reality shows scoring over soap operas both in terms of TRPs and ad rates, a battle has broken out between leading Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) to acquire the rights of an international popular game show 1 Vs 100, created by production house Endemol.

It is learnt that Star Plus and NDTV Imagine are among the top contenders to acquire the rights for the show, some others have also expressed interest. Sources add that one of the contesting channels has already approached Amitabh Bachchan to host the show though there is no clarity yet on whether he is willing to sign on.

Viacom 18’s Colors was also in the race to acquire the rights for the show, but now, it is learnt, Colors is no longer a contender. When contacted, an Endemol India spokesperson said that the production house could not comment on details since the show is at the ‘pitch level’ currently. Star Plus executive V-P and GM Keertan Adyanthaya says: “We are not aware of any such show.” NDTV Imagine officials also refused to comment.

1 Vs 100 is an expensive format show. Questions are posed to one key contestant whose answers have to be matched with 100 others for the original contestant to win a cash prize. Going by the latest TAM ratings, Star Plus—which has ruled the segment for years—and relatively new-entrant Colors are now neck-and-neck for top slot in the GEC space. The latter’s reality-based programmes Khatron Ke Khiladi followed by Bigg Boss II were almost instant hits in terms of ratings.

All GECs, including Sony, Zee, NDTV Imagine and Sahara, are learnt to be aggressively looking at content line-up, including big-ticket reality shows, to notch up TRPs and prop up their ad rates. Broadcasters in the GEC space have been turning to expensive-format game shows to boost declining TRPs. Example: Star Plus’ KBC and Sony’s Dus Ka Dum.

Star’s Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain, however, failed to make a mark despite being hosted by Shah Rukh Khan. The GEC space, dominated by Star Plus, Zee and Sony for long, is witnessing fierce competition. After two big launches, Colors is giving Star Plus a run for its TRPs. And that’s not the only competition. Already, there’s the Samir Nair-run NDTV Imagine. And the segment will get more crowded as new entrants—like Miditech, which has teamed up with Turner International for a Hindi GEC—join the bandwagon. All of this would put further pressure on ad revenues generated by the existing players.

Health - Link between Diabetes & TB found

WASHINGTON: Researchers at The University of Texas School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus say that patients with Type 2 diabetes may
be at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis because they generally have a compromised immune system, which results in life-threatening lung infections that are more difficult to treat.

The researchers said that three studied conducted by them had shown that type 2 diabetes, especially when it involves chronic high blood sugar, is associated with altered immune response to TB.

The said that their studied also showed that patients with diabetes and TB take longer to respond to anti-TB treatment, and that patients with active tuberculosis and Type 2 diabetes are more likely to have multi-drug resistant TB.

Writing about their findings in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the researchers said that the immune systems of patients with Type 2 diabetes and tuberculosis could respond differently compared with patients with TB alone.

"This immune impairment may be what makes patients with diabetes so susceptible to TB," said Dr. Susan P. Fisher-Hoch, professor of epidemiology.

Dr. Blanca I. Restrepo, assistant professor of epidemiology, said that her team found that innate and type 1 cytokine responses were significantly higher in patients with tuberculosis who had diabetes than in the control group of patients with TB and no diabetes.

The effect was consistently and significantly more marked in diabetic patients with chronic hyperglycemia, or uncontrolled high blood sugar, said the researcher.

Diabetes results in the body's ineffective use of insulin. If left uncontrolled, the chronic high sugar in the bloodstream can affect the critical immune system and damage the body's systems, especially the nerves, the retina of the eyes and blood vessels.

"These findings are the opposite of what we were expecting. These innate and type 1 cytokines are typically associated with TB protection, but in patients with diabetes, it appears the cytokines are not effective. Diabetics may have more advanced TB with more bacteria, and hence, more stimulation for secretion of type 1 cytokines," Restrepo said.

The researchers wrote: "More detailed knowledge of the underlying mechanisms should focus on the effect of chronic hyperglycemia on the immune response to help in understanding the enhanced susceptibility of diabetic patients with tuberculosis."

The team said that their findings also showed that patients with diabetes were more at risk of developing multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The researchers said that they had observed that almost six percent of diabetics living along the Texas-Mexico border had TB that was resistant to rifampin and isoniazid, common medications for tuberculosis.

They further said that 30 per cent of those with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis also had Type 2 diabetes.

"It is possible that impaired immunity in Type 2 diabetes increases susceptibility to infection with resistant strains," they write in the online edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Joseph B. McCormick, the senior author of the three studies, said that the findings of the research cast new light on a long-known correlation between diabetes and tuberculosis.

"It opens a door to doing something about it. We can educate physicians and offer more TB screenings. We have an opportunity to make sure patients are diagnosed correctly and that there is no delay in diagnosis," said McCormick, the university's James H. Steele Professor.

Fisher-Hoch said the research could help diagnosis TB patients who previously would not be considered at risk for contracting the airborne, contagious disease.

"The classic TB patient in this country is a younger male in an urban setting who may have alcohol and drug abuse problems and be HIV-infected. Our research shows older female patients who have never been in jail and have no history of alcohol and drug abuse or HIV infection are at risk of contracting TB if they have diabetes," she said.

"I think we are illuminating a very important association between TB and diabetes that had pretty well been overlooked. The public health aspect is that we are trying to make sure we can prevent and treat these patients, and when they are TB-infected, treat them better," she added.

She suggested that doctors screen patients for TB if they have diabetes and a chronic cough, and that patients with Type 2 diabetes take precautions.

"If they are visiting an area where there is a lot TB, they need to be careful. TB spreads in crowded places with poor ventilation," she said.

World - Report;Bin laden writing his memoirs

ISLAMABAD: World's most wanted fugitive, al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is reportedly writing a book on the struggle of his terrorist network that
dispenses money, logistical support and training to radical groups in over 50 countries.

The book, being written in Arabic, will later be translated into English. Bin Laden decided to write the book to counter "propaganda" against al-Qaida, Geo News channel reported.

Bin Laden is writing the book with the assistance of a "young man with a Middle Eastern background who will later translate the text into English", the channel reported. The book will reportedly highlight atrocities allegedly being committed on Muslims by the Western world.

Bin Laden will also discuss how the medieval Crusades greatly impacted the growth of Western influence in world affairs and ultimately helped the US to control the oil reserves of the Muslim states.

The book will shed light on the evolution of al-Qaida and 9/11 terror attacks on the US.

Bin Laden, who was born in Riyadh on March 10, 1957, is a member of the prominent bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia.

The al-Qaida leader has been indicted in a US federal court for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of 10 most wanted fugitives.

Though bin Laden has not been indicted for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, he has reportedly claimed responsibility for the strikes. Reports suggest he earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979, or a degree in public administration in 1981.

Bin Laden also operated from Pakistan for a brief while in the 1980s as part of the Mujahideen movement against the Soviet forces that had occupied Afghanistan

Lifestyle - A lot can actually happen over coffee

A lot can happen over a cup of hot coffee, say researchers, who have found that people judged others to be more generous and caring if they had
just held a warm drink in their hand.

The study led by Yale University psychologists suggests that simply handling a hot cup of coffee can change one's attitude toward a stranger. "The basic scientific implication is about exploring the link between the physical world and the psychological world," said CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Lawrence E. Williams.

"It's at the same time subtle and very powerful, a repeated association of physical warmth that is learned over a lifetime," he added. Psychologists have long noted the importance of warm physical contact with caregivers in developing healthy relationships as adults.

Williams and John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale and co-author, decided to test the impact of warmth on the perceptions of adults.

During the study, the researchers casually asked that the undergraduate test subjects briefly hold either a warm cup of coffee or iced coffee as they wrote down information. The subjects were then given a packet of information about an individual, and asked to assess his or her personality traits. The participants assessed the person as significantly "warmer" if they had previously held the warm cup of coffee rather than the iced cup of coffee.

In a second study, they showed people are more likely to give something to others if they had just held something warm, and more likely take something for themselves if they held something cold.

The participants held heated or frozen therapeutic packs as part of a product evaluation study, and were then were told they could receive a gift certificate for a friend or a gift for themselves. Those who held the hot pack were more likely to ask for the gift certificate, while those who held the frozen pack tended to keep the gift.

"It appears that the effect of physical temperature is not just on how we see others, it affects our own behaviour as well," said Bargh.

"Physical warmth can make us see others as warmer people, but also cause us to be warmer – more generous and trusting – as well," he added.

Lifestyle - Seven ways to woo your man

Monika Rawal

Pole dancing
Salsa and ball room dancing are passé! Be a pole dancer and make sure you get every move right, from the jazzy costumes to the most sensuous dance steps. This alluring act will leave your lover begging for more. "I feel my wife looks sexiest when she is dancing. Though, it depends on the dance form she tries out. Pole dancing is a sure way to turn me on, provided the pole dancer has curvaceous body to flaunt. As far as my wife is concerned, she has tried pole dancing a couple of times and has successfully seduced me," says 29-year-old Karan Gabha, married for the past two years.

Word of caution: Don't go overboard with your dancing, as it may leave you tired and sleepy. "Beginners avoid trying any complex dance steps, as it may carry the risk of injuring yourself. Excess climbing on the pole without maintaining a proper balance or trying out a complicated posture can do more harm than good," warns Abha, a Delhi based choreographer.

Bikini clad welcome
It's official! The 'scantily clad effect' is sure to turn on your man! Put on a revealing pink bikini or sexy red lingerie and just as you hear him knock; open the door in a seductive posture to grab his attention. Your man will love the temptation and this naughty welcome is sure to get him geared for more. "I am aware of my husband's fantasies, especially his fetish for transparent bikinis. I thought surprising him with by being clad in such an attire that too when he was least expecting it will turn him on and, needless to say, it worked. On spotting me in this sexy avatar, he forgot all his exhaustion and immediately got into a naughty mood. I couldn't believe how this acted as such a wonderful foreplay act. Though, initially I was hesitant, but to get him into the mood, I made the bold move," confesses 27-year-old Sheeba Mehra (name changed on request) who got married recently.

Word of caution: Be sure that it's your hubby 'only' standing outside the door and not someone else. A peep through the magic eye or confirming his identity by asking before you open the door outright is advisable. After all, you don't want to be caught prancing in a bikini before your neighbourhood grocer!

Porn is 'okay' sometimes
It's commonly believed that 'men' love watching porn, acting like porn stars and wanting their respective partners to play in similar mode. Women, on the other hand might not enjoy the act as much, but it's no big deal coming out of the closet once in a while. Try flattering your hubby in the most seductive style which he's always desired for. Add that 'porn' flavour in every act of seduction. "My wife never liked the idea of watching a porn clip sitting with me, and if I insisted much, she would create a fuss. But after realising that it is one of the many ways through which we can spice up our love life, she herself agreed to it. Not only did she buy a porn video for us to watch together, she herself was keen to try out new acts and moves like never before," shares 35-year-old Vineet, an advertising professional.

Word of caution: Porn may induce a certain level of discomfort or hesitation, as you've never tried it earlier. "Do not take it for granted that watching visually stimulating experience together will act as quick fix to spice up your sex life. Unless you share a high level of comfort with your partner, such explicit acts can cause lot of misconceptions and induce negative connotations about sex," feels Dr. Vikas Mohan Sharma, consultant psychiatrist based in Bangalore.

Play out your fantasies
Think beyond sleazy conversation. Let your hidden fantasies and out-of-the-box sex stir-ups add an extra pinch ofWoo him tonight! (Getty Images)
romance into your sexual relationship. Try being innovative – plan a game, pen down your fantasies and let him pick a chit one-by-one, as you both leisurely perform them in bed. It's a great way to woo your man, even if he initially displays some 'not-tonight-honey' signs. "I was never open with my husband about my sexual desires, as I feared his reaction. But now, having tried to be a little more forward, I feel it's much better to be forthcoming in my expression," says 32-year-old Nitu, an engineer by profession.

Word of caution: Be realistic about your sex fantasies and do not share or expect anything, which you are not comfortable performing. "Expressing all your fantasies might not a good idea, as some may disclose a weaker side of yours. So make a conscious decision about which ones to share," suggests Dr. Aruna Broota, clinical psychiatrist.

Recreate the first night magic
Make efforts to enjoy every night as if it's your 'first night' and do not let the initial charm fade with time. Play with the décor of your bedroom and try positioning things in the same manner as they were on your first night. To accentuate the aura, a satin bed-sheet, several heart-shaped pillows and finally some rose petals can do the magic. "I made sure that everything reminded by hubby of our first night. The moment he came home, I blindfolded him and took him to our bedroom, which I had decorated with flowers and scented candles. I started off with a romantic conversation, talking about things which we hesitated doing then and which we now enjoyed. Such an open conversation eventually set the mood right for us to have a rocking time ahead," recalls Sarika, 31, a housewife.

Word of caution: Recollect all major incidents beforehand that happened on your first night, especially those which your hubby didn't like much. By no means, repeat any of those acts.

Spa effect at home
"I remember how my husband used to feel fatigued and sorry for not making love to me. On being guided by a friend, I tried giving him a spa experience at home and it was more than just rejuvenation. It was a complete add-on to our sex life, as it gave us a reason to come close to each other," asserts Mahima, 37, married for four years.
It's very likely that your man is too exhausted to have sex after he comes back from work. Think of a way you can help him relax his tired muscles. A spa setting in the midst of your living area can be a good idea. With scented oils and flower petals making for a romantic setting, let the warmth of your hands reach his body and let the heat build on.

Word of caution: Be cautious of fragrances (of aromatic oils) that your spouse likes and the ones he's allergic to. "Be extra careful about the techniques that you use during the spa massage because pressing the wrong pressure points may lead to backache and back problems, thus marring the whole mood," shares a spa expert.

Wild tigress act
Why let your man be the master and initiate sex every time? Turn the tables to spice up your love life. Get into a wild tigress mode and take charge in your own hands. Even if it means being assertive to get him to into the act, do not hesitate. After all, men love to see their partners initiating a sexual session and if it's wild, they couldn't be asking for more! "I never liked the idea that my wife always expected me to initiate sex, as if it was only me looking forward to it. But one night, when she started the foreplay, I was amazed. She seemed eager to enjoy some deeply pleasurable moments and it was indeed a gratifying feeling," shares 30-year-old Prakash (name changed on request).

Word of caution: Understand that becoming wild doesn't mean behaving dim-witted. Make sure you carry a skilled attitude in your wild acts, so that the man doesn't lose his interest. "Women should not be cautious all the time thinking about male reactions. There is no harm if his wife initiates the love making process," adds Dr. Aruna.

Sport - Cricket;NRI Industrialist keen to buy Deccan Chargers

MELBOURNE: NRI industrialist Vikas Rambal, who is sponsoring Champions League Twenty20 side Waca Warriors, has expressed interest in owning Indian Premier League (IPL) side Deccan Chargers. ( Watch )

The exact plans of Rambal, who brought Tom Moody to Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) as coach by spending a huge sum and now sending Waca Warriors to India in December for the Champions League T20, is not yet known but he said he wants to share a pie of the cash-rich IPL.

"I am looking to buy an IPL team and will be working out the modalities. The IPL has been a huge success. We can build a brand value in Australia and at the same time work for community development," he was quoted as saying by the media.

"Apart from these, we will also be generating revenue from the venture," he added without divulging how much he would spend to buy the IPL team.

Perth-based Rambal, chairman of the North West Chemicals and Fertilizers, got into cricket sponsorship last year and has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with WACA Twenty20 team Waca Warriors.

The agreement also meant that the Champions League Twenty20 side will bear his name -- Rambal Warriors -- during the December 3 to 10 tournament in India.

Last year, he entered a landmark agreement to sponsor former Australian cricketer Tom Moody to stay at WACA as coach-cum-manager.

Rambal also feels that with players like Mike Hussey and Shaun Marsh in the ranks, his team have a good chance to win the league.

According to recent media reports, the owners of Deccan Chargers were exploring the possibility of partly or wholly putting the franchise on sale though no official was willing to confirm the development as yet.

This has led to intense speculation that Rambal may indeed make an effort to buy Deccan Chargers which almost finished at the bottom of the table in the inaugural edition of the IPL.

India - Market Mayhem;How much poorer have Indian Billionaires become

Vijay Gaurav

MUMBAI: The next time Forbes announces its list of billionaires (assuming it dares to do so even amid a massive wealth destruction globally),
chances are that many Indian tycoons will find to their dismay that their rankings have slipped a few notches.

Even if they managed to retain their slots, or even climb up a few rungs, it would still be cold comfort, as few billion of their wealth would evaporate amid the ongoing turmoil in the stock market.

As the late British financier Sir James Goldsmith remarked when congratulated for cashing out before the stock market crash of 1987, "It is like winning a game of bridge on the decks of the Titanic."

The Sensex recorded the second-biggest single-day fall in absolute terms on Friday when it crashed by 1,071 points, or 11%, to close at 8,701. With this, the index has crashed more than 12,000 points, or nearly 60%, since its peak of 20,873 achieved on January 8, 2008.

Market cap of all the companies traded on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) has evaporated by a staggering Rs 46 lakh crore, or $940bn during the period. So, how poorer have top industrialists like the Ambanis, Tatas and Birlas become after the meltdown in the share prices of their companies?

An ET analysis of promoter wealth loss between January 8 and October 24, 2008, shows that the two Ambani brothers bore the brunt of the stock market mayhem, witnessing the highest wealth erosion among promoters of the top business houses in the country.

Though still dominating the market cap ranking, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani saw his personal wealth crash from $57.6bn as on January 8 to $14.4bn as on Friday, a fall of 75% since January 8.

A major part of the wealth erosion happened in the flagship company, RIL, whose market cap has declined by Rs 2.8 lakh crore, or $57bn. The market cap of two other group companies Reliance Petroleum and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure fell by $15.3bn and $0.7bn during the period.

Mukesh’s younger brother Anil Ambani of the ADAG group saw his wealth tumble from $48.4bn to $8.4bn, a loss of 83%. His five companies, Reliance Communication, Reliance Capital, RNRL, Reliance Infrastructure and Adlabs Films, recorded an aggregate market cap loss of $53.7bn.

Realty major DLF is the third-biggest loser where the promoter wealth has eroded from $44bn to as low as $6bn. DLF is followed by Tatas who saw their wealth in 27 listed companies plunge from $38.2bn to $12.8bn, a loss of 67%.

TCS, Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Communications and Tata Teleservices are among the key companies in the Tata group to have taken a big hit on market cap during January 8 to October 24 2008.

World - I have given up on talks with China says Dalai Lama

DHARMSALA: The Dalai Lama said on Saturday he has given up on efforts to convince Beijing to allow greater autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.

The Tibetan spiritual leader said he would now ask the Tibetan people to decide on how to take the dialogue forward.

China has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of leading a campaign to split Tibet from the rest of the country. The Dalai Lama has denied the allegations, saying he is only seeking greater autonomy for the Himalayan region to protect its unique Buddhist culture - a policy he calls the "middle way."

"I have been sincerely pursuing the middle way approach in dealing with China for a long time now but there hasn't been any positive response from the Chinese side," he said in Tibetan at a public function.

"As far as I'm concerned I have given up," he said in an unusually blunt statement.

"The issue of Tibet is not the issue of the Dalai Lama alone. It is the issue of 6 million Tibetans. I have asked the Tibetan government-in-exile, as a true democracy in exile, to decide in consultation with the Tibetan people the future course of action," the Dalai Lama said.

His speech was translated by his spokesman, Tenzin Takhla. The spiritual leader's comments come ahead of a new round of talks between his envoys and Chinese government officials at the end of October. Those talks are still on track, according to Chhime R. Chhoekyapa, another spokesman for the Dalai Lama.

Most Tibetans have supported the Dalai Lama's push for autonomy for the region. The Tibetan Youth Congress is the only major activist group that is advocating full independence for Tibet.

Beijing insists Tibet has belonged to China for centuries. Many Tibetans, however, say the region was effectively an independent nation until Chinese Communist troops invaded in 1950.

Phone calls to China's United Front Work Department, the Communist Party agency that handles contacts with the Dalai Lama, rang unanswered Saturday.

The Dalai Lama has been living in Dharmsala since fleeing Tibet after an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Health - Binge drinking weakens bones

Researchers have uncovered how alcohol disturbs genes necessary for upkeep of bones, potentially opening up new ways of targeting bone loss in alcohol abusers or those at risk of osteoporosis.

"Of course, the best way to prevent alcohol-induced bone loss is to not drink or to drink moderately," said bone biologist John Callaci, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. "But when prevention doesn't work, we need other strategies to limit the damage."

Callaci is a co-author of the study. His other co-authors are Frederick Wezeman, a professor and Ryan Himes, a research assistant in the Burn and Shock Trauma Institute of the university.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation says that many people who abuse alcohol do not get enough calcium. Alcohol also can affect the body's calcium supply. And drinking too much can increase the risk of falls and broken bones. The foundation advises people to have no more than two drinks per day.

Loyola's Alcohol Research Program was among the first centres to demonstrate that rats given an amount of alcohol equivalent to binge drinking show significant decreases in bone mineral density and bone strength. In humans, binge drinking is defined as a woman having at least four drinks or a man having at least five drinks in two hours. But surprisingly little was known about the mechanisms responsible for these effects.

In the new study, researchers injected rats with an amount of alcohol equivalent to binge drinking for three days or to chronic alcohol abuse for four weeks. Control groups received injections of saline.

Researchers focussed on genes responsible for bone health. They found that alcohol affected the amounts of RNA associated with these genes. (RNA serves as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.)

With some genes, alcohol increased the amount of RNA. With other genes, alcohol decreased the RNA, according to a press release of Loyola University. These findings were published recently in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Changing the amounts of RNA disrupted two molecular pathways responsible for normal bone metabolism and maintenance of bone mass.

Health - Green Tea good for Type-1 diabetes

A powerful antioxidant in green tea may prevent or delay the onset of type-1 diabetes, according to a study.

Researchers were testing EGCG, green tea's predominant anti-oxidant, on a lab mouse with type-1 diabetes and primary Sjogren's syndrome, which damages moisture-producing glands, causing dry mouth and eyes.

"Our study focused on Sjogren's syndrome, so learning that EGCG also can prevent and delay insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes was a big surprise," said Stephen Hsu, molecular cell biologist at the School of Dentistry, Medical College of Georgia (MCG). The study was published Friday in Life Sciences.

In the mouse, EGCG reduced the severity and delayed onset of salivary gland damage associated with Sjogren's syndrome, which has no known cure.

"EGCG modulates several important genes, so it suppresses the abnormality at the molecular level in the salivary gland. It also significantly lowered the serum auto-antibodies, reducing the severity of Sjogren's syndrome-like symptoms," Hsu said. Auto-antibodies are antibodies the body makes against itself.

Both type-1 diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome are autoimmune diseases, which cause the body to attack itself. Autoimmune disorders are the third most common group of diseases in US and affect about eight percent of the population, an MCG press release, quoting Hsu, said.

Columnists - Barkha Dutt;The Renaissance Man (G.Read)

The media cliché of the season is inspired by a man who seems all set to become the first Black President of the United States. An Obama for India is a liberal lament that we have now heard more times than we can count. But what is India really looking to emulate?

Moving past his slogans for change, his innate charisma and his buttery charm, Barack Obama’s biggest achievement may already be the fact that instead of using his Race as a perennial calling-card, he appears to have transcended it. The political debate has long since moved from whether White America is ready for Obama to ask instead whether all of Black America will stand by him. No wonder then that Obama — who was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan diplomat and a White woman from Kansas — has been subjected to merciless scrutiny on whether he is “Black enough”. The American media has drawn parallels between him and Tiger Woods. Woods, who is now glorified as an iconic, breaking-the barriers, Black Hero, was often derided in his early years for being more at home in the chi-chi and predominantly White world of professional golf than in Black society.

So the question now is whether inner-city Black America — the more radical and resentful voters — will see him as one of their own or a sell-out to the enemy. It’s a risk that the Presidential candidate has been willing to take. Race has hardly been the centerpiece of Obama’s campaign; he has made just one definitive speech on the racial divide through the entire election year. And when he disowned his own pastor’s incendiary remarks (among them a church sermon that declared 9/11 to be just punishment for America’s “terrorism”) and acknowledged that resentment in White America had its own legitimacy, Obama knew that he was risking a backlash among his own followers. Jesse Jackson — once America’s best-known Black politician, who also made a failed bid for President — was famously caught on an open mike saying he wanted to “cut Obama’s nuts off”.

But in the end, the gamble appears to have paid off and it has redefined American politics as well. A deeply racist society is now focusing on which Presidential candidate will deliver them from the economic meltdown and the administration’s foreign policy suicide missions, rather than on whether White is better than Black. This is Obama’s historic contribution: he has refused to keep his people locked into the role of victims.

And it is precisely this that India can and must learn from: find us a politician who will terminate the politics of victimhood. Our public debates on religion and caste continue to be polarised by rehearsed and predictable dogmas. Anything to do with religious minorities ends up being discussed only in banal, over-simplified, for- and-against frameworks.

We only have to look at the how our political parties responded to two recent controversies: the attacks on Christians in Orissa and the Jamia Nagar encounter in Delhi. At a meeting of the National Integration Council — the BJP audaciously and unapologetically declared the Bajrang Dal to be a “nationalist organisation”. But the statements from some of the Congress and Left politicians were just as provocative. If a judicial probe was not ordered into the Delhi encounter, warned one leader, India’s Muslims were in danger of being alienated from the mainstream. Who can defend the hooliganism and the organised, targeted and communal violence of the Bajrang Dal? Equally, should one contentious police encounter — in which the truth is hazy and neither innocence nor guilt can be pronounced till the courts decide the case — be used to define the so-called mood of India’s Muslims? If the debate around banning the Bajrang Dal is motivated by party politics, so is the controversy around the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (Simi). Right-wing lunacy is a disservice to the Idea of India.

But Left-wing fundamentalism does it no favour either. The secular debate is sadly mired in stale rhetoric. One side makes India’s minorities feel like outsiders in their own country; the other side keeps them trapped in a siege mentality that is just as destructive.

If caste is to India, what race is to America — well then — we have more reason to worry about our inability to reinvent our political agendas. No matter what you think of her, Mayawati’s meteoric rise is indisputably the stuff that history is made of. The BSP alliance with Brahmins in the last assembly elections could have been a dramatic opportunity for breaking down traditional divides, had it ever gone beyond cynical arithmetic. Now Mayawati is reaching out to so-called upper caste voters again by promising economic reservations. But, why should someone who could well be India’s next Prime Minister need to react at all when Rahul Gandhi spends time with Dalit villagers? The patently untrue suggestion that the Congress leader would “cleanse” himself every time he met a Dalit, is clearly designed to play into age-old insecurities. The subtext is clear: only a Dalit politician can ever be free of caste bias. And once again, the political strategy is the same: victimhood makes for an excellent vote-bank.

Perhaps the reason that Indian politics remains trapped in complicated caste mathematics instead of ever expanding to become genuinely issue-based is the risk-averse attitude of our netas. Neither caste nor religion can ever be irrelevant in a society as diverse and unequal as ours. But, perhaps one day, India will find a politician willing to gamble on the possibility of transcending both caste and religion while still giving them their place.

This is why India loves Obama.

(Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV)

Columnists - Khushwant Singh;For the love of food

As a person ages, of his five senses, four decline with the years; only one, the sense of taste for food outlasts the others. I know this to be true in my case. The older I grow, the more I think of what I will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of the three meals, the first two are nominal: a buttered toast with a mug of tea in the morning, a bowl of soup or dahi (yoghurt) at mid-day but dinner, I insist, must be a gourmet’s delight. It comprises of only one main dish with a salad to match, topped off with pudding or ice-cream. I have also discovered that in order to enjoy that one meal I must be hungry and have a clean stomach. It is best enjoyed alone and in complete silence. Dining in company or with members of the family may help bonding friendships and keeping the family together, but it takes away much of the taste out of tasty food. Talking while eating, one also swallows a lot of air with the food. This is how our Hindu ancestor patriarchs ate their evening meals. They had good reasons for doing so; I follow the precedent set by them. I also have the pattern of drinking and dining from my role model Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. He took a bath every evening and got into fresh clothes before he fished out his bottle of Scotch Whisky, poured out his measure in a tumbler, added scented surahi water to it — and drank in absolute silence while writing immortal couplets in praise of wine and women. He does not record what he ate for dinner.

When I drink alone on an empty stomach, I can feel the whisky warming its way down my entrails. I do not get that feeling when drinking in company. Likewise, when eating in company, I scarcely notice the taste of what I keep shoveling in my mouth. When eating alone, I shut my eyes and turn my inner gaze to what I am chewing and munching bit by bit till it dissolves and goes down my throat. I feel I am doing justice to my food as the food I eat is doing justice to me. Never be in a hurry to get over your meal; take your time over it and relish it.

I like to vary my food. My trusted cook of over 50 years is now too old to try his hand at new recipes. So I keep menus of eateries that deliver food handy. I try them in turns — Chinese, Thai, French, Italian, South Indian. I also have phone numbers of ladies who specialise in different kinds of food they cook in their homes and cater to people who place orders in advance. So I have a Mrs Dhupia who makes excellent Quiche Lorraine and chocolate cakes. And I have Claire Dutt who makes excellent anything I fancy.

“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are,” claimed Savarin. If I told him of the varieties of food I eat, he would probably call me a pig. But I do not hog myself. What I take is in measured quantities. For me it is the same as Savarin claimed : “the discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of man than the discovery of a star." Like Lord Byron I look forward to my evening meal as I used to look forward to meeting my dates in younger days. To quote: “That all-softening, over powering knell//The tocsin of the sod - the dinner bell.’

One final word of caution: make sure you never over-eat. An upset stomach ruins the pleasure of eating.

Lifestyle - India;Diwali in Kolkata?Fly to London instead

Siddharta Roy

If you are planning to fly to Kolkata for Diwali, be prepared to shell out four times the money you usually do. In fact, flying to Kolkata for Diwali is as costly as a flight to London.

After trains to Kolkata were cancelled following the unrest in Bihar, passengers are thronging airline counters to buy tickets. The huge demand has resulted in the ticket prices skyrocketing.

While normally a one-way air ticket to Kolkata costs Rs 5,000, the lowest tickets now are priced at minimum of Rs 20,000. A one-way ticket to London costs Rs 19,500.

Shreya Bannerjee, a 50-year-old housewife, had to visit Kolkata with her family for her niece’s wedding. After the Howrah Rajdhani on Wednesday got cancelled, she decided to travel by air.

“I was shocked to see the ticket fares. Even tickets of low cost airlines were selling for more than Rs. 20,000,” she said.

“I would have to shell out close to Rs 1 lakh if I travel with my husband and two daughters. This is insane.”

Bannerjee had no choice but to miss the wedding. “I will visit Kolkata next week and have booked train tickets,” she said.

Dwiraj Bose, a business manager with an MNC, is in an even desperate situation.

“I have to go to Jamshedpur to see my ailing mother. However, I was simply stranded after the trains got cancelled,” he said.

Bose tried booking air tickets to Kolkata, from where he would have taken a train, but discovered the prices were prohibitive.

“The tickets that were usually priced at Rs 5,000-6,000, were available for Rs 10,000 on Wednesday evening. By next morning, the prices rose to Rs 20,000 and more,” he said. “How can airlines that call themselves low cost, hike ticket prices so much?” Bose said.

Bose was planning to drive down to Jamshedpur in his Santro when Rajdhani services were resumed. He now has an unreserved ticket but is determined to leave.

“Prices are all about demand and supply. With trains cancelled and soaring demand, airlines hiked fares,” said Dhruv Shringi, CEO of travel portal Yatra.com. “Airlines, even low cost ones, are allowed the flexibility to do so,” he added.

An Air India spokesman said, “There is an overall surge in demand due to Diwali.”

“Even executive class seats are all full. We have seen 800 more passengers per day in the last two days,” he said.

Lifestyle - US;Palin,McCain spent $52,000 on makeup

After Sarah Palin came under scrutiny for her wardrobe expenses, new details have emerged, which show that US Republican presidential candidate John McCain's campaign paid 3 makeup artists a total of $52,000 over 6 weeks.

According to records filed with the Federal Election Commission, the McCain campaign paid Amy Strozzi, Palin’s travelling makeup artist, $22,800 for the first two weeks of October. Strozzi received $13,200 for her work in September.

Records have revealed that McCain's makeup artist, Tifanie White, received $8,512 in September and $7,368 during the first two weeks of October.

The Republican National Committee paid a third makeup artist, Tracy Thorp, $980 for work in September.

The total makeup expense for a six-week period beginning September 1 comes down to $52,000.

A spokesman for McCain-Palin, Ben Porritt, refused to discuss the makeup expenses. "Our campaign is focused on talking about the issues," the New York Daily News quoted him, as saying.

The payments to Strozzi make her the highest paid person in the McCain-Palin presidential campaign during the first half of October.

Earlier this week, records showed the Republican National Committee spent $1,50,000 - including more than $75,000 at Neiman Marcus and nearly $50,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue - to outfit Palin in designer duds.

World - $60mn NY Apartment for Sale

Edward Helmore

Property markets may be crashing worldwide, but in the world of New York real estate one building remains apparently untouched: 740 Park Avenue.

This week Courtney Ross, widow of the funeral parlour director-turned legendary Time Warner entertainment mogul Steve Ross, quietly put her 32-room apartment in 740 on the market for in excess of $60m.

“It’s going to be the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York,” predicted the sales agent. The property, Edward Lee Cave said, was not officially for sale and would be shown to just 10 prospective buyers “because there will only be 10 people who are appropriate to see it.”

The building is considered so exclusive that last year it saw the publication of its own biography, 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building, by the New York society writer Michael Gross.

Indeed, the building — described as the “noblest of all” New York apartment buildings by Vanity Fair — is a road map of American wealth and society since it was built in 1929.

Where it was once home to Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and Chryslers — Jackie Kennedy, then Bouvier, grew up there — it now houses the new-monied elite of banking, hedge funds and private equity: Henry Kravis, David Ganek, Saul Steinberg, John Thain and Stephen Schwarzman.

The Ross apartment, while not considered the most elegant, is the largest in the building. But scraping together $60m plus is no guarantee of entry. Under New York’s co-op vetting system, applicants will have to go undergo rigorous background checks. At a minimum, a buyer must put at least half down in cash and prove he or she is liquid to at least three times the total value of the sale — and that’s even before a stringent social evaluation is undertaken by the building’s board members.

While the rest of Manhattan considers a property crash — as many as 80,000 luxury flats were built during the boom and hardly any are selling — agents are confident the Ross apartment will find a buyer. “It’s not going to be ‘at least’ $60m,” Cave said. “It will be over $60m.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008

World - Time to rescue the real economy

Juan Somavia

This is not simply a crisis on Wall Street; it is a crisis on all streets.

The current crisis has hit the financial sector hard. But what about people and the real economy?

Though we don’t know how long and how serious the financial crisis will be, we do know that if we fail to act decisively, the impact on the lives, working conditions and hopes of millions of people will be strong, global and systemic.

The current search for better financial regulation and a global surveillance mechanism of checks and balances is a welcome step. But we must reach beyond the financial system. This is not simply a crisis on Wall Street; it is a crisis on all streets.

We need an economic rescue plan for working people and the real economy, with rules and policies that deliver decent work and productive enterprises. We must better link productivity to salaries and growth to employment. People must have trust that the economy is working for them.

This message is urgent. The International Labour Organisation has completed a first estimate of how this crisis is going to impact the day-to-day lives of people at all levels of society.

We project that world unemployment could increase by 20 million by the end of 2009 — surpassing the 200 million mark of global unemployed for the first time. People working in such sectors as construction, automotive, tourism, finance, services and real estate will be hit hardest first.

What’s more, the number of working poor living on less than a dollar a day could rise by some 40 million — and those living on two dollars a day could rise by more than 100 million.

And grim as these numbers are, they could prove to be underestimates if the effect of the current economic contraction and looming recession are not quickly confronted.

Above all, we must focus on people, on enterprise, on the real economy. What does that mean? Four things:

First, get credit flowing. Emergency measures have been and are being taken.

Second, support those who are most vulnerable. That means a variety of measures including pension protection, unemployment insurance and credit for small and medium enterprises, which are a primary source of jobs today.

Third, decisive public policies and smart regulation that rewards hard work and enterprise once again. We are battered by the whirlwind of a financial system that lost its moral compass. We have to come back to the basic legitimate function of finance, which is to promote the real economy — to lend so that entrepreneurs can invest, innovate, produce jobs and products. Let’s get back to what finance is meant to do — to finance the real economy.

Fourth, and critically, we must address the underlying challenges. Long before the current financial crisis, we were already in a crisis of massive global poverty and growing social inequality, rising informality and precarious work — a process of globalisation that had brought considerable benefits but for many had become unbalanced, unfair and unsustainable.

We need to get the balance right and concentrate on rescuing people and production. It’s about saving the real economy.

Let’s remember that people judge their lives and their futures mainly through their life at work. Now more than ever, we must focus on making sure the policies and support are in place to meet people’s core demand for a fair chance at a decent job.

In order to keep economies and societies open, relevant international organisations must come together to develop a new multilateral framework for a fair and sustainable globalisation.

Trade talks are stalled, financial markets are on the brink, climate change continues, any reconstruction will have to find ways to integrate financial, economic, social, labour and environmental policies within a sustainable development approach.

We cannot respond to the sub-prime crisis with sub-prime policies. This is the time to think and act in bold and innovative ways to confront the huge challenges before us.

(The writer is Director-General of the International Labour Organisation.)

Science - Is there water really on the Moon ?

N. Gopal Raj

A paper by a team of Japanese scientists is bound to fuel the controversy further.

Whether or not water in the form of ice exists on the Moon is a hotly debated issue. In fact, India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which was launched on Wednesday, is carrying a U.S.-built radar that is specifically intended to look for water-ice at the lunar poles.

Meanwhile, a paper from a team of Japanese scientists that is coming out this week is bound to fuel the controversy further. Based on images from a camera on Japan’s Kaguya lunar probe that was launched last year, their findings question whether such ice does indeed exist.

On the Moon’s surface, any water would be rapidly vapourised by the heat of the Sun’s rays and lost to space. But since the early 1960s, it has been argued that some water might have been transported to the polar regions. There, over millions of years, the water could have accumulated as ice at the bottom of craters that are permanently in shadow. Indeed, two U.S. spacecraft that went to the Moon in the 1990s found indications of water-ice in the permanently shadowed areas at the poles.

Now, Junichi Haruyama of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other scientists have studied images taken by Kaguya’s Terrain Camera of the Shackleton crater at the lunar south pole, which is one of the prime locations on the Moon where it is believed water-ice could be found.

Imaging the interior of the crater, which never receives any direct sunlight, is not easy. “Our observation was based on the idea that the [permanently shadowed] area is weakly lit by sunlight scattered from nearby higher terrain,” said Dr. Haruyama and the others in a paper being published this week on Science Express, the advance electronic publication wing of the journal Science. For their analysis, the scientists examined images captured at the end of 2007 when illumination of the area around the Shackleton crater was maximum.

The team found that the temperature of the crater floor was low enough to hold ice, said Dr. Haruyama in an email to this correspondent. “However, the images show lack of water-ice deposits.”

Dirty ice

In their paper, the scientists wrote, “there is no extensively exposed pure water-ice deposit occupying a larger area than seen in the [Terrain Camera’s] spatial resolution [of 10 metres].” It could be that the ice was “dirty” by being mixed with lunar soil.

Also, the water-ice may be buried under a thin layer of lunar soil, said Dr. Haruyama in his email.

The Japanese are not the only ones to cast doubt on there being water-ice on the Moon. Three years ago, a team of U.S. astronomers led by Donald Campbell of Cornell University used two radio telescopes in the United States like a radar to bounce radio signals off the Moon.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, Prof. Cambell and others reported that the distinctive polarisation properties of the returning radio signals, which are normally associated with icy surfaces in the Solar system, had been found not just in the Shackleton crater but also in sunlit areas where ice would not exist. They argued that the polarisation properties they observed were “strongly correlated with the rock-strewn walls and ejecta of young craters.”

But Paul Spudis, a proponent of the view that water-ice is likely to be found on the Moon, is unmoved. Dr. Spudis, who is currently with the Lunar and Planetary Institute at Houston in the United States, is the principal investigator for the Mini Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR) that the India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft is carrying to the Moon.

The Japanese team was claiming that it did not see any evidence of ice inside the Shackleton crater, remarked Dr. Spudis who was at Sriharikota for the launch of Chandrayaan-1. “But the simple fact is no one that I know of ever predicted that there would be pools of ice visible to imaging from a camera if you were able to illuminate the [crater] floor. So effectively they have knocked down a straw man of their own creation,” he told this correspondent.

Dr. Spudis was deputy leader of the science team for the Clementine mission that the U.S. sent to the Moon in 1994. The team improvised an experiment in which the satellite beamed radio waves at the lunar south pole and picked up the return signals back on Earth. The Clementine team argued that water-ice in the permanently shadowed region at the south pole was the probable explanation for the polarisation response seen in the radar echo.

“Now, if you go back and look at the paper that we wrote in 1996 when we talked about the Shackleton crater, we basically said that the ice, if there was ice in the crater, it was patchy and dirty,” said Dr. Spudis. “And effectively that is exactly what you see in this [Japanese] image. ... There is no reason to suppose that ice inside a lunar polar crater would be smooth and mirror-like or even white, because it is all going to be coated and mixed in with dirt.”

As for the findings of Prof. Campbell and his team, Dr. Spudis thinks they were incorrectly interpreting their Earth-based radar data. In a 2007 article in The Space Review, an online publication, he said that the same factor need not have been responsible for the distinctive radar polarisation seen from the dark Shackleton crater and the sunlit Schomberger G. crater. Ice as well as surface roughness could both produce that same radar signature. If the radar signature came from a spot in sunlight, it must be due to surface roughness. “But, if it’s in permanent darkness, ice cannot be ruled out,” he noted.

MiniSAR data

In the wake of all this controversy, the data from Chandrayaan-1 MiniSAR will be even more eagerly awaited. After the satellite enters lunar orbit and begins to circle the Moon from pole to pole, the radar will be able to look down into the permanently shadowed polar areas up to a depth of a few metres.

With the MiniSAR, “for the first time, we will map the dark areas of the poles using an appropriate radar, but also at the optimum viewing geometry,” said Dr. Spudis. The MiniSAR “will map both poles at a uniform resolution, at uniform illumination conditions and look for the signature of the possible presence of water-ice.”

But even the MiniSAR data may not prove that water-ice exists. “But what we hope to do is to collect enough data such that we will create candidate sites so that we will know where to look in the future when we actually land on the Moon and sample the material,” he added.

India - Kashmir's failed uprising

Happymon Jacob

Elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly have been announced, and are scheduled to be held in seven phases spread over five weeks. The decision to go ahead with the elections on schedule was taken following intensive discussion, punctuated by numerous disagreements, from both the Election Commission and the mainstream political parties in J&K. The dissidents have made it clear that they will not only boycott the elections, but will also actively campaign against the electoral process itself.

Even as the debate about the political wisdom of conducting elections at this point in time rages on, now is an opportune moment to take a close look at the recent uprising in Kashmir, and ask why it has failed to achieve anything substantial. After almost four months of anti-India slogans and sustained agitation, and despite limited moves towards unity by the Srinagar-based dissident camp, the current uprising in Kashmir seems to have reached a dead-end. Calls by the Prime Minister and the Hurriyat Conference (Mirwaiz) chief for dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue, indicate that the recent uprising, which garnered nationwide attention, seems to have lost its momentum.

Indeed, Kashmir’s latest experiment with dissidence did appear to have the right mix of all the necessary ingredients for success: mass participation, willingness to defy state crackdown, emotive slogans striking the right Kashmiri chords, timely political alliances and the ever-green romanticism of azadi. More importantly, unlike during the 1990s, the Indian intelligentsia was more sympathetic to the Kashmiri cause this time around, while militants kept away from the scene, not wanting to malign the mass movement. Yet the uprising seems to have fizzled out. It has quite obviously failed to reach any logical conclusion, although its reverberations will continue to impact on the state’s polity for a very long time to come.

What explains its failure?

What then explains its failure? Have dissenting Kashmiris grown disillusioned, sceptical as to the fruits of their struggle against the Indian state, and resigned themselves to submission? Or, can its failure be attributed to successful handling of the situation by the governments of New Delhi and Srinagar? Has the Indian state, after all, learned to contain dissidence in its frontiers? Not really.

An ex post facto analysis of the recent events in Kashmir reveals a clear set of factors responsible for the failure of the Valley’s latest uprising. First of all, the dissident leadership in the Valley did not have a common minimum programme. The lack of an understanding of their political endgame rendered them incapable of negotiating effectively with New Delhi.

Secondly, this lack of common understanding was augmented by acute dissent and leadership struggles within the dissident camp. Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s claim to ‘sole leadership’ failed to resonate with the other leaders, who have since sought to distance themselves from him. Opposition became all the more serious when Mr. Geelani began questioning the credentials of other dissident leaders to lead the Kashmiris.

Many meanings of azadi

In addition to the aforementioned factors, differences of opinion within the dissident camp represent more than a mere leadership struggle. They stem from something fundamentally ideological: differing conceptions of the very meaning of azadi. That the camp did not have a commonly agreed upon programme, and was stalled by leadership quarrels, underscores the fact that there are many meanings of azadi in the Kashmir Valley. To the one extreme there are those who, like many of the mainstream parties within J&K (such as the National Conference), argue that the word points to greater autonomy and additional political rights. And to the other are those (represented by the JKLF and Mr. Geelani) who typically seek complete independence from India, and see azadi as embodying this desire. Somewhere between these two divergent views are those who argue that it is the Kashmiris’ demand for self-respect, dignity and their inalienable democratic rights, which constitute the true basis of azadi.

The two most important pro-azadi leaders in the Valley, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mr. Geelani, have radically different views as to what azadi entails. Consider, for example, that Mirwaiz has been an important moderate voice, whereas Mr. Geelani harbours no such illusions of temperance. A close reading of Mirwaiz’s statements, taken at various points in time, makes clear that he is more pro-Kashmir than anti-India, willing to talk to and reason with New Delhi, and is flexible in relation to what self-determination entails; his ‘United States of Kashmir’ proposal does not seek complete independence for Kashmir. In other words, the Mirwaiz is willing to make adjustments and seek balance when talking to New Delhi. But Mr. Geelani has made it clear that the resolution to the Kashmir problem lies in nothing short of Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, and rejects the need to converse with New Delhi.

Most importantly, however, azadi needs to be understood as the rallying cry of a large number of an aggrieved people. For them, the word means something more tangible, something that pertains to their daily lives, than anything so fundamentally ideological: it means freedom from the fear of militants and security forces, as well as dignity, and the absence of New Delhi’s political high-handedness. Moreover, one would have to concede that it is a question of the unresolved issue of sub-national aspirations, and its consequences within the Indian state.

Zardari’s Kashmir policy

The relative silence of Pakistan, and the pro-India statements of President Zardari, should be understood as the fourth reason for the failure of the dissident movement. That Zardari did not choose to lash out against India during the recent anti-India protests in Kashmir is significant. His assurances that there would soon be good news about Kashmir and that both the countries are working towards it show a desire to distance himself from Pakistan’s traditional stance on Kashmir. And more was to follow. Recently he branded Kashmiri militants as “terrorists” and claimed that India was important for Pakistan’s growth. Surprisingly, he received little rebuke for these comments from within his country. Pakistan’s desire to make peace with India, and to rid itself of extremism, also means that it many not continue to support the various dissident parties within Kashmir — as it has done in the past — at the expense of India and its fight with terrorism, though the Pakistani Army and the ISI may fail to demonstratively adhere to this new way of thinking.

Lastly, the anti-Kashmir agitations in Jammu dented the dissident cause. For the rest of the world, ‘Kashmir’s freedom struggle’ is now more nuanced, and Jammu has played an important part in highlighting the conflicts within the conflict. Agitations in Jammu made obvious to all what was already well known within J&K: Jammu and Leh have never been part of the struggle in Kashmir, and were always uneasy about the political supremacy of Kashmiris in the state. Kashmiris have always relied on their own centrality to tell the story of their struggle, yet the reorientation of focus towards the politics of the Kashmiri/Jammuite relationship, have complicated the equation. The introduction of the Jammu and, to a lesser extent, the Leh narratives have crowded the picture. A conflict-within-a-conflict has been unearthed, and it threatens to disrupt the over-simplified nature of the Kashmiri’s argument.

That said, much as New Delhi hopes that elections in the State will bring back normalcy, it needs to ensure that those elections are free and fair, lest the State fall back once more into instability. In other words, New Delhi, in its over-enthusiasm to stabilise the state, must not try to create a façade of normalcy by playing foul with elections. It must demonstrate what it has learnt since 2002, and let the electoral process answer questions it cannot.

India - Time to realign the Indian state

Harish Khare

India can cope with the global fiscal meltdown only if it is able to ensure that policymaking is firmly aligned on the side of public purpose, not private greed.

On Wednesday, Chandrayaan-1 was successfully put into the orbit, a magnificent scientific achievement. A day earlier, the Vilasrao Deshmukh government put the chief of the rampaging Maharasthra Navnirman Sena behind bars. And a day still earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured parliamentarians and the nation that “there is no place for fear. This is the time for unity of purpose and resolute action.”

All these can be taken as manifestations of an activist state at work, and ought to be placed in the larger context of failure of ideas and ideologies behind the current global economic meltdown. Three decades of ideologically fashionable sniping at the state and its role as the custodian of the public interest has come to an abrupt end. And, it is about time it did.

The worldwide financial crisis can and must be a sobering, as also chastening, experience for us, particularly to our policymakers and those in the political space who pretend to serve the masses. There are a few lessons that suggest themselves.

First, we need to detoxify our economic decision-making of its current biases and assumptions, without having to dismantle the post-1991 architecture, or even without turning our back on the market and its capabilities. While there can be no return to the bad old rent-seeking days, it is necessary to scrutinise our policy prejudices.

Nothing better illustrates these embedded biases than the official responses to the presumed crisis in the aviation sector. The country watched in utter disbelief as a Minister chose to act as a spokesman of the industry — correction, of two industrialists — rather than give primacy to his role as the custodian of the larger public interest. Then, another Minister allowed himself to be persuaded of the need to dole out immediate help and relief to the two corporate entrepreneurs who, till the other day, were being serenaded as successful practitioners of the market magic.

It was left to a Left parliamentarian from Kerala to sum up the lopsidedness in the current priorities: “The Centre has not yet found time to discuss demands from State governments on the allocation of PDS rice. But it has got the oil Minister to change fuel allocation rules for airlines in neat three hours.”

This is the time for the Prime Minister to take a call. Dr. Singh needs to send out the message in and outside the system that while governments can and must put in place policies designed to help invite private investment and promote entrepreneurship, they do not have the responsibility to ensure that the private sector makes enormous, even windfall, profits. In a democracy, a government will be respected and obeyed only if it is seen as promoting the larger public good, which is socially relevant and morally defensible. No democratically elected government can allow itself to become an instrument of private greed.

The Prime Minister has to tell his ministerial colleagues and senior bureaucrats that they have to respect the Indian values and sensibilities, rather than the demands, expectations and prescriptions of the “captains” of industry and high finance who think they have the Davos mandate. The only mandate relevant to the Indian decision-maker is the idea — and ideals of public purpose. He ought to feel in his bones whether a policy prescription is good for India or not. This would be possible only when the decision-maker reflexively believes that his primary obligation is to the Indian people and their welfare, not to the transient (and self-serving) prescriptions from the World Bank/IMF crowd.

Fashionable willingness

Of late, there is an all too fashionable willingness among the senior bureaucrats to adjust their native impulses and, instead, accommodate the wealthy American lobbyist. This has been one of the unintended consequences of the Manmohan Singh administration’s engagement with Washington over the civil nuclear agreement.

The harsh fact is that the post-1991 mandate has run its course in India, and those policy choices would have to be politically revalidated; it is obvious that such an endorsement can become available only if the policymakers are seen as working for the larger public purpose, instead of playing a junior partner in the game of crony capitalism.

The economic crisis and its unsettling fallout have underlined the critical importance of the political leaders’ trustworthiness. The rioting in Mumbai over jobs in the Railways for Maharashtrians and the counter-rioting in Patna are only the latest reminder of the fragility of the popular acceptability of our democratic arrangements. As the economic situation becomes less certain, the citizens as well as the consumers, and the investors will want to be reassured of the integrity and trustfulness of our governmental leaders.

Therefore it becomes imperative for us to ensure that our regulatory institutions, especially those dealing with the economy, are strengthened and empowered. To begin with, it should be ensured that the men and women chosen to preside over these institutions are individuals of merit, integrity, competence and wisdom; these appointments should not be allowed to become a subject of bargaining and negotiations among coalition partners. This is the minimum that is expected from a Prime Minister who has so admirably become the symbol of integrity in public life.

An unhappy perception is gaining ground that the regulators are not being allowed to discharge their responsibilities to the best of their professional competence; perhaps, what is worse, whenever the government can, it does ignore the regulators’ advice, notwithstanding the statutory requirements to place the recommendations in the public and parliamentary domain. Lawfulness in governance and regulatory mechanism needs to be respected, especially by the government and its functionaries. Institutional resilience is the best anti-dote to economic shocks and dislocations. And, in these times of fiscal meltdown, it is vital to shore up constitutional institutional arrangements. The judiciary, in particular, needs wise leadership all around if the courts are to remain a vibrant institutional arbiter of lawful economic growth.

Then, the economic policies, if not policymakers, ought to be fire-walled against corporate greed. The current global economic crisis presents us with a collective opportunity to question dubious claims and assumptions made on behalf of the market and its servants in the corporate crowd.

The scramble among various States to invite the de-Singurified Tatas to relocate their Nano plant was, to say the least, rather unseemly. The industrialisation agenda has to be placed in the larger context of overall public welfare, there has to be a balance between private profit, personal initiative, on the one hand, and the State or Central government’s largesse, concessions and public good, on the other.

Democratic irony

Unfortunately, the economic crisis has surfaced at a time when we are moving inexorably into the election phase. A very large chunk of our political class is going to remain preoccupied with the elections, first in the north, and, a little later, in the whole of India. This, in effect, often turns out to be the time for political leaders and parties’ vulnerabilities to the corporate crowd and its money power. It is perhaps a supreme democratic irony that come elections, the leaders become invariably inclined to inflict on themselves corporate linkages and obligations which can be repaid only at the expense of public good.

The coming contests would also encourage political parties to seek votes by demanding greater allocation of resources for their regional/ethnic/caste constituencies. This is no surprise. After all, our public discourse and popular culture have got used to selling dreams of easy prosperity, without hard work and sacrifice; now, all our citizens, especially those from the lower strata, demand that the government make the economic dreams come true for them too. And, there is a willingness as also a “democratic sanctity” to make such demands roughly and violently. In other words, the moral efficacy of the post-1991 economic era has come under severe stress.

At a time when the polity needs competent capacities for honest compromise and just bargaining, the political crowd will be distracted in the reverse direction. This is the cost of democratic arrangements, and the cost should not be grudged too much. At the same time, the grand requirement remains that we conduct our democratic rites in a manner that ensures that the Indian state and its policy instruments are re-charged with their democratic obligations.

Health - India;New approaches to sanitation

To be rated the second among the worst places in sanitation is a distinction that India should want to do away with soon. More pressing is the need to prevent, as a WaterAid estimate shows, the death of 1.5 million children every year due to diarrhoea and the loss of 73 million work days due to water-borne diseases. The emphasis, for good reasons, has been more on providing clean water supply than on sanitation. The Planning Commission estimates that, as on March 2004, whi le about 91 per cent of the urban population had access to water supply, only 63 per cent had sewerage and sanitation facilities. The year 2012 is now set as the target for 100 per cent urban sanitation. It is in this context that the government has unveiled the National Urban Sanitation Policy. It seeks to promote community planned and managed toilets where there are constraints of space, safe disposal of waste and recycling of treated waste water, and managing of public sanitation facilities in all urban areas.

The policy envisages extension of sanitary facilities to the poor in listed as well as unlisted slums. However, in practice, the unlisted slums seldom got the benefit since they are seen as illegal settlements by local civic authorities. The document urges the States to make their own policies. But in the absence of financial incentives, the suggestion is unlikely to evoke an enthusiastic response. Anticipating a shortfall in state-funding, it understandably stresses pubic-private partnership to augment sanitation efforts. However, with the increasing emphasis on the cost-recovery approach to urban services, sanitation targets for the poor may become difficult to achieve. Unfortunately, not enough attention has been paid to exploring alternatives such as the “unbundling of the sanitation services” — an approach that divides the city into smaller divisions and facilitates development of self-contained sanitation infrastructure. This will ease the burden on the network and reduce the cost by 30 per cent, as estimated by the U.N. millennium taskforce. The national policy has good intentions, but much will depend on the initiatives taken at the State and the city level to concretise them.

India - Curbing dangerous tendencies

It was extremely irresponsible of a political leader like Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam General Secretary Vaiko to make a speech with barely concealed secessionist overtones and warn the Government of India that its help to protect the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka would jeopardise the unity and integrity of India itself. Speaking from the same platform, his party chairman M. Kannappan was more explicit in warning the Centre not to force the Tamils in the Sta te to launch a struggle for a separate Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government has moved swiftly to arrest them and charge them with sedition under the Indian Penal Code and with unlawful activity. Sedition involves speech that would “bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.” To make it compatible with the right to freedom of speech under the Constitution, the Supreme Court has set the bar high on any prosecution for sedition, limiting it to “activities involving incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace.” Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, any activity that amounts to advocacy of secession is an offence. Mr. Vaiko’s speech will be tested in the courts under both these provisions as the law takes its course.

What is clear, however, is that speeches and activities such as his are wholly unacceptable and politically dangerous. As this newspaper had spelt out in an editorial on October 18, the response of the Government of India and the people of Tamil Nadu needs to take into account certain imperatives in approaching the Sri Lankan situation. In the first place, no comfort should be given to the LTTE, which is a terrorist organisation banned in 30 countries including India. Secondly, the Indian commitment must be to finding a solution that envisages devolution of powers to the Tamil regions within a united Sri Lanka, which would mean giving no quarter to the demand for an independent Eelam. Thirdly, mainstream political parties in Tamil Nadu need to make a sharp distinction between the current military plight of the LTTE and the displacement and suffering caused by the conflict, affecting an estimated 230,000 Sri Lankan Tamils. The right response for the Government of India and the people of Tamil Nadu would be to offer food, clothing, medicines, fuel and other essential goods as well as the logistical facilities required to reach them to the people through the Sri Lankan government whose President Mahinda Rajapakse has declared his commitment to bring their hardship to an end “in a short time.” Meanwhile, there is cause for concern over the activities of some fringe groups in Tamil Nadu who have let their sympathy for a foreign terrorist organisation overwhelm their commitment to India’s own integrity and have indulged in violent acts including against the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission and the railways. The action against Mr. Vaiko will send a message to these groups that the State government is firm in its resolve to contain such dangerous tendencies.

World - Manmohan blames financial crisis on 'Casino' capitalism,regulatory failure

Siddharth Varadarajan

Beijing: On a day when stock markets plummeted by more than 10 per cent worldwide, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put on his professorial hat to tell Asian and European leaders that a “collective international effort” to the international financial crisis must involve infrastructure investments in developing countries as a “counter-cyclical device” as well as the creation of a “global monitoring authority to promote global supervision” of cross-border investment, trade and banking.

In candid and even hard-hitting remarks to the first closed session of the Asia-Europe Meeting summit which got under way here on Friday, Dr. Singh said globalisation without the structure of global financial governance had led to severe problems. “Clearly there has been a massive failure of regulatory and supervisory powers. Speculators have had a free run for far too long a period,” he said. “International institutions like the IMF have also not covered themselves with glory. There has been an unacceptable failure of effective multilateral supervision of major developed economies and in particular of what has been going on in their financial markets.”

Dr. Singh was chosen by ASEM’s Chinese hosts to be the last speaker in the key session devoted to an informal exchange of views on the financial crisis. Underlining the sense in which objective developments have made Beijing and Delhi the focus of the heightened international attention on the relative resilience of the Asian economy, Chinese television showed Wen Jiabao enthusiastically welcoming Dr. Singh to the inaugural session of the ASEM summit.

The closed session, which was relayed live on closed circuit television to ministers and officials assembled in another room, was limited to the leaders themselves, many of whom sat in the room without even a single aide.

Speaking to the assembled leaders immediately after Dr. Singh’s intervention, Premier Wen said everyone in the room was aware of the Prime Minister’s long experience in successfully managing the Indian economy.

ASEM, now into its seven meeting, has 45 members from the two continents. India, which recently joined the grouping along with Pakistan, is attending the biannual summit for the first time.

Entertainment - Michael Jackson plans comeback tour

LONDON: Pop star Michael Jackson is reportedly set to undertake a huge comeback tour with his kids in tow next year.

Jackson, who is now in Las Vegas recording some new material, is planning a tour spanning 30 cities, ananova.com reports.

A source close to the singer said: "Michael said he wasn't doing a Vegas residency but was going on a world tour, taking in 30 cities next year. He said he wanted to do it for his kids. He wants them to see what he does, and he wants to take them on the road. He said he was on his way to Los Angeles to finalise the details."

Jackson was to sign a deal at one of the top Las Vegas casinos, but has instead chosen to go for a tour so that more fans can see him. Jackson has a lot of financial problems and needs to pay off debts.

Sport - Chess;Anand One point away from retaining World Title

BONN: India's Viswanathan Anand is just one step away from retaining his World Chess Championship title. His rival Vladimir Kramnik is now virtually on razor's edge as even the slightest mistake can end the match.

As Anand, a NIIT Mind Champion, drew the eighth game on Friday night he took his tally to 5.5 points as against Kramnik's 2.5 in the 12-game World Chess Championship final here.

Should Anand win the ninth game, the match will be over as Anand needs 6.5 points to claim the title, while a draw would stretch the match to one more game. Kramnik needs a win desperately as he trails by three points.

The eighth game ended in a 39-move draw from Queen's gambit declined as Anand chose the sharp Vienna variation.

There was much speculation if Anand would once again play in Slav, as he did in the previous two black games, which he won. But he was clearly not going to overdo it.

The next game is slated for Sunday with Anand having white pieces.

Anand, showing tremendous preparation with black, came up with a novelty on the 10th move and in the middle game he was testing Kramnik with sharp play. Anand did not castle yet again.

Kramnik made no mistakes but was not able to find a win he so desperately needed to keep himself in the fight.

Kramnik attacked on the king-side while Anand had managed to open a file on queenside and 'connect' his pieces well. When the draw was agreed upon, Kramnik did have a slight advantage but not enough to squeeze a win.

Anand won the third, fifth and sixth games and the rest have been drawn.

The match consists of twelve games, played under classical time controls: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61.

The prize fund of 1.5 million Euro (approximately $2.35 million), including taxes and FIDE license fees will be split equally between the players.

India - Troops in Siachen Glacier issued torn clothing

NEW DELHI: Troops posted at the Siachen Glacier, once known as the world's highest and coldest battlefield where the weather claims more lives than combat, have been issued "partly torn" and recycled special clothing for the winters due to its untimely procurement, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has revealed.

"Army Head Quarters failed to ensure timely procurement of Special Clothing and Mountaineering items used in operational areas like Siachen resulting in stock out levels of these critical items being as high as 44 to 70 percent," said the CAG report, which was released on Friday.

The troops posted at the glacier brave low temperatures like minus 40 degrees Celsius at altitudes up to 23,000 feet.

"To meet shortage of these items, army resorted to the unauthorised practice of issuing partly worn stores (PWS) to the troops in the glacier region. Such practice of recycling of special clothing items is not desirable on grounds of hygiene, operational suitability and overall morale of the troops," the report says.

The Indian Army deploys about 19,800 soldiers in the frigid Siachen Glacier area, which overlooks Pakistan and China.

The depots meant for stocking and distribution and to ensure ready availability of the right material at the right place and at the right time to the troops are suffering from persistent shortages.

"Thirty percent of the user demands remained unmet, troops in the glacier region had to manage with old worn out clothing and there was high level of dissatisfaction amongst the troops about the quality of clothing supplied," said the report.

An user survey conducted by the CAG revealed that 50 percent of divisions or regiments were not satisfied with the quality and fitting of the clothing supplied.

The major dissatisfaction of the users was related to mismatch between trousers and shirts and their inappropriate sizes, poor quality of clothing with problem of quick colour fading, low usage life of boots against prescribed shelf life and lack of water proofing in caps.

Entertainment - Beyonce is now Sasha Fierce

LONDON: Singer Beyonce Knowles has renamed herself Sasha Fierce and says her performing alter-ego shows her more outgoing and sensual side. She has titled her new album "I Am... Sasha Fierce".

Ananova.com reports her saying: "I have someone else that takes over when it's time for me to work and when I'm on stage. An alter-ego I've created that kind of protects me and who I really am. Sasha Fierce is the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken and more glamorous side that comes out when I'm working and when I'm on the stage."

She has collaborated with pop star Justin Timberlake in the new album.

Sport - Cricket;Modi reveals the catch in England's IPL participation

LONDON: Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi has revealed that the ECB will not allow its players to participate in the cash-rich event until the IPL governing council and the BCCI agree to release 20 of their players for the English version of the twenty20 series.

"The England Cricket Board (ECB) has approached the BCCI and the IPL with the objective of saying they are ready to provide non-objection certificates to the English players to play in the IPL," Modi said at the Global Sport Summit here.

"But there is a big catch to it. The ECB are set to launch the English Premier League and the quid pro quo is that if the ECB was to release their players, then the IPL must release a minimum of 20 players for the English Premier League," he added.

Modi said the suspense over the English participation will continue as long as the matter remains unresolved.

"It (the ECB proposal) has to go to a governing council and the BCCI board for approval. In the absence of that approval we will continue the way we are. I hope the English players can participate but I cannot guarantee that," he said.

Modi also hit back at suggestions that the IPL was to be blamed if Sri Lanka's Test tour to England next year is cancelled due to a clash of dates with the twenty20 event.

The IPL has offered a compensation to Sri Lanka Cricket if it cancels the tour, which was scheduled after Zimbabwe's tour of England in April-May was called off.

"The Indian Premier League took into account the ICC's fixed programme and signed players on three-year contracts. The Sri Lanka board gave their players a no-objection certificate for three years to play in the Indian Premier League," Modi said.

"Unfortunately the Zimbabwe tour to England was cancelled. The ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) had an obligation to Sky television to bring another team in. It is always portrayed that the Indian Premier League is stopping the Test matches being played. There was never a scheduled Test in the first place," he pointed out.

"The Sri Lankan tour would breach the contract with the Indian Premier League," he explained.

Modi also brushed aside apprehensions being expressed about Test cricket's future in the wake twenty20's rising popularity.

"Test cricket is here to stay. It has its own hard core following and we will continue to see that go forward," said Modi.

Oct 24, 2008

Me - Hello


Hope everyone is doing Great at Work/Life.This week is been good too with the number of Posts.Hope everyone continues to like what they read here.We are closing in on 400 posts for two weeks back to back.

In India,We are celebrating Diwali on Monday,It promises to be a long weekend for us here filled with tons of food,because of which on Sunday & Monday the number of posts from me will be on the lower side.Apologies in advance.Never the less i promise to make amends in the days that follow.

For people who are not familiar with Diwali - Check out what Diwali is at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali

Iam happy to know that we have readers now in Afghanistan too.Like i always say,a big thank you to everyone who posts comments on articles they read here.

Till next time ,Enjoy your weekend.Keep having fun & Enjoy Readin

Take care


India - Intense selling pulls Nifty,Sensex each down 10%

Mandar Nimkar

MUMBAI: Intense selling on deepening concern that the economic slump will deteriorate corporate earnings, pushed indices around the global to two yea
r lows. Japan’s Nikkei was at a 5-year low.

In India, benchmarks plunged 10 per cent each as players sold frenziedly across the counters.

Despite Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s request to investors not to sell in panic markets plunged headlong. After the turn of FIIs, long-only funds too have started selling, triggering today’s fire sale.

All sectoral indicators were in red. Realty, banking, oil & gas, metal, power and auto were down more than 10 per cent. Top index losers were Hindalco Industries (-20.95%), Ranbaxy Laboratories (-18.24%), Mahindra & Mahindra (-17.59%), and Tata Motors (-16.41%).

From realty sector, despite Unitech's clarification on the land payments to the Greater Noida Development Authority, the stock slumped 52 per cent, DLF dropped 25 per cent and HDIL fell 12 per cent.

Despite crude oil correcting about 55 per cent from its all time high of $147 per barrel, oil & gas companies are feeling the heat as slowing economies have cut demand.

Banking stocks dropped as RBI's stance of keeping key rate unchanged dampened investor sentiments.

“These levels are now quite unseen; it's difficult to verbalise this situation right now. Supply is coming at every level, no matter what the valuation. There is no meaning to say whether we have touched bottom or not, but just to wait and watch. Earlier there were companies filing for bankruptcy, but now countries like Pakistan, Russia, Iceland and Argentina are on the verge of bankruptcy. In a nutshell, the present is horrifying," said Arun Kumar, analyst at Global One Hedge Fund.

Business - Preserving 'Brand India' during crisis

Arvind Subramanian

Preserving financial sector confidence, not monetary easing, is key.

“Brand India” is being buffeted by the global financial crisis. India has been more financially integrated than was generally supposed, and hence more affected by financial contagion than expected. The stakes are high because policy hesitancy or missteps can turn mild contagion into virulent disease.

One lesson that countries are learning is that during a crisis of confidence, policy-makers have to get ahead of the curve in order to reassure markets. Governments have discovered the hard way that responses that are reactive, piecemeal, and uncoordinated risk undermining rather than adding to confidence. A formidable policy arsenal needs to be deployed to have any chance of restoring stability. In western financial markets confidence is returning, slowly, only after a series of ambitious actions, boldly initiated by the UK and then followed by Europe and the US.

Between last week’s actions to shore up the financial system and Monday’s cut in interest rates, Indian policymakers can legitimately claim to have risen to the challenge. But will these actions be enough? What more will be necessary?

Broadly, more will need to be done on the financial sector side in order to do less on the monetary policy side. Put differently, if confidence in the financial system is not restored, the easing, even substantial easing, of monetary policies that we have recently seen may not have enough traction, and may even entail risks.

First and foremost, the plight of individual financial institutions should be addressed. A benchmark should be that no Indian bank should have credit default swap (CDS) spreads exceeding 300 or so basis points. It is likely that perilously elevated CDS spreads reflect problems with foreign funding. So, high on the action list would be to provide foreign currency resources from the RBI’s reserves. The RBI’s liquidity injections operations that have so far been in rupees need to be expanded to foreign currency.

One way to do this would be to hold foreign currency auctions for all domestic financial institutions to meet either their own needs or those of their corporate clients that face foreign currency funding pressures. The Fed and ECB responded to dollar shortages in Europe through extensive swap operations that made available enormous lines of dollar credit in European markets. The RBI foreign currency auctions should be held quickly and flexibly so that liquidity can virtually be provided on tap. The RBI’s foreign exchange reserves have been accumulated for rainy days, and these are not just rainy but stormy days, justifying their liberal use today.

If these measures prove inadequate, the government may need to step in to guarantee the foreign-currency debt of domestic financial institutions. This may need to be complemented with government re-capitalisation, especially if private banks are unable to raise capital from private sources within a very short period of time. India just cannot afford to have financial institutions that are flashing amber or red in these times.

Moving beyond individual institutions, and given the crisis of confidence, it may be worth requiring all banks to raise their capital adequacy ratio to about 15-18 per cent, within a short period. If meeting this higher CAR requires additional government capital injection, that should be seriously considered. Ways could be found for this capital to be returned to the government once the crisis subsides. If all banks were seen to be meeting this high standard, it could have a significant impact in reassuring markets. The rationale for the higher CAR, apart from the confidence boosting impact, is the more substantive one that banks’ non-performing assets are bound to rise as the economy weakens. An apparently cushion-providing 15 per cent CAR today could very easily become an 8 per cent CAR within a short space of time.

Next, it might be worth imposing additional transparency requirements on all the major banks to reassure investors and the public. Uncertainty in this environment leads to markets believing the worst. All banks should therefore be required to immediately clarify and publish key variables of concern, including foreign currency exposure, especially on the liability side, the extent and sources of wholesale funding, and exposure to derivatives and other such instruments. A strong transparency effort, under the RBI’s supervision, could have an important reassuring function.

Finally, what about exchange rate and monetary policies? On the former, the RBI should refrain from foreign exchange intervention, which at the moment sends contradictory signals because it sucks out liquidity at the very time that the RBI is pumping enormous amounts of liquidity back into the economy. Far better to use the RBI’s foreign exchange reserves to meet the foreign funding requirements of domestic financial institutions rather than to defend some level for the rupee.

On monetary policy, the RBI has been doing the juggling act of easing interest rates and injecting rupee liquidity, on the one hand, while trying to encourage capital inflows and discourage outflows through a variety of measures such as raising interest rates on foreign currency deposits. Make no mistake that there is an inherent tension, even plain contradiction, between these actions, which the RBI has been able to avoid because residents, unlike foreign investors, are not fleeing rupee assets. The risk of aggressive easing is that it might trigger the move away from rupee holdings, at a time when confidence in the rupee is so shaky, when current and prospective depreciation would offset the favourable effects on inflation from declines in commodity prices, and when credit is still growing at a whopping 30 per cent. It is worth noting that while the repo rate has been cut to 8 per cent, the call rate — which reflects market conditions — is at 6 per cent, below CPI inflation, resulting in negative real interest rates.

A loss of confidence in the rupee is an outcome devoutly to be avoided. At this juncture, restoring confidence in individual financial institutions and the financial system is key to achieving that objective and to avoid unreasonably burdening monetary policy.

“Brand India” has come to connote not just rapid growth but a reasonable ability of policymakers to respond to challenges. Of course, this response will be assessed by outcomes. But critical to this assessment will be whether processes for arriving at outcomes are effective, and specifically, whether all concerned institutions play their rightful roles and maintain their credibility. “Brand India” must pass all these tests.

The author is Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Center for Global Development, and Senior Research Professor, Johns Hopkins University