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February 2010

Countering the deniers

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should create a special commission to scrupulously cross-check all the references in its report. Or else, the climate change-denial lobby will try to exploit a handful of errors to discredit climate science and delay remedial action.

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Reworking our climate policy

Since the Copenhagen summit ended two months ago without producing a binding multilateral agreement, there have been further setbacks to the agenda of combating climate change, both globally and in India. The hollowness of the so-called Copenhagen Accord—the collusive, ineffectual deal between the United States and BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China), with no emissions-reduction targets, timelines or obligations—later signed by less than 30 of the 193 governments present at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference, is unfolding week after week.

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Reason Triumphs Over Bt Brinjal: For consultation-based governance

India has done something unusual in defying the long-established trend of capitulating to corporate power. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh must be complimented for imposing a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) brinjal (baigan, aubergine, eggplant) developed by Mahyco-Monsanto in collaboration with two Indian agricultural universities. He deserves encomiums for consulting stakeholders in major brinjal-producing states like West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. This public consultation approach sets a good precedent. This deserves to become a model for governmental decision-making on all issues that concern people’s livelihoods.

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Doctors Must Not Oppose Medical Reform: Reviving the healthcare system

Will India’s affluent professionals never stop fighting self-serving battles to defend their privileges even when doing so blatantly violates the public interest? Going by the reaction of the organised medical profession to the government’s proposal to train a special category of rural doctors for a shorter duration than the MBBS course, that seems to be the case. The Indian Medical Association and other guilds representing registered physicians and surgeons have launched strong protests in addition to media advertisements against what they term a “retrograde” proposal, which will “discriminate” against rural India by leaving it at the mercy of “sub-standard” personnel.

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The pragmatic Communist

Jyoti Basu gave the Indian Left parties a unique perspective on practical politics and acquired an unmatched national stature and universal respect.

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India must defuse rivalry with Pakistan

India and Pakistan should acknowledge their respective and joint stakes in stabilising Afghanistan. This could best happen if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convenes a summit in New Delhi with Presidents Zardari and Karzai to discuss peace-building, trade and transit, joint action against jehadi extremism, people-to-people exchanges, and economic cooperation. There are two preconditions for the success of such an initiative. First, the India-Pakistan dialogue must be resumed quickly. India’s refusal to talk to Pakistan has proved counter-productive. Mature diplomacy must replace this approach.

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Himalayan blunder

The IPCC should create a special commission to cross-check all references in its report if errors such as the one on Himalayan glaciers are not to recur.

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Defending the idea of India

Mumbai’s industrialists have funded, protected and used the Sena for decades to attack trade union and Left-wing cadres, create terror in labour bustees to evict people and grab land, and settle financial disputes with one another. The captains of Indian industry have kept the Sena’s extortion machine well-oiled—for purely short-term gains.

This has meant strengthening a monstrous force that further vitiates society and politics, and undermining the idea of India as a plural, diverse, secular society, where all citizens have equal rights. This idea of India is not something optional, to be used instrumentally whenever expedient. It is essential to India’s survival as a minimally civilised society which aspires to cohesion and progress. The idea is as important for industry as it is for politics. But Indian businessmen have yet to show this recognition.

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Reworking India’s Regional Policy: Resume dialogue with Pakistan

Does India have a half-way coherent policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the two turbulent countries which have major implications for Indian security? Going by recent developments, the honest answer is no. India is losing opportunity after opportunity to help stabilise this critical part of its neighbourhood in the interests of the region’s people.

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