Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State spawned by those countries now in the lead to combat it.

Brahma Chellaney in The Hindu


Like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State has been inadvertently spawned by the policies of those now in the lead to combat it. But will anything substantive be learned from this experience?

U.S. President Barack Obama has labelled the jihadist juggernaut that calls itself the Islamic State a “cancer,” while his Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, has called it more dangerous than al-Qaeda ever was, claiming that its threat is “beyond anything we’ve seen.” No monster has ever been born on its own. So the question is: which forces helped create this new Frankenstein?
The Islamic State is a brutal, medieval organisation whose members take pride in carrying out beheadings and flaunting the severed heads of their victims as trophies. This cannot obscure an underlying reality: the Islamic State represents a Sunni Islamist insurrection against non-Sunni rulers in disintegrating Syria and Iraq.
Indeed, the ongoing fragmentation of states along primordial lines in the arc between Israel and India is spawning de facto new entities or blocks, including Shiastan, Wahhabistan, Kurdistan, ISstan and Talibanstan. Other than Iran, Egypt and Turkey, most of the important nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan (an internally torn state that could shrink to Punjabistan or, simply, ISIstan) are modern western concoctions, with no roots in history or pre-existing identity.
The West and agendas

It is beyond dispute that the Islamic State militia — formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — emerged from the Syrian civil war, which began indigenously as a localised revolt against state brutality under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before being fuelled with externally supplied funds and weapons. From Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-training centres in Turkey and Jordan, the rebels set up a Free Syrian Army (FSA), launching attacks on government forces, as a U.S.-backed information war demonised Mr. Assad and encouraged military officers and soldiers to switch sides.
 “By seeking to topple a secular autocracy in Syria while simultaneously working to shield jihad-bankrolling monarchies from the Arab Spring, Barack Obama ended up strengthening Islamist forces.” 
But the members of the U.S.-led coalition were never on the same page because some allies had dual agendas. While the three spearheads of the anti-Assad crusade — the U.S., Britain and France — focussed on aiding the FSA, the radical Islamist sheikhdoms such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as well as the Islamist-leaning government in Turkey channelled their weapons and funds to more overtly Islamist groups. This splintered the Syrian opposition, marginalising the FSA and paving the way for the Islamic State’s rise.
The anti-Assad coalition indeed started off on the wrong foot by trying to speciously distinguish between “moderate” and “radical” jihadists. The line separating the two is just too blurred. Indeed, the term “moderatejihadists” is an oxymoron: Those waging jihad by the gun can never be moderate.
Invoking jihad

The U.S. and its allies made a more fundamental mistake by infusing the spirit of jihad in their campaign against Mr. Assad so as to help trigger a popular uprising in Syria. The decision to instil the spirit of jihad through television and radio broadcasts beamed to Syrians was deliberate — to provoke Syria’s majority Sunni population to rise against their secular government.
This ignored the lesson from Afghanistan (where the CIA in the 1980s ran, via Pakistan, the largest covert operation in its history) — that inciting jihad and arming “holy warriors” creates a deadly cocktail, with far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on international security. The Reagan administration openly used Islam as an ideological tool to spur armed resistance to Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
In 1985, at a White House ceremony in honour of several Afghan mujahideen — the jihadists out of which al-Qaeda evolved — President Ronald Reagan declared, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers.” Earlier in 1982, Reagan dedicated the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ to the Afghan resistance. He declared, “Just as the Columbia, we think, represents man’s finest aspirations in the field of science and technology, so too does the struggle of the Afghan people represent man’s highest aspirations for freedom. I am dedicating, on behalf of the American people, the March 22 launch of the Columbia to the people of Afghanistan.”
The Afghan war veterans came to haunt the security of many countries. Less known is the fact that the Islamic State’s self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — like Libyan militia leader Abdelhakim Belhadj (whom the CIA abducted and subjected to “extraordinary rendition”) and Chechen terrorist leader Airat Vakhitov — become radicalised while under U.S. detention. As torture chambers, U.S. detention centres have served as pressure cookers for extremism.
Mr. Obama’s Syria strategy took a page out of Reagan’s Afghan playbook. Not surprisingly, his strategy backfired. It took just two years for Syria to descend into a Somalia-style failed state under the weight of the international jihad against Mr. Assad. This helped the Islamic State not only to rise but also to use its control over northeastern Syria to stage a surprise blitzkrieg deep into Iraq this summer.
Had the U.S. and its allies refrained from arming jihadists to topple Mr. Assad, would the Islamic State have emerged as a lethal, marauding force? And would large swaths of upstream territory along the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers in Syria and Iraq have fallen into this monster’s control? The exigencies of the topple-Assad campaign also prompted the Obama administration to turn a blind eye to the flow of Gulf and Turkish aid to the Islamic State.
In fact, the Obama team, until recently, viewed the Islamic State as a “good” terrorist organisation in Syria but a “bad” one in Iraq, especially when it threatened to overrun the Kurdish regional capital, Erbil. In January, Mr. Obama famously dismissed the Islamic State as a local “JV team” trying to imitate al-Qaeda but without the capacity to be a threat to America. It was only after the public outrage in the U.S. over the video-recorded execution of American journalist James Foley and the flight of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis that the White House re-evaluated the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Full circle

Many had cautioned against the topple-Assad campaign, fearing that extremist forces would gain control in the vacuum. Those still wedded to overthrowing Mr. Assad’s rule, however, contend that Mr. Obama’s failure to provide greater aid, including surface-to-air missiles, to the Syrian rebels created a vacuum that produced the Islamic State. In truth, more CIA arms to the increasingly ineffectual FSA would have meant a stronger and more deadly Islamic State.
As part of his strategic calculus to oust Mr. Assad, Mr. Obama failed to capitalise on the Arab Spring, which was then in full bloom. By seeking to topple a secular autocracy in Syria while simultaneously working to shield jihad-bankrolling monarchies from the Arab Spring, he ended up strengthening Islamist forces — a development reinforced by the U.S.-led overthrow of another secular Arab dictator, Muammar Qadhafi, which has turned Libya into another failed state and created a lawless jihadist citadel at Europe’s southern doorstep.
In fact, no sooner had Qadhafi been killed than Libya’s new rulers established a theocracy, with no opposition from the western powers that brought about the regime change. Indeed, the cloak of Islam helps to protect the credibility of leaders who might otherwise be seen as foreign puppets. For the same reason, the U.S. has condoned the Arab monarchs for their long-standing alliance with Islamists. It has failed to stop these cloistered royals from continuing to fund Muslim extremist groups and madrasas in other countries. The American interest in maintaining pliant regimes in oil-rich countries has trumped all other considerations.
Today, Mr. Obama’s Syria policy is coming full circle. Having portrayed Mr. Assad as a bloodthirsty monster, Washington must now accept Mr. Assad as the lesser of the two evils and work with him to defeat the larger threat of the Islamic State.
The fact that the Islamic State’s heartland remains in northern Syria means that it cannot be stopped unless the U.S. extends air strikes into Syria. As the U.S. mulls that option — for which it would need at least tacit permission from Syria, which still maintains good air defences — it is fearful of being pulled into the middle of the horrendous civil war there. It is thus discreetly urging Mr. Assad to prioritise defeating the Islamic State.
Make no mistake: like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State is a monster inadvertently spawned by the policies of those now in the lead to combat it. The question is whether anything substantive will be learned from this experience, unlike the forgotten lessons of America’s anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan.
At a time when jihadist groups are gaining ground from Mali to Malaysia, Mr. Obama’s current effort to strike a Faustian bargain with the Afghan Taliban, for example, gives little hope that any lesson will be learned. U.S.-led policies toward the Islamic world have prevented a clash between civilisations by fostering a clash within a civilisation, but at serious cost to regional and international security.

The establishment uncovered: how power works in Britain


In an exclusive extract from his new book, Owen Jones explains how the political, social and business elites have a stranglehold on the country
An establishment acrostic
How the establishment connects all areas of life in modern Britain. Photograph: Christophe Gowans/The Guardian
Definitions of "the establishment" share one thing in common: they are always pejorative. Rightwingers tend to see it as the national purveyor of a rampant, morally corrupting social liberalism; for the left, it is more likely to mean a network of public-school and Oxbridge boys dominating the key institutions of British political life.
     
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Here is what I understand the establishment to mean. Today's establishment is made up – as it has always been – of powerful groups that need to protect their position in a democracy in which almost the entire adult population has the right to vote. The establishment represents an attempt on behalf of these groups to "manage" democracy, to make sure that it does not threaten their own interests. In this respect, it might be seen as a firewall that insulates them from the wider population. As the well-connected rightwing blogger and columnist Paul Staines puts it approvingly: "We've had nearly a century of universal suffrage now, and what happens is capital finds ways to protect itself from, you know, the voters."
Back in the 19th century, as calls for universal suffrage gathered strength, there were fears in privileged circles that extending the vote to the poor would pose a mortal threat to their own position – that the lower rungs of society would use their newfound voice to take away power and wealth from those at the top and redistribute it throughout the electorate. "I have heard much on the subject of the working classes in this house which, I confess, has filled me with feelings of some apprehension," Conservative statesman Lord Salisbury told parliament in 1866, in response to plans to extend the suffrage. Giving working-class people the vote would, he stated, tempt them to pass "laws with respect to taxation and property especially favourable to them, and therefore dangerous to all other classes".
The worries of those 19th-century opponents of universal suffrage were not without foundation. In the decades that followed the second world war, constraints were imposed on Britain's powerful interests, including higher taxes and the regulation of private business. This was, after all, the will of the recently enfranchised masses. But today, many of those constraints have been removed or are in the process of being dismantled – and now the establishment is characterised by institutions and ideas that legitimise and protect the concentration of wealth and power in very few hands.
The interests of those who dominate British society are disparate; indeed, they often conflict with one another. The establishment includes politicians who make laws; media barons who set the terms of debate; businesses and financiers who run the economy;police forces that enforce a law that is rigged in favour of the powerful. The establishment is where these interests and worlds intersect, either consciously or unconsciously. It is unified by a common mentality, which holds that those at the top deserve their power and their ever-growing fortunes, and which might be summed up by the advertising slogan "Because I'm worth it". This is the mentality that has driven politicians to pilfer expenses, businesses to avoid tax, and City bankers to demand ever greater bonuses while plunging the world into economic disaster. All of these things are facilitated – even encouraged – by laws that are geared to cracking down on the smallest of misdemeanours committed by those at the bottom of the pecking order – for example, benefit fraud. "One rule for us, one rule for everybody else" might be another way to sum up establishment thinking.
These mentalities owe everything to the shared ideology of the modern establishment, a set of ideas that helps it to rationalise and justify its position and behaviour. Often described as "neoliberalism", this ideology is based around a belief in so-called free markets: in transferring public assets to profit-driven businesses as far as possible; in a degree of opposition – if not hostility – to a formal role for the state in the economy; support for reducing the tax burden on private interests; and the driving back of any form of collective organisation that might challenge the status quo. This ideology is often rationalised as "freedom" – particularly "economic freedom" – and wraps itself in the language of individualism. These are beliefs that the establishment treats as common sense, as being a fact of life, just like the weather.
Not to subscribe to these beliefs is to be outside today's establishment, to be dismissed by it as an eccentric at best, or even as an extremist fringe element. Members of the establishment genuinely believe in this ideology – but it is a set of beliefs and policies that, rather conveniently, guarantees them ever growing personal riches and power.
As well as a shared mentality, the establishment is cemented by financial links and a "revolving door": that is, powerful individuals gliding between the political, corporate and media worlds – or who manage to inhabit these various worlds at the same time. The terms of political debate are, in large part, dictated by a media controlled by a small number of exceptionally rich owners, while thinktanks and political parties are funded by wealthy individuals and corporate interests. Many politicians are on the payroll of private businesses; along with civil servants, they end up working for companies interested in their policy areas, allowing them to profit from their public service – something that gives them a vested interest in an ideology that furthers corporate interests. The business world benefits from the politicians' and civil servants' contacts, as well as an understanding of government structures and experience, allowing private firms to navigate their way to the very heart of power.
Yet there is a logical flaw at the heart of establishment thinking. It may abhor the state – but it is completely dependent on the state to flourish. Bailed-out banks; state-funded infrastructure; the state's protection of property; research and development; a workforce educated at great public expense; the topping up of wages too low to live on; numerous subsidies – all are examples of what could be described as a "socialism for the rich" that marks today's establishment.
This establishment does not receive the scrutiny it deserves. After all, it is the job of the media to shed light on the behaviour of those with power. But the British media is an integral part of the British establishment; its owners share the same underlying assumptions and mantras. Instead, journalists and politicians alike obsessively critique and attack the behaviour of those at the bottom of society. Unemployed people and other benefit claimants; immigrants; public-sector workers – these are groups that have faced critical exposure or even outright vilification. This focus on the relatively powerless is all too convenient in deflecting anger away from those who actually wield power in British society.
To understand what today's establishment is and how it has changed, we have to go back to 1955: a Britain shaking off postwar austerity in favour of a new era of consumerism, rock'n'roll and Teddy Boys. But there was a more sinister side to the country, and it disturbed an ambitious Tory journalist in his early 30s named Henry Fairlie.
Henry Fairlie Henry Fairlie, the journalist who popularised the term 'the establishment' in the 1950s. Photograph: Associated Newspapers/Rex


Early in his career, Fairlie was mixing with the powerful and the influential. In his 20s, he was already writing leader columns for the Times. But, at the age of 30, he left for the world of freelance writing and began penning a column for the Spectator magazine. Fairlie had grown cynical about the higher echelons of British society and, one day in the autumn of 1955, he wrote a piece explaining why. What attracted his attention was a scandal involving two Foreign Office officials, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who had defected to the Soviet Union. Fairlie suggested that friends of the two men had attempted to shield their families from media attention.
This, he asserted, revealed that "what I call the 'establishment' in this country is today more powerful than ever before". His piece made "the establishment" a household phrase – and made Fairlie's name in the process.
For Fairlie, the establishment included not only "the centres of official power – though they are certainly part of it" – but "the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised".
This "exercise of power", he claimed, could only be understood as being "exercised socially". In other words, the establishment comprised a set of well-connected people who knew one another, mixed in the same circles and had one another's backs. It was not based on official, legal or formal arrangements, but rather on "subtle social relationships".
Fairlie's establishment consisted of a diverse network of people. It was not just the likes of the prime minister and the archbishop of Canterbury, but also incorporated "lesser mortals" such as the chairman of the Arts Council, the director general of the BBC and the editor of the Times Literary Supplement, "not to mention divinities like Lady Violet Bonham Carter" – the daughter of former Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith, confidante of Winston Churchill and grandmother of future Hollywood actor Helena Bonham Carter.
The Foreign Office was, Fairlie claimed, "near the heart of the pattern of social relationships which so powerfully controls the exercise of power in this country", stacked as it was with those who "know all the right people". In other words, the establishment was all about "who you know".
But important facets of power in Britain were missing from Fairlie's definition. First, there was no reference to shared economic interests, the profound links that bring together the big-business, financial and political elites. Second, his piece gave no sense of a common mentality binding the establishment together. There was one – although it was very different from the mentality that dominates today, despite the fact that, then as now, an Old Etonian Conservative (Anthony Eden) was in Downing Street. For this was the era of welfare capitalism, and an ethos of statism and paternalism – above all, a belief that active government was necessary for a healthy, stable society – was shared by those with power.
The differences between Fairlie's era and our own show that Britain's ruling establishment is not static: the upper crust of British society has always been in a state of perpetual flux. This relentless change is driven by survival. History is littered with demands from below for ruling elites to give up some of their power, forcing members of the upper crust of British society to compromise. After all, unchecked obstinacy in the face of demands for change risks bringing down not just individual pillars of the establishment, but the entire system of power with them.
The monarchy is a striking example of a traditional pillar of power that, faced with occasionally formidable threats, has had to adapt to survive. This was evident right from the origins of a power-sharing arrangement between crown and parliament struck in the aftermath of revolution and foreign invasion in the 17th century, and which continues to exist today. Many of the monarchy's arbitrary powers, such as the ability to wage war, ended up in the hands of the prime minister. Even today, the monarchy's role is not entirely symbolic.
"The Crown is a bit of a vague institution, but it is kind of the heart of the constitution, where all the power comes from," says Andrew Child, campaign manager of Republic, a group advocating an elected head of state. The prime minister appoints and sacks government ministers without needing to consult the legislature or electorate because he is using the Queen's powers: these are the Crown's ministers, not the people's. In practice, too, members of the royal family have a powerful platform from which to intervene in democratic decisions.

Prince Charles Prince Charles, as next in line to the throne, has a powerful platform from which to intervene in democratic decisions. Photograph: Picasa


Prince Charles, the designated successor to the throne, has met with ministers at least three dozen times since the 2010 general election and is known to have strong opinions on issues such as the environment, the hunting ban, "alternative" medicine and heritage.
In contrast to other European countries, Britain's aristocracy also managed to avoid obliteration by adapting and assimilating. In the wake of the industrial revolution it absorbed – much to the disgust of traditionalists – some prospering businessmen into its ranks, such as the City of London financier Lord Addington and the silk broker Lord Cheylesmore. The aristocracy continued to wield considerable political power throughout the 19th century, supplying many prime ministers, such as the 1st Duke of Wellington, the 2nd Earl Grey and the 2nd Viscount Melbourne. But following parliament acts passed by MPs in 1911 and 1949, this power was curtailed when the elected House of Commons enshrined in law its own dominance over the aristocrats' House of Lords. The legacy of centuries of aristocratic power has not vanished, though: more than a third of English and Welsh land – and more than 50% of rural land – remains in the hands of just 36,000 aristocrats.
Although less influential today than it has ever been, the Church of England retains the trappings of its old power. Indeed, the word establishment is testament to its one-time importance: the term is likely to derive from the fact that the Church of England is the country's "established church", or state religion, with the monarch serving as its head. The church's most senior official, the archbishop of Canterbury, is appointed by the prime minister on behalf of the monarch.
Even though Britain is one of the most irreligious countries on Earth, with just one in 10 attending church each week and a quarter of Britons having no religious beliefs, the Church of England still runs one in four primary and secondary schools in England, while its bishops sit in the House of Lords, making Britain the only country – other than Iran – to have automatically unelected clerics sitting in the legislature.
The establishment is a shape-shifter, evolving and adapting as needs must. But one thing that distinguishes today's establishment from earlier incarnations is its sense of triumphalism. The powerful once faced significant threats that kept them in check. But the opponents of our current establishment have, apparently, ceased to exist in any meaningful, organised way. Politicians largely conform to a similar script; once-mighty trade unions are now treated as if they have no legitimate place in political or even public life; and economists and academics who reject establishment ideology have been largely driven out of the intellectual mainstream. The end of the cold war was spun by politicians, intellectuals and the media to signal the death of any alternative to the status quo: "the end of history", as the US political scientist Francis Fukuyama put it. All this has left the establishment pushing at an open door. Whereas the position of the powerful was once undermined by the advent of democracy, an opposite process is now underway. The establishment is amassing wealth and aggressively annexing power in a way that has no precedent in modern times. After all, there is nothing to stop it.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The barefoot government

Bunker Roy in The Indian Express

Since 1947, Indians have not spoken out so strongly and clearly for a completely new brand of people running government. Mercifully, there are no ministers educated abroad. Thankfully, none of them has been brainwashed at Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, the World Bank or the IMF, subtly forcing expensive Western solutions on typically Indian problems at the cost of the poor. Look what the high-powered, foreign-returned degree-wallahs have reduced this country to. They wasted opportunities to show the inner strength of what is essentially Indian because they never really knew their own people living in Bharat. In the eyes of the world, we have lost our self-respect, dignity and identity.
All the ministers now have gone through average government schools. Some have never been to college. Many have experienced poverty, exploitation, injustice and discrimination at some point of time in their lives. It is truly the first barefoot government ever to be voted into power in independent India. Where else in the world would you have a one-time tea-seller on a railway station becoming prime minister, shaping the destiny of more than one billion people?
The first example the Modi government must set is by drastically reducing the perks and privileges of MPs. Free power, food, housing, travel to those whose personal assets run into crores and a Rs 2 crore annual fund for development (read patronage) for over 500 MPs is costing the exchequer nearly Rs 2,000 crore. Only the prime minister will be able to make it happen and, at the same time, stifle any dissent from BJP MPs. The time is now.
No other government in the world has a Class 12-pass woman minister speaking as an equal to almost 120 heavily qualified, on paper, vice chancellors (90 per cent male). Today, as we judge them, the VCs are all too intellectually and morally fatigued. There is something dreadfully wrong with an education system that produces graduates from even private, expensive, snobbish schools and colleges who are still prejudiced about caste, class, religion, sex and colour. These “graduates”, who roam the streets of small towns and cities by the thousands, call themselves “educated”, practice the worst forms of cruelty, slavery and crimes against humanity, against society and in their own families. Indeed, some of them rose to the level of their incompetence by becoming ministers in previous governments, reinforcing the status quo, wasting vast public resources by implementing silly Western ideas, listening to foreign-returned “experts” and making a hopeless mess of this country. The tragedy is that they cannot see the colossal damage they have done to the very fabric of this country.
Now they will call me a “namak haram” because I went to Doon School and St Stephen’s College and I am trashing my own kind. They deserve it. Their snobbish elitist education has made them arrogant, inaccessible, insensitive and devoid of any humanity or humility. Just because they received a Western education, they think they know their country. Superficially, they may know urban India but they are clueless about rural Bharat.
Alvin Toffler, in his book Future Shock, said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be someone who cannot read or write. It will be someone who is not prepared to learn, unlearn and relearn.” In the 40 years that I have lived and worked with the rural poor in Rajasthan, what have I learnt that I did not manage to make my own kind “unlearn and relearn”?
It was not for want of trying. What did the prime minister, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and finance minister of the decimated UPA government have in common? They were all “educated” abroad. They were all for subsidising the rich and cutting subsidies for the poor. They had no idea about real poverty and hunger and how the rural poor survived, expecting the whole country to be gullible enough to believe that the rural poor today could survive on Rs 27 per day.
Out of sheer ignorance of rural realities and showing extremely poor political judgement, the three of them almost managed to strangle the MGNREGA. The MGNREGA prevented migration by the millions into cities. The bungling and corruption by village officials notwithstanding, the rural poor now have more money to spend on food, clothing, housing and essentials. So, of course, prices will go up.
The prime minister is evidently serious about improving the quality of life of the rural poor, as he eloquently stated in his speech on Independence Day. So what are the out of the box solutions that need to be considered urgently?
The MGNREGA should stay with “Modi-fications”. Pay minimum wages, which the Congress’s three armchair foreign-returned economists so stubbornly and unethically refused to do, in spite of a high court order. Make it more transparent and accountable, take action against corrupt officials exposed in social audits to set an example. Pass the public grievance bill in Parliament as soon as possible. Call a meeting of respected grassroot practitioners across political ideologies who know the MGNREGA from the village level and follow up on their recommendations.
The focus has to be on innovative job creation in the rural areas. Provide 100 days of employment at minimum wages to construct low-cost toilets for girls and rooftop rainwater harvesting tanks for drinking water, tree plantations and flush toilets in rural schools by the thousands. Construct rural godowns to store food grains instead of letting nearly 5 million tonnes of grain just rot in the open. Start community colleges on Gandhian lines instead of sending delegations of “experts” on education to study the American model. There are enough indigenous examples to replicate and scale up.
Civil society is riddled with defeated politicians and retired bureaucrats who, having lost their power, influence and privileges, have started NGOs. While they were in power, they did not lift a finger to help them. When these has-beens have nothing better to do, they start NGOs. They give genuine small civil society organisations a bad name. Maybe it is time to revive the debate of the 1980s on the need for a code of conduct for NGOs. The code would expect them to have a simple lifestyle, take a living wage instead of a market wage and observe the laws of the country.
If we are fighting against crony capitalism, we should also fight against cronyism in NGOs. When the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) was closed down and replaced by a Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF) in September 2013, it was done in complete secrecy. The BRLF was never widely publicised and civil society was never invited to contribute to its formation. It is designed to benefit a handful of select organisations — cronyism of the worst kind. It was so much in contrast to the open debate that galvanised the voluntary sector over the code of conduct and which preceded the merger of the People’s Action for Development India (PADI) and the Council for Advancement of Rural Technology (CART) to form CAPART in 1986.
What needs to be done? Replace the national advisory council (NAC) with a voluntary action commission (VAC). The mandate of the VAC should be to identify the thousands of genuine grassroots groups who have an FCRA registration and submit their report to the home ministry. It is not the job of the home ministry to judge the incredible work of community-based organisations. A lot of effort has gone into the formulation of the BRLF. Let it remain. But demand of the existing management if they have the self-respect to resign en masse and let the new government bring in new members.

Cricket interview: Glenn McGrath

Courtesy: Abhishek Purohit in Cricinfo


"When I was bowling well, I had already worked out the next two overs - what I was going to bowl and where I was going to bowl" © Getty Images

There is this line in your autobiography: "I can't ever remember having a bad dream about bowling. When I dreamt about cricket, I just bowled the ball I wanted to."
That is positive reinforcement. I used to call it visualisation. The night before a game, I'd think about who I was playing, and then how I'd bowled against those guys, if I had got them out previously. While I was playing, I could recall nearly all my wickets and how I got the batsman out.
If you continually watch yourself do something well, it has a positive effect. If you sat down and watched yourself bowling, batting or fielding badly, it will probably have the equal effect. I just found that worked for me. Even when I played I'd visualise at the top of my mark the ball carrying through and what I wanted to deliver.
Was that how you had always been, or did you have to work on it?
I don't know, I think it is something that came pretty naturally. I am quite a positive person. I always try to see the good in every situation, the good in everybody. My wife has a go at me every now and then that I can still see too much good in people sometimes, when they probably do not deserve it. I have always been the glass-half-full person. Even if we lost a game, I'd work on the positives and then think about where we could improve.
Early into your career, you had a major injury and you had to work hard on your fitness. Everyone talks about physical fitness for a fast bowler. You were probably one of the strongest bowlers mentally. How important is mental strength for a fast bowler?
I came back from the West Indies in 1995. I'd torn my intercostal, one of my side muscles, where you get your power from for a fast bowler. I weighed 77 kilos, which is about 25 kilos less than what I am now. I was injured, and I thought that if I want to stay playing at this level, which I was absolutely loving, I was going to have to do something differently. So I found a trainer, who was one of the toughest, and worked with him. He made me nearly unbreakable. That was my attitude with what I wanted to do. I think being physically fit and strong is hugely important for a fast bowler.
On the other side of things, you have to be mentally strong as well. My strength was probably more the mental side of the game rather than the skill side. I always had that self-belief that I was good enough. You have got to believe you are good enough, otherwise there is no point to it. I was prepared to work as hard as I could. The old saying: "The harder you work, the luckier you get" is very, very true. I would never give up. I was never satisfied. I'd always want to improve and do better next game. I felt we could win from any situation no matter how bad it was. I'd say I never gave up. I loved what I did, and if you have a real love and passion for what you do, you can't help but be successful.
 
 
"I probably sledged myself a lot more than I sledged the batsman, because I had such high expectations of myself"
 
I always had a game plan, what I was looking to achieve. When I was bowling well, I had already worked out the next two overs - what I was going to bowl and where I was going to bowl. It is just that mindset - knowing your game and yourself, how you work at your best and what you are looking to achieve. I never had any doubts when I was playing. I never worried about another bowler coming in and taking my position. All the focus was on what I wanted to achieve, and how I was going to go about doing it, and I just went out and did it.
Where would you say these values came from? Is it an Australian way or from the farm, from your early years?
I'd like to say it is a little bit of an Australian attitude. There were some batsmen in the team who did not like it when I made predictions and targeted batsmen of the other team. Maybe it was my upbringing - the country attitude. When you grow up on a farm you are instilled with a certain work ethic from a young age. We were driving tractors, working on the land, from a young age.
Everyone has a conscious decision to make from any situation. They can either look at it from a negative perspective and let it affect them or look at it from a positive one and use that. I love life and I want to make the most of it. I try to live in the now as well. Don't think too much about the past - just experiences that have taught me things. Growing up on a farm and having that freedom as a young fellow and what my parents instilled in me - it all led me in that direction.
Shane Warne called your bowling method the torture technique. Drips on the forehead till the batsman gives up. Did you think of it that way?
The old Chinese water torture. Just drying them up, not letting them get any easy runs, slowly building the pressure until they got out or were shot mentally. I'd like to think I did a little bit more than slowly torture them, but it is an interesting comment from Warnie.
How did you zero in on that method, coming at the taile-end of an era where fast bowlers looked to intimidate batsmen? Yours wasn't physical intimidation, it was more mental.
If I could have bowled 160kph or 100mph, I would have definitely been bowling that fast. Physically, I could not. But what I did do well is, I could land the ball. I had pretty good accuracy and I could get good bounce. I was not that quick, I did not swing the ball a great deal, but what I could do, I did very well. That was my strength.
I only looked to get a batsman out one of three ways: bowled, lbw or caught behind. I thought it is pointless bowling middle stump because it would take all my slips out and it makes it easy for batsmen to score runs on the leg side. So off stump, or just outside, was where I wanted to bowl.
I had that mental strength and I loved the challenge of bowling to guys who were classed the best. I loved bowling in pressure situations. If I miss anything in cricket, it is being in those pressure situations, where it comes down to you having to perform for the team to win. That is what I loved.


"I only looked to get a batsman out one of three ways: bowled, lbw or caught behind" © Getty Images

People saw some of your qualities in Mohammad Asif. He said that line was mandatory and that he hated giving runs off the pads. How important was line to you?
I hated giving the batsman even a single. If the batsman hit me for four, it wasn't because he hit a good shot. It was because I had bowled the ball where he could hit me for four. So I was a bit annoyed with myself. It is all about control. Bowling the ball in the right area, hitting the deck, top of off stump, where the batsman is not sure whether to come forward or go back. A lot of people call it the corridor of uncertainty. That is what I try to stipulate when I speak to young bowlers at the MRF Pace Foundation - that it is about control.
You look at Mitchell Johnson. He is still bowling 150kph, but he has got control now, and that makes him a lethal bowler. If the bowlers have control, they can bowl it where they want to. They are going to be a lot more effective, be able to build pressure, and are going to get a lot more wickets.
I do not like to see guys substitute pace for control. You just need to work harder on getting that control without giving up something else. If you have got control and pace, you are a pretty dangerous bowler.
That length seemed irritating even on television. What do you do with that length? Do you come forward or go back? Was that length natural?
It was pretty natural. I never looked at the spot on the wicket where I wanted to bowl. It was always sort of locked in at the top of my mark that this is the type of delivery I want to bowl and it is all about feel. The last thing I wanted to do was bowl it where the batsman wanted it to come. It is that in-between length where they cannot really come forward or go back. If they go forward it is not quite there, if they go back it is not there and they nick. That length is a different length on every wicket. You have to assess the conditions, the bounce, the seam, and then you have to adjust accordingly. I think that was one thing I did. I could adjust to the wicket very quickly, find out that length in that corridor of uncertainty and try to capitalise on that.
They used to call you the Metronome. How hard is it mentally to stick to control? You had decent pace. Didn't you ever feel like indulging yourself?
I look at those things as a compliment. Precision is something I look upon fondly. My goal was to bowl what I classed as the perfect game, where every ball I bowled went exactly where I wanted to bowl it. That is what I was striving for. That does not mean I have to bowl every ball on the same spot. You can still intimidate them with short-pitched bowling, with aggressive fields, set a person up for an inswinging yorker, but it is just about being able to land the ball where you want to land it. Being a fast bowler at the end of the day is an aggressive thing. It is just not being aggressive with sledging. It is about body language, attitude, field placements. It is about the way you bowl. You have got to be the whole package.
How important was bounce to you? Ricky Ponting has said that it is more bounce than pace that gets batsmen out.
Speaking to the guys who were classed the best batsmen in the world - you mentioned Ricky there, [Brian] Lara, [Sachin] Tendulkar, [Rahul] Dravid, guys like that, they said they would rather face someone bowling at 150kph who skidded the ball on rather than someone who bowled mid-130s and got that bounce.
That was one of my weapons. If I tried to bowl too fast, I'd probably go a bit low and I lost that bounce, which I felt was a more dangerous weapon than an extra 4-5kph in pace. That was my strength. I could bowl good areas and I got bounce and a bit of seam movement and that brought all my catchers into play.
 
 
"If I had had coaching when I was younger, they would have probably tried to get me side-on. My body just found the most natural way to bowl and it worked for me"
 
What was your attitude to sledging? Was it an additional weapon?
Yes and no. Some batsmen, if you have a bit of chat to them, they went to water. Someone like Lara, if you had a chat to him one day, you'd get him out because he'd go to water. Next day, if you have a chat to him, that's it, you are never going to get him out. So it worked against some batsmen, for some it didn't.
It is not something where you went out and said, "We're going to target this guy. We are going to sledge him." For me, personally, I probably sledged myself a lot more than I sledged the batsman, because I had such high expectations of myself. And half the time if I said something to the batsmen it was probably more out of frustration that I didn't achieve what I wanted to with that particular delivery.
It is part of the game. Test cricket is a test physically, skill-wise and mentally. And probably the mental side of the game is bigger than the other two.
How did you succeed in the subcontinent? Did you modify your approach, because not many overseas fast bowlers have done well here?
I tried to adjust to the conditions as quickly as I could. What are the positives of being a fast bowler in India? To me, the new ball is hard. It will carry through okay, so you have to use the new ball. Then the ball gets a bit soft, it stops swinging. Just got to keep it tight, work on the ball, then you are going to get reverse swing and all of a sudden it comes back into the bowler's favour. That is all I concentrated on. Use the new ball when it is hard and when it is old, look after it, get reverse swing, and set fairly straight fields and bowl a lot straighter than what you would in Australia.
That is all I tried to do, and again, I was trying and looking at the positives, or what the game plan was on these wickets, in these conditions, and how to best succeed. I still did not want to go for runs. I never set a batsman up by giving him runs. I could not bring myself to do that.
Did you have to be more patient in Asia?
It still comes back to execution and control. My stats in India were not too bad compared to the rest of the world. I did not worry that I was bowling in India compared to Australia and the UK. It was just a challenge that I enjoyed. To be classed a good bowler or a great bowler, you have got to be able to perform in every condition, every country, on every type of wicket. Patience, working to a game plan, bowling in partnerships - they were all part of the game. But ultimately my motivation was taking wickets. The end result was that I was looking to get that batsman out.
There were reverse-swing exponents like Wasim and Waqar. And guys like you and Curtly Ambrose made seam bowling famous at that time. Was it always seam for you?
Pretty much so. When I first got selected to play for Australia, a lot of people were saying you have to bowl a consistent outswinger to be successful at Test cricket. And I wanted to be successful at Test cricket so I started swinging the ball. I remember a Test I played against England at the Gabba in the 1994-95 series and I was swinging the ball quite a lot. I ended up with match figures of none for 101 at the end of that match and did not play the next three games. I went back and thought, "Well, I got picked for a reason. I got picked because of the way I bowl. So I am just going to stick to that. That bounce. That seam movement. And building pressure." That was a good learning experience. Listening to other people did not work for me. I tried it and I learned from it.
My strength was hitting the deck, coming from fairly high, using that bounce and hitting the seam. Sometimes that would carry straight through, sometimes it would come back in off the seam, predominantly more so than away, but that natural variation there was enough to unsettle a lot of batsmen.
That fast incutter. Was that an effort ball? 
It was more a natural delivery. Looking at my action - because I jumped in a bit at the end - I had a strong core, which allowed me to stay tall without falling away. But it meant I had to go across myself, which lent itself to hitting the wicket and going in to the right-hander or going away from the left-hander.
Did you always have a repeatable action?
That is the way I bowled. I didn't have any coaching. The first coaching I'd ever had, I was 22. And I did not model myself on anyone else. That held me in good stead, because back when I was growing up, it was all "get side-on". Dennis Lillee had the classical side-on action and he was my hero growing up. So if I had had coaching when I was younger, they would have probably tried to get me side-on. Who knows where I could have been? I may not have ever played. My body just found the most natural way to bowl and it worked for me.
Nowadays we know a lot more about coaching. There is front-on and side-on, even somewhere in between. As long as your hips and shoulders are in line, it does not matter where you are within that range. Your back will be fine. It is when your shoulders and hips get out of line that you have problems.


"With Warnie, the partnership we had was quite amazing. Two totally different styles of bowling but two very similar bowlers in the way we went about it" © Getty Images

You lost a bit of speed towards the end. How did you make up for it?
It wasn't a conscious thing to lose speed. That is the way it happened. But then it is all about control and bowling where you wanted to. Look at Jason Gillespie, who was a similar style of bowler to me but a little bit quicker. A lot of batsmen would play and miss because though they picked the line, it bounced and seamed and was past the bat before they could adjust. Whereas when I hit the deck and it did something off the wicket, the batsman would see it and had time to adjust and maybe just follow it. I got a lot more edges because of that. The fact that I was not express sometimes worked in my favour.
Those legendary partnerships - McGrath-Warne, McGrath-Gillespie - which one was dearer to you?
They were both equally important. I loved bowling with Jason at the other end. We still have a great friendship and I always enjoyed that. With Warnie, the partnership we had was quite amazing. Two totally different styles of bowling but two very similar bowlers in the way we went about it. He and I had very good control. We could build pressure from both ends and I can definitely thank Shane for a lot of my wickets, and he has come out and said he thanks me for some of his wickets as well. To bowl with Shane at the other end was something pretty special. We won the majority of the Test matches we played in and took over 1000 Test wickets between us. They are not bad stats.
Were you and Curtly Ambrose similar bowlers?
I think similar in what we delivered. Curtly just did it so easy. He was so loose: just come up and hit the deck and he could really get bounce and seam. He was one of the bowlers I admired from among those I played against. Curtly had two or three gears where he could crank it up. He was always pretty relaxed but if you got under his skin or fired him up, all of a sudden he could bowl another 5 to 10kph quicker and then he was a real handful.
Probably a good example is our results of bowling to Michael Atherton. I got Athers out 19 times in Tests and Amby got him 17 times. So the fact that we were similar bowlers was unfortunate for Athers. Probably a style of bowling he did not enjoy the most.
Did it get too easy against Athers as it went on?
You'd never say it was too easy. There was only one time where I got him out where I felt it was probably a bit too easy. And that was his last Test. I wasn't bowling that quickly, it was gun-barrel straight as the batsmen say. And I was outside off stump, and he just kept playing and missing. So I thought I'd get one a bit straighter, he just nicked it to Warnie at first slip. And I thought, "it should not really be that easy." But I think probably Athers was a bit shocked. Definitely had a mental edge over him at that stage.
One of my childhood memories is Lara trying to defend against you off the back foot and a bail going up in the air. What were those battles like?
I enjoyed bowling against guys who were classed the best. That really tells you how good you are. I loved bowling to Sachin, Brian. That wicket you are mentioning there was in the 1999 World Cup, at Old Trafford. We were under the pump, we had to win every game to stay in the World Cup. Lot of people say it was an amazing delivery. I think it did just enough to beat Brian's bat and just clipped the top of off. Mark Waugh said it was gun-barrel straight, that Brian just played the wrong line, and it wasn't anything special.
How quickly you remembered that dismissal. Do you still remember most of your dismissals?
Some dismissals I remember. Back when I had 360-370 Test wickets, I could sit here and write them all down in order and picture how I got them out. I guess that was my motivation, and my goal was taking wickets. Bit long in the tooth now and the brain does not work as well as it used to, but I can still remember certain series, certain Tests and what have you.
Did it ever change for you under different captains? Or were you always the same?
No, the game plan was pretty similar as it went on. It was only the West Indies series in 1995 where our game plan was to bowl aggressively to their bowlers, to bowl lot of short-pitched stuff to intimidate them, to show them that we were here to win.