Month: August 2011

Death penalty is a deterrent

In one James Bond film it is said: Once can be happenstance. Twice can be coincidence. Thrice or more enemy is at work. On NDTV 24×7’s Left Right and Centre on three days Nidhi Razdan asked the question: Is death penalty a deterrent? She implied it was not. My answer is “Yes”.

First time Nidhi Razdan asked the question with regard to remarks by Justice Markandeya Katju about policemen who kill in fake encounters. He had said “Such policemen should be hanged. It is nothing but cold-blooded brutal murder, and yes, police personnel responsible should be hanged.” The discussion turned around fake encounters. Y. P. Singh said policemen do a noble job in an unethical way. It is a political call to control crime. The government of the day asks police to finish criminals. When there were gang wars in Bombay encounters took place and criminals disappeared.

There was no terrorist activity at the time. Later encounter specialists fell from grace. Encounters stopped. There were serial train blasts and 26/11. Last month there were three bomb blasts.

Second time was when it became known that Home Ministry has asked the President to reject Afzal Guru’s mercy petition. One panelist said he was opposed to death penalty in general. TSR Subramaniam said death penalty is given in rarest of rare cases and this is a rarest of rarest of rare case. Those who say Kashmir will go up in flames if Afzal Guru is hanged ignore the fact that Maqbool Butt’s hanging for the murder of Deputy High Commissioner Mhatre in Birmingham scared the living daylights out of JKLF.

Third time was on 11/8/2011. The President had rejected mercy petitions of three LTTE members. Renuka Chowdhury defended the decision. One panelist spoke of European Union and Gandhian philosophy. He forgot Gandhi’s killers were hanged. Ashok Desai and Nirmala Seetharaman were in favour of death penalty.

Opponents of death penalty engage in misinformation and disinformation.

First disinformation is that life sentence is worse than death penalty. It is not. Criminals don’t want to die and are happy to live in jail as long as they can. Some faint on the day of their hanging.

European Union (EU) countries have abolished death penalty. That is not a reason for India to abolish death penalty. We don’t have to follow EU countries. Some of them are bankrupt. Some are on the verge of bankruptcy. See the mess in England. During riots even rich people go to rob. In Norway some want death penalty for the terrorist who killed 76 people. China, USA, Japan and many other countries have death penalty. India is equal to all EU countries put together. EU is not paradise on earth.

Second disinformation is that murders have gone down in countries which abolished death penalty. Those who say that do not give any proof or lie about statistics.

Third disinformation is that death penalty does not serve any purpose of justice i.e., reformative, retributive and deterrent. Death penalty serves retributive and deterrent purposes.

There is misinformation that 26/11 terrorists were on a suicide mission. They were told to take some hostages. The government will negotiate and allow them to return. That did not happen. When a terrorist serves a life sentence there is the danger of abduction or hijacking for the release of the terrorist and the released terrorist killing many more. While nothing can be done about suicide bombers if those who send them are hanged that will reduce terrorists. Suicide bombers are given money and are told that their families will be taken care of once they die.

Some say a civilized country should not have death penalty. What is civilized about murder? Murder is a crime, pure and simple.

When death penalty was the norm there were not many encounter deaths and terrorist activities. After the Supreme Court strayed into the territory of executive and restricted death penalty to rarest of rare cases the situation changed.

In Pakistan there has not been death penalty for a long time and terrorism has increased. In Mexico murders multiplied after abolition of death penalty.

I have a suspicion that a lobbyist is behind the question.

Riots in England

The riots that began in London and spread to other cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Salford and Wolverhampton have exposed the ugly side of England. There was arson, loot, robbery and vandalism. Masked marauders rampaged. Houses, shops and vehicles were set ablaze. There was looting of shops, not all by criminal gangs. Some parents sat in cars outside the shops and sent their sons to loot. Police were attacked. Firemen who went to douse fires were attacked. In London more than 560 were arrested and there was no place in prisons. England had not seen anything like this for many decades.

Various reasons are given. Some say poverty, unemployment and economic deprivation are reasons for the looting and arson. Some blame cut in welfare measures and closing of youth centres. Unemployment benefit was cut and simmering discontent has come to the surface. Some say reduction in police force left it unprepared to face the rioters.

William Dalrymple said England has a rich tradition of rioting and thuggery. In the 16th century a French ambassador had complained of riots, extortion and robbery. England used to send its criminals to India. Now there is no empire and criminals remain in the country.

I do not know how many criminals England sent to India. England sent most of its criminals to Australia. Before that it sent its criminals to America. The criminals who landed in Australia in 1788 became its founders. In India the British sent long term prisoners to Andaman. England has Pitcairn Islands and it can send its prisoners there.

UK’s PM David Cameron and London’s Mayor Boris Johnson had to cut short their holidays and return to London. Cameron spoke of tough action against rioters. He attributed looting by young boys to lack of proper parenting and proper upbringing. He said those who are old enough to commit crime are old enough to face action. Boris Johnson was heckled. Someone said “You are too late.” Someone asked “Where were you?”

There is criticism of soft policing. There is demand for using water cannons, cage charges, tear gas shells, rubber bullets and tasers. Cameron has allowed use of rubber bullets. Curfew should have been imposed in London during the first night of riots. It is not imposed anywhere and criminals have a free run. Police have released photos of criminals and asked people to identify them.

Someone wanted the government to focus on London instead of bombing Libya. Someone wanted troops in Afghanistan and Libya recalled and blamed spending of money on useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The criminals who looted used social media sites such as Facebook and Blackberry Messenger and there is a demand to ban them. However banning something because criminals used them is unreasonable. Those who used them should be caught and punished. Some used social media sites to gather and clean the city.

London is host to Olympics 2012. There is enough time for London to beef up its security. However the riots have called into question the wisdom of hosting sporting events that cost billions while ignoring a large section of people.

Downgrade of US Treasury Bonds

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded the rating of US Treasury Bonds from AAA to AA+ on 5/8/2011 (In India and some other countries 6/8/2011) and that shocked many. It is the first downgrade since 1917. The downgrade followed wrangling in US Congress over raising debt limit, which used to be a routine matter, from 14.3 trillion dollars. Since 1960 USA had raised debt limit 78 times without any problem but this time it was different. S&P stood out from Moody’s and Fitch which continued with AAA rating. Treasury Department criticized S&P. S&P justified its decision and said that if matters did not improve further downgrade to AA was possible.

China criticized USA and called for a new global reserve currency. China has US Treasury Bonds of more than one trillion dollars and foreign exchange reserves of more than three trillion dollars. China had not allowed yuan to appreciate to keep its exports to USA cheap. It has itself to blame. India and many other countries have done like China. For them the unthinkable has happened.

The downgrade should have happened in 2008 when the crash occurred and USA went on giving bailouts of billions of dollars. AIG alone had bailout of 163 billion dollars.

Many people blame Tea Party members in Republican Party for the prolonged negotiations. Tea stands for Taxes Enough Already and those members stood by their commitment to oppose new taxes. Deficit reduction is a problem but there was a solution in 2010 when Bush-era tax exemptions were to expire. Barack Obama wanted tax exemptions to continue for people with annual income upto 250000 dollars and the rich to pay taxes. Republicans did not agree. They wanted the rich to be exempt. So Barack Obama extended the exemptions to all for two years.

Some months back China and Russia had entered into an agreement to use each other’s currencies in mutual trade. Eurozone is in trouble and so euro is not desirable as global reserve currency. Following the example of China and Russia is an option for many countries.