Monday, September 3, 2012

Egypt TV head denies inciting Mursi’s murder

A television channel chief and presenter denied calling for the murder of President Mohamed Mursi when his trial on incitement charges opened in the Egyptian capital today.
“I merely criticised President Mursi,” Tawfiq Okasha told judges at the court appearance, the news agency journalist reported
“This is a political trial. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to silence all dissent and reproduce the system from before the revolution,” he said.
Okasha added that he was in the dock for “revealing the Brotherhood’s involvement in attacks on police stations, courts and prisons during the revolution” in 2011.
Okasha’s Al-Faraeen channel, suspended on August 16, aired a show that was stridently anti-Mursi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood, the party from which the leader emanates.
The charges against him came at the same time that Islam Afifi, the editor of small independent newspaper Al-Dustour, was accused of spreading false news and inciting disorder.
Okasha arrived at court surrounded by his supporters who chanted “The people want Al-Faraeen!”
The court set the next session of the trial for October 3 after hearing the case for the defence, which argued that the complaints against Okasha were not filed by Mursi personally.
Both Okasha and Afifi were banned from leaving the country in August.
Afifi was freed after spending several hours in custody on the day of his trial, after a decree signed by Mursi scrapped preventive detention for alleged publishing crimes.
Afifi was the first journalist to go on trial since the overthrow of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
After his inauguration on June 30, Mursi moved to bolster his power over the influential military and a state media that had been hostile towards his once banned but powerful movement.
He got the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated upper house of parliament to name new editors-in-chief for state media that had been hostile to him and the Islamist group.
Mursi’s opponents accuse him of seeking to muzzle the press, and there has also been international concern.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the prosecutions of Okasha and Afifi ran counter to the spirit of last year’s revolution.(

TLC TO AIR “WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA”
THE INDIA EDITION OF THE INTERNATIONAL HIT MAKEOVER SERIES
-               Series to be hosted by Soha Ali Khan and Aki Narula -
-               To Air Every Night at 10 pm, Starting September 3rd -
New Delhi, August 23, 2012: India’s favourite lifestyle channel TLC will present the India edition of the international makeover series – WHAT NOT TO WEAR. Drawing on the talent of actor Soha Ali Khan and acclaimed stylist Aki Narula, WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA inspires style challenged participants to trade in the drab for fab.   A 13-part series, WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA will air every night at 10 pm starting September 3rd on TLC.
From housewives who have put their life on hold, to fast track professionals going nowhere with their wardrobes, to entrepreneurs who risk big, except when it comes to their wardrobe; WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA will help empower women by giving them a unique identity while keeping active their distinct lifestyles. Nominated by their friends and family, each episode becomes a personal journey of women reinventing themselves with new found vigour, as they bid adieu to clothing items from their wardrobe they never should have worn in the first place.
Rahul Johri, senior vice president and general manager - South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said, “TLC has been the front runner in bringing the world’s best experiences to Indian television. Pushing the boundaries of differentiated and inspiring television entertainment, we are delighted to present another pertinent and refreshing India centric series – WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA. Hosted by amazing personalities and experts Soha Ali Khan and Aki Narula, the series would activate a new wave of style change and become the new benchmark in lifestyle programming.”  
Commenting on her television debut, Soha Ali Khan said, “I am excited to be part of TLC; one of my favourite channels. WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA is an extremely interesting makeover series that beautifully captures the emotional, psychological and physical journeys of women to style enlightenment. We hope that viewers enjoy the show as much as we enjoyed making it.”
Hosting his first television series for an international channel, Aki Narula said, “TLC’s WHAT NOT TO WEAR – INDIA was the best and most creative platform for me to say YES to play host, guide and mentor. It’s a thoroughly researched, interactive and insightful series, where I could aptly put all my years of experience of fashion and style to great practical use for the participants and the viewers.”
Watch Soha and Aki change the way participants’ look and feel about themselves. Participants need to work on their wardrobe and self-examine before a 360 degree mirror. Style experts Soha and Aki do not sugar coat their comments when participants forget the 'rules' of shopping and style appropriate dressing. They advocate tough love on what is worn and what is gone. All of which adds up to the unveiling of the restyled woman to friends, family and colleagues who nominated them.
Watch the tears of realization and joys of fulfillment as they turn from dowdy to dashing in WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA every night at 10 pm starting September 3rd only on TLC. WHAT NOT TO WEAR-INDIA is based on the original format devised by BBC and produced by BBC Worldwide.

Extremely weak, inadequate non-audit?

The CAG issued a press release on Aug 31, 2012 for its “Performance Audit Report No. 10 of 2012-13” of hydropower projects for the 11th 5-year plan ending on March 31, 2012. This CAG audit is an extremely weak and inadequate work of the CAG. In fact it does not really audit the performance of hydropower projects at all. The audit fails to raise many of the fundamental issues related to the hydropower projects. It does not draw strong enough conclusions that are warranted based on its audit. Its recommendations are even weaker and do not address the issues raised in the conclusions. It seems like more of a business as usual, status quoist effort that does not do justice to the formidable reputation that the CAG has attracted through some of its exemplary work over the years and recent past.

Firstly, the audit is not much of a performance audit of hydropower projects or hydropower companies. The basic purpose of hydropower projects is generation of electricity at stipulated annual, seasonal, daily and peaking hours. However, the CAG performance audit has not gone into this question at all at any stage. If it had gone into this, it would have found that 89% of India’s operating hydropower projects generate at below the sanctioned rates and half of them generate at below the 50% of design rate. It would have also realised that over the last two decades, generation of electricity per MW installed capacity has reduced by a huge 20%. The CAG would have also found out that no one is assessing how much of the power generation from hydro projects is during peak hours when generation of peaking power is supposed to be the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of these projects. Both storage-based and so called run of the river hydro projects involve huge social and environmental costs, apart from deforestation and displacement of people. They are justified on the ground that they meet the peak time demand for electricity. A performance audit that does not address these aspects is not only incomplete but also misleading.

One of the fundamental issues CAG has refrained from looking at is the social, economic, environmental, cultural, religious and other services a free flowing river provides to a large cross section of the society and how these services are destroyed when a hydropower project is built. Rivers are functioning service providers, unlike the case of bandwidth (2G licenses) and coal in the mines, issues on which CAG has rightly shown great concern recently. It is inexplicable as to why the CAG has refrained from considering this issue while assessing the efficacy of performance of hydropower projects.

Thirdly, it is welcome that CAG has noted that there has been lack of “due diligence” and proper “survey and investigation” before taking up of projects. However, the CAG has not held agencies like Central Electricity Authority (CEA) responsible for giving concurrence to the projects under Electricity Act without ensuring that the projects have done full and proper appraisal. For example, CAG has found in its audit that geological surprises have been one of the reasons for delays, and that the companies have not been doing necessary testing. But these are the issues that CEA is supposed to look into in collaboration with Central Water Commission and Geological Survey of India. It is clear from the audit that CEA has been routinely giving concurrences to the projects without ensuring that full appraisal and due diligence has been done and without any transparency or independent members on its panel. CAG should have held CEA, CWC and GSI responsible for such flawed concurrences and should have raised fundamental issues about the process followed by CEA before giving concurrences. Similarly CAG should have raised questions about the fundamentally flawed process of environment impact appraisal followed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) and MEF’s the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River valley projects, but has refrained from raising them. Why CAG has refrained from reaching such conclusions logically implied by its audit is surprising.

Fourthly, CAG should also audit the process of allocation of hydropower projects to private developers. CAG has rightly raised the issue of competitive bidding in case of bandwidth (2G) and coal recently while allocating these “natural” resources to private developers, but for some unknown reason, has refrained from scrutinising the process of allocation of rivers to private developers for developing hydropower projects, which the private developers are using for their profiteering. The rivers are society’s resources and are the biggest natural resource, and it is high time all concerned including CAG look into these issues. Similarly, why is the CAG not auditing the accounts of private hydropower developers, when these developers are using these national natural public resource?

Fifthly, the CAG audit in question has very rightly raised the issue of failure of monitoring mechanisms and how conflict of interests prevail in the functioning of hydropower projects, with even an former power secretary (Mr P Abraham[1]) simultaneously being on govt committee probing a hydropower project and also on the board of the company involved in the specific contract being probed. These issues prevail because there is absolute lack of transparency and lack of presence of independent credible members monitoring the functioning of these projects and companies. Unfortunately CAG has not found it necessary to make such recommendations even though they are clearly warranted from its own audit.

Lastly, CAG's recommendations are peripheral and pedestrian. They have not addressed the systemic and institutional issues that are at the root of the problems covered in the audit, however weak it may be. These issues revolve around the professional capabilities, transparent and independent functioning of CEA, the role of MOEF and its EAC, the need to ensure that the composition of EAC and other monitoring and other committees are such that its members have no conflict of interest in appraising projects and how a few influential power developers have been able to corner most of the projects as a result of the non-transparent award procedures adopted. What are proposals to change the situation in any fundamental way? There are none.

We are therefore forced to reach the unfortunate conclusion that this CAG audit is highly inadequate, misleading and devoid of any attention to the basic issues. We would urge CAG to urgently look into the issues raised and redo the audit keeping these issues in mind.

Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi www.sandrp.in, ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798
E A S Sarma, Former Secretary to Govt. of India, Visakhapattnam, 0986602646, eassarmagmail.com
Bharat Jhunjhunwala, former professor, IIM Bangalore, Dt Tehri, Uttarakhand bharatjj@gmail.com
Ravindranath, Rural volunteers Centre, Dist Dhemaji, Assam, ruralvolunteerscentre@yahoo.co.in
Ms Malika Virdi, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand  (malika.virdi@gmail.com)
E Theophilus, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand (etheophilus@gmail.com)
K. Ramnarayan, Coordinator , Save The Rivers Campaign, Uttarakhand, (ramnarayan.k@gmail.com)
Samir MehtaInternational Rivers, Mumbai, samir@internationalrivers.org
Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune, manthan.shripad@gmail.com
10. Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Thrissur, Kerala. rrckerala@gmail.com

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