Monday, 17 October 2016

Friday, 10 October 2014

Cyclone Hudhud: The `bird' storm in the Indian Ocean

By Syed Akbar

Hudhud and the Holy Quran

I am a bit surprised when many people and vernacular newspapers in India misspelled the term Hudhud (name of the latest cyclone in the Indian Ocean) though they know that the storm has been named after a bird. For them, Hudhud or hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. But what many have failed to understand is that long before Israel was created, Hudhud had been the darling bird of the Arabs and the Africans. Israel had recognised the importance of Hudhud only a few decades ago. According to Muslim traditions, Hudhud is the winged messenger of Prophet Solomon (Hazrat Sulaiman) who brought the news of the existence of a kingdom ruled by a woman (Queen of Sheba). The hudhud also carried a letter written by King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba.

Hudhud (pronounced Hud-Hud) is one of the three birds mentioned by name in the Holy Quran. The other two being crow and quail. Islam holds birds in high esteem and the Holy Quran refers to birds forming communities like we human beings do. In fact, the Holy Quran refers to the term bird five times, and birds as many as 13 times. The Holy Book has also referred to tiny birds called Ababil, which had rained stones on an army of elephants and soldiers when a tyrant king named Abraha came to destroy the Holy Kaaba in Mecca.

The Holy Quran refers to Hudhud in Surah Naml or Chapter Ant, which forms the 27th chapter of the Islamic scripture. The following verses of the Holy Quran with reference to Hudhud or hoopoe, the bird, clearly shows that man can understand the language of animals and birds provided he shows interest in the things around him. The study of behaviour of animals is known as ethology and the Holy Quran had made it clear 15 centuries before the term ethology was coined that birds and animals including insects like ants can communicate with man and vice versa. Prophet Sulaiman or Solomon had pioneered the language and behaviour of animals and birds.

Here is the Quranic reference:  (Quran 27: 20-29): 

"He (Solomon) inspected the birds, and said: "What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe (hudhud)? Or is he among the absentees?

"I will surely punish him with a severe torment, or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason."

"But the hoopoe stayed not long, he (came up and) said: "I have grasped (the knowledge of a thing) which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba' (Sheba) with true news.

"I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne.

"I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaitan (Satan) has made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and has barred them from (Allah's) Way, so they have no guidance,"

"Allah, (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Lord of the Supreme Throne!

"(Solomon) said: "We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.

"Go you with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them, then draw back from them, and see what (answer) they return."

"She (Queen of Sheba) said: "O chiefs! Verily! Here is delivered to me a noble letter..."

And now something about the bird as explained in the Encyclopedia Britannica:
hoopoe, (Upupa epops), strikingly crested bird found from southern Europe and Africa to southeastern Asia, the sole member of the family Upupidae of the roller order, Coraciiformes.

About 28 centimetres (11 inches) long, it is pinkish brown on the head and shoulders, with a long, black-tipped, erectile crest and black-and-white barred wings and tail.

The hoopoe takes insects and other small invertebrates by probing the ground with its long, downcurved bill. Some systems of classification recognize one other species (U. africana), found from Ethiopia to South Africa.

The hudhud had meekly served the king and prophet Solomon. Let's hope and pray the cyclone Hudhud would not cause any damage to human, plant or animal life or property. Let the cyclone Hudhud turn into a meek storm.

Monday, 4 February 2013

When the Nizam of Hyderabad sent his Ayurveda Safari Dawakhana to Kumbhmela in 1942

Biotechnology Ignition Grant: Researchers at University of Hyderabad take up project on type-2 diabetes, multidrug resistant diseases

University of Hyderabad scientists bag BIG awards

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), an interface agency of the Department of Biotechnology, has recently introduced a program to enable early stage companies, academics and entrepreneurs to take their innovations from an idea to a proof-of-concept stage in the healthcare/biotechnology sector.

Two of the recipients of the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) are Dr. Ashwini Nangia of Crystalin Research and Dr. Radha Rangarajan of Vitas Pharma. Both innovators are based at the Technology Business Incubator on University of Hyderabad campus. They are also incubatees at Life Science Incubator in IKP Knowledge Park, which provides mentorship, networking, branding, funding support, and laboratory infrastructure to start ups. IKP is the BIG Partner for both new projects.

Dr. Ashwini Nangia of Crystalin Research will test novel drug molecules designed on the GPCR receptor (G-protein coupled receptor) for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. The novelty of their approach lies in its simplicity. By modifying the functional group on an anti-psychotic drug it is expected that the change in binding to the receptor will lead to release of insulin.

The project will span the synthesis of drug molecules, their cell culture assays, and pre clinical animal trials to test the glucose level lowering efficacy of our “first in class drug”, says Dr. Nangia. He is a Professor of Chemistry at University of Hyderabad.

Dr. Radha Rangarajan is focused on identifying and developing novel therapies for multidrug resistant (MDR) infections at Vitas Pharma. MDR infections are a major public health concern in India and elsewhere, as they are associated with high levels of morbidity, mortality and treatment costs. The BIG Grant is intended for research on a novel class of compounds that target DNA replication in bacteria and prevent their growth through a unique mechanism, thus overcoming drug resistance.

The team will identify lead compounds with in vitro activity against highly resistant clinical strains and establish proof-of-concept in animal models. A successful drug emerging from this research would add to the armament of medicines for the effective management of infectious diseases.

Dr. Rangarajan has extensive research and development experience (Rockefeller University, Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories). She is on the Guest Faculty at NIPER, Hyderabad.

Rs 15,000 crore loss per year in fish and marine industry due to lack of post-harvest waste prevention methods

Post-harvest wastage causing annual losses worth over Rs 15K crore to marine & fish industry: ASSOCHAM
By Syed Akbar

The post harvest fish wastage leads to annual losses worth over Rs 15,000 crore in India’s marine and inland fisheries sector, according to an analysis by apex industry body ASSOCHAM.
“The poor post-harvest fish handling infrastructure in major maritime states in India leads to wastage of about 25 per cent of the total fisheries resources,” according to a sector-specific an analysis by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
Besides, fish stocks in India’s territorial deep-sea waters also remain untapped owing to the dearth of suitable fishing vessels and also because traditional fishing communities are over-exploiting the coastal waters which is leading to fast depletion of maritime resources and shrinking the catch from the coastal zones.
The post-harvest losses are generally caused due to poor handling, processing of fish leading to quality deterioration arising out of biochemical and microbiological spoilage, inadequate packaging, marketing malpractices and lack of proper storage facilities.
“These losses result in potential income loss to fishermen community and all the stakeholders, traders, processors, involved in fishing related ancillary operations as the spoiled, physically damaged fish fetches 20-25 per cent lower price compared to the best quality catch,” said Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber’s analysis.
“Production of value-added fishery products should be encouraged to realize better returns for producers, besides there is also a need to develop top-notch harbor and storage facilities for development of marine products in the country,” said Mr Rawat. “Sustainable practices like eco-friendly fisheries management must be adopted in capture, cultivation, utilization and marketing of marine products and there is also a need to bring in regulations to keep a check on over-exploitation of fisheries resources.”
ASSOCHAM has suggested the government to modernize existing harbours and establish more cold storage facilities and factory vessels to aid the fish and marine industry which is worth over Rs 61,000 crore.
Besides, improved methods of fish handling and preservation facilities on-board fishing vessels must be provided through joint ventures for production and marketing of value-added fish products.
“Maximum care should be taken while catching, storing and handling of fish to avoid any damage to the catch as it would go a long way in improving the quality of India’s marine products,” said Mr Rawat. “The entire fishing community including the policy makers and other stakeholders need to find alternative sources to encourage more-sustainable practices in aquaculture otherwise it could lead to degradation of land and marine habitat.”

Chest infections: University of Edinburgh study reveals boys in India get preference over girls for medical treatment

More boys than girls taken to hospital with chest infections, study shows

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad: Boys in India and South Asia who suffer from chest infections are more likely than girls to receive hospital care, according to a new global study.

Around 12 million children under the age of five are hospitalised with chest infections such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis worldwide each year, the study suggests.

Researchers discovered that boys were more likely to be hospitalised because of chest infections than girls, both because male children are slightly more susceptible to such illnesses and because families are more likely to ensure that boys receive health care.

While this gender disparity was visible across the developing world, it was most pronounced in South Asia. In some areas of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, up to four times as many boys under five receive hospital care for chest infections compared with girls. The data for India came from previous studies conducted from different areas across the country.

The study found that a substantial number of children under five who became critically ill from chest infections were not treated in hospitals. Around 38 per cent of severe cases did not reach hospitals.

Researchers also found that an estimated 265,000 children under five suffering from chest infections die in hospitals worldwide each year.

Almost all of these deaths - 99 per cent - take place in the developing world. About eight out of ten children who die from chest infections do so outside of hospital care.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who carried out the study based on 2010 data, say that the findings indicate the severity of the problem in developing nations.

Dr Harish Nair, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Population Health Sciences, who led the study, said: "Pneumonia has an enormous impact upon the lives of young children across the world. This study shows that much more could be done to reduce infection and save lives, such as by improving access to hospitals in the developing world, or by ensuring that both boys and girls receive similar health care."

The study - the first of its kind - is published in The Lancet and supported by the World Health Organization. Its results were produced by a large international consortium of 76 researchers from 39 institutions, in 24 countries.

Researchers from around the world produced the estimates by using hospital-based studies of chest infection rates and data on health-care seeking in developing countries.

The study builds on previous research, also published in the Lancet in 2010 and 2011, which found that around 34 million children develop human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-related pneumonia and 20 million children under five develop seasonal flu-related pneumonia each year.

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This Day In History

Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity