Saturday, 31 December 2005

YSR's "gifts" to people during 2006

2005
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 31: The State government has several "gifts" up its sleeves to make life "more comfortable" for people in the new year by checking pollution, reducing road accidents, fighting corruption in offices, improving irrigation facilities, bettering the lot of women, dalits and minorities through increased budgetary allocation and creating political employment in the form of legislative council membership.
As Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has already made it clear in his new year resolutions, the State government will concentrate more on the on-going projects and schemes rather than taking up fresh ones. However, the government will lay thrust on welfare schemes increasing budgetary allocation to the welfare department by at least 20 per cent.
Travel to rural areas will be much easier during 2006 with the government taking up the much-hyped Indiramma project aimed at an integrated development of neglected villages. Good roads and potable water will be available in all these villages by June.
At least two lakh acres of parched land will turn greener by the time the Khariff-2006 operations begin. Five irrigation projects including Gundlakamma, Devadula, Pushkar, Alisagar and Tadipudi would be in place by April-May, says an official in the CMO. As a new year's gift to farmers, Rajasekhar Reddy will release water into the Jhanjhavati project on January 1.
Elections to panchayat bodies will be held as scheduled in June-July and before that the government will put into motion the revival of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council. The budget session of the Assembly will be preceded by Cabinet expansion. On the political front, the government has nothing much to offer to people. Unemployed Congressmen will find placements in APLC and other government bodies by Independence Day.
The long-pending 25 paise interest loans to DWCRA will become a reality before March-end.
Coming to the city, Hyderabadis will get better living conditions with wider roads and hurdle-free footpaths. Garbage dumpyards from city will be shifted to outskirts relieving citizens of foul smell and pollution hazards, according to municipal commissioner Sanjay Jaju.
The APSRTC plans to discipline its drivers and conductors to make them more people-friendly. Commuters will get a courteous service from the bus staff.

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Haj: Accident Insurance Scheme For Indian Hajis

December 22, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 22: More than a lakh Indian Hajis currently on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia are eligible for an accident compensation scheme which includes cash and baggage loss allowance.
Only those Hajis visiting the holy shrines in Makkah and Madina through the Central Haj Committee are eligible for the newly-introduced "compensation" scheme. About a lakh Hajis are enrolled every year through the Haj Committee and another 50,000 visit the holy places through private tour operators.
Since Muslim religious scholars are divided over the legality of "insurance cover" for pilgrims, the Central Haj Committee has named the scheme as "accident compensation". The Central Haj Committee has collected Rs 76 from each of the Hajis this year as premium to provide the insurance cover. However, the Hajis have not been informed about the deduction of the premium from the money they had paid to the Committee towards cost of travel and board.
Central Haj Committee chief executive officer Abdur Rasheed Mir told this correspondent from Mumbai that they had not publicised the "compensation scheme" lest it invited the wrath of the Muslim clergy. "Muslim religious leaders have different opinions on the insurance cover. Some say it is legal while others argue that it is un-Islamic. So we have named it as a compensation cover," he pointed out.
Under the scheme, a Haji who dies in an accident (road or fire or stampede) is eligible for compensation. Even deaths in subversive activities are covered under the scheme. The compensation ranges from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh depending on the age of the pilgrim. Hajis below 50 years are eligible for Rs 3 lakh and those above 65 years of age will get Rs 1 lakh.
The Haj Committee will refund up to 2000 Saudi Riyals (about Rs 25000) in case of cash loss and 500 Riyals in case of theft or loss of baggage. Rasheed said Hajis are also compensated by an non-governmental organisation in Jeddah.
AP State Haj Committee chairman Ghouse Mohiuddin said they had introduced the compensation scheme, particularly baggage and cash loss, to help the Indian pilgrims in alien land. "We do not want our Hajis to suffer. Our compensation will help them to buy clothes and food in case of emergency," he said.
Most of the Hajis prefer the Haj Committee to private travel agents because they get concessional air fare and better accommodation in Saudi Arabia. Those going through the Haj Committee will get assistance of volunteers (khadim) and religious guides (Mu'allim) both in Mecca and Madina.
The basic travel quota of 10,000 US dollars is not applicable to Hajis using the services of private travel agents. The enhanced forex will help the pilgrims eat in restaurants. Earlier, as Hajis were allowed restricted forex, they used to carry with them rice, dhall, oil and dried meat for cooking. Now they can visit the holy shrines with less luggage.

Accident compensation for Indian Hajis

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 22: About a lakh Indian Hajis currently on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia are eligible for an accident compensation scheme which includes cash and baggage loss allowance.
Only those Hajis visiting the holy shrines in Makkah and Madina through the Central Haj Committee are eligible for the newly-introduced "compensation" scheme. About a lakh Hajis are enrolled every year through the Haj Committee and another 50,000 visit the holy places through private tour operators.
Since Muslim religious scholars are divided over the legality of "insurance cover" for pilgrims, the Central Haj Committee has named the scheme as "accident compensation". The Central Haj Committee has collected Rs 76 from each of the Hajis this year as premium to provide the insurance cover. However, the Hajis have not been informed about the deduction of the premium from the money they had paid to the Committee towards cost of travel and board.
Central Haj Committee chief executive officer Abdur Rasheed Mir told this correspondent from Mumbai that they had not publicised the "compensation scheme" lest it invited the wrath of the Muslim clergy. "Muslim religious leaders have different opinions on the insurance cover. Some say it is legal while others argue that it is un-Islamic. So we have named it as a compensation cover," he pointed out.
Under the scheme, a Haji who dies in an accident (road or fire or stampede) is eligible for compensation. Even deaths in subversive activities are covered under the scheme. The compensation ranges from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh depending on the age of the pilgrim. Hajis below 50 years are eligible for Rs 3 lakh and those above 65 years of age will get Rs 1 lakh.
The Haj Committee will refund up to 2000 Saudi Riyals (about Rs 25000) in case of cash loss and 500 Riyals in case of theft or loss of baggage. Rasheed said Hajis are also compensated by an non-governmental organisation in Jeddah.
AP State Haj Committee chairman Ghouse Mohiuddin said they had introduced the compensation scheme, particularly baggage and cash loss, to help the Indian pilgrims in alien land. "We do not want our Hajis to suffer. Our compensation will help them to buy clothes and food in case of emergency," he said.

Monday, 19 December 2005

Charminar Bank Scam: Bank is dead but its scams are not

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 19: The Charminar Bank is dead but its scams are not. A fresh scam has been unearthed even as the State government is gearing up for speedy recovery of dues from major defaulters through public auction of their properties.
According to sources, an official in the recovery cell of the scam-tainted Charminar Bank has "short calculated" interest on the principal amount borrowed by an industrialist.
And when the Bank decided to take punitive action against the erring official, a senior minister and a senior official in the Registrar of Co-operative Societies (RCS) brought pressure on the management to hush up the case. The management simply washed off its hands by transferring the official and ordering an inquiry.
Sources said bank official Mehdi Hussain Jaffry had short calculated interest to the tune of Rs 30 lakh on a principal amount of Rs 5.3 crore borrowed by industrialist Virender Giri in the name of five different companies owned by him. Instead of showing Rs 6.10 crore as outstanding balance against Giri's companies, the official showed Rs 5.8 crore in the balance sheet.
The irregularity came to light during the meeting of the bank's managing committee held on December 9. The bank officials immediately decided to suspend Jaffry but adjusted it with a simple transfer following pressure from a senior minister. A senior official of the RCS is also said to be lobbyingthe case of Giri.
Charminar managing director V Prabhakar agreed that Jaffry had been transferred following detection of some irregularities. He, however, refused to divulge further information stating that an inquiry had been ordered and he would comment after the inquiry officer Bhadri Narayana submitted his report.
The minister and the RCS official are also reportedly bringing pressure on Charminar Bank to settle Giri's loans under One Time Settlement scheme. But the bank officials refused to take the case under OTS since one of the bank's directors had stood as a guarantor for Giri's companies. Under RBI rules such loans should not be covered under OTS scheme. A senior official who is retiring this month-end is said to be interested in the OTS scheme for Giri's company.
Charminar NRI Depositors' Association convener MA Taher demanded that the government should order a CID inquiry into the irregularity to bring out the brains behind the fresh scam. He wanted the properties of defaulters to be auctioned immediately to raise funds for distribution among depositors, due for March 2006 under the revival scheme.

Friday, 16 December 2005

Instances of theft in Mecca: Do's and don'ts for Indian Hajis

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 16: With instances of theft on the rise in the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Madina during the Haj, the Indian Consulate in Jeddah has warned Indian pilgrims to be cautious while performing the Haj.
In its "do's and don'ts", the Indian Consulate has pointed out that Indian pilgrims should keep a close watch on their belongings in view of spurt in theft cases in the holy cities.
"A number of pilgrims have been cheated by confidence tricksters who gain their confidence and then take money from them on the pretext of buying things at cheaper rates. People have been tricked into even parting with money for the sacrifice that is supposed to be done after Haj at Mina on the 10th of Zul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Theft from pilgrims is on the increase hence all precautions should be taken," the Consulate pointed out.
There are several "Maktabs", which can also take care of cash and valuables but pilgrims must insist on a proper receipt if they are leaving money with a Maktab. They should not give any cash or valuables to anyone else than to a proper person in the Maktab who should give a proper receipt (Fatura) for the same.
The Indian Haj Mission has set up a special cell to provide full range of Consular services including issue of emergency certificate if the passport is lost, issue of duplicate Air ticket if the ticket is lost. However, it is important that some kind identification is always retained with the pilgrim like the steel bracelet provided in India before boarding, the consulate pointed out.

Monday, 12 December 2005

Year 2038 computer problem: Is it real? Or just another internet hoax?


December 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 11: Just follow these few steps. Login to Yahoo Messenger and send
instant message to anyone.
You find it working. Now change your computer system date to January 19, 2038,
03:14:07 am or above 04:00:00 am. Confirm whether the date is changed.
Again send instant message to anyone. The problem starts now. Your Yahoo Messenger
crashes. While trying these steps, close your applications/internet explorer. Chances are more that your explorer will get corrupted and you have to reinstall it. All network based applications will stop functioning.
After the Y2K, the latest problem perplexing computer geeks in city and elsewhere in
the world is the year 2038 date trouble. Though the year 2038 is 33 years away, the problem is being felt nowby banks and companies entering financial transactions or going in for lease agreements. Computer experts fear that year 2038 problem is
real unlike the Y2K which turned out to be just a media hype.
What actually is the year 2038 problem? Computer geeks expert to see lots of systems
around the world breaking, starting at GMT 03:14:07, Tuesday, January 19, 2038. Many of the dire predictions for the year 2000 are much more likely to actually occur in the year 2038! Consider the year 2000 just a dry run.
"In case you think we can sit on this issue for another three decades before
addressing it, consider that reports of temporal echoes of the 2038 problem are already starting to appear in future date calculations for mortgages and vital statistics," observes MH Noble, managing director of Zoom Technologies (India) Limited.
In the first month of the year 2038 many computers will encounter a date-related bug
in their operating systems and/or in the applications they run. This can result in incorrect and wildly inaccurate dates being reported by the operating system and/or applications. The effect of this bug is hard to predict, because many applications are not prepared for the resulting "skip" in reported time anywhere from 1901 to a "broken record" repeat of the reported time at the second the bug occurs, Noble points out.
This bug will cause serious problems on many platforms, especially Unix and
Unix-like platforms, because these systems will "run out of time".
What causes it? Time t is a data type used by C and C++ programs to
represent dates and times internally. Ttime t is actually just an integer (a whole
number), that counts the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am Greenwich Mean Time. A time t value of 0 would be 12:00:00 am (exactly midnight) 1-Jan-1970, a time t value of 1 would be 12:00:01 am (one second after midnight) 1-Jan-1970, etc. By the year 2038, the time t representation for the current time will be over 2 140 000 000.
And that's the problem. A modern 32-bit computer stores a "signed integer" data
type, such as time t, in 32 bits. The first of these bits is used for the positive/negative sign of the integer, while the remaining 31 bits are used to store the number itself.
The highest number these 31 data bits can store works out to exactly 2147 483 647. A
time t value of this exact number, 2 147 483 647, represents January 19,2038, at 7 seconds past 3:14 am GMT.
So, at 3:14:07 am GMT on that fateful day, every time t used in a 32-bit C or C++ program will reach its upper limit. One second later, on 19-January-2038 at 3:14:08 am GMT, disaster strikes, explains Murali Krishna of Hutch.
When a signed integer reaches its maximum value and then gets incremented, it wraps
around to its lowest possible negative value. This means a 32-bit signed integer, such as a time t, set to its maximum value of 2 147 483 647 and then incremented by 1, will become (minus) -2 147 483 648.
A time t value of (minus) - 147 483 648 would represent December 13, 1901 at
8:45:52 PM GMT. So, if all goes normally, 19-January-2038 will suddenly become 13-December-1901 in every time t across the globe, and every date calculation based on this figure will go haywire. And it gets worse. Most of the support functions that use the time t data type cannot handle negative time t values at all. They simply fail and return an error code.
However, there are computer optimists who feel that the problem could be solved and
there's nothing to worry. Says senior mathematician B Moinuddin, "the problem is only a 32-bit problem. Any how 64 bit computers are going to be the norm in just a few years, let alone 34 years from now. We need not go into the panic mode. There is
time to resolve this issue in a calm, cool and collected manner. Y2K was definitely
blown way out of proportion. This too is going to be that way".

Thursday, 8 December 2005

A quarter of traffic police force in Hyderabad suffers from lung problems with high levels of carboxy haemoglobin in blood

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 8: A quarter of traffic police force in the city suffers from 
lung problems with high levels of carboxy haemoglobin in blood thanks to 
constant exposure to ever-increasing vehicular pollution.
According to a research study carried out by AP Government General and 
Chest Hospital, police personnel who are on traffic duty are more prone to 
lung-related diseases than their counterparts in crime and law and order 
sections. The study was carried out on traffic cops and control group and a 
comparative analysis revealed that even non-smoking traffic policemen have 
relatively higher levels of carboxy haemoglobin levels in their blood.
As many as 659 traffic constables were subjected to pollution study and of 
them 175 found to be suffering from one or other lung ailment. Similar 
studies were also carried out on traffic police personnel in Vijayawada and 
Visakhapatnam.
Hyderabad is closely behind Delhi, the fourth largest polluted city in the 
world, both in terms of suspended particulate matter, lead toxicity and 
carbon monoxide levels in atmosphere. There has been a three-fold increase 
in pollution levels in Hyderabad since 2000. The led toxicity levels in blood 
is of the order of 20 to 24 mg per decilitre as against the permitted levels of 
10 micro grams per decilitre. The carbon monoxide levels often cross the 
permissible limits in Hyderabad and since traffic cops are exposed to 
constant air pollution they are more prone to lung diseases than other 
citizens.
When CPI-ML legislator Gummadi Narasiah raised the issue in the State 
Assembly on Thursday, Home Minister K Jana Reddy announced that traffic 
cops would be exposed to fresh oxygen in oxygen chambers to improve their 
blood quality and detoxify the effect of carbon monoxide. Narasaiah 
demanded that traffic cops be given medical reimbursement facility as they 
are forced to undergo expensive tests in private hospitals.
"Traffic police personnel are being given fresh oxygen once a week free of 
charge. Anti pollution nose masks have been distributed to all cops on traffic 
duty," the home minister said.

A quarter of Hyderabad traffic police force suffers from lung problems

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 8: A quarter of traffic police force in the city suffers from lung problems with high levels of carboxy haemoglobin in blood thanks to constant exposure to ever-increasing vehicular pollution.
According to a research study carried out by AP Government General and Chest Hospital, police personnel who are on traffic duty are more prone to lung-related diseases than their counterparts in crime and law and order sections. The study was carried out on traffic cops and control group and a comparative analysis revealed that even non-smoking traffic policemen have relatively higher levels of carboxy haemoglobin levels in their blood.
As many as 659 traffic constables were subjected to pollution study and of them 175 found to be suffering from one or other lung ailment. Similar studies were also carried out on traffic police personnel in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.
Hyderabad is closely behind Delhi, the fourth largest polluted city in the world, both in terms of suspended particulate matter, lead toxicity and carbon monoxide levels in atmosphere. There has been a three-fold increase in pollution levels in Hyderabad since 2000. The led toxicity levels in blood is of the order of 20 to 24 mg per decilitre as against the permitted levels of 10 micro grams per decilitre. The carbon monoxide levels often cross the permissible limits in Hyderabad and since traffic cops are exposed to constant air pollution they are more prone to lung diseases than other citizens.
When CPI-ML legislator Gummadi Narasiah raised the issue in the State Assembly on Thursday, Home Minister K Jana Reddy announced that traffic cops would be exposed to fresh oxygen in oxygen chambers to improve their blood quality and detoxify the effect of carbon monoxide. Narasaiah demanded that traffic cops be given medical reimbursement facility as they are forced to undergo expensive tests in private hospitals.
"Traffic police personnel are being given fresh oxygen once a week free of charge. Anti pollution nose masks have been distributed to all cops on traffic duty," the home minister said.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Charminar Bank Scam: Recovery at snail's pace

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 6: With the recovery from major defaulters going at a snail's pace, the scam-hit Charminar Bank may not be able to honour the State government's commitment of returning money to depositors from March next year.
The bank had refunded money to customers with deposits up to Rs 1 lakh after the State government worked out a revival scheme in association with the Reserve Bank of India. The State government and the RBI fixed a time schedule for refund of deposits over Rs 1 lakh in instalments starting from March 2006.
Though the first instalment is due in the next three months, the Charminar Bank has failed to speed up the recovery process to meet the deadline. The authorities are yet to recover more than Rs 200 crore from top 25 defaulters even two years after the revival plan scheme into effect.
In the initial stages, the CID could recover about Rs 100 crore from some of the defaulters but half of the amount went into the kitty of the Deposits Insurance Credit Guarantee Corporation as part of the revival scheme. The bank was left with Rs 50 crore and of this Rs 23 crore was disbursed among depositors with deposits up to Rs 1 lakh. It is mandatory on the part of the Charminar Bank management to deposit half of the recovered amount with the DICGC and disburse the remaining half among depositors.
The bank has to pay Rs 266.9 crore to depositors but is now left with just Rs 27 crore.
"Unless the authorities speed up the recovery we will not get our money back. The bank may manage to pay the first instalment in March but the problem becomes compounded when the second instalment becomes due in September," NRI depositors Association president Mohiuddin A Taher told this correspondent.

Saturday, 3 December 2005

Watching TV too much not only affects eyesight but also makes adolescent children obese and overweight

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 3: Watching TV too much not only affects eyesight 
but also makes adolescent children obese and overweight.
According to a research study conducted by the city-based National 
Institute of Nutrition, school children, particularly in the age group 12-
17, who spend more than five hours a day watching television are 
seven times more susceptible to obesity and overweight than those who 
watch TV for less than three hours.
The explanation offered is quite simple. Spending more time in front of 
television means less physical work and hence overweight and obesity. 
The study revealed that the prevalence of adolescent overweight and 
obesity among urban adolescent school children in Hyderabad was 
higher than in their rural counterparts by 0.6 per cent.
The prevalence was more among the children of upper middle and high 
socio-economic groups compared to the children of low and low 
middle socio-economic groups. Obesity was found to be relatively less 
among children participating in physical exercises like games and 
sports and higher among the children with no physical exercise or who 
were watching TV for long hours.
The report points out the problem was also higher among children who 
consumed fatty and fried foods and also among those frequently 
consuming snacks and ice creams.
The NIN selected 23 schools catering to low, middle and upper middle 
income groups adopting the stratified random sampling procedure. 
Anthropometric measurements like height (cms) and weight (kgs) were 
taken on 1,208 adolescent school children using standard procedures. 
Information on socio-economic and demographic particulars, their 
perceptions and practices on diet, lifestyle patterns, physical activities 
and frequency of consumption of foods was assessed using pre-tested
questionnaires.
The scientists carried out stepwise logistic regression analysis which 
revealed that in general, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was
6.2 per cent. Girls are a little bit obese (6.3 per cent) as compared with 
boys (6.1 per cent). The prevalence was significantly higher by 0.001 
per cent among children studying in private and private aided 
institutions (eight and nine per cent) as compared to those studying in 
the government institutions (2.4 per cent). The figures for children with 
different economic backgrounds are upper middle (6.7 per cent), high 
socio-economic status (13.1 per cent) and the low and low middle 
socio-economic status (1.7 to 2.5 per cent).
It was significantly lower in the children who were reportedly 
participating in the household activities for more than three hours a 
day. On the other hand, obesity was significantly higher by 0.007 per 
cent among children (9.3 per cent), who are watching TV for more than 
three hours a day as compared to the children (5 per cent), who are 
watching T for less than three hours a day.
The report noted that the prevalence of overweight and obesity was 
seven times higher among the children, who were watching TV for 
more than five hours a day, compared to the children with less than five 
hours a day.
The incidence is 4.4 times higher in the children who belong to upper 
middle and high socio-economic status compared to the children of low 
and low middle SES and 3.9 times higher in the children who were 
studying in public schools compared to those in government schools. 
Participation in household activities for more than three hours a day  
had some protective effect from overweight and obesity.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Krushi Bank scam: What happened to the money deposited by Charminar Bank in Krushi Bank?

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 1: Charminar Bank never received Rs 38 crore it had 
deposited in the scam-tainted Krushi Cooperative Bank. It was only in the 
books of account that the deposits were withdrawn and encashed.
In a startling revelation, the auditors of Charminar Bank noted that the 
"transaction raises high suspicion about the genuineness of the receipts of 
cash and also their disbursement as loans".
The Charminar Bank simply made book adjustments showing that the Krushi 
Bank had repaid the cash deposit after it came to know that the Krushi Bank 
might collapse any moment under the impact of large-scale financial 
irregularities. The Charminar authorities, fearing that their murky financial 
dealings would be out once the Krushi Bank collapsed, made hurried entries 
in their records to show that Krushi had returned the deposit in instalments. 
But in reality Krushi Bank never repaid the money to Charminar. This simply 
means that the size of the scam in the Krushi Bank is Rs 73 crore and not just 
Rs 35 crore which the investigating authorities believe.
The murky dealings in the Charminar Bank came to light in the audit report 
carried out by chartered accountants Prema Gopal and Company. Charminar 
Bank has deposited with Krushi Bank in the form of fixed deposit Rs 38 
crore on July 29, 1998 and reportedly withdrew it in phases between March 
and August 2001. The Bank collapsed in mid-August 2001.
The State government has ordered an inquiry into the entire transaction 
between Charminar and Krushi Bank. Hyderabad district cooperative officer 
has been asked to submit report on the murky dealings. According to 
Charminar Bank managing director V Prabhakar, "the truth will come out 
when the DCO gives his report. We will initiate action accordingly".
The audit reports says, "entries were passed in the books of the Charminar 
Bank as if cash has been received from Krushi Bank by a particular branch 
on a particular day. these branches transferred the same amount on the same 
day to Purani Haveli branch. Again the same day the same amount was 
transferred to different branch/branches by Purani Haveli branch and those 
amounts were shown as given to different parties the same day as loans. The 
series of transactions, particularly in some cases with different denominations 
recorded in the books of different branches for the same amount on the same 
dates raises high suspicion about the genuineness of the receipts of cash and 
also their disbursement as loans".
According to the audit report cash was deposited by Krushi Bank in Purani 
Haveli branch without there being any account with the branch. Even the 
current account in the James Street branch was opened on March 27 a few 
days after the payment was said to have been made.
 The cooperative department is eagerly awaiting the arrest of Krushi chief K 
Venkateswara Rao, whose interrogation will bring the truth behind the 
Charminar-Krushi transactions.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Bonanza for Indian Hajis: Forex increased to 10,000 US dollars

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 29: The Central government has extended a bonanza for the Haj pilgrims this year permitting them to take as much as 10,000 US dollars as their basic travel quota (BTQ).
This facility is in addition to 2,000 Saudi Riyals already enjoyed by pilgrims visiting the holy shrines in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. Now for the first time, Hajis can take with them as much as 39,000 Saudi Riyals for their comfortable stay in the Kingdom.
"The government used to allow 2000 Saudi Riyals and another 100 US dollars as airport allowance. From this Haj season they can take with them 10,000 US dollars (37,000 Saudi Riyals) as basic travel quota in addition to the already existing 2000 Riyals," says Shaik Mustaq Ali Ahmad, coordinator for Forex distribution for Haj pilgrims in India.
About one lakh pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia through the official Haj Committee and another 60,000 make arrangements on their own through private travel agents. The Haj Committee returns amount equivalent to 2000 Riyals to each of the Hajis from the amount paid by them for travel and lodging.
Bombay Mercantile Cooperative Bank, which has bagged the contract as official banker for Haj 2005-2006, has opened round-the-clock counters at the Haj House in the city and other 14 embarkation points elsewhere in the country.
The Central Haj Committee has cleared the applications of all the 6,385 Hajis from Andhra Pradesh. The largest contingent of Hajis is from Delhi with the National Capital sending around 14,600 pilgrims.
The first flight carrying Hajis will leave eight select points including Hyderabad on December 3 for Madina.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Paddy production to fall this rabi season

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 18: Paddy production is likely to record a steep fall this rabi season with the State government discouraging farmers from taking up the crop. Even the paddy variety grown under the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) programme in the delta areas has failed to deliver the expected results in the just-concluded Khariff and farmers are sceptical about its prospects in the current rabi season.
So far this rabi farmers went in for paddy cultivation only in four per cent of the normal sown area. As on November 16, paddy was sown in 0.40 lakh hectares in the State as against 0.82 lakh hectares during the same period last year. The normal sown area under paddy in rabi is 10.17 lakh hectares and farmer activists fear that even 50 per cent of the cropped area will not be achieved thanks to the intensive campaign launched by the State government motivating farmers not to grow paddy in rabi.
Reports from districts indicate the low percentage of sowings took place in areas traditionally known for paddy cultivation. Only two per cent of rabi sowings (for all crops) is reported from East Godavari, four per cent in West Godavari, two per cent each in Krishna and Guntur and six per cent in Nellore.
This is as against 42 per cent in non-traditional areas in Visakhapatnam, 40 per cent in Prakasam, 64 per cent in Kurnool, 47 per cent in Anantapur, 68 per cent in Medak and 48 per cent in Mahbubnagar. Agriculture officials succeeded in motivating farmers to go in for dry crops as is evident from 37 per cent sowings (8.54 lakh hectares against normal of 23.11 lakh hectares). As much as 50 per cent of the sowings are completed in oilseed crops while only 20 per cent sowings are recorded for food grains (all varieties).
Referring to SRI paddy, water management expert KVGK Rao told Deccan Chronicle that farmers who went in for this variety in delta recorded poor crop in Khariff. "The rice variety needs less quantity of water. Since there were heavy rains in khariff, the crop was damaged. However, SRI will give better yields in rabi as there will be no major rains during the season," Rao said.

Monday, 14 November 2005

Threat of cyber terrorism looms large on Defence computers

2005
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 14: As the nation gets ready for disaster management preparedness programme from the New Year, threat of cyber terrorism looms large over the all-important communication network.
Communication network being a vital infrastructure in disaster management activity, any exposure to cyber attacks will send the entire relief and rehabilitation planning into haywire, say in case of cyclones, floods or earthquakes.
National Disaster Management Authority is working towards the establishment of diverse and redundant networks to fight against cyber terrorists but fears that these networks may not be "robust" with adequate firewalls to ensure their availability at the time of disasters. The NDMA, which held its sitting recently in Hyderabad, gave a serious thinking on what to and what not to do if cyber terrorists jam the communication system during natural calamities.
According to NDMA vice-chairman NC Vij, the NDMA is working towards development of a software immune to such attacks during natural calamities. Cyber terrorists are capable of jamming the communication system and government networks crippling all relief activity. They can simply hack into the networks giving a wrong direction to the relief and rehabilitation measures.
"With cyber terrorism going to stay in this age of information technology, the country needs replicate controls not only to prevent cyber attacks but also to ensure that the network in calamity-hit area does not go haywire. There should be replicate controls at a distance of 200 km or so," says security systems specialist MH Nobel.
Ethical hackers suggest that software used for communication systems exclusively meant in times of natural calamities should be processed from neutral countries like Switzerland as cyber terrorists perennial make USA systems their prime target. H Topiwala of Networks Data, UK, points out that the government should go in for multiple paths like fibre and radio optical networks so that even one fails the other will work.
"Proprietary operating system based on Linux or hardened operating system can be employed for greater chances of survival in case of cyber attacks,"
he suggested.
The NDMA has been focusing on cyber terrorism because most of the government networks are not immune to such attacks. The problem gets more complicated when a natural calamity strikes and the government wants to take up emergency relief measures. Even the USA is not immune to such attacks. A recent survey by the Defence Information Security Agency revealed that 88 per cent of the 3000 defence computer systems that were attacked were "easily penetrable". Of the systems that were illegally entered, 96 per cent of the entries were not detected. Of the 4 per cent that were detected, only 5 per cent of them were reported or investigated.
There have been instances of cyber-terrorists hacking into hospital computer system and changing the medicine prescription of patients to a lethal dosage as an act of revenge. And if this happens in times of natural calamities, the damage will be catastrophic.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Urdu regains lost glory in Hyderabad


November 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 12: Urdu, the language of poets and nobles, is fast regaining its lost glory in this historic city what with Urdu newspapers taking up the role of educationists and reformists in the Muslim society.
Hyderabad has the distinction of being the largest hub of Urdu newspapers in the Indian sub-continent after the Pakistani port city of Karachi. A new Urdu daily with ultra-modern printing technology is all set to hit the news-stands later this month heralding a new phase in the Urdu newspaper industry of the country.
And all the existing Urdu newspapers in the city have geared up to meet the challenges being thrown in by the new Urdu daily, Etemad, which is coming out with technologically-advanced printing machines and hi-fi editorial team.
Etemad, owned by the family of MIM supremo and former MP Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, will be the fourth major Urdu daily from the capital city of Andhra Pradesh. The other three main newspapers being Munsif, Siasat and Rehnuma-e-Deccan.
The Owaisi family's offer of generous perks and salaries to Urdu journalists,
calligraphists and computer operators has become the talk of the media circles. Urdu journos who hardly used to get Rs 6000 a month are now being paid a salary of between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. Attracted by the offer, even journalists from north India have applied for posts in the newspaper.
"The combined circulation of Urdu newspapers in Hyderabad is more than that of any city in India. Only Mumbai comes somewhere near Hyderabad in terms of circulation of Urdu dailies. Hyderabad occupies the second slot in the Urdu-speaking world after Karachi," says Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who edits the popular Urdu weekly Gawah.
Even while procuring advanced printing technology, Urdu newspaper barons feel that the emergence of another Urdu daily in Hyderabad will not eat into the existing circulation. "The circulation of Siasat has not been affected after Munsif relaunched itself. Hyderabad has more scope for Urdu readership.
Etemad will create its own readership without affecting any of us," says senior journalist and Siasat editor Zahid Ali Khan. Siasat is going to change its design and editorial content in tune with the changing times.
Rehnuma-e-Deccan, the oldest exant Urdu newspaper in Indian sub-continent, is also going in for the latest printing machinery while Munsif is planning to launch a Urdu TV channel. "There is no dearth of Urdu readership in Hyderabad," observes Nasim Arifi, editor of Etemad.
The Urdu newspapers have created their own base of readership through educational programmes. The Abid Ali Khan Educational Foundation set up in memory of Siasat founder has been instrumental in teaching Urdu to about 25000 people every year. The Munsif daily has opened Urdu schools in the city.
"While Urdu is losing ground in the north, it is gaining popularity in Hyderabad. It is mainly due to high standards of journalism and educational activities of Urdu newspapers. Our standards are the best in the world. Even the Urdu Press in Pakistan is no exception," says Syed Vicaruddin, editor of Rehnuma-e-Deccan.
Etemad is going to be the most modern Urdu newspaper in the country both in terms of quality and editorial content, says Nasim Arifi. Though it is being brought out by the Owaisi family, the newspaper will maintain its independent identity. "It is a good trend that Urdu journalists and Urdu journalism have finally got the recognition they deserve. Modernisation of Urdu papers is also a welcome step when Urdu is losing ground elsewhere," Zahid Ali Khan observes.
Siasat is planning to launch a school of journalism for training of Urdu journalists while Munsif proposes to start an edition from Delhi.

Diabetes on the rise in Andhra Pradesh


November 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Fast changing food habits coupled with stress and increasing environment pollution is contributing to the spread of diabetes in the country. Andhra Pradesh is no exception. According to an estimate by the American Diabetes Association, there are at least 31.7 million diabetic patients in India and the number is expected to grow to 79.4 million by 2030. In Andhra Pradesh alone about 30 lakh people suffer from diabetes and Hyderabad with its fast food joints and the Nawabi lifestyle is fast emerging on the world map of diabetes with many people joining the list of patients.
As the World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14, the World Health Organisation cautions people that about 366 million people worldwide would be diabetic patients by 2030. A recent survey by the Diabetes Association of Andhra Pradesh showed that of the 12,000 people surveyed in rural areas, about two per cent or 240 people suffer from diabetes.
What is worrying doctors is that diabetes is also fast spreading in rural areas. It is also no longer a disease of the developed countries. The prevalence of diabetes in urban areas of Andhra Pradesh is estimated to be 10 per cent. As diabetes expert Dr PV Rao points out the prevalence rate in cities often touch 14 per cent. The increased prevalence of diabetes in India has a lot to do with a switch from a traditional to a Western diet.
“Diabetes is a major threat to global public health that is rapidly getting worse, and the biggest impact is on adults of working age in developing countries. At least 171 million people worldwide have diabetes. This figure is likely to more than double by 2030 to reach 366 million,” says a WHO report on diabetes. It has launched a mission programme for diabetes control to “prevent diabetes whenever possible and, where not possible, to minimize complications and maximize quality of life”.
Diabetes is fast emerging as the root cause of many complicated health diseases including cardiac problems. As senior interventional cardiologist Dr PC Rath points out, instances of coronary heart diseases are generally related to neglect of diabetes. “India has the highest incidence of diabetes. Diabetic patients are more prone to coronary heart diseases. The patient suffer from chest pain which he or she normally neglects. This causes silent heart attacks,” he points out. Dr Rath advises diabetic patients to undergo regular health check-up every year so prevent cardiac complications.
Ayurveda expert Dr Venugopal says that regular exercise will help in the management of diabetes. “We can prevent diabetes by regular exercises and controlling diet. Traditional Indian food is the best food. But our people have now taken to Western food habits which is one of the reasons for the fast spread of diabetes in India,” he feels.
According to him alternative system of medicine will go a long way in managing diabetes. The panchakarma therapy, a gift of Ayurveda, will not only stop complications but also prevent amputation of diabetic foot.
================================
Some startling facts and figures
================================

1. India currently has the world's largest diabetic population with an
estimated four crore people
2. Every sixth person is a diabetic in Hyderabad and other metropolitan cities
including Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
3. Every 15 minutes a legis lost to diabetes in India
4. In India 40,000 legs are amputed per year, most of them as a result of an
infection in the foot of someone with diabetes.
5. It is estimated that 1000 amputations take place in a year in Hyderabad,
3000 in Delhi and 4000 in Mumbai.
6. Eightyfive per cent of amputations can be prevented with early detection
and early interventions
===========
Early signs
===========
1. Increase in urine volume and frequency. It increases as the glucose levels in blood go up. Kidneys filter blood and try to rid it of excess glucose. Frequent urination means dehydration which seriously affects the health.
2. Increase in thirst. Since water is lost in excessive urination, the patient drinks more water. Excess sugar concentrates the blood and this also increases the thirst.
3. General weakness and fatigue.
4. Slow or rapid weight loss. Many patients with early diabetes notice they are actually eating more and yet losing weight.
5. Increased hunger and glucose though more in blood is not available for cells as fuel for energy.
6. Blurred vision may be noticed. This is because the fast increasing blood glucose levels can cause fluid shifts in the lens of the eye.
7. Infections of gums, bladder and skin. Women may notice recurrent urinary or vaginal infections.
8. Healing of wounds is slow in noninsulin-dependent cases.
9. Irritability; drowsiness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, or itching.
10. Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet

============
Diet Control
============
Diabetic patients should follow a strict dietary system to keep the disease under check. They must avoid the following foods.
1. Salt since it aggravates the problem.
2. Sugar as it only adds to the calories and carbohydrates.
3. Foods containing fat or high fat content.
4. Control intake of red meat to the extent possible.
5. Whole milk or milk products. Low fat milk is sufficient.
6. Tea and coffee. Take just two cups of the conventional tea or decaffeinated coffee in a day.
7. White flour and its products.
=================
Diabetic patients may take the following items in sufficient quantities to keep their body in good condition.
1. Bitter gourd as it contains plant insulin which reduces blood sugar levels.
2. Fenugreek seeds.
3. Jamun or Indian black plum or berry.
3. Garlic.
4. Onions.
5. Vegetables and foods with high fibre content.
6. Cinnamon solution
7. Foods containing anti-oxidants like lemon.
========
Types of Diabetes
========
Diabetes is of two types. It is classified commonly as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes or juvenile onset diabetes occurs mostly in children. Type 2 or adult onset diabetes occurs around 35-40 years of age.
Diabetes is a chronic disorder in which the body fails to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy. Many of the foods are normally converted into a type of sugar called glucose during digestion. The bloodstream then carries glucose through the body. The hormone, insulin, then turns glucose into quick energy or is stored for further use.
In diabetic people, the body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin correctly. This is why too much glucose builds in the bloodstream.
Diabetes in children: The body produces little or no insulin. It occurs most often in childhood or in the teens and could be inherited.
People with this type of diabetes need daily injections of insulin
Diabetes in adults: It is the most common diabetes. About 80 per cent of diabetic patients suffer from this. The pancreas produce enough insulin but the body cells
do not metabolise it. This type of diabetes is generally triggered by obesity.
=========
What causes diabetes
=========
In patients suffering from insulin-dependent diabetes the pancreas fail to make enough or stop making altogether insulin. Doctors believe that this type of diabetes is caused by an over-reactive immune system. A triggering factor confuses the body's defence system into attacking the beta cells of the pancreas and killing them. This autoimmune reaction may be triggered by a virus or by several viral infections.
Heredity and environment are other factors that cause insulin-dependent diabetes.
Diabetes is diagnosed when it is determined that a person's blood sugar is too high because of failure of insulin. The main effect of insulin is to regulate metabolism, the body's ability to utilize fuel. In diabetes, sugar metabolism is directly effected, however, the metabolism of our two other fuels, fat and protein is also effected.
Doctors use urine and blood tests to check for diabetes. In both, they are checking glucose levels. Glucose in the urine can be a sign of diabetes, although it is not always so. The doctor also may give a complete physical to check the heart, eyes and kidneys.
=========
How to manage diabetes
=========
Patients can help control their blood sugar and diabetes when they eat healthy, get enough exercise, and stay at a healthy weight. A healthy weight also helps patients control their blood fats and lower the blood pressure. Many people with diabetes also need to take medicine to help control their blood sugar.
Good food choices for diabetes are no different than what is recommended for all other people.
One can help control the blood sugar and diabetes by eating healthy, doing enough exercise, and staying at a healthy weight.
Doctors say that distributing meals and snacks throughout the day is important for people with diabetes. At least three meals are recommended.
Diet is a cornerstone of controlling diabetes. More than half of all adult diabetics manage their diabetes with diet rather than insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents.
===========
Panchakarma therapy for diabetes
===========
Ayurveda is highly effective in the treatment of diabetic foot, a dreadful
complication of diabetes. Almost 1.5 lakh people suffering from diabetes lose
their limbs every year due to non-healing of foot ulcers/wounds.
According to Dr NB Venugopala Rao, Nadisweda, a medical technique with
roots in Ayurveda, has been found to be useful in the treatment of diabetic
foot. "It helps in increasing the blood circulation in the peripheral blood
vessels thereby speeding up the recovery process. It prevents the formation of
gangrene," he points out.
In majority of cases, the blood vessels develop atherosclerosis, a condition
where the lumen of the blood vessels become narrow, decreasing the flow of
blood to a particular area or areas where the sensitivity of the skin decreases.
This condition is called diabetic neuropathy. It makes the foot susceptible to
injury. Ayurvedic drugs hold good for treatment of different types of chronic
ulcers like ischemic nature, deep vein thrombosis, occlusion of blood vessels.
Nadisweda is a modern adoption of age-old panchakarma technique, the
mainstay of many Ayurvedic therapies. "This is a combination of established
procedures in cleaning the wound by herbal decoction, administration of a set
of herbal drugs and application of steam to the injury," Dr Veugopala Rao
points out.
For washing, selective herbs are finely powdered, thoroughly mixed with
water and boiled. Medicated oil is applied on the affected part and exposed to
steam of a herbal mixture for about five minutes. The results have been 100
per cent successful, he claims.

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Rural disaster due to blind aping of World Bank: Study

November 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 10: The State government's "blind aping" of the World Bank model of agriculture is leading to "rural disaster" and severe crisis in the farming community.
According to a study presented at the third international conference on "Rural India", organised by two voluntary organisations in partnership with the Andhra Pradesh State government her on Thursday, the government pumped in huge finances to push an "industry-driven" agriculture which has finally led to "farmers' distress". Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy was the chief guest at the conference.
"Blindly aping the World Bank model of agriculture, Andhra Pradesh has pumped in huge finances to push an industry-driven agriculture that has not only exacerbated the crisis leading to an environment catastrophe but also destroyed millions of rural livelihoods, which echoes to "rural disaster".
As a result the State has turned into capital of shame for farmers' distress,
visible more through the increasing rate of suicides in the rural areas," point
out social scientists K Anand Sagar and Vijayanand Kommaluri.
In their report, "Rural Tsunami: A famine in 21st century", they took pot-shots at the State government accusing it of "rhetoric and statistics that have bred immunity against compassion".
The ground realities are far removed from the rhetoric, they pointed out adding that the statistics being rolled out by the government are immune against compassion. "We are all part of a global food system, which perpetuates poverty and deprivation. The claims of improved technology for agriculture ignore the stark realities like increasing indebtedness, growing poverty, resulting in human suffering and hunger," the study says.
Pointing out that farmers' suicides were due to man-made disaster (famine) rather than natural disaster (drought) due to failure of the State and its machinery, they said the State government should be aware of the fact that while drought conditions are caused by the vagaries of nature, a famine is not a natural phenomenon.
Most of the agricultural labourers have lost opportunities for gainful employment and small and medium farmers have been forced to leave their land fallow for want of water. They took Kalidindi mandal in Krishna district as a case study.
Kalidindi mandal is affected by coastal pollution and loses their total crop or
end up with poor growth of the cultivated organisms due to the poor quality of water. Increased siltation and sedimentation of coastal water is consequence of deforestation, mining and inappropriate agricultural practices in this area causes to degradation of soil, depletion of water level, which reflects the drought conditions in this mandal.
The state government insists on using the term "drought conditions" not famine. The provided solutions are really the causes for the problems in the first place and behaving like an ostrich is not going to eclipse hunger and death from politico-economic radar screens, the study observes.
"Unless the state government realises the facts and figures regarding rainfall, losses in terms of damage to crops and the extent of land left uncultivated and thrive to formulate the strategies for rural empowerment, the state economic polices like free electricity and enhancing bank credit will remain as proverbial Emperor's clothes," Anand and Vijaynand warns.
They suggest that the government should keep away from the idea of industrial farming since the majority of the population in India makes their livelihood with small portions of land and gainful employment from agricultural sector.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

5000 Muslim bodies refuse to register with AP Wakf Board

2005
From Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 5: The State Wakf Board is in trouble with about 5000 Muslim institutions with several properties attached to them refusing to register with it.
Section 36 of the Wakf Act 1995 makes it mandatory for management committees of mosques, dargahs chillas and other Muslim institutions to obtain registration with the State Wakf Board. The Survey Commissionerate of Wakfs, which is carrying out the second survey of Wakf institutions in the State after a gap of five decades, noticed that many Muslim bodies which came into existence after the first survey are not registered with the Wakf Board. The violation was more pronounced in Kurnool, Nellore, Prakasam, Medak and Hyderabad districts. Hyderabad city alone has about 400 unregistered Wakf bodies.
"We noticed that in Vizianagaram district about 100 Wakf bodies have failed to register themselves with the State Wakf Board. After a lot of persuation and warnings only a dozen have agreed for registration. The management committees are apprehensive that the Wakf Board will have complete control over the properties once they get registered with it. But we told them that registered wakf properties are more secure from encroachments," assistant survey commissioner (Wakf) MA Hameed Khan told this correspondent.
In the absence of properties not being registered as "Wakf", the Landgrab Court and the AP Wakf Tribunal would not entertain cases of encroachments. The government will also not pay compension in case of land acquisition from such institutions. It will also give scope for management committees of unregistered Wakf bodies to resort to corrupt practices like swindling of funds and sale of properties. The Board will lose revenue as every registered Wakf property has to pay six per cent of its income towards Wakf Fund.
So far in the second survey the wakf properties in the State increased by about 90 per cent both in terms of assets and institutions. The board, which had under its control 35,200 institutions when it was formed five decades ago, is now the proud custodian of 64,222 Wakf bodies spread across the State. The extent of land attached to Wakf institutions has also gone up from 1.33 lakh acres to 1.70 lakh acres. The net value of the Wakf Board is now estimated to be around Rs 65,000 crore, up from the earlier Rs 35,000 crore.
The ongoing second survey of Wakf properties has thus far identified 29,000 new Wakf institutions with landed properties extending to 40,000 acres. The survey has been completed in 15 districts and is at varying stages of completion in Hyderabad, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Medak, Rangareddy, Nizamabad and Visakhapatnam districts.
Once the survey is completed in these districts and the unregistered bodies secure registration from the Board, the total number of Wakf institutions and the extent of Wakf land will go up further. It is estimated that another 6000 Wakf institutions will be added to the list when the survey/registration is completed.

Friday, 28 October 2005

Vedic medical astrology growing popular


October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 28: Suffering from sexual debility or low sperm count. You need not consult an andrologist. Just wear a diamond of half carat or more on the ring finger of the right hand and your problem will get cured. And if you are a woman, the diamond should be set in white gold or platinum and worn in the ring finger of the left hand.
Welcome to the world of Vedic medical astrology and Vedic treatments. The Vedic medical astrology, which has its base in the ancient Indian religious texts of Vedas, is increasingly becoming popular in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and several other parts of the State. Vedic Astrology differs from western or tropical astrology mainly in that it uses the fixed zodiac. Vedic astrology uses the moving zodiac.
"Vedic medical astrology has cure for every health problem. The only thing is that the medical astrologer should be perfect in his knowledge of ancient scriptures. Every disease and every part of the human body is linked to some heavenly body like planet," says medical astrologer Ch Venkatasubbaiah.
He says venereal diseases and skin problems as also low sperm count are caused by the "bad placement" of Venus in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's Venus at birth. The cure for the problem lies in gemology, a part of medical astrology.
Vedic medical astrology is a branch of Vedic astrology which deals with the medical aspect of astrology. In this system of medicine, practised by saints and sages for thousands of years in ancient India, a Vedic medical astrologer draws a Vedic horoscope based on time, place and date of the birth of the "patient". The system believes that men and women suffer from different types of diseases which are exclusive to them, while a few are common among the two sexes.
"It works on the well-established system of bio-energy," he points out. According to Vedic medical astrology, health problems relating to brain and nervous system and emotional imbalances are a result of the bad placement of the moon in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's moon at birth. The cure is quite simple: wear a natural pearl of the size of a pea on the little finger of right hand (men) or left hand (women).
Says school teacher B Srinivas Rao, "my son used to neglect studies and used to spend time in playing. He also lacked concentration. I followed the prescription given by a medical astrologer. I just got my son a green emerald the size of a red bean in gold. He wore it on the little finger of the right hand and the results started showing up". In case of a girl, the green emerald should be worn in the left hand.
Argues Dr TM Rao of Gemini House of Astrology, "medical astrology is a diagnostic tool. A medical astrology chart can act as a road map, describing well the potential troubled areas in life. Various birth stars represents different parts of a human body. One can predict the future diseases in a person by going through the natal (birth) chart". Rao claims that even patients admitted to corporate hospitals have availed of the medical astrology for faster results.
Pointing out that the medical astrology is very effective since it is based on the Vedic knowledge, Rao points out to various astrological signs and the areas of the body they influence upon. They are: Aries (head), Tarus (lower jaw, throat, thyroid gland), Gemini (arms, lungs), Cancer (abdominal cavity, stomach), Leo (heart), Virgo (intestines, gall bladder), Libra (pancreas, spleen), Scorpio (reproductive organs), Sagittarius (hips, kidneys, liver, sciatic nerve and upper legs), Capricorn (skeletal structure, bones and knees), Aquarius (nervous system and lower legs), Pisces (feet,lymph glands, immune system).
Since planets like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto do not have a lordship over a house or a planetary period of their own, they are outside the purview of the Vedic medical astrology. Medical Astrology is a relatively unchartered and extremely specialized field by which a trained person, a doctor can look at the birth chart of a person when he or she is born and able to pin point the potential weakness or diseases or a potential weak organ of the body and forwarn the parents of the child.
According to the practitioners, it is a science and a healing art, which uses the
information, derived from one's astrology chart at birth to ascertain that individual's state of disease and wellness. The natal chart accurately describes
one's personality and one's potential internal conflicts, which can lead to
imbalances.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Qaris from Egypt, Iran spread message of peace in India

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 27: A group of Qaris from Egypt and Iran is currently on a mission to India to spread the message of peace during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan and wean away Muslim youth from illegal activities particularly terrorism.
The Qaris came to the city on Thursday after visiting several places in the country including the national capital Delhi. Qaris are people who are specialised in the art of Arabic phonetics and can recite the Holy Quran in the most beautiful of ways. The Qaris of Egypt are known for their exclusively attractive style of reading the Quranic verses.
The team will stay in Hyderabad till November 1 and will perform at various places including mosques. The Qaris will also interact with leaders of various religions during the stay in the city in a bid to foster peace and communal harmony. In Bidar the team was welcomed by Brendra Lingayya, head priest of a Lingayat temple.
"We are really overwhelmed by the tremendous response we got during our interaction with leaders of other religions. We know Indians maintain good cordial relations and communal harmony and our interaction with the people here has only reinforced our belief," says Egyptian Qari Shaik Ibrahim Juma Ibrahim.
Though Qaris from Egypt have been visiting India every Ramzan for the past 15 years, it is for the first time that Iran has deputed one of its Qaris to the city. The tradition of using the services of Qaris during Ramzan to spread the message of peace was first started in the country by former President Fakruddin Ali Ahmad.
The tradition was discontinued after his death. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi reinitiated the process and took up the issue with the Government of Egypt. However, the efforts bore fruits only in 1990, six years after her assassination. Since then the tradition has been continuing without break.
"The basic idea is to wean away youth from terrorism and terrorists. We want to create awareness among people that Islam is all about peace and religious tolerance," says Moulana Peerzada Shabbir Naqshbandi.
Chief Coordinator of the Qaris' tour Hafiz Fayyaz Ali, the Qaris will recite the Holy Quran on Friday at the historic Mecca Masjid before the Jumatul Vida prayers. They will also participate in a programme at Dargah Amrullah Shah in old city at 10.00 pm.
The Qari team comprises Shaik Ibrahim Juma Ibrahim, Shaik Abdullah bin Al Hussain, Shaik Mahmood Al Hassami Estavi and Iranin Aari Agha Pheroz Yavari Gul. The Iranian Consulate in Hyderabad is hosting the Iranian Qari. The State government has accorded "State Guest" status to the Qaris.

Monday, 24 October 2005

Hyderabad's contribution for Zakat


October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 24: Hyderabadis contribute the largest Zakat fund during Ramzan in the country with the charity totalling to a whopping Rs 100 crore.
About 60 per cent of the Zakat funds come from the one million and odd Hyderabadis residing abroad. Since Zakat is mandatory on well-to-do Muslims at the rate of 2.5 per cent of their total savings minus liabilities, the NRI Hyderabadis pump in the funds into the city during Ramzan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Hyderabadis in the USA, the UK, Dubai and Saudi Arabia give the highest contribution to the fund.
Hundreds of Zakat organisations collect the funds during the month and spend them mostly on distribution of clothes and utensils among the poor. Only a dozen bodies take up activities like payment of scholarships, widow pensions and construction of houses. As much as 95 per cent of the Rs 100 crore Zakat fund goes on unproductive and temporary works defeating the very purpose of the annual charity.
"It is wonderful that people in a single city donate Rs 100 crore in just one month. But in the absence of a centralised body to channelise the funds, the charity goes mostly in the form of alms-giving to the poor and the needy. If the funds are utilised for constructive purposes like setting up of industries, self-employment schemes and on educational institutions, the poverty percentage in the principal minority community could easily be reduced," feels Moulana Abdul Kareem. There is no systematic or organised system of collecting the funds for the common good of the poor in the minority community.
The Zakat fund in the city has been going up at the rate of five per cent every year thanks to increase in the wealth of NRI Hyderabadis. There are certain families in the city which singly contribute about Rs 2 crore each towards the Zakat fund. Hyderabad has 25 lakh Muslims constituting 35 per cent of the city's population. The city has the second largest Muslim concentration in the country after Kolkata but its Zakat contribution is more than that of the latter.
With the city pumping in so much money towards charity it is no wonder then about 5000 people from different parts of the State visit Hyderabad every day to collect Zakat. Some of those who collect Zakat from the city distribute them among the poor in districts, particularly in the backward Telangana.
About 5000 madrasas in Hyderabad and Telangana districts survive for the whole year on the Zakat funds they receive during Ramzan."Centralised system of collection of Zakat is a good idea but it is impracticable in our country," feels Abdur Raheem Qureshi, general secretary of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. Some persons give Zakat among close relatives while others give to charitable organisations. It is quite a difficult task to implement common zakat system.

Friday, 21 October 2005

Ashwamedha Yagam: A rare ritual resurrected in Hyderabad

October 21, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 20: Come December 11 and Hyderabad will witness the revival of a rare Vedic ritual that was practised by saints and kings thousands of years ago.
City-based Aananda Aashramam will organise the "Ashwamedha Yagam", a quite popular Vedic ritual in ancient India but gradually lost patronage about 2000 years ago. Being performed for the first time in modern India, Ashwamedha Yagam is aimed at achieving world peace, communal harmony, individual and societal development and general well-being of humanity.
A notable feature of this Yagam is that people of all communities, religions and castes can participate in it offering prayers to the Almighty and invoking His Blessings for all.
"It is once in a life time opportunity. Ashwamedha Yagam is of two types - Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam and Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam. Kings who performed Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam used to sacrifice a horse at the end of it. The Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam was performed by saints and divine personalities without involving animal sacrifice. We are going to observe the Snarta variety in Hyderabad, reviving the tradition that had become extinct long ago," says organiser (Yaga Kartha) Dr PV Sesha Sai.
It is the most solemn and impressive cultic celebration of the Vedas and at the same time it is one of the most secular and political. The priestly role is not here so prominent as in most of the other sacrifices.
The sankalpa for this Yaga took place in the month of Maha Maghi (February) this year and after lot of exercises, we have selected the bright day of Margasira maas coupled with Sunday and Revati Star, which falls on December 11. Initially, we planned for 11 days but it is now reduced to eight days.
Jagadguru Sri Ganeshanada Bharathi Mahaswami will bless the Yagam which is performed as per Vedic traditions. It is a satvik yaga with an objective of Viswa Kalyan and Viswa Shanti. Soorya Yagam, Sri Yagam, Rudra Yagam and Sudharshana Yagam will also be performed as part of the main Ashwamedha Yagam. There will also be Pasupatha Prakriya and Brahmastra all under one roof.
Participant individuals may participate in Sri Sowra Yagam (for political prosperity), Sri Varuna Yagam (timely rains), Sri Runa Vimochana Pasupatam (clearance of debts), Sri Kanya Pasupatam (for marriage), Sri Kubera Pasupatam (business development), Sri Mrutyunjaya Homam (long life), Sri Navagraha Pasupatam (relief from bad incidents). It is the first time that so many sub-yagams are performed along with Ashwamedha Yagam in the country.
Dr Sesha Sai points out that there is a clear distinction between the Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) as an outward rite and that as an inward yagam. The external rite is declared to be the ‘king of the rites' by Shatapatha Brahmana and the rite was performed by kings. Even though the rite itself is performed over a period of three days, it needed preparation for a year or two.
Ashva the steed is the standard symbol for life-energy or life-power prana both inside the human and in the cosmos and Medha means both `offering' and ‘intelligence'. Ashvamedha for saints means offering of the life-power with all its impulses, desires, enjoyments, frustrations and also its material counterpart. And for kings it is a royal sacrifice offered by a victorious rulers, he explains.
The programme will also include two Avadhanas, honoring of 108 couples,
108 students, 108 housewives and 108 small girls and recitation of Shri Vishnu Parayana for 1000 times, 100,00,000 Kunkumaarchana; Rudrabhishek using 100000 rudraakshaas and 108 Havan Kunds, besides a Sarva Dharma Sammelan to send a signal of oneness of the humankind. About 100 acres of land is selected for the Yagam and 300 Vedic scholars will participate in it. There will be horses, camels, elephants and cows for worship.

Puppet show: Mahabharata of a different kind


October 2005
By Syed Akbar
It's a Mahabharata of a different kind. Twenty-five puppets, one man and a dimly lit stage. The Indian epic virtually comes to life as French story-teller Massimo Schuster moves his puppets with emotion-filled dialogues and re-enacts the Mahabharata for full 90 minutes.
For the first time the Indian audience had an opportunity to witness the Mahabharata through the eyes and sensibilities of a foreigner. The narration was so powerful and dialogues so highly interactive that time simply flew away. There was no break in the one and a half hour puppet show.
Massimo Schuster's Theatre de l'Arc-en-Terre and the Alliance Francaise of Hyderabad presented a puppet show in Hyderabad on Mahabharata in association with the Department of Culture. Massimo came to India with his puppets after performing in over 50 countries.
President of the World Puppetry Organisation Massimo is also an actor, storyteller and director. The Mahabharata puppets are statue-like and created by Italian painter Enrico Baj and his son Andrea Baj. Though their faces are Western, the colourful costumes they wear are Indian in outlook. It was a conscious decision not to choose the kathputli look for Mahabharata and opt for an Indo-European appearance. "I can't stand people who have been here for two weeks and claim to know all about the country. I'm not Indian and I don't want to replicate," he says.
As Massimo further points out, "this mixture of West and East symbolises the universality of the characters". Even the music score is international ranging
from Indian Carnatic to Japanese drums and Finnish and Tibetan singing to Persian melodies and Western contemporary compositions. And there's Ustad Bismillah Khan's shehnai soothing the hearts.
Presenting Mahabharata through puppets is not an easy task for the French puppeteer. "It was a great challenge for me to present Mahabharata before the
Indian audience. My goal is not to come to India to tell the Mahabharata to Indians, but rather to show Indian audiences that their magnificent epic has been a source of interest and learning to a Western artiste who strongly believes that mutual knowledge and respect are the only sure means to make our world a better place," he observes.
It took nearly two years for Massimo to do the complete research before coming out with the puppet show. The French artiste drew inspiration from Peter Brook's 10-hour film on Mahabharata. Massimo presented the show in association with Francisco Niccolini, acclaimed dramaturge, author and art director. Massimo has read all the versions of Mahabharata including Kisari Mohan Ganguly’s English rendition to the notes of a French scholar who spent 20 years working on a translation.
And how come a French man took so much interest in an Indian epic? Massimo says he loves epics from around the world and believes that in a multi-cultural world the rich West must acknowledge and recognise the greatness of other cultures. "I am so impressed by the story of Pandavas that I came up with the puppet show to narrate the events in their life to audiences, both in India and in the West. In this kalyug, I think the Mahabharata is the perfect story to narrate, because people from every culture see themselves reflected in it," he observes.
The story begins with Massimo donning the role of Maharshi Vyasa. He performs alone, going back and forth from storytelling to straight acting to puppeteering. The highlight of the play is that Massimo talks directly to the audience to keep their interest alive and share emotions.
He creates platforms of different heights on the stage to symbolise the palace of Hastinapur, the Indraprastha, the forest where the Pandava brothers stayed during their exile and the hall where the evil game of dice was played. As the war draws near, the whole space between the platforms is turned into the battle field of Kurukshetra. He pours life into 25 characters from the epic tale of three generations. As Massimo sits on the stage along with his puppets telling the story of the victory of the good over the evil, the audience are transported back in time to the days of Mahabharata.
The Massimo's group has presented the shows at Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai and Dacca (Bangaladesh). His earlier theatrical adaptations include Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings) from Ethiopia and Shahnama from Persia.
Speaking of his next show, Massimo draws innumerable similarities between the Mahabharata and the Iliad. "Arjuna's travels are similar to those undertaken by Ulysses. The birth of Bhishma is similar to the birth of Achilles," he argues.

Thursday, 20 October 2005

Rare Vedic Ritual: Ashwamedha Yagam in Hyderabad


October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 20: Come December 11 and Hyderabad will witness the revival of a rare Vedic ritual that was practised by saints and kings thousands of years ago.
City-based Aananda Aashramam will organise the "Ashwamedha Yagam", a quite popular Vedic ritual in ancient India but gradually lost patronage about 2000 years ago. Being performed for the first time in modern India, Ashwamedha Yagam is aimed at achieving world peace, communal harmony, individual and societal development and general well-being of humanity.
A notable feature of this Yagam is that people of all communities, religions and castes can participate in it offering prayers to the Almighty and invoking His Blessings for all.
"It is once in a life time opportunity. Ashwamedha Yagam is of two types - Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam and Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam. Kings who performed Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam used to sacrifice a horse at the end of it. The Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam was performed by saints and divine personalities without involving animal sacrifice. We are going to observe the Snarta variety in Hyderabad, reviving the tradition that had become extinct long ago," says organiser (Yaga Kartha) Dr PV Sesha Sai.
It is the most solemn and impressive cultic celebration of the Vedas and at the same time it is one of the most secular and political. The priestly role is not here so prominent as in most of the other sacrifices.
The sankalpa for this Yaga took place in the month of Maha Maghi (February) this year and after lot of exercises, we have selected the bright day of Margasira maas coupled with Sunday and Revati Star, which falls on December 11. Initially, we planned for 11 days but it is now reduced to eight days.
Jagadguru Sri Ganeshanada Bharathi Mahaswami will bless the Yagam which is performed as per Vedic traditions. It is a satvik yaga with an objective of Viswa Kalyan and Viswa Shanti. Soorya Yagam, Sri Yagam, Rudra Yagam and Sudharshana Yagam will also be performed as part of the main Ashwamedha Yagam. There will also be Pasupatha Prakriya and Brahmastra all under one roof.
Participant individuals may participate in Sri Sowra Yagam (for political prosperity), Sri Varuna Yagam (timely rains), Sri Runa Vimoc-hana Pasupatam (clearance of debts), Sri Kanya Pasupatam (for marriage), Sri Kubera Pasupatam (business development), Sri Mrutyunjaya Homam (long life), Sri Navagraha Pasupatam (relief from bad incidents). It is the first time that so many sub-yagams are performed along with Ashwamedha Yagam in the country.
Dr Sesha Sai points out that there is a clear distinction between the Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) as an outward rite and that as an inward yagam. The external rite is declared to be the ‘king of the rites' by Shatapatha Brahmana and the rite was performed by kings. Even though the rite itself is performed over a period of three days, it needed preparation for a year or two.
Ashva the steed is the standard symbol for life-energy or life-power prana both inside the human and in the cosmos and Medha means both `offering' and ‘intelligence'. Ashvamedha for saints means offering of the life-power with all its impulses, desires, enjoyments, frustrations and also its material counterpart. And for kings it is a royal sacrifice offered by a victorious rulers, he explains.
The programme will also include two Avadhanas, honoring of 108 couples, 108 students, 108 housewives and 108 small girls and recitation of Shri Vishnu Parayana for 1000 times, 100,00,000 Kunkumaarchana; Rudrabhishek using 100000 rudraakshaas and 108 Havan Kunds, besides a Sarva Dharma Sammelan to send a signal of oneness of the humankind.
About 100 acres of land is selected for the Yagam and 300 Vedic scholars will participate in it. There will be horses, camels, elephants and cows for worship. Kuchipudi, Bharata natyam, vocal, carnatic, hindustani and mrigandam artistes will give live performance during the programme.

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Mother's Care

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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

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