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.

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