Sunday, 31 December 2006

In name of Almighty, it’s time for charity


Published in Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age on Sunday, 31 Dec 2006:
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Bakrid or Id-ul-Adha is not just a festival of ritual
sacrifice. It is a festival of charity too.
Like the other grand Muslim festival of alms giving or Id-ul-Fitr, Bakrid
brings cheers to millions of poor people living across the globe and pours
in charity enough for several orphanages and madrasas to fend themselves
for a few months.
The tradition of sacrifice dates back to the grand prophet, Hazrat Ibrahim
(peace be upon him), known to Jews and Christians as Abraham. The meat of
sacrificial animals is divided into three parts. One part is distributed
among friends and relatives, the second part is meant for the poor and
needy and the third portion is for self consumption.
It has been a tradition among Muslims right from the times of the Holy
Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) to
donate the skin of the sacrificial animal. The skin or the proceeds from
its sale is to be donated to orphanages, madrasas or charitable
organisations.
Estimates show that over five million animal skins are distributed during
the Bakrid in India alone. The largest donation in the form of skin comes
from Mumbai, followed by Hyderabad by virtue of their large Muslim
population.
In Andhra Pradesh, skins worth Rs 30 crore are donated among charitable
institutions. If valued the meat portion distributed among the poor and
needy runs into Rs 400 crores. This figure for the whole of India means a
few thousand crores. According to Muhammad Saleem, former Andhra Pradesh
Wakf board chairman and vice-president of the All-India Jamiat-ul-Quraish,
about 20 lakh sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed on Bakrid and the
subsequent two days.
"The idea behind celebrating Islamic festivals is not just to rejoice but
to remember the pangs and troubles of the havenots. God Almighty has given
so much to us and it is our duty to remember the unfortunate ones at least
on the Id days. Besides the skin of animals, one-third of the meat is also
distributed among the poor. Mosques are not qualified to receive donation
of skins or the sale proceeds from them. Festivals are for people and the
poor have a greater right over the charity," observes Moulana Hafiz Syed
Shujath Hussain.
Besides individual sacrifices of animals, sacrifice is also
institutionalised in Hyderabad and other parts of the country. Several
charitable and Zakat organisations have been collecting the cost of the
animal for sacrifice from those who cannot do the same on their own. The
facility is being largely utilised by non-resident Indian Muslims,
particularly those living in the West.
The Hyderabad Zakat and Charitable Trust is collecting Rs 2,400 per sheep
for sacrifice on Bakrid.
There is also a provision for distribution of the entire meat among the
poor, in case the person is an NRI.
Moulana Shaik Najeeb Ahmad says the sacrifice of animals on the Bakrid is
more than just a ritual. The Almighty tests the person sacrificing the
animal whether it is being done with pure intentions or as a show or pomp.
"The Almighty makes it clear in the Holy Quran that neither the blood nor
the flesh of sacrificial animals reach Him. It is the piety and pure
intentions and the spirit behind the sacrifice that counts with the
Almighty," he says.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Kolleru back to its prestine glory


December 27,2006
Environment: Looking Back at 2006
By Syed Akbar
The year 2006 will go down the history as the "year of environment" as far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned. The State witnessed the biggest-ever environment restoration operation in the country in the form of removal of age-old encroachments from Kolleru, Asia's largest fresh water lake.
The YSR government took up the "Operation Kolleru Clean up", a daunting ecological task which no other government in the past dared to even think it of. Most of those who encroached upon the lake and converted it into small fish ponds are influential persons with political affiliations. Leaders belonging to the ruling Congress, main Opposition Telugu Desam and other political parties including the BJP had been enjoying the rights over the lake, albeit illegally. Dislodging them was nothing short of stirring the hornet's nest.
But with the intervention of Supreme Court, the State government mustered enough courage to throw away the encroachers and restore the lake to its original pristine glory. The result are for everyone to see: No floods in Khammam, Krishna and West Godavari districts this rainy season and migratory birds from Siberia have flocked the lake for the first time in two decades this winter.
The State government completed such a massive restoration work in a record six months time after it launched it in January. Kolleru, spread over 900 sq km between Krishna and Godavari districts, is the largest fresh water body in Asia. The only other lake that matches Kolleru in the continent in terms of its grandeur and beauty is Chilka lake, but then Chilka is a brackish water body and not a fresh water one.
With the Kolleru lake being restored, Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has recommended West Godavari district collector Luv Agarwal for Padmasri award. The district collector restored the lake unmindful of the strong protests from farmers and politicians.
Thousands of acres of rich agricultural land in Krishna and Godavari deltas used to be submerged every rainy season causing heavy damage to standing crops. Kolleru is a natural lake which is fed by as many as a dozen streams and channels and is emptied by a channel, Upputeru, into the Bay of Bengal. As the fish ponds had been obstructing the flows into and out of the lake, thousands of acres of land and hundreds of residential areas used to get submerged after every heavy downpour.
For the first time in three decades there were no floods in the catchment area
of the lake. Kolleru is bird sanctuary and a protected forest area and yet the
government could not remove the encroachments all these years. The lake attracts more than 185 bird species and new species continue to be discovered. The lake also boasts of four rare bird species and 12 endangered ones. Kolleru is a protected area for pelicans and some come from as far away as Siberia.
Since the lake has 10 contours, some parts of the lake dry up during summer.
The erstwhile British government granted pattas to local people to cultivate
paddy during summer. The State government introduced co-operative farming in 1954. This led to gradual encroachment of the lake and by 1969 almost the entire lake had been encroached. As much as 21 lakh acres of the lake bed had been encroached up by paddy fields which were later converted into fish ponds upsetting the delicate ecological balance.
The economic boom led to construction of pucca roads and bridges obstructing the free flow of water.
Pressure on the lake led to proliferation of weeds leading to reduction in the
catchment area. A major ecological problem called, eutrophication, resulted in the lake. Fish production came down drastically.
The water spread in Kolleru varies from 135 sq km at plus 3 mean sea level to 901 sq km at plus 10 msl.
According to a report prepared by the Andhra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, about a dozen major industries release 7.2 million litres of effluents into the lake daily. Moreover 17,000 tonnes of fertilisers are also emptied into the water body.

America influenced Nazis, says American author-journalist Harry Bruinius


December 27, 2006
By syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 26: American quest for racial purity in the early part of the last
century had influenced the Nazis resulting in the Holocaust, says American author-journalist Harry Bruinius.
Harry, who is in the city promoting his award-winning book, "Better for all the
world", has documented as many as 60,000 cases of forced sterilisation in the United States as part of ethnic cleansing and racial purity. The United States was the pioneer in the legal, administrative and technical aspects of eugenic sterilisation and the Nazi Germany borrowed its ideas and applied them in an unprecedented way.
"One of the first laws passed by the National Socialist government of Adolph Hitler
was the "Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring," and its language and structure closely followed the work of Harry Laughlin. In less than two years, over 150,000 German citizens were forced to undergo the procedure, preparing the way for the genocide to come. In 1936, when the German sterilisation campaign was at its early height, the Nazi regime, through the auspices of Heidelberg University, awarded Laughlin an honorary doctorate for his many contributions to racial
hygiene," he pointed out.
Harry told this correspondent that the American States had ensured that women,
particularly white, were sterilised to "wipe out" racial "impurity" and continue the original genetic make-up of the white population. About 60 per cent of the people who were forcibly sterilised were women.
The young American author had accessed to letters, diaries and public records as
part of his research work published in the form of "Better for all the World". "The research trail for the American eugenics movement led me to a number of archives around the country. The most exciting collections turned out to be the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives in New York, where I found a treasure trove of untapped sources on the family life of Charles Davenport, including the diaries of his father and mother. I corrected a long-established understanding of Davenport, which maintained that he had been beset by "conflicting influences" as a child, torn
between a severe Puritan father and a sceptical, science-loving mother. Not so. As was made clear in his mother’s diaries, she was just as pious as his father, and far from science-loving. Over the years, Davenport's memories of his mother evolved, and in his later life he had completely forgotten her, describing her to biographers with the personality of his wife," Harry pointed out.
Harry was the first researcher to lay hands on the confidential medical records of
Carrie and Emma Buck after the law was changed in early 2002. He said the American eugenics movement, which, unlike England, passed actual legislation to breed genetically superior citizens, stemmed in part from a unique American self-understanding.
"Since the time of the Puritans, Americans have seen themselves as a "city upon a
hill," a nation liberated from the old world and its history. Americans have long seen themselves as a "peculiar people," chosen by God to come to this land of Edenic lushness, where material abundance, good health, and moral purity can reign free. Americans have often defined their civic and spiritual lives through this Biblical image, and have remained relentlessly optimistic, ever confident that the burdens of history and the evils of the past can be swallowed up in this new Jerusalem, this paradise regained in America," Harry said.
Many of the eugenics movement’s leaders were New England Protestants, and, using an
evangelical tone which harked back to their Puritan forbearers, they proclaimed that the goal of their scientific program was to keep the "American stock" pure by excising the causes of immoral behaviour. They saw eugenics as critical to renewing
America, purifying it not only from disease, but from moral impurity as well.
He said eugenics was, however, an Anglo-American idea, and the United States was
indeed the pioneer in state-sanctioned programs of better breeding, which included forced sterilisation, antimiscegenation, and immigration restriction. Germany had its own history of eugenic research, which dated back to the late 19th century, and many of its eugenic programs rose out German research

The truth about polygraph, nacroanalysis and brain-mapping

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 27: The ultra-modern narcoanalysis and brain-mapping are not as effective as the age-old polygraph or lie-detector test in establishing a criminal act.
Even as the special TADA court has permitted the CBI to conduct narcoanalysis and brain-mapping on mafia don Abu Salem, forensic experts in Hyderabad feel that the tests will not reveal anything new to the investigating agency. "The tests are not only unethical but also unreliable. They are not foolproof and the evidence is not applicable in a court of law," says a senior official of Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory.
Brain-mapping and narcoanalysis are carried out in India at only two forensic science laboratories in Bangalore and Ahmedabad since the tests involve risk to the life of the accused undergoing them. Though the APSFSL
has the facilities it is not carrying out these tests as forensic officials do not want to "waste" time on something which is not "standardised".
During his recent visit to the city Dr Farevell, who invented the technology, admitted that it was not as effective as the basic lie-detector test. Asked why he had not standardised the technology, he pointed that a news photographer, a reporter, an investigating police official and criminal, if subjected to the test, would give the same brain patterns since all of them had witnessed the crime or visited the scene of offence. "If this is the case how can you standardise the test," he shot back.
The narcoanalysis test is conducted on the presumption that a person under the influence of intoxication (like a drunkard) would always speak the truth. "We all know how much truth a person under the influence of alcohol will reveal. Similar is the result of narcoanalysis test," the forensic official said.
To illustrate the ineffectiveness of these two tests, the official, giving the example of stamp scamster AK Telgi, pointed out that though he had undergone the tests thrice the investigating agency could not recover even Rs 1 crore of the Rs 24,000 crore scandal. The question posed was why should the CBI make Telgi undergo tests thrice if they were really effective.
On the other hand, the simple polygraph or lie-detector test is generally 90 per cent reliable. If it is carried out by an expert the result is 100 per cent accurate, the official said.
What is narcoanalysis test: Since a person may lie in a conscious state, he or she will be subjected to drugging to suppress or neutralise the imagination or conscious mind. Once the person becomes semi-conscious, it is presumed that it becomes difficult for him to lie. The answers he gives are simple facts.
Narcoanalysis tests are conducted only with the permission of court since risk is involved. A team of medical experts including an anaesthetist and a neurologist conduct the test which generally lasts for two hours.
Before the test begins, doctors inject sodium pentothal or sodium amytal into the person undergoing the investigation. The dosage depends from person to person. Some require higher dosage to "speak out" the truth while others may do with a small amount. A wrong dose may throw the person into coma or even death.
Once the medicine starts working, the investigating officer puts questions which are generally specific and simple. Since the person is semi-conscious, police officials believe, whatever he or she speaks is truth and nothing but truth. The answers are said to be spontaneous.
Brain-mapping or P300 test: This investigating test is based on the electric impulse or wave generated in the brain when a person recognises something.
This test also involves expertise as any small mistake will cause harm to the person. Sensors are attached to the head. The person is asked to sit before a computer monitor. Computerised images and sounds are played and experts ask the person to recognise them. The electric waves generated when the person really recognises the pictures or sounds are different when he pretends not to know them. The sensors attached to the head record the electrical activity in the brain and register P300 waves. The P300 waves are generated only when the person recognises the images or sounds.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

How several tribes turned into caste groups

2006

By Syed Akbar

India, with its dozens of populations, presents a veritable museum of
humanity. It is the land of tribals and caste groups, not to speak of the numerous religious populations. A little peep into the past and analysis of the genetic data of different Indian populations shows that many groups, which were originally tribal in nature, have now become caste populations. And this transformation from "tribal" to "caste" groups may outwardly appear to be a simple sociological phenomenon, but a recent study reveals that it has genetic structure too.
The Hyderabad-based anthropology unit of the Indian Statistical Institute in its study on north-east Indian populations has established the effect of the sociological process of a Tribe-Caste continuum on genetic structure.
In north-eastern States of India there are two clusters of populations, Caucasoid caste populations on one side and Mongoloid tribal groups on the other. In between are the populations which were originally tribes but now have become semi-Hinduised caste groups, viz., Rajbanshi, Ghutiya, and Ahom. These groups have currently assumed caste status and speak Indo-European languages.
According to Dr B Mohan Reddy and Vikrant Kumar of Indian Statistical Institute, these tribes over a period of time assumed the characteristics and status of castes and this transformation of a tribe into a caste results in a Tribe-Caste continuum. A few such cases are Bhumij, Kharia, Bauris and Raj Gonds.
"This sociological concept of a Tribe-Caste continuum postulates that one end of the continuum is formed by caste populations, while the tribal populations constitute the other end. In between are the populations who were once tribes but gradually adopted the attributes of the caste population and ultimately became absorbed as an integral part of a caste system, albeit at the lowest rung of caste hierarchy," they point out.
One of the best examples is that of Rajbanshi, which claims to be Kshatriya, although a majority of them are Koch. Similar processes were reported from other groups such as the Dimasa of Tripura, Jantia of Jaintipur and Koch of Cooch Behar. The dwindling of Kachari groups from a large number of about 30 to 10 at present is said to be a result of this process, they said.
As part of the study the scientific group examined the gene frequency data for 11 genetic markers commonly available in the literature for 22 populations of north-eastern India in the light of their geographic, linguistic, and ethnic affiliations. The markers investigated were blood groups, serum proteins and enzyme systems.
The neighbour-joining tree and multidimensional scaling of the distance matrix suggest relatively high genetic differentiation among the Mongoloid groups, with probably diverse origins when compared to the Caucasoid Indo-European populations, which had probably come from relatively more homogeneous backgrounds. Broadly speaking, the pattern of population affinities conforms to the ethno-historic, linguistic, and geographic backgrounds, Dr Mohan Reddy and Vikrant Kumar observed.
The north-eastern part of India is inhabited by numerous endogamous tribes and castes that have their own distinct social, linguistic and biological identity. It has been hypothesised that a plethora of migrations, particularly through the north-east Indian corridor, has contributed to the present-day population of north-eastern India. Ethnically speaking, most of the tribal groups are Mongoloids, whereas caste groups are either Caucasoid or show a mosaic of features of both the ethnic groups. The Mongoloids/Indo-Mongoloids have come to India from different directions at different times and perhaps earlier than the Caucasoid.
While the Mongoloids have migrated from eastern, south-eastern and central Asian regions, the Caucasoid may have entered from western and northern boundaries of this region. While a majority of the Mongoloids are tribes affiliated with the Tibeto-Chinese linguistic family, excepting Khasi, most of the Caucasoid are caste groups and speak Indo-European languages. Although these groups have been broadly classified on the basis of language and ethnicity, they show considerable variations within these broad categories, they said.
Both the Mongoloid and Caucasoid groups show a certain degree of differentiation within themselves in cultural and biological traits such as anthropometry, genetic markers, and dermatoglyphics.
The study also confirms the hypotheses that Mongoloids have entered north-eastern India at different points of time by different routes and therefore might represent different parental stocks. On the other hand, the Caucasoid populations except for the Brahmins and Chetri of Sikkim, have migrated from the western route of north-eastern India. As far as the Brahmins and Chetri of Sikkim are concerned, they came from Northern India to Nepal and then to north-eastern India around the 19th century.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Madarasa in Hyderabad introduces research studies for women

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 19: A city madarasa has introduced a research course in Islamic studies exclusively for women.
The madarasa, which launched Shoba-e-Tehqeeq (department of research) recently, has enrolled eight women for "Al-duktoora" (doctrate) studies in Islamic history, calligraphy, Muslim contribution in various fields and the biographical research of Muslim saints and early Islamic scholars including those of the Prophet's period.
Jamiatul Mominath has earlier created ripples in the Muslim society in the country by introducing Mufti course for women. Some of the women Muftis, who passed the course this year, are now pursuing research studies leading to the award of "Al-duktoora" degree. The women research scholars will travel to various parts of the country to collect data for their research project.
Says Mufti Mastan Ali, chief mufti of Jamiatul Mominath, "ours is the first madarasa in the country and perhaps in the world to introduce research studies exclusively for women. The research guides will also be women. We are trying to obtain affiliation with leading Islamic educational institutes worldwide for recognition of our degrees".
The madarasa received applications for the new research project from 100 women candidates and after a scrutiny, written test and viva voce it selected seven students. It will provide scholarships to the candidates to pursue the course. The students will have to complete the research project within a period of two years and the thesis they submit will be sent to eminent Islamic organisations for evaluation.
Muftiya Anees Fatima, who has been selected for the project, told this correspondent that she would be pursuing research on great Islamic scholar of yore Hazrat Imam Abu Yusuf and his personality and educational contribution to the development of then Muslim society. "It is really a honour for me to be associated with the unique project," she said.
Another candidate, Muftiya Naziya Azeez, who is pursuing research on Hazrat Aisha, wife of the Holy Prophet, pointed out that her project would throw light on the contribution of Hazrat Aisha to the development of Muslim women.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

With instances of theft on the rise in the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Madina during the Haj, the Indian Consulate in Jeddah warns Indian pilgrims to be cautious while performing the Haj

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.

Friday, 15 December 2006

No scope for reservations for minorities in the Defence Services

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 15: Chief of Army Staff General JJ Singh on Friday said 
there was no scope for reservations for minorities in the Defence Services.
"The armed forces have always been going for merit. We need people of the 
highest efficiency. The recruitment is purely on merit basis and there is no 
scope for quota for any section of society," Gen Singh observed.
Interacting with reporters after reviewing the passing out parade at the Air 
Force Academy at Dindigul here, Gen Singh pointed out the Indian Army 
had taken several measures to check increasing incidents of fragging and 
suicide. "Every life is precious. We are concerned over this and have taken 
all possible measures in this regard", he observed.
Gen Singh pointed out there were several factors behind fratricide and 
suicide. "They are partly professional, partly personal and party socio-
economic. We are analysing each and every case and taking corrective 
measures. Such measures are being institutionalised," he said.
There have been as many as 400 incidents of fragging and suicide in the 
Indian armed forces during the past four years. This works out to about 100 
cases per year.
Asked about the brain drain in the Armed forces, Gen JJ Singh felt the 
shortage of qualified personnel would be over come in the next few years. 
"All our academies are full. Always we have a large number of volunteers 
ready to join as ranks and officers. There is heavy demand for officers. We 
do not want to make up the deficiency by lowering the standards. We need 
efficient people and we will make up the shortage in a few years," Gen Singh 
said.
To a question on why women are not preferring army, Gen Singh said 
women had always been part of the Indian Army. "We have taken several 
measures in this regard. Women's training is same as that of short 
commissioned course," he observed.
He said "Air Power had revolutionised all other forms of warfare, and it had 
itself undergone profound changes with ever accelerating advances in 
technology. the present decade is likely to see even more dramatic changes in 
weapons technology - very nature of warfare," Gen Singh said.
He denied reports that there was no synergy between the three branches of 
Armed forces.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Sabarmati Sangeet: Mahatma Gandhi's Sangeet to relieve stress

By Syed Akbar
As the sun takes rest for the day, a group of young people sits together in Hyderabad rending the famous songs of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, creating an aura of patriotism, communal harmony and in the process relieving their stress.
"Sabarmati Sangeet", as the patriotic and religious songs sung by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers at the historic Sabarmati Ashram are fondly called by this group, has been helping stress-ridden youngsters to improve upon their health.
DVK Vasudevan, a young music instructor in the University of Hyderabad, and his group of friends have found a new way of fighting stress through the rendition of the Sabarmati Sangeet. He now plans to involve the common public by organising such events in public every weekend at the Bapu Ghat in the city.
"Sabarmati Sangeet helps us in two ways. First, to spread the message of peace, patriotism and communal harmony among our youngsters. Second, it will help in relieving tension and stress. The songs are so powerful that they give a soothing effect to the listeners. Any song that brings peace to the body and the mind will improve blood circulation thus relieving stress," says Vasudevan.
The Sabarmati songs are excellent and enthralling as well. The songs were written by great saints like Meerabai, Tulasidas, Kabir and Gurunanak and were quite popular in those days. "Except for a couple of songs, most of our present day generations do not remember them. The idea is to revive the Sabarmati tradition in Hyderabad to achieve peace for the mind and good health for the body," he points out.
Unfortunately most of the Sabarmati songs have lost their importance after the assassination of the Mahatma in 1948. The group wants to wean away the modern youths from pop and foreign culture and imbibe in them the cultural, devotional, religious and moral values of India.
He said the members of Sanskriti, an organisation run by Vasudevan and his friends, took an oath to fill the gap by building a bridge in the name of Sabarmati Sangeet between traditional and posh cultures. They
designed a programme by taking very popular bhajans of Mahatma Gandhi and giving a free training to all those interested.
Some of the songs being popularised by the young group are:
1. Raghupathi raghava rajaram pateeta pavan seetharam; 2. Vaishnava janatho tene kahiye; 3. Hey jagatratha viswa vidhatha hey sukh santhiniketanhe; 4. Tuhi ram hai, tu rahim hai, tu karim krishna khuda huva; 5. Man lago mere yaar fakeereeme man lago mere yaar phakeereeme; 6. Janakinath sahay kare jab, kon bigaadu kare nar tero;
7. Ka ranjale ganjale, pyasi mhano jo aaple; 8. Chakar rakho ji, man chakar rakho ji, giridhar lala; 9. Ram kaho rehman kaho, kovu kanh kaho mahadevari; 10. Utha jag musaphir bhor bhayee, ab raina kahan jo sovath hai; 11. Payoji maine ram ratan dhan payo; 12. Sri ramachandra kripalu bhaja man harana bhava - bhaya darunaam; 13. Deenana dukh haran deva santhan hitakari; 14. Mero to giridhar gopal, doosara na koyi and 15. Sadho manka maan tyago, kaam krodh sangath durjankitate ahanis bhago.
"Music has its own importance, the reason being that it is omnipresent. Sabarmati sangeet plays a crucial role because of their beautiful meaning in the lyrics. These songs have their own importance and power," points out group member G Dronendra Phani Kumar.
Nature has its own rhythm and pitch and even the human body has its own rhythm and pitch like heart beat and pulse rate and this rhythm is nothing but the main part of music, he argues while propagating the cause of Sabarmati Sangeet as part of their music therapy programme.
The group has now approached the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation and the Tourism Department for permission to use the premises of Bapu Ghat where the ashes of the Mahatma are buried. "There's no place better than Bapu Ghat to spread the message of Sabarmati Sangeet," they argue.

Monday, 11 December 2006

The Year 2038 Problem

2006
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 now by 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".

Saturday, 9 December 2006

World AIDS Day – AIDS emerges as the leading cause of death


(December 1, 2006)
By Syed Akbar
As the world observes the AIDS Day on December 1, the World Health Organisation
projects AIDS as the leading cause of death, followed by depression, heart diseases
and road accidents.
The WHO’s updated ‘burden of disease’ projections released this month gain
significance in the backdrop of India emerging as one of the few countries with
projected large population suffering from AIDS/HIV infection. India at present has
3.5 million people afflicted with the disease and the number is fast increasing.
Andhra Pradesh leads the States in the country.
The WHO’s projections also assume importance as India accounts for 16 per cent of
the world’s population and 21 per cent f the world’s global burden of disease,
including AIDS. The WHO’s projection is for the year 2030 and its statistics are
based on the 2002 figures.
The WHO revised this November its projection on global burden of diseases giving
AIDS the status of the Killer No. 1. With fast paced life, depression, particularly
of the unipolar (single mood) variety has emerged as the second leading cause of
death. Depression includes trouble sleeping, loss of weight and agitated and
irritable behaviour. One of the characteristic features of unipolar depression is
that people who suffer from it put on a "happy face" in front of others, while deep
down they feel quite depressed and disinterested in life.
Cardiac diseases particularly of the ischaemic type and road accidents occupy the
third and the fourth slot in the updated projections of global mortality and burden
of diseases, 2002-2030 released by the WHO a few days ago.
According to the WHO report, global HIV/AIDS deaths may rise from 2.8 million in
2002 to 6.5 million in 2030 if the anti-retroviral drugs reach 80 per cent of people
by 2012. In the most optimistic scenario with increased prevention activity,
HIV/AIDS deaths may drop to 3.7 million by the projected year.
Another disturbing factor is the emergence of tobacco-related deaths. The WHO
projects total tobacco-attributable deaths to 6.4 million in 2015 and 8.3 million in
2030 from the present 5.4 million. Tobacco is projected to kill 50 per cent more
people in 2015 than HIV/AIDS, and to be responsible for 10 per cent of all deaths
worldwide.
Eminent sexologist Dr K Swayam Prakash says that the regulatory mechanism has to be
strengthened to a great extent to detect and stop malpractices in blood banking.
“Greater coordination between national/ state blood transfusion councils and drug
control authorities is needed. Training and orientation of drug inspection in the
field needs to be speeded up and made more effective in fulfilling their regularly
functions,” he pointed out.
The latest UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic estimates that 65 million
people have been infected with HIV, of whom some 25 million have died since the
start of the epidemic 25 years ago. The rate of new HIV infections continues to
climb every year, with an estimated 4.1 million people having been infected in the
twelve months ending December 2005. Globally, the total number of people living with
the virus also continues to grow, reaching 38.6 million at the end of 2005 and
trends indicate that left unchecked the epidemic will continue to increase.
In other words, at this stage of the global AIDS epidemic there are more HIV
infections every year than AIDS-related deaths.
With the WHO projecting an alarming scenario for AIDS, the National AIDS Control
Organisation has increased its efforts to move towards centralizing blood
transfusion services and to reduce fragmentation in management, especially in urban
areas. In rural and difficult to access areas, stand alone or small blood banks will
be encouraged. It will also continue to have quality management in blood banking.
“All aspects like processes, products, equipment, consumables etc. would
increasingly be subjected to quality assurance procedures, so that a safe and
reliable transfusion services can be provided,” says a NACO strategy report.

Psycho-social counselling to form part of disaster management


(October 30, 2006)
By Syed Akbar
The National Disaster Management Authority has now made a provision for
psycho-social counselling of victims of natural calamities. The NDMA,
which has been entrusted with the task of framing India's first-ever National
Disaster Management Policy, feels that psycho-social counselling of victims
will reduce their mental trauma and bring them back to normal life at a faster
pace.
The National Disaster Management Policy, which is likely to be in place by
New Year, lays emphasis on mental relief as much as on physical succour.
The NDMA is all set to submit its draft policy to Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh in a couple of week for Cabinet approval and necessary legislation.
Addressing trauma or psychological injury in natural or man-made calamities
has always been a Herculean task. Governments and social workers
worldwide encounter the delicate situation of supplying relief to victims vis-
à-vis consoling them to reduce the untold mental trauma or shock they had
undergone.
But the case had been quite different in India all these years. Central and
State governments as also humanitarian aid groups simply concentrated on
providing relief and rehabilitation. They did not focus on psychological
counselling to reduce mental and physical trauma. Consequently, the victims
continued to suffer mentally for many years despite being rehabilitated
physically. The tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean two years ago had opened
the eyes of policy makers and planners in India forcing them to come out
with a disaster management policy with a thrust on psycho-social
counselling.
"Management of trauma, both mental and physical, is an important issue in
case of natural calamities. We can reduce the physical trauma but managing
the mental trauma is not an easy task. We are going in for a comprehensive
approach with regard to psycho-social support and trauma counselling. One
of the suggestions we have received is to involve the victims in relief works
so that it could lessen their mental shock," National Disaster Management
Authority member Lt. Gen (rtd) Dr JR Bhardwaj said.
Dr Bhardwaj, who was in Hyderabad recently along with NDMA vice-
chairman Gen NC Vij and other members for a feedback from intellectuals
and scientists on the draft National Disaster Management Policy, admitted
that India was not well equipped to tackle trauma cases in major disasters or
calamities. The NDM policy will lay down certain guidelines on this issue.
Unfortunately in India trauma care is yet to receive its due importance as an
emergency medical service. Even in big cities trauma care does not form part
of the regular medical service.
Internationally renowned trauma care expert David Romig of the Emergency
Medical Care Service, San Francisco, USA, feels that lack of basic trauma
care in India was one of the main reasons for the escalation in the number of
deaths, be it in accidents or natural calamities. "Doctors alone cannot do it.
There should be proper awareness among people too," Romig, who was in
the country recently, pointed out.
This is precisely the reason why the NDMA has plans to involve the local
community in relief and rehabilitation programmes. It also aims at creating
awareness, providing the infrastructure and ensuring access to the
infrastructure in emergency situations.
The major task the NDMA is going to put on the shoulders of the Central and
the State governments is upgradation of the existing medical services
including state-of-the-art ambulance facilities. The country need to train
paramedical staff to deal with natural calamities, which warrant mandatory
trauma care during what health experts call the "golden hour" (the crucial
period immediately after the tragedy).
"Victims of natural disasters or major man-made accidents require
professional psychological care to reduce the emotional injuries or mental
trauma. After every calamity, people live in a state of shock and their
emotional recovery could take years. We cannot fill up the loss, but we can
certain reduce their suffering through psycho-social counselling," Fr P
Balaswamy, director of Social Service Centre, Vijayawada, observed.
The Social Service Centre and the Indian Red Cross Society experimented
with what they called "community-based disaster management programme"
in areas affected by Tsunami in Krishna district. They adopted a two-pronged
strategy - built houses for the victims and took up community interaction, a
simple psychological technique but with greater soothing effect. This concept
is novel to India and NDMA has collected tips from these two organisations
for adoption on a larger level in the country.
"In natural calamities many victims suffer from psychosomatic symptoms of
trauma including listlessness, headaches, nightmares, chest pain and anxiety.
If we do not attend to them, some of them may turn to destructive behaviours,
like alcoholism, domestic violence or crime. There will always be a sufficient
number of cases of mentally debility life. Feelings such as empathy and
compassion can make a difference for hopeless and confused people," says
senior psychiatrist Dr Indla Ramasubba Reddy.
Health and community workers, who participated in relief works in cyclones
and floods, suggest that communities must to taught how to get those affected
to speak on the calamity. Special care should be taken of children and they
must be encouraged to act out their feelings and fears through paintings,
sports, competitions and theatre activities. "Otherwise, we could be looking
at a lost generation," Dr Ramasubba Reddy warns.
According to Dr Bhardwaj, the most common psychological reaction among
disaster survivors are symptoms of acute stress and even psychological
trauma and post traumatic stress disorder. Crisis intervention is also needed.
"Soon after natural calamities, we should not only focus on individual needs
but also concentrate on community-based interventions to enhance the
capacity of the community to provide appropriate support to people,"
suggests Fr Balaswamy.

Obesity emerges as major cause of infertility in men


(December 13, 2006)
By Syed Akbar
Smoking, pollution and sexually transmitted diseases have long been linked to
infertility. But obesity has now emerged as the major cause of sterility in men.
Health surveys carried out in different parts of the world including Hyderabad
reveal that overweight men tend to produce less quantity of sperm which leads of
infertility in them. Even the World Health Organisation in its latest report points
out obesity as one of the three main factors for infertility, coupled with smoking
and sexually transmitted diseases, particular AIDS.
A team of embryologists from Cambridge, UK, are presently in Hyderabad exploring the
reasons why obesity is leading to defective sperm and explaining to local doctors
the steps one should take to improve the fertility levels. The Centre for
infertility Management is coordinating with the UK embryologists at a camp on
assisted reproductive technologies on intracytoplasic sperm injection, blastocyst
culture, assisted hatching and cryopreservation and vitrification of ovarian tissue
and oocyte. The camp which begins on December 14 will continue till December 17.
In India one out of every 200 men are infertile. “Most men are not aware of the
dangers of delaying treatment. While before 36 years is the best age to treat the
problem, most men prefer to go for semen analysis, which in most cases turned out to
be useless. Though, once or twice is enough, most men go for it at least 10 times
the issue of male infertility was about being viewed lightly by many while truth was
that in 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the cases dealt daily, problem was with men
alone,” says fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati.
According to Dr Markku Sallmen of Institute of Occupational Health, it was found in
a research study carried out by them that a 10 kgs increase in a man's weight may
increase the chance of infertility by about 10 per cent. A BMI from 18.5 to 24.9 is
considered normal while a BMI of more than 25 is considered overweight. A person is
considered obese if the BMI is greater than 30 and morbidly obese if the BMI is 40
or greater.
The average chance to conceive for a normally fertile couple having regular,
unprotected intercourse is about 25 per cent during each menstrual cycle. In most
couples, conception occurs within a year. However, infertility affects about 12 per
cent of couples of childbearing age. Husbands are a contributing cause of
infertility in about 40 per cent of infertile couples.
The WHO report (2006) points out that there are more than 186 million infertile
couples in developing countries excluding China. In worst affected countries, 25 per
cent of couples are infertile.
Surveys reveal that obesity accounts for 6 per cent of primary infertility in the
United States. Infertility can be corrected by restoring body weight to within
normal established limits.
Research carried out by the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, Australia
reveals that even obese women tend to be infertile. Women who are fatter are at risk
of losing their fertility levels than women who are slim.
Physiology researcher Siew Lim point out that such women also suffer from
miscarriages and have irregular menstrual cycles. “Two thirds of Australians are now
either overweight or obese and there is no sign of it levelling off. Metabolic
diseases and obesity-related reproductive disorders are going to increase if nothing
is done,” she says.
Like men obese women are about three times more likely to be infertile compared to
normal women. Obesity rates have doubled in many parts of the world including India
in the last 20 years. Even children studying in schools are increasingly turning
fatter.
Health experts warn that childhood obesity in adolescence and young adulthood needs
to be targeted early so that women enter their reproductive years without carrying
excess weight. This is because, obese women are more likely to give birth to
overweight babies and this creates a vicious cycle. “We need to break this cycle
now, otherwise we will have a higher incidence of infertility and reproductive
disorders,” they point out.

US Looks to India for Research on Medicinal Plants for Cancer Treatment


November 15, 2006
By Syed Akbar
With more and more health-conscious Americans turning to plant products
for their daily needs, the United States is now looking towards the ancient
Indian systems of herbal medicine to unravel the secrets of cure hidden in
herbs native to sub-continent.
A team of American researchers visited Hyderabad early this week to chalk
out a strategy with local scientists to develop new medicinal products from
natural sources like plants and herbs. America does not have traditional
medicine while India has a heritage of natural medicinal products that trace
back in history to more than 5000 years.
The American scientists will utilise the traditional knowledge of herb-based
Indian medicinal systems like Ayurveda, Unani and Sidda and explore their
curative properties as part of their project to validate the medicinal properties
of the herbs grown on Indian soil. The emphasis will be on new herbal drugs
for cancer, malaria and other life-threatening diseases, besides natural
pesticides for agricultural use.
The demand for consumer products derived from plants, herbal products,
botanicals, dietary supplements, phytomedicines and nutraceuticals,
dramatically increased in the US in the past five years. But, the quality of the
products that are on the marketplace is highly variable and neither the
consumer nor the healthcare professional is able to distinguish between high
and low quality products.
"India has a rich tradition of herbs and herbal products. But many of them
lack scientific validation. Our research collaboration with the Americans will
help us understand these natural products in a more scientific way," says Dr
JS Yadav, director of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
The IICT and the National Centre for Natural Products Research, University
of Mississippi, have tied-up to discover new drugs from natural sources.
While India provides its rich and varied herbarium to the Americans, the
latter will revalidate the medicinal properties of Indian herbs for effective use
for the benefit of humanity at large.
Over the years, natural products have been the mainstay of drug discovery
programme. Although several other systems have come into being, desired
results could not be obtained. Hence the focus is again shifted to natural
products, says Prof Larry Walker, director of NCNPR, USA.
Natural products are currently used across the world as herbal drugs, dietary
supplements and neutraceuticals. With increase in demand for the natural
products, big pharma companies from across the globe have once again
shifted their attention towards natural products and increased their efforts
towards finding new bioactive molecules from them.
According to Prof Ikhlas Khan, director, FDA programme, USA, natural
products offer a vast and virtually unlimited source of new agents for both
pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. "As part of the MoU signed
between IICT (CSIR) and NCNPR, we are conducting basic and applied
multidisciplinary research to discover and develop natural products for use as
pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and agrochemicals, and to understand
the biological and chemical properties of medicinal plants," he points out.
The Indo-US research focus will be on discovering new drugs for unmet
therapeutic needs such as cancer and infectious diseases, improving the
quality and safety of botanical dietary supplements, and discovering new,
effective agrochemicals that will not harm the environment. It will also target
on discovering bioactive natural products, developing novel technologies and
processes that facilitate the discovery of bioactive natural products and
providing research based information on plant-derived products with
medicinal or agricultural applications.
Prof Walker says that emphasis will be on agents that control certain
infectious diseases, cancer and immune disorders. Chemical constituents
responsible for biological effects are identified and then either isolated and
purified in the search for new single entity pharmaceutical ingredients, or
characterised and standardised in the search for new multicomponent
botanical products.
Current products include the discovery and development of antifungal agents
for life-threatening infections, anti-cancer agents that target specific critical
processes in the cancer cell, antibiotics effective against bacteria that are
resistant to many current antibiotics, new drugs for tuberculosis, malaria and
other tropical parasitic diseases, antioxidants for cancer prevention,
immunostimulatory botanicals, anti-inflammatory botanicals, and the
development of Dronabinol Hemisuccinate suppositories to control nausea
due to chemotherapy and for pain management.
"Our goal is to identify botanical products with the potential to improve
human health and to conduct applied research that will enhance the safe and
proper use of botanical products by heatlhcare professionals and consumers,"
says Prof Khan.
Although the science of pharmacognosy is enjoying a vigorous renaissance
due to the widespread use of herbal medicine and natural products as
supplements, Dr Yadav feels that challenges are being faced to authenticate
and standardise these products.
On the other hand re-emerging diseases require new approaches and
solutions. As history indicates, the best source for new chemical entities is
the natural source. "In order to explore full potential of natural products the
collaborative research is needed," he says.
"Our natural products research effort is a broad, multidisciplinary, integrated
programme with three major emphasis areas: the discovery and early
development of potential new drugs and agrochemicals from natural
products; the understanding and science-based characterisation of botanical
products used as dietary supplements; and research on medicinal plants, the
production and processing of their pharmaceutical actives, and their potential
for the development of alternative crops", observes Prof Walker.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

And now Magnetic Cure for Cancer?

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 7: Indian scientists are now busy developing a "magnetic cure" for cancer.
Using nanomagnetic particles cancerous cells in a human body can be killed without affecting the healthy cells in the neighbourhood, says Dr Prahlada, chief controller of the Defence Research and Development Laboratory.
Dr Prahlada, who is also one of the top defence scientists in the country, points out that the magnetic therapy will not allow cancer cells to grow by inhibiting the cell division mechanism. "This is one of the safest mechanisms to treat cancer. The healthy cells in the neighbourhood are left untouched while only the cancerous ones are targeted. This technology allows normal cells to grow but prevents cancerous cells to stop. The treatment is localised," he observes.
Indian scientists as also those in other countries are carrying out research on nanomagnetic particles as part of non-destructive evaluation which is fast emerging as a major field in medicine, aerospace, transport, industry and defence sectors.
According to Prahlada, scientists are also looking out the possibility of enhancing bone age in view of increased life span of human beings. "We have technology to improve heart efficiency which will increase the life span. But the problem is with regard to bones which become weak as a person grows in age. Non-destructive technology will help in identifying the problems if any with bones at an early stage so that the life span of bones is increased to prolong the overall life span of an individual," he adds.
The nanotechnology using magnets focuses on developing uniform particles with a Curie temperature. Nanomagnetic particles will self-regulate the temperature of the tumour during magnetic hyperthermia and thus avoid the use of temperature controls.
In this method there is a defined transfer of power onto magnetic nanoparticles in an alternate magnetic field determined by the frequency, magnetic field strength, materials and the size of particles, which results in local generation of heat. This heat will either destroy the tumour cells directly or result in a synergic reinforcement of radiation efficacy, depending on the equilibrium temperature set in the tumour tissue.
Some of the materials currently being investigated for nanomagnetic therapy include Gadolinium-Zinc ferrite, Caesium, Erbium and magnesium ferrous oxide ferrite.
Earlier, Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy inaugurated a national seminar on non-destructive evaluation - 2006 in which scientists from over a dozen countries participated. Hyderabad has been leading the country in the field of non-destructive evaluation with ECIL, University of Hyderabad and DRDO taking part along with BARC. Non-destructive testing is going to play a major role in security checks in the next five years with terrahertz technology being used to detect weapons and IEDs hidden in vehicles or underground. ND testing is also being used in cancer treatment and in treatment of bone problems.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

And now bio-fertilisers using bacterial culture

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 5: With farmers suffering heavily due to increased use of chemical fertilisers, the State government has decided to promote bio-fertilisers using bacterial culture to boost farm production and prevent decline of soil health.
Farmers in the State have the dubious distinction of using the largest quantity of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the country. More than half of the farm inputs consumed in the country goes into agricultural fields in Andhra Pradesh. Lakhs of acres of prime agricultural land has turned either saline or alkaline thanks to indiscriminate application of complex fertilisers and pesticides.
The State government has now come out with well thoughtout plan to wean away farmers from harmful fertilisers by encouraging them to go in for bio-fertilisers developed from bacterial culture. It has also come out with specific guidelines for manufacturers and traders on the quality of bio-fertilisers to prevent spurious culture.
The bacteria proposed for bio-fertiliser development include Rhizobium inoculants, Azotobacter chroococcum inoculants, Azospirillum inocculants and phosphate solubilising bacterial inoculant.
The government has made registration of manufacturers mandatory to maintain quality of bio-fertilisers supplied in the State market. Adulteration of bio-fertilisers also invites penal action including a prison term extending up to one year or and fine of Rs 50,000.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Blood donation: Muslim body enrolls 5000 volunteers to help patients

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 4: The Islamic Academy For Comparative Religion has launched a mission in the city to create awareness in the Muslim youth on the importance of blood donation and promotion of communal harmony.
The Academy has created a computerised database of blood donors to provide blood to needy patients in and around the city. It wants to enrol as many as 5000 volunteers to begin with and create a mega bank of blood donors in the long run.
"There is a general misconception in the Muslim community that one should not donate blood. This is wrong. Donation of blood to save the life a person is very much a part of Islamic practice as the Holy Quran says that saving one human life is like saving the whole of mankind," observes Academy president Mohammed Asifuddin.
A round-the-clock control room has been set up for enrolment of volunteers and appeals for blood. This will be a continuous and on-site help for all who need blood. This help will be free and available for all irrespective of caste, creed, age or gender, he said.
"Once a call is received the nearest volunteer with the matching blood details will drop in at the spot in minutes to donate blood. The donors will be carefully picked up after a comprehensive scrutiny of all personal health records. The volunteers will be in the age group of 18-35 years. Each volunteer will be permitted to donate blood only twice a year," he said.
The Academy will promote the concept of blood donation through sermons in mosques, madarasas and other Islamic institutions. The control room numbers are +91-40-55774547 and +91-9885450497.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

World Aids Day: AIDS emerges as the leading cause of death in WHO updated projections of global mortality

By Syed Akbar
As the world observes the AIDS Day on December 1, the World Health Organisation projects AIDS as the leading cause of death, followed by depression, heart diseases and road accidents.
The WHO’s  updated ‘burden of disease’ projections released this month gain significance in the backdrop of India emerging as one of the few countries with projected large population suffering from AIDS/HIV infection. India at present has 3.5 million people afflicted with the disease and the number is fast increasing. Andhra Pradesh leads the States in the country.
The WHO’s projections also assume importance as India accounts for 16 per cent of the world’s population and 21 per cent f the world’s global burden of disease, including AIDS. The WHO’s projection is for the year 2030 and its statistics are based on the 2002 figures.
The WHO revised this November its projection on global burden of diseases giving AIDS the status of the Killer No. 1. With fast paced life, depression, particularly of the unipolar (single mood) variety has emerged as the second leading cause of death. Depression includes trouble sleeping, loss of weight and agitated and irritable behaviour. One of the characteristic features of unipolar depression is that people who suffer from it put on a "happy face" in front of others, while deep down they feel quite depressed and disinterested in life.
Cardiac diseases particularly of the ischaemic type and road accidents occupy the third and the fourth slot in the updated projections of global mortality and burden of diseases, 2002-2030 released by the WHO a few days ago.
According to the WHO report, global HIV/AIDS deaths may rise from 2.8 million in 2002 to 6.5 million in 2030 if the anti-retroviral drugs reach 80 per cent of people by 2012. In the most optimistic scenario with increased prevention activity, HIV/AIDS deaths may drop to 3.7 million by the projected year. 
Another disturbing factor is the emergence of tobacco-related deaths. The WHO projects total tobacco-attributable deaths to 6.4 million in 2015 and 8.3 million in 2030 from the present 5.4 million. Tobacco is projected to kill 50 per cent more people in 2015 than HIV/AIDS, and to be responsible for 10 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
Eminent sexologist Dr K Swayam Prakash says that the regulatory mechanism has to be strengthened to a great extent to detect and stop malpractices in blood banking. “Greater coordination between national/ state blood transfusion councils and drug control authorities is needed. Training and orientation of drug inspection in the field needs to be speeded up and made more effective in fulfilling their regularly functions,” he pointed out. 
The latest UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic estimates that 65 million people have been infected with HIV, of whom some 25 million have died since the start of the epidemic 25 years ago. The rate of new HIV infections continues to climb every year, with an estimated 4.1 million people having been infected in the twelve months ending December 2005. Globally, the total number of people living with the virus also continues to grow, reaching 38.6 million at the end of 2005 and trends indicate that left unchecked the epidemic will continue to increase. 
In other words, at this stage of the global AIDS epidemic there are more HIV infections every year than AIDS-related deaths.
With the WHO projecting an alarming scenario for AIDS, the National AIDS Control Organisation has increased its efforts to move towards centralizing blood transfusion services and to reduce fragmentation in management, especially in urban areas. In rural and difficult to access areas, stand alone or small blood banks will be encouraged. It will also continue to have quality management in blood banking.
“All aspects like processes, products, equipment, consumables etc. would increasingly be subjected to quality assurance procedures, so that a safe and reliable transfusion services can be provided,” says a NACO strategy report.

Friday, 17 November 2006

Monkey Business: South Indian monkeys are civilised and cultured


November 17, 2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 16: South Indian monkeys are more "civilised" and "cultured" than their counterparts in north India and maintain a closely knit family relationship within their groups.
According to Dr Leonard A Rosemblum, professor in the department of psychiatry, State University of New York, scientific research on and close behavioural observations of Indian monkeys for the past 50 years reveal that simians down the Vindhyas are "smart" primates and resemble human beings in certain family customs like adopting orphan babies.
"When a mother monkey dies leaving her feeding infant, other monkeys in the group adopt the baby. This practice is seen in monkeys in South India. But the monkeys in north India simply abandon such orphans leaving them to fend for themselves," says Dr Leonard, who is also an expert on sexual and family behaviour of non-human primates.
He is currently in the city in connection with arrangements for an international conference on sex, its myths and traditions scheduled for January.
Dr Leonard told this correspondent that south Indian monkeys are more "caring" and look after the needs of other members in the group. But in the case of north Indian monkeys such a trait is wanting. "A possible explanation for this unique difference is that while monkeys in south India bred among the groups, the male members in north Indian monkeys leave the group after attaining maturity to breed outside the
group. Thus, monkeys in a group in south India are related to one another. Since male monkeys in north India leave the group, the group members are not related," he points out.
South Indian monkeys take care of the orphans in the group as they are uncles or aunts or first or second cousins. Moreover, female monkeys in the south are shy in nature while those in the north take the sexual initiative during the breeding season.
Dr Leonard has been carrying out experiments on Indian Rhesus monkeys, Bonnet Macaque and other species both in India and at his laboratory in the USA for over five decades. "The Indian monkeys teach us (humans) the sexual function and dysfunction. Almost every form of sexual and marital behaviour found in humans is noticed in monkeys. The Indian monkeys with a gestation period of five months
and 15 days plan pregnancy in such a way that the delivery period falls during monsoon, when the trees are lush green with lot of fruits for extra nutritious diet for mother and good milk for the infant," he said.
Interestingly, the south Indian monkeys are relatively "moral" with less incidence of unnatural sexual behaviour. "Like human beings, monkeys generally have female-female, male-male and male-female relationship.
They also have oral sex and masturbation. But this is not widespread in the south," Dr Leonard observed. While north Indian monkeys have a prolonged intercourse, ejaculation in south Indian monkeys takes place with a single entry. In Bonabo
species (north Indian monkey) sex is not always for pregnancy but quite often for calming down the hot tempers. In south Indian monkeys intercourse is mainly for procreation. Males in north Indian monkeys are highly ambitious and competitive while those in the south adopt a high social structure.

Wonders of Nature: Do cyclonic rains silence dengue virus?

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 30: The cyclonic rains might have left a trail of misery for 
many, but they also heralded good news for people living in dengue-hit 
areas.
The cyclone, which crossed the sea coast on Monday evening, has silenced 
the powerful dengue virus. The sudden drop in temperature followed by 
washing away of stagnant water due to heavy rains has turned the dengue 
virus dormant and its vector, mosquito, ineffective.
The rains also proved beneficial to standing crop spread over lakhs of 
hectares, particularly cotton and other commercial crops in the coastal belt. 
The rains provided the much-needed moisture to the drying up crops and 
brought smile back on the faces of farmers.
Health officials in Visakhapatnam heaved a sigh of relief as the dengue 
incidence came down in the city. "There is a sudden drop in the temperature 
from 37 degrees C to 24 degrees C. This has led to dengue virus going 
dormant. At such temperatures, the virus becomes incapable of spreading," 
Visakhapatnam municipal chief medical officer Dr M S  Raju said.
According to him, many communicable diseases turn dormant normally 
during December. But the inclement weather has advanced the dormancy 
mode. The weather came in handy for us to control further outbreaks of  
dengue, he added.
Senior health officials in Hyderabad, however, do not agree with Dr Raju. 
"The explanation is unscientific," says Dr IV Rao, director of medical 
education.
However, both Raju and Rao agree that the rains may cause water borne 
diseases like diarrhoea. No fresh cases of dengue have been reported from
Vizianagaram, Srikakulam and rural areas of Visakhapatnam following the 
rains.
The rains have come in as a blessing in disguise for cotton farmers in 
Guntur district. Since cotton crop is in budding stage, the rains have 
stabilised the inflorescence. The flowering was about to wither away but the   
rains stabilised them. This may give a yield of four to five quintals per acre.
Farmer activist Dr Yalamanchili Sivaji said the rains had helped plantation 
of tobacco. Crops like Bengal gram and chilli have also stabilised thanks to 
the timely rains.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Shariah Adalats in Hyderabad: Muslim women clerics deliver justice


November 12, 2006
By Syed Akbar
A young burka clad woman with a babe in her arms stands silently before a panel of Muftis. Though she appears to be calm, her anxiety is writ large on her face. The woman from Fateh Darwaza in the old city of Hyderabad awaits a verdict from the Muftis that may make or mar her marital life.
After a breathed silence, the panel of Muftis, which include three women, delivers the verdict in her favour. Her complaint was that her husband, a "lazy person", stays most of the time at home and does not go to work. They have a little daughter and she finds it hard even to purchase milk for her.
The woman is one of the scores of complainants seeking justice from the Shariah Adalat, the first of its kind private civil court in the country, functioning on the principles of Muslim Personal Law. The Shariah Adalat, located in one of the narrow lanes of Moghalpura in the walled city of Hyderabad, issues notices to the woman's husband and asks him to appear before it. The Muftis, constituting the bench, curtly tell the man that it is his duty and obligation (farz) to take care of the family. A recital of a few verses from the Quran and the threat of Allah's grave punishment (Azab) in the Akhirat (on Day of Resurrection) work well with the man.
The Shariah Adalat, a parallel Islamic civil court, is turning out to be quite popular in the principal minority community, what with Muslims from different parts of the State taking its help to resolve cases connected with the personal law.
The Adalat is the first Islamic civil court in the country to be presided over among others by women Muftis. Three women Muftis along with their two male counterparts settle about half a dozen cases every Saturday, when the Shariah Adalat meets for its weekly session. It works between 4.00 pm and 8.00 pm on Saturdays.
Set up recently with an objective to prevent Muslims from engaging in prolonged legal battles in civil courts, the Shariah Adalat has been receiving complaints even from outside Hyderabad. Of the 200 cases the Adalat has settled so far, about 20 cases are from the districts. They are mostly related to marital discord, divorce, property disputes, maintenance, inheritance and women rights.
The nascent Adalat, has come across many interesting but simple cases, which if referred to civil courts would take many years for settlement.
"We are adopting the regular procedure followed in civil courts. We accept both oral and written complaints. Our office then send letters to both the petitioners and the respondents asking them to be present on the hearing day. The Muftis will hear both the parties and give their verdict in the light of Islamic jurisprudence," says Mufti Muhammad Mastan Ali Quadri, one of the five Muftis on the bench.
In one of its hearings, the Shariah Adalat decreed that it is the duty of children to take care of their parents. The case was that a man from Paloncha in Khammam district has two sons, who have deserted him. Unable to fend himself, the poor man approached the Shariah Adalat which after referring to the Quran and the Hadith (traditions of the Prophet) held that the sons had sinned by not looking after their father. The sons agreed and the father is taken back to their house.
In about 90 per cent of the cases both the parties agree to the verdict delivered by the Shariah Adalat while 10 per cent refuse to budge and prefer to settle the scores in a general civil court. Mufti Muhammad Hasnuddin and Muftiya Nazima Azeez are head muftis of men and women Darul Ifta (department of decrees) respectively. Other members on the bench are Muftiya Rizwana Zareen and Muftiya Sayeeda Fatima
A woman, whose husband did not agree to the idea of abandoning joint family and living separately, lodged a complaint with the police that he had been harassing her for more dowry. The police registered a case and were about to arrest him when he sought the help of the Shariah Adalat. The woman and her parents were asked to appear before the Adalat which after a series of counselling succeeded in bringing rapprochement. The woman withdrew the complaint.
In another interesting case, a man from Chittoor town pronounced single talaq in a fit of rage and deserted his wife and two grown-up daughters. The woman knocked the doors of the Adalat. The Muftis told the husband that since he had pronounced talaq only once, the marriage is valid and he can live with his wife. The parties agreed to the verdict.

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