Sunday, 26 February 2006

Mecca cola enters Hyderabad

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 26: Mecca Cola, the soft drink launched in several Muslim countries after the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, entered the Hyderabad market on Sunday, just a few days ahead of the visit of US President George W Bush to the city.
Mecca Cola recorded 10 per cent increase in its sales after the cartoon episode in Denmark. Muslim clergy around the world have appealed to Muslims to boycott Danish and American products.
Though Mecca Cola has been in the market since 2002 in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Delhi and Gujarat, the promoters decided to launch the product in Hyderabad taking advantage of Muslim protests against Denmark and the signature campaign against the visit of the US President.
"Mecca Cola's formula is the same in all the Muslim countries. There is no alcohol content or caffeine in the soft drink," M Zafar Shaik Roushan, managing director of Pinch Bottling Company, Jalagoan, told this correspondent.
MIM legislators Afsar Khan and Mumtaz Khan launched the Mecca Cola at a function in the city on Sunday night.
Pakistan launched the "Makkah Cola" in 2003 a year after the product entered Maharashtra in the wake of call by clergy to boycott Jewish and American products. However, Saudi Arabia refused permission to Mecca or Makkah Cola since the product was named after the holiest city of Islam. It also turned down a similar product, Zamzam Cola, from Iran. Zamzam is the name of the holy well near Kaba in Mecca.

Friday, 24 February 2006

HIV/AIDS: Problem spreads to children and adolescents

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 24: Even as the State is battling to control HIV which is assuming monstrous proportions, the infection has spread to new population groups affecting children below 14 years of age.
According to the latest Sentinel Surveillance Report of the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society, about four per cent of all HIV positive cases are children below 14 years. Officials are surprised at the spread of HIV in small children as Andhra Pradesh is primarily a "heterosexual State" where 90 per cent of the HIV/AIDS cases are through heterosexual transmission and just 0.46 per cent cases are through gay relationships. They believe that the streetchildren factor might have contributed to the high incidence of HIV in small children along with mother-to-child transmission route.
What is horrifying is that the State has fast moved from the "high risk groups" phase to "bridge population and vulnerable groups" phase. The State no more has any identifiable high risk groups like truckers and prostitutes. The infection has become quite common and everyone irrespective of social background in the State is at risk.
"We have five lakh HIV cases in the State and of this four per cent are children below 14 years of age. It is affecting women and children, both vulnerable groups, adversely. We do not have data on the exact cause of spread of HIV to this group of population. We cannot say for sure that HIV in small children is through sexual contact. There is no provision in law for a random survey on HIV/AIDS and hence we depend on the cases visiting voluntary counselling centres, STD clinics or prenatal test units", says APSACS joint director Padmavathi.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the States where HIV has become generalised epidemic with a prevalence rate of above one per cent. The prevalence is above one per cent in 18 districts and above two per cent in the districts of Kadapa, Nellore, Prakasam, Gutur, East and West Godavari and Srikakulam.
Another factor troubling APSACS is the spread of HIV among teenagers. About 50 per cent of the new infections reported are in the age group of 15 to 24 years. Taking prevalence into consideration, 45 per cent of the infections are in the age group of 15-29 years. About 90 per cent of the infections are in the age group of 15-49 years.
According to official statistics for 2004-2005, 3.66 per cent of HIV patients are below 14 years, 44.89 per cent in the age group of 15-29 years, 35.23 per cent (30-39 years), 12.45 per cent (40-49 years) and 3.77 per cent (above 50 years).
Probable modes of transmission as per the information reported in voluntary counselling and testing centres are: heterosexual transmission - 89.23 per cent; homosexual transmission - 0.46 per cent; infected syringes and needles - 0.80 per cent, blood and blood products - 0.98 per cent and others 8.5 per cent.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Andhra Pradesh is all set to project a record Gross State Domestic Product

2006
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 14: Andhra Pradesh is all set to project a record Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) rate of 7.55 per cent for the current financial year which ends on March 31. This is 1.16 per cent more than that of the previous year and this year's GSDP is an all time high for the State since its formation 50 years ago.
The record GSDP growth rate has been linked to good monsoon and improvements in core sector areas. "The State economy has been on an upswing in the current year, with quick estimates projecting a GSDP growth rate of 7.55 per cent against 6.39 per cent in the previous year," Governor Rameshwar Thakur said.
In his customary address to the State Assembly on the inaugural day of the budget session, Rameshwar Thakur said all other economic indicators had also been "very positive" in Andhra Pradesh. Stating that bank credit expansion is an important indicaor of the buoyancy of the economy, he said the credit deposit ratio of scheduled commercial banks in the State rose to 77 per cent as on September 30, 2005 from 62 per cent on September 30, 2003. The CDR for rural branches increased from 86 per cent to 108 per cent during the same period.
The State's compounded annual growth rate of GSDP was 6.26 per cent as against the national average compounded annual growth rate of 5.66 per cent during 1981-91. The agriculture and allied activities registered an annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent during the same period. However, during the decade 1994-2004 (when the TD was in power), the annual growth rate of State's economy fell to 5.5 per cent against the national average of 6.3 per cent.
The Governor indirectly held the previous TD regime responsible for farmer suicides when he stated that the average annual growth rate of agriculture and allied activities fell to 2.3 per cent and that of agriculture alone to minus 0.5 per cent. "This caused an unprecedented agrarian crisis in the State, leading to a great human tragedy in the form of large number of suicides by farmers and rural artisans," Thakur said.
He announced the State government's decision to open superspeciality hospitals in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.
The software exports from the State also registered a growth rate of 65 per cent this year over 35 per cent recorded last year. The average annual growth rate achieved in software exports in the past three years was 35.79 per cent. Referring to the problem of Naxalites, he said the government regarded it as a socio-economic issue.

Friday, 3 February 2006

nyxem.e computer virus wrecks havoc

2006

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 3: The malicious nyxem.e computer virus that infected several systems around the world on Friday caused trouble to the State government for some time breaking down the link between the State secretariat and district offices.
The Indian Railways was, however, not affected by the virus because of the precautions it had taken. The network functioned as usual without any problems. But the call centres of some national and multinational companies, including computer firms, were hit as also the work in Hyderabad Stock Exchange. Many software training institutes did not switch on the computers as a precautionary measure.
Nyxem.e virus, which is transmitted through e-mail, was discovered on January 20 and it had its first known encounter with computers, particularly those without firewalls and anti-virus software. The virus is programmed to become active on the third day of every month deleting data and generating e-mail messages on its own.
According to official sources, the Andhra Pradesh State Wide Area Network got affected by the virus and computer maintenance officials had a hectic time in rectifying the problem. The computers in Khammam district collector's office could not establish contact with the State secretariat in Hyderabad. Computers in government offices in Vijayawada and elsewhere in Krishna district did not report any problem. Officials in Nellore district did not open the internet.
"The exact damage to computers will be known only by tomorrow morning when computers will be switched on for the day's work. Since most of the computers were working on Friday the virus may not have revealed its true colours. The actual impact will be known only when the computers are switched off and re-started," said Scantech Info Systems managing partner Imran Khaleeq.
According to MH Noble of Zoom Technologies, several computers in Hyderabad and elswhere in the country were badly hit. But the damage could be controlled because of awareness created by newspaper reports.
"Nyxem.e infection is at its highest in India, Peru, Italy and Malaysia. Sri Lanka was the least affected. India ranked first with 37 per cent risk," he pointed out.
AA Khalidi of QSM Software Training Institute said they had switched off the computers for the day. "We did not function today. Like us many training centres took the wise decision of not opening internet," he observed.

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

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