Saturday, 30 June 2007

Peptide treatment for white patch disease or vitiligo

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 30: City scientists have developed a group of chemical peptides that will help in treating vitiligo, the "white patch disease", and controlling wrinkles, the symbol of ageing.
The molecules were developed using the DNA recombinant technology. They have the ability to remove the disfiguring white patches from the body even while controlling formation of wrinkles. They also have essential "anti-wrinkle" properties and hides the age of people.
Vitiligo is caused when melanocytes, the cells that give colour or pigmentation to skin, are lost. This leads to white patches on mainly the exposed parts of the body. Vitiligo often causes hypo or hyper thyroidism, diabetes and anaemia, not only disfiguring the body but also affecting its physiological functions.
The pioneering work has been jointly carried out by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Celestial Laboratories. A drug is being prepared based on the research work. These peptides are chemically synthesised and tested for their efficacy in cell cultures. Four of these peptides showed profound effect as mitogens of melanocytes. They induced melanosome differentiation and migration.
A group of researchers led by Dr Ch Mohan Rao of the CCMB has synthesised oligonucleotides following the amino acid sequence of the effective mutein peptides. They are later cloned for strong promotion and expression.
"There is evidence that the presence of pro-opomelanocortin peptides are responsible in regulation of skin tan in humans. A few of the melanotropic peptides have been identified from human placental preparations that are known to have melanogenic potential or ability to give skin its colour," says AN Singh of Celestial Labs.
Vitiligo is a major concern in developing countries especially in India where, in the western zone the prevalence is as high as eight per cent.
World surveys show a similar prevalence in Mexico and Japan. The global prevalence is observed to be around three per cent.
Presently vitiligo is treated temporarily with make-ups. Medication has thus far proved futile with no satisfactory results.
Optimisation of protein induction is in procedure. Once the recombinant peptide is expressed in sufficient quantities the peptide will be purified and will be used for further studies.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Unesco guidelines against bullying, corporal punishment in schools

2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 28: The United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation has formulated guidelines for teachers and management of schools to check bullying, corporal punishment and other types of violence in educational institutions.
The Unesco has also put the responsibility of protection of child rights and prevention of corporal punishments in schools on national governments. In its guidelines for the academic year 2007-2008, the Unesco has called upon governments to come out with a national planning to prevent and respond to violence against schoolchildren.
The new guidelines come in the wake of reports that about 300 million children worldwide are victims of various forms of violence in schools and outside. About 30 million child victims are from India. Andhra Pradesh has one of the high dropout rates in the country.
Corporal punishment has been linked to high absenteeism and drop-out rate in schools. The dropout rate varies between five and 40 per cent in Andhra Pradesh depending on the age group of students and classes. Though the mid-day meal scheme has improved attendance, still 50 per cent of children of school-going age continue to stay away from schools in the State.
It also called for strengthening of legal frameworks in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly galvanising support for the prohibition of all forms of violence.
The Unesco has asked a group of experts including researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to consider the global context of school violence, the school experience, innovative policies and practices and come out with recommendations on making schools free from violence.
The recommendations also follow research reports that corporal punishment leads to poor mental health, as it blocks normal mental development.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

WHO says AP has both chikungunya and dengue in tandem

2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 27: The World Health Organisation has bracketed Andhra Pradesh as one of the very few places where chinkungunya is prevalent with dengue.
Though chinkungunya is prevalent in quite a number of places across the globe, it is not generally associated with other infections. But in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa cases of co-infection of chikungunya-dengue are noticed complicating the matters for medical doctors. The WHO lists AP, Orissa and Malegaon (in Maharashtra) as the only places "with occurrence of dengue and or chikungunya". Treatment for chinkungunya is not disease-based but based on the symptoms the patient suffers from and this often leads to overdose of anti-biotics and other medicines.
However, the WHO in its "Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR)" does not feel the need for any special travel advisory to tourists visiting Hyderabad or other parts of Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, the WHO has also not updated its EPR alert after March 17 for Andhra Pradesh which means that there's no major change in chikungunya infection scenario in the State during the past three months. Also AP had the highest number of suspected chikungunya cases.
Several countries including Mauritius, Seychelles, France, Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland have reported cases of chikungunya but only in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa there is a "mixed outbreak of chikungunya, with sporadic cases of dengue".
Stating that several cases of "fever with arthralgia" (neuralgic pain in joints) have been reported from Andhra Pradesh, the WHO relates the cases to "high density of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes". These signs are consistent with an arbovirus (virus transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks) outbreak.
According to the WHO report, chikungunya and dengue viruses are transmitted to humans by the bites of infected mosquitoes. While Aedes albopictus is more active outdoors Aedes aegypti typically feeds and rests more indoors. Andhra Pradesh has reported cases of Aedes aegypti. Chikungunya (which in Swahili language means "that which bends up" referring to the stooped posture developed in patients due to arthritic symptoms) has assumed epidemic and pandemic proportions in the State since December last year.
"Although transmission of chikungunya and dengue is continuing in the affected areas, WHO recommends no special restrictions on travel or trade to or from these areas. However, it is recommended that individuals take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites, e.g., by wearing clothes that minimise skin exposure and applying insect repellents to exposed skin or clothing in accordance with label instructions," the WHO report pointed out.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad District Medical and Health Officer Dr Satyavati said of the 5326 cases screened for chikungunya only six patients in fever hospital are suspected to be suffering from the disease.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Allergy and Genes go hand-in-hand, say Hyderabad scientists

June 26, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 25: A group of city scientists has identified the genetic link in Indian population to over-allergic reactions (atopy) and asthma.
Researchers at the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Saboo Hospital and Research Centre, Osmania Medical College and Niloufer Children's Hospital came out with a genetic analysis of bronchial asthma in Indian population elucidating the complex genetic regulation of the disease including atopy. The study will help in better understanding of the root causes of these chronic diseases and effective diagnosis and treatment.
The research work gains significance in the backdrop of increasing instances of asthma and active allergic problems in the country. So far, researchers have been looking at asthma from environmental point of view and for the first time in India, the city researchers have turned their concentration on the genetic aspects of this complex polygenic disease. Asthma is commonly associated with familial atopic syndrome and increased levels of total IgE (immunoglobulins E).
The study carried out by GR Chandak, M Mohammed Idris, Sandeep Saboo, GS Ramalaxmi and others points out asthma and allergy are not inherited as single gene disorders and do not follow a simple Mendelian inheritance. A complex interaction between environmental and genetic factors produces the disease susceptibility and expression.
Identifying specific genetic polymorphisms that influence asthma and atopic phenotypes will also help in better screening of the "at risk" population and pave the way for extension of these markers in different population groups in the country. It may also lead to a novel strategy to modulate the course of this disease or identify better therapeutic modalities.
The city researchers investigated the association of polymorphisms and extended haplotype in genes (IL4 and IL4RA) with atopy and asthma in the Indian population and attempted to study whether genotypic and haplotypic differences can account for the phenotypic variations in atopic and non-atopic asthmatic individuals.
The probands (individual subjects of a genetic study) and control subjects were recruited based on the evaluation of clinical and family history using a standardised questionnaire following the guidelines of American Thoracic Society. They were examined for a self-reported history of breathlessness, wheeze, allergic rhinitis and eczema and confirmed by various pulmonary function tests.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Decline in acreage: Rice prices to soar further

June 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 22: Prices of rice in the open market are likely to soar further with the decline in the paddy acreage in the State.
The State government, as part of its commitment given to World Bank, has been discouraging paddy cultivation resulting in the overall decline of paddy production and shrinkage in the cultivated area. This, in turn, has led to a spurt in the prices of rice in the open market with the superfine variety commanding Rs 25 a kg, up by Rs 5 over last year's.
The economy variety of rice was sold for not less than Rs 12 a kg in the harvest season in January and it is now available for Rs 17. The standard variety now commands a price tag of anything upward of Rs 19 a kg.
The overall production of paddy did not cross the 120 lakh tonnes mark in the last 10 years. Though the State has the potential to yield more production, State government's discouraging policies towards paddy farmers is leading to fall in production year after year. The acreage under paddy came down to 38.95 lakh hectares in 2006-2007 from 39.82 lakh hectares during 2005-2006. The target fixed by the government for 2007-2008 is 36.11 lakh hectares, which means a fall of about four lakh hectares.
With the shrinkage in the acreage, paddy production also recorded a downward trend, falling from 117.04 lakh tonnes in 2005-2006 to 115.82 lakh tonnes in 2006-2007. It is likely to fall further during 2007-2008, upsetting the rice prices in the consumer market.
According to official statistics, the growth rate in food grains production is not commensurate with the growth rate of population. While population in the State has been growing at the rate of 1.9 per cent, food grains production is going up only by 1.3 per cent. But paddy is recording a downward trend since 2000.
AP Ryothu Sangh senior leader S Malla Reddy blames the downfall in production of paddy to "deliberate" attempts by the State government to wean away paddy growers to commercial crops. "The government is creating artificial scarcity of seeds and discouraging farmers under minor irrigation, tail-end areas and well irrigation from taking up paddy cultivation. Already this has led to a steep hike in the prices of rice in the open market. We are going to witness further hikes unless the original paddy acreage is restored," he points out.

Governmnt's blunder: Soaring rice prices linked to fall in acreage

2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 22: Prices of rice in the open market are likely to soar further with the decline in the paddy acreage in the State.
The State government, as part of its commitment given to World Bank, has been discouraging paddy cultivation resulting in the overall decline of paddy production and shrinkage in the cultivated area. This, in turn, has led to a spurt in the prices of rice in the open market with the superfine variety commanding Rs 25 a kg, up by Rs 5 over last year's.
The economy variety of rice was sold for not less than Rs 12 a kg in the harvest season in January and it is now available for Rs 17. The standard variety now commands a price tag of anything upward of Rs 19 a kg.
The overall production of paddy did not cross the 120 lakh tonnes mark in the last 10 years. Though the State has the potential to yield more production, State government's discouraging policies towards paddy farmers is leading to fall in production year after year. The acreage under paddy came down to 38.95 lakh hectares in 2006-2007 from 39.82 lakh hectares during 2005-2006. The target fixed by the government for 2007-2008 is 36.11 lakh hectares, which means a fall of about four lakh hectares.
With the shrinkage in the acreage, paddy production also recorded a downward trend, falling from 117.04 lakh tonnes in 2005-2006 to 115.82 lakh tonnes in 2006-2007. It is likely to fall further during 2007-2008, upsetting the rice prices in the consumer market.
According to official statistics, the growth rate in food grains production is not commensurate with the growth rate of population. While population in the State has been growing at the rate of 1.9 per cent, food grains production is going up only by 1.3 per cent. But paddy is recording a downward trend since 2000.
AP Ryothu Sangh senior leader S Malla Reddy blames the downfall in production of paddy to "deliberate" attempts by the State government to wean away paddy growers to commercial crops. "The government is creating artificial scarcity of seeds and discouraging farmers under minor irrigation, tail-end areas and well irrigation from taking up paddy cultivation. Already this has led to a steep hike in the prices of rice in the open market. We are going to witness further hikes unless the original paddy acreage is restored," he points out.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Mammal-like reptile fossil found


June 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 19: A new mammal-like reptile has been discovered for the first time in the country from the upper Triassic formation in the Pranahita-Godavari valley in Adilabad district. The fossilised remains of this animal are 225-million-years-old and will provide vital information to scientists on the evolution of early mammals. It belongs to the order Cynodonts and its remains are recorded for the first time from upper Triassic formations.
The animal has been identified as a new genus/species and named as Deccanadon maleriensis (Deccan because it was found in Deccan plateau and maleriensis after the Maleri sedimentation).
Though Cynodonts were discovered elsewhere in the world, no such animals were ever found in India. The Pranahita-Godavari valley is one of the few places on the earth where Triassic period sedimentation are found. So far only three groups of cynodonts are reported from Europe. Deccanodon malerienseis cannot be compared with Indian specimens, as no cynodont teeth are reported.
The discovery was made by palaeontologists P. Yadagiri and T.T. Nath of the Geological Survey of India.
"The discovery of this animal from older stratigraphic horizon assumes importance as the study will help to evaluate the origin and evolution of early mammals from upper Triassic (Carnian) to early Jurassic period," Mr Yadagiri told this correspondent. The GSI team collected five well preserved specimens of post canine teeth from Lakshmipuram village in Adilabad district. The collection includes five well preserved specimens of post canine teeth. The teeth closely resemble that of Microdon if one goes by the shape of the crown, separation of cusps, absence of a constriction between crown and root, and incipient division of the root. Interestingly, the early mammals were nearly microscopic, of the size of a big ant. "The post canine tooth is well persevered except part of the distal root portion. The enamel is smooth. The specimen measures 20 mm in height and 13 mm in length. The width is narrow. The crown part is larger than the preserved root portion. The crown part is laterally compressed, six cusps are arranged in a longitudinal row. The crown and root are not separated by constriction," Mr Yadagiri said. The find of Maleri cynodont teeth has opened a new vista to search for cynodonts along with early mammals.

Mammal-like reptile found in Pranahiti-Godavari valley

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 19: A new mammal-like reptile has been discovered for the first time in the country from the upper Triassic formation in the Pranahita-Godavari valley in Adilabad district.
The fossil remains of this animal trace back to 225 million years and will provide vital information to scientists on the evolution of early mammals. This mammal-like reptile belongs to the order cynodonts and its remains are recorded for the first time from upper Triassic formations. The animal has been identified as a new genus/species and named as Deccanadon maleriensis (Deccan because it was found in Deccan plateau and maleriensis after the Maleri sedimentation).
The discovery was made by palaeontologists P Yadagiri and TT Nath of the Geological Survey of India. Though cynodonts were discovered elsewhere in the world, no such animals were ever found in India. The Pranahita-Godavari valley is one of the few places on the earth where Triassic period sedimentation are found. So far only three groups of cynodonts are reported from Europe. Deccanodon malerienseis cannot be compared with Indian specimens, as no cynodont teeth are reported.
"The discovery of this animal from older stratigraphic horizon assumes importance as the study will help to evaluate the origin and evolution of early mammals from upper Triassic (Carnian) to early Jurassic period," Yadagiri told this correspondent.
The GSI team collected five well preserved specimens of post canine teeth from Lakshmipuram village in Adilabad district. The collection includes five well preserved specimens of post canine teeth. The teeth closely resemble that of Microdon if one goes by the shape of the crown, separation of cusps, absence of a constriction between crown and root, and incipient division of the root.
Interestingly, the early mammals were nearly microscopic, of the size of a big ant.
"The post canine tooth is well persevered except part of the distal root portion. The enamel is smooth. The specimen measures 20 mm in height and 13 mm in length. The width is narrow. The crown part is larger than the preserved root portion. The crown part is laterally compressed, six cusps are arranged in a longitudinal row. The crown and root are not separated by constriction," Yadagiri said.
The find of Maleri cynodont teeth has opened a new vista to search for cynodonts along with early mammals in the Pranahita-Godavari valley.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Mrudangam maestro Yella Venkateswara Rao: When musical streams meet together


By Syed Akbar

Hyderabadis were treated to a rare musical feat, on the eve of the
World Music Day, by Mrudangam maestro Yella Venkateswara Rao
and his team of 100 artistes. The concept was also rare and never
presented before in the country.
Venkateswara Rao, who has become synonymous with Mrudangam
with his unique style blended with the classical tradition, musically
captured the origin of the Holy Ganges and its tributaries the Yamuna
and the mythical Saraswati and took the audience through the
civilisations enroute till they merge into what is known as Triveni
Sangamam or the confluence of the three holy rivers.
The symphony, aptly named Triveni Sangamam, was organised by
Chaitanya Art Theatres. It was unique in that Venkateswara Rao and
his team narrated the entire episode lasting 90 minutes without
depending on lyrics. It was all pure music and Venkateswara Rao
ensured that the concert was enlivening and interesting.
He and his team used a variety of ragas and musical instruments to
create a spiritual aura for the audience as they took them on an
experience of a never-ending journey of the three holy rivers that
formed part of the Indian civilisation for ages and continues even now.
They made the audience the feel of the rivers, the splashing of the
waters under the influence of gentle winds, the dangerous curves they
take as they flow through the ridges and the valleys and the greenery
they create all along their routes. In short, Venkateswara Rao created an
altogether different world of music of his own and transported the
audience into it for an equally different feeling.
"I have chosen the Triveni Sangamam theme because we cannot
separate our rivers from our civilisation. Ganga, the most sacred river,
chisels through the Himalayas and meanders through the plains
exhibiting various moods, colours and attitudes while blessing millions
of lives on her journey to the ocean. Even in art, Ganga is visualised as
a beautiful maiden, carrying an overflowing pot in her hand. The vessel
conveys the idea of abundant life and fertility, which nourishes and
sustains the universe. Just as the confluence of Yamuna and Saraswati
with Ganga forms the Triveni Sangamam, this union of voice,
instruments and dance has created a musical symphony," Venkateswara
Rao points out.
The maestro had carefully chosen three different patterns (tribhinna) of
Gaana, Laya and Nritya to showcase the magic that the Ganga weaves
in a ragamalika of three ragas entwined with traditional dance forms.
Venkateswara Rao has already carved out a niche for himself in the
world of percussion and the Triveni Sangamam has simply added
another feather to the cap of this distinguished musician.
The symphony comprised of various musical instruments like ghatam,
violin, tabla, nadaswaram, dhol, mrudangam, bhasuri, saxophone and
veena among others. And managing as many as 50 instruments is really
a Herculean task. And Venkateswara Rao has proved once again that he
is maestro par excellence.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Indian scientist in the US identifies a novel gene that can suppress neuro-degeneration and help in the treatment of crippling diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 15: An Indian scientist in the US has identified a
novel gene that can suppress neuro-degeneration and help in the
treatment of crippling diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Dr Udai Bhan Pandey, who works in the department of neurology,
University of Pennsylvania, has noticed that it may be possible to
intervene in neuro-degeneration by augmenting a type of protein
present in the cell. Neuro-degeneration diseases cripple lakhs of people
around the world every year, prominent among them being Parkinson's
and Alzheimer's diseases.
Dr Pandey told this correspondent from the US that his model had
worked on fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. It could be replicated in
human beings too after further research. The discovery gives hopes to
people suffering from neuro-degeneration diseases as it will find a cure
sooner or later.
Neuro-degenerative diseases are caused by deterioration of certain
nerve cells called neurons. Any abnormal function of neurons lead to
their death. Besides Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, Creutzfeldt-
Jakob and multiple sclerosis are caused when the neurons degenerate in
the central nervous system. The defect can now be rectified, if the
Drosophila model succeeds also in human beings.
The study was published in internationally renowned science weekly
magazine, Nature, in the June 14 issue.
According to Dr Pandey, autophagy (a process of self-destruction in the
cell) acts as a compensatory degradation system when certain process is
impaired in Drosophila melanogaster.
"Impairment of autophagy, associated with ageing or genetic variation,
might predispose to neuro-degeneration. Moreover, these findings
suggest that it may be possible to intervene in neuro-degeneration," he
said.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Software that helps in ringing of bell in temples

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 8: An IT professional from Visakhapatnam has
developed a software that enables the devout to offer prayers and ring
the temple bell in real time while sitting at home.
Unlike the existing "virtual reality" softwares where pooja is offered
virtually on-line, the present software, "e-Smarami", functions in real
time and the prayers offered are real. The software enables the devout
to ring the temple bell, hear the chanting of the priests and see the
presiding deity of the temple of their choice.
The programme is so real that the prayers of the person using it are
heard in the temple in a low voice as if the person is praying to the
deity standing there. Even the conversations on the temple premises are
heard live through the software.
"We have installed the software and the related equipment at a few
temples on experimental basis in Visakhapatnam. Soon we are going to
install it at the famous Dwaraka Tirumala shrine in West Godavari. We
are going to hold talks with the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam soon,"
the IT professional, Susharla Narasimha Murthy, told this
correspondent.
All that the devout has to do is to make a call to a cell phone number
(presently 94907 37373), follow the IVRS announcement and press
No. 2. The cell phone call then goes to an equipment called
"Sriswaroopa" which is nothing but a simple motor connected to a
computer. Once the caller gets through, the motor gets activated and
starts rotating. The motor is linked to a specially set up bell in the
temple. The bell rings for at least three times and the interregnum the
devotee can make his or her wish, which is heard in a low murmur at
the sanctum sanctorum. A small speaker is attached to the bell to enable
the voice of the devotee to be heard in the temple.
Murthy said "e-Smarami" would soon be available for internet users
who will get an additional facility of watching the goings-on in the
temple live. A video camera is fitted in the temple. The camera, speaker
and the bell work in synchronisation.
To ensure that the programme does not fall into the hands of
mischievous or terrorist elements, the software has several inherent
security features. The cell phone call is diverted to another cell phone
which in turn is diverted to a landline number attached to the computer
at the temple.
"Since there are three diversions in a telephone call, the question of
security breach does not arise. Every caller will get one minute time to
ring the bell and offer prayers. We have devised the software in such a
way that the system receives two callers every minute. While one
person goes through the IVRS process, the second one offers the
prayers," he said.

Virtual pooja system: Ring temple bell from home, office

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 8: An IT professional from Visakhapatnam has developed a software that enables the devout to offer prayers and ring the temple bell in real time while sitting at home.
Unlike the existing "virtual reality" softwares where pooja is offered virtually on-line, the present software, "e-Smarami", functions in real time and the prayers offered are real. The software enables the devout to ring the temple bell, hear the chanting of the priests and see the presiding deity of the temple of their choice.
The programme is so real that the prayers of the person using it are heard in the temple in a low voice as if the person is praying to the deity standing there. Even the conversations on the temple premises are heard live through the software.
"We have installed the software and the related equipment at a few temples on experimental basis in Visakhapatnam. Soon we are going to install it at the famous Dwaraka Tirumala shrine in West Godavari. We are going to hold talks with the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam soon," the IT professional, Susharla Narasimha Murthy, told this correspondent.
All that the devout has to do is to make a call to a cell phone number (presently 94907 37373), follow the IVRS announcement and press No. 2. The cell phone call then goes to an equipment called "Sriswaroopa" which is nothing but a simple motor connected to a computer. Once the caller gets through, the motor gets activated and starts rotating. The motor is linked to a specially set up bell in the temple. The bell rings for at least three times and the interregnum the devotee can make his or her wish, which is heard in a low murmur at the sanctum sanctorum. A small speaker is attached to the bell to enable the voice of the devotee to be heard in the temple.
Murthy said "e-Smarami" would soon be available for internet users who will get an additional facility of watching the goings-on in the temple live. A video camera is fitted in the temple. The camera, speaker and the bell work in synchronisation.
To ensure that the programme does not fall into the hands of mischievous or terrorist elements, the software has several inherent security features. The cell phone call is diverted to another cell phone which in turn is diverted to a landline number attached to the computer at the temple.
"Since there are three diversions in a telephone call, the question of security breach does not arise. Every caller will get one minute time to ring the bell and offer prayers. We have devised the software in such a way that the system receives two callers every minute. While one person goes through the IVRS process, the second one offers the prayers," he said.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Chikungunya and dengue occur in tandem in Andhra Pradesh, says WHO

June 28, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 27: The World Health Organisation has bracketed Andhra Pradesh as one of the very few places where chinkungunya is prevalent with dengue.
Though chinkungunya is prevalent in quite a number of places across the globe, it is not generally associated with other infections. But in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa cases of co-infection of chikungunya-dengue are noticed complicating the matters for medical doctors. The WHO lists AP, Orissa and Malegaon (in Maharashtra) as the only places "with occurrence of dengue and or chikungunya". Treatment for chinkungunya is not disease-based but based on the symptoms the patient suffers from and this often leads to overdose of anti-biotics and other medicines.
However, the WHO in its "Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR)" does not feel the need for any special travel advisory to tourists visiting Hyderabad or other parts of Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, the WHO has also not updated its EPR alert after March 17 for Andhra Pradesh which means that there's no major change in chikungunya infection scenario in the State during the past three months. Also AP had the highest number of suspected chikungunya cases.
Several countries including Mauritius, Seychelles, France, Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland have reported cases of chikungunya but only in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa there is a "mixed outbreak of chikungunya, with sporadic cases of dengue".
Stating that several cases of "fever with arthralgia" (neuralgic pain in joints) have been reported from Andhra Pradesh, the WHO relates the cases to "high density of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes". These signs are consistent with an arbovirus (virus transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks) outbreak.
According to the WHO report, chikungunya and dengue viruses are transmitted to humans by the bites of infected mosquitoes. While Aedes albopictus is more active outdoors Aedes aegypti typically feeds and rests more indoors. Andhra Pradesh has reported cases of Aedes aegypti. Chikungunya (which in Swahili language means "that which bends up" referring to the stooped posture developed in patients due to arthritic symptoms) has assumed epidemic and pandemic proportions in the State since December last year.
"Although transmission of chikungunya and dengue is continuing in the affected areas, WHO recommends no special restrictions on travel or trade to or from these areas. However, it is recommended that individuals take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites, e.g., by wearing clothes that minimise skin exposure and applying insect repellents to exposed skin or clothing in accordance with label instructions," the WHO report pointed out.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad District Medical and Health Officer Dr Satyavati said of the 5326 cases screened for chikungunya only six patients in fever hospital are suspected to be suffering from the disease.

Monday, 4 June 2007

AICTE introduces free education for poor students in engineering colleges

June 4, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 3: Meritorious students hailing from economically backward families, women and the physically challenged will get free education in engineering colleges.
The All-India Council for Technical Education has earmarked 10 per cent of seats in engineering colleges for "tuition fee waiver scheme". These 10 per cent of seats are in addition to the total intake of the respective colleges. The admission for these students is through convener and is purely based on merit and economic backwardness. The upper income limit fixed to qualify for the scheme is Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.
The State government has welcomed the AICTE's move as it will benefit at least 10,000 poor students in the State alone. The AICTE, acting under Section 10(e) of AICTE Act which empowers it to formulate schemes for promoting technical education for women, handicapped and weaker sections of society, has decided to introduce the scheme all over the country.
The proposed scheme will be applicable to the students of all AICTE approved technical institutions offering bachelors programmes in engineering, pharmacy, architecture and applied arts and crafts and diploma programmes of three years duration in all disciplines.
The scheme is purely voluntary but engineering colleges have welcomed it. "We do not have to set up more infrastructure. All we have to do is to provide six more chairs and one or two more computers. We are not losing on the economics because the no tuition fee seats are in addition to our regular intake strength," said Abid Rasool Khan, chairman of Mannan Institute of Science and Technology.
According to Dr K Narayana Rao, AICTE member-secretary, the waiver is limited to the tuition fee as approved by the State-Level Fee Committee for self-financing institutions and by the government for the government and government-aided institutions. All other fees except tuition fee have to be paid by the beneficiary.
"In the event of non-availability of students in this category, the benefit will be given to any other candidate of other categories according to merit. An award letter is this respect will be issued by the respective institution with the approval of the competent authority for admissions," he pointed out.
The institution, in turn, will be allowed to admit 10 per cent of its sanctioned intake or the number of actual tuition fee waiver granted by it, whichever is lower, as an additional intake in the same discipline/branch of study. The colleges will have to give an undertaking to the government that they will not charge tuition fee from these students for the duration of the course.
The State governments concerned will announce in the admission brochures the names of the colleges which have volunteered to provide free admissions to meritorious students.

Wakf Board loses prime 100 acres land

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 4: The State Wakf Board has lost about 100 acres of prime land with lower rung officials in districts issuing no objection certificates to encroachers claiming the Wakf property as their own.
The value of the Wakf land is put at Rs 50 crore. The Wakf properties have been registered in individual names against the Central Wakf Act and the AP Wakf Rules. The sub-registrars okayed the registrations based on the NOCs issued by local inspector-auditor of Wakf.
According to Wakf sources, inspector-auditor of Prakasam district issued NOC to Dr M Venkataramana Maharshi who in turn sold away prime Wakf properties in Pernamitta village of Santanutalapadu mandal. The market value of land in the village is Rs 54 lakh per acre.
The Ashoorkhana in Ongole has landed property extending to 81.80 acres under survey Nos. 159, 164, 192 and 4. The property has been recorded as that of Wakf in the State Gazette.
Maharshi claimed that his mother had purchased the Wakf land without knowing that it belonged to the Wakf Board. He sought exemption but the district registrar refused to register the land. He then approached the local inspector-auditor of Wakf, who issued a no objection certificate, based on which the registrar went ahead with the registration of the land.
In East Godavari district too, prime Wakf land extending more than 10 acres was sold away after the local Wakf official issued NOC to an encroacher. Reports of illegal sale of Wakf properties have also come in from Krishna, Ranga Reddy, Nizamabad, Medak and other districts.
When contacted Wakf Board chief executive officer Madar Saheb said they had called for a report on NOCs and they would take action against the guilty officials. "We have suspended the inspector-auditor of Prakasam district and ordered an inquiry," he said adding that only the Wakf Board has the right to issue such certificates.
In the absence of a fullfledged Board, officials are calling the shot in districts. The Board which had a bank balance of about Rs 30 crore in 2004 is now left with nothing in the coffers. The Board is not even in a position to pay salaries to the staff.

Friday, 1 June 2007

World Bank's Vulture Aid May Affect Poor Countries

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 1: The World Bank's decision to float "vulture aid" to assist heavily indebted poor countries that have become victims of private moneylenders will open the Pandora's box rather than restructuring their shattered economy.
According to city economists, the World Bank's decision is wrought with more dangers and will further harm the economy of the poor countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America. The WB's "vulture aid" is motivated and will benefit the bank more than the countries affected.
They, however, feel that it will not have any affect on a big country like India, which has vast foreign reserves and a strong currency. The real aim behind the "vulture aid" is ensure recovery of World Bank loans.
The World Bank came up with the idea of "vulture aid" to counter "vulture fund", a term referred to the blackmailing tactics of private moneylenders who help the poor countries with funds only to recover them at a later stage with heavy interest and other costs. As many as 40 countries have fallen prey to the so-called "vulture fund", the latest victim being Zambia. Even Argentina is no exception.
"The World Bank itself is a big vulture. It has been feeding on the economy of poor and heavily indebted nations for quite long. The Bank has become quite unpopular. By floating the so-called vulture aid, the Bank wants to earn a good image on one hand, and ensure that the loanee country is in a position to pay back its debts on the other. The Bank is doing to service to the poor nations," argues K Venugopal, director of Centre for Documentation, Research and Communications.
The World Bank on Friday announced that it will reduce the commercial debts of poor countries, which are preyed on by "vulture funds". The Bank said it would now extend the life of its debt reduction facility, which helps countries buy back their commercial debts.
While vulture funds are "outrageous, immoral and perverse", the vulture aid now being offered by the World Bank is equally bad. "The bank's vulture aid my temporarily help the poor nation over come the crisis. But this is in a way beneficial to the World Bank. The poor country will not press for a waiver of the World Bank load. The vulture aid is nothing but burdening the already burdened poor nations," points out Prof. D Narasimha Reddy, visiting professor of the Institute of Human Development, New Delhi.
Prof K Haragopal of the department of political sciences, University of Hyderabad, is of the view that whether vulture fund or vulture aid was a perpetration of injustice and a threat to democracy in poor countries. "It is nothing but killing a poor nation economically by extorting money," he said.
However, Danny Leipziger, the World Bank's vice-president for poverty reduction and economic management, said that extending the life of its grant-based debt reduction facility would help curb the increasing litigation against poor countries by vulture funds.
"The spate of litigation by vulture funds against countries receiving debt relief will penalise some of the world's poorest countries unless we tackle this aspect of commercial debt more actively," he said.
The World Bank has estimated that more than one-third of the countries which have qualified for its debt relief have been targeted with lawsuits by at least 38 litigating creditors, with judgements totalling $1bn awarded in 26 of these cases.
As recently as February Zambia agreed to pay $15.5 million to a British Virgin Isles-registered firm to settle a case at London's High Court. The company, Donegal International, had taken Zambia to court seeking payment of a debt and late payment penalties.

Word Of The Day - Improve Your Knowledge

Word of the Day

Article of the Day

This Day in History

Today's Birthday

In the News

Quote of the Day

Spelling Bee
difficulty level:
score: -
please wait...
 
spell the word:

Match Up
Match each word in the left column with its synonym on the right. When finished, click Answer to see the results. Good luck!

 

Hangman

This Day In History

Mother's Care

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

Someone with Nature

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

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

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

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

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