Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Your nameplate on the moon

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 30: Want to have your nameplate put on the moon? Just endorse the international lunar observatory mission and your name will be etched on a plaque to be placed in the south pole of the earth's only natural satellite.
The International Lunar Observatory Association, which is taking up the lunar observatory mission in 2009 to explore the universe from the moon, is seeking endorsement to its moon observatory programme. It promises to put the names of those endorsing its mission, on a plaque to be set up near the observatory site in the moon's south polar region.
The service is absolutely free and the association says the name plaque is as part of encouragement to people to endorse the first-ever lunar observatory to be set up on the moon. Since there's no or limited atmospheric interference on the moon, the lunar observatory will be able to "see" the universe and other planets in a better way. The earth's atmosphere blurs the images and this was precisely the reason behind setting up of the international space telescope.
All one has to do is to visit www.iloa.org, click the endorse link, fill it up and send it to the association. When the observatory is sent to the moon, the list of the endorsers will also be forwarded along with it.
The Association held its preliminary session in Hyderabad during the recent 58th international astronautical congress. A number of countries including India's Isro are providing support to the lunar observatory mission.
Dozens of Hyderabadis have already endorsed the mission thus paving the way for their names to be included in the "lunar" plaque. The International Lunar Observatory is a multi-national, multi-wavelength astrophysical observatory, power station and communications centre that is planned to be operational near the south pole of the lunar surface. The International Lunar Observatory Association supports the ILO and its follow-on missions through timely, efficient and responsible utilisation of human, material and financial resources of space faring nations, enterprises and individuals.
The ILO mission was conceived during the historic International Lunar Conference 2003 (5th meeting of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group. A distinguished panel of lunar scientists, entrepreneurs, policy makers, advocates and others gathered to discuss the next vital step in human exploration of the moon within the decade. What manifested was the Hawaii Moon Declaration, a one-page “Ad Astra per Luna” manifesto, written and signed by conference participants. Soon after the positive momentum, the ILO mission began to take shape.
An ILO Advisory Committee was established in 2005, consisting of about 50 supporters from the international science, commerce and space agency communities. ALO Association was formed last year. After the Hyderabad preliminary session, the next meeting is scheduled for November 2007 in Hawaii.
Space-faring nations like the USA, Canada, China, India, Italy, Japan, and Russia are participating in the mission. It also has the direct support within the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
Located about 122 kilometres from the Lunar South Pole, the adjacent mare plain just north of the 5-kilometre high “Malapert” Mountain is the intended landing region for the ILO. Near-constant sunlight (thought to be 89 per cent full, four per cent 4 partial) provides an energy-rich environment, and the lunar peak enjoys continuous line-of-sight to Earth and direct Earth-Moon communications.
The mountain dominates its surrounding area for an excellent vantage point and is near enough to expected water ice deposits -- which can be utilised for oxygen, drinking water and rocket fuel, around the lunar south pole.
Given these factors, Malapert Mountain is considered to be the most suitable location for the ILO to conduct astronomy and catalyse commercial lunar development and human lunar base build-out. 

Reduction of Infant Mortality Rate: Five States selected for the IMR reduction task

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Buoyed by the success achieved in a pilot project on reduction of infant mortality rate in Gachiroli district of Maharashtra by 67 per cent, the Central government has decided to implement similar strategy in five States including Andhra Pradesh.
Fast development in the medical field notwithstanding infant mortality rate continues to be higher in the country, worrying reproductive experts and health planners alike. Still 54 infants die for every 1000 live births in Andhra Pradesh while neighbouring States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu have successfully reduced the infant mortality rate. The Centre wants the IMR to be further reduced in Andhra Pradesh at least by half in the next few years.
Reproductive experts attending the fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights have chalked out a strategy to bring down the IMR, which includes increase in the number of assisted deliveries and monitoring pregnant women right from conception till the passage of the neonatal phase.
According to Abhay Bang, director of the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health, they could bring down the neonatal morbidity rate in Gadchiroli through a low-cost home based model of primary neonatal care by training village women.
"In most homes in the villages, there is generally the mother, grandmother and the traditional midwife who assists a woman during child birth. We decided to introduce a trained worker to this team to make the process safer," he observed.
India still lags behind in achieving the target of universal sexual and reproductive health services by 2015, as fixed by the Cairo Declaration.
United Nations Population Fund executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid pointed out that South Asia had the highest rate of maternal mortality outside Africa and almost half of the world's maternal deaths occur in the region.
The other States where the IMR reduction programme will be taken up are Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Monday, 29 October 2007

The case of "missing" women

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 29: Reproductive health experts from more than 40 countries are exploring a strategy to bring down the number of India's "missing daughters".
According to an estimate, there are 50 million "missing women" in India, almost half of the total number of "missing women" all over the world. Missing women are those who are literally not alive due to family neglect, discrimination, foeticide and dowry deaths.
As against the world's average of 990 women for every 1,000 men, India has a sex ratio of 933 women for every 1000 men. This in other words means, for every 1000 male babies born there are 67 "missing girls". And this number goes up if the female infanticide, female foeticide, maternal deaths and dowry deaths are also included. In some regions of India, the sex ratio is even more greatly distorted. In part of the states of Bihar and Rajasthan, the female-male ratio is 600 to 1,000.
Experts attending the fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights here on Monday expressed serious concern over the ever increasing number of "missing women".
"One of the most alarming changes in Asia’s population dynamics in recent decades has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of males within its local populations. Unfortunately, these changes were not identified immediately, due to lack of data. A new phenomenon was underway: sex ratio at birth was – and is – tilting towards boys, in a way that had never before been recorded. Indeed, if the continent’s overall sex ratio was the same as elsewhere in the world, in 2005 Asia’s population would have included almost 163 million more women and girls," says a report, by United Nations Population Fund, presented at the conference.
Experts warn that with income and education not being protective, more girls are likely to go missing with continued modernisation and upward economic growth. With the family sizes falling, Asians have increasingly used ultrasound or amniocentesis to determine the sex of foetuses and aborted unwanted females. The resulting skewed sex ratios at birth have been noticeable in India, with the number of boys per 100 girls going up to 120 in some States.
"In many cases, girls are missing because they are murdered at birth, or never allowed to be born. Between three million and five million female foetuses are aborted in India each year. The country records 10,000 cases of female infanticide every year. More over the risk of dying between ages one and five is 43 per cent higher for girls than for boys," the experts point out.

The steady tilting of sex ratio towards boys in India will cause shortage of brides

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 29: The steady tilting of sex ratio towards boys in India will lead to a severe catastrophic effect on the reproductive health of the nation including acute shortage of potential brides.

The United Nations Population Fund, which presented its study on the projected demographic position in India for 2050, at fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights here on Monday, pointed out that the ramifications of such an imbalance would not only continue for decades, but would affect an enormous proportion of the Indian population.

"While men of marriageable age will suddenly find a dramatic shortage of potential brides, it is girls and women of all ages who will truly feel the brunt," it said forecasting increases in gender-based violence, trafficking, discrimination and general vulnerability of women and girls.

The study attributed the shortfall in women to a "deeply rooted preference for sons, which leads parents across cultures and geographic locations to decide against allowing a girl to live, even before her birth, and the increasing availability of technology that enables them to do so with ease".

According to the study, the proportion of boys in India’s child population has been on the rise for the past twenty years, in a way that parallels the experience of other Asian countries, such as China or South Korea. For the most part, this development has been caused by the increasing practice of sex selection, which has led to unusually high values of the sex ratio at birth.

"India’s system of gender discrimination has moved from a regime characterised by high fertility, female infanticide and excess child mortality among girls, to a modern regime based on prenatal sex selection. At the same time, the significant variations in sex ratio at birth point to the interplay of social, cultural and economic factors in gender preferences," it said.

Presenting the study, UNFPA deputy executive director Purnima Mane said it was crucial to examine the underlying factors behind the recent reduction in the proportion of female children, distinguishing between the supply-and demand-side factors.

She said sex selection was most prevalent in urban areas amongst higher economic quintiles, and even for these groups the practice continued to be fuelled by a patriarchal structure that believed in, values and promoted son preference.

The report warned that while sex selection is particularly prevalent in Northwest India, the ideologies and social structures that give rise to this practice could easily spread to other areas, as is already taking place.

It suggested a fight against gender discrimination, investment in addressing socio-economic constraints that limit the ability of girls to lead a life of equal opportunity; publicity on future hardships for families and communities based on imbalance sex ratio; making eliminating sex selection an immediate priority for government and civil society.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Madarasas in Andhra Pradesh have set up a "no entry" board for students from border States particularly Bihar, West Bengal and Assam

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Madarasas in the State have set up a "no entry" board for students from border States particularly Bihar, West Bengal and Assam this academic year.
The Deeni Madaris Board, an umbrella body of Islamic seminaries in the State, has issued an advisory to all madarasas asking them not to admit students from Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. The managements have been asked to be particular in refusing students from Bihar and conduct a thorough study of the background of students from other States.
The new academic year in madarasas in the State begins after the annual Ramzan vacation. Every year in the month of Shawwal, which follows the month of Ramzan, hundreds of students from north India seek admission in the 500 and odd important Islamic seminaries across the State.
The working committee of the Deeni Madaris Board which held a meeting in the city decided to deny admissions for students from border States and be wary of students from other States.
"India is a democratic nation. Every Indian has a right to study anywhere in the country. But in view of recent developments we have decided, in the larger interests of the minority community, to be careful about students outside Andhra Pradesh. We have to come out with restrictions on students from certain States. Non-locals will have to submit transfer certificates from the madarasa they had last studied, besides a nativity or residence certificate from a government agency concerned," says Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, board secretary.
The Moulana, who is currently in Saudi Arabia performing Umra, expressed concern over the recent incidents which have tarnished the image of the community.
During the recent raids on a group of madarasas in Hyderabad and neighbouring Ranga Reddy district, police and Intelligence sleuths sought records on students from border States. Even the madarasa managed by Moulana Saifullah Rahmani was raided in the dead of the night. The police were searching for students from Bihar and West Bengal.
According to sources, about 30 per cent of students in madarasas with residential facility are from outside Andhra Pradesh. A good number of students are from Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Assam. Madarasas in Hyderabad are in great demand because of the quality modern vocational education they offer along with the religious knowledge. Even the US government has been supporting a few madarasas with funds for offering modern courses like English, mathematics and science.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Hyderabad police torture Muslim youths after bomb blasts

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 22: The city police seems to have meticulously tortured some of the 21 youths they had detained illegally at a farm house in the city outskirts, if the physical examination reports by doctors is any indication.
There are clear marks of injury but they are so small and partially healed that it makes difficult for examining doctors to exactly pinpoint the cause. There are signs of electrocution with very small voltage electricity and not big enough to prove that they are electrical burns or Joule burn in medical parlance. This shows that the police had carried out the "interrogation" in such a way so as not to leave major tell tale marks on the bodies. Soft tissues and tendons were targeted since it becomes difficult for doctors to find out the injuries after a gap of three weeks.
Since the youths were detained for days together, the injuries they bore had either healed or were in stage of partial healing by the time they were produced in court for remand. Though the police started picking up youths soon after the twin bomb blast on August 25, the arrests were shown only a few days later.
The detained youths had access to medical facility for the first time on September 8 at Cherlapally jail dispensary. They were referred to Osmania General Hospital on September 18 for further medical treatment following a directive by AP High Court.
Dr T Mahender Reddy, professor of forensic medicine in Kamineni Medical College, who accompanied the State Minorities Commission's inquiry team, noted that "soft tissue (muscle and tendons) injuries cannot be made out after three weeks. Pain and tenderness are the manifestations of soft tissue injuries which cannot be determined or calibrated on simple external examination".
He pointed out in his report to the commission that in three undertrials partially healing and healed abrasions were present on the forearms, wrists and in front of the legs. In two undertrials small scars of less than one centimetre were seen on external ears. In another three undertrials pin-point partially healing abrasions ranging from one millimetre to two millimetre in diameter were noted around nipples.
In one undertrial prisoner multiple circular discoloration was noted on the inner aspect of right thigh each measuring approximately one cm in diameter.
"From the above noted injuries inference is drawn that partially healing and healed injuries are of age group ranging from one to three weeks old," he said.
The youths were remanded to judicial custody and sent to Cherlapally jail after the police officially showed the arrests on September 8. Before being produced in court, the youths were lodged at a farm house where they were subjected to "interrogation" for days together. The police booked cases relating to waging war against the State or obtaining passports by producing fake documents. Interestingly, though all the youths were arrested in connection with the bomb blasts, none of them was shown arrested on this charge.
The medical report further pointed out that small pin-point abrasions noted around nipples were possible by electrocution with very small voltage electricity. Other possibility of pin-point abrasions can be due to pricking by sharp needle like objects.
"Classical electrical burns (Joule burn) were not made out on any person. None of them had an injury anywhere on the private parts at the time of examination," Dr Mahender Reddy said.
The medical records maintained at Cherlapalli central prison dispensary point out that one of the youths Muhammad Abdul Karim Anwar, 24, had two abrasions on right hand, two abrasions on front of right forearm, abrasions on left knee and painful movements of left shoulder.
He was taken to the dispensary for the second time on September 12 and later on September 18 he was referred to Osmania General Hospital for further treatment and management.
Another youth, Ibrahim Ali Junaid, 25, had abrasions on front of lower leg, swelling of left foot and punctate marks on lower right arm and lower left back.
Abdul Wasim, 25, reported abrasion of left forearm, abrasion of right forearm and swelling of left forearm.

Andhra Pradesh is ill-equipped to tackle the bird flu

2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 22: The State is ill-equipped to tackle the bird flu in case of an outbreak of the highly infectitious disease. There's no vaccine for any of the 100 and odd strains of bird flu including the more dangerous strain H5N1 which infects human beings too.
The good news, however, is that none of the strains has ever been found in the Stare or elsewhere in the country. Poultry farmers in the State are a worried lot in the wake of reports that a flock of infected migratory birds has landed in some of the water bodies in Nellore and Krishna districts.
The city-based Environment Protection Training and Research Institute has noticed a change in the migratory pattern of birds after Tsunami last December. Some of the birds have changed their regular habitats and shifted base to lakes in Hyderabad. Most of the poultry farms are in and around Hyderabad and any lapse on the part of breeders may result in the spread of the the infection.
"We have taken all precautions. But we cannot say for sure that the disease will not infect the birds. We will know only when it outbreaks. As of now, all the samples collected in the State are free of any infection," says B Rami Reddy, president of Poultry Breeders Association.
India is the third largest producer of poultry in the world and Andhra Pradesh ranks first in the country both in terms of poultry farms and chicken and egg production. The State produces around five crore eggs and six crore chicken every day. A small negligence on the part of poultry farmers, officials fear, will lead to an outbreak of the deadly bird flu.
Hyderabad, known as the city of research laboratories, strangely enough does not have an exclusive research centre to test virus. The country has only one such facility in Bhopal. In fact, there are only five high security animal diseases laboratories in the world. The other four are located in Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Andhra Pradesh being the number one in poultry, the state of abattoirs and farms varies from unhygienic to satisfactory standards, and from highly organised to informal.
Says poultry expert MN Rao, "though there is always the threat of an outbreak of virus in the State or anywhere, poultry farmers in Andhra Pradesh have improved the standards during the past four years. The industry suffered heavily a couple of years ago when people stopped taking chicken fearing bird flu. Since then farmers themselves have stepped up survielliance".
However, health officials warn that the State must further improve its infrastructure, disease surveillance and reporting system. The State does not have enough stocks of vaccines for human influenza in case the disease spreads from poultry to human beings.
"A vaccine for the bird flu is not possible at this stage. The method of transmission is through migratory birds to poultry and not from human to human contact. A vaccine is possible only when we know the strain of the virus. In case of spread to human beings, anti-viral drugs may be used. But we will know the efficacy only when they start working," observes veterinarian Dr P Nagasrinivasa Rao.
Though the migratory birds have started arriving in the country, the poultry in the State continues to be safe, asserts KG Anand, general manager of Venkateswara Hatcheries. "Our birds are always kept in cages. Unlike in China and other countries, the farms in the State are closed and there's no scope of migratory birds infecting the local poultry. However, we are taking all precautions to prevent any outbreak," he points out.
Experts from different parts of the country are meeting in Tirupati on November 6 and 7 to discuss the problem of bird flu and how to contain the disease from entering the State.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Genetically modified soya, canola and corn now available in Indian markets

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 16: The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture on Tuesday
called upon consumers to boycott
genetically modified soya, canola and corn which are now available in the
Indian markets.
Following removal of restrictions on genetically modified crops by the
Central government, several
multinational firms have started marketing GM food products like soya,
canola and corn, which were
hitherto not sold in the country.
GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of Centre for Sustainable
Agriculture, regretted that GM food
products were now being allowed into the Indian markets without any
regulation in place. "GM technology
is a matter of concern since it has potential adverse health and
environmental impacts. It has been
documented that GM foods have altered toxicity or allergenicity or
nutritional composition than their non-
GM counterparts," he said.
Addressing a press conference to mark the World Food Day, observed every
year on October 16, he said
the Central government's notification issued recently exempting
genetically modified  products from
regulatory processes had opened the floodgates of GM food products’
imports into the country in a
legalised fashion.
He appealed to consumers to boycott genetically modified soya, corn and
canola to avoid complicated
health problems at a latter date. India imports around two million tonnes
of de-gummed soybean oil every
year from Argentina, Brazil and USA and this is either GM or
GM-contaminated. In addition, India also
imports refined soybean oil from these countries.
Canola oil is also imported from Canada and more than 80 per cent of all
canola production in Canada is of
GE origin, he said.

Monday, 15 October 2007

In AP, sombre touch to festival


October 2007
Meanwhile | Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Id-ul-Fitr or the feast of alms-giving is the biggest Islamic festival which every Muslim around the globe would look forward to every year. But this year Hyderabad, which has the second largest Muslim population in the country, is celebrating Id with a sombre touch.
Many Muslim families have decided to make the celebrations low-key as mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the three bomb blasts that hit Hyderabad.
Others have donated a part of the funds earmarked for the festivities to charitable organisations.
Even schoolchildren have joined their parents in forgoing the festivities in several parts of the State. Business figures from the famous Charminar market shows one-third of the community did not go for shopping this Id.
On Jummat-ul-Vida, the last Friday of Ramzan, religious leaders called upon the devout not to spend much on festivities but concentrate on charity and service. They also emphasised the need for mass prayers for peace and universal brotherhood of man.
The blasts in the historic Mecca Masjid, the subsequent police firing and the blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat have left fear in the minds of the community.
The blast at the dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the greatest Sufi saint in the sub-continent, has only heightened this sense of fear.
A majority of Muslims in Hyderabad and other parts of the country are devotees of the Sufi saint, who is popularly revered as Gharib Nawaz (benefactor of the poor).
"Id is indeed an occasion to celebrate. But how could we celebrate when our brothers and sisters are in trouble. There was so much loss of life in Hyderabad in the last five months. I will go to the Idgah and offer special prayers there. I am dedicating this Id to those killed in the blasts," says S.A.K. Jeelana, a college-goer.
Says Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who edits the popular Urdu weekly Gawah, "that people have decided to make the Id a low-key affair is clear from the low turnout at shops in Charminar. The business fell by at least 40 per cent and not many from outside Hyderabad came here for shopping at the famous Charminar-Madina market. The spate of arrests and the police raid on madarasas have also contributed to the low turnout."
Moulvis who led congregation prayers in mosques departed from their usual sermons during Ramzan. Their speeches revolved around peace and the need for the community to extend support to law enforcing agencies to weed out communal and terrorist elements.
"This is not the time to rejoice at least for us Hyderabadis. Many Muslims have decided to restrict their Id prayers to the local mosque, instead of going to the Idgah. This is a good idea. The larger the congregation the greater the security risk," says senior cleric Hafiz M.N. Rahman.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Jamia Al-Azhar deputes qaris to Hyderabad for Ramzan peace

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 14: The historic Al-Azhar University in Cairo has deputed four of its senior Quranic scholars to India to spread the message of peace and tolerance this Ramazan among the local Muslim youth.
The scholars from Al-Azhar are presently in Hyderabad holding a series of meetings with Muslims, particularly the youth, and emphasising the need for peaceful co-existence with all religious communities. They have also been holding inter-faith dialogues with Hindu, Sikh and Christian religious leaders as part of their effort to promote peace and tolerance during this Islamic holy month.
The team has brought with it the message of Al-Azhar's Grand Sheikh, Said Muhammad Tantawi, who extols the spiritual eminence of Indians and the unique religious unity of India. The message is being read in all the programmes attended by the Egyptian team members. Al-Azhar is one of the oldest universities in the world. It is also one of the top centres of Islamic learning.
The Azhar delegation is led by Sheikh Muhammad El Regal Hegab, director-general of the Quran Recitation Department, Al-Azhar University. Other team members are Sheikh Shawki Hamed, Sheikh Hemida Selim Abdel Halim and Sheikh Muhammad El Mahdy Nagaty, all from the Ministry of Wakf, Government of Egypt.
"Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. There is no compulsion in Islam. Terrorism and acts of violence have no place in our religion. We are here to remove the misconceptions in people about this great religion. We are also telling our youth to stay away from extremism and terrorist outfits. Ramazan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed. We want to promote peace through this Scripture," Sheikh El Regal Hegab said.
Moulana Peerzada Shabbir Naqshbandi, who has been co-ordinating the programme, said the Al-Azhar delegation had visited Sri Ramakrishna temple in Dehra Dun, a church in Muzaffarnagar and a Gurudwara in Delhi. "Muslims should expose terrorist outfits. They are bringing bad name to the religion and the community. The best way to promote peace is through the message of the Holy Quran," he said.
The delegation will visit various parts of Andhra Pradesh before leaving for Egypt later this month.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

AP Government moots village police concept to fight terrorism

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 11: Faced with increasing incidents of terror and law and order problem, the State government has decided to set up village policing involving civilians. Each village will have a civil police officer assisted by a 15-member panel of "village guard".
The village police officers, though civilians, will be empowered to effect arrests of suspects in emergency situations. They will be responsible for the overall maintenance of security in their villages. The State government is finalising the village policing system and is likely to issue an Ordinance next month. The State government's move follows the recommendations of the Soli Sorabjee panel on police reforms. Andhra Pradesh will be the first State to implement the recommendations.
Each civilian police officer will draw a monthly honorarium of Rs 3000 and will be in "service"
for a period of three years. The only qualification for the post is political non-affiliation and
sincere background. They should be between 21 and 60 years of age. The police officers will maintain close contact with local community elders. There will also be community liaison groups, village defence parties and village guards to maintain peace and law and order in the villages.
According police sources, the village police officers and village guards will keep a watch over history-sheeted criminals and others with criminal record or bad characters.
The village officers will report the occurrence of any crime or law and order situation in the
village to the police and assist the police in bringing the offenders to book, besides maintaining a general vigil in the village.
District police superintendents concerned will issue identity badges to the village police officers and village defence force members.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Id under shadow of bomb blasts: Muslims to avoid festivities

2007
By Syed Akbar
Id-ul-Fitr or the feast of alms-giving is the biggest Islamic festival which every Muslim around the globe would look forward to every year. But the Id this year in Hyderabad, which has the second largest Muslim population in the country, is being celebrated without the usual festivities.
And many Muslim families have decided to make the celebrations a low-key affair as mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the three bomb blasts that hit Hyderabad recently. Others have donated a part of the funds earmarked for the Id festivities to charitable organisations as a mark of solidarity with the downtrodden sections of society. Even schoolchildren have joined their parents in forgoing the festivities in several parts of the State. Business figures from the famous Charminar market shows one-third of the minority community did not go for shopping this Id
That the Id will be a low-key affair became clear on the Jumat-ul-Vida, the last Friday of Ramzan, when religious leaders in their congregational sermons called upon the devout not to spend much on festivities but concentrate on charity and service. They also emphasised the need for mass prayers for peace and universal brotherhood of man.
The bomb blast in the historic Mecca Masjid and the subsequent police firing and the twin blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat have left a sort of fear psychosis in the principal minority community.
The blast the historic dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the greatest Sufi saint of all times in sub-continent, has only heightened this sense of fear. A majority of Muslims in Hyderabad and other parts of the country are devotees of the Sufi saint, who is popularly revered as Gharib Nawaz (benefactor of the poor).
"Id is indeed an occasion to celebrate. But how could we celebrate when our brothers and sisters are in trouble. There was so much loss of life in Hyderabad in the last five months. I will go to the Idgah and offer special prayers there. I am dedicating this Id to those killed in the blasts," says SAK Jeelana, a college-goer.
While fear is visible in the lanes and bylanes of old city of Hyderabad, the IB's recent alert of yet another attack on places of worship during the holy month of Ramzan has put the security forces on tenterhooks. This is for the first time that the Id is celebrated under such a heightened atmosphere in the past three decades. The last time Hyderabad witnessed tension during the Id was way back in early 1980s.
Says Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who edits the popular Urdu weekly Gawah, "that people have decided to make the Id a low-key affair is clear from the low turnout at shops in Charminar. The business this Id season fell down by at least 40 per cent and not many from outside Hyderabad came here for shopping at the famous Charminar-Madina market. The spate of arrests and the police raid on madarasas have also contributed to the low turnout of shoppers from districts".
Moulvis, who led congregation prayers in mosques, too departed from their usual sermons during Ramzan. Their speeches revolved around peace and the need for the community to extend support to law enforcing agencies to weed out communal and terrorist elements from society.
"This is not the time to rejoice at least for we Hyderabadis. Many Muslims in our area have decided to restrict their Id prayers to the local mosque, instead of celebrating the festival at Idgah. This is a good idea and I welcome it. The larger the congregation the greater the security risk," says senior cleric Hafiz MN Rahman.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Mutations in X chromosomes, contributed by mother, will lead to mental retardation in children

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 9: City geneticists have found that mutations in X chromosomes, contributed by mother, will lead to mental retardation in children.
A joint study by L Hemabindu, PP Reddy and others from the department of environmental toxicology, Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases, Osmania University, detected L1 CAM mutations in X-linked mental retardation. L1 CAM is a neural cell adhesion molecule (CAM) belonging to the superfamily of the immunoglobulins and is critical for proper central nervous system development in humans. Since mutations on X chromosome is now linked to mental retardation, it simply means that mothers pass on the defect to their children.
The research team screened as many as 15 cases with mental retardation analysing genomic DNA from the patients and control subjects. The team detected mutations in two out of 15 patients. "It is worthwhile to screen idiopathic mental retardation cases for L1 CAM mutations to reduce genetic morbidity in the population by offering genetic counselling and prenatal diagnosis," the study pointed out.
Mental retardation is caused by genetic and non-genetic factors. Among the genetic factors, chromosomal anomalies and metabolic disorders were found to be causative factors in 50 per cent of the cases with mental retardation. However in the remaining 50 per cent of cases, the cause is not established.
Studies conducted in the field of molecular genetics and developmental neurobiology revealed that some types of brain malformations and mental retardation are due to mutations in L1 gene. Cell adhesion molecule (L1CAM) plays a key role in the development of nervous system. The gene encoding L1 is located on the X chromosome. Patients suspected for mental retardation from different hospitals and clinics were referred to the Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases for confirmation. After initial examination, unknown cases of mental retardation were included for the study. Fifteen children in the age group of 6 months to 15 years were selected. For comparison, an equal number of healthy and normal children in the same age group and socio-economic status were selected as controls.
The patients and the healthy subjects were clinically examined and information on their age, sex, physical features, pedigree and health status was recorded in a standard questionnaire.
Psychological assessment was performed using standard IQ. assessment tests.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

DFID: Chinthalapalyam best example of progress through people-government participation

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 4: Chinthalapalyam, a tiny village tucked away in Nagarjunasagar hills in the drought-prone Nalgonda district, stands out as the best example of progress through people-government participation.
A few years ago the village with about 1000 people was notorious for seasonal migration, abject poverty and frequent failure of crops. Today it is ahead of many villages of its size in the backward Nalgonda district with fields once barren, churning out 60 bags of paddy per acre and cattle yielding relatively higher quantity of milk. Its women are now financially strong enough to take up self-employment schemes and purchase agricultural fields in nearby villages.
The United Kingdom's Department for International Development initiated several development works in the village under the Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Programme during 2004. The scenario in Chinthalapalyam changed since then from that of a poverty-ridden  village to that of a developed habitation with each of the 220 and odd families saving at least Rs 2000 a year. Some of the villagers purchased as much as 10 acres of farm lands in neighbouring villages.
Says Saidamma, who heads a self-help group, "from the money I saved in the last three years, I could purchase an acre of agricultural land. Earlier, I used to do tenant-farming and now I have my own land. I plan to purchase more land in coming years".
While people in neighbouring villages get 40 bags of paddy per acre, those in Chinthalapalyam fetch 20 bags more. The increase in productivity is attributed to better soil management techniques and spread of silt from lakes.
"The village has two lakes. We desilted them. It not only increased the water-holding capacity of the lakes but also helped in recharge of the ground water. The area did not receive good rains in 2005 but we did not face any water trouble. Earlier we had only one crop but after DFID's intervention, we are going in for two crops with increased productivity," observes Anjaiah, who recently purchased 10 acres of farm land. He saved enough money from the additional yields he had in his fields.
The villagers want the DFID programme to be extended beyond December. The programme launched in Andhra Pradesh in 1999 is going to conclude in December and people want it to be continued for at least five years more. The APRLP spent about Rs 15 lakhs in the village on watershed and other programmes.
Howard White, World Bank consultant, visited the village for an independent evaluation of the DFID's programme in Chinthalapalyam. He interacted with the villagers and said he would submit his report to the DFID by December.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Radiation hit a toxic high in Hyderabad


October 14, 2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 13: Hyderabad is fast turning into a "radiation city" with harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays hitting the city at "extreme" levels.
UV forecasts for Hyderabad show that the radiation falling down on the city from the sun for most part of the year is on the higher side, which is an indication that all is not well with the ozone layer above and the city's atmosphere.
Hyderabad is bracketed with concrete jungles like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai as these cities record "extreme" UV radiation for more than three days a week. However, Delhi appears to be slightly better as the UV radiation levels there are generally "high" to "very high" but rarely "extreme".
Ultraviolet rays falling on the earth are classified into various categories based on the intensity of the radiation and the harm they cause to human beings and animals. The World Meteorological Organisation, a WHO body, has standardised the UV radiation levels with its "UV Index" which is a simple measure of the UV radiation
level at the earth's surface. Hyderabad's UV Index shows a measure of 11, the highest point in the UV scale.
No wonder then that there has been a spurt in skin diseases in Hyderabad may be because of extreme levels of UV radiation. "Most of the cases relate to photo-ageing and skin cancer due to penetration of the rays into the skin. Even if one is in a car the rays can penetrate the glass and impact the skin. The most common skin allergy cases that come to us are related to UV radiation called polymorphic light
eruption," senior dermatologist Dr Anup Lahari pointed out.
The values of the UV Index range from zero to 11 and the higher the Index value, the greater the potential for damage to the human body and the less time it takes for harm to occur. On the higher side is the "extreme" and on the lower side is the "very low". In between UV Index is categorised as "low", "medium", "high" and "very high.
The WMO and the World Climate Research Programme as also the India Meteorological Department regularly issue UV forecasts for different cities around the world and in India respectively. The IMD monitors UV levels at its 45 radiation observatories spread across the country.
The UV Index up to October 18 is 11 i.e. "extreme" for Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai, while it is 8 (very high) for Delhi, 7 (high) for Chandigarh and 10 (very high) for Kolkata. The Index last week was also "extreme" for most part of the week for Hyderabad and other cities except Delhi.
The main reason given for the high intensity of UV radiation in Hyderabad is rapid urbanisation and high levels of pollution.
"As UV radiation can neither be seen nor felt, the UV Index is an important tool to raise awareness of the problem and alert people on a daily basis to take prompt, appropriate and protective action. That Hyderabad has high UV Index is an indication that the ozone layer is not properly filtering the sunlight. If the ozone does its job properly, the harmful radiation are filtered out. The high UV Index shows that
the ozone layer has become thin," says Prof OSRU Bhanu Kumar, head of the department of environmental sciences, Andhra University.
Health experts and environmentalists warn that damage from the exposure to the UV rays is cumulative and over a period of time it will lead to serious diseases of the eye, including cataract and macular degeneration.
Consultant radiologist of Care Hospital Dr B Murali suggested that one should go in for massive tree plantation and keep off the sun to the extent possible to avoid UV radiation. "UV radiation exposures are largely preventable. The best protection is achieved by practising a combination of recommended safe behaviours. Limit exposures to sun rays when they are the strongest i.e. between 10 am and 4 pm. Seek shades such as trees or umbrella whenever possible. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor of at least 15. Sunglasses can provide 100 per cent protection," he said.
Children are at high risk as on an average they get three times more sun exposure and thus are subject to damaging cumulative effects of UV. It is estimated that 80 per cent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before 18 years of age.
"With the UV rays being equally extreme even in a "garden city" like Bangalore, there has been an increase in eye related problems there. Dr NM Sudha, senior ophthalmologist from Bangalore, pointed out that ultra violet light is as a causative factor in several eye problems such as cataract, retinal degeneration and surface problems such as pterigyum.

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