Friday, 29 May 2009

Loose motions major cause of death among Indians

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: "Loose motions" have now emerged as the major cause of death among Indians overtaking respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases and road traffic injuries.
According to the World Health Organisation's first-ever country profiles of environmental burden of disease, the simple-appearing loose motions kill three times more people in India than the complicated cardiovascular diseases do. Loose motions are responsible for the death of 28 people for every 2000 population in the country every year as against nine people killed by complicated heart diseases.
Incidentally, the increasing number of vehicles on roads have not increased the number of accidental deaths. But they have contributed to lung cancers, asthma and other types of cancers. Only five people in India die in road accidents for 2000 people every year as against 20 people killed due to respiratory diseases caused by vehicular pollutants.
Loose motions or diarrhoeal diseases are linked to bad sanitation and poor quality of drinking water. And Andhra Pradesh is no exception to diarrhoeal deaths. Doctors in the State attribute the spurt in complaints of loose motions and respiratory diseases to pollution. They say the number of patients with bowel problems has increased of late.
Dr SC Samal, senior gastroenterologist of Apollo Health City, points out that 99 per cent of deaths due to diarrhoea are in children. "It’s rarely a cause of death in adults. Poverty is an indirect index of diarrhoea. The socio economic status and level of literacy determine the incidence of the problem. Better economic status and being literate makes one to afford better housing with sanitation, safe drinking water and maintain hygienic conditions. These can prevent incidents of diarrhoeal deaths," he says.
The WHO's environmental burden of disease lists as many as 14 "risk factors" that are responsible for the death of people. While diarrhoea tops the list with 14 deaths for every 1000 people every year, respiratory infections occupy the second slot with 10 deaths for the same number of people. Unintentional injuries that are responsible for the death of 9.5 people for 1000 population are the third major killer.
Incidentally malaria, though linked to environment and sanitation, is the least cause of death in India. Only 0.3 people per 1000 population die because of malaria.
Chest specialist Dr Pradyut Waghray says of late the number of asthma and other respiratory problems has increased in Hyderabad. "Breathing problems are on the increase. Small particles from dust and emissions get deposited in the lungs and cause a number of breathing problems. Many of these pollutants are carcinogenic in nature and cause cancers," he says.

Pollution leading to hearing disability in new born babies

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Environmental factors including increasing pollution levels are contributing to hearing disability in new born babies.
A study by a group of city researchers reveals that while genetic factors contribute to 50 per cent of deaf cases in new born babies, 40 per cent of the cases are related to environmental factors like pollution.
The incidence of hearing disability is two to three per 1000 live births in India and one per 1000 babies is profoundly deaf at birth or in the prelingual (stage of learning language) childhood period.
As against these pre-natal (before birth) factors, post-natal (after birth) infection of the ear (otitis media) is responsible for 11.71 per cent cases of deafness in children while head injuries contribute to just 4.83 per of the cases. The study was conducted by the Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases and the Department of ENT, Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad.
The factors responsible for infection of the middle ear include poor hygiene, lack of breast feeding, poor nutrition and inadequate healthcare. "Proper care during birth and proper monitoring after birth of the child is required to prevent adverse postnatal conditions leading to direct hearing loss or indirect disease related sensorineural hearing loss that can cause permanent disability in survivors of adverse perinatal conditions," the study pointed out.
As many as 1076 children below 14 years of age with congenital hearing impairment formed the study group.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Junk DNA that's not a junk at all, says CCMB

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: In a major scientific breakthrough the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has found that the so-called "Junk DNA" present on the human Y-chromosome is not at all "junk" but contains properties that could control cell division in testes.
The study, first of its kind in the world, gives an insight on male sterility factors and might give vital information on what prevents cancer of testes in a majority of male populations.
"This is the first demonstration that junk DNA interacts and controls the function of a gene located on another chromosome, which is not limited to a sex. This study opens up a new approach to unravel the function of the non-coding DNA in our genome. New discoveries of RNA world and its role in gene expression are considered to be a great revolution in modern biology, which is over-shadowing the importance of DNA. It is suggested that protein-coding genes may not be the movers and shakers of human evolution, as scientists once thought. Perhaps we should stop looking at proteins and start looking at non-coding DNA," CCMB director Dr Lalji Singh said.
More than 98.8 per cent of human genome is made up of non-coding DNA generally referred to as "junk". Less than 1.2 per cent of human DNA codes for protein. One of the biggest challenges in the field of modern biology is to find out the function of junk DNA. The Y chromosome is of interest to man because it carries genes for maleness.
This chromosome contains DNA specifically present in male. Two-thirds of Y chromosome is made up of repetitive DNA, which has been thought of as junk. The present study at CCMB presents unequivocal evidence that 40 mega base repeat block of the Y-chromosome, which was earlier perceived as junk DNA, is transcribed into RNA but not translated into protein as it does not have the required features to be translated.
However, the CCMB study clearly demonstrates that the Y-chromosomal junk DNA is transcribed into two novel RNAs in a developmental-state-specific and testis-specific manner, one of which controls the expression of a protein by a mechanism described as trans-splicing wherein RNAs from different chromosomes/genes recombine to produce chemeric RNAs, Dr Singh observed.
The results of the study released to media on Friday has been published in Genome Research.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Hyderabad - the global city where future meets the present

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad. The name spells future. Yes! The city of an eight million dedicated people and megapolis with a strong tradition and unparalleled cultural heritage rooted deep in centuries. It's a city where the past shakes hands with the present. And the future beacons the citizens with a graceful embrace.
Hyderabad, the city of Nawabs, is all poised to become a global megapolis what with a bouquet of development plans on the anvil. Already truly international in outlook, Hyderabad is going to turn into a major global hub for investment opportunities, business transactions, education, information technology, medicine, pharma industry and tourism.
The international airport, one of the most modern international airports in Asia, has thrown up Hyderabad as a major transit point for international travellers the world over. The international airport at Shamshabad, 25 km away from the city, opened up up the skies linking Hyderabad with many more world class cities spread across six continents.
Several multinational companies have made Hyderabad their home. The forex flow into the city has been going up year by year. Innumerable call centres of international standards are located in the city, catering to the clientele, not only in India but also in the US and Europe. Microsoft, Genepact, HSBC and Motorola are some of the big international names. Their preference for Hyderabad speaks volumes of the greatness of this ancient city.
The World Bank in its recent report described Hyderabad as the most favoured destination for investors. The last three years saw Hyderabad transform from a sleepy city to something really happening. And the years to come will see Hyderabad emerge as a truly global city, the world will look at. Hyderabad has always been the city of gardens and lakes. The State government has ensured that development does not affect the greenery. The city is lush green with designer parks and beautified picturesque lakes which give a relaxed feeling to the otherwise tired and stressed out minds of citizens. Laws have been framed to make sure that the concrete jungle does not eat into the green belt.
With more than a dozen universities, deemed universities and institutions of higher learning Hyderabad has already carved out a niche in the field of education, science and technology. A number of scientific and defence research centres of international repute are part of the city's landscape. The students and scientists produced from these institutions are in great demand all over the world, particularly in the West.
With Information and Communication Technology clusters dotting the landscapes of Hyderabad, the city has been responsible for the brain gain for India. Brain drain syndrome has become a history thanks to Hyderabad. The city has been attracting not only foreign professionals but also withholding the local talent from draining out. Such is the tremendous potential the city holds. No doubt, Hyderabad has over taken Bangalore to emerge as the new Silicon Valley of India, nay the Asia-Pacific region.
The expansion of the city with the merger of surrounding municipalities has further given an impetus for growth beyond imagination. The outer ring road will take the city outside its present boundaries for smooth flow of traffic. The outer ring road coupled with the mass rapid transit system dotted by flyovers and elevated road/rail corridors makes life smooth going literally with no traffic chaos.
The landscape of the city is changing by the day and once the projects on the anvil are executed, Hyderabad will be a city of dreams, of hopes, of future and of growth beyond bounds. This ageless city of kings and rulers is all set to be taken over by modern minds which thinks nothing but of progress, security, peace, development and growth.

Hyderabad Mass Rapid Transit System:

The Mass Rapid Transit System or simply the metro rail has been planned at an estimated cost of Rs 8760 crore and is expected to be ready in four years. Along with international airport, flyover, elevated expressway and outer ring, the metro rail project will take Hyderabad ahead of many cities of its class dotting the globe.
Areas not covered by MMTS and metro rail projects will have a unique Bus Rapid Transit System. As many as seven routes covering 63 km at a cost of Rs 496 crore have been planned. The MMTS has been designed to cater to the needs of the ever-growing city whose population is expected to touch the 10 million mark in the next five years. The present MMTS train services are carrying 50,000 passengers daily taking off the burden to that extent from the city roads.

Green Hyderabad, Clean Hyderabad

The State government, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority have been working in close coordination for maintenance of ecological balance in the city. The rapid growth of the city has thrown up environmental challenges to the citizens and the authorities have successfully over come them by giving boost to lung spaces for a cleaner and greener Hyderabad.
All parks which are more than one acres in extent are developed as city level parks. Thirty such parks are in pipeline.
The strategy is to ensure intensive afforestation with indigenous and ornamental plant species and provide active recreation for young and old alike.

Smooth traffic, easy accessibility

Hyderabad has a total of 209 clusters of traffic islands. They have all been developed for smooth flow of traffic providing easy accessibility for citizens to reach one locality from other. Traffic islands have been beautified to give a relaxing look to the motorists whenever they stop at the traffic signals.
Central medians have been well laid out and traffic signals provided at all important junctions to ensure that motorists do not find any difficulty using the roads in Hyderabad.

City with a heart for the poor

Hyderabad is the city of its people, both rich and poor. While the rich have the means to fend for themselves, it is the social obligation of the State government and the GHMC to look after the needs of the havenots.
The Urban Poverty Alleviation Programme taken up by the State government has transformed the living standards of the poor living in the city. Special focus was on those residing in slums and those below the poverty line.
The government has taken up self-employment programmes under Swarna jayanthi Shahari Rozgar Yojana. About 40 per cent of the budgetary provision of the municipal corporation has been earmarked for slum improvement and poverty alleviation schemes.

Good sanitation, healthy citizens

When we say Hyderabad is a world class and truly international city, we mean it. The development works taken up speak on our behalf. The municipal corporation has taken up work on storm water drains. The sewerage system has been improved. All major drains are desilted by using specialised machines. The unprecedented floods in the city in August 2000 has led the State government to concentrate more on sanitation. the result is now widened Hussainsagar, Begumpet and Balkapur channels.
The corporation is going in for a remodelling of the existing storm water drain system based on the report submitted by Kirloskar Consultancy.
Hyderabad has always been known for its cleanliness and this explains why the city is less prone to infectious diseases.

Strong body, intelligent mind

The municipal corporation and the State government are fully aware of the health principle that a strong body leads to an intelligent mind. With this principle in mind, several play fields and stadiums have been developed. There are numerous swimming pools too. They city has hosted National Games in 2002 and Afro Asian Games the next year.
The GHMC has been encouraging citizens to lead a healthy and energetic life and hence providing the best of infrastructure and equipment. Coaching camps are conducted regularly for the benefit of boys and girls, who do otherwise have access to such a facility at an exorbitant fee.
The highlight of the sporting activity is conduct of sports meets for differently abled sportspersons and inter-slum sports tournaments.

Healthy food, nutritious diet

Hyderabadi always give priority to healthy food and nutritious diet. And so do the GHMC and the State government. For Hyderabad to be a world class city, its people too should lead a healthy and nutritious life. The modernisation of slaughter houses in the city has led to cleaner meat supplies for citizens. The fish and poultry markets too are modernised.

Regulated buildings, happy living

The Building Regulation Scheme has not only improved the coffers of the civic body and the State government but also brought about an improved system in the city. It has checked the haphazard growth of the city which otherwise would lead to utter chaos. Planned development of the city is what the State government wants and is committed to.

Save Musi, drive away filth

The river Musi is the lifeline of Hyderabad. But unfortunately, the river has turned polluted thanks to unplanned growth of sewerage system. Now the State government has woken up to the need of saving the Musi river and restoring it to its old glory and charm.
The Save Musi Campaign was launched on August 24, 2005. The major objectives of the campaign are to clean the river, develop it as a major tourist attraction, create city level recreational and green spaces, facilitate economic development and social integration and maintain watersheets at strategic locations.

Information Technology, the first choice

Hyderabad has been the hub of information technology right from the time IT took a revolutionary step forward in the country. No wonder then that IT is the first choice of the officials and the citizens alike, when it comes to implementing service oriented projects.
Hyderabad First is MCH's firm step towards creating an open information civil society through democratic processes. The project is a utility driven formula with a four-pronged agenda - accessibility, transparency, accountability and responsiveness. Its website URL is www.ourmch.com and it enables the citizens to access various products and services provided by the MCH from the comfort of their homes or offices.
The services include: payment of dues online, birth and death online registration, online issue of digital birth and death certificates, online tracking of building plans, e-grievances, Instaxx short messaging system, online infrastructure works, e-procurement, opinion polls, accounting package, legal case management system, C2C initiatives, file monitoring system, mobile van services and automated vehicle tracking system for solid waste management. Hand-held computers for property tax, intelligent parking system, introduction of enterprise resource planning and mosquito control measures are other programmes aimed at transforming the face of Hyderabad from a traditional to a modern city, yet with roots in its past culture and traditions.

JNNURM - changing the city, citizens

The Government of India has formulated a scheme, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. It is a reforms driven fast track planned development of identified cities with focus on efficiency in urban infrastructure/service delivery mechanism/community participation and accountability of urban local bodies/parastatals towards citizens.
Hyderabad is one of the identified cities under this scheme. with an approved outlay of Rs 20,016 crore, this scheme is going to change the way Hyderabad and Hyderabadis look. This is a mammoth and impartment scheme for the benefit of Hyderabad city implemented by GHMC, HMWS&SB, HUDA, APSHC and APSRTC.

Fund your city, make it beautiful

The municipal body has launched an innovative programme, Fund Your City, wherein citizens and industrialists will fund the development works. They will help in creation of infrastructural facilities in public-private partnership mode. The programme has been a grand success. The corporation mobilised Rs 54 crore in four rounds. A total of 27 foot over bridges have been constructed under the scheme.
Traffic signals have been improved so are the road junctions, with these funds.

Protecting heritage, preserving past

Neither the State government nor the GHMC has shirked its responsibility of preserving the glorious past of this Nawabi city. The HUDA is also engaged in protecting the monuments in the city. Apart from restoring the historic monuments, the government has taken up the big challenge of protecting the Charminar, the landmark of Hyderabad. The Charminar Pedestrianisation project is aimed at easing out automobiles from the zone to ensure that it is protected from traffic vibrations and pollution.

Heart Diseases: Aping the West proves costly for people in Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Aping the West in food and lifestyle is proving to be dear to people in Andhra Pradesh with heart diseases linked to food habits emerging as the leading cause of death.
According to a recent survey published by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, ischemic heart disease characterised by reduced blood supply to the heart has been killing 13.21 per cent of people in Andhra Pradesh. It is the cause of death in 12.2 per cent of women and 14.08 per cent of men.
Incidentally ischemic heart disease tops the 10 important causes of death in people of the State.
Doctors link the disease to smoking, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, excessive use of hydrogenated fats (vanaspathi) and foods containing high cholesterol levels. So far, ischemic heart disease has been the major cause of death in the US and Europe. That it has emerged as the top killer in Andhra Pradesh is a cause for concern, says senior cardiologist Dr PC Rath.
In patients suffering from ischemic heart disease the flow of blood to the heart is obstructed and thus the heart is deprived of oxygen. This leads to death if not attended to immediately. According to Dr Rath, a little change in lifestyle and food habits will help in controlling cardiovascular diseases.
Cerebrovascular disease (bleeding in brain or cutting supply of blood or oxygen to the brain) is the second leading cause of death in Andhra Pradesh, though it is the third leading cause of death in the West. Cancer or malignancy, which is the second leading cause of death in the West, is incidentally the 10th cause of death in Andhra Pradesh.
While lower respiratory (lung) infections is the third over all leading killer in the State, diarrhoeal diseases occupy the third position in case of women and tuberculosis in case of men. Self-inflected injury is the seventh leading killer both among men and women while asthma and stomach cancer is the eighth major cause of death among men and women respectively, according to the CBHI report.
Road accidents occupy the 10th slot in case of men and dementia (group of disorders relating to brain) is the 10th cause of deaths among women. Cirrhosis of the liver is the cause of 2.19 per cent of deaths among men but incidentally it is absent among women. Cirrhosis is linked to alcohol.
Women tend to be more prone to unintentional injuries than men. Statistics show that 4.09 per cent of deaths in women and 3.81 per cent of deaths in men are attributed to unintentional injuries.

UK-based Hyderabad doctors to reform medical education in India

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A group of Hyderabadi doctors based in the United Kingdom has taken up the challenge of reforming medical education and health services in India with the help of the Medical Council of India.
Following a presentation by the group, Association for Clinical Excellence, the MCI has agreed in principle to consider its suggestions at the MCI governing body meeting to be held in June. The ACE will submit a 15-page blueprint on reforms in medical education and health services which will be followed by a full-fledged report. If everything goes on well, the reforms process is all set to begin around September heralding India into a new phase of medical education and health system.
Though India is the biggest democratic nation in the world with over a billion people, there is no central body to issue clinical guidelines to doctors practising various super specialities, on the lines of the American College of Cardiologists or the Royal College of Surgeons. In the absence of nation-wide guidelines, different doctors even in the same hospital treat patients differently.
Surprisingly, India does not have the basic concepts of resuscitation or knowledge of evidence-based medicine. There is also no homogeneity (uniformity) of care.
"Doctors in India generally do not appreciate patients' rights. There is also lack of patient information system in the country. We do not have knowledge about audit and clinical governance as also about medical ethics," says Dr DV Nagarajan, who practices cardiology in Nottingham Deanery, UK.
Dr Nagarajan and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Anil Kumar Mulpur gave a presentation before the MCI president and general secretary in New Delhi earlier this week. They regretted that important concepts about resuscitation and advanced life support and trauma life support are not taught to medical students in India.
"The concepts about basic life support, advanced life support, advanced trauma life support and advanced paediatric life support should be introduced both into undergraduate and postgraduate medical curriculum. These are life saving skills and every medical graduate should be familiar with these methods," they told this correspondent.
The ACE has volunteered to formulate a short curriculum incorporating concepts about evidence-based medicine and resuscitation, the two most important concepts taught in western medical schools which conspicuously absent in the Indian medical curriculum.

Diabetes: Some startling facts and figures

Startling facts and figures about diabetes in India
1. India currently has the world's largest diabetic population with an estimated four crore people

2. Every sixth person is a diabetic in Hyderabad and other metropolitan cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

3. Every 15 minutes a legis lost to diabetes in India

4. In India 40,000 legs are amputed per year, most of them as a result of an infection in the foot of someone with diabetes.

5. It is estimated that 1000 amputations take place in a year in Hyderabad, 3000 in Delhi and 4000 in Mumbai.

6. Eightyfive per cent of amputations can be prevented with early detection and early interventions

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Elections 2009: Andhra Pradesh State Assembly Results

Andhra Pradesh State Assembly Elections 2009
============================================

Total Strength: 294

The following are the results of the elections to the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly 2009:

Congress: 157

Telugu Desam: 90

Telangana Rashtra Samithi: 10

Praja Rajyam: 18

Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM): 7

CPI: 4

CPM: 1

BJP: 2

Lok Satta: 1

Independents: 4

India Votes - General Election 2009 - Lok Sabha Results

Lok Sabha Elections - 2009

Total No. of seats 543
======================

The following are the number of seats won by political parties:

UNITED PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE
---------------------------
Congress: 206

DMK 18

NCP 9

TC 19

JMM 2

NC 3

Others 2

===========

NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
----------------------------

BJP 116

JD(U) 20

SS 11

SAD 4

AGP 1

RLD 5

THIRD FRONT
===========

left 20

BSP 21

JD(S) 3

AIADMK 9

TDP 6

TRS 2

Others 9

FOURTH FRONT
============

SP 23

RJD 4

Other Parties 30

Election 2009: Andhra Pradesh voters reject Telugu Desam's cash transfer, colour TV schemes - say they want development

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: People in Andhra Pradesh believed that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, by reelecting the ruling Congress for its development and welfare works and rejecting the Telugu Desam-led Mahakutami, which promised cash transfer and colour TVs. They also rejected film star Chiranjeevi, who floated Praja Rajyam with the promise of LPG cylinder for Rs 100 and household groceries for Rs 100 a month.

Voters believed in reality -- the schemes of the Congress already in implementation -rather than in mere promises -- cash transfer, colour TVs, highly subsidised groceries and cooking gas.

The Mahakutami or grand political alliance forged by the Telugu Desam with the support of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Left rolled out promises worth more than Rs 70,000 crore to the voters. They heavily banked on their poll promises of supply of free colour TV sets to families below the poverty line and a monthly dole of Rs 2,500 to all poor families in the State. The Andhra voters also rejected PRP's poll promises as impracticable. Chiranjeevi lost in native Palacole Assembly
segment.

On the other hand the Congress promised that it would continue with its schemes of Rs 2 a kg rice, free health insurance and free education for BCs and minorities in all professional courses. People believed the Congress as they are real but rejected the electoral promises of the Mahakutami though they are attractive.

"People did not believe us. Also we did fail to convince people on the feasibility of the cash transfer scheme. There were also bickering within the grand alliance. Though the Telugu Desam worked for the TRS and the Left, they did not work for us," said Kambhampati Rammohan Rao, senior TD leader, who chalked out the party's poll strategy and schemes.

The usually media savvy Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu went into a virtual hiding after election trends pointed to Congress victory. He remained incommunicado with media persons and party workers. The TD failed to impress upon voters both in the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly elections.

Like the TD leadership, the Praja Rajyam also decided to keep mum till such time it
recovers from the electoral shock. No senior PRP leader is available to the media.

Assembly elections 2009: It's YSR charisma all the way

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 16: It's YSR all the way without the support of cine glamour.
The Congress under his leadership returned to power in the State
winning 157 of the 294 seats in the State Assembly and contributing
the largest contingent of 33 MPs to the party at the Centre.

The main Opposition Telugu Desam doubled its tally of seats in the
Assembly and the Lok Sabha as compared to that of the 2004 general
elections. The TD, which formed the Mahakutami with the TRS and the
Left with the sole aim of defeating the Congress, failed to halt the
YSR's jaggarnaut.

Neither the corruption charges against Rajasekhar Reddy nor the
Telangana sentiment have had much influence on the voters, who
distictly delivered their judgement, disproving the calculations of
political pundits of a hung Assembly.

The Mahakutami, however, gave some anxious moments to Congress
candidates in some constituencies with neck and neck race. Other allies
in the Telugu Desam's grand alliance, the TRS, the CPI and the CPM
did not put up an impressive show, shattering the dreams of the TD to
rule the State. The Mahakutami employed star power in a bid to woo
the voters. Its cash transfer and free colour TV schemes also did not go
well with the electorate.

Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy attributed the Congress victory to
his government's development and welfare schemes including
Arogyasri, Jalayagnam, fee waiver and Rs 2 a kg rice while Telugu
Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu sought three days time "to
analyse the cause of the defeat of his grand alliance".

The huge gatherings at public meetings notwithstanding, the political
novice Praja Rajyam, launched by film actor Chiranjeevi, failed to
impress the voter in all the three regions of the State. Chiranjeevi lost
in his native Palacole while his brother-in-law and party treasurer Allu
Arvind faced defeat in Anakapalli Lok Sabha constituency. The film
star, however, won from Tirupati, the other seat he contested giving
solace to his hurt party cadre.

The humiliating defeat of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi once again
proved that there was no Telangana sentiment and people in the
backward region were in for development and welfare.

A notable feature of the verdict 2009 is that the voters wanted to give a
strong Opposition in the State even while ensuring that the Congress
retained power. At the same time the voters gave more number of Lok
Sabha seats to the Congress than in 2004 general elections for a stable
government at the Centre. Political analysts feel that the wise voters, by
giving checks and counter balances, had given a clear indication to the
Congress that they cannot be taken for granted.

The verdict is almost similar to that of 1999 Assembly elections when
voters did not want to dislodge the then TD government headed by N
Chandrababu Naidu but wanted to warn him with a strong Opposition
in the form of the Congress. The Congress then won 90 seats while the
TD got a little over 160 seats. Rajasekhar Reddy now needs to more
cautious in running the government this term.

Visible in Congress victory is the fact that there's no anti-incumbency
factor against Rajasekhar Reddy's rule. Though he succeeded in
winning the hearts of voters, he could not save most of his Cabinet
colleagues from defeat. A little over one-third of his Cabinet were
made to lick the dust indicating that people will not tolerate those who
do not perform.

The Congress, however, received a setback in the defeat of APCC chief
D Srinivas and AP Legislative Assembly Speaker KR Suresh Reddy.
Interestingly most of the Cabinet ministers who lost hail from
Telangana.

As the counting began at 8.00 am on Saturday a neck and neck race
between the Congress and the Mahakutami was vividly visible but soon
fizzled out in the subsequent rounds, giving a clear cut majority to the
ruling party.

The Mahakutami, riven by the internecine differences among its
members, was left dumbfound while the Praja Rajyam, which was
hoping to bargain nothing short of a chiefministership for its chief
Chiranjeevi was left aghast as the poll trends started pouring in.

The headquarters of the TD, TRS and the Praja Rajyam wore forlorn
looks just a few hours after the counting started with none of their
leaders ready to speak to the media on the factors that led to their
defeat. The TRS workers locked the main gate of the Telangana
Bhavan till late in the evening. Interestingly, the party had set up a
camp of its candidates fearing poaching by the Congress. The camp
withered away as results started pouring in.

Rajasekhar Reddy, who claimed to romp home with nothing short of
230 State Assembly and 36 Lok Sabha seats might have been a little
distance away but is closely achieved a respectable margin of no
dependence on other. His forecast with respect to Parliament target
came true with the party high command expressing happiness at his
sole performance.

The verdict 2009 in the State also saw senior leaders Union Minister
Renuka Choudhury, BJP State president Bandaru Dattatreya, and Praja
Rajyam leader T Devendar Goud biting the dust.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Assembly election 2009: It's YSR all the way without the cine glamour

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 16: It's YSR all the way without the cine glamour. The Congress under his leadership returned to power in the State winning 157 of the 294 seats in the State Assembly and contributing the largest contingent of 33 MPs to the party at the Centre.

The main Opposition Telugu Desam doubled its tally of seats in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha as compared to that of the 2004 general elections. The TD, which formed the Mahakutami with the TRS and the Left with the sole aim of defeating the Congress, failed to halt the YSR's jaggarnaut.

Neither the corruption charges against Rajasekhar Reddy nor the Telangana sentiment have had much influence on the voters, who distictly delivered their judgement, disproving the calculations of political pundits of a hung Assembly.

The Mahakutami, however, gave some anxious moments to Congress candidates in some constituencies with neck and neck race. Other allies in the Telugu Desam's grand alliance, the TRS, the CPI and the CPM did not put up an impressive show, shattering the dreams of the TD to rule the State. The Mahakutami employed star power in a bid to woo the voters. Its cash transfer and free colour TV schemes also did not go well with the electorate.

Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy attributed the Congress victory to his government's development and welfare schemes including Arogyasri, Jalayagnam, fee waiver and Rs 2 a kg rice while Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu sought three days time "to analyse the cause of the defeat of his grand alliance".

The huge gatherings at public meetings notwithstanding, the political novice Praja Rajyam, launched by film actor Chiranjeevi, failed to impress the voter in all the three regions of the State. Chiranjeevi lost in his native Palacole while his brother-in-law and party treasurer Allu Arvind faced defeat in Anakapalli Lok Sabha constituency. The film star, however, won from Tirupati, the other seat he contested giving solace to his hurt party cadre.

The humiliating defeat of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi once again proved that there was no Telangana sentiment and people in the backward region were in for development and welfare.

A notable feature of the verdict 2009 is that the voters wanted to give a strong Opposition in the State even while ensuring that the Congress retained power. At the same time the voters gave more number of Lok Sabha seats to the Congress than in 2004 general elections for a stable government at the Centre. Political analysts feel that the wise voters, by giving checks and counter balances, had given a clear indication to the Congress that they cannot be taken for granted.

The verdict is almost similar to that of 1999 Assembly elections when voters did not want to dislodge the then TD government headed by N Chandrababu Naidu but wanted to warn him with a strong Opposition in the form of the Congress. The Congress then won 90 seats while the TD got a little over 160 seats. Rajasekhar Reddy now needs to more cautious in running the government this term.

Visible in Congress victory is the fact that there's no anti-incumbency factor against Rajasekhar Reddy's rule.  Though he succeeded in winning the hearts of voters, he could not save most of his Cabinet colleagues from defeat.  A little over one-third of his Cabinet were made to lick the dust indicating that people will not tolerate those who do not perform.

The Congress, however, received a setback in the defeat of APCC chief D Srinivas and AP Legislative Assembly Speaker KR Suresh Reddy. Interestingly most of the Cabinet ministers who lost hail from Telangana.

As the counting began at 8.00 am on Saturday a neck and neck race between the Congress and the Mahakutami was vividly visible but soon fizzled out in the subsequent rounds, giving a clear cut majority to the ruling party.

The Mahakutami, riven by the internecine differences among its members, was left dumbfound while the Praja Rajyam, which was hoping to bargain nothing short of a chiefministership for its chief Chiranjeevi was left aghast as the poll trends started pouring in.

The headquarters of the TD, TRS and the Praja Rajyam wore forlorn looks just a few hours after the counting started with none of their leaders ready to speak to the media on the factors that led to their defeat. The TRS workers locked the main gate of the Telangana Bhavan till late in the evening. Interestingly, the party had set up a camp of its candidates fearing poaching by the Congress. The camp withered away as results started pouring in.

Rajasekhar Reddy, who claimed to romp home with nothing short of 230 State Assembly and 36 Lok Sabha seats might have been a little distance away but is closely achieved a respectable margin of no dependence on other. His forecast with respect to Parliament target came true with the party high command expressing happiness at his sole performance.

The verdict 2009 in the State also saw senior leaders Union Minister Renuka Choudhury, BJP State president Bandaru Dattatreya, and Praja Rajyam leader T Devendar Goud biting the dust.

Friday, 15 May 2009

DRR develops system to forewarn rice blast and other pests on rice

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Farm scientists at the city-based Directorate of Rice Research have developed a system to forewarn rice blast and other pests on various varieties of rice grown in the country.
The forewarning system is based on years of on-field studies carried out in various districts in Andhra Pradesh. It helps farmers with accurate information on when and to what extent the rice blast fungus will attack the paddy fields.
Rice blast is caused by fungus, Pyricularia grisea, and is the most feared pest by paddy growers all over the country. The pest hits large stretches of fields and the destruction is usually widespread. Thousands of hectares of paddy fields have been hit by rice blast resulting in huge financial losses to farmers. Paddy growers usually do not suffer from crop failure but are hit mostly by this fungus.
According to DRR scientists, the intensity of the blast infection is greatly influenced by local environment and the variety of the rice grown. Forecasting of the disease has been attempted on the basis of minimum night temperature of 20 to 26 degrees Celsius in association with a high relative humidity of 90 per cent and above lasting for a period of week or more during any of the susceptible phases of growth like seedling stage, post-transplanting tillering stage, and at neck emergence.
The DRR scientists could successfully forecast the onset of the pest at least a fortnight in advance to enable farmers to get prepared to tackle it effectively. Usually diseases on crops emerge suddenly taking farmers unawares and causing heavy damage to the fields in the process. The early warning system has helped in prevention of rice blast in hundreds of hectares of farm lands across the nation.
The experiment was successfully conducted at DRR in Rajendranagar here and at Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya in Palampur of Himachal Pradesh. Data from the blast endemic areas of Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh showed that the maximum temperature of 23 to 28 degrees Celsius, minimum of 17.6 to 24 degrees Celsius, relative humidity of more than 80 per cent, rainfall of more than 3 mm per day and more than four rainy days per week were critical in the progress of rice blast.
Blast severity was high in the last sown crop in Andhra Pradesh, when compared to early sown crop. Leaf blast severity was high in different sowings, when the maximum and minimum temperatures were 29.3 degrees Celsius and 22.3 degrees Celsius, and relative humidity was 80.1 per cent. Neck phase of the disease was also maximum at these favourable weather conditions.
All these conditions led to the epidemic progress of leaf blast during the last week of September and first fortnight of October and, neck and node blast during the last week of October and first week of November.
The forewarning system developed by DRR can be utilised in agro-advisory services to gear up the crop protection activities at appropriate time. Such information would be useful in linking to the integrated disease management strategy, which will further help in reducing the consumption of fungicides and maximise environmental pollution and health hazards.

Super rice hybrids on the anvil

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:City agricultural scientists have overcome a major hurdle in the development of super rice hybrids that will increase the overall farm yield in the country.
Super rice is the second generation hybrid rice with higher yields. While Japan and China have made remarkable progress in this area with their own varieties of rice, Indian scientists thus far faced a major hurdle in crossing the parents of Indian and Japanese rice varieties to obtain super rice hybrids. A team of scientists at the city-based Directorate of Rice Research has successfully overcome the hurdle and produced super rice hybrids.
Indica-japonica (Japanese rice variety) gives better yields than Indica-indica (Indian rice variety). The Japanese variety has several advantages over the Indian variety. The problem, however, has been the crossing between Indica-Japonica parents which are often sterile and hence not fit for cross breeding.
A few successful inter-sub specific crosses involve parents possessing wide-compatibility genes which help overcome this hybrid sterility. The city DRR team successfully identified WCG genes to facilitate development super rice hybrids.
The team used simple sequence repeat markers to find out the allele that gives hybrid sterility. The sterility was tracked in three mapping populations derived from indica/japonica parents including Taipei309 and Swarna/Taipei309.
The team incorporated WCG into the parental lines in hybrid rice breeding to solve sterility in inter-specific hybrids.
According to scientists, super rice or new plant type hybrid rice gives 20 per cent more yield than the conventional rice varieties. Though China and Japan have achieved remarkable progress in super rice, the technology can not be easily transferred to India due to technical problems. With the city scientists now overcoming the problem, Indian farmers will soon grow super rice hybrid varieties. The super rice has also improved disease and insect-pest resistance.

Renewed fight against TB pays rich dividends

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The renewed fight against tuberculosis in the country has paid rich dividends with the incidence of the killer disease coming down by appreciable levels.
But what is worrying health experts and planners is the explosion of drug-resistant tuberculosis fuelled by HIV/AIDS. Andhra Pradesh, with the largest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country, is now more vulnerable to drug-resistant TB. Incidentally, the State too has a large number of TB patients.
India has one of the largest number of TB patients accounting for one-fifth of all the TB cases in the world and the emergence of drug-resistant TB strains has become a major challenge to medical doctors and scientists alike.
Strains of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis or XDR-TB have now been found in 28 countries including India. The death rate for people co-infected with HIV and XDR-TB is around 85 per cent while for normal TB patients is less than 10 per cent.
According to World Health Organisation, India continues to be a global TB hot spot, despite reduction in the incidence in the country. In India every one minute a person afflicted by TB dies. The WHO observes that HIV and drug-resistant TB are threatening to reverse the gains made in TB control over the last few years, particularly during 2006. A majority of newly diagnosed TB patients have developed resistance to first-line anti-TB drugs.
The Central government launched last year a new strategy to stop TB and achieve reversal of the epidemic by 2015. "The new strategy while building on the previous DOTS strategy to control TB, includes additional interventions to meet evolving challenges such as HIV associated TB, emerging drug resistance and enhance the uptake of services by the community at large," a senior health official pointed out.
The death rates due to tuberculosis have come down to just four per cent
because of strict implementation of DOTS in different parts of India including Andhra Pradesh where TB is largely prevalent. While the death rate in patients who do not undergo DOTS is a whopping 29 per cent, those who are treated by DOTS are less susceptible with just four per cent mortality. Where DOTS is not used, infectious patients are seven times more likely to die from the disease.
Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare records point out that more than three lakh children are forced to leave school every year because their parents are TB patients. More than a lakh women with TB are rejected by their families due to social stigma attached to the disease. The economic cost of tuberculosis in the country is about Rs 8,000 crore a year, i.e. had the disease been controlled, India would have saved that much amount.

Muslim scholars take umbrage against terrorists misusing religion

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: City Muslim scholars have taken umbrage against terrorists naming their organisations after Holy Prophet and Quranic references.
In a fatwa issued in the wake of Varanasi blasts carried out by a hiterto unknown organisation Lashkar-e-Qahhar, Muslim scholars belonging to various religious institutions demanded that terrorists drop the "islamic tags" from their outfits as their activities are bringing ill-repute to Islam and Muslims the world over. Such a practice is nothing but Satanic, they say.
Lashkar-e-Qahhar, which means Army of the Subduer, is named after one of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah (Asma-ul-Husna). Al-Qahhar (the Subduer) is one the attributes of the Almighty God.
Other terrorist outfits like Jaishne Muhammad (Army of Muhammad) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (Army of Righteous) are also named after the Prophet of Islam. Propher Muhammad is often referred to as Toiba or Tayyaba.
"Every time these terrorist outfits carry out anti-national or inhuman activities, they drag the names of holy personalities into the controversy. This is but insulting Islam, Quran and holy personalities. We demand that terrorists drop the religious tags since what they have been doing is not only irreligious but also anti-humanity," said Mufti Muhammad Mastan Ali of Jamiat-ul-Mominath in a fatwa.
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has also taken strong objections to Lashkar-e-Qahhar blasting bombs in Hanuman temple in Varanasi. Its general secretary Abdur Rahim Qureshi said the Board would launch a campaign against terror outfits. He demanded probe by retired judge of Supreme Court.
"What these terrorist organisations are doing is un-Islamic as killing of people goes against the tenets of Islam. They are the sourge of humanity and a bad name in the otherwise fair image of Islam. We demand that they shun violence. An unholy act and crime against humanity will not become a pious deed just by naming the organisation after holy personalities," Rahim Qureshi said.
In separate decrees All-India Jamiat-ul-Mashaiq and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat have opined that misuse of Islamic tags for terrorist and subversive activities is Satanic. Sunnat Jamaat all-India president Moulana Syed Shah Badruddin Quadri Al-Jeelani said Muslims were ashamed of these terrorist outfits. "We are unable to move freely in society. Because of their wrong actions, the entire community is getting a bad name. They should not misuse Islam to foster their mindless violence," he said in his decree.

XX maleness a rare syndrome

By Syed Akbar

It is a common knowledge that a person with XX chromosomes is a woman and the one with XY chromosomes is a man. The sex chromosomes XX determine the female sex of a foetus while XY determine the male sex of the unborn in the womb.
There are men with XX chromosomes but they do not have fully developed male genital organs. However, a team of scientists in Hyderabad recently came across with a XX man with normal genitals and complete masculinity. This is a very rare medical phenomenon.
The scientists' team at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology conducted a research on this XX man with gene SRY-negative and 46 chromosomes.
According to CCMB senior scientist Kumarasamy Thangaraj, XX maleness is a rare syndrome with a frequency of one in 20,000-25,000 males. XX males exist in different clinical categories with ambiguous genitalia or partially to fully mature male genitalia, in combination with complete or incomplete masculinisation. But in the present study the team reported a case of SRY-negative XX male with complete masculinisation. The "man", however, was infertility and unable to conceive.
The patient had fully mature male genitalia with descended but small testes and no signs of undervirilisation. Polymerase chain reaction analysis for SRY (sex determining region Y gene) and other sex determination genes ZFY, amelogenin, AZFa, AZFb and AZFc as also other tests showed the absence of any Y-chromosome-derived material.
Genotyping with X-STR (short tandem repeat) of the chromosome ruled out the possibility of any deletion on X chromosome. "Development of the male phenotype in the absence of SRY probably resulted from the loss of function mutation in some unknown sex-determining gene, which normally inhibits the male pathway, or from a gain of function mutation in a gene downstream to SRY in male pathway," Dr Thangaraj points out.
We all know that the presence or absence of Y chromosome, SRY gene in particular, determines the sex in human beings and other mammals. SRY is thought to direct the sex-determination pathway towards male development. The fortuitous finding of chromosomal rearrangements in association with a sex-reversed phenotype has led to the isolation of SRY gene. Careful genetic analysis of cases with abnormal sexual
development, presented with chromosomal translocations or deletions/
duplications, has resulted in the identification of many genes playing role in sex determination, Dr Thangaraj says.
"Despite the identification of SRY almost 15 years ago, the pathway downstream to SRY remains largely unknown, although SOX9 and DAX1 have recently been proposed to function downstream to SRY gene in male sex-determination pathway," he adds.
According to the CCMB study, an increasing number of reports suggest that the male phenotype can develop even in the absence of SRY gene. Till date, many cases of XX males with or without SRY and apparently with no other Y-chromosome sequences have been reported.
Such persons exist in three clinical categories: XX males with normal genitalia; XX males with ambiguous genitalia; and XX true hermaphrodites with ovarian and testicular tissues.
"Based on the presence or absence of the Y-chromosome sequences, XX males can be divided into two categories. Approximately 90 per cent of the cases carry varying amount of the Y sequences due to an illegitimate recombination between X and Y chromosomes, whereas 10 per cent do not have any Y-chromosome sequences. Most of the XX males with SRY have normal genitalia, whereas most SRY-negative cases have ambiguous genitalia," says Dr Thangaraj.
The cause (aetiology) of development of male phenotype in most of the SRY-negative 46,XX males (like the present case study) remains unexplained.
He points out that development of the testis and normal male genitals in a significant number of SRY-negative 46,XX males gives clue to the existence of other autosomal or X-linked genes in the sex-determining pathway. Comprehensive genetic analysis of these cases may help to decipher new gene(s) involved in the sex-determining pathway.
A 34-year-old man attended the genetic clinic of the Institute of Reproductive Medicine, Kolkata, with complaints of infertility. His height was 156 cm and weight 64 kg. The patient had fully mature normal male genitalia with no symptom of undervirilisation.
The testicles were descended in the scrotum but small in size with volumes 4.8 ml and 5.1 ml (normal range 18–30 ml). Axillary (under arm) and pubic hairs were of normal pattern and density. Serum concentrations of reproductive hormones (LH and FSH) were elevated at 15.8 mIU/ml (normal range 2.0–14.0 mIU/ml) and 25.8 mIU/ml (normal range 1.5–12.0 mIU/ml), respectively. Testosterone hormones level was normal at 580 ng/dl (normal adult male range, 437–707 ng/dl).
DNA was extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes of the patient, a normal fertile male and a female for analysis. Absence of PCR amplification of Y-STR markers further confirmed the lack of Y-chromosome sequences in the patient DNA. X-STR analysis showed heterozygous alleles for 42 of 53 markers, suggesting the presence of two X chromosomes.
According to him, majority of the XX males carry SRY gene translocated to the X chromosome due to an illegitimate recombination between X and Y chromosomes. These patients are sterile males and usually have normal male genitalia.
Dr Thangaraj says XX males without SRY gene have ambiguous to normal genitalia, show incomplete to complete masculinisation and are infertile. The existence of SRY-negative males ruled out the prevailing notion that the mere presence of SRY determines maleness. The most common observation that the individuals with SRY are male shows that it is the presence or absence of a normal SRY gene which determines maleness, provided all downstream genes are functionally intact.
In majority of the cases, XX maleness should result either from the loss of function mutations in a gene normally inhibiting testes formation in genotypic females or from the gain of function mutations in a gene downstream to SRY in testis determining pathway. The hypothetical gene may be X-linked or autosomal. If the gene is autosomal, the degree of the male phenotype will be dependent on the extent of the loss or gain of function in the mutant gene, he says.
"Because the present case had normal male phenotype, it should
either be homozygous mutant for this hypothetical autosomal gene or
a result of preferential inactivation of the normal copy of the X-linked
heterozygous mutant gene," Dr Thangaraj concludes.

Ugadi and Telugu Muslim poets

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad: Ugadi, the Telugu new year, is synonymous with "Kavi Sammelan" or poetic gatherings. Telugu writers and poets, both famous and budding, gather together and recite their poetry with verses that touch upon the various phases of life in a human being.

The concept of holding Kavi Sammelan on the auspicious day of Ugadi is as old as the Telugu language and culture. The art got its perfection during the regime of Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya of the famous Vijayanagara kingdom. And since then there's no looking back for the Telugu poetry.

Though a majority of Muslims in Andhra Pradesh are Urdu-speaking, there has been no major Ugadi Sammelan without the participation of Telugu Muslim poets. Telugu Muslim poets have always been the part of Ugadi Kavi Sammelans right from the days of the Vijayanagara empire.

With more and more Muslims learning Telugu and penning verse in the language, the modern day Ugadi Kavi Sammelans have undergone a seachange both in the outlook and the content. Before Independence and for a couple of decades thereafter, Ugadi Sammelans were dominated by poets from a particular caste.

Of late, there have been poets even from the Dalit communities rubbing shoulders with upper caste poets. Muslim poets have made a mark of their own in Ugadi Sammelans with their unique flavour of national integration and communal harmony interspersed with the demand for the rights of the principal minority community.

There are over 80 Telugu Muslim poets and scores of poetry books have been published. "We all celebrate our birthdays. Time too has its birthday. And the birthday of Time falls on Ugadi. Ugadi is not just a new year. It is the beginning of an era, the era that heralds a new phase in our life. It is a wrong notion that Ugadi is a festival of Hindus. It is not the new year of Hindus.

It is the new year of Telugus, all those born in the Telugu land - Andhra Pradesh. Ugadi is as much an occasion for celebrations for Telugu Hindus as much for Telugu Muslims. Visit any village and you will find both Muslims and Hindus celebrating the new year," observes eminent poet and author Khadar Mohiuddin. Kavi Sammelans too have undergone a change with the change in time.

Earlier, Ugadi Sammelans were limited to reciting verses on Ugadi and related subjects. Now the Sammelans have attained a broader outlook with "feminism", "Dalitism" and "Muslimism" dominating such gatherings.

"Our ancestors started organising Kavi Sammelans on Ugadi as part of their programme to encourage various arts. Like the Ugadi pacchadi (pickle made of jaggery, raw mangoes and neem fruits and flowers), life is full of happiness (sweetness), troubles (bitterness) and comfort (sourness). Krishnadevaraya encouraged various forms of art like dance, poetry, paintings and singing and the artistes got the opportunity to express their expertise on the Ugadi.

Now this festival has given Muslims, Dalits and women an opportunity to express their views and problems and share them with the rest of society," points our writer-journalist Syed Naseer Ahmed. The Muslim pioneers of Ugadi Sammelans were Devi Priya (Khaja Hussain), Afsar, Kaumudi, MK Sugam Babu (Mahboob Khan), Umar Ali Shah, Dilawar, Ismail, Yakoob, Khadar Mohiuddin, Ghulam Ghouse, SA Rawoob, SM Mallick, Qadeer Babu and Khadar Khan. The torch is now being carried forward by the likes of Khwaja, Sky Baba (Shaik Yusuf Baba), Wahed, Soujanya (Muhammad Naseeruddin) and Iqbal Chand. There are Telugu Muslim poetess too, of the likes of Mahjabeen and Shahjahana.

The State government has honoured Mahjabeen with the Ugadi Puraskar (award) for Telugu literature. These Muslim poets have carved out a niche for themselves with their unique style and rendition of the Telugu poetry. "Ugadi enlivens our spirits," says Yakoob, a veteran of Kavi Sammelans.

"Now there has been Muslimisation of Ugadi to some extent. Ugadi stands as the best example of the joint cultural heritage of Hindus and Muslims. If there is any festival, other than Ugadi, which brings Muslims and Hindus together, it is Muharram. During Muharram Hindu poets recite poetry in praise of the Islamic martyrs Hazrat Imam Hassan and Hazrat Imam Hussain. Many do not know that our festivals bond people together and occasions like Ugadi and Muharram further strengthen those bonds," adds Yakoob.

There are occasions when Telugu Muslim poets stood apart from the rest of the poets at Kavi Sammelans. "It is the love of the language that makes our hearts speak out. And what occasion is more appropriate than Ugadi to share our views to the heart content, remembering the hoary past of Andhra and paving the way for a Swarna (golden) Andhra Pradesh," says Yusuf Baba, more popular as Sky Baba.

Watching TV will make adolescent children obese and overweight

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Watching TV too much not only affects eyesight but also makes adolescent children obese and overweight.
According to a research study conducted by the city-based National Institute of Nutrition, school children, particularly in the age group 12-17, who spend more than five hours a day watching television are seven times more susceptible to obesity and overweight than those who watch TV for less than three hours.
The explanation offered is quite simple. Spending more time in front of television means less physical work and hence overweight and obesity. The study revealed that the prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity among urban adolescent school children in Hyderabad was higher than in their rural counterparts by 0.6 per cent.
The prevalence was more among the children of upper middle and high socio-economic groups compared to the children of low and low middle socio-economic groups. Obesity was found to be relatively less among children participating in physical exercises like games and sports and higher among the children with no physical exercise or who were watching TV for long hours.
The report points out the problem was also higher among children who consumed fatty and fried foods and also among those frequently consuming snacks and ice creams.
The NIN selected 23 schools catering to low, middle and upper middle income groups adopting the stratified random sampling procedure. Anthropometric measurements like height (cms) and weight (kgs) were taken on 1,208 adolescent school children using standard procedures. Information on socio-economic and demographic particulars, their perceptions and practices on diet, lifestyle patterns, physical activities and frequency of consumption of foods was assessed using pre-tested
questionnaires.
The scientists carried out stepwise logistic regression analysis which revealed that in general, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was
6.2 per cent. Girls are a little bit obese (6.3 per cent) as compared with boys (6.1 per cent). The prevalence was significantly higher by 0.001 per cent among children studying in private and private aided institutions (eight and nine per cent) as compared to those studying in the government institutions (2.4 per cent). The figures for children with different economic backgrounds are upper middle (6.7 per cent), high socio-economic status (13.1 per cent) and the low and low middle socio-economic status (1.7 to 2.5 per cent).
It was significantly lower in the children who were reportedly participating in the household activities for more than three hours a day. On the other hand, obesity was significantly higher by 0.007 per cent among children (9.3 per cent), who are watching TV for more than three hours a day as compared to the children (5 per cent), who are watching T for less than three hours a day.
Stepwise logistic regression analysis showed that the prevalence of overweight and obesity was seven times higher among the children, who were watching TV for more than five hours a day, compared to the children with less than five hours a day.
The incidence is 4.4 times higher in the children who belong to upper middle and high socio-economic status compared to the children of low and low middle SES and 3.9 times higher in the children who were studying in public schools compared to those in government schools. Participation in household activities for more than three hours a day had some protective effect from overweight and obesity.

Exclusive atlas for tribal areas in India

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The city-based National Institute of Rural Development has developed a GIS-based atlas of all the tribal areas in the country which closely monitor the living standards of tribal populations besides checking encroachments in forest lands.
The tribal atlas, the first of its kind in the country, covers the Schedule V areas spread across Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh. The tribal map is based on satellite imagery which will be constantly updated for real time status of the tribal and forest lands.
Vast tracks of forest and tribal lands have been under encroachment in the all important Schedule V areas of the country. Moreover, there is no updated data on the status and living standards of many tribal communities despite the Central and the State governments taking up several welfare measures.
Since the tribal atlas is based on satellite imageries, it can be updated anytime for a first hand information on the condition of tribal lands and the people living there.
"This will help the Integrated Tribal Development Agency and the Integrated Tribal Development Project to have a better understanding of the needs of the tribals living in forest areas. This will also give boost the present administrative set-up catering to the development of tribal areas," says a report of the NIRD.
Experts at NIRD have utilised socio-economic and demographic data along with the natural resources information and infrastructure data for generation of the tribal atlas. The GIS map covers areas ranging from regional to micro levels which will serve as a proven effective administrative and management tool for decision making for developing the tribal areas and their people.
The atlas is based on the demographic profile of Scheduled-V areas and has a spatial spread. It will have wide use among organisations working for tribal development.

UV Index very high: Hyderabad fast turning into a "radiation city"

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: 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". WHO standards specify that in places where the UV radiation is "extreme", people should better keep indoors and move out only when necessary.
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 this week 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.

Chandrababu Naidu may dump Third Front to side with the NDA

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 14: His public support on the Third Front notwithstanding, Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu has reportedly made up his mind to side with the old ally, the National Democratic Alliance.

According to NTR Bhavan sources, Chandrababu Naidu has used the Telangana Rashtra Samithi to test the political waters before deciding to take the plunge. The TRS, a key ally of the Telugu Desam this general election, has already declared its support to the BJP-led NDA at the Centre. This sudden move, by TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao even before the results are out, is seen as a political ploy by the TD leadership to seek public reaction.

Chandrababu Naidu's dream of Third Front received a setback with the Left sending feelers that it may support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Given the political equations in the State, the TD leader will not support the UPA and with the Third Front not sure of taking a concrete shape, he has no option but to side with the NDA, if he has to stay in the reckoning.

The TD supremo has always been known for his shrewd political moves at the eleventh hour. This time too, TD sources said, Chandrababu Naidu would take everyone by surprise by supporting the NDA. The TD leader is awaiting the results. He is likely to support the NDA whether he wins the Assembly elections or fails to get sufficient number of seats to claim power in the State. In case he gets enough seats in the State Assembly to form the government, he may enter into a political bargain with the NDA to prevent the Congress-led UPA from coming to power at the Centre. If he fails to get the majority in the State, he will side with the NDA "out of political compulsions" so that he does not remain isolated.

Chandrababu Naidu however, announced on Thursday that a meeting of Third Front parties had been convened in New Delhi on May 18, two days after the poll results to discuss the political situation and take steps for formation of a Third Front government at the Centre. Naidu, who is in touch with Third Front leaders, told party leaders that, he had invited AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal also for the meeting in New Delhi.

Though Naidu made it a point at every review meeting that a non-Congress and non-BJP Third Front government would be formed at the Centre, party leaders said Naidu may choose his option after the poll results and the number of seats won by allies. If the magic number is missed and Left decides to support Congress, he would have no option but to join NDA.

Says K Ramamohan Rao, senior TD leader: "Our party president is making all efforts to form a Third Front. Third Front will form the Government."

"A hung assembly may prove detrimental for Naidu, who might have to depend on TRS and Praja Rajyam. Naidu's silence on TRS indicates the secret machinations behind the latter's support to the NDA," a senior Telugu Desam leader said.

TD politburo member K Yerran Naidu summed up Chandrababu Naidu's mind when he said "the Telugu Desam will keep its option open on new alliances. Our intentions are common. We are against Congress".

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Fruits, Vegetables, Insects, Plants introduced by Europeans in India

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: No Andhra cuisine is complete without the spicy mirchi and the sour
tomato. And no auspicious ritual is complete without the "lucky" pumpkin. Of course, Andhraites are favourites of potato, tea and coffee too.

But none of these vegetables or beverages was known to our great grandfathers. The tomato became a regular in Andhra cookery including the famous tomato pacchadi
(pickle) only 40 years ago, two decades after the vegetable was introduced to India.

The history of red hot chilli is also too short in the Indian sub-continent. South Americans and Europeans savoured the spicy chilli and "burnt" their palate for centuries before they brought the vegetable to India. Wonder, what Andhraites, till early part of last century, used to spice up their food with in the absence of
chillis! They used black and white pepper for the "punch".

And if you thank the Portuguese, the British and the French for these
"exotic" vegetables, which have over the decades became native changing the agricultural, horticultural and economic scenario in India, you have to blame them too for the pests in the kitchen, the weed nuisance in our water bodies and the allergic shrubs and herbs on the roadside.

"The German cockroach, a major kitchen pest, is also introduced by the Europeans, though not deliberately. The brown or Norway rat, another health menace, is also their contribution. These pests entered India in the luggage the Europeans brought to India in ships during the foreign rule. Of course, the giant African snail
too," said senior zoologist Dr C Srinivasulu from Osmania University.

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia) with its beautiful flowers is a cunning weed that has been robbing the Indian government of hundreds of crores of Rupees every year, particularly during the rainy season. The plant blocks water flows in rivers, streams, drains and tanks causing floods. A British noble woman brought water
hyacinth for decoration of a pond in her bungalow little knowing that it will turn a major nuisance a few decades later.

"Other weeds that came along with the Europeans, whether accidentally or deliberately, are Parthenium (carrot weed or gajar ghas), Prosopis (vilayati kikar), Lantana camara and Eupatorium. Some of them are ornamental too while others are useful for firewood," said botanist Ammanna Sastry.

On the bright side of the European contribution are pineapple, apple, cabbage, pomegranates and potatoes. Cabbages are native to southern Europe while pineapples originally grew in South America. Pomegranates are from Iran and potatoes came to India via Europe from South America. Tomatoes also came from South America.

Interestingly pumpkin, a native to central America, has found its way
into the Indian rituals. It is regarded as the best source of removing "dristi" (evil sight or spirits) and is also considered auspicious during domestic
rituals.

Apple was brought to India by Britishers during 1865. The other varieties of apples like "delicious" were introduced only during 1917. Sweet cherry became a regular in Indian desserts a few years before Independence. Tobacco was introduced by the Portuguese whereas coffee came from Ethiopia. The Britishers discovered that tea was growing in the wild in the hills in Assam long before Indian knew that tea
can be brewed.

Papaya and cashew nut were also introduced by the Portuguese. Among animals that came along with the Europeans were rabbit, stout tailed parrot, cockatoo parrot and love birds. Javan sparrow, brought as a pet, escaped from Britishers' houses and formed wild colonies. The giant African snail, a major pest, was also Europe's contribution.

Monday, 11 May 2009

No triple talaq in Hyderabad, thanks to Muftis and Mullahs

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Hyderabadi Muslim women are the least affected by the "triple Talaq" menace that is rampant elsewhere in the country.
Though about 8,000 marriages are performed by Qazis in the 11 Qazi Zones on an average every month in twin cities, only half a dozen couples are separated through the triple Talaq. In all, the Qazis in Hyderabad and Secunderabad deal with around 300 divorce cases every month and a majority of them are settled through mutual reconciliation.
The most common type of Talaq practiced in Hyderabad is Talaq-e-Bain (talaq pronounced in three sittings each one month apart). Talaq-e-Salasa (triple talaq, pronounced thrice in one go) is very rare. Neither religious scholars nor Qazis permit couple seeking divorce to go in for triple Talaq as it is considered harmful and morally incorrect. Though local Muslim scholars disagree with last week's Supreme Court judgment on triple Talaq, they feel that triple Talaq should be discouraged.
"We do not encourage triple Talaq. Most of the divorce cases are sorted out though rigorous counselling at the end of which the couples agree to live in peace. Only a few dozen couples fail to heed our advice and separate through Talaq-e-Bain, a system in which Talaq is pronounced in three sittings each with a gap of 30 days giving sufficient time for rapprochement. The triple Talaq cases are very rare and account for just five or six a month," chief Qazi of old city Mir Khadar Ali told this correspondent.
Hyderabad has the second largest Muslim population in the country after Mumbai and the presence of several "Shariah Panchayats" in the city is discouraging local Muslims from going in for triple Talaq. Andhra Pradesh has about 150 Qazis and they together perform about 1.20 lakh marriages a year on an average.
"We deal with divorce cases at two stages, through Darul Qaza Helpline and Darul Qaza Shariat Panchayat. First couples seeking divorce are put to counselling by religious scholars at Darul Qaza Helpline and if the efforts fail they are referred to the Shariah Panchayat. Here also our scholars tell them about the ill-effects of divorce. Most of the couples agree while a handful decide to separate," Shariah Panchayat chief Moulana Hussamuddin Jafar said.
The State Wakf Board, which has made it mandatory on the part of the Qazis to submit marriage records, has strangely enough absolved them from the responsibility of submitting the divorce records. The Board does not maintain any records on Muslim divorces. Individual chief Qazis in twin cities have their own record system on divorces, which are often wrought with irregularities.
Andhra Pradesh Qazi Association president Ghulam Sarwar Biyabani blames divorces on TV serials. "Young couples are influenced by television serials which are increasingly showing extra-marital affairs and frequent divorces. We have launched a campaign to educate young couples that life is altogether different in reality. What is shown on small screen cannot be imitated in real life. About 90 per cent of couples seeking divorce heed our advice," he points out.

Second-hand tobacco smoke has become major cause of lung diseases and reproductive problems

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Second-hand tobacco smoke in closed environs has emerged as the major cause of lung diseases and reproductive problems in twin cities.
Records on patients reported at various hospitals in the city in the last six years show that there has been an increase in cancer and infertility cases by at least five per cent every year. About 15 per cent of these patients are victims of second-hand tobacco smoke, a term referred to people who do not smoke themselves but involuntarily inhale harmful elements from regular smokers.
According to estimates by health experts, as many as 15,000 cancer cases were reported last year in Hyderabad as against 10,000 cases in 2000. Infertility cases too went up considerably from 6,000 to 10,000 a year during the same period. Most of the cancer and infertility cases in non-smokers is due to second-hand tobacco smoke. Health experts point out that the victims are non-smokers who frequent bars, pubs and restaurants where smoking is allowed in closed doors.
"Neither ventilation nor filtration will reduce the impact of tobacco smoke in closed door environments. There is nothing like safe limits for second-hand tobacco smoke in areas which are closed. About 300 cases of cancer are reported to about 200 chest specialists in Hyderabad every week and about 50 patients are non-smokers. What is troubling is that the incidence has gone up drastically among women, who are mostly non-smokers," says senior lung specialist Dr Pradyut Waghray.
The problem of second-hand tobacco increased to such alarming levels that the World Health Organisation was forced to issue policy recommendations to member countries recommending compulsory smoke-free environments to protect public health.
A majority of the patients reporting at city hospitals and clinics are as young as 35 years and doctors link it to smoking in colleges.
Fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati, who has done considerable research on second-hand tobacco smoke and infertility, points out that tobacco pollutants will affect both men and women. "While it reduces sperm count and the quality of the semen in men, it leads to infertility in women," she says.
According to Dr SVSN Prasad, senior medical oncologist at Apollo Cancer Hospital, changing lifestyle among the youth, especially women, can be a cause of further increase in lung cancers in future. "Women from the IT and ITES sectors are taking to smoking. This is further contributing to passive smoking or second-hand tobacco smoke. The increase in pub culture can also increase the number of cancer patients in Hyderabad," he warns.
Incidence of acute myeloid leukaemia in mothers is also on the increase in twin cities because of second-hand tobacco smoke.

Tomato genome: India plays a major role

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India is playing a key role in sequencing of tomato genome which is all set to boost production of a variety of vegetables and herbal plants including brinjal and ashwagandha.
The sequencing of the chromosome 5 (tomato has 12 chromosomes) is jointly carried out in New Delhi at the University of Delhi South Campus, the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, the Indian Agriculture Research Institute and the National Centre for Plant Genome Research, JNU campus. The aim of tomato genome sequencing is identification of agronomically useful genes from tomato genome.
Along with tomato genome sequencing reverse genetics methods are being developed to use these genes to improve the genetic make-up of tomato by the techniques of "tilling" at the University of Hyderabad. Researchers at the University of Hyderabad are combining information available from genome sequencing, molecular biology and traditional plant breeding to develop improved tomato plants. Unlike genetically modified food, the tomato plants produced by the University of Hyderabad will contain no foreign DNA.
Senior scientists from different countries have converged on Hyderabad for an international workshop on tomato genomics to give an impetus to the ongoing research and speed up the international collaboration that was entered into in late 2003. The conference began on Sunday. More than 20 countries have jointly started a 10-year initiative on tomato genome, called the "international solanacea genome project".
One of the simplest solanacea plant is tomato which has the lowest size of genome among members of the family. The comparative analysis of tomato genome with other solanacea species showed that tomato genome has high degree of synteny with species such as potato or tobacco.
The tomato genome project gains significance as large populations in India depend on the vegetables for the supply FO essential vitamins, fibre, carbohydrates, antioxidants and other essential dietary supplements. India is the second largest producer of the vegetables in the world after China. Among the vegetables, potato and tomato are top two vegetables grown in the country.
Like tomato and potato, green chillies and tobacco were also introduced in India from America. All these four plants are the members of botanical family Solanaceae. A large number of indigenous solanaceous species such as Atropa belladonna, Datura, Ashwagandha and Makoy are used for their therapeutic value in traditional medicine system in India.
Prof Dani Zamir, chairperson of International SOL genome project, chaired the inaugural session.

why tomatoes are not as sour and karela as bitter as they used to be

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Ever wondered why tomatoes are not as sour and karela as bitter as they used to be a couple of decades ago? Or why many Indians continue to suffer from nutritional disorders despite consuming wheat and rice in adequate quantities?
The answer is that Indian fruits, vegetables and food grains have lost their original nutritional values with agricultural scientists indiscriminately developing hybrid varieties. In their anxiety to develop crops that give high yields, scientists have been overlooking the importance of nutrient contents in the farm produce.
"Take the example of tomato and karela (bitter gourd). Both of them have lost their original nutritional and medicinal values because of hybridisation. These and other vegetables and fruits as also food grains like wheat now have nothing more than high water content and chaff," argues Sompal, eminent economist and former member of Planning Commission.
To support his argument, Sompal, who also worked as Union Minister of State for agriculture in the Vajpayee regime, says he had grown 13 varieties of wheat including six desi varieties in his farm. The wheat grains from all the varieties, both hybrid and non-hybrid, were sent to the laboratory of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research for analysis of their nutritional values.
"The laboratory report showed that the natural wheat varieties had more vitamins, minerals, proteins and gluten content as against the hybrid varieties which had more water content and chaff," Sompal pointed out.
Besides hybridisation, indiscriminate mining of zinc, iron and other minerals from the soil is also telling on the nutritional health of fruits and vegetables. Over half of the vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber have been lost.
As many as nine minerals have totally disappeared from the soil in many agricultural fields and this also explains for low content of nutrients in Indian foods.
Excessive use of chemical fertilisers has led to 80 per cent excess dependence on water for agriculture, observed Sompal, who was in the city to deliver a keynote address at a national seminar on agriculture at Osmania University here on Monday.
The next time you go to market to buy the "bitter" karela to fight diabetes or tomatoes to keep cancer away or apples for that proverbial good health, think twice. You may end up buying what Sompal says, "stuff with water and chaff and low nutritional profile".

Cholera in Hyderabad: WHO norms on disinfection thrown to the winds

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 10: State health officials have flouted all medical safety norms by not isolating cholera patients and disinfecting the bodies of victims before funeral.

Officials did not bother to invoke the cholera prevention and control guidelines for the simple reason that they do not want to admit the diarrhoeal deaths at Bholakpur here as those of cholera. While they await reconfirmatory reports from the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, the death roll has gone up to 12 and dozens of fresh cases continue to pour in at various city hospitals.

Andhra Pradesh has been listed as a State endemic to cholera and yet it does not have the mandatory cholera monitoring committee. A week has passed since the acute diarrhoeal disease broke out and the authorities concerned do not bother to constitute the panel to oversee the control and preventive measures. Joint director (communicable diseases) Ram Swarup admitted that there's no separate panel for cholera but the subject is covered by a state level surveillance committee.

Patients are admitted in a common ward in Fever and Gandhi Hospitals endangering the lives of others. Cholera is highly contagious and those suffering from it have to be kept in isolation or quarantined. The World Health Organisation's global task force on cholera control suggests that severe cases should be isolated from rest of the population. It also suggests that gatherings should be avoided as stool and vomit are highly contagious and spreads fast. Cholera patients have to be in a
special ward, isolated from other patients.

The authorities also failed in their duty to disinfect corpses with chlorine solution. Health guidelines stipulate that mouth and anus of the bodies should be filled with cotton wool soaked with chlorine solution. Officials said they did not disinfect the bodies as only one death was reported in hospital while others died at home.

They also ignored the WHO's standard warning that a place might be facing an outbreak very soon if there are an unusual number of acute diarrhoeal cases in a week and patients from the same area have similar clinical symptoms. Dozens of cases were reported from Bholakpur locality but the authorities failed to sound a general public alert on cholera.

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation equally shares the blame. Its sanitation supervisors are supposed to test water quality on daily basis, but they did not. They acted only on May 4 after several cases of diarrhoea were reported from Bholakpur.

GHMC chief medical officer Dr M Jayaram washed off his hands arguing that private hospitals do not send data to them. But he had no answer asked about the data from government hospitals. The authorities waited for half a dozen deaths to swing into action by distributing chlorine tablets and ORS packets and setting up medical screening camps.

Car Insurance may depend on its colour and personality of driver

2009
Syed Akbar
Insurance companies are no more colour and personality blind. Some of the private players in the motor insurance sector have proposed to collect insurance premium for cars based on their colour and the accident record of the person behind the wheel. So the next time you go to pay your car insurance, the insurer may ask the colour of your vehicle and seek details about your driver.

Though the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority has not yet cleared the
proposal, private motor insurance firms propose to give special discounts if the car driver has a clean track record. They also want to collect the premium based on the colour of the car. The special discounts range between five and 15 per cent.

It is a common practice in the USA, the UK and other developed countries to fix car
premium based on its colour and the personality of the driver. Those with no or fewer accidents get special discounts while those with a bad accident record will have to shell out more for the car insurance. Some motor insurance firms in these countries fix their premium based on the colour of the vehicle.

Private motor insurance companies in India like Royal Sundaram Alliance and Bharti AXA General Insurance want to introduce the concept here. But they find IRDA regulations a major stumbling block in executing their proposals.
Though the colour factor is yet to get the IRDA nod, all insurance companies in India offer discounts on motor insurance premium in case of no accident claims.

Says J Uday Kumar, zonal manager of National Insurance Company, "we have been giving
special no claims bonus for vehicles with no accident record. As far as the colour of the car is concerned, we do mention it in the insurance records but do not differentiate it when it comes to collection of premium. In Western countries insurance firms do it, but here we are guided by IRDA guidelines which do not permit different premiums for different car colours".

According to Ajay Bimbhet, managing director of Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance,
insurance firms take into account the age of the driver before offering discounts. "We are thinking of bringing in more parameters like gender and the profession of the driver as also the colour of the car."

Some insurers, however, feel that it is difficult to fix premium based on the track
record of the driver, for the simple reason that many people in a family drive the same car. Points out N Eswaranatarajan, head of motor insurance division of ICICI Lombard General Insurance, "In USA there are 700 cars per 1000 people whereas the ratio is just 70 per 1000 in India. You can pinpoint who the driver is because car sharing is not much there. It is not the case in India. Profiling the driver is quite difficult."

While insurers differ on fixing different premium for different drivers and cars with different colours, psychologists are of the view that the colour of the vehicle indeed makes a difference. They identify red cars with rashness and white cars with serenity. Statistics show that black cars are more prone to accidents, followed by red cars. A study
conducted by Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia revealed that blue or red vehicles were involved in seven per cent more accidents than white cars. In case of black cars it is 14 per cent.

"However, from an insurance point of view, we make no distinctions as far as colour is concerned," observes Eswaranatarajan.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Cholera in Hyderabad: It's official failure

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 10: Twelve deaths and about 600 cases of hospitalisation.
And yet Andhra Pradesh State government officials do not know what caused the havoc.

A week after death stared at poor residents of Bholakpur in the State
capital, officials continue to fight over the causative agent. Preliminary
laboratory reports here indicate cholera, but health authorities still
await a reconfirmation by the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric
Diseases, Kolkata, to swing into action. For them, it's still the mild and
less harmful gastroenteritis.

As officials attempt to take shelter behind technicalities on the
causative bacteria to hide their inefficiency and lethargy, 70 more new
cases of diarrhoea and vomiting were reported from different parts of
the city on Sunday. Two more persons succumbed to the disease
taking the death roll to 12.

Cholera is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae while gastroenteritis
is caused by Escheresia coli, which is relatively less harmful.
Whenever cases of diarrhoea and vomiting break out in largescale,
officials take shelter behind E coli to escape the wrath of people, while
actually some or all the cases are of Vibrio cholerae. Since the
symptoms in both the cases are almost similar, officials often side with
gastoenteritis to save their skin.

As many as 40 samples collected from various parts of the State
including 24 from Hyderabad have tested positive for cholera. Had
officials acted immediately the tragedy could have been minimised, if
not averted, feel Bholakpur residents. It will take another week for the
NICED to give its report and untill then there will be no cholera cases,
officially. A team from NICED is arriving on Sunday to study the
samples.

That officials still believe there's no cholera in the city can be summed
up from what Principal Secretary (Health) Dr LV Subrahmanyam says:
"it is premature to point fingers at the existence of cholera bacteria
when the confirmatory test reports are awaited from National Institute
of Cholera and Enteric Diseases".

He, however, agreed that 12 cases were identified at Fever Hospital and
four at Gandhi Hospital and they were awaiting reconfirmation from
Kolkata. "All these patients have been discharged after providing the
required treatment at the respective hospitals and taking their contact
address. The test results are expected soon," Dr Subrahmanyam said.

Fever Hospital Superintendent Dr P Prasad sides with Dr
Subrahmanyam when he said cases of cholera were quite common
round the year. "Though vibrio cholera bacteria was identified in the
preliminary tests for 12 cases this month, there were around 10 cases
identified last month and during summer almost every week around
three cholera cases are identified."

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