Sunday, 31 October 2004

Ramadhan Id crescent: Muslim scholars continue to differ on sighting of the new moon

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 31: With the Id-ul-Fitr just a few days away, Muslim religious scholars are once again divided over the methods they should adopt for the sighting of the new moon.
The Id-ul-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month of Islamic Hijra calendar which follows the fasting month of Ramzan. While orthodox Muslim scholars argue that the crescent should be visible to the naked eye without the aid of any equipment like telescopes, those with modern outlook feel that meteorological and scientific help should be sought to sort out the controversy.
Moulana Peerzada Shabbir Naqshbandi, president of All-India Religious Leaders' Association, says there should be a hilal or moon-sighting committee at the national level with representation to hilal panels of all States. "Ours is a vast country with the second largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not have a centralised hilal committee. In the absence of such a panel, there are occasions when Id is celebrated on different days in different States. I feel Muftis and meteorologists should sit together and discuss the issue," he observes.
The Moulana put forth the proposal before Central Minister for Wakf Meera Kumar recently and she had reportedly agreed to consider a Central hilal committee. State Wakf Boards and State governments should work in coordination with the Central panel so that there's a uniformity in the Id celebrations all over the country.
All-India Muslim Personal Law Board secretary-general Abdul Rahim Qureshi told this correspondent that the University of Science, Penang, Malaysia, which is carrying out a research on the universalisation of Islamic Lunar Calendar, had stated that the possibility of the formation of the new moon could be considered based on meteorological observations.
Rahim Qureshi, however, adds that it cannot be taken with a finality unless the crescent is seen with an unaided eye. He suggests that for a uniformity of the Id celebrations in the Indian sub-continent, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh should be considered as one "matla" (common zone). If a moon is sighted in any place in any of these countries, it should be considered as if the moon had been seen all over.
Stating that some Muslim countries have been following "Imkane-Ruhiyat" (possibility of moon sighting) system, Rahim Qureshi argues that telescopes could not be used at all. "Binoclulars are OK," he points out. New moon or black moon forms on the day of Amavasya but it takes about 24 hours or more to become a crescent depending on the altitude.
Islamic scholars in India insist that the crescent should be sighted with the naked eye and not the new moon with the help of meteorological calculations. However, scholars in Saudi Arabia follow a fixed lunar calendar based on meteorological calculations.
Says Hafiz Shujath Hussain, for the moon to be visible to the naked eye, it must set after the sun has set. Many Muslims use this condition to define the start of the lunar month, no matter how small the time interval between the two settings. However, this method will depend on one's position on the earth and could be open to doubt regarding the degree of accuracy of the calculation.
"There is an important factor which has to be taken into account for the lunar crescent to be visible. The sightings of the moon younger than 20 hours are rare, and the sightings of the moon older than 24 hours are not uncommon, although its visibility may at times require it to be more than 30 hours old," he clarifies.
According to astronomer Adel Al-Saadoun, the scientific or astronomical method is based on physical conditions when the earth, the moon, and the sun, are in the same vertical plane but not necessarily in the same line, and the moon is between the earth and the sun.

Saturday, 30 October 2004

Cyclone silences dengue virus!

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

Monday, 25 October 2004

Right to information Act: Officials fail to create awareness

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 25: Even two weeks after the Right to Information Act came into force the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad, the largest civic body, received just two applications seeking information.
This poor response in the city with a population of 60 lakh plus, most of whom are educated indicates the lack of awareness among people about their newly acquired Right. Apparently sensing in advance the lukewarm response from people, the State government too brought the Act into force without really preparing its machinery to implement it effectively.
Official sources told this correspondent that the government was still in the process of formulating rules for implementation of the Act. It is also unable to set up the Chief Information Commissionerate, the State level authority to monitor the implementation of the Act, because of hectic lobbying for the top post by bureaucrats and retired government and judicial officers.
"Using the provisions of the Act, we wanted to know from the MCH about how many trees were felled in the city and who authorised indiscriminate tree felling by MCH as well as other government authorities," said Capt J Rama Rao of Forum for Better Hyderabad, a Non Governmental Organisation said. The organisation also sought to know the MCH's plans on road widening and parameters for selecting roads for widening and other related details.
According to Capt Rama Rao the government authorities themselves violate the prohibitory orders and rules and Right to Information Act will be a powerful weapon to expose the officials responsible for such violations provided the government sincerely implemented the Act.
In the absence of applications in printed format, MCH recived applications on a white paper and gave an acknowledgement. "We have also not collected the fee since we are not clear as to which head of account the money should be transferred," Mr M Krishnanand, Public Information Officer designate in MCH said adding that the applications were forwarded for further action.
Meanwhile, the A P Revenue Services Association representing thousands of revenue employees expressed its reservations on implementing the Act. "There are hundreds of vacancies of land surveyors, junior assistants and typists in the department. More importantly, the village secretariat system has totally neglected revenue activities because of which preparation of vital land documents took back seat and we are not in a position to provide information before deadline," said association president Mr K Lakshmaiah.
The association submitted a memorandum to Chief Secretary Mr T K Dewan demanding that penalty provision should be put on hold till the goverment machinery is prepared enough to meet the 30 day deadline.
"The government's silence over an open defiance by its employees against implementation of the Act raises doubts over the sincerity of the government in implementing the Act," Mr Ravi of Watershed Support Services and Activities, a NGO, said. Contributing to awareness programme on the Act, the organisation translated the Act into Telugu and was distributing books to other NGOs.

Saturday, 9 October 2004

Fast food high in fat content may turn you blind

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 9: Next time you visit a fast food centre be sure that the food you take is not high in fat or calories. For you may be at risk of losing your eye sight.
Fast changing food habits in Hyderabadis is leading to a new health risk and diseases related to eyes. According to city ophthalmologists, rapid transitions of lifestyles and change in food habits have led to a spurt in serious eye problems, particularly diabetes mellitus. They estimate that one in 25 Hyderabadis suffer from severe eye-related diseases and most of them are directly connected with their food habits.
Says Dr Praveen, consultant ophthalmologist at LV Prasad Eye Hospital and Research Institute, "a demographic shift towards aging and increased life expectancy is expected to further add to the burden of diabetes in in the country. And a fairly large number of diabetic persons suffer from diabetic retinopathy".
What is horrifying is that obesity is on the rise in school children in twin cities and though they do not get diabetic retinopathy immediately, they tend to carry on the problem which will manifest at a later stage in their life.
About 20 per cent of Hyderabadis are diabetic and 12 per cent of them suffer from retinopathy.
"The best way to control diabetic retinopathy and eye diseases connected to diabetes is to check the food one takes. In most of the cases obesity is linked to diabetic retinopathy," points out DR Rao, convener of World Sight Day Programme.
Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma but the disease's affect on the retina is the main threat to vision. Most patients develop diabetic changes in the retina after approximately 20 years. The effect of diabetes on the eye is called diabetic retinopathy.
The severity of retinopathy increases with increasing duration of diabetes. A 1.89 increase in the risk for development of diabetic retinopathy was reported for every fice year increase in duration of diabetes.
The study reported that the siblings of persons with retinpathy had a three fold higher risk of diabetic retinopathy than did the siblings of persons without diabetic retinopathy in India.

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

IMG controversy: `IMG Bharata not part of the Florida academy'

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 6: In a new twist to the ongoing controversy over the alleged scandal in the allotment of 850 acres of prime land to IMG Bharata for a mega sporting complex in the city, the IMG Academies LLP, Florida, on Friday clarified that IMG Bharata was not its subsidiary company in India.
In an email sent to this correspondent, Ted Meekma, senior vice-president of IMG Worldwide Inc. and director of IMG Academies LLP in Bradenton, Florida, said IMG Bharata and IMG Academies East were established by Andrew Krieger.
"IMG Academies East and IMG Academies Bharata are not subsidiaries of IMG Worldwide, Inc. or IMG Academies LLP and IMG Worldwide, Inc. or IMG Academies LLP are not investors or owners in either of these two entities," Ted Meekma said.
Meekma's clarification gains significance in the backdrop of claims made by IMG Bharata that it was a subsidiary of IMG Academies, Florida. Billy Rao and Andrew Krieger all through have been maintaining that their company was in fact a unit of the Florida-based sporting giant. Based on their claims, the previous TD government entered into an MoU with IMG Bharata for establishment of world class sporting facilities in Hyderabad. The company was allotted 850 acres to create the facilities.
The Congress government, which has ordered a CBI probe after cancelling the land allocation to IMG Bharata, has been describing Krieger as a "money swindler" and Billy Rao as an "academic cheat". Since the government believed that these two promoters of IMG Bharata had a "shady" past, it cancelled the land allocation and ordered a CBI probe. Government Chief Whip N Kiran Kumar Reddy had described IMG Bharata as a benami firm of TD chief N Chandrababu Naidu.
Meekma, however, said in his message that though the Florida company did not own IMG Bharata, it had "affiliation" with Krieger.
"IMG Academies LLP, a division of IMG Worldwide, Inc., has been under contract for licensing and consulting with Krieger's IMG Academies East entity for over three years. Our contract calls for us to license our well-known/respected brands, systems and techniques, and consult on the design, staffing, programming and operations of a multi-sport training/educational complex to be built in Hyderabad (by the entity called IMG Academies Bharata) but not owned by IMG Worldwide, Inc," he pointed out.
It might be recalled that Meekma and IMGA LLP co-director Greg Breunich visited Hyderabad during the MoU signing ceremony at Jubilee Hall. Then Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu too attended the programme and addressed a joint press conference.
The IMG Academies LLP has now expressed its willingness to take over the project and complete it. "We, IMGA LLP, are ready to execute upon these plans and live up to our contractual obligations," Meekma said.
He said he had written letters to the State government clarifying IMGA LLP's association with Krieger and his IMG Academies East/Bharata entities. Referring to Krieger's plans to raise/invest 150 million US dollars for growth of sports training, education and tourism in Hyderabad, the IMG Academies LLP senior vice-president said "we are enthusiastic" about this project.
"I would think that this type of potential investment within your community would be embraced and appreciated," he said.
Sports Minister M Satyanarayana Rao, when contacted, said since the State Cabinet had decided to cancel the land allocation and had ordered a CBI inquiry, the government would consider the IMG Academies, Florida, only after the completion of the probe. "Let the probe be finished first. Then we can think of what we should do," he said.

Government's Reaction
Hyderabad, Oct 19: Government chief whip N Kiran Kumar Reddy on Thursday said he would submit before the Central Bureau of Investigation all documents relating to the IMG Bharata deal with the previous Telugu Desam government as also the "background" of the company promoters.
Reacting sharply to reports that IMG Bharata had planned to serve a legal notice on him for his utterances on the IMG deal, Kiran Kumar Reddy told reporters at CLP office here that he had a set of documents which would put the company in the dock.
"I have been waiting for the legal notice. Let them serve it on me. Let the trial be held in London. I am prepared for it. I have documentary evidence on the shady deals of the company and its promoters. The documents will be submitted to the CBI," Kiran Kumar Reddy pointed out.
He said he wanted to study the way court proceedings are conducted in London and hence was ready for a trial there. The IMG Bharata had allegedly warned of taking up a trial in the USA against the State government and the chief whip suggested that it be held in London.
Kiran Kumar Reddy has been levelling charges against IMG Bharata in and out of the State Assembly and even went to the extent of terming it as a benami firm of TD supremo N Chandrababu Naidu.

Text of Ted Meekma's letter
My name is Ted Meekma. I am an IMG Worldwide Inc. Senior Vice President, and Director of IMG Academies LLP (IMGA LLP) in Bradenton, Florida. In response to recent newspaper articles and an A.P. Cabinet press note, I would like to, once again, set the record straight relative to IMG Worldwide, Inc.'s and IMGA LLP's relationship with IMG Academies East and its subsidiary IMG Academies Bharata, two entities established by Mr. Andrew Krieger.

IMGA LLP, a division of IMG Worldwide, Inc., has been under contract for licensing and consulting with Mr. Krieger's IMG Academies East entity for over three years. Our contract calls for us to license our well-known/respected brands, systems and techniques, and consult on the design, staffing, programming and operations of a multi-sport training/educational complex to be built in Hyderabad (by the entity called IMG Academies Bharata) but not owned by IMG Worldwide, Inc.

IMG Academies East and IMG Academies Bharata are not subsidiaries of IMG Worldwide, Inc. or IMGA LLP, and IMG Worldwide, Inc./IMGA LLP are not investors or owners in either of these two entities. However, there are connections and a clear affiliation between Mr. Krieger's entities and our own (as specifically noted above).

Mr. Krieger is a long time friend and associate of IMGA LLP. We share in his vision to bring world-class training to Hyderabad and our support of his IMG Academies Bharata project is well defined and documented.

My IMGA LLP Co-director, Greg Breunich and I traveled to Hyderabad, toured the site, met with A.P. Government officials, attended a signing ceremony and answered press questions about our commitment/involvement with this IMG Academies Bharata project.I attended a New York press conference with other senior IMG Worldwide, Inc. officials to the same end, and sent IMG Worldwide, Inc.'s Greg Sproule (based at the time in Singapore) to attend a simultaneous press event on my behalf in Hyderabad.

My IMGA LLP colleague, Jamal Pritchard spent four months in Hyderabad working on this project. He and I have collaborated with Mr. Krieger's architects and master planners on countless occasions, in an effort to perfect the ideal plan for this exciting complex.We, IMGA LLP, are ready to execute upon these plans and live up to our contractual obligations. We have learned, however, that IMG Academies Bharata's requests for permits to begin construction have been ignored.

As an employee of IMG Worldwide, Inc., I have approved press releases and written letters to the press and to the A. P Government clarifying IMGA LLP's association with Mr. Krieger and his IMG Academies East/Bharata entities. Why these actions have not been enough to quiet the critics who have doubted IMGA LLP's contractual association to IMG Academies Bharata, I do not know. But for whatever reason, my September '05 letter to the A.P. Government went unanswered and unacknowledged.

I welcome questions or comments from anyone who needs further validation of our connection to this project. I should also point out that it is our understanding, and we are enthusiastic about Mr. Krieger's readiness to raise/invest $150 million for the growth of sports training, education and tourism in Hyderabad via this IMG Academies Bharata initiative. I would think that this type of potential investment within your community would be embraced and appreciated.


Ted Meekma
Senior Vice President, IMG Worldwide, Inc.
Director IMG Academies LLP

Monday, 4 October 2004

Ramadhan is round the corner and so is the controversy over the sighting of the new moon

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 4: Ramadhan is round the corner and so is the controversy over the sighting of the new moon.
A group of Islamic scholars gather at Husaini Building, the office of the Ruhiyat Hilal (Moon-sighting) Committee in the city, after the Maghrib prayers to decide whether the Crescent of the holy month of Ramadhan has been sighted. Holding telescopes and powerful binoculars the Muslim elders scan the sky and after an hour of discussions and arguments they decide that there's no trace of the Ramadhan moon.
And to be doubly sure, they make a number of calls to local Ruhiyat Hilal committees in Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Chennai. After a cross check with the Islamic scholars from around the country, the Hussaini Building puts out an announcement that Ramadhan will begin on Thursday and the Taraweeh prayers will be held from Wednesday night in all mosques. Scores of people gather outside eagerly waiting for the announcement.
The Muslim clergy in Hyderabad, Deoband, Rai Bareli, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow are aware that the holy Islamic month had already begun in Saudi Arabia, which houses two of the holiest Muslim shrines. But they do not want to follow Saudi Arabia or any Arab nation "blindly".
"Do not believe the Saudis. They do not follow the traditional Islamic lunar calendar. They have evolved a fixed calendar based on astronomical calculations. We have not sighted the moon in India. Even Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Malaysia have not reported the sighting of the moon. For us Ramadhan will begin only after we spot the new moon," says Abdur Raheem Qureshi, secretary of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.
The Islamic calendar is based on lunar months, which begin when the thin crescent Moon is actually sighted in the western sky after sunset within a day or so after new moon. The Islamic dates begin at sunset on the previous evening and end at sunset the next day.
These dates may or may not correspond to the evenings on which the crescent moon is first visible, and it is the visibility of the crescent moon that determines when the religious observance begins. The moon's visibility at these times varies with location; generally, the visibility increases to the west, and locations in the tropics are favoured over those in middle or high latitudes.
"For Islamic calendar purposes, the sighting must be made with the unaided eye," argues Moulana Syed Yusufuddin Al Madani, president of Sunni Ulema Board. There are two opinions on the sighting of the moon. The first is Ittehadul Matale (unity of the crescent). According to this opinion, when a new crescent moon is declared as sighted, in any part of the world, that declaration could be used as the basis of local declarations for the start of the Islamic month, at other parts of the world. The other equally valid opinion is Iktelaf-ul-Matale (different crescents) which acknowledges that there could be different days on which the crescent moon is first sighted in different parts of the world and consequently the start of the Islamic month could be on different days, he points out.
"We do not follow Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or any other country. If the moon is sighted in any part of India, we will start our new month. Our report is that there has been no moon sighting on Tuesday," says Moulana Qubool Pasha Shuttari, secretary of Ruhiyat Hilal Committee.
What these Islamic scholars overlook is that the visibility of the young lunar crescent depends on sky conditions and the location, experience, and preparation of the observer. The moonrise in Hyderabad was at 6.40 am on Tuesday and so there's no scope for its sighting.
Denying the charge that the Muslim clergy in India do not follow scientific system of moon calculations, Siasat Urdu daily editor Zahid Ali Khan, says "how can the Mullahs hide the moon to postpone the holy month. If it is visible it will be visible for all. Sighting of the moon by naked eye is a must."

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This Day In History

Mother's Care

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

Someone with Nature

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

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

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

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

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