Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Bonanza for Indian Hajis: Forex increased to 10,000 US dollars

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 29: The Central government has extended a bonanza for the Haj pilgrims this year permitting them to take as much as 10,000 US dollars as their basic travel quota (BTQ).
This facility is in addition to 2,000 Saudi Riyals already enjoyed by pilgrims visiting the holy shrines in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. Now for the first time, Hajis can take with them as much as 39,000 Saudi Riyals for their comfortable stay in the Kingdom.
"The government used to allow 2000 Saudi Riyals and another 100 US dollars as airport allowance. From this Haj season they can take with them 10,000 US dollars (37,000 Saudi Riyals) as basic travel quota in addition to the already existing 2000 Riyals," says Shaik Mustaq Ali Ahmad, coordinator for Forex distribution for Haj pilgrims in India.
About one lakh pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia through the official Haj Committee and another 60,000 make arrangements on their own through private travel agents. The Haj Committee returns amount equivalent to 2000 Riyals to each of the Hajis from the amount paid by them for travel and lodging.
Bombay Mercantile Cooperative Bank, which has bagged the contract as official banker for Haj 2005-2006, has opened round-the-clock counters at the Haj House in the city and other 14 embarkation points elsewhere in the country.
The Central Haj Committee has cleared the applications of all the 6,385 Hajis from Andhra Pradesh. The largest contingent of Hajis is from Delhi with the National Capital sending around 14,600 pilgrims.
The first flight carrying Hajis will leave eight select points including Hyderabad on December 3 for Madina.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Paddy production to fall this rabi season

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 18: Paddy production is likely to record a steep fall this rabi season with the State government discouraging farmers from taking up the crop. Even the paddy variety grown under the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) programme in the delta areas has failed to deliver the expected results in the just-concluded Khariff and farmers are sceptical about its prospects in the current rabi season.
So far this rabi farmers went in for paddy cultivation only in four per cent of the normal sown area. As on November 16, paddy was sown in 0.40 lakh hectares in the State as against 0.82 lakh hectares during the same period last year. The normal sown area under paddy in rabi is 10.17 lakh hectares and farmer activists fear that even 50 per cent of the cropped area will not be achieved thanks to the intensive campaign launched by the State government motivating farmers not to grow paddy in rabi.
Reports from districts indicate the low percentage of sowings took place in areas traditionally known for paddy cultivation. Only two per cent of rabi sowings (for all crops) is reported from East Godavari, four per cent in West Godavari, two per cent each in Krishna and Guntur and six per cent in Nellore.
This is as against 42 per cent in non-traditional areas in Visakhapatnam, 40 per cent in Prakasam, 64 per cent in Kurnool, 47 per cent in Anantapur, 68 per cent in Medak and 48 per cent in Mahbubnagar. Agriculture officials succeeded in motivating farmers to go in for dry crops as is evident from 37 per cent sowings (8.54 lakh hectares against normal of 23.11 lakh hectares). As much as 50 per cent of the sowings are completed in oilseed crops while only 20 per cent sowings are recorded for food grains (all varieties).
Referring to SRI paddy, water management expert KVGK Rao told Deccan Chronicle that farmers who went in for this variety in delta recorded poor crop in Khariff. "The rice variety needs less quantity of water. Since there were heavy rains in khariff, the crop was damaged. However, SRI will give better yields in rabi as there will be no major rains during the season," Rao said.

Monday, 14 November 2005

Threat of cyber terrorism looms large on Defence computers

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 14: As the nation gets ready for disaster management preparedness programme from the New Year, threat of cyber terrorism looms large over the all-important communication network.
Communication network being a vital infrastructure in disaster management activity, any exposure to cyber attacks will send the entire relief and rehabilitation planning into haywire, say in case of cyclones, floods or earthquakes.
National Disaster Management Authority is working towards the establishment of diverse and redundant networks to fight against cyber terrorists but fears that these networks may not be "robust" with adequate firewalls to ensure their availability at the time of disasters. The NDMA, which held its sitting recently in Hyderabad, gave a serious thinking on what to and what not to do if cyber terrorists jam the communication system during natural calamities.
According to NDMA vice-chairman NC Vij, the NDMA is working towards development of a software immune to such attacks during natural calamities. Cyber terrorists are capable of jamming the communication system and government networks crippling all relief activity. They can simply hack into the networks giving a wrong direction to the relief and rehabilitation measures.
"With cyber terrorism going to stay in this age of information technology, the country needs replicate controls not only to prevent cyber attacks but also to ensure that the network in calamity-hit area does not go haywire. There should be replicate controls at a distance of 200 km or so," says security systems specialist MH Nobel.
Ethical hackers suggest that software used for communication systems exclusively meant in times of natural calamities should be processed from neutral countries like Switzerland as cyber terrorists perennial make USA systems their prime target. H Topiwala of Networks Data, UK, points out that the government should go in for multiple paths like fibre and radio optical networks so that even one fails the other will work.
"Proprietary operating system based on Linux or hardened operating system can be employed for greater chances of survival in case of cyber attacks,"
he suggested.
The NDMA has been focusing on cyber terrorism because most of the government networks are not immune to such attacks. The problem gets more complicated when a natural calamity strikes and the government wants to take up emergency relief measures. Even the USA is not immune to such attacks. A recent survey by the Defence Information Security Agency revealed that 88 per cent of the 3000 defence computer systems that were attacked were "easily penetrable". Of the systems that were illegally entered, 96 per cent of the entries were not detected. Of the 4 per cent that were detected, only 5 per cent of them were reported or investigated.
There have been instances of cyber-terrorists hacking into hospital computer system and changing the medicine prescription of patients to a lethal dosage as an act of revenge. And if this happens in times of natural calamities, the damage will be catastrophic.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Urdu regains lost glory in Hyderabad

November 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 12: Urdu, the language of poets and nobles, is fast regaining its lost glory in this historic city what with Urdu newspapers taking up the role of educationists and reformists in the Muslim society.
Hyderabad has the distinction of being the largest hub of Urdu newspapers in the Indian sub-continent after the Pakistani port city of Karachi. A new Urdu daily with ultra-modern printing technology is all set to hit the news-stands later this month heralding a new phase in the Urdu newspaper industry of the country.
And all the existing Urdu newspapers in the city have geared up to meet the challenges being thrown in by the new Urdu daily, Etemad, which is coming out with technologically-advanced printing machines and hi-fi editorial team.
Etemad, owned by the family of MIM supremo and former MP Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, will be the fourth major Urdu daily from the capital city of Andhra Pradesh. The other three main newspapers being Munsif, Siasat and Rehnuma-e-Deccan.
The Owaisi family's offer of generous perks and salaries to Urdu journalists,
calligraphists and computer operators has become the talk of the media circles. Urdu journos who hardly used to get Rs 6000 a month are now being paid a salary of between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. Attracted by the offer, even journalists from north India have applied for posts in the newspaper.
"The combined circulation of Urdu newspapers in Hyderabad is more than that of any city in India. Only Mumbai comes somewhere near Hyderabad in terms of circulation of Urdu dailies. Hyderabad occupies the second slot in the Urdu-speaking world after Karachi," says Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who edits the popular Urdu weekly Gawah.
Even while procuring advanced printing technology, Urdu newspaper barons feel that the emergence of another Urdu daily in Hyderabad will not eat into the existing circulation. "The circulation of Siasat has not been affected after Munsif relaunched itself. Hyderabad has more scope for Urdu readership.
Etemad will create its own readership without affecting any of us," says senior journalist and Siasat editor Zahid Ali Khan. Siasat is going to change its design and editorial content in tune with the changing times.
Rehnuma-e-Deccan, the oldest exant Urdu newspaper in Indian sub-continent, is also going in for the latest printing machinery while Munsif is planning to launch a Urdu TV channel. "There is no dearth of Urdu readership in Hyderabad," observes Nasim Arifi, editor of Etemad.
The Urdu newspapers have created their own base of readership through educational programmes. The Abid Ali Khan Educational Foundation set up in memory of Siasat founder has been instrumental in teaching Urdu to about 25000 people every year. The Munsif daily has opened Urdu schools in the city.
"While Urdu is losing ground in the north, it is gaining popularity in Hyderabad. It is mainly due to high standards of journalism and educational activities of Urdu newspapers. Our standards are the best in the world. Even the Urdu Press in Pakistan is no exception," says Syed Vicaruddin, editor of Rehnuma-e-Deccan.
Etemad is going to be the most modern Urdu newspaper in the country both in terms of quality and editorial content, says Nasim Arifi. Though it is being brought out by the Owaisi family, the newspaper will maintain its independent identity. "It is a good trend that Urdu journalists and Urdu journalism have finally got the recognition they deserve. Modernisation of Urdu papers is also a welcome step when Urdu is losing ground elsewhere," Zahid Ali Khan observes.
Siasat is planning to launch a school of journalism for training of Urdu journalists while Munsif proposes to start an edition from Delhi.

Diabetes on the rise in Andhra Pradesh

November 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Fast changing food habits coupled with stress and increasing environment pollution is contributing to the spread of diabetes in the country. Andhra Pradesh is no exception. According to an estimate by the American Diabetes Association, there are at least 31.7 million diabetic patients in India and the number is expected to grow to 79.4 million by 2030. In Andhra Pradesh alone about 30 lakh people suffer from diabetes and Hyderabad with its fast food joints and the Nawabi lifestyle is fast emerging on the world map of diabetes with many people joining the list of patients.
As the World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14, the World Health Organisation cautions people that about 366 million people worldwide would be diabetic patients by 2030. A recent survey by the Diabetes Association of Andhra Pradesh showed that of the 12,000 people surveyed in rural areas, about two per cent or 240 people suffer from diabetes.
What is worrying doctors is that diabetes is also fast spreading in rural areas. It is also no longer a disease of the developed countries. The prevalence of diabetes in urban areas of Andhra Pradesh is estimated to be 10 per cent. As diabetes expert Dr PV Rao points out the prevalence rate in cities often touch 14 per cent. The increased prevalence of diabetes in India has a lot to do with a switch from a traditional to a Western diet.
“Diabetes is a major threat to global public health that is rapidly getting worse, and the biggest impact is on adults of working age in developing countries. At least 171 million people worldwide have diabetes. This figure is likely to more than double by 2030 to reach 366 million,” says a WHO report on diabetes. It has launched a mission programme for diabetes control to “prevent diabetes whenever possible and, where not possible, to minimize complications and maximize quality of life”.
Diabetes is fast emerging as the root cause of many complicated health diseases including cardiac problems. As senior interventional cardiologist Dr PC Rath points out, instances of coronary heart diseases are generally related to neglect of diabetes. “India has the highest incidence of diabetes. Diabetic patients are more prone to coronary heart diseases. The patient suffer from chest pain which he or she normally neglects. This causes silent heart attacks,” he points out. Dr Rath advises diabetic patients to undergo regular health check-up every year so prevent cardiac complications.
Ayurveda expert Dr Venugopal says that regular exercise will help in the management of diabetes. “We can prevent diabetes by regular exercises and controlling diet. Traditional Indian food is the best food. But our people have now taken to Western food habits which is one of the reasons for the fast spread of diabetes in India,” he feels.
According to him alternative system of medicine will go a long way in managing diabetes. The panchakarma therapy, a gift of Ayurveda, will not only stop complications but also prevent amputation of diabetic foot.
Some startling facts and figures

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
Early signs
1. Increase in urine volume and frequency. It increases as the glucose levels in blood go up. Kidneys filter blood and try to rid it of excess glucose. Frequent urination means dehydration which seriously affects the health.
2. Increase in thirst. Since water is lost in excessive urination, the patient drinks more water. Excess sugar concentrates the blood and this also increases the thirst.
3. General weakness and fatigue.
4. Slow or rapid weight loss. Many patients with early diabetes notice they are actually eating more and yet losing weight.
5. Increased hunger and glucose though more in blood is not available for cells as fuel for energy.
6. Blurred vision may be noticed. This is because the fast increasing blood glucose levels can cause fluid shifts in the lens of the eye.
7. Infections of gums, bladder and skin. Women may notice recurrent urinary or vaginal infections.
8. Healing of wounds is slow in noninsulin-dependent cases.
9. Irritability; drowsiness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, or itching.
10. Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet

Diet Control
Diabetic patients should follow a strict dietary system to keep the disease under check. They must avoid the following foods.
1. Salt since it aggravates the problem.
2. Sugar as it only adds to the calories and carbohydrates.
3. Foods containing fat or high fat content.
4. Control intake of red meat to the extent possible.
5. Whole milk or milk products. Low fat milk is sufficient.
6. Tea and coffee. Take just two cups of the conventional tea or decaffeinated coffee in a day.
7. White flour and its products.
Diabetic patients may take the following items in sufficient quantities to keep their body in good condition.
1. Bitter gourd as it contains plant insulin which reduces blood sugar levels.
2. Fenugreek seeds.
3. Jamun or Indian black plum or berry.
3. Garlic.
4. Onions.
5. Vegetables and foods with high fibre content.
6. Cinnamon solution
7. Foods containing anti-oxidants like lemon.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is of two types. It is classified commonly as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes or juvenile onset diabetes occurs mostly in children. Type 2 or adult onset diabetes occurs around 35-40 years of age.
Diabetes is a chronic disorder in which the body fails to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy. Many of the foods are normally converted into a type of sugar called glucose during digestion. The bloodstream then carries glucose through the body. The hormone, insulin, then turns glucose into quick energy or is stored for further use.
In diabetic people, the body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin correctly. This is why too much glucose builds in the bloodstream.
Diabetes in children: The body produces little or no insulin. It occurs most often in childhood or in the teens and could be inherited.
People with this type of diabetes need daily injections of insulin
Diabetes in adults: It is the most common diabetes. About 80 per cent of diabetic patients suffer from this. The pancreas produce enough insulin but the body cells
do not metabolise it. This type of diabetes is generally triggered by obesity.
What causes diabetes
In patients suffering from insulin-dependent diabetes the pancreas fail to make enough or stop making altogether insulin. Doctors believe that this type of diabetes is caused by an over-reactive immune system. A triggering factor confuses the body's defence system into attacking the beta cells of the pancreas and killing them. This autoimmune reaction may be triggered by a virus or by several viral infections.
Heredity and environment are other factors that cause insulin-dependent diabetes.
Diabetes is diagnosed when it is determined that a person's blood sugar is too high because of failure of insulin. The main effect of insulin is to regulate metabolism, the body's ability to utilize fuel. In diabetes, sugar metabolism is directly effected, however, the metabolism of our two other fuels, fat and protein is also effected.
Doctors use urine and blood tests to check for diabetes. In both, they are checking glucose levels. Glucose in the urine can be a sign of diabetes, although it is not always so. The doctor also may give a complete physical to check the heart, eyes and kidneys.
How to manage diabetes
Patients can help control their blood sugar and diabetes when they eat healthy, get enough exercise, and stay at a healthy weight. A healthy weight also helps patients control their blood fats and lower the blood pressure. Many people with diabetes also need to take medicine to help control their blood sugar.
Good food choices for diabetes are no different than what is recommended for all other people.
One can help control the blood sugar and diabetes by eating healthy, doing enough exercise, and staying at a healthy weight.
Doctors say that distributing meals and snacks throughout the day is important for people with diabetes. At least three meals are recommended.
Diet is a cornerstone of controlling diabetes. More than half of all adult diabetics manage their diabetes with diet rather than insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents.
Panchakarma therapy for diabetes
Ayurveda is highly effective in the treatment of diabetic foot, a dreadful
complication of diabetes. Almost 1.5 lakh people suffering from diabetes lose
their limbs every year due to non-healing of foot ulcers/wounds.
According to Dr NB Venugopala Rao, Nadisweda, a medical technique with
roots in Ayurveda, has been found to be useful in the treatment of diabetic
foot. "It helps in increasing the blood circulation in the peripheral blood
vessels thereby speeding up the recovery process. It prevents the formation of
gangrene," he points out.
In majority of cases, the blood vessels develop atherosclerosis, a condition
where the lumen of the blood vessels become narrow, decreasing the flow of
blood to a particular area or areas where the sensitivity of the skin decreases.
This condition is called diabetic neuropathy. It makes the foot susceptible to
injury. Ayurvedic drugs hold good for treatment of different types of chronic
ulcers like ischemic nature, deep vein thrombosis, occlusion of blood vessels.
Nadisweda is a modern adoption of age-old panchakarma technique, the
mainstay of many Ayurvedic therapies. "This is a combination of established
procedures in cleaning the wound by herbal decoction, administration of a set
of herbal drugs and application of steam to the injury," Dr Veugopala Rao
points out.
For washing, selective herbs are finely powdered, thoroughly mixed with
water and boiled. Medicated oil is applied on the affected part and exposed to
steam of a herbal mixture for about five minutes. The results have been 100
per cent successful, he claims.

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Rural disaster due to blind aping of World Bank: Study

November 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 10: The State government's "blind aping" of the World Bank model of agriculture is leading to "rural disaster" and severe crisis in the farming community.
According to a study presented at the third international conference on "Rural India", organised by two voluntary organisations in partnership with the Andhra Pradesh State government her on Thursday, the government pumped in huge finances to push an "industry-driven" agriculture which has finally led to "farmers' distress". Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy was the chief guest at the conference.
"Blindly aping the World Bank model of agriculture, Andhra Pradesh has pumped in huge finances to push an industry-driven agriculture that has not only exacerbated the crisis leading to an environment catastrophe but also destroyed millions of rural livelihoods, which echoes to "rural disaster".
As a result the State has turned into capital of shame for farmers' distress,
visible more through the increasing rate of suicides in the rural areas," point
out social scientists K Anand Sagar and Vijayanand Kommaluri.
In their report, "Rural Tsunami: A famine in 21st century", they took pot-shots at the State government accusing it of "rhetoric and statistics that have bred immunity against compassion".
The ground realities are far removed from the rhetoric, they pointed out adding that the statistics being rolled out by the government are immune against compassion. "We are all part of a global food system, which perpetuates poverty and deprivation. The claims of improved technology for agriculture ignore the stark realities like increasing indebtedness, growing poverty, resulting in human suffering and hunger," the study says.
Pointing out that farmers' suicides were due to man-made disaster (famine) rather than natural disaster (drought) due to failure of the State and its machinery, they said the State government should be aware of the fact that while drought conditions are caused by the vagaries of nature, a famine is not a natural phenomenon.
Most of the agricultural labourers have lost opportunities for gainful employment and small and medium farmers have been forced to leave their land fallow for want of water. They took Kalidindi mandal in Krishna district as a case study.
Kalidindi mandal is affected by coastal pollution and loses their total crop or
end up with poor growth of the cultivated organisms due to the poor quality of water. Increased siltation and sedimentation of coastal water is consequence of deforestation, mining and inappropriate agricultural practices in this area causes to degradation of soil, depletion of water level, which reflects the drought conditions in this mandal.
The state government insists on using the term "drought conditions" not famine. The provided solutions are really the causes for the problems in the first place and behaving like an ostrich is not going to eclipse hunger and death from politico-economic radar screens, the study observes.
"Unless the state government realises the facts and figures regarding rainfall, losses in terms of damage to crops and the extent of land left uncultivated and thrive to formulate the strategies for rural empowerment, the state economic polices like free electricity and enhancing bank credit will remain as proverbial Emperor's clothes," Anand and Vijaynand warns.
They suggest that the government should keep away from the idea of industrial farming since the majority of the population in India makes their livelihood with small portions of land and gainful employment from agricultural sector.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

5000 Muslim bodies refuse to register with AP Wakf Board

From Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 5: The State Wakf Board is in trouble with about 5000 Muslim institutions with several properties attached to them refusing to register with it.
Section 36 of the Wakf Act 1995 makes it mandatory for management committees of mosques, dargahs chillas and other Muslim institutions to obtain registration with the State Wakf Board. The Survey Commissionerate of Wakfs, which is carrying out the second survey of Wakf institutions in the State after a gap of five decades, noticed that many Muslim bodies which came into existence after the first survey are not registered with the Wakf Board. The violation was more pronounced in Kurnool, Nellore, Prakasam, Medak and Hyderabad districts. Hyderabad city alone has about 400 unregistered Wakf bodies.
"We noticed that in Vizianagaram district about 100 Wakf bodies have failed to register themselves with the State Wakf Board. After a lot of persuation and warnings only a dozen have agreed for registration. The management committees are apprehensive that the Wakf Board will have complete control over the properties once they get registered with it. But we told them that registered wakf properties are more secure from encroachments," assistant survey commissioner (Wakf) MA Hameed Khan told this correspondent.
In the absence of properties not being registered as "Wakf", the Landgrab Court and the AP Wakf Tribunal would not entertain cases of encroachments. The government will also not pay compension in case of land acquisition from such institutions. It will also give scope for management committees of unregistered Wakf bodies to resort to corrupt practices like swindling of funds and sale of properties. The Board will lose revenue as every registered Wakf property has to pay six per cent of its income towards Wakf Fund.
So far in the second survey the wakf properties in the State increased by about 90 per cent both in terms of assets and institutions. The board, which had under its control 35,200 institutions when it was formed five decades ago, is now the proud custodian of 64,222 Wakf bodies spread across the State. The extent of land attached to Wakf institutions has also gone up from 1.33 lakh acres to 1.70 lakh acres. The net value of the Wakf Board is now estimated to be around Rs 65,000 crore, up from the earlier Rs 35,000 crore.
The ongoing second survey of Wakf properties has thus far identified 29,000 new Wakf institutions with landed properties extending to 40,000 acres. The survey has been completed in 15 districts and is at varying stages of completion in Hyderabad, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Medak, Rangareddy, Nizamabad and Visakhapatnam districts.
Once the survey is completed in these districts and the unregistered bodies secure registration from the Board, the total number of Wakf institutions and the extent of Wakf land will go up further. It is estimated that another 6000 Wakf institutions will be added to the list when the survey/registration is completed.

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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