Monday, 30 June 2008

Violation: Minority Professional Colleges Fill Up Seats

June 30, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 29: Minority professional colleges in the State have completed admissions under the management quota even before the State government formally launched the process.
The admission process for the academic year 2008-2009 for professional courses is scheduled to begin officially in the next fortnight, but unscrupulous managements of minority colleges have already filled up the seats under their control.
State government rules on admissions by minority colleges stipulate that the managements should make the application forms available with district minority welfare officers or district collectors, besides in the college office. The general refrain from minority colleges this year is that they have run short of application forms.
Minority students seeking admissions in professional courses like medicine, engineering, pharmacy, MCA and MBA are the worst hit. "The State government has issued a GO long ago streamlining the admission process in minority colleges. This has remained on paper only. Except for a few colleges, most of these minority institutions are refusing to issue even application forms," says Nishat Hussain,
executive council member of Padmavathi Mahila University, Tirupati.
Some of the colleges have filled up the management seats at exorbitant fee, running into a million Rupees for courses like pharmacy and in case of medicine the commanding price is upwards of Rs 50 lakh.
"Unless the government intervenes and implements the AP High Court's directive on admissions in minority colleges, students will suffer this academic year too. The Court has clearly stated that the admissions should be purely on merit and there should be no irregularities," says Muhammad Ansari, president of Minority
Educational Rights Protection Committee.

Shariah: Ulema ask Muslims to boycott dowry lovers

June 30, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 29: Muslim religious scholars have given a call to the principal minority community in the country to socially boycott those Muslim families, which demand and accept dowry.
In their resolutions at the end of the two-day National Shariah Conference here on Sunday, the religious scholars with the backing of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board have appealed to Muslims not to take or give dowry and boycott those families, who violate the Islamic system of marriage.
"Islam prohibits dowry. Those who take or give dowry are going against the tenets of Shariah. Unless we boycott socially those who take or give dowry, this social evil will continue to plague the community," the Muslim leaders said.
Those who participated in the deliberations include Prof Saud Alam Qasmi of Aligarh Muslim University, Moulana Fuzail Rahman Hilal Usmani of Darus Salam Islamic Centre, Punjab, Abdur Rahim Qureshi, president of Tameer-e-Millat, Hyderabad, Moulana Wali
Rahmani, Dr Asma Zehra and Tahniyat Athar of Muslim Personal Law Board, Dr Rukshana Nikhat Lari, Dr Ayesha Hameed, and Nohera Shaikh.
The campaign against dowry will begin in Hyderabad and will extend to the rest of the country.
The Shariah Conference condemned the dowry system in the Muslim community. "Dowry is the root cause of bride burning and wife-beating. Innocent Muslim girls are becoming victim of dowry," one of the resolutions said.

Plants Help Boost Scientific Research

June 30, 2008
By Syed Akbar
What have trees and plants to do with the research output of an institution? Scientists at the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad believe that the greenery on the campus has been helping them in producing more research papers than their counterparts in other research bodies elsewhere in the world.
NGRI, a premier research institute in the country, has 16,400 trees on its sprawling campus at Habsiguda. It is going to lose about 300 trees in road widening, but the Institute plans to compensate the loss by planting 4000 trees. This is the greener side of NGRI. And what about its scientists?
NGRI director Dr VP Dimri argues that his scientific team has produced more research papers than those in other institutes for the simple reason that NGRI has a vast expanse of greenery. And none other than Dr G Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, agrees with Dr Dimri.
The NGRI has produced 0.1 per cent of research publications. Moreover, one of its former directors Dr Harsh Kumar Gupta has bagged the prestigious award presented every year by the American Geophysical Research Institute. The American institute has more than 50,000 scientists on its rolls and yet it has selected Dr Harsh
Gupta for the coveted prize.
The secret behind the success of NGRI team is the unlimited oxygen pumped in by thousands of trees on the campus. More oxygen means more energy and alertness. And more brain power. The brain, after all, needs more oxygen to function. If we reduce the oxygen supply to the brain, it becomes dull and the intelligence output is relatively low.
In fact, NGRI is the only research institute in Hyderabad and perhaps in the country which has the highest number of trees on the campus. Talking of oxygen and scientists' intelligence, one is reminded of the oxygen chambers the Hyderabad police had once set up to provide pure oxygen to the traffic cops, who work amidst vehicular emissions. The oxygen chambers did not work well with the police
for obvious reasons, and there's no news about them now. In the initial days, the cops were directed to spend at least half an hour in oxygen chambers to get a fresh whip of oxygen.
Then the department shifted to pollution masks and later to goggles. And yet the traffic snarls in Hyderabad continue unabated and people continue to suffer because of poor traffic management.
Perhaps only a proper scientific study by a reputed institution will reveal the secret behind the paradox: oxygen helping scientists produce more research papers and the same oxygen failing to yield the desired results when it comes to our traffic cops!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Ultra rice: Grains that heal come to India

June 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 27: Now it's rice that heals. Ultra rice, the artificial rice grains that worked wonders in Brazil, Columbia and China, will soon make its way into the Indian market.
Developed by internationally-renowned research and service organisation, PATH, Ultra rice looks and tastes just like the ordinary rice. But it contains special elements that will check anaemia and vitamin A and zinc deficiencies.
Ultra rice, when mixed with ordinary rice in the ratio 1:100, brings down maternal mortality rate during childbirth and blindness in young children, besides providing the much-needed micronutrients to people.
"We will soon introduce Ultra rice in the Indian market. We have already transferred the technology to a firm in West Bengal. Soon we will provide the technology to a government agency too. Micronutrient deficiencies threaten the health of people, particularly young mothers and children. Ultra rice will be the best nutrient substitute in the mid-day meal scheme," Michael Joseph, PATH's food technologist, told this correspondent.
Those using Ultra rice need not change their cooking habits. "When blended with rice and cooked like usual, the Ultra rice looks so much like white rice, it’s hard to differentiate," he points out.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition has proposed to fund a large-scale trial that will provide schoolchildren with fortified rice through the midday meal programme in the country. The department of biotechnology, Government of India, has already approved Ultra rice and declared it as safe for human consumption.
Studies by the city-based National Institute of Nutrition have found the taste
of Ultra rice was acceptable or good for 86 per cent of schoolchildren. As much as 98per cent of the iron was retained, even after the rice was rinsed multiple times before cooking.
Ultra rice resembles natural milled rice grains in size, shape, and colour, but
they are made from rice flour, selected micronutrients, and nutrient-protecting ingredients that are combined and extruded through a rice-shaped mold. When the Ultra rice grains are blended with white rice the result is nearly identical to unfortified rice in smell, taste, and texture.
Ultra rice is presently available in two formulations, one fortified with vitamin A, and the other carrying iron, thiamine, folic acid, and zinc.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Telangana and BCs are Devendar Goud's T-agenda

June 25, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 24: Telangana and backward classes will form the backbone of the new political party being launched by T Devendar Goud, who quit the Telugu Desam on Monday.
Unlike other votaries of Telangana who simply espoused the cause of the backward region forgetting its people, most of whom belong to backward classes. Incidentally, Devendar Goud is the first BC leader to take up the cause of Telangana.
The State has witnessed two major Telangana movements in the last 40 years and they were lead by people hailing from upper castes.
The first movement launched in 1969 was led by M Channa Reddy and TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao resurrected it in 2001. In both the movements the backward classes had a little role to play.
Sensing the BC vacuum in Telangana leadership in the past four decades, Devendar Goud has decided to concentrate on separate statehood for Telangana with reference to backward classes. This is for the first time that a Telangana leader is talking about the Telangana people rather than just limiting himself to separate Telangana.
"We will think of beyond Telangana. We will not limit ourselves to the separate State. We have plans to develop the Telangana region once it is separated from Andhra Pradesh. Our strategy is all inclusive and we will work for the separate State and its development after the bifurcation," Devendar Goud said.
The new political party to be launched after the proposed meeting of Telangana intellectuals on June 28 will lay a major thrust on backward classes and minorities. Goud hails from the toddy tappers community, which has a large vote bank in Telangana.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Devendar Goud's resignation throws up new political equations

June 24, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 23: The exit of senior leader T Devendar Goud from the Telugu Desam is likely to change the political and electoral equations in the backward Telangana region, which sends 119 of the total 294 legislators in the next Assembly elections.
Devendar Goud is likely to float his own political party and will contest the next Assembly elections in a tie-up with either the Left or the TRS. This will change the political equations and cause a dent in the vote bank of the ruling Congress and the main Opposition Telugu Desam.
In case film actor Chiranjeevi decides to go ahead with his plans to form a political party the electoral equations will change further, upsetting the political calculations of all the major players including the Congress and the Telugu Desam.
Sources close to Devendar Goud point out that he had acted fast on the Telangana front by submitting resignation to take other political parties by surprise. In view of fresh developments Chiranjeevi will think twice before plunging into politics. Since Devendar Goud enjoys the "Mr Clean" image, all political parties except of course the Telugu Desam will not find it embarrassing to have an electoral
tie-up with Goud's political outfit.
Devendar Goud draws his political and electoral strength primarily from a large sections of backward classes, Muslims, and a section of Scheduled Castes in Telangana. These communities have a strong presence in he backward region. Moreover, Goud is articulate and has the organising capacity to pull crowds. Goud belongs to toddy tappers community which is a predominant community in Telangana.
"Devendar Goud has taken a right decision. We welcome it," senior TD leader Ch Rajeshwar Rao said talking about immense support Goud enjoys as an individual leader.
The TRS has already extended its support to Devendar Goud while the Left parties are waiting for an opportune time to strike a deal with him. The ruling party may also seek the support of Goud, after studying the political situation a couple of months before the Assembly polls.

Crisis in Telugu Desam: Goud exit reveals Babu's mismanagement of crisis

June 24, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 23: Former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu has mismanaged the political crisis in his party in the last two months.
Chandrababu Naidu, who is currently busy with his 150-day rath yatra to "strengthen" the Telugu Desam, did not devote much time to the political events quickly unfolding in the party back in the State Capital in his absence. The TD supremo was more concerned with the success of his rath yatra and "solving" internal fights in districts, while neglecting the Telangana factor in NTR Bhavan.
He limited himself to just teleconferences to sort out the Telangana tangle in the party. Chandrababu Naidu has been away from the party State headquarters for more than 60 days now and his long absence only added much ammunition to the Telangana factor.
Even after the resignation of senior party colleague T Devendar Goud, he did not call off his rath yatra, but decided to continue with it, simply brushing aside the Goud's episode.
"Chandrababu Naidu should have concentrated more the Telangana issue. Though he formed a three-member panel to take a decision on Telangana, he did not give the committee full independence.
Moreover, he chose to dilute the panel with his incoherent statements. Sometimes he supported united Andhra Pradesh and sometimes he spoke of Telugu Desam being not against the Telangana cause. This only added to the confusion resulting in the
resignation of Goud," a senior TD leader from Telangana said.
The TD State leadership did not take disciplinary action against party leaders who defied the party's stand on Telangana. He gave a long rope to them in a bid to project the TD as a pro-Telangana party. But the unexpected electoral success in the recent by-polls in Telangana gave Chandrababu Naidu enough confidence that people
in the backward region are behind him. And he started neglecting Goud and pitting Goud's juniors against pro-Telangana activists.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Lakshadweep: Corals Make A Come Back

June 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Indian marine scientists and oceanographers have successfully repopulated corals in Lakshadweep showing the world that coral reefs can be created artificially.
Using the help of local people trained as scuba drivers, experts at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, have artificially grown coral reefs near all the 10 islands in Lakshadweep. Coral reefs in India are present only at two places, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep and they suffered heavy damage in the last two decades because of human intervention.
"Coral reefs in India have been under stress for quite some time. Lakshadweep reefs bore the brunt of coral mining, souvenir coral collection, ground water pollution and mechanical damage owing to activities like dredging. We involved local people in rebuilding coral reefs in Lakshadweep," Dr MV Moideen Wafar told this correspondent
from Goa.
Corals are distributed below water surface down to 50 m depth, assessment of their well-being and management requires competence in scuba diving and observation skills. Dr Wafar and his team created a dive centre in Lakshadweep, acquired diving kits, trained a broad spectrum of stakeholders ranging from officers, wardens, scientific staff to unemployed local youth.
The scientists then took up transplantation of corals to repopulate damaged coral reef areas. During the last two years the technique has been tested and found suitable. It is also simple enough to be used by the local population with limited or no knowledge of corals.
"I am in the process of transferring this to a community-involved exercise in all islands so that reef restoration is enhanced and additional income generated for the local population by way of fish catch from near the transplantation site," he said.
Repopulating corals is a hectic task as corals grow very slowly. The massive ones like the brain corals grow no more than a cm per year. This is because the calcium carbonate deposition is a slow process and the growth occurs in all directions. The branching corals are relatively fast-growing. Some of them can grow as much as 18 to 20 cm per year but their skeletons are less dense than those of the massive ones.
Unlike the fringing reefs which are common around the islands in the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kachchh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the reefs in the Lakshadweep group of islands are oceanic atolls.
During the summer in 1998 a vast layer of warm surface waters spread over the whole tropical region. As a result, the temperature increased by two degrees higher than the seasonal maximum and persisted for several weeks. This was too much for corals. Most of them, in particular the branching corals which are more sensitive, got bleached and died, eventually leaving vast stretches of the reefs barren.
More than 40 countries reported impacts varying from moderate to severe. In India, Andaman and Nicobar reefs were the most severely affected (up to 80 per cent death of corals) followed by Lakshadweep (40 to 80 per cent) and Gulf of Mannar (60 per cent) reefs.
"Our Lakshadweep coral reefs are no more a splendour as was before. In the last three decades we lost lot of our corals, due in part to our own developmental activities and in part to the massive bleaching in 1998. We are left now with reefs that have hardly a quarter of live coral cover - reefs where we could not put our foot down earlier without crushing a coral are now barren for long stretches," Dr Wafar said.
The NIO scientists have been experimenting with growing the corals. The idea is simple, collect fragments of corals, transplant them to secure bases and let them grow in new sites or those sites where they were once luxuriant.
The team carried out initial experiments in the Kavaratti lagoon. The most affected coral general such as Acropora and Pocillopora were selected for this trial. The scientist used 2 x 2 m iron frames with 30 cm high supports and covered with a metal screen. The frames were deployed first at 3 m depth in the lagoon where coral life was totally absent.
Slabs of concrete and coral stones (12 x 12 cm) were used as bases for transplantation. The coral pieces were tied to the bases with thin nylon string and the slabs in turn were secured to the metal screen. Securing the corals to the slabs and the slabs to the frame was done underwater by SCUBA divers in order to minimise stress to the corals. During regular visits, the length of the transplanted coral was measured. In addition, notes were made of the increase in other life forms, like fishes and animals like sea cucumbers, crabs and snails.
In each visit, the frames were cleared of the debris and algal matter. Form the photographs accompanying this article, one can compare how the transplants looked like at the beginning of the experiment and again after 11 months. Besides the formation of several branches, the growth, in terms of increase in length, was of the order of 5-10 cm in Acropora and 2 cm in Pocillopora, with no significant
differences between those secured on concrete and coral stone slabs. There was also no mortality of corals at all during the one year which includes a 4-month monsoon period known for rough sea conditions and low light transparency. This was due to the care exercised in handling the fragments, locating good sites for transplantation and continuous monitoring. What is of further interest is the increase in other biodiversity at the site - several species of fishes besides
holothurians, cowries and snails have colonised the transplantation site.
"We now have a simple technique to increase the coral cover and biodiversity in our reefs as fast as possible. Besides increasing live coral cover, this could also serve tourists who neither swim nor dive and yet would like to see corals at shallow waters. As this technique does not demand high skills, this could be developed into a community venture, generating modest income for local slanders as well as
instilling in them a sense of commitment to coral reef conservation," he said.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Haj 2008: Qurra hits Hyderabadi Muslims hard

June 21, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 20: Hyderabadi Muslims will lose heavily this Haj season because of a new rule introduced by the Central Haj Committee on district-wise quota.
Though Muslims in Hyderabad make up nearly 30 per cent of the total Muslim population in the State, the Central Haj Committee sanctioned just 14 per cent of the total State's Haj quota to the city.
Andhra Pradesh has got permission for 6,413 pilgrims for Haj 2008 and Hyderabad will get just 904 berths. Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions got the lion's share. This in other words means all the Muslims who have applied for Haj 2008 from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra districts will successfully perform the pilgrimage to the Islamic holy lands in Saudi Arabia.
For Muslims in Hyderabad and other Telangana region the selection of prospective Haj pilgrims will be through a draw of lots. As against the sanctioned strength of 6,413 as many as 11245 people have applied to the State Haj Committee. A majority of them are from Hyderabad, but in view of the latest Haj panel's rule, less than 1000 Hyderabadi applicants will be able to perform the Haj through the committee.
"People generally prefer the Haj committee for security reasons. There are several instances of travel agents cheating Haj applicants. But the Haj Committee has not increased the quota. The selection will be through draw of lots. This means many will not succeed this year. The Central government should take up the issue with Saudi authorities and increase the country's quota," said senior Islamic
scholar Moulana Hafiz Shujath Hussain.
The Committee will soon conduct "Qurra" (draw of lots) and announce the names of successful pilgrims.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Hindu Priests Want Endowments Department Scrapped

June 18, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 17: A group of Hindu priests is currently on a padayatra demanding that the Endowments department be scrapped for "better management" of temples in the State.
The temple priests have already covered 3200 km of padayatra covering 11 districts in the State. The priests have come up with the strange demand that the endowments department be abolished after their fight against temple lands encroachments failed to yield the desired results. They believe that the department has been creating hurdles in removal of encroachments and improvement in facilities at various temples.
"The department has been responsible for the encroachment of 1.25 lakh acres of prime lands belonging to different temples. It has also failed to provide minimum wages for temple priests. While imams in mosques and fathers in churches are paid handsome salaries, temple priests are paid a pittance," says Kamal Kumara Swamy, general secretary of Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samithi (Hindu Temples' Protection Committee).
Kumara Swamy is leading the padayatra of temple priests and plans to complete the second round of the agitation by visiting the remaining temples in the State. For this he and his team of priests need to visit 12 districts covering another 3,200 km.
As many as 8,000 temples have no money to perform the daily mandatory poojas. The endowment department is supposed to provide funds to these temples, but has failed in its task, he says. These temples form part of the 34,500 temples under the control of the department.
The priests have been mobilising support from people for the closure of the department. He told this correspondent that the temples in the State had functioned properly before the endowments department was created. "It was indeed a golden period. After the department was carved out, the trouble began for temples and priests alike," he said.
The State has 80,000 and odd temples with 4.17 lakh acres of land attached to them. The second phase of the yatra will begin on August 6.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

CDFD study: Indian murghi and chicken separate

June 17, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 16: The Indian murghi (jungle fowl) not only tastes good but also tells the genetic history of other Indian birds, particularly the chicken.
A study conducted by the city-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics reveals that domestication of chicken has occurred independently in different locations of Asia including India. But the Indian chicken has not evolved from the Indian murghi as is commonly believed.
The Indian murghi (Gallus gallus murghi) is relatively pure and is not the parent of the Indian chicken. The CDFD study has shown that the red jungle fowl or Indian murghi and domestic birds do not hybridise in nature.
"Domestication of chicken is believed to have occurred in Southeast Asia, especially in Indus valley. However, non-inclusion of Indian red jungle fowl in previous studies has left a big gap in understanding the relationship of this major group of birds. In the present study, we addressed this issue by analysing 76 Indian birds
that included 56 Gallus gallus murghi, 16 Gallus gallus domesticus (domestic chicken) and four Gallus sonneratii (grey jungle fowl).
We also compared the D-loop sequences of Indian birds with those of 779 birds obtained from GenBank. Our results suggest that the domestication of chicken has occurred independently in different locations of Asia including India," according to CDFD's J Nagaraju.
The study was conducted jointly by Nagaraju, K Sriramana, M Muralidhar and RD Jakati.
Further, the study also suggested that the chicken populations have undergone population expansion, especially in the Indus valley.
Archaeological findings have indicated that the "mother of all poultry" is the Southeast Asian Red jungle fowl or Gallus gallus. Since domestication of chicken has been observed at the Indus valley as early as 3,200 BC, it is believed to be the epicentre of chicken domestication.
There was very rare genetic exchange between the red jungle fowl and domestic chicken populations, at least in recent history. A Maximum Likelihood tree obtained from the microsatellite data showed a clear separation of Gallus gallus domesticus from the Gallus gallus murghi, with Gallus sonneratii as an outgroup suggesting the genetic distinctness of Gallus gallus murghi.
The scientists also constructed a genetic distance based neighbour-joining tree to obtain the genetic relationship among Indian birds.
The result clearly pointed to the fact that hybridisation between Indian chicken and Indian red jungle fowl in the wild is extremely rare.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Indian Scientists Believe In God

June 16, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 15: Science opens up the frontiers of knowledge and inquiry but a majority of Indian scientists believe that it leads them more to the path of Almighty God.
One in four scientists in India believe in the existence of a "supernatural" power or Almighty God and follow the religious ethics, codes and traditions to derive academic, professional, materialistic and spiritual satisfaction. A considerable number of them also believe in the theory of Karma, predestination, life after death while others believe even in the existence of ghosts and evil spirits.
A joint survey by the city-based Centre for Inquiry and the US-based Institute for the Study of Secularism, Society and Culture of trinity College, revealed nteresting aspects on the beliefs and religious practices of Indian scientists. As many as 1,100 scientists from 130 research institutions and universities participated in the survey, the first of its kind exercise on the psychological and sociological beliefs and practices of Indian scientists or people connected with research.
According to N Innaiah of the Centre for Inquiry, 29 per cent of scientists surveyed believed in the philosophy of Karma while 26 per cent agreed that there will be life after death. A small number (seven per cent) believe in the existence of evil spirits that haunt people.
The study was released earlier this week in New York. The survey took about six months. According to the findings of the survey, eight per cent of scientists in the country have ethical reservations about genetic engineering and research on stem cells.
The survey report also made a mention of ISRO scientists offering prayers to Lord Balaji in Tirumala to seek his blessings for the successful launch of space projects and programmes.
Barry Kosmin of Institute for the Study of Secularism in society and Culture expressed surprise that scientists in India do not differentiate much between
doing research on cows and pigs. A whopping 50 per cent of the scientists believe in the efficacy of prayers, as against just 10 per cent of scientists in the USA.
A little more than 60 per cent of scientists covered under the study made it clear that they would refuse to design biological weapons thanks to their religious beliefs.


God And Science


The question "whether God exists?" is as old as the human civilisation
Intellectual people have always been divided over the answer. Scientists and
researchers as well as theologians have debated for centuries over the existence or otherwise of a supernatural power, called God the Almighty, but without a conclusive answer.
The results of a recent survey that a majority of Indian scientists believe in God is not surprising, given the deep-rooted religious traditions and culture in which they live. For Indian scientists, who are exploring newer horizons of science and conquering unexplored frontiers technology, belief in God is part of their life.
The survey had also proved the common misconception that science and scientists are alien to God and religion. Several leading scientists, discoverers and researchers have argued that a deep study of science only strengthens their firm belief in God and takes closes to Him.
Albert Einstein, though not a firm believer in "personal God" observed that science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. While Sir Isaac Newton in his Principia stated "the most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion on an intelligent and powerful Being."
Not long ago Dr A Cressy Morrison, former president of the New York Academy of Sciences, came out with his "seven reasons why a scientist believes in God," concluding that "the fact that man can conceive the idea of God is in itself a unique proof". He says the conception of God rises from a divine faculty of man, unshared with the rest of our world - the faculty we call imagination. By its power, man and man alone can find the evidence of things unseen.
Indian scientists, however, unlike their counterparts in the West, openly display their faith when it comes to launch of some major scientific or research programme. It's no wonder then that our ISRO scientists have offered prayers at the Tirumala shrine to seek the blessings of the presiding deity for the success of India's space mission.
And then there's the argument that scientists are after all human beings and human beings are influenced by the environment around them. Indian ethos and traditions have never separated religion from science and man from God. And this is reflected in the belief of Indian scientists and researchers.

Malpractice in Muslim minority professional colleges

June 16, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 15: Minority professional colleges are back to their old game with the State government delaying issue of orders on admissions in minority medical colleges.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court had issued certain guidelines to the State government on fair admissions in minority medical colleges. But the State government has not framed its own rules based on the HC's guidelines. In the absence of specific directions from the State government, minority students are denied fair admissions. Some of the colleges refuse to issue application forms saying that the admissions have been completed, though the State government is yet to announce the schedule for professional courses for the 2008-2009 academic year.
"The State government should implement single window system of admissions in medical colleges too to prevent misuse of the counselling process. The admissions are wrought with several irregularities. Though the court issued guidelines about a year ago, the State government did not feel it fit to come out with new regulations based on the court's orders," Muhammad Ansari, president of Minorities Educational Rights Association, said.All minority professional colleges are bound to notify in their respective web sites information regarding the allocation of category A and B seats. They should also keep Dr NTR University of Health Sciences informed about the
seats filled under both the categories, besides publishing the information/notification in leading newspapers.
The court suggested that the admission form should be loaded in the web site of the college/institution concerned so that the prospective candidates can download it. Candidates should be allowed to fill up the admission form and submit it through e-mail, apart from sending the same by post or courier along with relevant documents.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The beneficial effects of pleiotropic drugs

By Syed Akbar
June 14, 2008
Hyderabad: Imagine a heart patient benefiting from a tablet he takes for relief from
nagging headache. The tablet not only gives him relief from headache, but also dilutes his blood to the extent of preventing further cardiac attacks.
Or a person suffering from some neurological problem finds that the wrinkles on her face have vanished and she looks younger, after a doctor prescribed her Botolinium Toxin, also known as Botox. The drug was originally intended for neurological conditions like stiff neck, but is now being increasingly used for cosmetology, uplifting face and as an anti-ageing drug that reduces wrinkles.
What more does a patient ask for? Take a cheap tablet for some known small problem and get relief from a major health problem yet to be discovered. Many drugs have side effects. Some of them are good and some of them are quite bad. Drugs with multiple effects, either beneficial or harmful, are called pleiotropic medicines. In short, pleiotropic effects of a drug are actions other than those for which the medicine was specifically developed. For instance, a medicine primarily meant for headache relief working against a cardiac problem without the knowledge of the patient.
Health experts say that pleiotropic effects may be harmful (toxicity), neutral (without any side-effects) or beneficial. Such drugs come cheap and are quite affordable even for the economically poorer sections. Take the case of the simple drug called aspirin. Everybody knows that it’s available off the counter in a medical shop and provides the much-needed relief from headaches and other body aches. Aspirin was originally used as an analgesic (pain reliever) agent by doctors across the world. In-depth research has shown that aspirin has benefits unimaginable, such as helping patients who suffered a stroke. It works in patients with a history of heart attack and peripheral vascular diseases.
Says senior physician Dr Aftab Ahmed, “the list of such drugs is quite long. The active agent in these drugs works in more than one ways. Thus it benefits the patient in several ways. Some drugs have negative effects too and it is quite common. But the drugs with multiple beneficial effects really work in favour of the patient. Beta blockers are generally prescribed for BP control but they are also beneficial for heart failure, angina, and post myocardial infarction patients.”
Doctors worldwide prescribe statins for patients with high levels of cholesterol. Statins reduce cholesterol. They also improve the functioning of blood vessels. Statins are potent inhibitors of cholesterol biosynthesis.
In clinical trials, statins are beneficial in the primary and secondary Prevention of coronary heart disease. However, the overall benefits observed with statins appear to be greater than what might be expected from changes in lipid levels alone, suggesting effects beyond cholesterol lowering.
Statins also involve improving endothelial function, enhancing the stability of atherosclerotic plaques, decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation, and inhibiting the thrombogenic response. They are also beneficial with their extra-hepatic effects on the immune system and bones.
“Sildenafil popularly known as Viagra is basically a drug for impotency or erectile dysfunction, later on it was found to be useful in new born children too,” says Dr Manoj Agarwal, senior cardiologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad. The drug can be used for patients who have primary pulmonary hypertension. There are lots of patients suffering from this disease, it has no permanent cure. This drug helps to improve their quality of life.
“In new born nitric oxide is required to decrease the resistance in lungs known as pulmonary vascular resistance. However nitric oxide is expensive and most patients here can’t afford. A few years ago Sildenafil, nitric oxide donor was found very useful in new born children with heart disease. These children have high pulmonary artery pressure and this drug helped in reducing the suffering of the children. That way a drug originally intended for some other purpose has become a boon for these children,” argues Dr Manoj.
Suffering from malaria? Doctors prescribe chloroquine. You get rid of the dangerous malaria thanks to chloroquine dose. And you are also relieved of your nagging joint pains, arthritis, amoebic liver abscess, photosensitive skin lesions, in case you are suffering from all or any one of them. Chloroquine has properties beyond curing malaria. Diabetics, particularly women, have much to cheer about metformin, the
commonly prescribed drug for diabetes. Metformin has got benefits for women with polycystic ovary disease associated with infertility and overweight.
Viagra is now increasingly prescribed for patients with pulmonary Hypertension. ACE inhibitors, originally for BP control, but is also useful for heart failure, diabetic kidney diseases and post MI Patients.
The next time one goes to a medical shop, one need not be shy of asking for Viagra. For, it has benefits other than those popularly known or advertised by drug manufacturers.

Pleiotropic (drugs with multiple benefits):

1. Aspirin: originally an analgesic; useful to stroke, heart attack, peripheral vascular disease patients.
2. Beta blockers: Generally prescribed for BP control; also beneficial for heart failure, angina, and post myocardial infarction patients.
3. Statins: reduce cholesterol; also improve the functioning of blood vessels.
4. Chloroquine: anti-malarial drug; used for joint pains, arthritis, amoebic liver abscess, photosensitive skin lesions etc.
5. Botolinium Toxin or Botox: neurological conditions like stiff neck; beneficial for cosmetology, uplifting face, as an anti ageing drug, reduces wrinkles.
6. Metformin: anti-diabetes; benefits for women with polycystic ovary disease associated with infertility and overweight.
7. Viagra: erectile dysfunction; used for patients with pulmonary hypertension; this reduces pulmonary hypertension and symptoms associated with it.
8. ACE inhibitors: BP control; also useful for heart failure, diabetic kidney diseases, post MI patients etc.

Friday, 13 June 2008

CFTRI Research: Sip Coffee And Avoid Diabetes

June 13, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 12: Sip coffee to your heart's content and keep diabetes away.
The Central Food Technological Research Institute has come out with a special type of coffee rich in chlorogenic acid to keep coffee lovers healthy.
Ordinary coffee contains chlorogenic acid, an important anti-oxidant, which has several therapeutic properties. The coffee developed by CFTRI from green coffee beans contains chlorogenic acid in large quantities as compared with the ordinary coffee available in the market.
Since the CFTRI's coffee has large reserves of chlorogenic acid, besides caffeic acid, it increases the uptake of glucose in the body and regulates blood glucose levels. This in other words means regular intake of coffee prevents diabetes and related disorders.
CFTRI scientists selected green coffee beans of various grades and low grade coffee and softened them by steam. Later, they flaked the seeds. The flakes were then passed through a suitable dryer to reduce the moisture and to get light cream/light brown coloured crispy flakes. The flakes were ground to a coarse powder.
"The flakes or powder is loaded into columns and extracted with a suitable solvent mixture. The extract is distilled under controlled conditions to maximise the recovery of the solvent to produce coffee conserves, which are mainly chlorogenic acids and diterpenes. The final product is packed in clean containers," a senior CFTRI scientist told this correspondent from Mysore.
Moreover, coffee rich in chlorogenic, caffeic and paracoumaric acids and eugenol is also useful in preventing tumour growths in the body. Chlorogenic acid has been found to protect gastric mucosa against irritation. It also improves the digestibility of foods, beverages and medicaments. The improved digestibility
is expressed through a much-reduced systemic acid secretion, which has been found to be directly dependent on an increased level of chlorogenic acid content, the CFTRI study found out. It has a chemopreventive effect too on rat stomach cancer.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Andhra Pradesh to emerge as major nuclear fuel hub by 2030

June 9, 2008
By Our Correspondent
Hyderabad, June 8: Andhra Pradesh is all set to play a crucial role in meeting the energy requirements of the country by 2030 through nuclear power.
The Department of Atomic Energy has set its eyes on Andhra Pradesh to explore hidden uranium and thorium reserves to meet the target of producing 10,000 mw of power. DAE plans to make nuclear energy at least 40 per cent of the total power consumption in the country in the next two decades.
Andhra Pradesh has vast nuclear fuel reserves in Nalgonda and Kadapa districts. The "site selection committee" of the DAE has identified certain places in Andhra Pradesh for setting up of nuclear reactors, but a decision has not yet been taken, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar told reporters.
Earlier, VP Raja, additional secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy, said his department would make more investment in Andhra Pradesh to achieve the nuclear energy target of the country. "Andhra Pradesh has prospective sites for nuclear exploration at Nalgonda and Kadapa. Nuclear research and development facility would be set up in Visakhapatnam. Together with UCIL plant at Nalgonda, NFC in Hyderabad, R and D facility at Visakhapatnam, ECIL, Atomic Minerals Division and uranium reserves in Kadapa, the State is going to have a major role in the years ahead," Raja pointed out at the NFC Day celebrations here on Thursday.
He said a force of 100 to 120 volunteers would be trained on June 16 and 17 to take up awareness campaign in nuclear sites in the State. They will explain to people in Telugu and Hindi that the safety measures adopted in the country were the most stringent in the world and there was no need to fear about these projects.
A titanium plant will be set up in Kerala, Dr Kakodkar said.

Indian metros: Cancer rate to go up by 26.6 per cent

June 9, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 8: Five cities including Bangalore and Chennai will report 26.6 per cent increase in the registered number of cancer cases this year, according to Bangalore-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science.
A research work carried out by Dr P Marimuthu of NIMHANS show that 26.6 per cent increase is expected in the registered number of cancer cases in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Bhopal. In the case of Delhi, the increase will be 52.68 per cent, the highest for any city in the country. The age adjusted analysis by NIMHANS indicates that in terms of deaths, Mumbai is experiencing the higher incidence rate among the five cities. The mortality rate for Mumbai is 50 per cent reported from the age group 55 and above years.
"The changing demographic scenario in India is declining fertility level and increasing life expectancy. As the life expectancy at birth increases proportionately the percentage of geriatric population also rises. Higher incidence of non-communicable diseases, especially cancer is positively associated with
percentage of aged population of a country. The World Cancer Report documents that cancer rates are set to increase at an alarming rate globally. Cancer rates could increase by 50 per cent new cases for the year 2020," Dr Marimuthu told this correspondent.
The Indian Council of Medical Research indicates that the age adjusted incidence of gall bladder cancer in women in New Delhi is 10.6 per 1,00,000 population, the world's highest rate for women. Thyroid cancer is more prevalent in the coastal areas of Kerala and Karnataka, while oral cancer tops the list in Andhra Pradesh, particularly Hyderabad.
Men from Delhi in the age group 65-69 may have more number of cases followed by the age group 60-64 for the year 2008. Then men from Chennai will have an increasing trend from the age of 50 to 69 years. Almost a similar trend of cancer incidence for males in the year 2008 is expected from Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.
He said in the female-age specific incidence, women from Delhi in the age group 50-54 may have more number of cases followed by the age group 40-44 for the year 2008. Then the females from Bangalore may have more number of cases from the age of 45 to 54 years. Almost a similar trend of cancer incidence for females in the year 2008 is
expected from Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.
"Though there is no variation in reported number of cases from Mumbai over the years, the standardisation gives the idea of higher incidence rate for Mumbai. After further analysis on the population data, it is found that the Mumbai
population is negatively growing from 1991 to 2001 census years, but the registered number of case is constant over the years. The decreasing population size in Mumbai and almost the same number of registered cancers cases over the years influenced the incidence rate in Mumbai," he said.
Dr Marimuthu pointed out that there is decline in the cervical cancer incidence, but this decline is very meagre. Though the cancer incidence rate in India is less than that of the Western countries but due to the large population size, number of cases is more prevalent at any time. It is shown that in India 8.7 million Disease Adjusted Life Years lost from cancer was second to ischaemic heart disease.
The NIMHANS study found that Delhi is expected to have more number of cases every year. Though the number of cases is marginally declining in Mumbai, it is experiencing higher incidence rate among these five cities. More number of cases are projected in the age group 45-55 and in the age group of 65-70 years for females and males respectively. Cancer deaths are about 3.6 per cent to the total deaths and
50 per cent cancer deaths are recorded from the age group 55 and above categories.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Big Bang experiment: What's going to happen?

Scientists involved in a historic "Big Bang" experiment to begin on September 10 hope it will turn up many surprises about the universe and its origins -- but reject suggestions it will bring the end of the world.
And Robert Aymar, the French physicist who heads the CERN research centre, predicted that discoveries to emerge from his organization's 6.4 billion euro ($9.2 billion) project would spark major advances for human society.
"If some of what we expect to find does not turn up, and things we did not foresee do, that will be even more stimulating because it means that we understand less than we thought about nature," said British physicist Brian Cox.
"What I would like to see is the unexpected," said Gerardus t'Hooft of the University of Michigan. Perhaps, he suggested, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) machine at the heart of the experiment "will show us things we didn't know existed."
Once it starts up on Wednesday, scientists plan to smash particle beams together at close to the speed of light inside CERN's tightly-sealed Large Hadron Collider to create multiple mini-versions of the primeval Big Bang.
Cosmologists say that that explosion of an object the size of a small coin occurred about 13.7 billion years ago and led to formation of stars, planets -- and eventually to life on earth.
A key aim of the CERN experiment is to find the "Higgs boson," named after Scottish physicist Peter Higgs who in 1964 pointed to such a particle as the force that gave mass to matter and made the universe possible.
But other mysteries of physics and cosmology -- supersymmetry, dark matter and dark energy among them -- are at the focus of experiments in the 27-km (17-mile) circular tunnel deep underneath the Swiss-French border.
CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, says its key researchers -- and many ordinary staff -- have been inundated by e-mails voicing fears about the experiment.
There have been claims that it will create "black holes" of intensive gravity sucking in CERN, Europe and perhaps the whole planet, or that it will open the way for beings from another universe to invade through a "worm hole" in space-time.
But a safety review by scientists at CERN and in the United States and Russia, issued at the weekend, rejected the prospect of such outcomes.
"The LHC will enable us to study in detail what nature is doing all around us," Aymar, who has led CERN for five years, said in response to that review. "The LHC is safe, and any suggestion that it might present a risk is pure fiction."
Cox, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Britain's Manchester University, was even more trenchant. "I am immensely irritated by the conspiracy theorists who spread this nonsense around," he said.
When the experiment begins soon after 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) on September 10, disaster scenarists will have little to work on.
In the first tests, a particle beam will be shot all the way around the LHC channel in just one direction. If all goes well, collisions might be tried within the coming weeks, but at low intensity. Any bangs at this stage, said one CERN researcher, "will be little ones."

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Telangana crisis in the Telugu Desam: No T-talk in the party for now

By Syed Akbar
June 3, 2008
Hyderabad: The by-election results have silenced the voice of Telangana protagonists in the Telugu Desam. It was the Telangana Rashtra Samithi that had failed to impress upon Telangana voters, but unwittingly the poor performance of the TRS had its echo in the Telugu Desam.
Those who have been vociferous in the Telugu Desam with their Telangana demand have suddenly become silent. They did not muster enough courage even to participate in the victory celebrations at the party headquarters, NTR Bhavan.
Now they do not have the Telangana ammunition to keep Telugu Desam president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu on tenterhooks. The mandate against the TRS has made it clear that a majority of voters are still in favour of united Andhra Pradesh, notwithstanding the electoral tantrums of some senior politicians in
major political parties.
Chandrababu Naidu has emerged more powerful in the Telugu Desam after the by-elections. He did not succumb to T-pressure from senior leaders including T Devendar Goud during the height of electioneering.
The TD supremo simply declared that he was not against Telangana, but consistently maintained that NT Rama Rao had formed the Telugu Desam for the unity and self-respect of Telugu-speaking people.
Now that the T-sentiment failed to work, Chandrababu Naidu is likely to crack the whip. The ensuing Mahanadu of the Telugu Desam will talk about only the "development plank" and not about the "division" of the State. If the initial reaction of Devendar Goud to the by-poll results is any indication, the T leaders in the party will not make much noise at the Mahanadu.
Chandrababu Naidu has, in a way, made known his stand on united Andhra Pradesh clear when newly-elect legislator and his confidante Talasani Srinivas Yadav declared that "I won on united Andhra Pradesh plank and not on Telangana stand". He addressed a press conference at NTR Bhavan. It is an open secret that whoever addresses
media from NTR Bhavan gets prior approval from the party supremo.
Incidentally, Srinivas Yadav is a bete noire of Devendar Goud and his statement makes it clear that Chandrababu Naidu will no longer tolerate any T-talk in the party, at least for now.
There was strange electoral paradoxes too. Telugu Desam leaders who wrote T-slogans on walls during by-poll campaign lost, while those who were moderate in their T demand romped home. C Narsi Reddy, who contested from Dommata, made Telangana an issue in his campaign but could not win over the voters. Srinivas Yadav did not
speak of Telangana even once and yet he won. E Dayakar Rao, who won from Warangal Lok Sabha, is a known T activist. But he maintained a low profile during the campaign and harped on the development plank.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

NIMHANS: Tsunami trauma still haunts victims

June 1, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean in December 2004 is now history. But
four years after the devastation, people affected by Tsunami are still in trauma. Their psychiatric morbidity is quite high and children are the worst-hit. The Bangalore-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences conducted a study on people affected by Tsunami and compared the data with those of normal
population. About 12,000 victims were interviewed as part of the study to establish psychiatric morbidity and the extent of mental trauma they had undergone.
"People are still traumatised. The effect will continue for some more time. In case of children, it may continue for life," NIMHANS assistant professor of psychiatry Dr
Suresh Bada Math, told this correspondent. A meta-analysis of 160 studies of disaster victims found that post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorders, and panic disorders were identified.
The factors that most consistently increased the risk for adverse outcome were severity of the exposure to the disaster; living in a highly disrupted or traumatised community; lack of social support; belonging to an ethnic minority group; post-traumatic stress; and being female.
Psychiatric morbidity was 5.2 per cent in the displaced population and 2.8 per cent in the non-displaced population. The overall psychiatric morbidity was 3.7 per cent. The displaced survivors had significantly higher psychiatric morbidity than did the non-displaced population. The disorders included panic disorder, anxiety disorders not otherwise specified, and somatic complaints. The existence of an adjustment disorder was significantly higher in the non-displaced survivors. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder were distributed equally in both groups.
According to Dr Suresh, one of the study team members, psychiatric morbidity was found to be the highest in the displaced population. However, the incidence of
depression and PTSD were distributed equally in both groups. Involvement of community leaders and survivors in shared decision-making processes and culturally
acceptable interventions improved the community participation.
"Cohesive community, family systems, social support, altruistic behaviour of the community leaders, and religious faith and spirituality were factors that helped survivors cope during the early phase of the disaster," he said.
The NIMHANS study suggested that in a developing country like India there is a high need for psychosocial rehabilitation from day one of the disaster. "Our observations
clearly depicts that the presence of a mental health team in the early phase of disaster is definitely required for treating the immediate needs of the patients and planning long-term psychosocial rehabilitation as per the local need. The ‘mental health/psychiatric’ label needs to be avoided in the country".
The initial assessment by the team revealed that five to eight per cent of the population were suffering from mental health issues following the disaster. This may increase as time passes. Psychiatric morbidity is expected be around 25 to 30 per cent in the disillusionment phase. A notable feature was the high resilience
observed in the joint family system during the early phase of the disaster.
The NIMHANS experiences emphasised the point that in the formulation of any psychosocial rehabilitation plan, due consideration should be given to the local
culture, traditions, language, belief systems and local livelihood patterns. Any rehabilitation programmes need to be flexible, locally adaptable and acceptable. Utilisation of local community resources and community participation should be emphasised, leading towards community empowerment.
The team found that 475 survivors had at least one psychiatric diagnosis. Of these, 244 were displaced survivors residing in the Port Blair relief camps, and 231 were in the Non-Displaced Survivors Group from Car-Nicobar Island. The most common psychiatric problems observed in the survivors’ group were adjustment disorder in 178 (37.5 per cent), depression in 102 (21.5 per cent), panic disorder in 57 (12 per cent), PTSD in 53 (11.2 per cent), anxiety disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) in 26 (5.5 per cent), and other disorders in 16 (3.4 per cent). The "other" disorders were noted in children and adolescents by their parents, and included dizziness, vertigo, startle response, sleep-wake cycle disturbance.

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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