Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Dietary Guidelines: India gets to vote on food

July 30, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 29: How much salt, sugar, chilli, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste or garam masala is good for an average Indian if India has to be a healthy nation?
The Central government has taken up a massive exercise to revise the dietary guidelines for Indians after a gap of 10 years. And people themselves can decide what type and what quantity of food is good for themselves. The Centre has invited suggestions and comments on the dietary guidelines. A panel of health and nutrition experts will sit together and finalised the new guidelines based on the suggestions send in by people.
The Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition has taken up the task of revision of national dietary guidelines that were framed way back in 1998. Fresh guidelines have been necessitated in view of changed lifestyles of people leading to a spurt in lifestyle-linked non-infectious diseases.
"Nutrition plays a very important role in the development of human resource. Human resource is one of the strengths of any stronger nation. A healthy population can lead the nation better in all the frontiers like education, economics, agriculture, defence, medical and other sciences in the country. These dietary guidelines will enable the population to lead a healthy life," Dr D Raghunatha Rao, convener of
Dietary Guidelines Revision Committee, told this correspondent.
Present dietary guidelines stipulate that an average Indian should take 10 grams of salt every day. The recommendatory intake of salt may go up or down depending on the suggestions people send to the committee. However, there will not be any upward revision of the recommended overall calorie intake for Indians.

The updated guidelines will be circulated among different stake-holder communities including policy makers, UN agencies, academia, medical professionals and nutrition departments. Dr Kamala Krishnaswamy, former director of NIN, is the head of the dietary panel.
The recent NFHS-3 survey showed that there was no significant improvement in the nutritional status of the population as compared to the findings of NFHS-2.
Surveys carried out by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau provided more insight on the issues related to double burden of malnutrition such undernutrition on one hand and over nutrition that leads to obesity and other degenerative diseases on the other.
Some of the important issues of the nutrition guidelines include exclusive breast-feeding for up to six months and its continuation up to two years, introduction of food supplements for infants after six months, plenty use of green leafy vegetables, other vegetables and fruits and restricted use of cooking oils and animal foods.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Indian Genome Variation Consortium: Indians are not genetically similar

July 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Contrary to popular belief that Indian are genetically similar despite
their caste, religion and regional affiliations, a major study conducted across the nation by Indian Genome Variation Consortium has revealed that Indians are genetically different and the similarity in Indian populations is limited to certain clusters.
The IGVC carried out the largest-ever exercise in the country to arrive at the genetic affinity of various Indian people based on castes, tribes, religions, regions and customs. As many as 55 diverse endogamous Indian populations were covered under the study.
The groups included 32 large (more than one crore people) and 23 isolated populations representing a large fraction of people in the country.
"We observe high levels of genetic divergence between groups of populations that cluster largely on the basis of ethnicity and language. Indian populations not only overlap with the diversity of HapMap populations, but also contain population groups that are genetically distinct. These data and results are useful for addressing stratification and study design issues in complex traits especially for heterogeneous
populations," Dr Saman Habib, scientist in the Division of Molecular and Structural Biology, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, told this correspondent.
The present study contradicts earlier reports that Indians are genetically similar despite their physical and geographical differences.
A number of research institutes across the country including Lucknow's CDRI participated in the study. Genetically isolated populations are considered to be important in dissecting complex diseases and mapping underlying genes. However, the validation of results across populations has met with limited success. Population stratification, a consequence of differences in allele frequencies across populations arising mainly due to natural selection and genetic drift, is a major problem in association studies.
It is, therefore, important to assess the nature and extent of population stratification in contemporary endogamous populations especially in the context of established or candidate disease genes, she said adding that Indians, comprising about one-sixth of the world population, with large family sizes and high levels of endogamy, provide a unique resource for dissecting complex disease aetiology and pathogenesis.
According to scientists who participated in the study, India provides a large patient pool with the majority being drug naive. Historically, the Indian population is a conglomeration of multiple culture and evolutionary histories.
"Anatomically modern man is estimated to have reached the north- western periphery of the Indian subcontinent around 70,000 years before present and moved southward into Sri Lanka in the next 20,000 years. Modern human communities may also have migrated into eastern India from Myanmar around 4500 to 11,000 ybp. The evolutionary
antiquity of Indian ethnic groups and subsequent migration from central Asia, west Asia and southern China has resulted in a rich tapestry of socio-cultural, linguistic and biological diversity," the study pointed out.
Broadly, Indians belong to Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Indo-European and Dravidian language families. Distinct religious communities, hierarchical castes and subcastes, and isolated tribal groups that comprise the people of India remain largely endogamous. Most of these groups have strict social rules governing mating patterns. Earlier studies using mitochondrial, Y-chromosomal and limited autosomal markers, that primarily addressed issues of origin and migrations, have demonstrated extensive genetic diversity in India In contrast, a recent study based on autosomal microsatellite markers has inferred that Indian populations show low levels of genetic differentiation. This inference was possibly due to biased recruitment
of study participants and insufficient classification based on language and ethnicity.
The representative set of genes included drug-response genes, genes involved in cancer and ageing, eye diseases, allergy and asthma, neuro-psychiatric, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders as well as genes involved in susceptibility to infections.
It is contented that the Dravidian speakers, now geographically confined to southern India, were more widespread throughout India prior to the arrival of the Indo-European speakers. They, possibly after a period of social and genetic admixture with the Indo-Europeans, retreated to southern India, a hypothesis that has been supported by mitochondrial DNA analyses.
"Our results showing genetic heterogeneity among the Dravidian speakers further supports the above hypothesis. The Indo- European speakers also exhibit a similar or higher degree of genetic heterogeneity possibly because of different extents
of admixture with the indigenous populations over different time periods after their entry into India. It is surprising that in spite of such a high levels of admixtures, the contemporary ethnic groups of India still exhibit high levels of genetic differentiation and substructuring," the study revealed.
It further said, "we note that the people of India are referred as ‘Indian’ in many population genetic studies. The implication of such usage is that the Indian population is genetically homogeneous, which, as the results of our study indicate, is evidently not true. However, we have also shown that it is possible to identify large clusters of ethnic groups that have substantial genetic homogeneity".

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Bomb blasts: It's Black Friday Once Again

Deccan Chronicle
July 26, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 25: It turned out to be the black Friday once again. The serial bomb blasts in Bengaluru is the sixth major terror attack in the country on the Friday in the last 18 years.
All major terror attacks, since the Mumbai serial bomb blasts in 1993 in the wake of demolition of Babri Masjid, have taken place on Friday, a day considered holy by Muslims. Police officials and religious leaders feel that terrorists want to create ill-will between two major religious groups and this is the reason for choosing Friday for the terror attacks.
The Mumbai bomb blasts that left a trail of death and destruction took place on Friday, March 12, 1993. The blasts at the historic Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, at the Jama Masjid in Delhi on April 14, 2006, at a mosque and a graveyard at Malegaon on September 8, 2006 and at the Ajmer dargah on October 12, 2007 were all carried out on Friday. The Jaunpur train explosion on 29 July 2005 was on Friday.
Incidentally, the real culprits behind all these attacks are yet to be brought to the book. None of them is chargesheeted, though the police had rounded up hundreds of suspects after every bomb blast. Most of them are cooling their heels behind the bars.
Major terror attacks outside the country including London were also executed on Friday.
"That the terrorists are choosing Friday to cause death and destruction clearly shows that they want to create communal tensions in the country. It's not a coincidence that most of the blasts have taken place on Friday. There's a deep conspiracy behind the blasts," Hafiz Khaleeq Ahmed Sabir, general secretary
of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, said.
Hyderabad city police commissioner B Prasada Rao told this correspondent that they had been always on high alert on Fridays. "The Bengaluru incident has reinforced the belief that terrorists are attacking on Fridays to create tensions among religious communities. We will be even more alert on Fridays," he said.

Friday, 25 July 2008

CCMB-OU Study: Garlic prevents cataract in diabetics

July 25, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 24: Inclusion of garlic in daily dietary intake will prevent cataract, particularly the one related to diabetes.
A joint study by the department of zoology of Osmania University and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology revealed that garlic had properties that would prevent the onset of cataract. The effect of garlic on cataract was more pronounced in the case of diabetics.
Thus far there's no potent therapeutic agent that could prevent or control the lens from opacification. Metabolic intervention through natural dietary ingredients like garlic will help in better management of the problem.
T Naga Raju and V Rajani Kanth of Osmania University and K Lavanya of CCMB carried out the research on rats.
"The ability of methanolic garlic extract in scavenging the transition metal ion-generated hydrogen peroxide reflected its antioxidant activity and indicated that it can prevent protein modifications mediated through metal-catalysed reactions in cataractous lenses," they said.

Garlic administration was found to normalise the glucose levels in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting its hypoglycemic (lower sugar levels) potential. The glycemic-mediated oxidative damage was countered by the garlic extract by delaying the progression of cataract.
Glycemic-induced stress is a major culprit contributing to oxidative insult that has far-reaching effects in diabetic cataract world-wide. And garlic being an antioxidant, it checks the growth of cataract.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Infertility on the rise among South Indians

July 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 22: South Indian men are increasingly turning infertile as compared with their counterparts in north India if the decline in sperm count, quality and motility is any indication. In the first-ever evidence on quality of sperm in southern part of India, scientists and researchers at the Division of Reproductive Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal, have found that the quality of human semen evaluated for infertility is deteriorating in the South over the years. This, they attributed to environmental, nutritional, lifestyle or socio-economic causes.
The Manipal group comprising Dr Adiga Satish Kumar, Dr V. Jayaraman, Dr G. Kalthur, Dr P. Kumar and Dr D. Upadhya studied a cohort of infertile individuals at a regional level, in terms of the sperm concentration, total sperm motility, sperm morphology and incidence of azoospermia over a period of 13 years. They evaluated as many as 7,770 subjects, who presented for semen analysis since 1993.
The study revealed that the average sperm density among infertile men has come down to 26.61 ± 0.71 millions/millilitre which was significantly lower than the average sperm density observed a decade ago (38.18 ± 1.46 millions/mL). Similar trend was also observed for sperm motility (47.14 per cent motile sperms vs 61.16 per cent) and normal sperm morphology (19.75 per cent vs 40.51 per cent).
"In particular, the decline in sperm count was 30.31 per cent whereas sperm motility and morphology was reduced by 22.92 per cent and 51.25 per cent, respectively in the last 13 years. Furthermore, the regression analysis also confirmed a true decline in the semen quality over this period," the scientists pointed out in their study. The baseline sperm concentration and motility for Indian men was reported as 68.22 ± 15.14 millions/mL and 40.95 ± 9.15 per cent respectively and a previous study failed to demonstrate any change in the semen quality among infertile men in the northern part of the India for a period of 11 years.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Indian Ginseng to compete with Chinese, Korean varieties

July 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 21: Indian ginseng has now become more powerful and efficacious thanks to a new technology adopted by the North-East Institute of Science and Technology.
Ginseng, the wonder drug of vigour and vitality since times immemorial, has been the most sought-after herbal medication in India, China and other Asian countries for instant strength. But Indian ginseng has often been considered inferior to its counterpart grown in China and Korea.
The NEIST based in Jorhat, Assam, has successfully improved the quality as well as yield of the ginsenoside alkaloid content of the rare wonder herb using the application of bioreactor method and cell-culture. Ginsenoside is the chemical that makes ginseng a powerful and revitalising drug.
NEIST director Dr PG Rao told this correspondent from Jorhat that Indian ginseng could not compete with the Chinese and the Korean ginseng in the international market. "We have also isolated a microbe from the soil in Golaghat district of Assam which can suitably be employed for treating deadly diseases like tuberculosis," he said.

Ginseng is found wildly growing in the North-Eastern states, particularly Assam and Nagaland. The demand for Indian ginseng has been low because of the poor quality.
"Ginsenoside is a very high value natural product which is used for enhancing human vigour and vitality, longevity, as general health tonic, antiageing agent and also as an aphrodisiac. The alkaloid content of Chinese and Korean ginseng is of very superior quality unlike those found in India, which have inferior quality and poor yield," Dr Rao said.
The NEIST carried out research to improve the yield and quality, he said adding that "the institute has been successful to a considerable extent in its efforts".
Though there's no full-fledged scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of ginseng, many people believe that the herb has aphrodisiac properties besides being a nourishing stimulant. It is also used for treatment of diabetes.

No rain, only rainbow hope

July 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has come out with a "colourful" advice for citizens to keep themselves hale and healthy. With the prices of all essential commodities going up in the recent past, the MoHFW wants people to be content with fruits and vegetables to keep the calories intake intact and prevent diseases.
And to ensure that citizens take fruits and vegetables in abundance, the Central government has fancifully named its latest campaign as "the rainbow in your plate". What's this rainbow in the plate, anyway? Seven fruits and vegetables in seven different colours. Is not the idea good? Whatever be the reason behind the Centre's campaign, people will benefit a lot if they take lot of fruits and vegetables. Of course, of different hues!
"Colourful fruits and vegetables provide the wide range of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals your body needs to maintain good health and energy levels and prevent disease. They reduce the effect of ageing, making you look younger and also prevent many diseases for example, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease etc. The high potassium content in fruits and vegetables has protective effect on blood pressure, reduces the risk of developing kidney stones and may help to decrease bone loss," says the campaign.
And now about the "rainbow" fruits. Variety is as important as quantity All colours in nature are important. It is important to eat all colours of fruits and vegetables.
Red and orange fruits/vegetables are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin B complex, carotenoids and bioflavonoids and phytochemicals. Yellow and orange ones provide powerful antioxidants.
Green fruits and vegetables contain potent vitamins, phytochemicals such as lutein and indoles, with anti-oxidants, health-promoting benefits. They provide the essential micronutirents like iron to maintain and increase the blood haemoglobin levels.
White, tan, and brown fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of phytochemicals of interest to scientists, while purple ones lower the risk of
some cancers and maintains urinary tract health.
Just try these fruits and vegetables for a healthy living and save money by not
going in for junk foods. A healthy suggestion from the Health Ministry! An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Monday, 21 July 2008

NASA's aircraft technology: A New Idea Takes Wings

July 21, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Air passengers will have a safer, faster and more comfortable journey in the coming days if the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States succeeds in its latest move to develop a superior "wing technology" for aircraft.
NASA is currently evaluating an advanced, fibre optic-based sensing technology that could aid development of active control of wing shape of aircraft. Controlling a wing's shape in flight will allow it to take advantage of aerodynamics and improve the overall efficiency of an aircraft.
According to Gray Creech of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre, California, the Fibre Optic Wing Shape Sensor system measures and displays the shape of the aircraft's wings in flight. The system also has potential for improving aircraft safety when the technology is used to monitor the aircraft structure.
Flight tests on NASA's Ikhana, a modified Predator B unmanned aircraft adapted for civilian research, are under way at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
"The effort represents one of the first comprehensive flight validations of fibre optic sensor technology. Generations of aircraft and spacecraft could benefit from work with the new sensors if the sensors perform in the sky as they have in the laboratory," Lance Richards, who is leading a NASA group at Dryden's Advanced
Structures and Measurement, said.
The weight reduction that fibre optic sensors would make it possible to reduce operating costs and improve fuel efficiency. The development also opens up new opportunities and applications that would not be achievable with conventional technology. For example, the new sensors could enable adaptive wing-shape control.
Active wing-shape control represents the gleam in the eye of every aerodynamicist. "If the shape of the wing can be changed in flight, then the efficiency and performance of the aircraft can be improved, from takeoff and landing to cruising and manoeuvring," Richards said.
Six hair-like fibres located on the top surface of Ikhana's wings provide more than 2,000 strain measurements in real time. With a combined weight of less than two pounds, the fibres are so small that they have no significant effects on aerodynamics. The sensors eventually could be embedded within composite wings in future aircraft.
To validate the new sensors' accuracy, the research team is comparing results obtained with the fibre optic wing shape sensors against those of 16 traditional strain gauges co-located on the wing alongside the new sensors.
"The sensors on Ikhana are imperceptibly small because they're located on fibres approximately the diameter of a human hair," Richards explained. "You can get the information you need from the thousands of sensors on a few fibres without the weight and complexity of conventional sensors. Strain gauges, for example,
require three copper lead wires for every sensor."
When using the fibre optic sensors, researchers do not require analytical models for determining strain and other measurements on the aircraft because data derived with the sensors include all of the actual measurements being sought.
Another safety-related benefit of the lightweight fibre optic sensors is that thousands of sensors can be left on the aircraft during its lifetime, gathering data on structural health and performance.
By knowing the stress levels at thousands of locations on the aircraft, designers can more optimally design structures and reduce weight while maintaining safety, Richards explained. The net result could be a reduction in fuel costs and an increase in range.
Further, intelligent flight control software technology now being developed can incorporate structural monitoring data from the fibre optic sensors to compensate for stresses on the airframe, helping prevent situations that might otherwise result in a loss of flight control.
By extension, the application of the technology to wind turbines could improve their performance by making their blades more efficient.
An improvement of only a few per cent equals a huge economic benefit. The sensors could also be used to look at the stress of structures, like bridges and dams, and possibilities extend to potential biomedical uses as well. The applications of this
technology are mind-boggling.
NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is supporting algorithm and systems development, instrument and ground test validation of the new sensor system.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Secret survey by Babu: TDP-TRS alliance will benefit both the parties in Telangana

July 18, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 17: An electoral alliance between the Telugu Desam and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi will help both the political parties bringing in as many as 70 Assembly seats in the backward region, reveals a survey conducted by the Telugu Desam leadership.
Telugu Desam president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has conducted a survey in Telangana using the students and the staff of a private corporate college chain. The survey was carried out to find the electoral prospects of the Telugu Desam if it contested on its own and the number of seats the party would get if it joined hands with the rival Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
The survey also covered the electoral prospects of film actor Chiranjeevi's proposed political party. According to NTR Bhavan sources, the survey revealed that the TD-TRS combine will win at least 70 seats in Telangana region. Both the political parties combined now have less than 20 seats.
The TD's survey pointed out that the proposed political party of Chiranjeevi will not have much impact on the electoral scene of Telangana. Though Chandrababu Naidu is interested in aligning with the Left, he did not include the electoral prospects of the Communists in the survey.
Chandrababu Naidu is known for conducting secret surveys on various political developments including electoral prospects. When he was in power, he conducted a secret survey on the performance of his Cabinet colleagues and corruption in government offices. Though Chandrababu Naidu has often admitted having ordered secret surveys, he did not choose to reveal the results officials. The results were always "leaked" to the media by TD leaders.
The TD supremo ordered the latest survey using the staff and students of a corporate college for reliability and accuracy. Since the surveyors are not affiliated to any political party, the TD leader hoped that he would get a neutral picture without political overtones. This is the second time that Chandrababu Naidu had utilised the services of the corporate college in the last four years. The TD's survey gains significance in the wake of discussion in the party circles about the need for alliance with the TRS to check the growth of Nava Telangana Praja Party formed recently by former TD leader T Devendar Goud.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Venkaiah Naidu gives new definition to Communism

July 15, 2008
By Syed Akbar
What has communism to do with road blocks and hurdles? At least senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu feels that communism is akin to creating road blocks and hurdles.
Asked if the BJP will shed its "communal" ideology to become more people-friendly as suggested by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, Venkaiah Naidu shot back, during an informal interaction with a group of reporters, "will the Communists shed their ideology of communism?"
He then went on explaining what communism is all about. The communism ideology is nothing but creating hurdles for others. The communists go on committing mistakes but realise them a bit late.
It took them years to recognise the greatness of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and the patriotism of Subhash Chandra Bose, Venkaiah Naidu said adding that the Communists have now realised, though a bit late, that they had committed a mistake by supporting the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.
Venkaiah Naidu said in his own inimitable style that as long as the Communists maintain their ideology, the BJP too will not shed its ideology. This in other words means the BJP will not align with the Left whatever be the political necessity of the former.
Talking of political necessities, one is reminded of the proposed political party of film actor Chiranjeevi. The "proposal" has been hanging in thin air for the past few months. In fact, for a couple of years now.
The inordinate delay in turning the proposal a reality has marred the image of the Tollywood hero. The day may be drawing closer - going by what his brothers and brother-in-law have been claiming - but significantly the aversion to Chiranjeevi's political plans too seems to be growing among the public.
Interestingly, even his die-hard fans are not so interested in his political moves and the educated class in particular is certainly more sceptical. There had been anticipation about Chiranjeevi’s political foray right from the mid-1990s when he was at the peak of his filmy career, delivering one major hit after the other.
But never did Chiranjeevi leave a hint about his supposed political ambitions. In the later years, the talk about Chiranjeevi’s political moves continued -- in a low profile though.
But the talk of Chiranjeevi's entry has led to an exodus in the Telugu Desam. Congress leaders are adopting a wait and watch policy but their counterparts in the Telugu Desam want to be early birds to grab the attention of the film actor.
The Left too is anxious about the entry of Chiranjeevi so that they will find a new political ally. They have tasted power by siding with the Congress and the Telugu Desam. With Venkaiah Naidu curtly spurning the Left advances, the Communists have to be content with Chiranjeevi, if at all he forms the party.

Land texture: Salinity, alkalinity make lands in Andhra Pradesh infertile

July 15, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 14: A severe environment crisis looms large over Andhra Pradesh if the latest Environment Atlas of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is any indication.
The Environment Atlas of Andhra Pradesh paints a grim ecological picture for this progressive State with as much as 203 lakh hectares of land being either saline or alkaline. This is three times the total land under agriculture in the State. The extent of saline and alkaline tracts in irrigated areas (under canal and tank or reservoir command areas) is about 5,30,000 hectares.
For a piece of land to be fit for growing greenery, the soil should be neutral. If it is saline or alkaline, it becomes unfit for agriculture. The problem gets compounded as the levels of salinity or alkalinity goes up. In soils with extreme levels of salinity or alkalinity, even grass does not grow.
The Atlas, released recently, describes such lands as "problem soils" and blames the damage to the soil texture on indiscriminate use of inorganic and chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
"While agriculture has spatially and by way of yield per hectare grown more slowly than industry and services, per hectare consumption of chemical fertilisers (mainly N-P-K) has gone up for the principle crops by 100 per cent. The constant, unabashed use of chemical fertilisers has left the soil in a totally bad shape. Soil degradation continues as natural way of soil enrichment has been pushed aside in keeping with the times calling for quick results. The salinity and alkalinity of soils has gone up. In fact the total salt affected area in our state is found to be 203 lakh hectares," the reports points out.
The area under Nagarjunasagar right bank canal is the worst hit with as much as 6.92 lakh hectares affected by salinity and 1.45 lakh hectares hit by alkalinity. The NS left bank canal occupies the second slot with 2.65 lakh hectares of soils being declared saline and 8,000 alkaline. Under Tungabhadra dam as much as 1.47 lakh hectares is saline and 5,000 alkaline.
Saline soils have been found in large areas overlying the coastal sands in the coastal districts. Saline-alkali soils are noticed to an appreciable extent in the coastal districts and Anantapur and Kurnool districts of Rayalaseema and in many parts of Telangana districts.
"In Telangana region, especially in Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar districts, soils have turned alkali due to irrigation with poor quality waters, which are loaded with residual sodium carbonate," said senior environment activist S Koteswara Rao.
Various forms of soil degradation observed in Andhra Pradesh are salinisation, alkalisation, laterisation and inundation. O the total area of 18.52 million hectares in 14 districts surveyed so far, 19.6 per cent suffers from soil degradation of one type or the other.
Current records indicate that 1,14,000 hectares of land is affected by water logging and salinity in Guntur and Prakasam districts. More than 60,000 hectares are alkaline in the districts of Anantapur, Kurnool, Medak, Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar.
Another peculiar phenomenon has been that of soil loss. This is happening and widely too due to both natural as well as man-made factors. Dryland agriculture in the state has to focus more on this soil loss as more arid tracks mean more impoverished people.
"Toxic bio-accumulation of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in water and soil has left a cumulative non-linear adverse effect on water quality, soil productivity as well as on human and animal health. Chemically induced and protected agriculture coupled with subsidised irrigation and energy use, have encouraged the wasteful practice of supporting mono-culture crops with ever-increasing doses of resources use per unit area of production, regardless of the actual crop-need," the Union Environment Ministry's report noted.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Artificial DNA created, to revolutionise the health sector

July 7, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Four decades after India-born scientist Hargobind Khorana created natural
DNA in a test tube winning the Nobel Prize, a team of scientists in Japan has now made artificial DNA using entirely artificial material. The latest breakthrough is expected to bring a major revolution in the healthcare industry.
And Indian scientists foresee in the artificial DNA a solution to critical health problems like kidney and heart failure. The technology could also be used to foretell how the health of a person takes shape as he or she grows.
"Using artificial DNA technology we could find out the future health prospects of people. For instance, the blood drawn from a say 10-year-old boy will tell what diseases or health-related problems he would get say when he turns 40 or 45. But a lot of research need to be done in this field," says senior geneticist Dr Muhammad N Khaja, whose team had sequenced the Genome of the Hepatitis C Virus.
The artificial DNA developed by the Japanese team could lead to improvements in gene therapy like silencing disease-causing genes, nano-sized computers, and other high-tech advances.
Prof Rama Reddy Guntaka of University of Tennessee, USA, is of the view that artificial DNA could also be used in nano-sized computers and other high technology medical equipment. The DNA sequences can be altered to use them as switches to switch on and off the functioning of DNA.
The Japanese team led by Dr Masahiko Inouye of the University of Toyama stitched together four entirely new, artificial bases inside the sugar-based framework of a DNA molecule, creating unusually stable, double-stranded structures resembling natural DNA.
"Like natural DNA, the new ripoffs were right-handed and some easily formed triple-stranded structures. The unique chemistry of these structures and their high stability offer unprecedented possibilities for developing new biotech materials and applications. The artificial DNA might be applied to a future extracellular genetic system with information storage and amplifiable abilities," Dr Masahiko said.
The artificial DNA can advantageously be used information storage instead of natural DNA because of its stability against ubiquitous naturally occurring enzymes and its structural diversity. The artificial DNA is almost as stable as natural DNA, also raising the possibility of building new DNA nanostructures.Artificial DNA created through recombinant DNA technology is of great help for kidney patients. They suffer from severe anaemia and require erythropoietin to sustain their life. Erythropoietin is prepared artificially using the technology.
It is available as a therapeutic agent produced by recombinant DNA technology in cell culture. The chemical is also useful in the treatment of cancer and other critical illnesses like heart failure. "The advantage of a synthetic DNA over manipulating natural one is that you would have a lot more control over the properties of the cell than if you rely on natural DNA. You would be in a better position to design exactly what you want," says Dr Khaja.
Artificial DNA technology will help scientists detect unwanted genetic material from viruses, bacteria and even biological warfare agents. It will also streamline scientists' ability to detect defects in natural DNA, such as those responsible for cancers and genetic diseases. It will help in creation of end products that contribute as much to biological weaponry as to disease detection and new medicines.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Exodus in Telugu Desam: Babu losing more party leaders

July 5, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 4: The Telugu Desam is losing its senior leaders faster than any political party in the State. If the recent exodus from the Telugu Desam is any indication, the party has lost the most number of leaders in the State in the last three months.
Though political exodus has been quite common in an election year in the State, this is the first time that about a dozen senior TD leaders have left the party in such a short span of time in its 25 years of history. The party used to lose only a couple of senior leaders and a few dozen of their supporters in the run up to elections. But most of them were those who failed to get the party ticket to contest
This time around, however, the TD is faced with the unprecedented problem of political exodus. Some have left over the demand for separate State for Telangana and others have quit the party with the fond hope of joining hands with film actor Chiranjeevi, who is reportedly planning to launch a new political party shortly.
The political exodus in the TD began with former minister K Vidyadhar Rao. After him senior leaders including T Trimurthulu, Devendar Goud, E Peddi Reddy, Paleti Rama Rao and Vanga Geeta have left the Telugu Desam. Bhuma Nagi Reddy and his B Sobha,
who have a considerable following in Kurnool district of Rayalaseema region, left the party on Friday evening.
At least another dozen senior leaders are likely to quit the party once the TD leadership takes a clearcut stand on Telangana and Chiranjeevi floats his political party.
"The party has been neglecting senior leaders. There's no respect for them," Nagi Reddy said peeved at the way his family had been treated by the TD State leadership.
According to sources, other senior leaders like Kadiam Srihari, S Venugopalachari, Ch Muthyam Reddy and G Sukendar Reddy are ready to leave once the TD announces its decision on separate Telangana.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Unscrupulous admissions: AICTE warns professional colleges

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 2: Reacting sharply to unscrupulous college managements going in for admissions even before the release of the official schedule, the All-India Council for Technical Education has warned of penal action against such educational institutions if they did not stop admitting students illegally. Several professional colleges in the State, particularly those under minority managements, have started their own admission schedule in violation of the AICTE guidelines. These colleges are targeting students who secured low ranks in EAMCET or failed to qualify in the entrance test. Such students are being admitted under the so-called management or NRI quota.
The State government has not yet announced the admission schedule as it is awaiting the BC Commission report on quota for backward classes among Muslims. Once the report is out, the government will come out with an Ordinance to implement the quota for certain traditional groups in the minority community.
Only after this, the government is likely to announce the regular admission schedule for professional courses. The AICTE has taken a serious note of unofficial admissions in professional colleges and described it as nothing short of “commercialisation of education. The AICTE has issued orders to technical institutions and universities imparting technical education to ensure that strict official admission scheduled is adopted by all those concerned.
“It has come to the notice of the AICTE that technical institutions and universities including deemed to be universities, are admitting students to technical education programmes long before the actual starting of an academic session. They are also collecting full fee from the admitted students and retaining their school/institution’s leaving certificates in the original,” says AICTE member secretary Dr K Narayana Rao in his circular.
Some of these institutions are confiscating the fee paid if students fail to join by the date fixed by them. This is also against the AICTE guidelines. There are also instances of managements detaining certificates of students in a bid to forcibly retain the admitted students. Moreover, the time-limit for students to join the courses/programmes is also being advanced in some cases unrealistically so as to pre-empt them from exercising other options of joining other institutions of their choice.
The AICTE guidelines state that if a student withdraws before the starting of the course, the wait-listed candidates should be given admissions against the vacant seat.
“The entire fee collected from the student, after a deduction of the processing fee of not more than Rs.1000 should be refunded and returned by the institution/ University to the student withdrawing from the programme,” he said.
The AICTE said it would take penal action including cancellation of the recognition if the managements continued to violate its guidelines on admissions and fee structure.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

New Bacteria: Indian Ocean Rich In Biodiversity Say NIO, CCMB

June 2, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The unknown depths of the Indian Ocean is full of microbial activity and
is a rich repository of hidden wealth of animal diversity.
Scientists at the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in collaboration with their counterparts at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa have successfully isolated culturable bacteria from the deep-sea sediments of the Indian Ocean.
The bacterial collection came from the Chagos Trench in the Indian Ocean below the water depth of 5904 metres. The CCMB-NIO team isolated bacteria from 50 to 70 cm section of a 4.6 metres long sediment core deep in the seas.
What has baffled the scientific team is that the sediments were about 50,000 years old. From the sediments came out two entirely new species of bacteria. The scientists have named it Brevibacterium oceani after they sequenced the bacteria using a technique known as "16S rRNA sequencing".
"The almost-complete 16S rRNA gene sequences of these two strains showed 99.9 per cent similarity among themselves. Following a scientific analysis, the two strains showed 97.9 to 98.4 per cent similarity to other Brevibacterium species. DNA-DNA dot-blot hybridisation of these two strains with other known Brevibacterium species showed relatedness of only 35-41 per cent. A DNA-DNA relatedness of 70 per cent is used as the cut-off point for species delineation. Based on these results and differences in other phenotypic characteristics, these two strains belong to a novel species and the new species name Brevibacterium oceani was proposed," an NIO report
According to the NIO report, from the same sediments, two more new strains belonging to a new species Microbacterium indicum were found. Biochemical characteristics, fatty acid profile, polar lipid contents and levels of DNA-DNA hybridisation techniques were used to report this new species. "These results indicate that deep-sea sediments hold a hidden wealth of microbial diversity which remains to be
explored," the joint study by CCMB-NIO teams felt.

Separate Telangana: Devendar Goud in a fix over new political party

July 2, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 1: Former Telugu Desam leader T Devendar Goud is now in a fix over the formation of his new political party.
Devendar Goud, who quit the Telugu Desam over the Telangana issue, is finding it hard to get cadre in districts to support his political plans. In the absence of proper cadre-based support in Telangana districts including his native Ranga Reddy district, Devendar Goud has postponed the plans to announce the new political party.
The Telangana protagonist expected wide support to his cause and exodus from the Telugu Desam in the wake of his resignation. But none of the senior Telangana leaders in the Telugu Desam came out of the party to back him. Except for a statement or two supporting Devendar Goud's Telangana plans, senior TD leaders from the region backed out when it came to extending actual political support.
"We are planning district level meetings of our cadre," Devendar Goud said without elaborating when his new party will be launched. According to sources close to him, Devendar Goud will continue with the district meetings till such time he gets enough support from the local cadre.
Devendar Goud expected that Telangana leaders in the Telugu Desam like Ch Rajeshwar Rao, E Dayakar Rao, K Srihari and G Sukhendar Reddy would come out of the party to join hands with him. Except for former minister E Peddi Reddy, who resigned from
the Telugu Desam, other T-leaders chose to side with Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu. Peddi Reddy did not join the Goud's camp and kept his options open.
Meanwhile, the Telugu Desam leadership has launched a fire-fighting exercise in Telangana to keep its flock together and stop poaching by Devendar Goud. Ever since Goud left the Telugu Desam, Chandrababu Naidu has been constantly in touch with the
second-rung leadership in Telangana and even interacting with the local cadre. The move has paid dividends so far, making it difficult for Devendar Goud to find cadre and supporters for his soon-to-be-launched political party.
Devendar Goud used to command a wide following in Ranga Reddy district and parts of Medak district, besides Hyderabad city. But after he left the Telugu Desam, his support base in these areas dwindled and he has to be content with a group of Telangana intellectuals, who do not pull votes.
There has not been much political activity outside Devendar Goud's residence.

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