Sunday, 28 December 2008

Indo-Pak tension: Steep fall in visa applications

December 28 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 27: There has been a steep fall in the number of Hyderabadis seeking visas to visit their near and dear ones in Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attack a month ago.
The number of Pakistani nationals visiting Hyderabad has also come down. According to sources in the Special Branch (Pakistan Cell), Hyderabad, only a handful of Pakistanis have visited the city after the terror attacks on November 26 as against about 100 a month in normal circumstances.
As many as 1000 Hyderabadis seek Pakistani visas every month but their number came down by half in the past 30 days. "Hyderabad has historic relations with the Pakistani port city of Karachi and thousands of Hyderabadi Muslim families have their relation there. Migration to Karachi and other parts of Pakistan
continued untill the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
"Visits between the two countries to attend marriages and deaths are quite common. Both the nations have strict visa policies. Indians get Pakistani visas only if they have their relatives in Pakistan. There's no tourist visa, only visit visas are issued. Moreover, the number of visas are reciprocal. The restriction should go,"
said Urdu daily Siasat editor Zahid Ali Khan, who recently visited Pakistan on an official trip.
Communication between relatives on either side of the border through internet and telephone is also a daily affair. The recent trouble has only increased their anxiety. Though telephone service providers do not maintain data on the number of calls between India and Pakistan, those operating public call offices said the
calls had gone up in recent times.
"We have been talking on phone quite often these days. Neither of us wants war," said Fazil Hussain Parvez, whose maternal aunt and other close relatives live in Karachi.
There has been, however, no major change in the number of visas issued by Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to Indians. This is because the Pakistan High Commission follows a strict visa regime issuing only a couple of hundred visas to Indian nationals every day.
The heightened tension between the two neighbouring nations has affected visits in both India and Pakistan. Indians visiting Pakistan and Pakistanis visiting India have to register themselves with the local police stations which keep track of their movements. In Hyderabad the Special Branch has an exclusive cell for Pakistani nations. A number of Pakistani nationals have left Hyderabad for Pakistan after the terror attacks.
"In the last 11 months, a little over 1000 Pakistani nationals visited their relatives in Hyderabad, which translates to roughly four Pakistanis arriving in the city every day. But in the last one month the Special Branch police on an average could register visit by just one Pakistani national a day," a senior SB official
told this correspondent.
The Mumbai attacks had their impact on trade relations too with Hyderabad. For the first time in seven years, Pakistani trade delegation will not participate in the annual exhibition in Hyderabad which begins on New Year Day. A couple of Pakistani trade stalls selling ethnic clothes and goods had been a regular feature
at the exhibition.
"There's a sense of fear in both Indians and Pakistanis as war clouds hover. Many Hyderabadis have cancelled their travel plans. Thousands were stranded during 1971 Indo-Pak war and Indians have taken the travel advisory seriously this time," said Syed Vicaruddin, chairman of Indo-Arab League.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

South Indians have their paternal lineage in Europe, maternal genes in East Asia

December 24, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 23: The paternal lineage of South Indians is traceable to Europe while their maternal genes point to East Asia.
A joint study by a group of international research organisations on the caste populations in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh has revealed that South Indian paternal lineages have been more substantially influenced by western or central Eurasians compared to South Indian maternal lineages.
The study was conducted by the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, USA, Schizophrenia Research Foundation, India, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Australia, and University of Washington School of Medicine, USA. The researchers suggested an affinity between Dravidian populations from South India
and populations in the north and west.
The research team led by senior scientist Dr LB Jorde studied Y-chromosomes (for paternal lineage) and found that Tamil castes showed higher affinity to Europeans than to eastern Asians, and that genetic distance estimates to the Europeans are ordered by caste rank.
And when the team studied the mitochondrial DNA (maternal lineage), it found that Tamil castes have higher affinity to eastern Asians than to Europeans. Same was the case with caste populations in Andhra Pradesh.
Certain South Asian lineages are common in Tamil and Andhra castes. One of the South Asian lineages, U7, is the most prevalent "U" lineage in both the groups. Interestingly, U7 is also common in Iran, Pakistan, and northern India. "This suggests an affinity between Dravidian populations from South India and populations to the north and west," Dr Jorde said.
Although other interpretations may be possible, Dr Jorde said their data from the research study is "consistent with a model in which nomadic populations from northwest and central Eurasia intercalated over millennia into an already complex, genetically diverse set of subcontinental populations."
As these populations grew, mixed, and expanded, a system of social stratification likely developed in situ, spreading to the Indo-Gangetic plain, and then southward over the Deccan plateau. The predominantly south and east Asian mtDNA (maternal) haplogroup M is found in more than half of individuals from a wide sampling of castes and is nearly fixed in some AustroAsiatic tribal populations. This maternal
haplogroup is uncommon in western European populations.
In contrast, some paternally-inherited Y-chromosome lineages are more closely related to lineages originating in central Asians and Europeans.Genetic distances estimated from autosomal polymorphisms have typically demonstrated that caste populations tend to occupy a position intermediate between European and East Asian populations.
"The genetic affinities among the more than 2000 extant caste populations of India, however, are complex. Genetic distances between caste populations from Andhra Pradesh are correlated with differences in caste rank, suggesting that endogamy and differential inter-caste gene flow influences genetic structure," the study noted.
The study reveals that in Tamil Nadu, genetic distances between castes are positively correlated with caste rank. A similar pattern was detected in upper, middle, and lower rank castes of Andhra Pradesh.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Musi pollution: Hookworm threat due to use of sewage in agriculture

December 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 21: Hyderabadis, who consume fruits and vegetables grown over 3,600 hectares under Musi ayacut, run the risk of severe worm infection that may cause appetite loss, abdominal pain, shortness of breath and a variety of skin diseases.
According to a joint study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the International Water Management Institute, Hyderabad, farmers as well as consumers are hit by use of sewage or wastewater in agriculture in and around Hyderabad. As unpolluted water is not available in sufficient quantities in the State capital region for agriculture, scores of farmers in the downstream of Musi are increasingly going in for untreated water for their crops and orchards,
exposing their health as well as of consumers.
If the WHO standards are to be followed, wastewater used in Hyderabad to irrigate is unfit for crop production.
"Intestinal nematode infections have been identified as the main health risk associated with this practice. To protect consumer and farmer health, the World Health Organisation has established an intestinal nematode water quality standard... The use of wastewater poses a number of health risks. Predominant among these is the risk of intestinal helminth infection," Jeroen H J Ensink of London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told this correspondent.
The study found that in Hyderabad around 250 households use wastewater from the Musi river to irrigate 500 hectares of land. Downstream of Hyderabad, farmers, with the help of weirs, irrigate 3,100 hectares of agricultural land.
For the purpose of the study, the research team divided the city and its suburbs into three zones, centre of Hyderabad (high concentration of hookworm eggs), peri-urban zone of Hyderabad (medium concentration of hookworm infection) and villages downstream of the river Musi.
The team found prevalence of hookworm and heavy hookworm infection and other intestinal parasites like Ascaris (giant round worms) and Trichuris (whip worms). Overall, 31.2 per cent of persons, who formed part of the study, were infected by at least one intestinal nematode infection. Of these, hookworm is the most prevalent (29.8 per cent), followed by Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura.
The mean intensity of infection ranged from 35 eggs per gram of faeces (epg) for hookworm to 1.7 epg for T. trichiura. The highest intensity of infection in a person was found for hookworm (1,789 epg), followed by A. lumbricoides (1,333 epg) and T. trichiura (336 epg).He said a significant difference in the prevalence of hookworm, Ascaris and Trichuris was found among the three city zones. Farming families
in centre of Hyderabad had a significantly higher prevalence of hookworm, Ascaris and Trichuris infection. In addition, they also exhibited a significantly higher intensity of infection for all three infections relative to farming families in other two zones.
"Among all persons, use of untreated wastewater, when controlled for confounding variables, was associated with an almost four-fold increased risk of hookworm and heavy hookworm infection. This result was in contrast to the use of partially treated wastewater, which showed no significant association with hookworm infection when controlled for confounding variables. Use of untreated wastewater further showed a greater than five-fold increased risk of Ascaris and Trichuris infection.
Use of partially treated wastewater was associated with a greater than three-fold increased risk of Ascaris infection," Jeroen Ensink said.
The highest risks were associated with use of untreated wastewater, and use of partially treated wastewater was associated only with an increased risk of Ascaris. Use of untreated wastewater was also associated with a higher intensity of infection, especially for hookworm infection.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hearst Castle: Guided Tour in Urdu

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Those visiting the world famous showplace, Hearst Castle, in California will now have a "guided tour" in Urdu.
A Hyderabadi tax consultant settled in Canada has prepared in Urdu the tour guide of the 2.5 lakh acre sprawling historic house museum in the USA. So far, people visiting the museum had the option of learning about its history, artefacts and facilities in different languages except Urdu. Noticing this, city-born Muhammad Shahid Siddiqui, a public accountant in Ottawa, Canada, volunteered to publish a guide of the Hearst Castle in Urdu.
"I found pamphlets, brochures and tour guides in different languages. Though Urdu is spoken and understood by a large section of people, the museum did not have any material in the language. I produced a Urdu copy from the English version," Siddiqui told this correspondent.
The museum management was so pleased by the gesture of Siddiqui that it had promised a free visit to the museum by anyone who gives his reference. The entry ticket of the Castle is 50 US dollars and the management will not charge any fee if the visitor gives Siddiqui's reference.
Siddiqui, who obtained doctorate degrees from Chelsea University, London, and Ansted University of Malaysia, said the Castle management put into circulation his Urdu guide only after a thorough scrutiny of its contents. The material was sent to Urdu department in University of Berkeley for evaluation and only after getting a nod from the University, the Urdu guide was included in the Castle's library and information centre.
Hearst Castle, a Western version of Hyderabad's Salarjung Museum, is one of the largest historic house museums in the world with one of the most sophisticated guided tour programs. It takes about nine hours for a comple guided visit of the Castle.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Vedic Astrology: Cure to sexual problems

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Suffering from sexual debility or low sperm count. You need not consult an andrologist. Just wear a diamond of half carat or more on the ring finger of the right hand and your problem will get cured. And if you are a woman, the diamond should be set in white gold or platinum and worn in the ring finger of the left hand.
Welcome to the world of Vedic medical astrology and Vedic treatments. The Vedic medical astrology, which has its base in the ancient Indian religious texts of Vedas, is increasingly becoming popular in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and several other parts of the State. Vedic Astrology differs from western or tropical astrology mainly in that it uses the fixed zodiac. Vedic astrology uses the moving zodiac.
"Vedic medical astrology has cure for every health problem. The only thing is that the medical astrologer should be perfect in his knowledge of ancient scriptures. Every disease and every part of the human body is linked to some heavenly body like planet," says medical astrologer Ch Venkatasubbaiah.
He says venereal diseases and skin problems as also low sperm count are caused by the "bad placement" of Venus in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's Venus at birth. The cure for the problem lies in gemology, a part of medical astrology.
Vedic medical astrology is a branch of Vedic astrology which deals with the medical aspect of astrology. In this system of medicine, practised by saints and sages for thousands of years in ancient India, a Vedic medical astrologer draws a Vedic horoscope based on time, place and date of the birth of the "patient". The system believes that men and women suffer from different types of diseases which are exclusive to them, while a few are common among the two sexes.
"It works on the well-established system of bio-energy," he points out. According to Vedic medical astrology, health problems relating to brain and nervous system and emotional imbalances are a result of the bad placement of the moon in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's moon at birth. The cure is quite simple: wear a natural pearl of the size of a pea on the little finger of right hand (men) or left hand (women).
Says school teacher B Srinivas Rao, "my son used to neglect studies and used to spend time in playing. He also lacked concentration. I followed the prescription given by a medical astrologer. I just got my son a green emerald the size of a red bean in gold. He wore it on the little finger of the right hand and the results started showing up". In case of a girl, the green emerald should be worn in the left hand.
Argues Dr TM Rao of Gemini House of Astrology, "medical astrology is a diagnostic tool. A medical astrology chart can act as a road map, describing well the potential troubled areas in life. Various birth stars represents different parts of a human body. One can predict the future diseases in a person by going through the natal (birth) chart". Rao claims that even patients admitted to corporate hospitals have availed of the medical astrology for faster results.
Pointing out that the medical astrology is very effective since it is based on the Vedic knowledge, Rao points out to various astrological signs and the areas of the body they influence upon. They are: Aries (head), Tarus (lower jaw, throat, thyroid gland), Gemini (arms, lungs), Cancer (abdominal cavity, stomach), Leo (heart), Virgo (intestines, gall bladder), Libra (pancreas, spleen), Scorpio (reproductive organs), Sagittarius (hips, kidneys, liver, sciatic nerve and upper legs), Capricorn (skeletal structure, bones and knees), Aquarius (nervous system and lower legs), Pisces (feet,lymph glands, immune system).
Since planets like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto do not have a lordship over a house or a planetary period of their own, they are outside the purview of the Vedic medical astrology. Medical Astrology is a relatively unchartered and extremely specialized field by which a trained person, a doctor can look at the birth chart of a person when he or she is born and able to pin point the potential weakness or diseases or a potential weak organ of the body and forwarn the parents of the child.
According to the practitioners, it is a science and a healing art, which uses the information, derived from one's astrology chart at birth to ascertain that individual's state of disease and wellness. The natal chart accurately describes one's personality and one's potential internal conflicts, which can lead to imbalances.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Metals in Ayurveda: Scientific evaluation and standardisation of herbal drugs

November 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 22: With the USA and European nations rejecting Ayurvedic drugs containing metals, the Central government has now embarked on a mega scientific mission to prove that metallic compounds in traditional Indian system of medicine are indeed helpful in fighting diseases.
Only Ayurveda system of medicine extensively utilises a variety of metals to treat certain health problems and boost immunity to fight diseases. But since there's no scientific evaluation of these drugs, developed nations have put a ban on them.
The Department of Science and Technology has entrusted the research, evaluation and standardisation work of Ayurvedic drugs containing metallic compounds to a number of scientific, research and pharma bodies across the country, including the city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
Ayurvedic medicines consist of ingredients of herbal, mineral, metallic and animal origin. While scientists in many countries are working on herbal products, no country is working on metallic products, which is an important strength area of Ayurveda. This is because, barring India, this knowledge does not exist anywhere else.
"Arsenic and mercury may be harmful. But when taken in minute quantities they have several health benefits. Ayurvedic drugs have been using these and other metals for centuries. What we need to prove is that these metallic compounds are beneficial to health in small quantities. We have taken up the evaluation and standardisation work.
Once our task is complete Ayurvedic drugs will get scientific backing," Dr J Madhusudhan Rao, director-grade scientist, IICT, told this correspondent. The DST believes that it is one area where India can make original contribution to the world and thus there's need for validation of claim of metallic products. "It is our heritage and needs to be subjected through well planned research in order to bring it to international fora as India’s unique contribution," he added.
The task before the scientific team is to identify different types of bhasmas and formulations for carrying out scientific studies with regard to the standardisation of raw materials, processes and finished products. It also involves chemical transformation, safety, efficacy evaluation, and validation through networking of the various institutions and industries having expertise in this area.
Ayurvedic drugs containing metals will be subjected to pre-clinical studies in animal models for pharmacological evaluation and toxicity,pharmacodynamic and tissue distribution studies. Later, the drugs will be used on human beings for clinical studies, though thousands of Indians have already been using them for centuries.
"It is essential to understand the chemical nature of the complexation taking place with metallic ions and organic phyto-constituents present in medicinal plants with which the metals are treated. Unless we understand the nature of the complex compounds formed during the processing of metals/minerals and medicinal plant material, it is not possible to evolve the quality parameters and understand the
mechanism of action of such important, potent and unique drugs of Ayurveda and Siddha," DST guidelines on Ayurveda research point out.

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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