Sunday, 13 December 2009

K Chandrasekhar Rao has his `ancestral roots' in north coastal Andhra

December 13, 2009
By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad, Dec 12: The ongoing T turmoil has unwittingly taken a new twist over the ancestral roots of TRS
president K Chandrasekhar Rao, with those opposed to him tracing his family genealogy to the erstwhile Bobbili kingdom in north Andhra.
According to KCR baiters, his forefathers came to Medak district five to six generations ago, after leaving the Bobbili samsthan. Chandrasekhar Rao was born at Chintamadaka village near Siddipet in  Medak district 55 years ago. His father and grandfather were also born in the district.
TRS legislator and KCR's nephew T Harish Rao, however, denies the family roots being  linked to north Andhra."We are from here and our family has nothing to do with Bobbili," he said.
The powerful Velama community, to which Chandrasekhar Rao belongs, ruled over the Bobbili  kingdom before the area fell under the control of the Britishers. Historical records show that the Velama  community later "settled" in different parts of the State. Some of them including the forefathers of Chandrasekhar Rao
are said to have settled in Telangana about 150 to 200 years ago, while others preferred Godavari and Krishna  districts.
Though the talk of KCR being a "settler" and "non-local" has been making rounds ever since he broke away from the Telugu Desam to float the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in 2001, it has of late gained  momentum. Not only leaders from Andhra and Rayalaseema, but those from Telangana too trace the lineage of KCR to
Vizianagaram (then Srikakulam) district.
Sangareddy legislator T Jayaprakash Reddy, who once rubbed shoulders with KCR, went to the extent of giving "KCR Bobbili Bhago" call in retaliation to the TRS chief's "settlers" and "Andhra" talk.  Chandrasekhar Rao should not forget his roots. He himself is a settler in Telangana as his ancestors had migrated  from Bobbili," he pointed out.
The Uttarandhra Vidhyarthi Sena, which is spearheading united Andhra movement in north  coastal districts, is of the view that KCR's forefathers had lived in Buddipeta village in Sitanagaram mandal of the  present Vizianagaramdistrict. Argues Vidhyarthi Sena president SR Murthy, "the TRS chief should first talk of
the backwardness of his ancestral region (north Andhra) before talking up the cause of Telangana. He should not forget the past of his forefathers."
Interestingly, the TRS contested in several Parliament constituencies in coastal Andhra during 2004 general elections to claim the status of a "regional party". The party fielded candidate, G Venkatesh, in  Bobbili (now Vizianagaram) Lok Sabha seat. He polled 14131 votes including 3444 votes in Gajapatinagaram Assembly
The TRS chief is also known for "settling" from one constituency to another, shifting from native Siddipet to
Karimnagar and then to Mahbubnagar.
Senior citizens from Bobbili claim that KCR’s great grandfathers used to frequent north Andhra for trading. Their visits have been regular since beginning of the 19th century, since Bobbili was one of the civilised towns in that era nurturing art and culture apart from offering better living standards.
During 2004 general elections, Mr K Chandrasekhara Rao reportedly recalled his ancestors’ relation with the great town of Bobbili and fielded Venkatesh from the area on TRS symbol `Car’.

WAN-IFRA: What to do with the Google?

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 3: Top print media executives and news publishers on Thursday made an impassioned defence of copyright to Google's chief legal counsel David Drummond, calling for "a more rigorous and unambiguous acceptance" of publishers' rights to decide how their content is used on the Internet.
"Being able to make a commercial return is essential to justify investment in content - whether we are talking news or education or entertainment - and that depends on having the mechanism to choose how that content is distributed, used and paid for," said Gavin O'Reilly, president of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
"What to do with the Google?" was the hot topic of debate on the concluding day of the three-day world press summit here. "That is why copyright was invented 300 years ago - and when you consider the breadth, depth, richness and diversity of 21st century media, it has been a stunning success - and that is why copyright remains as relevant today."
But Mr O'Reilly added: "what is clear is that, collectively, we haven't made copyright work properly on the web, and that is down to we content creators who have, perhaps foolishly, failed to enforce our copyright."
Mr Drummond, who is also the vice-president of Google, denied that his organisation had violated copyright. "This is not a question of Google not respecting copyright. This is a fundamental disagreement when you're
applying copyright rules on the web," he said, adding that the idea that indexing sites was a violation "flies in the face of how the web has been built and how it operates."
But he said Google was interested in working with the newspaper industry, and announced that Google was launching a separate crawler for Google News, so that publishers can give one set of instructions on how their content should be treated in Google News, and a different set of instructions for Google Search.
He pointed out that Google News offers publishers a billion clicks a month and massive traffic, which he called "a source of promotion undreamed of just a few years ago."
Mr O'Reilly said: "Unfortunately, the pat answer always seems to be, 'don't complain - aren't I giving you traffic?' As if I could take traffic to my bank manager. But shouldn't I have the right to determine - as a fair trade for my own content - whether I want traffic or something else? Leaving aside the thorny issue of dominant market position that Google enjoys, why should I just be forced to accept Google's business model of site referral as the only online model?"
"I want to say that I am not advocating charity here. We publishers don't need hand outs or crumbs from Google's table. What we want is a more rigorous and unambiguous acceptance on copyright, an acknowledgement of our right to choose our own business model, a more transparent technical mechanic,
and perhaps, less of the rather tired, 'fair use' rhetoric."
He called for adoption of the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), a new protocol back by WAN-IFRA and others in the industry that allows publishers to describe how their online content can be used in a way that the news aggregators' automated indexing crawlers can read.

World Media Summit: No threat to newspapers

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 3: Juan Senor, vice-president of International Media Consulting Group, on Thursday felt that journalists should act as "journANALYST" to keep the newspaper industry alive in the 21st century.
Participating in a discussion on the 2009 global report on innovations in newspapers, at the world press summit here, Juan Senor said in an age of scrappy messages and information saturation, people want editorial criteria. "We need to go from journalist to journANALYST," he said.
Juan Senor predicted that paper will always be around. Although it will never die, the business models and the content propositions have changed. "Complacency is the biggest threat to newspapers. What we're putting in these front pages is not relevant."
Stating that publications are repeating the same headlines on front pages and it is redundant, he said "we need to have different ideas. People don't want subtle redesigns, they want a radical transformation. Newspapers need to become 'newzines.' "
He said internet will not kill newspapers. Paper should be premium while online and mobile news should be mass medium. No one medium has ever killed another medium. The internet will not kill newspapers. The circulation of print would lower, but publishers would need to charge more for it.
The industry has received wake up calls but they have hit the snooze button every time, said Senor. The newspapers are left with few options. A new model needs to be found for newspapers to recover.

World Media Congress: Nothing called investigative journalism

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 3: Senior journalist Nick Davies feels that there's a threat to "so-called" investigative journalism.
"The threat is commercialism. Commercial pressure that has come piling down on publications is taking time away from reporting," he told the world press summit here on Thursday.
Nick Davies had won several awards including journalist of the year, reporter of the year and feature writer of the year. "All journalism is investigative," he said adding that a lot of news today consists of garbage such as celebrity news.
"This isn't journalism. It's constitutionally free, but it's garbage. If you come across journalists that say they are investigative journalists, you have people with a personality problem. That's like saying the water in a bottle is wet," he pointed out.
Long-term journalism usually occurs because someone is deliberately trying to construct information reporters need, Nick David said, adding that "it's all an attempt to uncover the truth". There is a threat to this so called investigative journalism, he said. The threat is commercialism.
He said a study involving several leading dailies in the UK suggested that 12 per cent of their facts had not been checked. "You take away our time. You take away our ability to do our jobs," he said.
Looking in a micro perspective of journalism, there is that possibility that journalists will still be able to have arguments about getting more time for stories, but in a macro perspective, the solution is difficult to see, he said.
"The value of journalists is different than the executives and businessmen, who run the newspaper and it needs to be recognised. Journalists should be able to select the stories that are important, find the truth and tell the truth," Nick observed.

Infosys mentor KR Narayana Murthy feels that India will play a key role in software exports in the next 10 years

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 2: Infosys mentor KR Narayana Murthy feels that India will play a key role in software exports in the next 10 years.
Addressing a group of editors, media executives and journalism students from across the globe at the ongoing world newspaper summit here on Wednesday, Narayana Murthy said India would share a major revenue of
software exports. Along with Brazil, Russia and China, India will play a crucial role in software exports. "About 50 per cent of revenue of software exports will come from BRIC countries by 2020," he said.
At present the USA and the UK hold the monopoly in software exports and their total share is about 80 per cent. The BRIC countries will take a major chunk of the revenue from them. India exported $ 47 million software exports.
"Brazil and China have been performing well. Russia will pick up soon, though it is passing through hiccups at present," Narayana Murthy said.
Information and communication technology has the potential to breach the divide between the haves and have-nots, he said adding that the IT market in India is quite large and much of it is yet to be explored. Half of the population in the country do not have access to medical facilities. Many do not have banking facility. The IT sector will have to cater to these sections.
Sounding positive about the growth of the world economy, Narayana Murthy said it would take some more time for it to become buoyant. He feared that the global economy would be affected if there's no stability in the region and in middle east.
Later answering a question, the Infosys mentor said India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh should ensure that there's peace in the region. He warned that if there were no peace in the region, the growth will be affected.

SAFMA leader Imtiaz Alam blames Indian, Pakistani media for blurring facts

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 2: Media in India and Pakistan is catering to populist nationalistic feeling, often resulting in blurring of facts, says Imtiaz Alam, secretary-general, South Asia Free Media Association.
Participating in a meeting organised by the World Editors' Forum as part of the ongoing world newspaper congress here on Wednesday, Imtiaz Alam said "Pakistani and Indian media is unable to see things in its proper perspective due to politics, market competition leading to national jingoism and warmongering. Can we rise above narrow national objective and do justice in media coverage," he wondered.
Mr Imtiaz Alam narrated how he earned the wrath of Pakistani establishment when he went on a TV channel saying that 26/11 terrorist Kasab indeed belonged to Faridkot in Pakistan. "When Azmal Kasab was nabbed by Indian police in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, the Pakistani media was in denial mood. It asserted he did not belong to Pakistan. I made inquiries and went on a TV channel and said he is a Pakistani," he remarked.
He added "it caused havoc. Five armed sleuths came to my office and smashed my car, sending a clear message."
Senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar said both India and Pakistan blame each other for the troubles in their respective nations. It is believed in Pakistan that what’s happening in Baluchistan and other parts of the country is due to RAW. India blames Pakistan’s military establishment and ISI for the trouble in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country," he said.
Journalist Vinod Sharma said everyone thought BJP would win the polls after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, but people did not fall prey to nationalist feeling and voted for a secular party. However, BJP won Madhya Pradesh polls on a development plank.
Sharma faulted Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh statement that he did not know whom to talk to in Pakistan. "The national jingoism is urban centric in India. Bureaucracy in India and Pakistan is the biggest hurdle for ensuring smooth relations," he said.

World Press Congress: Top newspaper executives feel print media must change strategies

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 2: Top newspaper executives feel that the print media must adapt and change its strategies to keep circulation and revenues going up.
A survey conducted by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers covering 653 respondents, mostly senior newspaper executives, revealed the troubling dilemma that continues to haunt newspaper publishers.
"On one hand, overwhelmingly, the majority of publishers acknowledge that their organisations must adapt and change their strategies, yet many admit they are facing big challenges in implementing that change," the survey pointed out.
The report of the survey was released at the ongoing world press summit here on Wednesday during a panel discussion on "shaping the future of the newspaper". "What is critical to change is developing editorial and sales force know-how for today's multimedia environment", the respondents said.
Martha Stone, director of the Shaping the Newspaper Future project for WAN-IFRA, said "we are all afraid of change, but change is inevitable and this industry is facing changes like never before. We have to focus not only on today's problems and challenges, but those in the coming years to secure that our business remains a vital part of society."
The Shaping the Future of the Newspaper (SFN) and Where NEWS? projects have produced more than 20 special reports over the past few years, all focused on helping publishers to adapt and formulate their strategies to deal with emerging technologies and consumer expectations.
Stone, Francois Nel, director of the Journalism Leaders Programme at the University of Central Lancanshire (UK), Dietmar Schantin, executive director of Publishing, Editorial and General Management Business Unit for WAN-IFRA, and moderator Sridala Swami, a freelance journalist, presented the numerous projects and their findings, but the focus of the session centred on a new SFN project, the "Future and Change Study."
Stone said one of the most significant findings is that, despite the fact that many publishers have reduced staff, "they fully plan to expand their product portfolio, to implement a strategy of growth to meet their needs.
And what is encouraging here is that staff reductions were not at the heart of this, rather investment and streamlining efficiencies. They will innovate."
Some of the new opportunities lie in mobile, especially smartphone technologies like the iPhone and Android, development of social media, the growing trend of events and conferences, and web TV. But also in print with targeted special editions, magazines, distribution services and production.
Of course the recent economic crisis has played a major role in the responses, and in the subsequent strategic thinking emerging. More than three-quarters of respondents experiences significant revenue declines over
the past year, with print advertising revenues hardest hit. About 80 per cent said on-line revenues were marginally up.
More revealing, however, is the finding that a majority of respondents say they will need 21 to 30 per cent of non-traditional revenues over the next five years to remain viable. Although much of this comes from hard-hit
regions like the US and northern Europe, this trend extends to most other regions around the world.
"Internet is good for the newspaper business," said John Paton, chairman and chief executive officer, impreMedia LLC, USA. Multimedia development is the key to extending reach.
"Don't get me wrong here, I believe newspaper companies have a very bright future but as news companies where print is only one of many products and where each builds audience for the others," he said; "Remember when we thought our websites would drive readers to the newspaper? Now it is the other way around, only bigger with more options."
By embracing digital platforms, impreMedia transformed a newspaper  company struggling through an economic downturn into a multi-platform company with a growing audience, diversified revenue streams and
increasing profits, said Mr Paton.
But he added: "This is not a story of creating a better video player, news widget or killer app - our offerings are better than some and weaker than others. It is a story of how a team of dedicated and talented individuals
came together to map out a company's future under trying circumstances because they care deeply about journalism. "

World Press Summit: Future of Journalism - scribes should explore Twitter, blogs, internet and citizen journalism to stay in competition

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 1: Journalists should explore various means of  communication including Twitter, blogs, citizen journalism and the worldwide web to reach a large section of people.
Participating in a discussion on the "Future of Journalism vs Future of the Newspaper", held as part of the World Editors Forum panel here on Monday, Paul Johnson, deputy editor in chief of The Guardian, said Twitter, blogs and the "long tail" of the web are all tools that can help journalists reach their audiences. That's what journalism is about really, letting us reach the maximum of people".
He shared some examples of in-depth, investigative stories his publication recently carried drawing resources from social networking sites and eyewitness reports.
In one case, the paper's coverage of a G20 protest included video footage from people attending the event that appeared to show police using excessive force.
Senior journalist Mahfuz Anam from Bangladesh gave a persuasive, passionate speech highlighting the errors of newspapers and the ways and means to turning it around.
Anam edits and publishes The Daily Star. "We are killing consumers with our advertisements." He, however, admitted that 80 per cent of the revenue of The Daily Stars comes from print advertisement. He said newspapers had pandered to the whims of advertisers, and in the process, neglected their readers.
According to him, the future of newspaper lies in the past. "As journalists, we must regain the moral highground in which society has placed us. Freedom of speech and press protects our democracy, our human rights," he points out.
"The newspaper business model is powerless to compensate for falling print ad revenues, and the problem is not going to go away. The print model cannot and will not migrate to the Internet, where there is a "revenue black hole," in which 76 per cent of all online revenues go to Google and Yahoo!", Timothy Balding, co-CEO of WAN-IFRA, observed at a different forum.

World Association of Newspapers: India emerges as the biggest newspaper market in the world

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 1: India has emerged as the biggest newspaper market in the world with 107 million daily sales.
Presenting the annual press trends update at the ongoing world press summit here, Timothy Balding, co-CEO of WAN-IFRA said globally, 1.9 billion people choose to read a newspaper every day, or 34 per cent of the world population, while 24 per cent use the internet. The biggest newspaper market in the world is India, with 107 million daily sales.
India, China and Japan account for more than 60 per cent of the world's newspaper sales, with the USA taking 14 per cent. "While it is true that in some regions circulation is not a boom sector, newspapers continue to be a global mass media to be reckoned with, achieving reach of over 34 per cent," said Balding.
In terms of sales per 1,000 adult population, Japan leads the world with 612, followed by Norway with 576, and Finland with 482. In terms of reach, 91 per cent of Japanese continue to read a newspaper daily ­ a remarkable figure in such a technologically advanced and wired society.
While India has emerged as the major newspaper market, newspapers world-wide will have to search for new business models including paid-for on-line access for news to increase their revenues.
"At no time in the foreseeable future will digital advertising revenues replace those lost to print, making the search for new business models ­including paid-for on-line access for news," according to the latest update on
world Press trends released by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, which is currently meeting in the city.
Timothy Balding said as search engines take the largest slice of internet advertising revenues, little is left for the content generators themselves. In a 182-billion dollar press advertising industry, digital revenues of newspapers accounted for less than six billion dollars last year and are forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers to grow to no more than 8.4 billion dollars by 2013.
At the same time, print advertising is expected to decline. PwC predicts that by 2013, combined print and digital ad revenues will be less than print only ad revenues were in 2008.
"If newspaper companies wish to maintain their strong content leadership, someone is going to have to pay. It looks like we have to solve the digital payment issue ­ and soon," he said.
The annual world press trends survey gains significance in the backdrop of the debate on paid content, at the summit. Yet despite the problems of falling advertising revenues, forecasts of even further declines, and pressure from new competitors, the global newspaper industry is far from facing an "apocalypse," he pointed out.
The WAN-IFRA survey showed that newspaper circulation grew, on a global scale, by 1.3 percent in 2008, the last full year for which data exists, and almost 9 percent over five years.
The data shows consistent newspaper growth in Africa, Asia and South America, and a long-term slowdown in the US and European markets.
"But even here, a sense of proportion demands that we deny the idea that the apocalypse is upon us," said Mr Balding. "A circulation drop in Europe, for example, is less than three per cent over five years. Over five years, according to our survey, newspaper circulation increased in 100 of the 182 nations for which we have reliable data."

Senior Pakistani editor Najam Sethi gets Golden Pen of Freedom for 2009

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 1: Senior Pakistani editor Najam Sethi on Tuesday received the WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom for 2009 for his "fierce commitment and courage... to the perennial quest for reporting the truth and analysing it without fear or favour".
The Gold Pen of Freedom is the annual Press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.Responding to the award, Najam Sethi said it was however becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to remain independent and bipartisan in this region. "Increasingly, editors are managers rather than journalists, or journalists who are managers. And an overly aggressive corporate sector has
replaced the government both as the most significant source of media revenue and the concomitant political pressure that goes with it, often at the expense of the public interest," he said.
Najam Sethi said the media in India and Pakistan is trapped in what he termed narrow nationalism and accused it of being part of the problem in relations between the two neighbours. He said the media in both the countries was too intensely nationalistic and had pushed them to the brink of war after last year's terrorist attacks in Mumbai. "After Mumbai last year, both the media put on the war paint and pushed their governments to the brink of war."
He cited several instances where the media in both the countries stopped the respective governments from continuing with the peace dialogue at critical points. "In 1989 when the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Pakistan, the Pakistani media stopped Benazir Bhutto's government from implementing the far-reaching cultural accords that were signed on that occasion. When Rajiv Gandhi went back, the Indian media stopped him from moving ahead on Siachen accord inked by the defence secretaries of the two countries in Pakistan," he said.
Elaborating his point further, he said "the same thing happened in 1997 when Indian media stopped the government of then Prime Minister Gujral from discussing the issue of Kashmir with the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan. In 2001, Pakistani media stopped General Pervez Musharraf from making a compromise with India in the historic city of Agra."
This year, the Indian media stopped Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from fulfilling his commitments made at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, Najam Sethi pointed out.
Stating that the 22 journalists killed in South Asia last year died at the hands of non-state actors, he said increasingly, the media is caught in the cross fire between armed non-state actors and states in the region. He said the Taliban forcibly stopped the sale of Daily Aajkal in their stronghold and hurled menacing warnings at the paper in Peshawar.
Najam Sethi is known as an advocate of liberal and secular ideas in Pakistan, which is too-often torn by extremism. World Editors' Forum president Xavier Vidal-Folch presenting the award said "Najam Sethi has managed to anger both the extremists and the government authorities, merely by doing his job, and this is at the heart of why WAN-IFRA is honouring him today with its Golden Pen of Freedom award ­ for carrying out his role as an independent journalist, for reporting and investigating all sides equally, and for being a
voice of moderation, despite the continuous threats and constant danger he faces."
Sethi¹s home and office are under constant guard. The Taliban threatened to kill him if he did not change his editorial policy. He has also received death threats from radical religious groups after he published a cartoon that depicted Umme Hassaan, principal of a radical women's school, educating female students to wage jihad and embrace martyrdom. Mr Sethi was imprisoned thrice.

The Phillippines massacre: 88 journalists killed during 2009 worldwide

DC Correspondent

Hyderabad, Nov 30: At least 88 journalists have been killed so far this year and hundreds of media employees have been arrested and jailed, most often following sham trials or without formal charges being brought against them, says a report of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
(WAN-IFRA) here.
In its half-year review of press freedom world-wide, the Wan-Infra, which is currently holding its 62nd Congress in the city, said the horrific attack in the Philippines on November 23, in which more than 30 journalists were among the 57 murdered, was the deadliest single attack on media in memory. That
brought the total of journalists killed in the Philippines to 35 this year, making it the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.
"More than 750 journalists have been murdered world-wide in the past decade", said the report, presented to the Board of WAN-IFRA here on the eve of the World Newspaper Congress, World Editors Forum and
Info Services Expo 2009, the global summit meetings of the world's Press.
According to the report, "hundreds of media employees have been arrested for their work in the past year, and at least 170 remain in jail today. The hostility of many governments to any form of dissent continues to
impede independent news reporting in Asia. Journalists reporting on corruption find themselves in the firing line of those directly or indirectly exposed by their reports".
Governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa continue to demonstrate their intolerance for truth, dissent and satire. Journalists and freedom of expression advocates are continuously targeted by the
authorities, while the severe crackdown on blogging region-wide reveals how much governments believe that the Internet can be a threat to their power, it said.

Friday Times editor Najam Sethi says Pakistan government and media now recognise Taliban as terrorists

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 30: Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistani dailies The Friday Times and Daily Times, on Monday said the Pakistani government and mainstream media had finally recognised Talibans as terrorists.
Participating in a round table conference on the freedom of Press held here as part of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and 16th World Editors' Forum, Najam Sethi said earlier neither the Pakistan government nor the mainstream media called Taliban as terrorists. They had described them as insurgents or
"The Friday Times and Daily Times were the only newspapers, which described Taliban as a terror force. We received several death threats, but we did not change our stand. Now that Taliban has been attacking military establishments and security forces and killing innocent people in streets, bazars and places of worship, the government and the mainstream media are recognising Taliban as a terror force. The war on terror is no longer a US mission, it has also become our own war against terror," Najam Sethi said.
Najam Sethi, who is known for his bold secular and democratic views, said the Pakistan government had over decades indoctrinated the media and people against India over the Kashmir issue. After the Jihad against the then USSR occupation of Afghanistan, non-State players turned their attention towards India. The backlash of terror now haunts Pakistan after its 40 years of Jihadi support and its so-called Islamist and anti India ideology.
He pointed out that even though the Taliban may be the existential threat, the media and most Pakistanis continue to view India as the more potent danger. "Whole generations have grown up with this mindset. It's not going to be very easy to turn this clock back. But of late people are recognising the terror tactics of Talibans".
Najam Sethi said journalists like him, who opposed Taliban, had received threats not only from non-State players but also from fellow journalists. He said the newly resurgent democracy in Pakistan is backing the media freedom. "We need a code of conduct to deal with terrorism, whether we should call Taliban terrorist or insurgent".
Stating that sometimes State is not equal to government and sometimes it is, in Pakistan, the senior Pakistani editor said judiciary and bureaucracy sometimes back the government. "The real threat is from non-State actors.
They are very powerful. If the media gets threats, there's no defence. We can't ask the State to defend us. It is defending itself. Earlier we were fighting in wilderness. Now we are getting support".
He regretted that the notion of secularism has been distorted in Pakistan in the last 30 years. "We have been dubbing secularism as anti-Islam and secularists as enemies of the religion".
Najam Sethi said the media had at last become powerful in Pakistan. "We used to have the powerful troika of the president, the prime minister and the chief of army staff. Now it is powerful five. Judiciary and media have joined the list," he said.
Others who participated in the round table included Irina Samokhina of Krestyanin, Russia, Chris Elliott, managing editor of The Guardian, the UK, Trevor Ncube, chairman of the Board of Mail and Guardian, South Africa, Ahmed Benchemsi, publisher of Tel Quel and Nichane, Morocco, Bambang Harymurti, CEO of Tempo, Indonesia, and Joze Ruben Zamora, publisher of El Periodico, Guatemala.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Kaiga sabotage of trinium pollution: Hyderabad relatively safe from nuclear radiation, despite NFC

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 29: Hyderabad, which meets the uranium needs of all nuclear power plants in the country, is relatively safe from radiation hazards.
Though most of the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex is not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, it has developed its own safety mechanism over the years to prevent radiation hazards to its employees and people living in the vicinity.
There have been quite a few instances of mishaps in the NFC since it was set up in 1971, but there's no evidence about the leakage of radiation into the environment. NFC witnessed accidents in the past. The recent one was on November 17, 2002 at its uranium oxide plant. Environmentalists then warned that large dosage of radioactive material was released into Hyderabad air then.
The DAE was quick to obtain a safety certification for NFC to "clear all doubts" in the minds of people about radiation hazard from the plant.
Moreover, a nuclear fuel processing unit like NFC is not as hazardous in terms of radiation leakage as a nuclear power plant. NFC enriches uranium from ore before it supplies to nuclear fuel plants in India.
Currently only a part of NFC is under IAEA safeguards. Now that it has been receiving uranium supplies from other countries, the department of atomic energy is bound to open some more parts of the plant
under safeguards for processing and fabricating the nuclear fuel, according to official sources.
"The adverse effect of sudden exposure to radiation on health is solely decided by the duration of the exposure. If a person is exposed for a brief period, it can cause skin irritation or skin cancer in the worst scenario. However if they are exposed for a longer duration, it can even cause blood cancer, genetic mutations and birth defects in the offspring," warns senior consultant radiologist Dr B Murali.
NFC officials claim that those who had designed NFC took enough care to prevent damage to human health and environment through radiation exposure. To ensure that enough safety mechanism is always in place, the Baba Atomic Research Centre has set up a health physics unit at NFC. It carries out in plant radiation and industrial hygiene survey, besides monitoring the health of workers at regular intervals.
NFC workers posted in the controlled area are monitored through thermo luminescent dosimeters for external exposure. Other employees in NFC are also monitored for lung 'uranium' burden.
"Studies conducted by Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases could not detect any adverse work environment at NFC," a senior official said.
The safeguards notwithstanding, a plant dealing with radioactive substances always stand as a threat to human and animal life as well as environment. There have been complaints from NFC employees that they are exposed to radiation.
Radiation effect is felt more on pregnant women, says Dr Murali adding "women pregnant for less than three months are the most vulnerable as the child growing in the womb will get affected by radiation exposure. Depending on the stage of its development, the foetal growth gets stunted. She is very likely to give birth to an abnormal baby".

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Visa guidelines for Indians travelling to the UK; a word of caution for Indian students against bogus agents

By Syed Akbar
The UK government has issues a set of guidelines for people including students seeking visas to the United Kingdom. Here are the guidelines:
"The UK welcomes genuine travellers. If you intend to travel to the UK, you require a valid passport and UK visa. The UK's Visa Services are committed to making the visa application process as easy as possible. We would like to give our customers the following advice: Please read the visa information on official UK Government websites and provided by UK Visa Services' commercial partner, VFS Global. For UK visa enquiries and information, customers can call 080-40084008. Calls are charged at local or STD rates depending on your location," according to UK authorities..
1. There is no charge for visa application forms. They are available on the VFS website and from VFS visa application centres (see VFS website for locations). Current visa fees are on the VFS website.
2. Obtain good immigration advice. You do not need an agent to make a UK visa application. But if you would like more advice, please choose an agent carefully. They should charge reasonable fees. They cannot influence visa decisions, which are made by UK Visa Services. If you are cheated, please report this to the police.
3. An agent cannot guarantee to get you a visa. The decision to issue a visa is made only by visa officers working for the UK's Visa Services.
4. Please complete your visa application form fully and submit all the correct documents. If you submit false information, forged documents or use a false identity, you will be detected and your application will be refused. You also face a ban on travelling to the UK for 10 years.
5. Your biometric data (fingerscans and photograph of your face) are taken when you submit your visa application. This helps us to protect your identity from being used by others. It also tells us if you try you apply in a false identity.
Beware of job scams. Many people in India are being cheated with job offers in the UK that do not exist. Please stop and think carefully before you part with your money, your passport, your identity or your current job.
For students
1. Before you make a student visa application, please read the current published Tier 4 PBS guidance carefully. It is available at
2.You must have a Visa Letter from your chosen UK education institution. This institution must be registered to recruit international students and the Visa Letter must make you an unconditional offer. You must submit all the original documents with your visa application that were assessed by the institution and led to the offer. These documents must be listed in the Visa Letter.
3.You must also provide evidence of your financial ability to pay the course fees and maintain yourself in the UK. The amount you are required to show depends on the duration of your course and whether you are studying inside or outside London. You must provide evidence of any fees not already paid, in addition to your maintenance costs.
There is no cut off date for student visa applications to go to the UK. There is no quota.
4. Please be aware that it is possible that your education provider's status on the sponsor's register may change. Please check the status of your chosen education provider before you apply for your visa. Its status may also change between your visa being issued and you travelling to the UK. You are therefore advised to check the sponsor's register before you travel at:
5. If the education provider has been suspended, you are advised not to travel until its status has been resolved. If the education provider's licence has actually been withdrawn before you travel, your visa will be cancelled and you will not be permitted to enter the UK.

Economic slowdown has no impact on Indian students pursuing higher studies in the UK, says British deputy high commissioner, Chennai

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 17: The economic slowdown had little impact on Indian students seeking higher education in the United Kingdom, says Mike Nithavrianakis, British deputy high commissioner.
Mike, who was in the city on a maiden visit after assuming charge in Chennai last month, told this reporter on
Tuesday that in fact, the number of students from South India seeking UK visas had increased. "The economic conditions are not encouraging and yet it has not impacted Indian students seeking higher education in the UK," he pointed out.
Stating that there's no cap on the number of visas issued to Indian students, Mike said the "UK welcomes genuine travellers". There is no cut off date for student visa applications to go to the UK. "There is no quota," he adds.
The British deputy high commissioner, referring to job scams, said many people in India are being cheated with job offers in the UK that do not exist. "Please stop and think carefully before you part with your money, your passport, your identity or your current job."
He has a word of caution too for Indian students. "If the education provider (university or college) has been
suspended, you are advised not to travel until its status has been resolved."
"Copenhagen must deliver a comprehensive politically binding agreement, under the UNFCCC. This must cover all the major issues including binding economy-wide emissions reductions from developed countries, significant action from developing countries to slow their emissions growth, and finance. Only this can deliver a legally binding treaty which puts the world on a trajectory to a maximum global average temperature increase of two degrees and provides a fair deal for developing countries. We want the Copenhagen agreement to lead to immediate action, without waiting years for final legal conclusion and ratification."
The UK is working for a legally binding treaty which puts the world on a trajectory to a maximum global average temperature increase of two degrees and provides a fair deal for developing countries. "We are 
going all out over the next few weeks to get an ambitious, fair and effective deal"..
Mike attended 12 meetings in 36 hours he was in the city, before leaving for Chennai. During his brief stay here, he interacted with Chief Minister K Rosaiah, leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu and a host of officials and leaders in a bid to further build the bilateral trade tie-up between the UK and Andhra Pradesh, explain and share about the problem of climate change and global warming, and create awareness about educational opportunities in the UK.
"The UK is pushing for a comprehensive politically binding agreement at Copenhagen, under the UNFCCC, which also sets out a very clear timetable to a legally binding treaty."
He said the UK wants the Copenhagen agreement to lead to immediate action, without waiting years for final legal conclusion and ratification.

Gulf Immigration racket: Illegal, unregistered job recruitment agents adopt a new strategy to "push" illiterate Indian women to Arab countries

Immigration racket has assumed a new menace. After Kallivalli, it's "pushing". Pushing, in immigration racketers parlance, is greasing the hands of immigration officials to literally push through ineligible and illiterate women and men for jobs abroad. These people, with emigration check required stamp on their passports, have to undergo a lengthy immigration process. But "pushing" makes their journey easy, without any obstacles at the immigration desk.

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 21: Half a dozen women from the city are now stranded on the streets of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia after an illegal recruitment agent duped them of employment in the kingdom.
The illiterate women were "employed" as servants in Arab families with a promise of a "good salary",
accommodation and food. But their "employers" changed thrice in the last four months. The women shuttled between "employers" in Jeddah and Mecca and when they learnt that they had been duped, they settled down under the Sitteen flyover in the Saudi Arabian port city.
Ayesha Sultana, Fatima Bibi and four others are victims of human trafficking of a different kind, popularly known in immigration circles as "pushing". Illegal and unregistered recruiting agents "push" illiterate and semi-skilled women and men to Arab countries without their going through the mandatory immigration formalities. According to sources, at least 12 women are "pushed" through immigration to Arab countries from Mumbai every week.
Travails began for Ayesha Sultana and others the moment they landed in Saudi Arabia, after paying about Rs 1.5 lakh each to an unregistered agent in Mumbai. An agent in Hyderabad, also unregistered, facilitated their travel through his counterpart in Mumbai.
The victims have now approached the Indian mission in Jeddah seeking action against the unregistered agents, who had cheated them. "We are now living under a flyover. None of the employers paid us salaries. We did not get food on time and often we used to starve. The agents have duped us after collecting huge amounts from us," Ayesha Sultana said from Jeddah.
Another victim Fatima said "after arriving in Riyadh I was moved frequently from one household to another. When I contacted the recruitment agent, he promised to bring back to India, but handed me over to another family in Mecca."
When contacted the local agent, Sohail, said he had collected just Rs 1000 from each of the women. Sohail blamed his Mumbai counterpart Khaled Ansari of Khaled Enterprises for the women's trouble in foreign land. "I have no role at all," he said seeking to thrown the entire blame on Khaled.
Admitting that his recruitment company has not been registered, Khaled told this correspondent that it was his first batch of women domestic helps sent to Saudi Arabia. "There's a problem there. We will sort it out soon," he said.
Ayesha, a divorcee and mother of five-year-old daughter suffering with heart valve problem, sought employment in Saudi Arabia so that she could treat her daughter in a corporate hospital back home. Fatima too is a divorcee. The other women are middle aged.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Gulf job racket: Indian women stranded on the streets of Jeddah

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 21: Half a dozen women from the city are now stranded on the streets of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia after an illegal recruitment agent duped them of employment in the kingdom.

The illiterate women were "employed" as servants in Arab families with a promise of a "good salary", accommodation and food. But their "employers" changed thrice in the last four months. The women shuttled between "employers" in Jeddah and Mecca and when they learnt that they had been duped, they settled down under the Sitteen flyover in the Saudi Arabian port city.

Ayesha Sultana, Fatima Bibi and four others are victims of human trafficking of a different kind, popularly known in immigration circles as "pushing". Illegal and unregistered recruiting agents "push" illiterate and semi-skilled women and men to Arab countries without their going through the mandatory immigration formalities. According to sources, at least 12 women are "pushed" through immigration to Arab countries from Mumbai every week.

Travails began for Ayesha Sultana and others the moment they landed in Saudi Arabia, after paying about Rs 1.5 lakh each to an unregistered agent in Mumbai. An agent in Hyderabad, also unregistered, facilitated their travel through his counterpart in Mumbai.

The victims have now approached the Indian mission in Jeddah seeking action against the unregistered agents, who had cheated them. "We are now living under a flyover. None of the employers paid us salaries. We did not get food on time and often we used to starve. The agents have duped us after collecting huge amounts from us," Ayesha Sultana said from Jeddah.

Another victim Fatima said "after arriving in Riyadh I was moved frequently from one household to another. When I contacted the recruitment agent, he promised to bring back to India, but handed me over to another family in Mecca."

When contacted the local agent, Sohail, said he had collected just Rs 1000 from each of the women. Sohail blamed his Mumbai counterpart Khaled Ansari of Khaled Enterprises for the women's trouble in foreign land. "I have no role at all," he said seeking to thrown the entire blame on Khaled.

Admitting that his recruitment company has not been registered, Khaled told this correspondent that it was his first batch of women domestic helps sent to Saudi Arabia. "There's a problem there. We will sort it out soon," he said.

Ayesha, a divorcee and mother of five-year-old daughter suffering with heart valve problem, sought employment in Saudi Arabia so that she could treat her daughter in a corporate hospital back home. Fatima too is a divorcee. The other women are middle aged.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

National Epilepsy Day November 17: Myths, misconceptions, stigma still continue with epilepsy or seizures

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 15: Epilepsy shrouds in myths. No other disease is as enigmatic as epilepsy and despite so much advancement in science, people continue to hold their myths about this neurological disorder. The common myth is that it is a mental illness and affects one's intellectual functioning.
As India observes the national epilepsy day on Tuesday, health researchers and medical experts clarify that epilepsy is not a psychological condition and it is not contagious. It is a common problem with four to 10 out of every 1000 people suffering from it. There's no cure for epilepsy and yet it could be controlled effectively.
"Seizures are caused by a transient, excessive and abnormal discharge of nerve cells. It can be treated. Any person can develop epilepsy at any time and there's no age restriction," says senior neurologist Dr M
A disease surrounded by myths, people try to "lessen" the problem by putting an object, mainly made of iron, in the mouth of the patient. This many feel will prevent the patient from biting the tongue. Iron objects are also thrust into the hands of the person under seizure. This, doctors say, will only aggravate the problem, exposing the person to the risk of injury.
"The patient should be placed on his side so the tongue falls away and to the side. Do not try to restrain the person. Though there's no known cure for epilepsy, the problem can be fully or partially controlled through proper medication," he points out.
Though the brain is involved in epilepsy, it does not affect the intellect of an individual. It is not a mental illness. Historical records show that several world leaders including Alexander the Great, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, dynamite discoverer Alfred Nobel, eminent physicist Sir Isaac Newton and ancient mathematical genius Pythagorus experienced seizures.
According to neurologist and medical author Dr S Jain, one in every 10 people may experience a seizure in their lifetime. However, the seizure may not necessarily be due to epilepsy. "There are several myths that
surround the disorder. The problem could be tackled quite easily if we create awareness among people. This is because epilepsy has become common all over the world," he points out.
Even as the disease is surrounded by misconceptions, a team of scientists at Cardiff University discovered that studying the way a person's brain ''sings" could shed light on epilepsy and schizophrenia. Further studies on this aspect will help scientists understand the reason behind neurological problems like epilepsy and find a possible cure.
According to them, a person's brain produces a unique electrical oscillation at a particular frequency when he or she looks at a visual pattern. The frequency of this oscillation appears to be determined by the concentration of the neurotransmitter called GABA or gamma-aminobutyric-acid.
The more GABA is present, the higher the frequency or "note" of the oscillation. GABA is a key inhibitory neurotransmitter and is essential for the normal operation of the brain.

National Epilepsy Day November 17: What triggers epilepsy, do's and don'ts in case of seizure

Do's & Don'ts

1. Follow doctor's prescription. Do not change the medicine or alter the dose
2. Do not change regular food habits or regular sleep time
3. Do not get excited
4. Do not take alcohol and avoid smoking
5. Avoid swimming or driving without a companion.
6. In case of a seizure, turn the patient to the side and loosen any tight clothing
7. Do not restrain convulsive movements
8. Allow free breathing without crowding.

What triggers epilepsy?
Epilepsy is triggered by several factors.

In case of children the factors include fever, birth or brain defects, infections like meningitis and head injuries.

In the case of adults the causative factors may be reaction by drugs, excessive consumption of alcohol, head injuries, brain tumours and lack of sleep.

National Epilepsy Day November 17: Common symptoms of Epilepsy, seizures or fits

Common symptoms

1. Attack of "fits" may be brief or long. There many be simple muscle jerks or severe and prolonged contractions of the muscles.
2. There may be temporary loss of awareness and disturbances of movement.
3. The person may appear to cry out or make some sound, stiffen for a few seconds, followed by rhythmic movements of hands and legs.
4. The person under seizure may not appear to be breathing.
5. In some cases, the patients appear to be confused after the attack ends.
6. The person may pass urine or stools.

Mild malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax may turn potent, cause health complications of Plasmodium falciparum

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 13: The generally mild malarial parasite, Plasmodium vivax, has turned potent with about a dozen complicated cases reported in recent times. The parasite has been found to attack lungs and cause severe respiratory complications.
Malaria is caused mainly by four species of Plamodium. Of these, Plasmodium falciparum has been known for its dangerous health complications including damage to brain and death. The type of malaria caused by common Plasmodium species, vivax, is generally mild and does not cause death.
But of late, cases of potent malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax have been reported from different malaria endemic regions of the country, raising concerns among medical experts and health planners. One such P. vivax complicated case has been reported in a corporate hospital in the city.
"Acute renal failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, hypoglycemia, coma, or epileptic seizures are manifestations of severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria. On the other hand, Plasmodium vivax malaria seldom results in pulmonary damage, and pulmonary complications are exceedingly rare," says critical care specialist Dr Manimala S Rao.
Dr Manimala and her team treated one such patient. The 42-year-old man had developed acute respiratory distress syndrome. He had been diagnosed as having Plasmodium vivax malaria.
Though P. vivax has symptoms common to other types of malaria, it does not generally exhibit more severe complications like acute renal failure, ARDS and epileptic seizures. The patient was admitted with fever, chills, dry cough, headache, and body pain. He developed respiratory problem and was shifted to intensive care unit.
The team of doctors attending on the patient concluded that malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - India regains supremacy in the world of medicine

By Syed Akbar
The Indian tradition of medical excellence pre-dates the advent of writing. Dhanwantari, Sushruta and Charaka gave the knowledge of Ayurveda to the world. Ancient Indian medical theses include those on
internal medicine, ophthalmology, otorhinolaryngology, surgery, toxicology, psychiatry, paediatrics and the science of rejuvenation and fertility.
In ancient India, two main schools emerged - Atreya - of physicians and Dhanwantari - of surgeons. The earliest international scholars of medicine came to Indian Ayurvedic schools: Chinese, Greeks, Romans,
Egyptians, Afghanis Ayurvedic texts were translated into Arabic.
Paracelsus, the father of modern Western medicine, practised a system of medicine in 16th century Europe, which borrowed heavily from Ayurveda.
Such was the development and the trust of people in the efficacy of Indian system of medicine that a doctor is considered a divine incarnate. - Viadyo Narayano Hari.
It is an Indian legacy that flourishes till today with medicine men of Indian origin leading the field in innovation, public health and teaching.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 1: Dr Chittaranjan S Ranawat, knee surgeon

By Syed Akbar
Remember the orthopaedic surgeon, who had come down all the way from the USA in 2000 to operate upon then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Meet Dr Chittaranjan S Ranawat, the world renowned orthopaedic surgeon, researcher, developer and inventor. He holds half a dozen patents for his technological inventions that had made knee replacement surgeries quite an easy task for surgeons everywhere.
Dr Ranawat hails from Sarwania in Madhya Pradesh. Last year he developed rotating platform flexion, which has been hailed as a major technological advancement in knee replacement surgeries. The product, made
from superior plastics, is ideal for non-obese people. It does not wear out easily and ensures implant stability.
"I am dedicated to research and development of new methods to diagnose and treat arthritis from all causes. My goal has been to improve existing total joint technology and the knowledge of the disease process," points out Dr Ranawat.

A clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Dr Ranawat also doubles up as the director of Ranawat Orthopaedic Center at Lenox Hill Hospital. His focus areas have
been total hip and knee replacement and primary and revision total joint surgery.
He established Ranawat Foundation in 1986 to carry on his research activity. He has punished 92 research works on hip, 89 works on knee and more than 90 research publications on other topics including hand, wrist, shoulder and cervical spine.
Explaining how his research has been helping patients relieve themselves of the knee pain, he says "one of our most recent projects involves pain reduction after joint replacement surgery using a series of intra-operative
injections into the soft tissue with selected medications to control post-operative pain."
Dr Ranawat also focuses on the use of MRI scans as a non-invasive tool to detect wear-induced implant failure. At present patients are exposed to the risk of radiation using X-rays and CT scans to detect the failure. "By studying the implants themselves, we hope to design the best possible hip and knee implant for maximum mobility, function and durability," he adds.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 2: Dr Manjit S Bains, mesothelioma expert

By Syed Akbar
Millions of people all over the world suffer from a form of cancer called mesothelioma, and many of them look towards Dr Manjit S Bains as their Messiah. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and Dr Manjit Bains is a world authority from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, on this form of cancer.
A thoracic surgeon par excellence, Dr Manjit Bains is also famous for his clinical expertise in thoracic surgical oncology, lung cancer, oesophageal cancer, mediastinal tumours, pulmonary metastases, video-assisted thoracic surgery, pulmonary and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, including laser endoscopy, and tracheobronchial and oesophageal stents.

"I am a medical graduate from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi," he says with a bit of pride. After he settled down in the USA, he took up studies, surgeries and research on mesothelioma. Today he is credited with dozens of mesothelioma resources around the world. He has authored several books on cancer and successfully dealt with severely complicated kinds of thoracic cancers, earning accolades from leading research institutions and patients alike.
Dr Manjit Bains, who has completed four decades in the profession, has been included in the panel of about two dozen professional societies around the world. He has to his credit 150 research publications and books on cancers.
He has mastered the art of lung cancers, some of which requires removal of the entire lung along with partial removal of other organs. "We have been studying the resection and reconstruction of the chest wall," in cases of mesothelioma.
The pioneering research work carried out by him revealed that the use of a rigid prosthesis is possibly better but should only be done to patients who have gone through a rigorous selection process. He is also credited with research on the survival rate of cancer patients who are treated with pleurectomy (removal of outermost layer around the lung) rather than extrapleural pneumonectomy (removal of portions of lungs and outermost lung layer).

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 3: Dr V Shanta, cancer specialist, Adyar Cancer Institute

By Syed Akbar
Magsaysay awardee Dr V Shanta is hope personified for millions of cancer patients in the country. In the last five decades, this untiring crusader against cancer rekindled hope, joy and the will to live in patients.
As chairperson of the famous Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai, Dr Shanta is credited for her pioneering research in oncology, and prevention and cure of cancer.
She is also a leader in popularising early cancer detection programme and has set up India's first hereditary cancer clinic. She also opened tobacco cessation clinic, after her research studies revealed that cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, and lungs are quite high among men and those of the breast and cervix among women. One in five women in the world who suffer from cervical cancer is an Indian.

Noticing her specialisation in cancer, the World Health Organisation nominated her to its advisory committee. Inspired by her maternal uncle Dr Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar and her grandfather’s brother Sir CV Raman, both Nobel laureates, Dr Shanta too up cancer research. A profound believer in "Supreme Power", she attributes her success and service to the "grace of God" and "faith in her mission".
Dr Shanta is known for her groundbreaking research on oral, cervical, and breast cancer and paediatric leukaemia. At 78, Dr Shanta is quite active and treats cancer patients, performing surgeries and carrying on the research. "There is much more to do," she says, even as she attends to her patients.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 4: Dr Mani Lal Bhaumik, excimer laser surgery

By Syed Akbar
If you are suffering from short- or long-sightedness and yet do not want to wear glasses or contact lenses, your eye doctor will suggest that you undergo excimer laser surgery. It is an innovative technology that eliminates the need for wearing external eye aids to correct vision defects.
Excimer laser is used the world over and millions of people have benefited from it. They no longer wear glasses or contact lenses. And the credit goes to our own Indian Dr Mani Lal Bhaumik, researcher,
physicist, philanthropist and author.

His excimer invention won him 15 patents and made him a billionaire. He is one of the few Indians listed in the Who’s Who in America and in the Who’s who in the World, as also in the American Men and Women in
He believes that the recipe of success lies in the indomitable will to do something. Dr Mani Lal discovered the world's first efficient excimer laser, which takes less than a minute to correct vision defects like short or
long sight. Reaching the summit of glory was not an easy task for this young Bengali, who had to walk six km barefoot to the nearest school.
Inventor Mani Lal has an author in him too. His book, "The Cosmic Detective" is the best-seller in its class. He believes that science and spirituality are just two faces of the same coin. "This coin is the unique human consciousness that allows us to perceive both ourselves and objective reality," he argues.
His latest book, Code Name God, also a best-seller, emphasizes that the chasm between science and spirituality can be bridged.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 5: Dr Naresh Kumar Trehan, cardiologist

By Syed Akbar
A pioneer in the field of coronary artery bypass surgery, Dr Naresh Kumar Trehan has performed about 50,000 open heart surgeries. Today he is regarded as the king of open heart surgeries, including end stages
cases, in India. His reputation extends beyond national boundaries to the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
Soft spoken and simple-looking Dr Naresh Trehan held important academic and clinical positions in the New York University Medical Centre, Bellevue Hospital, New York, and Veterans Administration Hospital, Manhattan, USA.

He is famous world-wide for perfecting the art of minimally invasive robotically controlled cardiac surgery. Dr Naresh Trehan has operated upon thousands of VVIPs and business tycoons. To him also goes the credit of performing more than 10,000 beating heart surgeries, which even expert doctors in the USA and the UK, think twice before doing it.
Hailing from Punjab, Dr Naresh Trehan feels that Punjabis are perhaps the best suited for cardiac operations. "We Punjabis have the power to withstand the trauma of heart surgery. It is a risky proposition," he says. Incidentally, Punjab is one of the three States in the country with high risk of heart ailments.
While many Indian doctors prefer to stay abroad for professional reasons, Dr Naresh Trehan returned to India in 1988, despite a successful career in United States. He started Escorts Heart Institute  and Research Centre, which in a short span of time became an important landmark the world over in cardiac surgery and cardiology.
Dr Naresh Trehan shows keen interest in research and education. He has to his credit a number of research works presented at international medical meets in about a dozen countries.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 6: Dr KM Cherian, cardiologist and transplant surgeon

By Syed Akbar
Dr KM Cherian is the first and only Indian doctor, whose name is engraved in one of the stones in Kos Island, Greece, the birth place of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. Dr Cherian’s life is a saga dedicated to the world of cardiology and he has several firsts to his credit.
"My entry into the profession is purely providential," he says and his achievements have been "ordained". Like all those who are at the summit, he does not think he is on the top of the field "except that I had the opportunity to perform several first cardiac surgeries and transplants in the country".

Always busy with his patients and surgeries, Dr Cherian wishes he had free time for other activities. This affable doctor from Chennai has to his credit the first successful coronary artery graft, mitral valve replacement for endomyocardial fibrosis, introduction of profound hypothermia and circulatory arrest for correction of cardiac defects in infants, and first internal mammary artery graft, in India.
Dr Cherian, who studied medicine in India, Australia, New Zealand and the US, also introduced cardioplegia for myocardial preservation in India and undertook transatrial repair of tetralogy of fallot, transatrial and repair of double outlet right ventricle. He also performed the first heart transplant, first bilateral lung transplant, first pediatric heart transplant, first auto transplant and first heart and lung transplant, in India after the Central government introduced legislation on brain death cases.
He disagrees that all Indians do brilliantly. "Unless those Indians, who have achieved are motivated, hard working and committed". Brilliance is not a birth right or a national asset as Einstein once said "Brilliance is 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration".

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 7: Dr Pradip Kumar Datta, FRCS teacher of doctors

By Syed Akbar
If thousands of doctors the world over have taken their first step on the career ladder of medicine, it’s thanks to Dr Pradip Kumar Datta. He is famous for his world renowned course in medicine which he launched in 1981. In recognition of his services to medical teaching, he has been awarded the Farquharson Award by the Royal College of Surgeons.
He conducts postgraduate surgical courses in the UK and India. And when he gets some spare time he goes salmon and trout fishing. Dr Pradip Datta was appointed as Consultant Surgeon, the top position that one can reach in National Health Service, UK.
Hailing from Visakhapatnam, he left India in 1967 to discover that it was difficult for Indian doctors to pass the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. He then decided to set up training for FRCS course and gained an international reputation for supporting students to develop the confidence they needed to impress examiners at the FRCS.
A humble Dr Pradip Datta, however, does not accept the fact that he has attained the highest pinnacle in the medical teaching profession. "I would never dream of ever saying or even thinking that I am the
best doctor in the field. That would be very arrogant, not to mention conceited".
Dr Pradip Datta, a general surgeon by profession, served as the honorary secretary of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Dr Datta does not benefit financially from his teaching as he gives donations and fees to charities. "I chose general surgery as my speciality as it gave me an opportunity to see patients with very
different conditions and to treat and operate on a wide range of surgical cases".
This doctor-teacher from Andhra Medical College in Visakhapatnam feels that Indians are doing so well because they are in general very hardworking and motivated. "This is not only in the field of medicine
but also in other spheres. This is true abroad as it is in India as well".

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 8: Prof K Srinath Reddy, cardiologist and public health expert

By Syed Akbar
A clinical cardiologist and epidemiologist by training, Prof K Srinath Reddy is internationally renowned for his unstinting services to public health and rare career commitment to preventive cardiology.
Prof Srinath Reddy has several outstanding feats to his credit as a cardiologist and public health expert, but argues that unlike in competitive sports, one cannot ever claim to be on the top, in the field of medicine. Nevertheless, he agrees that "my work has won national and international recognition in the past 16 years".
Inspired by Dr Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who served in China, he decided to contribute lifelong, as a health professional, "to improve the lives of people and help to create a healthier India".
Prof Srinath Reddy graduated from Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad and later trained at AIIMS, Delhi. Before he took up the present task of presidentship of the Public Health Foundation of India, he headed
the cardiology department at AIIMS.
He has been involved in several major international and national research studies including the INTERSALT global study of blood pressure and electrolytes, on epidemiology of coronary heart disease and community control of rheumatic heart disease and on risk factors of myocardial infarction.
"A good doctor needs competence, commitment and conscientiousness in professional work while combining care, courtesy and compassion in dealing with patients and their families. I have tried to imbibe and apply these attributes in my work," says simple-looking Prof Srinath Reddy.
Always busy with his profession, he reads books, listen to music and watch old English and Hindi films whenever he gets "free" time. He has served on many WHO expert panels. He has also served as chair of the
scientific council on epidemiology of the World Heart Federation. He has more than 210 scientific publications. He was conferred Padma Bhushan. The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, UK, conferred on him the award of the Queen Elizabeth Medal.
"Indians are quick learners usually," he says adding "but not always, apply themselves diligently to the completion of any task they take up". They also have the capacity for lateral thinking, which helps them to become effective problem solvers.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 9: Dr D Nageshwar Reddy, gastroenterologist

By Syed Akbar
When one thinks of gastroenterology, the first name that pops to mind is Dr D Nageshwar Reddy. From being just one of the many professors of gastroenterology two decades ago, Dr Nageshwar Reddy carved out a niche, through research, utmost patient care and dedication, in this area of medicine.
Today he is the best Indian doctor in gastroenterology and the most sought-after worldwide. When he gets free time, he reads books on philosophy, science and evolution.
"The centre of my universe is the patient," he says and it’s this single principle that has earned him name and fame, both at national and international level. "Only when we constantly think of ways to improve care of our patients and work hard at it, can we reach the top of any branch of medicine," he adds.
Being at the top in this select field, Dr Nageshwar Reddy feels that humility and compassion are two other characteristics that doctors require to excel in medicine. "Team work is very important," he points out.
Stating that it took about 15 years to reach the top in the field, Dr Nageshwar Reddy says he selected gastroenterology as the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases is very high in India.
He graduated from Kurnool Medical College in 1978 and obtained a PG degree in medicine from Madras Medical College in 1982 and specialisation in gastroenterology in 1984 from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.
A busy doctor he is, Dr Nageshwar Reddy and his team see over 200 outpatients and 250 inpatients. He is credited with a breakthrough in endoscopic treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, gallstones and pancreatitis.
He bagged a number of national and international awards which include Dr BC Roy Award for development of specialities, Padmasri, and the Master Endoscopist Award, the highest award in endoscopy, equivalent
to Nobel Prize in endoscopy.
He feels that Indians are doing so brilliantly because Indians are innately intelligent and willing to work hard, much harder than an average westerner.

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 10: Dr Rangaswamy Srinivasan, Lasik co-inventor

By Syed Akbar
Dr Rangaswamy Srinivasan co-invented the process of LASIK surgery, a laser process that allows the removal of soft tissue from anywhere in the human body with a precision that was unknown before. He developed a technique called "Ablative Photo Decomposition " in 1981, not in a hospital, but at the IBM Research Centre.
He is a research physician who works on inventing techniques to improve not only surgical methods but also processes used in the making of computer chips. This inventor loves reading books on history, particularly
Indian history, and listens to music.

"When the potential of APD in surgery was announced by IBM in 1983, surgeons came to my lab to see what I could do to help their speciality. One of the first was an ophthalmic surgeon from Columbia University. Together we developed the surgical procedure which is today known as LASIK."
Dr Srinivasan, who obtained his early education in Chennai, is the first person of Indian origin to be inducted into the inventors hall of fame in Akron, USA for discovery of Lasik and yet he says, "it will be just a boast to
say I am the best doctor in this field".
"Indians are doing brilliantly everywhere in the world whenever and wherever they get the opportunity. The tragedy is that these people (including me) have to emigrate in order to find that opportunity. After my Ph. D., I did return to India and I did find a job at one of the leading government research centres.
But the pace of the work there and the red-tape not to mention the hierarchical arrangements were so discouraging that I left after just eight months in order to seek my opportunities abroad".

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 11: Dr Santosh G Honavar, retinoblastoma specialist

By Syed Akbar
Retinoblastoma is a major eye cancer, which leads to blindness. Managing the problem requires a lot of expertise, patience and dedication. Dr Santosh GHonavar is a rare blend of a clinician and a scientist. The comprehensive multispecialty children’s eye cancer centre, which he established, is now recognised as one of the best in the world. He has contributed more than 125 research papers to various national and international magazines.
His outstanding work on retinoblastoma notwithstanding, Dr Honavar does not feel that he is on the top of the field. "The moment one assumes this, he has lost it!," he says, adding "like a duck in water, one has to
paddle hard to even stay at the same place in the field of medicine".

Dr Honavar loves music but says he has chosen ophthalmic plastic surgery and ocular oncology, because it provides all the excitement of being a surgeon, and also the sense of fulfilment of being able to restore the
patient’s appearance as in ophthalmic plastic surgery; and salvage life, eye and vision as in ocular oncology.
Simple looking Dr Honavar has made a mark of his own in the fields of tumours of the ocular surface, orbit, retinoblastoma, and paediatric lachrymal disorders. The worth of Dr Honavar’s scientific work can be gauged by his cumulative citation index of 617, H Index of 16 and G Index of 22. He is a recipient of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award.
He feels that Indians, specifically those who have received their initial medical education in India are doing well in medical specialities probably because of their extensive training background and exposure to a vast range of pathology. "We Indians fancy gadgets and techniques and tend to do very well in performing surgical procedures that the others have invented, may be even much better than the inventor, because of the vast volume that we have to hone our skills with."

Indian doctors: Hall of fame - Part 12: Prof Jatin P Shah, head and neck surgery expert

By Syed Akbar
Head and neck surgery is a highly specialised art of medicine. Given the most important and sensitive organs they contain, many doctors shudder at the very thought of specialising in it. But Professor Jatin P Shah feels quite at ease as he scalpels through the head and neck of his patients with 100 per cent success.
Today he is arguably the best Indian doctor and authority in the field of head and neck surgery in the West. But Prof Jatin Shah is full of humility when he refuses to accept it. "One should never consider as being on "top of the field" since it implies that further growth has stopped. I believe one should continue to strive to be at the top of the field throughout one’s active life" he points out.
That Prof Jatin Shah takes head and neck surgery with a passion is evident when he confides, "it is not work for me but it is simply joy and pleasure and it is my means of recreation and relaxation. Thus, it is my life and soul."

Prof Jatin Shah graduated from the medical college of MS University in Vadodara, and received his training in surgical oncology and head and neck surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He is a national and international leader in the field of head and neck surgery. Ask him why he has chosen oncology (cancer), he says "I had also a personal reason for getting attracted to this field since I lost my father to lung cancer".
He founded The International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies, in 1986. He received many international awards including honorary fellowships from The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh,
London and Australia. But he likes to share credit with his vast team, which includes expert cancer surgeons, specialist-scientists and paramedical staff.
Explaining why Indians excel outside, Prof Jatin Shah observes, "when we move to the more affluent western world, which offers an environment conducive to productivity, and creates a milieu for one to be creative and
productive, we seize the opportunity and excel". The combination of excellent education, outstanding work ethics and sheer hard work has led numerous Indians to perform brilliantly.
Prof Jatin Shah is a much sought-after speaker with visiting professorships in 32 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and China. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, and world leadership in head and neck surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has established "Jatin Shah Chair in Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology".
And what the Professor does when he is free? "Head and neck surgery is my pride and passion. Thus, it occupies my mind and my body."

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Toxicity of GM Foods: Is Bt brinjal safe for human consumption?

By Syed Akbar
Four thousand years after it entered the Indian kitchen, all time favourite brinjal may soon shed its traditional flavour. With the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee giving its nod for the genetically modified or Bt brinjal for human consumption, doubts are being expressed about the very survival of the native brinjal varieties.
India is the home to about 2500 varieties of brinjal, all native to the land. Unlike tomato and potato, which
entered the Indian soil in the last 100 years, brinjal has been under cultivation for about four millennia. When the Bt brinjal enters the mass cultivation phase in India, it will become the first GM food crop approved for human consumption.
"The mouth-watering bagara baigan or baigan ka bharta may not be the same again. Once the genetically modified or Bt brinjal is introduced, the centuries old Indian cuisine may undergo a change. GM crops, though give better yields, will rob off taste. There are other environmental concerns too," cautions senior geneticist Dr MM Khaja.Though the USA and other Western countries have approved GM foods like Bt soya and Bt maize, they are primarily meant for animal feed. Those who are against GM crops argue that since GM crops are a new phenomenon, the long time side effects on human health are yet to be understood.
"Tinkering with Nature does have catastrophic effects not only on environment but also on the health of man and animals. The injection of Bt gene from a soil bacteria into food stuff may lead to mutations in human body, may be at a later date. The GEAC should have conducted safety studies for at least a decade before declaring Bt brinjal safe for human use," points out Ch Venkatasubbaiah, who runs an environmental group against GM foods.
Thanks to its ubiquitous use in the Indian kitchen, brinjal has the distinction of being the second highest
consumed vegetable in the country, after potato. The crop is grown over 5.50 lakh hectares providing
livelihood to a little over 15 lakh farmers and about 50 lakh vegetable vendors. Indians consume about one
crore tonnes of brinjal, 25 per cent of the world's total consumption. At stake is about Rs 10,000 crore
worth of native brinjal production and priceless biodiversity.
Those in favour of Bt technology argue that GM brinjal will become a boon for the average Indian farmer,
since it will improve the overall production, quality and taste of the vegetable by preventing it from its
common pest. There's no need of spraying of pesticide and this will enhance the quality of the product,
besides improving its taste.
Infants are always considered as a high-risk group and the effects of such novel food items like Bt brinjal needs to be checked for their effects on infants. No such study was done in the case of Bt brinjal. The Royal Society of London has in the past expressed concern in this regard - Greenpeace.
The private seed company that is coming out with Bt brinjal has selected some mammals and birds for poison studies and claims that no toxicity was found in the lab animals. It is yet to be used on humans and only time will tell whether it will prove toxic on human beings.
Internationally renowned biotechnologist Prof DR Krishna calls for proper checks on GM crops. "If proper
checks and balances are not evolved to regulate the developments in the bio-technology sector, it will lead
to more problems and complications resulting in the loss of our rich bio-diversity and threatening the public
Another concern about GM crops is the Bt toxin from bacteria, which some scientists argue, is about a
thousand times more potent when injected into food stuff. Greenpeace, which has been spearheading world-
wide campaign against genetic modification of food items, expresses concern that if Bt brinjal was allowed,
other food crops like lady's finger and cabbage will be genetically tinkered. Studies on these crops are
already in progress. There's a talk of even GM rice.

Toxicity of GM foods - Part two: Arguments for and against Bt brinjal

By Syed Akbar

There has been a lot of debate on the safety aspects of genetically modified crops. Those in favour of GM crops say they help farmers by reducing the costs on pesticides, while increasing the yields to feed the
ever-growing population. But those who oppose GM crops, express doubts over their environmental safety and fitness for human or animal consumption.

In India the only GM crop that has been in mass cultivation for at least five years is Bt cotton. But cotton is a commercial and not a food crop. In the USA and other countries Bt maize and Bt Soya are in cultivation
and most of the produce goes for animal feed.
Bt brinjal will be the first GM food crop to be permitted for human consumption.
Arguments against Bt brinjal

1. Those who eat Bt brinjal will develop resistance to antibiotics like neomycin and streptomycin.
2. The bacterial gene inserted in Bt brinjal releases crystal proteins, which are dangerous for human consumption.
3. Since Bt brinjal is a new product, it is now clear how it will react with human body over a long period of time.
4. Bt brinjal will upset the natural biodiversity, posing a major threat to ecological balance.

Arguments in favour of Bt brinjal
1. Bt brinjal will do away with the need for pesticide spraying.
2. It will increase productivity, thus helping farmers monetarily.
3. Bt brinjal is safe for human consumption.

Toxicity of GM foods - Part three: What is Bt brinjal?

By Syed Akbar

What is a Bt or genetically modified brinjal? India has thousands of varieties of brinjal. All of them are native to sub-continent. But they are prone to pests, so much so that by the time farmers harvest the crop, half of the produce or even more is lost to insects and worms. What farmers get is hardly half or one-third of the total produce.

To reduce the losses to insects or worms, farmers keep on spraying pesticides, spending huge amounts.
So a local private seed company with international links has genetically modified one of the varieties of brinjal to make it pest-resistant.

To achieve this, it has inserted a toxic gene from a soil-thriving bacteria called Bacillus thuringenesis, or Bt for short. This gene makes the brinjal plant poisonous for its common pest. In other words, farmers need not spray pesticides. Studies have shown that the Bt toxin gains in potency about a thousand times when used in GM crops.

Sounds good. But farmers stand to benefit for a short time. The Bt seeds are not cultivable, unlike those of traditional brinjal varieties. Every season, farmers will have to look to the seed company for supplies. In other words, farmers will be at the mercy of the seed firms.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Endometriosis: Polychlorinated biphenyls found to trigger mutation in GSTM1 gene

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 29: City health researchers have found an environmental and genetic link to endometriosis,
one of the most commonly encountered problems in gynaecology.
Endometriosis is associated with chronic pelvic pain and irregular monthly cycles. It is also one of the
major causes of infertility in women. It is a debilitating gynaecological disorder affecting about 15 per cent
of women of child bearing age.

The city team has noticed that polychlorinated biphenyls, the liquid used in coolants, transformers and capacitors, interferes with the genetic set up of women exposed to the compound, thereby causing endometriosis. The PCBs cause mutations in the GSTM1 gene (glutathione S-transferase).
This is the first attempt to resolve the conundrum of conjugation of both PCBs and GSTM1 gene deletion frequency in the pathogenesis of endometriosis.
The team comprised Dr Rozati Roya, Dr Giragalla Simha Baludu and Dr B Satyanarayana Reddy of the department of obstetrics & gynaecology, Owaisi Hospital & Research Centre and the department of
reproductive medicine, Maternal Health & Research Trust, Hyderabad. Their study established the link between PCBs and GSTM1 mutation as women suffering from endometriosis showed high concentration of the environmental pollutant.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrial stroma and glands, which should only be located inside the uterus) is found elsewhere in the body. Endometriosis lesions can be found anywhere in the pelvic cavity: on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and on the pelvic sidewall. Other common sites include the uterosacral ligaments, the cul-de-sac, the Pouch of Douglas, and in the rectal-vaginal septum.In addition, it can be found in caecarian-section scars, laparoscopy or laparotomy scars, and on the bladder, bowel, intestines, colon, appendix, and rectum. But these locations are not so common.
"Women with endometriosis showed significantly higher concentrations of PCBs compared with control
group. Twenty six per cent of women with endometriosis had the GSTM1 null genotype, which showed
significant association with endometriosis," Dr Roya said.

As part of the study, the team selected 97 unrelated women, who were diagnosed to have endometriosis. It
also took 102 women with other gynaecological problems like fibroids, tubal defects and polycystic ovaries,
as the control group.
The research group is of the view that the compromised detoxification, determined genetically, might be a risk factor for the development of endometriosis. Significant increase in the concentrations PCBs was observed in plasma of women as the severity of endometriosis increased.

Word Of The Day - Improve Your Knowledge

Word of the Day

Article of the Day

This Day in History

Today's Birthday

In the News

Quote of the Day

Spelling Bee
difficulty level:
score: -
please wait...
spell the word:

Match Up
Match each word in the left column with its synonym on the right. When finished, click Answer to see the results. Good luck!



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