Thursday, 30 April 2009

Haj 2009: Qurra deals a bad blow to pilgrims from Hyderabad

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 29: The Andhra Pradesh State Haj Committee on Wednesday selected 6,222 persons for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca later this year. The Committee conducted a draw of lots (qurra) for the Haj 2009 season. Departing from its regular tradition, the committee this time left the qurra to the Central Haj Committee in Mumbai. The results were displayed online for the benefit of local pilgrims.

This time a record 23,687 people applied for the Haj 2009. This is more than the number of applicants last year. Like last year Hyderabadi pilgrims received a jolt as only 1,404 applicants were selected. As many as 11,529 people had applied for Haj 2009 from Hyderabad, which has almost one third of the total Muslim population in Andhra Pradesh.

The following are the statistics (district-wise break-up) provided by the AP State Haj Committee executive officer, Mr Muhammad Siddque:

Adilabad (211), Anantapur (347), Chittoor (305), Kadapa (344), East Godavari (63), West Godavari (70), Guntur (434), Karimnagar (190), Khammam (123), Krishna (237), Kurnool (510), Mahbubnagar (264), Medak (264), Nalgonda (152), Nellore (221), Nizamabad (302), Prakasam (174), Rangareddy (364), Srikakulam (7), Visakhapatnam (64), Vizianagaram (14) and Warangal (158).

No threat of swine inluenza in Andhra Pradesh

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 28: Andhra Pradesh has the third largest pig population in the country and yet experts in infectious diseases allay fears of an immediate outbreak of swine flu in the State.
Nabard statistics project pig population in the country at about 16 million. Uttar Pradesh with about 20 lakhs pigs leads the country, followed by Bihar with 14 lakhs pigs. Andhra Pradesh stands third with about 10 lakhs pig population. Pig breeding farms in the State are largely located at Gannavaram, Gopannapalem,
Muktalya, Padavagi, Tirupati and Vishakapatnam.
Though the first ever known case of swine flu was recorded in different parts of the world during 1918, the peninsular India has always been off the radar of this dangerous influenza virus. The fact that swine flu was never reported in Andhra Pradesh or its neighbouring areas in the past 90 years makes health planners
confident that the virus will miss the State this time too.
Virologists caution that any laxity on the part of medical and health authorities will lead to spread of pig flu
in the region, though it has thus far been a safe zone. The threat, however, looms large over Andhra Pradesh since Hyderabad has of late emerged as an aviation hub in South-East Asia.
"There's no need to panic. Andhra Pradesh is safe as far as pig flu is concerned. All we have to do is to take precautionary measures like screening of passengers coming from countries where the disease is endemic.
The problem with the swine flu virus is that it mutates rapidly and there are no known cases of the disease from this region," said Dr Sunit Singh, who heads an infectious diseases research team in the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.
According to Prof Rami Reddy Guntaka of The University of Tennessee, USA, it is possible that those who got infected directly from pigs may be more at risk than human to human transmission. "We do not have the epidemiological data. Very likely it may subside soon in two to three weeks as the summer weather is not
conducive for virus survival. It may return in fall or winter," he cautioned.
He, however, does not rule out the spread of the disease to India during winter. "Since now air travel is so common, it can spread from one country to another, rather very easily. Since it is hot weather in India, it is a
blessing because the virus does not survive long times at 40 degrees C," Prof Rami Reddy added.
According to WHO, there are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. "It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum
protection to the vaccinated people. We made attempts in the past too. If the situation so warrants, we can develop a vaccine," said Dr MN Khaja, senior scientist and vice-president of Sudarshan Biotech.
The good news, health authorities point out, is most of the previously reported swine influenza cases recovered fully from the disease without requiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The tale of Dakkalis, the "lowest of the low" caste people

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: As the sun sets, a group of people gather at a village corner. A half naked elderly man sporting a garland of rudraksha beads and holding a sickle in his right hand appears on the village platform. A few moments later, another man donning saffron robes joins him.
As the loud applause settles down, the duo start performing a caste mythology that had been passed on from generation to generation for over 800 years. The elderly man is enacting the role of Jambava, the ancestor of Dakkalis, the "lowest of the low" caste, while the man in saffron robes is a Brahmin, the local temple priest.
The play is based on the ancient mythological character of Adi Jambava, the primordial god of the Dakkalis, a sub-caste of Madiga community. The Jamba recites verses from the Jambava Puranam, the religious scripture of the community to challenge the supremacy of the Brahmin. The Brahmin also counters the Jambava through his witty and sharp dialogues and the audience bursts into bouts of applause.
The Jambava Puranam is one of the 18 Indian Puranas which speak of the creation of the universe, the origin of man and the birth of the caste system. The Dakkali community regards the Jambava Puranam as their religious scripture and the holiest of the holy books in the world.
The Jambava Puranam and the Dakkali community got a new lease of life thanks to the intervention of University of Glasgow, UK, through Pottisriramulu Telugu University and State Oriental Manuscripts Library and Research Institute. The manuscript of the Purana, as old as eight centuries, is now preserved for posterity. The Dakkali community shot into limelight with international anthropologists taking up research on its unique customs and traditions.
According to the Jambava Puranam, Adi Jambava is the creator of the universe. He is the forefather of the vedic deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Dakkalis are regarded as the lowest sub-caste among Madigas and hence "untouchables". Even Madigas, who themselves are regarded as "untouchables" by upper castes, treat Dakkalis as "untouchables". Madiga women are barred from looking at the face of a Dakkali man.
"They are untouchables among the untouchables. Since people of all communities keep Dakkalis away, they lead a nomadic life. Dakkalis have their own priests and though they are regarded as untouchables, Madigas engage them as priests for marriages. It is incombent upon Madigas to feed Dakkalis," says Prof Jaidhir Tirumala Rao, director of Oriental Manuscripts Library and Research Centre.
Tirumala Rao has done considerable research and brought out the Jambava Puranam in a book form for the first time in a millennium. The Dakkalis follow a strange system. They regard paper as a taboo. So they never use paper and the Jambava Puranam is always written on palm leaves. They have a base at a Shaivite caste centre at Kolanupaka in Nalgonda district where they maintain one amongst a number of small caste temples dating from the 13th century.
Dakkalis spend half of the year travelling round the large set of Madiga village communities allocated to each, staying with them and performing their services, which include narrating the Jambava Puranam.
"Adi Jambava is the beginning of all things even before the emergence of Om, the original god (aadidevudu) or Parabrahmasvarupam. It shows Jambava as instrumental in the birth of Adishakti, her discovery of Jambava, and her giving birth, with the assistance of Adidevudu, to three eggs from which the Trimurthis, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, would emerge," Prof Tirumala Rao explains.
Jambava Purana is one of the few caste puranas which speak of socio-economic conflict among castes to to establish supremacy in society. Jambava Purana is treasured by Dakkalis, "the untouchable among the untouchables".
Dakkalis are unique in many ways. They feel that they are a cursed lot and lead a rigid way of life. They regard five things as taboo and none of the Dakkali community members dares to violate this ancient tradition.
Dakkalis live in make-shift tents since it is a taboo in the community to build pucca houses. They travel by foot or on donkeys as it is a sin for them to travel by bicycles or other modern means of transport. They do not keep a stove and move from place to place. They lead a complete nomadic life, carrying with them the Jambava purana inscribed on palm leaves and a cloth poster depicting events mentioned in the scripture.

Custard apple seeds are natural pesticides: They check pests on plants

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The soft and fleshy Sitaphal is not just for your taste buds. It is useful for plants too in controlling severe pest.
Sitaphal or custard apple has so far found its way into tasty ice creams and milkshakes. And soon it is going to revolutionise the Indian agricultural scenario what with its seeds taking over the role of natural pesticide. Farmers who have used the pesticide prepared from custard apple seeds point out that their yields have gone up considerably without they having to spend much on farm inputs.
Two Hyderabad-based scientific bodies have successfully extracted insect-killing chemicals from the seeds of custard apples. The Sitaphal pesticide is inexpensive, environment-friendly and highly effective in containing a variety of pests on a number of crops.
Research studies carried out by the International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have shown that acetogenins found in the seeds of custard apple would actually help fight plant pests.
"Seeds make up one-third of the weight of custard apple. Acetogenins are toxic to insects. These biologically active ingredients reduce leaf disc feeding and larval massing of the armyworm, Mythimna separata. The extracts also control stem borer, Chilo partellus. Alcohol extracts were found to be nearly as toxic as nicotine sulfate," says an ICRISAT report.
The seed extracts also showed synergistic activity in combination with neem seed extract. The combination is far more effective than either one used alone. This combination works well on several pests, including Callosobruchus chinensis, Rhizopertha dominica and Musca domestica nebulo.
"I could control the problem of rice leaf hopper on my crop to a great extent. I simply mixed the sitaphal extract with neem oil. I noticed that the lifespan of leaf hopper had reduced. The transmission of rice tungro virus was also checked," observes paddy farmer Mutyala Ramesh, who has been banking on Sitaphal pesticide for the few months.
Sitaphal seeds have been found to control pests including the cabbage aphid Brevicoryne brassicae, the pulse beetle Bruchus chinensis, the green scale Coccus viridis, the cotton stainer Dysdercus keonigii, the hairy caterpillar Euproctis fraternal, the brown plant hopper Nilaparvata lugens, the saw-toothed grain beetle Oryzeaphilus surinamensis, the diamond-back moth Plutella xylostella, the white-backed plant hopper Sogatella furcifera and the tobacco caterpillar Spodoptera litura.

India is cradle of languages, the place where languages grew up

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India has long been known as the sojourn of early human migration from Africa and latest research studies by city scientists based on male sex chromosome shows that the country also served as the cradle of languages.
The forefathers of Austro-Asiatic linguistic family originated in India and later dispersed themselves to different places, according to a joint study by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Molecular anthropology group of Biological Anthropology Unit of Indian Statistical Institute and the Shillong-based North Eastern Hill University's Department of Anthropology.
The Austro-Asiatic linguistic family is considered to be the oldest
in the country and people who speak these languages are scattered all over Southeast Asia. The scientists' team analysed the male Y-chromosome
to trace the origin and historic expansion of Austro-Asiatic groups of India.
The report was published online in the latest issue of science journal of international repute BMC Genetics. The city team studied genetic data of 1222 individuals from 25 Indian populations, covering all the three branches of Austro-Asiatic tribes, Mundari, Khasi-Khmuic and Mon-Khmer. The team, comprising among others Dr Lalji Singh, K Thangaraj and BM Reddy, compared the data with the already available scientific information on 214 relevant populations from Asia and Oceania.
The results suggested a strong paternal genetic link, not only among the
subgroups of Indian Austro-Asiatic populations but also with those of
Southeast Asia. However, maternal link based on mitochondrial DNA is not evident.
The haplogroup in the Austro-Asiatic populations had originated around 65,000 years ago and the ancestors of this linguistic family carried it further to Southeast Asia via the Northeast Indian corridor. "Subsequently, in the process of expansion, the Mon-Khmer populations from Southeast Asia seem to have migrated and colonised Andaman and Nicobar Islands at a much later point of time," the study pointed out.
The present findings are consistent with the linguistic evidence, which suggests that the linguistic ancestors of the Austro-Asiatic populations have
originated in India and then migrated to Southeast Asia. Four major linguistic groups, Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Indo-European and Tibeto-Burman, are present in the Indian sub-continent and the ancestors of speakers of these languages might have entered at different points of time.
The Austro-Asiatic languages include Mundari, spoken by a number of tribes living in Chota-Nagpur plateau in Central and Eastern India, Mon-Khmer (Nicobarese and Shompen tribes from Andaman and Nicobar islands) and Khasi-Khmuic (Khasi subtribes from Northeast India).
The team sampled almost all the Austro-Asiatic populations of India covering the entire geographic and micro-linguistic heterogeneity inherent among them, including the molecular genetic data on the Austro-Asiatic Khasi from
Northeast India, considered as an important corridor for human
migrations to Southeast Asia.
"Austro-Asiatic populations of India are not only linguistically linked to
Southeast Asian populations but also genetically associated. It is most likely that these populations have come from Central Asia through the Western Indian corridor and subsequently colonised Southeast Asia, although more data on Y-chromosome and mtDNA are needed from other relevant populations to draw firmer conclusions," the study pointed out.

Medical Council of India does not know how many doctors practise in the country

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 27: The Medical Council of India, which regulates
medical education, does not know how many doctors are practising in
the country.
The data maintained in the MCI register is old and contains even the
names of doctors, who are either dead or have left the country for
practice abroad.
"We are unable to update the data on medical practitioners in India, for
the simple reason that we do not have a system of re-registration in the
country. Our register contains the names of doctors who are
practicising as also of those who are no more. Unless we have a system
of re-registration in place, we cannot know how many doctors are in
the profession," MCI president Dr Ketan Desai told this correspondent.
The MCI has recommended that there should be a system of re-
registration of doctors at frequent intervals. But the powerful lobby of
doctors prevailed upon the Central government to keep the proposal in
cold storage for the last five years.
Moreover, the medical knowledge of an average Indian doctor is far
below that of his counterparts in Western countries. This is because
most of the doctors in the country do not want to update their
knowledge to be abreast of the latest developments in the medical
"The MCI has made it mandatory on the part of doctors to attend 30
hours of continuous medical education programme every year in order
to become eligible for re-registration. This will keep them in touch with
the latest developments in the medical field. Many doctors are opposed
to it. The Centre has not cleared the re-registration proposal," Dr Desai
According to him, the MCI has sent as many as 100 recommendations
on various issues to the Central government for clearance. There has
been no decision on them till now. Many of the proposals have been
pending for more than five years.
Dr Desai alleged that the Central government had been clearing new
medical colleges even after the MCI had turned down permission.
Suggesting that the Medical Council of India should be given full autonomy, Dr Desai said the Central government was vetoing the recommendations and proposals of the Council. "The Central government does not want to lose control over the medical education in the country. It wants to control the MCI taking shelter behind the MCI Act," he regretted.
He said the MCI has proposed to relax certain norms for setting up new medical colleges in States where there are not enough medical institutions. "Most of the medical colleges in the country are located in four Southern States. States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have fewer medical colleges. We have proposed to relax the norms on possession of land. Instead of a single piece of land, medical colleges can have land at two places," he said.
Present norms stipulate that a medical college should have a fully functional 300-bed hospital and a single piece of 25 acres land.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Men exposed to industrial fumes are at risk of losing their reproductive strength

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Men exposed to industrial fumes are at risk of losing their reproductive strength with the quality and count of their sperm being significantly affected.
According to a joint research study by city-based Institute of Genetics, Mahavir Hospital, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre, men exposed to industrial fumes containing nickel and chromium, showed decreased vitality and significantly higher percentage of defects in sperm.
The study, however, found that smoking did not show any effect on semen parameters in industrial workers and welders as also in the control group. Though there was no significant difference in the volume of ejaculated semen of men exposed to fumes and those in the control group, the former had a lower sperm count (almost half), rapid linear progressive motility, and slow progressive motility when compared to control men.
The percentage of normal sperm was also low in the exposed group. They also showed higher percentage of defects in the head and mid-piece of sperm.
Research team member Dr Roya Rozati points out that men exposed to nickel and chromium had a large number of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa in their ejaculates. The levels of these metals in blood was also higher than that of the control group.
"There was a significant positive correlation between the percentage of tail defects and blood nickel and chromium concentration in male welders. Sperm vitality decreased with increasing chromium concentration", Dr Roya told this correspondent.
The study covered 57 employees of an industrial welding plant. The workers have been exposed to two to 21 years to welding fumes. The control group also consisted of 57 subjects, not exposed to known harmful chemicals. Forty-five per cent of the men in the study were smokers and 32 were alcohol consumers. Sperm samples were obtained after a three-day period of sexual abstinence.
Heavy metals nickel and chromium are widely distributed in the work place. Nickel is extensively used in the plating industry, sometimes in combination with other metals. It is also used in electroplating, welding, flame cutting, flame spraying, and mould making. Nickel is also used in the manufacture of jewellery, coinage, cutlery, cooking utensils and dental or surgical prostheses. Chromium is used in metallurgy, chrome plating, welding, chemical industry, textile manufacture, wood preservation, photography and photoengraving, refractory industry and cooling system.
Nickel crosses the placental barrier, directly affecting the developing embryo or foetus in experimental animals. Spermatotoxic effects of nickel in mice have also been observed.

Women pass on infertility to sons

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Hyderabadi women are increasingly turning infertile with as many as 15 per cent of them suffering from fertility-related problems and transmitting infertility to their sons. This is five per cent higher than women living elsewhere in the world.
According to a research study on infertility and its causes in women in twin cities, environmental pollution caused by polycholrinated biphenyls and pthalate esters is the main culprit for increasing infertility among women. Worse, the problem is passed on to the male children further contributing to high male infertility figures.
High percentage of chemical pollutants in city's atmosphere is leading to a severe infertility problem called endometriosis among women. While other major cities around the world reported 10 per cent of women suffering from endometriosis-related infertility, the incidence is exceptionally high in Hyderabad with 15 per cent of the female population reporting endometriosis.
The study, carried out by the Assisted Conception Services Unit of Mahavir Hospital and Research Centre, traced the high infertility rate to use of plastics and other chemical pollutants. Earlier scientists from Oxford University, London, were baffled by the exceptionally high incidence of endometriosis in Hyderabad. The Wellcome Trust has funded the research project.
According to city fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati of Mahavir Hospital, the subject women underwent laparoscopy if the duration of infertility was more than five years as part of their infertility work-up. If there were any symptoms including pain, dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia which is suggestive of endometriosis, then laproscopy was performed even if marriage life was less then five years.
Six hundred and forty-five infertile couples were screened for infertility for over a period of six years. The break-up of the study revealed that 15 per cent of women had tubal factor, 15.6 per cent ovulatory dysfunction, 13.1 per cent endometriosis, 26.9 per cent male factor infertility, 12.8 per cent cervical or uterine factor and 16.2 per cent of couples had unexplained reasons for infertility. A notable feature was that the couples had no history of smoking, alcohol and other addictions. They also consumed little caffeine.
The Oxford Endometriosis Group in the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology had carried out a collaborative research programme with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the Infertility Institute & Research Centre in Hyderabad.
"Up to 10 per cent of women in any population may have the disease, but the incidence around Hyderabad is particularly high with 15 per cent of women in the city suffering from the problem," says Dr Roya.
There is currently no cure for endometriosis, which causes severe pelvic pain and reduces fertility. The only treatment available for the patients are hormonal drugs which only control symptoms. Removal of pelvic organs or surgery is the other option.

Good news for infertile couples: And now scientists create sperm in test tube

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Couples with male infertility need no longer go in for sperm borrowing from strangers to bear children. Thanks to an ongoing research by a team of city-based doctors on invitro culture of testicular tissue using stem cell culture techniques, infertile men without any sperm production can now reproduce offspring.
Fertility doctors at Mahavir Hospital and Research Centre and Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre have succeeded thus far in artificial culture of testicular tissue in infertile men with non-obstructive Azoospermia (nil sperm count). The pioneering research work, which started about six months ago, is in the final stages of success. The work was presented at an international conference on infertility held in the city on September 3.
"We will be able to fertilise ovum with the sperm obtained through stem cells in a couple of months," Dr Roya Rozati, who is supervising the research, told this correspondent.
Doctors in South Korea are doing a similar research but using human embryonic stem cells and since research on human embryos is banned in India, the Mahavir-Owaisi team has taken up work on testicular tissue. A team of researchers in the USA have successfully carried out stem cell research using testicular tissue of mice. It is yet to be experimented on human beings there.
The city doctors have selected 10 infertile men for the research to develop sperm from spermatogonial stem cells, which can be used to fertilise eggs and enable infertile men to overcome infertility problems. They also wants to establish culture methods to expand cell lines of spermatogonial stem cells.
"After producing sperm we will go for intra cytoplasmic sperm induction process to help infertile men bear children," Dr Roya pointed out. This methodology besides opening new avenues of basic research into spermatogenesis and stem cell self-renewal may also prove as a useful tool for biomedical science and biotechnology.
Sperm stem cells could be removed from a donor, cultured to increase their numbers, frozen, and then re-implanted back into the donor (or another male) at a future date. These sperm stem cells have the "potential" of serving as a source for more versatile adult stem cells to replace diseased or injured tissue.
here is a threshold of quantitative sperm production in the deficient testis, below which no sperm will reach the ejaculate (azoospermia). This threshold phenomenon of spermatogenesis is the reason that many cases of non-obstructive azoospermia sperm can often be extracted from testicular tissue of azoospermic men with germinal failure, and used successfully for ICSI.
Men with non-obstructive azoospermia caused by germinal failure have a mean of 0 to 3 mature spermatids per seminiferous tubule seen on a diagnostic testicle biopsy. This compared to 17 to 35 mature spermatids per tubule in men with normal spermatogenesis and obstructive azoospermia.

Take cloves to beat stress, keep away heart attacks

By Syed Akbar
We all know that laung or clove is good for teeth. Clove oil helps in fighting tooth decay and gives relief from toothache. But now Indian scientists have come out with a study that tells us that clove (Eugenia caryophyllus) is the best stress buster and keeps away heart problems. Stress is emerging as the major killer in the world and clove is the simplest remedy to the problem. Since stress and heart ailments are related, by taking cloves regularly one will not only beat the stress but also fights heart attacks.

Clove contains a special substance called hydro alcohol and this substance is known to give relief from stress. The scientific team studied the anti-stress effect of hydro-alcoholic extract of clove by evaluating it on cold restraint induced gastric ulcers, sound stress induced biochemical changes and anoxic stress induced convulsions.

As part of the research project the extract from the clove was given orally twice daily to mice. The first dose was of 100 mg/kg while the second dose was of 200 mg/kg. The team used zeetress, a known anti-stress formulation as the standard drug.

The scientific team comprised Anand Kumar Singh, Sunil S Dhamanigi and Mohammed Asad of Krupanidhi College of Pharmacy, Bengaluru. The researchers found that both the doses of clove extract showed good anti-stress effect in all the tested models. The clove extract reduced the development of cold restraint induced gastric ulcers and prevented the biochemical changes induced by sound stress such as increase in plasma levels of aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, glucose, cholesterol and corticosterone.

"Stress is a common phenomenon that is experienced by every individual. When stress becomes extreme, it is harmful for the body and, hence, needs to be treated. Stress is involved in the pathogenesis of a variety of diseases that includes psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, immunosuppression, endocrine disorders including diabetes mellitus, male impotence, cognitive dysfunction, peptic ulcer, hypertension and ulcerative colitis," the study pointed out saying that clove, is one of the natural stress busters.

For the purpose of the study, the team selected albino Wistar rats weighing between 175 and 250 gm and Swiss albino mice weighing 25 to 40 gm. The experiment continued for 14 days. Stress was induced in the mice through chemicals and later clove extract was administered to them.

The team showed that hydro-alcoholic extract of clove possesses significant anti-stress activity. "The effect of clove may be due to its effect on the central nervous system or endocrines and it may also be due to its antioxidant effect as anti-oxidants are known to prevent stress induced damage due to generation of
free radicals," the study said.

The clove gets its medicinal properties mainly because of the presence of volatile oils like eugenol. The team however noted that the exact mechanism by which clove produces its anti-stress activity cannot be explained with the data collected during the study. "We speculated that the antioxidant effect of the clove buds might contribute at least in part to its anti-stress activity," the scientists said.

So, the next time you come across spicy food, do not complain. Ensure that the "spicy food" has a good number of cloves too. This will bust your stress, whether it is work-related or due to domestic problems.

Monday, 20 April 2009

New species of bacteria discovered in space may shed light on origin of life

Syed Akbar

In a major discovery which may ultimately throw some light on the origin of life, a team of Indian scientistshas collected three new species of bacteria from the sky.

We all know that the Earth is filled with viruses, bacteria and micro-organisms, besides other life forms. Many, however, do not know that some of the micro-organisms live in the Earth's atmosphere, up in the sky. Scientists believe that a thorough study of these creatures living in the upper stratosphere (the area of ozone) will reveal the secrets of the origin of life on the human planet.

Incidentally, the three new species of bacteria discovered by the Indian group are not found on the Earth. Since these bacteria have made the stratosphere or ozone layer portion as their abode, they have developed resistance to the harmful ultra violent rays. That they survive in the dangerous radiation is in itself a marvel,
and scientists want to unravel this marvel, mystery.

If we could know how these bacteria survive the intense radiation up in the sky, we can probably device some methods to keep ourselves free from the harmful effects of radiation. Then no nuclear war will hurt us at least bodily, with our skin being intact. Of course, the dangers of genetic damage due to radiation still persists in
case of nuclear holocaust.

The new species of bacteria were found by scientists from the Indian Space Research
Organisation and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. What the scientists from these two organisations did was to send atmospheric balloons from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad. The new organisms have been named after famous astrophysicist Fred Hoyle (Janibacter hoylei), ISRO (Bacillus isronensis)
and after ancient Indian astronomer Aryabhata (Bacillus aryabhata).

According to ISRO scientists, the experiment was conducted using a 26.7 million cubic feet balloon carrying a 459 kg scientific payload soaked in 38 kg of liquid neon. The scientific equipment included a cryo (cold)sampler containing 16 evacuated and sterilised stainless steel probes. Throughout the flight, the probes
remained immersed in liquid neon to create a cryopump effect.

These cylinders, after collecting air samples from different heights ranging from 20 km to 41 km, were parachuted down and safely retrieved. These samples were analysed by scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, as well as the National Centre for Cell Science, Pune, for independent examination.

"In all, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected, nine of which, based on 16S RNA gene sequence, showed greater than 98 per cent similarity with reported known species on earth. Three bacterial colonies, namely, PVAS-1, B3 W22 and B8 W22 were, however, totally new species. All the three newly identified species had significantly higher UV resistance compared to their nearest phylogenetic
neighbours," an official statement from ISRO said.

The scientists said the precautionary measures and controls operating in this experiment inspire confidence that these species were picked up in the stratosphere. "While the present study does not conclusively establish
the extra-terrestrial origin of micro-organisms, it does provide positive encouragement to continue the work in our quest to explore the origin of life," they said.

Creating regional feelings: KCR leads the show by his diatribe against Andhras

Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy's remarks that people in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema will suffer if a separate Telangana state was carved out has received mixed reaction. Some opposed him. Some supported him. Some said he was raking up regional feelings. He is not the first one to "rake up" regional feelings. Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu did it during 2004 elections. Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K Chandrasekhar Rao has been doing it ever since he left the Telugu Desam to float his own political party, fighting for the cause of separate Telangana.
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 19: Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K Chandrasekhar Rao's denial notwithstanding, he displayed his rank empathy and sworn hatred towards people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema at every conceivable occasion.

Ever since he floated the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in 2001, Chandrasekhar Rao made scores of statements whipping up regional feelings. He gave a call to "settlers" to quit Telangana.

He even went to the extent of questioning the sanctity of the Telugu Talli wondering from where it had emerged. "Evani Telugu Talli, Ekkadi Telugu Talli" (whose Telugu Talli she is and from where has she come), Chandrasekhar Rao said on October 5, 2006 in Hyderabad.

Telugu Talli is the personification of Telugu culture, tradition, land and values and she is regarded as the mother of all those whose mother tongue is Telugu. The TRS has created its own version of Telangana Talli in a bid to deride the people who believe in Telugu Talli.

Meanwhile, the Congress has come out in full support of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who had declared that a separate Telangana State would create problems for people in the other two regions. A new body, Andhra Development Forum, has emerged all of a sudden to criticise the anti-Andhra remarks made by Chandrasekhar Rao.

Launching a scathing attack on educational institutions being managed by people from coastal Andhra, Chandrasekhar Rao declared in Mahbubnagar on February 17, 2009 that such corporate schools and colleges would be closed down, if a separate Telangana state was carved out after elections.

"The capitalists of Andhra region have established these institutes on the pretext of providing quality education. They are exploiting parents in Telangana region. Because of these institutions, local unemployed post-graduates, who set up coaching centres, have been hit. We will close down all corporate educational centres set up by Andhraites," Chandrasekar Rao said.

The same day he declared at a public meeting in Shadnagar that when a separate Telangana State is formed, he would not allow investments from non-Telangana regions unless and until they promise to give 70 per cent of the jobs to Telanganites.

The TRS chief supported the party agitation against "Andhra meals" during June 2008. He issued instructions to hoteliers to remove all food items identified with Andhra like idly, sambar and introduce ragi sankati and jonna rottelu.

Chandrasekhar Rao talked about exploitation by "Andhra rulers" during a meeting on June 29, 2008. He described Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy as "jala donga" (water thief). He also accused that people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema were exploiting the natural resources from Telangana like water and minerals. The TRS leader also declared that Sunkesula dam would be blasted.

According to KCR's "estimation", people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have amassed wealth and assets worth Rs 3,00,000 crore in Rangareddy, Medak and Hyderabad districts. "We will seize them after Telangana is separated. We will also rename Kasu Brahmananda Reddy park, as it is named after a Telangana traitor," he said.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Maytas Infra: The people behind the company

April 2009

Directors who quit

1. RC Sinha, chairman and independent director

Mr Sinha, a former IAS officer of 1962 batch from Maharashtra, quit as the non-executive chairman and independent director. He put in his paper on January 6, 2009. He has been associated with several infrastructure projects, notable among them being the construction of 55 flyovers in Maharashtra including the landmark Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Subsequently, he had also served as Director-General, National Academy of Construction, Hyderabad, in the rank of special chief secretary to AP government. Currently, he is working as vice-chairman and managing director of Maharashtra Airport Development Co. Ltd, a Maharashtra government undertaking.

2. Chander Sheel Bansal, wholetime director (president of transportation, oil and gas)

Mr Bansal was the president, transportation, oil and gas of Maytas Infra Limited. He was wholetime director of Maytas Infra Ltd. He joined the Board in January 2008. He is a Mechanical Engineer from Delhi College of Engineering and a PGDBA from MDI, Gurgaon. Prior to joining Maytas, Mr Bansal was associated with Tata Motors, INDAL, Usha Beltron/Martin, Alstom Projects and Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group-Dubai.

3.  PK Madhav, wholetime director and CEO

A product of Rashtriya Indian Military School, Deharadun, Madhav has an MBA from FMS, Delhi. He is  also a qualified company secretary. He quit Maytas Infra after he was arrested by AP police in connection with Nagarjuna Fertilisers case.

Existing directors

Dr RP Raju, independent director

Dr RP Raju joined the Board in January 2007. He holds a bachelor's degree in medicine from Rangaraya Medical College, Kakinada, and a graduate degree from Madras Medical College, Chennai. He has over 32 years of experience in medical practice, planning, management and administration. He is a member of the American College of Radiology, the American Medical Association, the American College of Radiation Oncology and the American Cancer Society.

B Teja Raju, vice-chairman

Teja Raju is the son of Satyam former chairman B Ramalinga Raju. He joined the Board in July, 2001. He holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science and Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, and masters in Electronic Commerce from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA.
He has over six years of experience in Maytas Infra Limited in the construction and infrastructure development industry.

B Narasimha Rao, vice-president and additional director

Narasimha Rao joined the company in 1994. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad. He has over 19 years of experience in the construction industry, with particular expertise in projects and corporate management. He currently heads the contract claims department. He is responsible for initiating contracts and other business development activities.


CS Mohan, independent director

Mohan died on November 12, 2008

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Search goes on for uranium reserves in Andhra Pradesh

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: After successfully striking uranium reserves in the Nagarjunasagar belt, the city-based Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research will now take up magnetic and gamma ray spectrometric surveys in parts of Kurnool and Kadapa basins for detection of uranium and thorium reserves.
The electromagnetic, magnetic and gamma ray spectrometric surveys will be carried out by helicopters covering about 11000 km area in Kurnool sub-basin and Kadapa basin. The aerial exploration work will be completed in one year.
AMD will initially take up testing of 900 line Km in a test block of 15 Km X 15 Km and on its successful completion, the remaining area will be released for survey at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore. Multiparameter (gamma-ray, magnetic) geophysical surveys are useful in mineral exploration and bedrock mapping studies.
"There's a possibility of encountering a number of surprises in the metallogenic evaluation of the terrain when probed at greater depth than that is usually superficially perceived," says a senior official of the AMD.
Kadapa and Kurnool basins are endowed with rich mineral wealth. The
middle-upper Proterozoic Kadapa basin, has been well known for a variety of mineral resources, such as diamond, barite, asbestos, copper and lead, besides limestone and Kadapa slabs. Some of the world’s finest and famous
diamonds, such as Kohinoor and Regent are the product of this basin. About 25 per cent of the world’s barite resources are present within the basin.
Though Uranium exploration was initiated in the late 1950’s to
search the quartz-pebble-conglomerate type uranium mineralisation which had dominated the world uranium supply at that time, a proper scientific survey is yet to be taken up. The basal Gulcheru conglomerates at the base of Kadapa basin were found to be thoriferous. Subsequent exploration in the late 1980’s, brought out significant uranium mineralisation in dolostone.
A significant breakthrough was achieved in early 1990’s when uranium mineralisation was located along the unconformity between Srisailam Formation of Kadapa Super Group and the basement granites,
thereby establishing in India, for the first time, the presence of unconformity
related uranium mineralisation - a category considered most potential world over.
Earlier studies by AMD recognised three distinct types of uranium mineralisation, strata bound, fracture controlled (both basement granite and sediment hosted) and unconformity-related type. The present work, which will be allotted after May 15, when the tenders for the present work will be opened, will give more focus on the uranium reserves in Kadapa and Kurnool areas.

High dropout rate in Urdu schools

From Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Strange it may sound but true. For every 351 students enrolled in Urdu medium schools in the State, 305 drop out before they reach the class 10.
Plagued with falling standards and shortage of teaching staff, Urdu medium schools in the State have become notorious for frequent drop out of students. Of the 77,000 students who enroll in Urdu medium schools every year, only 10,000 stay till they enter the class 10.
A whopping 67,000 students leave school for work as child labour every year. This in simple words means 305 students drop out of Urdu schools each day of the 220 days in an academic year. While boys end up as child labour, girls work as domestic helps. Some take admissions in Arabic madarasas as education there comes free with board and accommodation.
There are about 3,000 primary and upper primary Urdu medium schools under the control of the State government. The student retention rate in these schools is appalling low as compared with that of Telugu medium or English medium schools. While the State government blames the community elders for the failure of Urdu medium schools, educationists hold poor amenities including lack of sufficient number of teachers as the main reason behind the high drop-out rate.
Argues eminent educationist and All-India Urdu Educational Committee president Jaleel Pasha, "there is still acute shortage of teachers. No doubt, the government has relaxed the roaster system in schools but it is not sufficient. Urdu students should get scholarships on par with those from backward classes. What the government pays Urdu students is hardly sufficient for even purchase of textbooks".
According to official sources, only 1019 students have enrolled in seven of the Urdu medium residential schools managed by the State government. This in contrast to 750 students in just four English medium residential schools. The government even appealed to legislators to ensure better enrolment in Urdu schools in their constituencies.
There's no bridge school concept in Urdu medium schools. Even the open school system for Urdu school dropouts has failed to deliver the goods. The open school scheme was meant for the Urdu mother tongue dropouts at primary level in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medak, Nizamabad, Kurnool, Guntur, Kadapa and Anantapur districts. As many as 100 Urdu open schools have been set up including 40 in twin cities.

Vedas and military sciences

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Military sciences in the Vedas? Sounds strange, but it is true.
Studies by city-based Sanskrita Bharati and I-Serve, scientific research organisations on Vedas, have revealed that the Atharvana Veda is the prime source of military sciences containing references to as many as 60 varieties of weaponry, each with a specific range and purpose. The range of weapons mentioned in the Vedas is so wide that even the present-day world does not posses so many varieties of arms and ammunition.
Some of the weapons described in the Vedas can be controlled even after they are put into motion. These weapons are target specific or unspecific, short or long range and with limited or mass damage to the enemy. Most of the modern weapons like missiles have their roots in the ancient Indian texts.
"We think that Vedas are synonymous with religion. This is due to narrow mindedness of some personalities, who in the guise of propagating the immortal Vedas, have, for obvious reasons interpreted the Vedic thoughts so as to project the Vedas as preaching a particular religion. The military sciences in the Vedas are mainly to destroy evil and establish peace," says K Lalith Manohar, chairman of the State chapter of Sanskrita Bharati in his research paper.
According to him, majority of the military sciences in the Vedas are in the form of "Mantras". Besides astras, there is a mention of sastras (weaponry) in the Vedas. What is needed is to decode the mantras to find the uses of these weaponry to fight against evil and establish peace on the earth.
Atharvana Veda contains all the details of the astras and sastras. "But unfortunately, we do not have complete text of Atharvana Veda available. Atharvana Veda has got Mantra Khanda and Samhitas in the Khanda," he points out. The research is, thus, concentrated on the available texts of the Atharvana Veda, since a complete Scripture is not available.
The ancient Indian texts have references to canons and a variety of weaponry unheard of in the modern world. Some of the astras mentioned in these texts are Danda Chakram, Dharma Chakram, Kalachakram, Visnhnu Chakram, Indram, Vajram, Saivam, Soolavam, Brahmastram, Eishikam, Modaki Gada, Sikhari Gada, Kala Pasam, Sushkaasami, Sikharam, Vaayavyam, Muslam, Kaapalam, Kankanam, Aagneyam and Aardraasani.
Unlike modern weapons of mass destruction, the weapons mentioned in the Vedas are normally aimed at one particular person with limited and controlled damage. Another speciality in these weapons is that once they are used, they can be withdrawn before they hit the target. Such weapons are known as "Samhara Astrams" in the Vedic parlance. The samhara astrams are used for neutralising the astrams when it is used against a person.
Kuppa Venkata Krishna Murthy of I-Serve says even Brahmaastram could be subdued by the person who had propelled it.

Water crisis in Andhra Pradesh due to overexploitation of ground water

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Ground water levels have fallen by about five metres indicating the severe water crisis in the State as the summer advances in the next couple of weeks.
The State is now faced with the lowest ever ground water levels recorded in the past one decade. Rayalaseema and Telangana are the worst affected regions where the average fall in ground water is as high as five metres. Never in the past the State had witnessed such a phenomenal fluctuation in the ground water levels in a span of eight months.
If one looks at the water levels in the past few years, there is a fall of more than five metres in parts of Prakasam, Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Ranga Reddy, Medak, Adilabad, Warangal and Nalgonda districts.
People in as many as 167 mandals, mostly in Rayalaseema and Telangana, will literally crave for water if official statistics are any indication. Anantapur district will be in real trouble with 28 mandals going dry. It is followed by Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy's native Kadapa and Telugu Desam supremo N Chandrababu Naidu's native Chittoor districts with 17 mandals each. Mahbubnagar in Telangana and Prakasam in Andhra have also been declared as "severe water shortage areas".
According to official records in the ground water department, the average depth to water level in the State had come down from 7.60 metres a few years ago to 14.00 metres now5. Rainfall came down from 1128 mm to 611 mm in the last few years, while the exploitation of the ground water resources had gone up upsetting the delicate balance.
The State is in the grip of severe water shortage. Against the normal rainfall of 940 mm the State received just 611 mm till January-end, recording a deficit of 35 per cent. Only Khammam, Nellore, Nalgonda, Srikakulam and Mahbubnagar districts received normal rainfall.
Ground water levels in Thimmaiahgaripalli village in Chitvel mandal of Kadapa district have gone down to 72.85 mts, the deepest water level for any place in the State. Deep water levels of more than 20 metres were recorded at the end of January in parts of Medak, Hyderabad, Mahbubnagar, Anantapur, kadapa, Chittoor and Praskasam districts while wagter levels between 10 and 20 mts were recorded in almost the entire Rayalaseema and Telangana regions and in parts of Prakasam and West Godavari districts.

Gram panchayats hit by shortage of funds

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Thousands of gram panchayats in the State suffer from acute shortage of funds primarily because they fail to collect taxes or generate money from sale of natural resources.
About 95 per cent of the 21354 gram panchayats in the State completely depend on State and Central funds even for small development works and 70 per cent of them borrow money from the State to pay salaries to their staff.
The major task ahead for the 21,000 and odd village sarpanches who took charge last week is to find ways and means of generating resources if they want to concentrate on development works. "Gram panchayats can easily increase their revenue by taking up horticulture on panchayat lands or growing timber-yielding trees or alternatively developing fish ponds in the village outskirts," says Yelamanchili Babu Rajendra Prasad, president of Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Chambers.
Though village panchayats have been empowered to collect property, water and entertainment (cable TV) taxes and cess on fish tanks and marketing, rarely do sarpanches achieve 100 per cent target. Hardly a couple of hundred villages could be classified as "100 per cent tax collectors". According to officials in the panchayat raj department, the tax collection percentage range between 40 and 60 on an average, leaving the villages financially starved. Local political equations also come in the way of tax realisation.
Buckling under political pressure, sarpanches in Prakasam district often fail to focus on new revenue resources. They fear that local voters will oppose any increase in the tax structure and reject their candidature in the next elections.
Gram panchayat needs funds for construction of roads and drains, supply of drinking water, providing street lamps and maintenance of sanitation
and other local developmental activities. The funds given by the Central and the State governments under these heads are not sufficient to meet the local requirements. SJRY funds are mainly used for the development of
SC colonies in rural areas.
Prakasam district panchayat officer Vijay Kumar said the State government had given a free hand to local bodies to collect taxes and cess from villagers for developmental activities.
Unlike their counterparts in other places, sarpanches in Guntur district are known for their strong tax collection methods. Most of the 1022 village panchayats in Guntur district have been doing well in collection of property taxes, water taxes, marketing cess and fish tank cess. The panchayats are also mobilising funds through sale of grass, growing trees like subabul, teak and guava.
However, panchayats fail to collect entertainment tax from cable TV operators. In places where the sarpanches are assertive, the tax collection has been always high. Last year some panchayats recorded a record 70 per cent tax collection, according to Guntur District Panchayat Officer Radha Krishna. Tax evasion has been a problem in villages falling under the faction-hit Palnadu area.
Of the 972 gram panchayats in Krishna district more than 100 do not have permanent buildings for offices and an equal number of gram panchayats has no executive officers. Though the district administration provided money to mandal offices for construction of buildings, panchayats were left to fend for themselves. Only a few gram panchayats could manage to get own buildings during the last five years.
In the absence of steady flow of funds from the State and the Central governments, most of the villages look forward to the respective MPs and MLAs for financial support to meet basic facilities. In several cases, gram panchayats depend on the State government for payment of salaries to their staff.
However, village panchayats like Vuyyuru and Gurazala have been improving their financial resources by concentrating on the local tax collection. These two gram panchayats recorded 100 per cent tax collection in the last three years.
In Khammam district there is a wide gap between the facilities being provided to citizens in municipalities and panchayats. The newly elected sarpanches of 707 panchayats in the district demand that the State government delegate more powers to them to take up development works without looking forward to funds from the State.
Khammam district panchayat officer John Wesley said there is no bar on sarpanches from collecting taxes and spending them on laying roads, supplying drinking water and providing sanitation. Many villages in the district have huge resources of granite. They could collect cess effectively on quarries to improve their financial status.
Only one gram panchayat in the Naxal-hit Warangal district is self-sufficient in revenue generation. The district has 1,104 gram panchayats. Gangadevipally village panchayat in Geesukonda mandal has become financially independent thanks to a rigorous tax drive launched by the sarpanch. Only three gram panchayats - Parkal, Mahabubabad, and Narsampet -- collect advertisement tax on hoardings and entertainment tax on cable TV. Shockingly more than 1,000 villages failed to realise their full property tax from the residents.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The world of fatwas: how they solve religious issues

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A man orally pronounces talaq and deserts his wife. A year later he files a suit in AP High Court seeking restitution of conjugal rights. The suit was dismissed. The wife wants to know her status in Islamic law: whether she continues to be his wife or not.
A rich Muslim woman died issueless leaving vast property. A woman approaches court claiming to be her brother's daughter. She wants the court to give her the right over the property left by the rich woman.
In both the cases, the matter is referred to Muftis, seeking their expert legal opinion in the light of Islamic Shariah. The Muftis issue their fatwas (religious decrees) and based on them the court decides the legal suits.
Fatwas are generally construed to be something that quite often rake up controversy. But the fact is they also play a crucial role in legal suits while deciding cases involving personal laws of the parties at dispute. In Hyderabad alone as many as 600 fatwas are issued every month by half a dozen Islamic institutions of higher learning. And of them at least 50 are referred to in courts of law. Jamia Nizamia, the 130-year-old premier Islamic Institute, gives about 300 fatwas every month and 30 of them are obtained by lawyers and parties at dispute.
The fatwas issued by local Islamic religious organisations with Darul Ifta (department of decrees) attached to them have been playing a decisive role in legal suits relating to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance, despite the presence of internationally acclaimed fatwa works like Fatwa-i-Alamgiri, Fatwa-i-Khazi Khan, Fatwa-i-Zainia, Fasul-i-Imadia and Radd-ul-Mukhtar.
"Fatwas have a wrong concept. It is true that some unscrupulous elements misrepresent facts to the mufti and obtain fatwas to suit their needs. Fatwas are often referred on rendering judgements. Fatwas are necessarily to be relied upon by civil and other courts while deciding controversy between two Muslims or Muslim against non-Muslim if the matter relates to right of the parties centered around personal laws," points out eminent legal expert and author Muhammad Usman Shaheed.
Prof Ahmadullah Khan, dean of the College of Law, Osmania University, says that in Indian law judges often seek expert opinion on important issues. Judges either refer to the most authentic books on the subject or seek opinion of persons, muftis in the case of Muslim personal law.
"During the British regime, every court had a pandit and a qazi attached to it. The judges used to refer issues relating to personal laws to them to seek their expert opinion. Muftis issues fatwas based on well-established Islamic principles. They do not give new or individual opinion," Prof Ahmadullah observes.
Muftis are quite often misled by disputing parties. They misrepresent or twist facts to obtain fatwas in their favour. Referring to the case of the wealthy woman who died issueless, Usman Shaheed says, the court gave the order in her favour. The opposite party approached court arguing that the woman had misled the mufti of Jamia Nizamia by not revealing the fact that wealthy woman's brother had predeceased her. They too obtained a fatwa from the mufti based on the new development. The court reversed its order and the woman was denied right in the property of the wealthy woman.
Mufti Khaleel Ahmad, vice-chancellor and grand mufti of Jamia Nizamia, points out that most of their fatwas are referred to in courts. "We do not have any record on the number of fatwas referred to in a court of law. Many lawyers approach us and we simply issue fatwas without seeking to know the purpose. But it is true that our fatwas are held in high esteem by courts in the State and elsewhere in the country," Mufti Khaleel told this correspondent.

No fatty acids, no cancer, says NIN scientist

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 9: Avoid fatty acids in diet and keep off cancer. Fatty acids particularly of the saturated type play a major role in promoting cancer in humans.
According to National Institute of Nutrition director Dr B Seshikeran, diets low in micronutrients will also increase the risk of cancers.
"The components of the food we eat on one side cause cancer but on the other also protect us from this dreaded disease," he told an international seminar on nutritional evaluation of foods here on Thursday.
Cancer is one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity in the world. The annual incidence of cancer in India is about seven lakh with at least two million people suffering from it at any given time. Around four lakh people die every year in the country due to cancer.
What is interesting is that almost one-third of all cancer cases are related the food habits. "The dietary factors which may promote cancer are the fatty acids, i.e. saturated and to some extent n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), while n-3 has a distinct preventive role. Diets low in micronutrients increase the risk of cancers in a milieu of pro-carcinogens," he said.
Selenium, Zinc and ascorbic acid act as antioxidants and have anti cancer properties. Fruits and vegetables are the most beneficial in cancer prevention.
"Isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower and cabbage, phenolic compounds in garlic, green tea, soya and cereals, flavonoids in fruits, vegetables, green tea, soya bean, garlic, citrus fruits, mint and organo sulphides contribute to the anti-cancer properties," Dr Seshikeran said.
Food analysis will provide the basis for choice of food, which may benefit significantly by reducing cancer risk, he pointed out.

The truth about OTC drugs

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Suffering from headache, loose motions or common cold? Just don't rush to a chemist for an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. Chances are that you may develop nausea, severe allergic reactions, kidney failure or even cancer.
More often than not the blame does not lie with the chemist but with the type of drug he gives you. As many as a dozen generic or basic drugs, which have been banned world-wide, are freely available in twin cities. Strangely enough, these drugs enjoy the legal status as they are yet to be banned by the Indian government.
"For a drug to be banned the Central government needs concrete evidence supported by research studies on its bad side-effects. Unfortunately, in India we do not have post-drug follow-up records. Pharmaceutical companies take advantage of this", argues R Uday Bhaskar, secretary-general of All-India Drug Control Officers' Confederation.
He, however, wants these drugs to be banned as "what is bad for people in the USA and Europe is equally bad for Indians, whether we have post-drug follow-up studies or not".
The Central government has banned 76 categories of Fixed Dose Combination or individual drugs. Ironically, the government banned these drugs only after the manufacturers voluntarily withdrew them. Rofecoxid is one such drug. It was found to be dangerous to heart patients. However, many irrational combination drugs are still sold freely.
Some of the drugs banned in the USA, European Union, Australia and developed countries but still available in India are:
Analgin (pain-killer), Cisapride (acidity, constipation), Droperidol (anti-depressant), Furazolidone (anti-diarrhoea), Nimesulide (pain-killer, fever), Nitrofurazone (anti-bacterial cream), Phenolphthalein (laxative), Phenylpropanolamine (cold and cough), Oxyphenbutazone (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory), Piperazine (anti-worms) and Quiniodochlor (anti-diarrhoeal).
Nimelsulide, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, has been banned in many countries for its reported liver toxicity. The Central government approved Nimelsulide in 1994 for treatment of painful inflammatory musculo-skeletal disorders but many doctors prescribe it for ordinary pain and fever. Nimelsulide and Cyproflaxin (100 mg) have been banned for paediatric use but doctors continue to prescribe them for children.
Dr SV Chandrasekhar, consultant surgeon of Apollo Hospitals, says drugs like analgin should not be used for children while furazolidone is equally bad for adults and children. "Combination drugs are not advisable. When a patient suffers from one problem why should he or she be given a combination of drugs? Vitamins are always sold in combination. A person does not suffer from deficiency of several vitamins or minerals at a time. Overdose may cause severe problems", he points out.

The side-effects:
1. Analgin (it is used in dozens of drugs including Novalgin): Causes bone marrow depression, ulcers and reflex action.
2. Cisapride (available under brand names Ciza and Syspride): Causes irregular heartbeat and palpitation.
3. Droperidol (brand name Droperol): Affects the heart and blood circulation.
4. Furazolidone (Furaxone, Lomofen): Nausea, severe headache, cancer and damage to intestines.
5. Nimesulide (Nise, Nimulid): Causes liver failure.
6. Nitrofurazone (Furacin): Causes cancer.
7. Phenolphthalein (Agarol): Found to be carcinogenic.
8. Phenylpropanolamine (D'Cold, Vicks Action-500): May lead to stroke.
9. Oxyphenbutazone (Sioril): Bone marrow depression.
10. Piperazine (Piperazine): Causes damage to nerves.
11. Quiniodochlor (Enteroquinol): Damages eyesight.

There's a link between allergy and asthma, say Hyderabad scientists

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A group of city scientists has identified the genetic link in Indian population to over-allergic reactions (atopy) and asthma.
Researchers at the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Saboo Hospital and Research Centre, Osmania Medical College and Niloufer Children's Hospital came out with a genetic analysis of bronchial asthma in Indian population elucidating the complex genetic regulation of the disease including atopy. The study will help in better understanding of the root causes of these chronic diseases and effective diagnosis and treatment.
The research work gains significance in the backdrop of increasing instances of asthma and active allergic problems in the country. So far, researchers have been looking at asthma from environmental point of view and for the first time in India, the city researchers have turned their concentration on the genetic aspects of this complex polygenic disease. Asthma is commonly associated with familial atopic syndrome and increased levels of total IgE (immunoglobulins E).
The study carried out by GR Chandak, M Mohammed Idris, Sandeep Saboo, GS Ramalaxmi and others points out asthma and allergy are not inherited as single gene disorders and do not follow a simple Mendelian inheritance. A complex interaction between environmental and genetic factors produces the disease susceptibility and expression.
Identifying specific genetic polymorphisms that influence asthma and atopic phenotypes will also help in better screening of the "at risk" population and pave the way for extension of these markers in different population groups in the country. It may also lead to a novel strategy to modulate the course of this disease or identify better therapeutic modalities.
The city researchers investigated the association of polymorphisms and extended haplotype in genes (IL4 and IL4RA) with atopy and asthma in the Indian population and attempted to study whether genotypic and haplotypic differences can account for the phenotypic variations in atopic and non-atopic asthmatic individuals.
The probands (individual subjects of a genetic study) and control subjects were recruited based on the evaluation of clinical and family history using a standardised questionnaire following the guidelines of American Thoracic Society. They were examined for a self-reported history of breathlessness, wheeze, allergic rhinitis and eczema and confirmed by various pulmonary function tests.

Fear of cross voting haunts Mahakutami

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 16: The fear of cross voting and confusion over electoral symbols now haunts all major political parties in the State. Reports gathered from party sources by the Congress, the Telugu Desam, the TRS and the Praja Rajyam on the voting pattern in 154 Assembly and 22 Lok Sabha constituencies indicate
largescale cross voting in many districts.

Last minute alliance between the Telugu Desam and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi has created confusion among voters over the electoral symbol. Both the TRS and the Telugu Desam fielded candidates in several constituencies despite electoral alliances. In these places the symbols of both the parties, car (TRS) and cycle
(TD) were printed on electronic voting machines.

In Secunderabad Parliamentary constituency both the TD and the TRS candidates are in fray "officially", though both are part of the Mahakutami or political grand alliance. Voters who wanted to support Mahakutami were confronted by car and cycle symbols, making it difficult for them to choose between the two. Same was the case in Maheshwaram Assembly segment. In Karwan, both Telugu Desam and CPM, which is also part of the grand alliance, are in the fray, and thus their electoral symbols.

Since State Assembly and Parliament elections are held simultaneously, political parties fear that voters might have supported different candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha seats.

Reports from Warangal indicate that it was a herculean task for the Mahakutami members a couple of days before the polling to explain the voters about casting a vote to the TRS in Warangal (SC) Lok Sabha and CPI candidate in Mahabubabad (ST) Lok Sabha seats. In many places it resulted in a lot of confusion.

In Palakurthy constituency, many TD supporters cast their votes thinking that they were voting for the TD candidate Mr Errabelli Dayakar Rao. But as the first EVM was that of the Lok Sabha candidate, they inadvertently voted for the TD's rebel Lok Sabha candidate, Mr Dommati Sambaiah, who got the cycle symbol.

And later most of them voted for the Congress nominee thinking that they were voting for the Lok Sabha candidate. But it was the Assembly candidate, Mr Dugyala Srinivasa Rao, who they voted for.

Similar confusion was witnessed in Station Ghanpur constituency where the TD's candidate, Mr Kadiam Srihari, is contesting against the Congress nominee, Mr T Rajaiah.

In many places, the presence of the TD rebel candidates with the party's official symbol for the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly resulted in lot of confusion among the cadres of the TD and the TRS. The Congress too faced the same problem. Congress leadership feels that in several constituencies voters who supported for
its Assembly candidates did not vote for its Parliamentary candidate, and vice versa.

Change in polling time in first phase elections put voters to hardship, many denied voting right

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 16: The change in polling time in the first phase elections
on Thursday robbed many voters of the right to exercise their franchise.
Thousands of voters, who turned up late, had to leave polling stations in
almost all Assembly constituencies without casting their vote.

Election Commission had advanced the closing time by an hour to enable
polling staff and police personnel to shift voting machines from polling
stations to district headquarters before the sunset. Polling is normally held
between 7.00 am and 5.00 pm and this time the Election Commission
conducted polling from 7.00 am to 4.00 pm. All the 154 Assembly
constituencies and 22 Lok Sabha constituencies that went to the polls in the
first phase fall in Naxal-hit Telangana and north coastal Andhra.

Though the EC took the decision in advance, it could not spread the message
across villages and far-flung. Voters unaware of the change in the polling
time turned up even after 4.00 pm thinking that there's still time left for them
to vote. They were shocked when security personnel turned them away
saying that polling had concluded at 4.00 pm. However, those who were
inside the polling booths before 4.00 pm were allowed to cast their vote.

Moreover, the EC officials failed to paste the changed timings outside polling

In twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, hundreds of voters, who
turned up after 4.00 pm, were not allowed to vote. In the three polling booths
set up at SS Hindi Vidhyalaya near Sikh village in Secunderabad and four
polling booths in AV College voters were turned away after 4.00 pm.

"The Election Commission should have announced the change in timings
through loud speakers. The message did not penetrate down the line.
Thinking that still one hour is left for the polling to end, I turned up at 4.05
pm," said K Raju, a voter from Chandulal Bowli in Sikh village.

Around 200 voters turned up at polling stations in Dornakal, Mahabubabad,
and Warangal (East) and Warangal (West) after the 4 pm. In north coastal
Andhra too, the "late comers" were not allowed to cast their vote. Similar
reports have come in from Adilabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Warangal and
Mahbubnagar districts.

Chief Electoral Officer IV Subba Rao, however, said they had given wide
publicity to the change in poll timing. Polling will be held as usual, between
7.00 am and 5.00 pm in the second phase covering south coastal districts and

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

No talk of women self help groups this general election


Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 14: Reference to women self-help groups, which was the buzz word in previous general elections, is conspicuous by its absence now.

The State has 1.25 crore members affiliated to a number of women self-help groups under DWCRA and they are a deciding factor in any election. In the last general elections in 2004, all political parties vied with one another in wooing these women groups. The Telugu Desam, which was in power then, went to the extent of claiming SHGs as its own on the strength of the Deepam scheme it had introduced for them. The TD mobilised SHGs at all its public meetings during 2004.

The women groups sided with the Congress and helped it to return to power in the State after a gap of 10 years. They were attracted by the promise of the Congress to lend loans through banks at three per cent interest per annum or 25 paise per Rs 100 per month. The Congress too show-cased these women groups at party public meetings.

However, this general election both the Congress and the Telugu Desam have conveniently left them out of their election campaigns. The Praja Rajyam led by film actor Chiranjeevi as also the Telangana Rashtra Samithi have kept these groups away from their election talk. Nowhere the DWCRA groups are seen actively canvassing or participating in election rallies. Even senior politicians including Chandrababu Naidu and Chief Minister Rajasekhar Reddy are talking about them in their poll speeches.

According to insiders in the Congress and the Telugu Desam, there was not much talk about the SHGs this time mainly because both these parties are confident of winning their support, and they have concentrated their energies to wooing neutral groups.

"The SHGs are siding with the Telugu Desam. The cash transfer scheme is primarily meant for these women groups, besides BPL families and middle classes. Like in earlier elections, this time too they are going to tilt the balance. The TD will stand to benefit from their verdict," senior TD leader U Venkateswarlu said.

The Congress leadership too seems to be confident of the full support from the SHGs. "We have introduced a novel scheme for these poor and hard-working women. Each member will contribute Re 1 a day to the pension scheme. The women will receive monthly pension from the Life Insurance Corporation of India," said APCC general secretary Abid Rasool Khan.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Muslim clergy demand their pound of flesh before elections

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 13: With just three days left for the first phase of polls, leading Muslim religious organisations have struck political deals with the ruling Congress and the main Opposition Telugu Desam.
The Telugu Desam on Monday accepted a charter of 15 demands presented before it by the All-India Sunni Ulama Board, which has a large following of imams of mosques across the State. On the other hand the United Muslim Forum, an umbrella body of several religious and social organisations, extracted half a dozen promises from Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy. They included that the Congress, if returned to power, would come out with legislation to punish police officials who falsely implicate innocent persons, and set up a special commission to probe Mecca Masjid bomb blast case.
Both the organisations have considerable following among the Muslim clergy including imams of mosques.
They have decided to mobilise the community towards the respective political parties using mosques as their forum in the next two days.
Moulana Syed Shah Hameed Hussain Shuttari, president of the Sunni Ulama Board, said Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu had promised to implement Supreme Court's directive on salaries to the imams of mosques. "Punjab and Haryana State governments have already implemented the salary scheme for imams. The TD leadership has also promised economic and political development of Muslims in the State," he
The Board chief accused the Congress and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen of "silencing" the voice of Muslim religious leaders through their political manoeuvres.
Rajasekhar Reddy issued a signed statement to the United Muslim Forum saying that he would consider the demands. Its president Moulana Hameeduddin Aquil Hussami said the chief minister sent the letter through APCC president D Srinivas.
Moulana Shuttari said Muslim religious leaders had decided to support Chandrababu Naidu because the Congress had allegedly failed to protect Wakf properties. UMF leaders, however, are all praise for the Congress for providing four per cent quota to Muslims in educational institutions and government jobs, and free education for Muslim students in professional courses.
"It is the right time to extract promises from political parties. Muslims make a considerable chunk of the electorate in a number of constituencies that go to polls in the first phase. The Congress had implemented the promises it made to us in the last general elections and we hope it will honour its promises this time too," said
senior religious scholar Hafiz Shujath Hussain.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Himalayas are twice older than believed

By Syed Akbar

How old are the Himalayas, the snow-covered mountains that wall the northern India? Existing scientific records and evidence show that the Himalayas are less than eight million years old. But a group of scientists from India and the United Kingdom has negated this widely held belief and established with latest scientific evidence that the mountains are twice as older. In short, the Himalayas took their birth about 15 million years ago.

The Indo-British team has found evidence for early uplift of Himalayas within the central Indian Ocean. "The discovery that the earth’s strong outer shell — the ‘lithosphere’ — within the central Indian Ocean began to deform and fracture 15.4-13.9 million years ago, much earlier than previously thought, impacts our understanding of the birth of the Himalayas and the strengthening of the Indian-Asian monsoon," says Dr K.S. Krishna of the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography.

According to an official release from the National Institute of Oceanography, India and Asia collided around 50 million years ago as a result of plate tectonics — the large-scale movements of the lithosphere, which continue to this day. The study was published in Geology, a scientific magazine published by the Geological Society of America.

"The ocean floor has been systematically transformed into folds 100-300 kilometres long and 2,000-3,000 metres high, and there are also regularly spaced faults or cracks that are evident from seismic surveys and ocean drilling," points out Dr Krishna in the research study.

The onset of this deformation marks the start of major geological uplift of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, some 4,000 km further to the north, due to stresses within the wider India-Asia area. Some studies indicate that it began around 8.0-7.5 million years ago, while others have indicated that it started before 8.0 million years ago, and perhaps much earlier.

This controversy has now been addressed by Dr Krishna and his British colleagues Prof. Jon Bull of the University of Southampton, and Prof. Roger Scrutton of Edinburgh University. They have analysed seismic profiles of 293 faults (vertical cracks in the ocean floor) in the accumulated sediments of the Bengal Fan. This is the world’s largest submarine fan, a delta-shaped accumulation of land-derived sediments covering the floor of the Bay of Bengal.

The NIO statement points out that the team demonstrated that deformation of the lithosphere within the central Indian Ocean started around 15.4-13.9 million years ago, much earlier than most previous estimates. This implies considerable Himalayan uplift before 8.0 million years ago, which is when many geologists believe that the strong seasonal winds of the India-Asia monsoon first started.

"However," says Dr Krishna, "the realisation that the onset of lithospheric deformation within the central Indian Ocean occurred much earlier fits in well with more recent evidence that the strengthening of the monsoon was linked to the early geological uplift of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau up to 15-20 million years ago."

Scientists believe that intensive deep-sea drilling within the Bengal Fan would provide better age estimates for the onset of deformation of the lithosphere in the central Indian Ocean and concretise the recent findings. There are more weighty geological questions related to the geodynamics of the Indian Plate yet to be understood.

Principal among these being the issue of how exactly did the ocean floor buckle and crack in space and time, and what will be the future course of this compressional activity in the central Indian Ocean.

The NIO statement said further scientists would like to gather new evidences for understanding of 1) why and how the central Indian Ocean region has now become site where mountains are rising up from the ocean floor and cracks are propagating within the crust; and 2) whether the present process could be a pre-cursor to the formation of a subduction zone in the central Indian Ocean.

Scientists say Bharatanatyam will help fight cancer

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: What has Bharatanatyam to do with cancer or sculpture with jaundice? Well Bharatanatyam may soon be prescribed to fight away the cancerous cells, sculpture to treat jaundice, painting to cure digestive problems and music to enhance the overall immune system.
"Human body is not a chemical machine. So doctors need not feed it with chemical medicaments to treat diseases. Human body has a rhythm and it responds to rhythmic movements and sounds. Give a patient a perfect dose of rhythm and limited quantity of medicine and the system responds quickly," says medical scientist Dr Michaela Clockler.
Dr Clockler leads a team of medical experts from around the world in "Anthroposophic Medicine", which is fast emerging as an "alternative" medical system in Europe, Australia and Africa. Over two dozen anthroposophic doctors from different countries have converged in the city to popularise the medicine in this part of the world.
According to Dr Clockler, Bharatanatyam, sculpture, pottery, music, singing and painting are the best "rhythmic" exercises which will control the disease in a patient. The practitioners of Anthroposophic medicine also prescribe, though in limited quantity, some specially prepared medicines based on minerals and plant and animal extracts.
"I am a practising allopathic paediatrician and I have reduced antibiotics to just five per cent of the cases after I took to Anthroposophic system of medicine. Patients are not only saving money but also avoiding unnecessary drug resistance," she points out.
The Anthroposophic medicine, though had its origin in 1925, is yet to become popular in Asia. Now an increasing number of doctors in Europe, Africa and Australia are practicing it. Dr Clockler points out that there's a doctor sleeping in every human being and anthroposophic medicine simple awakens him.
"There are several ways of awakening the sleeping doctor. The best way is rhythm based on sculpture, painting, music, speech and movement therapy known as eurhythmy," Dr Clockler observes.
Unlike other systems of medicine which gives importance to body, anthroposophic system revolves around body, mind, soul and spirit. It focuses on the sources of health and well-being in body, soul and spirit. On the one hand it draws on an ancient spiritual concept of health being a result of processes of balance, and illness as the result of imbalance; on the other hand, it represents the new medical thinking of the 21st century.
"We need a paradigm shift from the pathogenetic towards the salutogenetic concept. Salutogenesis looks at what maintains health even in times of stress and outer or inner problems: What allows people to remain healthy despite disasters, starvation or exposure to pathogenic factors? What gives human nature resilience and strength? Where are the sources of self-regeneration and Self-healing?," says Dr Peter, another practitioner of this system of medicine.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Telangana Rashtra Samithi gets support of Muslim clergy


Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 11: Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K Chandrasekhar Rao has successfully secured the support of the Muslim clergy in Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha constituency from where he is testing his electoral fortunes.

Local Muslim leaders issued a decree in favour of Chandrasekhar Rao urging the Muslim voters to support the TRS chief. Incidentally, the same group opposed Chandrasekhar Rao in the last general elections after he failed to field even a single Muslim candidate from the TRS in Telangana region.

Muslims make up a considerable chunk of the voters in Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha constituency. The principal minority community has about 1.5 lakh voters. This is the first time that the TRS managed to get the electoral support of the Muslim clergy in the backward region.

"We have decided to support the TRS candidate here, though religious leaders elsewhere are supporting other political parties. We feel that KCR will do justice to the community if he were elected to Parliament," said local clergy Moulana Abdul Kareem.

Unlike in the 2004 general elections when the entire Muslim clergy sided with the Congress, this time Muslim religious scholars are divided between the Congress and the Mahakutami, comprising Telugu Desam, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Left.

The United Muslim Front, which represents a number of Muslim religious and cultural bodies, is backing the Congress. Its leader and senior Islamic scholar Moulana Hameeduddin Aquil Hussami is touring districts meeting with local imams of mosques. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is also supporting the Congress.

The Jamat-e-Islamic Hind, another important Muslim body, has given a call to the community members to vote for "secular" parties and candidates and defeat communal forces.

"A majority of the religious scholars are with the Congress, though some are with the Mahakutami. A few are with the Praja Rajyam. It is to be seen whether the community will accept their call or exercise their franchise according to their conscience," said educationist B Moinuddin.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

India gets nuclear shipment from Russia

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 10: India on Friday received 30 tonnes of uranium pellets from Russia. This is the first-ever nuclear consignment from Russia and the second from a foreign country after India signed the nuclear deal with the USA.

Earlier, the country received 60 tonnes of uranium oxide fuel from a French firm. India will receive a total of 300 tonnes of nuclear fuel from France. Russia has promised 150 tonnes of nuclear fuel under an agreement and of this 30 tonnes was delivered to the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex.

With this India has thus far received 90 tonnes of uranium after the Nuclear Suppliers' Group lifted restrictions on the nation, following India signing an agreement on September 6, 2008. NFC officials confirmed arrival of the fuel from Russia.

The Russian consignment was delivered by TVEL, a subsidiary of government-controlled nuclear power corporation, Atomenergoprom. The Russian fuel will be used in heavy water reactors, particularly the one in Rajasthan.

The country signed a 700 million US dollar contract with the Russian firm on February 11, further boosting the nuclear cooperation between the two countries. Moreover, Russia will build four more nuclear reactors in the country. It has already constructed two reactors at Kundankulam nuclear power plant.

Recently NFC officials visited TVEL plant in Russia and signed protocols confirming acceptance of 30 tonnes of nuclear fuel.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Ragging in medical colleges: MCI comes out with stern guidelines

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 9: Perturbed over increasing instances of ragging in medical colleges across the country, the Medical Council of India has come out with anti-ragging guidelines making it mandatory on the part of every student seeking admission into medical colleges to furnish "character certificates".

Students joining MBBS courses from this academic year (2009-2010) will have to submit along with other mandatory documents, a certificate from the head of the institution last studied that the student's character is impeccable and that "he or she had not displayed persistent violent or aggressive behaviour or any desire to harm others".

Only those students producing this character certificate will be eligible for admission into the MBBS course. The MCI has also made medical colleges responsible for any ragging incident that takes place on the campus. Parents will also be held responsible for the behaviour of their wards.

The MCI guidelines comes in the wake of a stern directive from Supreme Court that it take measures to prevent ragging in medical colleges. The guidelines were prepared by Dr RK Raghavan Committee appointed by the apex court.

Moreover, students seeking admission into hostels should submit personal undertaking every year. Respective universities will ensure that the MCI guidelines are strictly adhered to. The colleges should appoint ‘professional counselors’ at the time of admissions to counsel ‘freshers’ to prepare them for the life ahead, specially for
adjusting to the life in hostels.

"The managements should ensure that there will be a clear gap of one to two weeks between the date of joining of ‘freshers’ and the ‘seniors’, ensuring that classes for the seniors commence later, so as to enable the ‘freshers’ to familiarise themselves with the campus environment and adjust to the sudden changeover from schools to higher education," said MCI secretary Lt. Col (rtd) Dr ARN Setalvad.

The guidelines stipulate that all colleges should have anti-ragging committees and anti-ragging squads. Besides, there should also be a "mentoring cell’ to oversee and involve senior students as ‘mentors’ for the ‘freshers’. An anonymous random survey should be conducted by each institution across the entire first year batch of students every fortnight during the first three months of the academic session to cross-check whether the campus is genuinely ragging free.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Uranium: India gets biggest-ever nuclear consignment

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 31: In the biggest-ever nuclear consignment, India
on Tuesday received 60 tons of uranium from French nuclear supplier
AREVA NC. This forms part of the 300 tons of uranium ore
concentrate, which India will get under Indo-French bilateral
agreement in the aftermath of clearance by Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The remaining nuclear consignment will reach the country later this
month. India will also get 120 tons of uranium ore from Russia in the
next few days.

RN Jayaraj, chief executive of city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex, which
handles this uranium ore for conversion into nuclear reactor grade
pellets, told reporters that "India has wonderful days ahead".

Though NFC supplies nuclear fuel to 15 Pressurised Heavy Water
Reactors and two boiling water reactors, the present nuclear
consignment will be used only in two reactors covered under
"safeguards domain" as per Indo-US nuclear deal and 123 agreement.
The reactors, where the imported fuel is used, are open for international

The French consignment and the proposed Russian nuclear supplies
will boost India's plans to generate green energy from uranium. The 60
tons of fuel India got on Tuesday will generate 256 crore units of

The material from AREVA NC will be processed in the designated fuel
plants at NFC. The uranium ore concentrate is converted into nuclear
grade pellets and sintered at high temperature to get high density
uranium dioxide pellets. These pellets are stacked and encapsulated in
thin walled tubes of zirconium alloy. Nineteen such fuel pins are
assembled to form a fuel bundle for PHWR 220 megawatt plants. The
bundles so produced will be loaded in the safeguarded nuclear plants,
he said.

By 2030 the country's installed nuclear capacity could grow to 63,000

Nuclear Fuel Complex Makes A Mark At International Level

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 31: From a stage where it has to struggle to put together
components for India's nuclear reactors, the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex has
now graduated to the level of exporting technology to third world countries.

In the next few days, NFC is all set to export "End-closure Welding Machine"
through International Atomic Energy Commission. The Nuclear Fuel Complex
emerged successful in international bidding on this critical machine employed in
bundling fuel for nuclear reactors.

"We are exporting the End-closure Welding Machine to a third world country
through IAEC. We got the order to manufacture this critical equipment. It is now
ready for despatch. Two decades ago we could not secure the machine because
of international restrictions. We have to develop it using indigenous
technology and today we are in a position to export it," RN Jayaraj, NFC
chief executive said.

Fuel bundles loaded with uranium pellets are used in nuclear reactors. The
bundles have to be welded at both ends using precision technology without
any leakage. The bundles have to pass through the critical helium testing to
ensure that the welded ends are strong enough to withstand the heat and do
not leak in the least. The Nuclear Fuel Complex team has mastered the art.
The machine has been developed by the automation group of the NFC.

The integrity of the fuel bundle depends primarily on the integrity of the end-
cap weld. NFC has always worked on improving the technology. "These
tubes undergo helium leak tests which give us an integrated picture in the
case of end-cap welds," said deputy chief executive Sai Baba. The NFC has
also introduced robotic handling system for bigger fuel bundles which weigh
24 kgs.

Jayaraj told reporters that the GE has expressed interest in seamless Calendria
tubes used in nuclear reactors. "Seamless calendria tubes improve the
reliability and yield. GE wants these tubes for its nuclear reactors," he added.

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This Day In History

Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

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