Friday, December 28, 2007

Hepatitis E leads to viral jaundice in Hyderabad


December 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 27: A little known hepatitis E virus is responsible for spread of viral hepatitis (jaundice) in Hyderabad.
The viral hepatitis, caused by hepatitis E virus, remains mostly undiagnosed for the simple reason that doctors go in for serum tests for more famous cousins of HEV, the hepatitis A and hepatitis B viruses. Tests for hepatitis A and B viruses do not reveal the presence of HEV and the patient silently suffers till the immunity builds up or some health expert chances upon the HEV test.
A study conducted by P Sarguna, A Rao and KN Sudha Ramana of the city-based Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases (Fever Hospital), during a recent waterborne outbreak of viral hepatitis in old city, revealed that 78.57 per cent of the cases related to hepatitis E while 5.31 per cent of the cases were because of mixed infection caused by HEV and HAV.
As many as 546 clinically and biochemically documented cases were screened for the hepatotropic viral markers, hepatitis A, B, C, and E by ELISA method. The study revealed that HEV was the major etiological agent transmitted by contaminated drinking water. The researchers highlighted the importance of screening for both enterically (oral route) transmitted hepatotropic viral markers as well as the parenterally (other than oral route) transmitted hepatotropic viral markers during outbreaks of acute viral hepatitis in Hyderabad and elsewhere in the State.
Since the development of jaundice is a characteristic feature of liver disease
(in all hepatitis viral strains), a correct diagnosis can only be made by testing
the serum of patient for the presence of specific viral antigens.
Hepatitis E infection was hitherto considered to be present only in Central and South-East Asia, North and West Africa, and in Mexico, although serological surveys suggest a global distribution of strains of hepatitis E of low pathogenicity. Hyderabad generally has cases of hepatitis A, B and C and now the E strain of the hepatitis virus has made its presence felt in this part of the world.
"Hepatitis E should be suspected in outbreaks of waterborne hepatitis occurring in developing countries, especially if the disease is more severe in pregnant women, or if hepatitis A has been excluded. If laboratory tests are not available, epidemiological evidence can help in establishing a diagnosis," the WHO says in its latest guidelines. The city study on HEV gains significance in the backdrop of these WHO suggestions.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Little known hepatitis E virus spreads jaundice in Hyderabad

2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 27: A little known hepatitis E virus is responsible for spread of viral hepatitis (jaundice) in Hyderabad.
The viral hepatitis, caused by hepatitis E virus, remains mostly undiagnosed for the simple reason that doctors go in for serum tests for more famous cousins of HEV, the hepatitis A and hepatitis B viruses. Tests for hepatitis A and B viruses do not reveal the presence of HEV and the patient silently suffers till the immunity builds up or some health expert chances upon the HEV test.
A study conducted by P Sarguna, A Rao and KN Sudha Ramana of the city-based Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases (Fever Hospital), during a recent waterborne outbreak of viral hepatitis in old city, revealed that 78.57 per cent of the cases related to hepatitis E while 5.31 per cent of the cases were because of mixed infection caused by HEV and HAV.
As many as 546 clinically and biochemically documented cases were screened for the hepatotropic viral markers, hepatitis A, B, C, and E by ELISA method. The study revealed that HEV was the major etiological agent transmitted by contaminated drinking water. The researchers highlighted the importance of screening for both enterically (oral route) transmitted hepatotropic viral markers as well as the parenterally (other than oral route) transmitted hepatotropic viral markers during outbreaks of acute viral hepatitis in Hyderabad and elsewhere in the State.
Since the development of jaundice is a characteristic feature of liver disease (in all hepatitis viral strains), a correct diagnosis can only be made by testing the serum of patient for the presence of specific viral antigens.
Hepatitis E infection was hitherto considered to be present only in Central and South-East Asia, North and West Africa, and in Mexico, although serological surveys suggest a global distribution of strains of hepatitis E of low pathogenicity. Hyderabad generally has cases of hepatitis A, B and C and now the E strain of the hepatitis virus has made its presence felt in this part of the world.
"Hepatitis E should be suspected in outbreaks of waterborne hepatitis occurring in developing countries, especially if the disease is more severe in pregnant women, or if hepatitis A has been excluded. If laboratory tests are not available, epidemiological evidence can help in establishing a diagnosis," the WHO says in its latest guidelines. The city study on HEV gains significance in the backdrop of these WHO suggestions.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tribes in NE link India, SE Asia


December 26, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 25: The Northeast India provides the signatures of genetic link between Indian and Southeast Asian populations.
A joint study by the city-based Biological Anthropology Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
reveals that Austro-Asiatic Khasi tribes of Northeast India represent a genetic
continuity between the populations of South and Southeast Asia. The study suggested that India could have been a major corridor for the movement of populations from India to East/Southeast Asia.
Northeast India, the only region which currently forms a land bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, has been proposed for long as an important corridor for the initial peopling of East Asia. Given that the Austro-Asiatic linguistic family is considered to be the oldest and spoken by certain tribes in India, Northeast India and entire Southeast Asia, the city-based researchers from ISI and CCMB expected that populations of this family from Northeast India should provide the signatures of genetic link between Indian and Southeast Asian populations.
The scientists studied eight groups of the Austro-Asiatic Khasi from Northeast India and the neighbouring Garo and compared with that of other relevant Asian populations. The results suggested that the Austro-Asiatic Khasi tribes of Northeast India represent a genetic continuity between the populations of South and Southeast Asia, thereby advocating that Northeast India could have been a major corridor for the movement of populations from India to East/Southeast Asia.
The researchers, B Mohan Reddy, Vikrant Kumar, K Thangaraj and Lalji Singh, said the Indian subcontinent had been considered as a major corridor for the migration of human populations to East Asia. This region is inhabited by populations belonging to Indo-European, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic linguistic families.
"Whereas Indo-European populations are also found in other parts of India, West Asia and Europe but absent in East Asia, Tibeto-Burman populations are otherwise found only in East Asia. However, Austro-Asiatic speakers, hypothesised as probably the earliest settlers in the Indian subcontinent are also found in other parts of India as well as in East/Southeast Asia.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Vizag links obesity, diabetes


December 23, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 22: Researchers from Andhra University have discovered the specific genetic link between obesity and diabetes mellitus or type-2 diabetes. Though obesity has oft been linked to type 2 diabetes (patients suffering from this type of diabetes need no insulin), there has been no conclusive data on how it works out.
Obesity is an important component of metabolic syndrome X and predisposes to the development of type 2 diabetes. Moreover, it is not clear how genetic factors interact with environmental and dietary factors to increase the incidence. Andhra University researchers have found a genetic link between overweight and diabetes mellitus.
The study gains significance in the backdrop of Andhra Pradesh gaining the dubious distinction of being the diabetes capital of India. Within Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad city leads the number of diabetic patients.
The researchers, Undurti N Das and Allam A Rao, performed gene expression profile in subjects with obesity and type 2 diabetes with and without family history of the disease. They noted that genes involved in carbohydrate, lipid and amino acid metabolism pathways and other factors were upregulated in obesity compared to healthy subjects.
"In contrast genes involved in cell adhesion molecules and insulin signalling and immune system pathways are downregulated in obese. Genes involved in inflammatory pathway are differentially expressed both in obesity and type 2 diabetes. These results suggest that genes concerned with carbohydrate, lipid and amino acid metabolic pathways play a significant role in the pathobiology of obesity and type 2
diabetes," they said.
Dr Das and Dr Rao obtained blood samples from healthy normal, healthy but was overweight, obese, persons with type 2 diabetes with family history and those with type 2 diabetes with no family history of diabetes.
All these subjects were matched for age, gender, and body mass index. RNA was extracted from the peripheral blood leukocytes from these subjects. Gene expression values were obtained for 39,400 genes for each individual. Later, they did a comparison study to arrive at the conclusion that the genes that deal with carbohydrate and other metabolic pathways in obese persons lead to diabetes mellitus.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Consumers to fight against fish pollution


December 2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 17: With incidents of fish pollution on the increase in the country, a group of fish consumers has formed themselves into a formidable force to fight against polluting industries.
Polluted fish is a silent killer, affecting the brain, kidneys and blood of those who consume it quite frequently. According to an estimate about 50 per cent of fish produced is contaminated with heavy metals. Even the catch from the ocean is polluted with heavy metals that are capable of killing an unborn child in mother's womb.
The Coastal Andhra Fish Favourites' Association will launch legal battles against polluting pharmaceutical and industrial units that let out untreated pollutants into water bodies. So far, there's no consumer body in the country to take interest in the health of people who eat fish, though many State governments have been recommending use of fish in regular diet to keep oneself in good health. The Association will also simultaneously launch a social awareness campaign.
"The importance of fish in one's daily diet has gained momentum of late. More and more number of doctors and dieticians are encouraging patients as well as the healthy to consume fish in sufficiently large quantities for good health and extra brain power. But polluted fish is doing more harm than good. We are fish lovers and want healthy fish," says S Bhujanga Rao and Shaik Ali Shah of the Association.
About 1000 fish lovers got the idea of forming themselves into a consumer rights force after they noticed that a variety of fish that otherwise commanded a price of Rs 100 per kg was being sold for just Rs 40 a kg because of pollutants let out by an industry in Bhimli town in Visakhapatnam district.
Fish consumer movement gains significance in Andhra Pradesh as the State is the largest producer of fish in the country contributing to more than 10 per cent of total fish production, including marine. The fish industry contributes 2.3 per cent to the GSDP and the net produce is worth about Rs 7,000 crore. Research studies have revealed that most of the fish is polluted with heavy metals like mercury and lead which continues to accumulate in the human body with a synergetic effect.
Results showed that fish contained enough mercury to kill an unborn child. Women who consume fish more than two times a week showed seven times more mercury in their blood levels. In the case of children the accumulation is as high as 40 times.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Children to get HIB and second dose of measles vaccine


December 2007
By Syed Akbar
Seoul, Dec 14: Indian children will get a second dosage of measles vaccine even as the Central government has decided to take up vaccination againstpneumococcal diseases in certain pockets of the country to reduce the under five childhood deaths by at least 30 per cent in the next eight years.
With the World Health Organisation fixing 2015 as the target year to bring down child mortality rate for countries by one-third, the Indian government had decided to introduce second dosage of vaccination against the deadly measles. Presently, children get just one dosage of measles vaccine under the national immunization programme. The booster dose is to ensure complete control of the disease.
Similarly, immunisation against the other major child health menace caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae will be taken up as part of the national rural health mission in select places to study the efficacy or otherwise of the HIB (haemophilus influenza type B) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. The World Health Organisation has already sounded alert on burden of pneumococcal diseases on Indian children.
Indian Council of Medical Research director-general Dr NK Ganguly told this correspondent that the second dosage of measles vaccine would effectively prevent measles in children particularly in backward regions and States. “We will include HIB vaccine from the new year under national immunization programme. As far as pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is concerned, we will first take up a study in five or six pockets before deciding on the future course of action,” Dr Ganguly said on the sidelines of the first symposium on pneumococcal vaccination in the Asia Pacific
Region being held in this South Korean Capital city.
Senior paediatricians Dr Nitin Shah and Dr Shyam Kukreja quoting WHO statistics said pneumonia was responsible for 19 per cent of under five deaths and around five lakh children under the age of five die every year because of the disease.
“In India, 30 per cent of all bacterial meningitis cases are caused by pneumococcal disease and 30 per cent of all pneumonia cases are also caused by the same bacteria,” they said.
Experts and policy makers from 20 countries attending the pneumococcal meet, organized by the International Vaccine Institute, formed themselves into Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal Disease Prevention to spread awareness in the region on the need to control vaccine-preventable
diseases, particularly those caused by pneumonia. India, China and Pakistan together contribute almost 45 per cent of all under five childhood deaths in the world.
“ICMR is collaborating research on indigenous production of vaccines to bring down the total cost. Three Indian pharmaceutical companies are conducting the research. Presently the cost of vaccination is prohibitive,” Dr Ganguly said, adding that the HIB vaccination would be taken up with funding from the Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr Ganguly said the ICMR had also started an aerosol measles vaccine trial with the financial support from GAVI, which is funding 71 other poor countries.
A large animal facility on a corporate model will come up in Hyderabad to promote drug development and pharmacological research.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Injections set to become passe


December 2007
By Syed Akbar
Seoul, Dec 13: Painful injections for immunisation will soon become a thing of the past thanks to a pioneering research by the International Vaccine Institute here.
Vaccine drops can be simply put below one's tongue (sub-lingual) to prevent diseases of the lungs and the stomach. Vaccination through the mucus of the tongue is far more effective, cheaper and painless. Studies by IVI showed that the sub-lingual method of immunisation was better than oral or nasal administration.
"Since many people are afraid of injections, we are working on the methods to deliver vaccines for pneumococcal (lung) diseases and those of the enteric (digestive system) through the mucus of the tongue. Just put a drop and it starts working immediately without any side effects. Our results on mice have been successful and we are in the clinical trial stage II. It will be available in the market soon," Dr Konrad Stadler, senior scientist of International Vaccine Institute, told this correspondent.
Scientists in the IVI's virology section examined the potential of sublingual delivery of vaccine in mice. The study showed the existence of a dense network of dendritic cells in the epithelium and a rapid and transient increase in the frequency of dendrite cells after topical application of cholera toxin adjuvant under the tongue. "Sub-lingual immunization was comparable to intranasal immunization and was superior to oral immunization regarding the magnitude and anatomic dissemination of the induced immune responses," he said.
Moreover, sub-lingual administration of live influenza virus at a dose lethal by the nasal route was well tolerated and did not redirect virus to the olfactory (nose) bulb. These features underscore the potential of the sub-lingual mucosa to serve as an alternative vaccine delivery route.
The results of the IVI's study were presented on the occasion of the first symposium on pneumococcal vaccination in Asia-Pacific region that began in this South Korean Capital city on Thursday. Leading experts, policymakers, decision-makers, and opinion leaders from more than 20 countries from the Asia-Pacific Region have proposed solutions to fight against childhood pneumonia, considered the first cause of children's deaths in developing countries around the world.
Among all child deaths associated with pneumonia, 50 per cent are associated with the bacterium *Streptococcus pneumoniae* which is believed to cause seven lakh to 10 lakh deaths annually among children less than five years of age.
"Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines capable of protecting against seven of the most common serotypes of this organism are currently available for introduction into routine infant immunization programs. These vaccines could potentially save about half a million lives every year. India is one of the top five Asian countries where the burden of pneumococcal disease is quite high," said Dr Luis Jodar, IVI deputy director-general.
The sub-lingual vaccine will be delivered using a polymer which is capableof gelling in-situ in contact with body fluids, including the oral fluid. It adheres to the mucus and stays in the tongue region for a long time with a sustained antigen release. In addition, the polymer has an antigen stabilization effect. The formulation can be prepared in various forms - a liquid, a soft gel, a powder, or a dried pad.
Sublingual technology would allow for needle-free self-administration of the vaccines which should significantly reduce the number of trained professionals typically required for large immunization programs. Also there's no need for cold storage and thus can be transported to even the remotest places. The dosage will also come down by 10 to 100 times, reducing the risk of reaction to drug.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Recurrent Spontaneous Abortions: Thousands silently suffer in India


December 10, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Thousands of young couples in India silently undergo the trauma of frequent loss of pregnancy though they are physically and biologically active and healthy. The couples do have any known causes for frequent abortions. They simply conceive but the foetus is ejected out by the time it attains the age of 20 weeks.
This unexplained loss of pregnancy that occurs quite frequently in some couples is known in the medical circles as Recurrent Spontaneous Abortions or Habitual Miscarriage. Doctors and medical researchers world-wide are perplexed at the phenomenon as the couples who suffer from the problem do not have any deformities or health related problems.
RSA is loss of two or more consecutive pregnancies before 20 weeks of gestation, which takes into consideration that a woman over 35 years is at greater risk for pregnancy loss than a 25 year old woman.
The Hyderabad-based Biological Anthropology Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute has, in its primary investigations, found that a hitherto unstudied genetic factor might be playing a crucial role in couples who lose babies before the 20th week of conception.
A team of researchers at the Indian Statistical Institute is exploring the possibility of Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) playing a key role in the early termination of pregnancies. The HLA genes are the main genetic determinants of the repertoire of possible immune responses of an individual. They play critical role throughout pregnancy by influencing gamete development, embryo cleavage, blastocysts and trophoblast formation, implantation, foetal development and survival.
"In some couples with RSA, where no certain diagnosis has been possible, HLA antigens might be playing a role at the maternal foetal interface. The foetus being semi-allogenic might face a rejection from the maternal antibodies if there is increased HLA sharing among the couple," points out Prof B Mohan Reddy. It is the first-ever study that links HLA antigens with the RSA factor.
Aruna Bezwada, one of the researchers involved in the study, told this correspondent that they have selected 150 couples with cases of frequent pregnancy failure and another 150 couples with at least one viable child for the controlled group. "Unlike earlier studies where research has been done only on women, we have taken couples for the present study," she points out.
In the absence of a definite diagnosis, couples of RSA problem undergo various experiments at the hands of their physicians often leading to complications. The present study will give a better understanding of the problem so that couples of RSA can go in for definite medical treatment and bear children.
At of now genetic basis of RSA is poorly understood. Single gene mutations, polygenic and cytogenetic factors are all found to show association with RSA.
"In Indian culture, having a baby is a life changing experience for the couple. There is no reliable estimate of the magnitude of abortions that take place in India but studies suggest that as women in India do not have control on their fertility and have poor health, there are very high chances that they experience abortions either spontaneous or induced more than once," they said.
Moreover, it is difficult to attain a reliable estimate on abortion frequencies in the Indian context as the registration of marriages, births and deaths are usually not complete. Many undergo treatment without actually knowing the cause. The present study will solve the problem as it will pinpoint the exact cause of abortion.

Experts to explain science in the Vedas


December 10, 2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 9: Vedic experts and scientists from around the country will converge on the city on December 14 to discuss and unravel the Indian scientific heritage of remote historical periods, which the modern science is yet to comprehend.
The experts will highlight, at the first international conference on "Indian Sciences in the Pre-Adi Sankara Period", the "hidden scientific meanings" of common verses of Vedas and Puranas while giving a new interpretation to the ancient publications by Aryabhata, Varahamihira and Parasara.
"Unfortunately we have thus far been concentrating only on the metaphorical and philosophical aspects of the rich content in the ancient Indian Scriptures. But there's more to the verses than mere philosophical connotations. For instance, the term Shakti has been translated as Supreme Being. In a real scientific term it means power, the atomic, sub-atomic and nuclear energy," says Prof KV Krishna Murthy of Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas.
He said experts were working only on popularly available scientific treatises of India such a Brihat Samhitha and Krishi Prasaram. But they are not concentrating on the remote periods of history. The international seminar will throw more light on the Pre-Adi Sankara period in a bid to drive the attention of intellectuals towards the scientific achievements, roughly before 2000 years.
The Vedic experts will also present their studies on rare records and evidences of the pre-Christ period which show that a medical system other than Ayurveda was prevalent. The medical system was based on "Atharvana Sastra" and it was quite different from the present-day system of Ayurveda.
The studies also showed that the ancient Indian science was not constant and was changing with time between the pre-Vedic and Vedic and Puranic periods. "We will make a live demonstration of the modern application of ancient scholar Panini's grammar of Sanskrit dating back to 3rd century BC. His treatise is best suited to modern computing problems and the best available software for computers. It is useful to solve several unsolved computer problems," Murthy said.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chenchus, Thakurs Same


December 5, 2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 4: India has 4,693 different, documented population groups that include 2205 major communities and 1900 territorial units spread across the country, but Indians are one, genetically speaking.
Joint studies by the Centre for DNA Finger-printing and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, and the National DNA Analysis Centre of Central Forensic Science Lab, Kolkata, revealed no evidence of general clustering of population groups based on ethnic, linguistic, geographic or socio-cultural affiliations.
Indian populations endowed with unparalleled genetic complexity have received a great deal of attention from scientists world over. The scientists of CDFD and CFSL studied the underlying genetic structure of 3522 individuals belonging to 54 endogamous Indian populations representing all major ethnic, linguistic and geographic groups.
"The distribution of the most frequent allele was uniform across populations,
revealing an underlying genetic similarity. Patterns of allele distribution suggestive of ethnic or geographic propinquity were discernible only in a few of the populations and was not applicable to the entire dataset," they said.
Analysis of molecular variance failed to support the geographic, ethnic, linguistic or socio-cultural grouping of Indian populations suggesting little variation between the different groups.
However, genetic sub structuring was detected among populations originating from north-eastern and southern India reflective of their migrational histories and genetic isolation respectively.
Populations such as Thakur and Khatri from Uttar Pradesh and Baniya from Bihar showed similarity with southern populations such as Naikpod Gond and Chenchu from Andhra Pradesh and with a few individuals from Maharashtra and Lepcha of Sikkim. Of the southern populations, those from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were differentiated into two groups with populations from Tamil Nadu exhibiting split membership to both groups.
In the East, Bihar Brahmin, Bhumihar, Kayasth, Rajput, Yadav, Bihar Kurmi, Orissa Brahmin, Khandayat, Karan, Juang and Paroja shared similar membership to multiple clusters revealing a common genetic structure.
In the south, Lingayat, Gowda, Brahmin and Muslim of Karnataka along with Vanniyar, Gounder and Pallar of Tamil Nadu separated from rest of the populations.
Rest of the populations from Tamil Nadu; Chakkiliyar, Paraiyar, Tanjore Kallar and from Andhra Pradesh; Brahmin, Raju, Komati, Kamma Chaudhury, Kapu Naidu, Reddy and Lambadi displayed mixed membership to multiple clusters.
Populations from western and central India showed absence of any distinct grouping with individuals having symmetrical membership across inferred clusters.
"The results reveal genetic similarity across populations with a few presenting distinct identities that did not follow traditional groupings of geography, language or ethnicity. Populations from southern India and north-eastern India largely exhibited structuring while most Indian populations shared similar membership in multiple clusters," the study said.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

No lyrics at sangam


Music | Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Hyderabadis were treated to a rare musical feat on the eve of the World Music Day by Mrudangam maestro Yella Venkateswara Rao and his team of 100 artists. The concept was also rare and never presented before in the country.
Venkateswara Rao has become synonymous with the Mrudangam, blending his own style with the classical tradition.
He musically captured the origin of the Ganga and its tributaries the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati and took the audience through the civilisations enroute till they merge into what is known as Triveni Sangamam or the confluence of the three holy rivers.
"I chose the Triveni Sangamam theme because we cannot separate our rivers from our civilisation. Ganga, the most sacred river, chisels through the Himalayas and meanders through the plains exhibiting various moods, colours and attitudes while blessing millions of lives on her journey to the ocean. Even in art, Ganga is visualised as a beautiful maiden, carrying an overflowing pot in her hand," Venkateswara Rao explains.
"The vessel conveys the idea of abundant life and fertility, which nourishes and sustains the universe," he says.
"Just as the confluence of Yamuna and Saraswati with Ganga forms the Triveni Sangamam, this union of voice, instruments and dance has created a musical symphony."
The maestro had carefully chosen three different patterns (tribhinna) of Gaana, Laya and Nritya to showcase the magic that the Ganga weaves in a ragamalika of three ragas entwined with traditional dance forms.
The symphony, aptly named Triveni Sangamam, was organised by Chaitanya Art Theatres. It was unique in that Venkateswara Rao and his team narrated the entire episode lasting 90 minutes without depending on lyrics. It was all pure music and Venkateswara Rao ensured that the concert was enlivening and interesting.
He and his team used a variety of ragas and musical instruments to create a spiritual aura for the audience as they took them on an experience of a never-ending journey of the three holy rivers that formed part of the Indian civilisation for ages and continues even now.
They made the audience feel the rivers, the splashing of water under the influence of gentle winds, the dangerous curves they take as they flow through the ridges and the valleys and the greenery they create all along their routes.
In short, Venkateswara Rao created an altogether different world of music of his own and transported the audience into it for an equally different feeling.
Venkateswara Rao has already carved out a niche for himself in the world of percussion and the Triveni Sangamam has simply added another feather to the cap of this distinguished musician.
The symphony comprised of various musical instruments like ghatam, violin, tabla, nadaswaram, dhol, mrudangam, bhasuri, saxophone and veena among others. And managing as many as 50 instruments is really a Herculean task.
And Venkateswara Rao has proved once again that he is maestro par excellence.

Naseer pays tribute to Ismat Chughtai


Syed Akbar
In his first-ever Hindustani language production, Ismat Aapa Ke Naam, actor-turned-director Naseeruddin Shah brings out the little known facet of eminent Urdu fiction writer Ismat Chughtai. The play will be staged in Hyderabad on Thursday.
Shah has based his satirical play on three of Ismat’s stories, throwing light on the nature of human relationships and the institution of marriage.
Ismat Aapa Ke Naam is a solo enactment of this witty, wise, warm and wonderful Urdu writer and Naseeruddin Shah pours life into the play with his inimitable acting style.
The first one Gharwali enacted by Shah himself is a heady satire on the institution of marriage, as well as on the social mores of the times (the 1940s).
"The amazing thing is that Ismat Aapa’s observations on the nature of human relationships are as pungent and ring as true today as they did when she was first writing and enraging the hordes of male chauvinists she was, in all probability, surrounded by," says Shah.
The second part, Chhui Muee, is enacted by Shah’s daughter Heeba. It is a tribute to the power of the rural women, expressed through an incident of childbirth witnessed by three fascinated and differently affected women in a compartment. It is a first person account. "It could well be a personal experience of the writer," he feels.
Mughal Bachcha is the third part of the Ismat Aapa Ke Naam series. Shah’s wife Ratna play the lead role. She talks about the so-called "successors" of the great Mughals, the landed gentry of Uttar Pradesh in the times of the British Raj unable to come to terms with their declining status and desperately clinging on to the tattered remnants of their ancestors’ glory.
Within this wry and perceptive social commentary is interwoven a love story of epic proportions: The story of Gori Bi and Kaley Mian. Simplicity of approach is the defining factor in this production with minimalist sets and simple manner of telling a story. It has a no-frills austerity of the director’s approach.
The purpose is to not get in the way of the original writings and to let the words of the writer emerge in all their truth and beauty in theatre.
"The play provides interesting insides into the life of a bygone era and is a must not just for theatre lovers of Hyderabad but also for a cross section of society.
Recalling his association with the late writer, Shah remarks: "Ismat ranks among the all-time greats of Urdu fiction. And as her thoughts unfold on stage you begin to see why. Ismat Aapa is a funny old lady is what I thought when I was privileged to meet her in one of her many avatars, that of a film actress this time."
"In my ignorance, I took her for a cute cuddly grandma, nothing more. By the time I took the trouble to read her works, she was already a distant memory. In the course of her journey, she had been, at different times, novelist, playwright screenplay writer, short-story writer, filmmaker and educationist. Apart from being a liberated parent and a doting grandparent," Shah says.
Ismat created a provocative body of work, which astounded and shocked her contemporaries. Some of the earliest feminist writing in India, its contribution to the renaissance in writing and of tge Urdu language which was occurring in India during the ’40s and the ’50s is too well known to need reiteration.
"It was not easy, to stand out in the company of such a awesomely gifted band of courageous, committed and creative writers as her contemporaries were: but Ismat Aapa had no problem managing it with distinction in an age when to docilely accept being part of the furniture was the ‘destiny’ of all middle-class women," Shah points out in his director’s note.

Mass marriages for the poor at Tirupati temple


Culture | Syed Akbar
A decorated chariot fitted with loud speakers enters a sleepy village raising dust and hopes, and drawing the attention of people. The chariot stops at every corner in the village calling upon parents to enrol their eligible sons and daughters for the grand wedding ceremony on August 26. The chariot then moves on to another village with the same message and task.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the richest Hindu endowment body in the world, has pressed into service its Kalyana Rathams or simply wedding chariots for its mega Kalayanamasthu, a mass wedding programme scheduled for the auspicious day of Sunday, August 26.
Buoyed by the tremendous response it received during the first phase of Kalyanamasthu held on February 22, the TTD has moved to the second phase. The Kalyanamasthu is the biggest ever mass wedding programme in the world and only a rich endowment body like the TTD could accomplish it successfully.
"The TTD plans to conduct about 1,00,000 marriages in two phases every year. The mission is three fold: to help the poor parents who find it hard to perform the marriage of their daughters, to reduce the expenditure, and to control dowry system. The programme is also aimed at preventing conversions. It is a social and religious mission to help the poorer sections of Hindu society. A trust has been formed for the purpose," says TTD chairman B. Karunakar Reddy.
The TTD will provide gold mangalsutram, wedding clothes for the couple, silver mettelu (toe ring) and free lunch for 22 people. The mass weddings are performed in all the 294 Assembly constituencies spread across the State. To ensure that the couple live happily for ever, the TTD has ensured that the mangalsutrams are sanctified by placing them at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi. Vedic pandits also perform special prayers before distributing the mangalsutrams to the couples before the ceremony.
The TTD spent Rs 5.3 crores in the first phase mass wedding. It has not fixed any upper limit on expenditure.
Karunakar Reddy accompanied by Vedic pandits has been moving around the State with the chariots to create awareness among the people. Wherever he goes, he makes it sure to deliver the message that lavish spending at weddings have turned many families bankrupt.
According to Karunakar Reddy, the auspicious moment for the mass wedding ceremony has been fixed between 11.10 am and 11.20 am on August 26. The muhurat falls in the holy Shravana Nakshathram which is believed to the birth star of Lord Venkateswara.
It is also a rare Guru-Shukra (Jupiter-Venus) combination that it will bestow the newly married couples with lasting prosperity and happy life. "We are ready to cover any number of couples. But the participants will have to fulfil the guidelines of Kalyanamasthu programme.
This is because we want to avoid legal or social complications at a later date," the TTD chairman pointed out. The eligible couples (minimum of 21 years for boys and 18 years for brides) may submit their applications till August 10.

Tirumala Balaji goes to dalits in new initiative


Published in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle 2007
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: As the sun starts rising above the horizon, dozens of senior priests and officials carrying idols of Lord Venkateswara and His two consorts Sri Padmavathi and Sri Lakshmi Devi enter a sleepy dalitwada amidst chanting of Vedic hymns. A specially decorated chariot with the idols of the presiding deity of the Tirumala-Tirupati Hills also enters the village.
The idols are placed on a raised platform in the middle of the dalitwada, the segregated habitation of the dalits, and the Vedic priests fan out inviting Dalits for a "darshan" of Lord Venkateswara, the richest Hindu deity in the world.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, which controls the Lord Venkateswara temple atop the Tirumala Hills, has embarked upon a novel programme to take the processional idols of various Hindu deities to the doorsteps of dalits to enable them to worship the almighty. Aptly named as Dalita Govindam, it has been a success so far and the TTD plans to extend it to all the dalitwadas across the State.
"This is just a symbolic gesture on the part of the TTD. The idea is to create spiritual awakening among the dalits. They generally do not get the opportunity for darshan to their heart’s content. Moreover, in some temples they are not allowed by the orthodox. We want to break it and provide the dalits with an opportunity to participate in the regular traditional rituals and offerings the deities," says TTD chairman B. Karunakar Reddy, the brain behind Dalita Govindam.
Once the dalits gather at the village centre, three couples are selected from among them to sit in front of the idols and participate in the special rites (kalyanam).
After the rituals are over, the priests and officials partake of lunch and dinner in the dalitwada. They also sleep in the village among dalits before leaving for another dalitwada the next morning.
The priests later give prasadam to dalits. They are offered the Vedic asirvachanams (blessings), normally an exclusive prerogative of VIPs.
The TTD started the novel programme in Vemuru village in Chittoor district.
Normally the processional idols of Sri Venkateswara and His consorts are taken out for darshan in the traditional four Mada Streets of Tirumala.
This is the first time that the replicas of processional idols are brought down the hill for the benefit ofdDalits.
The Dalita Govindam, however, received flak from the CPI(M) which termed the programme as a "modern form of untouchability". CPI(M) State secretary B.V. Raghavulu demands that the TTD allow appointment of trained dalits as archakas (priests) of the main temple at Tirumala and utilise their services in the traditional kitchen where the famous laddus are prepared.
Meanwhile, in a first of its kind move, Sri Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi Swami, head of Sri Visakha Sarada Peetham, plans to take more than 300 dalits, who were reconverted to Hinduism from Christianity, on a pilgrimage of important temples spread across the State on May 26.
The seer will lead the entry of reconverted dalits into the famous Hindu shrines in Srisailam (Sri Brahmaramba Mallikarjuna Swami), Tirupati (Sri Venkateswara Swami), Srikalahasti (Shiva), Vijayawada (Sri Durga Malleswara Swami) and Annavaram (Sri Satyanarayana Swami).
"The Agama Sastras (religious scriptures) do not prevent the entry of dalits into temples or other religious places. The centuries-old Hindu tradition also does not prohibit it. It’s only after the Britishers started ruling India that untouchability came into being and dalits were barred entry into temples. We are simply reviving the ancient Hindu tradition and practising the Agama Sastras by taking dalits on a pilgrimage of important temples," the Swamiji points out.

The Usual Suspects: ISI activities in Hyderabad


Published in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle August 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Though the city has on and oft been the target of terror attacks in the last few years, the police has not been able to lock up any of the real villains so far.
Instead, after every attack, top police officers recount the names of old suspects and round up some people. But the courts let them off since the police is not able to pin anything concrete on them. The ritual continues without respite.
Before April 2000, the police used to link every violent incident that smacked of terrorism with suspected ISI agent Azam Ghori. For the next five years they tried to pin every such incident on Muslim Defence Force leader Abdul Bari.
And the latest bad man in their list is Muhammad Shahed, alias Bilal, a college dropout who is being accused of masterminding the Mecca Masjid blast and the twin blasts of last Saturday.
The police closed the "history sheet" of Ghori after he was killed in an encounter in April 2000. After Shahed came up, they abruptly stopped linking Bari with terror strikes.
Except for the shooting down of Ghori and half a dozen ISI suspects in the last one decade, the police has not succeeded in proving the charge of terror against any of those who were arrested after each incident.
The usual result is another round of terror activity, death and destruction. Then the police names the usual suspects. The vicious circle continues.
The police came out with the name of Shahed soon after the Mecca Masjid blast but failed to document the charges against him. Dozens of Muslim youth from the Old City of Hyderabad have been kept in custody for more than 100 days but the police is yet to chargesheet them.
Ironically, none of the suspects of the Mecca Masjid blast has been charged with the actual blast at the masjid.
Shoeb Jagirdar and Shaikh Nayeem, alias Sameer of Maharashtra, were taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the blast but the police could only frame fake passport cases against them.
A cursory glance at old cases shows that the majority of those arrested under terror charges have been acquitted. Even those behind bars were convicted only of murder and extortion.
All those arrested by the police over terror attacks on the AP Express, at the Humayunnagar and Abids police stations and the Secunderabad railway station walked free.
Only Dr Jalees Shakil Ansari was convicted, but that was in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case.
As usual, within an hour of the twin bomb blasts on August 25, senior police officers started naming Shahed. They also named outfits like Harkat-ul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islamic, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashker-e-Tayyaba and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India.
The hurry with which the police named the culprits even before starting the probe irked many. Several Muslim and human rights organisations accused the police of acting with "preconceived notions" against the principal minority community.
The fact remains that the police has no concrete evidence to nail any of the operatives of these organisations.
Tardy investigations are to blame. The Andhra Pradesh high court had rapped the Criminal Investigation Department for booking "ISI cases" against some Muslim youth without substantial evidence. The youth were let off but not before their images were tarnished.
The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has accused the police of harassing local Muslim youth after weaving stories about their links with terrorists. "Let the police arrest the real ISI activists instead of going after local youth just because they happen to be Muslims," said Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
Muslim elders also accused many senior police officers of subscribing to the Hindutva ideology, which they said prejudiced them. "The police should not act with preconceived notions," said senior Muslim cleric Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani. "They should be open to all angles. Jumping to conclusions without even beginning the investigation will send the wrong signals and create a communal wedge between Muslims and Hindus."
Shahed’s father, Mr Abdul Wahed, says he is afraid that his son could be killed any time. "We have asked the police to produce him before the court," he said.
However, police officers say they are not targeting any community. "We round up suspects and zero in on the culprits," said Hyderabad police commissioner Balwinder Singh. "In the process some innocent people may also have been taken into custody. We let off the innocent persons."
But human rights activists do not buy this argument. Says Prof. S.A.R. Geelani of Delhi University, "If the police are really open-minded, they will look for clues from terror groups and not from Muslim organisations alone," he said.
He added that the police and other premier investigating agencies were infested with officers with RSS leanings. "They never think of the Bajrang Dal, RSS and VHP as possible suspects in any attack," he says.
Though the police handed over the Mecca Masjid case to the CBI, it is still handling the case of the unexploded bomb. MIM and other Muslim organisations allege that the police is keeping the case only to harass Muslims youth.

Rainbow warriors: India's environment heroes


Published in the Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle - Sunday Magazine November 2007
By Syed Akbar
----------
"There will come a time when the Earth is sick and the animals and plants
begin to die, then the Indians will regain their spirit and gather people
of all nations, colours and beliefs to join together in the fight to save
the Earth." Ancient Native American prophecy.
----------
This ancient Native American prophecy, though talks of the
Red Indians or the so-called Rainbow Warriors, is turning out to be true
in the case of India, with the country throwing up dozens of eminent
environment activists, who had made a difference worldwide.
Dozens of eminent environmental activists from the country have been feted by the world recently, for the tireless work they are undertaking to protect our fragile planet. They include this year's Nobel peace prize winner Dr R.K. Pachauri, Time magazine's "environment hero" industrialist Tulsi R. Tanthi, wildlife conservationist Dr Ullas Karanth who has won this year's Paul Getty award, activist-ecologist Vandana Shiva, environmentalist-researcher Sunita Narain and "dam buster" Medha Patkar to name a few.
There are many others who have been inspired by these bold men and women. They stay behind the scenes, but do their best to protect Gaia or Mother Earth.
India, with 16 per cent of the total world’s population and 1.8 per cent of the global forest cover, naturally has to take the lead in environment protection. It is doing so now after years of chanting the slogan of development at all costs. And the green effect has climbed upwards. Policy-framers such as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy have also been taking up environmental issues in earnest.
Dr Reddy, for instance, took bold measures to save Kolleru Lake, Asia’s largest fresh water body, from ecological death. It was an exhibition of rare political will, worthy of an Al Gore. Thanks to the chief minister’s tough stance, the lake is fresh and pristine again. For the first time in three decades migratory birds from Siberia are flocking to Kolleru.
"This is the first time I have spotted the Siberian cranes and other migratory birds after 1977," says a delighted local zoologist R.C. Pani. "The lake, with its vast stretch of water and unique aquatic life, is now a haven for birds again. It has been saved," he adds.
And long before Al Gore, there was another politician who changed the way governments think about nature — former Environment Minister Maneka Gandhi. She meticulously drafted the steps the environment ministry should take to protect the green cover and the fauna braving derisive talk of being an eco fundamentalist.
A green vision
But the crowning achievement of our rainbow warriors is the change they brought to the common citizen’s perception about environment, forests, pollution and climate change. From a fringe slogan, environmental concerns have come centre-stage, thanks to these men and women.
Because of their efforts, people now talk knowledgeably about pollution, chemical pesticides, artificial fertilisers, sustainable development, forest protection, restoration of natural water bodies... This has succeeded in building up pressure "from below" in a democratic manner, which has forced policy changes up above.
"A lot of issues have been brought to the fore including water scarcity, water pollution, declining forests and even air pollution," says Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, who received a Padma Shri in 2005. She is also the head of the Tiger Task Force formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "But difficult issues such as pollution in industries and cities are a lot harder to tackle. They still lack societal approval," she adds.
Travelling alone
There is still a long way to go. But our rainbow warriors are not ones who tire so easily. Time was when green activists were thought to be freaks raising purposeless slogans. It took decades of sustained campaign to make the world recognise that the planet is fragile and has to be sustained.
Like most people who think ahead, environmentalists too have faced their quota of derision. It is their commitment which kept them going. Take Dr Ullas Karanth, for instance. The second son of legendary writer Shivarama Karanth often had to cross swords with authorities in his mission to protect the tiger.
A master’s degree holder in wildlife biology from the University Of Gainsvelle in Florida, Ullas is obsessed with tigers and their safety. "Ullas realised that the habitat of the tiger was a natural forest," says Praveen Bhargava, trustee of Wildlife, an NGO devoted to environment. "By preserving the tiger, the forest — the biggest fixer of carbon dioxide and the prime factor in global warming — could be saved too," he adds.
Perfecting the (tiger’s) pugmark method, Ullas revealed that there are only 1,300 to 1,500 tigers in India, while the earlier studies had put the figure at a little more than 2,800. His research also revealed that if the prey position — enough number of deer and other animals — was right, a breeding tiger needed 15 sq. km for itself in India.
"A tiger needs about 50 to 60 deer a year," he says. "It does not kill mindlessly. Tigers die as they live — wildly," Ullas said. And to protect their habitat was his mission. His efforts finally persuaded the government to amend the Wildlife Protection Act.
Similarly, Tulsi Tanthi brought a revolution in non-conventional energy not only in India but also in Germany, China and the United States and Nobel laureate Rajendra Pachauri brought climate change to the agenda of many nations. He is also the founder director of the India-based environment think-tank, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Tulsi’s wind energy company, Suzlon, the fifth largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world, has a turnover of more than $9 billion. The company operates one of the largest wind farms in the world, at Sinban in the hills of eastern India, producing 600 mw of wind energy.
Pachauri’s efforts during the past three decades forced governments to sit up and make better laws to protect the environment. He has been active in several international forums dealing with the policy dimension of tackling climate change.
"I was not expecting any awards for my effort," says Pachauri, chairman of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. "With this award, the issue of climate change will come to the fore. The Norwegian Committee wants to stress that something should be immediately done to mitigate the threats to nature which are near and real," he adds.
He accepted that the developed countries were the major culprits in global warming. "But the levels of emissions are so high that both the developed countries and the developing countries will have to reduce emissions and take drastic measures," he says.
Wars of the future
Our rainbow warriors are always on the battle front. Many of them are getting ready for the United Nation’s Climate Change Convention to be held at Bali (Indonesia) this December. This is expected to shape the world’s environmental outlook for the next few decades. Both Dr Pachauri and Sunita Narain are set to play a major role at the Bali conference.
Within India, the misuse of forest wealth is another big area of concern for the activists. It is estimated that 70 per cent forests have no natural regeneration and 55 per cent are prone to fire. Pollution in cities is another major problem. The challenge ahead is really big.
"What we need is a change in the way the politicians think, plan and act," says Dr T. Patanjali Sastry, who has been working in coastal Andhra for decades. "The tendency to separate development from environment should go. They are not separate entities," says Sastry.
"What we need to do is to manage economic growth in such a way that we minimise environmental damage," adds Sunita Narain.
She points out that tough measures have to be taken to address major concerns like climate change. "All over the world people are trying to implement soft measures, but these are not working anywhere," she adds. "Even Nobel Prize winner Al Gore is recommending soft measures," she says.
The feted environmentalists as well as their unknown compatriots have forced Central and State governments to revise their environment priorities through their untiring campaign. And results are trickling in.
There is now a small increase in forest cover and reduction in water and air pollution. There is planned urban development and stringent norms for industries.
The Central Pollution Control Board has been forced to take up a nation-wide programme to ensure that the air we breathe and the water we drink are clean.
Moreover, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has set for itself a target of increasing the forest cover to 33 per cent by 2012.
But the rainbow warriors are not content to rest on their laurels. They will march on, to make the old Red Indian prophecy a reality. At stake is the planet itself.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Puranas are historical records


Published in Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age
By Syed Akbar
The Puranas, the ancient Hindu religious texts, are not mythological records but books of genuine historical evidence. A comprehensive research study carried out in the state by a Vedic research organisation shows that the Puranas reflect the development of social and moral ideas of the ancient Indian society, besides being chroniclers of the kings and the dynasties of those times. The Puranas are also prophetic in nature with several forecasts which later became historical truths.
"Puranas are not imaginary but have historical value. In numerous cases what the Puranas formulate, the Jatakas (ancient Buddhist texts) seem to illustrate. The striking agreement between the two accounts proves that they are not works of fiction but based on events," says Vedic researcher and Sanskrit scholar Dr Dhulipala Ramakrishna.
Dr Ramakrishna, who is a lecturer in Sanskrit in Maris Stella College, Vijayawada, argues that the Puranas cannot be trivialised by calling them mythological, or sectarian or religious. "Their theme is the presentation of the history of kings up to the end of the fifth century AD. There is no doubt that the Puranas embody the earliest traditional history," he observes.
The research is carried out under the auspices of Serve, a scientific research organisation on Vedas, and is based on historical and archaeological evidence obtained from various parts of the country including the Nagarjunakonda abutting the Nagarjunasagar lake.
According to Dr Ramakrishna, the Vishnu Purana had forecast the Mauryan dynasty while there is reference of the Guptas in the Vayu Purana. Both of them are prophecies which later turned out to be true. Kings of several dynasties have been listed in many of the Maha Puranas, some of which date back to 2,000 years before the Kaurava-Pandava war of the Mahabharata.
After the Mahabharata war, detailed lists of only three royal families — the Aiksvkus, the Pauravas, and the Magadh rulers — are mentioned in the Puranas down to the time of Adhisimakrsna, who was sixth in descent from Arjun, the hero of Mahabharata.
Dr Ramakrishna said the custom of recording dynastic history ceased with the Guptas, after whom no important dynasty or monarch has been mentioned in the Puranas.
Only intensive and comparative study of the Puranas can help us reconstructing the political history of pre-Buddhist India, Dr Ramakrishna pointed out.
According to the research study, the Puranas also offer a workable hypothesis for a system of ancient Indian chronology. The interval between the death of Parikshit and the coronation of Nanda is 1015 and 1050 years respectively, according to two versions.
The interval between the coronation of Nanda and of the Andhra dynasty is said to of 836 years. Thus the date of the access of Nanda would be 401 BC. Apart from the point of view of political history, the Puranas, "give us a picture of religious, social and economic conditions of India from ancient times up to the Muslim rule in India. They give us great insight."
The study pointed out that with regard to the political institutions in the past, there are valuable chapters in several Puranas, specially in the Matsya Purana. The elective and hereditary character of monarchy, king’s rights and duties and qualifications of councillors and ministers are described in detail. They also inform on construction of forts, rules of warfare, weapons and diplomacy, Dr Ramakrishna said.

Marlakunta dinner: What's the meat on the menu?


Published in The Indian Express on Sunday, November 15, 1998
By Syed Akbar
Come Sunday and loudspeakers blare in scores of villages straddling
forests and wildlife sanctuaries in Andhra Pradesh. Right from 6.00 am,
they call out for buyers of adavi mamsam (wildlife meat), which is sold at
several points in the villages.
The meat of wild mammals and birds, even the highly endangered ones, is
openly on sale, from the forest-side villages in Khammam, East and West
Godavari, Warangal and Adilabad to Prakasam, Karimnagar, Krishna, Nellore,
Chittoor and Cuddapah districts. According to an estimate, on any given
Sunday, wildlife meat weighing about two tonnes is sold in these areas.
And it is in these very parts that Andhra Pradesh Major Irrigation
Minister Tummala Nageswara Rao is said to have hosted his now famous
dinner where meat of endangered animals was reportedly served.
The list of animals which end up on the table includes nilgai, cheetal
(spotted deer), gaur (Indian bison), sambar, muntjac (barking deer),
blackbuck, langoor, wild boars, chowsingha (four-hornedantelope), chital
and mouse deer and birds like jungle fowl, peafowl, ducks, teals,
cormorant, spoonbills, storks, flamingoes, partridges, quails, seagulls,
snipes, spot bills, pelicans, doves, white ibis and terns. Such is the
demand for bird meat that the common sparrow has almost disappeared from
most areas in the Krishna district.
In seaside villages, one can occasionally find the meat of sea turtles and
dugongs (sea cows). There are other animals which are hunted for
commercial purposes like panthers, sloth bear, marsh crocodiles, pythons
and wild monkeys. ``Give me your address, we will bring the meat,''
hunters proudly tell visitors to these villages.
The price varies from animal to animal. The meat of the wild boar is the
cheapest of all. Sold at Rs 70 a kg, it is most widely available. The meat
of blackbuck, deer, sambar and gaur is available at a higher price,
ranging between Rs 150 and Rs 300 a kg. But the price can come down if the
catch is large. Bison meat is sold at Marudumilli and otherareas in West
Godavari district. Even the wild oxen is not spared.
Since peafowls (peacocks and peahens) are difficult to trace, each bird
commands a price between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000. At some places, the bird
is sold at even Rs 5,000. Sparrows, quails and cranes are sold even in
Vijayawada by small-time poachers.
The animals hunted during the week are dressed and kept in deep freezers
for sale on Sundays. ``If the Forest Department conducts a surprise check
on shops and houses having deep freezers in Khammam district, it will come
out with hundreds of kilos of meat of wild animals,'' a villager in
Polwoncha says, adding that not one major dinner hosted by an influential
person here goes without adavi mamsam being served.
The animals are mainly hunted with the help of electrocution, large-size
nets, guns and arrows. The electrocution method can prove dangerous to
humans too. Earlier this year, three persons were electrocuted after they
accidentally came in contact with a live electric wirespread around in
Kothagudem forests to kill wild animals.
At Gangineni in Krishna district, once an animal is hunted, it is brought
to the village centre and auctioned. The bid can go up to Rs 3,000 for a
langoor and Rs 5,000 for a sambar. The bidder then sells the meat in
retail. The hunters, usually local youths, take away the head and viscera
before the auction. This correspondent saw a heap of wild boar meat being
readied for sale in a village in Khammam district last Wednesday.
Even gangs have come up for organised poaching in Khammam, Adilabad and
Karimnagar districts, though hunting is still generally carried on by
local villagers. Besides, during every major festival, influential persons
from Tiruvuru, Nuzvidu, Vissannapet and surrounding areas in Krishna
district are known to head for the forests in tractors. Animals are hunted
down and cooked on the spot. Because of unchecked poaching, Khammam, the
only Andhra district with 51 per cent forest cover, has almost no deer
left. With the herbivorousanimals disappearing, predators, particularly of
the cat family, have been affected. The cheetah was last spotted in Andhra
Pradesh in 1955, and the panthers and tigers are disappearing. Migratory
birds have also stopped coming to Kolleru lake because of the ecological
devastation it's facing.
Poaching has made the Great Indian Bustard, too, a rare species. There are
now only a handful of these birds in the Rollapadu sanctuary in Kurnool
district. Only half-a-dozen Jerdon's Courser are alive in Sri
Lankamalleswara sanctuary in Cuddapah. The bird was spotted by Salim Ali,
the great ornithologist, over a decade ago.
Not surprisingly, officials are involved in the large-scale poaching. A
few months ago, a deer kept unauthorisedly by an IAS man at his official
residence in a coastal district, died. The superintendent of police of a
district in Telangana is known to have issued a severe warning to his
officers and constables who were using official weapons to poach wild
boars, sambars and blackbucks.
TheForest Department seems powerless to do anything about this. The state,
which has a forest cover of 63,814 sq km, has barely 5,000 men on the
field, including rangers, deputy rangers, foresters and forest guards.
Those actually looking after the wildlife section are even fewer. A senior
official regrets that the only animal left untouched in the Andhra jungles
is the hyena. ``Except hyena and vultures, all animals are killed, whether
it is for their meat, skin or horns,'' he says.
Even Forest Minister K.E. Prabhakar recently admitted that due to a
shortage of staff, a forest guard had to cover a radius of at least 40 km
a day, which was quite impossible. He announced that the Government
proposed to recruit 600 beat officers to strengthen the force.
The Kolleru and Krishna sanctuaries, which spread over an area of about
900 sq km, have only three foresters, two guards and six watchers. As a
result, many endangered animals, including dugongs, fishing cats, otters
and estuarine crocodiles are regularlykilled.
One of the reasons why incidents of poaching increase by the day is that
poachers are seldom nabbed. On the few occasions they are, they are not
convicted. The Eluru Wildlife Management Division and the Krishna wildlife
sanctuary have collected around Rs 50,000 as fines in 15 cases of
violation of the Wildlife Act in the past one year alone. The cases
include poaching of rare bird species and selling of teal and deer meat at
Ramasingavaram in Pedavegi mandal of West Godavari. However, no arrests
have been made in this connection in either the Krishna or West Godavari
districts in the past two years. When Eluru Divisional Forest Officer
(Wildlife) was asked about this, he said: ``We did not arrest the poachers
as we imposed heavy fines.''
Environmentalists criticise this approach, saying that unless the poachers
are jailed, it's difficult to check the killing of wild animals. The
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, provides for both imprisonment and
fines.In fact, if the regulatory system waseffective, the famous Khammam
dinner would never have taken place. Since the beginning of this month
alone, in Khammam, five persons have been arrested and two vehicles seized
for transporting meat of wild animals. In all, the poachers were carrying
about 100 kg of wild boar meat and 70 kg of horns of herbivores like deer,
blackbuck and sambar. But clearly, they knew they could get away with
their ill-gotten booty.

Mangroves: A safety belt under siege


Published in The Indian Express on October 25, 1998
By Syed Akbar
A totally rusted notice board outside the village of Nagayalanka, which
lies 80 km from Vijayawada, says it all. ``Welcome to Krishna Wildlife
Sanctuary, the habitat of lovely mangrove forests,'' it says.
The decrepit signboard typifies all that is wrong with this wildlife
sanctuary perched picturesquely on the estuary of the Krishna river. The
sanctuary harbours unique mangrove vegetation besides salt water
crocodiles, fishing cats and otters, besides endangered animal species
like dolphins and dugongs (sea cows).
But now most of this mangrove sanctuary is degraded, with vast stretches
of forest land having been converted into fish or prawn ponds. Cattle can
be spotted all over, freely grazing in the area and denuding the sanctuary
further. Hardly 10 per cent of the 200 sq km sanctuary now has any
greenery worth the name. The rest has been rendered into barren, sandy
patches.
Rues a senior forest official, ``The mangrove vegetation was so thick a
couple of decades ago that we used to auction the woodevery alternate
year. But today we do not even find enough seedlings to take up the
regeneration programme.''
Besides, though it is a notified wildlife sanctuary, it has no security
worth the name and poaching is known to be quite rampant in the area. The
Andhra Pradesh Government and the local people are both to blame for the
slow death of these unique forests.
The degradation started soon after a major portion of the vegetation was
washed away in the tidal wave that swept the south Andhra coast in
November 1977. What certainly added to the problem was the unchecked
poaching that went on. All the hue and cry by environmentalists to save
mangroves from extinction fell on deaf ears. One can still find people
carrying away logs of wood for firewood after having felled the mangrove
shrubs.
By the time the Government did start listening to ecologists, much of the
damage had been done. Finally, in 1992, the entire estuary of Krishna was
declared a wildlife sanctuary to protect the mangroves. Six years
later,the notification doesn't seem to have made a difference. Even the
nursery set up by the Government in Nali hamlet to take up artificial
afforestation of mangroves failed this year.
However, even as the sanctuary continues to suffer for want of protection,
plans are afoot to denotify as much as three hectares of the mangrove
forest in Machilipatnam to set up a fishing harbour. The Central
Government had earlier denotified thousands of hectares of mangrove-rich
reserve forest lands near Machilipatnam and Nizampatnam.
If these mangroves go, so will the thousands of life forms which thrive in
these forests known to have high salinity fluctuations. The wildlife here
include insects, molluscs, fish, some mammals, amphibians, reptiles and
even microscopic plankton. Birds like pond herons, reef herons, sand
pipers, flamingoes, sea gulls, little egrets, pied kingfisher and about a
hundred other species as well nest in these mangroves. They also contain
about two dozen families and 70 species of plants. Felling themangroves
will deprive the birds and animals that have lived here over the centuries
of their habitation and might even lead to their extinction.
Environment activists have suggested that as most of the villagers who
violate the Wildlife Act are from the poorer sections of society, the
Government should introduce welfare measures to reduce the dependence of
people living in and around the mangrove sanctuaries on the forests.
Activists also believe that the setting up of education centres to teach
environmental issues and to create awareness among the local people about
the fragile ecosystem they inhabit and the need to conserve it, would go a
long way in checking poaching. They have also called for
village-protection forces to look after the mangroves, suggesting that the
volunteers employed in such initiatives should be paid by the Government.
Environmental education can go a long way because if mangrove trees are
felled recklessly, it is the people living along the seacoast who will
suffer the most.The mangroves protect the coastline from erosion and help
reclaim land from the sea. They also act as shelter belts and protect
inland coastal villages from tidal waves, besides acting as a guard
against cyclones.
The mangroves also cycle their own vegetation and transport nutrients from
land to sea, which is very important for the survival of economically
important fish like shrimps and prawns. They provide timber for boat
building, bark for tanning and seedlings for food. They also accumulate
and stabilise sediments and build up and extend coastal soils.
What's more, with their unique flora and fauna spread out against the
backdrop of a vast expanse of azure blue seawater, the mangroves are a
nature lover's paradise. Such forests survive only in marshy soils found
mostly in the mouth of rivers, sheltered shores, tidal creeks, backwaters,
lagoons and mud flats. Since these are scattered, poachers encroach upon
them regularly.
In Andhra Pradesh, mangroves occur in the estuaries of the Krishna
andGodavari rivers and cover an area of about 580 sq km, or an estimated
nine per cent of the local forest area. Besides the Krishna sanctuary,
mangroves are available at the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary in East Godavari
district.
The Chandrababu Naidu Government, given its dwindling mangrove forest
reserves, must now shake itself from slumber to save this important
resource. Otherwise it may just be too late.

Tricks of the flesh trade


Published in The Indian Express December 22, 1998
By Syed Akbar
Prostitution. The very mention of this word always conjured up in my mind
the picture of obnoxious women, luring men for filthy lucre and spreading
a myriad diseases. It does not do so any more. Not after my tour of the
red-light areas in East and West Godavari and Guntur districts earlier
this month.
During my interaction with the so-called sex workers in the notorious
areas of the coastal Andhra belt, I found that, behind every "fallen
woman", there was a tearful tale, which words alone cannot tell. I heard
tales of broken marriages and love affairs, of unkept promises, and of
cruel economic or domestic compulsions that made prostitution inescapable.
I am not ashamed to confess that there were tears in my eyes when I heard
the story of Manga (all names changed to protect identity), hardly 12
years old. But she is already two years into the profession. Fair and
slender, she was forced into prostitution by her mother. She is the victim
of the system that runs from generation to generation in hercommunity, one
of the two traditional groups in Andhra Pradesh that thrive on the sex
trade.
Lata, however, is the creation of her lover. A native of Gannavaram on the
outskirts of Vijayawada, she fell in love with a boy. Blinded by his
promises, she yielded to his physical desires. Fearing her parents' wrath,
a pregnant Lata left the house and landed in red-light Peddapuram.
Another woman I came across, Mastanamma, left the `profession' last year.
But her two daughters, aged 24 and 19, are in the flesh trade. Things were
all right when her husband was alive. She used to work in a local factory
and her husband used to run an autorickshaw. But his sudden death pushed
her into an economic quagmire and prostitution.
An interesting trade practice I found was the regular transfer of girls
from one brothel to another. This is done to ensure `fresh stocks' at all
times. Girls from Nellore, Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam are
brought to East Godavari and vice versa. Some of them go to Mumbai
and Bangalore on `contracts'.
While circumstances have forced many into prostitution, others have
entered it to make a fast buck, as one sex worker confides. This,
according to her, has led to the birth of organised gangs, or `contacts'
in the flesh trade jargon. The affected sex workers are taken away to
Mumbai where the demand for girls from Andhra Pradesh is reportedly high.
These gangs, which serve as a bridge between sex workers and
brothel-owners, hire sex workers on contracts ranging between one month
and one year on payment of anything from Rs 1,000 to Rs 10,000. After the
end of the contract, the sex workers are handed back to their relatives.
The contract system is so foolproof that violators will not go unpunished.
In a particular community, whose members are mostly involved in flesh
trade, even panchayats are held to fine or punish the guilty in other
ways.
The multi-million sex industry in East and West Godavari thrives on a
group of financiers. It is not the brokers, but the financiers whocall the
shots. They finance the owner of the `company' (as a brothel in the
coastal areas is called) as well as sex workers for their daily needs.
Whenever the police raid brothels and produce sex workers before the
court, the financiers rush there with bagfuls of money. They pay the fine
imposed on individual sex workers or the bail amounts.
In some cases, money is advanced towards renovation of brothels with
luxuries like revolving beds and rooms with mirrors all around. Some
brothels beat star hotels in terms of modern facilities.
This is one business, where no surety or a guarantor is needed. Everything
functions smoothly on mutual trust. The woman returns the money after she
takes an advance from the `company'-owner.

Tech Babu goes live with radio over Net


Published in Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle on December 1, 2007
November 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov. 30: The main opposition Telugu Desam has set up an online radio station named TDP Radio. All you need is an Internet connection and a pair of speakers to tune into TD’s version of the happenings in the State. TDP Radio is the brainchild of party president N. Chandrababu Naidu, who has a yen for things hi-tech.
He wants to disseminate hot news of the state to Telugu-speaking people living in foreign countries, with a TD slant of course. It can be assessed by clicking TD’s official website, www.Telugudesamparty.org. Mr Naidu got the idea of
having his own radio station after the recent interaction with Telugu-speaking NRIs in the US, the UK and Canada.
A survey conducted by the party showed that about five million Telugu-speaking people were living in about 100 countries.
“The online radio service will not only give news to Telugus but will also keep them in touch with our party,” said a senior TD leader. An exclusive website for the Telugu NRIs for exchange of views on various important topics has also been set up by TD. Telugus outside the country can post their views on TDP Radio in the NRI website. Since TDP Radio is webcast, it can be accessed and heard from anywhere in the globe.
TD is perhaps the only political party in the country to have its own online radio station. Mr Naidu has also set up video links in the party’s official website to enable people to see happenings in TD headquarters NTR Bhavan.
Press conferences held at NTR Bhavan are webcast, both in audio and video formats. Now that the State Assembly elections fast approaching, Mr Naidu is also thinking of reviving his party’s mouthpiece, Telugu Desam Weekly, published earlier in Telugu and Urdu.

BCG Booster dose needed to fight TB


Published in Deccan Chronicle on November 30, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 29: City scientists suggest that a booster dose of BCG vaccine should be given to children between the age of 13 and 15 years to prevent spread of tuberculosis in the country.
The Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics and Mahaveer Hospital and Research Centre took up a study to find out why people, who had been immunised for TB in childhood, were developing the killer disease at a later stage in life. The study revealed that the efficacy of the BCG vaccine comes down with age, necessitating a booster dose during the adolescent period.
Those who do not take a booster BCG vaccine stand exposed to the attack of the TB bacteria.
Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccine has displayed inconsistent efficacy in different trials conducted in various geographical regions. Though BCG has brought down the instances of TB in children, its efficacy wanes with age, causing concern to health experts and researchers. The present study employed the latest laboratory techniques to establish that a single dose of BCG vaccine given at birth is not effective throughout the life of an individual. He or she needs a booster dose, preferably in the adolescent or teenage to prevent the spread of the disease.
Ninety healthy children who were without any clinical evidence of tuberculosis, 45 with a BCG-scar and the remaining 45 without scar and 25 with tuberculosis were covered in the study. The incidence of TB was analysed in 216 children attending a DOTS clinic in Hyderabad.
High incidence of TB was observed in age group 13-14 years followed by children in the age group 10-12 years. In all 79 per cent of vaccinated children showed positive proliferative responses while only 39 per cent of the unvaccinated and 58 per cent of the tuberculosis children showed positive responses.
The stimulation indices in vaccinated children decreased in the older children concurring with an increase in the incidence of TB.
"Significantly high levels of in vitro interferon demonstrated in BCG vaccinated children substantiate the observation that BCG is effective in children, but the effect may wane with age. The immunity could be boosted using modified BCG," the study pointed out.
Though a variety of live vaccines have been developed as vaccines, until now no booster vaccine has been shown capable of significantly enhancing the level of protective immunity.
The study noted that waning of immunity was of particular public health interest because it may result in increased susceptibility later in life. The mechanism underlying the gradual loss of effectiveness of BCG as the individual reaches 10 to 15 years of age is poorly understood.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Top class Brahmin colony cast in Medak

November 27, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov. 26: A group of eminent Brahmins is setting up a 1,200-acre colony for the community in Siddipet of Medak district to resurrect the old Agraharam ambience. They include senior IAS, IPS, IFS and IRTS officers and journalists from the community. The Brahmin colony has been named Dhanwantari Agraharam and will have modern amenities including engineering and medical college, a super-specialty hospital, super markets, temples and an exclusive hall for rituals.
This is the first ‘caste-based’ mega real estate venture in and around Hyderabad. In olden days kings and rulers used to donate lands to Brahmins to set up Agraharams. Similarly, the new venture is meant to bring Brahmins scattered all over the city to one colony to create “mutual understanding”. The ambitious project, being taken up by Dhanwantri Foundation International, will be ready in two years’ time. Plots have been allotted and construction will begin on the auspicious Pongal day in mid-January next year. The foundation has purchased 180 acres of land near Jadcherla in Mahbubnagar district and 1,200 acres near Siddipet with funds contributed by about 1,000 members.

Plots are being sold at Rs 150 a square yard as against the normal market value of Rs 1,500. Dr P. Kamalakara Sarma, managing trustee of the foundation, refused to divulge more about the project. “I am busy with my patients,” he said when contacted. However, his message on the foundation’s website says that the vote bank-based democracy of India had led the Brahmins to a pathetic situation, irrespective of their position. “The feeling of ego and so-called intellect has not allowed the community to function as a systematic organisation leaving individuals to suffer,” he further adds.
Despite the tall talk, poor Brahmins seem to have no place in this modern Agraharam. The 504 governing council members of the foundation will get land ranging between one and three acres and 400 donor members will get 1,000 square yards each. A senior IPS officer, who is on the board of trustees, said he had been briefed about the project though he did not buy a plot.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tasleema issue: UNPA asks her to keep quiet or leave


November 2007
By SYED AKBAR
Vijayawada, Nov. 24: The United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) on Saturday curtly told controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen to either stop hurting religious sentiments or leave India.
The UNPA, which held its first political conclave here, took serious note of the "religious discord" Taslima had been creating in India since she stepped on its shores seeking asylum.
However, the coalition decided not to ask the Centre to extend or deny asylum to the writer. Neither did the meeting pass any resolution though it discussed the issue for long.
Briefing mediapersons after the two-hour conclave, National Conference leader and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Farooq Abdullah, said that if Taslima wanted to live in peace she should stop writing against religions and creating hatred between communities. "She should apologise for her writings and desist from publishing anything that would hurt the religious sentiments of people," said Mr Abdullah. "We apprehend trouble wherever she goes. We have seen what happened during her visit to Hyderabad."
Mr Abdullah said it was for the Centre to decide whether to extend her asylum. "But on her part, she should ensure that peace prevails in secular India. She must not attack religions. If she wants to do that, let her go to some other country," he said.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Breast milk, vaccines halt pneumonia



Deccan Chronicle, August 19, 2007
Syed Akbar
Bangkok, Aug 18: Health experts and doctors from across Asia and the Pacific have emphasised the need for breastfeeding and vaccination to prevent the spread of pneumonia, the infectious disease that has emerged as the largest killer of children under the age of five.
Armed with statistics and data, health experts, attending the 3rd Asian Pneumococcal Diseases Conference organised by Wyeth Limited, argue that proper breastfeeding for at least 11 months accompanied by vaccination will bring down the child deaths related to pneumonia by about a million every year.
Reduction in indoor pollution and intake of nutritious food will also help in building up immunity against the silent killer disease.
"Preventing children from developing pneumonia in the first place is critical to reducing its death roll. Prevention efforts include may well-known survival interventions such as expanding vaccine coverage, breastfeeding, promoting adequate nutrition and reducing indoor air pollution," says Dr Nitin Shah, former president of Indian Paediatrics Association.
Pneumonia kills more children than any other illness, more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Over two million children die from pneumonia each year, accounting for almost one in five under-five deaths worldwide. And India leads the chart with 44million cases of pneumonia, followed by China with 18 million.
According to WHO statistics, pneumonia accounts for 19 per cent of all under-five deaths. Around 26 per of neonatal deaths or 10 per cent of all under-five deaths are caused by severe infections during the neonatal period. And a significant proportion of these infections is caused by pneumonia/sepsis. If these deaths were included in the over all estimate, pneumonia would account for up to three million, or as many as one third (29 per cent) of underfive deaths each year.
Unfortunately, pneumonia has received far less attention and funding that malaria and AIDS. While 20 lakh children die of pneumonia, only eight lakh fall victim to malaria. AIDS kills three lakh children.
Health experts point out that children who are exclusively breastfed develop fewer infections and have less severe illnesses than those who are not. Breast milk contains the nutrients, antioxidants, hormones and antibodies needed by the child to survive and develop and specifically for a child's immune system to function properly.
"Infants under six months who are not breastfed are at five times the risk of dying from pneumonia as infants who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Infants 6-11 months old who are not breastfed are also at an increased risk of dying from pneumonia compared to those who are breastfed," the experts said.
The experts were unanimous in their view that immunisation will help reduce childhood deaths from pneumonia by preventing children from developing infections that directly cause pneumonia such as Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib); and from infections that can lead to pneumonia as a complication like measles and pertusis.
Three vaccines - measles vaccine, HiB vaccine and pneumoccoccal conjugate vaccine - have the potential to save millions of children's lives by reducing deaths from pneumonia. They work to reduce the incidence of pneumonia caused by the bacterial pathogens Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib vaccine) as well as pneumonia caused by serious complications from measles (measles vaccine).

Hindu seers to check religious conversions


Seers to meet in Delhi today
By Syed Akbar
Published in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle on June 23, 2006
Hyderabad, June 22: With instances of religious conversions on the rise in the country, Visakhapatnam-based Sri Swarupanandendra Swami of Sri Sarada Peetham has launched a nationwide campaign to mobilise the support of Hindu seers to protect the Vedic dharma.
Sri Swarupanandendra Swami will hold a series of meetings with Hindu religious scholars and sankaracharyas for two days from Friday in New Delhi to chalk out a strategy to stop Hindus from converting to other religions. During his stay in New Delhi he is scheduled to meet, among others, Sri Swami Jayendrananda Maharaj and Sri Swami Prabhavananda Maharaj.
More than two dozen seers are expected to participate in the meeting. Later, the Swamiji will hold a conclave of Hindu seers for three days from June 25 onwards in Haridwar.
Prominent swamis including Sri Vidyanandagiri, mahamandaleshwar of Kailash ashram, Rishikesh, and Sri Medhananda Puri Maharaj, mandaleshwar of the same ashram, will be present. The Sarada Peetham will launch a campaign all over the country after mobilising support from Hindu seers of various cults.
"The idea of a nationwide campaign is to protect the Hindu dharma from attacks from different quarters. Attempts are being made to weaken Hinduism. Religious conversions and preaching of non-Hindu religions in Hindu holy places are on the rise. We will educate Hindus and remind them of the ancient values of our Sanatan Dharma," the swami observed.
The Sarada Peetham also plans to hold a meeting of sadhus and sants in Hyderabad on September 10 as part of the campaign. The programme was originally scheduled for June 30, but had to be postponed to September 10 as swamiji will be busy mobilising support of other Hindu seers in north India, a spokesperson of the peetham said.
Hindu religious scholars have expressed anger over preaching of non-Hindu religions in Tirumala and Simhachalam. The police had to intervene and take into custody the preachers in both the places recently.