Thursday, December 8, 2005

A quarter of traffic police force in Hyderabad suffers from lung problems with high levels of carboxy haemoglobin in blood

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 8: A quarter of traffic police force in the city suffers from 
lung problems with high levels of carboxy haemoglobin in blood thanks to 
constant exposure to ever-increasing vehicular pollution.
According to a research study carried out by AP Government General and 
Chest Hospital, police personnel who are on traffic duty are more prone to 
lung-related diseases than their counterparts in crime and law and order 
sections. The study was carried out on traffic cops and control group and a 
comparative analysis revealed that even non-smoking traffic policemen have 
relatively higher levels of carboxy haemoglobin levels in their blood.
As many as 659 traffic constables were subjected to pollution study and of 
them 175 found to be suffering from one or other lung ailment. Similar 
studies were also carried out on traffic police personnel in Vijayawada and 
Hyderabad is closely behind Delhi, the fourth largest polluted city in the 
world, both in terms of suspended particulate matter, lead toxicity and 
carbon monoxide levels in atmosphere. There has been a three-fold increase 
in pollution levels in Hyderabad since 2000. The led toxicity levels in blood 
is of the order of 20 to 24 mg per decilitre as against the permitted levels of 
10 micro grams per decilitre. The carbon monoxide levels often cross the 
permissible limits in Hyderabad and since traffic cops are exposed to 
constant air pollution they are more prone to lung diseases than other 
When CPI-ML legislator Gummadi Narasiah raised the issue in the State 
Assembly on Thursday, Home Minister K Jana Reddy announced that traffic 
cops would be exposed to fresh oxygen in oxygen chambers to improve their 
blood quality and detoxify the effect of carbon monoxide. Narasaiah 
demanded that traffic cops be given medical reimbursement facility as they 
are forced to undergo expensive tests in private hospitals.
"Traffic police personnel are being given fresh oxygen once a week free of 
charge. Anti pollution nose masks have been distributed to all cops on traffic 
duty," the home minister said.

A quarter of Hyderabad traffic police force suffers from lung problems

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 8: A quarter of traffic police force in the city suffers from lung problems with high levels of carboxy haemoglobin in blood thanks to constant exposure to ever-increasing vehicular pollution.
According to a research study carried out by AP Government General and Chest Hospital, police personnel who are on traffic duty are more prone to lung-related diseases than their counterparts in crime and law and order sections. The study was carried out on traffic cops and control group and a comparative analysis revealed that even non-smoking traffic policemen have relatively higher levels of carboxy haemoglobin levels in their blood.
As many as 659 traffic constables were subjected to pollution study and of them 175 found to be suffering from one or other lung ailment. Similar studies were also carried out on traffic police personnel in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.
Hyderabad is closely behind Delhi, the fourth largest polluted city in the world, both in terms of suspended particulate matter, lead toxicity and carbon monoxide levels in atmosphere. There has been a three-fold increase in pollution levels in Hyderabad since 2000. The led toxicity levels in blood is of the order of 20 to 24 mg per decilitre as against the permitted levels of 10 micro grams per decilitre. The carbon monoxide levels often cross the permissible limits in Hyderabad and since traffic cops are exposed to constant air pollution they are more prone to lung diseases than other citizens.
When CPI-ML legislator Gummadi Narasiah raised the issue in the State Assembly on Thursday, Home Minister K Jana Reddy announced that traffic cops would be exposed to fresh oxygen in oxygen chambers to improve their blood quality and detoxify the effect of carbon monoxide. Narasaiah demanded that traffic cops be given medical reimbursement facility as they are forced to undergo expensive tests in private hospitals.
"Traffic police personnel are being given fresh oxygen once a week free of charge. Anti pollution nose masks have been distributed to all cops on traffic duty," the home minister said.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Watching TV too much not only affects eyesight but also makes adolescent children obese and overweight

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 3: Watching TV too much not only affects eyesight 
but also makes adolescent children obese and overweight.
According to a research study conducted by the city-based National 
Institute of Nutrition, school children, particularly in the age group 12-
17, who spend more than five hours a day watching television are 
seven times more susceptible to obesity and overweight than those who 
watch TV for less than three hours.
The explanation offered is quite simple. Spending more time in front of 
television means less physical work and hence overweight and obesity. 
The study revealed that the prevalence of adolescent overweight and 
obesity among urban adolescent school children in Hyderabad was 
higher than in their rural counterparts by 0.6 per cent.
The prevalence was more among the children of upper middle and high 
socio-economic groups compared to the children of low and low 
middle socio-economic groups. Obesity was found to be relatively less 
among children participating in physical exercises like games and 
sports and higher among the children with no physical exercise or who 
were watching TV for long hours.
The report points out the problem was also higher among children who 
consumed fatty and fried foods and also among those frequently 
consuming snacks and ice creams.
The NIN selected 23 schools catering to low, middle and upper middle 
income groups adopting the stratified random sampling procedure. 
Anthropometric measurements like height (cms) and weight (kgs) were 
taken on 1,208 adolescent school children using standard procedures. 
Information on socio-economic and demographic particulars, their 
perceptions and practices on diet, lifestyle patterns, physical activities 
and frequency of consumption of foods was assessed using pre-tested
The scientists carried out stepwise logistic regression analysis which 
revealed that in general, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was
6.2 per cent. Girls are a little bit obese (6.3 per cent) as compared with 
boys (6.1 per cent). The prevalence was significantly higher by 0.001 
per cent among children studying in private and private aided 
institutions (eight and nine per cent) as compared to those studying in 
the government institutions (2.4 per cent). The figures for children with 
different economic backgrounds are upper middle (6.7 per cent), high 
socio-economic status (13.1 per cent) and the low and low middle 
socio-economic status (1.7 to 2.5 per cent).
It was significantly lower in the children who were reportedly 
participating in the household activities for more than three hours a 
day. On the other hand, obesity was significantly higher by 0.007 per 
cent among children (9.3 per cent), who are watching TV for more than 
three hours a day as compared to the children (5 per cent), who are 
watching T for less than three hours a day.
The report noted that the prevalence of overweight and obesity was 
seven times higher among the children, who were watching TV for 
more than five hours a day, compared to the children with less than five 
hours a day.
The incidence is 4.4 times higher in the children who belong to upper 
middle and high socio-economic status compared to the children of low 
and low middle SES and 3.9 times higher in the children who were 
studying in public schools compared to those in government schools. 
Participation in household activities for more than three hours a day  
had some protective effect from overweight and obesity.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Urdu regains lost glory in Hyderabad

November 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 12: Urdu, the language of poets and nobles, is fast regaining its lost glory in this historic city what with Urdu newspapers taking up the role of educationists and reformists in the Muslim society.
Hyderabad has the distinction of being the largest hub of Urdu newspapers in the Indian sub-continent after the Pakistani port city of Karachi. A new Urdu daily with ultra-modern printing technology is all set to hit the news-stands later this month heralding a new phase in the Urdu newspaper industry of the country.
And all the existing Urdu newspapers in the city have geared up to meet the challenges being thrown in by the new Urdu daily, Etemad, which is coming out with technologically-advanced printing machines and hi-fi editorial team.
Etemad, owned by the family of MIM supremo and former MP Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, will be the fourth major Urdu daily from the capital city of Andhra Pradesh. The other three main newspapers being Munsif, Siasat and Rehnuma-e-Deccan.
The Owaisi family's offer of generous perks and salaries to Urdu journalists,
calligraphists and computer operators has become the talk of the media circles. Urdu journos who hardly used to get Rs 6000 a month are now being paid a salary of between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. Attracted by the offer, even journalists from north India have applied for posts in the newspaper.
"The combined circulation of Urdu newspapers in Hyderabad is more than that of any city in India. Only Mumbai comes somewhere near Hyderabad in terms of circulation of Urdu dailies. Hyderabad occupies the second slot in the Urdu-speaking world after Karachi," says Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who edits the popular Urdu weekly Gawah.
Even while procuring advanced printing technology, Urdu newspaper barons feel that the emergence of another Urdu daily in Hyderabad will not eat into the existing circulation. "The circulation of Siasat has not been affected after Munsif relaunched itself. Hyderabad has more scope for Urdu readership.
Etemad will create its own readership without affecting any of us," says senior journalist and Siasat editor Zahid Ali Khan. Siasat is going to change its design and editorial content in tune with the changing times.
Rehnuma-e-Deccan, the oldest exant Urdu newspaper in Indian sub-continent, is also going in for the latest printing machinery while Munsif is planning to launch a Urdu TV channel. "There is no dearth of Urdu readership in Hyderabad," observes Nasim Arifi, editor of Etemad.
The Urdu newspapers have created their own base of readership through educational programmes. The Abid Ali Khan Educational Foundation set up in memory of Siasat founder has been instrumental in teaching Urdu to about 25000 people every year. The Munsif daily has opened Urdu schools in the city.
"While Urdu is losing ground in the north, it is gaining popularity in Hyderabad. It is mainly due to high standards of journalism and educational activities of Urdu newspapers. Our standards are the best in the world. Even the Urdu Press in Pakistan is no exception," says Syed Vicaruddin, editor of Rehnuma-e-Deccan.
Etemad is going to be the most modern Urdu newspaper in the country both in terms of quality and editorial content, says Nasim Arifi. Though it is being brought out by the Owaisi family, the newspaper will maintain its independent identity. "It is a good trend that Urdu journalists and Urdu journalism have finally got the recognition they deserve. Modernisation of Urdu papers is also a welcome step when Urdu is losing ground elsewhere," Zahid Ali Khan observes.
Siasat is planning to launch a school of journalism for training of Urdu journalists while Munsif proposes to start an edition from Delhi.

Diabetes on the rise in Andhra Pradesh

November 12, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Fast changing food habits coupled with stress and increasing environment pollution is contributing to the spread of diabetes in the country. Andhra Pradesh is no exception. According to an estimate by the American Diabetes Association, there are at least 31.7 million diabetic patients in India and the number is expected to grow to 79.4 million by 2030. In Andhra Pradesh alone about 30 lakh people suffer from diabetes and Hyderabad with its fast food joints and the Nawabi lifestyle is fast emerging on the world map of diabetes with many people joining the list of patients.
As the World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14, the World Health Organisation cautions people that about 366 million people worldwide would be diabetic patients by 2030. A recent survey by the Diabetes Association of Andhra Pradesh showed that of the 12,000 people surveyed in rural areas, about two per cent or 240 people suffer from diabetes.
What is worrying doctors is that diabetes is also fast spreading in rural areas. It is also no longer a disease of the developed countries. The prevalence of diabetes in urban areas of Andhra Pradesh is estimated to be 10 per cent. As diabetes expert Dr PV Rao points out the prevalence rate in cities often touch 14 per cent. The increased prevalence of diabetes in India has a lot to do with a switch from a traditional to a Western diet.
“Diabetes is a major threat to global public health that is rapidly getting worse, and the biggest impact is on adults of working age in developing countries. At least 171 million people worldwide have diabetes. This figure is likely to more than double by 2030 to reach 366 million,” says a WHO report on diabetes. It has launched a mission programme for diabetes control to “prevent diabetes whenever possible and, where not possible, to minimize complications and maximize quality of life”.
Diabetes is fast emerging as the root cause of many complicated health diseases including cardiac problems. As senior interventional cardiologist Dr PC Rath points out, instances of coronary heart diseases are generally related to neglect of diabetes. “India has the highest incidence of diabetes. Diabetic patients are more prone to coronary heart diseases. The patient suffer from chest pain which he or she normally neglects. This causes silent heart attacks,” he points out. Dr Rath advises diabetic patients to undergo regular health check-up every year so prevent cardiac complications.
Ayurveda expert Dr Venugopal says that regular exercise will help in the management of diabetes. “We can prevent diabetes by regular exercises and controlling diet. Traditional Indian food is the best food. But our people have now taken to Western food habits which is one of the reasons for the fast spread of diabetes in India,” he feels.
According to him alternative system of medicine will go a long way in managing diabetes. The panchakarma therapy, a gift of Ayurveda, will not only stop complications but also prevent amputation of diabetic foot.
Some startling facts and figures

1. India currently has the world's largest diabetic population with an
estimated four crore people
2. Every sixth person is a diabetic in Hyderabad and other metropolitan cities
including Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
3. Every 15 minutes a legis lost to diabetes in India
4. In India 40,000 legs are amputed per year, most of them as a result of an
infection in the foot of someone with diabetes.
5. It is estimated that 1000 amputations take place in a year in Hyderabad,
3000 in Delhi and 4000 in Mumbai.
6. Eightyfive per cent of amputations can be prevented with early detection
and early interventions
Early signs
1. Increase in urine volume and frequency. It increases as the glucose levels in blood go up. Kidneys filter blood and try to rid it of excess glucose. Frequent urination means dehydration which seriously affects the health.
2. Increase in thirst. Since water is lost in excessive urination, the patient drinks more water. Excess sugar concentrates the blood and this also increases the thirst.
3. General weakness and fatigue.
4. Slow or rapid weight loss. Many patients with early diabetes notice they are actually eating more and yet losing weight.
5. Increased hunger and glucose though more in blood is not available for cells as fuel for energy.
6. Blurred vision may be noticed. This is because the fast increasing blood glucose levels can cause fluid shifts in the lens of the eye.
7. Infections of gums, bladder and skin. Women may notice recurrent urinary or vaginal infections.
8. Healing of wounds is slow in noninsulin-dependent cases.
9. Irritability; drowsiness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, or itching.
10. Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet

Diet Control
Diabetic patients should follow a strict dietary system to keep the disease under check. They must avoid the following foods.
1. Salt since it aggravates the problem.
2. Sugar as it only adds to the calories and carbohydrates.
3. Foods containing fat or high fat content.
4. Control intake of red meat to the extent possible.
5. Whole milk or milk products. Low fat milk is sufficient.
6. Tea and coffee. Take just two cups of the conventional tea or decaffeinated coffee in a day.
7. White flour and its products.
Diabetic patients may take the following items in sufficient quantities to keep their body in good condition.
1. Bitter gourd as it contains plant insulin which reduces blood sugar levels.
2. Fenugreek seeds.
3. Jamun or Indian black plum or berry.
3. Garlic.
4. Onions.
5. Vegetables and foods with high fibre content.
6. Cinnamon solution
7. Foods containing anti-oxidants like lemon.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is of two types. It is classified commonly as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes or juvenile onset diabetes occurs mostly in children. Type 2 or adult onset diabetes occurs around 35-40 years of age.
Diabetes is a chronic disorder in which the body fails to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy. Many of the foods are normally converted into a type of sugar called glucose during digestion. The bloodstream then carries glucose through the body. The hormone, insulin, then turns glucose into quick energy or is stored for further use.
In diabetic people, the body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin correctly. This is why too much glucose builds in the bloodstream.
Diabetes in children: The body produces little or no insulin. It occurs most often in childhood or in the teens and could be inherited.
People with this type of diabetes need daily injections of insulin
Diabetes in adults: It is the most common diabetes. About 80 per cent of diabetic patients suffer from this. The pancreas produce enough insulin but the body cells
do not metabolise it. This type of diabetes is generally triggered by obesity.
What causes diabetes
In patients suffering from insulin-dependent diabetes the pancreas fail to make enough or stop making altogether insulin. Doctors believe that this type of diabetes is caused by an over-reactive immune system. A triggering factor confuses the body's defence system into attacking the beta cells of the pancreas and killing them. This autoimmune reaction may be triggered by a virus or by several viral infections.
Heredity and environment are other factors that cause insulin-dependent diabetes.
Diabetes is diagnosed when it is determined that a person's blood sugar is too high because of failure of insulin. The main effect of insulin is to regulate metabolism, the body's ability to utilize fuel. In diabetes, sugar metabolism is directly effected, however, the metabolism of our two other fuels, fat and protein is also effected.
Doctors use urine and blood tests to check for diabetes. In both, they are checking glucose levels. Glucose in the urine can be a sign of diabetes, although it is not always so. The doctor also may give a complete physical to check the heart, eyes and kidneys.
How to manage diabetes
Patients can help control their blood sugar and diabetes when they eat healthy, get enough exercise, and stay at a healthy weight. A healthy weight also helps patients control their blood fats and lower the blood pressure. Many people with diabetes also need to take medicine to help control their blood sugar.
Good food choices for diabetes are no different than what is recommended for all other people.
One can help control the blood sugar and diabetes by eating healthy, doing enough exercise, and staying at a healthy weight.
Doctors say that distributing meals and snacks throughout the day is important for people with diabetes. At least three meals are recommended.
Diet is a cornerstone of controlling diabetes. More than half of all adult diabetics manage their diabetes with diet rather than insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents.
Panchakarma therapy for diabetes
Ayurveda is highly effective in the treatment of diabetic foot, a dreadful
complication of diabetes. Almost 1.5 lakh people suffering from diabetes lose
their limbs every year due to non-healing of foot ulcers/wounds.
According to Dr NB Venugopala Rao, Nadisweda, a medical technique with
roots in Ayurveda, has been found to be useful in the treatment of diabetic
foot. "It helps in increasing the blood circulation in the peripheral blood
vessels thereby speeding up the recovery process. It prevents the formation of
gangrene," he points out.
In majority of cases, the blood vessels develop atherosclerosis, a condition
where the lumen of the blood vessels become narrow, decreasing the flow of
blood to a particular area or areas where the sensitivity of the skin decreases.
This condition is called diabetic neuropathy. It makes the foot susceptible to
injury. Ayurvedic drugs hold good for treatment of different types of chronic
ulcers like ischemic nature, deep vein thrombosis, occlusion of blood vessels.
Nadisweda is a modern adoption of age-old panchakarma technique, the
mainstay of many Ayurvedic therapies. "This is a combination of established
procedures in cleaning the wound by herbal decoction, administration of a set
of herbal drugs and application of steam to the injury," Dr Veugopala Rao
points out.
For washing, selective herbs are finely powdered, thoroughly mixed with
water and boiled. Medicated oil is applied on the affected part and exposed to
steam of a herbal mixture for about five minutes. The results have been 100
per cent successful, he claims.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rural disaster due to blind aping of World Bank: Study

November 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 10: The State government's "blind aping" of the World Bank model of agriculture is leading to "rural disaster" and severe crisis in the farming community.
According to a study presented at the third international conference on "Rural India", organised by two voluntary organisations in partnership with the Andhra Pradesh State government her on Thursday, the government pumped in huge finances to push an "industry-driven" agriculture which has finally led to "farmers' distress". Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy was the chief guest at the conference.
"Blindly aping the World Bank model of agriculture, Andhra Pradesh has pumped in huge finances to push an industry-driven agriculture that has not only exacerbated the crisis leading to an environment catastrophe but also destroyed millions of rural livelihoods, which echoes to "rural disaster".
As a result the State has turned into capital of shame for farmers' distress,
visible more through the increasing rate of suicides in the rural areas," point
out social scientists K Anand Sagar and Vijayanand Kommaluri.
In their report, "Rural Tsunami: A famine in 21st century", they took pot-shots at the State government accusing it of "rhetoric and statistics that have bred immunity against compassion".
The ground realities are far removed from the rhetoric, they pointed out adding that the statistics being rolled out by the government are immune against compassion. "We are all part of a global food system, which perpetuates poverty and deprivation. The claims of improved technology for agriculture ignore the stark realities like increasing indebtedness, growing poverty, resulting in human suffering and hunger," the study says.
Pointing out that farmers' suicides were due to man-made disaster (famine) rather than natural disaster (drought) due to failure of the State and its machinery, they said the State government should be aware of the fact that while drought conditions are caused by the vagaries of nature, a famine is not a natural phenomenon.
Most of the agricultural labourers have lost opportunities for gainful employment and small and medium farmers have been forced to leave their land fallow for want of water. They took Kalidindi mandal in Krishna district as a case study.
Kalidindi mandal is affected by coastal pollution and loses their total crop or
end up with poor growth of the cultivated organisms due to the poor quality of water. Increased siltation and sedimentation of coastal water is consequence of deforestation, mining and inappropriate agricultural practices in this area causes to degradation of soil, depletion of water level, which reflects the drought conditions in this mandal.
The state government insists on using the term "drought conditions" not famine. The provided solutions are really the causes for the problems in the first place and behaving like an ostrich is not going to eclipse hunger and death from politico-economic radar screens, the study observes.
"Unless the state government realises the facts and figures regarding rainfall, losses in terms of damage to crops and the extent of land left uncultivated and thrive to formulate the strategies for rural empowerment, the state economic polices like free electricity and enhancing bank credit will remain as proverbial Emperor's clothes," Anand and Vijaynand warns.
They suggest that the government should keep away from the idea of industrial farming since the majority of the population in India makes their livelihood with small portions of land and gainful employment from agricultural sector.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Vedic medical astrology growing popular

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 28: Suffering from sexual debility or low sperm count. You need not consult an andrologist. Just wear a diamond of half carat or more on the ring finger of the right hand and your problem will get cured. And if you are a woman, the diamond should be set in white gold or platinum and worn in the ring finger of the left hand.
Welcome to the world of Vedic medical astrology and Vedic treatments. The Vedic medical astrology, which has its base in the ancient Indian religious texts of Vedas, is increasingly becoming popular in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and several other parts of the State. Vedic Astrology differs from western or tropical astrology mainly in that it uses the fixed zodiac. Vedic astrology uses the moving zodiac.
"Vedic medical astrology has cure for every health problem. The only thing is that the medical astrologer should be perfect in his knowledge of ancient scriptures. Every disease and every part of the human body is linked to some heavenly body like planet," says medical astrologer Ch Venkatasubbaiah.
He says venereal diseases and skin problems as also low sperm count are caused by the "bad placement" of Venus in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's Venus at birth. The cure for the problem lies in gemology, a part of medical astrology.
Vedic medical astrology is a branch of Vedic astrology which deals with the medical aspect of astrology. In this system of medicine, practised by saints and sages for thousands of years in ancient India, a Vedic medical astrologer draws a Vedic horoscope based on time, place and date of the birth of the "patient". The system believes that men and women suffer from different types of diseases which are exclusive to them, while a few are common among the two sexes.
"It works on the well-established system of bio-energy," he points out. According to Vedic medical astrology, health problems relating to brain and nervous system and emotional imbalances are a result of the bad placement of the moon in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's moon at birth. The cure is quite simple: wear a natural pearl of the size of a pea on the little finger of right hand (men) or left hand (women).
Says school teacher B Srinivas Rao, "my son used to neglect studies and used to spend time in playing. He also lacked concentration. I followed the prescription given by a medical astrologer. I just got my son a green emerald the size of a red bean in gold. He wore it on the little finger of the right hand and the results started showing up". In case of a girl, the green emerald should be worn in the left hand.
Argues Dr TM Rao of Gemini House of Astrology, "medical astrology is a diagnostic tool. A medical astrology chart can act as a road map, describing well the potential troubled areas in life. Various birth stars represents different parts of a human body. One can predict the future diseases in a person by going through the natal (birth) chart". Rao claims that even patients admitted to corporate hospitals have availed of the medical astrology for faster results.
Pointing out that the medical astrology is very effective since it is based on the Vedic knowledge, Rao points out to various astrological signs and the areas of the body they influence upon. They are: Aries (head), Tarus (lower jaw, throat, thyroid gland), Gemini (arms, lungs), Cancer (abdominal cavity, stomach), Leo (heart), Virgo (intestines, gall bladder), Libra (pancreas, spleen), Scorpio (reproductive organs), Sagittarius (hips, kidneys, liver, sciatic nerve and upper legs), Capricorn (skeletal structure, bones and knees), Aquarius (nervous system and lower legs), Pisces (feet,lymph glands, immune system).
Since planets like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto do not have a lordship over a house or a planetary period of their own, they are outside the purview of the Vedic medical astrology. Medical Astrology is a relatively unchartered and extremely specialized field by which a trained person, a doctor can look at the birth chart of a person when he or she is born and able to pin point the potential weakness or diseases or a potential weak organ of the body and forwarn the parents of the child.
According to the practitioners, it is a science and a healing art, which uses the
information, derived from one's astrology chart at birth to ascertain that individual's state of disease and wellness. The natal chart accurately describes
one's personality and one's potential internal conflicts, which can lead to

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hyderabad's contribution for Zakat

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 24: Hyderabadis contribute the largest Zakat fund during Ramzan in the country with the charity totalling to a whopping Rs 100 crore.
About 60 per cent of the Zakat funds come from the one million and odd Hyderabadis residing abroad. Since Zakat is mandatory on well-to-do Muslims at the rate of 2.5 per cent of their total savings minus liabilities, the NRI Hyderabadis pump in the funds into the city during Ramzan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Hyderabadis in the USA, the UK, Dubai and Saudi Arabia give the highest contribution to the fund.
Hundreds of Zakat organisations collect the funds during the month and spend them mostly on distribution of clothes and utensils among the poor. Only a dozen bodies take up activities like payment of scholarships, widow pensions and construction of houses. As much as 95 per cent of the Rs 100 crore Zakat fund goes on unproductive and temporary works defeating the very purpose of the annual charity.
"It is wonderful that people in a single city donate Rs 100 crore in just one month. But in the absence of a centralised body to channelise the funds, the charity goes mostly in the form of alms-giving to the poor and the needy. If the funds are utilised for constructive purposes like setting up of industries, self-employment schemes and on educational institutions, the poverty percentage in the principal minority community could easily be reduced," feels Moulana Abdul Kareem. There is no systematic or organised system of collecting the funds for the common good of the poor in the minority community.
The Zakat fund in the city has been going up at the rate of five per cent every year thanks to increase in the wealth of NRI Hyderabadis. There are certain families in the city which singly contribute about Rs 2 crore each towards the Zakat fund. Hyderabad has 25 lakh Muslims constituting 35 per cent of the city's population. The city has the second largest Muslim concentration in the country after Kolkata but its Zakat contribution is more than that of the latter.
With the city pumping in so much money towards charity it is no wonder then about 5000 people from different parts of the State visit Hyderabad every day to collect Zakat. Some of those who collect Zakat from the city distribute them among the poor in districts, particularly in the backward Telangana.
About 5000 madrasas in Hyderabad and Telangana districts survive for the whole year on the Zakat funds they receive during Ramzan."Centralised system of collection of Zakat is a good idea but it is impracticable in our country," feels Abdur Raheem Qureshi, general secretary of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. Some persons give Zakat among close relatives while others give to charitable organisations. It is quite a difficult task to implement common zakat system.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Puppet show: Mahabharata of a different kind

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
It's a Mahabharata of a different kind. Twenty-five puppets, one man and a dimly lit stage. The Indian epic virtually comes to life as French story-teller Massimo Schuster moves his puppets with emotion-filled dialogues and re-enacts the Mahabharata for full 90 minutes.
For the first time the Indian audience had an opportunity to witness the Mahabharata through the eyes and sensibilities of a foreigner. The narration was so powerful and dialogues so highly interactive that time simply flew away. There was no break in the one and a half hour puppet show.
Massimo Schuster's Theatre de l'Arc-en-Terre and the Alliance Francaise of Hyderabad presented a puppet show in Hyderabad on Mahabharata in association with the Department of Culture. Massimo came to India with his puppets after performing in over 50 countries.
President of the World Puppetry Organisation Massimo is also an actor, storyteller and director. The Mahabharata puppets are statue-like and created by Italian painter Enrico Baj and his son Andrea Baj. Though their faces are Western, the colourful costumes they wear are Indian in outlook. It was a conscious decision not to choose the kathputli look for Mahabharata and opt for an Indo-European appearance. "I can't stand people who have been here for two weeks and claim to know all about the country. I'm not Indian and I don't want to replicate," he says.
As Massimo further points out, "this mixture of West and East symbolises the universality of the characters". Even the music score is international ranging
from Indian Carnatic to Japanese drums and Finnish and Tibetan singing to Persian melodies and Western contemporary compositions. And there's Ustad Bismillah Khan's shehnai soothing the hearts.
Presenting Mahabharata through puppets is not an easy task for the French puppeteer. "It was a great challenge for me to present Mahabharata before the
Indian audience. My goal is not to come to India to tell the Mahabharata to Indians, but rather to show Indian audiences that their magnificent epic has been a source of interest and learning to a Western artiste who strongly believes that mutual knowledge and respect are the only sure means to make our world a better place," he observes.
It took nearly two years for Massimo to do the complete research before coming out with the puppet show. The French artiste drew inspiration from Peter Brook's 10-hour film on Mahabharata. Massimo presented the show in association with Francisco Niccolini, acclaimed dramaturge, author and art director. Massimo has read all the versions of Mahabharata including Kisari Mohan Ganguly’s English rendition to the notes of a French scholar who spent 20 years working on a translation.
And how come a French man took so much interest in an Indian epic? Massimo says he loves epics from around the world and believes that in a multi-cultural world the rich West must acknowledge and recognise the greatness of other cultures. "I am so impressed by the story of Pandavas that I came up with the puppet show to narrate the events in their life to audiences, both in India and in the West. In this kalyug, I think the Mahabharata is the perfect story to narrate, because people from every culture see themselves reflected in it," he observes.
The story begins with Massimo donning the role of Maharshi Vyasa. He performs alone, going back and forth from storytelling to straight acting to puppeteering. The highlight of the play is that Massimo talks directly to the audience to keep their interest alive and share emotions.
He creates platforms of different heights on the stage to symbolise the palace of Hastinapur, the Indraprastha, the forest where the Pandava brothers stayed during their exile and the hall where the evil game of dice was played. As the war draws near, the whole space between the platforms is turned into the battle field of Kurukshetra. He pours life into 25 characters from the epic tale of three generations. As Massimo sits on the stage along with his puppets telling the story of the victory of the good over the evil, the audience are transported back in time to the days of Mahabharata.
The Massimo's group has presented the shows at Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai and Dacca (Bangaladesh). His earlier theatrical adaptations include Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings) from Ethiopia and Shahnama from Persia.
Speaking of his next show, Massimo draws innumerable similarities between the Mahabharata and the Iliad. "Arjuna's travels are similar to those undertaken by Ulysses. The birth of Bhishma is similar to the birth of Achilles," he argues.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rare Vedic Ritual: Ashwamedha Yagam in Hyderabad

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 20: Come December 11 and Hyderabad will witness the revival of a rare Vedic ritual that was practised by saints and kings thousands of years ago.
City-based Aananda Aashramam will organise the "Ashwamedha Yagam", a quite popular Vedic ritual in ancient India but gradually lost patronage about 2000 years ago. Being performed for the first time in modern India, Ashwamedha Yagam is aimed at achieving world peace, communal harmony, individual and societal development and general well-being of humanity.
A notable feature of this Yagam is that people of all communities, religions and castes can participate in it offering prayers to the Almighty and invoking His Blessings for all.
"It is once in a life time opportunity. Ashwamedha Yagam is of two types - Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam and Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam. Kings who performed Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam used to sacrifice a horse at the end of it. The Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam was performed by saints and divine personalities without involving animal sacrifice. We are going to observe the Snarta variety in Hyderabad, reviving the tradition that had become extinct long ago," says organiser (Yaga Kartha) Dr PV Sesha Sai.
It is the most solemn and impressive cultic celebration of the Vedas and at the same time it is one of the most secular and political. The priestly role is not here so prominent as in most of the other sacrifices.
The sankalpa for this Yaga took place in the month of Maha Maghi (February) this year and after lot of exercises, we have selected the bright day of Margasira maas coupled with Sunday and Revati Star, which falls on December 11. Initially, we planned for 11 days but it is now reduced to eight days.
Jagadguru Sri Ganeshanada Bharathi Mahaswami will bless the Yagam which is performed as per Vedic traditions. It is a satvik yaga with an objective of Viswa Kalyan and Viswa Shanti. Soorya Yagam, Sri Yagam, Rudra Yagam and Sudharshana Yagam will also be performed as part of the main Ashwamedha Yagam. There will also be Pasupatha Prakriya and Brahmastra all under one roof.
Participant individuals may participate in Sri Sowra Yagam (for political prosperity), Sri Varuna Yagam (timely rains), Sri Runa Vimoc-hana Pasupatam (clearance of debts), Sri Kanya Pasupatam (for marriage), Sri Kubera Pasupatam (business development), Sri Mrutyunjaya Homam (long life), Sri Navagraha Pasupatam (relief from bad incidents). It is the first time that so many sub-yagams are performed along with Ashwamedha Yagam in the country.
Dr Sesha Sai points out that there is a clear distinction between the Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) as an outward rite and that as an inward yagam. The external rite is declared to be the ‘king of the rites' by Shatapatha Brahmana and the rite was performed by kings. Even though the rite itself is performed over a period of three days, it needed preparation for a year or two.
Ashva the steed is the standard symbol for life-energy or life-power prana both inside the human and in the cosmos and Medha means both `offering' and ‘intelligence'. Ashvamedha for saints means offering of the life-power with all its impulses, desires, enjoyments, frustrations and also its material counterpart. And for kings it is a royal sacrifice offered by a victorious rulers, he explains.
The programme will also include two Avadhanas, honoring of 108 couples, 108 students, 108 housewives and 108 small girls and recitation of Shri Vishnu Parayana for 1000 times, 100,00,000 Kunkumaarchana; Rudrabhishek using 100000 rudraakshaas and 108 Havan Kunds, besides a Sarva Dharma Sammelan to send a signal of oneness of the humankind.
About 100 acres of land is selected for the Yagam and 300 Vedic scholars will participate in it. There will be horses, camels, elephants and cows for worship. Kuchipudi, Bharata natyam, vocal, carnatic, hindustani and mrigandam artistes will give live performance during the programme.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

University of Hyderabad in a thick of controversy

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 31: The prestigious University of Hyderabad is once again in the thick of controversy. This time over the decision to allot 200 acres of its prime land to Care Foundation, a private institution which wants to build a superspeciality hospital and research centre on the campus.
The university has reportedly entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Care Foundation without the mandatory approval of the academic council or the executive council. University sources said vice-chancellor Seyed E Hasnain had kept both the councils in the dark over the proposal to allot the land to the Care Foundation.
He simply informed the executive council about the plan without naming the organisation (Care Foundation) to which the land would be given. The VC's decision to hand over 200 acres of land worth around Rs 1000 crore to a private body has raised many an eyebrow. "Does a research foundation require 200 acres of land? Will it not do with a couple of acres," is the general refrain in the university circles.
Moreover, neither the vice-chancellor nor the university has any right whatsoever to alienate the campus land without the prior approval of the State government. The land given to the University of Hyderabad is an "assigned land" which means the university can just enjoy the rights without selling it or leasing it out to a third party. The State government while making the land allocation on February 21, 1975 made it clear that the "allocation was conditional". If the university goes ahead with its proposal, it will be flouting the State government rules and the University Notification.
The University has already lost 700 acres of its total 2300 acres land to various institutions in the past five years. The previous Telugu Desam government alienated 400 acres of HCU land to controversial sports firm IMG Bharata and 34 acres to Reddy Labs. Recently, 13 acres of land was given to a games village for the World Military Games scheduled for next year. The IIIT also took away a major portion of the university land.
But unlike the present Care Foundation deal, the State government whenever it took away university land it did so through a memorandum of understanding i.e. allocation of alternative land to the university. The State government while making allocation of the land to the university had also specified that the campus should be used for education and technology only. If the university wants to alienate the land it should obtain prior permission from the State government. In the Care Foundation case, no such permission has been obtained.
"The vice-chancellor has taken a unilateral decision. He did not get the approval of the EC or the AC. What is the need to keep the information about this deal secret. Proper procedures were not followed. A centre for higher learning like this, in the name of advancement of its academic stature, can not give away land indiscriminately to other agencies which seek to make profit out of the precious University land," argues senior CPM leader DG Narasimha Rao, who has been fighting for the protection of HCU lands.
Land prices in the HCU area have skyrocketed in the recent past and an acre of land there now costs Rs 5 crore. This means the university authority had agreed to give away Rs 1000 crore worth land to a private foundation.
"If there is nothing wrong in the deal, why then it is being kept in secrecy? Why the authorities did not discuss the issue with the academic, non-academic or the student community. Why the State government was not taken into confidence? We demand that all the relevant documents and papers should be made public," observed S Sudharshan Rao, president of HCU Non-teaching Employees' Association.
Many in the academic circles wonder what has forced the vice-chancellor to propose 200 acres of prime land to Care Foundation, when the Central or the State governments are now making do with just a few acres of land for research institutions.
Only recently Hasnain told reporters that the university would have buildings staggered all around the campus to prevent land acquisitions by government. "Our new institutions will be spawned on the university land to enable us to keep our land with us," he had pointed out.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Beware of packaged drinking water: Check out for pathogens, chemical residues

August 26, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 25: The next time you buy packaged drinking water make it sure that you are not buying harmful bacteria and other pathogens. Most of the packaged drinking water brands available in the market fail one or the other quality test and only a few of them conform to the international standards.
An analysis of six leading packaged water brands including Bisleri, Kinley and Aquafina at the State government-controlled State Food Laboratory showed that some samples were acidic, which simply means that the water is more fit for gardening than drinking or sprinkling over body to reduce pain from intense mosquito bites.
Moreover, some of the samples had relatively high total dissolved solids indicating that the claim of manufactures of employing reverse osmosis methods is bogus. A water sample even had coliform bacteria and aerobic microbial count which shows that the source of water is contaminated with human or animal faeces.
Bisleri water had failed the all-important microbilogical examination
at the State Food Laboratory. The aerobic microbial count (total plate count) should 100 colonies per ml. There were four colonies/ml of Coliform bacteria. However, no E. coli, salmonella, yeast and molds and S aureus were found either in Bisleri or other water samples.
The presence of coliform indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Pathogens in water cause diarrhoea, cramps, nausea and headaches and may pose a severe health risk for infants and children.
Packaged water bottles of Bisleri, Kinley, Fresh, Aqua God, Aquafina and Manjeera as also municipal tap water filtered through Aquaguard were analysed. Tap water filtered through Aquaguard was found to be safe. The water bottles were purchased from different shops in Secunderabad area.
However, no tests were conducted for the presence of Cryptosporidium, a protozoan parasite commonly present in water bodies. Cryptosporidium tests are not mandatory though bottled water sources often are just as prone to Cryptosporidium contamination as any other drinking water source.
When contacted M Rajendra Prasad, manager of the local Bisleri unit, told this correspondent that he would not make any comment. "I am out of city and will be back on Tuesday. I will comment only after seeing the laboratory report," he said.
Bisleri and Fresh samples showed a pH of 6.83 and 6.9 respectively which in other words means the water is acidic. Drinking water is normally neutral (pH of 7). According to international standards as also those framed by the United States Environment Protection Agency, any water that has a pH of 5.8 to 6.9 is acidic as it contains full of hydrogen ions. Acidic water is good for external use and industrial purposes, but not for long-term human consumption. If consumed the water attracts minerals from the body and cause mineral deficiencies.
Acidic water is also good for plant growth, crops, and livestock as it will help keep a much lower mortality rate and cleaner environment by killing bacteria. It provides excellent relief from mosquito bites.
Bisleri, Kinley, Fresh and Aqua Gold had total dissolved solids of 62 mg/lt, 68 mg/lt, 112 mg/lt and 118 mg/lt respectively while the US Environmental Protection Agency norms indicate that ideal drinking water from reverse osmosis, distillation, deionisation and microfiltration should contain TDS less than 50 mg/lt. The test showed that the claims of several companies on employing reverse osmosis and other filtration methods were hollow and bogus.
Bisleri and Kinley had 10.44 mg/lt and 0.90 mg/lt of nitrates while tap water had just 2.88 mg/lt nitrates. Though all samples except Bisleri had nitrates within the maximum contaminant level of 10 mg/lt, the lesser the nitrates content the good the quality of water. Presence of nitrates in water means contamination from runoff from fertiliser use, leaking from septic tanks, sewage or erosion of natural deposits.
Infants below the age of six months who drink water containing nitrates in excess of MCL could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome.
However, all the samples pass the turbidity, cyanide, mineral oil and fluoride tests. As for as chlorides and sulphates are concerned, even the WHO has not set any standards for these materials.
Except Bisleri, all the samples including tap water were declared "not adulterated" by the State Food Laboratory primarily because they did not contain any pathogens or cyanide.
Of the 358 water samples tested by BIS, 297 passed the quality test and remaining 61 samples failed to meet the required quality norms.
"We have been analysing samples quite regularly. Whenever we find any deviation in quality, we take action including cancellation of licences. If the State Food Lab report mentions about adulteration of water samples, complaint can be lodged with us for further action," Bureau of Indian Standards Hyderabad unit head RS Sarma observed.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

IICT develops mechanism to filter out fluoride content from water

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 4: City-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology has developed a simple but effective mechanism to filter out fluoride content from water in villages affected by fluorosis.
The machine which works on reverse osmosis system provides 600 litres of pure fluroride- and bacteria-free water per hour. A litre of pure water costs less than five paise. It gives out water containing less than 0.5 ppm of fluoride and about 20 ppm of total dissolved solids, which are essential nutrients required by humans, from raw water containing 1200 ppm of TDS.
The IICT has set up a pilot plant in Mylaram village of Nalgonda district at a cost of Rs 3.5 lakh. The rejection of TDS is about 98 per cent and fluoride is 92 per cent. The flux is generally maintained at 25 litres per hour metre cube and quantity of water recovered for drinking is about 65 per cent. The remaining 35 per cent water is the reject for disposal, which can be used for washing of clothes or gardening.
IICT director Dr JS Yadav told reporters on Thursday that Andhra Pradesh had many places with high content of fluoride and people living in these areas were affected by weakening of skeletal and dental framework, knock knee, cataract, low blood pressure and gastro-enteritis. Ground water in Nalgonda contains 20 ppm fluoride as against the permissible level of 1.5 ppm (Indian standards) and 0.5 ppm (WHO standards).
Dr Yadav said current methods such as "Nalgonda Technique", which involve removal of fluoride by adsorption, suffer from disadvantages like poor fluoride removal capacity, inability to separate imputeries (sulphates and micro-organism), low flow rates and high operating costs.

Friday, July 15, 2005

People in Andhra Pradesh are nutritionally "backward"

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 15: People in Andhra Pradesh are "starved" nutritionally when compared with those living in many States in the country.
According to a research study carried out by Andhra Pradesh Social Watch (Report 2005), chronic energy deficiency is observed in 37.4 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women living in villages. The scenario, however, is slightly better in towns and cities.
The average protein intake of both rural and urban Andhraites is just 62 (gm/cu/day) as against the all-India figure of 71.50. They also lag behind in fat intake. The State's average fat consumption is 50.7 gm/cu/day as compared with the all-India intake of 60.70 gm/cu/day.
Consumption of pulses in the State is 860 grams per head per month as against the all-India average of 960 grams.
The study points out that the per capita consumption of food items in the State is largely below the Indian Council of Medical Research norms. Even in urban areas, out of 10 food items examined during the survey, not a single food item is consumed according to the ICMR norms.
As many as 10.5 per cent of children in the State are severely undernourished and 28.2 per cent are moderately undernourished. The incidence of moderate malnutrition implies that the affected children may not reach their full physical and mental potential while severe malnutrition indicates that they may be functionally impaired.
No wonder then that Andhra Pradesh ranks 13 among 16 top States in the country in terms of food availability situation.
The per capita consumption of milk in the State is 3.96 litres per month as compared with 4.59 litres national average. Fish consumption is just 0.08 kgs per month in the State while the all-India average is 0.22 kgs. Break-up of other food items in the State with national average in brackets is: edible oil 0.60 kgs (0.72 kgs), vegetables 2.93 kgs (3.02 kgs), fruits 0.97 kgs (1.06 kg) and sugar 0.67 kgs (1.00 kg). Only in the case of cereals, the State is slightly ahead with just 42 grams per month. The State's per capita monthly consumption of cereals is 10.94 kgs (10.42 kgs all India).
Even in the case of production too, the State lags behind. Production of cereals in the State is only 363.35 grams per capita while ICMR norms stipulate 420 grams per head per day. The all-India average is 430.33 grams. About 40 grams of pulses are needed per head per day while the actual net production in the State is just 22.68 grams (all-India average is 31.94 grams).
"Consumption of food too provides important information about the food security status. In Andhra pradesh there's deficit in production over consumption of cereals. While net production of cereals is 381.90 grams per day the actual consumption is 442.33 grams," the report points out.
Though the Rural Food Insecurity Atlas (prepared by Dr MS Swaminathan Foundation and World Food Programme) has shown surplus net production of milk, edible oil, sugar and fruits in Andhra Pradesh, the same is not reflected in the per capita consumption in urban areas. In the case of cereals, 87 per cent of the ICMR norm is fulfilled but when it comes to pulses it is only 73 per cent. It is as low as 24 per cent in the case of eggs.
Stating that food consumption pattern across classes of consumers too demonstrates the food insecurity situation, the report points out that per capita monthly consumption for cereals is 10.94 kgs for all classes while it is only 9.67 kgs for the lowest 10 per cent.
This difference is viewed in the consumption of other food items as well. The per capita monthly consumption of pulses for all classes is 0.86 kgs but it is as low as 0.46 kgs for the lowest 10 per cent of the population.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

"Marriage pill" to reduce the high incidence of central nervous system defects in children

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 6: City doctors have come out with what they call "marriage pill" to reduce the high incidence of central nervous system defects in children born in Andhra Pradesh.
The "marriage pill" is nothing but a simple combination of folic acid and vitamins which, if taken by pregnant women, will result in the birth of healthy babies. Andhra Pradesh, particularly Hyderabad has been witnessing high incidence of child births with central nervous system and spine defects.
This is linked to lack of awareness and care during pregnancy.
"The foetus with central nervous system defects have open skull. Such babies die. In foetus with spine defects the back is open with nerves being exposed. The nerves are destroyed leading to poor or lack of bladder and bowel moments. We always thought a healthy mother will give birth to a healthy baby. Which is not true, a healthy mother can still have a foetus with defects," says Dr Evita Fernandez.
The marriage pill will help solve the problem to a large extent, she pointed out. Folic acid when combined with a dose of vitamins particularly B vitamin, prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The marriage pill has to be taken very early in pregnancy.
Research studies suggest that folic acid may also protect women and men from stroke and cancers of colon and breast.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Information Technology aids spread of HIV!

May 26, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 25: It may sound strange, but rapid growth in information technology and frequent travel by software experts is affecting the tuberculosis/HIV control programme in the country.
Individuals, particularly youngsters, who travel frequently across cities are in a way helping the spread of a new strain of tuberculosis which is more dangerous than the native ancient Indian strains, according to a research study by the city-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics and Ondokuz Mayis University Medical School of Turkey.
Transmission of "Beijing strains" of TB is facilitated with "recent economic activity due to a boom in the information technology and communication sectors, where affordable air-travel has facilitated frequent movement of especially younger population, across cities," the study pointed out.
The spread of Beijing strains is slow but gradual and health planners and experts fear that they will "out-compete" the ancestral types found in India for over 10,000 years. The Indian native strains are less virulent and docile as compared with the Beijing strains. And this is a troubling news for health planners.
"The outcome could be hastened as India is witnessing a steep rise in the number of human immunodeficiency virus cases," said Dr Niyaz Ahmad of the CDFD and Hakan Leblebicioglue of OMUM School in the study published in BMC Genetics, a prestigious international scientific journal.
The study warned that synergy of TB, lead predominantly by the Beijing strains, with HIV, threatens a series of outbreaks in several years to come. "With fast spreading HIV, local advantages due to ancestral bacilli, in terms of adaptation, and possibly `reduced virulence' might be ruined. HIV through depleting the host immune cells disregards any such advantages".
India is long known to harbour reservoirs of the ancestral TB strains, which continue to predominate throughout the population. The TB bacteria, M. tuberculosis is a millennia old pestilence that continues to trouble people in the country. India also has TB bacteria diversity.
Stating that the ancestral strains bear seemingly important benefits for the TB control programs in India, the study noted that "more importantly, as a result of their adaptive evolution, the pathology triggered by them may not be lethal. The Indian strains disseminate less rapidly than the modern types like Beijing strains.
"Although Beijing strains are not an immediate threat, there is a danger that they might predominate in due course if their dissemination dynamics change with enhanced HIV transmission," the scientists said.
Of late the Beijing strains have been reported in different parts of the country with Mumbai reporting as high as 30 per cent of the total TB cases.
"It has been widely believed that India with its vast human resource in healthcare, with DOTS coverage penetrating almost countrywide, and a large national TB control program, is all set to tackle the pestilence. We caution, to prepare for the threat of institutionalised outbreaks perpetuated by newly emerging and expanding strains in synergy with HIV, that is probably looming large," they cautioned.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Chemists strike hit infants with lactose intolerance

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 5: The State is faced with shortage of infant food even as there appears to be no end in sight to chemists' strike, which entered the fifth day on Tuesday.
Babies below eight months and those with intolerance to lactogen or milk protein are the most affected as the milk formulae they need are available only in medical stores. However, the shortage in baby foods (for children above eight months) is met by super markets which also sell such products.
According to an estimate about 10 lakh babies in the State are hit by the chemists' strike and one to three lakh show symptoms of lactogen intolerance. Parents cannot change the baby milk formula overnight as it will lead to certain physiological complications in the child. Babies habituated to tinned milk formulae may find it difficult to digest alternative formulae or buffalo milk. The strike has complicated the parents' problems as they find it hard to get the same type or brand of baby food for their little ones.
Says Dr NCK Reddy, superintendent of Nilofer Children's Hospital, "sudden change in a baby's food habits may cause disturbances in its digestive system. The flora in the baby's intestines change with the shift in the brand of milk product. Parents should consult doctor if they find their babies uncomfortable. The problem is more felt in babies with lactogen intolerance". He suggests that as an alternative, buffaloes or sachet milk may be diluted as an alternative feed till the strike is called off.
The chemists went on strike saying that their agitation against the new VAT system was for just two days. Their sudden decision to convert the agitation into indefinite strike has taken many parents by surprise. The timing of the strike also affected the families with infants.
"We purchase milk formula for our baby in the first week of month along with other items. Had the chemists informed before hand that they would go on an indefinite strike, we would have purchased the milk formula well in advance. Just one day's feed is left with us", observes software professional R Lata Kumari.
Parents cannot simply experiment with the baby food by suddenly changing the milk formula. Dr Sreedhar Reddy of Vasavi Hospitals told this correspondent that babies might refuse new products as they easily notice a change in its taste. "Mother's milk is the best source of nutrition for the child. But if the babies are fed on infant formula, parents should ensure that they get the right product", he points.
According to medical experts, one to three per cent of babies in the State show intolerance or allergy to milk. Some babies are allergic to cow or buffalo milk and they need special milk formula without lactogen. About 10 per cent of the infants are allergic to milk protein.
Parents were seen standing in long queues at about half a dozen places where medical shops functioned, though partially, with the help of the police. Many of them ran out of stocks.
All-India Drug Control Officers' Confederation secretary-general R Udaybhaskar says it has come to their notice that shortage or non-availability of vital drugs besides infant milk formula has affected thousands of babies in the State. "We had to use force in Vijayawada, East and West Godavari to open medical shops. The Essential Services Maintenance Act provides us with immense powers including breaking open of medical shops to sell medicines", he said.
Though infant milk formulae do not come under the Drug Act, they are mostly sold in medical shops.