01 December, 2006

The president and the God-man

The poet-President & the “creator of the universe”

India’s President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has been the chief guest during the glamorous birthday show of controversial godman Sai Baba on 23rd November 2006. It is shameful and outrageous that the Indian President pays respect to a saffron charlatan, who exploits the gullible by claiming that he can produce "holy ash" from thin air, cure all illnesses, has created the universe and other nonsense more. It aggravates the case against President Kalam that he did not content himself with performing a kind of public relations routine, but went out of his way praising and glorifying the charlatan.

“I have immense love for Sai Baba”, Dr. Kalam said in his speech at Sai Baba’s headquarters in Puttaparthi. “I penned a poem in my mother tongue to greet Sai Baba on his birthday.” And he was not ashamed to read his poem (in a Telugu translation of the Tamil original) publicly to the cheering crowd of Sai Baba devotees. The rather embarrassing piece glorified Sai Baba as a glittering lighthouse and symbol of goodness. Because of Sai Baba’s presence, the President of India rejoiced, the earth was the most blessed planet in the solar system.

This is not only extremely silly and in bad taste. It is moreover irresponsible and undignified to a degree that is not compatible with the august office of the Indian President. President Kalam has misrepresented India and betrayed the trust of her people. India deserves a (more) dignified and responsible President.

Sanal Edamaruku
President, Indian Rationalist Association and
Rationalist International

India’s President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam & Satya Sai Baba

The scientist-President & the exposed miracle man

It is deplorable that there are still many poor people in India, who are deprived of basic education and who don’t have any opportunity to develop scientific literacy. They are easy prey for frauds, fanning their fears and raising their hopes with “miracles” and promises of magical solutions for all problems. Miracle mongers and faith healers are inflicting a dangerous disease upon the weakest section of Indian society and have to be stopped by all means. It has to be one of the primary tasks of human development in India, to help the victims of superstition and blind belief to break the shackles of their archaic mindset and join the twenty first century.

Besides being the Indian President, Dr. Abdul Kalam is seen as one among the most prominent scientists of India and has raised great hopes for a better future, guided and protected by science. His concept “Vision 2020” promises to lead India smoothly into the orbit of the developed world. If a man of this stature and position uses his influence to come to the rescue a scandal-tainted godman, he commits a serious and unpardonable betrayal.

http://innaiahn. tripod.com

29 November, 2006

Do not reuse mineral water bottles

It happened in Dubai, when a 12 year old girl died after a long usage(16 months) of SAFA mineral water bottle as she used to carry the same fancy (painted by herself) bottle to her school daily.

In a nutshell, the plastic (called polyethylene terephthalate or PET) used in these bottles contains a potentially carcinogenic element (something called diethyllydroxylamine or DEHA). The bottles are safe for one-time use only; if you must keep them longer, it should be or no more than a few days, weeks max, and keep them away from heat as well. Repeated washing and rinsing can cause the plastic to break down and the carcinogens (cancer-causing chemical agents) can leak into the water that YOU are drinking. Better to invest in water bottles that are really meant for multiple uses.

17 November, 2006

Child sexual abuse

Some alarming facts about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA):

(From TULIR website)

Statistical data from available research and reported incidents (from children and adult survivors) clearly indicates that child sexual abuse is a widespread problem affecting an extremely large number of children in the country.

Child sexual abuse occurs in all social and economic classes of society.

The majority of abusers are known to the child and are often in positions of trust and power vis-à-vis the child. Example: Family, relatives, neighbours, teachers etc.
Most children are sexually abused inside their own homes, as abusers have the trust of children and their families and access to their homes.

All children(girls and boys) are vulnerable to sexual abuse. Research has proven that differently able children are in fact more likely to be abused because of their increased vulnerabilities.

Children do not lie or weave stories about being sexually abused. The pressure to remain silent to uphold distorted concepts of honor and respect is immense. Also, children in our society are kept ignorant of sex and the possibility of abuse. Given these two facts the child is not lying when he/she relates an incident of sexual abuse.

Children can never initiate sexual abuse. Terming a child's behavior "seductive" is an adult justification, projection and misinterpretation.

Abusers are seldom mentally ill; on the contrary they are "regular" people who lead "routine" lives

Though most of abusers are men, a small number of women also abuse children sexually.

In most reported cases the abuser is not physically violent but uses emotional manipulation to coerce the victim.

Usually nobody is aware that the child is being sexually abused.

Child sexual abuse usually has harmful effects and can lead to behavioral, emotional, physical and interpersonal problems.

If child sexual abuse is not reported then the same abuser may harm other children or may target the same child again. There is very often a pattern to abuser's behaviour. They usually repeat their behaviour and with many children as well.

Children of any age can be abused. Reported incidents show that even infants have been sexually abused.

For more details, like:

personal safety rules,

Healing and intervention,

Parents' practical response to CSA,

CSA at Schools: Role, Responsibility and Response,

Preventing and healing CSA,

What exactly is CSA,

Who the abusers are,

How they "groom" children,

Indicators and Effects of CSA,

Responsibilities of parents, schools, community,

FAQ's, Newsletter, etc,

visit TULIR website.

16 November, 2006

Main causes of liver damage

The main causes of liver damage are:

1. Sleeping too late and waking up too late are main cause.
2. Not urinating in the morning.
3. Too much eating.
4. Skipping breakfast.
5. Consuming too much medication.
6. Consuming too much preservatives, additives, food coloring , and artificial sweetener.
7. Consuming unhealthy cooking oil. As much as possible reduce cooking oil use when frying, which includes even the best cooking oils like olive oil. Do not consume fried foods when you are tired, except if the body is very fit.
8. Consuming raw (overly done) foods also add to the burden of liver.
Veggies should be eaten raw or cooked 3-5 parts. Fried veggies should be finished in one sitting, do not store.

We should prevent this without necessarily spending more. We just have to adopt a good daily lifestyle and eating habits. Maintaining good eating habits and time condition are very important for our bodies to absorb and get rid of unnecessary chemicals according to "schedule."
Because :

9 pm - 11 pm : is the time for eliminating unnecessary/ toxic chemicals (detoxification) from the antibody system (lymph nodes). This time duration should be spent by relaxing or listening to music. If during this time a housewife is still in an unrelaxed state such as washing the dishes or monitoring children doing their homework, this will have a negative impact on health.

11pm - 1 am : is the detoxification process in the liver, and ideally should be done in a deep sleep state.

Early morning 1 - 3 am : detoxification process in the gall, also ideally done in a deep sleep state.

Early morning 3 - 5 am : detoxification in the lungs. Therefore there will sometimes be a severe cough for cough sufferers during this time. Since the detoxification process had reached the respiratory tract, there is no need to take cough medicine so as not to interfere with toxin removal process.

Morning 5 - 7am : detoxification in the colon, you should empty your bowel.

Morning 7 - 9 am : absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, you should be having breakfast at this time. Breakfast should be earlier, before 6:30 am , for those who are sick. Breakfast before 7:30 am is very beneficial to those wanting to stay fit. Those who always skip breakfast, they should change their habits, and it is still better to eat breakfast late until 9 - 10 am rather than no meal at all.

Sleeping so late and waking up too late will disrupt the process of removing unnecessary chemicals. Aside from that, midnight to 4:00 am is the time when the bone marrow produces blood. Therefore, have a good sleep and don't sleep late.


15 November, 2006


1. No Breakfast
People who do not take breakfast are going to have a lower blood sugar level.
This leads to an insufficient supply of nutrients to the brain causing brain degeneration.

2. Overeating
It causes hardening of the brain arteries, leading to a decrease in mental power.

3. Smoking
It causes multiple brain shrinkage and may lead to Alzheimer disease.

4. High Sugar consumption
Too much sugar will interrupt the absorption of proteins and nutrients causing malnutrition and may interfere with brain development.

5. Air Pollution
The brain is the largest oxygen consumer in our body. Inhaling polluted air decreases the supply of oxygen to the brain, bringing about a decrease in brain efficiency.

6. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep allows our brain to rest. Long term deprivation from sleep will accelerate the death of brain cells.

7. Head covered while sleeping
Sleeping with the head covered, increases the concentration of carbon dioxide and decrease concentration of oxygen that may lead to brain damaging effects.

8. Working your brain during illness
Working hard or studying with sickness may lead to a decrease in effectiveness of the brain as well as damage the brain.

9. Lacking in stimulating thoughts
Thinking is the best way to train our brain, lacking in brain stimulation thoughts may cause brain shrinkage.

10. Talking Rarely
Intellectual conversations will promote the efficiency of the brain.

(A forwarded mail with minor modifications)

Slowing down diabetes

(Today's editorial)

Slowing down diabetes

The two most potent weapons against diabetes continue to be regular physical activity and healthy eating habits. But with new evidence, medical research has strengthened the view that the burden of Type 2 diabetes mellitus is rising because of expanding urbanisation accompanied by changing food preferences, a sedentary entertainment-oriented lifestyle, rising automobile dependence, and a pedestrian-unfriendly physical environment. Many experts think these factors raise the risk among Indians who may be genetically predisposed to diabetes; the Indian Council of Medical Research estimates the prevalence of diabetes among adults to be 11.8 per cent in urban areas, compared to 3.8 per cent in the rural. The negative impact of non-traditional choices of food and a couch-bound lifestyle seems to be evident in the Philippines and Cambodia, besides India. A lower percentage of rural residents develop diabetes in these countries compared to their urban counterparts, according to an article on epidemic obesity and Type 2 diabetes published recently in The Lancet. These findings point to a strong link between poorly planned urbanisation, now happening in many states, and the onset of chronic conditions such as diabetes.

While those who have already developed diabetes must depend on advances in medical care and a disciplined lifestyle to maintain a good quality of life, millions of others can avoid or delay onset of the disease. The answer lies in reshaping urban development models. The World Health Organisation has emphasised the good outcomes for public health under its Healthy Cities Programme, which envisages municipal bodies actively integrating urban planning and health concerns. A framework for action is available in the forward-looking policies of the United Progressive Alliance Government on urban renewal, transport, and public health. These have to be translated into ground-level results with incentives available for good practice. Of equal importance is the Union Health Ministry's initiative to ensure that the packaged food industry adopts labelling that provides accurate nutritional and calorific values of products. Combined with an awareness-building programme on obesity-related diseases (in which the medical community can play a major role), this measure will enable everyone, especially the youth, to make healthy choices. The experience of many developed economies shows that encouraging physical activity and other health-seeking behaviour contributes in part to a lower burden of chronic diseases. The battle against diabetes in India has a better chance of success if the combat strategy includes opening of more parks, playgrounds, gymnasia, stadiums, and pedestrian and cycling facilities.

23 October, 2006

What Is Sexual Harassment?

From: India Together

(In the landmark Vishaka case in 1997, The Supreme Court recognised sexual harassment as human rights violation and gender based systemic discrimination that affects women's Right to Life and Livelihood.)

According to The Supreme Court definition, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, such as:-

* Physical contact
* A demand or request for sexual favours
* Sexually coloured remarks
* Showing pornography
* Any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual Harassment takes place if a person:

# subjects another person to an unwelcome act of physical intimacy, like grabbing, brushing, touching, pinching etc.
# makes an unwelcome demand or request (whether directly or by implication) for sexual favours from another person, and further makes it a condition for employment/payment of wages/increment/promotion etc.
# makes an unwelcome remark with sexual connotations, like sexually explicit compliments/cracking loud jokes with sexual connotations/ making sexist remarks etc.
# shows a person any sexually explicit visual material, in the form of pictures/cartoons/pin-ups/calendars/screen savers on computers/any offensive written material/pornographic e-mails, etc.
# engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which could be verbal, or even non-verbal, like staring to make the other person uncomfortable, making offensive gestures, kissing sounds, etc.

It is sexual harassment if a supervisor requests sexual favours from a junior in return for promotion or other benefits or threatens to sack for non-cooperation. It is also sexual harassment for a boss to make intrusive inquiries into the private lives of employees, or persistently ask them out. It is sexual harassment for a group of workers to joke and snigger amongst themselves about sexual conduct in an attempt to humiliate or embarrass another person.

Quid pro quo and hostile work environment are the two broad types of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment at workplace is generally classified into two distinct types. 'Quid pro quo', means seeking sexual favours or advances in exchange for work benefits and it occurs when consent to sexually explicit behaviour or speech is made a condition for employment or refusal to comply with a 'request' is met with retaliatory action such as dismissal, demotion, difficult work conditions. 'Hostile working environment' is more pervasive form of sexual harassment involving work conditions or behaviour that make the work environment 'hostile' for the woman to be in. Certain sexist remarks, display of pornography or sexist/obscene graffiti, physical contact/brushing against female employees are some examples of hostile work environment, which are not made conditions for employment.


UNWELCOME is the key in defining sexual harassment. It is the impact and effect the behaviour has on the recipient that will define the behaviour as sexual harassment.

What is a workplace?
A workplace is any place where working relationships exist, where employer - employee relations exist.

For more details like combating Attitudes,
The employers', colleagues' and trade unions' responsibilities
etc., visit India Together

Sexual harassment at workplace

"Sexual harassment at workplace continues"

Special Correspondent

Most women not aware of Supreme Court guidelines, says study in health sector

Appropriate implementation mechanism lacking
No direct action against perpetrators

NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding the Vishaka judgment, sexual harassment continues to dog many women in the health sector, a study entitled "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" and sponsored by the Population Council has said.

What is required is an appropriate implementation mechanism that recognises the obstacles posed by power imbalances and gender norms in empowering women to make a formal complaint on the one hand and in receiving appropriate redress on the other, it said.

The study explored women's perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment in the health sector in Kolkata. It confirmed the reluctance of women to invoke the complaints mechanism and the ineffectiveness of the existing system in punishing the perpetrator.

Power imbalances

While leading forms of harassment were verbal or psychological, a significant number reported unwanted touch, and sexual gestures and exhibitionism. Experiences reflected, by and large, power imbalances that make younger women and those in subordinate positions particularly vulnerable. Incidents of harassment were most often perpetrated by people in authority, such as senior or consultant doctors and even patients and their families, perceived to have the power to influence the women's job security in the institution.

Few women, however, took formal action and complained to their supervisors or to the hospital management. Action taken in these cases was, by and large, indirect and rarely involved confronting the perpetrator or dismissing him.

Most women were not aware of the Supreme Court guidelines and complaints mechanism/formal institutions of redress. Many others feared attitudes that would blame them for provoking an incident or feared the loss of their reputation as a result of complaining.

They also realised their relatively powerless positions and feared job-related discrimination, including dismissal and withholding of promotions.

Much remains

The 135 in-depth interviews with women employees were conducted over a period of 11 months. Respondents were employed in four hospitals — two government and two private. In addition, 40 interviews were conducted with heads of institutions of the four hospitals, unions and association heads.

In 1997, the Supreme Court recognised sexual harassment at the workplace as a violation of human rights.

The landmark judgment outlines a set of guidelines (Guidelines on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace) for the prevention and redress of complaints by women of sexual harassment at workplace.

"While the Supreme Court guidelines have opened up the discourse on sexual harassment at workplace, it is clear that much remains to be done to address gender stereotyping and harassment at the working place and to ensure that women have recourse to effective resolution of complaints," the study said.

31 August, 2006


(Continued from "HIV-AIDS: MYTHS and FACTS-I")

Some more information (sent by Dr.Ismail):


HIV transmission can occur when blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), vaginal fluid, or breast milk from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person.

HIV can enter the body through a vein (e.g., injection drug use), the lining of the anus or rectum, the lining of the vagina and/or cervix, the opening to the penis, the mouth, other mucous membranes ( e.g., eyes or inside of the nose), or cuts and sores. Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.

These are the most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another:

* by having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with an HIV-infected person;
* by sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV; or
* from HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth.


Prior to 1996, scientists estimated that about half the people with HIV would develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected. This time varied greatly from person to person and depended on many factors, including a person's health status and their health-related behaviors.

Since 1996, the introduction of powerful anti-retroviral therapies has dramatically changed the progression time between HIV infection and the development of AIDS. There are also other medical treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS, though the treatments do not cure AIDS itself. Because of these advances in drug therapies and other medical treatments, estimates of how many people will develop AIDS and how soon are being recalculated, revised, or are currently under study.

Also see the blog: iMedicine

30 August, 2006


Recently I have received a forwarded mail which stressed the need for creating awareness among the public about HIV and AIDS. The mail was from "Mayank, Brand Manager (Product Manager) handling anti HIV/AIDS portfolio (called as Antiretroviral Drugs) in Ranbaxy...". Here I go with more details and clarifications from Dr. Ismail who is doing research on HIV and TB in New jersy.
I am grateful to Trivikram, Bangalore and Vidya Sagar, hyderabad who forwarded this mail to me and also to Dr. Ismail who responded to my mail despite his busy schedule.


As per the mail, "There was a story on junk some days back where it is said that a boy got infected by HIV virus by eating pani-puri.

Dr. Ismail says: Not true...virus will not survive and no transmission is reported through ingestion.

And there have also been rumours where people are affected by the HIV virus when they got pricked by an HIV infected needle in theaters..."

Dr. Ismail says: Maybe, if it is a fresh prick and the chance is 0.3% only even then.


HIV (virus) requires *ONLY* *Blood or Semen* as medium to transmit from one body to another.

Dr. Ismail says: Even contact of mucous membranes is enough for transmission , saliva does contain virus but transmission is negligible....

HIV *can not* transmit even through *Saliva* (mucous) i.e. even if HIV-infected patient coughs and another person is exposed to his sputum (cough), the virus still can not transmit because concentration of virus particles in sputum is almost NIL & exposure to air anyway kills virus in fraction of seconds.

Dr. Ismail says: last sentence is true but not in seconds though!

In case HIV-infected person got an injury (like the cut in below mentioned story) and he is bleeding, the virus can transmit to another person only if another person has a cut/wound in his body & that too when *blood from both person comes in contact with each other* (this is also very very rare unless bleeding is very high) and not otherwise.

Dr. Ismail says: True but when blood contacts a breach in mucous membrane infection is possible theoritically!

HIV can never survive in any liquid medium other than blood or semen (& please for God sake ... never in Pani Puri wala's pani).

Dr. Ismail endorses: Not in pani-puri but HIV is found in varying concentrations or amounts in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, saliva, and tears.

Even if one drinks an HIV infected blood (or semen) of someone (ingest through Gastro Intestinal track), the virus can not survive in the acidic pH of stomach. Highest extent of acidity is 0 (practically not possible) so imagine 1 as pH which is in our stomach.

Dr. Ismail says: True.
(Note: pH levels in our stomach may go as low as 1.0. This is a very acidic level. Solutions at a pH of 1.0 are strong enough to burn through fabrics, injure eyes or irritate skin. When food comes into the stomach, the pH may rise to 3.0 to 4.0)

there have also been rumours where people are affected by the HIV virus when they got pricked by an HIV infected needle in theaters..."

Dr. Ismail says: Maybe, if it is a fresh prick and the chance is 0.3% only even then.

Exposure of less than 1 second in AIR KILLS the HIV virus (story of needle pricks in Cinema theatres goes down the drain) .. Even if blood from a wound (of infected person) dries up (*blood clot*), *the virus dies* and can not infect anyone else.

Dr. Ismail says: True but as I mentioned earlier if that guy can make a prick on himseld and again prick other person and if the needle enters a vein or bloodvessel there is a risk of transmission.

HIV transmission is *ONLY* an *INFECTION* i.e. entrance of virus in one's body. It *DOES NOT MEAN AIDS*.

Dr. Ismail says: True AIDS is a later stage in the spectrum of illness caused by HIV and as a matter of fact people die of other infections like TB and diarrhea caused by lowering of immunity by HIV and not by HIV perse.

An HIV-infected person (after entrance of virus) can progress to condition of AIDS usually after *8 to 10 YEARS* (not in 15 days as in the mentioned story)

Dr. Ismail says: It may take from few months to 10 years depending on the viral load and innate immunity of the individual

It is *not HIV (virus) nor AIDS that kills a human* ..... the virus attacks immune cells (cells that fight against foreign pathogens/antigens) and hence a person's ability to fight against infections & diseases slowly diminishes and the person ultimately dies of a disease which is most likely TB.

Most importantly, HIV is no longer a dreadful disease .... it is "* CHRONIC MANAGEABLE DISEASE*" just like Diabetes or Hypertension.

Dr. Ismail says: It can be managed with practising healthy methods and antiretrovirals but can't be compared to Diabetes or Hypertension.

If there is anything you need to be careful from to prevent HIV, it is *Unsafe Sex*, *Blood transfusion* (check before taking) / Blood donation (use sterilized needles only) and any *blood contact during an accident *or so where amount of bleeding is very high.

(See the next post: HIV-AIDS: II)

23 August, 2006

Vande Mataram

A few "Letters to the Editor" published in today's The Hindu:

The controversy triggered by the Union Human Resource Development Minister's observation that the recitation of Vande Mataram in educational institutions is not mandatory and the statement of the Jama Masjid Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, that its rendition is against the tenets of Islam is unfortunate. The national song only salutes the motherland. -Ahmad M. Abdi, Mumbai

Vande Mataram is nothing but a greeting to the motherland and an appreciation of its enchanting natural beauty. It is just a patriotic national song. Let us not offer a narrow, religious interpretation to it. -Mumtaz Ali Khan, Bangalore

'Vande Mataram' was one among the many slogans that united India. According to an HRD directive to the States, the national song must be recited in all educational institutions on September 7 to mark its centenary. Mr. Singh has now indicated that the recitation is not mandatory. Is it necessary to pander to the sentiments of a few in such matters? -D. Venkateswar Rao, Paloncha, A.P.

Is it in order for the Centre to direct the educational institutions to recite the song to honour the patriots and then give in to objections from some quarters? -M.S. Rajasekaran, Chennai

That the recitation of the national song has been made voluntary so as not to hurt the sentiments of a few who feel asking them to sing it would amount to their suppression is condemnable. At a time when the youth are unaware of the origin and importance of our national anthem and song, Mr. Singh's move will go a long way in ensuring that they remain thus. -Mahesh Kolary, Palakkad, Kerala

Defending poet Subramania Bharati's patriotic songs that were banned by the British, Congress leader Satyamurthi pointed to the universality of his songs. The U.S. currency carries the words `In God We Trust,' though many atheists have objected to them. Everyone who is proud to be an Indian should respect the national song. Minority or majority sentiment should not be attached to it. -V.E. Venkataramani, Chennai

18 August, 2006

What led to floods?

From Gargi Parsai's report in The Hindu

Expert says the authorities waited for the dams to fill up before releasing the water

The dams had 47 per cent water before the monsoon
This is "negligence" of operations

NEW DELHI : It seems that mismanagement and negligent operations of the large reservoirs on the rivers cause the floods in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, claims that the big dams that were expected to regulate water flows were actually responsible for the floods in these States that also happen to have the largest number of big reservoirs. Dams in these States had an average of 47 per cent storage before the monsoon set it, which in itself was a potential for causing floods.

Demanding a probe into what caused floods in these States and whether they were avoidable, Mr. Thakkar said action should be taken against those responsible for "mismanagement."

"The nation has paid huge costs in creating these reservoir capacities, and negligence in the dam operations is leading to disastrous consequences which are entirely avoidable," he said.


Officials from the Central Water Commission told that normally dams were supposed to be emptied out before monsoon by releasing water for irrigation and other purposes. "Reservoir storages are built up at the end of the monsoon, to prevent floods downstream."

But as per the Central Water Commission statistics, in the Tapi basin, various dams had upto 41 per cent storage before monsoon.

In the Narmada basin, the Tawa dam was already filled up to 22.58 per cent before the monsoon.

Likewise, in the Krishna basin, the Koyna dam was filled up to 25.19 per cent, the Khadakvasla up to 12.5 per cent, the Narayanpur up to 44.1 per cent, the Srisailam up to 17 per cent and the Nagarjunsagar was filled up to 47.08 per cent.

In the Godavari basin, the Jayakwasi had a storage of 28.33 per cent and in the Sabarmati basin, the Dharoi dam was filled up to 42.59 per cent.

Mr. Thakkar said releases from the dams — under instruction from the State Irrigation departments — after the onset of the monsoon were normally kept under wraps. More often than not, the secrecy hid gross neglect and mismanagement, as had happened this year.

He alleged that the large-scale loss of lives and businesses in Surat could have been avoided by early, regulated releases when it was known that the Ukai dam across the Tapi was filling up fast. The dam was 51 per cent full on July 20, 77.54 per cent full on August 3 and 100 per cent on August 7. Even when it was getting high inflows of up to nine to ten lakh cusecs, the authorities waited for the dam to fill up before releasing water. This meant the sudden release of up to 10 lakh cusecs for several days, leading to unprecedented flooding. This, when the Tapi downstream from dam had a drainage capacity of only about 3.5 lakh cusecs. The releases also coincided with high tide, leading to prolonged flooding.

Mr. Thakkar claimed that in the Sardar Sarovar Project also, the main canal was opened by just 0.5 metres on August 2, releasing just about 580 cusecs,when inflows were over 98,000 cusecs. Downstream releases were just around 21,000 cusecs. This led to a build-up of water, of up to 128 metres, leading to "illegal and avoidable" submergence of land, houses and habitats of thousands of rural and tribal families. The situation was similar in the Krishna, Godavari and Sabarmati basins.

03 August, 2006

New Report

`Pesticide levels in soft drinks too high'

THE HINDU Special Correspondent
New study indicates pesticides 24 times higher than Bureau of Indian Standards norms

# "The levels in some samples exceeded the BIS standards by 140 times for the deadly pesticide Lindane, a confirmed carcinogen"
# "Heptachlor, banned in India, was found in 71 per cent of the samples, at levels four times higher than BIS standards"
NEW DELHI: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Wednesday came out with a new report on the levels of pesticides in soft drinks available in the market.

The report indicated the presence of an average of three to five different pesticides in all the samples, 24 times higher than the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) norms, which have been finalised but not yet notified.

The latest CSE study is based on tests conducted on 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca-Cola and Pepsico, spread over 12 States.

The levels in some samples — for instance, Coca-Cola bought in Kolkata — exceeded the BIS standards by 140 times for the deadly pesticide Lindane, a confirmed carcinogen.

Similarly, a Coca-Cola sample manufactured in Thane contained 200 times more of the neurotoxin, Chlorpyrifos, than the BIS standard, said Sunita Narain of CSE releasing the report here.

Three years after the centre released its first findings on pesticide residue in soft drinks, the new study shows that nothing much has changed and soft drinks remain unsafe and unhealthy. Even the directions given by the Joint Parliamentary Committee have been disregarded: standards for safety have been finalised but blocked because of opposition by the companies, Ms. Narain alleged.

In 2003, the average level of pesticide residue in samples from Delhi was 34 times above the same BIS standard, but this time the CSE has found pesticide residue as high as 52 times in bottles brought in Kolkata and 42 times in bottles bought in Nainital and Gorakhpur. Similarly, bottles bought in Mumbai, manufactured in Thane and Nagpur, allegedly had residue 34 times above the BIS standard.

Heptachlor, banned in India, was allegedly found in 71 per cent of the samples, at levels four times higher than BIS standards.

The average amount of pesticide residue found in all the samples was 11.85 parts per billion (ppb) or 24 times higher than the BIS standards for total pesticides in soft drinks (0.5 ppb). Pepsi Cola contained 30 times higher residue on an average, while Coca-Cola contained 27 times higher than average.

Endorsed by JPC

The current study was conducted by the same Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of CSE that had tested the samples in 2003, and the methodology was endorsed by the JPC despite doubts raised by the cola companies over the veracity of the tests. This time further improvements had been made, and the laboratory now had ISO 9001:2000 quality management system accreditation and it was equipped with state-of-the-art GS-MS equipment, Ms. Narain said.

In February 2004, confirming the unsafe levels of pesticides in soft drinks, the JPC had directed the Government to set standards for these residues in the products. Since then, BIS has, in its sectional committee, met over 20 times to deliberate on the standards, and in October 2005 the standards were finalised.

Ms. Narain alleged that the final standards were being opposed by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on the ground that more research needed to be done. In this respect, she quoted a letter written by the Union Health Secretary to his counterpart in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The letter was written on March 29, 2006 — the day the standards were to be formally finalised. The standards were finalised, but not notified, Ms. Narain said.

18 July, 2006


Thousands of blogs are blocked in India.
Last week, CERT-IN* (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team ) sent a list of 22 websties and blogs to be blocked to all ISPs following apprehensions by the country's intelligence agencies that these were likely being used by terrorists to communicate with one another. The move may be related to the bomb blasts in trains in Mumbai earlier this month which killed about 190 people and injured around 700. There are about 150 ISPs in India. Although the communication from the DOT to ISPs lists specific pages and Web sites, several ISPs have blocked some key blogs altogether because they were not equipped to filter specific pages.

Access to all blogs and websites hosted on the following servers is currently blocked:
Spectranet, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Reliance Powersurfer, Airtel Broadband and Sify have blocked Blogger.

Whoever has done that for any reason, its effect is that thousands of blogs have been blocked. Clearly this is violation of Right to Freedom of Expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India as a Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(a) which says

19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.—(1) All citizens shall have the right—
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
* * * * *
(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

This right is subject only to reasonable restrictions imposed by the Govt. in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

The ISPs are clearly violating this provision of the constitution by arbitrarily blocking all the blogs.

Tricks to access blocked sites:

1. http://www.proxify.com
2. http://censorship.wikia.com/wiki/Bypassing_The_Ban

*CERT-IN: Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Indian government set up the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) in 2003 with the authority to block Web sites. Any government department seeking a block on any web site has to approach CERT-IN, which then instructs the DoT to block the site after confirming the authenticity of the complaint. On receiving instructions from CERT-IN, DOT - which has regulatory control over the ISPs - has to ensure that the Web sites are blocked, and inform CERT-IN accordingly.

13 July, 2006

Salam Bombay!

Photo: Reuters

Readers' Digest has branded Mumbai as a rude city based on a survey.

What if they don't say 'please' and 'Thank you'? They are Indians and they know how to stand united in the hour of crisis. They also know how to defeat the sinister designs of the militants when they try to terrorise Mumbaikars. They show the world what Indians are!

Reports in today's The Hindu say:

When the seven serial blasts occurred, people hearing the noise, came streaming out of the houses on both sides of the track to help the injured, hundreds of young men from Naupada plunged into rescue operations, initially marked by the complete absence of the police or railway officials. Even stretchers were not available to take the injured or the dead. People pulled out the padded seats in the first class compartment and used them to carry away people to the nearest platform.

All these young men belonging to a voluntary organisation called Al-Hind Ekta Society, rushed to rescue the numerous injured from first class compartment. The police came much later and they were not willing to touch the bodies. It was people like them who provided all the immediate rescue measures.

The injured and the dead were bundled in bed sheets and on makeshift stretchers.The Society members collected all mobiles and wallets and gave these to the nearest police station so that these could be returned.

A videofootage aired on private TV channels clearly shows how the local people helped in the rescue and that they were the only ones present. They took people in rickshaws to Bhabha hospital and it was their timely help that ensured that more people did not die.

People ferried the victims home till late night. It is very clear that if they did not help, those people would have stayed on the tracks for a long time.

Select opinions:

If instilling fear in the minds of Mumbaikars was the objective of those responsible for Mumbai's serial blasts on Tuesday, let history be evidence that the cowards cannot succeed. We stood beside one another during the riots and floods and we stand beside one another today too. I am far away from home right now but my spirit is attached to the heartbeat of my city. Only in India can an entire city transform into a million-member family within minutes. There is no need for a `please.' There is no need for a `thank you.' Love is unconditional when it involves a Mumbaikar.
-Priyanka Agarwal, Evanston, Illinois

It is the never say die spirit of Mumbaikars that brings the city back to normality every time there is an adversity. It was a great sight to see people helping one another. Mumbai is certainly not a rude city — never mind if the men do not open the door for women or don't say `thanks' and `please.'
-Farazana Nigar, Nagpur, Maharashtra

The Mumbaikars deserve to be commended for their resilience. They are a source of national pride and a sterling example of how ordinary people can defeat terrorist designs. By carrying on with their lives, they are cocking a snook at the terrorists. Those responsible for the attacks should be ashamed of themselves.
-S. Srinivas, Visakhapatnam, A.P.

The city has fought back by getting back to work in a day. Our salaam to the financial metro.
-M. Ramdas, Chennai

Whoever is responsible for the blasts will surely feel disappointed because Mumbaikars know how to bounce back after bomb blasts and natural calamities.
-Sayed Farhaan Haidar, New Delhi

Mumbai, devastated by rains and bomb blasts, has risen to the occasion yet again. While we condemn the serial blasts, we feel proud of the Mumbaikars who, setting aside differences and disproving the Readers Digest's rude city brand, have stood together in an adverse situation. Let nobody judge a city by a few commonplace events.
-R. Karpagam, Coimbatore

Immediately after disaster struck, as is their wont, the people came to the rescue of the injured. They gave food and shelter to the sick and injured, and served bottled water, tea and coffee to the stranded. Hats off to Mumbaikars!
-Murali Jagannathan, Bangalore

As usual it was the common man who came to the rescue of the victims, much before the administrators did. Be it in helping the injured, offering lifts, food, regulating traffic or passing information, the rest of India has a lot to learn from the people of Mumbai. That Mumbai has carried on with life needs to be appreciated. It is now up to the politicians to ensure that this calm is not disturbed.
-Ashwanth Gnanavelu, Chennai

05 June, 2006

WHO-Child Growth Standard

Breastfeeding as a biological norm

The `International child growth standard' recently announced by the World Health Organisation is significant for many reasons. It marks a radical departure from the present outdated approach of `how children grow' in a particular region and time to a more precise and progressive way of describing how children `should grow' when all their needs are met. While the growth reference, in use since the late 1970s, was based on a limited sample of mostly formula-food-fed children from the United States, the current standard relies on a representative study involving nearly 8,500 healthy breastfed infants and children from six countries — India, Brazil, Ghana, Norway, Oman, and the U.S. The study has established that a child's growth up to age five is influenced more by nutrition, feeding practices, and other factors than by genetics or ethnicity, and hence the parameters are universally applicable.

With childhood obesity posing a major health concern, WHO has for the first time included body mass index (BMI)in the standard. While childhood obesity has become a serious problem in many developed countries, developing nations cannot afford to shut their eyes to the phenomenon. While calorie-rich carbonated drinks and fast foods are among the main culprits for childhood obesity, WHO has contributed to the unhealthy trend by having set the bar, thus far, at a level that can be matched only when infants are fed breast milk substitutes. The new growth standard that establishes breastfeeding as a "biological norm" and the numerous studies showing that childhood obesity continued into adulthood should serve as a clarion call for parents to revisit their notions on early introduction of breast milk substitutes.

(An editorial in today's The Hindu)

27 May, 2006

To Gujarati protesters

I want to remind all those people who are hell-bent on preventing Aamir Khan's films from being screened in Gujarat and on boycotting the products endorsed by him of this famous saying attributed to Voltaire:

"I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it."

26 May, 2006

Green thumb!

Pawan kalyan, though eccentric in his own ways, is more senisble than his brother Chiranjeevi. He immediately withdrew from the ads promoting Pepsi once the CSE report was out. Now, Pawan Kalyan and Nagababu (their brother) have come forward to work for a cleaner environment. They have launched an organisation called `Eco Friends' with Chiranjeevi as the honorary president and Nagababu as president. The unit started its movement by planting 3,000 saplings at Bantumilli village in Krishna district, before the Republic Day. Later, they undertook plantation at Nagarjuna University. The programme would be extended across the state with the help of National Service Scheme volunteers. Later, a programme was chalked out to plant at least one lakh saplings across the state.

NOTE: Sir! planting the saplings is not enough. Please make sure that they survive!

(Source: today's The Hindu)

25 May, 2006

The Speaker

In India, three wings of democracy are:

The Legislature (The highest authority is the Lok Sabha Speaker. Within the House, even the Prime Minister has to obey the Speaker's orders and the cabinet is answerable to the House run by the Speaker.)

The Judiciary (The highest authority is the Chief Justice of India.)

and The Executive (The highest authority is the President of India.)

Persons holding these high offices are expected to set and follow high moral standards. Mr. Somnath Chatterjee could have avoided the embarrassment by resigning from the post of Sriniketan Santiniketan Development Authority immediately after allegations were made against him for holding the office however strongly he feels that it is NOT an "office of Profit". It does not augur well for Indian democracy if such high offices are dragged into avoidable controversies.

24 May, 2006

Subhash Kashyap

Subhash Kashyap is by far the most venerated constitutional expert. His books on Indian Constitution and the Parliament are indispensable for any student of Indian polity even as part of General Studies. He was Constitutional Adviser to the Government of India and was a Member of the National Commission on the Review of the Working of the Constitution and Chairman of its Drafting Committee (2000-2002). Earlier, he headed the CIDP at IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union) in Geneva. But he himself is now involved in a controversy over the privileges of Parliament. It is very clear that the Speaker's decision ''cannot be questioned either in the House or outside''. Mr. Kashyap resorted to sort of sacrilege by casting aspersions on the impartiality of the Speaker.

On 4th August, 2005 Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was informed that her adjournment motion on 'Inflitration in West Bengal and part of North-Eastern region' was disallowed by the Speaker under Rule 338, which states that the House cannot take up an issue which has already been discussed and negatived in the same session. Her notice was rejected on July 26 and Leader of the Opposition L K Advani's adjournment motion on the same topic was admitted and discussed, it was pointed out. On this, Mamata walked to the well of the House and threw some papers towards the Chair.

On the same day, commenting on this particular incident in a TV channel Kashyap said: ''Well, it has a personal aspect also which should not be forgotten. When Mamata Banerjee was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time, she had defeated a personality like Somnath Chatterjee.'' This kind of remarks are totally unwarranted.

What miffed the panel more was the fact that Kashyap made light of the matter by saying ''papers were torn and thrown like missiles on many occasions in the Lok Sabha. Even shoes and chappals were shown inside the House many a time''. It may be true but throwing shoes at a member is different from throwing them at the speaker. If we overlook even when Lakshman rekha is crossed saying several lines were crossed earlier, nothing beside remains. From this, it is also very clear that we are becoming more and more insentient.

He was also quoted as having said ''there are many instances when discussions on the same subject have been held twice or more during the same session'', but he could not substantiate this point before the Committee. It is appalling that even such 'experts' talk so casually on TV.

Though Lok Sabha has never admonished anyone before, it has 'reprimanded' - considered to be a harsher punishment - two persons previously:

Aug 29, 1960: R K Karanjia was reprimanded for calling Sucheta Kriplani "KripLooney"

Dec 9, 1970: Deputy secretary S.C. Mukherjee was reprimanded for misleading the Committee of Public Undertaking while giving evidence

11 May, 2006

No cross talk plz...

When I visited SreeKalahasti temple for the first time, I was awed by its splendour. It is really an architectural marvel. But when I went there again, what caught my attention was an altogether different matter. It was this:

A devotee was performing some yagna. I don't know what it was. Only one priest was officiating this yagna on his behalf. Flames were lit and the oblations were thrown into the flames one by one. So far so good. Suddenly a cell phone rang. And the ring tone was a romantic song! Whose was it anyway? Definitely it was not mine for two reasons:
1. My cell phone always plays THE BORING(?) TRING TRING.
2. While entering any place of worship or any library, I never forget to switch it off.

Well, Whose was it anyway? To my astonishment, it was the PRIEST's! He didn't show any signs of embarrassment, and lifted the phone and talked as if he was expecting the call. I got furious and also curious and kept watching him. At least 4 or 5 times he talked over the phone and more frequently he kept yacking in the middle of the yajna with whoever comes there. Meanwhile the devotee started showing signs that he was restive but chose to remain silent and be patient! 'What is this?' I asked myself about the priest. Isn't this asking God to 'hold on' in the middle of a dialogue/process that too done on behalf of a third party? How can a priest behave in such an outrageously irresponsible way? Is he really a believer? Does he really understand the importance of the yagna he is performing and what it means to the devotee? and the feelings of the devotee who entrusted him with the task of speaking on his behalf with God???

In the first place, why don't some people switch off the cell phones in the premises of the temple? How disturbing and nauseating it is if the cell phone rings while others are meditating on God? Temple, or for that matter any place of worship, is and should be a place which gives us peace of mind and the best way to get that mental peace is to forget about the outside world for a while and concentrate on God. For this, a peaceful atmosphere is a prerequisite. If THAT is lacking there, if the silence is broken by crazy ringtones, what is the use of going to temples and where else can we go? We only get more disturbed.

I don't really understand those who purposefully let the cell phone ring and respond to the calls in such places and those who MAKE calls from there. They should understand the feelings of their fellow devotees. If they are really expecting any important calls, they had better stay away fom temples till they answer all their important and urgent calls.

In Chilukuru Balaji temple near Hyderabad, everyday the priest keeps reminding the devotees repeatedly to switch off their cell phones.

29 April, 2006

Water bottles

From the above figure, it is clear that

the total cost on a water bottle is Rs. 2.85 - 4.25
(excluding labour, marketing and tax)
But the selling cost is 10.00 to 12.00

Take for instance the case of Coca-Cola's bottling plant in drought-prone Kala Dera near Jaipur. Coca-Cola gets its water free except for a tiny cess (for discharging the wastewater) it pays to the State Pollution Control Board - a little over Rs.5,000 a year during 2000-02 and Rs.24,246 in 2003. It extracts half a million litres of water every day - at a cost of 14 paise per 1,000 litres.

So, a Rs.10 per litre Kinley water has a raw material cost of just 0.02-0.03 paise.

(It takes about two to three litres of groundwater to make one litre of bottled water.)

However, water is not that cheap in the United States, home to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The average cost of industrial water in the U.S. was Rs.21 per 1,000 litres in the late 1990s. It was Rs.90/1,000 litres in the United Kingdom and Rs.76/1,000 litres in Canada.

Huge real costs

The reason that companies do not have to bear the cost of the main raw material - water - has made this industry highly profitable. But the real cost of the industry is huge.

The cost of fast-depleting groundwater is incalculable and so is the cost of disposal of plastic bottles and pouches. These are hidden costs that society and the environment pay and will pay in the future. The sale of bottled water is therefore not environmentally sound by any stretch of the imagination.

There are much cleaner ways to access clean and healthy water and for this we will have to rethink our water paradigm.

Groundwater is the cleanest and cheapest source for all, but we have over-extracted and polluted it with natural contaminants, agro-chemicals and industrial waste. We will have to recharge and revive our groundwater bodies and for this the existing archaic law must change.

Our surface water bodies are in a deplorable condition. We dump our sewage and industrial waste in rivers and ponds, try to clean them in massive centralised treatment plants and then supply the water to urban households - to be discharged again as wastewater into the same waterbody. This vicious cycle must be cut and stopped. The cost of dirty water is just too great for society to bear. Bottled water and domestic treatment systems are a cheap as well as fill-and-forget solution for 30 per cent of the population, but in doing so we have not left any solution for the 70 per cent of the poor and the marginalised.

(Excerpts from an article in Frontline dated April 08-24, 2006, Written by Chandra Bhushan, Associate Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.)


The purpose (providing social justice or equal opportunities for all) with which the reservations were started was lost. With the reservations, people with vested interests have found that caste is a good bargaining tool approved by the govt and hence can be utilised for personal gains. With this, in India, the society "has been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls (Tagore's Geetanjali)" and these walls are cemented by the reservation system. New systems have brought with them new evils.

The other side of the coin is that where the real problem ie, caste based discrimination still exists, the reservations have become ineffective. (ex: 1. a school teacher who was a Dalit was not allowed to enter the school which functions in the premises of a temple. 2. In another village, school children, at the behest of their parents, refused to eat the mid day meal cooked by a Dalit woman). People must be educated that caste based discrimination is inhuman. Mere reseravtions have not helped us much in achieving this.

Moreover, reservations always remind us of the caste to which we belong: forward, backward, Scheduled, etc. We observe that everyday, more castes are demanding that they must be promoted in the caste hierarchy by being included in a more beneficial group. At least now, we must understand that a system which nurtures the caste consciousness in us, cannot remedy caste-based discrimination.

Supplying text books free of cost and giving scholarships to economically backward students is much better than reservations. No child must be denied admission into any school based on caste or social status. Admission into colleges and employment opportunities must be based solely on merit. Anything that develops caste consciousness must go. Reservations must go.

Initially, Reservations were thought to be only a temporary provision but now... nobody is thinking in that direction. God! save my country!!

NBA and Rehabilitation

From an exclusive report in today's The Hindu

A Sardar Sarovar Project Status Report submitted by the Union Water Resources Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office on March 22 — after Narmada Bachao Andolan activists went on an indefinite dharna here — nails the claims of the States concerned on rehabilitation of dam-displaced families.

The report reveals that 36,921 families in 226 villages in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra will be affected consequent to the raising of the height of the Narmada dam to 121.92 metres. 27,934 families were affected in three states at the height of 110.64 metres. The report clearly shows that 13,233 families remained to be resettled in Madhya Pradesh alone at 110.64 metres.

Even when the Centre was armed with this crucial, authentic information, it sought to put the burden of proving the number of displaced families on the NBA. The NBA protested against raising the height of the dam, saying about 35,000 displaced families between the heights of 110.64 and 121.92 metres remained to be rehabilitated.

The Narmada tribunal award and the Supreme Court held that families facing submergence should be rehabilitated at least six months ahead of raising the dam height, by December 31, 2005.

The NBA has demanded suspension of construction of the dam until the rehabilitation of the displaced families is completed as per the law and not with cash compensation.

Growing intolerance

Ah, I have not updated this blog for a long time now. Almost two months! Meanwhile, several things have happened. I am particularly concerned about the growing intolerance among the people. See what happened when Amir Khan extended support to the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has opposed raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam across the river.

NBA offices in Gujarat were ransacked. Youth Congress workers stalled the screening of Aamir Khan movie 'Rang De Basanti'. The workers also burnt Aamir's posters at Aradhana theatre, where the movie is being screened and appealed his fans to come out of the hall, police said. BJP youth wing workers burnt effigy of Aamir Khan in Ahmedabad.

A local Congress leader Narendra Ravat said they will not allow screening of Aamir Khan's film in the city, while the president of Gujarat unit of Youth Congress Mihir Shah has threatened that movie theatres in Gujarat will not be allowed to screen his movies.

National general secretary of BJP youth wing Amit Thakar said they will not allow screening of Aamir's films in entire Gujarat, Mumbai, Jaipur and Bhopal from April 15.

"We will teach him a lesson by not allowing to screen any of his films in future," he threatened.

What's happening? Everyone in the society has a right to say and do what they want, subject only to public order, decency and morality. Then, why this intolerance when a celebrity says or does what he feels? Why can't those 'workers' try to explain what they feel and convince the peolpe and get their support? Why this misplaced anger? Where are we going?

More land will be irriagted if the dam's height is raised. But it is feared that huge dams lead to environmental disasters. Suggested alternatives are: a large number of small dams, check dams, soak pits, and rainwater harvesting, etc.

And the immediate concern of people like Medha Patkar is the welfare of the people who get displaced as a result of raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam. These people get uprooted from their villages with top priority, get deported to another palce where, having lost their links with their homeland, with their past, with their means of livelihood, they are left in the lurch as unwelcome guests in the new place without even proper shelter if at least the rehabilitation work is not done properly.

They in fact allege that the Centre and the concerned State governments have been negligent in pursuing the task of rehabilitating the displaced people as a result of raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Patkar fears and for genuine reasons that, the displaced people will lose everything they have and gain nothing as the Govt's promised rehabilitation will be too late and too little as she feels that the rehabilitation work is not being done in accordance with directive of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court’s orders.

08 March, 2006

Holi (Holy?)

Holi - the festival of colours is round the corner. Is it THE most popular festival of India? It seems so. Lately, it has become immensely popular. In India, basically festivals are of two types:
1. Which commemorate a religious event (like killng of Narakasura-Dipavali, etc). These are limited to a particular RELIGION
2. Which are related to seasons (onset of monsoon-Eruvaaka and reaping of harvest in Rabi-Sankranti). These are limited to a particular REGION.

Holi seems to be one festival celebrated with much brouhaha across all regions and religions. In celebrating Holi, there is no sense of piousness (piety?) that is so predominant in other festivals. Only jubilation and celebration is present. This is an occasion for many to release their pent-up emotions. And they utilise it to the fullest extent. They can always play mischief and some youthful pranks. They feel that they can go around and drench just anyone in paint or water and daub colours on their body.

Visit Holi Hungama to know more about the festival.
Visit Kalranga to see Holi pictures.

Well, now something that I really want to tell you, seriously...

1. Ensure that the colours that you use are NON-TOXIC. (Making India Green)
2. Please don't block the roads.
3. Be careful not to spurt colors on the front glasses, windows or rear view mirrors of any vehicle.
4. Make sure that you don't play Holi with anyone against their wish, especially strangers....and PLEASE SPARE ME.


06 March, 2006


A couple of news reports I have read recently about this disorder disturbed me and in this post I try to dispel some widespread myths about it.
You must have read about Haemophilia in your 10th class Biology lessons. It is also known as The Royal Disease because it was first discovered in the royal family of England. Its incidence in the Russian Tsar (Czar)’s family has changed the course of world history during the World War I.
What is it at all? May be you were also dreaded that it is a very dangerous disease as there are several myths making rounds about it. Some of the widespread MYTHS are:

MYTH 1: It causes profuse bleeding. (Fact: bleeding is just normal)
MYTH 2: Even small cuts can be fatal. (Fact: Haemophilia affects the coagulation Factors which come into picture only when there is a major injury.)
MYTH 3: Haemophiliacs bleed to death. (Fact: here, at least three conditions are to be met:
1. The factor level is less than 1% which is an extremely rare case.
2. There should be a major injury where blood vessels are deeply cut.
3. No action is taken to stop the bleeding i.e., the injured may be unconscious and there is no one around to take care of him).
MYTH 4: There is no remedy. (Fact: There are no allopathic medicines yet but there are a number of remedies.
MYTH 5: It is caused by the deficiency of vitamin k. (Fact: Haemophilia is a genetic disorder)
There are some myths even among doctors. A friend of mine who is an MBBS doctor once opined that
(MYTH 6:) there can be haemophilic girls but no haemophilic women because they will bleed to death in their first menstruation! (Fact: See Myth 3 above.)

Fact: Depending on the factor levels, it takes longer for the bleeding to stop.

There are at least 15 factors and 5 proteins involved in the clotting process. All of them are numbered and some of them have common names as well, e.g.
Factor I: Fibrinogen,
Factor II: Pro-thrombin (this is usually inactive under the influence of anti-prothrombin called Heparin and becomes active when needed),
Factor III: Tissue Factor,
Factor IV: Calcium, etc. (Ca++ is essential in the coagulation process as a catalyst to spur factors like VII, IX, X XIII into action)
If Factor VIII is deficient, it is haemophilia Type A
If Factor IX is deficient, it is haemophilia Type B
In some cases, vWF may also be deficient or missing.

Factor levels:
• 25% to 150% of expected level is considered NORMAL.
• 5% to 25% is MILD haemophilia
• 1% to 5% is MODERATE
• less than 1% SEVERE.

Haemophilia is not a disease but a genetic disorder. It has two effects: 1. Prolonged bleeding and 2. swelling.


When the cut is minor, the blood vessel leading to the cut part contracts so that the amount of blood passing through it decreases and the wound heals without the need for any clotting process to take place.

When the cut is moderate, (a blood vessel is slightly cut), blood cells and fluid escape from the wound and the collagen fibres which are exposed initiate the clotting process.
Platelets rush to the spot to control the damage. Platelets release chemicals to attract more platelets. The accumulated and hardened platelets act like a plug to block the blood flow. This platelet plug is trapped in the mesh formed by the collagen fibres across the cut.

The clotting process starts with the thrombocytes releasing PF3.

PF3 + blood proteins -> Prothrombin

Prothrombin + Ca++ -> Thrombin

Thrombin + Fibrinozen -> Fibrin (in Gel state) which forms a net trapping corpuscles to form the clot

When the cut is major, Clotting or coagulation factors cause fibrin to stick together and seal the wound.
The adhesion of platelets to the collagen is mediated by von Willebrand factor (vWF). vWF also binds to and stabilizes coagulation factor VIII. Binding of factor VIII by vWF is required for normal survival of factor VIII in the circulation.


Swelling is internal bleeding. The bleeding may be in joints or in muscles. Bleeding in muscles is not a serious one which may last for a couple of days and usually heals itself. The patient has to be careful about bleeding (i.e., swelling) in joints because if unattended to, it may persist for longer periods and the joint may get damaged permanently and the pain is also unbearable in severe cases. The extent of swelling also depends on the factor levels and the severity of the sprain or hit.


• They must do normal exercises regularly. This will strengthen the muscles and helps in fast recovery. Yoga and aerobics are highly recommended.
• They can play all outdoor games but must avoid risky, adventurous games (like boxing).
• When there is any swelling or bleeding, bed rest is advised.
• In emergency cases, to increase the factor level considerably, they can opt for blood transfusion, plasma transfusion, or Factor VIII injections.
• Bleeding in the head, haematuria (blood in urine), bleeding in the stomach are dangerous especially when factor level is less than 1%. style="font-weight: bold;">Rush to the hospital immediately.
• Before undergoing any surgery, they must tell the doctor that they are haemophiliac.
. They should not donate their blood (if the factor-deficient blood is given to another bleeding haemophiliac, bleeding does not stop as expected and in critical cases, the patient may die).

Haemophilia is inherited only through X chromosome. But in females, if the second X chromosome is normal, they become only carriers. A carrier is just like a normal woman who never suffers from haemophilia (because of the presence of a normal X chromosome), but her children who inherit the wrong x chromosome from her will be affected.

1. Children of a carrier mother and a normal father:

Daughters will be carriers with 50% probability
Sons will be haemophiliacs with 50% probability.

1. Children of a carrier mother and a normal father:

Daughters will be carriers with 50% probability
Sons will be haemophiliacs with 50% probability.

2. Children of a normal mother and a haemophiliac father:

All daughters will be carriers
All sons will be normal.

3. Children of a carrier mother and a haemophiliac father:

Daughters will be either carriers or haemophiliacs (No normal daughters)
Sons will be haemophiliacs with 50% probability.

4. Children of a haemophiliac mother and a normal father:

All daughters will be carriers and all sons will be haemophiliacs.

5. Children of a haemophiliac mother and a haemophiliac father:

All children will be haemophiliacs.

Jessica Lal

NDTV has launched a "Fight for Jessica Lal" campaign to garner support for a fresh trial in the ‘Jessica Lal murder case’ where all the nine prime accused were discharged by a Delhi sessions court last week.( Lal, a model, was filling in as a bartender in a posh south Delhi restaurant when she was shot in the wee hours of 30 April 1999. This happened after she reportedly refused to serve liquor to Manu Sharma, the son of Haryana Excise Minister Vinod Sharma. )

For details of this and similar cases in which justice was apparently denied, click here

03 March, 2006

Bush visits India


(A few "Letters to the editor" published on 3rd March, 2006)

That Mr. Bush is the head of the most powerful nation does not mean we have to extend a royal welcome to him. His hands are soiled with the blood of mankind, his head is cluttered with self-centred missions, and his heart is immune to the wails of humanity. The peace he trumpets cannot come from the policies he follows — fighting needless wars and killing the innocent.

Salil Gewali,

In view of U.S. visas, job opportunities, and possible business ventures, our own people have let down Gandhi, who gave the greatest gift of non-violence to the world. They are welcoming one who is responsible for killing thousands around the world, running underground prisons, and treating fellow humans in the most inhumane way. I want to ask every Indian: Would the man who launched the non-cooperation movement against the British have shaken hands with Mr. Bush?

Pardeep Kansal,
Bathinda, Punjab

The Bush flu has already destroyed the Mesopotamian civilisation and set its sights on the Persian civilisation. It is hoped the Indian civilisation escapes.

R. Aravind,
Tirunelveli, T.N.

By now, Mr. Bush should be accustomed to protests in every state he visits. Anyone who misguides his citizens, and is remorseless about invading sovereign republics under a false pretext is a non-welcome entity in our land that epitomises non-violence as a way of life.

Yasmin Banu,
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Why are dollars welcome but not Mr. Bush? Because the dollars are part of the wages honestly earned. Young engineers toiling round the clock in MNCs are pampered with buffets in star hotels for their commendable work. Doctors burn the midnight oil to get through not only USMLE but many other competitive examinations. Winding queues outside the consulates are a reflection of the U.S.' scant regard for others, an attitude evident in the affluent bureaucracy of the American embassies.

True, Gandhi was kindly disposed towards his enemies (Letters, March 1). But that did not prevent us from punishing his assassins.

T. Ramadas,
Visakhapatnam, A.P.

The unprecedented security arrangements for Mr. Bush's visit are in total contrast to the 1947 padyatra of Gandhiji when communal riots broke out in Naokhali immediately after Independence. Gandhiji vehemently opposed any security for himself. It was because he had a clean conscience. Only a person who has something to fear requires elaborate security.

K.S.S. Sarma,
Kurnool, A.P.

It is all very well to invoke the athithi devo bhava concept (Letters, March 2). But let us also recall Vishnu's Vamana avtaar, in which he came as a guest of King Mahabali.

He was accorded the warmest of welcomes and asked to seek any gift of his choice. Vamana sought just three feet of land and that was the end of Mahabali.

S. Sathiyamoorthy,

17 February, 2006

The Clemenceau issue

The French aircraft carrier Clemenceau has on board 27,000 tonnes of steel, asbestos, PCBs, lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals. Steel can be recycled and it is said to be the cheapest source. But the objection is about hazardous wastes like asbestos and others mentioned above.

(Nobody knows the exact amount of asbestos on the ship: French reports say it is around 40 to 50 tonnes while some other reports put it above 500 tonnes, still others say it is more than 700 tonnes.)

Clemenceau was off to India to be broken up by hand in Alang ship-breaking yard on the Gujarat coast where impoverished workers are injured and die every day of hazardous asbestos. The international standard for asbestos inhalation by men is less than 5 fibers/litre whereas the inhalation level in these units is more than 300 fibers/litre. No activist has ever raised his or her voice in this regard.

Egypt has serious doubts about the load Clemenceau carries and hence objected to allow passage to the ship thru Suez canal and now the ship has to return to France taking the long route around Africa. The French government is of the opinion that much of the toxic waste of the ship has been removed and hence it is not violating Basel Convention that bans trade on hazardous materials like asbestos.

But environmentalists and activists of "Greenpeace" and “Ban Asbestos Network” say that these are only excuses to dump hazardous wastes in poor countries like India which still do not have strong rules to prevent such dumping. Annually about 600-700 large sea-vessels are brought to Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China and Turkey for breaking them into scrap affecting the workers and polluting the soil, sea and marine organisms of the area.

Let us face the fact: "Ship breaking units have disastrous consequences on marine ecosystem besides leading to many other social and economic problems". But another angle to the story is that the workers in the Ship breaking units want the ship to come albeit with toxic materials because it provides food to them however toxic it is. The pathetic working conditions, lack of any safety measures, utter disregard for the workers’ rights are terrible.

there are more than 700 large-scale and small-scale industries in India that use asbestos as the raw material; more than 5 lakh people are employed in such industries.

(The Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of our Constitution talk of providing ideal working conditions for all but the reality is nowhere near the ideal conditions described there.)

How serious is the risk?

Nearly 50 countries in the world have banned the use of asbestos. The adverse impact of asbestos use has been further established with major Japanese manufacturers having admitted scores of asbestos-related deaths amongst former employees, customers and local people.

The news about the death of 86 former employees of Nichias Corporation due to asbestos-related disease since 1976 (an avg of 3 deaths per year in a single organization over three decades) attracted media attention throughout Japan on July 5, 2005.

There are several other Japanese companies, which have recently disclosed asbestos deaths amongst their workforce. But the extent of the human tragedy due to asbestos exposure remains uncovered in India.

The Union Ministry of Health informed the Parliament in 2003 that studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, have shown that exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

White asbestos continues to be in use in India although other kinds such as blue and brown asbestos are banned. About one lakh (0.1 million) workers are directly exposed and 3 crore (30 million) construction workers are being subjected to asbestos dust on a day-to-day basis. Besides the workers, even common citizens are at risk.

Strange Case:

In Canada, there is a "no home use" policy for asbestos but Canada happily exports asbestos to India! In India, the total use of asbestos is 1.25 lakh tonnes, out of which more than 1.0 lakh tonne is being imported.

The ruling of the Supreme Court that the Clemenceau issue should not be discussed in the media raised several eyebrows. What is sub judice? Wait for a later post.

15 February, 2006


This blog continues its mission ie, to create awareness among its readers about serious, socially relevant issues. I have started a couple of new blogs to air my views on different matters. I am moving some of the posts from here to avee-ivee.blogspot.com:
1. puraanaalu.blogspot.com throws new light on old stories. (Telugu blog - u need IE 6.0 or later versions to view)
2. avee-ivee.blogspot.com about miscellaneous topics (bilingual).

11 February, 2006

Good news and Bad news

The good news is that Telugu media is also publishing reports about the damage done by Cola plants. See the report: http://www.eenadu.net/story.asp?qry1=28&reccount=31

and the bad news is that some of our "stars" are still turning a Nelsonian eye to the common cause and now Sania Mirza has joined them. She is all set to promote the cool drink "Sprite" of Coca Cola group.

06 February, 2006

A habit that may hit Hyderabadis hard

DANGEROUS TREND: Yakking on mobile while driving.

K. Srinivas Reddy

HYDERABAD: Hyderabadis sure are unable to get over this syndrome - Driving WhileYakking (DWY).

Motorists in the twin cities seem to willingly give themselves up to this irresistible urge to yak while driving. But the law enforcers are not amused anymore. Police have begun cracking the whip after the Andhra Pradesh High Court specifically pointed out the growing tendency to flout the law against use of mobile phones while driving.

And instances of motorists arguing with policemen have been on the rise ever since police launched a drive against the DWY syndrome three months ago. As many as 13,000 motorists have been flagged down and handed over penalties of Rs 200 each. But that was during the period of leniency -- the drive was limited to certain traffic junctions only.

Personnel of the traffic police wing are now bracing themselves for a vigorous enforcement and also for some real hot arguments from the motorists. "It can be distracting and it's dangerous not only for the mobile user, but also other road users. We will certainly check this," asserts Additional Commissioner A.K. Khan.

Why would people chat on mobile phones while driving? The question defies any answer as everyone agrees that talking while driving is certainly distracting. "Yes. It's dangerous. Police are doing the right thing," concurred Y. Preetam, a businessman from Narayanguda.

Hands-free earphones

Intriguingly, he was answering the query from The Hindu on his mobile while driving.

Would the police crack down on use of hands-free earphones or those using the Bluetooth? Mr. Khan says the enforcement is against those taking or making calls while driving, whether they use hands-free sets or not. But considering the shortage of manpower to catch the motorists in the act, police could only crack down on those holding mobile phones to their ears.

"They should be pragmatic and encourage 'hands-free' conversations," says A. Srikanth, a dentist. "If distraction is the issue, what about DVD players in cars? Will it take few more years before the police wake up?" questions A. Kalyan Reddy from Padmaraonagar. A software analyst Sanjay Punjari argues: "I don't see any reason why hands-free mobile conversations should not be allowed. Otherwise, the police move to ban talking on cell phones is a right decision."

So what do you think? Write to us on downtownhyd@thehindu.co.in

(Published on 2nd Feb 2006)

yak or yack = to talk continuously about things that are not very serious or important