Tuesday, January 25, 2011

US lifts defence sanctions on India: America to benefit from the move in the long run

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 25: The US government's decision to lift "sanctions" on Indian defence units will ultimately help the United States, though India gets benefited initially.

The US government lifted its "sanctions" or export curbs on DRDO and ISRO units, which it had imposed in 1998 soon after the Pokhran nuclear tests. The US had earlier eased sanctions against some of the firms, but continued with the curbs on key units. It has now lifted these curbs too.

According to Defence sources, the lifting of curbs or the unilateral sanctions will benefit Indian firms and boost the R & D work including new and existing Space and Defence projects. But it will also boost business opportunities for US firms in the longer run. Incidentally, US sees a flourishing Space and Defence market in India since it is fast developing indigenous technologies in both the areas.

The Indian firms that are now free to import and export equipment and spare parts to the US include Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), which makes India's missiles and munitions; four subsidiaries of DRDO (Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Defense Research and Development Lab (DRDL), Missile Research and Development Complex; and Solid State Physics Laboratory); and four subsidiaries of ISRO (Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC), Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant (SPROB),
Sriharikota Space Center (SHAR), and Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC).

Though US authorities did not use the terms "sanctions" Indian firms were denied supply of equipment and spares during the last 13 years. India had to develop many spareparts and equipment using the indigenous technology.

ISRO has been urging the US to lift curbs on Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre,  Satish Dhawan Space Centre, and Liquid Propulsion Centre. Three other ISRO units were removed from the "embargo list" four years ago. ISRO had been hopeful of lifting of sanctions since it had collaborated with NASA on the Chandrayaan-1 mission. The collaboration led to the discovery of water molecules on the moon.

The US decision is being seen as a "strategic move" to allow US companies to trade with the Indian organisations. Incidentally, India has proposed FDI in defence sector and the US thought that it was the opportune time to ease trade restrictions with India for bilateral benefit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

WHO may impose ban on TV advts targeting young children with unhealthy food items

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 24: After pictorial warning on tobacco products, there will soon be restrictions on TV commercials promoting unhealthy food stuff for children.

The World Health Organisation, which has successfully implemented pictorial warning on tobacco products, has now asked all its member-countries including India to impose restrictions on TV commercials that target young children with unhealthy food items.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has drafted certain recommendations on what not to eat to stay fit. Once these guidelines are finalised, restrictions will be imposed on TV commercials trying to sell unhealthy foods. Policy makers and health experts will meet in Geneva in September to discuss the impact of TV commercials on the eating habits of young children and the need to contain them.

While welcoming the WHO's recommendations, city health experts believe that TV advertising is responsible for a large share of the marketing of unhealthy foods. "Children throughout the world are exposed to marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt, which increases the potential of younger generations developing noncommunicable diseases during their lives. Systematic reviews of evidence show that advertisements influence children's food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns." Some of the food stuff shown on TV commercials are of low nutritional value.

According o ICMR expert group chairman Dr B Narasinga Rao, the body does not need much sodium. "Intakes of 1.1 grams to 3.3 grams of sodium or just 2.8 grams to 8.3 grams of common salt is considered to be safe and adequate for healthy adults". But the WHO has found that most of the food stuff advertised for children in TV commercials contain high fat, sugar and salt, and they are responsible for the spurt in non-communicable diseases.

"Non-communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases are caused by the diet we eat. They are also influenced by stress. Control of diet and eating of healthy food right from the childhood will reduce the risk of non-communicable ailments like cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes," said senior cardiologist Dr Bharath Reddy.

The WHO recommendations come in the wake of reports that 4.3 crore children including 1.1 crore living in India, are obese or overweight. "The advertisements on the food and snacks are highly influential on children, and influence their food choices dramatically. Majority of the food that gets advertised doesn't comprise of good nutritional values," argues bariatric surgeon Dr Nandakishore Dukkipati.

Since in these advertisements, food is associated with a celebrity - film star, sports personality etc., and kids get influenced and tend to go for them, leading to overweight and obesity amongst them, Dr Nandakishore said adding that food advertisements also give subliminal suggestions making them prone to eat food high in calories leading to overweight.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever: CCHF has high mortality rate, is highly infectious

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 20: City hospitals are ill-equipped to tackle cases of the highly infectious Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever if the disease breaks out here. Worse, most doctors are unaware of the clinical manifestation of CCHF and it is unlikely that they have had direct interaction with a CCHF patient.

"We studied about CCHF in one of our microbiology lessons. But I have never come across a CCHF patient in my career so far," confessed an expert in internal medicine attached to a corporate hospital.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr Suneetha Narreddy said since CCHF was not a common disease, it would be difficult for a doctor to diagnose it. "Doctors first look for common diseases and then go for uncommon diseases. But chances are that no doctor here will look for CCHF since it has not been reported here earlier," she said. CCHF, the first cases of which have just been diagnosed in India, spreads fast through body fluids from person to person. Its transmission from animal to humans is through tick bites.
It is such a dangerous disease that the National Institute of Virology has warned that any serum samples from an infected person should be sent through a three-level isolation box to NIV, Pune, for confirmatory diagnostic tests.
CCHF was first diagnosed in 1944 in the Ukraine.
Though it has been causing havoc regularly in different parts of the world, it was not reported in India till recently. Early this month, the disease was diagnosed in Ahmedabad and so far it has caused the death of three people.

Given its highly infectious nature and the regular movement of large numbers of people between Gujarat and AP, doctors and health experts fear that any outbreak of CCHF in Hyderabad will precipitate a medical emergency. Most hospitals do not have special isolation wards fulfilling the WHO standards for Congo fever patients.
Senior physician, Dr Aftab Ahmed, said, "Since it is a viral disease, antibiotics do not work and the treatment has to be supportive. What matters is early diagnosis of the disease. It has one of the highest mortality rates with 40 per cent of patients succumbing to it."
Doctors at the government-owned Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases (Fever Hospital) also admit that they do not have a WHO-standard isolation ward to deal with Congo fever cases.
According to the National Institute of Virology, an individual is said to be suffering from CCHF if he manifests an acute febrile (fever) illness, with bleeding/haemorrhagic manifestations or acute unexplained death, plus at least one of the following: (a) tick bite in the previous three weeks (b) contact with livestock in the previous three weeks and or (c) direct physical contact, or contact with body fluids, of someone with a similar illness in the previous three wee

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ICMR guidelines on obesity control: After US, India follows suit to make its people slim and healthy

By Syed Akbar

Oven hot pizzas, crispy French fries, spicy hot dogs, and yummy burgers may go off your 
daily menu if the
Indian Council of Medical Research has its way. Concerned over high rate of obesity among 
particularly children and young adults, ICMR plans to come out with new dietary 
guidelines, which will tell
you to avoid fast or junk food.

Obesity and overweight are often blamed on junk food that includes pizzas, French fries, 
sandwiches, curry puffs, aloo samosas, potato chips and cream-filled pastry. And ICMR, 
which comes out
with dietary and nutrition recommendations at regular intervals, now plans to suggest 
that Indians stay away
from the junk food if they want to stay fit and healthy. The ICMR's move follows the US 
decision last month to revise nutrition standards for food items sold for schoolchildren.

But pizza lovers need not lose their heart. Fast food companies plan to fine-tune their 
products to meet the
nutritional and dietary requirements of ICMR. Your favourite pizza and burger will now 
come loaded with
less calories and low cholesterol content. They will satiate your taste buds even while 
working light on the
stomach, if fast food companies are to be believed.

"All the time we innovate and experiment with our products. When ICMR comes out with the 
guidelines, we will definitely bring out sandwiches and other foodstuff that are healthy, 
tasty, less fattening
and appealing to all children and youngsters," promises a spokesperson of Subway from 

Other fast food companies like Domino's too plan to fine-tune their menu to meet ICMR 
standards to fight
obesity. "We are open to changes and innovation," said a representative of corporate 
communications of
Domino's, Noida.

While it takes time for fast food companies to innovate and adjust their menu, official 
statistics present a
grim picture of the health of Indian children, particularly those living in urban areas. 
One in eight children
in the country is overweight. Almost one-third of the children in the country will become 
obese if their diet
is not fine-tuned immediately.

According to Dr VM Katoch, ICMR director-general, the new guidelines on obesity control 
will include
recommendation that will bring behavioural change in the eating habits. Already the 
city-based National
Institute of Nutrition, an ICMR constituent body, in its 14-point dietary guidelines 
suggest that people
should avoid over-eating to prevent over-weight and obesity.

"Proper physical activity is essential to maintain desirable body weight. Processed and 
ready-to-eat foods
should be used judiciously. Sugar should be used sparingly. And salt should be used in 
minimum quantity,"
the NIN guidelines point out.

The obesity levels in the present generation are so high that health researchers looking 
at the dietary habits
and lifestyle changes have come to conclusion that the present generation will be the 
first in human history
with a shorter life expectancy than their parents, observes nutrition consultant Dr 
Suneetha Sapur.

"The main fear is child and adolescent obesity, which has now reached epidemic 
proportions in all
industrial countries and is fast catching in our country ," she adds.

Ergonomics and obesity expert Prof Dr S Bakthtiar Choudhary agrees. "junk food is devoid 
of minerals,
fibre and have many preservatives. Besides junk food, eating in front of TV is the other 
main reason for

The new final draft recommendations of the ICMR on the total calorie intake for Indians 
fix 910 for boys
between one and two years; 2030 for children between 10 and 11 years; and 3060 for boys 
between 17 and
18 years. In case of girls, the calorie intake is 830, 1740 and 2450 respectively.

Men who lead a sedentary life need take 2320 calories per day, those with moderate work 
2730 and those
involved in heavy work 3490 calories. The corresponding figures for women are 1900, 2230 
and 2550


Following are the healthy weights and heights of a reference person in India:

Reference infant of India:
0 to 6 months: 5.4 kgs
6 to 12 months: 8.4 kgs

Reference child of India:

1 to 3 years: 12.9 kgs
4 to 6 years: 18 kgs
7 to 9 years: 25.1 kgs

Reference boy of India:

10 to 12 years: 34.3 kgs
13 to 15 years: 47.6 kgs
16 to 17 years: 55.4 kgs

Reference girl of India:

10 to 12 years: 35 kgs
13 to 15 years: 46 kgs
16 to 17 years: 52.1 kgs

Adult reference person:

Man: 18 to 29 years: 60 kgs
Woman: 18 to 29: 55 kgs

Fun learning: Make science, maths funny to learn

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Chemistry, mathematics, physics and biology... If your son or
daughter feels these subjects are boring and dull, it's not the fault of your
child. The lapse lies largely with the primary teacher. Scientists and learning
experts argue that nothing is boring to the brain in the world of learning, and
whether or not a student likes a particular subject depends on how
interestingly or boringly it is taught to him or her.

A little bit of history intertwined with interesting anecdotes and illustrations
and how it helps us in daily life makes any academic subject as lively as
watching a favourite cartoon or a funny movie.

"Create interest in students about the subjects they feel boring," says senior
scientist Dr MN Khaja. "Tell them small historical stories associated with the
given topic. Do not be monotonous. Crack a few jokes in between the lecture.
Come out with illustrations. A student will not grasp a subject unless he or
she feels it interesting. Activate the brain," adds Dr Khaja, who has been
guiding students on genetics.

Dr Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, joint director, biochemistry lab of Central
Drug Research Laboratory, argues that the best way to teach students is to
make science fun to learn. Dr Srivastava has been advocating a new concept
of learning called scientoon, teaching science through cartoons and

"Scientoons and Scientoonics" impress upon the minds of the students.
"Using a mixture of cartoons and anecdotes, I have been explaining the most
complex of theories and problems in the most simplest and humorous way.
Students from other countries too are attracted to science thanks to

Explaining further what scientoon learning is, Dr Srivastava, who is currently
in Hyderabad, says scientoons are the cartoons, based on science. "They not
only make you smile and laugh but also provide information about new
researchers, subjects, data and concepts in a simple, understandable and
interesting thought-provoking way".

Realising the importance of "imaginative" teaching to create interest in
students in the so-called dull subject of chemistry, the International Union of
Pure and Applied Chemistry has declared 2011 as the "International Year of
Chemistry". The IUPAC plans to involve students the world over including
India through a series of novel yet simple experiments, like purifying water at
one's school or house, how chemicals react, molecules bind together, energy
is converted and metals get their malleability and ductility. The students
themselves will do the experiments.

The IUPAC's concept of making chemistry a fun to learn has been well
received by learning experts in the State. S Srinivas, a teacher of over two
decades, says metallurgy, for instance is a subject that is sure to trigger
yawning, and it can be made quite interesting too.

"Students will learn metallurgy with much enthusiasm if they are told that
aluminium was once costlier than silver and how rulers had sported
aluminium buttons on their coats, throwing away gold and silver ones.
Napoleon had once hosted a party for the nobles. He served them food in
aluminium plates while his soldiers had to be content with the silver utensils.
Napoleon had in fact sported aluminium buttons to his coat," Srinivas

Scientists point out that different regions of the brain are involved when a
person lets loose his imagination. Students should be allowed to imagine.
Their thoughts should not be limited to the four walls of the class room or the
pages of the textbook, points out eminent physicist Dr Mani Lal Bhaumik.
"No question is silly. Teachers should clarify the doubts and answer the
questions of students, however small they seem to be," he points out.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain gets activated if you are dealing with a big
mathematical problem. Hippocampus and amygdala are emotional and
memory regions of the brain and they make imaginations highly colourful.
Interesting anecdotes trigger these sites in the brain and make students
understand the subject well - whether they are the complex molecular
structures in chemistry, the difficult Kreb's cycle in botany, the mysterious
genetic code in animals, the troublesome trigonometry or the abstract laws of