Saturday, 24 July 2010

Thursday, 13 May 2010

WHAT MAKES A CRIMINAL

What Makes A Criminal

What makes a criminal? Are we born into it or do we aquire a sense of crime through seeing what is in our enviroment. The saying goes people aren't born racist they have to be taught it, does this also apply to crime or not?
Is it Genetic? , Is it the Environment? , Warning signs of Crime

Genetics is the most argued point of criminology today. Some believe that genetics cause people to commit crimes. People research to find out if a certain chromosome combination will automatically will make you a criminal or not. If this is true you could see even before your child was born if it would be a criminal in society. These studies proved very successful. Here are some outcomes of the geneticist and their lab studies :

One of the most used theories of why criminals commit crimes is the person's ability to commit crime is pre-determined. If that is so criminals have no choice of what they do. Some of the genetic abnormalities that would make someone pre-determined would be the XYY chromosomal structure (Not effective in women, just men). A chromosomal test in prisons had an outcome of 27Y, which means most of the prisoners had that many Y chromosomes. This is a chemical imbalance caused either from genetics.

These theories have been tested on people in prison and have seem to have a high outcome. The "criminal disease" could be caused by a recessive gene passed down from one or either both of the parents. This means if it is recessive in a female that both parents must give 2 recessive genes to get that disease. That is why you rarely see woman criminals in our society. If the parents give the recessive gene to the male offspring the male automatically has the disease since he does not have another X chromosome to have another dominant chromosome to over write the disease. Therefore a person may carry the disease and it may not show for many generations and suddenly show up in someone. You can never tell unless you study the genes and DNA very closely.

When examining the DNA of a person the geneticist has to search for very small errors in the code. Some examples of this would be broken parts off of some chromosomes or even less or more than normal chromosomes. In the future geneticists might be able to view your offspring's chromosomes and might be able to alter the genes to make the person(s) normal. With the help of genetic engineering it is possible to make a child with certain traits depending what traits the parents have. They can make the child normal normal and not have any genetic disorders. This might reduce crime rate in the world and make things safer. This process takes time and money, but in the future there will be cheaper and faster ways of doing this as is with all technology.
Does the Enviroment Control Crime?

If genetics doesn't control crime what does? Most of the criminologist today still believe the same thing that was thought when we first started to look into crime. It's the environment and nothing else. Genetics has no play, because if you are never introduced to a life of crime you wont know what crime is, and wont be able to commit crime, but if you grow up in a house of crime they are going to comment crime due to the fact that all they know is crime and wont be able to do anything but that. If this is the case we need to see that the only way to curb this is to give education to parents and stop crime before it starts, to do this please go to Warning Signs of Crime. Now, of course there are things that are in defense of the environment theory, this being that most criminals do grow up in a broken or deviant household, but then again some don't.
Most of the criminals did start at an early age thus showing that they had the desire to comment crime, which is most likely produced by the environment or peer pressure. That brings me to the next theory that they have. it is influenced buy the children that they hang around. Do these children affect the way we think what we do, how we do it and why? The answer that most studies conclude is that of yes it does affect the way we act, but in 99% of the studies done to this day it only works in boys not in girls. Still today the scientist are trying to figure out why this is and how to find out if there is a way to curb it in them. Current government funding is limiting the amount of money that the scientist get, thus we need more funding in order to find the solution to crime throughout the world. Currently the only thing that is solving problems is education and finding good homes for these kids to live in, if this is helping that does conclude that the environment has some play in the affects of crime, to find out more on what affects crime visit Is it Genetic to see more.
How can you tell if your child is going to be a criminal?
There are several things that you can look for in your child to tell if the are headed for a life of crime
They are:
  • If your child has deviant behavior prior to the age of twelve.
  • Prior to the age of 12 your child had a tendancy to argue, or show violence toward other children.
  • As a child your adolescent is anti-social and has a tendancy to avoid adults.
  • If your child experiances defiancy toward authorities in school, or towards parents
  • If you see sudden changes in his behavior over the adolescent's years frequently
  • Always remember, small crimes are just the beginning, ingnore them now and your child will be headed for a life of crime
  • A study conducted by Emory University in Atlanta, the University of Southern California and the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Denmark discovered that that more than 25% of males that mothers had smoked when they were pregnant with them had been arrested for performing a violent crime.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

CHANGING FACE OF CHAMBAL - STORY OF DACOITS

CRIME
Changing face of Chambal
ANNIE ZAIDI - in Morena
From being an unconventional and much romanticised act of rebellion against an oppressive social order in the ravines of terror, dacoity has metamorphosed itself into a means of sharing the spoils of a corrupt system.

IN the two decades before he was killed on November 7, police records say, Nirbhay Gujjar had committed 239 serious offences: murder, kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery. Yet, Nirbhay Gujjar was no ordinary dacoit.

For centuries, Chambal's dacoits have captured the public imagination: the royal baaghi (rebel), who helped the helpless; the long-suffering farmer who took up arms against the rich feudal lord; the poor goatherd who could find no other escape from state atrocities; the woman who swore blood-revenge against her rapists.

In the real world, Nirbhay Gujjar was part of a world in transition, a world that saw the vanishing of the kind of men and women who inspired the romanticised image of the Chambal dacoit.

What has replaced them is, in some senses, more terrifying. The new `baaghis' are shaped by the modern world; their crimes are made up of extortion, protection rackets, election violence and surviving off the corruption of the state.

A few gangs that claim to be `dacoits' in the traditional sense still exist. There are the Gadaraiyas, for example, who shot into national headlines when they killed 13 Gujjars in Bhanwarpura, in October 2004. Or Jagjivan Parihar, who operates near Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. But the truth is that dacoit gangs have metamorphosed into something quite different: closer in spirit and technique to the mafia don than to the social bandit or caste and class rebel.

ACROSS the globe, bandits have been known for their Robin Hoodesque characteristics, which won them popular support; they would fight for local causes, or resist oppression, in defiance of the law. As the historian Eric Hobsbawm has pointed out in his classic Bandits, almost all `social bandits' enjoy tremendous support from the immediate community. Most are careful, therefore, not to antagonise the locals, even if they do kill and loot elsewhere. Also, most `social bandits' come from farming communities and the problem of banditry is worst in times of socio-political unrest, or famine.

Hobsbawm's rules apply to Chambal as well, but with unique local characteristics. The worst era of dacoity in Chambal was in the 1970s and 1980s, when the region faced severe drought. Most dacoits came from farming families and, when they surrendered, went back to farming. However, the rebels - or robbers, thugs and kidnappers - are closely bound to their original clans and are divided sharply along caste lines. A gang comprised of "upper-caste" Thakurs, for instance, would attract other Thakurs.

Nevertheless, the fact that so many dacoits thrived in this small belt of ravine, river and forest, flanking three States, poses an intriguing question: Why Chambal?

After all, poverty, drought, land disputes and exploitation are commonplace across the country.
Some people attribute this to the role of aggression and machismo in local culture, particularly among the dominant castes. Others simply shrug it off as a `tradition'. Yet others - including former dacoits - blame it on the water of the Chambal. Or the air. Or the soil.

Says Manmohan Kumar `Tamanna', a popular novelist whose books have often dealt with Chambal's violent traditions, "Dacoity isn't a problem here. It's a profession - a business that needs no investment. Except a gun, maybe."

Manmohan Kumar sees the tradition as the outcome of history. For centuries, armies have retreated to Chambal, where the terrain provided ideal cover for guerilla warfare. "Prithvi Raj Chauhan was a rebel himself," he notes. "He came to Chambal, when he lost Delhi. His followers used to loot. They took pride in making their living at the edge of a sword. Later, during the 1857 War of Independence, the Rani of Jhansi attacked Gwalior. The army was broken in spirit and torn apart between the loyalist Scindias and the freedom-fighters. As a result, there was a lot of rebellion and looting. Camels laden with treasure were whisked away."

Dacoity in Chambal, though, has a history that long predates the events of 1857. In ancient times, during the Harshvardhan era, the Chinese traveller Huen Tsang was robbed near present-day Dhaulpur. Records show a flourishing tradition of dacoity during the Rajput era, with gangs led by members of the Tomar caste and made up of individuals of royal blood who had rebelled against the throne of Prithvi Raj Chauhan. The Mughal emperor Babur mentioned dacoits in his memoirs Baburnama, recording that the empire's army had to be committed to battle them. By this time, the Chambal's baaghis were from the Jat and Gujjar castes. By the time the British replaced the Mughal rule, the Pindari Thugs emerged. India's new rulers came down very hard on them. Orders were issued that each Thug be hung in his own village as a lesson to the public, and that his family members be bonded to the government as slaves.
By the first decades of the 20th century, the state had tired enough of the problem - and realised the limitations of coercion as a counter-measure. The Maharaja of Gwalior, Madhavrao Scindia, persuaded 97 dacoits to surrender in 1920. Such measures were not entirely new - powerful dacoits had often been co-opted in the past, for example by giving them rights to tax traffic across the Chambal river, in return for ensuring that the merchants had a safe passage. However, during this period, the character of the baaghi was undergoing profound transformation. Gangs began to get organised, and kidnapping for ransom, rather than looting, was the new favoured activity.

It was around this time that the dacoit-duo that was to give a definitive shape to Chambal's modern dacoit traditions, took to the forest. The brothers `Dongar-Baturi', following the long-standing tradition of kinsmen forming the nucleus of gangs, started out by avenging the murder of their father. Soon, however, their activities transcended their immediate cause. According to Kumar, the brothers were the most daring and powerful of all 20th century dacoit leaders. "Dongar-Baturi created the first really organised gang," he says. "They began by looting treasure from the Scindia government when it was transported through forests on bullock carts. For the sake of safety and clout, they increased the size of the gang. They were also known for cutting off the noses and ears of their enemies."

A number of gangs built upon the innovations of Dongar-Baturi. Among the best-known dacoits from the first half of the twentieth century were Pana, Sultan, Man Singh, Amritlal, Lakhan, Gabbra and Putli and Kallan, Putli Bai was the first documented woman dacoit in Chambal. Most life-stories follow a similar pattern. There would be a minor land dispute in the village, tempers would flare and someone would get killed. Faced with the option of surrendering to the police, and facing a lifetime in prison, most of them would choose to run away to the forests and join an already-established dacoit gangs. In time, the more enterprising within a gang would set up their own group, after their leader left his life of crime or was killed.

True to their Hindi-film representation, adventure seems to have been a major attraction of the baaghi life. Asked if his life in the forest was fun, 85-year-old Raghuveer Singh Gussi, a one-time member of the Madho Singh gang, replied, "Of course! We were masters of our region. It was hard work, but we had no cares. Dongar-Baturi had once caught a Deputy Inspector-General of Police from Rajasthan. Not for ransom. Just for fun. They liked to use disguises. Madho Singh was an educated man. He used to perform magic shows, just for fun."

Underpinning the adventure was a sense of moral righteousness: a sense that even the life of the outlaw was bound by a moral code. "We didn't directly distribute wealth to the poor", Gussi claims, "but would give to anybody who came asking. We touched only the rich, and wouldn't hurt a woman even if she were loaded with gold."

Raghuveer Singh fondly recalls a story to illustrate just how different the moral code of the time was to that of today's gangs. "Once," he says, "a woman helped us. She brought a man down from Delhi and we kidnapped him. He paid up the ransom and later, after we'd surrendered, he came to visit us in prison. He brought gifts for each man. He must have spent lakhs on us!" Asked why a victim would lavish gifts on his tormentors, Raghuveer Singh insisted that this was a consequence of their kindness to the man. "We were good to the pakad [kidnap victim]. We used to tell his relatives, `If we don't send back your man five kilos heavier, you can take back all your ransom.' We'd wash the clothes of the pakad, and even shine his shoes, if asked to. Today's gangs are only driven by greed. These are goondas. They will take money from anyone, anyhow. They insult and abuse good men. They want wine and women."

High morals? The old-timers agree. Lokman Dixit, known as Lukka daaku in his heyday, is 84 years old now. He grew up alongside Man Singh's sons, Tehsildar and Subedar (named for an administrator and soldier). Dixit recalls that, in his time, the gangs would not make impossible demands for ransom. "Man Singh used to tell us that if you place 10 tonnes on a man's head, he cannot stand. So we would think about how much burden a family could afford. But that has changed. Earlier, if we took one rupee from a man, we undertook to keep him safe. If a village supported us, we'd even offer to bring back their stolen buffaloes. Now there's too much bribery everywhere. In our time, we never met any policemen or tried to pay them off. We faced at least two encounters a month. There was rain and cold and thorns and mountains and loneliness. A dacoit's life wasn't an easy one."

Clearly, it was not. Which was why no less than 511 dacoits surrendered in 1972, responding to an appeal by Jayaprakash Narayan. Dixit had surrendered earlier, in 1960, after meeting with Vinobha Bhave, and was instrumental in persuading hundreds of his one-time comrades to give up their life of crime. He does not agree, though, that the problem of violence is specific to this region. "In Banda", Dixit asserts, "even today, people kill for less than Rs.50. Chambal is not a particularly violent place, in comparison. Elsewhere, people loot in different ways, but are not labelled `dacoits'. We have a tradition here, that's all."

It is, of course, a particularly brutal tradition. Asked how many people he must have killed in the 14 years that he was a dacoit, Dixit said: "Once, in the court-room, the judge asked me the same question. I answered, `Judge-saab, do you remember how many chapattis you eat in a month?'"
DIXIT'S stark observation strips Chambal dacoity of its romance - and suggests that the discontinuities between the past and present, at least in the matter of brutality, were not all that different. To Gwalior Inspector-General of Police Sanjay Rana, talk of an earlier generation of Robin Hood-figures is fiction. "Gangs need a social base, a network," he says. "They distribute money to the locals, to create permanent allies. The Robin Hood image is a false one. If they wanted to help the poor, they'd give away 90 per cent of what they make. Clearly, that isn't happening. They give to the poor as a survival tactic, not for altruistic motives." Rana's observations are endorsed even by some old-time dacoits. "We had the support of villagers," recalls Mohar Singh, co-leader of the feared Mohar-Madho gang, "because we paid them double for whatever we bought."

Much of the talk of an earlier generation of morally upright bandits is, in fact, fiction. Madho Singh, for example, drank himself to death, while Chhidda Singh Sikarwar - leader of the dreaded Chhidda-Makhan gang - was the only Chambal dacoit to be hanged: he had shot dead a small child. Also, many gang leaders of the time kept kidnapped women at their side. Nirbhay Gujjar had four `wives', three of whom he had kidnapped, and they had run away at the first opportunity.

Despite all their talk of respect for women, the appalling treatment of Phoolan Devi by dacoit gangs is evidence that the outlaws' world was just as oppressive as the society it came from. However, the Gadariyas are known for treating women with a degree of respect that far exceeds any that might have been exhibited in the past. Its leader Rambabu Gadariya is rumoured to touch their feet and give little presents of money every time he meets women. If something has changed, it is the economic character of Chambal - which in turn has transformed the life and structure of the region's dacoits.

Rana has observed the changing modes of dacoit activity closely. "Kidnapping is the most profitable activity today, rather than looting," he notes. But that is changing too. Often, other locals, who get a cut on the deal, deliver the kidnap victim into the hands of the gang. Sometimes, a small gang does the kidnapping, but hands over charge of the victim to a bigger gang. There is also a major protection racket going on. Many quarries in the region producing stones for export are illegal. The quarry-owners who operate in the wilderness and are exposed to danger pay protection money to the dacoits. "Dig deep enough," says Rana candidly, "and you'll find that the who's who of Madhya Pradesh is involved, including politicians. There are vested interests in dacoit-gangs."

Organised politics, indeed, has been a major force for change on the dacoit gangs. Nirbhay Gujjar himself was known to have strong political links, and used a cell-phone to communicate with his well-connected patrons in distant Lucknow and Gwalior. He was known to have organised `panchayats' where he would dispense justice. He also made himself available to the media, and made no secret of his own political ambitions.

Several former dacoits have entered politics, and many gangs use strong-arm tactics, on behalf of various political parties. Mohur Singh's testimony suggests that this is not entirely new. "We would go to a village and order them to vote for a candidate. They used to listen to us," he says. He has served as head of the nagar panchayat of Mehangaon, where he was elected unopposed. He says, "I would not have contested, if I was opposed," adding that he intends to contest `big' elections at some point in the future.

A pipe dream? Most dacoits who did surrender have been living peaceably, farming the 30 bighas of land that the government allotted them. Many admit that they ran away after the first accidental killing, simply because they were poor and were afraid that they would not even be able to afford bail. Makhan Singh, now settled in Ajitpur village, says, "If we had money to fight court cases, we would not have become dacoits. I've even forgotten what my original dispute was about! But there were laathis and there was a fight and somebody got killed. It was a little thing."

Little things, as Lokman Dixit puts it, turn into big things. "You see," he says, "the problem is that the police force was made by the British, for their own purposes. It was made for the bureaucracy, to protect the government. It wasn't ever intended for the poor. If it was, things might have been different." Asked why he did not enter politics himself, Dixit wrinkled his nose: "It is too dirty!"

WHAT of the future of the Chambal dacoits? Police authorities are working hard at eliminating the gangs that still remain. Sanjay Mane, Deputy Inspector-General of the region, claims that gangs led by Shakti-Kaachi, Hazrat Rawat, Bharat Yadav-Damodar and Lakhan Lodhi, and a branch of the main Gadariyas, the Prakash Gadariya gang, have been eliminated. "There is a smaller one, Vakila Gujjar, operating in my region, but he's not causing much trouble yet. Jagjivan Parihar operates in the Uttar Pradesh police's region. The only powerful gang left is the one led by Dayaram and Rambabu Gadariya. It is weakened, down to six members. We've had two encounters and are getting lots of information. We'll track them down soon."

It is not easy work, though. The police admit that they are at a disadvantage since there are hundreds of people whose monetary interests are tied to that of the dacoits. In addition, there is a measure of social sanction for dacoity. Caste entanglements and questions of social prestige all play a role. In a research paper, "Crime and Prevention in Chambal Division (M.P.) - A Geographical Analysis", geographer Dhirendra Pal Singh Rathor notes that Chambal's hostile terrain, divided by small tributaries like the Parbati, the Seep, the Kuns, the Soank, the Kwari, the Aasan, the Vesli and the Sindhu, makes tracking dacoits difficult, and also provides fertile ground for recruitment to the gangs. "On the one hand," he says, "there aren't enough roads or bridges, which makes policing very difficult. On the other, farming land is not plentiful, but there are no other economic avenues."

IGP Rana points out that his task is also complicated by caste politics. "We cannot act too harshly against the tribal people who harbour dacoits because we understand that they also face tremendous pressures," he says. "We are walking on a razor's edge when we pick up the harbourers. If viewed as informers, they would be killed. But the Gujjars are different. They are politically articulate; there is a political hue and cry if we act against them. Yet, it is true that for every 100 suspected harbourers, more than 70 are Gujjars. Their motives are economic. On the other hand, a dacoit from your own clan is a matter of prestige. There is a progression towards power. A certain empowerment of the traditionally downtrodden Gadariya caste is taking place. They are standing for village elections. Caste equations are changing - and with it, the character of crime."

Makhan Singh, who along with Chhidda formed a deadly duo in Chambal, surrendered in 1972 to Jayaprakash Narayan along with 511 dacoits. In this photograph, he is with his grandchildren and great grandchildren at Ajitpur in Morena district.
Chambal's gun culture, along with issues of geography, caste and class, provides a fourth layer of complication. According to one estimate, there were 15,524 gun licences in Morena district. Local residents believe that there must be an equal number of illegal guns. It is not hard to find farmers in Chambal wearing broken shoes and riding an old bicycle - with a gun worth Rs. 60,000 slung over their shoulders. Part of the reason for buying a gun is, of course, security but social prestige also drives the decision. Where there are guns, even minor feuds often escalate into events that claim lives. As a result, the crime graph in the Chambal division is constantly rising. The methods change, the violence does not.

Will a fresh surrender initiative help solve the problem? Nirbhay Gujjar had spoken of wanting to surrender several times, before he was killed, while the Gadariyas have also sent notes to the administration, seeking to discuss terms of surrender. However, Rana is not pleased with the option. "I detest surrenders if they are based on terms," he says. "In the 1970s, they were unable to handle dacoits, so the government gave in to all their conditions. They got land, money, jobs, petrol-pump allotments, MLA tickets... It is like rewarding them for crime."

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Don't eat for two Harsha Chawla
Tue, Mar 30 07:30 PM


Doctors no longer advise women to eat for two during their pregnancies as new research shows that overeating during this time can impact the health of their babies adversely.

Only a pregnant woman knows what it's like to be told repeatedly by both her mother and mother-in-law to eat "enough for two." It turns out that this advice may be wrong after all: New studies have shown that a high calorie diet could affect the gender, and more importantly, the health of the baby. According to this study, the high fat, high carbohydrate diet of pregnant mice impacted almost 2,000 genes in the developing offspring, including those involved in kidney function and smell.

Doctors in the city agree that a pregnant woman who overeats can harm her unborn child by exposing it to a host of health problems. "Pregnancy is the time when a women needs to exercise control on her diet and eat judiciously. The first three months is the time to have extra folic acid along with a balanced diet and a diet rich in calcium and iron is recommended for the rest of the pregnancy. But most women these days eat fatty foods which leads to all sorts of problems," says Dr Mala Srivastava, consultant gynaecologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

According to experts, the offspring of mothers who overeat are at risk for liver and pancreas damage, both of which can contribute to early onset obesity and diabetes. Another study by Rockefeller University scientists reported in The Journal of Neuroscience says that short-term exposure to a high-fat diet in utero produces permanent neurons in the foetal brain that later increase the appetite for fat. "A diabetic mother can pass on her health condition to the child. However, there are no established clinical studies which say that children of obese mothers run at a risk of early onset of obesity. Though mothers do pass on their unhealthy eating habits to their children and such children take after their parents," says Dr Mala.

FRAUGHT WITH PROBLEMS

For an obese woman, the experience of pregnancy - starting right from the time of conception to labour is fraught with problems. Even a simple ultrasound scan becomes a tedious affair for an obese mother as the excessive layer of fat makes it difficult to detect the foetus and monitor the heart rate.

Last year a country-wide study conducted on 4,621 women above the age of 35, in areas like cities such as Kolkata, Kochi and Jaipur reported high prevalence of obesity in this group. The study showed that the prevalence of overweight women is 64 per cent in urban areas and 36 per cent in rural areas. "Nowadays, most of the overweight women in urban cities find it difficult to conceive. This is because fat affect the production of hormone estrogen in women and therefore disturbs ovulation due to which conception becomes difficult. But I have commonly seen that the same women fall pregnant naturally the time they lose 5 to 6 kg," says Dr Asha Sharma, gynaecologist, Rockland Hospital.

Obese women who do conceive are more susceptible to complications during the pregnancy, and run a higher risk of miscarriage. This is because such women are usually at a risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. "In a normal pregnancy a woman develops a mild form of insulin resistance. If a woman is obese, she is already insulin resistant, which induces gestational diabetes" says Dr H Pai, infertility expert, Fortis La Femme Centre for Women. Also, the incidence of Preeclampsia (elevated blood pressure in pregnancy) is about 4 to 5 times higher among pregnant obese women. Several complications due to obesity also lead to induced birth and caesarean. Stillbirth is also very common among obese women with the risk being 2 to 3 times higher than in normal weight women.

BABY AT RISK TOO

Researchers say overweight mothers not just put their own lives at stake, but that of their children too. Such babies are more susceptible to metabolic disorders and infections and require more care. And, in case of induced birth due to complications associated with high blood pressure and other factors, such women give birth to underweight babies, whose growth could be severely restricted. A study done at Newcastle University in Britain and recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared women with a BMI 18.5 and 26 with obese women before pregnancy having a BMI of 29 or greater. The study found that obese women are more than twice as likely to give birth to children with spina bifida and more vulnerable to giving birth to babies with heart problems, cleft palate or cleft lip, abnormal rectum or anus development, and hydrocephaly, a condition in which excess spinal fluid builds up in the brain.

Another recent study by researchers from Duke University found that obesity in mothers causes cellular programming in utero that predisposes offspring to inflammation-related disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease. "Obesity in mother causes a major risk to foetus. But it's not the extra fat which harms the baby but the health conditions caused by obesity. For instance, hypothyroidism, which is common among obese women, can cause Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) in which the foetus is smaller than expected for the number of weeks of pregnancy. Similarly, if the mother transmits her diabetes to the foetus, it can have brain problems or spina bifida," explains Dr Sharma.

TOO FAT TO BE FERTILE

Four years ago there was a call for ban on fertility treatment for obese women in the UK. The British Fertility Society said free treatment should be limited to slim women, because obesity can reduce the success rate and lead to problems for both mother and baby. "The treatment of infertility using IVF techniques is more challenging in obese women. For instance, the pregnancy rates with IVF are lower in obese women than in women with normal weight as many obese women do not fully respond to the medications, and also because of the higher percentage of immature eggs in such women," says Pai.

harsha.chawla@mailtoday.in

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2010. MTNPL. All rights reserved.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Masdar: Abu Dhabi's carbon-neutral city

The world's first zero-carbon city is being built in Abu Dhabi and is designed to be not only free of cars and skyscrapers but also powered by the sun.

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is the last place you would expect to learn lessons on low-carbon living, but the emerging eco-city of Masdar could teach the world.

At first glance, the parched landscape of Abu Dhabi looks like the craziest place to build any city, let alone a sustainable one.

The inhospitable terrain suggests that the only way to survive here is with the maximum of technological support, a bit like living on the moon.

The genius of Masdar - if it works - will be combining 21st Century engineering with traditional desert architecture to deliver zero-carbon comfort. And it is being built now.

Masdar will be home to about 50,000 people, at least 1,000 businesses and a university.

It is being designed by British architects Foster and Partners, but it is the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is paying for it. And it will cost between £10bn ($15bn) and £20bn ($30bn).

Renewable energy

The architects are turning the desert's greatest threat - the sun - into their greatest asset.

They have built the biggest solar farm in the Middle East to power the city and to offset the inevitable burning of diesel and baking of cement in construction.

They are also experimenting. One project involves a circular field of mirrors on the ground, all reflecting towards a tower in the middle.

That, in turn, bounces the light down in a concentrated beam about a metre (3ft) wide to produce heat and drive generators.

But I was told firmly not to wander over and feel the warmth, as it could fry me in seconds.

The international team of engineers have real pride in their work.

This is more than building to them, it is a lab bench with the freedom to get it wrong, and Masdar's chief architect Gerard Evenden loves the concentration of expertise: "What Abu Dhabi is beginning to generate is the Silicon Valley of renewable energy."

Keeping cool

The Emirates have seen one of the world's most spectacular building booms paid for by oil and made tolerable by air conditioners, which also depend on oil to feed their vast appetite for energy.

But Masdar will have to be low temperature and low carbon.

Part of the solution is apparent the moment you walk in. And you do "walk in" because this is a city surrounded by a wall, a defined boundary.

Unlike the upward and outward sprawl of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Masdar is compact like ancient Arab cities.

Streets are narrow so buildings shade each other, and the walls and roofs of buildings will do their bit to shed heat too.

The vertical faces are dressed with screens which look like a terracotta mesh. They keep the sun out but let the breeze in.

And as architect Gerard Evenden says: "Lunar technology has begun to influence our thinking."

One idea being tested is using a thin foil surface covering, a gas or vacuum blanket, to keep the heat out. It is an idea dreamt up for a moon base.

To encourage a breeze, wind towers are being built, drawing draughts through the streets without using energy.

Masdar will still use electricity for gadgets, some air conditioning and, most crucially, to desalinate sea water but, when it comes to power, the city has a simple mantra: "Only use energy when you have exhausted design."

Driverless vehicles

Conventional cars must be checked in at the city gates and then you can choose between the oldest and newest modes of transport.

At street level, it is all pedestrianised and the planners have done their best to keep the city compact and foot-friendly.

But if fatigue overtakes you, then slip down a level and meet the Personal Rapid Transit or podcars.

These driverless vehicles are guided by magnetic sensors, powered by solar electricity, and they stop automatically if an obstacle appears. They are programmed to go where you ask.

Kaled Awad, director of the Masdar project claims: "The quality of air will be better than any other street in the Gulf and in the world, and that alone will bring you safety, health and happiness."

The future success of the project will be clear to see.

On top of the wind tower, there will be a beacon betraying the city's actual energy use: red for too much, blue for just right.

It will be 45m (147ft) up and visible for miles around so, when Masdar is finished in five to 10 years' time, we will all know if it is in the red.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Kerala's love affair with alcohol - BBC News 12.3.2010

People in the southern state of Kerala are the heaviest drinkers in India, and sales of alcohol are rising fast. The BBC's Soutik Biswas examines why.

Jacob Varghese says he began drinking when he was nine years old, sipping on his father's unfinished whisky and brandy in glass tumblers.

It's a terrifying story of a descent into alcoholism for this 40-year-old health inspector.

At school, he consumed cheap local liquor. He lived in a haze of alcohol through his teens and dropped out of college.

He lost a job, cut his wrists twice trying to end his life, landed up in rehabilitation centres and at the age of 32, was reduced to begging on the streets to fund his alcohol habit.

'Lost respect'

"Drinking is a disease in Kerala," he says, his voice dropping to a whisper.

"I lost my kin, my respect and all my money chasing alcohol. Everyone encourages you to have it - your friends, the government."

This was before he was dragged to the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter by friends. This, after 17 years of drinking had reduced him to a mental wreck and a pauper.

Mr Varghese has been sober for the past eight years, and is now married with children and holds down a job.

"Many of my friends have not been as lucky. So many of my drinking buddies died, and others landed up in mental asylums," he says.

Kerala is India's tippler country. It has the highest per capita consumption - over eight litres (1.76 gallons) per person a year - in the nation, overtaking traditionally hard-drinking states like Punjab and Haryana.

Also, in a strange twist of taste, rum and brandy are the preferred drink in Kerala in a country where whisky outsells every other liquor.

Alcohol helps in giving Kerala's economy a good high - shockingly, more than 40% of revenues for its annual budget come from booze.

A state-run monopoly sells alcohol. The curiously-named Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) runs 337 liquor shops, open seven days a week. Each shop caters on average to an astonishing 80,000 clients.

This fiscal year the KSBC is expected to sell $1bn (£0.6bn) of alcohol in a state of 30 million people, up from $12m when it took over the retail business in 1984.

Similarly, revenues from alcohol to the state's exchequer have registered a whopping 100% rise over the past four years.

The monopoly is so professionally run that consumers can even send text messages from their phones to a helpline number to record their grievances.

"If we delay opening any of our shops by even five minutes, clients send us text messages saying that they are waiting to buy liquor," says KSBC chief N Shankar Reddy.

That's not all. There are some 600 privately run bars in the state and more than 5,000 shops selling toddy (palm wine), the local brew. There is also a thriving black market liquor trade.

Spirited defence

Despite a growing number of people who demand a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol, there is an equally spirited group of hard-core drinkers who lobby for cheaper and more widely distributed liquor.

One of them is well-known actor NL Balakrishnan, a veteran of more than 200 films, who launched a lobby group called Forum for Better Spirit in 1983.

The forum's manifesto asks the government to provide liquor through the state-subsided public distribution system, boost toddy production, slash prices for elderly drinkers and supply free alcohol to drinkers over 90.

The jolly and convivial Mr Balakrishnan, 67, says his father "initiated" him into drinking when he was four.

"We used to go to the cinema together. After the show was over, he would take me to a toddy shop where he would drink. He would give me a few spoons of toddy too. It was an amazing experience," he says.

He says when his father died at the ripe age of 98 after a "lifetime of heavy drinking", he wet his lips with liquor and not holy water, as is the Hindu custom.

Mr Balakrishnan says that on his average day out with his drinking buddies he downs 22 shots of his favourite brandy - and "never has any problems".

"If you have willpower and have enough food to go with your drink, booze will never harm you," he says cheerily.

But drinking is killing a lot of people and exacting a heavy social cost, say doctors and activists.

Rising numbers of divorces in Kerala are linked to alcohol abuse. Johnson J Edayaranmula, who runs the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, a leading NGO, puts the figure as high as 80%.

And the majority of road deaths in the state - nearly 4,000 during 2008-2009 - are due to drink driving, he says. Hospitals and rehab centres are packed with patients suffering from alcohol-related diseases.

'Societal problem'

The situation is so grim that, ironically, the KSBC itself is planning to open a hospital specialising in treating alcohol-related problems. It also runs a campaign to combat alcohol abuse.

But why do people in Kerala drink so heavily?

Jacob Varghese says it is a "societal problem" - what he possibly means is that drinking liquor is almost a social rite of passage, taken very seriously.

But he elaborates other, perhaps more important, reasons - high unemployment, easy access to alcohol and the fact that drinking has become a "part of upwardly mobile living".

Most activists believe that "prohibition" is not the solution - it just drives buyers and sellers underground.

"The solution possibly lies in introducing drinks with mild alcohol content. And since drinking is also a cultural problem, people need to be made aware of the havoc that alcohol can wreak on their lives," says Mr Edayaranmula.

Until then alcohol will continue to dominate the lives of many of Kerala's people - and boost its exchequer's finances.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Saudi female poet whose verse inflames and inspires - BBC News 25.3.10

Saudi female poet's angry verse
From beneath a veil, a Saudi woman is setting her conservative Arab homeland alight.
Hissa Hilal is already challenging convention by being at once a journalist and a wife and mother of four children.
But it is her blistering poetry - recited while dressed in a traditional head-to-toe abaya cloak and broadcast on traditional Arabic television - that is really defiant.
Using a traditional verse form native to the Arab Peninsula's nomadic tribes, she writes critically about the country's hard-line Muslim clerics, calling them: "vicious in voice, barbaric, angry and blind".
Anger in the spotlight
Condemning the violence that she says lies beneath their religious messages, her poems speak of some of the clerics "wearing death as a robe cinched with a belt" - an apparent reference to suicide bombers' explosives belt.
Her poems rail against what she sees as a dangerous and excessively conservative shift in Arab society and mores, from within a country where women cannot travel without a male guardian and are forbidden from driving.
"What made me so angry is seeing the Arab society becoming more and more kept to itself, not like before - loving and caring and sharing and open and welcoming everyone," she told the BBC's World Service.
"Now, even if you want to be simple and nice with others, people are asking themselves whether it is haram [forbidden] to say hello to strangers," she said, adding: "I blame those who have led the people, and directed them this way."
Hissa Hilal's words are delivered from beneath a spotlight and televised across the Arab world from the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi, on a reality television programme called The Million Poets, where contestants compete to be the best poet.
If she wins, she will take home a prize of $1.3m (£870,000) in cash.
She describes the experience of reaching the competition's final - due to be aired next week - as "amazing", but her poetry has also sparked death threats on Arab websites, with some outraged commentators saying she is acting shamefully.
'Small village'
Her voice quietens when she describes how some have posted messages asking for her home address - with the underlying threat that they would track her down and kill her
But, she says, many more have expressed support for her poems. She told the BBC that women especially have said they are rooting for her.
"Even old ladies, young ladies, they all said: 'You are our hope'.
"Most of the people loved what I said, from their hearts. They think I am very brave to say so, and that I said what they feel in their hearts."
She explains the apparent contradiction in the fact that she advocates women's rights while wearing the full veil - which some suggest is a symbol of female oppression: "Covering my face is not because I am afraid of people. We live in a tribal society and otherwise my husband, my brother will be criticised by other men."
While her poetry is intended for a wide audience, the act of covering herself, she says, is out of understanding for her male relatives.
"I know they love me and they support me. It's a big sacrifice for them in such a society to let me go to the TV and talk to the media. I am hoping my daughters won't have to cover their faces and they'll live a better life," she said.
A published poet, Mrs Hilal - who is reported not to have studied at university - held the position of poetry editor for the Arab daily newspaper, al-Hayat.
A fan of Victorian writer Charles Dickens and US author Ernest Hemingway, Mrs Hilal says her fundamental message is one of peace and understanding: "I know the world is a small village. From my heart I wish peace and love for everybody."