Monday, November 19, 2001, Chandigarh, India





National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

Politics of POTO
O
pposition to POTO (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance) is building up and the Congress, which will decide its fate in the Rajya Sabha, has promised to block its passage. And without its support, efforts to convert the Ordinance into an Act will collapse and POTO will become a dead letter by the middle of January.

West Asia: disquieting signals
T
he cause of the Palestinian homeland became a subject of intense discussion immediately after the unthinkable terrorist attack in the USA on September 11.

OPINION

Developments in Afghanistan
Some significant questions for tomorrow
Pran Chopra
E
vents have been moving so fast in Afghanistan that each passing day raises more questions, and faster than the questions raised by the preceding day can be answered. For all one knows the backlog may have risen higher by the time these lines appear in print, and at least some of the questions raised here might get buried so deep down under the heap that the light of answers may never reach them.




EARLIER ARTICLES
Maharaja Ranjit Singh: Punjab’s benevolent ruler
November 18
, 2001
The Afghan endgame
November 17
, 2001
Doha resurrects WTO
November 16
, 2001
Quieter Divali
November 14
, 2001
Bin Laden’s bluster
November 13
, 2001
India’s major gains
November 12
, 2001
POTO is a must to tackle terrorism 
November 11
, 2001
Severe blow to farmers
November 10
, 2001
Anandgarh & Sainik Farms
November 9
, 2001
Back to Moscow ties
November 8
, 2001
Limited options for USA
November 7
, 2001
A farce of conversion
November 6
, 2001
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
 
MIDDLE

Wearing the mantle of untruth
Ram Varma
T
he TV images of the bizarre spectacle of passenger planes going straight into the World Trade Center towers and a monstrous fireball enveloping them, billowing black clouds rising ominously to the sky, and the malevolent smoke clouds chasing the people in the streets as the towers collapsed like the effigies of Ravana and his ilk on Dasehra, have been indelibly etched on our generation’s mind.

LOOKING BACK

How humans learnt to walk
Robin McKie
I
t is the key, defining ability of our species, the one critical evolutionary feature that sets us apart from other creatures. Yet the reason for humanity developing a prowess to walk on two legs has baffled palaeontologists for decades.

Afghan girl weds Punjabi boy
Satinder Bains
A
n Afghan woman who fled her homeland when the Taliban wrested control is making a new beginning in India just as the Islamic militia is being driven out of power. Muska’s family had fled from Afghanistan to Australia after the Taliban took over in 1996. 

A CENTURY OF NOBELS

1918, Physics: MAX PLANCK

TRENDS & POINTERS

Every 8th person in Bangalore is diabetic
T
he consequences of rapid and mindless urbanisation are more prominent in Third World countries than elsewhere. The resultant changes in lifestyle creates health hazards, but what is worse, the respective governments are not in a position to provide adequate medical care.

  • Coming soon: a pill to cure forgetfulness

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

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Politics of POTO

Opposition to POTO (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance) is building up and the Congress, which will decide its fate in the Rajya Sabha, has promised to block its passage. And without its support, efforts to convert the Ordinance into an Act will collapse and POTO will become a dead letter by the middle of January. The BJP-led NDA government knows this and yet it went ahead in a somewhat provocative way. One, it did not build a political consensus although at the conference of Chief Ministers last year it committed itself to consulting all before coming out with a law. Two, the Ordinance came barely five weeks before the winter session of Parliament, arousing suspicions of a deeper game. The Home and Law Ministries added two more chapters to the draft prepared by the Law Commission and circulated to the states. These two introduced several harsh provisions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a highly respected institution, has rejected the draft dubbing it draconian and totally unwanted. It has pointed out that the existing laws can take care of the violent acts of terrorists and only a few amendments were needed to redefine certain sections of the CrPC and IPC. The NHRC is headed by three retired Supreme Court Judges — Mr J. S. Verma (CJI), Ms Sujata Manohar and Mr K. Ramaswamy.

POTO incorporates all clauses of the lapsed TADA but one. The old law prescribed a mandatory jail term for those trying to disrupt communal harmony. As one activist lawyer has pointed out, POTO can be invoked to put in jail for three years any journalist who fails to or does not share his information about any terrorist or terrorist organisation he has collected as part of his professional work. Anybody trying to disrupt national services invites 10 years detention and this could include any trade union calling a nationwide strike. All letters to individuals can be intercepted and a junior bureaucrat can keep them for 17 days without telling the addressee or the nation the reason for this attack on basic rights. The Home Ministry stresses on the new clause that policemen found to have invoked POTO in a mala fide manner will be forced to pay a compensation. Anyone who has had any dealing with the police and courts will know how impossible it is to prove a policeman guilty.

All this about POTO. It is hastily drafted with an eye more on politics than on rooting out terrorism. It has to go back to the drawing board as the Prime Minister has hinted. The country needs a tough law to curb violent activities and it should contain well-conceived safeguards which will shut out ill-trained and unlawful policemen from encroaching on civil liberties. The menace of terrorism is getting entrenched in this country and the polity should show a new resolve to crush it and the starting point is a new law. But the idea is to neutralise terrorists without violating the fundamental rights of law-abiding citizens. The government should re-read the original Law Commission draft and the elaborate NHRC objections and observations. The incessant talk of a win-win position should end before the debate turns into a no-win situation.
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West Asia: disquieting signals

The cause of the Palestinian homeland became a subject of intense discussion immediately after the unthinkable terrorist attack in the USA on September 11. It was believed that along with the US-led international campaign against terrorism, the Bush administration would concentrate on reviving the Oslo peace process, involving Israel and the Palestinians, which had been derailed because of accusations and counter-accusations by the parties concerned and the disinterestedness of Washington. This expectation was based on the fact that the western world, particularly the USA, had at last realised that the denial of justice to the Palestinians was the main factor contributing to the growth of a horrifying form of terrorism. But even after more than two months since terrorists used hijacked planes as missiles to commit an unpardonable crime, nothing substantial has been done to resolve the Palestinian issue. It seems the USA does not feel alarmed by reports of heightening tension in the Arab world. Even the embarrassing remarks British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to face during his hurricane tour of the volatile region have failed to move the American leadership to take up the West Asian problem with all seriousness. When Mr Blair met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the latter criticised the US policy on combatting terrorism by concentrating on only one nation. The Syrian ruler told Mr Blair without mincing words that he wanted an end to all forms of terrorism, including "Israeli terrorism". The British Prime Minister had to face a similar situation during his discussions with Saudi Arabian and Jordanian leaders while trying to garner Arab support for the war on terrorism. Besides this, on November 6 the Foreign Ministers of leading Arab countries issued an appeal, though in vain, to the world community, specially the USA, to show results on the Arab-Israeli issue as mere promises or expression of support in principle would not do.

The Arab governments are scared of the growing uneasiness among the masses in their part of the world owing to the increasing atrocities — targeted killings — by Israeli soldiers in Palestinian Authority areas after the US-led bombing began in Afghanistan. Their helplessness is adding to their woes. Yet their friend, the USA, is not making any serious effort to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table to eliminate the roadblocks in the way of taking the Oslo peace process to its logical end. Unfortunately, however, there is no sign of such a move being initiated in the near future, at least till America remains busy dealing with Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. Israel will continue to make use of the opportunity to practise "targeted killings" with a vengeance because the Shimon Peres government believes that this is the most effective weapon it has to fight "a completely new phenomenon" of suicide attacks. One hopes the Israeli leadership realises that only negotiations to solve the Palestinian problem can end the crisis it is faced with, and not the policy of gunning down civilians as its targets.
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Developments in Afghanistan
Some significant questions for tomorrow
Pran Chopra

Events have been moving so fast in Afghanistan that each passing day raises more questions, and faster than the questions raised by the preceding day can be answered. For all one knows the backlog may have risen higher by the time these lines appear in print, and at least some of the questions raised here might get buried so deep down under the heap that the light of answers may never reach them. However, the presently visible questions follow, and such answers to them as can be surmised.

The biggest question arises from the biggest fact which has been established so far, that the Taliban, once reputed to be brave and hardy fighters, have given up Kabul without a fight. The myths of their invincibility, built up by endless television footage, have been demolished. The question then is how quickly will they abandon, or be driven out of , their Pashtun heartland, which lies to the south, south-east and south-west of Kabul? In particular, what will happen to Kandahar, the political and spiritual capital of the Taliban?

The tentative answer is: don’t run from one myth to another. The reputation of the Taliban as an army had never been tested so far. It has now been tested and found wanting. Soviet forces receded before Afghan fighters in the last 1980s partly because of the threat America had begun to mount to the Soviet Union; partly because the Soviet Union’s domestic political system, which was to collapse at the start of the 1990s, had begun to crack; partly because of the massive supply of arms given to the Taliban by America through Pakistan at a time when the Soviet armaments complex had begun to dry up; and partly because of the active assistance given to the Taliban by the regular Pakistan army.

But the Taliban had none of these advantages as they faced the Northern Alliance in the second week of November. Therefore, they retreated from northern Afghanistan and then gave up Kabul. Russia is now resurgent. America is hostile to the Taliban. Pakistan is divided over aiding the Taliban: the Musharraf government is too busy counting the dollars given by Mr Bush and too busy controlling hostile crowds in the street to find time — for the present — for helping the Taliban. The Taliban now have the added disadvantage that if they concentrate their forces for holding a line of defence they get bombed by the Americans.

The Taliban would now be fighting a last ditch battle, with the local population behind it, and with nowhere else to go, it may put up desperate resistance. Or else the Taliban will split into small and mobile groups to disperse into the countryside and fight a guerrilla war as along as they can. They can be quite stubborn at that. But they will face a twin disadvantage this time: the Pashtun country is less mountainous than the north, and has much poorer tree cover. Therefore, Taliban soldiers and their supply lines will be more exposed to air strikes.

But that only conjures up two tough questions for Pakistan, one each in two alternative scenarios: one, that the fighting will continue in the same mode as now, that is with the Northern Alliance deploying armour and numbers; and, two, the fighting dissolves into guerrilla warfare. In the first scenario Pakistan will have to make up its mind very quickly. The Alliance will soon target Kandahar, which is only a short distance from Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and, much more than Kabul, is also at the heart of the territorial personality of the Pashtun. Therefore, the battle for it is bound to inflame Pashtun sentiment on both sides of the border. Can General Musharraf jump in on the Pashtun side without offending the global opinion against the Taliban? Can he keep aloof without inviting Pashtun anger?

The second scenario is also uncomfortable for him. Like all the Afghan fighters in the 1980s, the Taliban will also need substantial supplies to sustain guerrilla operations for long. Who will send the supplies this time, and how? All the frontiers of Afghanistan are with countries which are hostile to the Taliban and will do nothing to help them. The only exception is the border with Pakistan. Will Pakistan try, openly or on the sly, to smuggle supplies to the Taliban guerrillas? And in the quantities required for a sustained campaign? If Pakistan does not, what will that do to the mood in the street, particularly among Pakistani Pashtuns and Islamic hardliners? If it does, what will that do to the warmth America has rediscovered for General Musharraf’s Pakistan? Pakistani supplies have to be sufficient to be of some help, and not much can be smuggled across this bleak terrain without the knowledge of those like America, Russia and Iran, which will be watching both Pakistan and the Taliban.

The Pakistan government can only wriggle in this situation, control and mollify domestic discontents as best as it may while still trying to retain the goodwill of America. But the course of the war in recent days has made that jugglery more difficult. If Pakistan’s help had played any considerable part in the reverses inflicted on the Taliban, General Musharraf could have gained some bargaining leverage with America, and whatever further concessions he might then have squeezed out of it, particularly relating to the disputes with India, would have come in handy in managing his problems within his country or in Afghanistan. But none of the assistance given by Pakistan so far — and it has not been much — has played any part in the reverses the Northern Alliance has inflicted on the Taliban, including the loss of Kabul. All of that has been done by American air raids mounted from American bases or ships, or by the assistance given to the Alliance by Russia, the Central Asian states, and to some extent by India. Therefore, Pakistan can expect little quid pro quo.

Of course, things can change in the next few days, as the Taliban begin to exploit the more favourable situation they might find in the Pakhtoon area. If General Musharraf shows the necessary grit and determination, confronts domestic opposition, and significantly helps the anti-Taliban alliance in wrapping up the problem in the rest of Afghanistan, he might gain something from America which builds up his position at home. But at this stage it does not seem likely that this will happen. The Northern Alliance has improved its position so much that it is bound to get a higher representation in the future government of Afghanistan than would please the people of Pakistan or the Taliban ranks in Afghanistan. Can Pakistan avert that emerging situation?

However, these are questions for the day after tomorrow. And only for the day after that are questions like how is anyone going to get hold of Osama bin Laden, whose capture is the first declared objective of the USA? Destruction of Al-Qaeda, which is part of this objective, will automatically follow, at least in Afghanistan, as the Taliban power is eliminated. But the elusive Osama remains a needle in haystack. How will the new government be made “representative” if all Pashtuns are treated as Taliban-tainted? The USA and Russia are committed, jointly and publicly, to keeping out the “Taliban as a movement”. But would those who quit the “movement” convincingly become qualified? How is the colossal burden of rebuilding Afghanistan to be shared? What hand will Russia choose to — or be able to — play, and how that may affect India’s interests or future role? Still further beyond that lie questions like how and for how long will America use the foothold it has secured in area like Uzbekistan, which Russia has so far considered to be its own zone of influence? Thus it will be some time before the overall balance-sheet of the Taliban phenomenon can be drawn up. But it is enough for the time being to grapple with tomorrow’s questions.
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Wearing the mantle of untruth
Ram Varma

The TV images of the bizarre spectacle of passenger planes going straight into the World Trade Center towers and a monstrous fireball enveloping them, billowing black clouds rising ominously to the sky, and the malevolent smoke clouds chasing the people in the streets as the towers collapsed like the effigies of Ravana and his ilk on Dasehra, have been indelibly etched on our generation’s mind. These are the new millennium images that are going to haunt and shape our collective mind.

Seeing the sky-piercing towers of New York smothered in unholy smoke, I was reminded of the sacking of Troy by Greek warriors, and Christopher Marlowe’s immortal lines on the beauty of Helen came instantly to mind:

“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,

And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?”

Was it Osama bin Laden’s bearded, Christ-like face, with those liquid eyes, that had let loose, these mindless crusaders on the financial capital and pride of the New World, making the “topless towers” of New York incredibly melt and crumble, dissolve and disappear in smoke? Was it some Aladdin, who with his magic lamp had created these djinns? Or were we really into the Star Wars, the robots descending from alien space and hijacking the planes and determinedly dashing them into high-rise towers, engulfing the mankind in gloom, and leaving the world’s super power gnashing its teeth at an unknown enemy?

But the scene of New York on fire brought to my mind even more forcefully the scene from Ramayana of the monkey god Hanuman burning the fabled Lanka, the mythical golden city created by the all-powerful Ravana. It struck me that the Indian monkey god Hanuman was perhaps the first terrorist of the world. He could be variously described as an agent or an envoy, a scout or a spy of Rama. His mission was to enter the impenetrable citadel of Lanka, find where and how Sita was being kept in captivity, and deliver Rama’s message and his ring to her. He had an unflinching faith in Rama and his cause, and was prepared to lay down his life for his master. Alone, unarmed, he made his way to Lanka, where in the midst of non-believers, he happened to meet Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, who also believed in Rama. From him he learnt about Asoka Vatika, where Sita was being held captive. He made straight to it and accomplished his mission of meeting and reassuring a woebegone and forlorn Sita who was on the verge of hopelessness, and was contemplating suicide.

But he was nothing if not creative. Perhaps the euphoria of success in discovering Sita and actually meeting her in person acted like a heady wine, and delirious with joy, he went on a rampage, tearing down the fruit trees, destroying the gardens. It was a ploy to be captured. When he was produced before the mighty Ravana, he gave him a piece of his mind and proof of his indubitable courage, and forewarned him of his impending doom. Ravana’s ire was roused, and he ordered that his tail be wrapped in rags, soaked in oil and set on fire. Bereft of his tail, he would learn to mind his words, Ravana thought. It would also serve as a message to his master.

Hanuman turned this punishment into an opportunity. Instead of dousing it in water, he carried his burning tail like a flaming torch, and willingly suffering unspeakable torture and risking his life, set the ornate, gold-plated palaces on fire. A wild fury seized him, and he was gamboling like a ball of fire on housetops, setting off a trail of destruction. In an instant the golden city of Lanka became a blazing cauldron and was reduced to ashes, its denizens too shocked and stupefied to act. Whereafter he jumped into the sea to cool, and then quietly going over to Sita for a souvenir for Rama, returned to Rama’s camp. He had become a hero.

It may be said the present-day terrorists too are cast in Hanuman’s mould. They too are possessed by the idea of doing the task assigned to them by their Lord and Master and stoically laying down their lives in the process. As Mohamed Atta’s chilling spiritual exhortation reveals, only the believers can face death with equanimity, or willingly kiss its cold lips. The photographs released by the US Department of Justice show these terrorists to be keen young men who believed the time of their judgement had come. Equipped barely with some crude knives and a will to die, they achieved the astounding feat of setting Manhattan on fire and turning men and mansions into rubble.

But there the similarity with Hanuman ends. Hanuman would never dream of hurting, much less killing, an innocent person. Unlike the September terrorists he was not a brainwashed robot, but a discerning individual who weighed right and wrong and consciously chose the right. In the unceasing struggle that goes on in the universe between the forces of truth and untruth, he was on the side of truth, which alone triumphs. The history of mankind is like the river of truth charting out its course. Whether Ramayana or the Mahabharata in our hoary past or the great conflicts and combats that shook mankind from time to time like the World Wars in the last century, the victorious armies of Rama or the Pandavas or the Allies had truth on their side. The fighters on both sides might have shared in equal measure unbounded courage and commitment, dedication and a willingness to die for their side. But it is the righteousness or otherwise of their cause that made all the difference.

What we are now witnessing is again a battle royal between the forces of light and darkness. Their courage and commitment notwithstanding, these terrorists are to be pitied for wearing the mantle of untruth. Osama bin Laden and hiscohorts will be washed away in the tide of truth.
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LOOKING BACK

How humans learnt to walk
Robin McKie

It is the key, defining ability of our species, the one critical evolutionary feature that sets us apart from other creatures. Yet the reason for humanity developing a prowess to walk on two legs has baffled palaeontologists for decades.

Despite investigating myriad theories, no researcher has satisfactorily explained why prehistoric apemen and women got up and remained on their hind feet.

But now a group of scientists has proposed a controversial theory which maintains our upright ability is far more ancient than supposed. They also claim we picked up our two-footed prowess while living in trees. The skills of David Beckham and dancer Michael Flatley can be traced to this ancient arboreal event.

Trees were an ideal nursery for the learning of human walking, Robin Compton of Liverpool University in northwest England says. ‘They enable an animal to balance itself. They can reach out in any direction, above and below themselves, and find branches. Orang-utans do just this sort of thing.’

And having got our bipedal act right, we were then perfectly placed, when the climate changed two million years later, and forests thinned, to walk out on the savannah with our hands free to make tools and carry food to caves.

This startling evolutionary idea has been put forward by scientists led by Martin Pickford, of the College de France, and Brigitte Senut, of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. As they claim in tomorrow’s (Monday’s) Secrets of the Dead: The first human? on Britain’s Channel 4 television, their discovery of apemen’s bones in Kenya last year provides evidence we could walk on two feet at least six million years ago, although most scientists believe our bipedal expertise did not appear for another two million years.

The new claim is based on the use of advanced techniques to date soil in which the bones of the apeman Orrorin tugensis were found. Apart from revealing their antiquity, their studies show the fossils belonged to upright creatures and must therefore be direct ancestors of humans today, the group state.

One femur contains a groove that held muscles linking the bone to the animal’s thigh and is typical of a creature that walked on two feet.

But, if correct, that interpretation raises headaches — for Africa was thickly forested six million years ago. There were no plains on which apemen could have strutted their upright stuff.

So they must have learnt to walk in the trees, using branches to help them adopt an upright manner. As the team point out, Orrorin had curved hand and arm bones, typical of a creature that used to hang on to vines and creepers as it moved about.

Many scientists disagree, however. They believe our two-footed gait appeared more recently, possibly to allow us to carry objects or reduce the area of our bodies exposed to harsh African sunlight.

‘On its own, the discovery of any six-million-year-old apeman is important, but I don’t think evidence for its upright gait has been established,’ Professor Leslie Aiello, of University College London says. ‘The scientific community has not had a chance to study these bones yet. They could belong to the ancestor of an ape, not a human.’ Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum London was also doubtful: ‘Surely it would have been more difficult to pass through dense tree foliage in an upright position.’

US palaeontologist Don Johanson, of Arizona University, was more supportive. `We could have had tree nests and lived in trees for millions of years,’ he says.

Regardless of the date of our move to bipedalism, no one disputes its impact. ‘As a pure problem in architectural reconstruction, upright posture is far-reaching and fundamental, an enlarged brain superficial and secondary,’ Harvard palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould says. Our silky football skills, not our intellects, define us, in short. The Observer
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Afghan girl weds Punjabi boy
Satinder Bains

An Afghan woman who fled her homeland when the Taliban wrested control is making a new beginning in India just as the Islamic militia is being driven out of power.

Muska’s family had fled from Afghanistan to Australia after the Taliban took over in 1996. Married to her Indian sweetheart, Jaidev Singh, whom she met in Australia, Muska is now set to start life afresh in Punjab.

A Muslim by birth, Muska converted to Sikhism and married Jaidev Singh on Friday at Dhagana village of Amritsar district.

The marriage was solemnised at a gurdwara in the presence of Jaidev Singh’s family.

“I am quite happy to be a Sikh and the wife of a friend,” said Muska.

It was love at first sight for Muska and Jaidev, who met in Victoria city, Australia, where the latter was studying in a university. Muska’s family had taken refuge in Victoria after fleeing Afghanistan five years ago.

Out of a blazing conflict in her home country, Muska soon landed in another war of sorts — this time with her parents over her love affair. She eventually slipped into India without her parents’ knowledge to marry Jaidev Singh.

“My parents were dead against our inter-religion marriage and they followed us to India,” said Muska. Her parents wanted to marry her into an influential Afghan family.

“When I was pressured, I applied for a tourist visa and came to India on September 3 with Jaidev,” she said.

“It was love at first sight and I didn’t know which religion she followed. I had told her that we might face the wrath of her family, but she insisted on going ahead,” said Jaidev.

Muska’s parents, who had visited Amritsar recently, had even sought the intervention of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) for the safe return of their daughter. They alleged that Jaidev Singh had lured her to India.

SGPC Secretary Gurbachan Singh Bachan advised Muska’s parents not to interfere as the couple were adults and no decision could be imposed on them. “The girl had declined to talk to her family members and had insisted that she wanted to marry the boy,” he added.

Pal Singh, the bridegroom’s father, said his family had been under tremendous pressure and had even received threatening calls from Muska’s parents.

“The girl pleaded for help and said she might even be killed by her parents. She wanted to marry my son and we also agreed to it,” said Pal Singh. IANS
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A CENTURY OF NOBELS

 
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TRENDS & POINTERS

Every 8th person in Bangalore is diabetic

The consequences of rapid and mindless urbanisation are more prominent in Third World countries than elsewhere. The resultant changes in lifestyle creates health hazards, but what is worse, the respective governments are not in a position to provide adequate medical care.

Diabetes is one such disease which has hit the population hard, particularly in Bangalore, supposedly the fastest growing city in Asia where, according to a study conducted by Novo Nordisk Education Foundation and Institute for Social and Economic Change, every eighth person suffers from this ailment. This means that almost a million people have been thus affected in this southern metropolis alone.

Talking to ANI, Dr Anil Kapur, Managing Director of Novo Nordisk, a multinational company producing diabetic drugs worldwide, said, “It is the lifestyle change that has led to a rapid increase of Type-2 diabetes.”

He specially blamed this factor as being responsible for the spread of the ailment in epidemic proportion. According to him, twelve per cent of urban adult Indians are diabetic and the future looks frightening.

“Every fourth Indian would fall prey into this trap unless one changes his pattern of life and has normal food habit,” Dr Kapur added, and informed that 30 million people have been already affected in India. The incidence is more rampant in towns than in villages.

A renowned cardiologist, Dr Devi Shetty, feels a policy must be formed for treatment of diabetes to bring the situation under control. ANI

Coming soon: a pill to cure forgetfulness

You know the symptoms. You spend half an hour trying to remember where you left your half-filled trolley in the supermarket; you cannot bring to mind the word ‘saffron’ even though you cooked with the stuff last night; and although you went drinking with your new head of section at lunchtime, you simply cannot recall his name.

Welcome to middle age. Like countless millions, you have got MCI — mild cognitive impairment, a mental wooziness that begins at about 40 and that is likely to blight the rest of your life. You can look forward to many occasions where you will enter rooms on already forgotten errands, or spend hours trying to find your parked car.

Science, however, may soon come to the rescue. At biotechnology company laboratories across the United States, researchers are trying to develop the first drugs to deal with forgetfulness. The primary aim is to develop treatments for serious conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, but scientists also hope to counter the less debilitating but more common symptoms of normal middle age.

One such company is Memory Pharmaceuticals, which was set up by the Nobel laureate Eric Kandel and which is based in Montvale, New Jersey. They have used analysis of cell cultures, slices of brain and animal models to establish an understanding of human memory.

‘We are searching the molecular pathways of memory for single proteins that can be used pharmacologically to repair impairments at the level of the synapse,’ the company’s president, Axel Unterbeck, says.

The approach seems to have succeeded. Unterbeck recently announced that he expects Memory Pharmaceuticals to launch trials of a pill to enhance the memory within the next year.

Similarly, the biotechnology company Cortex Pharmaceuticals in Irvine, California, has announced that in the next few weeks it will begin trials on patients with mild cognitive impairment using a drug called CX516, which is already being tested on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

CX516 enhances the functioning of brain cell receptors that are linked to a chemical messenger called glutamate. In the ageing brain, the production of glutamate is disrupted and reduced. As a result, internal brain communication breaks down. Scientists believe CX516 will offset such symptoms by making cells more sensitive to glutamate, thereby compensating for its reduced output. The Observer
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The ocean of the world can be crossed by the devotion of love.

— Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Gauri Sukhmani, M. 5, page 290.

* * *

The devotion preferred by Hari consists in remembering Hari with the Word transmitted by the Guru.

— Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Majh M 3, page 120.

* * *

No devotion is possible without the fear of the Lord.

— Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Ramakali M 3, page 911

* * *

The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost.

* * *

Most men... are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labours of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.

* * *

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.

* * *

All change is a miracle to contemplate.

* * *

Everyday, our garments become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the wearer's character.

* * *

Clothes are but our outmost cuticle and mortal coil.

* * *

Man wanted a home, a place of warmth or comfort, first of physical warmth, then the warmth of the affections.

* * *

Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them.

* * *

The bad neighbourhood is to be avoided is our own scurvy selves.

* * *

While civilisation has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them.

* * *

They required to be dusted daily while the furniture of my mind was all undusted still.

* * *

Men have become the tools of their tools.

* * *

One piece of good sense would be more memorable than a monument as high as the moon.

* * *

A man may use as simple a diet as the animals and yet retain health and strength.

* * *

When a man dies he kicks the dust.

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
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