Heart ailments bane of women migrants: Study

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Migration could leave wives heart-broken, literally. A new study supported by the department of science and technology shows that Indian women who relocated from rural areas to urban hubs had an increased risk of heart disease.
This, said doctor-researchers of the study that will appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, holds true across India. So, migrant women living in Mumbai slum sprawls or Delhi’s jhuggi-zhopadis are equally unhealthy and at a greater risk of obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease than their urban counter-parts.
Said Dr Anoop Misra, the study’s coordinator who is attached to Fortis Hospital in Delhi, said, Migration is rapidly occurring in India. It’s changing lifestyles and disease profiles.” After a small study of women in Delhi’s slums showed that women had very high incidence of obesity and diabetes, a team from All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and Fortis Hospitals in Japiur and Delhi decided to study migration as a factor for heart disease.
For four years till 2008, they studied women who were in the 35 to 70 age group and had migrated from rural India to cities like Jaipur and Delhi. Parameters such as obesity, waist circumference, levels of glucose and cholesterol as well as general lifestyle were studied. We found rural-to-urban women had higher body mass index, greater propensity for abdominal obesity and hence had higher risks for heart diseases,” he added.
Mumbai’s senior cardiologist, Ashwin Mehta, said that migration is a known factor for heart diseases. A few decades back studies done in the US showed for the first time that Indians who migrated there had a higher risk than the local population of coronary artery disease.” He said that changes in lifestyle as well as dietary patterns due to migration worsened a person’s health profile. In Japan, too, studies have shown that changes in diets resulted in coronary artery disease claiming more lives that stomach cancer, which for decades had been the leading killer.”
In the latest study, too, researchers found that migration led to sedentary life, fat-rich diet and abdominal obesity in the 4,000 women studied. Women who have always been living in urban areas have realised the problem with their lifestyle and diet and and have taken up exercising and eating healthy. But the rural-to-urban migrants only pick up the unhealthy habits of urban areas and grow unhealthy,” said Misra.

Wearing the IIT tag

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Classes operating out of makeshift campuses, faculty shortages, unfilled seats: the slew of new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are still struggling to match the conditions and reputations of their flagship predecessors. In 2008, the union human resources development ministry announced bid to set up institutes of excellence throughout the country, taking the number of total IITs to 15. Two weeks ago, the government said it would focus on quality, not quantity, in higher education and set up just four more IITs as laid out in the 12th five-year plan.
However, even as the new ones are announced, the second generation of IITs – in Hyderabad, Ropar, Patna, Gandhinagar, Indore, Bhubhaneshwar, Mandi and Jodhpur – are still struggling to get on their feet.
“Five or six IITs is the best the country can handle,” said PV Indiresan, former director of IIT-Madras, who criticised the expansion when it was first announced. “I don’t think any other country has expanded institutes of this kind at this rate; no one has multiplied – Harvard or Stanford. I doubt it is advisable.”
His most trenchant criticism was about the inadequate staffing and the dipping student-teacher ratios at the new IITs. “Where is the faculty? Teachers used to know most students. Now there is decreased student-teacher contact,” he said.
But it’s not all bleak, and all the new IITs need is time, say former and present IIT directors. IIT-Guwahati, which was set up in 1995, and is among the newer of the old IITs, has seen its share of similar problems and scepticism. “There are issues when any new IIT starts,” said Gautam Barua, director of IIT-Guwahati. “We had the experience of starting out 15 years ago. When we moved to the campus in 2000, within time everything had become smooth.”
The problems have multiplied though, with a rash of new IITs all being set up together. They began admitting students three years ago, but not even one is operating from its own campus. (See accompanying reports from each IIT). “More were required but they probably shouldn’t have started together,” said Barua. “But four more won’t matter.”
Also, adding seats hasn’t blunted the competition, which means the demand for an IIT education is as high as ever, despite an array of other options now available in India’s growing economy. This year, for instance, 4.85 lakh students competed for 7,563 seats, which means that only 1 exam taker out of every 64 got in.
“The rationale was that some parts of the country don’t have an IIT,” said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director of IIT-Madras. “There are so many good candidates who don’t get through the JEE (Joint Entrance Exam), so 25,000 more students could do quite well at the IITs.”

Officials to be sensitized on domestic violence Act

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The government has promised to take steps to ensure effective implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, across the state.
The state women and child development department said it would immediately issue a government resolution (GR) telling officials in hospitals, police stations and state offices to understand the urgency of domestic violence cases and interpret the Act in its right essence. “We want to ensure the aggrieved women gets immediate relief,” said minister for women and child development, Varsha Gaikwad.
A delegation of women’s rights activists and NGOs met the minister on Thursday to express their concern over the increasing number of cases of domestic violence, especially in urban areas such as Mumbai. The delegation presented a charter of demands to the government, mainly to provide interim and immediate relief to victims of domestic violence. The state, it said, must take urgent steps to create awareness about the Act., which was unveiled in 2005.

16 of 20 highway chief engineers quit

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16 of the 20 chief engineers of joint secretary rank in the road transport and highways ministry and NHAI put in their papers en masse.Though the engineers claimed that they have applied for the voluntary retirement scheme,the mass resignation came on the day the ministry reportedly held a stormy session on a new model of highway construction at Transport Bhawan.
Sources said that the engineers submitted their resignation to highway secretary A K Upadhyaya.
A cold war had been brewing between the engineers and the Planning Commission over some of the controversial norms proposed by a representative of the Plan panel for a new contracting system,engineerprocure-construct (EPC).
This new mode of road construction will be followed for construction of 20,000 km of two-lane highways at an estimated cost of Rs 50,000 crore.
While the Plan panel had been pushing the private contractor to maintain these stretches for two years,the engineers and other officials wanted the tenure to be extended to five years.The ministry had also been opposing the panels proposal to restrict the number of bidders for these projects to ensure fair and open competition.
There has been undue interference from some representatives of the Planning Commission.We are being made to accept their diktats, said one of the chief engineers who submitted his paper.
Though engineers have only come out openly against such a norm,senior bureaucrats in NHAI and the ministry felt that the engineers might have taken the step after things became intolerable.
There is growing discontent over too much interference by outsiders, said one of them.
There have been cases of growing differences between the ministry officials and Planning Commission over issues like building of safe highways vis–vis financially viable stretches.
However,the mass resignation has come at a time when the minister C P Joshi has been pushing for greater transparency,and also the highway construction is back on track.

Facebook hires IIT-Delhi student for Rs 65 lakh a year

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Social networking site Facebook will now have an employee from the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi.

After trying – and failing – to recruit students from the institute last year, Facebook came back to the campus this year and chose 21-year-old Ankur Dahiya, a student of computer science engineering.
Dahiya’s annual salary package is around Rs 65 lakh.
“Ever since I heard Facebook would come to recruit, I wanted to get in. It was a long-standing dream. My parents were obviously elated,” said Dahiya, who belongs to Rohtak in Haryana.
This is the first time that Facebook has recruited a student from IIT-Delhi. The social networking giant had hired a student from IIT-Chennai last year.
The company, started in February 2004, has scouted for talent at many other IIT campuses in India this year. Unlike last year when it hired only two students from India, Facebook is eyeing the country as a talent hub this time around.
Dahiya will be placed in Palo Alto, California as a programmer after he finishes his course next year.
“The interview and the test were completely subject-based. They asked me to do some encoding and programming,” said Dahiya, whose all-India rank in the IIT-JEE exam was 56.
Facebook was unable to hire any student last year as they expressed a desire to come to the campus a tad too late.

A microscopic view

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Diseases neither know nor respect national boundaries. Consequently, our efforts to use the power of research to develop new ways of fighting disease must have a vision that extends beyond borders. This week in New Delhi, we have an exceptional opportunity to do just that by focusing attention on
be the world’s quietest epidemic: the global surge in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Indian Departments of Science and Technology and Biotechnology are convening a joint summit on cost-effective technologies to treat and prevent non-communicable diseases. These diseases are globally on the rise. In fact, this year, non-communicable diseases will account for two of every three deaths worldwide.
In India, non-communicable diseases have eclipsed infectious diseases as the leading cause of death and now contribute to 53% of the nation’s mortality. Of compounding concern is the high prevalence of metabolic risk factors, such as high blood pressure and elevated levels of blood glucose and cholesterol. An estimated one-third of Indians have high blood pressure and more than one-quarter have elevated cholesterol. These troubling trends have prompted health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to issue a call to action to strengthen efforts to combat non-communicable diseases.
The economic toll also is alarming. According to the World Health Organisation, India stands to lose $237 billion between 2004 and 2015 due to lost productivity from premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases. India is not alone — the United States and many other nations are experiencing similar economic effects.
Addressing this will require the involvement of many sectors of society, including healthcare organisations, food producers, educational institutions, governments and non-profit organisations. To ensure the wisest use of limited resources, such efforts must be supported by data generated by well-designed scientific studies.
One research frontier is identifying disease risk factors and developing strategies to reduce or eliminate these risks. Tobacco and many other risk factors for non-communicable diseases are well-recognised. However, others, such as salt consumption and exposure to smoke from unvented indoor cooking stoves, are less appreciated.
Risk-reduction efforts will demand a nuanced understanding of local communities. Public health authorities in Tamil Nadu, for example, have adapted a version of NIH’s Diabetes Prevention Programme for use in their rural areas.
In contrast to the US programme, their effort does not emphasise weight loss, because most participants are not overweight. Instead, the programme strives to reduce metabolic risk factors for diabetes by encouraging exercise and consumption of lentils, millet and other high-fibre, high-protein foods.
Research is vital to realising the tremendous potential of mobile communications technologies to improve health. For instance, US researchers have developed a quarter-sized, lens-less microscope that, when connected to a mobile phone, can beam high-quality images of cells and microbes to computers halfway around the globe. The computers can automatically interpret the images, providing a convenient way to manage diseases in patients who live far from medical centres.
Another shift is occurring in how health technologies are developed. Recently, some of the most cost-effective strategies have arisen from research that reflects the needs of developing communities. From India, these include the ‘Jaipur knee’, a prosthetic knee joint for amputees that costs only $20, low-cost intraocular lenses for cataract surgery, and a hand-held electrocardiogram (ECG) device that has reduced the cost of ECG testing to $1 per patient.
Clearly, medical innovation is a two-way street, with ideas flowing back and forth between laboratories around the world. The United States and India share a 50-year legacy of global health discovery through cooperation in such areas as vaccine development and agricultural innovation. Our challenge now is to join our innovative capacities to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases.
This is one epidemic in which there truly is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, only ‘we’. Because all nations are feeling the devastating impact of non-communicable diseases, all must come together to forge the solutions.

1st common test for non-IIM institutes in February

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In February, candidates aspiring for B-schools across the country will be able to appear for the first Common Management Admission Test (CMAT). To be conducted online by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) between February 20 and February 28 next year, registrations
from December 9. The dates were released in an AICTE notification on Sunday. The CMAT aims to decrease the burden on students having to sit for multiple entrance tests for different institutions.
“It (the test) will benefit students because it will save them from appearing for numerous entrance tests; they will spend less money on application forms and will be better prepared,” said SS Mantha, AICTE chairperson.
Mantha added that around 2.5 lakh students across India are likely to appear for first CMAT, with test scores applicable to 4,000 business schools excluding the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The Common Admission Test will continue to be the criterion for entry to the IIMs.
In July, the Supreme Court gave its nod to the Council – it governs management education across India – to conduct its own entrance test.
However, it is not yet clear whether the new CMAT will replace the existing state Common Entrance Tests and other B-school tests or exist alongside. B-schools will have to clarify the number of students that will be admitted through CMAT. “We appreciate the government’s single test but it is too early to go completely online,” said Rekha Sethi, director general of the All India Management Association, which conducts the Management Aptitude Test (MAT).
“An online test is three times more expensive with connectivity and power supply being an issue in smaller towns.
An online test will only create a further digital divide.”
The MAT held it’s last of the four tests for this year on Sunday. In all, around 1.56 lakh students appeared for the test, with only 12% choosing the computer based test and 88% choosing the paper-pencil version. MAT is the entry criterion to around 600 B-schools across the country.

CAT 2011: 10% candidates did not take test

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Around 10% of the candidates who registered for the Common Admission Test (CAT) this year did not take the test, compared to around 9% who dropped out last year, according to the latest data. While 2.06 lakh students from across the country registered for the test this year, 1.85 lakh year, however, fewer candidates had registered (2.04 lakh) but a higher number took the test (1.86 lakh).
CAT is the entry criterion to the Indian Institutes of Management and 155 other business schools in the country and was held this year between October 22 and November 18.
“Sometimes students drop out from taking the test because they decide to opt for foreign universities or decide against doing an MBA,” said Janakiraman Moorthy, convener for CAT 2011 adding that a drop out rate of around 10% is not very unusual. Of this year’s test takers, 1,34,500 lakh candidates were male and 50,600 were female. Of the total, 1.5 lakh were general category candidates, 21,700 were other backward class candidates, 10,600 were scheduled caste candidates and 2,800 were from the scheduled tribes.

Spoof blog on IIT-B placements a campus hit

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This year’s placement season at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) isn’t only about fat pay cheques. An anonymous student blog — theunemployediitian — is humorously documenting “placement-related pain” that students undergo and the blog has become a rage on the Powai campus. It has allegedly got more than 4,000 hits since the first post two days ago.

IIT-B’s placement parade began on December 1. For some, the offers came under gruelling circumstances, says the blog. This includes juggling up to 11 interviews a day or the superhuman task of answering 80 questions in eight minutes, which was part of one company test.

“The blog is amusing and it makes fun of the situation, so it’s become popular on campus,” said a student. “I got placed early, but some of my friends didn’t get jobs, so I can feel their pain of not getting placed.”
The buzz about the blog has been growing on the campus. There’s also the angst over computer science and electronics students snagging the best jobs. A graph on the blog exaggerating the situation shows 99% of jobs going to them, and the 1% majority being left with a sliver of the placement pie.
“The media only writes about the top job offers, but the average student may not even get a Rs10 lakh job offer,” said another student.
Another post depicts a candidate appearing for multiple interviews, parroting the same lines, depending on the context. “Yours being a small company offers me a lot of opportunity for growth and a steep learning curve,” says the candidate to the small company. “Yours being a big company offers me a lot of opportunity for growth and a steep learning curve,” says the candidate to the big company.

7-step AICTE plan to join the workplace

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The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has designed a seven-stage format for vocational education in the country, which will allow students to transition between formal education, vocational qualifications and the workplace. The schemes will be launched next June and have been broken up into seven levels, with students being eligible for certification at the end of every level. These courses will be both degree level courses (three years after Class 12) as well as diploma level courses (two years after Class 10), and will also be available at the Class 9 and Class 10 levels for specific streams.

As yet, there is no overall framework governing vocational education. Less than 10,000 schools offer vocational courses at different levels.“By creating a national framework for vocational education we are aiming to build competency skills for industry,” said SS Mantha, chairperson of AICTE. “Each of the certificates will be independent but also connected to the next level.”At the school level the certificate courses will be under the purview of the state or central education boards, and under the purview of the AICTE at the post-school level. The courses will be delivered with the help of industry partners. For now, courses will be rolled out in media, telecommunication, Information Technology, tourism, automotives and construction.