The HINDU Notes – 11th March 2018 - VISION

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 11th March 2018

πŸ“° India, France join hands for Indian Ocean security

Fresh logistical agreement to allow closer defence cooperation

•India and France on Saturday joined hands in ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. Both sides also announced a new phase of cooperation in space security focussed on the maritime domain and a fresh logistics agreement that will allow their defence forces to closely cooperate on mutually agreed operations.

•“Whether it is the environment, or maritime security, or marine resources, or the freedom of navigation and over flight, we are committed to strengthening our cooperation in all these areas. And therefore, today, we are releasing a Joint Strategic Vision for our cooperation in the Indian Ocean area,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announcing the initiative that will open up vast French maritime domain in the Indian Ocean region to India.

Common concerns

•‘The Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region’ stated that India and France share common concerns on freedom of navigation in the region and will tackle challenges to over-flight and threat of weapons of mass destruction. The agreement has a vast scope stretching from “countering maritime terrorism and piracy” to “building maritime domain awareness” said a joint statement issued at the end of the official talks. The statement also said it would support “greater coordination in regional/international fora in the region.”

•This is the second major maritime agreement India has signed in the last six months following the Quadrilateral agreement with Australia, Japan and the U.S. in October 2017.

•Presenting the French perspective on maritime and military cooperation, President Emmanuel Macron said, “The Pacific and the Indian Oceans cannot become zones for hegemonic power and we are, therefore, building a strategic partnership. The same is true for our defence cooperation signed a while ago.”

•The logistics support agreement is likely to “extend” both Indian and French ability to respond to common challenges. The agreement “seeks to extend logistical support on reciprocal access to respective facilities for Indian and French armed forces,” said the statement. Sources indicate that while reviewing the ongoing military contracts and discussing the commissioning of INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine made in India, Mr. Macron suggested extending the bilateral contract for the supply of more of these conventional submarines.

πŸ“° Indo-French ties: a signal for world powers

New vision for the Indian Ocean indicates India is looking beyond traditional allies like U.S. & Russia

•Marking the 20th anniversary of their strategic partnership, India and France stepped up their engagement to a new level by quietly and swiftly concluding the reciprocal logistics support between their Armed Forces.

•In contrast, India and U.S. took almost 15 years and still could only conclude a curtailed version of it. A senior military officer said the agreement with France “does not suffer from the political sensitivities the way our agreement with the U.S. does.”

•Beyond the strategic consequences of the agreements is the deep diplomatic messaging from the two sides to all three world powers: U.S., Russia and China. The new Joint Strategic Vision for the Indian Ocean sends the message that India is not limiting itself to the “Quadrilateral” arrangement with the U.S. and its allies Japan and Australia to develop interests in the “Indo-Pacific”.

A message for China

•The “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region” is similar to the agreement signed with the U.S. in January 2015, a message for China, as the two countries will work to “maintain the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the international law”..

•Given the vast areas of cooperation between India and France, underlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as stretching from the “earth to the sky”, the relationship contains an alternative to both the U.S. and Russia when it comes to military hardware, aircraft, space cooperation and nuclear reactors.

•Western diplomats will point out that the U.S. alliance with France and its Major Defence Partnership with India are far deeper, while Russian diplomats will point to their older military ties with India and logistical agreements that date back much further. Even so the slew of agreements signed and the vision statement indicate that the strategic partnership with France, India’s first in 1998, remains a competitor for influence.

•In particular, Mr. Macron’s statement that France wants India as its “first strategic partner here (region), and we want to be India’s first strategic partner in Europe, and even the western world,” will be read closely.

•Despite the bonhomie, one spoiler in the ties could come from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which India has strongly opposed. But France is likely to play a “leading role” in it.

πŸ“° Sirisena forms panel to probe riots

Committee comprising 3 retired judges will investigate the causes of the anti-Muslim riots in Kandy

•Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday appointed a panel to probe the recent anti-Muslim attacks in Kandy district.

•The committee, comprising three retired judges, will investigate the causes of the incident that claimed at least two lives and severely damaged property, official sources said. A curfew imposed in the district was lifted early on Saturday, but a decision on possibly re-imposing it would be taken after reviewing the security situation in the affected areas, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told local media.

•Towns including Digana, Akurana and Katugastota in Kandy witnessed sudden attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned shops and homes last week. The arson, carried out by Sinhalese mobs, followed the death of a Sinhalese man who died of injuries from an altercation with a group of Muslim youth over a road-rage incident.

•Amid spiralling violence in Kandy, President Sirisena declared a state of emergency on Tuesday to prevent escalation. Authorities blocked social media networks, including Facebook, Viber and Whatsapp for three days, justifying the move as one aimed at preventing panic and further tensions. The services were not restored till Saturday evening.

Tight security

•The police and army, who locals accused of inaction during the days of violence, have been stationed in the district. So far, about 150 people, including key suspect Amith Weerasinghe from the hard-line Sinhala Buddhist group Mahasona Balakaya, have been arrested, the police said.

•Following a visit to Kandy on Saturday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government will pay full compensations for property damaged in the attacks.

•On Thursday, Minister of Public Administration and Management Ranjith Madduma Bandara assumed charge as the Law and Order Minister, replacing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took temporary charge of the Ministry in a recent cabinet reshuffle.

•The recent violent episode has sparked concern among many Sri Lankans who see the incidents as part of a growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country since 2012. Activists and Buddhist monks staged demonstrations in Colombo on Friday condemning the violence against the Muslim minority and asking the government to end impunity for such attacks.

πŸ“° Registering marriages in T.N.? Keep parents in the loop

New circular says couples have to show original documents on parents’ identity

•When Vikram and Sowmya (names changed) went to a Sub-registrar’s office early last month to have their marriage registered, a week after their families held a grand wedding for them, they were asked to bring a parent along. “They insisted it would better if we bring a parent, preferably our fathers. So, we went back and returned with our fathers,” Vikram says.

•Earlier, all that was required for registering a marriage were three witnesses. What has changed?

•Now, there appear to be additional requirements due to an ‘internal circular’ from the office of the Inspector General of Registration, Tamil Nadu, dated September 28, 2017. The circular contains a checklist of documents that may appear innocuous. However, it has indirectly paved the way for registrars to find out if there is parental consent before registering Hindu marriages.

Multiple documents

•In the four-point circular, the first permits the Aadhaar card as an additional identity proof for the couple, parents and witnesses; the second point says the names, initials and address of the parents given in the application should tally with the details contained in the accompanying documentary proof, and that registration should be done only upon such verification. The third point demands that the couple produce the original death certificate of any parents mentioned as deceased, and attach a photocopy.

•The upshot is that two consenting Hindu adults marrying without their parents’ knowledge will not be able to register their marriage, unless they have access to original documents relating to their parents’ identity and address and, if any of them is deceased, their death certificates.

•This makes it practically impossible to register a marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act without parents knowing about it, says an official source: “See, it does not specify parental consent, but every point implies that. Couples can still register under the Special Marriage Act.”

•Senior advocate in the Supreme Court, Indira Jaising, says this certainly amounted to introducing parental consent “by stealth”. “Registrars under a State Act or Hindu Marriage Act cannot insist on that, and consent of parents cannot be demanded if two persons are of the age of marriage.”

•“These are extraneous and totally unnecessary. The law does not contemplate any consent except that of the marrying couple,” says advocate Sudha Ramalingam. “The circular appears trivial on the face of it, but is fatal for the couple wanting to marry without parental consent.”

‘Paternalistic barriers’

•“In the name of ID verification, these are paternalistic barriers to liberty brought in covert ways,” says advocate Akila Ramalingam, on reading the circular.

•Additional Inspector General of Registration Jaffer Mohammad, however, denied that parental consent was mandatory. He said, “Only when the application says a parent is dead, they are required to produce a death certificate.” Asked about the logic behind the circular, Mr. Mohammad only stated, “The State government is not opposed to inter-caste marriages.”

•But sources at the Sub-registrar’s office in a western district believe the circular was the result of “a lot of complaints from parents”.

•Caste outfits have been asking for parental consent during registration of marriages in recent years.

πŸ“° ‘Now there is a strong constituency for EVMs’

Chief Election Commissioner says the steps the poll panel has taken have enhanced trust in the voting machines

•When the EVM controversy erupted last year, Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat , then an Election Commissioner, had to cut short his foreign trip. However, a comprehensive demonstration of EVM functionality, for each of its components, has now boosted confidence that the machine is tamper-proof. Edited excerpts:

Opposition parties have raised serious doubts about the integrity of the EVMs in recent polls. What steps are being taken by the Election Commission to allay these concerns?

•[A 2017 all-party meeting suggested that they] wanted that either we [go] back to [the] ballot, or have voter-verifiable [paper] audit trail machines (VVPATs) in further elections. The Commission immediately announced that now onwards, we will have 100% deployment of VVPATs in all elections and even bypolls.

•Going a step further, we made it mandatory for matching vote counts at one randomly selected polling station in each Assembly segment with VVPAT slips to prove that whatever vote count is displayed in EVMs is also in the record of votes in VVPATs.

•In Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and recent byelections in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, we recorded 100% VVPAT matches… The information gap on EVMs is narrowing due to the demonstrations organised by the Commission in all the poll-going States. They are held from villages to villages… and before all the other opinion-makers, including political parties and the judiciary. It has created a strong constituency for the machine.

Many EVM-malfunction cases were reported in the recently concluded elections. What is the SoP followed once malfunctioning is detected?

•These machines travel from north to south and east to west in poll-bound States, [given that] we have a fixed number of machines. Road conditions in our country are now improving, but when they go to polling stations like those in Nagaland, road conditions are just not there. It takes four hours from Dimapur to Kohima… When these machines are transported in trucks on such roads, they create some problems with the electronics of the machine.

•The second aspect is training. For polling officials, it is a very temporary kind of assignment. At training sessions, I have found that at a crucial moment when something very specific is being [said] about the machines, they get distracted by WhatsApp messages. At the time of connecting the machines, they tend to forget the sequence and so, the machines go out of order… As per the SoP, training batches [must] be very small and everyone should have an opportunity for hands-on experience of EVM functioning. We have generally three phases of training ahead of elections.

•Just before the polling day, an engineer from the manufacturer concerned also checks if the officials can handle the machines confidently.

•Are the malfunctioning units examined by a technical team to study the causes and bring about changes?

•This is the area we are focussing on now. Generally, whenever failures are noticed, the machines are replaced and the defective ones are sent to the factory concerned where they are analysed, diagnosed and repaired. That data was not available to us. But, now we are asking them to tabulate, compile and tell us about the errors and the reasons.

Are there plans for a further upgrade of the design and configuration of the EVMs and the VVPATs to limit cases of malfunction?

•It is a continuous process. We started with M1 (first version) machines, went on to M2 machines and now we are at a stage where M3 machines will soon get manufactured. Any day, they will start coming out of the factory and we may deploy, maybe in a very small number in the Karnataka elections, but in large numbers in the coming Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and Mizoram elections.

•The Election Commission has decided to cross-check vote counts of one randomly selected polling station in each Assembly segment with VVPAT slips. Do you plan to include more polling stations for this in the Karnataka elections?

•The Commission has always been working on these lines. Whenever any new thing comes up, we start on a very small pilot and after enough experience, we go for bigger pilots and following an analysis, when we gain confidence that now it can be implemented in a large scale, we go for it. Right now, we are in the mid-level pilot phase. In Karnataka, there is hardly any time to upscale the implementation as the data from recent elections are yet to be analysed.

πŸ“° the lowdown on the Prasar Bharati Act

What is it?How did it come about?Why does it matter?What next?

•The twin objectives of the Prasar Bharati (Broadcast Corporation of India) Act of 1990 are crystallised in Section 12 of the law. Section 12 (3)(a) mandates that Prasar Bharati ensure that “broadcasting is conducted as a public service.” Again, Section 12 (3)(b) reinforces that the purpose of establishing the corporation is to gather news, not propaganda. The Act came into existence after decades of post-independence struggle to free broadcasting from the stranglehold of the government. The legislative intent of the Act finds an echo in the Supreme Court’s 1995 judgment in The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting versus the Cricket Association of Bengal , which said the “first facet of the broadcasting freedom is freedom from state or governmental control, in particular from the censorship by the government... Public broadcasting is not to be equated with state broadcasting. Both are distinct.” The Prasar Bharati Corporation’s main objective is to provide autonomy to Doordarshan and Akashvani in order to “educate and entertain the public.”

•The efforts for an autonomous broadcasting corporation can be traced to the post-Emergency B.G. Verghese Committee, which recommended the formation of Akash Bharati or the National Broadcast Trust for All India Radio and Doordarshan. The panel, in its February 1978 report, highlighted the need for a fiercely unbiased and independent corporation as “the executive, abetted by a captive Parliament, shamelessly misused the Broadcasting during Emergency.” The next year, Information and Broadcasting Minister L.K. Advani proposed a Bill for an autonomous corporation called Prasar Bharati for AIR and Doordarshan. But the Bill lapsed. Once the Janata Party imploded and Indira Gandhi came back in power, the Congress government appointed the P.C. Joshi Committee in 1982, with a narrow mandate of evaluating the programming of Doordarshan. The committee emphasised the lack of functional freedom in Doordarshan and said the “Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should be reorganised and a separate board, on the lines of the Railway Board, should be created, in which only people with professional experience should get entry.” The Prasar Bharati Bill was passed in 1990. The Prasar Bharati Act was eventually implemented in 1997.

•The need to protect the autonomous identity of Prasar Bharati Corporation was highlighted by its chairman, A. Surya Prakash, in a recent interview with The Hindu . Mr. Prakash alleged that the 1990 Act was being treated with “utter contempt.” For example, he referred to a Ministry directive that the Secretary, I&B, would appraise the Prasar Bharati CEO. Another directive wants the Prasar Bharati to get rid of contractual employees. That Prasar Bharati is an autonomous corporation is evident in Section 4. The Chairman and the other Members — except the ex-officio members, the nominated member and the elected members — shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee. The government has no part in the appointment. The Act points out that the CEO would be under the “control and supervision” of the Board and not the Central government.

•The Centre still holds the reins of Prasar Bharati as it has the power to make rules for the corporation, issue grants or allowances and control the salaries of employees.

•Section 22 gives the Centre powers to issue directions which it “may think necessary in the interests of the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India or the security of the State or preservation of public order” to not broadcast “any matter of public importance”.

•On the context of what true autonomy means for a broadcasting corporation, the Supreme Court has referred to a ruling by the German Constitutional Court, which said that “freedom from State control requires the legislature to frame some basic rules to ensure that government is unable to exercise any influence over the selection, content or scheduling of programmes”.

πŸ“° E-waybill to be rolled out on April 1, says Arun Jaitley

•The Goods and Services Tax Council, at its 26th meeting on Saturday, decided to go forward with the April 1 rollout of the e-waybill system for inter-State transport of goods. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the system would be implemented in phases.

•Mr. Jaitley also said the Council discussed in detail the options to ease the return filing process, but did not arrive at a conclusive decision.

•“From April 1, the e-waybill system will be applicable to the inter-State transport of goods,” Mr. Jaitley said at a press conference following the meeting. “The States have been categorised into four segments. The intra-State transport of goods will be brought under the e-waybill system in a phased manner, with each segment being added each week. So, by the end of April, the entire process should be completed.”

•“The recent simplification measures on the e-waybill together with the announcement of its introduction from April 1 for inter-State transactions would enable adequate preparation by pan-India businesses,” M.S. Mani, senior director, Deloitte India, said in a note. “It would be beneficial if intra-State transactions are covered only after successful system stabilisations.”

•The e-waybills will have to be generated for the transport of goods of a value of more than Rs. 50,000.

•“During the 26th meeting of the GST Council, no tariff items were discussed,” Mr. Jaitley said.

πŸ“° Pakodas, PCs, and the future of jobs

While we quibble over data, the big picture is changing alarmingly

•With the government having decided to formally drop the quinquennial employment-unemployment surveys of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), as well as the annual jobs survey of the Labour Ministry, opting instead for what the NITI Aayog chief says will be a “more robust” quarterly data set, we officially do not know where we stand as a country on the issue of jobs.

•There is no arguing the case for more robust data on jobs. Job creation is one of the key focus areas of economic policy and you cannot really have any kind of policy, leave alone measure its outcomes and effectiveness, without proper and reliable data.

Political controversy

•However, the instant decision to call a time out on whatever data we have, in favour of a hopefully better set at some undefined time in the future, has already become the subject of political controversy, with the Opposition accusing the government of trying to hide its failure on the jobs front and the government accusing the Opposition of missing the big picture.

•Recently, in Delhi, the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha, said the available data were simply not picking up on jobs being created in the economy. He pointed out that between Ola and Uber, a million people are productively employed as drivers (most accurately, self-employed as owner-drivers), which is simply not reflecting in the data being collected either by government or private surveys. And of course, the Prime Minister’s famous “pakoda seller” remark has already become a permanent part of contemporary political lexicon.

•Sinha does have a point. The NSSO’s surveys may be statistically rigorous and are carried out across a large sample, but they happen only once in five years and are unable to pick up more recent changes.

•The Labour Ministry survey covers only establishments with more than 10 workers, thus missing out on micro, small and medium enterprises, those who are self-employed, and the staggering 85% of the workforce engaged in the informal sector, rendering it pretty much useless as a policymaking tool. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, which does its own jobs survey, does cover households but repeats the same sample, which again means that some large changes are missed.

Changing economy

•The trouble is that while economists quibble over details and definitions, and politicians spar over numbers, the economy itself is changing at the speed of light. A recent report, ‘Future of jobs in India — A 2022 perspective’, prepared by consultancy major EY, in association with FICCI and NASSCOM, picks out an even more alarming trend. Forget the issue of creating enough jobs for the millions joining the workforce every year. There is now a real question mark over the future of those already employed, that too in the highly remunerative and growing sections of the organised sector.

•In the five years from 2017, the report says that nearly half — 46% to be exact — of those currently employed will have to overcome major challenges just to stay employed in 2022. While 37% will have to be deployed in jobs which will require radically altered skill sets than those required in the jobs they are currently doing, 9% will actually be doing jobs that just don’t exist today.

•The EY report is fairly limited in scope, covering only five major sectors in the organised space, which itself accounts for just about 15% of the total employment. But a deeper dive into even these five sectors paints a scary picture for those who are involved in these sectors.

•In the IT-BPM sector, for instance, the report estimates that about 20% to 35% of employees will face an existential threat to their jobs within the next five years. In the rapidly changing banking and financial services sector which is being hugely disrupted by technology, job loss threatens 20-25%, while 55-60% of employees will require radically altered skill sets compared to what they have.

A real threat

•The picture is less dire in the slower-to-change automotive, retail and textile and apparel sectors, but the inference is clear: quite a significant chunk of the creamy layer of India’s middle class, the ones who are earning, saving and spending to keep the economy moving, face a very real threat to their way of life, in a frighteningly short span of time. Remember, even car loans are given out for seven years — imagine being unemployed — and worse, unemployable — within five!

•It is here that one worries that those shaping our policy response, principally our elected representatives (both in power and in Opposition) as well as the bureaucracy responsible for shaping a policy response, are missing the wood for the trees. The issue is not whether one set of data is better or worse than the other, but what we are doing about the bigger problem, including the private sector, which seems to believe that solving this skills and employment problem is someone else’s problem.

•Remember, even a nation of pakoda sellers will need paying customers.

πŸ“° ‘Rising imports challenge Indian paper mills’ business’

High energy cost, inadequate raw material supply are issues

•Paper imports during the first nine months of the current financial year rose 40% to 1.47 million tonnes or almost 15% of the total consumption in the country, posing a challenge to the domestic industry, according to industry sources.

•Domestic manufacturers faced issues such as high energy cost and inadequate raw material availability, said Saurabh Bangur, president, IPMA, in a statement. Overseas manufacturers, however, had easy access to captive plantations and lower energy costs. They also enjoyed nil import tariffs in India, thus giving the foreign firms a competitive edge.

‘No major investment’

•Though India is one of the fastest growing markets for paper with almost 7% growth a year, no major greenfield investment for capacity addition had taken place in the last two years, Rohit Pandit, secretary general, IPMA, told The Hindu.

•“The consolidated production of large paper mills is stagnant, with a drop in capacity utilisation from 92% in 2015-16 to 83% in 2016-17,” said Mr. Pandit.

•Raw material cost accounts for about 40% to 50% of the total cost of production.

•The mill delivered cost of domestic wood in India was higher by almost $30-$40 per tonne compared with other Asian countries. This had pushed up the cost of paper production in India by $100 for a tonne of paper, Mr. Pandit said.

πŸ“° Microfinance has potential, but is yet to bounce back on delinquency ratios

We aim to lend to units with an intense risk control framework: Suryoday chief

•Microfinance business has faced challenges in the aftermath of demonetisation. However, it is a key driver of financial inclusion and an integral part of the overall banking business, said R. Baskar Babu, MD and CEO of Maharashtra-based Suryoday Small Finance Bank Ltd. In an interview, he said that microfinance institutions are on a comeback trail.

With interest rates firming up, how do Small Finance Banks intend to cope, as against established banks?

•Rates offered by SFBs are at a 150-200 bps premium to those offered by other players, even on savings accounts. So this has led to a high proportion of savings deposits forming part of retail deposits in the first year itself. Further, we do not expect rates to go up significantly in the near term post March 2018. The key differentiator will be quality of service offering and customer experience which will drive customer acquisition

How did demonetisation impact banks like yours that primarily had a microfinance book?

•Demonetisation had impacted all the players in the microfinance industry alike. In November 2016, we had a collection efficiency of 94% and today that portfolio runs with an efficiency of 97%, and on the new JLG (joint liability groups) portfolio acquired post April 2017, the collection efficiency has been restored to 99.8%.

How has your cost of funds been changing?

•The cost of funds has [declined] by 240 basis points from the beginning of the year primarily because of low-cost deposits and borrowing from money markets post receiving the scheduled status from the RBI.

What are your plans for third-party products?

•We are actively working on adding third-party products. Currently we distribute life, general and health insurance products, and social security schemes like Jeevan Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana.

•Soon we will be launching a mutual funds platform. Work for offering the Atal pension Yojana is also underway.

How are you placed on deposits and loans now?

•We are positioned well both in terms of assets and liabilities. Currently (end of Q3 FY18), we have a deposit base of more than Rs. 500 crore a gross loan portfolio of around Rs. 1,352 crore, with a year-on-year growth of 37%.

•While the microfinance industry holds tremendous potential, it is yet to bounce back to normalcy in terms of delinquency ratios. Hence, our attempt is to balance the two by continuing to lend to businesses with a more intense risk control framework.

What will small finance banks achieve that traditional banks couldn’t?

•Established banks are yet to fully foray deep into the microfinance segment, and their size and scale may not allow them to recognise the needs of the micro segment of the society, which is as ambitious and as much in need of regular banking services.

•This gap is what the SFBs can easily cater to since SFBs have strong relationships with these customers as most of the transactions are at the client’s place.

•Further, the branch network of SFBs is vast, and this can be leveraged to bring in financial inclusion much faster and in a more effective manner.

What deposit rates do you offer?

•On the liabilities side, we offer CASA, FD, Tax saver FD and RD products on which we offer one of the most competitive deposit rates in the industry.

•A savings account can get an interest rate of up to 7.25%, whereas for an FD, the customer can earn up to 8.75% interest. For senior citizens, the interest rate offered is 9%.

How is the transition taking place for you and your older microfinance customers?

•Our strategy has been to take small, but firm steps so that we move ahead with conviction. The first year has been about getting things right.

•In the next financial year, we will be focussing on conversion of our 216 microfinance branches to banking outlets, to bring doorstep banking for our microfinance customers.

•We want to deepen the relationship with our customers and move from being lenders to wealth creators for them, hence we are developing customised products and working towards bringing in more social security schemes.

How do you compete with other institutions that have a lot more resources to garner business?

•Resources are not a constraint for a good business model based on sound processes.

•Even for us, it is not a constraint, which is why we have been successful in delivering banking services and building a healthy book. For that matter, even on the digitisation front we are proceeding one step at a time, not because of any resource constraints but because of our calibrated approach to growth.

πŸ“° Catching the signs early

Universal screening for gestational diabetes to get greater focus

•The revised guidelines for treating gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in India by the Union Ministry of Health are likely to have far-reaching implications for maternal and child health in the country. Launched in February, they make screening for GDM in pregnant women universal. All women who visit an ante natal clinic during their term will now have to be tested.

•The first test, which involves orally administering 75g of glucose solution, should be done during first contact as early as possible in the pregnancy. If negative, the second test should be done during 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. “It is important to ensure the second test as many pregnant women develop blood sugar intolerance during this period (24-28 weeks),” the document notes. “Moreover, only one third of GDM positive women are detected during first trimester.”

The condition

•GDM is defined as Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) with onset or first recognition during pregnancy. Worldwide, one in 10 pregnancies is associated with diabetes, 90% of which are GDM. It increases the risk to pregnant women and newborns and leads to poor pregnancy outcomes, says Union Health Secretary, Preeti Sudan, in the foreword to the new guidelines. She adds that while access to antenatal care has increased, universal screening for GDM has not yet been operationalised across the country, bringing focus and urgency to an issue that needs to be tackled ‘at the womb’.

•“It is now accepted across the world that pregnant women need to be tested irrespective of their age, weight, number of pregnancies, or other issues,” says Dr. V. Balaji, director, Dr. Seshiah Diabetes Research Institute/Dr. Balaji Diabetes Care Centre, Chennai.

A cycle

•Dr. V. Seshiah, founder patron, Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group in India (DIPSI), an organisation that reports practice guidelines for GDM in India, says: “If you do not control diabetes during pregnancy, a number of things will go wrong, with both the mother and the foetus. Also, about 10% of the people will have trans-generational diabetes. If the baby is female, she will develop GDM later, and if the infant is male, he will go on to develop a pre-diabetic condition called IGT. It is a vicious cycle and it will have to be broken.”

•In 2010, he spearheaded what is possibly the only field study in the country, on GDM. Done in Chennai and its suburbs, it found that the prevalence of GDM was 17.8% in the urban setting, 13.8% in the semi-urban areas and 9.9% in rural areas. “We are now attempting to conduct a nation-wide study and form a GDM registry so we understand the issue better,” Dr. Balaji adds.

On treatment

•Dr. Seshiah says the other key aspect of the revised guidelines is treatment of GDM. If diagnosed, a woman will be given a meal plan to follow for at least two weeks. “If her blood sugar rests at 120 after fasting, then it has worked for her. This is the case for about 80% of all pregnant women who have GDM. For those it does not work on, the idea is to give an inexpensive drug (metformin) to control blood sugar. If even this does not work, then the recommendation is to start the woman on insulin. In a public health setting, this is a practical, workable alternative to immediately starting all GDM pregnant women on insulin.”

πŸ“° WHO steps up fight against tobacco

Releases new guidelines onits regulation

•The World Health Organization has launched new guidelines on the role that tobacco product regulations can play in reducing tobacco demand, saving lives and raising revenues for health services to treat tobacco-related diseases.

•The new guide, titled ‘Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity’, and a collection of country approaches to regulation of menthol in tobacco products, presented in the publication, titled ‘Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products — Menthol in tobacco products’, were launched at the 2018 World Conference on Tobacco or Health recently.

•Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director of the Department for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), said: “These new tools provide useful resource to countries to either introduce or improve existing tobacco product regulation provisions and end the tobacco industry’s ‘reign’.”

•Most countries hesitate to implement policies, due in part to the highly technical nature of such policy interventions and the difficulties in translating science into regulation, explained Dr. Vinayak Prasad, who leads WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. “Failure to regulate represents a missed opportunity as tobacco product regulation, in the context of comprehensive control, is a valuable tool that complements other tried and tested tobacco control interventions, such as raising taxes, and ensuring smoke-free environments,” he added.

•The new guidelines provide practical, stepwise approaches to implementing tobacco testing. Such guidance is relevant to a wide range of countries in various settings, including those with inadequate resources to establish a testing facility.

•The laboratory guide has comprehensible information on how to test tobacco products, what products to test, and how to use testing data in a meaningful way to support regulation.

πŸ“° Death by denial

TB patient-activists in India are calling the limited access to newer and more powerful drugs a ‘human rights violation’

•If one death counts as a tragedy, and a thousand as a statistic, then this is a story about statistics.

•The World Health Organisation says that 423,000 Indians die each year of tuberculosis (TB), which is about 1,159 people a day. As standard TB-drug treatments are ineffective for nearly 1,30,000 of the 2.8 million TB patients in India, two relatively-new and powerful drugs, bedaquiline and delamanid, could benefit such patients with drug-resistant (DR) TB. With a success rate of approximately 70%, these drugs are now being called ‘magic bullets’. The Indian government says that nearly 13,000-20,000 patients qualify for treatment with these drugs.

‘Denying care’

•But as of today there are 1,000 patients on bedaquiline and another 81 on delamanid in India’s national programme, which has received these drugs as a donation from the innovator pharmaceutical companies.

•TB patient-activists describe such limited access as a “human rights violation”. Take for example Nandita Venkateshan, 28, who was diagnosed with abdominal TB when she was 17 and when newer therapies were not available to her. Standard treatment damaged her hearing. “I am deaf. I did not have access to these medicines and my life crumbled to pieces. People don’t know that TB treatment is as toxic as cancer treatment. How is it morally or economically justifiable to deny care to patients? We don’t refuse or ration treatment to cancer patients even though there isn’t a perfect cure. HIV treatment was experimental when patients started getting it because of the gravity of the epidemic,” says Ms. Venkateshan, who now campaigns for access to drugs.

•Indian TB patients plan to submit a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a week-long ‘End TB Summit’ that begins in New Delhi on Monday. Mr. Modi will be delivering the keynote address at the convention, which aims to galvanise global action to eliminate TB.

•Bedaquiline is the first new anti-TB drug to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 20 years (Rifampicin was approved in 1974). It is also the first to be introduced specifically for the treatment of drug-resistant TB.

•While the drugs have proved their efficacy on smaller cohorts, they are yet to pass large-scale safety and efficacy tests, or phase III of clinical trials, which are necessary for India’s drug regulator approval. Between 70% and 90% of drugs that enter this stage successfully complete phase III. Going by the evidence from cohorts of patients currently on bedaquiline and delamanid, these two drugs are vastly better than standard treatment options.

Case for wider use

•A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases last month found that 74% of the cohort ‘converted to negative’ within six months, meaning they were successfully treated which led to the researchers advocating a scale-up of both medicines. “Because of theoretical safety concerns, patients have been unable to access the two drugs in combination,” it notes. The study by humanitarian aid agency MΓ©decins Sans FrontiΓ¨res (MSF) concludes that access to bedaquiline and delamanid in combination should be expanded for people with few treatment options while awaiting the results of formal clinical trials.

•This opinion is also backed by independent medical experts. Dr. Jennifer J. Furin, Lecturer, Harvard Medical School, says: “Less than 10% of India’s TB patients, who qualify for these drugs are on them. Contrast this with Swaziland, where 90% of patients who needed new drugs received them. Rather than offer them the best possible therapy, TB patients in India are offered old drugs which have terrible side-effects. The newer agents are being ‘protected’ in case other people need them in the future. The older regimen has a 50% success rate and side-effects include permanent hearing loss in a significant proportion of patients (more than 25% in some settings).”

•Meanwhile, as the airborne disease fells populations, the TB community has come together to make sure that the deaths of a million people do not remain a statistic. “It is a human rights violation to use just enough TB patients as laboratory rats while withholding treatment from the rest of the patients who either die or go deaf,” says Ms. Venkateshan.

πŸ“° A tough nut to crack

•Areca nut ( supari in Hindi), the dried seed of the palm tree, Areca catechu , is the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world after caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. An estimated 600 million people chew it, with southern Asia, especially India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan, being high prevalence areas.

•Areca nut consumption is not only culturally ingrained in India but has also acquired large commercial potential; it is used as a key ingredient in several kinds of smokeless tobacco (SLT) preparations. In addition, non-tobacco brand extensions are also aggressively marketed and advertised leading to higher areca nut use in India. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey India Report 2016-17, says 8% of the population ingests areca nut.

Health risks

•Areca nut chewing produces a sense of euphoria, heightened alertness, sweating, salivation, a warm sensation in the body, and a feeling of having an increased capacity to work. Arecoline, the major alkaloid of betel nut, has been thought to be responsible for most of these claimed effects. Many labourers chew large amounts of areca nut while at work to enhance their productivity. It is suggested that chewing it leads to habituation, withdrawal, and addiction, although the underlying mechanisms remain under-researched and thus poorly understood.

•Chewing areca nut is a risk factor for general and central obesity; it impairs blood sugar levels and delimits blood pressure control. Regular use stains the mucosa, gums, and teeth. It also acts as an abrasive and tends to wear off the tooth’s surface, causing fracture of a tooth in chronic chewers, besides, recession of gums and abrasion of exposed root surfaces. Some studies have shown that it causes anti-ovulatory and abortion-causing effects and affects newborns by causing a lower birth weight and reduced birth length. Available evidence suggests that areca nut is the cause of oral submucous fibrosis, a potentially cancerous condition in humans. Transformation of this disease to oral cancer has been estimated to be between 2% and 8%. It can also cause cancers of the liver, oesophagus, stomach, lung and cervix.

Need for regulation

•In India, there are hardly any regulations on the use of areca nut. When used as an ingredient in smokeless tobacco, it was subject to regulations under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. However, the government took a positive step by introducing the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011, which prohibits tobacco and nicotine use as an ingredient in any food item. Considering that areca nut is classified as food, its use in chewing-tobacco products is now banned.

•With its adverse health effects, and given the huge number of users, there is an urgent need to step up regulation of areca nut products and their use. Their advertisement, promotion and sponsorship should also be regulated to prevent access by minors and those most vulnerable.

•There is consensus among experts on the following: ban on ‘pan masala’ and ‘supari’ advertisements under Food Safety and Standards Authority of India regulations; standardisation of all tobacco packs with minimum quantity for sale (in weight or unit as may be applicable); and an end to the sale of loose tobacco products. In addition, there should be research into the prevalence of spitting in public places and its impact on SLT and areca nut use and initiation, and a ban on spitting in public to meet the objectives of the national Swacch Bharat Mission. This calls for a national areca nut control programme.

πŸ“° Electricity from soil bacteria and reading lights from plants

Biology appears to suggest ways of generating electricity from plans and microbes that live beneath them in the soil

•We generate electric power through hydroelectric plants (in Bhakra, Nagarjunasagar or Hirakud dams), from coal and fossil fuels (Ramagundam, Bhilai and Neyveli), or nuclear plants (ones at Tarapur, Kudankulam or Kakrapar). Each method has its downside – be it water shortage or inter-state disputes, fouling the environment with pollution dust and greenhouse gases, or safety issues with radioactive damage. Can we at all have a pollution-free and nature-friendly power plant?

•Biology appears to suggest a way. A group of researchers at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, led by Dr. Marjolein Helder, has hit upon a method that generates electricity from living plants and the microbes that live beneath them in the soil, where the plants drop their roots. The plant of course does photosynthesis, using sunlight, water and atmospheric carbon dioxide, generating food in the form of carbohydrates and oxygen for our breathing. The microbes in the soil use some of this organic material coming out of the plants into the ground, metabolise them and, in the process, generate carbon dioxide and hydrogen ions and electrons.

•While the plant above the ground does photochemistry, the bacteria beneath do electrochemistry, generating positive and negative ions. What Dr. Helder and colleagues have done is to place positive and negative electrodes in appropriate positions and obtain an electric current, just as we do with batteries. This method of producing electricity is through what is termed as plant microbial fuel cells (PMFC).

•Look at the simplicity of it. The method is completely natural and environment-friendly, needs no externally added material and is part of a cyclic process in nature. But how much electricity is produced with such PMFC? It depends on the size. A small 50 cm x 50 cm plot of a garden is estimated to produce 5 volts of electricity, while a 100 square metre garden gives enough electric power to charge a cell phone or to light up several LED light bulbs. Indeed the Wageningen group has lit up their Atlas building with LED bulbs, using PMFCs, and a mobile phone charging station in a place at the nearby town Tilburg.

•Theory suggests that one should be able to generate 3.2 watts of electric power per square meter (3.2W/m2), using PMFCs. The best level obtained so far in practice is but a sixteenth of it, namely, 220 mW/m2. Thus, improvement in efficiency needs to be done, both by adding such microbes in the soil which perform better, and by enhancing the area by miles and miles of grass lawns, farm lands and focus on paddy fields and similar acreages. These will also bring the cost–benefit ratio to acceptable proportions. It is with this in mind that Dr. Marjolein Helder came over to visit N. Chandrababu Naidu to consider taking up electricity generation across the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Plants that glow

•Another dramatic advance, this one directly from the plants themselves rather than the microbes underneath, has come from Dr. Michael Strano of MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA. This is an audacious idea, namely, “how to make plants glow with light”! We know that a plant captures light, and using this, converts water molecules and atmospheric carbon dioxide into sugar. What Strano’s group aims to do is to make plants not just absorb but also emit light and, indeed, glow such that we may use such plants as a table lamp to help read a book in a dark room! In other words, make a plant glow as a firefly does.

•A firefly glows because it has an enzyme that converts a molecule called luciferin into oxyluciferin, and the energy released in this reaction comes out in the form of visible light. The enzyme is called luciferase. (Incidentally, luciferin is named after the Latin word lucifer, meaning light-bringer or the morning star). Now, plants do not have luciferin or luciferase. If we can somehow inject into a plant luciferin and luciferase, perhaps the plant too will emit light — this was the idea that Strano had. Towards this, he used the technology of nanoparticles.

•Taking watercress and spinach as experimental plants, his group first packaged luciferase in nanoparticles made of silica. Then, they packed luciferin in another set of nanoparticles made of the polymer PLGA. Each of these nanoparticles carried a tag that would allow it to go to one specific part of the plant cells. Then they also devised a third nanoparticle system, packed with molecules called co-enzyme A, which was to remove a product of the luciferin reaction, which inhibits or stops the reaction from proceeding.

•They now immersed the plant in water, added the three sets of nanoparticles, and applied high pressure so that these will enter and position themselves in appropriate places inside the plants. Now, the reaction proceeded and the plant emitted feeble glow, a Eureka moment, which lasted for about 3 hours!

•Clearly, more tinkering needs to be done in order to brighten the glow, increasing the time it lasts and other issues. Also how to turn off the light when you do not need it anymore (this has already been established by adding a switch-up the off molecule at will). Given the progress, these appear doable soon enough. Strano says: “our work seriously opens up the doorway to street lamps that are nothing but treated trees and to indirect lighting around homes”.

πŸ“° Saliva prevents traveller’s diarrhoea: study

•Scientists in the U.S. have identified a protein in saliva (histatin-5) that protects the body from traveller’s diarrhoea. The finding, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, may lead to the development of new preventive therapies for the disease.

•Traveller’s diarrhoea can be deadly. It produces a watery diarrhoea, which can cause life-threatening dehydration in infants or other vulnerable populations in endemic countries. Hundreds of thousands of deaths can be attributed to this bacterial disease which is caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), invading the small intestine using arm-like structures called “pili”, according to the study.

•This new finding opens up the possibility that other salivary proteins might exist which protect against many other diseases, including infectious gastritis, food poisoning or even pneumonia.

πŸ“° IIT Hyderabad’s novel composite keeps tomatoes fresh for 30 days

Composite has antimicrobial activity, allows optimum exchange of gases, moisture

•Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad have been successful in keeping tomatoes fresh and without any microbial spoilage for as long as 30 days. This was possible thanks to the food packaging material developed by a two-member team led by Dr. Mudrika Khandelwal from the institute’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering. The food packaging material is made of bacterial cellulose impregnated with silver nanoparticles.

•Bacterial cellulose was first prepared by using Gluconacetobacter xylinus bacteria to produce semicrystalline cellulose nanofibre from a standard glucose media. “We can use any fruit juice that is rich in sugar or even beer and wine, which are fermented, to produce bacterial cellulose,” says Dr. Khandelwal.


•Bacterial cellulose is highly crystalline, has high porosity and water holding capacity and possesses great mechanical properties. Also, bacterial cellulose is nanofibrous unlike plant cellulose, which is microfibrous. The results were published in the Journal of Materials Science.

•The bacterial cellulose was first treated with sodium hydroxide to remove all bacteria and then impregnated with silver nanoparticles. This was done by dipping the bacterial cellulose in silver nitrate solution and subsequently in sodium borohydride solution. Reduction of silver nitrate to form silver nanoparticles happens inside the pores of the bacterial cellulose.

•The nanosized pores present in the bacterial cellulose matrix restricts the growth of nanoparticles, thereby controlling their size. It prevents the nanoparticles from forming aggregates. “We found that the smaller the size [5-6 nanometres] of the silver nanoparticles the better was the antimicrobial activity. There was also sustained release of nanoparticles,” she says. This was not the case with silver nanoparticle colloid where the nanoparticles tend to form aggregates.

•The antimicrobial activity of bacterial cellulose was first tested on bacteria and fungi isolated from rotten tomatoes and later on mixed culture. Compared with controls, the composite (bacterial cellulose impregnated with silver nanoparticles) showed 99% killing efficiency. The antibacterial activity was successfully tested up to 72 hours. The antibacterial activity of colloid was only 90%. “The bacterial cellulose with silver nanoparticles not only had activity against bacteria but also against fungus,” says Dr. Khandelwal.

•The researchers then tested the antimicrobial efficacy of the composite by using it to wrap freshly harvested tomatoes. Tomatoes wrapped in polyethylene (polythene) and polypropylene served as controls.

Fresh tomatoes

•At room conditions, tomatoes wrapped in the composite remained fresh without any wrinkles or microbial spoilage even at the end of 30 days.

•“This is because besides antimicrobial activity, the composite also allows appropriate exchange of gases and moisture. The water holding capacity of the composite helps maintain optimum moisture transmission,” says Shivakalyani Adepu from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering at IIT Hyderabad and first author of the paper. “The composite also acts as ethylene blocker thus preventing excess ripening of fruits. It ensures that fruits age slowly.”

•On the contrary, tomatoes wrapped with polyethylene started wrinkling within the first week, and microbial spoilage was seen within 15 days; tomatoes had completely deteriorated within 30 days. But in the case of polypropylene, tomatoes remained fresh for a week; they started wrinkling within 15 days and became soft and wrinkled all around within a month.

•“We want to test our composite on exotic fruits,” says Dr. Khandelwal. “We would also like to extend the same principle to healthcare products. The composite can be used as antimicrobial lining in sanitary napkins, and disposable clothing and covering in hospitals.”

πŸ“° Coral sediments in oceans could dissolve by next century

Ocean acidification causes coral reef systems to erode

•As oceans get more acidic, sediments that constitute coral reefs could begin dissolving by the end of this century, suggests a study published in the journalScience.

•Coral reefs are formed by not just the calcium carbonate skeletons that tiny animals called coral ‘polyps’ create, but also carbonate sediments which accumulate on them over thousands of years. Ocean acidification – lowering of sea water’s pH when it absorbs the excess, human-caused carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – prevents polyps from building their stony skeletons.

•In several reef systems, acidification also dissolves corals’ carbonate sediments. Scientists from several institutes including the Southern Cross University in Australia studied this less-explored aspect of sediment dissolution at 57 locations across five reefs in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They found that the link between sediment dissolution and acidification is stronger than that between acidification and coral formation.


•Based on this, the team also predicted changes in coral systems by incorporating several factors including current rates of coral formation and sediment dissolution. According to their calculations, coral sediments will begin dissolving by 2050; by 2080, they will dissolve faster than they are formed.

•“It would be extremely worrying if this does start to happen,” says scientist Rohan Arthur of Nature Conservation Foundation, who studies the coral reef systems of India's Lakshadweep Islands. “This could add to the problem of coral decline that we are already seeing because many of the reefs in the Indian Ocean are already net eroding.”

•This means ocean acidification is causing coral reef systems to erode rather than grow. Currently, the processes of coral formation are also under threat. In 1998, Lakshadweep’s reefs experienced bleaching: increased ocean temperatures caused algae that live as symbionts within corals to leave, stressing the corals. Two more bleaching events followed in 2010 and 2016. With repeated bleaching, frequent storms due to climate change and now, ocean acidification that causes sediment dissolution apart from slowing down coral-building, Lakshadweep’s reefs could be facing a triple whammy, says Arthur.

•“Local factors like over-fishing in reefs too play a role,” he adds.

Indian reefs

•Coral reefs span 3,062 sq. km in India. Many coral species are afforded protection at par with tigers: they are included in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972). While coral systems support a diversity of fish species that local communities depend on for sustenance, many like those in Lakshadweep also provide protection from storms and prevent coastal erosion.

πŸ“° Now, low viscosity fuel oil from plastic waste

Prolonged pyrolysis at 300-400 degree C in inert conditions yields high calorific value oil

•Certain plastic wastes can soon help fuel your cars. Researchers from IIT Guwahati have successfully converted packaging plastic waste to plastic-derived oil (PDO), which has characteristics similar to diesel.

•Low- and high-density polyethylene (LDPE, HDPE) and polypropylene are commonly used as packaging materials and end up in the waste stream. According to a 2016 Central Pollution Control Board report, almost 15,000 tonnes of plastics waste is generated per day in India.

•The researchers collected the waste (biscuit wrappers, shopping bags, food containers, shampoo bottles) from houses, cleaned and segregated them according to the resin identification code. These codes on plastics indicate the type of plastic resin it is made of.

•Using a semi-batch reactor, the different wastes were heated for six to seven hours at 300-400 degree Celsius. “Heating at very high temperatures in inert conditions caused the plastic to convert into wax, so we chose this particular temperature range in which the plastic turned to plastic-derived oil and stayed in its oil state,” explains Pallab Das, PhD scholar at the institute and first author of the paper published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

•But burning plastic waste generates pollution, particularly dioxins which are toxic to humans. “There is no oxygen in the three plastic wastes that is heated that we are also not supplying any oxygen. Pyrolysis is done under inert conditions. Only hydrocarbon gases such as methane, ethane and propane were produced and there was negligible amount of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide produced,” says Das.

Further research

•“More experiments need to be carried out to get a trade-off between the quality of the oil and the environmental pollution caused by the pyrolysis process. We are working on this and hope to create an ideal operating condition which can provide high-quality oil with less pollution,” says Dr. Pankaj Tiwari, Assistant Professor, IIT Guwahati, and corresponding author of the paper. “Compared with combustion, pyrolysis causes less pollution.”

•The researchers then studied the properties of the new plastic derived oil. One of the oil samples from polypropylene showed a high research octane number of approximately 92. Octane number indicates the quality of the gasoline range fuel. Premium petrol has research octane number of 98 to 100.

•The oil also showed low viscosity and had high calorific value. Calorific value denotes the amount of heat generated when unit amount of sample was burnt with oxygen supply. The new oil had calorific value greater than 45 MJ per kilogram. Calorific value of petrol and diesel is 46-48 and 44-46 MJ per kilogram, respectively.

•“We are yet to carry out engine tests. Once tested, these oils can soon find application in transport and industrial sectors,” says Dr. Tiwari.