Daily Current Affairs 06.06.2021 (G7 nations agree on uniform minimum corporate tax, ‘COVID-diabetes link needs study’, Pakistan makes progress on terror finance ratings, ‘China’s internal security is Xi’s biggest concern’, Emergence of order from chaos in turbulent systems and Bose-Einstein condensation, First human infection of the H10N3 bird flu)

Daily Current Affairs 06.06.2021 (G7 nations agree on uniform minimum corporate tax, ‘COVID-diabetes link needs study’, Pakistan makes progress on terror finance ratings, ‘China’s internal security is Xi’s biggest concern’, Emergence of order from chaos in turbulent systems and Bose-Einstein condensation, First human infection of the H10N3 bird flu)


1. G7 nations agree on uniform minimum corporate tax

MNCs to pay taxes where they operate

A group of the world’s richest nations reached a landmark deal on Saturday to close cross-border tax loopholes used by some of the world’s biggest companies.

The Group of Seven said it would back a minimum global corporation tax rate of at least 15%, and put in place measures to ensure that taxes were paid in the countries where businesses operate.

“After years of discussion, G7 Finance Ministers have reached a historic agreement to reform the global tax system to make it fit for the global digital age,” British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters.

The accord, which could form the basis of a global pact next month, is aimed at ending a decades-long “race to the bottom”, in which countries have competed to attract corporate giants with ultra-low tax rates and exemptions.

That has, in turn, cost their public coffers hundreds of billions of dollars — a shortfall they now need to recoup all the more urgently to pay for the huge cost of propping up economies ravaged by COVID-19.

Ministers met face-to-face in London for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a copy of the final agreement, the G7 ministers said they would “commit to a global minimum tax of at least 15% on a country by country basis”.

“We commit to reaching an equitable solution on the allocation of taxing rights, with market countries awarded taxing rights on at least 20% of profit exceeding a 10% margin for the largest and most profitable multinational enterprises,” the text added.

History of the G7

The concept of a forum for the world’s major industrialized countries emerged before the 1973 oil crisis.

In 1975, a summit hosted by France brought together representatives of six governments: France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Schmidt and Giscard d’Estaing were heads of government in their respective countries, and since they both spoke fluent English, it occurred to them that they, and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and U.S. President Gerald Ford could get together in an informal retreat and discuss election results and the issues of the day. In late spring, d’Estaing of France invited the heads of government from West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States to a summit in Château de Rambouillet; the annual meeting of the six leaders was organized under a rotating presidency, forming the Group of Six (G6).

Following 1994’s G7 summit in Naples, Russian officials held separate meetings with leaders of the G7 after the group’s summits. This informal arrangement was dubbed the Political 8 (P8) – or, colloquially, the G7+1. At the invitation of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair and President of the United States Bill Clinton, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was invited first as a guest observer, later as a full participant. After the 1997 meeting, Russia was formally invited to the next meeting and formally joined the group in 1998, resulting in a new governmental political forum, the Group of Eight or G8. Despite not being a major economic power according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, the Russian Federation was ejected from the G8 political forum in March 2014, following its annexation of Crimea.

Composition of the G7

The G7 is composed of the seven wealthiest advanced countries. The People’s Republic of China, according to its data, would be the second-largest with 16.4% of the world net wealth but is excluded because the IMF and other main global institutions do not consider China an advanced country and because of its relatively low net wealth per adult and HDI. Various reports suggest that the G7 (without the European Union) represents above 62% of the global net wealth. Including the EU the G7 represents over 70% of the global net wealth.

Group of 7 – G7 Summit Participation:

  • Summits are held annually and hosted on a rotation basis by the group’s members.
  • The leaders of important international organizations like the European Union, IMFWorld Bank and the United Nations are also invited.
  • Aspirants can know in detail about all these organizations on the given links –
  • World Bank
  • International Monetary Fund IMF
  • United Nations Organization – UNO
  • European Unions – EU
  • The groundwork for the summit, including matters to be discussed and follow-up meetings, is done by the “sherpas”, who are generally personal representatives or members of diplomatic staff such as ambassadors.

Challenges Faced by G7 Members

  1. There are a number of disagreements in the Group of 7 internally, e.g. clash of the USA with other members over taxes on imports and action on climate change.
  2. It is also facing a challenge from fast-growing emerging economies like India and Brazil are not members of the G7. However, In 1999, g20 was formed to bring more countries on board to address global economic concerns. You can know in detail about the G20 Summits in the link provided here.
  1. Also, go through the List of G20 Summits on the linked page.
  2. G7 The organization has also been criticized for not reflecting the current state of global politics or economics.

Facts about the members of G7

Here we give you some brief facts about a few members of G8 nations

  • All the 7 are top-ranked advanced economies with the current largest GDP and with the highest national wealth (United States, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada).
  • The G7 are among the 15 top-ranked countries with the highest net wealth per capita (United States, France, Japan, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Germany).
  • All the 7 are leaders when it comes to export
  • 5 members of the G-7 have the largest proven reserves of gold (United States, Germany, Italy, France, Japan).
  • All 5 of the members of the NATO Quint ( The Quint is the informal decision making body of NATO consisting of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy) and Canada is also a member of Five Eyes intelligence gathering body with the U.S. and U.K.
  • 6 of the 9 largest nuclear energy producers (United States, France, Japan, Germany, Canada, UK), although Germany announced in 2011 that it will close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors. However, Japan restarted several nuclear reactors, with the refuelling of other reactors underway.
  • There are no G7 members from Africa, Latin America, or the southern hemisphere.

The requirements to be a member of the G7 are a high net national wealth and a high HDI (Human Development Index). The G7 also accounts for 46% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculated at market exchange rates and also for 32% of the global PPP GDP.

2. Pakistan makes progress on terror finance ratings

Development comes ahead of FATF blacklist decision in June

Pakistan improved its ratings with the Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a 41-country grouping that is a regional associate of the Financial Action Task Force, ahead of a decision on its grey listing status later this month. Of the 40 parameters, Pakistan has made progress in about 21 and been downgraded on 1, the APG’s Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) published on June 4 said, adding that this meant Pakistan moves ‘up’ one category in its evaluation at the APG.

“Overall, Pakistan has made notable progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its MER and has been re-rated on 22 recommendations,” explained the APG’s second follow up report on the MER, adding that it had cleared 31 of 40 points in total as compliant or largely compliant of the international body’s standards on anti-money laundering/combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures.

“Pakistan will move from enhanced [expedited] to enhanced follow-up, and will continue to report back to the APG on progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT laws. Pakistan submitted its third progress report in February 2021,” said the APG’s report that was presented in May, which noted that Pakistan had passed a number of new laws in the past few months that made its systems more compliant on these issues.

The APG’s meeting, which included India, also retained Bhutan on the “enhanced follow-up” list, with 29 of 40 recommendations being rated as compliant or largely compliant.

Government sources here said it is not necessary that Pakistan’s improvement in the APG would also lead to a reprieve at the FATF, which will decide at its next plenary session from June 21-25 on whether to retain Pakistan on the greylist, downgrade it to the blacklist or remove it from the colour-coded list of countries facing punitive measures that has impacted its global credit rating and access to international loans.

In particular, Pakistan’s inability to end funding to the UN Security Council- designated terror groups and entities, including the Haqqani group, the Al-Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and prosecute their leadership successfully had held up its ratings. The Paris-based FATF, has thus far cleared Pakistan on 24 of 27 points on the action plan it has been tasked with since 2018, leading its Industries [now Energy] Minister Hammad Azhar to declare in February 2021, that being downgraded to the FATF blacklist is “not an option” any longer.

The last three outstanding action points on which Pakistan claims it will also be cleared are: demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental organization established to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. It was formed in 1989 by the G7 Summit which was held in Paris. The FATF is really a policy-making body that works with governments to bring about national legislation and regulatory reforms in these areas.

Latest context on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – 

India has attended the 32nd special Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG) plenary meeting, under the aegis of the Financial Action Task Force (virtually).

FATF’S view on Crime during Covid-19 situation-

  • The FATF is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on measures to combat illicit financing, released a paper on “Covid-19-related Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risks and Policy Responses”.
  • It observed an increase in the Covid-19 related crimes, including fraud, cyber-crime, misdirection, or exploitation of government funds or international financial assistance.

FATF Recommendations

The FATF has developed a series of recommendations that have become global standards for fighting money laundering and terror financing, as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The first set of recommendations was issued in 1990 followed by revisions in 1996, 2001, 2003, and lastly in 2012.

FATF Activities

The organization monitors its member countries on the progress they have made in implementing reform measures and reviews their counter-measures to money laundering and terror financing.

The decision-making body of FATF is called the FATF Plenary. It meets three times annually.

The organization has included even combating terror financing among its objectives after the September 11 terror attacks on the USA in 2001.

FATF Grey List

Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put on the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.

FATF Blacklist

Officially called the “Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs), the FATF Blacklist is a list of countries that the FATF considers to be non-cooperative in the international fight against terrorist financing and money laundering. This list is regularly updated, with countries being either deleted off the list or new countries being added to the list. It is to be noted that some names are on the list not because of their non-cooperative stance towards fighting this menace, but because they lack the necessary infrastructure and mechanisms to engage in this fight.

FATF Countries (FATF Members)

As of January 2021, there are 39 member countries in the FATF. India is a member of the organization since June 2010. It had earlier acquired ‘Observer’ status at FATF in 2006.

FATF Observer – Indonesia. There are many other Observer organizations and Associate Members.

FATF and India

  • India plans to share more evidence with the key FATF members on the narco-terror cases linked to Pakistan-based syndicates, through which funds are allegedly being supplied to the terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency have been probing several such cases.

FATF President

The current President of the FATF is Dr Marcus Pleyer of Germany who assumed the position of President on 1st July 2020. Its Executive Secretary is David Lewis of the United Kingdom.

3. ‘COVID-diabetes link needs study’

Course of treatment brings its own challenges, says endocrinologist

Nikhil Tandon, Professor and Head, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, AIIMS, Delhi, says there is the possibility of new-onset diabetes in COVID-19 patients but more data is required to understand the phenomenon. He also elaborates on the treatment for diabetic COVID-patients. Excerpts:

Why do viral infections lead to elevated blood sugar levels?

Any infection or febrile illness can elevate blood sugar levels. It is basically a consequence of the mechanism that the body employs to fight the infection. In some cases, the medicines given to treat that infection may cause this rise in blood sugar levels. When there is an increase in inflammatory markers, an extreme example of which is the “cytokine storm” in the case of COVID-19, it affects both the insulin release by the pancreas as well as the sensitivity of the tissue to insulin. Insulin facilitates the movement of glucose into tissues and any malfunctioning (either in production or tissue sensitivity) will lead to elevation of glucose levels in the blood.

Is it difficult to treat diabetic COVID-19 patients?

In most cases, a person with well-controlled diabetes responds to the COVID-19 treatment the same way a non-diabetic does. However, in people with long-standing and poorly controlled diabetes, or those with diabetic complications such as kidney or heart disease, the management of COVID-19 can become more complex.

Conversely, the management of COVID-19 in such patients can make the treatment of diabetes more difficult. For example, steroids, which are an important part of COVID-19 treatment, can cause a significant worsening in blood sugar control. Hence, patients with diabetes invariably require treatment with intensive insulin regimens.

Can COVID-19 cause diabetes?

Diabetes is an asymptomatic disease in most people, so there could be a good number of people who may not be aware of their diabetes before they caught COVID-19. There are studies that state that in poorly resourced countries, as many as 50% people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, are undiagnosed.

Then there are people who may have had the tendency to develop diabetes, and COVID-19 has caused what we called stress hyperglycemia. In some patients, it could be a combination of stress hyperglycemia and medications such as steroids. And finally, there is an ongoing discussion about the possibility of COVID-19 disease itself causing new-onset diabetes in a patient.

Theoretically, COVID-19 can also cause diabetes as the pancreas have ACE2 receptors, which can enable SARS-CoV-2 to gain entry into the pancreatic beta cells, resulting in structural and functional damage. However, we need more data to support this.

So, when can we say that COVID-19 has caused diabetes?

At the time of COVID-19, if we do a test called HbA1c, which gives us average glucose of the previous three months, and if these levels are elevated, it means that the person had diabetes even before he contracted COVID-19. If the HbA1c was normal, we should reassess the blood glucose levels after the COVID disease has settled and the steroid therapy (if used) has been discontinued — the glucose levels will normalise if either the disease itself or steroid therapy contributed to the rise in blood sugar.

If the blood sugar remains high weeks after recovery from the acute disease or the cessation of steroids or both, it will raise the possibility of COVID having caused the diabetes.

4. ‘China’s internal security is Xi’s biggest concern’

‘Studies show there’s severe factionalism within the CCP’

China’s internal situation remains its biggest concern 32 years after the Tiananmen Square protests, says former Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, the author of the book ‘The Making of a Protest: A Diplomat Looks Back’. In an interview, he says President Xi’s challenges are similar to the past, but circumstances are different. Edited excerpts:

Your book not only focuses on the growing unrest among students in 1989, but also on the divisions within the Chinese Communist Party that led to protests. Do those divisions still exist?

One of the myths is the sense among many in India that China and the CCP is a monolith, with one leader, one chain of command, and 1.4 billion people following that leader. Any study of the CCP would show the severe factionalism within the party at different points in history. Mao Tse Tung, Deng Xiaoping and currently Xi Jinping are dominant figures, but even their times have seen factionalism and rivalry within the party. It is just that the Chinese system is closed.

Do you see any similarities between today and the period during the Tiananmen protests?

The one similarity is that both Deng and Mr. Xi share the same vision, that China must be led by the Communist Party, and that the authority and dominance of the party in political terms must not be allowed to be diluted. As a result of China’s growth, the West, which looked upon China as a sort of cash cow in 1990, now sees China as a bit of a carnivore, waiting to devour them. Because the fact is that China is not only the world’s second largest economy now, and in some ways, a true challenger to the West’s domination of technology, equipment, manufacturing, and so on. In 1990, China was much weaker, and, therefore, Deng spoke of lying low. Today, China’s economy is the second largest in the world, it is the world’s largest foreign investor, it has the world’s second or third most powerful armed force. Therefore, Mr. Xi’s policy is one where China is beginning to assert itself.

Are the challenges Mr. Xi faces internally, in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, of a different order from what Deng faced in 1989 with the protests?

When it comes to the pacification of the minorities and of the borderlands, I think there is almost nothing to choose between Mao, Deng and Mr. Xi. However, I feel the response of the government to the protests in Hong Kong, the haste with which they are proceeding, the determination to completely crush any kind of dissent must be watched closely in India as it will also play out badly in Taiwan. The concern is whether the Chinese leadership has reached the view that a reunification of Taiwan with the Mainland by peaceful means may no longer be possible, and therefore they may have to contemplate some kind of military or forceful action. If that conclusion has already been reached in Beijing, then what they’re doing in Hong Kong makes perfect sense, because then they’re not looking to set up Hong Kong as an example for Taiwan, which is what Deng did with his one country, two systems experiment (for Hong Kong).

Thirty-two years ago too, we were in the middle of a long stand-off at the LAC. In terms of dealing with India, how has China changed?

China’s confidence today comes from what some might call a false confidence that China is fated to rise and rise, and the West is fated to fall and fall. However, this strong external confidence is still combined with an internal paranoia, especially about the sustainability of the CCP in China. Any country which doesn’t align with China is one which is potentially a threat to them, and increasingly it is in this category that India falls. In the short term, of course, what has been happening [at the LAC] is concerning for us. In the long term, one hopes China senses that it is not in its national interest to create an adversary of a country which is not only a neighbour, but also going to share a bigger stage with China in the future. But, I think that in the interim, we are in for a difficult ride.

5. Emergence of order from chaos in turbulent systems and Bose-Einstein condensation

This ordering leads to aeroelastic flutter and thermoacoustic instabilities as observed during the failure of the F1 engine of Apollo rocket during trials

An important phenomenon studied in aerospace engineering is the emergence of order from chaos in turbulent systems that leads to detrimental large amplitude fluctuations. Examples of this include aeroelastic flutter as observed in the wings of aircraft and thermoacoustic instabilities in rocket combustors, both of which can lead to the breaking down of the system. For this reason, it is important to be able to predict and understand such happenings and avoid them.

At R.I. Sujith’s lab in the Department of Aerospace Engineering of IIT Madras, this phenomenon has been studied for years. As he succinctly explains: Thermoacoustic instability, which comprises self-sustained large amplitude periodic oscillations, can overwhelm the thermal protection system in combustion chambers, cause damage to structural parts such as turbine blades, or even affect the guidance and control system of rockets and lead to mission failures.

Apollo rocket failure

An oft-quoted example of this is the failure during testing of the F-1 engine in the Apollo rocket. Initially, every time they tested the rocket, the engine would get into this instability and explode. They later introduced baffles that disrupted the interactions between the flames and that between the flames and the combustion chamber giving the engine the desired stability.

In a combination of theory and experiment, Prof. Sujith and his student Shruti Tandon have come up with an understanding of the emergence of order in chaotic systems by drawing an analogy with a phenomenon widely studied in quantum statistical physics – Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC). In BEC, Bosons, which are elementary particles having spins that take integer values, such as 0, 1 or 2, condense to the lowest energy level when temperature is taken to very low values. The group has shown an analogous condensation taking place in the case of order emerging from chaos in turbulent systems.

To understand this, take the concept of phase space – an dynamic imaginary space where a particle is represented by its position and momentum at every instant of time. The acoustic dynamics of the combustor is represented as a trajectory moving in this imaginary space.

Orbit condensation

During chaotic movement, there are several possible orbits, and so even as the trajectory moves towards one orbit, it is attracted to a different orbit, and therefore does not stick to any one orbit.

However, as the parameter is tuned and the system makes a transition towards order, the number of orbits is reduced and therefore, the trajectory gets caught in a few stable orbits. The researchers label this process a type of “condensation.”

“In the current work we have provided a novel perspective to study the transformation of the phase space structure with transition from chaos to order using analogy with Bose-Einstein Condensation,” says Ms Tandon, a dual degree student in the department.

“The next step would be to use statistics of Bosons, namely, tools from statistical mechanics that are used to study Boson particles and Bose-Einstein condensation, to quantify the transformations in the topology of the phase space,” she adds.

The paper that draws out the analogy is published in the journal Chaos. “Using measures from cycle networks and using analogy with BEC we were able to develop ‘early warning indicators’ that identify the onset of intermittency and hence forewarn the occurrence of thermoacoustic instability in the combustor,” says Prof Sujith, who is the D. Srinivasan Chair Professor in the department.

Strategies to mitigate

“In future, we would like to also analyse the spatio-temporal data from the perspective of BEC transition; thus, develop strategies to prevent the condensation transition and thus mitigate such instabilities,” he adds.

Aeroelastic Flutter

Aeroelastic flutter, defined as “an unstable, self-excited structural oscillation at a definite frequency where energy is extracted from the airstream by the motion of the structure”, is ubiquitous in a wide range of engineering fields. In applications that rely on the structural integrity of flexible bodies, flow-induced motion is a significant cause for concern due to its role in driving the dynamics of the structure. While being detrimental in a wide range of such applications, flutter is simultaneously seen as a possible method of harnessing energy from naturally occurring flow fields, such as tidal currents, due to its ability to extract energy from the surrounding flow. Hence the ability to suppress as well as enhance flow-induced motion is a problem of broad relevance.


Thermoacoustics is the interaction between temperature, density and pressure variations of acoustic waves. Thermoacoustic heat engines can readily be driven using solar energy or waste heat and they can be controlled using proportional control. They can use heat available at low temperatures which makes it ideal for heat recovery and low power applications. The components included in thermoacoustic engines are usually very simple compared to conventional engines. The device can easily be controlled and maintained.

Thermoacoustic effects can be observed when partly molten glass tubes are connected to glass vessels. Sometimes spontaneously a loud and monotone sound is produced. A similar effect is observed if a stainless steel tube is with one side at room temperature (293 K) and with the other side in contact with liquid helium at 4.2 K. In this case, spontaneous oscillations are observed which are named “Taconis oscillations”.[1] The mathematical foundation of thermoacoustics is by Nikolaus Rott. Later, the field was inspired by the work of John Wheatley[3] and Swift and his co-workers. Technologically thermoacoustic devices have the advantage that they have no moving parts which makes them attractive for applications where reliability is of key importance.

6. How to recover from a spinal cord injury

A violent fall, a vehicular accident, or a sports injury can sometimes damage the spinal cord and brain leading to paralysis and other life-threatening health problems. The nerve fibres that carry important information are unable to regrow, leading to irreversible damage. Using novel bioinformatics frameworks and screening platforms, researchers have now identified a new gene combination that can help enhance the growth of nerve fibres after an injury.

It is well known that mammals including humans show a high capacity for brain and spinal cord regeneration but only during young ages. The researchers set out to decode why and how young neurons respond so well to injury. They studied a class of genes called transcription factors. They identified a particular combination of genes KLF6/Nr5a2 that when expressed lead to enhanced growth of nerve fibres following injury. The results were published last month in Nature Communications.

Ishwariya Venkatesh, the first and co-corresponding author of the paper explains: “If you think about growth after an injury, it is very similar to developmental growth that happens during the early embryonic stages. Inside the neuron, when you want an axon or nerve fiber to grow, there are networks of genes that work together. Between embryonic day 18 to about a week after birth, these genes are still on because they’re helping the axons grow. So, if an injury occurs during this period, the genes quickly deploy these networks to repair. But a week after birth, these genes are no longer active because active developmental axon growth has ended and they are no longer needed.” She was a Research Assistant Professor at Marquette University when the paper was published.

Rebooting networks

“So, if we are able to turn back these gene networks in response to an injury, then we have a chance for high regenerative success. We’re trying to artificially reboot those gene programs and trying to coax an older neuron to switch back to a younger, growth-competent state. And we do that by manipulating transcription factors that simultaneously regulate the expression of hundreds of growth-relevant genes because we can’t go in and tweak the expression of individual genes,” she adds.

When asked if there is any evolutionary basis for these genes losing their program when we are adults she explains: “There could be a couple of reasons. One is we gave up or traded the ability to regenerate because even if these axons do regenerate, the chances of them reintegrating into a functional circuit in a complex system like the mammalian system is trickier. I also speculate that the longer the distance the axons have to grow, the more guidance errors can happen, and they can synapse onto the wrong targets leading to unintended behavioral outcomes.”

The team adds that these findings can open up avenues to discover additional groups of transcription factors with stronger reprogramming abilities to ultimately allow us to fully revert an older neuron into a younger growth-competent state following injury. These findings also hold promise as a novel molecular strategy for the treatment of human spinal cord injuries in the future.

“We are continuing with pre-clinical tests of Klf6/Nr5a2, for example confirming the genes are still effective when delivered in the chronic injury state, many months after the initial damage. This information is critical for individuals now living with spinal injury,” adds Murray G. Blackmore, Associate Professor at Marquette University and co-corresponding author in an email to The Hindu.

7. Study points to pileup of biomedical waste

Over two lakh kilograms of biomedical waste was generated each day last month by hospitals in India dealing with COVID-19 patients, a new report revealed. The report titled, “State of India’s Environment 2021,” released by the Centre for Science and Environment, said 2,03,000 kg of COVID-19 biomedical waste was produced daily in May this year and it was roughly 33% of India’s non-COVID biomedical waste.

It said the COVID-19 biomedical waste generated per day in May was 46% more than in April when 1.39 lakh kg of such waste was produced daily. In March, the daily figure was 75,000 kg, according to the report. April and May witnessed a deadly second wave of coronavirus cases that swept through the country stretching the healthcare infrastructure to its limits.

State of Environment Report 2021

  • Findings:
    • Pandemic Generation:
      • India is all set to usher in a ‘pandemic generation’, with 375 million children (from newborns to 14-year-olds) likely to suffer long-lasting impacts, ranging from being underweight, stunting (low height-for-age) and increased child mortality, to losses in education and work productivity.
    • Increased School Dropouts:
      • Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, over 500 million children were forced out of school globally and India accounted for more than half of them.
    • Rise in Extreme Poverty:
      • Covid-19 has made the world’s poor poorer. Over 115 million additional people might get pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic and most of them live in South Asia.
    • Pollution Levels Worsened:
      • India’s air, water and land have become more polluted between 2009 and 2018.
      • Of 88 major industrial clusters in the country, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, 35 showed overall environmental degradation, 33 pointed to worsening air quality, 45 had more polluted water and in 17, land pollution became worse.
      • Tarapur in Maharashtra emerged as the most polluted cluster.
  • Regarding Sustainable Development Rankings:
    • India ranked 117 among 192 nations in terms of sustainable development and was now behind all South Asian nations except Pakistan.
    • States’ Performance In Sustainable Development Goals:
      • Best Performing States: Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
      • Worst Performers: Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Other Similar Reports:
    • UN Report on the Impact of Covid-19 on Children.
    • Report on Winter Pollution: CSE.

8. First human infection of the H10N3 bird flu

What does the World Health Organization say about avian influenza and is there a reason to worry?

The story so far: China has confirmed the first instance of human infection from H10N3, a rare strain of a virus that normally infects poultry. On Tuesday, the National Health Commission of Beijing reported that a 41-year-old man in the eastern Jiangsu province had been infected with the rare strain but no details were given as to how

What do we know so far about H10N3?

Chinese authorities said the 41-year-old man was the first human case of an infection with the strain. They said the person was hospitalised on April 28 and was diagnosed with the strain after a month. The Beijing-based National Health Commission said the strain has low pathogenesis — the ability to cause disease — among birds, implying that the virus did not spread easily among poultry and was likely to be restricted to limited populations. “As long as avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, which is a vivid reminder that the threat of an influenza pandemic is persistent,” Reuters quoted the World Health Organization (WHO) as saying.

What is avian influenza?

H5N1 is the most common virus causing bird flu, or avian influenza. Though largely restricted to birds, and often fatal to them, it can cross over to other animals, as well as humans. According to the WHO, the H5N1 was first discovered in humans in 1997 and has killed almost 60% of those infected. Though it is not known to transmit easily among humans, the risk remains.

There are several subtypes of the avian influenza virus. Since 2003, these avian and other influenza viruses have spread from Asia to Europe and Africa. In 2013, human infections with the influenza A(H7N9) virus were reported in China. An outbreak of the H7N9 strain killed around 300 people in 2016 and 2017. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “All known subtypes of influenza A viruses can infect birds, except subtypes H17N10 and H18N11, which have only been found in bats. Only two influenza A virus subtypes (i.e., H1N1, and H3N2) are currently in general circulation among people. Some subtypes are found in other infected animal species. For example, H7N7 and H3N8 virus infections can cause illness in horses, and H3N8 virus infection cause illness in horses and dogs.” So far, the H10N3 appears mild and not very transmissible, and hence, its categorisation status remains unclear.

What are the typical symptoms of an avian influenza infection?

According to the WHO, avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza virus infections in humans may cause disease with symptoms like mild upper respiratory tract infection (fever and cough), early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia, sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and even death. Conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal symptoms, encephalitis and encephalopathy have also been reported in varying degrees depending on the subtype.

Why are bird flu viruses a cause of concern?

Speculation about the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 has heightened worries about animal- and bird-borne viruses. The emergence of new strains, particularly among domesticated animals and birds, is a story of evolution and inevitability, and sporadic reports of new viruses infecting humans abound. An outbreak of the H5N8 virus in birds led to hundreds of thousands of poultry being culled in various European countries. In February, Russia reported that seven poultry workers in a plant were infected by the H5N8 strain. All of them recovered. India, too, faced an outbreak of the virus in flocks of poultry in January and undertook culling.

9. U.S. delays tariffs against digital services tax

Why is the Biden administration considering retaliatory measures and how will the move impact India?

During the past week, the United States announced and then immediately suspended a 25% tariff on $2 billion of imports from six countries, including India, as a retaliatory measure against each of these countries’ imposition of a digital services tax impacting the giant tech corporations of Silicon Valley, including the likes of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. The purported logic of suspending the tariff for up to 180 days after announcing it is to allow time for ongoing international tax negotiations to continue, and, in the words of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, seek “a multilateral solution … while maintaining the option of imposing tariffs under Section 301 if warranted in the future”. Other than India, the countries slapped with this tariff proposal are Austria, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

What is the basis of the U.S.’s action?

The essence of the argument made by the USTR office is that a “Section 301” investigation initiated by the Trump administration in June 2020 found digital services taxes imposed by each of these countries to be discriminatory against U.S. tech firms. The Biden administration was likely aware that the deadline for authorising tariff action based on these investigations would have lapsed this week, thus necessitating the approval of the 25% tariff.

The immediate suspension of the tariff is likely in part a recognition of the fact that the six countries potentially impacted are limping through a feeble post-COVID-19 recovery and opening a new trade war front could be damaging not only to them, but also to the broader global economy. The combination of depressed economic activity owing to the effects of the pandemic and tectonic shifts in global supply chains engendered by the Trump administration’s trade war with China has already left many economies in a weakened condition.

Why is Section 301 significant?

Under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the USTR enjoys a range of responsibilities and authority to investigate and take action to enforce U.S. national interests under trade agreements and respond to certain foreign trade practices. Until recently, this facility was used by multiple administrations to build cases and pursue dispute settlements at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Under former President Donald Trump, however, this authority was used to promote what his administration considered to be “free, fair and reciprocal” trade, specifically to close the gap or balance of trade between the U.S. and foreign governments in cases where the latter had deployed trade practices that allegedly disadvantaged or discriminated against U.S. firms. To a great extent, the Trump administration trained its Section 301 guns on China, leading to an escalating tariff war that ultimately engulfed the final years of its tenure. Now, the Biden administration appears to be unwilling to walk back Trump-era 301 investigations in their entirety; rather, it appears to be seeking a middle path of waving the stick of the USTR while allowing some space for continued tax negotiations with the nations concerned.

How will it affect India?

The Finance Bill, 2021, introduced an amendment imposing a 2% digital service tax on trade and services by non-resident e-commerce operators with a turnover of over ₹2 crore. According to reports, early estimates by the USTR suggest this tax could yield approximately $55 million annually. Negotiations with Washington that may result in the scaling back of this tax would imply that a part of this revenue would be lost to the exchequer, depending on the final rate agreed.

On the other hand, close to $118 million of India’s exports to the U.S. would be subject to the tariff proposed by the USTR, impacting 26 categories of goods, including basmati rice, cigarette paper, cultured pearls, semi-precious stones, certain gold and silver jewellery items and specific types of furniture products.

India will have to consider its options carefully at this juncture. On the one hand, it would seek to avoid getting into any escalating matrix of retaliatory taxation with the U.S., as that would damage its growth prospects at a crucial point in its laborious recovery. However, it will also not be able to simply abandon its articulated intent to tax global tech firms, which have generally enjoyed low-tax operations across numerous jurisdictions.

10. COVID-19 vaccines and the indemnity clause

How will the legal protection being sought by makers affect the pricing and availability of doses in India?

The Union government is in talks with foreign manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines on their demand for indemnity from liability as a condition for selling their vaccines to the country. Pfizer, which supplies the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine, is said to have requested that the government indemnify it from any claim that may arise from vaccine users in the future based on any adverse effects after getting the jab. No decision has been made yet on the request. However, it has already given rise to a similar demand from domestic vaccine-maker Serum Institute of India (SII), which says all players should be treated the same way.

What is indemnity and why is it sought?

Indemnity is a form of contract. The law on drugs in India does not have a provision for indemnity related to the grant of approval for any new drug or vaccine in the country. If at all any indemnity is to be granted to any company for a particular drug or vaccine, it can only be in the form of an indemnity bond executed on behalf of the government of India, or a clause or set of clauses in any contract that the government may sign with the supplier. There appears to be no precedent for any company getting such indemnity in India for any drug.

Section 124 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, defines a contract of indemnity as one by which one party promises to save the other from any loss caused to the latter. Once the government of India grants such indemnity to the vaccine manufacturer or importer, it would mean that if a particular vaccine is perceived to have caused death or any lasting damage to a recipient, any claim of compensation arising from it will have to be met by the government, and not by the company. In the event of a court ordering payment, the company will be in a position to recover the amount from the government.

Is the demand for or grant of indemnity a standard practice?

Indemnity is essentially a contractual matter between the supplier and recipient, and therefore, a good deal of confidentiality is attached to such agreements. Pfizer is believed to have obtained such indemnity from several countries, including the United Kingdom, from which it has received supply orders. However, it has declined to discuss the issue in public.

Normally, it is the company applying for approval of a new drug or vaccine that submits itself to various conditions, processes and regulations. Approvals in most countries come with stringent conditions regarding conformity to national guidelines, quality standards, safety assessments and requirements regarding various phases of clinical trials. For imported drugs, a local clinical trial may not be required if it has been approved and marketed in countries specified by the Central Licensing Authority and if no major adverse events have been reported.

However, given the peculiar global situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the severe shortage of vaccines faced by countries such as India, which urgently needs to inoculate hundreds of millions of people, some vaccine suppliers may be in a position to set conditions.

What have the overseas companies got so far?

The Drugs Controller-General of India has already taken a big step towards fast-tracking the import of vaccines by dispensing with the need for local trials. Earlier, the Centre had decided that foreign-produced vaccines that had been granted emergency approval for restricted use by regulators in the U.S., the U.K., the European Union and Japan, or those included in the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing, would be granted Emergency Use Authorisation in India. The condition was that there would be a post-approval parallel bridging trial. However, this condition was waived a few days ago and no bridging trial is now necessary. The significance of this exemption is that both the delay attached to such trials and the risk of adverse events to participants have been avoided.

The New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019, set down stringent regulations for grant of approval as well as for trials. The Rules provide for payment of compensation by the sponsor of the trial or its representative to any participant who dies or suffers disability as a result of such trials. Exemption from these trials has reduced the risk to overseas manufacturers. However, companies probably fear that they would still be liable under the ordinary law of tort, arising from future claims by anyone adversely affected after receiving the shot.

What does India gain by giving indemnity?

In the absence of indemnity, overseas manufacturers may load the risk onto the price of the vaccines, making each dose more expensive. By indemnifying the companies in respect of these vaccines, the government of India may be able to negotiate lower prices and higher volumes. It may help accelerate India’s national vaccination drive. On the flip side, the government may be forced to make it a level playing field for local manufacturers, too, by extending indemnity to them, and thereby inviting upon itself the entire risk associated with more than a billion vaccine shots.

11. A Chinese enclave in Sri Lanka?

Why has the China-backed Colombo Port City project come under attack from the Opposition and citizens?

Sri Lanka passed the controversial Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, which governs the China-backed Colombo Port City project worth $1.4 billion, amid wide opposition to the creation of a “Chinese enclave” in the island nation.

Why is the project surrounded by controversies?

The Colombo Port City has grabbed headlines in Sri Lanka in recent months even as the relentless third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the country. Almost an artificial island, the territory coming up on 2.69 square kilometres of land reclaimed from Colombo’s seafront has stirred controversy since its inception. Those backing it see in that patch of land their dream of an international financial hub — a “Singapore or Dubai” in the Indian Ocean. But sceptics claim that it could well become a “Chinese colony”, with the Bill, which is now an Act, providing the Port City and the powerful Commission that will run it substantial “immunity” from Sri Lankan laws, besides huge tax exemptions and other incentives for investors.

Pitched as a “world-class city for South Asia”, the development is envisioned under five distinct “precincts” — the Financial District, the Central Park Living and the Island Living; residential areas under The Marina, which is planned as a leisure destination, and the International Island, which would include educational institutions and convention centres. The Port City project is scheduled for completion by 2041.

When was it launched?

The project was launched in September 2014 by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to the island nation under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration’s second term. After President Mahinda Rajapaksa was ousted in January 2015, the successor “national unity” government of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe went ahead with the project after briefly halting it. On returning to power in November 2019, the Rajapaksas vowed to expedite the project. The Sri Lankan government says the project will bring in around 83,000 jobs and $15 billion initially.

What is the extent of China’s involvement?

The project is financed chiefly through Chinese investment amounting to $1.4 billion, via CHEC Port City Colombo, a unit of the State-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). In return, the company will receive 116 hectares (of the total 269 hectares) on a 99-year lease.

The Colombo Port City — separate from but located adjacent to the Colombo Port, the country’s main harbour — is the third major port-related infrastructure project where China has a significant stake. China Merchants Port Holdings has an 85% stake in the Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd. (CICT) at the Colombo Port, under a 35-year ‘Build Operate and Transfer’ agreement with the Sri Lanka Port Authority.

In 2017, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, unable to repay the Chinese loan with which it was saddled by the previous government, handed over the Hambantota Port in the Southern Province to China on a 99-year lease.

Effectively, China has substantial control over two key infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka for a century.

These projects are within the ambit of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, in which it sees strategically located Sri Lanka as a trusted partner. In March this year, Mr. Xi told Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the two countries must “steadily push forward” in major projects and promote “high-quality collaboration in jointly building the Belt and Road”, Xinhua reported.

What are the concerns?

Since its launch, the Colombo Port City project has faced opposition from environmentalists and fisherfolk, who feared that the project would affect marine life and livelihoods. However, in the absence of wider political and societal support, their resistance did not dent successive governments’ resolve to pursue the project.

The more recent opposition was specific to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill. The resistance came from Opposition parties and civil society groups, including many who do not oppose the project per se, but rather its governance by “an all-powerful commission answerable to no one”. Significantly, a section of Buddhist monks, wielding much influence in Sri Lankan politics and the Sinhala society, also opposed the Bill and said that it eroded Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

During a heated parliamentary debate, Opposition MPs said the Bill paved the way for a “Cheelam” or “ChiLanka”, referring to China’s “control” over the Colombo Port City. Trade unions resisted too, contending that labour rights had no protection under the new physical and legal entity. For the first time, there was widespread resistance to a Chinese-backed project from within the Rajapaksas’ support base.

As many as 19 petitions challenged the Bill in the Supreme Court, leading it to recommend a few amendments, which some Opposition legislators termed “cosmetic changes”.

The government accepted these promptly to avert the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority in Parliament and/or a referendum of people. The amended Bill received a parliamentary majority.

12. What is a global minimum tax and what will it mean?

G7 nations have agreed to close cross-border tax loopholes

Finance Ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations on Saturday reached a landmark accord setting a global minimum corporate tax rate, an agreement that could form the basis of a worldwide deal.

The deal aims to end what U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called a “30-year race to the bottom on corporate tax rates” as countries compete to lure multinationals.

Why a global minimum?

Major economies are aiming to discourage multinationals from shifting profits — and tax revenues — to low-tax countries regardless of where their sales are made.

Increasingly, income from intangible sources such as drug patents, software and royalties on intellectual property has migrated to these jurisdictions, allowing companies to avoid paying higher taxes in their traditional home countries.

With its proposal for a minimum 15% tax rate, the Biden administration hopes to reduce such tax base erosion without putting American firms at a financial disadvantage, allowing competition on innovation, infrastructure and other attributes.

Where are the talks at?

The G7 talks feed in to a much broader, existing effort.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has been coordinating tax negotiations among 140 countries for years on rules for taxing cross-border digital services and curbing tax base erosion, including a global corporate minimum tax.

The OECD and G20 countries aim to reach consensus on both by mid-year, but the talks on a global corporate minimum are technically simpler and less contentious. If a broad consensus is reached, it will be extremely hard for any low-tax country to try and block an accord.

The minimum is expected to make up the bulk of the $50 billion-$80 billion in extra tax that the OECD estimates firms will end up paying globally under deals on both fronts.

How would a global minimum tax work?

The global minimum tax rate would apply to overseas profits. Governments could still set whatever local corporate tax rate they want, but if companies pay lower rates in a particular country, their home governments could “top-up” their taxes to the minimum rate, eliminating the advantage of shifting profits.

The OECD said last month that governments broadly agreed on the basic design of the minimum tax but not the rate. Other items still to be negotiated include whether investment funds and real estate investment trusts should be covered, when to apply the new rate and ensuring it is compatible with U.S. tax reforms aimed at deterring erosion.

What about that minimum rate?

Talks are focusing around the U.S. proposal of a minimum global corporation tax rate of 15% – above the level in countries such as Ireland but below the lowest G7 level.

Any final agreement could have major repercussions for low-tax countries and tax havens.

The Irish economy has boomed with the influx of billions of dollars in investment from multinationals. Dublin, which has resisted EU attempts to harmonise its tax rules, is unlikely to accept a higher minimum rate without a fight.

However, the battle for low-tax countries is less likely to be about scuppering the overall talks and more about building support for a minimum rate as close as possible to its 12.5% or seeking certain exemptions.

13. ‘Bank NPAs set to rise, deposit growth outpacing credit flow’

‘Expansion in credit in FY21 was the lowest in four years’

Gross non-performing asset (GNPA) ratios of scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) are expected to shoot up in the coming quarters, according to data compiled by BCT Digital. This is despite the regulatory interventions to provide relief to both borrowers and lenders in the wake of the pandemic.

The GNPA for the banking system was at 7.5% in September 2020, an improvement from pre-pandemic levels. This is expected to shoot up to 13.5% in a base-case scenario and 14.8% in an extreme scenario by September 2021 as per RBI’s assessment in the latest Financial Stability Report (FSR), said Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO of BCT Digital, which helps banks manage risk.

“For public sector banks, GNPAs are expected to zoom from 9.7% in September 2020 to 16.2% and 17.6% in the base case and extreme scenarios, respectively, by September 2021,” she added. As per data that BCT Digital has collated from the FSR, the September 2015 quarter saw year-on-year (YoY) credit growth of 9.4%.

It declined to 8.8% in March 2016, the first quarter after the asset quality review was mandated. In March 2017, YoY credit growth slowed sharply to 4.4% while September 2019 saw 8.7% growth. Credit grew 5.9% and 5%, in March and September 2020, respectively.

Deposit growth, however, has quickened. September 2015 saw YoY growth of 9.9% while March 2016 and March 2017 posted 8.1% and 11.1%, respectively. Growth was 10.2%, 8.6% and 10.3% in September 2019, March 2020 and September 2020.

Care Ratings recently said FY21 credit growth was the lowest in 4 years as lenders and borrowers have remained risk averse.

Non Performing Assets (NPA)

When a person delays the payment of the loan or an amount which was due on him through the delay in payment in either interests or installments or principal amount, that particular loan or amount is termed as Non-Performing Asset. 

What is the difference between Bank fraud and Non-Performing Assets (NPA’s)?

Non Performing Assets is has been a bane for banks for a long time. Thee have been renewed efforts on part of the Government of Indianand Reserve Bank of India to tackle the problem of Non Performing Assets

There is a difference between bank fraud  and NPA:

Bank fraud is a criminal offense, Non-Performing Assets is a loan or advance wherein interest or installments of principal remain overdue for a period of 90 days.

As per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), an asset becomes non-performing when it stops to generate income for the bank. The Non Performing Assets in Public Banks are valued at approximately $ 62 Billion, which represents 90% of total NPA in India.

What were the reasons behind the rise of Non-Performing Assets in India?

  1. In the period from 2004 to 2009, there was a huge growth in the economy, which led to firms taking bank loans very aggressively.
  2. Most of the investment was in infrastructure sectors like roads, power, aviation, steel
  3. Laxity in lending norms by the banks, without analysing the financial health of the companies and their credit ratings
  4. The banning of mining projects, delay in environment permit, led to a rise in prices of raw materials and a big gap in demand and supply thereby affecting the power, steel, and iron industries. This affected the capacity of the companies to repay the loans to banks which resulted in Non-Performing Assets (NPA).

NPA (Non-Performing Assets) – 3 Classifications

Based on different parameters the Non Performing Assets are classified into different types.

The below table gives the different classification of Non Performing Assets:

Classification of Non-Performing Assets (NPA)Criteria
Substandard AssetsThese are the assets which have remained NPA for a period of less than or equal to 12 months
Doubtful AssetsIf the asset is in the substandard category for a period of 12 months
Loss AssetsThese assets are of little value, it can no longer continue as a bankable asset, there could be some recovery value.

What are the impacts of Non-Performing Assets (NPA)

  1. Banks won’t have sufficient funds for other development projects which will impact the economy
  2. To maintain a profit margin, banks will be forced to increase interest rates.
  3. Due to the curb in further investments, it may lead to the rise of unemployment.

Measures to control Non-Performing Assets (NPA) – Government of India and RBI

As the Non-Performing Assets is not a new phenomenon, there have been many efforts on the part of the Government of India and RBI to sort out the problem.

Below table gives the list of measures taken to control Non-Performing Assets (NPA)

Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) – 2013It was set up to reduce the time required for settling cases Governed by Recovery of Debt due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 Insufficient numbers, hence cases are pending for longer durations.
Credit Information Bureau (2000)This step is to prevent NPA’s by sharing of information on wilful defaulters
ARC (Asset Reconstruction Companies)Recovering value from stressed loans bypassing courts which was a time-consuming process.
Corporate Debt Restructuring (2005)Reduce the burden of debts on the company by giving more time to the company to payback as well as decreasing the rates along with it
5:25 Rule (2014)This is also called Flexible Restructuring of Long Term Project Loans to Infrastructure and Core Industries This involves refinancing of long term projects
Joint Lenders Forum (2014)It is done to avoid a situation where a loan is taken from one bank to repay the loans in other banks
Mission Indradhanush (2015)It is the most comprehensive reforms undertaken to improve the functioning of the Public Sector Banks, by using the ABCDEFG formula.
Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR) – 2015Corporates who have taken loans from banks if they are unable to repay, then the banks can convert part or complete loans into equity shares
Asset Quality Review (2015)This is a kind of preventive measure, involving early identification of assets which could turn out to be stressed at a later stage.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (2016)One-stop process for solving insolvencies. Aims to protect small investors.

14. Buffeted by ‘unhealthy’ tag, Nestle eyes defensive outreach

Firm says under 30% of global portfolio will miss external ‘healthfulness’ norms

Buffeted by global reports that the majority of mainstream food and drink products from Nestle could not be considered healthy, the Indian unit of the Switzerland-based multinational is planning an outreach campaign in a bid to reassure and retain consumers.

“Recent reports have questioned the healthfulness of Nestlé products, because of a global internal working document that was reported out of context,” a Nestle India spokesperson said, adding that the portfolio analysis only covered about half the global sales, since several prominent categories were not included.

‘Indulgent products’

“Looking at the global portfolio as a whole, less than 30% would not meet stringent external ‘healthfulness’ standards, mostly representing indulgent products, which are acceptable in moderation as part of healthy, balanced and enjoyable diet,” the spokesperson added.

The Financial Times last month reported an internal company presentation at the Swiss food giant had acknowledged that more than 60% of its products do not meet the ‘recognised definition of health’.

“We will be releasing print advertisements over the next few days reassuring consumers that we genuinely care about what matters to them, what concerns them and that we are there for them 24×7 if they have any questions or suggestions,” the spokesperson said, adding the advertisements would carry details of e-mail id and phone numbers that could be used to reach out to the company.

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