Daily Current Affairs 18.12.2022 (Rajasthan sanctuary gets protection against ESZ shrinking, Genes for long lifespan of banyan peepal trees identified, NASA set to conduct first global water survey from space, Reasons for treatment resistance in prostate cancer found, The challenges of quantum computing, How can mRNA vaccines help fight cancer?, ‘e-bus ambitions hit financing speed bump’)

Daily Current Affairs 18.12.2022 (Rajasthan sanctuary gets protection against ESZ shrinking, Genes for long lifespan of banyan peepal trees identified, NASA set to conduct first global water survey from space, Reasons for treatment resistance in prostate cancer found, The challenges of quantum computing, How can mRNA vaccines help fight cancer?, ‘e-bus ambitions hit financing speed bump’)


1. Rajasthan sanctuary gets protection against ESZ shrinking

The famous Tal Chhapar blackbuck sanctuary in Churu district of Rajasthan has received a protective cover against a proposed move of the State government to reduce the size of its eco-sensitive zone.

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has also taken up a major project for the conservation of raptors in the sanctuary, spread in an area measuring 7.19 sq. km.

The Rajasthan High Court has intervened through suo motu public interest litigation to protect the sanctuary, taking cognisance of reports that its area was going to be reduced to three sq. km under pressure from mine owners and stone crusher operators. The court recently ordered a “complete prohibition” on any action to reduce the wildlife sanctuary’s area.

The sanctuary is host to about 4,000 blackbucks, over 40 species of raptors and more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds.

A Division Bench noted that some exotic species of animals seemed to have been destroyed or relocated to other areas, following an increase in human population around the sanctuary, and unplanned and rampant construction activities.

The court further directed the authorities concerned to complete the formalities for declaration of the eco-sensitive zone surrounding Tal Chhapar at the earliest.

Eco Sensitive Zones

  • About:
    • The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) stipulated that state governments should declare land falling within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as eco fragile zones or Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZs) under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • Purpose:
    • The purpose of declaring ESZs around national parks, forests and sanctuaries is to create some kind of a “shock absorber” for the protected areas.
    • These zones would act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to those involving lesser protection.
  • Prohibited activities:
    • Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution, establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood.
    • Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Regulated activities:
    • Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
  • Permitted activities:
    • Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.
  • Significance:
    • Minimize the impact of development activities
      • To minimize the impact of urbanization and other developmental activities, the areas adjacent to protected areas have been declared as Eco-Sensitive Zones.
    • In-situ conservation:
      • ESZs help in in-situ conservation, which deals with conservation of an endangered species in its natural habitat, for example the conservation of the One-horned Rhino of Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
    • Minimize Forest Depletion and Man-Animal Conflict
      • Eco-Sensitive Zones minimize forest depletion and man-animal conflict.
      • The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management, through which local area communities are also protected and benefitted.

Challenges to Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Developmental activities:
    • Activities such as construction of dams, roads, urban and rural infrastructures in the ESZ, create interference, negatively impact upon the environment and imbalance the ecological system.
  • Governance and new laws:
    • The Environmental Protection Act 1986 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 ignore forest communities’ rights and fail to stop poaching of animals. This is in order to support development activities in ESZs.
  • Tourism:
    • To cater to the increasing demand for eco-tourism, land around parks and sanctuaries is being cleared through deforestation, displacement of local people etc.
  • Introduction of exotic species:
    • Exotic species like Eucalyptus and Acacia auricularis etc., and their plantations create a competing demand on naturally occurring forests.
  • Climate change:
    • Climate change has generated land, water and ecological stress on the ESZs. For example, frequent forest fires or the Assam floods which badly affected the Kaziranga National Park and its wildlife.
  • Local communities:
    • Shifting cultivation, pressure of increasing population and the rising demand for firewood and forest produce, etc. exert pressure on the protected areas.

2. Genes for long lifespan of banyan, peepal trees identified

Over a dozen genes with multiple signs of adaptive (MSA) evolution play a pivotal role in long-time survival of these trees; all participants who achieved remission had completely stopped taking medications

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal have carried out whole genome sequencing of banyan (Ficus benghalensis) and peepal(Ficus religiosa) from leaf tissue samples. They also undertook a comprehensive genome-wide phylogenetic analysis with 50 other angiosperm plant species, including four other sequencedFicus species.

Genome sizes of these two Ficus species were corrected compared to the previously estimated genome sizes. The draft genome assemblies were over 392 Mbp for banyan and nearly 333 Mbp for peepal.

The work helped in identifying 17 genes in the case of banyan and 19 genes of peepal with multiple signs of adaptive evolution (MSA) that play a pivotal role in long-time survival of these twoFicus species.

The genes with multiple signs of adaptive evolution came about in response to population bottleneck faced by both trees around 0.8 million years ago. The study has been published inThe Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Undertaking the comparative evolutionary analyses of closely related plant species helped the researchers in precisely identifying the genes with evolutionary signatures in both plants. Similarly, comparing other plant species with long lifespan in the comparative analysis helped in the identification of adaptively evolved genes, which could have played a significant role in longevity of both banyan and peepal tree species.

“The comparative evolutionary analysis performed across 20 phylogenetically closer Eudicot species revealed adaptive evolution in genes involved in major cellular mechanisms associated with long-time survival such as phytohormones signalling, senescence pathways, fig-wasp coevolution, stress tolerance, which is the highlight disclosure of this study,” says Dr. Vineet K. Sharma, Associate Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal, and the corresponding author of the paper.

Genes showing multiple signs of adaptive evolution in banyan were mainly associated with root development, leaf formation, metabolism, pollen tube and seed development and other developmental processes. TheMSA genes of peepal trees were mainly associated with root development, reproduction, metabolism.

“The genes related to root, leaf and reproductive growth that have undergone evolution in theseFicusspecies explains the well-developed morphological characteristics of these trees,” he says.

Gene family expansion/contraction analysis undertaken by the researchers revealed that the highly expanded gene families of both the species were involved in disease resistance functions in plants.

In the case ofbanyan tree, 15 of 17 MSA genes were also associated with tolerance against environmental stress— drought, oxidative stress, and pathogens.In peepal trees, 17 out of 19 MSA genes were associated with stress tolerance activities.

In addition, the researchers identified seven genes involved in two pathways that produce volatile organic compounds in floral scents which attract wasps for pollination.

“One of the key findings of this study is the identification of signatures of adaptive evolution in genes that are associated with providing longevity in both the species. Particularly, the genes related to sustained growth and development — plant root development, flowering, reproductive growth, and metabolism — showed multiple signs of adaptation,” they write.

The adaptive evolution in genes in two cellular mechanisms might explain the well-developed aerial roots that is unique to banyan trees.

Both plants show genes with signatures of multiple adaptive evolution involved in phytohormone signalling pathways. These pathways function to regulate plant developmental senescence and ageing processes. This could be one more reason why banyan and peepal trees have a long lifespan. Both banyan and peepal trees have select plant disease resistance gene families that have been expanded through gene duplication events in the course of evolution which confers greater longevity.

Also, 88% and 89% of the MSA genes in banyan and peepal trees, respectively, are associated with tolerance against biotic and abiotic stress responses. This, in turn, helps these plants to survive when faced with environmental challenges.

“To survive in tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems as keystone species, Ficustrees have evolved their developmental and stress tolerance mechanisms,” says Dr. Sharma.

“Availability of their genome sequences will aid in further studies on this ecologically important genus and other comparative aspects, including medicinal properties between short-lived and long-lived plants,” says Dr. Sharma.

3. NASA set to conduct first global water survey from space

A NASA-led international satellite was launched from Southern California, on a major Earth science project to conduct a comprehensive survey of the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers for the first time.

Dubbed as SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography), the advanced radar satellite is designed to give an unprecedented view of the life-giving fluid covering 70% of the planet, shedding new light on the mechanics and consequences of climate change.

A Falcon 9 rocket, owned and operated by billionaire Elon Musk’s commercial launch company SpaceX, was set to liftoff from the Vandenberg U.S. Space Force Base, about 170 miles (275 km) northwest of Los Angeles, to carry SWOT into orbit.

If all goes as planned, the SUV-sized satellite will produce research data within several months.

Nearly 20 years in development, the SWOT incorporates advanced microwave radar technology that scientists say will collect height-surface measurements of oceans, lakes, reservoirs and rivers in high-definition detail over 90% of the globe.

Enhanced models

The data, compiled from radar sweeps of the planet at least twice every 21 days, will enhance ocean-circulation models, bolster weather and climate forecasts and aid in managing scarce freshwater supplies in drought-stricken regions, according to researchers.

“It’s really the first mission to observe nearly all water on the planet’s surface,” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientist Ben Hamlington.

One major thrust of the mission is to explore how oceans absorb atmospheric heat and carbon dioxide in a natural process that moderates global temperatures and climate change.

Better results

Scanning the seas from orbit, the SWOT was designed to precisely measure fine differences in surface elevations around smaller currents and eddies, where much the oceans’ drawdown of heat and carbon is believed to occur. The SWOT can do so with 10 times greater resolution than existing technologies, according to JPL.

The SWOT’s ability to discern smaller surface features will help study the impact of rising ocean levels on coastlines. More precise data along tidal zones would help predict how far storm-surge flooding may penetrate inland.

Freshwater bodies are another key focus of the SWOT, equipped to observe the entire length of nearly all rivers wider than 330 feet and more than 1 million lakes and reservoirs larger than 15 acres.

4. Reasons for treatment resistance in prostate cancer found

Prostate cancer cell dynamics at a single-cell resolution across the timespan of the disease — from its beginning to the point of androgen independence, where the tumour no longer responds to hormone, deprivation therapy has now been characterised.

The study in mice, published ineLife, reveals an expansion of intermediate cells that occurs in prostate cancer, which correlates with resistance to treatment and poor clinical outcomes in humans. These cells are castration-resistant, meaning they continue to grow in the absence of testosterone and could explain how prostate tumours become resistant to hormone-related treatments.

Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer, and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in males in the U.S. This is due to an incomplete knowledge of the cellular drivers behind the disease’s progression and the risk of progressing to castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).

The prostate gland epithelium — a type of body tissue that forms the surface of glands and organs — is typically composed of two types of epithelial cells: basal cells and highly differentiated luminal cells (cells which have altered in form). However, a more stem-like, castration-resistant intermediate of the luminal cells has previously been proposed.

“It has been suggested that normal luminal cells are able to transition into these progenitor cells under castrate conditions,” lead author Alexandre Germanos at the University of Washington, U.S., says in a release. “There is evidence that these cells contribute to the initial development of tumours in the prostate and resistance to treatment in advanced cancers, although this is yet to be confirmed in other models of CRPC.”

To study this further, the authors used a mouse model of the CRPC to create an ‘atlas of prostate cellular composition and evolution’ through the course of the disease.

A gene calledPten, which codes for a tumour-suppressing enzyme, is inactive in majority of advanced prostate cancer patients. The team used a technique called single-cell RNA sequencing to compare the epithelial and non-epithelial cell-type populations in healthy mice and those lackingPten.

In the prostate of healthy mice, they observed multiple epithelial cell types — basal, luminal and luminal progenitor cells. In the prostate of mice lackingPten, they observed an expansion of luminal intermediate cells, likely derived from three cellular sources — basal cells, luminal progenitor cells and differentiated luminal cells. This suggests that basal cells can transform into intermediate cells uponPtendeletion, supporting other findings in the field. The team also observed further expansion of cancerous intermediate cells upon hormone deprivation which significantly increased the diversity of cells within a tumour (known as tumour heterogeneity), says the release.

In the intermediate cells, the researchers discovered that a 5-gene signature is specifically enriched. Using two datasets of bulk RNA-sequencing from prostate cancer patients, they showed that the signature is associated with treatment resistance and poor clinical outcomes. Furthermore, the signature is enriched in a subset of metastatic human prostate cancer cells — tumours that are able to spread — but not in the primary tumour cells.

These findings suggest that a 5-gene signature derived from mouse models of prostate cancer may have importance in understanding human disease. The presence of this gene signature may serve as a useful prognostic tool for predicting treatment resistance and outcomes in patients.

5. The challenges of quantum computing

What do quantum computers do that classic computers cannot? What are the elements that need to be in place before practical quantum computers become a reality? What are qubits? How long will it take to gain quantum supremacy?

The allure of quantum computers (QC) is their ability to take advantage of quantum physics to solve problems too complex for conventional computers. Several institutes and companies worldwide have invested in developing QC systems, from software to solve specific problems to the science that goes into expanding their hardware capabilities. In 2021, the Indian government launched a mission to study quantum technologies with an allocation of ₹8,000 crore; the army opened a quantum research facility in Madhya Pradesh; and the Department of Science and Technology co-launched another facility in Pune. Given its wide-ranging applications and the scale of investments, understanding what QCs really are is crucial to sidestep the hype and develop expectations that are closer to reality.

What is quantum physics?

A macroscopic object — like a ball, a chair or a person — can be at only one location at a time, which can be predicted accurately; and the object’s effects on its surroundings can’t be transmitted faster than at the speed of light. This is the classical ‘experience’ of reality.

You can observe a ball flying through the air and plot its path. You can predict exactly where the ball will be at a given time. If the ball strikes the ground, you will see it doing so in the time it takes light to travel through the atmosphere to you.

Quantum physics describes reality at the subatomic scale, where the objects are particles like electrons. Here, you can’t pinpoint the location of an electron. You can only know that it will be present in some volume of space, with a probability attached to each point in the volume: say, 10% at point A and 5% at point B. When you probe the volume, you might find the electron at point B. If you repeatedly probe the volume, you will find the electron at point B 5% of the time.

Erwin Schrödinger described one interpretation of the laws of quantum physics in a famous thought-experiment in 1935. There’s a cat in a closed box with a bowl of poison. You can’t know whether the cat is alive or dead without opening the box. In this time, the cat is said to exist in a superposition of two states: alive and dead. When you open the box, you force the superposition to collapse to a single state. The state to which it collapses depends on the probability of each state. The same thing happens with the electrons’ locations. (Note: This is a simplistic example.)

Another relevant phenomenon is entanglement. When two particles are entangled and then separated by an arbitrary distance (even more than 1,000 km), probing one particle, and thus causing its superposition to collapse, will instantaneously cause the superposition of the other particle to collapse as well. Note that ‘instantaneous’ is faster than the speed of light.

How would a computer use superposition?

The bit is the fundamental computational unit of a conventional computer. Its value is 1 if a corresponding transistor is on and 0 if the transistor is off. The transistor can be in one of two states at a time — on or off — so a bit can have one of two values at a time, 0 or 1.

The qubit is the fundamental unit of a QC. It could be a particle like an electron. Some information is directly encoded on the qubit: if the electron’s spin is pointing up, it means 1; if the spin is pointing down, it means 0. But instead of being either 1 or 0, the information is encoded in a superposition: say, 45% 0 plus 55% 1. This is entirely unlike the two separate states of 0 and 1 and is a third kind of state.

The qubits are entangled to ensure they work together. If one qubit is probed to reveal its state, the states of all entangled qubits will be revealed as well. The computer’s final output is the state to which all the qubits have collapsed.

One qubit can encode two states, so a computer with N qubits can encode 2N states. A computer with N transistors can only encode 2N states. So a qubit-based computer can access more states than a transistor-based computer, and thus access more computational pathways and, solutions to more complex problems.

How come we are not using them?

Researchers have figured out the basics and used QCs to model the binding energy of hydrogen bonds and simulate a wormhole model. But to solve most practical problems, like finding the shape of an undiscovered drug, autonomously exploring space or factoring large numbers, they face fractious challenges.

A practical QC needs at least 1,000 qubits. The current biggest quantum processor has 433 qubits. There are no theoretical limits on larger processors; the barrier is engineering-related.

Qubits exist in superposition in specific conditions, including very low temperature (~0.01 K), with radiation-shielding and protection against physical shock. Tap your finger on the table and the superposition of the qubit sitting on it could collapse. Material or electromagnetic defects in the circuitry between qubits could also ‘corrupt’ their states and bias the eventual result. Researchers are yet to build QCs that completely eliminate these disturbances in systems with a few dozen qubits.

Error-correction is tricky. The no-cloning theorem states that it’s impossible to perfectly clone the states of a qubit. So engineers can’t create a copy of a qubit’s states in a classical system to sidestep the problem. One way out is to entangle each qubit with a group of physical qubits that correct errors. A physical qubit is a system that mimics a qubit. But reliable error-correction requires each qubit to be attached to thousands of physical qubits.

Researchers are also yet to build QCs that don’t amplify errors when more qubits are added. This challenge is related to a deeper problem: unless the rate of errors is kept under a threshold, more qubits will only increase the informational noise.

Practical QCs will require at least lakhs of qubits, operating with superconducting circuits that we are yet to build – apart from other components like the firmware, circuit optimisation, compilers and algorithms that make use of quantum-physics possibilities. Quantum supremacy itself — a QC doing something a classical computer can’t — is thus at least decades away.

The billions being invested in this technology today are based on speculative profits, while companies that promise developers access to quantum circuits on the cloud often offer physical qubits with noticeable error rates.

6. How can mRNA vaccines help fight cancer?

What are the results from an experimental trial on skin cancer patients? How was the trial conducted? How does the mRNA technology work? Are cancer vaccines going to be a reality soon? Will they be affordable? Will they fight other cancers too?

The results of a trial of an experimental cancer vaccine built on the mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) platform, made by Moderna and MSD (Merck&Co.), have shown promising results, media announcements claimed last week. Patients taking an immunotherapy drug Keytruda for advanced melanoma (a kind of skin cancer) were less likely to die or have the cancer recur, if they took the vaccine (mRNA-4157/V940) also, the companies said.

What did the trial involve?

It was a small study, involving 157 patients. The vaccine showed a 44% reduction in the risk of dying of cancer or having the cancer progress. Moderna’s Paul Burton was quoted as saying: “This is a significant finding. It’s the first randomised-trial testing of an mRNA therapeutic in cancer patients.” Reuters reported that “the combination was generally safe and demonstrated the benefit compared with Keytruda alone after a year of treatment. Serious drug-related side effects occurred in 14.4% of patients who received the combination compared with 10% with Keytruda alone.”

As a personalised cancer vaccine, it is tailor-made for every patient. As a consequence, it is expected to be very expensive to make. The results too will have to be independently scrutinised by experts, western media has reported. But oncologists across the world have welcomed this as an exciting new opportunity in cancer care.

How does the vaccine work?

The personalised cancer vaccine uses the same messenger-RNA technology that was used to produce the COVID vaccine. It allows the body’s immune system to seek and destroy cancerous cells, in this case melanoma, but with the hope that it could lead to new ways to fight other types of cancers too.

According to an article by Thomas Schlake et al, in RNA Biology, RNA as a therapeutic was first promoted in 1989 after the development of a broadly applicable in vitro transfection technique. A couple of years later, mRNA was advocated as a vaccine platform. He says, “mRNA offers strong safety advantages. As the minimal genetic construct, it harbours only the elements directly required for expression of the encoded protein.”

The refinement of the mRNA platform owes everything to COVID. Rapid advancements within a remarkable period of one year allowed the technology to gain several revolutionary steps ahead, in order for it to be used successfully to drive vaccines that work. While the mRNA vaccines were notoriously unstable, in the National Cancer Institute website on ‘Can mRNA Vaccines Help Treat Cancer?’ Edward Winstead writes that researchers have learned how to engineer stable forms of mRNA and deliver these molecules to the body through vaccines. “Once in the body, the mRNA instructs cells that take up the vaccine to produce proteins that may stimulate an immune response against these same proteins when they are present in intact viruses or tumour cells.” The mRNA-based cancer treatment vaccines have reportedly been tested in small trials for nearly a decade, with some promising early results.

As far as the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was concerned, the mRNA included in the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines instructs cells to produce a version of the “spike” protein that studs the surface of SARS-CoV-2, he explains. The immune system sees this spike protein as foreign and mobilises immune cells to produce antibodies to fight off the infection.

Reuters story on the breakthrough study explained that the personalised cancer vaccine works in concert with Merck’s Keytruda, to disable a protein called programmed death 1, or PD-1, that helps tumours to evade the immune system. To build the vaccine, researchers took samples of patients’ tumours and healthy tissue. After analysing the samples to decode their genetic sequence and isolate mutant proteins associated only with the cancer, that information was used to design a tailor-made cancer vaccine. When injected into a patient, the patient’s cells act as a manufacturing plant, producing perfect copies of the mutations for the immune system to recognise and destroy. Having been exposed to the mutations without the virus, the body learns to fight off the infection.

What does it mean for the future?

Vincent Rajkumar, Editor-in-Chief, Blood Cancer Journal, and Professor, Mayo Clinic, told The Hindu, “It’s a really important result and shows the potential of mRNA vaccine technology.”

Listing out CAR-T cells and bi specific antibodies among newer cancer therapies, he said both approaches have already produced spectacular results in many cancers.While in CAR-T treatment, scientists take the immune systems cells out, engineer them to target a specific cancer and then put them back in the body to kill cancer cells, bispecific antibodies attach to immune system cells with one arm and cancer cells with the other, thereby bringing powerful immune system killer cells right next to the cancer cells. A few bispecific antibodies have been FDA-approved already, he said.

“The possibility of using mRNA vaccine technology to fight cancer just got a boost. The idea of cancer vaccines has been around for a long time. But mRNA vaccine technology and personalisation of the vaccine that it allows provides a lot of optimism,” Dr. Vincent explained. On a more general note, he added, technology has managed to connect investigators like never before, making collaborations between nations much easier.

7. ‘e-bus ambitions hit financing speed bump’

Indian banks reluctant to lend to electric-bus makers for supply to ailing State transport operators over concerns on recovery of dues; many State transport undertakings are in bad financial condition because they are often forced to keep fares low, making them risky prospects, say bankers

Indian banks are reluctant to lend to electric-bus makers for supply to ailing State transport operators over concerns on recovery of dues, hurting India’s goal of curbing vehicle emissions, said banking, industry and government sources.

Lack of funding is limiting the ability of e-bus makers to participate in Central government tenders to supply to States, the sources told Reuters, threatening to slow the electrification of major public transport now reliant on diesel. India wants to deploy 50,000 e-buses over the next 4-5 years at an estimated cost of ₹1 trillion. As of now, 6,740 e-buses have been approved by the Central government that provides incentives for related infrastructure, of which close to a third have been deployed in States.

A senior bank official, who did not wish to be named, said it was risky to lend to manufacturers to build buses for the State transport undertakings (STUs), as many are in bad financial condition because they are often forced to keep fares low.

Mahesh Babu, chief executive of e-bus maker Switch Mobility, said: “most of the contracts related to STUs are seen by banks as high risk” and called for payment security for bus makers.

‘Delays, but no defaults’

“There have been no instances of default in India though there are delays,” said an STU official in north India, but added that “a payment security mechanism may instil confidence among lenders”.

Each electric bus costs ₹12.5 million, about five times that of a diesel one.

Financing diesel buses is safer because in the case of default, banks can repossess the asset and easily redeploy it. E-buses need charging and other infrastructure that may not be available everywhere, said another banker.

Nevertheless, the government-run Convergence Energy Services Ltd., which aggregates demand from States for electric vehicles, on Thursday issued a tender to procure 6,450 e-buses — the country’s largest so far.

Switch Mobility, the EV arm of Ashok Leyland, PMI Electro and JBM Auto responded to the latest tender. But notable exceptions were Tata Motors, India’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, and Olectra Greentech, the Indian technology partner of Chinese auto major BYD, two sources said.

A Tata Motors spokesperson said there was a need for “adequate safeguards with appropriate payment security mechanisms” to make such ventures bankable. The firm would look at participating in future tenders once such measures were in place, the spokesperson said.

The road transport sector accounts for 13% of carbon emissions in India.

Buses are one of the most significant modes of public transport and STUs own and operate 1,50,000 buses that carry 70 million passengers daily.

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