Policy makers, concerned about the impact of mobile phone radiation on the human systems, complications in reproductive health and behaviour problems in children, want operators to take effective steps to curb harmful effects
A report submitted last week by the inter-ministerial group to the Department of Telecommunications has recommended that the radiation level per cell tower should be less than 1-watt per sq metre-reducing it to 1/10th the current permissible norm. This was stated by Ram Kumar, former advisor (operations/technology) with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), at a consumer awareness programme on "Radiation Health Hazards from Cell Towers: Myth or Reality".
The programme was organised by the Bombay Telephone Users' Association (BTUA), on the completion of 25 years of working in the interest of telecom consumers. The programme had a panel of experts from the fields of medical research, physicists, bio-technology and consumer activists.
Mr Kumar told Moneylife, "We have forwarded the recommendations, which would be implemented very soon. Overall, there has been a positive response from DoT on the suggestions."
Rakesh Gujral, joint advisor with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), said that TRAI had recently issued a consultation paper on infrastructure for the telecom sector which has a section on radiation norms. Asked about the possible implementation of the changes suggested in consultation paper, Mr Gujral told Moneylife, "We have given a particular date for all stakeholders, including the operators to respond. Once they give their views, the process of discussion will begin."
Dr RS Sharma, deputy director-general, Indian Council of Medical Research, who also addressed the consumer seminar, said, "The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines are not suitable for India. It should be reviewed in the Indian context considering factors like body mass index, nutritional intake, population density, etc."
Dr Sharma is engaged in an all-India study on the health hazards from mobile phones. In his presentation, Dr Sharma discussed the findings of international research which points out medical complications arising from sustained use of mobile phones and exposure to radiation form cell towers. All research points out to the impact on the human immune and nervous systems, complications in reproductive health as well as behavioural problems in children. He emphasised that all epidemiological studies point out to adverse impact of mobile radio especially on children, pregnant women and on male fertility.
One of the panel members, Professor Girish Kumar, of IIT Bombay, who has been researching the effects of electro-magnetic radiation (EMR) explained that the microwave radiation has two effects-thermal and non-thermal. The present safety norms are based on thermal effects, ignoring non-thermal effects which are three to four times more dangerous. Non-thermal radiation exposure is associated with affecting cell membrane permeability.
Other members of the panel, which included doctors from the radio-oncology department of Hinduja Hospital, also pointed out that they observed a much higher incidence of inner-ear myeloma and deafness in early adulthood and this was clearly indicative of the impact of long exposure to mobile phones. The panel members strongly expressed that the present radiation norms adopted by India as per ICNIRP guidelines are outdated, not suitable and should be reviewed in the Indian context.
According to current norms, the area within a six-metre radius of your tower is defined as dangerous, despite which many buildings have these towers and many more buildings are not very far from these towers either.
Some of the victims who developed cancer because of the exposure to radiation emitted from the mobile phone towers, also attended the programme and narrated their distressing experiences. One of the participants suggested that since the hazardous effects on children and the young were so clearly proven, it should form a part of the textbooks for the seventh and eighth standards.
Though a representative from TRAI was present for the programme, the overall response from the government was disappointing. Apart from a retired DoT official, there was no representative from the government-central or state, perhaps indicative of the apathy to the woes and concerns of citizens.
The Crisil study suggests that larger SMEs are more sensitive to interest rates, with many of them having borrowed aggressively to finance capacity expansion programmes
Crisil today released the findings of a study on the financial performance of over 3,000 rated small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The report indicates that a 1% increase in interest rates would lead to a decline of 14%, on average, in the SMEs' profits.
One-fifth of the enterprises evaluated could face erosion of 25% or more in their pre-tax profit levels. The study covers 3,234 SMEs, with sales turnover ranging from Rs1 crore to Rs500 crore. It includes manufacturing, trading, and service companies in 30 industries across 20 states.
The study draws heavily on Crisil's deep understanding of the sector, and the insights gained while assessing the credit risk profiles of over 17,500 SMEs. According to Ms Roopa Kudva, MD and CEO, Crisil, "This is the first time that deep analytical insights on small companies are being made available in India; Crisil's effort will promote a better understanding of the SME sector."
In the study sample, 2,200 companies were very small with sales of less than Rs20 crore. Over half of these small companies had low levels of debt (debt-equity ratio below 1), making them less vulnerable to interest rate hikes than their more leveraged peers.
Similarly SMEs that are more capital-efficient, as measured by Return on Capital Employed (RoCE), are less vulnerable to an interest rate hike. 52% of the companies in the sample have a high RoCE (exceeding 15%), and the impact of interest rate increases on these companies will be minimal.
Commenting on the impact of interest rates on SMEs' profits, Mr Ramraj Pai, director, SME Ratings, Crisil, says: "Crisil's study reveals that enterprises using capital efficiently, and deploying debt sparingly, would be the least affected".
The study brings out four other unique insights.
First, enterprises in the service space are relatively insulated from the effect of interest rates, compared with SMEs in the manufacturing and trading sectors.
Second, industries like chemicals, metals, and engineering, are better placed while food processing, textiles, paper, and agriculture-related industries are more susceptible to interest rates.
Third, the financial performance of SMEs based in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh is less influenced by interest rates than that of SMEs based in Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.
Finally, the study suggests that larger SMEs are more sensitive to interest rates, with many of them having borrowed aggressively to finance capacity expansion programmes.
Some banks, including HDFC Bank, have decided to impose a penalty of 1% for all premature withdrawals from fixed deposits
To discourage premature withdrawal of money from fixed deposit accounts, banks have decided to impose a penalty on such transactions to minimise any impact on their liquidity position at a time when rising interest rates are pushing up the cost of funds for them.
RBI has left it to banks to decide whether they want to impose any penalty on premature closure of fixed deposits.
As such, the customers are given a return lower than the promised interest rate in case of early withdrawals.
Although some of the public sector banks have already in place a mechanism to impose a penalty on premature withdrawal of money from FDs, a number of others, mostly private sector banks, have not been charging any such penalty in their attempts to lure more customers.
However, the continuous rise in interest rates over recent months have pushed the cost of funds much higher for the banks and premature withdrawal from deposit accounts has put unnecessary pressure on the banks' liquidity position, a senior private sector banker said.
Earlier, the banks used to give only the interest rate applicable to the period for which the deposits have been maintained in case of premature withdrawals and not the full return promised at the time of booking the FDs.
In such a scenario, some banks, including private sector bank HDFC Bank, have decided to impose a penalty of 1% for all premature withdrawals from fixed deposits.
With effect from 24th January, HDFC Bank has decided to impose 1% penalty on premature closures, including for partial withdrawals, it said in a customer circular.
Some others such as IDBI Bank will spare new deposits from the penalty clause to lure more customers, but would impose a fine in case of older deposits.
On its part, IDBI Bank has said it would not charge any penalty for premature withdrawal on its various term deposits opened/renewed with effect from 1st January.
However, in case the customer wants to prematurely withdraw the FDs booked before 1st January, a penalty of 1% would be imposed, IDBI Bank said.
"Interest payable on prematurely withdrawn deposits will be the contracted rate or the rate applicable for which the deposit remained with the Bank, whichever is lower, less 1% penalty," IDBI Bank said.
Some others, including Indian Overseas Bank, do not impose any penalty on premature withdrawals of FDs up to Rs5 lakh, but charge 1% penalty for higher deposits. Karnataka Bank and Dhanlaxmi Bank are also charging 1% penalty on early withdrawals