A Mumbai activist says international protocol recommends washing hands for 20 seconds. Hindustan Unilever, which makes the liquid hand wash, insists that its claim “is backed by robust scientific data”
It's a typical classroom scene. Kids are enjoying their tiffins. One of them, named Bunty, with his handkerchief tucked neatly in his shirt, is eating a sandwich and suspiciously looking around. Suddenly he says, "You know what you all are eating?" There is pin-drop silence as Bunty answers his own question, saying, "Germs!"
After that shocking announcement, he tells the class: "My mother tells me to wash my hand for one minute with soap. Otherwise the germs won't die." The class bursts into laughter. Another student mocks him, inquiring, "Aye Bunty, tera sabun slow hai kya?" ("Bunty, is your soap slow?"). The scene is then cut to a person who makes claims about Lifebouy Liquid Hand wash giving 99% germ protection and the resultant security from germs in just 15 seconds. "Sabse tez hand wash - Lifebuoy, koi dar nahi" ("Lifebuoy- the fastest hand washing liquid"). Another version of the advertisement claims protection in only 10 seconds.
Little do these kids know that the television commercial they are acting in, is sending out an incorrect message. Yes, you read it right. Experts point out that no hand washing soap can guarantee killing germs by just 15 seconds of washing hands. Even internationally, the hand washing protocols clearly state that at least 20 seconds should be devoted to this activity.
"Such a claim," said AR Shenoy, Mumbai-based activist and consumer product researcher, "is incorrect, and it is teaching people incorrect hand washing methods. It is not in line with internationally designated and specified protocols on washing of hands and sanitation." Mr Shenoy has been researching the claims made in the advertisement.
The US-based Centre for Disease Control (CDC), in its protocol for hand washing, mentions that while washing hands, liquid, bar or powder soap should be applied on wet hands. This must be rubbed vigorously to make lather. This activity should continue for 20 seconds. CDC is regarded as the premier institute in the area of disease control and its protocols are widely accepted.
Another non-governmental organisation, "Global Hand Washing", which is a public-private partnership, echoes this view. It says that the correct way to wash hands is to cover wet hands with soap, scrub all surfaces, including palms, the back of the hand, the spaces between the fingers, and especially the spaces under the fingernails, for about 20 seconds, before rinsing well with running water rather than still water. The hands should then be dried with a clean cloth or by waving them in the air. An easy way to gauge the required 20 seconds period is to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
It is important to note that the 20 seconds spent on washing hands does not include the time spent on rinsing.
In India, there are no such protocols for hand washing. Experts feel that generally spending 20 seconds on washing hands is good enough. "The Indian Medical Association (IMA) also recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds," says Mr Shenoy, who had contacted IMA during the course of his research on the matter.
Speaking to Moneylife, a spokesperson for Hindustan Unilever (HUL) which makes the Lifebuoy liquid soap wash said, "The claim in the Lifebuoy hand wash television commercial is fully supported by an advanced formulation that actually delivers hygiene benefits to consumers. The claim is backed by very robust scientific data generated in Indian and international labs, through standard testing protocols and as per industry norms and practice. It is also pertinent to mention that this brand proposition is advertised in other countries as well and is reflective of the relevance of this benefit to consumers at large. The claim is in line with the industry advertising norms."
The company also pointed out that global bodies such as the US-FDA, the Canadian CDC and the New Zealand Food Authority recommend that a time of 10 seconds is adequate for lathering and washing of hands. "Our claim is backed by robust technical support, through studies conducted at independent accredited national and international laboratories/universities, and globally reputed institutes using standard industry-accepted protocols. Our claims have been scrutinised by some eminent independent experts in the field of hygiene and skin and they have strongly supported both our claims and the robustness of our data," the spokesperson said.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal suggested that the PILs were being misused as they were meant only for serving public interest and "not to settle personal score". He, however, was evasive when asked on what basis Rs50 crore was decided as penalty
New Delhi: Rejecting charges of favouring Reliance Communications (RCom), telecom minister Kapil Sibal today insisted that the penalty of Rs5 crore imposed on it for interrupting services briefly was as per the agreement between USO Fund and the private operator, reports PTI.
He dismissed as 'malicious, motivated and defamatory' the charges levelled against him by an NGO in a PIL filed in the Supreme Court that the company was imposed the penalty of Rs5 crore against the Rs650 crore as a favour.
Addressing a press conference here a day after the petition was filed, Mr Sibal questioned the basis for computing the penalty as Rs650 crore whereas the USO Fund itself had recommended a penalty of up to Rs50 crore only.
"I am deeply grieved by what is happening by the PIL filed by an NGO in the Supreme Court stating that the telecom minister has abused his power to reduce penalty on Reliance Telecom to Rs5 crore," the agitated minister said, adding that PILs should not be "used to settle personal score".
Giving details of the issue, he said Reliance Telecom services were switched off for 'whatever reasons' in November 2010 and on 21st December, a show-cause notice was issued to the company threatening imposition of 'lump sum' amount of Rs50 crore as penalty for the same.
"The notice for Rs50 crore was to pressurise the Reliance Telecom.... They got worried," Mr Sibal said, adding finally the services were restored on 16th February, this year and the company paid a penalty of Rs5.5 crore.
He maintained that the penalty was calculated on the basis of duration of disruption of services (7-45 days) as provided in the agreement between USO Fund and RCom.
Mr Sibal also termed as 'unfortunate' the allegations that he had over-ruled officials of his ministry, saying the government could not function this way that a minister cannot take a decision because he would be labelled as "dishonest and wanting to favour private parties".
Mr Sibal suggested that the PILs were being misused as they were meant only for serving public interest and "not to settle personal score". He, however, did not elaborate even when asked whether he felt he was deliberately being targeted.
An application was filed in the Supreme Court by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) alleging that Mr Sibal reduced the penalty from Rs650 crore to Rs5 crore against Anil Ambani-headed RCom for violations in the UASL agreement.
The NGO alleged that a penalty of Rs50 crore per circle should have been imposed for "violation of the terms and conditions of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) agreement and UASL agreement by voluntary, unilateral and unauthorised switching-off/closure of services to subscribers from USOF sites without any notice."
"The Rs5 crore penalty on the ADAG firm was as per the agreement between the USOF and Reliance Telecom. The Department of Telecom (DoT) was nothing to do with the penalty as the company had not violated the rules of license conditions," Mr Sibal said.
He said when the file reached him on 18th February, this year RCom had already restored the services two days prior to that. He said he gave instructions to impose penalty as per the provisions of the agreement and did not himself decide the amount of Rs5 crore as penalty.
He, however, was evasive when asked on what basis Rs50 crore was decided as penalty.
However, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee cautioned that in the event of a slowdown in economic growth, revenue collections may get impacted
New Delhi: Amid apprehensions of slowdown impacting tax collection, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday exuded confidence that the government would be able to meet the revenue targets set in the budget for 2011-12, reports PTI.
"The growth of revenues up to June is reasonably satisfactory. Therefore, I do not apprehend that there will be any slippage," Mr Mukherjee told reporters to a query related to revenue collections.
He was talking after meeting chief executive officers of public sector banks and other financial institutions.
The finance minister said government set targets assuming normal conditions.
However, he added, "There may be (slowdown in revenue collections) if there is a slow (economic) growth, if there are unprecedented happenings and events."
The Centre expects to collect over Rs9.32 lakh crore tax revenues this fiscal, about 24.98% up from the previous year.
However, there are apprehensions that revenue collection, both on direct and indirect fronts, could be impacted due to high global commodity prices and high inflation.
Net direct tax collections in the first quarter dropped by almost 17% to Rs57,268 crore year-on-year.
Besides, the government would be losing about Rs49,000 crore on account of cut in customs and excise duty on petroleum products.
In the Budget speech, Mr Mukherjee had pegged the economic growth for the current fiscal at around 9% but two-months later the RBI came out with a lower projection of about 8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
The central bank has hiked key policy rates 10 times since March 2010. The high interest rate regime has impacted the country's industrial growth rate, which shrunk by more than half to 6.3% in April.