Medical developments from around the world
Caesarean Section and Baby’s Health
It was some 10 years ago that I had written an article, when Caesarean Sections (or C-sections as they are also called) were being performed with increasing regularity. In the article, I had said that they were good for the babies’ immune system, based on my own observations and the hypothesis that the immune system depends on the germs in our body, most of which we acquire during our passage through the birth canal of our mother. C-sections could be performed as a rare life-saving measure, but using C-sections at the drop of a hat for the mother’s, or doctor’s, convenience is not advisable.
Researchers from Copenhagen University published data, from a study they conducted, in the Journal of Immunology on 10th July. The study shows exactly what I had observed during my five decades of practice. A similar study on rats was published in 2013 which went a step further to show how the immune system is depressed in C-section offsprings vis-à-vis the vaginally-delivered ones.
C-section babies have a greater susceptibility to allergies, asthma and even auto-immune diseases! Germs are at the root of most of these infirmities in such hapless babies.
Soya Protein Might Be Harmful for Men
The randomised, placebo-controlled crossover study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN), looked at how soy supplementation affects testosterone, cortisol and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels in men who engage in resistance exercises and training. They compared these effects to those brought about in men who supplement their protein intake with whey. They found that, compared to men who supplemented their protein intake with whey, those taking soy did not necessarily produce more oestrogen. They did, however, experience decreased testosterone levels and elevated cortisol levels, a deadly combination that can leave men at the risk of contracting disease and weight gain.
Organic Food Is Far Better!
Researchers have analysed 343 peer-reviewed studies from around the world that had measured differences between organic and conventional fruits, vegetables and grains. It is the largest meta-analysis ever conducted on the topic.
The researchers found that there was a statistically significant difference in the nutritional content of organic and conventional produce. “Organic fruits and vegetables contain between 19% and 69% more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts,” says the British Journal of Nutrition.
Prostate Cancer and Birth Control Surgery
There are indications that there is a significant increase in the rate of cancers of the prostate in men who have vasectomies. One can still argue that the numbers are not large enough to be statistically significant, but that is how reductionist medical statistical science works, to shield their moneybags. The fact remains that if we interfere with nature, there is bound to be some effect. That is my conviction.
Dr Nikita A. Levy MD, a gynaecologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has been using a small pen in the tie to record all the pelvic examinations of more than 25,000 women that he had examined in his 20 years of service in the hospital. He was a popular doctor.
Later, investigations proved that Levy was using this method to illegally record his examinations. When the case became public, many women were devastated and many of them required psychiatric treatment. Soon after he was summarily dismissed, Dr Levy committed suicide. His hospital is still paying compensation to women, almost on a daily basis. So far they have given out $190 million.
Who pays Who benefits?
One of prime minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plans is the massive financial inclusion drive which envisages a bank account for 150 million Indians by August 2018. The idea of financial inclusion is not new—it has been the buzzword at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) since 2005, but without much success. In fact, several thousand new bank accounts, opened under pressure from RBI, remained dormant or did not have a single transaction. Why will it be different this time? Well, Mr Modi reportedly proposes an overdraft facility of Rs5,000 for each account, besides a RuPay debit card with inbuilt accident insurance cover of Rs1 lakh. The overdraft will be backstopped by a Credit Guarantee Fund.
Had something like this been announced by the Congress government, it would have been immediately dubbed a loan mela or another subsidy scheme. But Mr Modi’s spectacular election campaign and the 12-year Gujarat development record have ensured that doubts and misgivings remain muted.
Financial inclusion and empowering the poor is a necessity. There is no doubt at all that the poor are forced to borrow at significantly higher rates, are badly exploited by moneylenders and also forced to pay more for all goods and services. When financial inclusion was attempted though micro-finance, it led to exploitation by rapacious micro financiers, insurers and others.
Will Modi sarkar succeed in getting the same government officials to deliver where others have failed? Will moneylenders not exploit the Rs5,000 overdraft facility for repayment of old borrowings? What will the Modi government do to prevent poor, unbanked, rural folk from blowing up the overdraft, as they usually do, on marriages and religious ceremonies and on liquor?
It is significant that KR Kamath, chairman of the Indian Banks Association, while talking about how bankers were working overtime on this project said, “More than being commercially viable, it is important to link every household with the banking system.” But what happens when the overdraft has been spent and there is a default in the books of our nationalised banks? It will not only be a cost to the exchequer, but all the householders, who were recently included, will be excluded from the system again. We will watch for answers, when the prime minister unveils his grand plan for financial inclusion from the Red Fort on Independence Day.
The second phase of the financial inclusion plan talks about a pension scheme for the lower income and unorganised sector and micro-insurance through the nationalised insurance companies. Premium for insurance products will come from schemes like the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yogana.
A catchy name, terrific tag line, nice logo and a marketing blitzkrieg is all very well, but we would much rather hear a discussion on how the Modi government has studied and fixed all the leakages and malpractices that prevented government-directed financial inclusion and insurance schemes from working.
Instead, all we are hearing from officials and bureaucrats, desperate to please a powerful prime minister, is about the spending and hiring spree (20,000 ATMs, 50,000 banking correspondents and 7,000 branches) planned to meet the ambitious targets.
Nifty should target 7,800 and possibly higher
The S&P BSE Sensex and the NSE’s CNX Nifty put up a strong rally during the second half of Tuesday to end the trading session with gains. In our Monday market closing report, we mentioned that as long as Nifty does not break 7,650 level, an uptrend is likely. During today’s trade, Nifty breached this level in the afternoon session very briefly and then started a strong rally to close near its intra-day high. Nifty ended the day at 7,747 (up 63 points or 0.82%) while Sensex closed at 25,908 (up 185 points or 0.72%).
After a strong opening ahead of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) bi-monthly monetary policy review, both Sensex and the Nifty were pulled down. The bearish sentiments set in after lower activity was reported in the services sector. Nifty, which opened at 7,706, went on to hit a high of 7,720 around noon, however, it was soon pulled down to a low of 7,638 before regaining strength to close near its intra-day high of 7,753.
The RBI maintained its stance on keeping key policy rates unchanged. The repo rate and cash reserve ratio (CRR) remain at 8% and 4%, respectively. Even though inflation declined significantly, RBI governor Dr Raghuram Rajan mentioned that “with some continuing uncertainty about the path of the monsoon, it would be premature to conclude that future food inflation, and its spill-over to broader inflation, can be discounted.” He also cited possibly higher oil prices stemming from geo-political concerns and exchange rate movement could adversely impact inflation.
He further mentioned, “The Reserve Bank will review existing liquidity arrangements and continue to monitor and manage liquidity to ensure adequate flow of credit to the productive sectors.” The RBI cut SLR by 50 basis points to 22% 'to enhance liquidity in the money and debt markets so that financial intermediation expands apace with a growing economy’.
India’s services sectors recorded the third consecutive month of expansion, even though activity was lower in July compared to June’s 17-month high. The HSBC Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), compiled by Markit, fell to 52.2 in July from June's 17-month high of 54.4. A reading above 50 denotes expansion while below signals a contraction. Overall activity was below 50 for nearly a year but starting to expand again in May.
All sectors, except for infrastructure, closed Tuesday with a gain. NSE’s CNX Realty was up 2.77% followed by CNX Auto which was up by 1.96%. The Bank Nifty was up by 0.33% closely followed by the CNX FMCG index which was up 0.34%. The CNX Pharma index was 0.63% up in today’s trade. CNX Infra, the only loser, was down 0.12%.
Cement stocks were in demand. Cement companies have so far reported better-than-expected double-digit volume growth for the June quarter. Among the top five gainers on the Nifty, there were four cement stocks. UltraTech Cement (5.32%), ACC (4.71%), Ambuja Cement (4.21%), Grasim (3.98%) and Mahindra & Mahindra (3.76%) were the top gainers on the Nifty. Among the Nifty losers were BPCL (-1.07%), HCL Technology (-0.96%), Bharti Airtel (-0.77%), Hero MotoCorp (-0.57%) and United Spirits (-0.56%).
On the Nifty, 31 stocks rallied while 19 stocks closed in the red. Of the 3,043 scrips traded on the BSE, 1,778 advanced while 1,142 declined. Trading volume on the Nifty was higher at 860 million shares traded, compared to 728.6 million shares traded on Monday. On Monday, foreign investors registered a net inflow of over Rs373 crore from the Indian markets.
Bond yields spiked to three-week highs as the RBI cut banks SLR. The 10-year benchmark yield jumped 10 basis points to 8.60% on 6th August from a close of 8.50% on 5th August.
The central bank mentioned that it doesn't intend the rupee to depreciate as it has left the interest rates unchanged. Its primary concern, it said, was to deal with inflation. The rupee appreciated to 60.83 per dollar from its earlier close of 60.93 per dollar. Crude oil prices were up on fear of disruption in supply.
European stocks were trading higher, continuing to add on Monday’s gains. The euro zone’s services PMI came in at 54.2, up from 52.2 in June. Earlier in the day, most Asian indices declined as China's services sector growth fell to a record low. China’s services PMI fell to 50.0 in July from a 15-month high of 53.1 in June. US stocks had rallied on Monday, lifted by Portugal's decision to rescue Banco Espirito Santo and better earnings of US stocks. However, in the pre-market trading, US futures were trading sharply low.