Two large groups of scientists are still trying to unravel the mystery of the brain in both sides of the Atlantic
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” — Albert Einstein
Medical scientists seem to have forgotten that science cannot be static; it has to change according to our understanding of man and the world. Time was when we used to teach and accept that the brain is a vital organ that runs the human body and a lot of work has gone into trying to understand the brain. There are two large groups of scientists who are still trying to unravel the mystery of the brain on both sides of the Atlantic. Hundreds of neuroscientists from all over the world have written open letters to the ‘Human Brain Project’ of the European Commission, which has a budget of $1.6 billion, pointing out that the project is overly narrow, ill-conceived and radically premature! Similar criticism has also been aimed at the Obama administration’s ‘Brain Initiative’. The American initiative is hi-tech as usual, using the latest opto-genetics, which allows analysis of individual neurons! Hi-tech has sadly come to be equated with better results.
The real problem is that we still do not know what a good theory of the brain would actually look like. Gary Marcus, professor of psychiatry at the New York University, who is engaged in writing a new book on the future of the brain, also feels that the kind of brain research that we are doing is like the search for the grand unified theory in physics. The old method of building scientific models, which has served to make life much easier with gadgets, communication and transport facilities, seems to have outlived its usefulness. Current brain research falls into that old paradigm.
There is, however, a new model known as biocentrism that takes human consciousness into account. In physics, new understanding of the implications of Werner Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle shook up the foundations of the classical model propounded by Newtonians. Similarly, once we are able to correctly account for human consciousness, we may no longer go after brain cells, or for that matter any other body cells, in isolation. The human body works as a whole. Fritz-Albert Popp elegantly showed, using his bio photon camera, how the brain cells respond even to an ointment applied on the dorsum of the hand, with complete synchronicity. According to him, one is healthy only when all the body cells dance in sync; when they are out of sync, one is ill!
Future research should concentrate on consciousness to understand the working of the brain and the human body, not spend billions of dollars to misunderstand the human as machine. Technology has been very profitable in healthcare and the interested parties would not want to abandon it easily. In fact, it is such reductionist (vivisectionist) researchers who get the Nobel Prize and all the grants.
There are some oases in this scientific desert where thinking people are questioning our dogmas. People like Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Harry Miller and Trevor Pinch, among others, have questioned the existing scientific model; but the money involved in this model does influence many men in the world of science. Paper writing, awards, grant collection, fattening the CV and social status are more attractive than thinking. Now, studies on rats have been found to be seriously flawed, as the researcher’s consciousness and even his gender could change the results by as much as 40%. While one research cannot discount all others, it does raise questions about how modern science conducts its research. Let there be an international conference of thinkers in science to set the ball rolling for research in holistic science.
No one knows how our mind works, but it surely does not fit the present paradigm of the mind as a product of mere neurons and axons.
“The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” — Robert Frost
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.
The demand notice issued to defaulters would now specifically mention that any default in penalty payment would attract a penal interest of 1.5% per month
Looking to recover thousands of crores worth penalties imposed on erring entities, fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) will now specifically demand a penal interest amount applicable to delayed fines in its demand notices.
The CCI is mandated to keep a tab on unfair business practices across sectors and is authorised to impose fines on those found to have engaged in anti-competitive activities.
To help CCI recover penalties from defaulters in a more effective manner, the Government has amended the Competition Commission of India (Manner of Recovery of Monetary Penalty) Amendment Regulations.
While these regulations provide for the CCI to levy a simple interest on the unpaid penalty amount, the details of the same were not explicitly mentioned in demand notices so far.
Pursuant to the latest amendment, notified on 30th July, the demand notice issued to defaulters would now specifically mention that any default in payment of the penalty would attract a penal interest of 1.5% per month.
“In case you fail to deposit the penalty amount... within the aforesaid period, you shall be liable to pay simple interest at the rate of 1.5% for every month or part of a month comprised in the period commencing from the date immediately after the expiry of the period mentioned in this demand notice and ending with the date on which the demand is paid,” as per a new paragraph to be inserted in demand notices.
As per the amendment, the demand notice would further state, "Further, the Commission shall also take necessary steps for recovery of the sum due besides initiating action for non-compliance of the order(s) of the Commission".
The latest amendment brings more clarity on actions that could be taken in case there is a default in payment of penalties imposed by the CCI.
Though the fair trade watchdog has slapped hefty penalties for various violations across sectors, the actual recovery of monies is low. Going by estimates, thousands of crores worth fines are yet to be recovered as many rulings are in litigation.
In December last year, the government had said that CCI recovered only nearly Rs20 crore as against penalties worth more than Rs8,000 crore imposed on 154 entities.
The Centre needs to seriously take up issues of sugar mills and farmers and bring about proposals to resolve it, while ensuring a fair price formula for all concerned. Piece-meal decisions affecting the sugar industry will not be beneficial in the long run
The sugar industry in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is in revolt. Five major mills, such as Balrampur Chini, Bajaj Hindustan, Dharmpur Sugar, DCM Shriram and Dwarakesh Sugar have informed the Stock Exchanges that they have issued suspension notice to UP Chief Secretary, the Cane Commissioner and Principal Secretary (Sugar) that they will not start cane crushing when it starts in November this year, unless the government implements the Rangarajan Committee's recommendations.
Though the government had notified the increase in import duty from 15% to 40%, to curb cheaper sugar imports, this has not come into vogue, due to the lack of a notification to this effect. The promised payments for meeting the arrears to settle the cane farmers have also not been fulfilled completely. UP alone has Rs5,742 crore to settle, as against an all India figure of Rs9,252 crore. Thankfully, subsidy on raw sugar continues and cheaper credit facilities (loans) have been made available.
Following the move by the leading five mills, it is expected that 62 mills of the balance 95 mills in UP may also join the revolt, as they have given suspension notice to the state government on Monday that they too are unable to start the crushing operation for 2014-15 season, in the absence of rational pricing policy for sugar cane. They have demanded the linkage formula recommended by Rangarajan Committee.
In UP, sugarcane price has been fixed at Rs280 per quintal (100 kg) by the state government, whereas the actual realisation from sugar is far below the cost of production which, millers state, to be at Rs37 per kg while the ex-factory realisation is Rs31.50, thus leading to a loss of Rs5.50 per kg. In the linkage-formula, the cane price is liked to sugar, which is realistic and practical.
The problem for the industry has been brewing for months now. Based on the recommendations from the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) and public debates, the government finally hiked import duty on sugar from 15% to 40%, but so far it has not "notified" the same. The assistance for settling arrears payments has been slow, though interest-free loans have been made available.
Due to these uncertainties, there is a fear that cane farmers may switch over to other crops.
In the meantime, in the two-day annual convention of South Indian Sugar Cane and Sugar Technologists Association, President RV Vatnal, stated that "sugar cane farming should be made remunerative to the farmer, but at the same time, the operations of the mills should be made sustainable". He said that all efforts should be made to cut the cost of cane cultivation, increase yields and the sucrose content of the cane at the farm level. It was also necessary to improve the efficiency of the mills and find ways to better use of by-products. He felt that the government policy must be tailored to take care of both.
In the convention, there were talks of mechanisation due to shortage of labour and migration for other jobs; but it was felt that due to a large number of small (parcels of) land under sugarcane cultivation, this may not be feasible, unless some sort of co-operative arrangement was organised at the village levels.
Jagadeesh Gudanganti, the CMD of Siddapur Distilleries Ltd, Karnataka, felt that the cane price should be pegged at 70% of the actual revenue realisation of by sale of sugar, molasses, 25% of bagasse and press mud or 75% revenue of revenue realized by sugar alone. Those present in the convention felt that if Maharashtra and Karnataka could bring about legislation to follow the Rangarajan formula, why it should be introduced in the country on a uniform basis?
In all the confusion prevailing in the industry, the relieving factor has been the output projection for 2014-15 season at 25.3 million tonnes, marginally higher by 4% over the last season, as against the domestic demand estimated at 23 million tonnes. Also, the much feared deficit in monsoon appears not to have affected the cane sowing and the Ministry of Agriculture confirms that, by mid-July, sowing covered 46.09 lakh hectares against the normal 45.37 lakh hectares.
In the meantime, due to the adverse sugar producing climate in Brazil, sugar prices may show an upward trend this season. The global deficit has also been estimated at 2.1 million tonnes, thus opening up further opportunities for India to export more sugar. The last year's carry forward stocks of 7.5 million tonnes would come in handy, should the demand from our overseas buyers suddenly increase due to conditions in Brazil.
In the circumstances, it is essential that the Centre seriously take up the issue with the mills and bring about proposals to resolve the matter in the interest of ensuring a fair price formula for all concerned. Piece-meal decisions affecting the industry will not be beneficial in the long run.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)