All that glitters is NOT honey

Pankaj Narayan Pandit, Founder, Trustee, SLK Foundation

Sales of Immunity boosters like Honey, sky rocket due to healthscare of Covid-19 ; With Covid-19, pandemic sweeping the world , a healthscare  has gripped the elite urban dwellers. The so called “immunity boosters” has become a catchy buzzword Almost all advertisers have started using, #immunity boosters, to peddle their wares Honey, welknown for its anti-oxidant qualities, is called as super food in Ayurveda. Honey from brands like Dabur, Patanjali, Marico, has been enjoying great surge in sales 

Branded honey in India found adulterated with sugar syrup : As per report from CSE(Centre for Science and Environment), most of the 13 brands of  honey sold in India(except Marico’s Safolla) were found to be adulterated with sugar syrup . To add insult to injury, the sugar syrup was  imported   from , “now enemy nation” , China !!! Gullible consumers, who  were happily  slurping honey  to boost immunity would be shell shocked  It is not clear from CSE report, what was  percentage of adulteration of sugar syrup in honey . However it seems, upto 50% of sugar syrup was added to honey . As per CSE, the Chinese product , was aptly named as “all pass sugar syrup”, This sugar syrup was  designed to “pass” the conventional Indian laboratory tests, stipulated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for honey. As per CSE, to camouflage adulteration,  the sugar syrup was exported from China as “paint pigment” ! Further it was  found to be extracted, neither  from known sources like sugarcane, corn (called as C4 source), nor from rice, beetroot(called as C3 source) Perhaps it may be fructose (fruit source) What is the secret behind “all pass” factory produced sugar syrup, whose presence can not detected by conventional tests stipulated by FSSAI FSSAI too , was conniving with branded honey makers, as it changed the testing standards frequently. FSSAI made Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy(NMR) test mandatory, only for exported honey, For domestic honey, this test is not mandatory, which means FSSAI chose to ignore this adulteration of honey in domestic market.

 New technology(NMR) reveals the adulteration and deception Sugar syrup or corn syrup is a standard additive in most off the shelf , consumer products like tomato ketchup , fruit juices, etc  However this particular syrup made in China, was specially designed to be mixed with honey, and pass undetected in Indian laboratory stipulated FSSAI tests It is claimed by CSE that only due to additional laboratory test — the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR), conducted in Germany, could only establish adulteration of honey with Chinese sugar syrup  As per CSE, most of the 13 brands that were tested using the advanced NMR technique have failed. Dabur, Patanjali are the top brands that failed this test while Marico’s Safolla has passed the test (See detailed report https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/) Thus the intentions of Indian honey brands was to hide their use of sugar syrup in their packaged honey and deceive the consumers.

An intriguing trail led to evidence of adulteration : CSE found out that while the sales of branded honey were soaring yet demand for natural honey was falling as evident from falling prices The beekeepers in north India, were complaining that their natural honey which was sold @ Rs 150 per KG in 2014, is now getting less than half of the price @ Rs 75-60 per KG This led the CSE team to investigate the matter when they heard whispers that branded honey makers were using sugar syrup instead of natural honey in their products This adulteration was between 50-80% of honey Thus it may be correct to say that some honey indeed was added to sugar syrup as a flavoring agent !

See this link for more information on CSE findings

Protracted media slugfest likely : The brands selling honey (like Dabar, Patanjali, etc)  , Government of India, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) , Chinese companies exporting sugar syrup, and CSE will now surely engage in a protracted slug-fest in media Just like banned performance enhancement drugs may be used by athletes, (who may well go on to win an Olympic medal ! )The trick is in “not being found out” ! Similarly , the business of adulteration of honey is always one step ahead of the stipulated laboratory tests. As per CSE, FSSAI has been frequently changing the testing standards of honey , since last four years, without giving any reasons. CSE findings on sugar syrup in India’s branded honey, will be certainly disputed, challenged by vested interest parties.  

Earlier CSE had exposed pesticides in cola drinks You may recall that in 2003, CSE had found pesticide residues in cola drinks, 30 times more than permissible limits This was due to fact that ground water in India has such chemical pollution The cola drinks in India, still have pesticide residues,more than permissible limits However the news has lost its shock value ! Indians were shell shocked then but now are gulping gallons of cola drinks, unmindful of pesticide residues !!! Similar thing may happen for honey as well ! However what are the root causes of the deliberate adulteration of a natural product like honey with sugar syrup? Is it due to craze to buy branded products by urban consumers, whose umbilical chord with mother nature has been cut long ago ?

1. Demand out stripping supply : As demand for a natural product like honey, milk rises, it is difficult to meet the entire demand by up scaling natural sources As pesticide use, and hybrid varieties of agricultural crops rise, the collection of natural honey is dropping, as reported by bee keepers In such a situation, collecting small samples of honey from far flung rural areas, upto the factory , must be such a tedious task! Importing  a 200 tonn container of sugar syrup, must be not only lot cheaper but a lot easier too from logistical supply chain point of view!  In addition, honey homogenized with sugar syrup looks sexy when packed in a glass container Sugar syrup does not coagulate or crystalize like natural honey, in bottom of glass jar, giving it a bad , un presentable look !!! Sugar syrup, flavoured with honey has everything that a urban consumer wants!

A highly placed source in Government of India says, “The placebo effect , may well be giving its health rewards to those taking the adulterated honey! Why CSE have to bring up NMR test now , to spoil the party”?

2. ऊस काळा डोंगा रस नाही डोंगा ,कारे भूल लासी वरलिया रंगा says a 17th century Maharashtrian saint It means that sugarcane may look unappetizing, being  black in color, twisted in shape but its juice is very sweet Don’t judge a thing from its outward appearance ! This sums up attitude of urban consumers, who want coarse natural honey , as a homogenized product, packed in branded, gleaming glass bottles The real honey is more viscose, brownish color, less appealing in its appearance. Its natural sugar settles down at the bottom of glass container , giving an impression that it is impure and adulterated with Jaggery ! One of the tenets of Isho Upanishad, an ancient Indian text, says that falsehood embellished with gold is meant to deceive.

3. Honey is adulterated all over the world : India is not the only place in the world where honey is adulterated. In a similar way, honey is the most adulterated commodity all over the world, by adding sugar syrup. as per CSE report!

4. Elite urbanites oblivious  to natural supply chain Many in cities now think that their food grows in super market chains They think that the water that flows out of their RO filters (or bottled water) is made in the factory by the machine, while truth is that natural water is purest as it falls from the sky , post evaporation. It is contaminated by human activity, like sewage, pesticides, chemicals, etc Since covid-19 pandemic , many city dwellers get their daily food supplies, vegetables, milk, fruits, etc delivered to the door steps, of their gated communities So the India’s urbanites have moved farther away from nature When any natural product is factory produced, (like milk, honey, ice cream etc) the look of the product, homogenization, its appearance, shelf life, packaging etc would  take precedence over inherent purity , quality and natural taste of product. Similar adulterating evidence may be found in factory produced milk, ghee, or Indian sweets made from milk fat, called as Khava. To understand, how ignorant urban dwellers are , please read my personal experience of saving honey bees in garden city of Bangalore !

Killing own honey bees while slurping on sugar syrup, sold as honey: I live in an elite society , Sobha Opal, in Jayanagar, Bangalore Years ago, before it became IT capital of India, Bangalore was well known as garden city of India. As its natural flowering gardens, tall trees vanished, the honey bees adapted  well They migrated in habitat of gated societies of Bangalore, making home in the tall buildings of city Bees found out that gardens of such urban part of Bangalore are full of flowers, moisture, even in summer, that they need to thrive However for elite folks living in these buildings, the honey bees are a pest !

Killing bees with pesticides : I was horrified that our society would get rid of such bee hives , by sprinkling insecticide sprays The bee hives with precious golden honey were razed to ground The bees would not die instantly The honey bees would be in a  dazed state, for weeks Only when they were , run over by passing cars, were they liberated to end their agony All our neighbors, the most educated ones, would turn a blind eye to this  heart wrenching site After all, Doesn’t PETA, focuse mainly on large animals like stray dogs, etc?  Bees are  not yet part of their charter.chatter!

Honey bees are protected under wildlife laws in India : I then learnt that honey bees are classified as wild animals as per Indian laws Honey bees are indeed protected by BBMP municipal wildlife commissioners Only after I complained to the BBMP wildlife commissioners, our elite society stopped killing these great creatures (Of course, I will not win a popularity contest in Sobha Opal , due to my efforts to save honey bees !) I am sure many societies in Bangalore, may be killing the honey bees in such manner. Simply threat of enforcing a law is not enough to solve a problem One must find a workable solution ,

Live and let live with honey bees : As we have seen since ancient Indian civilization, we have lived in a sustainable way with nature . And nature enriched our civilization with its rich bounties There are traditional honey extractors, who are tribals in Sunderbans. I wrote to KVIC(Khadi and Village Industries Commission ) and other NGOs, if they knew of traditional, skillful ways of extracting honey from bee hives They replied in negative (Seems their job is only to do pedantic research on honey bees or hold annual conferences on usefulness of honey bees , once in way ! )Only by sheer coincidence, I found one traditional guy, named Raju from India’s tribal community from Rajasthan Raju knew the art of extracting honey from bee hives, from his community , without killing them . Raju comes  in a team that identifies and then smokes out the queen bee from bee hive, thereby driving all slave bees on way out Then delicately they remove the bee hive ,and catch it in a cloth before it falls to ground Then the honey is extracted from bee hive, filtered in  loin cloth My NGO funded this operation for my society by packing it in PET jars and bulk buying of the produce , more than 200 liters of golden honey ! With our help, Raju could admit his son in an English medium school !

Problem of plenty : We get frequent requests from societies of Bangalore to clear their bee hives However I wish to clarify as below

More than 200 litres of pure honey , Sobha Opal@Jayanagar

i. My NGO is not into “pest control service business”! and honey bees are NOT pests ! Neither we plan to enter lucrative market of selling honey ! We have no place to stock the honey

ii. One must allow bee hive to mature so that there is honey in it So one must not try to remove bee hive immediately after it is formed Luckily most of bees of Bangalore are not biting types. Bees never attack humans , unless provoked

iii Bees mind their business, of collecting honey ! Once in way, a bee does get attracted to artificial light and may get way laid into your balcony or room One needs to take them out without hurting them

iv. Society must agree to pay reasonable charges to team of traditional honey extractors for doing such a delicate and dangerous job; bees make their hives in an inaccessible place, making job of extracting honey more difficult.

v. Please remember that the traditional bee hive extractors make a living selling natural honey They expect that the honey extracted is purchased by the residents at agreed price, after bee hive is removed These poor people have no place to store the extracted honey. So they must sell what they have extracted immediately Rich people must buy the entire product generously Honey has no expiry date In addition, the wax is used in Ayurvedic medicines If honey bees are killed, food production and flowering will stop Honey bees are important part of human food chain

Last Word : Bangalore can no longer remain a garden city, without its honey bees, responsible for cross pollination. Honey is invaluable for its anti aging and other medicinal properties. Honey has been widely used as base in India’s Ayurvedic preparations since ages. Rapid urbanization in India is claiming tall trees, lakes and forest cover. So honey bees are now found migrating to city’s gardens which have lot of moisture and flowering plants. The honey bees are now using high rise buildings of city in lieu of tall trees for making their bee hives. That honey bees are still found in a city like Bangalore means all is not lost for this city ! Bees have vanished from Mumbai, its suburbs like Thane as well due to rising pollution Unfortunately, today most of beehives , in Bangalore are removed using pesticide, not only killing honey bees but also making the valuable honey useless. Ironically, developed countries like USA, are doing extensive research for promoting honey bees. It is now proven that apart from producing valuable honey, the honey bees significantly increase agricultural crop yields due to improved cross pollination.Let’s learn to “Live and let the honey bees live” with us. Remember, without honey bees, there would be no flowers in our gardens

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is founder and managing trustee of SLK Foundation. (www.slkfoundation.in) SLK Foundation is 25 years old registered NGO with mission statement, Creating Wealth from Waste. SLK Foundation offers sustainable, cost effective nature friendly solutions in solid waste management, sanitation, health care . SLK Foundation promotes Indian nature cure therapies like AUT/ Yoga for most common ailments. SLK Foundation offers a nonviolent solution for removal of bee hives from Bangalore’s high rise buildings. We deploy India’s traditional honey extractors, who do not use pesticides when they remove bee hives. Honey is extracted from hives after releasing the Queen bee from the beehive. The bees are gently released without killing bees with pesticide. The pure, unadulterated honey collected is sold by our NGO after filtering @ Rs 800 per litre This is helping the traditional honey collectors make a decent living. In modern times, the honey bees have adapted well to make their home on high rise buildings email slkfondation.in@gmail.com

WHO’s responsible for making a monster out of Covid-19!

New Picture (4)

Since beginning of 2020, the world economy has been  rocked  and severely crippled. The entire humanity is now gripped by a fear of a pandemic The virus, for causing Covid-19 (i.e coronavirus disease of 2019) was officially christened  by WHO  as  SARS-CoV-2 virus The earlier SAR-CoV-1(during 2002-3) was confined to few countries viz China and its neighboring ones It afflicted less than 8000 people, causing  774 deaths On the other hand, Covid 19 , has spread all over world . The world tally of the Covid-19 cases crossed   23.45 million on August 23, 2020 , resulting in 809,959 deaths  (ref worldometers.com)

corona-1

There were usual apocalyptic , like in case of swine flue, (2009)  that more than half of humanity may be wiped out The media is agog now, with daily reports on increasing number of positive cases , number of deaths; As WHO initially declared, “There is no medicine, no natural immunity that works  on the new virus

Six months later,  sobering facts given below proved the Cassandra’s  wrong

  1. In most people, covid-19 is a brief, mild illness. More than 99. 7 % of currently infected 6.48 mill patients,  are in mild / uncritical condition.  The critically/seriously ill comprise of less than 0.3% , of total affected in any part of the world
  2. The number of deaths due to Covid-19, in this year, @ 0.809 mill are much lesser than deaths in this year  due to other communicable diseases (8.3mill), deaths due to cancer(5.3mill) , deaths due smoking (3.2mill),  Deaths due to alcohol(1.6 mill), Deaths due to HIV(1.0mill), deaths due road accidents/suicides(1.5 mill)  and so on
  3. The average fatality rate is about 3.5% of total Covid-19 cases worldwide Few OECD rich countries in Europe have very higher fatalities  Advanced age of citizens in Europe may be the reason for higher fatalities
  4. The average number of Covid-19 cases when compared with population are even lower 2952 per mill (ie 0.3%) while deaths , when compared with population. are  102  per million  of population on an average( ie only miniscule  0.01%)
  5. Take a  close look at China’s figures, (as on 23rd Aug 2020) where the virus supposed to have originated The statistics , only 3 deaths per mill , is the most surprising due to extremely low mortality, low cases per mill population. Mind you, China has carried out no less than 90 mill tests        (Ref worldometers.net)
    Ttl cases

    China

    new cases Ttl Deaths Recovrd Active cases Serious cases Total case per mill Deaths per mill popultn
    84,951 12 4,634 79,895 422 17 59 3
  6. USA has,  not only much higher case load ,  17,405 per mill. of population , as well as much higher 544 deaths per one mill population Both parameters are among the highest in the world It is not entirely because of USA carrying over 75 mill tests, much higher than most countries  Equally perplexing is the reason why  death rates  in so called rich  OECD countries in Europe(like Belgium, Spain, UK, Italy, Sweden) are five times higher than world average? Advanced age of population may be one of the possible reasons. As  per Swedish immunologists like Dr Bade Staffold, many deaths reported may be due wrong treatment or due to side effects of cocktail of drugs. For example, Rushing patients to ICU ventilators,  caused lung damage In Britain about half the patients treated in intensive-care units (icus) in the weeks to the middle of April died!
  7. India has registered only 2151 cases per mill (0.2%)while deaths are much lower 0.004% (ie only 40 deaths per million of population ) India’s poorer and  more densely populated neighboring countries in SAARC nations like BanglaDesh(24 deaths per mill) has done better than India Pakistan(28 deaths per mill),  too has  significantly low deaths, in spite of a poor healthcare infrastructure.  There are different theories why the death rate is so low in south Asian (SAARC) nations, ranging from BCG vaccination, younger population, inadequate testing that results in attributing deaths to other causes .
  8.  As world media.  along with WHO have already established irrefutable , strong business case for developing a vaccine , there is a worldwide  race for an effective  vaccine for Covid 19 among big pharma companies , just as many cocktail of medicines , therapies are being tried out on the seriously afflicted persons
  9.  The healthcare industry, backed by philathro-capitalists like Bill Gates have swung  into action for promising a quick fix,  panacea,  a vaccine The drug companies are naturally enthused seeing opportunity to make multi-millions The trials of vaccine are going at this time

corona-2

9.It was prophesized by the Cassandras that Mumbai’s poor, living in densely populated slums would first fall victims to the virus, while  the rich stayed safe behind closed doors of gated communities, spraying themselves of sanitizers.  However community transmission of the virus  happened in densely populated , clusters where urban poor live in areas like  Mumbai’s Dharavi. Mother nature vaccinated the poor, slum dwellers in India , estimated 40% of total, with low dosage of virus, there by developing antibodies , as per serological  study done in July Similar studies in Pune, Delhi are indicating that India is inching  towards “herd immunity” It is likely that more % of poorer population would have developed antibodies by now   Thus human vaccine is not only late but it  may be unnecessary, at least for the poorer Indian.

10. The economy as well as human population is now recovering,  not only from the virus but slew of remedies touted that proved to be worse than the original disease , foolhardy measures such as forcing complete lockdown  in India , without notice from 25th March for five months, unnecessary closing down not only all factories, airports, transport , marketplaces, shops, but public parks, gardens, hill stations, sea beaches  as well. Cancelling sports, cultural , social or religious functions, irrational decisions like limiting number of passengers in private cars to three, asking airlines for leaving middle seat in aircraft empty  and more                                                                                                                                                    Top five countries (no of cases) As on 20th Aug 2020 

All Figs in mill )except deaths are in nos)
Global
USA
Brazil
India
Russia
S.Afrca
Total cases(as on 20th Aug 2020)mill
22.58
5.70
3.46
2.76
0.93
0.59
Recovered(mill)
15.30
3.06
2.61
2.09
0.74
0.49
Active cases as of now(mill)
6.48
2.46
0.73
0.68
0.17
0.09
Deaths (in numbers)
799,627
177,778
112,780
55,921
16,189
12,618
Deaths % of total cases
3.50%
2.98%
3.18%
1.96%
1.61%
2.11%

(Source: worldometers.com)

New Picture

As the Covid 19 is thought to have spread from China, there were completely preposterous claims by scientists  such as how this virus has jumped from animals(bat) to humans in live animal markets of Wuhan; that the virus has been made in Chinese laboratory or it could have escaped from their lab ; that the Chinese released the virus as means for biological warfare against the world; that 5G mobile network in Wuhan caused  changes in atmosphere to cause rupture in ozone layer, and more These were nothing but canards, white lies , not even worth discussing However there are  seemingly credible myths about Covid-19

1. That WHO knows better about Covid-19!   

  1.  WHO does not know better ! This is second time, that WHO is  crying wolf Earlier, EU called WHO’s bluff for declaring  “falsified pandemmic”  for swine flue in 2009 WHO has been vacillating on its views about Covid-19, more frequently than the changing weather. First WHO did not declare this as a pandemic calling it as an epidemic, restricting to China, not a communicable disease Later WHO went to other extreme,  on January 30, 2020, when they declared the Covid 19 a Global Public Health Emergency, declaring that this is a pandemic WHO declared grimly that human beings have   no immunity against this “novel” virus; then WHO kept changing views on medications, on test methodology, on whether cured people can be infected once again, on whether  asymptomatic folks can spread disease to others , so on. All this created an epidemic of fear amidst common folks  Crying wolf, may sound better to guard itself (or err on side of caution) but then world will judge WHO, as it continues to be nudged by the big pharma
  2.  The virologists, epidemiologists and immunologists have lot of disagreements about the Covid-19  Big pharma has vested interests in fear mongering WHO should know better ?

2. That Covid 19 infection is fatal

  1. As we have seen from worldwide data so far, 99.97% of infections are mild
  2. The number of deaths as $ of total cases is 3.5%, when seen as per one mill of population, the world average is 102 deaths per mill(20th Aug 2020)
Virus Fatality rate
SARS-CoV-2 2%
MERS 34%
SARS-CoV-1  9.60%
Swine Flu 0.02%
Seaonsal flu 0.10%

3. There is a wide variation in deaths may be due to under reporting of deaths as well as inadequate number of tests being carried out.Deaths per million in a country, not only indicate the condition of healthcare infrastructure but also general wellness of the population, that is beyond realms of modern medicine.Number of deaths per mill population shown above graph proves that the number of deaths are insignificant when viewed with total population.

4. Relatively, the deaths are significantly higher , in rich OECD countries like Belgium(861), Spain(617), UK(610), Italy (586), Sweden (575), USA(544) The reasons for this needs to be investigated, apart from advanced age of its citizens. Could overactive intervention by healthcare industry in western countries have caused  higher deaths ?

(Source: worldometers.com)

  1. New Picture (3)

3. That this is a new virus, hence there is no natural protection against it

corona-3

  1. The initial discussion on virus was , “how it jumped from animals markets of China to humans”, Bats or Civet cats were carriers of the virus
  2. Dr Beda Staddler, immunologist from Sweden has questioned about novelty of the virus When the gene sequence, i.e. the blueprint of this virus, was identified, it was given a similar name to the 2002 identified Sars, i.e. Sars-CoV-2 Logically, we should have asked  ourselves then how far this virus is related to other coronaviri, which can make human beings sick.
  1. As per one study, 34% of people in Berlin who had never been in contact with the Sars-CoV-2 virus showed nonetheless T-cell immunity against it This means that our T-cells, i.e. white blood cells, detect common structures appearing on Sars-CoV-2 and regular cold virus and therefore combat both of them.
  2.  Studies show that this so-called novel virus is very strongly related to Sars-1 as well as other beta-coronaviri which make us suffer every year in the form of a colds. Apart from the pure homologies in the sequence between the various coronaviri which can make people sick, [scientists] currently work on identifying a number of areas on the virus in the same way as human immune cells identify them. This is no longer about the genetic relationship, but about how our immune system sees this virus, i.e. which parts of other coronaviri could potentially be used in a vaccine.
  3. The ultra low death rates in China’s East Asian nations like Japan(9 deaths per mill), Singapore(5 deaths per mill) , South Korea(6 deaths per mill), Vietnam(0.3 deaths per mill)  are pointing to their previous immunity due to earlier exposure to SARs ! These countries did not enforce lockdown but followed policy of wearing masks in public places as well as testing and isolating patients                                (Source: worldometers.com)New Picture (2)
  1.  East Asian countries, including China , have reported ultra low deaths , because these countries were earlier exposed to Sars-Cov-1 ! So Sars-Cov-2 isn’t all that new, but merely a seasonal cold virus that mutated and disappears in summer, as all cold viri do — which is what we’re observing globally right now. Flu viri mutate significantly more, by the way, and nobody would ever claim that a new flu virus strain was completely novel. Many veterinary doctors were therefore annoyed by this claim of novelty, as they have been vaccinating cats, dogs, pigs, and cows for years against coronaviri.corona-4
  1. That enforcing lockdown is best choice; Every one should stay indoors
    1. Inert surfaces like door handles, furnitures, metal surfaces , clothing, cannot possibly keep virus alive for longer times than few minutes.
    2. When most of the world is acknowledging community transmission as mode of transfer of disease, what purpose is being served by lockdown and staying indoors?
    3. Biological model, namely that of the human organism, Statistics from China and later worldwide data showed that almost no children under ten years old got sick, which means children clearly are immune.
    4. . When people are sadly dying in a retirement home, but in the same place other pensioners with the same risk factors are left entirely unharmed, we should also conclude that they were presumably immune
    5. Few notable exceptions to nations who refused to total lockdown economies were Sweden, UK, Japan, Germany
    6. Credibility of the political leadership in enforcing lockdown in countries like India needs to be questioned. The lockdown was enforced  without any notice in India, caused hundreds of deaths of migrant workers who walked for days back to their villages from cities
    7. corona-6

5. That there are magic bullets like Remdesivir, or HCQ 

  1. People with a bad diet or who are malnourished have a weakened immune system, which is why this virus does not only reveal the medical problems of a country, but also social issues. Health of person is independent of his social status
  2. If an infected person does not have enough antibodies, i.e. a weak immune response, the virus slowly spreads out across the entire body. Now that there are not enough antibodies, there is only the second, supporting leg of our immune response left: The T-cells begin to attack the virus-infested cells all over the body. This can lead to an exaggerated immune response, basically to a massive slaughter; this is called a Cytokine Storm.
  3. What are causes of exaggerated immune response ? Possible answer could be in the weakened gut microbiota, which is a complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans This microbiota strengthens immune system Having healthy bacteria in our gut is vitally important for proper functioning of the body, especially to ensure body’s immune system does not go into overdrive as happens when WBCs, T cells get into action mode. Problems arise when the stressed brain keeps draining energy from the gut, causing weakening of the gut walls and a knock-on effect on the immune cells that dwell in the walls.
  4. Very rarely this can also happen in small children, in that case called Kawasaki Syndrome. This very rare occurrence in children was also used  to stoke panic. It’s interesting, however, that this syndrome is very easily cured. The [affected] children get antibodies from healthy blood donors, i.e. people who went through coronavirus colds. This means that the hushed-up [supposedly non-existent] immunity in the population is in fact used therapeutically.
  5. The plasma of recovered patients gives antibodies to other patients who have inadequate antibodies
  6.  The cocktail of  drugs like Remdesivir, HCQ, steroids not only interfere/ suppress body’s reactions, symptoms  but these come  with deleterious side effects on overall health
  7.  As per Dr Malati Karvarkar, renowned dietician and nutritionist, our body loses lot of vitamins, minerals , whenever we take any medicines say for illnesses such as common fever, flue, malaria, hypertension, asthma, etc. Patients needs to have special diet to compensate for such loss of nutrients. The side effects of  medicines cause severe nutritional deficiency due to  loss of intestinal  flora

4. Healthy person can die from Covid-19

  1. The % of serious critical cases of total cases, are less than 0.3% world over.( As per Worldometers) The average death rate  population is 103 per one million  ie one in 10,000 The death rate from other contagious diseases like TB is much higher !
  2. When analyzing the breakdown of deaths by age and condition, out of 15,230 confirmed deaths in New York City up to May 12, only 690(4.5% of all deaths) occurred in patients,  under the age of 65 AND who did not have an underlying medical condition (or for which it is unknown whether they had or did not have an underlying condition). Underlying illnesses include Diabetes, Lung Disease, Cancer, Immunodeficiency, Heart Disease, Hypertension, Asthma, Kidney Disease, GI/Liver Disease, and Obesity (ref worldometers.com)
  3. Surprise ! Surprise !!! China, the epicenter of Covid-19,  itself reported only 3 deaths per mill population, with 84, 951 cases, of which 94% were mild cases, registering only 422 deaths! Except Wuhan, the epidemic did not spread to other parts of China

7.Asymptomatic persons can transmit the disease

  1. This was one of the biggest and most ridiculous lies perpetrated by the vested interests
  2. Its simply not possible from biological point of view that asymptomatic person can be contagious or carrier of disease.

 

8. The covid positive test results are conclusive

  1. Humans are attacked by germs and how we react to them: If there are pathogenic viri in our environment, then all humans — whether immune or not — are attacked by this virus. If someone is immune, the battle with the virus begins. First we try to prevent the virus from binding to our own cells with the help of antibodies. This normally works only partially, not all are blocked and some viri will attach to the appropriate cells. That doesn’t need to lead to symptoms, but it’s also not a disease. Because the second guard of the immune system is now called into action. That’s the above mentioned T-cells, white blood cells, which can determine from the outside in which other cells the virus is now hiding to multiply. These cells, which are now incubating the virus, are searched throughout the entire body and killed by the T-cells until the last virus is dead.
  2. So if we do a PCR corona  test on an immune person, it is not a virus that is detected, but a small shattered part of the viral genome. The test comes back positive for as long as there are tiny shattered parts of the virus left.
  1. Being under medication(or vaccine) is the best option
  1. Those who relying on vaccine or medicines are underestimating the complex immune system that mother nature has given us
  2. As per several studies done in Mumbai, Delhi, more than 30% people have developed antibodies for Covid in their blood
  3. Thus low exposure to infection, has already resulted in waking up their immune system (exactly same way as a vaccine would have done)
  4. Similar natural  immunity was developed by nature against H1N1, few years ago.

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  1. Older people are more susceptible for both contracting or dying from covid. Chance of contracting the virus, recovering from it , is all about immunity that is independent of age, race, financial status etc. Young = Healthy and Old =diseased are wrong equations

Who should you trust ? or Should you trust WHO? 

EU inquiry against WHO for “falsified pandemic”  in June 2009 : The EU  launched  an inquiry on the influence of the pharmaceutical companies on the global swine flu campaign, focusing on the pharma’s industry’s influence on WHO. There is a “Golden Triangle” of drug corruption between WHO, the pharma industry and academic scientists that  permanently damaged the lives of millions and even caused death during swine flue campaign, as per EU.
Human remedies  proved worse than disease : EU  alleged that In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies influenced scientists and official agencies, WHO responsible for public health standards , alarm governments worldwide and make  them squander tight health resources for inefficient vaccine strategies needlessly expose millions of healthy people to the risk of an unknown amount of side-effects of  insufficiently tested vaccines. The EU Parliamentary inquiry looked into the issue of “falsified pandemic” declared by WHO in June 2009 , on the advice of its group of academic experts, SAGE(strategic advisory group of experts) many of whose members have  intense financial ties to the same pharmaceutical giants such as GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Novartis, who benefit from the production of drugs and untested H1N1 vaccines. 

Most likely WHO is crying wolf again!  Coming back to year 2020, to contain spread of Covid-19 epidemic, many countries like India enforced lockdowns, severely affecting employment opportunities. Indians did  ridiculous things like banging  plates, lighting  lamps, too  perhaps lampooning the virus ! Most of countries of world are in severe recession, as result of shrinkage of all discretionary spend Amidst headline grabbing  by politicians, media , conflicting views from healthcare industry, vested interest lobbies such as WHO acting in connivance with drug companies, there are feeble voices of reason from immunologists.These voices of wisdom have been  lost in the din of noise  Natural immunity developed  over millions of years, is the best vaccine. Good nutrition, adequate rest, stress free mind, and proper exercise is your best protection If a doctor treats your flue, it may go away in fourteen days. If you leave it alone, it will go away in two weeks!

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1. The author, Dr Beda M Stadler published article in WorldHealth.Net Dr Stadler  is the former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern, a biologist and professor emeritus

2.  All statistics on Covid 19 are sourced from http://www.worldometers.com as on 23rd Aug 2020

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Excerpts from this blog has been published in Oct, 2020 issue of JSHO(Journal of Science of Healing Outcomes). Pankaj Narayan Pandit is founder and managing trustee of a non profit NGO SLK Foundation which offers nature friendly wellness solutions , drawing on India’s ancient knowledge in Nature cure, Yoga.www.slkfoundation.in

Email slkfoundation.in@gmail.com Cell 9035010503/7019817001

Top ten myths in the wonderland of finance

1. That one can make a living from Stock market’s  earnings

  1. Unless you are a investment broker or agent, who makes money from others’ investments, you cannot expect regular income , from own investments in stock market
  2. Stock market is meant for investing money earned elsewhere.It is possible to grow your investments  But you need initial capital that cannot come from share market
  3. Bad news for tribe of day traders! You better find something worthwhile  to make a living!

2. That one cannot make money on expensive, large cap stocks 

    1. P:E ratios indicate how many years it will take to recover your investment done in buying particular stock at its present market price , present earning per share
    2. Typical P:E ratios of NIFTY(50) stocks are usually in range of 25-29 which came down to 22 since April 2020, due to Covid pandemic However the expensive Nifty(Next 50) has become even more expensive post pandemic
    3. An expensive stocks, P:E more than 40, can be a virtuous cycle, which takes its price higher and higher. For example,  Reliance Industries from April-July 2020, has more than doubled during worst possible times of pandemic.
PeriodAVG P:E NIFTY(50)AVG P:E NIFTY(Next 50)
April 2018-March 20192740
April 2019-March 20202727
Post COVID April 2020-June 20202266

4. Expensive stocks can become more expensive with time , while small cap stocks, called penny stocks, may stop quoting. See in chart below, NIFTY(50) index has increased by 50% during 8 months since March 2020 to Nov 2020, while it has given only 8% during one year period from Nov 2019 to Nov 2020

NIFTY yields 50% return in 8 months since March 2020 , while only 8% increase after one year(2019-2020)

3. That investment in Real estate can never go wrong viz Buying grand house for self occupation

  1. Self occupied grand house is NEVER considered as an investment. Self occupied house is simply a necessity. You cannot practically sell part of house or entire house, when in need of funds.
  2. Only unoccupied property bought for renting qualifies as an investmentNew Picture (19)

4. That one should stay away from debt, all your life.

  1. Debt is a lever can be used to create assets and increase wealth. Inflation @ 7% is robber of wealth, unless you use debt, as lever, to grow your wealth @ rate higher than inflation, you cannot become rich. Needless to elaborate, debt should not be used to buy a depreciating asset like car, but for buying asset that have possibility to  appreciate in value over time, like property, or equity or gold
  2.  While it is impossible to be rich without  using debt leverage,  at some point in life. one should try to  retire debt at earliest. Own funds have zero  cost of capital; opportunity cost is not real outgo.
  3.  Risk taking is associated with younger age Hence debt be taken when young, but should be reduced progressively  with advancing age.
  4.  “Living debt free life” is one of the greatest joys of life, as per a quote from Mahabharta, the ancient Indian mythological epic.

5. That one can make money , without any taking any risk

  1. No guts, no glory ! It is impossible anyone can become rich without taking any financial risks
  2. Stock market , property do offer limitless opportunities for the brave However over leveraged positions can go horribly wrong at times, leading to loss of capital.

6. That investment in gold is useless

  1. Gold has doubled in six years , every six years, since 30 years see chart New Picture (64)
  2.  The gold prices quote in US$ so investment in gold, protects your rupee investment from inflation. As rupee depreciates against US$, value of  gold investment automatically increases
  3.  Instead of buying physical gold, that has issues like purity, security, liquidity, one should buy Gold ETF or gold bonds.

7. One must keep jumping between stocks or one can remain married to a bouquet of stocks for long times

  1. Stay invested unless long term view of competitiveness of the industry  has changed. Industry competitiveness can change due to one of reasons such as Changes in buyers’ preferences, reduction in pricing power, changes in government policies, entry of a new player that wants to disrupt existing players, etc   Too much trading makes brokers rich It also shows lack of trust in your own decisions about investment.
  2. Since 2007-2020, NIFTY(50) has given a %CAGR of less than 6% Anyone could have made more money from investing in PPF@7.5% rather than taking risk NIFTY is   one the best indices of India’s stock market. Market has been volatile Profit taking is a must, if P:E ratios or NIFTY New Picture (61)are at historic high, then one must book profits  The volatility of market, as seen from above chart, should make strong case for entry and exits from market
  3. Buy low and sell high “is the only mantra of stock exchange . Nifty-(50), has returned less than 8% annual returns  during last one year (Nov 2019 to Nov 2020) However Nifty(50) has grown 50%, since last eight months, (from March 2020 till Nov 2020). This means, as indices reach lifetime high, periodic profit booking is advisable. Markets being volatile, policy of “buy right and sit tight” may not work !Being nimble footed does help !

8. That analytical mind  helps in making money 

  1. Yes analytical mind does help However the ” bold and analytical” type is the  one who makes more money than the purely analytical types.
  2. Too much analysis leads to paralysis, or freeze.

9. That one can beat the market

  1. When broad market indices fall, almost every stock would  fall and vice versa
  2. An exceptional stock may defy this s However it is inevitable that the portfolio value will rise and fall with overall market When market goes down, almost all stocks do down, All MFs will report losses /gains with market
  3. Regular profit taking, taking profits away from equity markets, at regular times is the only way one can beat the market
  4.  Staying in cash in bad times may be better, if MFs have not delivered Putting money in a leaking pot will not help you  (Talyat : Malyat) Keep Switching between equity and debt is better

10. That personal insurance cover should give ROI like any other mutual fund.

  1. Insurance is about taking life cover against unforeseen events such as death, accident, etc One should get such insurance cover for the prime earning member of family, at minimum annual cost. Taking  insurance policy of their children  is totally unnecessary and unjustifiable !
  2. Don’t mix returns of insurance cover with ROI, what you will get in the 10th or 12th or 14th year .The income from most insurance cum saving schemes are paltry, 3% to 5% CAGR This  is too low a return , with poor flexibility, in spite of saving over a long time period Further, you lose control over your invested money for over 10 years.  All this makes cost of  insurance cover  very expensive Hence insurance cum saving schemes are avoidable at best.

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Note 1 : Residex is the only index on property valuation, published by NHB, a RBI subsidiary Residex  monitors property prices in all cities of India The index was started in 2007, with base of 100  However for reasons best known to NDA government, Residex has revised twice, in 2013/14  and again in 2018/19 The most obvious reason is that government wants to hide depression in property prices due to demonetisation , GST, slowdown  Hope Residex  is not revised once again in 2020 , to hide depression in property prices due pandemic

New Picture (38)Pankaj Narayan Pandit , MBA(Finance) is business consultant based in Bengaluru , India. Pankaj has online sessions on , personal finance His email is panditpank@gmail.com

“Discovering Aladdin lamp, only to discard it !

‘Alladin and his magic lamp’ is a famous fable from Arabian nights. Any wish was fulfilled by the genie of the lamp. What if you discovered Alladin lamp? It would fulfill all your wishes! But would you keep using it for ever or would you want to throw it away to live a life, with no particular wishes? Years ago, I did discover Alladin lamp It fulfilled my three wishes After that, I discarded it later, vowing never to use it again !
I had started working on my first job, after graduating with MBA and engineering degree from Mumbai. The job, was with India’s leading engineering company The job was, not only well paid but gave me opportunity to travel places. Yet there was something missing. I had nagging desires that unsettled me.                                                                                         During this time, a training program promised a transformation , solving all personal issues like magic ! Then it was called as EST training , conceived by one American, Werner Erhard. EST was conducted over two weekends, it gave an understanding about many human issues. (EST training is now rechristened as Landmark Forum) I did  the training but was disappointed  as it created no instant miracles It did not give me any breakthroughs, either in my personal relationships or in life ! One of the things, another training from same stable, COL  (called as conditions of living) promised ; if one had true intention, given a proper context, the intention has to get fulfilled. I decided to put this to a test . I expressed three intentions               1. To buy car                                                                                                                 2. To experience ‘love’                                                                                                   3. To visit USA. And all this, I wanted to experience before turning 25!
As the miracles of universe kick started, I did manage to buy a second hand car in next two weeks. It happened so fast that i did not even have a driving license, when I  bought the car !  I learnt driving, on my car itself! In due course, I did experience ‘true love’ ! And to cap it, I celebrated my 25th birthday in Boston, USA !  All of a sudden, my company decided to send me to USA , for a two week training program with our principals !                         As quoted in the book, The Alchemist, universe had indeed conspired to fulfill all my expressed desires ! I was amazed that this happened, even though I was not particularly a religious (or spiritual) person then! Having fulfilled all my desires, at ripe age of 25. I was grateful to existence ! I then decided that now onwards, I will let ‘existence’ offer,  what are good choices for me. And life unfolded many more treasures that I had never imagined !
Today looking back, I realize that making ‘choiceless selection’ , was the best choice in my life! Choice less ness , gives ‘space’ for a divine plan to unfold in  life  I decided to freely enjoy the journey of  life , ‘choosing’ what came to me ! My wishes were, no longer, any interference in the divine plan. 


Pankaj Narayan Pandit is based in Bangalore India. His e mail panditpank@gmail.com

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The “business of charity” is recession proof!

 

Charity is a serious, worldwide “business” ! The business of charity is unaffected by cycles of recession The Forbes 100 Top Charities for 2019 collectively received more than $5,150 Crores ($ 51.5 Bill) in private donations This accounts for 12% of the estimated $427,00 Crores($ 427 Bill)  received in contributions in USA(ref  Giving USA). By implementing CSR law, (Corporate Social responsibility) India’s large, profitable companies have to spend 2% of their profits on socially  responsible projects , the amount estimated to be Rs 60,000 crores per year. For corporate, who have expertise in other things than social responsibility, find it not easy to run projects that qualify under CSR and manage to spend the huge money allocated to spend  during one year Even during these times of stretched balance sheets, due to economic slowdown and epidemic, if the companies do not spend this money, their directors can be sent to jail .This is as per a recent amendment done to give teeth to CSR guidelines. What’s quick pill remedy for such corporate(other than showering high currency notes from a helicopter on the poorest of poor)? Simply write a cheque to government approved CSR schemes like, Swatchh Bharat or “PM cares” and Lo! Your  company has met its  CSR objective ! As per Times report, the corpus of PM cares has soared to Rs 10,600 Crores, in May 2020, within only two months after its launch and this amidst severe fall in GST revenues which has left state governments and municipalities on verge of bankruptcy

“Why charity?”: No businessman  would ever want  to  run a business,  intentionally to lose money; yet there are umpteen number of  entrepreneurs who go bankrupt every day. Loss seems to be an unintended outcome of wrong business practices . Making profit is motive of any business activity, for human beings are selfish. So why would anyone want to “throw money”  away into charity?  What is rational behind motivation for charity?

  1. Vanity : If one has been to Lions or Rotary club fund raising meets, you will be astonished to find how the elite invitees want to “outdo one another” on donation  amounts. Such events make one  understand,  how vanity comes in charity !Apologies for offending these elite clubs, with such uncharitable remarks ! ( They do excellent work !) “Keeping with Joneses” is applicable, not only to buying latest gadgets but for “public contributions” to  charitable causes too ! The celebrities like film stars, public figures like leading businessmen, have to publicly announce their donations for a social cause on social platforms , lest they are denounced by the public.
  2. Leaving a legacy :  मरावे , परि किर्तीरुपी उरावे (After death, one wants to leave behind, a good reputation, says a Marathi saint Ramdarswami ) Many successful industrialists at the end of their business tenure, realize that they have a problem of plenty ! So they promptly set up  charitable trust , with altruistic goals. Interestingly,  such trusts are  set up by wealthy industrialists always with their family name, for stated charitable purpose.Example,  Alfred Nobel, a “notorious” 19th-century Swedish chemist wanted to obliterate his name from being “an angel  of death” The notoriety was due to death and destruction brought by his inventions of dynamites like TNT. Alfred Nobel left his vast fortune for a trust to give away a prize in his name for science, literature and peace. Today after 120 years after his death, “Nobel peace prize” is  no longer considered  oxymoron by world! That’s the power of money invested in a trust!  There are  examples, of such foundations spawned by many successful entrepreneurs like   Ford, Rockefeller in previous generations and  Bill & Melinda Gates in recent times There is Azim Premji Foundation, Hindujas Foundation, are  running hospitals,  educational institutions. There are many trusts set up by rich industrialists, in their family name, which are doing meritorious work in sectors like education, healthcare, environment, ecological protection.
  3. Subsidiary trusts of  large companies : Profitable companies like Infosys , HCL, Tatas,  set up charitable trusts ,long before CSR made it  mandatory to spend certain percentage of profits for social cause. This may be emanating from conscientious promoters.
  4. Trusts set up as tax saving instrument:  Many trusts are set up with a   primary focus to save income tax for those giving donations Many  wealthy, tax-protected philanthropic trusts, are results of generous contributions of philanthropists who create a charitable trust rather than paying more taxes.   Such trusts take 80G accreditation, that gives 50% reduction in income tax for payee Such income tax deductible donations save Income Tax for donors In other word, the revenue that would have accrued to government by Income tax gets reduced to extent of donations made There are other examples of profitable entities functioning as charitable trusts, to save taxes.  For example, BCCI (Board of control for cricket In India) You will be surprised to learn about legal status of  BCCI, as a charitable trust.  BCCI runs the most profitable game of cricket in India (like Indian Premier League, doing turnover of thousands of crores from sponsorship, endorsements, TV contracts and fees from sale of tickets and finally multi million rupees contracts for international  players) Surprise Surprise ! BCCI is registered as a charitable trust It obviously saves huge money for BCCI; also its accounts are not scrutinized and made public as any listed company !
  5. Trusts that focus on funds from abroad : FCNR accreditation opens trusts for fund flows from foreigners  Such money could come with obligations. The current government looks with suspicion with trusts under FCNR, for  vested  commercial interests of MNCs like organizing agitations,  facilitating clinical trials or introducing Genetically modified (GM) crops (like Bt cotton, or brinjal, or few grains like Soya, Maize, etc) Greenpeace and so many others have lost their status as trust in India.
  6. Trusts for funneling CSR contribution The CSR kitty is a significant source of donations as large companies are required to spend at least 2 per cent of their net profits on such activities, and the total spending by the top 500 companies under this head since 2019 is expected to cross Rs 60,000 crore soon. The CSR norms are applicable to firms with a net profit of at least Rs 5 crore or a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or net worth of Rs 500 crore. After CSR spending became mandatory, it seems natural that the company wants to control outflow of funds The private companies set up own trusts than giving funds away to a third party NGO The government has recently given new teeth to CSR laws by ruling that  companies directors can be sent to jail if CSR money is not spent ! Now in these times when balance sheets are stretched  due to mounting debts and economic slowdown, arm twisting companies to spend on CSR is illogical. What if such companies need bail out later by PSU banks? (ie  at tax payers cost)
  7.  Government sponsored organizations PM national  relief fund , Swachh Bharat, PM cares are trusts set up to “help” the companies grant a “quick relief” from legal obligation to spend the CSR money,  simply by writing a cheque !
  8. Religious Trusts: The Christian and Islam religions have spread all over world, through efforts religious trusts, that provide funding from countries abroad.  These religious trusts have huge funds to be used for spreading their own religion. Hindu religion has no organized structure with motive to spread itself. The temples in India, like Tirupati, Shirdi, which are run by trusts are cash cows Tirupati’s cash deposits in various banks exceed Rs 12,000 Crores as per a report. Similarly, the “new order of religions” set up by India’s godmen, like Osho-Rajneesh,  Satya SaiBaba, Brahmakumari, Swami Narayan sect, ISKON, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev , Amma Amrutanandamayi, have trillions of funds received from their devotees, as donations .  It will be interesting to get details of money, wealth created  with these godmen , (like land, building, plush ashrams, etc ), who were supposed to have renounced the ways of a householder, i.e.accumulating worldly possessions !
  9. Miscellaneous charities for promoting music, art, literature, cultural , educational, healthcare, environmental or such purpose  These trusts sustain on individual contributions For many socially important causes, only a “not for profit” organization can work  with dedication.

Last word : Few business are as recession proof like the business of charity! There is no dearth of money for most of the charities mentioned above. In fact they have a problem of plenty! Running an unethical business and atoning the sins, by setting up a charitable trust later is deplorable . Yet one can find many instances. There is example of infamous Satyam group of companies, that ran one of the best CSR programs. However the group went bust due massive accounting fraud  done in connivance with their international reputed  auditors !  There is recent care of a NRI (non resident Indian) businessman from Middle East, who was known to be very generous with money His munificence supported art, culture and politicians in India. The group, NMC , with interest in healthcare, banking  has gone bust due to massive accounting fraud The NRI bizman is likely to be tried for criminal charges conniving with fraud.

Years ago, Mahatma Gandhi said that businessmen should run their business, like a charitable trust I think he meant that a business should be run with high ethics and values In India we have Tata charitable trusts, who run Tata companies. In general, Tata companies are known to be managed with high ethical standard.

Running ethical business is good enough : There are many examples of ethically run business. A listed business entity has to first balance interests of diverse interest groups like its customers, employees and its investors Its difficult for a business enterprise to bring in another,  forth variable in this, by spending thousands of crores  on social causes or social responsibility. The existing stakeholders, namely investors are unlikely to be enthused by such  CSR expenses, like throwing money on abstract causes with no return on capital. CSR spend does not benefit the investors. By tightening CSR regulations, Indian government  has made CSR , another compulsory  direct tax for profitable corporate. The rate @ 2% of net profits is very steep ! The loss of market capital of profitable  PSUs like oil marketing companies, due to forced spend on CSR regulation will run into thousands of crores. Luckily the bankrupt PSU banks are left out of purview of CSR, as banks, NBFCs excluded from CSR regulation

Charity begins at home : If a business is run ethically, earning respect from its employees; treating its lenders, vendors and customers fairly , pays applicable taxes and finally rewards its investors , keeps money of its creditors safe , then business is fully meeting its social responsibility ! It should be left to its discretion to spend token money on abstract causes like social responsibility, after it meets these  criteria. There is indeed joy in giving However it needs to be made into entirely a personal experience. Once charity becomes, a public display, the same selfish human nature plays out albeit in subtler forms.

===========================================================================New Picture (38)Pankaj Narayan Pandit is founder and Managing trustee of a 25 years old public charitable trust, SLK Foundation The trust is set up for bringing awareness on environmental issues The trust  is funded from personal  contribution of the founder (www.slkfoundation.in)

 

 

India’s dom air carriage hits air pocket with 60% decline Why it’s “A” for Airlines

Covid 19, air pocket that hit airlines hard in 2020 : With Covid 19 pandemic, both the supply side and demand side  of airline seats was affected India’s civil aviation ministry, directed airlines to reduce their flights , both during and post lockdown As a result, the air market has  shrunk , as demand was cut off  During Jan-Oct,2020 the domestic carriage shrunk by record 57% , The passengers carried , 493 Lakhs passengers (against 1182 lakhs of same period prev year ) See graph I below

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Graph I Source DGCA  (Fig in Lakhs)

This steep decline is not likely to be reversed soon , even as capacity is added Thus from a historic high figure of 144 mill domestic passengers,  in calendar year 2019, the year 2020 will end with less than  70 Mill In other words, the domestic passenger numbers in 2020/21  in India have gone back to its levels six year earlier ,  ie 2014/15. Even if restrictions on capacity are lifted, the market is unlikely to grow by double digits The seat factors of leading airlines like Indigo and Air India are less than 70% , in Oct 2020, which means that there is latent unused capacity on flights that airlines are operating

Global Airlines had another profitable year in 2019 But South Asia was an exception 

  • Passenger numbers by all airlines  increased 4.2% to 4.5 billion.
  • Passenger load factor among the top 100 airline groups by traffic stood at 82.9%.
  • Revenues for the top 100 airline groups stood at $785 billion, fractionally higher than the previous year
  • Operating profits, among the top 100 airline groups to report results, stood at $48.2 billion. Net profits reached $23.7 billion.

Collective operating profits among the 100 biggest groups by revenues stood at $48.2 billion( $50 billion in 2018). The load factors have continued to climb throughout the past decade were at all time high , underlining the improved efficiency of the industry. While the global airlines had another good year in 2019, the airlines in South Asia, India particularly, were in deep distress . With Covid 19, airlines all over were caught in severe crisis

Airline industry  is a leading indicator of the country’s economy:  The rate of growth in domestic carriage offers a litmus test for country’s GDP growth; GDP trails airline industry by few quarters. In a developing country like India,  there is a stronger correlation between GDP growth and growth of domestic carriage; the domestic air carriage usually grows @ 1.5  to 2.5 times the GDP growth. In developed countries, airline industry grows at the same rate as the country’s GDP. India reached the milestone of one hundred millin domestic passengers in year 2016 and the double digit uptrend continued will year 2018.

Graph II

New Picture (1)
Strong growth of domestic passengers during NDA-1 in sync with GDP growth during 2014-2018   The change in government in India, in 2014, saw a spurt in growth of domestic carriage The annual growth rate jumped from 9.7% to near 20% , and remained consistent @ average 20% for next four consecutive years. India’s domestic air passengers leaped  from 67 mill(2014) to 100 mill(2016) in three years .  See graph II above Not surprisingly , India’s GDP growth during this period, was well above 7%  . In fact during 2015/16, it was kissing 9% growth until self goal by PM Modi, demonetizing the high valuation of currency in Nov 2016, brought it down. The GDP growth hit another  speed breaker following demonetization , subsequent shock of GST imposition.    

The trend of double digit growth in domestic carriage got  arrested in NDA-2 : The domestic carriage growth , suffered a sharp decline , in 2019(from 18.6% to 3.7%) as seen from graph II  This was the lowest growth in decade No wonder, the country’s  GDP growth dived below 5% during this time.  The muted growth  in domestic carriage was not a good portend of India’s economy. It was pointing to macro economic crisis with flat GDP growth. As per Economist, the actual GDP growth of Indian economy  would have been 3.2% but for last minute spending by government This  once again proves the strong co-relation between the two series. The economic slowdown in India, which the government tried hard to deny , had affected the airline industry since January  2019 and then spread to other industries.  

Why it s A for Airlines for any country Domestic passenger  growth is a leading indicator of country’s economy and  consumer confidence as well.  It’s a trend setter of urban consumption. This is why, Mr Shaktikanta  Das, the current Governor of RBI(Reserve Bank of India),  terms  domestic air carriage, as an indicator of  the “urban demand”.

Air market reversal back by six years : Year 2020 is  a year for India’s airlines, when the domestic carriage decline  has been most severe. Not surprisingly,  almost all Indian businesses like automobiles, two wheeler , FMCG, Telecom, NBFCs, Banking, Housing/real estate went through severe decline. For a country of 1.25 billion, the size of air travelers has shrunk from 144 mill to 70 Mill  Yet its’ like cream in the milk When such a small base of number, again starts with a double digit growth, it will bring cheer and good news  for the entire economy. Similarly when it registers sub 5% growth, it points to shrinking of larger economy. Now with more than 50% shrinkage, due to supply and demand  side constraints, these are exceptional times indeed/

Domestic air carriage is a trend setter: Whenever domestic airline carriage, rebounds with  robust double digit growth, we will also  see evidence of  green shoots in Indian economy , in following quarters. Both slowdown as well as turnaround of country’s economy , starts with the airline industry in India. Opening 100 new airports, subsidizing regional airlines under UDAN scheme, before pandemic , made no difference as the economy is in severe recession

New airport in Navi Mumbai likely to get delayed : With reduced carriage, there is no urgent need to build another airport in Navi Mumbai The present airport at Sahar , with another terminal at Santacruz, can handle the reduced passenger carriage To add to this, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched a money laundering probe against the GVK group, owners of Mumbai  (MIAL)  and Navi Mumbai airport , to probe alleged irregularities to the tune of Rs 705 crore in running the Mumbai airport The ED raids on the promoters  coupled with demand shrinkage , (also political bickering between state government and centre) would further delay plans for building new airport for Mumbai near Panvel .

Few more airlines may cease operations A year before the pandemic, Jet Airways, India’s oldest private FSC(full service carrier) closed down in first quarter of 2019, due pressure of mounting debts. Its’ loss of capacity was quickly filled up, (not by other FSCs like Vistara and Air India) but by LCCs (low cost carriers) like Indigo, SpiceJet.  LCCs have 75% of India’s domestic market share , up from 69% a year ago. Such total dominance by LCCs in domestic market of a country, is unparalleled in any part of the world. Under capitalized airlines like Air Asia, Spicejet will have to fight to survive

Airlines send employees on long leave : Worldover, airlines have reduced their workforce, particularly pilots, cabin crew and other staff is on reduced salaries .Pilot training institutes in India were doing brisk business However with large number of pilots available, the future of new pilots looks uncertain.

Govt disinvestment in state owned airline Air India The last date for submission of bids for sale of Air India, has been extended several times Government of India did all it could to make the deal attractive By selling assets, reducing its working capital debt, increasing investment limits for foreign airlines , etc Unfortunately , what was always a difficult proposition, has been made almost impossible with Covid19 hitting airlines valuations globally. With grounding of over 6500 planes,  aircraft , airport slots. have lost their value with liberalized skies, bilateral rights to operate flights , had also lost their value. Air India likely  be continue on  ventilator support from tax payers for some more time

Major drivers for domestic growth : The top 10 city-pairs, called as O&Ds (Origin and Destination)in India are major drivers of growth for domestic traffic (PPDEW-Passenger per day in each way)  Profitable LCCs have focused on these city pairs rather than wasting capacity on tier2/tier3 cities as done by regional carriers under subsidy from  UDAN.

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Graph III-Top ten city pairs are drivers for economic growth 

Will the year  2021 start on a positive note, with India’s airline industry in  the  lead, as was during 2014-2018?  Even before pandemic hit,  the  domestic air passengers uplifts registering a muted 3% growth over previous year However with Corona virus epidemic adversely affecting air travel, domestic carriage shrank by  an astonishing 60 % , casting a long shadow on the  larger economy of India. It has been first time in history that the post independence India’s GDP shrunk for two consecutive quarter, pushing India in a recession. Aviation value chain ,  will take at least three to four  years to regain mark  of 100 mill registered in year 2016/17 Needless to state, only well capitalized and well managed airlines, like Indigo, will survive this period. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

New Picture (38) Pankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mail  panditpank@gmail.com

Source of all data is from DGCA website

Policies of state Govts discouraging RTS(roof top solar)

Ambitious target of 40,000 MW  for rooftop solar India’s solar installed capacity, most of it as captive solar, has  reached 31 GW (ie 31000MW)  in 2019. India has the lowest capital cost per MW for solar PVs power plants. The Indian government has now set a new target of 175 GW of renewable energy  (including 40 GW from rooftop solar ) by 2022, targeting an investment of  over US$100 billion.  As power generation from coal is a major contributor to climate change, world  must switch to abundant renewable energy like solar, wind, biogas, etc to generate electrical power as per Paris agreement on climate change In addition to being “dirty”, (emitting green house gases), coal availability in India has been very poor thereby making thermal power not only dirty, expensive but unreliable as well. The reduction in prices of solar PV cell, largely imported from China has made solar power economical

India blessed with 300 days of sun  in a year: Unlike most countries in Europe, that get less than 100 days of full solar radiation, almost all parts of  India get more than 300 days of full solar radiation, ie four hours or more.  Thus India is blessed with abundant renewable, green,  solar power India need not depend upon fossil fuels  or even expensive nuclear to meet our energy demands. Due to abundant solar energy, and crash in prices of solar PVs that are made in China, cost of electricity from solar PV  is now  among the lowest in the world, less than Rs 3 per unit (about 4.2 USCents) Among renewable energy options, capital cost of rooftop solar are a fraction of wind/bio gas Nuclear power also does not generate carbon emissions But is is now  very very expensive, as compared with solar power Nuclear power has longer gestation period as well   Unlike for captive solar , for Roof top solar installation, one  does not need to acquire additional land; existing roof area is used to catch solar energy, that was going any way going waste or was heating up the building or causing leakages in rainy season.  Rooftop Solar(RTS) PV panel generates power during the day , to meet peak demand from industries  while the resident user,  will be drawing from the grid in night when power  demand is low This is  ideal for meeting variation in electrical energy ie peak load demands during 11 AM to 3 PM. Thus renewable electricity  from solar PV  can ideally  meet peak load requirements while non renewable electricity from coal can meet base load requirements. As per one study, all Mumbai’s power requirements can be met from Roof top solar PV  if only 10% of potential is tapped.

What is Gross metering(GM) , Net Metering (NM), Grid support charges In both GM ans NM, the solar panel is connected to grid, called as In grid. There is no need of battery back up. What is different is the accounting  for power produced. Under GM(Gross metering) , the total energy generated by the solar rooftop plant is assumed to be injected into the grid without allowing the generated solar energy to be consumed directly by the consumer. Under NM,  the energy generated by the solar rooftop plant is allowed for self-consumption and the excess energy is injected to the grid. Under net metering, the units consumed are set off against unit produced like a barter arrangement In other words, the producer gets set off the production  @ rate of power tariffs charged. In case of high users, or commercial establishments, the rate of power tariff  rate is Rs 11 per unit So under NM, the producer gets credit for electricity produced @ Rs 11 per unit . Under net metering, the excess units used by consumers are credited  @ tariff rates of DISCOM, like a barter system .  As against this, under gross metering, the producer gets credited , say @ Rs 3 per unit, while their usage  is  charged say @RS 11 for the power that is consumed .  Thus Gross metering makes  solar rooftop projects un viable. Under gross metering, the entire consumption will be charged at MSEDCL tariff, and value of solar energy generated by the consumer will be deducted from it @ rate of lowest PPA (power purchase agreement) Grid support charges is back door gross metering as the DISCOM charges Rs. 3 to Rs 8 to solar PV generators In other words, gives them less for power that they produce.

Why NM is better for RFS power producer : This can be understood with an example. If a consumer uses 500 units and generates 450 units. Under net metering, he will be billed for 50 units at DISCOM tariff. However, under gross metering he will be billed for all 500 units at DISCOM tariff while DISCOM will buy the 450 units generated by him at Rs 3 per unit , the average cost of renewable energy purchased by the discom.
As DISCOMs have a slab system, the bill for 500 units used will be very high, the average being around Rs 8 to 11 per unit. Against this, the average cost of non renewable energy from coal,  is Rs6 per unit, while cost of renewable solar PV power is now available for less than Rs 3 per unit This means that the RTS producer  will be paid by  DISCOM  at the rate of Rs 3 per unit for the 500 units he consumes. Under net metering, he pays for only 50 units at low rates, because the tariff for 0-100 units is low.Further the consumer will get benefit of net metering only upto 300 units per month So even if he generates more than 300 units , the extra units will be under gross metering, whereas he would have got a negative bill under net metering.

Here’s actual output of very small , 3.76 KW solar PV installed at our Kharghar residential in Sept 2017. This shows that 1 KW RTS generates only 835 units per year though most RTS vendors assume much higher output , 1200 to 1500 units per year. per 1 KW panel.  New Picture (59)

As you can observe, the output of even a small 3.76 KW RTS unit goes over 300 units, in best months( ie April, Sept, Oct, Nov) when solar radiation is high This high output will now be made redundant under new policy because for  residential consumers  NM is allowed only for maximum upto  300 units per month  In any case, like most state DISCOMs, MSEB(Maharashtra State Electricity Board)  limits the Solar Roof-top PV capacity to 80% of the sanctioned load of the consumer If  the sanctioned load  is 8 kW, then maximum solar that can be installed is 5.6 kWp This  means that installation of RTS is feasible only  for big  consumers  By limiting net metering only for residential users, who typically use less power, the DISCOMs have smartly ensured not much rooftop solar installations will now be commissioned The new policy of grid support charges , ranging from Rs 4 to 9 per unit, will make even small RTS commercially unviable Larger RTS installations, 10KW will also become uneconomical.

Maharashtra  governments reneging on contracts for NM : State governments are  claiming that there is abundant power so they donot need to square the consumption of RTS against power produced by Net metering. So DISCOMs are  now reneging on contractual obligation of net metering. For example, Karnataka switched to gross metering recently Now Maharashtra is suddenly is forcing Gross metering on all solar producers MSEDCL(Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution company Ltd)  has now proposed to replace net metering by gross metering for all producers except residential ones Secondly  net metering will be applicable only up to 300 units per month for residential household consumer Thus hotels, offices, societies(large consumers of electricity)  who had  installed rooftop solar( or who are considering rooftop solar) the payback for investment now stretches beyond 25 years see chart 2 Those who invested in rooftop solar PV (ie hotels, offices, colleges, hospitals or CHS) who had installed rooftop solar on assumption of net metering,  now have to write off the entire investment UP and Telangana were the only two states who had gross metering while most other states in India have net metering. Now its time before all other state DISCOMs too force their RTS to GM.

Forcing Gross metering is gross injustice to those who invested under RTS: The payback under RTS under NM( net metering (without subsidy) was less than 7 years ,This excellent payback was without  availing subsidy or depreciation benefits (see chart 1)

“Net metering” was a great option for high consumers of electricity As power tariffs keep increasing, the payback on investment is faster.   The investment in RTS pays back @ rate of power tariffs. As the rate of power climbs up, the investment pays back earlier. As the tariffs for power are very high in India for commercial consumers (Rs 11 per unit in Maharashtra), the net metering was a great investment even with out availing subsidy See charts below Chart I

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Chart II (Payback under gross metering stretches beyond 24 years due to low tariffs at which power is purchased by DISCOM

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Economy of scale not possible for smaller size RTS   As  most of the RTS(Rooftop Solar) units are typically less than 10 KW, they cannot have the economy of scale that is possible for captive solar PV (size above 100 KW). In addition captive solar generators tie up for long term finance raising funds from international markets or PE investors RTS would have been self financed  or by private bank @ 11% rate of interest Thus to equate both by purchasing the power produced @ Rs 3 per unit is gross injustice and betrayal by government If government keeps changing policies at short notice, how can they expect anyone to invest in infrastructural schemes

Solar power is now cheapest power Large solar PV captive power producers are now willing to supply power at less than Rs 3 per unit (for solar PV) and less than Rs 6 to 16 for large coal based power projects This is huge discount over times when Enron was contracted to supply power to MSEB @ RS 16 per unit in 1990’s The average tariffs at which consumers are charges ranges from Rs 6 to Rs 11 , giving DISCOMs net margin of Rs 3 to Rs 5 per unit In spite of this, the financial state of all DISCOMs is pitiable, with huge losses, Rs 4.3 lakh crores(Rs 4.3 Trillion or US$ 61 billion) The losses are  due to  populist election promises  of politicians  to provide free power to farmers, high transmission losses due to thefts  and unremunerative policies of providing power to rural areas that have low purchasing power. Countries like Germany buy solar PV power at much higher rates to encourage it while in India, its exactly reverse scenario. Clean solar power sourced @ RS 3 is subsidizing dirty coal power sourced at @ RS 9 to 12  per unit ! What can be more ironical !  What a  way to encourage green renewable power? 

Don’t give alms (ie subsidy) The least government can do is not to  renege on contractual obligations , when RTS invests based on policy of net metering  India has grand plans of generating 175 Giga (175,000 MW)  of renewable power by 2022 of which RTS is  supposed to be 40 Giga (40,000 MW) On paper,  MNRE ( Ministry of New and Renewable Energy ) has been  promising sops like subsidy Rs 15,000 per solar PV panel  However the subsidy for solar PV has  remained only on paper as it has never been disbursed to commoners

Chart 5
Cheap power means unreliable power

Politics of Cheap Power due populism The power tariffs in India have a wide variance (see chart 5) For example, MSEB that supplies electricity to consumers in Maharashtra has tariff rate Rs 11.71 per unit (KW-HR) of power , after 500 units are consumed The city of Mumbai,  has other suppliers, BEST(Rate after 500 units Rs 9.2 per unit) and Adani Power to suburbs of Mumbai @ Rs 10.92 after 500 units)   BESCOM that supplies power in Bengaluru, Karnataka charges Rs 7.71 per unit of power , after 500 units are consumed The populist Arvind Kejriwal government in New Delhi supplies free of charge power to all consumers below 200 units ! Power tariffs in Delhi are , Rs 7.0  after 500 units are consumed, the lowest in India. Obviously when tariff charges are low, there would be frequent power cuts Mumbai city and its suburbs , which have most expensive power tarifffs, are the only place in entire India, where power outages are so rare that they become a news !

Instead of offering sops like subsidy, bold policies like raising power  tariffs , across country above Rs 12, for consumption over 500 units, with net metering, will induce private investments in RTS by large consumes like hotels, hospitals, colleges, office building  The power tariffs need to be raised to reduce losses of DISCOMs Raising of tariffs automatically encourages consumers to invest in RTS, if policy of Net Metering is adopted The target of 40 Gigawatt of  RTS power can be achieved only if rooftop solar’s potential is harnessed by private investments However by reneging on net metering contracts for projects already commissioned , Maharashtra government has done a great harm to the green movement.

At the moment, UP, Karnataka,  and Telangana are the only three states in India who use gross metering with Maharashatra now wanting to join the list.What is most surprising that IT capital like Bengaluru has frequent power cuts yet its government  discourages investments in RTS by adopting gross metering , and provides cheap power to city dwellers who can afford to pay higher charges for grid power, than investing in back up power(DG sets)  that is not only 3 times costly, and polluting as well  

Reasons for losses of DISCOMs: DISCOMS are unable to renegotiate old PPAs(power purchase agreements) for coal/nuclear/hydro  power projects that are for long duration These PPAs are forcing DISCOMS to buy power at older higher tariffs  DISCOMS are unable to raise tariffs due to populism of India’s politicians In addition, India’s politicians providing free power charges to farmers or providing electricity to distant places, that have no purchasing power. All this has mired the all state DISCOMs into thousands of crores of losses.  In November 2015, the accumulated losses of these discoms amounted to Rs 4.3 lakh crore(Rs 4.3 Trillion or US$ 61 billion) )  with annual incremental losses of Rs 60,000 crore.

Arm twisting of solar power generators  : The urban (both industrial and residential) consumers who pay for electricity charges on time at highest tariffs,(ranging from Rs 7 to Rs 12) , is only one segment  of consumers  that is sustaining  the DISCOMs This premium segment of consumers, may potentially turn into producers of power by installing RTS. The DISCOMS rightly do  not wish  to lose such premium customers into becoming prosumers ( prosumer means consumers cum producers) For meeting  altruistic global  goals like meeting target of 175,000 Megawatts of newable  power , to arrest climate change, private investments are necessary . By twisting  arm of small RTS , to renege on contracts  is unjustifiable, not only  on business ethics but it conflicts with India meeting ecological goals under Paris agreement. Such frequent policy changes dent  credibility of the government in seeking private  partners for meeting ecological goals like renewable solar power from rooftop.

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is BE(Electrical) from VJTI and MMS(Finance) from NMIMS(university of Bombay) He is also  founder,trustee of SLK Foundation , a 23 years old registered charitable trust  for sustainable development. which offers free of charge feasibility for green power solutions like RTS(rooftop solar) www.slkfoundation.in . email slkfoundation.in@gmail.com Tel 9035010503

Misplaced nationalism of the displaced

Going back to roots : Last week, I was rather surprised to see picture of my MBA batch mate,  Riyaz Sayeed (name changed) Riyaz  was seen brandishing traditional Muslim haircut, with longish flowing  beard (without mustache)    Riyaz , after doing engineering and MBA from premier colleges in India,  has been working as  IT professional in USA He seems to be happily settled in USA Since last two decades  Riyaz had progressed to become a USA citizen He has an Indian wife and college going kids. In eyes of many, Riyaz is a very successful individual He seems to have fulfilled the American dream Viz Independent house with lawn in suburb of USA, SUVs in parking lot, Kids in ivy league college, etc. Coming back to transformation of Riyaz, sporting a beard and hairstyle typical of a traditional  Muslim ; (with a skull cap too  to complete the attire). Why does Riyaz want to look like his forefathers from medieval Islamic  Middle East,  when he is fortunately ensconced in the most developed country, like  USA?

Rise of neo-Hindu nationals Few of my Hindu friends, who too are  happily settled down in USA,  have  got radicalized into a fanatic neo-Hindu breed  They have become staunch supporters of right wing “Hindu rashtra” philosophy The views of such  so called “USA Brahmins”  about protection of cows,  in a beef eating nation of USA, seem very comical to say least  ! They profess that Hindus should continue bursting  crackers even when AQI(Air quality index) in North Indian cities  is in excess of hazardous levels ! “Doesn’t Bakari Eid also not cause pollution “? they ask to counter question when there are reports of  water pollution due idol immersions They  argue, sitting in pollution free city of USA,  about “why Holi should be celebrated traditional way, ie  making huge bonfires “or They argue why  “Ravana effigy should be burnt on Dasara? Don’t care for pollution These are part of our cultural traditions ! ” , so they proclaim This is our Hindu religion (” Do we have equal  right to pollute? I ask”)

The neo-Hindus  are mixed up between social customs, which are not even two generations old and religious traditions or sanatan dharma  that span since eternal times in India Few of the NRIs  would have also turned into die hard vegetarians Their religious beliefs are so strong that they  can sue an airline or fast food joints like McDonalds,  for wrongly serving them a slice of beef or pork!  (Imagine a religion so fragile, that a slice of beef can sink it ! )Few among them  may turn into staunch Vegans shunning even the dairy product, to save cows of the world!

Disease of nationalism   has not  spared  expatriates from  any  religion Lest I am accused of singling out only Hindus, few of the Muslims migrants from Indian subcontinent would have become more  traditional viz  keeping a strict Ramadan fast, growing a beard, sporting hairstyle and beard of traditional Muslim or even doing the annual animal sacrifice on  day of Bakri Id They plan to do Haj pilgrimage to Mecca They start quoting frequently  from verses of Quoran now and then. There are reports of Bohri Muslims in USA resorting to (FGM)female genital mutilation , for their American born off spring.  FGM ,  a shameful  originated  from Islamic cultures, (Africa, Middle East) is banned not only  in USA, but in most advanced countries. Its a heinous crime to rob women, pleasure from sex, reducing them to mere childbearing machines.  The Muslim men  in UK, originally from Pakistan,  are seen protesting violently for perceived problems of the Muslim fraternity in Kashmir of India  The PIOs from Sikh community  fight to wear the  turban, external symbol of their religious identity Similar regression may be also observed  in Jews settled in USA who adorn attire from medieval times So expatriates from Indian subcontinent  are not a class apart. Seems this malaise affects many.

Championing abstract causes in distant home land :  Thus such a group of  expatriates,  belonging to any religion, start  fervently championing abstract causes in a distant home lands  like   fanatical notions of India becoming “Hindu Rashtra”  or a grand temple in Ayodhya or fight to finish with Pakistan over occupied Kashmir or why India needs to enforce NPR and throw out foreigners ! They  have extreme solutions to  solve complex problems of India like Kashmir, after abolition of Article 370. “Go and occupy Kashmir”, they order to Hindus living in other parts of India, while sitting in safety of a US suburb !  No wonder these  NRI “bhaktas” from a distant land, are very  enthused  by rise of BJP in India, led by Shri Narendra Modi The PIOs(persons of Indian origin)  thronged PM Modi’s rally in Houston last year lustily cheering , Modi, Modi , the messiah of Hindus in India.

I am sure, prior to migrating  to western countries, these individuals were perfectly ” normal ” chaps! Typical technology graduates, with above average intelligence , that got them into premier colleges  They would not have done an iota of social or religious or political  activities while in India Neither would they have ever visited  any religious place  or read any scriptures . Yet now they are turned into most fanatical supporters of ancient religion of their distant home land This trend, when a person who has made material progress, yet seems to have regressed in mind, seems like a global trend among expatriates, not limited to only PIOs

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“Virus of nationalism” seems to affect only men ? :  Women who migrate to western countries, usually accompanying their spouse,  are not afflicted by such “pseudonationalism “. Women are very happy to settle down to a life of more conveniences as compared to struggle one in India. They may take active interest in local politics rather than going back to their country of origin. See the carton above , by Nala Ponappa, that illustrates  this phenomenon so well In the cartoon, the lady of house,  is engrossed with US election results, while the man, seems more worried about fortunes of BJP, a right wing party,  in India’s Bihar !

This transformation from “purely intellectual logical  thinking” to a “ leap of faith” made me ask questions given below

  1. What transformation (or metamorphosis or degeneration or mutation  as per one’s view point), happens to few of the first generation migrants settled particularly  in liberal western countries like USA, Canada, UK ?
  2. Why do few of these seemingly  well placed   progressively get  radicalized as they approach  their middle age ?
  3. What  the environmental factors that affect few of such well placed  but displaced fellows to venture into extreme boundaries  religious fervor  in a foreign land ?

These people,  had they not migrated, would not have exhibited similar radicalized signs.

Why humans migrate ? Humans migrate, mainly for better pastures : Like birds, humans migrate to far away lands , in search of better livelihood Few migrate  to escape hardships, natural calamities or serious war like situation in their country due to internal strife, civil  war, etc   The 20th century had witnessed such massive  migrations from poorer countries to richer nations like USA, Australia, UK. Jhumpa Lahiri, V S Naipaul, have contributed to  literature that captures the existential crisis that such migrants go through in a foreign land, where there are no  support systems exist  like a large family provides in India.

Mid life crisis ; After Material success comes an emptiness and search for an identity   :  After initial struggles, most of migrants from Asian countries  to western hemisphere are success stories They climb social hierarchy in a new milieu, using their  education,, aided by fluency in English language.They thus fulfill  the American dream; viz a large suburban house, big cars, kids in ivy league colleges, etc However once they advance in age, their  kids move away, both emotionally and physically. The kids grow up with no attachment  for parental  homeland. At this stage,  a deeper longing to preserve one’s identity arises , which seeks to  find solace in going back to the roots

Personal experience of living in USA:  When I was in IT industry I have personal experience of living in USA for more than one year I have noted that in USA daily commuting time is saved This is due to better infrastructure. However there is  lack of social support structure of India like larger number of relatives, friends, colleagues The Indian diaspora in western society does help to some extent to bond but cannot fully compensate such a loss.  Hence spending time on weekends used to be a problem Getting two full days off in a week, was a luxury for me as there are not many  chores to do for me as a visitor in USA As contrast, in India, one rarely has such existential problem of killing time ; Most time goes in commuting on weekdays leaving one dead tired. Most people work on Saturdays too , leaving only Sunday to complete household chores or to recuperate from the harsh demands on time.  In India, I have rarely gone to a temple However in USA I found going to temple was a convenient place; to meet other Indians and also to pass time in religious cum social festivals.

 Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs: “It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (ie “higher”) needs emerge. These psychological hungers, dominate the person And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency”  As per Maslow’s hierarchy, after meeting physiological needs,  humans look for psychological needs, like seeking esteem or social recognition As per Maslow, this is but one step to final destination of pyramid, self realization or self actualization. Not all reach this final destination on ones life !

This five-stage Maslow model can be divided into deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels are often referred to as deficiency needs (D-needs), and the top level is known as growth or being needs (B-needs).

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Once met, deficiency needs cease to motivate : Deficiency needs arise due to deprivation and are said to motivate people when they are unmet. Also, the motivation to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food, the more hungry they will become. The time when the NRIs migrated to western countries, (1980’s to 2000)  India was indeed deficient in providing many prerequisites for a good quality of life . Post IT boom, this is no longer the case for upper strata of society  The IT boom has made at least many of the local Indians rich akin to baby boomers of USA of 1960’s. .

After material success , the psychological needs kick in , like  discovering a sense of belonging  The “longing  to belong”is  the second needOnce the basic physiological needs like Roti, Kapada, Makaan (ie bread, clothes and home) are met, as per Maslow, the higher level  needs , psychological  needs arise .Maslow (1943) initially stated that individuals must satisfy lower level deficit needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs These are  sense of belonging It is in this phase that many migrants look back to their motherland as they are unable to assimilate into foreign land. Many start contributing generously to social causes in their native place Few also get radicalized and start supporting extremists, militant organizations What transforms such individuals into radicals should be subject of research However there are many examples of how such peoples presumably good intentions to do something  for their nations gets into hands of extremists

Extremist movements funded by expatriates : The Khalistan movement was funded by rich Punjabi NRIs from UK, Canada. IS or its more  extreme cousin ISIS, too are funded by Muslim expatriates from wealthy countries  Nowadays, when focus is on Islamic terrorism, it is not politically convenient to talk about the heinous crimes done by the Sikh terrorists; like blowing up of Air india jumbo jet 747, Kanishka,  on way from Tornoto to London in 1985 What made the well placed country cousins of Punjabi Sikh NRIs to do such dastardly act? By the way as a strange quirk of fate, the commander of  the Air India B-747 Kanishlka, that was blown up at 35000 feet from ground, was a devout Sikh pilot. The country cousins of Khalistan movement thus killed one of their own kin while making a political point on Khalisthan. Love of homeland of  few of these expatriates  had metastasized with horrible consequences in their motherland.  

Keeping individual identity alive in a western melting pot : Keeping identity alive in a melting pot of a western society is not easy . For that the outer symbols like our festivals, our style of clothing, our cuisine and rituals  get copied .More difficult is to merge with country of migration ibut retain the quintessence of the timeless values of our ancient homeland.  Many NRIs are great success stories as leading industrialists and philanthropists who have invested in businesses in India Many MNCs in USA are now headed by PIOs such companies, Google, Microsoft to name a few,  have invested in their captive IT arms in India.  Thus the PIOs have to some extent redeemed debt of the motherland

Its natural that the expatriates   wish to retain their individual identity alive than to disappear in melting pot of a western society By retaining their identity they wish to stand out in a mosaic of western society However in most cases, the lowest common denominator of their original faith gets retained, leaving out the “core”.

From sense of belonging to self actualization There are many examples of expatriates like Dr. Deepak Chopra, who have reached the zenith of their abilities transcending parochial nationalistic borders They could successfully articulate the timeless values that ancient India gave to the world from Upanishads, Yoga, Ayurveda. वसुधैव  कुटुंबकं (The whole earth is one family) proclaims ancient Indian texts so expand your definition of a nation and you will be at peace. Ultimately self actualization is the last point in Maslow’s hierarchy . All the rest, steps are but stops in the journey, are not important. Here’s wishing that all displaced expatriates do not get way laid into a false nationalism and reach out to the final destination of self actualization !

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is based in Bangalore India. His e mail panditpank@gmail.com New Picture (38)

What killed India’s Full Service Carriers (like Jet Airways, Kingfisher)

Three problems  with one answer : There is one Akbar Birbal story, where Birbal is asked by Akbar, solution to three problem questions Birbal gives identical solution to all three of problems (* see Note 1)

Similarly if  a question is posed, what is the reason behind failure of three of India’s Full Service carriers(FSCs) namely Jet Airways, Kingfisher(both of which have gone bankrupt) and loss making national airline, Air India(now on sale)  ?

The  reason behind the demise of  all  three FSCs is identical; it’s the vanity subject of first class cabin on their long haul international flights

“Their obsession to offer “first class” seats  on the long haul flights is the reason behind their downfall.”

With a three class configuration, (First, Business and Economy) at the historic yields, none of the India’s  airlines namely Air India, Jet, and Kingfisher,  can break even on cash costs . Even on a full flight, costs are more than revenues. These airlines  can meet cash costs only for seat factor more than 100%,( impossible under any circumstances) In other words these airlines can not even  meet cash operating costs (like fuel, landing, crew allowances, maintenance etc) on a 100 percent full flight. Break even on total operating costs is still far away Naturally such a business model, akin to leaking pot, needs periodic doses of working capital loans to meet the cash losses, thus entering the airline into a debt trap. Private airlines cannot continue after certain limits on outstanding loans is reached while national carrier can continue to borrow, backed by government sovereign guarantee on their loans. Kingfisher folded up on debts of more than Rs 3000 crores, Jet Airways had  debt liabilities over Rs 12,000 crores, while Air India’s debt ballooned over Rs 80,000 crores till last year. Jet Airways ceased operations in Feb 2019, much before worst crisis in aviation , with Covid-19 since March 2020. 

  1. First class cabin a vanity subject  for airlines: If these airlines cannot meet cash costs of a flight on a 100% full flights, then the  question is , Why did these airlines continue to offer three class configuration in spite of this fact ? Like individuals organizations also do have an ego The decision to abolish first class is a vanity subject, when discussions on profits are ignored It needs lot of courage from top management to abolish first class cabin. One needs to be rational using data for decision making rather  than being unreasonable and emotional  Justification for first class cabin(with 8 or 12 seats)  needs a realistic assessment of historic data on first class uplifts  This will reveal how many discerning passengers are willing to pay this price on long haul routes. If data reveals that such high flying first class passengers are a very rare breed then,  the opportunity cost of empty section on long haul flights is exorbitant hence questionable.
  2. Low occupancy in spite of low yield : Airlines can fill the first class seats , simply by upgrading passengers or offer companion free or using it for staff travel However the yield on first class uplifts will remain very low in such cases even though occupancy may increase.
  3. Reason why few international airlines offer first class cabin on long haul flights  Very few airlines  in USA offer first class on their long haul flights ; They  offer Business class, and economy class Few airlines calibrate economy cabin by offering  premium economy class with better leg room and higher seat pitch .Low cost carriers (LCCs) are at other extreme of a business model which offers single economy class cabin
  4. Why LCCs like Indigo are expanding profitably in India while the FSCs are folding up? It’s because their  single class configuration  breaks even on cash costs on lower seat factor.
  5.  Thin operating margins Airline business is a very demanding business of small operating margins(5 to 10%)  Hence impeccable cabin service in first/business class cabin may seem great from passengers’ point of view but is not good enough for the airline to survive while facing competitive challenges of airline industry. That’s why Kingfisher (king of good times) and Jet Airways (with equally good customer service standards) have gone bankrupt. Don’t pamper your passengers !
  6.  Importance of getting schedule right : After fixing a cabin configuration that breaks even on cash costs @ 75% seat factor, the next step is to set the sail to catch trade winds The three important aspects  airline industry are Schedule   Schedule and Schedule(just as location, location and location matter most for real estate industry)

Chart I Comparative Unit cost Cost per ASKM -Indigo, Jet and Air India  (ref SAP analytics) 

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Success of LCCs  (Low cost carriers) shows the way Indigo, a late comer in India’s skies,  has become not only the most profitable and largest airline  but also fastest growing airline Indigo has now largest domestic market share,  about 50% in India , overtaking national airline(12%) which was  set up years before Indigo had 33% lower unit costs CASKM (Cost per ASKM) than Jet and Air India (2014) It’s likely Indigo’s current costs will also be 30-35% lower Now Indigo is flying to short haul international destinations in SE Asia, Middle East as well, driving this cost competitiveness to expand its footprint in international operations

  1. It did not matter to India’s discerning, value seeking  air passengers that Indigo offered no complimentary meals, no  hot towel, no free drinks, No free bees, not  even a newspaper, in a all economy seats configuration. What mattered was their schedule with convenient timings and best punctuality
  2. Today LCCs (indigo, Spicejet and Go Air) are calling shots in India with a dominating combined market share of more than 75% or 3/4th of domestic air market , over 130 million passengers, which was growing @ 20% per year(till 2018)
  3. .India leads the world not only in lowest ARPU (for cell phones) but also lowest air fares, due innovative , privately owned LCC like Indigo.
  4. Top 10  Domestic city pairs in India have about 25% of India’s market. Its important to get airlines’ schedule right in these city pairs. The top 10 city pairs in domestic India are shown in chart II,  The LCCs like Indigo are dominating with more frequencies than FSCs on the top 20 city pairs in India With such dominance they have gained pricing power too.
  5. Chart II India’s Top 10 domestic city pairs New Picture (51).png

Chart III-No of PPDEW (Passengers per day in each direction) 

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Chart II

Long tail of India’s fast growing domestic air market : If we analyse flight schedules of Indigo with other FSCs , for top 20 city pairs, then we can see that Indigo has pricing power purely  due to superior flight  schedules. As a start, one needs to establish presence in the top 15 domestic city pairs, which is only 35%  of the total market. See chart III  Even top 50 city pairs in India, has only 55% of total market Thus for a widely dispersed market like this, it is must to focus on few growth markets using North-South and East-West connectivity for a FSC airline Unlike LCC which offers point to point services, FSC has to use Hub and Spoke network. Therefore a scheduling framework  with demand /supply analysis of each city pair, plotting  all departures of competitors in these city pairs , will  reveal how the  airline can set better sail to catch trade winds.

Those who refuse to change perish : So let’s not shed tears for dinosaurs like FSCs  who refused to change as per times. The fact is that the old relics of “License, Quota, Raj” cannot compete with young LCCs that have 30-35% lower unit costs. There’s no place for vanity except history ! Value migration (profits as well as fresh capital, market capitalization) happens from obsolete business models to new ones, which serve customer priorities In telecom, banking similar value migration has happened Today while India’s government owned  FSC Air India has debt over Rs 60,000 Crores, and negative value due accumulated losses, Indigo , India’s best run LCC has market capitalization in excess of 60,000 Crores !Same story is about MTNL/BSNL vs market capitalization of Jio/Airtel Indigo’s all economy class, no frills offering , product has better yield than FSC airlines of India

Last word : Reason why Kingfisher, Jet collapsed and reason why Air India continues to be  on ventilator support from government,  is due to  inability to address such strategic issues Vistara’s three class offering on domestic routes is simply unsustainable These are summed up by 4C’s of airline industry namely Cost , Calendar, Clock, and Capacity All the 4Cs decisions are all related to flight schedule of the airline. The top management has to take these strategic “4C” decisions with great responsibility Typically, top management must be devoted to tweaking the flight schedules rather than giving unnecessary  time to other tactical decisions (like say 4Ps,  Pricing or place, or promotional issues). or even ore trivial issues like HR, branding, or Public relations 

 For this the use strategic levers 4C*s (Calendar, Clock, Cost and Capacity ) aligned with route profitability (BCG like framework) needs to be undertaken

To  identify Star routes(High operating margin,high growth) ; Cash cows(high Op margin, low growth) , Question marks(Negative margin, high growth), and problem child(negative margin, negative growth)  among routes. Star routes need capacity addition;  Cash cow routes, need to maintain capacity;  Question Mark routes, need tweaking in capacity(4Cs) while Problem child routes, need to be shut down. While government is clearing decks to sell 100% stake in national carrier, by reducing its working capital debt,  it may be worth while to plug holes in the leaking pot before it is  sold. Even for  a debt free airline, makes no sense for an investor, if  it is losing money of full flights.

Post Covid pandemic, even airlines from other parts of world, in Europe, UK ,  have done away with first class configuration In fact they have gone few steps ahead and grounded wide body, four engine aircraft like jumbo B-747 or Airbus A380 from their fleet.

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Note 1: The Akbar-Birbal story where three problems  have identical solution :  Birbal was asked to solve three problems  a. Why did the horse stall during ride ?b. Why did the beetal leaf turn yellow ? c, Why  did the bread(roti)  was burnt? Answer to all the three questions is because of lack of movement/rotation!

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New Picture (38)Pankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mai panditpank@gmail.com

End of Thomas Cook, UK. What went wrong?

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Thomas Cook, UK goes bankrupt : Thomas Cook, UK a 178 years old travel firm went bankrupt in Sept 2019  It was the largest brick and mortar travel agency of UK with offices in key locations spread over the country . Through its journey Thomas cook profitably expanded through backward integration in aviation value chain, starting from a travel intermediary to become a foreign exchange dealer, then  it further evolved to became a leisure  airline, offering its passengers a complete seamless holiday package on its own aircraft Thomas Cook and TUI were two charter airlines from UK  that offered air connectivity to holiday  travelers total holiday package  on their own charter airline , including hotels, surface transport, etc  at holiday destination These tours were  to primarily to “sunny” destinations  such as Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico, Carribean islands, etc to escape cold and frosty England. Thomas Cook’s  logo too branded  a “sunny heart”

What went wrong with Thomas Cook, UK ?

Most of the news in media blames their  demise to Brexit/slow economy  or to its expensive acquisition of My Travel However for an analyst of trends in UK air market, it is evident that the issues that caused its downfall were neither cyclical nor seasonal ones but rather systemic ones. Inability to adapt to changing business climate seems to be the main cause of its downfall

Chart I

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  1. Declining UK charter market with negative CAGR 7 % since last 15 years

There are two  charter airlines, namely TUI and Thomas Cook (Monarch Airlines already filed for bankruptcy earlier last year) The charter market out of UK  has been shrinking since last 15 years @ negative CAGR7%. During good years, the decline is in single digits while in bad years, the decline can be in double digits as seen from the chart I above

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Chart II

Under performance of charter uplifts with overall market  The charter airlines market has been shrinking @ CAGR 7% since last 15 years , even though the  overall passenger market has been growing @ healthy CAGR 5% Most of the growth going to LCCs like Ryan Air, and Easy Jet  For example, in 2004, the share of charter airlines  was 30% of total market which fell to less than 10%  since then. See chart II The numbers in 2018 show that passengers on scheduled flights have increased against 2014, However scheduled passenger uplifts have outperformed the increase in charter passengers. The rise in charter passengers from 2014 to 2018(19%)  is facile as it should be viewed against much more increase (25%) in scheduled passengers during same period  Such rapid shift in relative market share  in charter passengers as against rising number of schedules airlines passengers is pointing to shifts in consumers preferences,  a  portend of coming crisis for charter operators.

  1. Sub optimal  fleet utilization Thomas Cook airlines had a heterogeneous fleet about 100 numbers of  aircraft  that consisted of six versions of Airbus/Boeing in 2014 Such fleet complexity  would have made it difficult as well as costly  to manage flight operations from many aspects like crew scheduling, aircraft maintenance, passenger seating, airport handling, spare parts, etc. In 2018, the number of aircraft had been drastically reduced to only 28 numbers with  almost all Airbus fleet The daily  utilization has improved above 12 average per day  However their  aircraft utilization in terms of load factor below 90% which is sub optimal As compared to this, LCCs like Ryan Air, have much better fleet utilization. A charter airline usually operates with above 95% load factors as passengers booked are not allowed to change their itinerary.

Chart III(2014)

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Chart IV(2018) 

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3. Increasing competition from LCCs like Easyjet, Ryan Air : The charter flights operate from three  UK airports, Gatewick, Manchester and Birmingham The LCCs in UK namely Ryan Air and Easyjet offer cheaper flights from UK destinations to  key tourist destinations to Spain, Portugal, Egypt,  at fraction of cost of charter flights,  The bulk of charter market from UK is to  EEA(which is 80% of total) faced severe competition from LCCs. See Chart V below

Chart V 

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Due to economic slowdown there is less preference for expensive packaged holidays.Price vs. Value analysis with LCCs  reveals that charter airlines package works out very expensive than someone who can buy tickets on LCCs and looks for bargains on hotels through travel websites.

Digital world taking over : Its possible for an ordinary, not necessarily a  travel savvy person,  to patch up  a holiday package with few clicks saving huge money The high cost of brick and mortar model , with posh offices in high street across country is giving negative returns as compared to profitable travel websites The  cost : revenue  ratios of majority offices would have indicated need to reduce  costs or increase revenues to meet the gap. Slow economy, Brexit uncertainties, weather changes, turmoil in Turkey, Egypt and ill timed acquisition of My Travel  have simply accentuated the downfall that seemed imminent from shifting sands in leisure travel business.

Fallout of Thomas Cook, UK collapse : Loss of over 30,000 direct jobs in UK , heavy cost to UK economy already reeling under Brexit, for bringing thousands  of stranded passengers back( due to underwriting of government insurance that protects  air package holidays sold by Thomas cook) and finally cost to  bankers like RBS of write off of loans, write off of airport , fuel charges, unpaid bills of debtors, huge losses to aircraft leasing industry as most of Thomas Cook Airlines’ aircraft   were on lease, stress caused to thousands  of stranded passengers on a holiday are only a few follow outs of  failure of Thomas Cook UK The indirect job losses from their travel supply chain partners in other continents viz  BPO, IT support, accounting, will be many more, In year 2018, about 40,000 number of tourists arrived(significant improvement over 31000nos  in 2017) on charter flights from UK to Goa, India’s best known tourist destination. Due to closure of Thomas Cook UK, impact on tourist arrivals in Goa seems negligible  as the numbers are very small Also these tourists to Goa,  most likely have come on flights operated by other UK based charter operator, TUI.

Like dinosaurs, any organization that refuses to  adapt  to changes in business atmosphere becomes extinct Its  demise can be prolonged with ventilator support from investors, bankers, private equity but sooner than later,  the unsustainable operations have to  end as the organization had refused to make changes in its business model in tune with changing times. 

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Note All data publicly available has been sourced from UK-CAA website No data is confidential to Thomas Cook or TUI has been referenced

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Pankaj Narayan Pandit is Bengaluru based consultant in airline industry with experience of over 30 years consulting to global airlines His e mai panditpank@gmail.com