Paper 2 – Polity
Why Should You Know?
The Supreme Court’s recent remarks on religious conversions cast a spotlight on the long-standing debate about what the fundamental right to “propagate” one’s religious faith entails.
In details –
What was the matter?
- On December 5, a Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah said acts of charity or good work to help a community or the poor should not cloak an intention to religiously convert them as payback.
- The Bench has been hearing a plea from advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking a special law against forced conversions and alleging that “mass conversions” of socially and economically underprivileged people are being carried out.
- The Bench in an earlier hearing in November had remarked that religious conversions by means of force, allurement or fraud may “ultimately affect the security of the nation and freedom of religion and conscience of citizens”, asking the Centre to clarify what it was doing to curb such conversions.
States already have special laws on conversions
- Before independence, princely States had Acts such as the Raigarh State Conversion Act of 1936, the Patna Freedom of Religion Act of 1942, the Sarguja State Apostasy Act of 1945 and the Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act of 1946, mainly against conversion to Christianity.
- In post-independence India, Odisha became the first State to enact a law restricting religious conversions, which later became a model framework for other States.
- Odisha’s 1967 Act provides that no person shall directly or indirectly convertany person from one religious faith to another by force, inducement or any fraudulent means.
- While Acts of the erstwhile Princely States were allowed to lapse with the adoption of the Constitution, States with sizeable tribal populations like Odisha and Madhya Pradesh remained suspicious of the activities of Christian missionaries.
- Madhya Pradesh set up a committee to look into the activities of missionaries and later brought in the Madhya Pradesh Dharma SwatantrayaAdhiniyam (1968).
- This Act added a provision distinct from the Odisha law, requiringwhoever converted any person, either as a religious priest or by taking part in a conversion-related ceremony to intimate the District Magistrate that such a conversion had taken place. Failure to do so would attract punishment and fines.
- Subsequent Acts in other States over the past two decades see identical provisions. These laws also provide for greater punishment for forceful conversion of persons from Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribe communities, minors and women.
- More than ten Indian States have enacted laws prohibiting certain means of religious conversions —Arunachal Pradesh (1978), Gujarat (2003), Chhattisgarh (2003), Rajasthan (2005), Himachal Pradesh (2006 and 2019), and Tamil Nadu (a law was enacted in 2002, but repealed in 2004), Jharkhand (2017), Uttarakhand (2018), Uttar Pradesh (2021), and Haryana (2022).
- The Karnataka Assembly also passed an anti-conversion Bill amid stiff opposition. Under these laws, penalties for violations range from one to ten years of imprisonment and fines up to ₹50,000.
- Madhya Pradesh passed a new law in 2021— the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (MPFRA).
laws challenged –
- The Himachal Pradesh High Court in 2012 struck down certain provisions of the State’s 2006 law restricting conversions, holding them “unconstitutional”.
- The Court said that the individual converting their faith also enjoyed their right to privacy and the provision to give a month’s prior notice to the district magistrate violated this right.
- In 2021, the Gujarat High Court stayed some provisions of the Gujarat Freedom Of Religion Act, 2003, which the State amended in 2021 to add the grounds of marriage to prohibit conversions.
- The Court stayed Section 5 and other provisions, upholding “the right to choice of an individual”.
- Section 5 required a person taking part, “directly or indirectly”, in a “ceremony” involving religious conversion to apply for permission to the District Magistrate concerned.
- The Court also said that prima facie, the Act gave the common man the impression that an inter-faith marriage followed by conversion would amount to an offence.
- The Gujarat government appealed this decision in the Supreme Court. An apex court Bench led by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer issued notice on February 14, 2022, but the case has not been taken up since.
- This year, the Madhya Pradesh High Court also held certain provisions of the MPFRA unconstitutional. In November last year, the Allahabad High Court allowed several interfaith couples to register their marriages despite not having sought the DM’s approval.
Sources – TH
SpaceTech Innovation Network
Paper 3 –Science & Technology
Why You Should Know?
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed an MoU with Social Alpha, a multistage innovation curation and venture development platform for science and technology start-ups, to launch SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN).
In detail –
- SpIN is India’s first dedicated platform for innovation, curation, and venture development for the burgeoning space entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- The space agency said that the tie-up is a one-of-a-kind public-private collaboration for start-ups and SMEs in the space industry.
- This novel partnership is a significant step forward in providing further stimulus to India’s recent space reform policies and will work towards identifying and unleashing the market potential of the most promising space tech innovators and entrepreneurs in India.
- It added that SpIN will primarily focus on facilitating space tech entrepreneurs in three distinct innovation categories:
- Geospatial Technologies and Downstream Applications;
- Enabling Technologies for Space & Mobility; and
- Aerospace Materials, Sensors, and Avionics.
- In line with the partnership announcement, SpIN has launched its first innovation challenge.
- Early-stage start-ups for developing solutions in areas of maritime and land transportation, urbanisation, mapping, and surveying, disaster management, food security, sustainable agriculture, environmental monitoring, and natural resources management, among others are encouraged to apply.
- The selected start-ups and innovators will be able to access both Social Alpha’s and ISRO’s infrastructure and resources as per the prevailing guidelines.
- They will be provided active hand-holding in critical areas, including access to product design, testing and validation infrastructure, intellectual property management, go-to-market strategy, and access to long-term patient capital, among other technical and business inputs.
Sources – TH
Aichi Biodiversity Targets
Why You Should Know?
Delegates from 196 countries — Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — are meeting in Montreal, Canada from December 7-21 with the aim to hammer out a new global agreement on halting environmental loss.
In detail –
- Many of the 24 conservation targets under discussion at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) aim to avoid past mistakes and improve on the world’s last set of conservation goals — the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that expired in 2020.
- No single country met all 20 Aichi Targets within its own borders, according to a September 2020 UN assessment.
What were the Aichi Targets?
- The Aichi Targets, adopted during the 2010 CBD summit in Nagoya, located in Japan’s Aichi prefecture, included goals such as reducing deforestation by at least half during the coming decade and curbing pollution so that it no longer harmed ecosystems.
- Many of the targets, however, included vague language and did not hold countries to a specific action, experts say.
- After parties adopted the Aichi Targets, they were expected to devise their own national biodiversity strategies that would mimic the goals laid out by Aichi.
- Nearly all parties created these strategies, but most were never fully implemented.
What Aichi Targets achieved?
- The most notable Aichi objective — and one of the few to include a numerical goal — aimed to protect or conserve 17% of all land and inland waters and 10% of the ocean by the end of the decade.
- While some progress was made toward that goal, the world ultimately fell short.
- Today about 15% of the world’s land and 8% of ocean territories are under some form of protection, though the level of protection varies.
- About 10% of the targets saw no significant progress, the assessment found.
- Six of the targets, including the land and ocean conservation target, were deemed “partially achieved”.
- In the end, Aichi was deemed a failure by the United Nations and the CBD secretariat called on parties to come up with another guiding document to direct conservation efforts through 2030 and beyond.
Why did the Aichi Targets fail?
- A lack of clearly defined metrics by which to gauge progress made the Aichi goals tough to implement, experts say.
- Aichi was made of aspirational targets, which was great for…enabling people to do a lot, but not great for communication.
- One of the reasons the world was able to meet the goal for conserving 17% of land areas globally, he said, was simply that the goal’s success could be defined by that single number.
- Monitoring and reporting success was also a big issue with Aichi. Countries largely failed to update others on the progress they were — or were not — making.
Lack of money
- A lack of financing to help developing countries meet the Aichi goals was also an obstacle to their success — a point that has led negotiators to include financing plans within the draft being negotiated at the Montreal talks.
- The Global Environment Facility, the primary source of financing for international biodiversity protection, has collected around $5 billion from 29 countries for the funding period from 2022 to 2026.
- That is hardly enough to make up the $711 billion funding gap per year estimated by a 2019 assessment by several conservation institutes.
- The Aichi Targets also failed to garner buy-in from governments beyond the environmental ministers who brokered the deal.
Source – IE
Himalayan medicinal plants
Why You Should Know?
Three medicinal plant species found in the Himalayas have made it to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species following a recent assessment.
In detail –
- Meizotropispellita has been assessed as ‘critically endangered’, Fritilloriacirrhosa as ‘vulnerable’, and Dactylorhizahatagirea as ‘endangered’.
- Meizotropispellita, commonly known as Patwa, is a perennial shrub with restricted distribution that is endemic to Uttarakhand.
- The species is listed as ‘critically endangered’ based on its limited area of occupancy (less than 10 sq. km).
- The species is threatened by deforestation, habitat fragmentation and forest fires.
- The essential oil extracted from the leaves of the species possesses strong antioxidants and can be a promising natural substitute for synthetic antioxidants in pharmaceutical industries.
- Fritillaria cirrhosa (Himalayan fritillary) is a perennial bulbous herb.
- It is reasonable to conclude a decline of at least 30% of its population over the assessment period (22 to 26 years).
- Considering the rate of decline, long generation length, poor germination potential, high trade value, extensive harvesting pressure and illegal trade, the species is listed as ‘vulnerable,’”.
- In China, the species is used for the treatment of bronchial disorders and pneumonia.
- The plant is also a strong cough suppressant and source of expectorant drugs in traditional Chinese medicine.
- The third listed species, Dactylorhizahatagirea (Salampanja), is threatened by habitat loss, livestock grazing, deforestation, and climate change.
- It is extensively used in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and other alternative systems of medicine to cure dysentery, gastritis, chronic fever, cough and stomach aches.
- It is a perennial tuberous species endemic to the Hindu Kush and Himalayan ranges of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Sources – TH
The Okavango delta and Murchison Falls
Why You Should Know?
Oil companies are threatening two of Africa’s most iconic biodiversity hotspots in an effort to drill for oil that will ultimately make its way to a global elite and won’t benefit Africans, a recent report by a German non-profit has highlighted.
In detail –
- The Okavango delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southern Africa and Murchison Falls, Uganda’s oldest and largest national park, are home to iconic African wildlife species.
- The delta is also the homeland of indigenous people like the San.
- The impact of the oil exploration projects being pursued in both locations could ring the death-knell for wildlife and render communities living there homeless.
The Okavango delta
- The Okavango delta is formed by the Okavango river, which originates in the highlands of Angola.
- It flows into the Kalahari desert of southern Africa and spreads out, forming what is called a ‘fan’.
- The Okavango’s waters make the otherwise dry area a waterlogged wetland that provides vital water resources for animals, plants and over one million people, the document noted.
- But all that is now under threat. ReconAfrica, a Canadian company, has been drilling for oil in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Nature Conservation Area (KAZA).
- KAZA is the second-largest nature and landscape conservation area in the world. It is spread across the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- The report said ReconAfrica “moved into conservation areas, cleared forests and drilled wells without the knowledge or approval of local communities. In the rare cases where ReconAfrica provided information, it did so only in English, not in people’s native language”.
- The delta is home to Africa’s Big Five wildlife species:
- Savanna elephants,
- Cape buffaloes,
- lions and
- There are also giraffes, zebras, antelopes, pangolins, 400 bird species and over 1,000 plant species.
- More than 200,000 people live in the area that falls under ReconAfrica’s exploration licenses.
- In the worst case, an oil spill could pollute the Okavango River and ultimately also the Okavango delta. Add to that noise, infrastructure construction, toxic chemicals and oil spills
- Environmental activists and US investors have taken ReconAfrica to court for its activities in KAZA. But the company has not stopped.
- In 2020, it announced plans to undertake fracking in KAZA. It was compelled to revoke this after a huge backlash.
- The Urgewald report said UNESCO will now take a look at the potential impacts of oil and gas exploration in the Okavango delta. Meanwhile, ReconAfrica is drilling exploration wells in Namibia.
- Like the Okavango, Murchison Falls too is in grave danger.
- It is situated on the northern shore of Lake Albert, one of the Rift Valley Great Lakes that lies on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- The Victoria Nile flows through the park and elephants, hippos, Nile crocodiles, buffaloes and marabou storks can regularly be seen on its banks. All in all, this natural refuge harbours 556 bird species and 188 mammal species.
- But the future of the park and the wider region are under threat since oil fields were discovered in the area around Lake Albert, it added.
- Now, French oil giant TotalEnergies and China’s National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) plan to exploit one billion barrels of crude oil from the Tilenga oil field at the northern tip of Lake Albert and the Kingfisher oil field at the southern end of the lake.
- This will be transported by means of feeder pipelines to a central processing facility and then to the neighbouring district of Hoima, where the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) would begin.
- The 1,443 km long pipeline will transport the crude through Uganda and Tanzania to the Indian Ocean Port of Tanga.
- The whole project “would cut through the habitats of chimpanzees, lions, zebras, elephants and migratory birds.
- Once the pipeline reaches the Tanzanian coast, oil tankers would steer through mangrove swamps and coral reefs to export the oil,” the report warned.
- The pipeline will also run through 178 villages in Uganda and 231 villages in Tanzania. “All in all, TotalEnergies’ and CNOOC’s project will force more than 100,000 people off their lands,” according to the report.
- The Okavango and Murchison Falls are just two of the several oil exploration and extraction projects going on in Africa at the moment.
- “In 48 out of 55 African nations, oil, gas and coal companies are either exploring or developing new fossil reserves, building new fossil infrastructure such as pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals or developing new gas- and coal fired power plants,” it said.
- The document added that Africa and its people deserved the clean renewable energy sources of the future, instead of the dirty, polluting energy sources of the past.
Sources – DE
National Conclave on Accelerating Energy Efficiency in MSME
Paper 3–Energy Resources
Why You Should Know?
Bureau of Energy Efficiency, under Ministry of Power organised the “National Conclave on Accelerating Energy Efficiency in MSMEs”.
In detail –
About the Conclave
- Various cluster associations, MSME entrepreneurs and stakeholders discussed and gave inputs for successful implementation of energy efficiency programs in the MSME sector.
- The National Conclave will contribute to strengthening the operationalization and implementation of the current portfolio as well as a future program to scale up towards an inclusive and sustainable approach to energy efficiency in MSMEs.
- The National Conclave shall act as a common platform for pooling knowledge and synergizing the efforts made by the projects to various stakeholders, deliberating on strategies and a roadmap to promote energy efficiency in the MSME sector.
- During the inaugural session, the success story of the GEF-UNIDO-BEE Project was showcased, followed by the release of policy focussed draft energy efficiency roadmaps for 7 energy-intensive MSME sectors.
- Launch of UNNATEE tool for faster adoption of energy efficiency projects in MSME Sectors, which is jointly developed by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and SIDBI and Draft concept note on Perform Achieve and Earn (PAE) Scheme, a voluntary market-based mechanism for MSMEs for consultation.
- Other highlights of the conclave included a technology exhibition, Sessions on thought-provoking deliberations with decision-makers and other key actors in the MSME sector around policy integration, financing, and innovative & disruptive technologies.
- The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in collaboration with the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is executing a Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded national project titled “Promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in selected MSME clusters in India”.
- Initiated in 2011, the project aimed to develop and promote a market environment for introducing energy efficiency (EE) and enhanced use of renewable energy (RE) technologies in process applications in selected energy-intensive micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sectors.
- The project has been supported by the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MoMSME) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
- The project has implemented its programmatic intervention in 26 clusters in five different energy.
MSME and Energy Efficiency in India
- India hosts second largest base for MSMEs in the world and has the largest contribution to the GDP.
- The majority of MSME are yet to adopt energy efficiency (or) technology upgradation measures.
- Based on the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), and Ministry of Power policy focussed interventions, there is huge energy conservation potential and a market for energy-efficient technologies in the sector.
- BEE has observed through its programmatic projects, a large section of these MSMEs lacks the consistent technical capacity to identify, access, and adopt better technologies, measures, and operating practices.
- Recognizing the importance of MSMEs in promoting energy efficiency, BEE provided hand-holding service support to the sector, through its various programs, to improve its technical capacity to identify, access, and adopt better technologies and operating practices.
- The BEE- SME program aims at improving the energy efficiency of the MSME sector in India through accelerating the adoption of energy-efficient technologies, knowledge sharing, capacity building, and development of financial of innovative financial mechanisms.
Sources – PIB
International Fleet Review (IFR)
Paper 2 – International Relations
Why You Should Know?
Indian Navy participates in the first International Fleet Review organized by Bangladesh.
In detail –
- The Indian Navy delegation led by Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command and three warships of the Indian Navy participated in the maiden International Fleet Review (IFR) hosted by Bangladesh at Cox’s Bazar on 07 Dec 22.
- HE Sheikh Hasina, Hon’ble Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh reviewed the International Fleet comprising ships from Bangladesh Navy and eight ships from six foreign countries.
- With three ships, the Indian Navy contingent was the largest amongst the participating foreign navies in this IFR. The other five participating ships were from China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and USA.
- The three ships representing the Indian Navy, the Guided Missile Destroyer INS Kochi, Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvette INS Kavaratti and Offshore Patrol Vessel Sumedha are all indigenously designed and constructed warships.
- The presence of these ships at this multinational event at Bangladesh contributed towards showcasing the indigenous shipbuilding capabilities of Indian Shipyards.
- This was the first International Fleet Review to be hosted by Bangladesh.
- The IFR complements the celebrations of 50 years of liberation of Bangladesh and the ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ as well as the ‘MaitriDiwas’ celebrated on 06 December every year, marking the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.
- The presence of the Indian Navy at the maiden IFR hosted by Bangladesh was thus an apt reiteration of strong bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh and the role of the Indian Navy in strengthening defence cooperation in the maritime domain.
About INS Kochi
- INS Kochi (D64) is the second ship of the Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyers built under the code name Project 15A for the Indian Navy.
- She was constructed by Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai.
- After undergoing extensive sea trials, she was commissioned to Indian Navy service on 30 September 2015.
- INS Kavaratti (P31) is an anti-submarine warfare corvette of the Indian Navy built under Project 28.
- It is the last of four Kamorta-class corvettes.
- The ship was built by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata, and launched on 19 May 2015.
- Kavaratti represents a leap forward in the Navy’s attempts at indigenisation with as much as 90% of its content drawn from India itself.
- It was commissioned into the Navy on 22 October 2020 in Visakhapatnam.
- INS Sumedha (P58) is the third Saryu class patrol vessel of the Indian Navy, designed and constructed indigenously by the Goa Shipyard Limited.
- It is designed to undertake fleet support operations, coastal and offshore patrolling, ocean surveillance and monitoring of sea lines of communications and offshore assets and escort duties.
- The Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel INS Sumedha was launched at Goa Shipyard on 21 May 2011,and was handed over to the Indian Navy on 11 March 2014.
Sources – PIB
South Korea’s Calculation of Age
Paper 2 – International Issues
Why You Should Know?
Recently South Korean lawmakers approved a measure that will help standardise the existing system for measuring people’s ages, which is based on a traditional method that sometimes adds up to two years to an individual’s biological age.
In detail –
- The revision is aimed at reducing unnecessary socio-economic costs because legal and social disputes, as well as confusion, persist due to the different ways of calculating age.
- The change will officially come into effect in June next year.
How do Koreans calculate age?
There are three methods in use at the moment.
- The first is the one used by the rest of the world, where the age at birth is zero and subsequent birthdays lead to the addition of a year, and this is used for certain legal and administrative purposes in South Korea as well.
- The second is the ‘Korean age’, the method most popularly used in society, where a baby is born and aged one, and turns a year older on January 1, regardless of the date of birth. Thus, a child born on December 31, 2021, will have turned two years old by January 2, 2022.
- The third method is the ‘year age’, where a baby is born zero years old, and turns a year older every January 1. This method is again used for some legal and official purposes, most notably for compulsory military conscription, to determine when a child can start school, and to determine when a juvenile needs legal protection from abuse.
Why do Koreans calculate age differently?
- Historians have trouble pinpointing a government decree for the current system seen as a remnant of an ancient culture.
- Some say the traditional ways of determining age take into account the time spent in the womb.
- Others say the unique method came about as ancient counting systems in this part of Asia did not have the concept of zero.
- While similar methods of calculating age existed in China, Japan, Vietnam, etc., gradually, all the countries moved to the international system.
- North Korea adopted the international system in 1985, but with a difference – it follows its own calendar, based on the birth of the national founder and president-for-life Kim Il Sung.
Why is it being changed now?
- After President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol won the Presidential elections this year, it was expected the system would be changed given his promise to do so while campaigning.
- The Korea government says that – If we stick to the international age system, we will no longer see the social and economic costs associated with all the confusion and inconvenience arising from the age gap… There would be much less confusion if we could have the same idea of what it means to be how old we actually are.
- And confusion crops up in many areas, be it legal issues, the issue of conscription or mandatory military service for all Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28, and more.
- Age is also an important factor in determining social relations, what words are to be used while communicating in Korea, tones and a range of etiquette.
- Multiple surveys have shown that around 70 to 80 per cent of the population prefers a standard system linked to how it is done globally.
- Though some have lamented a quaint aspect of Korean culture being altered, the idea of getting ‘younger’ by a year or two is largely being welcomed.
Sources – IE
Paper 2 – Health
Why You Should Know?
The Delhi High Court recently halted the release of a film titled ‘Ajinomoto’, after a Japan-based seasoning manufacturer claimed infringement of its 113-year-old registered trademark ‘AJI-NO-MOTO’, which is primarily used for its product, monosodium glutamate.
In detail –
What was the matter?
- The company argued that they were aggrieved by the title of an upcoming movie which uses their trademark ‘AJI-NO-MOTO’.
- They argued that the use of said title not only “infringes its trademark rights”, as the use is without authorisation, but is also “disparaging and defaming” as the director of the film, MathirajIyamperumal (Defendant No. 2) had made “false public statements” in relation to the company’s trademark in the “context of the film”.
- The company sought an “ad-interim ex-parte injunction” restraining the release of the film.
- The company argued before the high court that it is the largest seasoning manufacturer in Japan and had adopted and registered the trademark ‘AJI-NO-MOTO’, primarily used for monosodium glutamate which is manufactured and marketed worldwide.
- They said that this trademark also appears on other products manufactured by them.
- It was argued that ‘AJI-NO-MOTO’ was coined by the company’s predecessor as a “unique combination of words meaning essence of taste in Japanese”.
- The high court was informed that the trademark ‘AJI-NO-MOTO’ in Japanese characters was first registered in Japan in the year 1909 and subsequently, in English characters, in the year 1964.
The origins of monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- In 1908, Kikunae Ikeda, a chemistry professor at Tokyo’s Imperial University, reached out to a pharmaceutical firm in the city, Suzuki Pharmaceutical, for help in commercialising a food additive that he had been researching.
- Ikeda had been inquiring about the reason for the distinctive flavour of kelp, an algae.
- The story goes that while savouring a bowl of boiled tofu in a broth made from kelp, he became convinced that there was another basic taste, very different from sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.
- He called it umami, playing on the Japanese word for delicious.
- Ikeda’s studies led him to glutamate, one of the most common amino acids in foods – and in the human body.
- With a dash of sodium, it became monosodium glutamate (MSG). A tasting confirmed the compound’s culinary promise.
- In less than a year, the patent office gave its approval to Ajinomoto – a seasoning made by breaking down wheat with hydrochloric acid.
- The name, literally “quintessence of flavour” was chosen by Saburosuke Suzuki, the then-head of Suzuki Pharma.
- But the production process would corrode the vessels. Moreover, all of Suzuki’s marketing couldn’t cloud the fact that Ajinomoto was expensive.
- According to the company’s own admission, a cup of soba noodles and broth at the time sold for 3 sen. Sen is a hundredth of a yen, the Japanese currency, and a 14-gram Ajinomoto bottle sold for 50 sen). It was not cheap.
- Finding very little success amongst restaurants, the company began targeting homemakers.
- But Japanese women, who would regard frugality as a necessary virtue, would find it difficult to regard Ajinomoto as necessary for their kitchens.
Making the seasoning accessible
- According to historian Jordan Sand, the company used several tactics to catch their fancy. Its advertisements depicted a woman sporting a white apron and a Western-influenced sokutatsu hairstyle.
- Ajinomoto was sold in slender glass bottles that resembled perfume holders. The marketers also appealed to the homemakers’ new sense of identity “as a culinary professional”.
- It roped in cultural figures, including the popular writer, MuraiGensai.
- In one of Ajinomoto’s first newspaper advertisements, he claimed: “Added to miso soup it brings out the flavor most admirably”. And: “indispensable every morning” and “extremely convenient.”
- Even then, it wasn’t till the late 1930s that an Ajinomoto shaker would become as ubiquitous in Japanese homes as ones for salt.
Ajinomoto goes global
- Japanese immigrants took Ajinomoto to Hawaii, and the Chinese diaspora took it to North America.
- Around the same time, makers of canned soups – Campbell Soup, for example – began using MSG as a flavour enhancer.
- Another spurt of popularity came when American soldiers posted in Japan during the Second World War returned home. This was also the time when the American military was trying to find ways to improve the taste of the soldiers’ bland food rations. The new field of frozen foods was another propitious avenue for the flavour enhancer.
Doubts over safety
- But in the late 1960s, especially in the US, the consumer trust in food products with chemicals broke down in parts of the West, fueled in large measure by food safety and environmental movements.
- At times they, coalesced – inadvertently – with some of the racist inclinations of the time in the US: Symptoms such as numbness and a fast heartbeat often came to be referred to as the “Chinese restaurant syndrome”.
- In the ’70s, Ajinomoto sales fell for the first time in 40 years. But this was also the time that MSG was finding new shores – India, for instance.
- It has continued to have its detractors, even as food safety agencies, such as the US FDA, have pronounced MSG safe.
- The doubters persist even when revisionist culinary studies have revealed that a lot of the bad press Ajinomoto got was because poorly-designed “food safety studies” used five to 30 times the normal amount.
- As a chemist and the writer of the vastly popular food science work, Masala Labs, Krish Ashok, notes MSG occurs naturally in foods we eat, including tomatoes.
Source – IE