note demonetisation

Sales down, wages hit: Weeks after demonetisation, it's still the same story at a Patna mandi

The daily-wage workers, whose earnings have crashed from Rs 500 to Rs 50, are the worst affected.

On a chilly December evening, a group of daily-wage workers at Patna’s Maroofganj mandi sat around a small fire warming themselves at the end of the day’s work, before catching trains or buses to the villages where they live. It had been another day of little work at the mandi.

Over a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, volumes are still low at Maroofganj, which supplies cooking oil, rice, pulses and other provisions to the state capital. “Nothing has changed for us,” said Dilip Kumar Singh, who travels every day from his village on the outskirts of Patna to work at the mandi “We are still earning Rs 50 a day, a long way down from the Rs 400-Rs 500 we used to make earlier.”

His assertion echoed what this reporter had heard during an earlier trip to the mandi, 10 days after the demonetisation announcement on November 8. At that time, wholesalers were open for business but both stock arrivals and sales were down to a fifth of what they used to be. Unable to predict supply or demand, the market was frozen. But despite this churn, commodity prices were curiously unchanged. During that visit too, labourers had complained that their daily earnings had plummeted from Rs 500 to Rs 50.

What the traders say

Dilip Kumar Singh said the situation at the mandi was the result of some traders travelling to Gaya, Muzaffarpur and beyond to take advantage of low prices in parts of the hinterland. However, the traders this reporter met denied this. Instead, they flagged other concerns.

Sanjib Kesari, a wholesaler, said business had improved and more customers were now coming to the mandi. Prices, too, were moving – cooking oil, for instance, had risen Rs 3-Rs 4 in the last 20 or so days. But, the situation was nowhere near normal.

Wholesalers’ volumes remain modest. According to them, two factors are at work here. First, traders are chary of conducting too many transactions. “No one wants to put more than Rs 2.5 lakhs into their bank accounts,” said Kesari. “That might result in an income tax notice. We are hoping there is greater clarity by the time the year ends.”

Second, they are struggling with inadequate working capital with banks just giving out Rs 24,000 a week. “That is too little,” said one trader. “Just one sack of mustard costs Rs 3,000.” Even the higher weekly withdrawal cap of Rs 50,000 for current account holders is too low, and the amount is only sporadically available, they said.

That said, most of the traders told that they welcomed notebandi, which they see as an attempt by the government to bring sectors like theirs into the formal economy.

Anger in depoliticised times

Caught in this situation of reduced earnings and rising food prices are the workers, who are struggling to feed their families on a measly Rs 50 a day. Both rice and wheat have climbed from Rs 20 a kilo to Rs 30. As a result, families are cutting back on vegetables, said Dilip Kumar Singh.

That Wednesday evening, he and his fellow workers sitting around the rapidly ebbing fire expressed anger at the Bihar government’s poor welfare delivery. They said that if the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme worked properly, they wouldn’t be in such dire straits.

Even the Public Distribution System functions poorly, said Kumar. “We get 15 kilos of wheat and 10 kilos of rice from there, but not only are both substandard, we also do not get them each month,” he added.

Instead of continuing with the scheme, the daily-wager said the government should just deposit Rs 1,000 into everyone’s accounts each month, so that they could buy the grains themselves.

These are, however, depoliticised times. The workers said no leader had visited the mandi to check on how it was doing, and that they did not have a union that could raise these issues. Nor can they afford to lose a day’s work by agitating. And so, said an old man at the fire, “we are just living day to day”.

Wholesalers' volumes remain modest at Patna's Maroofganj mandi over a month after demonetisation. Photo credit: M Rajshekhar
Wholesalers' volumes remain modest at Patna's Maroofganj mandi over a month after demonetisation. Photo credit: M Rajshekhar
We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Making two-wheelers less polluting to combat air pollution in India

Innovations focusing on two-wheelers can make a difference in facing the challenges brought about by climate change.

Two-wheelers are the lifeline of urban Asia, where they account for more than half of the vehicles owned in some countries. This trend is amply evident in India, where sales in the sub-category of mopeds alone rose 23% in 2016-17. In fact, one survey estimates that today one in every three Indian households owns a two-wheeler.

What explains the enduring popularity of two-wheelers? In one of the fastest growing economies in the world, two-wheeler ownership is a practical aspiration in small towns and rural areas, and a tactic to deal with choked roads in the bigger cities. Two-wheelers have also allowed more women to commute independently with the advent of gearless scooters and mopeds. Together, these factors have led to phenomenal growth in overall two-wheeler sales, which rose by 27.5% in the past five years, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). Indeed, the ICE 2016 360 survey says that two-wheelers are used by 37% of metropolitan commuters to reach work, and are owned by half the households in India’s bigger cities and developed rural areas.

Amid this exponential growth, experts have cautioned about two-wheelers’ role in compounding the impact of pollution. Largely ignored in measures to control vehicular pollution, experts say two-wheelers too need to be brought in the ambit of pollution control as they contribute across most factors determining vehicular pollution - engine technology, total number of vehicles, structure and age of vehicles and fuel quality. In fact, in major Indian cities, two-thirds of pollution load is due to two-wheelers. They give out 30% of the particulate matter load, 10 percentage points more than the contribution from cars. Additionally, 75% - 80% of the two-wheelers on the roads in some of the Asian cities have two-stroke engines which are more polluting.

The Bharat Stage (BS) emissions standards are set by the Indian government to regulate pollutants emitted by vehicles fitted with combustion engines. In April 2017, India’s ban of BS III certified vehicles in favour of the higher BS IV emission standards came into effect. By April 2020, India aims to leapfrog to the BS VI standards, being a signatory to Conference of Parties protocol on combating climate change. Over and above the BS VI norms target, the energy department has shown a clear commitment to move to an electric-only future for automobiles by 2030 with the announcement of the FAME scheme (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India).

The struggles of on-ground execution, though, remain herculean for automakers who are scrambling to upgrade engine technology in time to meet the deadlines for the next BS norms update. As compliance with BS VI would require changes in the engine system itself, it is being seen as one of the most mammoth R&D projects undertaken by the Indian automotive industry in recent times. Relative to BS IV, BS VI norms mandate a reduction of particulate matter by 82% and of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 68%.

Emission control in fuel based two-wheelers can be tackled on several fronts. Amongst post-emission solutions, catalytic converters are highly effective. Catalytic converters transform exhaust emissions into less harmful compounds. They can be especially effective in removing hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide from the exhaust.

At the engine level itself, engine oil additives are helpful in reducing emissions. Anti-wear additives, friction modifiers, high performance fuel additives and more lead to better performance, improved combustion and a longer engine life. The improvement in the engine’s efficiency as a result directly correlates to lesser emissions over time. Fuel economy of a vehicle is yet another factor that helps determine emissions. It can be optimised by light weighting, which lessens fuel consumption itself. Light weighting a vehicle by 10 pounds can result in a 10-15-pound reduction of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Polymer systems that can bear a lot of stress have emerged as reliable replacements for metals in automotive construction.

BASF, the pioneer of the first catalytic converter for automobiles, has been at the forefront of developing technology to help automakers comply with advancing emission norms while retaining vehicle performance and cost-efficiency. Its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Mahindra World City near Chennai is equipped to develop a range of catalysts for diverse requirements, from high performance and recreational bikes to economy-oriented basic transportation. BASF also leverages its additives expertise to provide compounded lubricant solutions, such as antioxidants, anti-wear additives and corrosion inhibitors and more. At the manufacturing level, BASF’s R&D in engineered material systems has led to the development of innovative materials that are much lighter than metals, yet just as durable and strong. These can be used to manufacture mirror brackets, intake pipes, step holders, clutch covers, etc.

With innovative solutions on all fronts of automobile production, BASF has been successfully collaborating with various companies in making their vehicles emission compliant in the most cost-effective way. You can read more about BASF’s innovations in two-wheeler emission control here, lubricant solutions here and light weighting solutions here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.