Monday, October 17, 2011


That scientific research in India has become "directionless" is a known fact and recent "stories" about the integrity or lack of it with two Directors of IITs only reinforce this impression further. Same is true with many scientific institutions under CSIR, DRDO and other public funded R & D agencies in the country. Existence of true scientists with high credibility is also a fact though they are in a microscopic minority. Whether individuals or the scientific environment will have to be blamed for this unfortunate phenomenon is an issue on which the jury is still out. One of the undisputed and bitter truths of industrial research in India is that many R & D institutions set up for helping industry or targeted users are not wanted by the very users for whom they are intended with vast sums of money invested by GOI! Scientists, science administrators and GOI must introspect regarding this sad state of affairs and do some thing drastic to reverse this trend. Here is a typical case of a research institution proclaiming about its "intention" to develop a technology for an obscure product which has never established itself in the country reflecting the poor direction of R & D in this sector.

The growing health concern in consumers is prompting scientists to formulate not only new food products but also newer technologies for obtaining maximum health gains. Keeping these concerns in the backdrop, the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, is contemplating a technology for fortified sugarcane juice, a product obtained form sugarcane juice through fortification.
This was informed to Fnb News in a chat over telephone by Dr P Srinivas, chief scientist , head- plantation products, spices, flavour technology department, CFTRI, Mysore. Dr Srinivas said that beverages were an important source of nutrients and also an easy medium to deliver the nutrients to human body. "We have recently developed sugarcane juice in Tetrapak, and now we are contemplating the same for fortified sugarcane juice," he said. Explaining further, Dr Srinivas said that with food fortification becoming the need of the hour, there was an impetus to developing such technology for nutrient-based beverages in the market. Prior to developing sugarcane juice in Tetrapak, the CFTRI had developed sugarcane juice in glass bottle and the technology for the same had already been transferred to around 1500 entrepreneurs in the industry. According to Dr Srinivas, conditions for processing sugarcane differed in both—glass bottles and Tetrapak. He claimed that Tetrapaks were safer than the bottled juices

It is true that sugarcane juice is taken by Indian consumers from road side vendors and in summer this is considered a refreshing drink. Efforts made earlier by many research organizations have failed to deliver a product even remotely resembling the fresh juice. The claim that earlier bottling technology has been "sold" to 1500 "entrepreneurs" appears ridiculous and laughable in the face of the reality that the product is not "visible" in any market in the country! The vice like grip soft drink industry has on the Indian consumers, with cola beverages and sugar based drinks dominating the market, there is very little chance for any other product gaining a viable foothold. Similar attempts earlier to pack tender coconut water were also a failure. To day fresh sugarcane juice and tender coconut water are sold in the original form without undergoing any processing by food industry in a scientific way through dedicated outlets, implying that consumers prefer "fresh" drinks to processed ones. Also to be borne in mind is the fact Tetrapack company, a technology and equipment driven company offers plants for any liquid products including the required process details. If a GOI institution wants to waste its funds on such frivolous technology with doubtful viability and demand, it can be termed only as "directionless" research! It is unfortunate that there are "journalists" ready to print such claims without critically analyzing them for their veracity.


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