Eight Mumbai Students Win Prestigious US Award For Inventing A Product To Remove Paan Stains

Paan stains are like public art that adorn the walls of most cities and towns in India, be it Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai or even down south Chennai. Our love for paan has even crossed borders with cities like New York and London, too struggling with red stains. The worst is paan stains in trains and railway stations which are no less than national shame.

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In spite of Swachha Bharat Abhiyaan and various laws that came with it to fine spitters, things are yet to improve. And scrubbing of those stains are no less than a herculean task. So far tens of crores have been spent by our government to clean the red stains that are considered to be the 'trademark of the Mumbai locals.' Due to the traditional cleaning methods thousands of litres of water, a lot of man power and uncountable cleaning hours goes into removal of these stains.  But there is a good news for people who like their locals clean and stain free, soon a product will hit the markets that would make cleaning stains easier, quicker and cheaper.  

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Brains Behind The Innovation

A team of eight girl students of Ramnarain Ruia College in Mumbai — Aishwarya Rajurkar, Anjali Vaidya, Nishtha Pange, Komal Parab, Maithili Savant, Mitali Patil, Sanika Ambre, and Shrutika Sawant — have successfully found a simpler method to clean the paan stains from the trains and railway stations of Mumbai. 

How Does It Work

In order to degrade the tough paan stains, these third-year Microbiology students have engineered an organism by producing a mixture of enzymes and microbes which will convert the red pigment of paan stains into a colourless and harmless product. Moreover, this product will help in cutting down the work of cleaners in Mumbai as well as reduce the usage of water and acid which are required to clean the paan stains and in the process save a lot of the government's money. 

Ideation And Execution

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Their professors  Dr Anushree Lokur, Dr Mayuri Rege, Sachin Rajagopalan and Mugdha Kulkarni played an important role in helping them with idea of coming up with a product that would help sanitation workers in removing paan stains easily. Putting complete faith in the idea, the department of biotechnology provided the students with a grant of Rs 10 lakh for developing of the product and participation in the MIT Boston event, iGem.  

Inspired by the Swachha Bharat Abhiyan our professor Dr Mayuri Rege came up with the idea and then we decided to go ahead with it after several brainstorming sessions. We got in touch with several stakeholders who were involved in solving the problem such as we interviewed paan vendors, authorities of railway stations, Govt officials, cleaners, cleaning agencies and many alike  said Aishwarya, student Ramnarain Ruia College

They even plan on coming up with a gel which when pasted over the stains will dissolve them, which can make scrubbing off easier with usage of far less water. Aishawrya while explaining the process to edexlive, said

Just for the competition, we had genetically modified a microorganism, bacteria to be specific so that it produces specific enzymes which could degrade or remove the paan stains. But as the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the environment is a safety hazard and has various government regulations and keeping in mind the suggestions given from various industries, we decided to move it to an ‘enzyme-based application system’ which will remove these stains in an effective way. We need to work on extracting and purifying the enzymes and then to module it in gel-based or spray system, it will take at least six months to a year to complete our work and get the product ready and commercially usable.

Awards Won So Far


zaph3xhcamv9ngc48gfgmzp7x6wwhwql.jpgThe MIT at Boston organizes the International Genetically Engineered Machines research competition every year. This year because of the usage and practicality of their product, team from Ruia College became the only undergraduate college among 300 entries to receive an award at the Genetically Engineered Machines (iGem) compititon.  They were also given a special award by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the ‘Best Project Under Environment Track’. In the same event they also won the award for the best presentation. 

To spread awareness, they even started a social media campaign with the hashtag , and they plan on continuing with it.  At the end, one could only wish if people could take public hygiene seriously and refrained from spitting, defecating and urinating in public. Half of our cleanliness worries would end.  

Picture Source: The Logical Indian; Hindustan Times; EdexLive; Railnews.in

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