No Takers For Air India?


What is it? The number of airlines—Jet Airways and IndiGo—that have said they will not bid for Air India.

Why is it important? The Tata Group, which was considered to be a potential bidder for the national carrier, is reportedly likely to opt out of the race too. This is mainly because of the tough terms set by the government such as the winner cannot merge the airline with existing businesses till the former holds a stake in it. The winner is also required to list Air India and protect employee interests, which may hamper its ability to reduce workforce.

Tell me more: A forum of 10 Air India unions has alleged that potential bidders are using strong-arm tactics to get the government to sell the airline cheap and that they would take up this matter with the prime minister’s office and the civil aviation ministry.



What is it? The stake the world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Aramco, will pick up in the proposed $44 billion refinery-cum-petrochemicals complex at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.

Why is it important? This will be one of the biggest foreign investments in India’s hydrocarbon sector and the plant will be one of the largest refining and petrochemical complexes in the world. Aramco wants to tap into the increasing demand in the world’s third-largest oil consumer. For import-dependent India, this would ensure supply security.

Tell me more: The Indian consortium of IOC, HPCL and BPCL will hold 50% in the plant, which will process 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day and 18 million tonnes per annum of petrochemical products.



What is it? The proposed year in which the first phase of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly elections could be held, according to a draft report by the Law Commission. The second phase is recommended to be held in 2024.

Why is it important? This is a step forward in the idea first suggested by the Election Commission in 1983 and something which this government has been batting for in recent months. The draft report has proposed amending the Constitution and the Representation of People Act, 1951, to increase or decrease the length of terms of state legislative assemblies. It also suggests a no-confidence motion be followed by a confidence motion so that if the opposition is unable to muster the numbers to form government, the current rule is undisturbed.

Tell me more: That states proposed to come under Phase I are those where the state elections are due in 2021, and include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.



What is it? The drop in investment by Chinese companies in the US in 2017. The total investment by Chinese companies fell from $46.5 billion in 2016 to $29.7 billion in 2017, though this is still the second-best year.

Why is it important? Although this drop comes in the backdrop of aggressive posturing and retaliatory action by both countries on the trade front, it precedes this current standoff. Last year, China tightened outbound investments over concerns that its biggest conglomerates might be stretching themselves.

Tell me more: Chinese investments in 2017 in US companies include Tesla, Airbnb, Grindr, TPG, Snapchat and Invista.



What is it? The minute in which Real Madrid were awarded a penalty—the third and final minute of stoppage time—in their Champions League match against Juventus late last night.

Why is it important? Ronaldo converted the hotly-contested penalty, and Madrid scraped through this quarter-final tie 4-3 on aggregate. It saved Real Madrid the blushes, who had till then conceded three goals to Juventus, levelling the two-leg tie at 3-3. For a while, it looked as if a Spanish footballing giant would blow a three-goal lead for the second day in succession.

Tell me more: Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon was red carded for remonstrating against the penalty decision. It was Buffon’s 117th match in the Champions League, the most by any Italian player.


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Processing Nightlights Data – Part 1

What is the Nightlights data?

This is a picture of India at night. It’s made up of images taken during September this year, by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite mission. The white spots on the map are the parts of the country which radiate light to the satellite’s sensors.Mapblog

The idea is simple : the brightly lit areas correspond to the country’s main urban centres. Areas which are less well-lit are those of smaller towns and settlements, and the darkest areas are those which have the lowest levels of human density. Broadly speaking, different levels of intensity of light correspond to different levels of human activity (including economic activity). The brightest areas correspond to the densest urban settlements, while the least well-lit areas are those with minimal or no human activity (e.g. forests).

Here for instance is the same map as the one above, but focused on North India, and colored according to the different levels of light received by the satellite sensor. We’ve kept it simple and not added a legend.

The deep red blob in the middle is the Delhi National Capital Region, the biggest urban centre in North India and a major locus of economic activity. The grey lines indicate the boundaries of different tehsils. Those deep red lines radiating out from Delhi are major roads and highways.


Notice the contrast between Delhi and surrounding areas, and the part of India to the top right which is Uttarakhand, which is hilly / mountainous and much less densely populated. It’s a light yellow colour.

And here is the Mumbai-Pune-Nasik belt (deep red again indicates highest values of light and hence,densest human settlements). Mumbai is on the left, Pune is on the bottom right, and Nasik is toward the top:


Like any photograph, the satellite images are composed of pixels, each of which gets assigned a value by the sensor, depending on the ‘amount’ of light reaching it (the more the light, the higher the pixel value). Further, each pixel of the satellite image corresonds to a roughly 750×750 – metre area on the ground.

What about the variation of light within cities? The plot below compares the distribution of pixel values ( or rather their log values) within six big cities in India (note that the y-axis, indicating the number of pixels in that city of a certain value, is customised to individual cities, whereas the x-axis is common).


So what use is it?

Apart from a pretty picture of the earth at night, there have been a number of studies which have found a correlation between measures of night time lights in different areas, and the level of economic activity and/or population density.

Let’s examine this relationship between the measured value of night time lights in an area, with other indicators of well-being. The Indian census in 2011, gives us data on the percent of households in each district who own different consumption goods – a tv, a four-wheeler, a computer and so on. Do districts which have higher ownership of such consumption goods also have ‘higher’ values of night time lights as measured by the Suomi-NPP satellite?

In the graphs below we plotted the ‘density’ of households with different consumer goods in each district1 against the ‘average’ value of the pixels covered by that district2.

For instance, here’s a plot, along with a regression line, of the density of households of TV sets per district, against the average pixel values of the district. (Note :In the following graphs, most of the districts are squeezed into the bottom left of the graph. Use your mouse to focus the graph to that area, if needed)


Another plot of households with four wheelers and pixel values


A third plot of households who own a four/two-wheeler, a TV set, a computer and a phone, as of 2011


And a fourth plot of households who have a toilet at home


Now that we’ve established the value of the night lights data, we will look at the practical stuff in future posts. Where to get the data from? How do we process it? and so on. Stay tuned.

  1. The measure used is the number of households owning a given consumption good (i.e. TV set) in a district, divided by the total surface area of that district. We do this because districts differ from each other in terms of total surface area.
  2. We use satellite data averaged over 11 months between April 2012 and February 2013. The average pixel value of a district is the total sum of all pixel values which ‘cover’ a given district, divided by the total number of pixels (Each pixel covers the same surface area of 750x750m)

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