Surge comes to trains – News in Numbers September 8



What is it? The maximum mark-up allowed under surge pricing, introduced by the Indian Railways yesterday for Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains.

Why is it important? At a 50% mark-up, the price of a Delhi-Mumbai second AC Rajdhani ticket will increase from Rs 2,825 to Rs 4,237—a level where airlines can compete with it on advance bookings. At 10.30 PM on September 7, the cheapest Delhi-Mumbai 6 am flight on September 8 was for Rs 7,422. But, for September 15, it was for Rs 2,550.

Tell me more: For the loss-making, state-owned organisation whose attempts to increase passenger fares meet with stiff resistance, this is its first attempt to raise passenger fares with demand. And it’s bold: only 10% of seats will be available at the base fare.


What is it? The amount of equity stake that ICICI Prudential Life Insurance will offload via the Initial Public Offer (IPO) later this month.

Why is it important? This is the first IPO by an insurance company in India. If successful, the share issuance is likely to be biggest in six years. The likely valuation for the company is between Rs 45,000 crore and Rs 48,000 crore.

Tell me more: ICICI Prudential is India’s largest private life insurance company. But will lose its number 1 status, if its two rivals- HDFC Standard Life and Max Life Insurance Company- agree to combine. State-owned Life Insurance Corporation is still India’s largest life insurance company.


What is it? The increase in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) recorded by airlines on domestic Indian routes in July, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Why is it important? Of the seven countries for which IATA released domestic air traffic data and which account for 82% of global domestic traffic, India was the fastest growing in RPKs by a country mile. The next best was China at 10.2% and US at 1.6%. Globally, the domestic piece grew at 3.8%.

Tell me more: India’s domestic airlines did not just fly more than others. They also expanded more, posting the highest increase in available seat km (ASK), of 20.5%. Riding on such tailwinds, the once-beleaguered SpiceJet yesterday reported its sixth consecutive profitable quarter.

2,211 kg

What is it? The launch mass of Insat 3DR weather satellite to be launched on Thursday at

Why is it important? The satellite will provide better measurements of vertical changes of humidity, temperature and ozone content in Earth’s atmosphere and of night time clouds and sea temperature, improving India’s ability to make better weather forecasts. In the rocket launches space, today’s is a landmark because this is the first operational launch with  Indian built cryogenic engine.

Tell me more: India has had much better success rate with its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle series compared to GSLV. India has launched 9 GSLVs so far, of which four failed.

138 grams

What is it? Weight of the new iPhone 7, which is about 3.5% lighter than iPhone 6S

Why is it important? The lighter weight is thanks to internal changes such as doing away with the audio jack, even though the new model’s design is the same as iPhone 6 launched two years ago. The removal of 3.5mm audio jack has met with mixed reactions, with some calling it an “annoy-ovation” (an improvement that annoys customers). The audio jack is ubiquitous, and can work with any headphone picked up from the market. But then Apple has often led the way in changing trends. It was the first to do away with floppy disks on computers. Apple argued that the sound quality is better on bluetooth headphones or on lightning port.

Tell me more: In some of the other changes in the latest version of the company’s flagship product, Apple has only been keeping up with the competition. For example, Samsung had introduced water resistant body back in 2014. The dual cameras for depth of field (in iPhone 7 plus) were already available in LG and Huawei earlier this year. Apple’s iPhone sales have been sluggish this year, and many analysts believe Apple has to do something disruptive to maintain its lead.



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News in Numbers – September 7


Rs 249

What is it? The monthly price at which state-owned BSNL is offering unlimited usage broadband connection on a landline.

Why is it important? BSNL’s offer comes in the wake of Reliance Jio shaking up the Internet access segment, offering 4G wireless services free till December and subsequently at an effective cost of Rs 50 per GB. As of April, BSNL was number one in broadband in the landline segment (9.9 million subscribers) and number five in mobile broadband (10.6 million).

Tell me more: BSNL will offer a speed of 2Mbps for 1 GB of data and 1 Mbps subsequently. This offer is for six months, after which subscribers will move to a BSNL plan with less generous terms.


What is it? Number of additional teams that Gianni Infantino, president of the world soccer governing body, is pitching for in the 2026 FIFA World Cup—from the current 32 to 40.

Why is it important? More teams means greater viewer interest—and commercial value—in the event around the world. But it can also entail a format rejig, potentially translating into a longer tournament and even fewer matchups between top teams.

Tell me more: After staying constant at 16 for nearly five decades, the number of teams in the World Cup increased to 24 in 1982 and then to 32 in 1998.

15,000 cusecs 

What is it? The amount of water to be released by Karnataka per day for the next 10 days to Tamil Nadu, per Supreme Court order on Tuesday.

Why is it important? Violent protests erupted in Karnataka almost immediately after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict. This adversely impacted the inter-state movement of people as Tamil Nadu registered buses were stopped from crossing the border fearing safety of passengers and buses.

Tell me more: As per the final verdict of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, Karnataka has to release 192 thousands million cubic feet of water to Tamil Nadu. It specified how much should be released each month. The problem arises when monsoon is deficit like this year so far. The tribunal only stated water share should be proportionately reduced, but did not spell out a formula.


What is it? The number of Karnataka-based schools that lost their CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) affiliation because they produced fake minority certificates to circumvent Right to Education Act provisions.

Why is it important? RTE Act stipulates that 25% of the seats be reserved for economically backward and disadvantaged sections of the society. While it highlights CBSE’s tough stance, the incident also reflects the extent to which educational institutions flout rules. It comes a day after an UNESCO report warned that India will be late by 50 years in achieving its education goals.

Tell me more: The six schools – five based in Bangalore and one in Mysore – belong to National Public Schools group.

$65 billion

What is it? German pharma and crop chemical giant Bayer’s bid for agro-biotech major Monsanto

Why is it important? If it goes through, it will be the biggest ever corporate takeover in cash. The deal would also reflect the consolidation taking place in farm supplies sector. Bloomberg points out  China National Chemical Corp agreed to buy Swiss seed company Syngenta, and  DuPont and Dow Chemical plan a crop-science unit post merger. Monsanto tried buying Syngenta earlier, and was in talks with BASF, world’s largest chemical producer to buy its agro chemicals unit.

Tell me more: Bayer offered to pay $122 a share in May, increased it to $125/share in July. Now it stands at $127.50/share (i.e $65 billion overall) and some analysts expect it to go even higher.

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Chart of the Day | India’s top smartphone vendors

Here’s a chart depicting the top five smartphone vendors in the country. No marks for guessing who is missing in the list. Apple. The reason is simple. iPhones are pricey.

With the launch of Reliance Jio, there’s another reason why customers might not be too happy with Apple’s iconic product. It doesn’t come with dual sim.

In the next few months, as Reliance rolls out its 4G service with its eye-popping price (free calls, free roaming, and data at Rs 50 per GB) many customers would want to try it out before making a switch (or at least have it as a second connection). 93% of all the smartphones sold in Q2, 2016 in India were dual-SIMs. Apple users will have to buy another phone to try it.

The big question: Will Reliance Jio make Apple consider a dual-sim phone?

Top five global smartphone vendors

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Better governance, citizen engagement via open data

This opinion piece by John Samuel Raja D, co-founder of How India Lives, appeared on


Every time you pay property tax or apply for a permit to build a house, government agencies collect data around that interaction. Now, imagine a city with 10 million people, each interacting with six departments in a municipal corporation. That’s the volume of data being collected and stored.

Why do governments store data? In addition to record-keeping, I believe, governments store data on behalf of citizens to administer better. So, when you think of government departments as custodians of data, who collect and store data on behalf of citizens, this is the next question to ask: is that data accessible to all?

Technically yes, because anyone can file a Right to Information (RTI) query and source the data. But these are individual queries. No Indian city, as a matter of policy and practice, makes available data on important aspects of governance.

For example, we don’t know the collection efficiency of property tax in various localities. Or, how many people applied for permits from different departments, who received the permit and who didn’t, and how many days it took for each application to be processed? Or, how many safety inspections were conducted in restaurants and what was the outcome of each?

This is all data stored by various departments on behalf of citizens. It should be made available to them, to be used in ways that can improve governance.

I looked up the websites of municipal corporations of the top 10 Indian cities by population. Not one provides data on its various services: data that can provide a measure of volume, access, efficiency, processes, turnaround, etc. The first step is for governments to realize that this data belongs to the people, and make it available to them.

The second step is to make data available in a machine-readable format so that software developers can make use of it. Often, we see data given in PDF documents or, even worse, scanned PDF documents. As a result, we spend a disproportionate amount of time converting data into a machine-readable format.

Cities such as London and Boston have taken major strides in making open data available. The cost of doing so was not high, as only raw data needed to be made available in a machine-readable form.

Once data is made available, there are enough data enthusiasts and researchers out there waiting to analyze it, and software developers and entrepreneurs wanting to use it to create utilitarian apps. The government could create apps, but it would struggle to match the collective imagination of the software community, besides spending taxpayers’ money.

For example, 8,500 developers have registered with Transport for London—the local government body that runs the transport system in Greater London —to use its data to build apps. They have built about 500 apps, which are used by 42% of Londoners. Like Citymapper (which helps in route planning) or Colourblind Tube Map (which helps the colour blind view the colour-coded London Tube maps correctly). Indian cities can do the same simply by making data available. Insights and solutions will follow.

More data will mean more media engagement and conversations. It will open up newer possibilities for researchers, besides reducing time taken by them to procure and clean data.

Open data can also address the grouse of government officials that answering RTI queries is time-consuming.

A simple analysis of RTI queries will reveal what type of information is being sought, and making it available under open data can reduce their workload.

In the context of governance, data is one issue in India. Another issue, with strong linkages to data, is maps.

There is a glaring lack of availability of shape-files needed to draw digital maps, as the discussion forums of DataMeet, an active forum of data enthusiasts in India, testify.

Census office gives physical maps, but not digital shape-files. The monopoly for digital shape-files is with the Survey of India, which charges a hefty sum. For example, the village boundary database per district costs Rs.7,500 per licence for multiple users.

At 640 districts, the total cost to procure shape files to map all of India’s villages works out to around Rs.48 lakh.

Such pricing excludes small and individual software developers. The 2012-13 annual report of Survey of India, its latest available, does not state how much it earned by selling shape files. My guess is less than Rs.10 crore a year. Even if it was Rs.1,000 crore, it is nothing compared to the value people can add when map files are made available free.

Survey of India could make a start by making available, at no charge, shape-files of the 505 cities with a population of above 1 lakh, along with ward-level boundaries within each city. The challenge of urbanization requires India’s cities to become better for those who inhabit them, and open data is one lever to make that happen.

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