News in Numbers, Jan 12, 2017: While you continue to choke…

168-268 µg/m3

What is it? The annual average particulate matter (PM 10 or small particulate matter of 10 microns or less in diameter) range in the top 20 most polluted cities in 2015 in India, according to a report by Greenpeace.

Why is it important? This indicates that none of the Indian cities comply with the air quality standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the report says very few cities in south India are compliant with those set by the country’s nodal pollution watchdog. Delhi topped the list of India’s most polluted cities with its PM 10 concentration levels at over 13 times the limits set by WHO (20 μg/m3 annual mean). The effects of exposure to PM 10 include respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity (such as aggravation of asthma) and mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and from lung cancer.

Tell me more: The Global Burden of Disease, a regional and global research program, had estimated that 3,283 Indians had died per day due to outdoor air pollution in 2015 or nearly 12 lakh people in the entire year.

 

6,400

What is it? The number of freshwater (flapshell) turtles seized by the Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This is said to be the biggest haul in the country’s wildlife history, both in terms of number and weight (4.4 tonnes), according to Arvind Chaturvedi, head of the state’s Special Task Force that rescued the turtles. Indian flapshell turtles are a protected species under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. In the raid carried out at Gauriganj town in Amethi district, Raj Bahadur Singh, the kingpin of an inter-state gang involved in the smuggling of turtles was arrested.

Tell me more: The turtles were to be taken to Kolkata to be transported illegally to countries including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. An estimated 20,000 turtles are reportedly smuggled out of Uttar Pradesh annually, which is home to half of India’s 28 endangered turtle species.

 

$4.3 billion

What is it? The amount Volkswagen AG has agreed to pay in criminal ($2.8 billion) and civil ($1.5 billion) penalties to settle charges for having cheated on diesel emission tests.

Why is it important? This is the largest ever US criminal fine levied on a carmaker. Six company executives and employees have been indicted for their involvement in the nearly 10-year conspiracy. However, five of these six are in Germany and it is not clear if they would go to the United States to face charges as the former does not usually extradite its citizens. Volkswagen would be spending a total of $22 billion to customers, US states and dealers and environmental regulators to address their claims.

Tell me more: In addition to the penalty and indictment, the automaker has agreed to be monitored by an independent agency, besides agreeing to sweeping reforms and new audits for three years to resolve the ongoing investigations.

 

32,000

What is it? The number of entities under the scanner of the market regulator and the Income Tax department for misusing the Long Term Capital Gains (LTCG) provision in order to evade taxes.

Why is it important? In a season of crackdown on black-money hoarders and tax evaders, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is preparing to take to task listed companies, their whole-time directors and any others involved in trades for stock-price manipulation. It would evoke Section 11B of the SEBI Act which lets it issue directions such as bans.

Tell me more: The IT department has referred cases to SEBI highlighting how false claims for long term capital gains are raised. The bogus beneficiaries involve inactive or penny stock companies, listed on the bourses. After a series of preferential share allotment, stock splits, share price manipulation, bonus issues and inflated capital base, the beneficiaries exit at jacked-up prices for their one year of LTCG. But cash settlements between such companies and false claimants are likely to scuttle legal persecution.

 

$40 million

What is it? The payout from Diageo that Vijay Mallya transferred to his children’s accounts.

Why is it important? It is now being questioned by the Supreme Court. In the ongoing tussle between the lender-consortium and embattled businessman Vijay Mallya, the latest salvo was from the Supreme Court which asked him to reply in three weeks. Mallya was asked why the payment, a part of a $75-million severance package from Diageo, was transferred to his three children, even as the banks sought the deposit. The consortium claims the transfer violated orders of the Debt Recovery Tribunal and Karnataka High Court.

Tell me more: Mallya’s initial affidavit claimed he has no control of the money as his three children are US citizens and the sole beneficiaries of their trusts in which it was transferred. Absconding from the country, he and his defunct airlines owe lenders over Rs 6,200 crore (estimates go up to over Rs 9,000 crore).

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