News in Numbers, Aug 25, 2016: New rail projects cleared, efficiency norms for ACs…

1,937.38 km

What is it? The total length of track construction under nine railway projects that have been cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday.

Why is it important? At an estimated cost of Rs 24,374.86 crore, this would help decongest key routes by increasing capacity, improve passenger and freight transportation and movement of freight items such as coal, minerals and steel. This would benefit 11 states including West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. If procurement for the projects is done within India, it would contribute 0.4% to the GDP (gross domestic product), besides having a multiplier effect, according to an analyst.

Tell me more: The projects are important for the Indian Railways to meet its target of creating capacity to transport 1.5 billion tonnes of goods by 2020.

 

24-43 degree Celsius

What is it? The temperature range which would be used to test air-conditioners’ (ACs) efficiency from January 2018, as against the current practice of using 35 degree Celsius as the benchmark.

Why is it important? The new star rating system would be mandatory for all brands and is aimed at reducing electricity consumption and bringing down electricity costs. All ACs would need to be fitted with smart compressor regulators instead of the conventional thermostat-triggered cut-offs. This would help reduce electricity consumption of a 1.5 tonne AC (currently, 5-star rated) by 250 kilowatt/hour, leading to savings of Rs 1,500 a year (if the power tariff is set at Rs 6 per kilowatt/hour), according to an economist at the Bureau of Energy Efficiency.

Tell me more: In India, about 45 lakh ACs are sold every year.

 

5

What is it? The number of years a couple has to be married to have a child through surrogacy, as per the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, which the Union Cabinet cleared on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This would bring in rules in the so-far unregulated sector. Besides this, it prohibits married couple who have biological or adopted children, single people, live-in partners and homosexuals from going for surrogacy. It also bans commercial surrogacy, which is estimated to be around Rs 3,000 crore in India and is known to exploit poor women who agree to become surrogate mothers for money. It doesn’t allow foreign nationals to seek an Indian surrogate mother.

Tell me more: The couple should seek a surrogate who is a close relative and she can be a surrogate mother only once. The commissioning parents should belong to a particular age group: 23-50 years for women and 26-55 years for men. The bill will be presented in the Parliament for approval this winter.

 

17

What is it? The number of bank accounts reportedly under the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) scanner for suspected links with terrorists or separatist groups. The transactions total Rs 38 crore. They relate to four banks in south Kashmir.

Why is it important? The NIA investigators are looking for links between the date of withdrawal of money from these accounts and the incidents of stone-pelting and road blockades held by those protesting the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant. The Indian government hasblamed Pakistan for supporting cross-border terrorism and has termed it to be root cause of the unrest in the Valley.

Tell me more: Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Bahadur Ali, in a confessional video, said Pakistan had a role to play in the Kashmir unrest, which has left 65 people dead since July 9.

 

11.2

What is it? The number of days an earth-like planet (named Proxima b) takes to orbit around its sun, Proxima Centauri.

Why is it important? It’s closer to its sun, than the earth is to its. However, scientists say it is within the habitable zone. This means that liquid water could be present on the planet. Of the over 3,000 exoplanets (planets which orbit a star outside the solar system), this may be one of the closest – raising hopes of life outside earth or that it could have the appropriate conditions to support life.

Tell me more: Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years away from the solar system’s sun. With the kind of spacecraft we have today, it would take 70,000 years to reach Proxima b.

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News in Numbers, July 28, 2016: Some changes in GST Bill approved, ACs’ energy efficiency…

$1 billion

What is it? The size of the deal India has signed with US defence and aerospace major Boeing for buying four additional ‘Poseidon-8l’ long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

Why is it important? This would strengthen India’s naval surveillance capabilities at a time when Chinese nuclear and conventional submarines have been making frequent trips in the Indian Ocean region. The Asian giant has been keen on developing a number of ports around India and developing a military logistics base in Djibouti, a tiny African nation.

Tell me more: It would also have the capabilities of dropping and monitoring sonobuoys (to detect underwater sounds and transmit them by radio), which is currently being used to look for the missing AN-32 plane of the Indian Air Force. The first of the four will be delivered in 50 months.

 

241

What is it? The number of infrastructure projects worth Rs 150 crore or more that have reported cost overruns, as per a May report by the government.

Why is it important? These projects have resulted in cost overruns of Rs 1.59 lakh crore, which is 12.5% of the original cumulative cost of the 1,076 projects monitored in May. Highlights the need for speedy implementation of projects even as the government tries to strengthen the economy, which is likely to touch 8% next year (according to estimates by Nomura). Private spending has not yet picked up, putting the burden on the government to do the job.

Tell me more: Of the 1,076 projects, less than a third (30.7%) of the projects reported time overruns. The percentage of projects that have reported cost and time overruns have marginally decreased to 22.4% (from 22.7% in April) and 30.67% (from 30.73% in April) respectively, in May.

 

1%

What is it? The additional tax on inter-state sales as proposed in the earlier version of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Constitution Amendment Bill, which has now been done away with.

Why is it important? This is one among the few other changes approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, which is likely to better the bill’s chances of being passed in the Rajya Sabha this monsoon session. With this, the government has met one of the three key demands of the Congress, which has 60 seats in the Upper House. The NDA has 72 seats in the Rajya Sabha and has managed to get the support for the bill from various regional parties that have a cumulative 63 seats – it requires the support of 163 members to pass the legislation in this House.

Tell me more: If the government is able to get the bill (which already received the Lok Sabha’s approval last year) passed in the Rajya Sabha this monsoon session, it can meet its deadline of rolling out the unified tax by April 1, 2017. Other changes approved by the Cabinet include compensating the states for any revenue loss in the first five years of rolling out GST and that the Bill will mention that any dispute would be settled by the GST Council (with representation both from the central and state governments).

 

Rs 27 crore

What is it? The fine imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on 13 banks for violating Foreign Exchange Exchange Management Act (FEMA), Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering provisions and norms.

Why is it important? Highlights the extent of violations across private and public sector banks, some of them serious in nature. This is a result of raids across branches (including those of Bank of Baroda and HDFC Bank) that were conducted as part of the investigations into a Rs 6,100-crore foreign exchange scam unearthed at Bank of Baroda last year. In this case, bank employees had allegedly collaborated with some people to transfer funds to accounts in Hong Kong and the UAE for import transactions that never took place.

Tell me more: The banks that have attracted penalty include Allahabad Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, HDFC Bank, Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. Eight others including Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and the State Bank of India have been asked to take appropriate measures to ensure strict compliance of KYC norms and FEMA provisions, and review them periodically.

 

40 degree Celsius

What is it? The temperature above which a 5-star rated air conditioner (AC) starts performing like a 2-star rated AC, according to a study.

Why is it important? This could be one main reason for the inappropriately high electricity bills during summer months in many households. A 5-star AC is supposed to save 20-22% of the energy costs when compared to a 1-star appliance (according to the Bureau of Energy Efficiency) but this study says that when temperatures shoot up to 40-45 degree Celsius, a 5-star AC can start consuming 10-28% more power than the declared capacity. Some of the metros such as Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad had crossed 40 degree Celsius this summer.  At above 45 degree Celsius, it becomes worse than a 1-star rated AC.

Tell me more: The study by the Centre for Science and Environment says energy efficiency of ACs decrease when the room temperature is lowered below 27 degree Celsius. It also points out that the cooling capacity of a room decreases by around 30% during peak summers when a 1.5-tonne AC starts behaving like a 1-tonne AC.

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