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3.81

What is it? The consumer price inflation (CPI) in March, 2017.

Why is it important? CPI or retail inflation grew fastest in five months, since October. This is in line with RBI’s concern about rising inflation, leading it to hold rates in successive policy reviews. It even raised its rate of borrowing from banks — reverse repo — to constrict liquidity, in the latest review. RBI expects inflation to reach 4.5% in the first half of FY17 and 5% thereafter.

Tell me more: The CPI, often affected by food price inflation, suffered from higher fuel prices, instead in March. Food price inflation (CFPI) was actually less than than in February, at 1.93%.

 

94.9%

What is it? The operating ratio of Indian Railways (IR) in 2016-17.

Why is it important? The ratio is higher than previous years, denoting high expenditure by IR to earn revenue. For every rupee, IR spent 94.9 paise. While the ideal benchmark of 80% or lower is still a distant goal, the ratio was 90.2% in 2012-13.

Tell me more: The increasing operating ratio coupled with low revenue growth in freight, seen in 2015-16, which accounts for the bulk (3/5th) of rail revenue, could strain the highest-ever budgetary allocation. There are certain steps for profitability which IR said it’s taking.

 

Rs 5,000 crore

What is it? The value of the stock of BS-III vehicles which remain unsold, following the Supreme Court’s ban.

Why is it important? It is the value of around 120,000 vehicles, representing 15% of the original stock of BS-III vehicles when the ban was declared. Two-wheeler manufacturers took a hit of Rs 1,200 crore in order to sell their heavily-discounted stock. The scramble to sell got more frenzied as Supreme Court, on March 30, extended the ban to not just stalling  BS-III vehicle manufacturing but also sales from April 1.

Tell me more: The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers says the uncertainty created in the auto sector, as a result of eight-month ban in Delhi on diesel cars and SUVs last year and the present blanket ban on sale of existing stock of BS-III vehicles could affect investments.

 

114%

What is it? Productivity of Lok Sabha during Budget Session 2017, which started on January 31 and ended on April 12..

Why is it important? It is one of the most productive sessions, and also one of the most contentious. Lok Sabha passed 23 bills, Rajya Sabha 14 and both 18. Some far-reaching legislations — including changes in the political funding by companies, and linking of Aadhaar to PAN cards — were passed as Money Bills, on which Rajya Sabha has only the power to suggest changes, but not stall their passage.

Tell me more: Four bills related to Goods and Services Tax (GST) were passed during the session.

 

7 to 10 days

What is it? The likely duration of the Election Commission’s open challenge to hack Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Why is it important? This comes amidst accusations by political parties, especially Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, that EVMs were hacked in favour of the BJP. The Election Commission and its officials, past and present, have vehemently denied it. A widely shared newsitem on tampered EVMs in Madhya Pradesh was found to be false. Now, EC has issued an open challenge to experts, scientists and technologists to try and hack the machines.

Tell me more: In 2010, BBC had a report saying US scientists claimed to have developed a technique to tamper with the machines. “It is not just the machine, but the overall administrative safeguards which we use that make it absolutely impossible for anybody to open the machine,” the Indian Election Commissioner had told BBC then.

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News in Numbers, Mar 30, 2017: Bills and losses

14 paise/minute

What is it? The least possible retail price for calls according to leading mobile players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

Why is it important? Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has rejected the claim. This puts a spanner in the works of embattled telecom players. They had rallied around to protest call charges lower than the interconnect charge of 14 paise a minute. This is paid by the operator on whose network a call originates to the recipient network operator. At the centre of the storm is Reliance Jio, whose pricing is being termed as predatory as its ‘free’ consumer offers involves paying other networks the interconnect charge. It has ardently lobbied for dropping of even the interconnect charges to be able to price its products even lower. But it would hit the income of other networks for connecting Jio’s calls.

Tell me more: Trai will present its argument of rejecting interconnect charges as the minimum retail price to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal this week.

 

213 megawatts

What is it? India’s net exported power in April-February, 2017, turning it into a net exporter for the first time since exports began the mid-80s.

Why is it important? Even as states like Bihar continue to reel from scarce power supply, India turns net exporter, after commissioning new power lines through parts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. It exported 5,798 megawatts to Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and imported 5,585 megawatts from Bhutan.

Tell me more: India started exporting electricity in the mid-80s but remained a net importer so far. More cross-border linkages with higher voltage will raise the quantity.

 

4

What is it? The number of money bills, part the last GST-related statutes batch, passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, during the ongoing budget session of the Parliament.

Why is it important? The seminal tax reform, Goods and Services Tax, could now see the light of day as early as July 1, across India. GST will create a uniform indirect tax structure and making the states and Centre equal stakeholders in it through the GST council. With the last four bills — central GST bill, the integrated GST bill, the Union Territory GST bill, and the GST (compensation to states) bill — passed by the lower house, the Rajya Sabha has 14 days to make recommendations only on the laws (money bills).

Tell me more: Between April and May, the GST council will have to categorise goods and services in the four taxation slabs for GST — 5%, 12%, 28% and 28%.

 

5

What is it? The number of amendments with which the finance bill was passed in Rajya Sabha.

Why is it important? The amendments included those relating to additional powers to income tax officials and political funding by companies. These moves by the government were not only criticised for giving too much power to tax officials and reducing transparency, they were also criticised for using Finance Bill to pass far reaching reforms. Rajya Sabha has limited power over Money Bill, it can suggest changes, but Lok Sabha need not accept them. BJP has a majority in Lok Sabha.

Tell me more: Three amendments were moved by Digvijaya Singh of Congress and the remaining two by Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M)

 

Rs 12,000 crore

What is it? The projected loss to automobile sector, including manufacturers and dealers, if the sale of BS-III (those complying to Bharat Stage 3 emission norms) vehicles are stopped from April.

Why is it important? Supreme court banned the sales of all the BS-III vehicles effective April, saying emissions from these vehicles impact the health. Manufacturers still have 8.24 vehicles that comply to BS-III norms, and junking them would result in the losses. However, the Supreme Court said the deadline was set 6 years ago, and the industry was given enough time to prepare for the transition. The vehicles in stock include 96,724 commercial vehicles, 6,71,308 two-wheelers, 40,048 three-wheelers and 16,198 cars. They are now rushing to clear these inventories now.

Tell me more: BS III corresponds to Euro III norms. BS IV – corresponding to Euro IV – is slated to be imposed from April 1st 2017, and BS VI, with even higher standards is expected to come into force by 2020.

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