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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How the latest 78-member NDA cabinet compares with the last UPA cabinet

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Following last week’s expansion, the 78-member cabinet of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has crossed the 71 that the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government signed off with.

The makeup of the NDA’s newest cabinet differs in several respects from that of the UPA’s last: while it draws less from the elected pool, it is younger, assigns more responsibilities to women and junior ministers, and draws from more states.

Women: NDA

While both cabinets have an identical percentage of women, the NDA has assigned them greater responsibility. It is also drawing from a larger pool of parties (three versus one for the UPA).

 

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Elected by the people: UPA

The UPA cabinet had more ministers from the Lok Sabha (who are directly elected, unlike members of the Rajya Sabha, who are either elected by legislators or nominated). In the subset of those leading ministries, the percentage fell for both cabinets, but the UPA still did better.

 

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Younger in age: NDA

Half the ministers in both cabinets are older than the 60 years at which central government employees retire. Between the two, the NDA is slightly younger.

 

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Educational qualifications: NDA

The NDA has a greater percentage of ministers in the cabinet who either studied till school or are graduates. But the UPA had a greater share of ministers with post-graduate or higher degrees.

 

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Geographical coverage

While the NDA cabinet draws ministers from more states than the UPA did, it also shows greater concentration at the top. Interestingly, the list of the top six states of both cabinets has only three common entries: UP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

 

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Crorepati ministers: NDA

The NDA has a higher percentage of ministers with assets above Rs 1 crore. However, the median value of assets of its council of ministers is lower than that of the UPA.

 

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Portfolio responsibilities

The larger cabinet size of the NDA is because of more ministers of state, who report to a cabinet minister and are usually tasked with a specific responsibility in that ministry. At the senior cabinet-rank level, the NDA has fewer ministers holding multiple portfolios. At the junior MoS level, NDA ministers holding multiple portfolios number two-and-a-half times those in the UPA cabinet.

 

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Data sources: Myneta.info, Lok Sabha website, Rajya Sabha website.

Note: Composition and data for UPA cabinet as of April 2014, a month before it left office.

 

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News in Numbers, May 26, 2016: Capital goods policy, SEBI’s push to delist 4,200 firms…

Rs 7.5 lakh crore

What is it? The expected value of capital goods made in India in 2025 from Rs 2.3 lakh crore in 2014-15.

Why is it important? The government, which on Wednesday approved a policy on capital goods, hopes to generate more jobs in this sector: 30 million by 2025 from 8.4 million now. It’s in line with the government’s  ‘Make in India’ programme, which aims to increase the share of manufacturing sector as a percentage of GDP from around the current 17% to 25% by 2020.

Tell me more: The policy seeks to increase exports from 27% to 40% of production and to up the share of domestic production in India’s capital goods demand from 60% to 80% by 2025, which would make India a net exporter of capital goods. Capital goods production, which is 8.8% of the Index of Industrial Production and is a proxy for industrial and investment demand, contracted for the fifth straight month (as of March) year-on-year.

 

4,200

What is it? The number of companies the markets regulator is pushing for delisting from the stock exchanges.

Why is it important? This is to prevent price manipulation through firms that are not actively traded, which would improve governance of public markets and the listed companies. It would also help in reducing regulatory burden. However, firms could misuse this to become non-compliant in order to delist themselves instead of following the proper delisting norms.

Tell me more: Of the 4,200, there are 1,200 companies that have been suspended from trading for seven years (typically, for non-compliance of rules) and 3,000 that are only listed on regional exchanges, some of which cease to exist. The Securities and Exchange Board of India has also warned strict action against auditors if they are found to play a role in market manipulation.

 

54%

What is it? The percentage of ICICI Bank’s bad loans on the account of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) asset quality review in the last six months of 2015-16.

Why is it important? Shows the extent to which banks have been under-reporting their bad loans. ICICI Bank is not the only one. For Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda, Axis Bank and Yes Bank, the equivalent numbers are: 45%, 41%, 30% and 24%. Of the large banks that have declared their results so far, about 44% of their bad loans is due to the central bank’s asset quality review.

Tell me more: The gross bad loans of 39 listed banks was Rs 4.3 lakh crore at the end of December 2015. In April, it was reported that over Rs 3 lakh crore were classified under a category where repayments were overdue by 30-60 days while another Rs 3.17 lakh crore had repayments overdue by 60-90 days, and a portion of this may turn into bad loans during the year.

 

Rs 184.96 crore

What is it? Online restaurant discovery/food ordering service firm Zomato Media’s revenue in 2015-16 from Rs 96.73 crore the previous year.

Why is it important? Despite almost doubling its revenue from last year, it recorded loss before tax of Rs 492.27 crore in the year ended March 2016. Food startups have been facing problems including slowdown in funding, with many of the firms either closing down, getting acquired or reducing their operations.

Tell me more: Last month, HSBC Securities and Capital Markets reduced Zomato’s valuation by $500 million, about half the valuation at which it had raised its last round of funding in September 2015.

 

$50

What is it? Price of Brent crude oil per barrel, an increase of 79% from a 12-year-low of $27.88 a barrel in January.

Why is it important? This is the first time oil has breached the $50-mark. This means higher fuel prices for motorists and reduction in savings for the Indian government due to a likely increase in oil subsidies. In Delhi, fuel prices have increased by over 7% this year. India’s crude oil import bill has almost halved to $64 billion in 2015-16.

Tell me more: The basket of crude oil India imports averaged $105.5 per barrel in 2013-14, $84.2 a barrel in 2014-15 and $46.2 per barrel in 2015-16.

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