News in Numbers, Jan 19, 2017: Regional routes take flight



What is it? Number of initial proposals for operating flights with fares capped at Rs 2,500 for an hour under the Airports Authority of India’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (named UDAN)

Why is it important? The bidders propose to operate from 65 airports, out of which 52 are not served by any airlines, boosting regional air connectivity. But operating on the 200 regional routeswould also mean low pre-mandated airfares, for example, a fare of Rs 2,500 for an hour’s journey of 500-km. Central and state governments will then help operators with viability gap funding, partly funded bythe Rs 8,500-levy on each departing flight on major routes.

Tell me more: The initial quotes are subject to counter quotes, with the lowest requirement for VGF winning the bid. Groundwork by the Ministry of Civil Aviation with AAI, State Governments, DGCA and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security have begun.


Rs 9.2 trillion


What is it? The value of new currency notes injected by the Reserve Bank of India to replace old banned notes.
Why is it important? Despite RBI pumping in nearly 60% of the amount removed (Rs 15.44 trillion) from circulation following demonetisation, there is no sight of the end to cash-withdrawal restrictions. RBI governor, Urjit Patel, facing a parliamentary panel on finance, did not elaborate on either the easing of the cash crunch or the amount of banned notes deposited.

Tell me more: Patel assured the panel that RBI would provide details of deposits of banned notes on a later date.




What is it? The percentage of rural school students in class 5 who are able to read a book prescribed for class 2 learning.

Why is it important? The learning level in schools in rural India remains dismal as less than half of class 5 students can read books meant for three standards lower (class 2). The proportion has deteriorated from 2014’s 48% and 2010’s 53.7% of students, despite 97% enrollment in schools.

Tell me more: Class 5 students in private rural schools fared better with 62.9% of them above to read class 2 books, while only 41.6% from government schools made the cut in 2016. The findings are from the 11th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), conducted in 589 districts, and previously published in 2014.


0.94 degree-Celsius


What is it? The above-normal deviation in average land and ocean temperature in the whole of 2016.

Why is it important? It establishes 2016 as the hottest year so far, a dire reminder of climate change that is plaguing the planet. Temperatures spiked to new national highs in India, Kuwait and Iran and Arctic ice melted faster than ever as a result of the global warming.

Tell me more: The year broke the record for the hottest ever, third year in a row since records were kept from 1880.


7.05 million


What is it? Netflix’s net subscriber addition in the fourth quarter of 2016 (ended December 31).

Why is it important? The robust growth in subscribers signal Netflix’s ambitious global expansion is bearing fruit, as Internet TV catches on. Nearly 73% (5.12 million) of the additions came from markets outside the US. Netflix which made a big-bang launch in 130 countries simultaneously in January, 2016, saw its shares rise up by 8 per cent after its results.

Tell me more: Competition is snapping at Netflix’s heels as unveils its Amazon Prime Video service worldwide.

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The planet heats up

This piece originally appeared on


Even as the US elected Donald Trump, who had questioned climate change in the past, 2016 missed out on the distinction of being the hottest on record since 1880. It could well have been, but the temperatures cooled down in September and October, which one of the media outlets that supported Trump mistook as evidence against global warming. The reason was a retreating El Niño, an abnormal weather pattern caused by warm waters of the western Pacific Ocean flowing eastwards.

As it stands, the world is getting warmer (chart 1). While the temperature rise in 2015 and 2016 is due to El Niño, it’s not the only reason (chart 2). One of the immediate effects is the speed at which glaciers are receding (chart 3). In July, 90 million cubic yards of glacier collapsed in the Aru range in Tibet, resulting in one of the largest avalanches.

Meanwhile, a new study, published recently in Nature Geoscience, confirmed more strongly than before the link between climate change and glacial melting. In 2017, we will do well to keep track of those glaciers, and what Trump does with the Paris climate pact aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.






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News in Numbers: September 26. ISRO does it again..

 isro pslv


What is it? The number of satellites that were launched by Indian Space Research Organisation’s PSLV-C35 on Monday.

Why is it important? The satellites that flew on India’s workhorse rocket included three from India, three from Algeria, and one each from Canada and the US. The main payload is India’s weather satellite, SCATSAT-1. It can predict formation of cyclones four to five days in advance by studying the wind speed and direction.

Tell me more: PSLV released the weather satellite into a 730 km Polar orbit and will release the other seven into a lower orbit of 689 kms. So far, PSLV has launched 39 satellites for ISRO.



What is it? The number of countries that have ratified Paris Agreement so far. India will be the 62nd, when it ratifies the climate change agreement on October 2.

Why is it important? US and China, the two largest carbon emitters,ratified the agreement earlier this month. With India, the third largest, joining the list, the world is closer to combating climate change better. The agreement  aims to cut down global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to less than 2 degree celsius over pre industrial times.

Tell me more: It was widely expected that India would ratify the agreement this year. The agreement would come into force after countries that account for at least an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions ratify it.


$ 6.5 billion

What is it? The amount venture capitalists invested in Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola since 2010

Why is it important? The rationale is that the homegrown players would become ‘the Amazon of India’ and ‘the Uber of India’, just as China created its own internet giants in Alibaba (e-commerce) and Didi (cab aggregation). However, the last several quarters saw Amazon and Uber stepping up their gas in India, and might themselves end up being Amazon and Uber of the country. If that happens and it could adversely impact the returns VCs are hoping to get from their investments, and their outlook for India.

Tell me more: Amazon is estimated to have exceeded Flipkart’s sales in July. Post the merger of Uber and Didi in China, Uber has increased its focus on India.



What is it? Percentage of votes with the top three telecom companies in the GSM industry body, Cellular Operators Association of India, according to Reliance Jio, which became a member in July 2014.

Why is it important? In a letter to COAI, Reliance cited this figure to allege that the industry body was favoring the top three companies(Bharti, Vodafone and Idea). COAI, in turn, called Jio a “backdoor operator”, deepening fault lines within the telecom sector and the industry grouping.

Tell me more: Telecom is a frenemy sector. Besides competing against each other, operators depend on each other to provide network linkages to complete calls—a sore point currently—and to fill network gaps.



What is it? Number of golf majors won by American Arnold Palmer,who died Sunday night at the age of 87 years.

Why is it important? This ranks Palmer joint seventh among all players. All his seven wins came between 1958 and 1964, a period during which he competed against Jack Nicklaus (18 majors, ranked first) and Gary Player (9 majors, ranked joint fourth).

Tell me more: They were called the ‘The Big Three’ who made golf mainstream. And Palmer, the first TV star of golf, was nicknamed ‘The King’.

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News in Numbers, May 11, 2016: India-Mauritius amended treaty, Philippines ‘Trump’ed…


What is it? The combined share of Mauritius and Singapore in India’s foreign direct investment in 2014-15.

Why is it important? This might reduce after a 1983 treaty between India and Mauritius was amended (which will also apply to India-Singapore treaty) on Tuesday to let India impose capital gains tax on investments starting next year. The amendment is expected to help India fight against black money.

Tell me more: The amended treaty allows India to impose taxes on capital gains relating to investments made from April 1, 2017 at 50% of the domestic rate until March 31, 2019, after which the full rate will be applicable. The phased reduction in capital gains would be applicable to only those companies that have a total expenditure of over Rs 27 lakh in the preceding 12 months.



What is it? The number of votes Congress has reportedly got in the floor test of the Uttarakhand Assembly on Tuesday against BJP’s 28.

Why is it important? The results would end political uncertainty stretching over the last few weeks in the state where President’s Rule has been imposed. The sacked chief minister Harish Rawat is likely to be back at the helm. lt remains to be seen if Uttarakhand will go in for elections earlier than scheduled (next year) and if Supreme Court will take a view on the imposition of President’s Rule.

Tell me more: The floor test results will be presented to the Supreme Court today, after which they would be made public. The crisis began when nine of Congress MLAs sided with the BJP in a debate over the state budget and after a series of appeals and counter-appeals, they were barred from participating in the floor test on Tuesday.


14.8 million

What is it? The number of votes Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte has received in Philippine presidential elections, around 39% of the 54 million registered voters, according to a poll monitor accredited by the election commission.

Why is it important? With Duterte likely to be President, the unofficial results reflect Filipinos’ choice of a leader – a tough-talking candidate who promises to fight corruption and criminals but also, one who makes controversial statements and outlines little to show how he would fulfill his promises. He is often compared to Donald Trump. Though Duterte is known for bringing down crime rates in the city of Davao when he was vice-Mayor, he has been linked to alleged illegal killings of criminals.

Tell me more: Duterte’s spokesperson has said he would push for rewriting of the country’s constitution and bring in a federal system of government.



What is it? The number of plant species discovered in 2015, according to a report by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Why is it important? This is the first ever study of the world’s flora. It also revealed that one of every five plants is at the risk of extinction due to reasons including climate change, habitat loss, disease and invasive species. Plants are important for climate regulation besides being sources of food, medicines, fuels and timber. While this underlines the need for better environmental protection measures, the discovery of new plant species provides hope of new sources of food and medicines.

Tell me more: The new plant species discovered include an insect-eating sundew, five new types of onions and a close relative of sweet potato. There are 390,900 plant species known to science.



What is it? The number of patents filed by Google, Sony and Samsung relating to smart contacts, ocular implants and eye-computing devices since 2001, most in the last four years.

Why is it important? Such patents, though a bit away from commercialisation, have applications in medicine (such as Google’s parent company performing clinical trials to test glucose-monitoring contact lenses for diabetics) and augmented technology (includes devices – to be mounted on your noses – that can communicate wirelessly and a contact lens camera that can perform the main functions of a camera). It is likely that technology, which is an important aspect of a modern human being, might well become an integral part of human bodies.

Tell me more: However, it remains to be seen how privacy concerns brought on by such devices would be tackled.

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