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‘Paradise’ Lost, Yet Again

 

Yet another cache of several million corporate records reveal where the rich and famous hide their money. A welfare fund meant for construction workers is allegedly being misused. Several companies struck-off by the Registrar played the system. Quite well. 

 

10%

What is it? The share of the Rs 29,000 crore fund meant for welfare of construction workers spent for the said purpose.

Why is it important? Much of the funds have been used to buy laptops and washing machines for construction workers, which the Supreme Court said were being frittered away. The top court was hearing a public interest litigation by an NGO that alleged that the statutory cess levied on real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers was being misused as there was no proper mechanism to identify beneficiaries. About 21.5 million workers were registered with various welfare boards, as of December 2015.

Tell me more: In response to these details given by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Supreme Court has asked the Union Labour Secretary to appear before it on November 10 to explain how the fund was being implemented.

 

66,000

What is it? Number of India-related records in the cache of 13.4 million corporate records in the Paradise Papers, which started making headlines yesterday.

Why is it important? The Paradise Papers is the fourth largest data leak of hidden and veiled, sometimes illegal, financial dealings of the rich and the powerful routed through tax havens. The Indian names featuring in the Paradise Papers leaks include electrical appliances firm Havells, corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and Dr Ashok Seth of Fortis Escort, among others.

Tell me more: The Paradise Papers comprise leaks from two offshore service providers, Bermuda’s Appleby and Singapore’s Asiaciti, and company registries of 19 tax havens.

 

Rs 17,000 crore

What is it? The amount deposited and withdrawn by 35,000 companies after demonetisation (announced on November 8), according to preliminary data collected by the government from 56 banks.

Why is it important? These companies, which together held 58,000 bank accounts, have been struck off the Registrar of Companies for suspect transactions. They have also been debarred from selling and transferring movable and immovable properties till their status is restored. The government, which has come under criticism for demonetisation, has said this exercise should be seen as a part of its drive against black money.

Tell me more: In all, 224,000 companies were struck off after demonetisation. And 309,000 directors were disqualified as their companies did not file financial statements and/or annual reports for three straight years between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

 

16

What is it? The number of years for which anti-corruption watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has sought details related to all frauds involving Rs 3 crore or more reported to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by public sector banks.

Why is it important? The CVC intends to analyse the modus operandi followed by defrauders with the aim of making changes to prevent fraudulent cases, at a time when the Indian government is promoting the Digital India programme. The CVC plans to list the ways in which frauds are committed on a portal for bankers.

Tell me more: As many as 3,870 fraud cases involving Rs 17,750 crore were reported between April and December 2016. Around 450 employees were involved in these cases.

 

8

What is it? The number of points by which Manchester City lead the English Premier League title race.

Why is it important? The Pep Guardiola-led club increased its lead by three points after this weekend’s matches. City is off to its best start ever and is looking good to win its first title since the 2013-14 season.

Tell me more: Four of the top six teams in top-flight English club football squared off on Sunday. City beat Arsenal 3-1 at home and Chelsea beat Manchester United, which is currently second in the standings, 1-0.

 

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News in numbers, Apr 21, 2016: India’s poverty rate, unethical means to meet financial targets…

$5-6

What is it? The amount of tax India’s environment minister wants developed countries to levy per tonne of coal production.

Why is it important? It could help mobilise $100 billion a year until 2020 to help developing countries such as India to tackle climate change. This is as per the Paris agreement signed last December.

Tell me more: India increased taxes on coal mining in February to $6 per tonne from $1 a tonne to limit its consumption. The country, which claims to levy the highest tax on coal mining, wants to double its coal output in another four years.

<=Rs 38

What is it? The amount on which nearly half of the Indian population (47%) lived on, in 2011-12, as per data by Global Consumption and Income Project.

Why is it important? Indicates India may have more poor people than official estimates suggest. The official poverty rate is 22%, that is, the percentage of population with less than Rs 27 per day in rural areas and Rs 33 per day in urban areas in 2011-12.

Tell me more: With $1.9 (or roughly, Rs 29) per day as the poverty line, which is closer to the official numbers, the poverty rate works out to be 28%, higher than the official estimates. No matter which poverty line one adopts, poverty rates have declined over years. The moot question: by how much.

5,134 tonnes

What is it? The quantity of gold held in Bank of England gold vaults under the streets of London stretching across 300,000 square feet.

Why is it important? These hold over 80% of the 6,256 tonnes of gold stored in London, which in turn, is a fifth of the total gold held by governments in the city. Investors turn to gold, one of the most traded assets, which is considered a safe haven during times of financial uncertainty.

Tell me more: These vaults still need a bunch of keys to be accessed with minimal dependence on technology for security measures, which some believe is easier to be compromised.

> 2,000

What is it? The reported number of courses that India’s own MOOCs (massive open online courses) platform will have.

Why is it important? It’s widely accepted that MOOCs will play a major role higher education globally, and India’s online education initiative – Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) – could potentially bring advanced courses relevant to India in local languages to millions of students of all ages.

Tell me more: Others such as Coursera and edX offer such free online courses from various universities across the world, though some of them charge for receiving verified certificates upon completion of the courses. Only 8.15% of Indians are graduates. It was estimated that India would have 402 million internet users by last December to overtake US and become the second largest internet user base in the world.  These online courses would be reportedly backed by patents and each faculty member is likely to be paid Rs 1 lakh per course.

70%

What is it? The share of Indian executives who feel at least one unethical conduct is justified to meet financial targets, according to an Ernst & Young survey.

Why is it important? This is much higher than the numbers recorded in other regions. Indian executives are most likely to bend or flout rules on every single unethical conduct than their counterparts to achieve targets. For instance, 30% of Indian executives would book revenues earlier than they should be, compared to 7% globally, 9% in emerging markets and 4% in developed markets.

Tell me more: According to a KPMG-CII 2014 report, corruption was cited as the major obstacle in doing business in India.

 

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News in numbers, Nov 16, 2015: Discounts on cancer drugs, ISIS’ share in terror attacks…

50-60%

 

What is it? Discounts to be given for 202 cancer drugs, 186 medicines to treat cardiovascular diseases and 148 types of cardiac implants at central government hospitals.

 

Why is it important? Cancer is already the biggest or the second biggest killer in India and affordability of drugs is a major concern. For instance, Imatinib, a generic drug used to treat certain types of blood cancers, retails for Rs 850-1,029 per 100 mg tablet strip.

 

Tell me more: The Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) scheme, launched by the government in partnership with government-owned HLL Lifecare, will set up and run a chain of pharmacies across the country to sell these drugs at lower costs. The first AMRIT outlet was inaugurated at AIIMS in New Delhi on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

7.5%

 

What is it? Share of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in terrorist attacks perpetrated in 2014, according to the Global Terrorism Database.

 

Why is it important? The Jihadist group, which claimed responsibility for the multi-venue attacks in Paris on Friday night, is turning out to be the most significant terrorist threat globally. The attacks, which claimed the lives of 129 people, reflect an increase in the capabilities of the terrorist group (if investigations confirm their claims).

 

Tell me more: The attacks targeted six venues including a concert hall, a stadium, restaurants and bars. Three coordinated teams of eight attackers shot at people and blew themselves up, while one was shot dead by the police.

 

$772 million

 

What is it? Penalty levied by the US on French multinational Alstom for bribing government officials in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Taiwan.

 

Why is it important? In the global context, this is the largest criminal fine ever levied under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the US anti-corruption regulation. In the Indian context, Alstom was recently awarded the letter of award for contracts worth $5.6 billion to supply 800 electric locomotives to the Indian Railways between 2018 and 2028. This could be worrisome for the Indian government, which is trying to improve its rankings in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, where corruption is cited as a major impediment.

 

Tell me more: Alstom had pleaded guilty to charges of falsifying its books and records and not implementing adequate internal control, besides bribing government officials. A Connecticut district court judge on Friday formally sentenced the company to pay the fine.  

 

3

 

What is it? Number of children in political life of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, one of whom is reportedly likely to be anointed deputy chief minister of Bihar.

 

Why is it important? Between Misa Bharati Devi, Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav, the choice might be a pointer of the second rung of leadership in the RJD. Also, it shows dynastic politics, which is seen as a threat to democracy, continues to thrive. Research by political scientist Kanchan Chandra of the New York University shows that 21% of the current Members of Parliament (MPs) come from political families, which though down from 29% in 2009, is still high.


Tell me more: RJD won 80 seats in the recently concluded Bihar elections, 9 more than JD (U). Nitish Kumar is set to take oath as chief minister, for the third consecutive time, on November 20.

 

50%

 

What is it? Percentage by which the Indian government plans to reduce deaths due to road accidents in the next five years.

 

Why is it important? Deaths due to road accidents (140,000) accounted for 83.7% of all traffic accidents in India in 2014. An average of 51 cases of road accidents were reported per hour last year, resulting in 16 deaths per hour. Accidents involving two-wheelers accounted for over a fourth of the lives lost.

 

Tell me more: The national action plan being drawn by the government includes new two-wheeler safety norms, working on road designs, penalties on companies and engineers for bad road designs, a separate fund for road accident victims, and action against registered public and private hospitals who detain bystanders bringing in the injured or demand payment from them (unless they are family members of the injured).

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News in numbers, Oct 21, 2015: Impact of call drop norms on telcos, Delhi’s corruption poll…

5%

What is it? The estimated fall in pre-tax profits of telecom companies like Airtel and Idea if the proposal by the telecom regulator to impose Rs 1 charge for every dropped call from January 1 next year.

Why is it important? For two reasons. One, telecom companies claim they will lose Rs 150 crore each day if the additional charge is imposed. Two, lengthy legal battle is likely to follow as companies claim as per licensing norms they were not expected to give 100% network coverage.     

Tell me more: A silver lining for the telecom companies could be the fact minutes volume growth is falling even as data demand increases. Nearly a fourth of all mobile subscribers have used data services as on September 2015.     

 

Rs 21,415

What is it? The amount of royalty paid by India’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki to its parent, Suzuki Motor Company in Japan for every car sold in fiscal 2015.

Why is it important? In last fifteen years, the royalty per car sold has increased by 6.5 times, even as sales realization increased by only 1.6 times in the same period. Institutional Investor Advisory Services (IiAS), a proxy advisory firm, has questioned the increase and asked for reasons to justify this high royalty payment even as Maruti’s own Research and Development effort is increasing.  

Tell me more: In terms of pre-tax pre-royalty profits, the royalty payments works out to 36% in fiscal 2015, as compared to 13% in fiscal 2006.

 

125

What is it? The number of Air India’s cabin crew members grounded for not meeting the Body Mass Index (BMI) guidelines by airlines regulator.

Why is it important?  The state-run Air India is the oldest among all domestic airlines, and wants relaxation of rules as average age of its cabin crew members are higher than the rest. As part of civil aviation requirement, female cabin crew members whose BMI is higher than 22 is considered as ‘overweight’ and those with above 27 as ‘obese’. Overweight cabin crew members are given three months time to reduce weight. If still not met, then that cabin crew member will be declared ‘temporary unfit’.

Tell me more? In case of male crew, a BMI of over 25 is considered overweight.

 

$400 million

What is it? Sale amount received by Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, by selling mobile towers in Africa and leasing back the same. So far it has raised $ 1.7 billion by selling 8,300 towers.  

Why is it important? This is seen as a strategy to reduce the $ 10.7 billion debt in Bharti Airtel’s book, so that it can face competition from Reliance Industries, which plans to launch the fourth generation mobile services by March 2016. Reliance is planning to invest $17 billion to launch its mobile services, even as it has around $ 13 billion of cash as of September 2015.     

Tell me more: Even after this sale, Bharti Airtel still owns 3,700 towers in Africa.

 

33%

What is it? The percentage of households in Delhi that paid a bribe in the last 12 months, according to a sample survey of 1,501 households by the Centre for Media Studies and Transparency International. Extrapolating from the average bribe amount per household of Rs 2,486, the survey estimated that the city’s citizens paid Rs 239 crore as bribes for 15 public services.

Why is it important? While corruption in public services is a nationwide issue, it took centrestage in Delhi as an electoral pitch for the ruling Aam Aadmi Party. On Tuesday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been locked in an acrimonious fight with the Centre over distribution of power, quoted the survey results to make a case for giving the state more control, notably of the police.

Tell me more: In the Corruption Perception Index 2014 study by Transparency International, India was ranked 85 out of 175 countries.

 

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