Three to Zika


What is it? The number of cases with confirmed Zika infection, reported by the health ministry.

Why is it important? The mosquito-borne viral disease can lead to neurological malfunction. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-Government of India has confirmed three such cases from Ahmedabad. It reports the ministry as having confirmed two cases in February and November, 2016, in addition to the one in January, 2017.

Tell me more: The health agency also said the findings indicate low level transmission and did not revise its global risk assessment due to India.



What is it? The drop in pass percentage points in the CBSE Class XII exams this year, from 83% who cleared the exam in 2016.

Why is it important? The drop in pass percentage comes in a year when the central school board was made to reinstate its grace-marks rule.  Its practice of granting extra marks (upto 15%), to pass students or peg their results at a higher percentile became an issue ahead of the results.

Tell me more: Last month, it decided to scrap the moderation policy from this year. The Delhi High Court ordered it to reinstate the rule. CBSE says it followed the high court’s orders. Count of students in the 95-100% category increased from 9,351 to 10,091 while in the 90-95% category, the count decreased from 54,036 to 53,156.



What is it? The number of countries Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit on his multi-nation tour.

Why is it important? Modi will be visiting Germany, Spain, Russia and France to discuss trade and security issues. On the table could be the European Union-India free trade agreement, which could help India counter China’s One Belt One Road initiative. The four-nation trip is his second travel abroad this year, after a trip to Sri Lanka.

Tell me more: PM Modi made 56 foreign trips since May, 26 in 2014 till April 2017. The duration of stay dropped from 55 days in 2014-15 to 24 days in 2016-17. Cost of foreign visits has come down too.



What is it? The number of airports which restrict passengers from carrying large electronic devices in cabins in the flights to the United States since March this year.

Why is it important? US is now considering a move to ban laptops in all flights into and out of the country for better security. Airlines are worried it might impact customer demand.

Tell me more: The ten airports which restrict laptops in cabins include United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey. UK has a similar policy applying to six countries.



What is it? Death toll due to landslides and floods in Sri Lanka.

Why is it important? Sri Lanka is facing one of its worst disasters since tsunami in 2004, and its worst torrential rains since 2003. Over 500,000 people have been affected and over 100 are still missing.

Tell me more: India has sent three Navy ships with supplies and other aid. Sri Lanka has sought international help to manage the disaster.

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News in Numbers, June 28, 2016: E-commerce in India, committee to maintain inflation targets…

$10.2 billion

What is it? The total gross merchandise value (GMV) of the top e-commerce firms in India at the end of May 2016. GMV is the total value of goods sold excluding discounts.

Why is it important? This is just a 13.3% growth from the GMV the top e-commerce firms recorded last May – and that primarily came from Amazon India, which grew from $1 billion to $2.7 billion in a year. Flipkart’s GMV has remained almost constant at $4 billion for the last one year and Snapdeal’s dropped 50% to $1.2 billion as of June, according to numbers collected by the Economic Times.

Tell me more: Due to the festive season and the discounts e-tailers offered, the total GMV clocked was $10.5 billion in December 2015. Of the total GMV of $10.2 billion recorded in May 2016, others such as ShopClues and Paytm accounted for 22.54% ($2.3 billion).



What is it? The number of Andhra Pradesh state government departments that have shifted from Hyderabad to Vijayawada, Guntur and Mangalagiri on Monday.

Why is it important? Signals Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s anxiety to move out of Hyderabad (which went to Telangana following the bifurcation two years back) as early as possible. Technically, AP government can function out of Hyderabad for the next eight years, and Amaravati, the new capital is not ready yet.

Tell me more: Government departments would relocate between June 29 and July 21 to the new capital region of Amaravati. However, the Andhra Pradesh government would have to make do with a scattered set-up until the administrative city in the core capital area is developed. The state government has pooled 33,000 acres of land for the development of Amaravati.



What is it? The number of members on the panel that would be responsible for maintaining inflation targets under the new monetary policy framework.

Why is it important? The RBI has initiated the process to set this panel up, marking it as one of the major changes monetary policy saw under Raghuram Rajan.

Tell me more: The panel will have three members from RBI and three recommended by the government. The panel’s main objective is to make sure the inflation remains within the range agreed by them. Now, retail inflation is 5.76% (May). The committee may be formed before August 9.



What is it? The number of educational institutions for which the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought greater autonomy from the Human Resource Development Ministry.

Why is it important? A sign that the PMO believes that educational institutions need more freedom to set their own course structure, fee, admission procedures, etc. is needed to become world class. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced during Budget 2016 that easier rules would be provided for 10 public and private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions.

Tell me more: HRD had proposed lighter rules earlier for the “world-class” institutions earlier, but PMO has now suggested they relax it even further.



What is it? The number of Income Tax Department appeals dismissed by the Delhi High Court in a recent order.

Why is it important? The reason for the dismissal was because the department failed to do something simple: correct the defects in the appeals and re-file them without much delay. The errors included: missing pages, illegible script, wrong font, lack of stamps and proper handing over of case records. The court has directed its registry to ensure that these appeals are not filed again, most of which have tax liability exceeding Rs 20 lakh, leading to a likely revenue loss for the government.

Tell me more: The court was waiting since 2012 for the department to correct the errors in the 272 appeals.

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News in Numbers, May 5, 2016: India’s tobacco rules, Flipkart’s valuation marked down…


What is it? The percentage of a cigarette pack’s surface that must be covered with health warnings, up from 20% earlier, as ruled by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Why is it important? It could discourage smoking in India, which kills around a million people every year. But it might not have any impact on people buying cigarettes in loose –  pegged at over 80% , even though there have been attempts to ban selling them in loose.

Tell me more: Still, this could make a dent in the revenues of cigarette makers such as ITC and VST Industries. Over two dozen cases have been filed against this move and by Supreme Court’s Wednesday order, would be transferred to the Karnataka High Court, which has to decide on the matter within six weeks. An estimated 45.7 million people including farmers, workers and traders are dependent on this industry.


What is it? The amount a European nation is to pay per refugee if it wants to exempt itself from hosting them, to another country that accommodates them, according to a proposal by European Commission.

Why is it important? This is meant to achieve fair distribution of refugees among its member nations. The continent is battling one of the worst migrant crises where some member nations have seen an influx of people, mainly from West and South Asia and Africa, in a bid to escape violence or conflict in their home countries.

Tell me more: According to the proposal, each country would be assigned a share of the asylum-seekers based on the size of their economy and population and if relocation exceeds 1.5 times the allocated share, then they would be redirected to other member states. These proposals need to be approved by the European Parliament and a majority of the 28-member countries of the European Union.


What is it? The percentage by which US mutual fund Fidelity Rutland Square Trust II, Flipkart’s minority investor, marked down the ecommerce firm’s valuation (as of February this year from August 2015).

Why is it important? With another mutual fund Valic Co 1 also marking down Flipkart’s valuation by 29.4% during the same period, this mirrors the markdowns by Flipkart’s major investors – Morgan Stanley and T Rowe Price. With analyst concerns about rapidly increasing valuations of new-age firms (including Flipkart), they have been struggling to raise funds at their preferred valuations.

Tell me more: Sachin Bansal, Flipkart’s Executive Chairman and co-founder, has brushed this off as a ‘theoretical exercise’.


What is it? The number of acquittals in the 725 cases decided by the Delhi High Court between in 2011.

Why is it important? The 80% acquittal rate raises question about thoroughness of investigations. The court pointed to the shortage of manpower and forensic labs. Three fifth of 14,270 cases decided by the sessions courts in Delhi also resulted in acquittals.

Tell me more: The Delhi Police Force is top-heavy (more officers than sanctioned) while lower positions face shortage. There are only two forensic labs in Delhi with over 8,500 samples pending for testing.


What is it? Uttar Pradesh’s share of educational grants for minorities between 2008-09 and 2013-14 received from Maulana Azad Education Foundation, an organisation to promote education among backward communities.

Why is it important? The Foundation comes under central government, and the concentration of recipients in one state reflects unfair distribution of funds. A report by a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences has recommended that the allocations be made on the basis of the share of backward community population in districts/states and in total minority population.

Tell me more: Except for Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra (received 10.9% of the educational grants during this period), the share of most other states are miniscule. The distribution of grants is unequal within states too. For instance, of the top 25 districts that received the highest grant amounts, half of them are from Uttar Pradesh.

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The cost of delay in appointing information commissioners

This piece originally appeared on


Earlier this week, the Delhi high court admitted a plea against the Central government to fill vacancies in the Central Information Commission—the institution of second appeal in the Right to Information (RTI) architecture—in a “time-bound” manner.




Of the 10 posts of information commissioners, three have remained vacant through the tenure of this government. The top post—which handles cases related to the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat, among others—was empty for about nine months. Vijai Sharma was appointed in June, but only for six months as he retires in December.



The experience of the past shows that non-appointments, or delays in appointment, leads to a pile up of cases, and irrevocably shifts the goalpost of pendency.


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