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The Steep Learning Curve

 

Children between the age group 14-18 in rural India are having a hard time doing the basic maths or reading text, according to a survey that spanned 26 rural districts. According to several estimates, India is projected to become a manufacturing powerhouse due to its huge demographic dividend. But, to really reap the benefits from our upcoming millennial generation, government would need to focus on their foundational education, without which this dividend could become a massive deterrent in the future.

 

57%

What is it? The number of Indian children in the age group 14-18 years who could not do a division problem (3 digit by 1 digit) correctly.

Why is it important? This shortcoming in a key foundational skill is one of the many findings of the Annual Status of Education (ASER) Report 2017, released yesterday, and illustrates the deficiencies that plague the Indian educational system. According to the report, “even among youth in this age group who have completed eight years of schooling, a significant proportion still lack foundational skills like reading and arithmetic.”

Tell me more: This year’s survey focused on 14-18 year olds, and interviewed 28,323 youth in that age group in 26 rural districts across 24 states. Information was collected for four domains: activity, ability, awareness and aspirations.

 

28-46%

What is it? The price drop in top cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple—during trading on Tuesday.

Why is it important? The latest fall came in the backdrop of news trickling in that more countries, led by South Korea and China, were looking to step in to regulate trading in cryptocurrencies, including taking drastic action like banning trading. Elsewhere, a research paper laid bare instances of, what it said were, price manipulation in Bitcoin on the Mt Gox Bitcoin currency exchange.

Tell me more: According to this paper, a single actor likely drove the USD/BTC exchange rate from $150 to $1,000 in 2 months in late-2013, volumes on all exchanges increased greatly on days with suspicious activity and unregulated cryptocurrency markets remain vulnerable to manipulation.

 

8

What is it? The number of e-commerce portals that Patanjali Ayurved tied up with yesterday to sell its wide range of products.

Why is it important? Offline, the Baba Ramdev company has made its presence felt in several FMCG spaces that were the strongholds of multinationals, and a presence on some of the most popular e-commerce portals could help it open another distribution flank against them. In the first year, the company is targeting Rs 1,000 crore sales from these online channels.

Tell me more: Patanjali’s revenues have rocketed from Rs 2,006 crore in 2014-15 to Rs

Rs 10,561 crore in 2016-17, which made it about one-third the size of Hindustan Unilever. On the sidelines of yesterday’s announcement, Baba Ramdev said he was looking to convert Patanjali, currently a company, to a “non-profit organisation”, which some experts saw as an objective to save tax.

 

$690 million

What is it? The value of a 10-year outsourcing contract that technology major TCS yesterday said it had bagged from M&G Prudential, the European savings and investments business of Prudential.

Why is it important? This is the third big, multi-year contract that TCS has secured in the past month or so, following a $2.25 billion renewal—its largest ever by an Indian IT firm, spread over 10 years—from Nielsen and a $2 billion win from Transamerica. The Tata Group IT major needs these wins to lift up growth, which was underwhelming in the latest results announced earlier this week.

Tell me more: Earlier this week, TCS COO N Ganapathy Subramaniam said TCS would record double-digit growth in 2018-19, aided by the kicker provided by the new contracts. In the third quarter, it reported net addition of 1,667 employees.

 

12.6%

What is it? The stake that Bajaj Finance is acquiring in MobiKwik, a mobile wallet firm, which is more than the 10.8% it had said it would when it invested Rs 225 crore in August.

Why is it important? Bajaj Finance told the Bombay Stock Exchange yesterday that the higher stake was the result of a change in price of the compulsory convertible cumulative preference shares. The lower conversion price suggests the valuation of MobiKwik has fallen in the intervening period, from $327 million to $279 million.

Tell me more: MobiKwik competes against the likes of Paytm and Freecharge. For 2016-17, it reported declining revenues and increasing losses. Its revenues stood at Rs 37.3 crore (against Rs 38 crore in 2015-16) and loss at Rs 131 crore (Rs 109 crore).

 

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The Case For Maratha Reservation

Rs 3,200 crore

What is it? Tata Motors’ net profit in the three months ended June quarter, a 41.5% increase from Rs 2,260 crore in the corresponding quarter last year.

Why is it important? This was possible mainly because of a one-time gain from changes made to its pension plan at its UK unit Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) with the company saying that the first quarter results have not met its expectations. Its revenues fell by nearly 10% year-on-year to Rs 58,651 crore in the April-June quarter due to lower wholesale volume sales of JLR, a slowdown in its heavy vehicles business among other factors.

Tell me more: The one-time gain due to the changes made to the JLR pension plans was Rs 3,609 crore.

4,765 MW

 What is it? The installed solar capacity in the first six months of 2017, according to a report by Mercom Capital Group.

Why is it important? This has surpassed the total capacity addition in all of 2016, which was at 4,313 MW. The report forecasts nearly 10.5 GW of solar installations by December this year. The country had installed 12.2 GW of utility scale solar as of March 2017. While the pace of capacity addition has increased, it remains to be seen if the government can achieve its solar power target of 100 GW by 2022, given the confusion around the recently-introduced goods and services tax.

Tell me more: India is likely to leapfrog Japan to become the third biggest solar market in 2017, according to another consulting firm in the clean technology space, Bridge to India.

8

What is it? The number of MLAs (members of legislative assembly) the Congress party has expelled in Gujarat.

Why is it important? They have been expelled for cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections in favour of the BJP. The Congress says that it would take action to ensure they will not be able to participate in the elections for the  next six years. The party, which has not been in power in Gujarat for the last 20 years or so, has faced infighting and defections recently and it remains to be seen if these expulsions would further weaken it ahead of the assembly elections later this year.

Tell me more: Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, secured a dramatic win in the Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat, which is likely to boost the morale of the party, whose relevance has been considered to be diminishing in the recent past.

58

What is it? The number of protests by the Maratha community in the last 12 months across Maharashtra seeking concessions from the state.

Why is it important? The 58th protest took place in Mumbai on Wednesday, with lakhs of people flooding the streets of Mumbai in a show of strength. Following this, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced reservations in education (currently given to OBCs or other backward castes) to the Marathas as well. He also announced land and Rs 5 crore grant for hostels for the community.

Tell me more: India has seen similar protests from other communities, including Jats in Rajasthan and Haryana and Patidars in Gujarat.

80

What is it? The number of countries whose nationals can enter Qatar without a visa.

Why is it important? Qatar announced the visa waiver programme even as it faces blockade from four of its neighbours – Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which have accused the oil-dependent country of supporting terrorism. 25% of all Qatar Airways flights served these four states. The blockade has been on since June. Earlier this month, Qatar passed a law that will grant permanent residency to some of the foreigners.

Tell me more: Qatar’s visa waiver – which are given on arrival at no cost – allows citizens of 33 countries to stay in Qatar for up to 90 days, and citizens of 47 other countries (which includes India, China and United States) to stay for up to 30 days.

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News in Numbers, Nov 1, 2016: Getting to the pulse of the problem…

120

What is it? The number of days a new variety of arhar dal (red gram or pigeon pea) – Pusa Arhar 16 – takes to mature. The dwarf pigeon pea has been created by scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

Why is it important? This is less than the 160-270 days that other varieties (in use) take to mature without any loss in yield (20 quintals/hectare) and uses less water. Arhar dal is among the most widely consumed pulses in the country. The rates of pulses, a price-sensitive commodity, shot up to Rs 200 per kg last year and such a variety with a less maturity time could help plug the supply-demand gap in India. The government is hoping to release the variety for cultivation by January next year.

Tell me more: Domestic production of pulses declined to 16.5 million tonnes in 2015-16 due to two straight years of drought, falling from a high of 19.25 million tonnes in 2013-14. The government is targeting to increase pulses production to 24 million tonnes by 2020-21.

 

8

What is it? The number of terror suspects from the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) who were killed in an encounter, according to Madhya Pradesh police officials.

Why is it important? These activists had killed a prison guard and escaped from the Central Jail in Bhopal, police officials said. However, there have been serious questions raised about the authenticity of the event after unverified videos of the shooting between the state police and the fugitives where the former are seen shooting at inert bodies (as opposed to the official version that the activists were killed in ‘retaliatory’ firing) while another one purportedly shows five of the suspects waving, which could mean that they were trying to turn themselves in.

Tell me more: SIMI is an Islamic terrorist organisation which aims to convert India into an Islamic nation and was set up in 1977 in Uttar Pradesh. The organisation is believed to have been responsible for the bomb blasts in commuter trains in Mumbai in 2006 and another in Gujarat in 2008.

 

40.2 lakh

What is it? The number of differently-abled people in the age group of 5-19 years who were attending educational institutions, according to new Census 2011 data released on Monday.

Why is it important? This is an improvement of 11% (in terms of attendance among the differently-abled population) since 2011 though it is still about 10% behind the enrolment numbers of the general population. Those with ‘any other disability’ had the highest share of people attending educational institutions (71.2%) followed by those with visual disability (68%) and hearing difficulty (67%). Those suffering from a mental illness had the lowest percentage of people attending classes.

Tell me more: There are about 65.7 lakh differently-abled people in the 5-19 age group in India of which 61.2% are attending educational institutions, 12.1% who had attended one earlier while 26.7% who had never attended any. There is a significant difference between the share of differently-abled boys attending educational institutions and that of girls: 56.7% compared to 43.3%.

 

Rs 4.48 lakh crore

What is it? India’s fiscal deficit (difference between government’s revenue and expenditure) in the first six months of 2016-17.

Why is it important? This is 83.9% of its total Budget estimate of Rs 5.34 lakh crore for 2016-17 compared to 68.1% of the budget in the corresponding period. This is the highest in the first six months of a financial year since 1998-99 mainly due to an increase in public spending and higher salaries. Government spending is important to boost economic growth even as the private sector remains cautious about investing in key sectors such as infrastructure due to high interest rates and debt levels.

Tell me more: Revenue inflows from disinvestment, black money scheme and the recently-concluded spectrum sale are likely to help the government achieve its fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of the gross domestic product.

€100 million (Rs 730 crore)

What is it? The reported remittances by Russian arms firms into accounts of companies controlled by arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie, his family and close associates in 12 months, according to secret documents accessed by the Guardian and the BBC. British company Rolls-Royce has reportedly paid £10 million to firms linked to the businessman.

Why is it important? It is illegal to pay secret middlemen to win defence deals in India. This raises questions about the deals signed by India with Rolls Royce for procuring Hawk aircraft engines and its defence deals with Russia. The billionaire and former Delhi resident through his lawyers has told the BBC that he has not bribed government officials or acted as an illegal middleman in defence deals. Choudhrie has been investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate for any wrongdoing in the past.

Tell me more: Choudhrie’s name figures as one of the 23 “unscrupulous persons” on a list of “undesirable contact men” (compiled and disseminated by the CBI), whose authenticity has been challenged by him.

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What’s the profile of your to-be MLA?

Counting of votes is on in five states: West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry. Taking the feed from the Election Commission and mapping it with Census 2011 and myneta.info data, How India Lives created data interactives for Mint. Check it out here (click on each state to get interesting insights by constituency and candidate).

We took a few metrics that you could look at while having your afternoon tea/coffee.

And, as you pick up that extra biscuit, some inferences from the chart.

  • Kerala might be 100% literate, but West Bengal and Assam voted a higher percentage of graduates and above.
  • Southern states are the most tolerant of candidates with serious crimes.
  • Super-rich candidates have had the best luck in Tamil Nadu so far.
  • West Bengal and Kerala seem to be favouring super-rich candidates less.

 

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