Art_Director_M.Prabakaran_with_Mr._Rajnikanth

Rajinikanth’s Political Debut

South India’s ‘Thalaiva’ Rajinikanth is making his political debut this year. He said ‘it is time’ as he declared in Chennai that he will form a new party rather than joining the existing ones. After, AIDMK’s imposing leader, J Jayalalithaa’s death last year, the political scene in Tamil Nadu went through several changes at the helm, but nobody could equate the stature of the iconic leader. And, with the grand entrance of Rajinikath, that may change, but maybe not. Who’s to say!

 

45,000

What is it? The number of security personnel deployed in Assam ahead of the release of the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which will be made available to the public on January 1.

Why is it important? The Indian government will use the register to determine who in Assam—a state with a large presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh—is a citizen of India and who is not. This is the first exercise of its kind since 1951. It was an election promise of the BJP before it won the state elections in 2016, and its publishing can cause unrest in a state where the issue of immigration has long been a bone of contention.

Tell me more: Because of the illegal immigrant issue, Assam also has the lowest enrolment among states for Aadhaar, the unique identification number for citizens: while most states are nearing 100%, Assam’s is just 8%.

 

234

What is it? The number of assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu—meaning, all seats—from which iconic Tamil actor Rajinikanth’s party will contest the next Tamil Nadu elections.

Why is it important? On Sunday, Rajinikanth announced his entry into politics, adding to the political intrigue and churn in Tamil Nadu triggered by the death of AIADMK leader and then chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December 2016. The state has seen 3 chief ministers in the last 13 months. And though elections in the state are due only in 2021, the expectation is that, given the flux, they could happen sooner.

Tell me more: Tamil Nadu politics has been a good stage for actors, and a similar transition was made by Jayalalithaa and her mentor MG Ramachandran. In 1996, Rajinikanth had a brush with politics when he indirectly endorsed the DMK. “If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu,” he had said. The AIADMK lost those elections.

 

50%

What is it? The increase in price of Ripple, the cryptocurrency that is also known as XRP, on December 28.

Why is it important? On the back of this 50% increase, the market capitalisation of Ripple rose to a record $85 billion. It peaked at about $100 billion, and leapfrogged Ethereum ($72 billion) as the second most valuable cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. Designed for interbank payments and settlements, Ripple has about 100 banks signed on its platform, RippleNet, including Bank of America, RBC and UBS.

Tell me more: On December 28, the Indian finance ministry cautioned people on the risks of investing in virtual currencies, saying “they don’t have any intrinsic value”.

 

811

What is it? The number of games in the English Premier League (EPL) that Arsene Wenger has been in charge at Arsenal, following the football club’s latest game on Sunday against West Bromwich Albion.

Why is it important? That is an EPL record for the maximum number of games managed with a single club, in a single stint. This record was previously held by Alex Ferguson, who was in charge at Manchester United between 1992 and 2013, and whose career often crossed paths with that of Wenger’s.

Tell me more: Wenger joined Arsenal in October 1996. In his first 10 years, the club won three league titles. The last league title came in 2003-04, and the barren run has raised question marks over his future at the club.

 

 

21,313

What is it? The number of employees that Air India, the state-run airline, as of March 2016.

Why is it important? In a new year’s message to the airline’s staff, Pradeep Singh Kharola, who took over as India’s managing director and chairman in December, said “we have to perform if we do not want to perish”. Air India’s employee base is nearly twice that of IndiGo, though Air India’s revenues are only 24% more than that of IndiGo, which is one indicator of the efficiency gap.

Tell me more: The government has initiated the process of privatising Air India and its subsidiaries in 2018, and is looking to complete it in the next six to eight months.

 

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airIndia

A Suitable Buyer

 

Air India has been bleeding money for quite some time. At the end of March’17, it had piled up debt of nearly Rs. 48,000 crore. Nontheless, it has found suiters in Tata Group and parent company of IndiGo. But, that’s not enough for the government. It wants to raise the stakes, so it may do away with the ‘foreign airlines can own 49% stake in an Indian airline but not Air India’ rule. More bidders, better pricing. Why would a buyer be interested in owning a debt laden company? You ask? Government is hiving off a part of Air India’s loan not linked to the aircraft, a 64% of its debt.

For more news in numbers, read on.

 

84

What is it? The number of seats the Left Alliance in Nepal had won as of Sunday evening in parliamentary elections, as per preliminary results.

Why is it important? With this, the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist alliance is heading towards a majority, with Khadga Prasad Oli likely to be the country’s Prime Minister. This brings an end to the decade-old civil war in Nepal and completes its move to becoming a federal democracy. It remains to be seen if the Left Alliance’s landslide victory results in the waning of India’s influence on Nepal and China playing a dominant role in the landlocked nation.

Tell me more: The Left Alliance was leading in another 31 seats, while the incumbent Nepali Congress had won just 13 seats. The house of representatives consists of 275 members, of which 165 are to be elected directly under the first-past-the-post system and the rest through the proportional representation system.

 

49%

What is it? The maximum stake that foreign airlines can own in an Indian airline, with the exception of Air India, in which investment from foreign airlines is banned.

Why is it important? The Indian government may reportedly do away with this exception for the disinvestment of state-run Air India, provided the foreign airlines has a joint venture with a local player. This could intensify competition among bidders interested in buying Air India and, perhaps, fetch the government a better price. The parent company of IndiGo is the only airline to have made a formal expression of interest, while the Tata Group has indicated its interest in doing the same.

Tell me more: Jayant Sinha, union minister of state for civil aviation, said on Friday that the process of privatisation of Air India has begun and that it would be finalised in 6-8 months.

 

39%

What is it? Percentage of assets under management (AUMs) of Indian mutual funds in equity funds and balanced funds in November 2017.

Why is it important? This figure was 30% in November 2014. This increase in share of equity-oriented funds comes in the backdrop of consistently rising net inflows into Indian mutual funds, whose total AUMs have increased to an all-time high of Rs 21.8 trillion in November 2017, as against 16.9 trillion in October 2016. More encouragingly, it is individual investors who are driving growth, rather than institutional investors.

Tell me more: The two fund classes that have lost share during this period are both debt funds: income funds (down from 46% to 38%) and liquid funds (down from 21% to 19%).

 

67%

What is it? The rate at which Amazon India’s gross sales volume increased in the July-September quarter from a year ago. Its gross sales by value grew 67% in the same period.

Why is it important? This is more than twice the estimated broader growth rate of the online retail market. It is another indication that Amazon India continues to keep pace with India’s homegrown e-commerce firm and marked leader, Flipkart. In a recent report on customer response and perception by RedSeer Consulting, both e-tailers were tied with a score of 92, similar to the corresponding quarter in the previous year, when they had both scored 95.

Tell me more: Amazon has committed $5 billion in India, of which it has spent over $2 billion, while Flipkart raised $2.4 billion from Japan’s SoftBank Group recently, giving it enough ammunition to battle against its cash-rich rival.

 

14

What is it? Number of consecutive wins recorded by Manchester City in the English Premier League. This is joint best with Arsenal’s run over two seasons in 2002.

Why is it important? On Sunday, leaders Manchester City visited cross-town rivals and second-placed Manchester United in a game with many sub-texts and dominated them in a 2-1 victory. In a weekend when four of the top six teams in the league dropped points, City extended their lead to 11 points. They next travel to Swansea, which is languishing second from the bottom.

Tell me more: The Manchester Derby ended with a fracas in the corridor outside City’s dressing room involving players and staff from the two teams.

 

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