Medals galore for Indian athletes

48.1 million

What is it? The subscriber base of the Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO).

Why is it important? It has increased in the last six months by 26% (from 38 million). The spurt follows EPFO allowing firms to enroll their real staff strength instead of under-reporting, with a negligible penalty, under an amnesty scheme from January to June this year.

Tell me more: This could revise the number of people recorded in formal employment upwards, as it had been estimated to be around 47.5 million, up from 47.2 million in 2014-15.



What is it? The medals India won at the recently-concluded Asian Athletics Championships.

Why is it important? The wins put India at the top of the medals tally at the continental event for the first time since 1973. India’s performance pushed China, the usual champions, to the second spot with 20 medals.

Tell me more: The Chinese contingent did not comprise its first rung of sportspeople who are scheduled to appear at the World championships in London. India sent 34 athletes to compete in 19 events in last year’s summer Olympics, but none of them won a medal.



What is it? The percentage of training centres funded by the Indian government under the Skill India mission that reportedly do not exist, according to an internal audit by the skills development ministry.

Why is it important? Exposes the lack of proper checks and balances within the skills development ministry. Besides the non-existence of certain centres, the audit also found that that of the training centres that do exist, about 21% do not have the required basic equipment to impart skills training and an equal percentage do not have a placement cell to help the passouts in getting a job.

Tell me more: The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has been allocated a budget of Rs 3,016.14 crore for 2017-18.



What is it? The death toll in 20 years from Naxal violence in the country.

Why is it important? Out of these, over 77% were civilians, either killed in crossfire or for being suspected police informers. The information release from the home ministry succeeds a period of violence that has made 2017 the deadliest in Naxal casualties so far. Yet, the information says Naxal violence casualties has declined in May, 2014-April, 2017 by 25% compared to May, 2011-April, 2014.

Tell me more: One of the deadliest attacks in recent Naxal history in the last decade had been the April, 2010 attack in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, claiming the lives of 76 security personnel. Out of 12,000, 2,700 have been security personnel.



What is it? The number of Indian fishermen released by Pakistan, allowing their return to the country.

Why is it important? Another set of 298 Indian fishermen are set to be released after verification. Then, it would be the largest batch of Indian fisherman released from Pakistani jails. In January, Pakistan repatriated 218 fishermen to India as a friendly gesture, taking the total number of freed fishermen to 439.

Tell me more: Pakistan captured Indian fishermen as recently as in May. Fishermen from both countries are frequently captured and detained by the other country for breaching marine borders as their rudimentary boats are ill-equipped to make out the Arabian Sea border.

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GST payers activated


What is it? The number of Employees’ Provident Fund trusts that are likely to be taken over by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), if a proposed change by the Labour Ministry is implemented. Private provident fund trusts with less than 20 members and managing corpus of upto Rs 1 crore is being proposed to be taken over by EPFO.

Why is it important? This will more than triple the cost for employees coming under these private PF trusts. At present, private trusts charge 0.18% of basic wages as administrative charges, as compared to EPFO’s charge of 0.65%. However, with digitalisation of EPFO records, employees will benefit from faster withdrawal and transfer of accounts between employers.

Tell me more: There are 1,500 private trusts managing 8.3 million subscribers. Out of them, only trusts that have more than 500 employees and manages a corpus of Rs 100 crore will be allowed to run privately.




What is it? The number of people dead after an oil tanker burst into flames in Ahmedpur East, a city in Pakistan. Explosion happenned after villagers gathered to collect fuel from the overturned truck.

Why is it important? The death toll is likely to increase as 40 out of nearly 100 people injured are in critical condition. Initial reports suggest oil tanker’s tyre burst that led to the accident.

Tell me more: Two years back, more than 50 people died in Pakistan when an oil tanker and a bus collided, and burst into flames. Oil tanker was reportedly speeding and travelling in the wrong side of the road.




What is it? The percentage of indirect taxpayers who have activated their account with the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), the IT backbone for the proposed GST from July 1 this year.

Why is it important? Registration of all transacting parties is vital to capture the flow of taxes from suppliers to producers, and then to end consumers. Unlike existing system, where a consolidated return of all transactions are filed, the 8 million indirect taxpayers have to disclose invoice-level details to tax authorities under GST.

Tell me more: GSTN is expected to track more than 320 crore invoices each month, and this would vital information on how business is transacted. Potentially it could widen tax base, if GST data is married with Income Tax data.




What is it? The percentage of provision banks have to set aside for all accounts referred to the insolvency process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Why is it important? Banks, mostly state-run, are expected to provide Rs 50,000 crore more because of this latest communication from the central bank. 12 accounts, which owe Rs 250,000 crore to banks (or 25% of total bad loans), are referred to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) under the bankruptcy code.

Tell me more: When a company is referred under the bankruptcy code, NCLT appoints an interim administrator who will try to sell the assets of the company to a new owner within 18 months.



$ 5.8 billion

What is it? Amount spent by the Italian government to bail out two failed banks – Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Venta Banca – in the Venice region.

Why is it important? The bailout contravenes the European Commission’s rules that forbid using state money to deal with failing banks. The employees and branches of these two banks will be transferred to Intesa Sanpaolo banking group from today at a nominal value of one euro. In addition, government will also offer guarantee up to 12 billion euros to cover losses from bad loans.

Tell me more: Italian banks carry 350bn euros of bad loans – a third of Eurozone’s total debt.

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A House for Mr Biswas

30 basis points


What is it? The cut in home loan rates by some banks, especially for affordable housing.

Why is it important? The cuts by Housing Development Finance Corp (HDFC), ICICI Bank, and LIC Housing Finance, follow that by State Bank of India (SBI). The rate cut is for loans upto Rs 30 lakh, which is applicable for low-cost and affordable housing. The rates look to capitalise on the government’s thrust on affordable housing projects as in seen in this year’s budget measures.

Tell me more: Earlier this year, there were wider cuts in home loan rates, with a host of banks passing on the reduced cost of funds.

Rs 18,000 crore


What is it? The amount India’s Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) will invest in FY18 in stocks.

Why is it important? The news will boost the stock markets further, even as they rally on monsoon forecast and easing inflation. In FY16, the EPFO had invested 5% of its annual incremental corpus in the markets, and in FY17, 10%. This year it is going to be 15%.

Tell me more: Some of the equity-traded funds it has invested in so far are SBI mutual fund ETFs and UTI mutual fund ETFs.

Rs 34,000 crore


What is it? The amount in taxes evaded by companies, according to a fresh list drawn up by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Why is it important? This is a follow-up investigation of January’s unearthing of 32,000 entities (companies/directors) which used stock price manipulation to avail of the long-term capital gains tax benefit, committing tax fraud. This time Sebi has 11,000 such cases, of penny-stock manipulation, on its hands. It has given the list to the Income Tax department.

Tell me more: The bogus beneficiaries involve inactive or penny stock companies, listed on the bourses. After a series of preferential share allotment, stock splits, share price manipulation, bonus issues and inflated capital base, the beneficiaries exit at jacked-up prices for their one year of LTCG. But cash settlements between such companies and false claimants are likely to scuttle legal persecution.



What is it? The number of confidential files pilfered by an Uber engineer from his former employer Waymo

Why is it important? This is yet another instance of Uber getting into the wrong side of the law. Earlier this year Uber was caught using a secret programme to avoid being caught by government in cities where Uber was operating without full legal clearance. In the latest case, according to a ruling made public, an Uber engineer stole documents pertaining to the Lidar technology from its former employer, the Google-owned Waymo.

Tell me more: The federal judge had ruled that all the files be returned to Waymo and Uber’s work related to lidar be opened to Waymo’s lawyers. Lidar is a laser based sensor that improves self driving cars’ vision significantly.



What is it? The percentage by which card transaction volume came down in April 2017 from a month earlier.

Why is it important? It’s an indication that cash transactions are picking up in the country, contrary to the expectations that demonetisation has given an irreversible push to digital transactions.

Tell me more: IMPS (Immediate Payments System), cards, prepaid instruments and mobile banking – all came down by both volume and value in April 2017, from March 2017.

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IITs and unicorns

Rs 21,000

What is it? The wage ceiling for mandatory Employees’ Provident Fund coverage that the central government is considering. It’s Rs 15,000 at present.

Why is it important?  The move will bring 6 million more employees under the mandatory social security plan which includes PG, pension and insurance, with each employee contributing 12% of salary monthly to the EPF. Those in the organised sector, earning upwards of the salary, can opt in voluntarily. The cost to the Union government would be an extra Rs 1,617 crore at Rs 5,659 crore a year. According to last reported numbers, the PF portion of the corpus was Rs 360,000 crore.

Tell me more: The EPFO had suggested a threshold increase to Rs 25,000 but it would have raised cost to government by Rs 2,708 crore.


Rs 6.24 crore

What is it? The total value of fake Indian currencies seized by various law enforcement forces after demonetisation and introduction of new notes in November, 2016.

Why is it important? Following reports of fake currencies flooding the market after demonetisation, some replicating crucial security features on the new Rs 2,000 notes, the government reassured they were still easily identifiable and furnished the seized numbers as proof. The volume of fake notes exceed thousands.

Tell me more: In a Rajya Sabha reply, the home ministry also assured demonetisation of the new currency notes was not on the cards.


500,000 tonne

What is it? The volume of raw sugar that was allowed to be imported duty-free.

Why is it important? This is over 3% of the sugar production in the October-February (full year: Oct-Sep) period of 2016-17 marketing year. Sugar cane supply hit by drought in the major producing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka has led to a fall of 19% compared to 2015-16, leading to the import.

Tell me more: The move will raise global sugar prices given India’s status as the second-largest sugar producer and an exporter till last season.



What is it? The number of unicorns founded by alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology, according to a report by UK software firm, Sage.

Why is it important? That ranks IITs fourth in the list, after Stanford (51 unicorns), Harvard (37) and University of California (18). For long, IITs were criticised for not producing enough entrepreneurs, but that has been changing in the last few years. According to one count, 60% of all startups that have Series A venture funding have founders from IIT/IIM. Set up as engineering training institutes, IITs have been expanding their scope over years, and now plan to offer MBBS courses as well, starting with IIT Kharagpur.


Tell me more: Massachusetts Institute of Technology & University of Pennsylvania which follow IITs in the list have lead to nine unicorns each. Unlike others in the list, IITs are a group of institutions, having over 60,000 students all campuses put together. Stanford has about 16,000 students, Harvard, 22000  and MIT 11,000.


$3.6 billion

What is it? The investment Indian Railways will need to achieve a solar energy target of 5GW by 2025, according to a study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Why is it important? Railways is a big consumer of electricity, and its move to solar will help India in achieving its larger renewables energy target, besides helping with its INDC commitment of 40% non-fossil fuel installed power capacity. Railways uses close to 2.4% of the country’s total electricity consumption, and it’s growing at 5% a year.

Tell me more: The report estimates that 1.1GW of 5GW would come from rooftop and the rest from utility scale projects. Railways has an installed capacity of 16 MW of solar as of March 2017, and has is in the process of commissioning 255 MW of rooftop solar projects.

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