Minister For Loneliness

Britain now has a minister for loneliness. UK government’s decision reflects the growing concern of loneliness among its citizens, over 9 million of them, according to a survey. The new minister with the help of Office of National Statistics will identify how to measure loneliness and also methods to deal with it. May be its time that we look close to home as well.



What is it? The percentage amount by which the Indian government has cut its additional borrowing requirement, from Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore, for the current fiscal, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

Why is it important? Markets cheered the news that the government may be able to contain fiscal slippage in 2017-18. The government’s December announcement that it plans to borrow an additional Rs 50,000 crore prompted analysts to expect the fiscal deficit to breach its target of 3.2% of GDP (gross domestic product) and reach 3.5%. Fiscal slippage concerns arose after revenue collections from GST (goods and services tax) was lower than expected, one of the main reasons for the government’s additional borrowing.

Tell me more: After the additional borrowing decision last month, the total government borrowings for the current year were pegged at Rs 6.3 lakh crore and yesterday’s announcement brought it down to Rs 6 lakh crore.



What is it? The ratio of people who feel lonely in the United Kingdom.

Why is it important? In an interesting development, Britain has appointed Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to also take on the role of tackling loneliness among its citizens, in a bid to take forward the work started by murdered lawmaker Jo Cox. Loneliness is increasingly becoming a growing concern across the world, so much so that it is also seen having a huge impact on people’s health. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, over half the people in the UK over 75 live alone and two-fifths of all older people say television is their main company.

Tell me more: According to a 2017 study by the Agewell Foundation, 43 out of 100 elderly people in India are victims of psychological problems that arise out of loneliness and other relationship issues.


Rs 10,000 crore

What is it? The total cost of a project that aims to interlink the major dams in Marathwada region, as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Maharashtra government with Israeli firm Mekorot Development and Enterprise, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Mumbai today.

Why is it important? Marathwada, one of the regions worst affected by drought in the state, is battling another episode of water scarcity, where 41% of its villages have reported ‘paisewari’ (meaning: the value of the actual yield after harvest in relation to the value of crops grown) below 50 paise. Different factors of agrarian crisis led to 970 farmers ending their lives in 2017.

Tell me more: Mekorot will offer its expertise in development of technologies that plug the loss of water due to evaporation and lopsided distribution of water due to inconsistent rainfall or irregular distribution of rainfall in the catchment areas of dams.



What is it? Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara became only the 23rd batsman in the history of test cricket, and the first Indian, to be run out in both innings of a test match.

Why is it important? Pujara’s dubious distinction was part of a fragile Indian batting performance that yesterday wilted to South African debutant Lungi Ngidi, and lost the second test match to South Africa by 135 runs. With this win, South Africa holds an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match test series against India. And India’s quest for its first series win in South Africa is now at 26 years and seven test series, and counting.

Tell me more: In the list of 23 batsmen who have been run out in both innings, two Australians have suffered this ignominy twice: Mark Taylor and Ian Healy.



What is it? The number of engineers at ride-hailing firm Grab’s research centre in Bengaluru, which opened in March 2017. Most of them were working on GrabPay, the company’s payments platform.

Why is it important? On Wednesday, Grab announced it had acquired iKaaz, a Bengaluru-based digital payments startup, though it did not disclose the deal value. The iKaaz team will join Grab’s research centre. iKaaz, founded in 2012, has several products, including a cloud-based platform for online sellers, point-of-sale hardware for retail merchants and a mobile wallet solution.

Tell me more: While Grab does not offer ride-hailing services in India, it operates in several Southeast Asian markets, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It was last valued at $6 billion.


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News in Numbers, June 1, 2016: UP’s entry tax, impact of no discounts on online shopping…


What is it? India’s economic growth rate in the January-March quarter of 2015-16.

Why is it important? With this, India retains the tag of the fastest growing major economy in the world for the second consecutive year. The growth has mainly been driven by a rebound in agriculture, improved government spending and private consumption, though companies are reluctant to make investments – putting the burden of boosting growth on the government.

Tell me more: India’s economy grew 7.6% in 2015-16 compared to 7.2% in the previous year. It also became a $2 trillion economy based on Tuesday’s exchange rate ($1 = Rs 67.26).



What is it? The entry tax imposed by the Uttar Pradesh government on goods purchased from e-commerce sites.

Why is it important? This decision is said to be done to protect offline retailers’ profits due to the new-age e-commerce firms. Industry lobby Nasscom has opposed similar moves by states (such as Assam, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Rajasthan) on the basis that it puts additional burden on customers and SME traders, besides increasing technology upgradation costs of e-commerce firms to accommodate these new levies, which would anyway become redundant once the Goods and Service Tax is implemented.

Tell me more: Flipkart, through its logistics arm eKart, has filed a writ petition in the High Court of Uttarakhand opposing the state’s move of imposing 10% entry tax on goods bought through e-commerce sites whereas the standard entry tax rate is 5%.


175 million

What is it? The estimated number of online shoppers in India by 2020, according to a report by Google and consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

Why is it important? This would account for a quarter of the total organised retail sales in four years, up by 10% from the current level. The growth, estimated at over 40% each year, will happen even if e-commerce firms decided to do away with discounts.

Tell me more: A third of the estimated 175 million shoppers are likely to drive two-thirds of online purchases.


15 lakh

What is it? The approximate number of students in Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) who will be considered Class XII pass, as per a government announcement.

Why is it important? This makes formal and vocational streams of education equivalent, providing the opportunity to the ITI students to pursue higher education and get better jobs. The ITI graduates will get Class XII (if a student has passed Class X before joining the ITI) and Class X (if a student has passed Class VIII before joining the ITI) certificates from the national board of open schooling by giving an exam.

Tell me more: There were 13,105 ITIs as of May 2016, which is to be increased to 18,000 by September this year.



What is it? Krishi Kalyan cess to be imposed on all taxable services with effect from today, taking the effective rate of service tax to 15%.

Why is it important? The cess, which is to be used for agriculture and for improving the wellbeing of farmers, is likely to help the government garner Rs 5,000 crore in the remaining 10 months of 2016-17. This would make some services including air and rail travel, mobile bills, eating out in restaurants, health check-ups, movie tickets, insurance policies, private tuition and coaching centres and some banking services more expensive – an extra spend of Rs 5 for every Rs 1,000 spent.

Tell me more: The cess, which is to be levied on the value of the service and not on the component of service tax (similar to Swachh Bharat cess) will apply to bills generated before June 1 but paid from today.

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News in numbers, Apr 28, 2016: Pollution in tier-II cities, record wind energy capacity addition…


What is it? The number of tier-II cities that exceed the ambient air quality standard, according to the government.

Why is it important? This is contrary to the popular perception that only the big cities or the tier-I cities are polluted in terms of air or water. The Indian government will spend over Rs 550 crore over five years to bring down pollution levels in these tier-II cities, which include Rishikesh (Uttarakhand), Tezpur (Assam), Vapi (Gujarat), Sangrur (Punjab) and Angul (Odisha).

Tell me more: Water pollution in these cities is caused due to discharges of untreated water. Cumulative sewage generation in these tier-II cities has been estimated to be 2,696.7 million litres per day but their treatment capacity is less than 10%.


What is it? Apple’s iPhone year-on-year sales growth in India in the three months ended March 2016.

Why is it important? Apple is looking to emerging markets such as India to boost its sales, even as it posted its first quarterly revenue decline in 13 years. A government panel recommendation to waive 30% sourcing norm (required for foreign owned single-brand retailers) for Apple would further help its sales in India. The recommendation is pending finance minister’s approval.

Tell me more: Currently, Apple sells its products through distributors such as Redington and Ingram Micro. Reportedly, this waiver may bring prices of Apple products down in India. The panel has recommended the waiver because of the cutting-edge technology Apple would bring to the country, a conditional clause present in the government policy. Two Chinese mobile companies – LeEco and Xiaomi – have also asked for the waiver of the 30% sourcing norm.

3,460 MW

What is it? The wind energy capacity addition in India in 2015-16.

Why is it important? This is the highest ever annual capacity addition, surpassing the previous high of 3,197 MW added in 2011-12. It has also exceeded its target of 2,400 MW by 44.2%. However, India needs to step up its pace of wind energy addition if it has to meet its target of 60,000 MW by 2022. The country’s cumulative wind energy capacity, the primary source of renewable energy, was 26,904.16 MW at the end of 2015-16.

Tell me more: Madhya Pradesh accounted for over 37% of wind energy capacity addition in the last financial year followed by Rajasthan (nearly 20%), Gujarat (over 11%) and Andhra Pradesh (10.5%). The data is by the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers’ Association, which expects an increase in capacity addition by 4,000 MW in in 2016-17.

17 million

What is it? The number of former and current government officials Maruti Suzuki is all set to target for selling its automobiles.

Why is it important? These government employees would soon be the recipients of the Seventh Pay Commission payout – and consumer businesses such as Maruti are hoping to get a boost from their shopping. Maruti itself hopes to get nearly a fifth of its sales over the next 2-3 years from them. In 2015-16, government employees accounted for 16% of the 1.3 million cars the company sold in India.

Tell me more: Maruti Suzuki launched the ‘Wheels of India’ programme in 2006 specifically aimed at government employees, to whom it has sold 1.5 million cars so far. The new database prepared has 4.7 million central government employees, 7 million state government officials and 5.2 million pensioners.

21 lakh

What is it? The number of farmers in 26,670 drought-hit villages in Maharashtra whose crop loans would be restructured.

Why is it important? This would extend the loan repayment duration for farmers by 1-5 years and also, enable them to apply for fresh loans for the sowing season beginning June. The loans total Rs 8,503 crore (includes last year’s crop loans and 2014 kharif sowing season). Maharashtra is one of the worst drought-hit states in the country and accounted for half of the farmer suicides recorded so far this year. As many as 20,504 farmers have ended their lives in the state since 2001.

Tell me more: The government also plans to seek the central bank’s help in restructuring loans worth Rs 2,438 crore taken by 4.4 lakh farmers from drought-affected villages in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

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News in Numbers, Apr 27, 2016: Mitsubishi scandal, Apple’s first quarterly fall in 13 years…

Rs 2,800 crore

What is it? The amount the Indian government wants to raise by selling a 11.36% in hydropower producer NHPC today.

Why is it important? The first disinvestment in the current financial year. The government hopes to raise Rs 56,500 crore in 2016-17 by selling its stake in state-owned companies. It remains to be seen if it can achieve that, given that it missed its disinvestment target for the sixth year in a row in 2015-16.

Tell me more: The government, which holds 85.96% in NHPC, will also be able to comply with the market regulator’s rules to increase minimum public shareholding in listed state-owned firms to 25%. The issue price has been set at Rs 21.75 a share, a 5.6% discount to NHPC’s closing price of Rs 23.05 on Tuesday.


What is it? The number of years Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors has been falsifying fuel emission tests for the cars it sold in its home country.

Why is it important? The Mitsubishi scandal is much bigger than previously thought. Last week, Japan’s sixth-largest automaker admitted that it had manipulated test data for four domestic mini-van vehicles (including two made for Nissan Motor) and had said the non-compliance was from 2002. This follows German automaker Volkswagen’s admission last year where it admitted to cheating on fuel emission tests that has cost the company €16 billion so far.

Tell me more: The Mitsubishi scandal has affected over 600,000 cars, 157,000 Mitsubishi models and 468,000 Nissan models. It’s share prices have fallen by nearly 50% since its first admission last week and has lost around $3.9 billion in market value.

$50.6 billion

What is it? Apple’s revenue in the three months ended to March 2016, down 12.8% from same period last year.

Why is it important? This is Apple’s first quarterly decline since 2003. iPhone sales, which contribute to around two-thirds of its total sales, declined by 10 million to 51.2 million from a year ago. The company is still best known for its iPhone and given the absence of any major product launch, it remains to be seen if Apple’s growth has already peaked. It expects to earn $41-43 billion in the next quarter.

Tell me more: The company earned $2.1 billion from its ‘Other Products’ category (includes Apple watches, Apple TV and Beats) during the quarter, a 30% increase from the year-ago quarter.


What is it? The number of farmers who have committed suicide so far this year, according to the Indian government.

Why is it important? Impact of a back-to-back drought, which is being made worse by the soaring temperatures in different parts of the country and dipping water reserves in India’s main reservoirs. The government said it has approved a Rs 12,773.3 crore relief package to 10 drought-hit states during the summer season of the crop year of 2015-16.

Tell me more: 57 farmer suicides were reported in Maharashtra (as on February 29), one of the worst-drought affected states while 56 farm labourers have ended their lives in Punjab. Three farmer suicides have been recorded in Telangana.

Rs 333-467

What is it? The likely increase in the cost of basic mobile handsets after the global positioning system (GPS) feature is enabled and the emergency/panic button is introduced.

Why is it important? The Indian Cellular Association fears that this would make it unaffordable for people at the bottom of the pyramid to buy mobile phones. The least expensive phone retails at Rs 500 apiece. However, it is likely that entry-level mobile phones would mirror smartphone pricing trends – with increasing volumes, prices would come down even further.

Tell me more: The government notified on Tuesday that all phones rolled out from January 2018 must have the GPS feature and those sold after January 2017 must have a panic button. India crossed the 1-billion mark in mobile phone subscribers in January this year.

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