News in numbers, Dec 7, 2015: Adulterated food samples, impact of Chennai floods…




What is it? Percentage of food samples found to be “adulterated and misbranded” so far this year, according to India’s food regulator. That is, 14,599 samples out of 74,010 samples analysed.


Why is it important? Based on these, the regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, has filed over 9500 cases, resulting in over 1400 convictions. As many as 7,500 people died from consuming food last year in India, mostly from pesticide and insecticide poisoning, reflecting the inadequacy of food-safety institutions in the country. There is a  proposal to invest Rs 1,750 crore to strengthen the central and state food regulators.


Tell me more: Food safety has gained attention in India after FSSAI banned Nestle India’s popular Maggi noodles after finding excessive lead levels in it.




What is it? Number of medical camps conducted by the authorities in Chennai so far after floods inundated the city.


Why is it important? The camps covered over 7 lakh (about 15% of Chennai’s population according to Census 2011) people. With floods come the risks of water-borne diseases (such as typhoid and cholera) and vector-borne diseases (including malaria and dengue). Screening of people and provision of medicines are critical in preventing an epidemic outbreak.


Tell me more: The Health Secretary for Tamil Nadu government recently said the state is monitoring the situation and is working in close coordination with the district administration and Chennai Corporation officials to avert an endemic-like situation.




What is it? The unutilized capacity at Surya Nepal’s factory. Surya Nepal, an ITC subsidiary, which makes cigarettes, safety matches and readymade garments.


Why is it important? Shows how India’s blockade of Nepal’s border checkpoints is impacting Indian businesses there. Dabur India, whose 70-75% of juices’ supply under the ‘Real’ brand, comes from its Nepal factory and has informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it’s juice business is likely to dip by 10-15% in the October-November period.


Tell me more: A community in Nepal called the Madhesis have been agitating and demanding proportionate representation and allocation of Parliament seats on the basis of population to be incorporated in the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill, resulting in the blockade.




What is it? Number of companies that have bought bid documents to buy two new teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL).


Why is it important? Shows there is significant interest in the league despite a 40% drop in television viewership for all formats of the game from 2008 to 2014 and a string of controversies such as betting.


Tell me more: Buying the bid documents, however, doesn’t mean that they would indeed participate in the bidding process. Star India and Chettinad Cements are among the 21 companies who have bought the bid documents.


Rs 840 crore


What is it? The potential loss to the micro and small industrial sector in Chennai every week due to the floods, according to credit rating agency SMERA.


Why is it important? One, it would undermine their ability to pay their workforce, who are already facing significant material loss due to floods. Two, these are conservative estimates, and the losses in the final assessment might turn out to be worse.


Tell me more: Chennai contributes about 3% to India’s GDP (gross domestic product). Tamil Nadu is home to the third largest number of MSME or micro, small and medium enterprises (nearly 10% of the total MSMEs) in the country and in terms of employment generated (11% of total employment generated by the Indian MSME sector).

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News in numbers, Dec 2, 2015: Car sales in November, deaths due to floods in Tamil Nadu…




What is it? India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki’s unit sales growth in November compared to same period last year.


Why is it important? It rose 24.7% year-on-year last month to 121,063 units, its best-ever monthly sales – driven by festive season demand. Now, the demand is back to normal. Car sales are seen as a proxy for economic growth.


Tell me more: Last month the growth was also broad-based. Not so in November. Mahindra and Mahindra and Hyundai Motor posted double digit year on year growth in November while Honda Cars, Tata Motors and Toyota Kirloskar reported a decline.



What is it? Number of deaths in Tamil Nadu due to rains since October.


Why is it important? The southern state has been battling with heavy rains since the beginning of November. Chennai has witnessed the worst rains in nearly a century. Roads and houses in many parts of the city are flooded, traffic has almost come to a halt, flights and trains have been delayed or cancelled – in short, life has come to a standstill. The situation is also a wake-up call for the civic and urban planning authorities to ensure that hydrological factors are taken into account while planning cities and towns.


Tell me more: The situation is not likely to ease up soon given that the weather department has forecast heavy to very heavy rains in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for the next four days.


$91.8 billion


What is it? The amount Indian government spent on climate adaptation (such as measures of flood protection, buildings in low risk areas) in 2013-14, according to a study.


Why is it important? The adverse effects of climate change has already begun to affect 800 million people in India, which is nearly two-thirds of the country’s population. The study, by IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Gandhinagar and a think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water, says the country would experience an increase of 1-1.5 degree Celsius increase in mean annual temperature from 2016 to 2045, which would have a great impact on agriculture and crop production.


Tell me more: India needs about $1 trillion from now until 2030 for climate adaptation.


Rs 1,750 crore


What is it? The amount the Indian government is likely to grant for strengthening the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the state regulators.


Why is it important? The food regulator had come in for criticism when the Supreme Court had struck down its advisory that required clearances for products by ingredients even if those had received prior approval. Also, the recent ban on Maggi exposed the shortcomings in the food safety and regulating mechanism in the country.


Tell me more: It remains to be seen how this amount (if approved) would be put to use because according to the regulator’s 2013-14 annual report, of the total funds available (Rs 60 crore), only Rs 42.1 crore was utilised.




What is it? Number of adolescents (aged 15-19 years) living with HIV in the Asia Pacific region, according to a Unicef report.


Why is it important? It’s a “hidden epidemic”, Unicef says. An estimated 50,000 new HIV infections among youngsters accounted for 15% of new infections in 2014 in the region. As governments take steps to end the epidemic of AIDS, the growth in new infections among adolescents would be a huge block to that effort. AIDS might dent the demographic dividend developing countries are betting on.

Tell me more: Also, a UN report says India is home to the third highest number of people living with HIV in the world at 2.1 million. This is about four out of 10 affected with the virus in the Asia Pacific region.

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News In Numbers – August 26


The number by which female Christian population exceeds the Christian male population in India, according to the latest data released by the Indian government on religion. As per Census 2011, Christianity is the only religion in India in which the female population exceeds the male population. However, there has not been a significant change between 2001 and 2011 in the share of Christians in the total Indian population. As is the case for Jains. The share of the Muslim community grew 0.8 percentage points during this period, while the Hindu population registered a decline of 0.7 percentage points.



The incidence of procuration of minor girls per lakh population in India in 2014.  The equivalent figures for buying and selling of minor girls for prostitution were 14 and 82, respectively. The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Indian government to prepare an action plan to prevent trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation, their rescue and rehabilitation, in consultation with the states. According to the non-governmental organisation Prajwala, which had moved the court against trafficking of girls and women for sexual exploitation, over 200,000 women and children are inducted into the flesh trade every year and that one out of every four children rescued from prostitution is a child, of which 60% are HIV positive.


40,000 MW versus 10,000 MW

India added about 40,000 MW (megawatt) of power generation capacity in the last two years, but demand increased only by about 10,000 MW. This is mainly because a significant chunk of people cannot afford to pay for electricity. Unless this changes, the demand-supply mismatch could become worse as the government is planning to increase power generation capacity to 800 GW (gigawatt) by 2030. In 2014-15, India recorded the lowest plant load factor in over 15 years, with power capacities operating at just 65%. The financial health of state electricity boards (SEBs) is deteriorating: their cumulative outstanding loans have crossed Rs 3,00,000 crore and they have accumulated losses of over Rs 2,50,000 crore. One of the main reasons for this is the state distribution utilities are reluctant to revise tariffs to cover costs.


1.2 million and 35,000

The number of infant and maternal deaths India could avoid if the current need for family planning is met within the next five years. According to an analysis conducted by the Population Foundation of India, the Finance Commission decentralizing funds to states may impact the family planning programme and could result in diversion of funds away from other social and health sector needs. In 2012-13, the Indian government had committed to bring down maternal mortality rate to 100 per every 100,000 live births, infant mortality rate to 30 per every 1,000 live births and total fertility rate to 2.1. India accounts for the largest number of maternal deaths in the world, at 178 per 100,000 live births in 2010-12.



The number of food items covered by the new draft food guidelines put out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for public comments. The new guidelines include health supplements and additives, nutraceuticals and proprietary foods. The 2011 guidelines cover just 377 food items: in other words, only these items are standardised.  This particular limitation caused a judicial setback for the food regulator when the Supreme Court last week refused to accept its arguments about the product approval process. Under an earlier set of rules, product approval was required only when the manufacturer included a new ingredient or additive, which under the new rule introduced in 2013 required approval for products even if they were using pre-okayed ingredients or additives within permissible limits.
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Spotlight on food products made in India after Maggi ban but how safe are food imports?

This piece originally appeared on


The recent ban on Maggi noodles puts a lens on the deficiencies of the food regulator to test products made in India. The problem is compounded for food products from other countries: the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) fails in its own stated objective to test every import consignment.

Import coverage

The stated objective of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is to test every import consignment. But in 2013-14, matching FSSAI test data with food imports shows that, at 7,246 tonnes of consignment volume, FSSAI tested only about 0.004% of food products entering India. In comparison, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) physically examined 1.9% of its food import lines in 2011-12.


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Part of the reason is presence. According to FSSAI, it has a presence in only 16 of the 673 entry points into India; additionally, it works with 68 registered laboratories. In 2013-14, FSSAI examined 53,692 consignments of food products weighing 7,246 tonnes. It rejected 371 consignments, amounting to 0.21% of the quantity sought to be imported.


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Then, the sample sizes drawn by it are without relation to consignment size. “For example, if 10,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) are being imported and in another case 1 lakh SKUs are being imported, the number of samples drawn for testing should be different, which is not happening,” says Ashwin Bhadri, chief executive of Equinox Labs, a registered laboratory.





Despite an apparent need to build testing infrastructure, FSSAI is not using the entire funds available with it. It is now looking to move towards random- and risk-based inspections like the US, which has an automated system that, according to the USFDA’s annual report, “uses data analytics from the entire lifecycle of a product to better identify and target high-risk products”.




Data sources: FSSAI, ministry of commerce; all data for 2013-14.



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