News in Numbers, Nov 25, 2016: Tell me before I ask…

56

What is it? The number of people who have been allegedly murdered (51) and committed suicide (5) among those who sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act since it was introduced in 2005, according to data compiled by an NGO.

Why is it important? This points to the fact that the Act in its current form does not have any provisions to ensure safety of those who seek information using this law. Also, this highlights that one of the provisions of this Act under Section 4(2), which requires the authorities to voluntarily disclose information so that the public need not go seeking for it, is not followed effectively. There have been 311 instances of attacks or harassment of people who have asked for information under this Act. Maharashtra and Gujarat top the list in terms of alleged murders and suicides in this case.

Tell me more: The information commissioners could be empowered to work with other authorities such as the police, courts and human rights commissions to protect RTI users from any harm, as per a suggestion by Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator at CHRI. The organisation has put together this data for the period between October 12, 2005 and October 17, 2016. As many as 17.5 million RTI applications have been filed in these 11 years.

 

68.86

What is it? The level to which the Indian rupee fell against the US dollar on Thursday in intraday trade.

Why is it important? This was a record low and it closed at 68.75 a dollar, the lowest since August 2013 when India was caught in its worst currency crisis in over two decades. The US dollar seems to be attractive on the hopes that President-elect Donald Trump will go for an expansionary fiscal policy that would lead to higher inflation and interest rates. Though the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) intervened in the market to prop up the rupee, analyst reports suggest that it may be preserving forex reserves and use it prudently in the backdrop of global investors’ aversion to risks and higher chances of a rate hike in the US.

Tell me more: The Indian rupee was not alone in its fall. The currencies of other emerging markets also took a hit such as the Philippines peso fell to a nearly eight-year low while the Turkish lira touched its lowest on Thursday.

 

Rs 1.28 lakh crore

What is it? The estimated cost of implementing the withdrawal of old currency notes (of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) and replace them with new ones is Rs 1.28 lakh crore, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

Why is it important? This would be about 25.6-32% of the total unaccounted cash that the government hopes to collect Rs 4-5 lakh crore (as reportedly conveyed by it to the Supreme Court). The move by the government has attracted both praise and criticism and this is one way to determine if the cost and effort was worth the exercise. The enterprise sector is estimated to lose Rs 61,500 crore or about half the total estimated transaction cost.

Tell me more: Banks are estimated to bear a cost of Rs 31,140 crore during the 50-day window period until December 30 while the cost to households would be Rs 15,000 crore (to stand in queues to exchange old notes with new ones). The government and the RBI are estimated to bear a cost of Rs 16,800 crore.

 

60%

What is it? The tax to be reportedly levied on unaccounted deposits in banks above a certain limit, as decided at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Thursday night.

Why is it important? This would require amendments to the Income Tax Act, 1961, which the government plans to bring in during the current session of the Parliament, according to sources. The tax rate is likely to be higher than the 45% tax and penalty charged on the unaccounted wealth declared under the one-time Income Declaration Scheme that closed on September 30. However, this rate is lesser than the tax plus 200% penalty that the government had earlier said it would levy on the deposited cash if it doesn’t match the person’s income tax returns.

Tell me more: The government announced on Thursday that over-the-counter exchange of the denotified notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 at banks and post offices will not be allowed from today and that one may only deposit the old notes at banks.

 

$4.4 million

What is it? The amount Jill Stein, the Green Party’s Presidential candidate in the US elections, has raised so far from a crowdfunding effort to initiate recounts in three states – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Why is it important? President-elect Donald Trump won in these states by a narrow margin – 0.3% in Michigan, 1.2% in Pennsylvania and 0.7% in Wisconsin and there have been reports that results in these states may have been manipulated or hacked. These three states account for 46 electoral votes and if on recount, the results are overturned, then Democratic Party Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton can emerge victorious. Trump got 290 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 232 on last count.

Tell me more: The amount raised by Stein so far roughly covers the filing fees ($2.2 million) and attorney’s fees of another $2-3 million. Including the cost of the statewide recount observers, the total costs are likely to come up to $6-7 million. Stein’s crowdfunding campaign aims to raise $4.5 million for the recounting process.

 

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News in Numbers, Nov 10, 2016: He paid less, much less…

< $5

What is it? The amount US President-elect Donald Trump likely paid per vote, according to a Reuters analysis campaign finance records and voting data. This is on the assumption that the candidates spent all the money raised.

Why is it important? This is about half of what Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton spent per vote. Until mid-October, Trump’s campaign committee spent around $238.9 million versus Clinton’s $450.6 million. This works out to be around $859,538 per an electoral vote for Trump and $1.97 million per an electoral vote for Clinton (this doesn’t include spending between October 20 and until election day). Trump got about $5 billion worth of free media coverage during the campaign, which is more than twice of what Clinton got, according to data analytics firm mediaQuant.

Tell me more: Interestingly, Trump also spent lesser than the campaigns of President Barack Obama ($630.8 million) and Mitt Romney ($360.7 million).

 

Rs 2.5 lakh

What is it? The limit above which cash deposits made till December 30 in a bank account will be reported to the tax department by banks.

Why is it important? After having banned old currency denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 effective Tuesday midnight, the government had announced that one could deposit the old notes in the banks between November 10 and December 30. The authorities would then match the deposits with the income tax returns of the depositors and any mismatch would be treated as a case of tax evasion. The tax amount and a penalty of 200% of the tax payable would be levied. Jewelers are being given instructions to note the PAN numbers of their buyers and the government would take action against those who do not comply with this.

Tell me more: There is a format that has been created to collect information from the depositors and CCTV cameras would be installed to keep track of them. In addition, banks have also appointed nodal officers to deal with situations as and when they arise.

 

202 crore

What is it? The number of currency notes in Rs 100 denomination that would be fed into ATMs over the next few days.

Why is it important? As many as 12,000 cash vans would reportedly carry these notes and on their return trips, they would carry 1,300 notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations (approximately, worth Rs 8.5 lakh crore). This is probably the largest amount of cash that has ever hit the Indian roads at the same time. However, such a seamless operation is possible only if enough Rs 100 notes are supplied on time to banks, cash in transit operators and ATM service providers.

Tell me more: There is likely to be inconvenience for customers who wish to withdraw Rs 100 notes as most ATMs have cassettes (used to dispense cash) that can hold up to only 2,250 notes at a time. And, again, most of these are fitted with four cassettes, which means these ATMs can dispense about Rs 9 lakh when they are fully filled up.

 

Rs 1 lakh crore

What is it? The amount the Karnataka government plans to invest in the development of irrigation projects.

Why is it important? The southern state has been facing its second consecutive drought year, which is also the sixth straight year of deficient rainfall. Karnataka, which is involved in river disputes with six states, has been seeking about 28% of its drought-related losses of Rs 12,125.79 crore this year in disaster relief. The number of farmer suicides has increased from 122 in 2014-15 to a record 1,461 in 2015-16, which the government officials attribute to crop losses, drought and pressure from private money lenders.

Tell me more: The new estimates of irrigation spending are double of the earlier outlay and the escalation in costs is due to delays in completion of existing projects and addition of new ones.

 

1.5%

What is it? The growth forecast for the euro zone in 2017, according to the European Commission.

Why is it important? This is lower from the 1.8% growth predicted by the body in May thanks to Britain’s exit from the European Union, political uncertainty and weak global trade. Investment is expected to rebound in 2018 and is forecast to grow by 3.3% this year, 3.1% in 2017 and 3.5% in 2018.

Tell me more: The UK economy is expected to grow 1.9% in 2016 and this is expected to fall to 1% in 2017, which is almost half of what the Commission had forecast in its previous estimates before the country voted to leave the European Union.

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News in Numbers, Nov 7, 2016: When ‘snooze’ is no longer an option…

How many times are we allowed to hit the ‘snooze’ button before we finally decide to wake up and smell the coffee? (or in this case, inhale poisonous air, the effects of which do not need any outlining) With respect to Delhi, sadly, not only have we hit the ‘snooze’ button way too many times but also, ignored or done little about the constantly-ringing alarm bells. Though the Delhi government has announced a few short-term measures, it is imperative for the central government and the state government to work in tandem to ensure effective implementation of long-term policies to tackle the worsening air pollution problem in the capital city. And, also ensure that other major urban/semi-urban areas do not end up mirroring Delhi’s situation. What can the governments and individuals do to curb pollution? Do share your ideas with us.

Regards,
John

 

588 µg/m³

What is it? The levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Delhi at around 8.00 am today, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union Ministry of Earth Science.

Why is it important? This is 9.8 times the safe limit of 60 µg/m³and falls under the ‘severe’ (the worst) category. The levels of PM 10 in the capital city was said to be 844, nearly 8.5 times the safe limit of 100 µg/m³, again in the ‘severe’ category. These particulates are considered deadly for their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, which can cause respiratory problems, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Tell me more: Particulate matter pollution has been categorised as carcinogenic to humans and is considered to be a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. SAFAR’s forecast for PM 2.5 and 10 for Delhi tomorrow is worse than today’s levels: 613 µg/m³ and 860 µg/m³ respectively.

 

50%

What is it? The fall in the number of startups that have reportedly registered with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) for recruitment this year.

Why is it important? Indicates that startups’ hiring activity has slowed down amidst reports that investors have become increasingly cautious about loosening their purse strings in the recent quarters. Earlier this year, IITs had banned 31 startups including Grofers, Hopscotch, StayZilla and Portea Medical from participating in their placement drives as they had delayed joining dates, changed their offers in the last minute or revoked some of the students’ offer letters. 135 students were affected by such actions, according to the All IIT Placement Committee.

Tell me more: However, pre-placement offers are up by 25-30% this year. Some IITs are conducting screenings of some startups based on their funding, cash flow and stability before allowing them visit their campuses for hiring.

 

2

What is it? India’s ranking in a global index of business optimism in the July-September quarter of 2016, according to a survey.

Why is it important? The country has improved its position by moving up one slot from the previous quarter after being ranked on top in the previous two quarters. The latest ranking is due to the Indian government’s reform measures, its efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country and on the back of expectations that the Goods and Services Tax would become a reality soon, according to the report. Though India is still ranked among the top five nations where red tapism and regulations are considered an impediment to growth, its ranking on this aspect has dropped to second from fourth.

Tell me more: This comes a few days after India was listed at the 130th position (of 190 nations) on the World Bank’s ease of doing business, where the report’s authors acknowledge that not all the measures taken by India in improving its business environment have been taken into account.

 

13%

What is it? The percentage of the American electorate which is undecided or likely to vote for a third-party candidate.

Why is it important? This indicates the high levels of uncertainty in the outcome and that the results could swing in favour of either of the US Presidential candidates in the 2016 elections: Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee. There are reportedly about 12 states, which form 155 votes in the electoral college (of the 538), that do not favour any party and could hold the key to who becomes the 45th US President.

Tell me more: The US citizens across 50 states would vote to elect 538 members of the electoral college, who in turn, would vote for the President. Of the 50 states, 12 are in favour of the Democrats and six leaning towards them and Clinton is predicted to have 219 safe votes. As many as 20 states are for the Republicans, one leaning towards them, predicting 164 safe votes for Trump. The winning candidate would require 270 votes.

 

1.1 lakh

What is it? The number of ideas received by the Indian Railways from its employees as of November 1 in response to the question: What if you were India’s Railway Minister?

Why is it important? This is the first time that such a brainstorming exercise has been conducted at the Indian Railways where crowdsourcing of ideas (contrary to the top-down approach at the organisation) has been encouraged to generate more revenue and margins and become more efficient. A panel of seven joint secretary officers have shortlisted 1,400 of these ideas. This would be further filtered to get the 15 best ideas and then, converted into business plans to be showcased to Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month. He is likely to then spell out a five-year vision for the Railways and may roll out a campaign akin to the ‘Make in India’ or ‘Digital India’ campaigns, according to news reports.

Tell me more: Some of the ideas include: implementation of smart cards, which can generate additional revenues of Rs 400 crore, development of heritage tourism, large-scale solar energy development on land owned by the Railways around stations and offering surplus and vacant land on rent to private individuals.

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News in Numbers, Nov 2, 2011: How many Facebook friends do you have?

12%

What is it? The percentage by which an average Facebook user is less likely to die than someone who does not use the social networking site, according to a study.

Why is it important? The study says the use of Facebook increases longevity only when it is used to maintain or improve real-life social connections. Those with large social networks lived longer than those with fewer friends, which seems to mirror studies of real-world relationships.

Tell me more: The study, which was led by University of California-San Diego researchers, looked at 12 million California-based Facebook users born between 1945 and 1989 and matched them with their health records, monitoring their online activity over six months. The researchers have said that the study is just observational and by no way proves that one would live longer if they use Facebook.

 

$600 million

What is it? The amount ride-hailing startup Ola is reportedly looking to raise while another report pegs the amount to $300-500 million.

Why is it important? This would help ANI Technologies’ Ola, which is playing the discounts game with Uber (said to be the most valuable startup, according to Statista) in India to maintain its lead position. The amount would reportedly provide Ola enough capital for the next 18 months. Uber has been focusing on the Indian market after selling off its Chinese operations. Ola has been in talks to raise funds since it last raised $57.3 million in December 2015.

Tell me more: Ola has raised $1.23 billion in eight rounds from 20 investors so far and was last valued at $5 billion.

 

3,600

What is it? The estimated number of captive elephants in India, most of whom are under the care of private individuals including temples.

Why is it important? Soon, elephants could join the list of animals banned from being exhibited or trained as performing animals. Currently, bull, bear, monkey, panther, tiger and lion are included in this list. The Animal Welfare Board of India, the country’s advisory body on animal welfare laws) has asked the environment ministry to ban the training, exhibition and use of elephants for performance in temples, circuses and joyrides.

Tell me more: Animal activists have been asking for better treatment of elephants, provide better welfare measures for them including food, veterinary care and housing facility and give better training to mahouts. The estimated number of elephants in India is 23,900 to 32,900; the Indian government declared the elephant as an animal of national heritage to increase its protection-measures.

 

3

What is it? The number of states that are open-defecation free (ODF) with Kerala being the latest to join the list. Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh are the other two states that have officially declared themselves to be free of open defecation.

Why is it important? The government has expressed hope that many states can achieve ODF status well before the deadline of October 2, 2019. Other states such as Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Mizoram are likely to achieve this status for their rural areas by March next year. However, certain challenges such as reporting of unreliable toilet construction numbers (the Comptroller and Auditor General of India found 16 states had overstated the data on individual toilet constructions by 190% of the actual constructions), improper construction of toilets (making them dysfunctional) and bringing about a behaviour change in people.

Tell me more: India compares poorly with other countries in terms of open defecation: 48.3% of the country’s population do not use toilets and in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sub-Saharan Africa, the corresponding numbers are: 23.1%, 4% and 24.9%, according to data by r.i.c.e, a non-profit research organisation.

 

2

What is it? The number of polls (of a total of six) in which Republican candidate Donald Trump has a lead of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential elections, as of November 1. Clinton is ahead in three polls while the sixth one predicts a tie between the two.

Why is it important? The previous day’s data showed Clinton was ahead of Trump in seven of eight general election polls and indicates that the 2016 US Presidential elections is a tight race and just either of them could be the next US President. Last week, the FBI said it had found a new set of emails that could be “pertinent” to the Clinton email case and this may have an impact on the elections. The timing of the announcement of this development has drawn sharp criticism from many.

Tell me more: The prediction system devised by Allan J Lichtman, professor of history at American University, which has been correct in predicting the winner of all the US elections since 1984, says Trump is the man. Another prediction by an artificial intelligence system, whose predictions have been correct in the last three elections, gives Trump the lead position.

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