Is Demand For Gold Fading Away?


World’s demand for gold is the lowest since third-quarter of 2009.  Voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out in large numbers in the latest assembly elections. A larger chunk of proceeds of crime have been laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Indian doctors are not spending enough time for primary care consultations, says a study.


650 tonnes

What is it? India’s expected gold demand in 2017, according to World Gold Council (WGC) India.

Why is it important? This would be the lowest in eight years. In comparison, the demand was 666.1 tonnes last year while the 10-year average was 845 tonnes. The WGC has attributed this to the government’s initiatives to make bullion trading more transparent in addition to weak demand in some rural areas. Under the new goods and services tax regime rolled out recently, the tax on gold more than doubled to 3% from 1.2% earlier.

Tell me more: Weaker demand in India, which is the second biggest gold consumer after China, could result in the reduction of global gold prices, which recently were at a near three-week high. It remains to be seen if the wedding season in the current quarter is able to help revive the demand in the country.



What is it? The polling percentage for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This is the highest voting percentage for the hill state, which has not returned a government in the last 30 years. A high voter turnout was traditionally considered as an anti-incumbency vote, but recent data doesn’t suggest so. In three state elections – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh – with high voter turnover, two incumbents were re-elected.

Tell me more: Himachal Pradesh became the first state to use paper trail (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) for all polling stations (7,525). 297 out of 11,283 paper trail machines developed snag and were replaced.



What is it? The percentage of cases registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) where financial institutions were responsible post-demonetisation.

Why is it important? Higher incidence of people using financial institutions to launder money could indicate corrupt practices within the highly regulated banks, but it could also mean suspicious transactions are better tracked. Enforcement Directorate (ED) says proceeds of crime are laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Real estate (35%) and gold/ precious metal (7%) came second and third in terms of number of cases registered by the ED.

Tell me more: Between November 2016 and September 2017, the ED conducted 620 searches and issued 597 showcause notices. ED has attached assets worth Rs5,335 crore under FEMA.


2 minutes

What is it? The mean duration of India’s primary care consultation time in 2015, according to a global study published in British medical journal BMJ Open.

Why is it important? Shorter consultation times means poorer health outcomes for patients, which also indicates a heightened sense of burnout for the doctors. According to a recent Global Burden of Disease Study, the country ranked a poor 154 of 195 countries on the healthcare index. In India, the doctor-population ratio of 0.62 per 1,000 is way lesser than the prescribed ratio of 1:100 by the World Health Organization.

Tell me more: The report, which collated data from 178 studies, covered 67 countries and over 28.5 million consultations. Overall, primary care consultations last less than five minutes for half of the global population but range from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden.


180 million

What is it? The number of smartphone owners who are at the risk of having their text messages and calls intercepted by hackers, according to cyber-security firm Appthority.

Why is it important? This is due to a simple coding error in some mobile apps that use functions provided by Twilio, a third-party service provider. Such studies point to the necessity to download apps from trusted stores, a careful inspection of app permissions and not go for something called ‘rooting’ (for Android users) that allows third-party services to break software locks for users to make software changes that cannot be made otherwise.

Tell me more: Appthority found 685 problematic mobile apps linked to 85 Twilio accounts of a survey of 1,100 apps. Here’s how it works: The apps use the services of providers such as Twilio to send text messages and make phone calls and if developers leave those credentials (tools for authentication) in apps, their accounts could be exposed to the hackers. They, in turn, can access related data if they log into the accounts of the developers on Twilio.



Read More

Untitled design-3

A Two-Horse Race In Himachal


It’s a two horse race in the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. Delhi government is considering re-instating the odd-even scheme. Mary Kom clinched her fifth gold in the recently concluded Asian Women’s Boxing Championship. India is likely on track to achieve its targets for green house gas emissions.



What is it? The number of candidates in the fray in the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh assembly, the elections for which are being held today. Both the BJP and Congress are contesting from every constituency.

Why is it important? Himachal has been a two-horse race, with the BJP and the Congress taking turns to lead it. For the BJP, Himachal matters as another addition to its state count, an objective it has pursued with intent since returning to power at the Centre in 2014. For the ruling Congress, it needs to stop BJP’s expanding footprint.

Tell me more: Of the 68 candidates each fielded by the two national parties, 59 Congress candidates and 47 BJP candidates have declared assets above Rs 1 crore. The results will be declared on December 18.



What is it? If the Delhi government today decides to enforce the odd-even scheme for vehicular movement in the capital—number plates ending with odd and even digits on alternate days—this will be the third time in two years.

Why is it important? Air pollution levels in the National Capital Region continued to remain in the “severe plus” category, with readings yesterday even rising to 10 times that of Beijing, another city infamous for bad air.

Tell me more: As of March 31, 2016, there were 9.7 million vehicles registered in Delhi. Of this, 6.1 million were motorcycles and scooters, and 3 million were cars and jeeps.



What is it? The number of gold medals Indian boxer Mary Kom has won at the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship, the latest being on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This is her maiden gold in the 48 kg category of the tournament. Also, this is Kom’s first international gold medal in the last three years (since the 2014 Asian Games) and her first medal in over a year. In all, she has clinched five golds and a silver in all editions of the championship.

Tell me more: The 35-year-old pugilist shifted to the 48 kg category, which she says suits her better than the 51 kg from which she made a switch last year after five years of competing in that category.



What is it? The amount the United States government has announced it will grant to organisations for ideas and projects to promote religious freedom in India and Sri Lanka.

Why is it important? The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has changed its stance on religious freedom in India: from ‘no large-scale incidents’ in 2008 to it being on ‘a negative trajectory’ in 2015. In 2009, the USCIRF had put India on its ‘watch list’ with respect to this issue. India, which believes that no foreign entity has the locus standi to pass comments and judgment on the constitutionally protected rights of Indians, has denied visas to USCIRF’s members for seven straight years, as reported last year.

Tell me more: Indian applicants to this US grant are expected to submit proposals that develop and implement early-warning systems to quell large-scale violence, implement conflict-management systems between majority and minority groups, and counter hateful messages with positive ones using all forms of media.



What is it? The number of countries (of 25 emitting countries/regions), including India, that are likely or roughly on track to achieve their self-determined unconditional 2025/2030 targets for greenhouse gas emissions with currently implemented policies, according to a new report.

Why is it important? The report projects that India is likely to overachieve its 2020 pledge of reducing emissions per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) by 20-25% over 2005 levels. However, it adds, no definitive conclusions can be made as this is dependent on future economic growth. The projections made by India in its Draft Electricity Plan of 2016 for stabilisation of coal capacity at 250 GW in the next decade and the expansion of renewable energy to 275 GW by 2026/27, if implemented, would “have a substantial impact on emissions”.

Tell me more: The other nations/regions that are expected to achieve their targets in the next three years are Brazil, China, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine.


Read More

Deadly mountain roads

Rs 7,400 crore

What is it? The worth of 30 properties of the Sahara group, many of which conglomerates have evinced interest in buying.

Why is it important? The auction, reportedly in its early stage, will not appease the Supreme Court, even if the entire money raised is deposited with it. The court turned down the proposal and insisted on the group selling its expansive Aamby Valley project as it had failed to meet the apex court’s timeline for depositing Rs 5,000 crore. Aamby Valley’s value is reportedly between Rs 34,000-39,000 crore, while the Sahara group says it is over Rs 1 lakh-crore. The 30 properties, which includes Lucknow’s Sahara Hospital, would fetch around 50% (Rs 14,779 crore) of the amount still owed to investors as per Sebi’s instructions if not sold in a hurry, and less if they are.

Tell me more: Knight Frank, the realty consultants, in India, has been tasked with carrying out the sale. The interested buyers include Tatas, Godrej, Adani, Patanjali, realty developers Omaxe, Eldeco, Indian Oil and Apollo Hospital.



What is it? The death toll in the bus crash near Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

Why is it important? India’s killer roads become deadlier with altitude. The bus veered off a mountain road and plunged into a river, killing those onboard. In 2015, as many as four hilly states figured among 10 states with the highest severity (deaths in every 100 accidents), even though compared to cities and metros in other densely-populated states, traffic is less in such states. Himachal Pradesh had 36.4% severity while neighbouring Uttarakhand 59.9%.

Tell me more: Two people travelling on the bus were able to escape by jumping off before the bus fell.



What is it? The number of places in Arunachal Pradesh for which China has announced its own names and spellings – in Chinese, Tibetan and English.

Why is it important? This is being seen as China’s retaliation for theDalai Lama’s visit to the Indian state. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson mentioned the move as reflecting and explaining its claims on ‘Southern Tibet’, China’s name for Arunachal Pradesh. While India is yet to respond to the reaffirmation of China’s territorial claim, it had refuted the latter’s objections to Dalai Lama’s, the Tibetan spiritual leader visit, saying there was no political motive to it and was religious.

Tell me more: It was the Dalai Lama’s second visit to the state that stirred up such a storm.


1.6 million

What is it? The number of voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) units to be bought by Election Commission.

Why is it important? The election commission wants to ensure that by 2019 general elections, all polling stations have electronic voting machines with VVPAT units, which will confirm to the voters that their votes were registered accurately. The machines will cost Rs 3,173 crore. The cabinet approved the funding on Wednesday.

Tell me more: These machines will be manufactured by state owned Bharat Electronics and Electronics Corporation of India.


4,000 kgs

What is it? The weight of payload that can be carried by Indian Space Research Organisation’s new rocket GSLV-Mk III.

Why is it important? It’s almost double the weight of the heaviest payload that Indian rockets launched so far. The first developmental flight of GSLV-Mk III (D1) is scheduled to take place next month. The second developmental flight is likely to happen a year from now. It would reduce India’s dependence on other countries to launch heavier satellite, besides creating more opportunities for revenue generation.

Tell me more:  The first developmental flight will take communication satellite GSAT 19, which will also monitor the effect of radiation on the satellite and electronic equipment.

Read More

Which states and departments transfer their IAS officers the most and which ones the least?

This piece originally appeared on


Imagine changing your job every year. That’s what the average IAS officer in Haryana, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh does. Haryana is the worst. An IAS officer belonging to that cadre and having 10 years of service, on average, spent just 343 days in a posting. Their peers at the Centre are better, but still far short of the average standards of job tenures, especially in the context of good governance and continuity: they spend, on average, 22 months in a posting.

The data interactive below has compiled the transfer records of 39,000-odd postings of about 2,600 serving officers, as posted by the Department of Personnel & Training. You can use it to see where the Centre and individual states, whose IAS officers are organised under 26 cadres, stand when it comes to transfers. Besides cadre, you can also search by departments, gender and individual officers.

The transfer malaise is all-pervasive. For example, it illustrates, how 10% of postings in 20 key departments in the state cadres (excluding Centre), last anywhere between 33 days and 71 days. Or, how 22% of IAS officers average less than a year in a posting. Or, how Ashok Khemka, who has been transferred by governments in Haryana 46 times in his 25-year career, is only one of the 11 officers to record 40-plus postings.


Read More