News in Numbers, Nov 15, 2016: In pursuit of black money abroad…

415

What is it? The number of Indians under scrutiny as part of the Panama Papers investigation. The Panama Papers is a global investigation into alleged flouting of rules (to facilitate tax evasion, arms deals, bribery, financial fraud and drug trafficking) by the setting up of offshore entities.

Why is it important? This investigation, which is probing Indians named in the leaked files, is one of the largest offshore inquiries initiated in the country. The Foreign Tax and Tax Research division of the Finance Ministry has sent 198 references to 13 jurisdictions seeking financial and investment details of Indians who have incorporated offshore entities in their territories. The number of references sent by the division has more than doubled since July (when 91 references had been sent) while the number of Indians under the scanner has also increased from 297 in July to 415 now.

Tell me more: Of the 415 Indians, members of a multi-agency taskforce led by the Central Board of Direct Taxes are probing 71 non-resident Indians, 184 have admitted that they have incorporated the offshore entities provided in the lists and 70 are said to be “untraceable”. The Income Tax (Investigation) wing has carried out searches at the premises of nine people and surveys in the case of 14 individuals.

 

1.2°C

What is it? The margin by which global temperatures for January to September 2016 were above pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Why is it important? The United Nations’ agency in its provisional statement on the status of the global climate has said that 2016 is “very likely” to be the hottest year on record and also, the third straight year to set a new high. This is because temperatures increased in the first few months of the year due to El Niño (occasional warming of waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean) though the biggest factor is the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Tell me more: At least half of the extreme weather events in the recent years have been due to human-induced global warming. Extreme weather and climate-related events impacted farming and food security in 2015/16, which affected 60 million people globally.

 

165,918

What is it? The number of Indian students studying in the US in 2015-16, according to a report.

Why is it important? This is the highest ever number of Indian students in the US, 25% higher than the previous year’s figure. India was the second-leading country of origin among international students after China, which sent almost twice the number of students as India. The number of international students in US colleges and universities surpassed the million-mark for the first time during the academic year of 2015-16. However, there are fears that President-elect Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance may result in stricter visa and immigration rules, making it difficult for international students to pursue their higher education and find jobs in the US.

Tell me more: China, India and Saudi Arabia together accounted for over half (53%) of the international students in the US last year. Nearly three-fourths of the international students received a majority of their funding support from outside of the US, mainly from family and personal sources as well as their home country governments or universities.

 

1 hectare

What is it? The maximum forest land that can be diverted for community toilets (in each case) under the Swachh Bharat Mission, as per a general approval by the central government.

Why is it important? This has been in response to Maharashtra government’s request to allow them to construct community toilets on forest land under the programme, which has set a target of India achieving the open defecation free status by 2019 and building toilets is an important component in this. Under the approval, government agencies need not wait for permission for the use of forest land for building toilets though this is subject to approval from gram panchayats in rural areas and local bodies in urban areas. Construction of community toilets would not alter the current legal status of the land.

Tell me more: The Divisional Forest Officer would check the requirements of the forest land for this project and will also certify it. The general approval is conditional, which includes not cutting more than 50 trees per hectare, user agency has to plant and maintain twice the number of trees felled and only indigenous tree species should be planted.

 

Rs 21,870 crore

What is it? The amount sought from the government by the directors of the seven older Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to improve the institutes’ global rankings.

Why is it important? The estimated amount to be invested over five years is to improve their research output and international outlook besides strengthening faculty and infrastructure. About three months ago, the IIT Council approved Project Vishwajeet, which is aimed at improving the seven IITs positions in global rankings by a number of measures including boosting international faculty strength, have a better faculty-student ratio, increasing share of international students and allowing off-campus PhD students.

Tell me more: Despite having one of the world’s toughest entrance examinations and having churned out some of the best minds across various industries globally, IITs have lagged behind in global rankings. For instance, in the recently introduced QS World University Rankings 2016-17, none of the IITs figure in the top 150 and the highest slot occupied by any IIT was at 185.

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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, August 16, 2016: Oyo’s raises over Rs 400 crore, likely seat increase at IITs…

Rs 413 crore

What is it? The amount budget hotel aggregator Oyo (owned by Oravel Stays) has raised from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

Why is it important? This comes at a time when investors including SoftBank have slowed down their funding plans amidst concerns about valuations of startups. However, a couple of other startups in the budget accommodation space have raised funding in recent times- Stayzilla raised about Rs 87 crore in May, FabHotels raised around Rs 54 crore in June and Treebo Hotels raised Rs 112 crore in July.

Tell me more: Recently, Oyo has started offering holiday packages (besides its core operations of budget accommodation) and introduced Oyo Flagship, where it leases properties, which is different from its previous strategy of booking hotels’ inventories for its customers in advance.

 

Rs 1,193 crore

What is it? The combined net loss of listed public sector banks in the April-June quarter of 2016-17 compared to net profit of Rs 9,449 crore in the same period a year ago.

Why is it important? It’s down down from Rs 23,493 crore in the fourth quarter of 2015-16. Reserve Bank of India had directed the banks to recognise and provide for bad loans and clean up their balance sheets by March 2017. The reducing losses might make it easier for them to raise fresh capital.

Tell me more: Gross non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans have almost doubled from Rs 288,743 crore in the first quarter of 2015-16 to Rs 576,158 crore in the same period in the current fiscal. High NPAs have led to slow credit growth.

 

66

What is it? India’s ranking on the Global Innovation Index 2016, up 15 positions from the previous year.

Why is it important? This is a reversal of trend. India was slipping over the last few years: it was 66 in 2013, 76 in 2014 and 81 in 2015. India’s 2016 ranking is mainly due to its high score on tertiary education and research and development, the quality of its universities and scientific publications, its market sophistication and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) services exports where it ranks the first in the world. Among middle-income economies, India is in the second position on innovation quality, after having overtaken Brazil.

Tell me more: China has become the first middle-income country to break into the top 25 of the index. The index is by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization, and is being published for the last nine years.

 

1 lakh

What is it? The total number of seats at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) by 2020, according to a proposal to be considered next week.

Why is it important? If approved, this would be the biggest seat increase at the IITs since the Other Backward Class quota was implemented at the institutions between 2008-09 and 2010-11. As a consequence IITs may have to admit day scholars (they have an hostellers-only policy now). Currently, there are around 72,000 students in all the 23 IITs.

Tell me more: The IIT Council, the highest decision-making body of the premier organisations, would consider adding seats to their BTech, MTech and research programmes, of which the former is likely see an addition of nearly 3,500 seats.

 

86

What is it? The number of private medical colleges that were denied permission for enrolment and teaching by the Medical Council of India (MCI) after physical inspections.

Why is it important? The decision has been overturned for 26 of these colleges by the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee, which allows these to admit students for the new session that begins on September 30. This raises questions about the Lodha Committee’s decision against the backdrop of the poor quality of medical education in India, which is plagued by fraud and unprofessional teaching practices. For instance, one out of every six of India’s medical schools has been accused of cheating, according to a Reuters analysis.

Tell me more: The enrolment allowed for the 26 colleges is conditional: the Lodha Committee has asked the colleges to submit an undertaking to assure that they would comply with all the rules before the new session begins and that it can withdraw its permission if it finds any of the colleges to be non-compliant.

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News in numbers, Nov 13, 2015: Telecom firms’ call drop woes, vacant faculty posts at IITs…

3.6%

What is it? Percentage by which the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which measures growth in mining, manufacturing and electricity, grew in September.

Why is it important? Industry accounts for a fourth of India’s GDP. Fluctuating growth trends doesn’t reflect a steady recovery. More importantly, consumer non-durables shrunk by 4.6% in September, striking as an anomaly, given the ongoing festive season.

Tell me more: The manufacturing sector, which constitutes over 75% of the index, grew by 2.6% compared to 2.9% in the same month a year ago.

 

Rs 23.8 crore

What is it? Spicejet’s net profit in July-September quarter of 2015-16, as compared to a loss of Rs 310.4 crore in year-ago period.

Why is it important? This is the third successive quarterly profit posted by the airline, helped by lower fuel prices and its ability to fill seats. Nearly a year ago, the airline was near bankruptcy – there was a sudden reduction in fleet size, flights were cancelled and huge debts remained unpaid.

Tell me more: The airline, whose net worth is still in the negative, has been looking to raise funds including strategic investment.  

 

Rs 800 crore

What is it? Telecom companies’ cost implications for providing compensation to mobile users for call drops per year, according to estimates by the telecom regulator.

Why is it important? Highlights the stand-off between the regulator and the mobile service providers. The Cellular Operators Association of India and the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India have conveyed to the regulator that this rule would force them to increase mobile service rates to cover costs. Also, estimates by these organisations are way higher at Rs 10,000 crore – Rs 54,000 crore (if 10%-50% of subscribers claim compensation for call drops).

Tell me more: Under the new norms introduced by the regulator last month, mobile users would get Re 1 for every call dropped for a maximum of three calls dropped per day, effective from January 1, 2016.  

 

75

What is it? Number of railway stations that would be made disabled-friendly by next July.

Why is it important? This would help the 2.7 crore population with disabilities – by providing them with better accessibility in not only the railway stations but in all the international airports and 5,000 public buildings where plans are on to make them disabled-friendly. The Accessible India campaign would be formally launched by the government on December 3. Hopefully, this would increase awareness about the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, encouraging the private sector also steps up to make their premises disabled-friendly.

Tell me more: The Indian government has started auditing 27 international airports and 75 railway stations to check accessibility and identify areas to be improved and made disabled-friendly.

 

10-56.7%

What is it? Share of vacancies of faculty posts across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in 2014-15, according to data shared in response to an RTI query.

Why is it important? A consistent problem among the premier institutions in the country, 37% of faculty posts at the 16 IITs are vacant. This is a likely indicator for compromised quality in research and training and raises concerns if the move by the Indian government to set up five more IITs is a good idea.

Tell me more: IIT-Delhi, which entered the Quacquarelli Symonds’ (QS) list of top 200 universities globally for the first time, has a faculty shortage of 33.1%.

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