A Clean-Up Act


What is it? The share of votes polled by Fidesz party in the Hungary Parliament elections, whose leader Viktor Orban is set to return to power for the third time.

Why is it important? Orban constructed a campaign that focused primarily on immigration and which positioned him as a defender of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration. By choosing Orban, Hungary follows Austria and Italy in recent years to elect a leadership that is stridently anti-immigration.

Tell me more: In a European Union scheme last year in which each member country was asked to take in some share of 160,000 refugees, Hungary was among the worst in compliance.


2.2 billion

What is it? The user base of Facebook, which is nearly twice the population of India.

Why is it important? Beginning today, this user base will receive from Facebook a notice titled ‘protecting your information’. It will have a link to see which apps they use, what information has been shared with those apps, and controls to regulate their information-sharing. Coming in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica privacy failure, this is Facebook’s first major move to win back user confidence on privacy issues.

Tell me more: Today, Facebook will also notify the 87 million users whose information was shared with Cambridge Analytica.


13 km

What is it? The distance for which 22 bogies of a passenger train rolled along without a driver, after getting detached from their engine, in Odisha.

Why is it important? There were about 1,000 people in these 22 bogies of the Ahmedabad-Puri Express, but luckily, there were no casualties. In 2013-14, 103 people died on the Indian Railways because of train accidents, equipment failure and miscellaneous accidents.

Tell me more: The bogies came to a halt after their wheels came in contact with rocks placed on the tracks.



What is it? The number of 787 planes that American Airlines, the largest US airline, has placed an order with Boeing for.

Why is it important? It is also cancelling an order with Boeing’s European rival Airbus placed by US Airways before it merged with American. In the duopoly that is the commercial aircraft industry, American’s large order is a significant win for Boeing and a blow for Airbus.

Tell me more: In the last four years, Boeing has trailed Airbus in aircraft orders, but led in deliveries and shareholder returns.



What is it? Number of doubles victories in Davis Cup that Leander Paes racked up with Mahesh Bhupathi as partner, over a span of 14 years.

Why is it important? On Saturday, Paes became the player with the maximum number of doubles wins in this prestigious team tennis competition. Paes now has 43 doubles wins, of which the highest number came with Bhupathi, with whom he has shared a relationship of animosity for some years now.

Tell me more: Under Bhupathi’s tenure as captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, Paes has often not been picked. Paes, 44, played his first Davis Cup doubles match 28 years ago, in 1990.


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Trade Gap Is Widening. A Lot.


Rs 11,300 crore

What is it? The amount the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has reportedly asked Punjab National Bank (PNB) to pay to counterparty lenders in the alleged fraud involving billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi.

Why is it important? Although India’s second-largest state lender expressed confidence that it has the capability and capacity to recover the money involved in the fraud, it raises questions as to how and when it would be able to do so. It is said to have sought the help of the government to get out of the mess. Modi reportedly fled the country on January 1, along with his family. Shares of PNB slumped for the second day, taking their total loss to 21%.

Tell me more: The Enforcement Directorate registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), and conducted searches at the offices and residences of Modi and Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems in connection with a Rs 280-crore fraud case against the former. The two other complaints relating to the Rs 11,300 crore gap would be supplemented in this case at a later stage.



What is it? The number of employees the Indian Railways seeks to hire in the Group C category (Level I and II) in one of its biggest recruitment drives.

Why is it important? Most recruitments would reportedly be for the ‘safety’ category, which had a vacancy of over 1.2 lakh as of April 2016. The focus on this increased after a series of rail accidents last year. According to an analysis, the number of deaths due to train derailments in 2016-17 was the highest in a decade; further, according to Niti Aayog, since 2012, six out of 10 rail accidents are due to mistakes or negligence on the part of the railway staff.

Tell me more: Still, the Indian Railways would have to conduct a few more such huge recruitment drives to be able to bridge the vacancy gap, as about 40,000-45,000 employees retire from the organisation every year. This fiscal, around 56,000 employees are set to retire.



What is it? The number of years in which India aims to have an all-electric fleet of cars.

Why is it important? On Thursday, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said there isn’t any need for an electric vehicles (EV) policy for India. This provides a respite to automakers, who are unprepared to meet a wholesale shift to cleaner technology. This is a U-turn from the government’s earlier stance: in January, Gadkari had said the policy had been drafted by government think tank Niti Aayog and that it was pending approval by the Cabinet.

Tell me more: Amitabh Kant, chief executive of Niti Aayog, said India only needs action plans as “technology is always ahead of rules and regulations”. In 2015-16, only 22,000 units of electric vehicles were sold in India, of which just 2,000 were four-wheelers.



$16.3 billion

What is it? The trade deficit (exports minus imports) in January 2018. This is India’s highest trade deficit since May 2013.

Why is it important? Much of the widening in the trade deficit is on account of a 43% year-on-year surge in oil imports, which make up 29% of India’s total import basket. The increase in the oil import bill is the result of oil prices shooting up since mid-2017, reducing the room available with the Indian government for fiscal management.

Tell me more: Oil prices have cooled off in the past couple of weeks, coinciding with the weakness in share prices, but they are not expected to fall significantly from current levels.



What is it? The number of gold medals won by Germany so far in the ongoing Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Why is it important? It is one more than the number of gold medals that Germany won in the 2014 Sochi games, where it finished sixth. Its 2018 count, which has catapulted Germany to the top of the medal leaderboard, includes an unexpected and captivating victory in figure skating pairs, where it was represented by Aljona Savchenko (who previously represented Ukraine) and Bruno Massot (previously France).

Tell me more: Norway was a big mover on the medal board on Thursday, winning three gold medals to rise from fourth to second.


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Sugar? Yes Please!

India’s sugar output in last three months was better than the produce in the same period of the previous year. So much so, that sugar association (ISMA) is now estimating that output for the entire year may be at its highest since 2014-15.


$500 million

What is it? The size of the deal that India had placed with Israel’s state-owned defence contractor Rafael to buy Spike anti-tank guided missiles. It has now cancelled the order.

Why is it important? This is reportedly due to reservations on the part of the Israeli firm to fully transfer the technology as per the ‘Make in India’ provisions and the Indian defence ministry reportedly deciding to back state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation, which has said it will develop a world-class missile within four years. Till then, Pakistani foot soldiers are likely to have an advantage over India’s as they possess portable anti-tank missiles that can strike Indian bunkers and tanks at a distance of 3-4 km, while India’s equivalent missile tanks have a range of 2 km.

Tell me more: The order cancellation could be taken up for discussion during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India in a couple of weeks.



What is it? The number of people who were detained across Mumbai on Wednesday due to a bandh called by Dalit groups in Maharashtra.

Why is it important? Normal life was disrupted in India’s financial capital: schools and colleges remained shut, Internet services were down, and attendance was poor in offices. With protestors squatting on railway tracks, rail services were stalled, roads were blocked and shops shut. Although Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar called off the bandh on Wednesday evening, tension simmered in the state. A 16-year-old student was killed in a road-block agitation in Nanded.

Tell me more: The protests began on Monday after a 28-year-old man was killed when the Dalit community was celebrating the 200th anniversary of a battle won by a backward community called Mahars (who fought alongside the Britishers) to overthrow the upper caste Peshwas.


$0.9 billion

What is it? The expected consolidated free cash flow of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) in 2017-18, according to international brokerage firm CLSA.

Why is it important? If RIL meets the forecast, it would mean the end of a four-year run of negative cash flows, which is a measure of a company’s overall financial health and performance. This is likely to put India’s biggest firm by market capitalisation on a strong footing as projects worth $40 billion would begin to deliver as capital expenditure declines. Recently, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said the firm aims to be among the top 20 companies in the world.

Tell me more: The brokerage said the monetisation of refinery off-gas cracker and petcoke gasification plant would boost the operating income of RIL. In telecom, it expects the firm to monetise Reliance Jio Infocomm’s customers in addition to its industry-leading capacities.



What is it? The number of locomotives in India that will be installed with a GPS tracking device under the first phase of the Real-Time Train Information System (RTIS), a move that will enable passengers to track trains on a real-time basis.

Why is it important? This Indian Railways initiative, in collaboration with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), comes in the backdrop of piling complaints of train delays and accidents. The new GPS-enabled trains would replace the existing national train enquiry system (NTES), which has a train controller who updates the train status manually.

Tell me more: So far, trials on GPS-enabled locomotives have been done on six electric locomotives on the New Delhi-Guwahati and New Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani routes. The first phase is scheduled to be completed by December 2018.



What is it? The year-on-year growth in India’s sugar production during the three-month period from October to December, according to industry association Indian Sugar Manufacturers Association (ISMA).

Why is it important? In these three months of 2017, production stood at 103.3 lakh tonnes, against 81.9 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of 2016, mainly due to improved outputs from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. This augurs well for the 2017-18 sugar year (October to September), which could register its highest production since 2014-15, when India produced 283 lakh tonnes. ISMA has estimated 2017-18 production at 251 lakh tonnes.

Tell me more: Earlier, the government had been considering removing stock limits on sugar  to curb the fall in prices resulting from a bumper harvest.

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4 Accidents, 12 Hours, 7 Deaths, And One Institution


Four accidents in 12 hours, that translates to an accident every 3 hours. That’s Indian Railways for you these days. One year after demonetization, government is cracking down on ‘benami’ transactions significantly. India is seen bolstering its coastal security after the deadly 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008. And, in Nepal, after two decades, the war torn country has held elections in its last effort to move towards a federal democracy.


Rs 15.9 crore

What is it? The value of cash deposits made at a bank in Delhi after demonetisation was announced last November that has been declared to be ‘benami’ by a special court.

Why is it important? This is among the first five adjudication cases under the amended Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 that came into effect from November 1, 2016. This is one of the measures taken by the government against black money. The income tax department recently said it had attached benami assets worth Rs 1,833 crore, and had made 541 attachments and issued 517 notices. Violations of the Act could lead to up to seven years of jail time and a monetary fine of up to 25% of the fair value of the benami property.

Tell me more: Both the depositor and the beneficial owner in this case remain untraceable.



What is it? The number of transponders to be provided by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by March 2018 to track suspicious vessels and boats through satellite imagery.

Why is it important? This is to prevent a 26/11 kind of attack, when terrorists entered Mumbai through the Arabian Sea, killing 166 and injuring over 300 in 2008. An automatic identification system would monitor boats above 20 metres while satellite monitoring would handle those under 20 metres. As many as 46 coastal radars and 74 automatic ID systems have been installed to strengthen infrastructure to monitor suspicious sea activities. India is considering setting up a coastal security force.

Tell me more: Officials claim there is improved coordination between various agencies and the police to check preparedness to defend the seas, though there have been a few incidents that have breached India’s coastal security in the last few months.


18 years

What is it? The number of years after which Nepal held elections to its Parliament and provincial assemblies. The first phase of elections was held on Sunday, recording a 65% turnout, and the second phase will be on December 7.

Why is it important? These elections are being seen as the last step in Nepal’s transition to a federal democracy after the end of a decade-long civil war in 2006, the abolition of monarchy in 2008 and the scripting of a new Constitution in 2015.

Tell me more: Besides the people of Nepal, there is also interest among external actors in these elections, notably the country’s two neighbours, India and China.



What is it? The number of train accidents recorded in a 12-hour period between Thursday night and Friday morning.

Why is it important? This again brings to fore the urgent need to stepping up safety measures in Indian Railways. Two of these resulted in the deaths of seven people. In a recent report submitted to the Railway Ministry, the World Bank has found the current system of investigating accidents by the Commission of Railway Safety to be inadequate. It has also recommended that an independent rail safety regulator and investigator be setup to prevent accidents.

Tell me more: In the last five years, 60% of rail accidents have occurred due to mistakes by or negligence of railway staff, according to a study by government think-tank Niti Aayog.



What is it? The number of times that France has won the Davis Cup, following its 3-2 defeat of Belgium on Sunday for the 2017 title.

Why is it important? This win brings France level with Britain to be joint third in title wins. Only the United States (32) and Australia (28) have more titles in the premier team competition in men’s tennis since 1900.

Tell me more: So far, 22 nations have played the finals of the Davis Cup. US has the maximum number of appearances (61), followed by Australia (47). India has reached the finals thrice, but never won.


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