News in Numbers, Feb 17, 2017: TN gets a new CM, 🇪🇰🇵


What is it? The number of legislators claimed to be backing Edappadi K Palanisamy, the newly sworn in chief minister of Tamil Nadu

Why is it important? Palanisamy is expected to seek vote of confidence in the assembly on Saturday. Palanisamy’s elevation as chief minister comes after the Supreme Court upheld VK Sasikala’s conviction, which will keep her behind the bars for more than three and a half years and prevent her from contesting elections for another six. Palanisamy has mostly kept the ministerial positions unchanged.

Tell me more: Palanisamy, 63, is the 13th chief minister of the state, and the third in the last six months. He has been representing Salem district’s Edapadi constituency and was the  minister for highways & minor ports under J Jayalalithaa and O Panneerselvam.


What is it? The number of seats on Saras, the indigenous aircraft made by National Aerospace Laboratories.

Why is it important? This would be India’s first indigenous passenger aircraft. The twin-turboprop plane, 30 years in the making, could ease efforts to activate remote air-routes in the country. However, India’s home-made aircrafts have not gotten off to a flying start. The combat aircraft, Tejas, produced by Hindustan Aeronautics, proved too heavy for the Navy’s requirements, though the Indian Air Force (IAF) has adopted it. Saras would have to overcome its own grim past that includes the crash of the second prototype’s test flight in 2009, killing all three on-board. It is currently being tested.

Tell me more: The IAF has committed to buying Saras as well, and will have to test it before sale to commercial airlines.


What is it? The new entrants in the oil and gas sector that won bids in the government auction after the last one in 2010.

Why is it important? The small debutants won around 16 contract areas, or 52% of total number of blocks (31) that were awarded. Their entry will boost local oil and gas production as these blocks were lying untapped earlier. Larger players, some of whom stayed away from the auctions, concentrated elsewhere from these blocks for reasons such as these being isolated, small in size, having high development costs etc. But their development is needed if Narendra Modi’s plan to reduce oil imports by 10% by 2022 is to be realised, as these blocks would increase oil output by 15,000 barrels a day and gas production by 2 million standard cubic metre a day. A total reserve of 62 million tonne of oil and oil equivalent gas is expected to be monetised from the auctioned areas.

Tell me more: The gross revenue is estimated at Rs 46,400 crore including Rs 5,000 crore in royalty and Rs 9,300 crore in central government revenue.

$19.5-22.3 billion

What is it? Snap Inc., owner of photo-messaging app, Snapchat’s reported valuation.

Why is it important? The parent of one of the fastest-growing and widely-popular mobile applications was expected to value its IPO (initial public offering) at $20-25 billion. But it is being said the unprofitable company revised it downwards on initial investor feedback as its daily average user (DAU) growth slowed to 46% in Q4, 2016. The world of listed social media companies is already seeing two outcomes playing out: Facebook which has managed to make profits on its social media platform and Twitter which is still trying to. With Snapchat’s growth in new users, mainly comprising short-on-attention millennials, slowing, its business model could be under a cloud.

Tell me more: By valuing its shares at $14-16, Snap Inc. wants to ensure enough demand for its stock to trade up on its debut. Snapchat has a learning curve which could deter new users and keep non-users from turning to it.


What is it? The ceiling on merchant discount rate (MDR) for small merchants using a physical point of sale terminal for card transactions, as proposed by Reserve Bank of India. MDR is the rate charged to a merchant by a bank for card / digital transactions. For digital transactions the proposed ceiling is 0.3%.

Why is it important? MDR has been a point of contention in India ever since the government announced demonetisation and sought to push digital transactions by cutting MDR to zero for transactions up to Rs 2000 till 31 March 2017.  MDR’s slabs are usually based on ticket size. RBI has proposed to the banks to consider the turnover of merchants too, and charge the small merchants (with turnover of less than Rs 20 lakh, for example) lower rate.

Tell me more: Reserve Bank has also proposed that banks charge lower rate for transactions that don’t involve physical point of sale terminals that are usually supplied by the banks.

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News in Numbers, Dec 6, 2016: Deified and demonised in equal measure…


What is it? The crime rate against women (number of crimes registered per 100,000 people) in Tamil Nadu, according to the National Crime Records Bureau 2015.

Why is it important? This is the lowest among all Indian states and is one of the many social, crime and industrial indicators in which Tamil Nadu ranks among the top five. A five-time chief minister, J Jayalalithaa who breathed her last on December 5 in Chennai, played a key role in the development of the southern state. One of the decisions that made her extremely popular (and attracted a great deal of criticism too) was the record number of ‘freebies’ and welfare schemes that she doled out in the state. She was convicted in a disproportionate assets case by a special court in 2014, which was overturned by the Karnataka High Court a year later. She was acquitted of all charges. Her death now raises questions about the future of AIADMK and how this would change the dynamics of Tamil Nadu politics.

Tell me more: A former actor, she starred in over 140 films since the 1960s and was paired with the leading heroes of all South Indian languages. Popularly known as ‘Amma’ or ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (revolutionary leader), she was one of the longest serving women politicians and enjoyed a cult status among many Tamilians. Jayalalithaa was hospitalised on September 22 and just when the hospital authorities and her party members assured people that she would return to normal life, she suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday and was declared dead on Monday.



What is it? The reduction in India’s emission intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2005 and 2010. Emission intensity is the volume of emissions per unit of GDP.

Why is it important? Indicates India is likely on track to keep up its promise of reducing emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels as part of an action plan submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Tell me more: The data is from India’s first biennial update report submitted to UNFCCC recently. India had committed to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020 from the 2005 levels under the UNFCCC though it is not bound by any obligations.



What is it? Nikkei’s Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in November, a composite indicator of India’s services based on a survey by Markit, a financial information and services company.

Why is it important? It has declined from 54.5 in October, which marked the first time the index fell below the 50 mark (separates growth and contraction) since June 2015. It was also the first time that the biggest decline was recorded since November 2008 after the global financial crisis hit the world economy. This is attributed to the government’s withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from circulation effective November 9 and is the among the first signs of indication of the impact of demonetisation on the Indian economy.

Tell me more: Sectors including financial services, hotels, restaurants, renting and business activities were hit due to the cash crunch. India’s services sector, which contributes about 60% of the country’s economy, is likely to affect its economic growth rate in the second half of the current fiscal. India’s private sector activity fell to 49.1 in November from 55.4 in October, which was close to a four-year high.


Rs 5,000

What is it? The minimum order value above which the finance ministry has mandated the government departments to make electronic payments to suppliers, contractors or grantee and loanee institutions with immediate effect. The earlier threshold was Rs 10,000.

Why is it important? This is one of the steps taken by the government recently to promote digital transactions, aimed at bringing more transparency and accountability, leaving a better money trail. The other steps include all toll plazas in national highways to accept payments through debit or credit cards and e-wallets (apart from accepting old notes until December 15), encouraging shop owners to use debit cards and asking government employees to use debit cards for transactions and become ambassadors for promoting digital payments.

Tell me more: Last month, the government asked all automobile manufacturers to provide a digital identity tag in all vehicles for e-payments at toll plazas and check posts and ensure their seamless movement.


$22.2 billion

What is it? The aid appealed for by the United Nations in 2017 for people hit by conflicts and disasters globally.

Why is it important? This is a record high, up from $20.1 billion requested in December 2015 for this year, which was later increased to $22.1 billion. However, donors managed only over half of this amount this year, raising questions about how much next year would bring in. This is the largest funding gap ever. Indicates that the extent of humanitarian crises is rapidly increasing and probably, lasting longer; the situation is only likely to worsen with climate change and natural disasters predicted to become more frequent and severe.

Tell me more: The amount requested for next year is to help 93 million people who are the most vulnerable across 33 countries. There are over 128 people who are affected by natural disasters, conflict and displacement. Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, three war-torn countries alone account for a third of all the people in need of help.

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News in Numbers, May 24, 2016: India’s first supercomputer, India and Iran sign 12 deals…


What is it? The percentage of samples of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged bread in Delhi that have tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate, according to a report by an NGO.

Why is it important? Potassium bromate is possibly cancer-causing to humans while potassium iodate can contribute to thyroid-related diseases (both have been banned in many countries). The food regulator said it had already decided to remove potassium bromate from the list of permitted additives and is gathering evidence against the other substance before it restricts its usage. Some of the companies have denied the use of these chemicals.

Tell me more: Both the chemicals are used for treating flour. The study by Centre for Science and Environment conducted tests on bread samples of brands such as Britannia, Harvest Gold, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, Domino’s, McDonald’s and Slice of Italy.



What is it? The number of supercomputers India is planning to build over the next seven years, the first of which will be ready by August 2017.

Why is it important? They can be used for discovery of drugs, weather forecast and climate modelling among others. India, which launched a Rs 4,500-crore National Supercomputing Mission last year, has 11 machines in the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers (as of November 2015), lower compared to US (233 systems) or China (37 systems).

Tell me more: This mission is likely is likely to improve India’s position in the top 500 most powerful supercomputers, though it has to tackle the challenges of heat and power management. China has the world’s most powerful supercomputer, which retained its top position for the fifth straight year in 2015.


$500 million

What is it? India’s investment commitment to develop Iran’s Chabahar port in the first phase.

Why is it important? This provides increased trade access to India with Iran, Afghanistan and central Asia and gives landlocked Afghanistan an alternate route to access the Indian Ocean, bypassing Pakistan. The tripartite deal signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan is also a sign of India’s strategic victory over China, which has been vying to develop this port and increase its influence in the region. It is seen as a sort of counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which China has been developing as part of a $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Tell me more: It’s the first visit by an Indian leader to Iran in 15 years. Prime Minister Modi has also signed 12 deals with Iran (including the Chabahar port) on economy, trade, transportation, culture, science and academic cooperation.



What is it? The average percentage points by which Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump is ahead of Democratic party’s likely nominee Hillary Clinton in presidential polling, according to RealClearPolitics, a polling data aggregator.

Why is it important? This is the first time that Trump has overtaken Clinton. However, this could just be a temporary deviation as Trump has wrapped up his nomination while Clinton is yet to (likely in early June) but the increasing Republicans’ support for Trump could mean that this is going to be tight race between the two.

Tell me more: There are questions raised about the way in which the average is calculated, which is a simple straight average of the five most recently-conducted polls, which use different methodologies to calculate their numbers.



What is it? The number of liquor retail outlets run by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) that will be closed down by the state government.

Why is it important? Besides being an indication that the newly elected chief minister J Jayalalithaa intends to keep her promises of phased prohibition, it also raises questions on how she would manage the state’s finances. Over 30% of Tamil Nadu’s revenues comes from state-run liquor shops even as it faces a revenue deficit of over Rs 9,000 crore.

Tell me more: By the state’s own admission, one of the main reasons for the sharp increase in Tamil Nadu’s revenue deficit is the host of freebie and subsidy schemes being implemented by the state. The state-run liquor shops have been a major source of funding these schemes. There are 6,286 TASMAC outlets in Tamil Nadu and the state ranks sixth among 17 states/UTs in terms of alcohol consumption, according to a 2015-16 survey report.

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The story of Tamil Nadu elections from the DMK’s perspective

The AIADMK went solo this time but the DMK gave 53 seats to its allies including the Congress, a few Muslim parties and a Dalit party. This is roughly a fourth of the total seats of 232. M Karunanidhi-led DMK won 50% of the seats it contested in, though its allies put up a poor show.

Party   Won   Contested   Winning %
AIADMK   133   232   57
DMK   90   180   50
Congress   8   40   20
Other DMK allies   1   13   8

The Congress won just 20% of the seats it was allotted while for the others, it was a paltry 8%. Even if the DMK allies had won 50% of the seats allocated to them, their alliance would have garnered 117 – just enough to stake claim to form the government (assuming, the wins were at the cost of AIADMK votes).

DMK has blamed it on money power influencing the results and it has also, threatened to move court if the Election Commission does not take action based on its complaints. However, going by the numbers, it looks like the DMK should have focused on what was within its control – to ensure the winnability of its allies.

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