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EU Fines Google. Again.

$5 billion

What is it?Fine imposed by European Union on Google for abusing its dominant position in Android operating system.

Why it’s important? European Commission said Google forced phone manufacturers to pre-install its search and Chrome apps in Android phones as a condition of using its app store Google Play. Android operating system has a market share of over 80%. This comes at a time when there are growing concerns about the big tech firms such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Tell me more: Last year, EU fined Google $2.7 billion for abusing its position in search by favoring its own shopping sites against competitors. Earlier this year, India fined Google $21.17 million for a similar offence.

1.2 million tonnes

What is it?Likely Indian imports of pulses in 2018-19, according Indian Pulses and Grains Association.

Why is it important?If it falls to this level, it will be the lowest imports of pulses by India in the last two decades. It follows government’s decision to increase import taxes and impose quantity restrictions. Lower imports would raise the price of pulses, which would mean the government will have to pay out less as subsidies to farmers.

Tell me more: India is the largest importer of pulses and the move will adversely impact exporting countries such as Canada. In 2017-18, pulses imports fell by one million tonnes.

311 

What is it? The number of seats National Democratic Alliance has in Lok Sabha, 272 of them held by Bharatiya Janata Party.

Why is it important? With a clear majority, Narendra Modi government is set to clear the no-confidence motion, moved by the opposition and approved by the speaker on Wednesday. The exercise is expected to be used by the opposition to highlight its disappointment with government’s economic performance.

Tell me more: The Monsoon session of the parliament which started on Wednesday will have 18 sittings. The session is crucial for BJP, which has a handful of billsto pass before it faces elections next year.

22

What is it?The number of unarmed surveillance aircraft, MQ-9B Guardian, that India is in the process of buying from the United States.

Why is it important? Now, US has reportedly offered to sell armed version of Guardian, in a departure from its practice of selling armed drones only to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries. This will also be the first of its kind in South Asia.

Tell me more: India was in talks to buy 22 of MQ-9B Guardian from the US for $2 billion to watch over Indian Ocean.

4.7 to 7.3 percentage points

What is it?The temporary drop in the local GDPs of informal districts following demonetisationof 2016, according to a World Bank study.

Why is it important? The study, which used nightlight intensity to gauge economic activity said, “these shocks were temporary, so that their impact on the annual GDP of the affected localities was probably modest. But in the short-term the local impacts were sizeable.”

“The difference in local growth relative to a normal year was very small in urban districts, as well as in those with greater access to finance and with more prevalent regular wage employment,” the report said.

Tell me more: The impact of demonetisation on economic activity at the aggregate level was ‘small and short-lived’, the report said. “There is a dip in nightlight intensity, but it only lasts for about two months.”

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Test not the licence to kill ⚠

16

What is it? The number of bills listed for introduction, consideration and passing in the Monsoon session of the Parliament to be held between July 17 and August 11.

Why is it important? Important and controversial bills like Whistle Blower Protection (Amendment) Bill that exempts 10 categories of information including cabinet proceedings, and Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill that makes giving a bribe an offence will be introduced during the current session.

Tell me more: The productivity in the Lok Sabha during the Budget session was 108% (a third of it spent on legislative business) while that in the Rajya Sabha was 86% (a fifth of it spent on legislative matters).

 

59%

What is it? The percentage of people who did not take a test to get a driving licence across 10 cities, according to a survey by road safety advocacy group, SaveLife Foundation.

Why is it important? The high share of people obtaining licences by illegal means highlights the extent of corruption in the licensing system and how this issue is likely a major reason for road accidents and injuries in the country. On an average, 17 people were killed every hour in 2015 and nearly three-fourths of the road accidents were caused due to overspeeding (41%) and dangerous/careless driving (32.2%) in the same year.

Tell me more: About 88% of the respondents did not take the driving test in Agra and the corresponding numbers for Jaipur, Guwahati, Delhi and Mumbai are 72%, 64%, 54% and 50% respectively.

 

8

What is it? The number of Wimbledon titles won by Roger Federer so far.

Why is it important? The Swiss player has created a record by winning the most number of Wimbledon titles, surpassing Pete Sampras and William Renshaw who won their seventh Wimbledon titles in 2000 and 1889 respectively. As Croatia’s Marin Cilic struggled with an injury, this was the most one-sided Wimbledon final in 15 years and Federer just took 1 hour and 41 minutes to defeat his opponent.

Tell me more: With his first Wimbledon final victory since 2012, he extended his record 19 Grand Slam titles and at 35 years 342 days, he became the oldest man to win a Wimbledon title in the modern era.

 

5,37,683

What is it? The number of votes with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), headed by the BJP for the presidential election.

Why is it important? This is around 12,000 votes short of majority in the electoral college for the presidential vote, where total votes number 1,098,882. But the expected support of regional parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the YSR Congress could shore up the numbers for a majority for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind. Votes would be counted on July 20.

Tell me more: The incumbent president, Pranab Mukherjee, had secured 713,763 in the 2012 elections.

 

66,685

What is it? The number of pending cases in courts where the Indian Railways (IR) is a party to, according to records in the Legal Information Management and Briefing System.

Why is it important? The railways account for the majority of the 135,060 court cases of the government. Of these cases, 10,464 cases are pending for over 10 years. The cases involve service matters, disputes with private parties, other government departments or public sector units. IR’s cases increased by 13.5% from 2016’s records of 58,735 cases.

Tell me more: The finance ministry comes second in number of litigations with 15,646 cases. The railways also lead in contempt cases, including flouting of judicial directions, failure to file affidavits or appear before the court, with 241 cases (out of 369 contempt cases).

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3 years of Modi govt: Are NDA’s big programmes delivering?

When it comes to big-ticket programmes, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Modi has launched a raft of new schemes, championed old ones or silently embraced those it was once critical of. Here’s how four such big programmes have fared vis-à-vis their stated objectives and targets in the three years of Modi government.

HOUSING: Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), or PMAY

Target

With the aim of ‘housing for all’, the centre plans to facilitate the building of 20 million ‘affordable’ houses in Indian cities by providing financial assistance to urban local bodies, implementing agencies and households. The scheme is scheduled to run from 2015 to 2022.

 

Progress

Much of the scheme’s first two years have gone in spadework. Thus, against the 2022 target of building 20 million new houses, 9.3% has been approved. In terms of completion, the figure is 5.3% of the houses approved and 0.5% of the overall target.

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Funding

The central government spend mirrors the scheme’s slow physical progress. So far, the centre has released about 31% of the amount it has committed for the cleared projects.

 

 

2

 

Highlight

The scheme’s progress varies across states. Other than Gujarat and Karnataka, all states with the maximum PMAY houses approved have little to show in terms of completion.

 

 

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Challenges

Private involvement: Private builders have been reluctant to take up PMAY projects, citing low margins in the affordable housing segment, which are further compounded by the opaque and high-cost approvals process endemic to Indian real estate.

Affordability: The need for housing in cities is the greatest at the lowest income strata. Even as the government struggles to service this segment at a low price point, it has relaxed the income cap for households to avail a discount on home loan rates. This can boost PMAY numbers, but it won’t help meet the ‘housing for all’ objective.

Source: pmaymis.gov.in, indiabudget.nic.in

 

FINANCIAL INCLUSION: Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)

 

Target

Aims to provide “universal access to banking facilities, with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility”. The scheme was launched in August 2014, with no end date specified.

 

Progress

Measured on number of accounts, progress has been brisk in this top-down scheme—entailing a government push to banks—going from 0 to 280 million new accounts in under three years. But usage levels are still low: the average account balance is only Rs 2,278.

 

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Funding

The programme is driven by a government nudge to banks and the unbanked: increasingly, welfare benefits will move through Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfers to bank accounts. It doesn’t entail the government paying banks, and barely affects the exchequer directly.

 

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Highlight

While releasing its year-end review for 2016, the department of financial services (DFS) reported that 99.9% of the 212 million households it surveyed had a bank account. But did it under-count households? Census 2011 counted 246 million. At an annual growth of 2.5%, as between 2001 and 2011, India would have 278 million households in 2016. If all households the DFS did not survey did not have a bank account, 66 million households (24%) still don’t have a bank account.

 

3

 

Challenges

Usage needs to pick up, especially given that the system is being primed for delivery of welfare benefits through Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfers. Although the numbers are continuously improving, 24% of Jan Dhan accounts have no money and 34% are yet to be linked to Aadhaar.

Source: www.pmjdy.gov.in, indiabudget.nic.in, Census (2001-2011) data, year-end review of department of financial services (2016 data)

 

RURAL ELECTRIFICATION: Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)

Targets

Aims to achieve electrification of 18,452 villages by May 2018, and electrification of 45 million rural households by December 2018.

 

 

Progress

About 73% of the 18,452 villages that did not even have power infrastructure now have it, and the government should reach its target on this count. But this doesn’t necessarily mean every household in the village has access to electricity. At present, in only 6% of these 18,452 villages do 100% households have access. Increasing this metric is the scheme’s next big target.

 

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Funding

This is one of the big programmes the centre has been pushing, and its spends and allocations have stayed consistent.

 

2

 

Highlight

Even in the villages that have power infrastructure, there are many households that don’t have access to electricity—across India, 45 million of the 179 million rural households, or 25%. Linking them to the grid is the next big step for the programme. At present, DDUGJY is addressing 0.7 million.

 

3

 

Challenges

Power for all: Even as villages are getting new power infrastructure, there are issues of last-mile connectivity and supply, making the ‘power for all’ goal a challenge.

M1 to M12: When it comes to electrifying a village, there are 12 stages outlined by the ministry—from M1 (awarding a village), M2 (receipt of poles) to M12 (handing over a village). Work is at various stages, which is something the headline numbers don’t always convey.

Source: garv.gov.in, indiabudget.nic.in

 

RURAL EMPLOYMENT: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)

Target

Launched by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2006, the scheme aims to provide 100 days of assured employment to a rural household in a year.

 

Progress

When the current government entered office, Prime Minister Modi portrayed MGNREGS as a symbol of the Congress’ ineffectual legacy. But, following a drought which led to a fall in farm output and incomes, the BJP-led government has increased employment and spends to the scheme.

 

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Funding

Average daily wages have increased from Rs132 in 2013-14 to Rs161 in 2016-17. As a result, after a small dip in 2014-15, total funding by the centre has since increased sizeably.

 

2

 

Highlight

Non-BJP states have registered an increase in MGNREGS spending in the past two years, while BJP-ruled states registered a spike in 2016-17.

 

3

 

Challenges

Lengthy delays in paying workers have marked MGNREGS. Recently, the centre said it had cleared 89% of wages within 15 days of the work being done. In the past four years, this figure ranged between 27% and 50%. Can the government maintain this year’s high numbers?

Source: mnregaweb4.nic.in, news reports

Graphics by Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint

 

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