News in Numbers, Aug 25, 2016: New rail projects cleared, efficiency norms for ACs…

1,937.38 km

What is it? The total length of track construction under nine railway projects that have been cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday.

Why is it important? At an estimated cost of Rs 24,374.86 crore, this would help decongest key routes by increasing capacity, improve passenger and freight transportation and movement of freight items such as coal, minerals and steel. This would benefit 11 states including West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. If procurement for the projects is done within India, it would contribute 0.4% to the GDP (gross domestic product), besides having a multiplier effect, according to an analyst.

Tell me more: The projects are important for the Indian Railways to meet its target of creating capacity to transport 1.5 billion tonnes of goods by 2020.

 

24-43 degree Celsius

What is it? The temperature range which would be used to test air-conditioners’ (ACs) efficiency from January 2018, as against the current practice of using 35 degree Celsius as the benchmark.

Why is it important? The new star rating system would be mandatory for all brands and is aimed at reducing electricity consumption and bringing down electricity costs. All ACs would need to be fitted with smart compressor regulators instead of the conventional thermostat-triggered cut-offs. This would help reduce electricity consumption of a 1.5 tonne AC (currently, 5-star rated) by 250 kilowatt/hour, leading to savings of Rs 1,500 a year (if the power tariff is set at Rs 6 per kilowatt/hour), according to an economist at the Bureau of Energy Efficiency.

Tell me more: In India, about 45 lakh ACs are sold every year.

 

5

What is it? The number of years a couple has to be married to have a child through surrogacy, as per the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, which the Union Cabinet cleared on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This would bring in rules in the so-far unregulated sector. Besides this, it prohibits married couple who have biological or adopted children, single people, live-in partners and homosexuals from going for surrogacy. It also bans commercial surrogacy, which is estimated to be around Rs 3,000 crore in India and is known to exploit poor women who agree to become surrogate mothers for money. It doesn’t allow foreign nationals to seek an Indian surrogate mother.

Tell me more: The couple should seek a surrogate who is a close relative and she can be a surrogate mother only once. The commissioning parents should belong to a particular age group: 23-50 years for women and 26-55 years for men. The bill will be presented in the Parliament for approval this winter.

 

17

What is it? The number of bank accounts reportedly under the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) scanner for suspected links with terrorists or separatist groups. The transactions total Rs 38 crore. They relate to four banks in south Kashmir.

Why is it important? The NIA investigators are looking for links between the date of withdrawal of money from these accounts and the incidents of stone-pelting and road blockades held by those protesting the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant. The Indian government hasblamed Pakistan for supporting cross-border terrorism and has termed it to be root cause of the unrest in the Valley.

Tell me more: Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Bahadur Ali, in a confessional video, said Pakistan had a role to play in the Kashmir unrest, which has left 65 people dead since July 9.

 

11.2

What is it? The number of days an earth-like planet (named Proxima b) takes to orbit around its sun, Proxima Centauri.

Why is it important? It’s closer to its sun, than the earth is to its. However, scientists say it is within the habitable zone. This means that liquid water could be present on the planet. Of the over 3,000 exoplanets (planets which orbit a star outside the solar system), this may be one of the closest – raising hopes of life outside earth or that it could have the appropriate conditions to support life.

Tell me more: Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years away from the solar system’s sun. With the kind of spacecraft we have today, it would take 70,000 years to reach Proxima b.

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News in Numbers, June 30, 2016: Terror attacks in India foiled, Grofers lays off 10% of staff…

5

What is it? The number of men who were arrested on suspicion of plotting a series of attacks across the country on behalf of the ISIS on Wednesday.

Why is it important? The team had reportedly planned bomb blasts in areas such as Charminar, an important government building and markets and malls. This is the third such action on ISIS collaborators since last year; in the first two instances, a total of 43 were arrested. One of the most dangerous terrorist organisations in the world, the ISIS had threatened to send fighters to conduct guerilla attacks in India a couple of months ago.

Tell me more: In the raids, the National Investigation Agency and the local police seized weapons, nitrate-based explosives, 40 mobile phones, a laptop, a pen drive, 32 sim cards and Rs 15 lakh in cash.

Rs 1.02 trillion

What is it? The amount that would be given as pay and pension increases to 10 million central government employees and pensioners after the Cabinet approved the Seventh Pay Commission on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This, along with the implementation of the One Rank One Pension scheme for ex-servicemen, is likely to boost savings and stimulate urban spending, especially in sectors such as automobiles, consumer durables and fast-moving consumer goods. The cumulative impact is estimated to be 0.63% of the GDP, according to Fitch’s India Ratings and Research chief economist. However, this may have an upward impact on inflation – retail inflation hit a 21-month high in May driven by food prices.

Tell me more: A report by the State Bank of India says this may impact the country’s fiscal deficit target in 2017-18. The employees and the pensioners would receive the hikes along with their August salaries and be paid with effect from January 1, 2016. The government will pay Rs 12,133 crore in arrears in the current financial year itself.

 

~45%

What is it? The share of monthly personal budget for consumer durables that’s spent on vehicles in India for domestic (as against enterprise) use, according to the latest government data.

Why is it important? Underlines the importance of automobiles and car ownership for urban and rural consumers, and therefore for the car companies, in India. Vehicles command the highest share even for enterprise use in both the urban and rural areas, accounting for an average of 80% of the monthly per capita expenditure.

Tell me more: The second highest expenditure was on jewellery across rural and urban India. Other items that Indians like to spend on are mobile phones, laptops, tablets, air-conditioners, geysers and coolers. In terms of services (excludes health and education), Indians spend the most on eating out followed by travelling.

 

150 – 200

What is it? The number of employees grocery-delivery startup Grofers has laid off. It’s about 10% of its total employees.

Why is it important? With this, Grofers joins a list of other hyperlocal startups such as Peppertap, Localbanya, Townrush, which have either downsized or shut down their operations earlier. Unicorns such as Flipkart and Paytm had tried their hand in this segment but pulled back, indicating that the business model for such hyperlocal startups has been tough to establish and sustain.

Tell me more: Grofers, which has raised about $165 million so far from investors such as Softbank, Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital, also revoked offers given to 67 students who were to join the startup in July. In January, Grofers had announced shutting down operations in nine cities and only four months before that, had expanded to 27 cities.

 

Rs 4,251

What is it? The average airfare to travel from Delhi to Chennai between June 29 and July 4 when booked on June 28, according to an analysis by Yatra.com for ET. Last year, the average airfare for the same route in the corresponding period was Rs 6,218.

Why is it important? Last minute booking is proving to be cheaper by up to 52% on various routes this year when compared to 2015. A 20% year-on-year decline in oil prices and an increase of 7-8% in passenger capacity are being attributed for the drop in fares, according to Yatra.com. The discounting could also be to achieve high passenger load factors.

Tell me more: In recent times, airlines, especially budget carriers, were seen decreasing air ticket prices but hiked cancellation charges by 50-100%.

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