Rise in Forest Cover?



80.2 million hectares

What is it? India’s forest and tree cover, which is 24.39% of the country’s total geographical area (GA), according to the India State of Forest Report 2017 released by the government on Monday.

Why is it important? This is an increase of 8,021 sq km from 2015, or about a 1% increase. But this increase should be taken with a caveat: the Forest Survey of India defines ‘forest cover’ in an expansive way, and ends up including urban parks, orchards and plantations, among others, as well.

Tell me more: In 2015, the total forest and tree cover was 79.42 million hectare, representing 24.16% of India’s total GA. This indicates the country has an uphill task of having 33% of its GA under forest cover. However, 15 states and union territories have over 33% of their GA under forest cover, of which seven have more than 75% forest cover.



What is it? The number of companies, ArcelorMittal and Numetal Mauritius, that have reportedly submitted binding financial bids for bankrupt Essar Steel as the deadline closed on Monday evening.

Why is it important? Other potential bidders such as Tata Steel and Anil Agarwal of Vedanta Resources have reportedly withdrawn as Numetal, a special purpose vehicle backed by a consortium of Russia’s VTB Capital and the Ruia family, has entered into an agreement to purchase a key pipeline that supplies raw materials to Essar Steel’s Odisha plant due to which competing bidders may find the acquisition of Essar Steel to be less attractive.

Tell me more: However, it remains to be seen if Numetal’s application is accepted as the Ruia family (also, the promoters of Essar Steel) is present in the consortium, which goes against the recent changes made to India’s bankruptcy laws that bar defaulting promoters to bid for distressed assets.


1 billion euros

What is it? The total income in 2015-16 of Oxfam, the United Kingdom-based confederation of 20 non-government organisations that has been rocked by a sexual misconduct scandal involving some of its employees.

Why is it important? On Monday, it emerged that some government institutions and corporates were reportedly reviewing their funding to Oxfam following revelations that senior Oxfam aid staff used sex workers in Haiti and Chad, and that designated employees elsewhere in the organisation reportedly either sought to cover this up or failed to crack down on.

Tell me more: On Monday, Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence resigned from her position. Lawrence was Oxfam’s international programmes director when concerns about sexual misconduct were first reported.


Rs 565 crore

What is it? The amount raised in equity funding by Lendingkart Technologies, a fintech startup that provides online loans to small businesses. The latest fund raise, announced on Monday, takes the total amount raised by the Lendingkart Group to Rs 1,129 crore.

Why is it important? It continues the robust flow of funds into fintech startups, several of which are rewiring the loans space, either with their choice of targeted customers (for example, less-served small businesses) or product offerings (for example, peer to peer lending, or collateral-free loans).

Tell me more: Lendingkart’s latest funding round was led by Singapore’s Fullerton Financial Holdings, and also saw participation by existing investors, namely Sistema Asia Fund, Bertelsmann India Investment, Mayfield India, India Quotient and Saama Capital.



What is it? The increase in retail prices, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), for the month of January.

Why is it important? This is marginally lower than the December 2017 reading of 5.21%, which was a 17-month high. Yet, it remained above the central bank’s medium-term target of 4%—the third consecutive month it has done so, thus all but ruling out the prospect of an interest rate cut in the near term.

Tell me more: Among sub-categories in food and beverages, inflation in vegetables remained high, while that in pulses and products fell sharply.


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News in numbers, Jan 19, 2016: Divide between rich and poor, India’s markets at 20-year lows…


$1.76 trillion

What is it? Wealth owned by the world’s 62 richest people in 2015, according to Oxfam, an international anti-poverty confederation of 17 organizations. It’s down from 388 individuals in 2010.

Why is it important? Highlights the growing divide between the rich and the poor as this amount is equivalent to that owned by 3.6 billion people, the poorest half of the world’s population. Since 2000, the latter have received just 1% of the total increase in global wealth whereas 50% of that increase has gone to the top 1% of the population.

Tell me more: The wealth of the richest 62 people has seen an increase of 44% since 2010 while that of bottom half fell by 41%. The report says the average rate of return for billionaires in the last five years was 5.3%, which means the richest made $5 million per day from interest payments alone.


$35 million (~ Rs 240 crore)

What is it? The amount food delivery startup Swiggy has raised in Series C funding from existing investors SAIF Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Accel Partners and new investors including Harmony Partners, RB Investments and an undisclosed global investment entity.

Why is it important? This comes at a time when food tech companies including Zomato, FoodPanda and TinyOwl have been facing a series of problems –  funding slowdown and layoffs. The latest round of fund raising shows the rapid pace at which Swiggy, founded in August 2014, is attracting investor money. The Bengaluru-based startup has attracted its Series C funding from a year since it raised its Series A funding of $2 million. And, it raised its Series B funding of $16.5 million last June. The firm is now valued at $125 million.

Tell me more: Swiggy plans to utilise the funds to strengthen its presence in the existing locations besides technology upgradation for reducing overall delivery time and improving customer experience. Food delivery market in India is estimated to be $6 billion.



What is it? The annual subscription fee that Whatsapp plans to scrap. It has been charging some users in US and UK a fee of $0.99 a year after a year of use.

Why is it important? Mobile apps depend on ads and/or subscription fee for revenues. Whatsapp had for long ruled out advertisement as a revenue source. By closing the subscription tap as well, it will now focus on new revenue streams. It plans to “test tools” that would allow its users “to communicate with businesses and organizations” of their choices. Whatsapp, which was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, has not been in too much of a hurry to monetize its services, unlike its competitors. For instance, WeChat’s estimated average revenue per user is $7 compared to Whatsapp’s $1 per user.

Tell me more: Whatsapp has 990 million users across the world.



What is it? The number of students who have cleared the Chartered Accountancy (CA) Final exams held last November.

Why is it important? This is a pass percentage of 5.7% – a total of 42,469 students took the exam. The pass percentage in November 2015 is higher than November 2013’s pass percentage of 3.1%, which was the lowest in the previous five exams. It is much less than the highs recorded in the last decade or so: 28.3% in November 2007, 26.8% in November 2006 and 22.8 in May 2006.

Tell me more: The exam, which is widely considered a tough one to crack, is held twice a year – May and November. James John Britto from Chennai, Nagulu Mohan Kumar from Tirupati and Avinash Sancheti from Kolkata have been ranked first, second and third respectively in the country.


24,188.37 points

What is it? The level at which India’s benchmark stock index, Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex, closed on Monday.

Why is it important? This was the lowest closing in 20 months – it had closed at 24,121.74 points on May 16, 2014. The Sensex has tumbled 18.5% from the highs of January 2015, close to the 20%-mark, which is considered bear-market territory by some investors. This slip has erased almost all the gains made by companies after the NDA’s landslide victory in the Lok Sabha Elections in May 2014.

Tell me more: The 20-year lows have been because of a combination of factors: export numbers released on Monday (which saw a 13th straight month decline), oil prices slipping below $28 per barrel, falling rupee and concerns over the health of China’s economy.



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