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Mission: Eliminate Tuberculosis

 

9

What is it? The number of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel killed after Maoists blew up their mine-protected vehicle at Sukma in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This is reportedly a revenge attack after a joint operation by the police of Telangana and Chhattisgarh resulted in the deaths of 10 suspected Maoists on March 2. Over 1,900 security personnel have been killed in Maoist violence between 2005 and 2018 (up to March 11).

Tell me more: In March and April last year, Maoists had killed 12 and 25 CRPF men in ambush attacks, which are counted among the biggest in the last few years.

 

17

What is it? The number of leaders of opposition parties that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had invited for dinner at her residence on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This comes at a time when Congress has been losing a string of elections, the latest being in the northeast region (Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland). The meet is likely to be an attempt at stitching an alliance to defeat the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) led by BJP, which now covers 71% of India’s population in 20 states, in the 2019 General Elections.

Tell me more: Those who have not been invited include the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party, which pulled out its ministers in the central government but continues to be part of the NDA alliance.

 

20.4%

What is it? The percent by which the Indian government has cut Monsanto’s royalties on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This could trigger another row similar to the one in 2016 when the government had cut royalties that local firms pay Monsanto for its genetically (Bt) modified seeds by 70% and the latter had threatened to quit India. Monsanto says its royalties currently account for less than 0.5% of the cultivation cost, which would be further reduced due to the latest order.

Tell me more: The government also reduced the prices of GM cotton seeds by 7.5% to Rs 740 for a packet of 450 gms to help farmers whose crops have been affected by pest infestations.

 

Rs5,000 crore

What is it? The amount of pension liabilities under-reported by the Indian Railways during 2016-17.

Why is it important? This artificially boosted the operating ratio – the percentage of working expenses to traffic earnings – to 96.5%, as compared to 99.54%. Had the true amount of pension liabilities were accounted, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India – the national auditor- said the pension fund would show a negative balance, with no surplus available to service debt fund.

Tell me more: Operating ratio is an indicator of operational efficiency. A lower ratio is needed to generate surplus to buy new assets or have adequate funds for safety operations. At 99.5%, the operating ratio is the lowest since 2000-01.

 

2025

What is it? The year by which India is planning to eliminate Tuberculosis (TB), five years ahead of the global target.

Why is it important? India has the highest number of TB infection and TB death rates. 28 million new cases were detected in 2016, with 400,000 deaths arising out of TB infection. The number of TB deaths is 2.6 times the number of people killed from road accidents. Advancing of target would save that many lives each year.

Tell me more: The World Health Organisation’s ‘End TB Strategy’ aims to reduce TB deaths and new cases by 80% and 90% respectively by 2030. TB is one of the top 10 causes of deaths, and 1.7 million people died worldwide in 2016.

 

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Seventh Pay Commission payout: Finding the ‘missing $15 billion’ in Budget 2016

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

A Bloomberg report on Wednesday titled “Missing: $15 billion lost somewhere in India’s 1,500-page budget” raised a red flag on the Indian government’s balancing of its books in Budget 2016. It pointed out how the global financial data provider and other analysts were unable to locate the numbers allocated for implementing the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission (SPC), which doles out the once-in-10-years pay hike given to central government employees. The allusion was the government may have understated this payout—and, by extension, its deficit.

We tried to locate those “missing” numbers in the same budget documents. First, we need to know how much it will cost the government to implement the SPC recommendations. The estimate for 2016-17 by the SPC is a 24% increase in payouts to government employees, or Rs.102,100 crore (around $15 billion).

 

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The first place to look for is under non-plan expenditure, and a table titled “Estimated strength of establishment and provision thereof”. This details how many employees are there in 56 government departments (excluding defence) and how much the government has budgeted to pay their salaries: an increase ofRs.65,690 crore in 2016-17. Thus, we have accounted for around 65% of SPC’s impact.

 

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The second place to look for is pensions, the details of which are again provided under non-plan expenditure. This shows the government has budgeted for an increase of Rs.37,066 crore.

 

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Thus, the total increase in salary and pension bill in 2016-17 is Rs.102,756 crore. However, there is one rider. The pension liabilities include increased outgo on account of implementing the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme.

Implementing OROP is estimated to cost the government Rs.7,500 crore. Deducting this amount means the government has budgeted Rs.95,256 crore to meet SPC recommendations. In other words, the net shortfall in budget estimates on account of implementing the SPC is Rs.6,844 crore.

What’s “missing” is $1 billion and not $15 billion.

 

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