When the Earth isn’t enough 🌏

336,107

What is it? The number of H-1B visa applications filed by employers between October 2016 and June 2017.

Why is it important? The number of applications has not declined despite US President Donald Trump pledging to crackdown on misuse of H-1B visas, a temporary work permit. At this rate, the full year applications will exceed that of 2016 number of 399,349. However, approvals for current fiscal is sharply lower at 59% as compared to 87% in 2016. This could be because large number of petitions in current year are still pending decisions.

Tell me more: 74% of applications are filed for candidates born in India.

 

47.9

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

Why is it important? This is the lowest since February 2009, the days of the global financial crisis. It slipped below the 50-point mark separating expansion from contraction for the first time this year. Uncertainty and information gaps around goods and services tax that was introduced on July 1st seems to have negatively impacted purchasing decisions.

Tell me more: New orders fell for the first time in the year-to-date and at the fastest pace since early 2009.

 

7

What is it? The number of months in which this year’s Earth Overshoot Day has arrived (August 2) this year, according to environmental groups WWF and Global Footprint Network.

Why is it important? Earth Overshoot Day is the date in which the annual demand of humanity on nature exceeds what the planet can regenerate over the year and it is the earliest so far. In other words, humanity is using up planetary resources such as soil, water and air at a faster pace than ever and will live on “credit” for the rest of the year; currently, we are using the resources of 1.7 Earths.

Tell me more: We would be able to return to living within the means of one Earth before 2050 if we moved the Earth Overshoot Day back by 4.5 days every year. Some of the ways in which individuals can help stop and later, reverse the trend is by burning less fuel, cut back on food waste and eating less meat.

 

22.4%

What is it? The percentage increase in car sales for Maruti Suzuki, which has more than 50% market share, in July this year.

Why is it important? Car sales has picked up after introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) from July 1st, after contracting by 11% in June. Other car makers, except Hyundai Motor, reported double-digit increase in sales growth.

Tell me more: Shipping of cars from factory gate to dealers is counted as a sale, so the increase could be because of manufacturers pushing the stock to dealers than end-customer demand.

 

61.5%

What is it? The increase in the net worth of Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, in one year.

Why is it important? With a total net worth of $35.2 billion, he has raced ahead of Hong Kong-based Li Ka-Shing to become the second richest Asian after Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma. Globally, Ambani went up to the 19th position, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. This has been possible partly due to investors rallying behind Reliance Jio that has disrupted the telecom space in the last few months.

Tell me more: A report by Oxfam, which works to eliminate poverty, said India’s 57 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom 70% of the population, pointing to rising income and wealth inequality in the Asia’s third largest economy.

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Aadhaar: Not so unique

$23.35 billion

What is it? The estimate, on the higher end, of black money, or money illicitly taken out of the India in 2014.

Why is it important? Curbing black money, both its movement and creation, has been an integral part of the Modi-government’s propaganda. It was the reason initially furnished by the Prime Minister when introducing last year’s demonetisation, before switching to the cause of a cashless economy. In 2014, the year the government came to power, there was also an illicit fund inflow of $101 billion (on the higher side).

Tell me more: Illegal fund flows from developing countries totalled $1 trillion in 2014, according to the watchdog, Global Financial Integrity, which came out with the study.

 

135 million

What is it? The estimated number of Aadhaar card numbers leaked through four government portals.

Why is it important? While the parent data governing agency, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), has maintained the information remains secure, studies such as this expose the gross mishandling by government agencies with access to Aadhaar data, which is set to become sensitive, that fraudsters would be eager to misuse. The debate around Aadhaar’s information security has become more intense as the Union government attempts to link it mandatorilywith other key documents such as passports, Pan cards, flight and train tickets, with implications such as enabling financial transactions with just an Aadhaar proof. The Supreme Court is hearing a PIL against why it should not be linked to Pan cards. The reasons against linking Aadhaar mandatorily are many, some mentioned here and here.

Tell me more: The study by thinktank, Centre for Internet and Society, reveals Aadhaar details linked by the National Social Assistance Programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Chandranna Bima Scheme, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Daily Online Payment Reports of NREGA, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh stand exposed. It says the UIDAI is ignoring the swathes of data on public display.

 

14

What is it? The number of new warehouses e-commerce giant, Amazon, plans to add in India.

Why is it important? The Flipkart-competitor will be doubling its storage capacity with this move. A few days back, Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos, reiterated he would continue increasing India investments, having committed to spend $5 billion.

Tell me more: The new warehouses would serve tier II and III cities, as the company looks to complete the last mile in the hinterland.

 

>12,000

What is it? The average number of suicides by farmers each year since 2013.

Why is it important? The government informed the Supreme Court about the death toll. In 2015, this was 9.4% of all suicide victims as 8,007 farmer-cultivators and 4,595 agricultural labourers took their lives. Two years of drought still continue to haunt farmers, with protests as recent as in April.

Tell me more: The Centre was furnishing the details in a case on minimum support price for agricultural produce and the inefficacy of crop insurance.

52.5

What is it? The value of a privately-monitored manufacturing activity index for the month of April.

Why is it important? The Nikkei Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index by Markit stayed above 50, signifying expansion in the sector. It maintained the same level as in March with 52.5, making December’s contraction a distant memory. Growth in new orders led to the output increase.

Tell me more: It is in line with the government’s estimate of growth in output of eight core manufacturing sectors, released yesterday.

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Less smoke in the kitchen

9.10%

What is it? The new base rate of the State Bank of India (SBI) .

Why is it important? The largest Indian bank cut its base rate from the previous 9.25%. This would let earlier borrowers benefit from an easing of bank rates seen over the last few months. Borrowers who had taken out loans before April 1, 2016, were unable to benefit from cuts in the marginal cost-based lending rate (MCLR) (the new system of lending rate for customers) levied since then.

Tell me more: On January 1, 2017, SBI had cut its MCLR but it was not changed in yesterday’s cut.

 

52.5

What is it? The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) in March.

Why is it important? The factory activity index rose for the third month, after contracting in December (as it had in December, 2015, as well). But the rate of expansion was the fastest in five months since October, 2016, with production and new orders growing.

Tell me more: It has helped that inflation rates eased since February. The private index, by Markit, recorded a rise in additional employment generated to cope with increasing orders in the pivotal sector.

 

$300 million

What is it? The deal value of the Ruias-led Essar Group’s sale of its BPO unit, Aegis, to Singapore-based private equity firm Capital Square Partners.

Why is it important? The move would help the group retire 2.2% of its debt. The group is in the middle of paring the large debt on its books, worth Rs 88,000 crore. Before Aegis was sold, the Essar Group had lined up two more businesses — its oil refinery arm (Essar Oil) and its steel business (Essar Steel) — but both missed their March targets of a stake sale.

Tell me more: The Aegis sale marks the group’s exit from business process outsourcing. The slated Essar Oil sale, of $12.9 billion, would be India’s largest FDI.

 

Rs 3.42 crore

What is it? Legal bill raised by lawyer Ram Jethmalani for his services to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal so far.

Why is it important? These costs will have to be borne by the Delhi government, and not by Arvind Kejriwal, according to a report. This has led to a furore. Arun Jaitley had sued Arvind Kejriwal defamation last year. Delhi government reasoned that Kejriwal made the statements that led to the suit in his capacity as a chief minister. However, some analysts point out he didn’t invoke Section 80 of civil procedure code, and therefore, it should be considered that he is fighting it in his personal capacity.

Tell me more: Ram Jethmalani, one of the most expensive lawyers in the country, had earlier said that he is charging just Re 1 from Kejriwal, because ‘his government itself is so poor.’

 

3.25 crore

What is it? The number of LPG connections released by oil marketing companies during FY 2016-17.

Why is it important? This is highest ever in a financial year. It includes over 2 crore connections given under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to provide LPG connections in rural areas, as a replacement for the unhealthy wood-based fire in the kitchens.

Tell me more: The numbers indicate the broader strategy of the government. Look for efficiency and cost savings in one section using Aadhaar and other policy initiatives (in this case LPG subsidies, which mostly went to well-to-do middle class households) and, at the same time, expand government services to more deserving sections.

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