News in Numbers, Nov 7, 2016: When ‘snooze’ is no longer an option…

How many times are we allowed to hit the ‘snooze’ button before we finally decide to wake up and smell the coffee? (or in this case, inhale poisonous air, the effects of which do not need any outlining) With respect to Delhi, sadly, not only have we hit the ‘snooze’ button way too many times but also, ignored or done little about the constantly-ringing alarm bells. Though the Delhi government has announced a few short-term measures, it is imperative for the central government and the state government to work in tandem to ensure effective implementation of long-term policies to tackle the worsening air pollution problem in the capital city. And, also ensure that other major urban/semi-urban areas do not end up mirroring Delhi’s situation. What can the governments and individuals do to curb pollution? Do share your ideas with us.

Regards,
John

 

588 µg/m³

What is it? The levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Delhi at around 8.00 am today, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union Ministry of Earth Science.

Why is it important? This is 9.8 times the safe limit of 60 µg/m³and falls under the ‘severe’ (the worst) category. The levels of PM 10 in the capital city was said to be 844, nearly 8.5 times the safe limit of 100 µg/m³, again in the ‘severe’ category. These particulates are considered deadly for their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, which can cause respiratory problems, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Tell me more: Particulate matter pollution has been categorised as carcinogenic to humans and is considered to be a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. SAFAR’s forecast for PM 2.5 and 10 for Delhi tomorrow is worse than today’s levels: 613 µg/m³ and 860 µg/m³ respectively.

 

50%

What is it? The fall in the number of startups that have reportedly registered with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) for recruitment this year.

Why is it important? Indicates that startups’ hiring activity has slowed down amidst reports that investors have become increasingly cautious about loosening their purse strings in the recent quarters. Earlier this year, IITs had banned 31 startups including Grofers, Hopscotch, StayZilla and Portea Medical from participating in their placement drives as they had delayed joining dates, changed their offers in the last minute or revoked some of the students’ offer letters. 135 students were affected by such actions, according to the All IIT Placement Committee.

Tell me more: However, pre-placement offers are up by 25-30% this year. Some IITs are conducting screenings of some startups based on their funding, cash flow and stability before allowing them visit their campuses for hiring.

 

2

What is it? India’s ranking in a global index of business optimism in the July-September quarter of 2016, according to a survey.

Why is it important? The country has improved its position by moving up one slot from the previous quarter after being ranked on top in the previous two quarters. The latest ranking is due to the Indian government’s reform measures, its efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country and on the back of expectations that the Goods and Services Tax would become a reality soon, according to the report. Though India is still ranked among the top five nations where red tapism and regulations are considered an impediment to growth, its ranking on this aspect has dropped to second from fourth.

Tell me more: This comes a few days after India was listed at the 130th position (of 190 nations) on the World Bank’s ease of doing business, where the report’s authors acknowledge that not all the measures taken by India in improving its business environment have been taken into account.

 

13%

What is it? The percentage of the American electorate which is undecided or likely to vote for a third-party candidate.

Why is it important? This indicates the high levels of uncertainty in the outcome and that the results could swing in favour of either of the US Presidential candidates in the 2016 elections: Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee. There are reportedly about 12 states, which form 155 votes in the electoral college (of the 538), that do not favour any party and could hold the key to who becomes the 45th US President.

Tell me more: The US citizens across 50 states would vote to elect 538 members of the electoral college, who in turn, would vote for the President. Of the 50 states, 12 are in favour of the Democrats and six leaning towards them and Clinton is predicted to have 219 safe votes. As many as 20 states are for the Republicans, one leaning towards them, predicting 164 safe votes for Trump. The winning candidate would require 270 votes.

 

1.1 lakh

What is it? The number of ideas received by the Indian Railways from its employees as of November 1 in response to the question: What if you were India’s Railway Minister?

Why is it important? This is the first time that such a brainstorming exercise has been conducted at the Indian Railways where crowdsourcing of ideas (contrary to the top-down approach at the organisation) has been encouraged to generate more revenue and margins and become more efficient. A panel of seven joint secretary officers have shortlisted 1,400 of these ideas. This would be further filtered to get the 15 best ideas and then, converted into business plans to be showcased to Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month. He is likely to then spell out a five-year vision for the Railways and may roll out a campaign akin to the ‘Make in India’ or ‘Digital India’ campaigns, according to news reports.

Tell me more: Some of the ideas include: implementation of smart cards, which can generate additional revenues of Rs 400 crore, development of heritage tourism, large-scale solar energy development on land owned by the Railways around stations and offering surplus and vacant land on rent to private individuals.

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News in Numbers, Dec 17, 2015: Ban on diesel vehicles’ registration, US Fed rate hike

 

15%

 

What is it? Delhi’s share in Mercedes-Benz’s sales.

 

Why is it important? Supreme Court has banned registration of new diesel engines above 2000cc in Delhi, a big market for the luxury car maker, until March 31. The initiative is to curb alarming levels of pollution in Delhi. The ban might favour its rivals, since most of the diesel models of BMW, Audi and Volvo have engines below 2,000 cc. Mercedes-Benz has said that this order “will severely impact” their expansion plans and future investments already in place for the Indian market.

 

Tell me more: Mahindra & Mahindra, India’s largest utility vehicle maker, has said that this order would affect 2% of its monthly sales.

 

400

 

What is it? Number of start-ups Karnataka government hopes to help build with the help of its newly launched warehouse, launched in partnership with industry body Nasscom.

 

Why is it important? This is the second such warehouse by the state government and is on a bigger scale than the first, which incubated 64 start-ups. In the first warehouse, a quarter of the 64 start-ups have raised combined funds of Rs 600 crore. Bangalore ranks 15th in terms of best start-up ecosystems globally, according to a report by Silicon Valley-based start-up benchmarking firm and such measures are likely to advance its standing as a hub for start-ups in India as well as worldwide.

 

Tell me more: The state government recently launched a start-up policy with the view to aid the growth of 20,000 tech start-ups and generating 6 lakh direct and 12 lakh indirect jobs.

 

0.25-0.5%

 

What is it? United States benchmark interest rate, set by US Federal Reserve.

 

Why is it important? That’s 0.25% hike. It affects financial markets globally and therefore, is closely watched. As for India, this hike could mean investors may pull out their money from emerging markets like India to invest in the US in anticipation of higher returns and it remains to be seen how they react to the hike. Foreign institutional investors have pulled out $2.5 billion from Indian markets since November in anticipation of the hike. This, in turn, could weaken the rupee, making imports costlier and negatively impacting inflation in India.

 

Tell me more: This is the first time in nearly a decade that the US has gone for a hike in interest rates after keeping it around zero since the 2008 financial crisis. For the US, this is a sign of economic recovery.

 

0.59 hectares

 

What is it? The average landholding per rural household as of 2013, according to data from the National Sample Survey Office.

 

Why is it important? This has almost halved from 1.01 in 1992. A farm household needs to have at least 1 hectare of land to earn enough to fulfill its consumption expenditure. A farm household with 0.01-0.4 hectares of land earns an income of Rs 4,152 per month but its monthly consumption expenditure amounts to Rs 5,401. Also, farm households with less than 1 hectare account for over two-thirds of agricultural households that are indebted, with the debt levels decreasing with increase in landholding.

 

Tell me more: Every four out of five rural household have landholdings of less than one hectare and over 7% own more than two hectares.

 

€26 million

 

What is it? Amount Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has earned by launching six satellites for Singapore on Wednesday.

 

Why is it important? Underlines the commercial potential of India’s space programme. So far, India has earned around $36.7 million (at today’s exchange rate) from the launch of foreign satellites while around $74 million have been committed for those in the pipeline. It’s also yet another confirmation of the robustness of ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C29), which recorded its 32nd flight.

 

Tell me more: With Wednesday’s launch, ISRO has launched 57 satellites for 20 countries.

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News in numbers, Dec 4, 2015: Hike in Delhi MLAs’ salaries, rivals join hands against Uber…

15 years

 

What is it? The cut-off age for commercial trucks above which they would be banned from Delhi roads effective April 2016.

 

Why is it important? It will help cut Delhi’s rising pollution. But this alone might not be sufficient. A 2014 study by the World Health Organization said Delhi is the most polluted city globally. A report filed in the Supreme Court last year said outdoor pollution is the fifth biggest killer in India.

 

Tell me more: A couple of recent measures by the Delhi government to combat this problem include monthly car-free days in some areas and levying of a “green” tax to encourage commercial vehicles that enter the city to take alternative routes.

 

138%

 

What is it? The raise in salaries of Delhi legislators  and Ministers (to Rs 210,000 from Rs 88,000 a month), as per a bill passed by Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government. It has been sent to central government for approval.

 

Why is it important? If approved, Delhi’s MLAs will get more than MPs (members of Parliament) at Rs 140,000 per month and surpass Himachal Pradesh legislators, the highest paid at Rs 125,000 per month. Those in favour of hike argue MLAs will be less prone to corruption, and attract better and honest talent into politics. Singapore cites the high salaries of the members of its parliament as a reason for its clean and efficient government.

 

Tell me more: Opposition parties including the BJP and Congress have opposed the hike. While BJP taunted the Aam Aadmi Party (literal translation: Common Man’s Party) by calling it ‘Khas Aadmi Party’ (literal translation: Special Man’s Party), Congress said that the party is misusing public funds to give extra perks to their legislators.

 

125,000

 

What is it? Number of children under five years of age who die due to foodborne diseases every year, according to World Health Organization’s (WHO) estimates.

 

Why is it important? Though children under five years of age make up just 9% of the world’s population, they account for nearly a third (30%) of deaths that occur from eating contaminated food every year. This is the first ever attempt to estimate the number of global deaths due to foodborne diseases by the WHO.

 

Tell me more: As many as 420,000 people die as a result of foodborne diseases annually and one out of every ten fall ill from contaminated food. Diarrhoeal diseases account for over half of the deaths due to foodborne diseases.

 

4

 

What is it? Number of taxi-hailing apps (that is, Ola from India, Didi Kuaidi from China, US-based Lyft and Malaysia’s GrabTaxi) that have entered into an agreement where passengers would be able to use services of all these companies using one app globally.

 

Why is it important? It’s a counter to Uber’s expansion into newer countries. The California-based taxi app is present in 67 countries. By joining hands they can put up a tougher fight. Uber is already struggling with regulatory and competitive challenges in a few markets.

 

Tell me more: An example under the agreement would be: Ola customers can use the same app to book a Didi Kuaidi cab when they travel to China or the services of Lyft when they go to the US, instead of opting for Uber’s services.

 

0.5 million

 

What is it? Number of tweets posted related to Chennai rains, rescue, relief operations, within 24 hours (as of Thursday morning).

 

Why is it important? Social Media platforms Twitter and Facebook have been a major way of communicating, coordinating relief efforts to help people in Chennai as it battles the worst-ever rains in nearly a 100 years. This, especially at a time when all telephone lines and networks are jammed and calls are not going through.

 
Tell me more: The social media sites were flooded with requests asking for stranded people to be rescued, help for pregnant women going into labour, elderly people stuck without food, medicines or people requiring urgent treatment for some health problems

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