India’s History May Be Rewritten



What is it? The number of months since the Indian government set up a committee of scholars for the “holistic study of origin and evolution of Indian culture since 12,000 years before present and its interface with other cultures of the world”.

Why is it important? The 14-member committee aims to use evidence, including archaeological finds and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), to prove that current day’s Hindus are descendants of the first inhabitants of this land and that ancient Hindu scriptures are factual accounts. This panel is said to be a part of bigger plans to rewrite India’s history and its findings could be included in school textbooks and academic research.

Tell me more: There have been instances of school textbooks being rewritten, most of it with respect to the Indian history, in the last few years. The underlying idea seems to be to change the idea of India and define the contours of national identity in consonance with it.



What is it? The number of banks, both state-run and private, that were in the consortium that extended working capital loans worth Rs 5,280 crore to Mehul Choksi-controlled Gitanjali Gems, beginning 2009.

Why is it important? On Tuesday, in an apparent widening of the probe into the alleged bank fraud by companies linked to Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) summoned senior executives of ICICI Bank, which led the consortium, and Axis Bank.

Tell me more: Since April 2007, banks reportedly entered into 151 loan transactions with Gitanjali Gems, with the most recent being Rs 40 crore by Syndicate Bank in December 2016 and Rs 60 crore by ICICI Bank in August 2016. Today, the SFIO is expected to question the MD and CEO of Punjab National Bank, which is the worst hit by this fraud.


11 years

What is it? The number of years since the last inter-Korean summit, in 2007. The last time North Korea was on the talks table was 2008-09, in a six-party dialogue comprising Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, US and North Korea, which eventually collapsed.

Why is it important? In what are being seen as signs of rapprochement, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is slated to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the end of April, a senior South Korean diplomat said on his return from the North on Tuesday. The diplomat added that North Korea was willing to hold talks with the US on de-nuclearisation if the safety of Kim Jong-un’s regime was guaranteed.

Tell me more: The US and North Korea have been locked in a war of words. North Korea ranks ninth in terms of its nuclear arsenal.


Rs 45,000 crore

What is it? The amount Reliance Communications (RCom) owes to banks, as of March 2017.

Why is it important? An arbitration court has restrained RCom from selling or transferring assets without its permission. This deals a blow to its efforts to pare its debt by selling its wireless assets to Reliance Jio Infocomm for over Rs 20,000 crore, which was set to be completed by the end of this month. Anil Ambani-backed RCom has moved the Bombay High Court against this order.

Tell me more: The Indian subsidiary of Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson, which had signed a seven-year agreement in 2014 to operate and manage RCom’s network, had filed insolvency petitions last September to claim unpaid dues of Rs 1,150 crore.



What is it? The number of days for which Sri Lanka has declared a nationwide state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots.

Why is it important? This is the first such emergency imposed since the civil war that was the result of ethnic tension between the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils. At least two people have been killed, and dozens of mosques and homes damaged. The special measures give the government sweeping powers to arrest suspects and detain them for longer periods and deploy forces where required.

Tell me more: Muslims account for 7.6% of Sri Lankan population, as per Census 2001. The latest violence is said to have erupted after a group of Muslim men in Digana town were accused of killing a man from the Sinhalese Buddhist community, which constitute three-fourths of the country’s population.


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25-Year-Rule of the Left Has Ended In Tripura




What is it? The number of months since journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was murdered outside her home in Bengaluru.

Why is it important? A Special Investigation Team probing her death has made its first arrest in the case: KT Naveen Kumar, for illegal possession of bullets. Kumar, who is said to be a member of a right-wing group called Hindu Yuva Sena, was arrested on February 18. However, he is reportedly among the weakest links in the case and it remains to be seen if his arrest can lead to the main plotter of Lankesh’s murder.

Tell me more: Investigations into the killings of other rationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and Govind Pansare, who were vocal critics of the Hindutva agenda, has made little or slow progress.



What is it? The aggregate number of seats BJP has won in three north-eastern states—Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya—out of 59 seats each.

Why is it important? It is set to be part of the government in all three states with the help of allies, consolidating its position in the north-eastern region, which may have a bearing on the 2019 General Elections. The 25-year-rule of the Left has ended in Tripura, reducing its presence to just one state, Kerala. The BJP is already a part of the governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

Tell me more: The BJP won a clear majority in Tripura (35 of 59 seats) but will form the government with ally IPFT. In Nagaland, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party along with BJP and other allies will form the government, while a five-party alliance (including BJP) led by the National People’s Party is set to come to power in Meghalaya.



What is it? The number of entities, including key accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, in the Rs 12,700-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has barred from selling their assets.

Why is it important? This is in addition to the reported probe carried out by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office involving 110 companies, including listed ones, and around 10 limited liability partnership firms linked to Modi and Choksi. The Central Bureau of Investigation has arrested 14 people so far in this case. On Saturday, the agency for the first time said Modi had bribed at least one PNB official.

Tell me more: Non-bailable warrants were issued against both the accused by a special court on Saturday.



What is it? The latest world ranking of Shubhankar Sharma, the 21-year-old Indian golfer.

Why is it important? This is Sharma’s highest-ever world ranking and he’s also currently the highest-ranked Indian golfer. He has gained nine spots in a week in which he led for three rounds of the $10 million WGC-Mexico Championship, before crumbling in the fourth round. Still, Sharma finished the tournament with a score of 10 under par (the winner, Phil Mickelson, was at 16 under) and pocketed $270,000.

Tell me more: Sharma, who turned professional at the age of 16 years, finished 2017 with a ranking of 202. This season, he’s the only two-time winner on the European tour, and his latest showing in a star-studded field at the WGC has catapulted him into the spotlight.



What is it? German chancellor Angela Merkel has secured her fourth term in power after Germany’s Social Democratic party (SPD) voted on Sunday to form another “grand coalition” government with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Why is it important? For Germany, this brings to an end nearly six months of political uncertainty and wrangling, the longest the country has been without a government post-war. For Europe, Merkel’s return means Germany will continue to play a major role in how things evolve in the continent, and that vision will be shaped by a strong element of continuity championed by Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron.

Tell me more: In the German elections held in September 2017, though CDU and SPD emerged as the two largest parties, they both lost ground. The big gainer was the right-wing Alternative for Germany.


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Cauvery Is Finally Split. Legally.



What is it? The voter turnout in the 2018 Tripura elections held on Sunday.

Why is it important? Although the Election Commission was yet to declare a final figure, the expectation was that this would be one of the lowest turnouts in the electoral history of this north-eastern state since 1977. The turnout was 92% in 2013 and 91% in 2008. Analysts say a lower turnout is a favourable outcome for CPM and a not-so-favourable outcome for BJP, which has run a high-pitched and high-profile campaign for change and is looking to unseat Manik Sarkar

Tell me more: The CPM has ruled the state for the last 25 years, with chief minister Manik Sarkar leading for 20 years of those.


177.5 tmcft

What is it? The amount of Cauvery water Karnataka has to release to Tamil Nadu every year for the next 15 years, according to a Supreme Court judgment on Friday.

Why is it important? This brings an end to a decades-old dispute between the two states that has sometimes turned violent. Karnataka received a higher share than earlier owing to the series of droughts it has faced in recent times, in addition to providing drinking water to Bengaluru, which is recognised as India’s original technological hub. Karnataka’s capital city features in the list of 11 global cities that are most likely to run out of water after Cape Town, compiled by the BBC, owing to new property developments and losing half of its drinking water to waste. Of the additional share of water awarded to Karnataka, 4.75 tmcft has been specifically allotted to Bengaluru.

Tell me more: As per the ruling, Karnataka will now get 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) more than that awarded by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 2007. That will bring its total to 284.75 tmcft, while Tamil Nadu would receive 404.25 tmcft as against 419 tmcft, in addition to being allowed to draw 10 tmcft of groundwater. The share of Kerala and Puducherry has been retained at 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft, respectively.


$3 billion

What is it? The estimated hit Indian banks could take from loans and corporate guarantees given to diamond companies in transactions related to the alleged fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB), according to the tax department’s preliminary investigation.

Why is it important? This highlights the need to tighten monitoring norms and their effective implementation, especially with respect to state-run lenders, which are already reeling under soured loans, necessitating additional recapitalisation. Banks have given loans and guarantees worth $2.74 billion to firms related to Nirav Modi, the main accused in the alleged PNB fraud, and his uncle Mehul Choksi. In addition, the tax department noted that several firms that Modi and Choksi were involved in had listed people with limited means as majority partners.

Tell me more: Among banks that have given credit to the uncle-nephew duo are Union Bank of India ($300 million) and Axis Bank, which said it had sold all its exposure related to the fraud. The Central Bureau of Investigation has detained three people, including two PNB employees and an “authorised signatory” of the firms related to Modi.


Rs 17,59,443 crore

What is it? The expected completion cost of 1,283 infrastructure projects compared with the original cost of Rs 15,58,352 crore, according to a government report for October 2017.

Why is it important? This highlights the need to address the major reasons for delay in completion of projects in the infrastructure sector, which is seen as a major driver of economic growth. India’s growth could touch a four-year-low in 2017-18, though it is expected to pick up next fiscal to regain the tag of the fastest-growing country among major economies. Some of the factors responsible for cost overruns include delay in land acquisition, forest clearance, supply of equipment, funding constraints, legal cases, Maoist attacks, and law and order.

Tell me more: Of the 1,283 projects, 12 have been completed, 34 have been initiated this month due to government monitoring, 13 are ahead of schedule, 317 are as per schedule, 302 are delayed, 349 are showing cost overruns, and 105 have reported both cost and time overruns.



What is it? The number of gold medals that Norway, which has a population of 5.2 million, had won at the ongoing Winter Olympics in South Korea till Sunday.

Why is it important? Norway leapfrogged Germany to lead the medals standings by gold medal count, and it’s on pace to better its tally of 11 golds in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In Sochi, Russia, which then had a population of 143 million, matched Norway in gold medals but was placed higher because of a higher total medal count (29 to 26)

Tell me more: As of Sunday, Norway had a total medal count of 26, followed by Germany (18). Besides making news for its impressive medal returns, some Norwegian athletes were also winning with their sartorial choices.


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Trade Gap Is Widening. A Lot.


Rs 11,300 crore

What is it? The amount the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has reportedly asked Punjab National Bank (PNB) to pay to counterparty lenders in the alleged fraud involving billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi.

Why is it important? Although India’s second-largest state lender expressed confidence that it has the capability and capacity to recover the money involved in the fraud, it raises questions as to how and when it would be able to do so. It is said to have sought the help of the government to get out of the mess. Modi reportedly fled the country on January 1, along with his family. Shares of PNB slumped for the second day, taking their total loss to 21%.

Tell me more: The Enforcement Directorate registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), and conducted searches at the offices and residences of Modi and Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems in connection with a Rs 280-crore fraud case against the former. The two other complaints relating to the Rs 11,300 crore gap would be supplemented in this case at a later stage.



What is it? The number of employees the Indian Railways seeks to hire in the Group C category (Level I and II) in one of its biggest recruitment drives.

Why is it important? Most recruitments would reportedly be for the ‘safety’ category, which had a vacancy of over 1.2 lakh as of April 2016. The focus on this increased after a series of rail accidents last year. According to an analysis, the number of deaths due to train derailments in 2016-17 was the highest in a decade; further, according to Niti Aayog, since 2012, six out of 10 rail accidents are due to mistakes or negligence on the part of the railway staff.

Tell me more: Still, the Indian Railways would have to conduct a few more such huge recruitment drives to be able to bridge the vacancy gap, as about 40,000-45,000 employees retire from the organisation every year. This fiscal, around 56,000 employees are set to retire.



What is it? The number of years in which India aims to have an all-electric fleet of cars.

Why is it important? On Thursday, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said there isn’t any need for an electric vehicles (EV) policy for India. This provides a respite to automakers, who are unprepared to meet a wholesale shift to cleaner technology. This is a U-turn from the government’s earlier stance: in January, Gadkari had said the policy had been drafted by government think tank Niti Aayog and that it was pending approval by the Cabinet.

Tell me more: Amitabh Kant, chief executive of Niti Aayog, said India only needs action plans as “technology is always ahead of rules and regulations”. In 2015-16, only 22,000 units of electric vehicles were sold in India, of which just 2,000 were four-wheelers.



$16.3 billion

What is it? The trade deficit (exports minus imports) in January 2018. This is India’s highest trade deficit since May 2013.

Why is it important? Much of the widening in the trade deficit is on account of a 43% year-on-year surge in oil imports, which make up 29% of India’s total import basket. The increase in the oil import bill is the result of oil prices shooting up since mid-2017, reducing the room available with the Indian government for fiscal management.

Tell me more: Oil prices have cooled off in the past couple of weeks, coinciding with the weakness in share prices, but they are not expected to fall significantly from current levels.



What is it? The number of gold medals won by Germany so far in the ongoing Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Why is it important? It is one more than the number of gold medals that Germany won in the 2014 Sochi games, where it finished sixth. Its 2018 count, which has catapulted Germany to the top of the medal leaderboard, includes an unexpected and captivating victory in figure skating pairs, where it was represented by Aljona Savchenko (who previously represented Ukraine) and Bruno Massot (previously France).

Tell me more: Norway was a big mover on the medal board on Thursday, winning three gold medals to rise from fourth to second.


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