RIP Sridevi

The legendary actress, Sridevi, may have gone from our lives, but she will live in our hearts forever.


What is it? The approximate number of films in which Indian actress Sridevi has featured. She died of a cardiac arrest in Dubai, according to her family. She was 54.

Why is it important? Referred to as India’s first female superstar, Sridevi was among the handful of actors who enjoyed a mass appeal across major regional film industries in India, and was one of the few female actors who could deliver hits without dependence on male actors. Sridevi began her film career at the age of four in a Tamil movie and went on to deliver hits such as Pathinaru Vayathinile and Moondram Pirai in Tamil, and Chandni and Mr India in Hindi. Her rise to the top was also remarkable for happening without any backing or connections in the movie industry.

Tell me more: Sridevi is survived by husband Boney Kapoor, a film producer, and two daughters. The debut film of her elder daughter, Jhanvi Kapoor, is due in July 2018.



What is it? The number of Rajya Sabha seats from 16 states that are due for retirement, in addition to a casual vacancy that will arise due to the resignation of a member from Kerala. The elections to these seats will be held on March 23.

Why is it important? This is likely to significantly alter the composition of nearly a fourth of Rajya Sabha. BJP, which overtook Congress in August 2017 to become the largest political party in the Rajya Sabha, is likely to gain as it is in power in three top states where seats will fall vacant, including 10 from Uttar Pradesh and six each from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. However, the party reportedly does not have ‘big names’ from UP to fill the seats and it might take a while for it to have a clear majority in the Upper House.

Tell me more: The issue of notification of the polls will happen on March 5, while the last date for filing nominations will be March 12. The counting will take place on the same day as the polling.


$65.3 billion

What is it? The gain in net worth of Berkshire Hathaway, the Warren Buffett-controlled holding company, during 2017, the results for which were announced on Saturday.

Why is it important? Of this, $29 billion was, in Buffett’s words, “delivered to us in December when Congress rewrote the US Tax Code”, the two main provisions of which were the lowering of the corporate tax rate in the US from 35% to 21% and the deemed repatriation of past earnings on overseas subsidiaries. For Berkshire, the greater cash in hand increases the imperative for further acquisitions, though Buffett insisted it would not make buys for the sake of making buys.

Tell me more: Among Berkshire’s common stock investments, which had a market value of $170 billion as on December 31, 2017, Wells Fargo held the number one spot ($29.2 billion) followed by Apple ($28.2 billion) and Bank of America ($20.6 billion).


Rs 389.85 crore

What is it? The value of the alleged bank loan fraud by a Delhi-based diamond jewellery exporter, according to a complaint filed by the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Why is it important? This is the third big banking fraud that has surfaced in the last few days, raising serious questions about processes, risk controls and auditing at Indian banks. The loans taken by Dwarka Das Seth International Pvt Ltd, owned by Sabhya Seth, reportedly turned sour in 2014 but OBC approached the investigating agency only last August and the CBI took over six months to file a case against the accused. The Delhi-based jeweller apparently followed the same modus operandi as jewellery designer Nirav Modi, who has been accused of defrauding Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore.

Tell me more: The Supreme Court directed the government to set up a three-member committee of experts within two months to scrutinize the regulatory regime for audit firms, in the wake of the PNB case. The committee is expected to submit its report to the apex court in three months.



What is it? The number of titles won by Manchester City under manager Pep Guardiola, who is now in his second year at the club. On Sunday, Manchester City won its maiden title under Guardiola, beating Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final.

Why is it important? This win is being heralded as the beginning of a triumphant era for Manchester City. This season, the club is in line for a treble: besides the Carabao Cup, they are a near lock for the Premier League title, leading by 13 points with 11 matches to go, and have one foot in the quarter-finals of the premier competition in Europe.

Tell me more: Guardiola is one of the most decorated coaches of this era, winning big in his last two assignments in Bayern Munich (7 titles in three seasons) and Barcelona (14 titles in four seasons). He was drafted by Manchester City with a larger plan of long-term, global dominance in mind.


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News in Numbers, Mar 30, 2017: Bills and losses

14 paise/minute

What is it? The least possible retail price for calls according to leading mobile players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

Why is it important? Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has rejected the claim. This puts a spanner in the works of embattled telecom players. They had rallied around to protest call charges lower than the interconnect charge of 14 paise a minute. This is paid by the operator on whose network a call originates to the recipient network operator. At the centre of the storm is Reliance Jio, whose pricing is being termed as predatory as its ‘free’ consumer offers involves paying other networks the interconnect charge. It has ardently lobbied for dropping of even the interconnect charges to be able to price its products even lower. But it would hit the income of other networks for connecting Jio’s calls.

Tell me more: Trai will present its argument of rejecting interconnect charges as the minimum retail price to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal this week.


213 megawatts

What is it? India’s net exported power in April-February, 2017, turning it into a net exporter for the first time since exports began the mid-80s.

Why is it important? Even as states like Bihar continue to reel from scarce power supply, India turns net exporter, after commissioning new power lines through parts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. It exported 5,798 megawatts to Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and imported 5,585 megawatts from Bhutan.

Tell me more: India started exporting electricity in the mid-80s but remained a net importer so far. More cross-border linkages with higher voltage will raise the quantity.



What is it? The number of money bills, part the last GST-related statutes batch, passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, during the ongoing budget session of the Parliament.

Why is it important? The seminal tax reform, Goods and Services Tax, could now see the light of day as early as July 1, across India. GST will create a uniform indirect tax structure and making the states and Centre equal stakeholders in it through the GST council. With the last four bills — central GST bill, the integrated GST bill, the Union Territory GST bill, and the GST (compensation to states) bill — passed by the lower house, the Rajya Sabha has 14 days to make recommendations only on the laws (money bills).

Tell me more: Between April and May, the GST council will have to categorise goods and services in the four taxation slabs for GST — 5%, 12%, 28% and 28%.



What is it? The number of amendments with which the finance bill was passed in Rajya Sabha.

Why is it important? The amendments included those relating to additional powers to income tax officials and political funding by companies. These moves by the government were not only criticised for giving too much power to tax officials and reducing transparency, they were also criticised for using Finance Bill to pass far reaching reforms. Rajya Sabha has limited power over Money Bill, it can suggest changes, but Lok Sabha need not accept them. BJP has a majority in Lok Sabha.

Tell me more: Three amendments were moved by Digvijaya Singh of Congress and the remaining two by Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M)


Rs 12,000 crore

What is it? The projected loss to automobile sector, including manufacturers and dealers, if the sale of BS-III (those complying to Bharat Stage 3 emission norms) vehicles are stopped from April.

Why is it important? Supreme court banned the sales of all the BS-III vehicles effective April, saying emissions from these vehicles impact the health. Manufacturers still have 8.24 vehicles that comply to BS-III norms, and junking them would result in the losses. However, the Supreme Court said the deadline was set 6 years ago, and the industry was given enough time to prepare for the transition. The vehicles in stock include 96,724 commercial vehicles, 6,71,308 two-wheelers, 40,048 three-wheelers and 16,198 cars. They are now rushing to clear these inventories now.

Tell me more: BS III corresponds to Euro III norms. BS IV – corresponding to Euro IV – is slated to be imposed from April 1st 2017, and BS VI, with even higher standards is expected to come into force by 2020.

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News in Numbers, Feb 10, 2017: How safe are your debit cards?

3.2 million


What is it? Bank customers whose debit card data was stolen in 2016 due to the hacking of Hitachi Payment Services that manages ATMs of certain banks.


Why is it important? While millions of users were stricken between May and July of 2016 and had their money stolen, Hitachi Payments only now admitted on Thursday it still does not know the amount of user data compromised. The hacking, detected in September, led to an audit of Hitachi Payments, whose ATMs for banks like ICICI Bank, Yes Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, SBI were affected the most.


Tell me more: The audit results, now out, by SISA Information Security and commissioned by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), tells of a sophisticated malware that concealed its tracks and was able to delete them. Hitachi in its admission says containment measures have been deployed.





What is it? The productivity of the Lok Sabha in the first phase of the Budget session for 2017.


Why is it important? The phase which saw the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill or the bill on demonetisation, along with others such as the Finance Bill, Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, passed, saw the Lok Sabha accomplish 13% more work than scheduled. This was less than the first phase productivity of 2016’s Budget session (123%). While the data was shared by the Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar, it reiterates a study by think-tank PRS Legislative Research which showed having a majority in the lower house helped keep up Budget session productivity levels for this government. While productivity hovered between 49-89% in 2010-2013 Budget sessions, 2014 onwards, it was at 103-121%.


Tell me more: Rajya Sabha productivity in the first phase of the ongoing session was 97%.



>3 million


What is it? The number of people forced from their homes by the civil war going on in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.


Why is it important? The United Nations now says the fighting between the government and rebel forces is reaching “worrying proportions”. Aid workers have had to be evacuated and military supplies and reinforcements find their way to the country.


Tell me more: South Sudan’s brief history has been fraught with the ongoing civil war leading to a humanitarian crisis, rife with displacement and food insecurity. A tentative peace agreement struck in 2015 is still to be acted upon.



$ 250 billion


What is it? The amount analysts expect India to spend on defense modernisation over the next 10 years


Why is it important? With this large budget, it hopes to get manufacturers shift their production facilities to India, boosting its Make in India campaign. Its deal with Lockheed Martin to make its F-16 combat jets in India was in this direction. However, the defense firm has now said US government under Trump might take a fresh look at the deal, which could be a setback for Make in India efforts.
Tell me more: One of the key campaign promises of Donald Trump was to bring back jobs to America, and the indications are that he will try protectionist measures to achieve that.



2 million


What is it? The number of users Twitter added in the last quarter of 2016. It now has 319 million monthly active users.


Why is it important? In contrast, Facebook, its rival in the social media space, added 72 million users. It came during the height of American presidential campaign, with Donald Trump making his most impactful statements on Twitter. The user growth, as well as the merely 1% increase in quarterly revenues hammered the stock price down by 11%.


Tell me more: Despite this, Twitter suggested its users are getting more addicted to the platform pointed to the growth (11% quarter on quarter) in daily active user numbers.

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Get Smart Fast | Six things you have to know about GST



Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Before delving into what GST is, let’s understand how taxes are collected in India. Taxes can be broadly classified under three buckets – income, production and consumption. The central government has the complete right (almost) to tax income and production in the form of income tax and excise duty. When it comes to consumption, both the central and state governments levy taxes in the form of service tax and Value added Tax (VAT). Income taxes are directly collected from people who earn salaries or companies that report profits. The others are paid by producers (Maruti Suzuki) or service providers (restaurants) but are collected from buyers. These are called indirect taxes.


What would the GST do?

It would merge almost all the indirect taxes into one tax that will be applicable all over India at a single rate. A car produced by Maruti would attract a single tax rate irrespective of where it is purchased.


Why do we need this Constitution Amendment Bill?

With GST, both the centre and the states will have powers to tax both production and consumption. States, at present, don’t have the powers to levy taxes on production, except on alcohol. Changing this means amending the constitution. And, amending the constitution requires two-third majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Plus, half the states have to ratify the bill.


What happens next? Will GST be implemented from next month?

  • The Constitution Amendment Bill is like an enabling Act to roll out GST. The next steps include:
    50% of states have to approve the bill.
  • Once approved, both the centre and states will come out with laws that will administer GST.
  • The final decision on what the GST rate will be is yet to be taken. It could be 15% or 18%.
  • The technology and administrative platforms are being developed to handle paperwork but it remains to be seen when these could be rolled out.

Nevertheless, the Constitution Amendment Bill was the biggest task and it sorted out major issues. Now that there is a consensus, the rest would fall in place.


How will it benefit me?

It depends on the GST rate, which is yet to be agreed upon.

In 2010, Maruti’s Ritz attracted an indirect tax of 24%. This includes 12.5% VAT, 9% excise duty, 1-2% entry tax, 2% CST (Central Sales Tax), and registration charges.

Let’s say if the GST rate is 16%, then there will be a Rs 30,000 reduction in taxes. Of course, it depends on whether Maruti decides to pass on the benefit of this tax reduction.

If the GST rate is fixed at 18%, then all services will become costlier – from eating out to telephone bills – as the current service tax is at 15% including cess.


How will companies benefit from GST?

  • Optimal location of warehouses – at present, companies have warehouses in each of the states they operate. If they don’t do so, the dealer (who buys goods from the producer) has to pay CST of 2%. Now, CST would be absorbed into GST. Therefore, companies can locate warehouses to optimally distribute their goods.
  • Lower price could lead to higher demand – A reduction in price because of lower taxes will stimulate demand, and this in turn could lead to higher investments.


Are there any negatives?

Yes. Services account for more than half of the Indian economy. If the GST rate is higher than the 15% being levied now, then inflation will go up.

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