News in Numbers, Nov 25, 2016: Tell me before I ask…

56

What is it? The number of people who have been allegedly murdered (51) and committed suicide (5) among those who sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act since it was introduced in 2005, according to data compiled by an NGO.

Why is it important? This points to the fact that the Act in its current form does not have any provisions to ensure safety of those who seek information using this law. Also, this highlights that one of the provisions of this Act under Section 4(2), which requires the authorities to voluntarily disclose information so that the public need not go seeking for it, is not followed effectively. There have been 311 instances of attacks or harassment of people who have asked for information under this Act. Maharashtra and Gujarat top the list in terms of alleged murders and suicides in this case.

Tell me more: The information commissioners could be empowered to work with other authorities such as the police, courts and human rights commissions to protect RTI users from any harm, as per a suggestion by Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator at CHRI. The organisation has put together this data for the period between October 12, 2005 and October 17, 2016. As many as 17.5 million RTI applications have been filed in these 11 years.

 

68.86

What is it? The level to which the Indian rupee fell against the US dollar on Thursday in intraday trade.

Why is it important? This was a record low and it closed at 68.75 a dollar, the lowest since August 2013 when India was caught in its worst currency crisis in over two decades. The US dollar seems to be attractive on the hopes that President-elect Donald Trump will go for an expansionary fiscal policy that would lead to higher inflation and interest rates. Though the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) intervened in the market to prop up the rupee, analyst reports suggest that it may be preserving forex reserves and use it prudently in the backdrop of global investors’ aversion to risks and higher chances of a rate hike in the US.

Tell me more: The Indian rupee was not alone in its fall. The currencies of other emerging markets also took a hit such as the Philippines peso fell to a nearly eight-year low while the Turkish lira touched its lowest on Thursday.

 

Rs 1.28 lakh crore

What is it? The estimated cost of implementing the withdrawal of old currency notes (of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) and replace them with new ones is Rs 1.28 lakh crore, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

Why is it important? This would be about 25.6-32% of the total unaccounted cash that the government hopes to collect Rs 4-5 lakh crore (as reportedly conveyed by it to the Supreme Court). The move by the government has attracted both praise and criticism and this is one way to determine if the cost and effort was worth the exercise. The enterprise sector is estimated to lose Rs 61,500 crore or about half the total estimated transaction cost.

Tell me more: Banks are estimated to bear a cost of Rs 31,140 crore during the 50-day window period until December 30 while the cost to households would be Rs 15,000 crore (to stand in queues to exchange old notes with new ones). The government and the RBI are estimated to bear a cost of Rs 16,800 crore.

 

60%

What is it? The tax to be reportedly levied on unaccounted deposits in banks above a certain limit, as decided at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Thursday night.

Why is it important? This would require amendments to the Income Tax Act, 1961, which the government plans to bring in during the current session of the Parliament, according to sources. The tax rate is likely to be higher than the 45% tax and penalty charged on the unaccounted wealth declared under the one-time Income Declaration Scheme that closed on September 30. However, this rate is lesser than the tax plus 200% penalty that the government had earlier said it would levy on the deposited cash if it doesn’t match the person’s income tax returns.

Tell me more: The government announced on Thursday that over-the-counter exchange of the denotified notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 at banks and post offices will not be allowed from today and that one may only deposit the old notes at banks.

 

$4.4 million

What is it? The amount Jill Stein, the Green Party’s Presidential candidate in the US elections, has raised so far from a crowdfunding effort to initiate recounts in three states – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Why is it important? President-elect Donald Trump won in these states by a narrow margin – 0.3% in Michigan, 1.2% in Pennsylvania and 0.7% in Wisconsin and there have been reports that results in these states may have been manipulated or hacked. These three states account for 46 electoral votes and if on recount, the results are overturned, then Democratic Party Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton can emerge victorious. Trump got 290 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 232 on last count.

Tell me more: The amount raised by Stein so far roughly covers the filing fees ($2.2 million) and attorney’s fees of another $2-3 million. Including the cost of the statewide recount observers, the total costs are likely to come up to $6-7 million. Stein’s crowdfunding campaign aims to raise $4.5 million for the recounting process.

 

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News in Numbers: October 6: Higher education…

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73

What is it? The number of countries that have ratified the Paris climate deal.

Why is it important? This would bring the climate deal into force in thirty days as the twin criteria of at least 55 countries accounting for 55% of global emissions are met. The 73 nations account for 57% of world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Tell me more: Under the plan, countries have submitted voluntary plans to cut down on emissions and they can’t opt out of the deal for next four years. So, if Donald Trump gets elected as the next US president, the world’s second largest emitter, can’t annul the deal in his tenure.

15 million

What is it? The number of teachers required in South Asia by 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of inclusive and equitable quality education for all, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Why is it important? Nearly three-fourths of the requirement is at the secondary level. Two major drivers for demand would be to keep students in the school for a longer period of time, and also to reduce student-teacher ratio to a manageable level. In South Asia, only 65% of the students are enrolled in secondary education, with student-teacher ratio of 29:1 as compared to global average of 18:1.

Tell me more: India classifies students in the age group of 11-17 years as secondary education and enrolment ratio is only 69% in this segment.

Rs 5,083 crore

What is it? The amount paid by Intas Pharmaceuticals to buy generics business of Actavis in UK and Ireland.

Why is it important? The all-cash deal is the largest outbound merger and acquisition transaction in the pharma space in 2016. The deal value represents2.4 times the turnover of Actavis’ generics business in UK and Ireland, and will increase Intas topline by a fourth.

Tell me more: Teva Pharmaceutical, an Israeli generic drug maker, acquired Allergan’s generic business for $ 40.5 billion in 2015. This deal made Teva the largest generic drugmaker in the world. Since then, Teva has been selling assets to comply with competition laws.

17.5 million

What is it? The number of applications filed under India’s Right to Information Act in the last decade. This amounts to an average of 4,800 applicants each day, according to a study by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

Why is it important? It shows the need for government to identify commonly asked questions and make available those information in a proactive manner.

Tell me more: 27% of queries were received by the centre. Maharashtra and Karnataka received most information request applications among the states.

48

What is it? The number of communication transponders carried by Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) latest satellite, GSAT-18. The satellite was successfully launched by Ariane-5, an European launch vehicle.

Why is it important? This launch will increase India’s transponder capacity by 17%, and will help meet the growing demand for satellite television channels in India. As per ISRO estimate, 96 transponders are leased on foreign satellites by domestic broadcasters.

Tell me more: With the successful launch of the tenth flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, which had indigenous cryogenic engine, ISRO is aiming to launch communication satellites like GSAT-18 from India. GSAT-18 is 3,400 kgs.

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The cost of delay in appointing information commissioners

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Earlier this week, the Delhi high court admitted a plea against the Central government to fill vacancies in the Central Information Commission—the institution of second appeal in the Right to Information (RTI) architecture—in a “time-bound” manner.

 

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Of the 10 posts of information commissioners, three have remained vacant through the tenure of this government. The top post—which handles cases related to the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat, among others—was empty for about nine months. Vijai Sharma was appointed in June, but only for six months as he retires in December.

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The experience of the past shows that non-appointments, or delays in appointment, leads to a pile up of cases, and irrevocably shifts the goalpost of pendency.

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News in Numbers – September 7, 2015

News In Numbers: September 7, 2015

 

27%

The extent by which India’s gross domestic product (GDP) would expand if India were to have as many women workers as men workers, according to International Monetary Fund estimates. Speaking at the launch of W20, a gathering of women leaders from the world’s largest economies, including India, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the equivalent numbers for US and Japan were just 5% and 9%, respectively. Though women account for 48.5% of India’s population, gender inequality exists in most dimensions. However, recently, India has managed to bring down gender parity in schools, where the girls-to-boy ratio in primary classes is 1.02 and 0.94 in secondary schools. Overall, India ranks a poor 127 in the United Nations Gender Inequality Index for 2013.

 

25%

Percentage of respondents in a survey by industry body Ficci that are likely to plan capacity addition in manufacturing in the next six months. The current subdued investment in manufacturing is mainly attributed to delay in clearances, poor demand and high interest rates. The respondents were from 386 manufacturing units of all sizes. The survey also says that hiring will remain muted, with 79% of respondents not planning to add workers in the next three months. The number of jobs created in manufacturing declined by 4% in 2012-13, over 2011-12, according to Assocham Economic Research Bureau.  Although the growth of Indian manufacturing has been sluggish, it is the only country (besides Vietnam) that has showed expansion in August from the previous month among emerging market Asian economies.

 

10%

The percentage increase in entry-level salaries of engineering graduates who will join TCS and Cognizant Technology next year. This is the first time IT companies have increased salaries of entry-level engineers in about seven years, which was stagnant at about Rs 3 lakh per year. Brokerage firm Kotak Institutional Equities estimates that this would impact the companies’ profit margins by 0.25 percentage points in 2016-17 and their earnings per share by 1-2%. IT industry grouping Nasscom estimates technology majors will hire only 30,000 people in 2015-16, 13% fewer than 2014-15. With IT companies looking at automation and other ways to reduce cost, the excess supply of engineering graduates is likely to remain a problem.

 

Rs 37.22 crore

The amount Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s overseas trips have cost the exchequer, between June 2014 and June 2015. Although Modi visited 20 countries, expenses related to 16 countries were provided to an RTI (Right to Information) application. About 40% of this amount was spent on two trips: Australia and the US. In his first year as Prime Minister, Modi allocated 14.5% of his tenure to visit 17 countries, while his predecessor Manmohan Singh spent 12.9% of his tenure to visit 12 countries in his first year. Of the total inflow of foreign investment in 2014-15, India received about 26.1% foreign direct investment from 12 countries visited by Modi in the same period. Indian companies invested over 53% of the total outflow of foreign investment in 2014-15 in these 12 countries.

 

12,000-14,000

The estimated number of leopards in India, according the first ever census of the country’s leopards. The census did not cover Gujarat, parts of Rajasthan, and eastern and northeastern parts. Leopards were counted using the same methods as those employed for estimating India’s tiger population: camera-trapping and gathering other evidence of their presence. Madhya Pradesh has the highest estimate of leopards (1,817), followed by Karnataka (1,129) and Maharashtra (905). The lead scientist of the tiger census, who presented the leopard figures last week, said there was no way of knowing whether their numbers have increased or decreased. A recent study by three wildlife scientists estimated a 70-80% decline in the leopard population in the last 100 years.

 

 

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