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Is Demand For Gold Fading Away?

 

World’s demand for gold is the lowest since third-quarter of 2009.  Voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out in large numbers in the latest assembly elections. A larger chunk of proceeds of crime have been laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Indian doctors are not spending enough time for primary care consultations, says a study.

 

650 tonnes

What is it? India’s expected gold demand in 2017, according to World Gold Council (WGC) India.

Why is it important? This would be the lowest in eight years. In comparison, the demand was 666.1 tonnes last year while the 10-year average was 845 tonnes. The WGC has attributed this to the government’s initiatives to make bullion trading more transparent in addition to weak demand in some rural areas. Under the new goods and services tax regime rolled out recently, the tax on gold more than doubled to 3% from 1.2% earlier.

Tell me more: Weaker demand in India, which is the second biggest gold consumer after China, could result in the reduction of global gold prices, which recently were at a near three-week high. It remains to be seen if the wedding season in the current quarter is able to help revive the demand in the country.

 

74%

What is it? The polling percentage for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This is the highest voting percentage for the hill state, which has not returned a government in the last 30 years. A high voter turnout was traditionally considered as an anti-incumbency vote, but recent data doesn’t suggest so. In three state elections – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh – with high voter turnover, two incumbents were re-elected.

Tell me more: Himachal Pradesh became the first state to use paper trail (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) for all polling stations (7,525). 297 out of 11,283 paper trail machines developed snag and were replaced.

 

48%

What is it? The percentage of cases registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) where financial institutions were responsible post-demonetisation.

Why is it important? Higher incidence of people using financial institutions to launder money could indicate corrupt practices within the highly regulated banks, but it could also mean suspicious transactions are better tracked. Enforcement Directorate (ED) says proceeds of crime are laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Real estate (35%) and gold/ precious metal (7%) came second and third in terms of number of cases registered by the ED.

Tell me more: Between November 2016 and September 2017, the ED conducted 620 searches and issued 597 showcause notices. ED has attached assets worth Rs5,335 crore under FEMA.

 

2 minutes

What is it? The mean duration of India’s primary care consultation time in 2015, according to a global study published in British medical journal BMJ Open.

Why is it important? Shorter consultation times means poorer health outcomes for patients, which also indicates a heightened sense of burnout for the doctors. According to a recent Global Burden of Disease Study, the country ranked a poor 154 of 195 countries on the healthcare index. In India, the doctor-population ratio of 0.62 per 1,000 is way lesser than the prescribed ratio of 1:100 by the World Health Organization.

Tell me more: The report, which collated data from 178 studies, covered 67 countries and over 28.5 million consultations. Overall, primary care consultations last less than five minutes for half of the global population but range from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden.

 

180 million

What is it? The number of smartphone owners who are at the risk of having their text messages and calls intercepted by hackers, according to cyber-security firm Appthority.

Why is it important? This is due to a simple coding error in some mobile apps that use functions provided by Twilio, a third-party service provider. Such studies point to the necessity to download apps from trusted stores, a careful inspection of app permissions and not go for something called ‘rooting’ (for Android users) that allows third-party services to break software locks for users to make software changes that cannot be made otherwise.

Tell me more: Appthority found 685 problematic mobile apps linked to 85 Twilio accounts of a survey of 1,100 apps. Here’s how it works: The apps use the services of providers such as Twilio to send text messages and make phone calls and if developers leave those credentials (tools for authentication) in apps, their accounts could be exposed to the hackers. They, in turn, can access related data if they log into the accounts of the developers on Twilio.

 

 

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News in Numbers, Oct 20, 2016: Safety PIN…

In the recent days, some banks have been sending out instructions to some of their customers asking them to change their personal identification number (PIN) or even blocking some debit cards to issue replacements. There have been disturbing news reports that talk about certain debit cards having been compromised with. With more and more Indians (though 78% of all consumer payments were made by cash last year) opting to go for digital modes of payment (what with the rapid growth in the usage of smartphones), nearly $500 billion worth of transactions in the country would happen digitally by 2020 (that is, 10 times the current levels), as per a report. In a bid to become cashless, we shouldn’t forget that there need to be robust systems to prevent such breaches and ensure protection to consumers from possible digital frauds.

Here are a couple of articles that talk about how to deal with online bank and ATM card frauds.

 

32 lakh

What is it? The number of debit cards that are reportedly compromised (unauthorised access to financial details of the card enabling stealing of funds).

Why is it important? It could turn out to be one of the biggest financial breaches in Indian banking history. The worst-hit banks are said to be: the State Bank of India (SBI), HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Yes Bank. Of the total, 26 lakh are reportedly on the Visa and Mastercard platforms with the rest on RuPay. The Reserve Bank of India is said to have asked banks to replace debit cards whose security is suspected to have been compromised and this number is put at 17.5 lakh, according to another report.

Tell me more: SBI, India’s largest lender, has blocked the debit cards of 6 lakh customers and started the process of replacing them. As of July 2016, the total debit card base in India was 69.7 crore.

 

3

What is it? The number of hospitals in Odisha that have fire safety clearance, of the total of 568.

Why is it important? Highlights the blatant violation of fire safety norms by the healthcare system in Odisha and the need for better enforcement of rules by the authorities. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which brought out this fact, has issued a noticeto the state government after a fire accident killed 21 people at Sum Hospital in Bhubaneshwar on Monday evening. The Union Health Minister JP Nadda has said new guidelines will be issued to all states to ensure hospitals are fire-compliant.

Tell me more: The NHRC has called on the government to file a report in six weeks, asking it to mention the measures it has taken or proposes to take to prevent such mishaps in the future and also, the relief and rehabilitation given to the relatives of those who died or were injured in the accident.

 

4

What is it? The number of serotypes or strains of dengue virus that can be potentially targeted by a vaccine candidate, which is under development by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with Sun Pharma.

Why is it important? This is reportedly the first indigenous dengue vaccine candidate to be developed that could provide protection against all the four strains of the virus. Currently, there is no vaccine (except for one) or any particular medicine to treat dengue, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). As many as 51,731 cases of dengue and 93 dengue-related deaths have been reported in India so far this year. However, this potential vaccine has passed only the pre-clinical stages and it could take some time before it hits the markets.

Tell me more: The WHO approved the world’s first vaccine for dengue fever called Dengvaxia developed by Sanofi Pasteur in April this year though a high-level (Indian) government committee held back approvals citing the need for additional clinical trial data.

 

35 million

What is it? The number of smartphones shipped during the July-September quarter, according to Counterpoint Research.

Why is it important? This is a new record for the Indian market – smartphone shipments grew 25% on a year-on-year basis and 21% sequentially. Interestingly, Chinese vendors such as Lenovo, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo now command nearly a third of the Indian smartphone market (32%, up from 27% in the previous quarter), eating into the market share of top players such as Samsung, Micromax and Intex. Though Samsung and Micromax are still the top two players (in that order), their market share fell to 21.6% (from 25.6% in the June quarter) and 9.8% (from 14.1%) in the September quarter respectively.

Tell me more: Lenovo regained the third position while Reliance Industries’ smartphone brand Lyf moved up a position to become the fourth largest brand. Intex slipped from the third position to the fifth.

 

150

What is it? The number of entities that have been banned by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) after getting the authority to regulate collective investment schemes (CIS) in 2013.

Why is it important? Though the market regulator had asked these firms to discontinue their schemes, repay investors in three months and file a winding-up report, none of them have done so. Highlights the difficulty in regulating such entities and the need for a better mechanism to refund investors who’ve fallen prey to Ponzi schemes. For instance, PACL Ltd, which owes Rs 49,100 crore to 5.8 crore investors, has not complied with the CIS rules and is yet to refund its investors.

Tell me more: SEBI has filed 567 prosecution cases against those collecting public money through illegal investment schemes, as on July 31.

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News in Numbers, Aug 30, 2016: Fines for animal cruelty, smartphones and productivity…

0.65

What is it? The percentage points by which the weighted average lending rate on outstanding rupee loans fell from December 2014 to June 2016. The repo rate (the rate at which the central bank lends money to banks) was reduced by 1.5 percentage points in the same period.

Why is it important? Indicates that monetary transmission has not been effective, despite the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) push to banks to reduce lending rates. On the other hand, the weighted average domestic term deposit rate has been reduced by 1.12 percentage points, a move seen as the banks’ attempt to protect their profit margins even as they struggle with mounting bad loans and higher provisioning for those.

Tell me more: The RBI said that with the new system (marginal cost of funds based lending rate), which has been effective since April 1, 2016, the banks’ benchmark lending rates would be “more sensitive to changes in the policy rate”.

 

Rs 25-100

What is it? The proposed fines for treating animals with cruelty by beating, kicking and torturing, as per changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, according to a report. The current penalties range between Rs 10-50.

Why is it important? Indicates that the government is getting serious about animal cruelty, after a series of shocking incidents. However, it’s not clear if such small hikes in penalties will deter the violators of animal protection rules. The PCA (amendment) Bill, 2016, is likely to be introduced in the Parliament during the Winter Session.

Tell me more: If someone is found to be using an injection on cows and other milch animal to improve lactation at the cost of the animals’ health, the proposed fine is Rs 5,000, up from the current Rs 1,000. There have been 24,353 animal cruelty cases reported in India between 2012-13 and 2014-15, according to government records.

 

10

What is it? The number of years the urine/blood samples of Olympic participants are stored by the International Olympic Committee for re-testing.

Why is it important? Re-testing of silver medal winning wrestler Russia’s Besik Kudukhov in 2012 London Olympics has led to his disqualification, and upgradation of Yogeshwar Dutt’s bronze medal to silver. The event was 60-kg freestyle wrestling. Once the official announcement is made, India would have three silver medals from the London Games, including those won by wrestler Sushil Kumar and shooter Vijay Kumar. Kudukhov died in a car accident in 2013.

Tell me more: The earlier maximum period for re-testing of samples was eight years from collecting them, which was then extended to 10 years in 2015.

 

17

What is it? The jail term given to a former primary school principal in Bihar for the death of 23 children after consuming a mid-day meal in 2013.

Why is it important? The court in Chhapra (headquarters of Saran district) treated it as a rarest of rare case and ordered for the sentence to be run consecutively rather than concurrently. The former principal Mina Devi has been given 10 years in prison for culpable homicide and seven years for criminal negligence in addition to a total fine of Rs 3.75 lakh. The mid-day meal scheme is the world’s largest school feeding programme of its kind and has been implemented to ensure children do not skip school due to hunger.

Tell me more: Devi was found negligent of storing mustard oil in a container that had traces of pesticide.

 

26%

What is it? The increase in productivity levels when people don’t use smartphones while working at their desks, according to a study.

Why is it important? This could help companies devise policies on the usage of smartphones at workplaces. One suggestion is to have dedicated smartphone-free time and one of the ways to implement this is to not allow the use of smartphones in normal work environments, according to the managing director (South Asia) at Kaspersky Lab.

Tell me more: The experiment tested the behaviour of 95 people aged 19-56 years in labs at the Universities of Würzburg and Nottingham-Trent where a pattern emerged correlating productivity levels and the distance of the smartphone from the user. The productivity levels were the lowest when the smartphone was on the desk and the highest when taken away from the room.

 

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News in Numbers, August 8, 2016: Apple India sales decline, floods have killed over 300…

800,000

What is it? The number of smartphones Apple shipped in India in the April-June quarter of this year, according to a report.

Why is it important? This is a third lower than the 1.2 million smartphones the company shipped in the same period last year. These numbers do not look good at a time when Apple is betting big on India, even as its sales in China (its second largest market after the US) has slowed down recently. The Indian government relaxed some foreign direct investment norms a couple of months ago, where Apple was seen as one of the beneficiaries.

Tell me more: Apple’s loss seems to have been Android phones’ gain, whose shipments increased by over 28% to 29.8 million in the second quarter of 2016.

 

Rs 19 crore

What is it? The average overall pay package of the chief executive officers (CEOs) of 20 of the 24 private sector companies listed on BSE Sensex in 2015-16. The other four are yet to disclose this information.

Why is it important? This is almost double from the average CEO salary of Rs 9.9 crore in 2013-14 and a 35% hike from 2014-15’s average. This came during a year when the combined net loss of 11 BSE Sensex companies was Rs 33,905 crore, which far exceeded the cumulative net profit of 16 firms (Rs 23,525 crore) on this index. The three other firms posted a dramatic turnaround last financial year.

Tell me more: Of the six public sector companies on the BSE Sensex, details of only one firm was available, that of the chairperson of the State Bank of India, which was just Rs 31.1 lakh.

 

Rs 13,500 crore

What is it? The amount the government hopes to raise from public sector units (PSUs) buying back their shares in the next couple of months.

Why is it important? With the government having already garnered Rs 3,183 crore from stake sale in hydropower generation firm NHPC, employee subscription in Indian Oil Corporation and disinvestment in power utility firm NTPC in 2016-17, this is likely to take the total amount raised through this route to over Rs 16,000 crore – around 44% of the target the government has set from minority stake sale in PSUs this financial year. After missing its disinvestment targets for the sixth year in a row last year, these buy-backs could help the government achieve its target of Rs 56,500 crore in 2016-17 (with Rs 36,000 crore expected from minority stake sales and Rs 20,500 crore from strategic stake sales).

Tell me more: In June, the government had asked PSUs with a net worth of at least Rs 2,000 crore and cash balance of over Rs 1,000 crore to buy back their shares from the stock markets. A central public sector enterprise can seek to be an exception based on its financials and mentioning its capital expenditure plans.

 

> 300

What is it? The number of people who have died in different states such as Bihar, Assam and Uttarakhand due to floods in the recent weeks. Lakhs of them have been displaced.

Why is it important? Floods are an almost annual affair in the country during monsoon, which account for around 70% of India’s yearly rainfall. These occurrences are mainly as a result of poor drainage systems in urban areas with haphazard construction activities without due consideration to the hydrology of an area while in rural areas, it is due to bad policy decisions, climate change and man-made problems such as deforestation.

Tell me more: According to a 2015 United Nations report, India’s annual economic losses due to disasters is $9.8 billion, of which floods account for over $7 billion.

 

Rs 1,200

What is it? The proposed upper limit fee for issue of driving licences, up from Rs 320.

Why is it important? This is part of the proposed amendments to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules 1989, which is likely to make driving (any vehicle) more expensive. The charges for conducting a driving test is likely to increase to Rs 300 from Rs 50 while that for a twin-test (two-wheeler and four-wheeler) could be hiked to Rs 600 from Rs 50.

Tell me more: The other increases include hikes in cost of issuing smart-card driving licence, learner’s driving licence, international driving permit and introduction of fees for applying for changing details (such as residential address) in the licences. The states are allowed to levy additional fees for automation, technology and value-add services.

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