News in numbers, Apr 11, 2016: Kollam temple fire accident, Pak’s infiltration attempts…

> 100

What is it? The number of people killed by fire and explosions caused by fireworks at Puttingal Temple in Kollam district of Kerala.

Why is it important? Though Kerala temples have seen fire accidents in the past, the scale of Sunday’s disaster is one of the largest. Rules are often flouted or ignored during such festivals. The Puttingal temple authorities did not have permission for any kind of fireworks, not even to store them. As many as 20,377 fire accident cases killed 19,513 people in 2014.

Tell me more: The Puttingal Temple accident has injured nearly 400 people. A judicial enquiry was set up on Sunday to investigate why the temple authorities went ahead with the fireworks when there was no permission granted.  

Rs 12,230 crore

What is it? The amount the central government has released to the states for rural employment guarantee programme, MGNREGA.

Why is it important? This is likely to provide some respite to people in rural areas at a time when nearly half of India’s 676 districts are facing drought. The move comes after the Supreme Court pulled up the government last week for not releasing adequate funds on time for the MGNREGA scheme.

Tell me more: The government has also reduced the estimated number of person-days by 220 million in 2016-17 from 2,391 million person-days the previous year. This means fewer people would get work or there would be lesser work for those who apply for the scheme, which is supposed to be demand-driven.

$20 billion

What is it? India’s proposed investments in oil and gas, petrochemical and fertiliser projects in Iran.

Why is it important? If this goes through, India could get access to cheaper gas in addition to land for various projects and Iran could increase its crude oil exports to the levels that existed before Western sanctions. The likely deals would help revive Indo-Iranian relations, which had gone downhill after India shied away from investments in Iran due to the sanctions.

Tell me more: Iraq replaced Iran as India’s second largest crude supplier after the Western sanctions were imposed. Currently, Iran is India’s fifth largest crude supplier.

Rs 3,500 crore

What is it? Bharti Airtel’s investment to acquire 4G spectrum from Aircel in eight telecom zones.

Why is it important? This makes Bharti Airtel the first telecom operator to have 4G services across the country, strengthening its position ahead of the likely 4G war. Reliance Jio, which has spectrum access in all the 22 circles, would launch by the end of the year.

Tell me more: Sunil Bharti Mittal’s firm would acquire 4G spectrum in Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Assam, the North-East, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. This spectrum is valid up to September 20, 2030. Last month, Bharti Airtel bought Videocon’s entire spectrum (in six circles) for Rs 4,428 crore.

100

What is it? The number of infiltration attempts from Pakistan into India in 2015 (against 222 in 2014).

Why is it important? The Indian government has approved a five-layer plan to stop infiltration on India’s 2,900-km western border shared with Pakistan. At a reported cost of Rs 1 crore per kilometre, the security upgrade would help in preventing incidents such as the Pathankot attacks and smuggling.

Tell me more: The five-layer plan includes the multiple use of technologies such as CCTV cameras, thermal image devices, night vision devices and laser barriers, and a control room set up at every 5-6 km of the stretch. Two pilot projects in 5-km stretches each in Punjab and Jammu commenced two weeks ago.

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News in numbers, Jan 28, 2016: Apple turns to India for growth, global corruption index…

 

800,000

What is it? The number of iPhones sold by Apple in India in the last three months of 2015, according to Counterpoint Technology Research.

Why is it important? This is the highest ever sales recorded in the country, a 76% growth from a year ago. However, this is less than 3% of total smartphones sold in India during the period. Globally, Apple reported flat sales of its flagship smartphone, which accounts forover two-thirds of its revenue, in this period, a reason it’s turning its attention on India. The company said it is “increasingly putting more energy” into the country’s youth and their rising disposable income. Recently, it had sought the government’s approval to open its own retail stores in India.

Tell me more: Analysts are worried that China’s economic slowdown (it reported the lowest numbers in 25 years) might impact Apple’s growth. Greater China accounted for nearly a fourth of Apple’s fourth quarter revenue.

 

76

What is it? India’s ranking in 2015’s global corruption index (out of 168 countries) by Transparency International.

Why is it important? It has moved up nine positions from the previous year’s 85th ranking. Its grade index score of 38 out of 100 (100 is the least corrupt) compares poorly with the Denmark’s 91, the top country in the index. Shows India has a long way to go in weeding out corruption. One of the key promises by the NDA government has been to improve India’s ranking in the ease of doing business index and position it among the top 50 countries. To do so, India would have to tackle corruption quickly, which has been cited as the main obstacle in doing business in the country by a 2014 KPMG report.

Tell me more: Brazil reported the worst decline in rankings, down seven positions to the 76th position, as a massive scandal erupted at state-run companies.

 

Rs 6 lakh crore

What is it? The amount the Indian government could earn based on the telecom regulator’s recommendations on the reserve price for spectrum in the  700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands.

Why is it important? This would be the highest ever earned by the government from spectrum auction, if it accepts the regulator’s recommendations. The 700 MHz band, which is known to be the best for offering mobile broadband and 4G services and is being offered under the auction for the first time, could alone contribute to around Rs 4 lakh crore. The telecom companies are reeling under massive debts (Rs 3.5 lakh crore as of April 2015) and it remains to be seen how far they are willing to stretch their balance sheets to participate in the next round of auction.

Tell me more: Telecom operators including Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have opposed the sale of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, saying it should be done only when the operators are ready with the devices and equipment to operate the airwaves.

 

$3 billion

What is it? India’s arms export target by 2025.

Why is it important? The Indian government is seeking to not only become self-sufficient in the defence sector but also, one of the world’s biggest arms exporters. If India achieves the $3-billion target, then it would then transform the country from an arms importer to a major seller. In 2014-15, it sold defence equipment worth around $150 million to other countries, a mere 0.25% of the $64-billion global defence trade. In contrast, India’s arms imports totalled to $5.57 billion in 2014.

Tell me more: According to Anurag Garg, a director of defense at Strategy&, a consulting group of PwC, state companies account for 80% of defence production and that there is heavy reliance on the private sector to design military hardware, which is “no easy task”.

 

10.23 million tonnes

What is it? India’s rice exports in 2015, according to a Thai rice exporters organisation.

Why is it important? This makes India the world’s largest rice exporter, beating Thailand. India’s top position comes not from its scaling up, but by Thailand’s decline. Thailand’s rice exports were down by 10.8% to 9.8 million tonnes on a year-on-year basis. The Southeast Asian country attributed this to global economic slowdown, particularly in countries with high rice demand and decrease in purchasing power of nations due to falling oil prices. India’s total rice shipments have seen a 7.3% decline in volumes and an 18% fall in value in the April-November period of the current fiscal. It is likely to post lower export figures in 2015-16 than the 11.92 million tonnes shipped in 2014-15.

Tell me more: Fall in shipments of the basmati rice variety to Iran, one of the largest buyers from India and tepid demand from African countries (mainly Nigeria) are the main reasons for the fall in India’s rice exports.

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