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China is Buying Influence

1,095.41 MW
What is it?Total installed capacity of rooftop solar installations in India, according to Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Why it’s important? Crossing the 1GB milestone underlines India’s efforts to push solar power as an alternate source of energy. The country’s overall solar energy capacity has grown eightfold in the last four years, to 22GW at present. India’s progress in solar power comes at a time when China is slowing down on this front.

Tell me more: Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu lead the rooftop solar installations in India together accounting for about 40% of the total installed capacity.

 

$295 million

 

What is it?China’s new grant to Sri Lanka.

Why is it important?The grant, that China said can be used for any project of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s choice, is yet another example of how China is buying influence in the island nation. Such financial flow – towards ports and hospitals – has been chipping away India’s influence in the region. In fact, Sri Lankan president made the announcement while inaugurating a China-funded kidney hospital Polonnaruwa.

Tell me more: Still, it’s a tug of war. Sri Lanka’s ruling party, UNP (United National Party) has also accused China of funding re-election of the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015, and has demanded investigation.

 

10% 

 

What is it? India’s basic custom duty, applicable for sanitary napkins, which has now been exempted from Goods and Services Tax.

Why is it important? Industry experts believe that the slashing of GST on sanitary napkins from 12% to 0% will not bring down the prices of locally manufactured napkins because the manufacturers will now lose input tax credit. Meanwhile, zero GST also implied zero IGST, which could make imported sanitary napkins cheaper.

Tell me more:  On Saturday, India slashed sales tax across sectors, ahead of 2019 parliamentary elections.

 

54,953

 

What is it?The number of jawans government is to hire for central armed police forces.

Why is it important? It’s among the central security forces’ largest recruitments, and comes on the back of its decision to raise new battalions, and fill in vacancies. Over 14,500 jawans and officers had quit central security forces in 2017, compared to 3,422 in 2015

Tell me more: Nearly 40% of the new recruitments will join Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

 

44%

 

What is it?The percentage of tech CEOs who expect to increase their companies’ headcount by at least 6% over the next three years, according to a survey by KPMG.

Why is it important? It’s more optimistic than non-tech CEOs’ hiring plans. Only 37% of all CEOs expect to increase headcount by 6% over the same period. The outlook underlines the continued dominance of tech firms, which have been outperforming traditional industries in valuation.

Tell me more: The hiring plans also reflect the general optimism expressed by the tech CEOs about their companies’ and industry’s growth prospects. 88% of tech CEOs expect their companies to grow. Their top worry is growing sentiment against globalisation.

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India’s History May Be Rewritten

 

6

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.

 

31

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.

 

10

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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Counting Terror Deaths

 

Australians voted ‘Yes’ in favour of making same- sex marriag legal. To curb vehicular pollution, government would require diesel and petrol vehicles to limit sulfur content by 2018. India ranked eighth among the top 10 countries that were most affected by terrorism in 2016. And, Sri Lanka hasn’t won a single test match against India in India. How about that!

 

61.6%

What is it? The percentage of Australians who voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, according to the results of a voluntary national survey.

Why is it important? A bill to change the marriage laws was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would try to pass the legislation by Christmas. Around 12.7 million or 79.5% of the Australian population participated in the survey, and every state and territory recorded a majority saying ‘yes’. With this, Australia could potentially join the list of over two dozen countries, including the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Ireland and Spain, to have national laws allowing same-sex marriages.

Tell me more: The postal survey, which was estimated to cost Australia around $122 million, has been criticised by some same-sex marriage supporters who said it was unnecessary and that the Parliament could debate the topic directly.

 

2

What is it? The number of years by which the Indian government has advanced introducing Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) fuel, which will now be available with effect from April 1, 2018, in Delhi.

Why is it important? The step has been taken to reduce vehicular pollution in the national capital, which is repeatedly seeing hazardous pollution levels. The new rules will require petrol and diesel vehicles to contain sulfur content of 10 parts per million, down from the current 50. According to a study by IIT-Kanpur, vehicle emissions contribute an average of 25% of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter) levels, which go up to 36% during winters. This is the second biggest contributor to pollution after road dust.

Tell me more: In related news, the Delhi government said in a reply under the Right to Information Act that it had used only only Rs 93 lakh of the Rs 787 crore (or just 0.12%) collected as environment cess in the last two years.

 

8,238

What is it? The number of deaths due to terrorism in India between 2000 and 2016, according to Global Terrorism Index 2017.

Why is it important? This is the sixth highest among the top 10 countries ranked as the most affected by terrorism in 2016, where India ranks eighth. Its position has improved slightly in the last two years: it was ranked between second and sixth during the period from 2002-2015. Also, India has the lowest rate of deaths per attack (average of 0.4 deaths per attack) compared to an average of 2.7 deaths for the nine other countries. Last year, 929 terror incidents were recorded in India, killing 340 and injuring 636; Maoists were responsible for over half the deaths.

Tell me more: Only India, Pakistan and Afghanistan were ranked among the top 10 in 2002, with Libya and Syria being relatively new entrants. Between 2002 and 2016, eight of the nine regions in the world experienced an increase in terrorist activity.

 

10,000

What is it? The number of electric vehicles for which the state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is planning to float a tender in March-April 2018.

Why is it important? This would be the second tender for electric vehicles from EESL, as it tries to provide a fillip to electric mobility in India. The first tender for 10,000 vehicles for government use was awarded in September, to Tata Motors and Mahindra, the delivery of which is scheduled to start by November 30. The Indian government has a stated objective that by 2030 all new cars should be electric.

Tell me more: EESL is a joint venture of public sector undertakings under the power ministry. It has been leading the Indian government’s initiatives towards the adoption of energy-efficient alternatives.

 

0

What is it? The number of test matches won by Sri Lanka against India in India. Sri Lanka has played 17 tests in India, and lost 10 of them and drawn 7.

Why is it important? The first test of the three-match India-Sri Lanka series gets underway at Kolkata today, though under the threat of rain. Smarting from the loss of hardened veterans in recent years, Sri Lanka is in rebuilding mode, and is not fancied to change that record on this tour.

Tell me more: In the International Cricket Council test rankings, India is ranked number one and Sri Lanka six. India has four batsmen in the top 10, Sri Lanka none. India has two bowlers in the top 10, Sri Lanka one.

 

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Three to Zika

3

What is it? The number of cases with confirmed Zika infection, reported by the health ministry.

Why is it important? The mosquito-borne viral disease can lead to neurological malfunction. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-Government of India has confirmed three such cases from Ahmedabad. It reports the ministry as having confirmed two cases in February and November, 2016, in addition to the one in January, 2017.

Tell me more: The health agency also said the findings indicate low level transmission and did not revise its global risk assessment due to India.

 

1.03%

What is it? The drop in pass percentage points in the CBSE Class XII exams this year, from 83% who cleared the exam in 2016.

Why is it important? The drop in pass percentage comes in a year when the central school board was made to reinstate its grace-marks rule.  Its practice of granting extra marks (upto 15%), to pass students or peg their results at a higher percentile became an issue ahead of the results.

Tell me more: Last month, it decided to scrap the moderation policy from this year. The Delhi High Court ordered it to reinstate the rule. CBSE says it followed the high court’s orders. Count of students in the 95-100% category increased from 9,351 to 10,091 while in the 90-95% category, the count decreased from 54,036 to 53,156.

 

4

What is it? The number of countries Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit on his multi-nation tour.

Why is it important? Modi will be visiting Germany, Spain, Russia and France to discuss trade and security issues. On the table could be the European Union-India free trade agreement, which could help India counter China’s One Belt One Road initiative. The four-nation trip is his second travel abroad this year, after a trip to Sri Lanka.

Tell me more: PM Modi made 56 foreign trips since May, 26 in 2014 till April 2017. The duration of stay dropped from 55 days in 2014-15 to 24 days in 2016-17. Cost of foreign visits has come down too.

 

10

What is it? The number of airports which restrict passengers from carrying large electronic devices in cabins in the flights to the United States since March this year.

Why is it important? US is now considering a move to ban laptops in all flights into and out of the country for better security. Airlines are worried it might impact customer demand.

Tell me more: The ten airports which restrict laptops in cabins include United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey. UK has a similar policy applying to six countries.

 

151

What is it? Death toll due to landslides and floods in Sri Lanka.

Why is it important? Sri Lanka is facing one of its worst disasters since tsunami in 2004, and its worst torrential rains since 2003. Over 500,000 people have been affected and over 100 are still missing.

Tell me more: India has sent three Navy ships with supplies and other aid. Sri Lanka has sought international help to manage the disaster.

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