IITs and unicorns

Rs 21,000

What is it? The wage ceiling for mandatory Employees’ Provident Fund coverage that the central government is considering. It’s Rs 15,000 at present.

Why is it important?  The move will bring 6 million more employees under the mandatory social security plan which includes PG, pension and insurance, with each employee contributing 12% of salary monthly to the EPF. Those in the organised sector, earning upwards of the salary, can opt in voluntarily. The cost to the Union government would be an extra Rs 1,617 crore at Rs 5,659 crore a year. According to last reported numbers, the PF portion of the corpus was Rs 360,000 crore.

Tell me more: The EPFO had suggested a threshold increase to Rs 25,000 but it would have raised cost to government by Rs 2,708 crore.


Rs 6.24 crore

What is it? The total value of fake Indian currencies seized by various law enforcement forces after demonetisation and introduction of new notes in November, 2016.

Why is it important? Following reports of fake currencies flooding the market after demonetisation, some replicating crucial security features on the new Rs 2,000 notes, the government reassured they were still easily identifiable and furnished the seized numbers as proof. The volume of fake notes exceed thousands.

Tell me more: In a Rajya Sabha reply, the home ministry also assured demonetisation of the new currency notes was not on the cards.


500,000 tonne

What is it? The volume of raw sugar that was allowed to be imported duty-free.

Why is it important? This is over 3% of the sugar production in the October-February (full year: Oct-Sep) period of 2016-17 marketing year. Sugar cane supply hit by drought in the major producing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka has led to a fall of 19% compared to 2015-16, leading to the import.

Tell me more: The move will raise global sugar prices given India’s status as the second-largest sugar producer and an exporter till last season.



What is it? The number of unicorns founded by alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology, according to a report by UK software firm, Sage.

Why is it important? That ranks IITs fourth in the list, after Stanford (51 unicorns), Harvard (37) and University of California (18). For long, IITs were criticised for not producing enough entrepreneurs, but that has been changing in the last few years. According to one count, 60% of all startups that have Series A venture funding have founders from IIT/IIM. Set up as engineering training institutes, IITs have been expanding their scope over years, and now plan to offer MBBS courses as well, starting with IIT Kharagpur.


Tell me more: Massachusetts Institute of Technology & University of Pennsylvania which follow IITs in the list have lead to nine unicorns each. Unlike others in the list, IITs are a group of institutions, having over 60,000 students all campuses put together. Stanford has about 16,000 students, Harvard, 22000  and MIT 11,000.


$3.6 billion

What is it? The investment Indian Railways will need to achieve a solar energy target of 5GW by 2025, according to a study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Why is it important? Railways is a big consumer of electricity, and its move to solar will help India in achieving its larger renewables energy target, besides helping with its INDC commitment of 40% non-fossil fuel installed power capacity. Railways uses close to 2.4% of the country’s total electricity consumption, and it’s growing at 5% a year.

Tell me more: The report estimates that 1.1GW of 5GW would come from rooftop and the rest from utility scale projects. Railways has an installed capacity of 16 MW of solar as of March 2017, and has is in the process of commissioning 255 MW of rooftop solar projects.

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News in numbers, Feb 1, 2016: Sugar prices on the rise, small savers’ money in Aamby Valley…


Rs 3,180 / quintal

What is it? Wholesale price of sugar in Delhi as on January 29, an increase of 20% from September 1 prices.

Why is it important? With experts predicting lower annual sugar production in India, sugar prices have seen a steady increase in the last five months, which is likely to prompt sugar manufacturers to step up their sales domestically rather than export. The Indian government had ordered mills to export 40 lakh metric tonnes of sugar in the 2015-16 season and had announced a subsidy on the shipments. But, India’s sugar exports is estimated to be less than half of that ordered by the government, according to ED&F Man Holdings (merchant of agricultural commodities) and Olam International (trader of soft commodities).

Tell me more: The government had made the exports mandatory in order to help the mills pay their dues to 5 crore sugarcane farmers in the country. Sugar mills owe about Rs 6,500 crore to the cane growers. The Indian Sugar Mills Association has reduced its estimated annual production figures from 2.8 crore metric tonnes predicted in July to 2.6 crore metric tonnes earlier this month.


Rs 1,500 crore

What is it? Amount Sahara group has invested in Aamby Valley resort project in Maharashtra from two of its credit cooperatives – Sahara Credit Cooperative Society and Saharayn E-Multipurpose Society.

Why is it important? In effect, Sahara is using money from small savers to fund the project. It could turn out to be risky. The group is embroiled in a fraud case where one of its time-deposit schemes was declared illegal and the Supreme Court had ordered it to repay Rs 36,000 crore to its investors. It still hasn’t done so. If the apex court decides to auction off its properties to refund its investors, then Aamby Valley could be hit, risking the money of the credit cooperatives put in the project. Already, the cooperatives want Sahara to return the deposits that have matured.

Tell me more: Aamby Valley’s net profit dropped to Rs 9 crore in 2012-13 from Rs 69.4 crore in the July 2011-March 2012 period.



What is it? Growth in profits of 114 of the BSE 500 companies (representing over 90% of the total market capitalization on the Bombay Stock Exchange) in the quarter ended December 2015 from a year ago. (Banking, technology, oil and gas companies have been excluded from analysis).

Why is it important? This is the highest in at least three years and mainly due to a decline in commodity prices. Paints, tyres, batteries and cement companies got the benefit of the drop in crude oil prices (which they didn’t pass on to customers), according to Ambareesh Baliga, an independent market analyst. However, revenue of these companies have grown only 4.38% in the third quarter of 2015-16 compared to 4.29% in the previous quarter, reflecting poor demand conditions.

Tell me more: External factors including a likely economic slowdown due to China’s poor growth and volatility in global markets along with poor growth in Indian companies’ earnings have caused the BSE Sensex to lose 4.7% in January compared to 5% in 2015.


What is it? Likely increase in power tariffs in states such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Why is it important? This is a result of the agreement signed by the states, their power utilities and the Union Minister of Power under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) where states would take over the debts of the power utilities. The central government has asked the states to cover a third of the difference between cost of power production and rates charged to consumers by effecting tariff increases. The remaining losses would be covered by introducing efficiency measures such as curtailing theft of electricity.

Tell me more: Reluctance on the part of the power utilities to increase power tariffs among other reasons have resulted in their outstanding loans ballooning to Rs 4 lakh crore, which are being borne by the taxpayers.



What is it? The number of employees a firm can have before it has to mandatorily provide employees’ provident fund, according to a new proposal.

Why is it important? Under the current rules, firms with 20 workers or more have to mandatorily take up EPFO’s schemes. The Indian government is planning to halve it through amendments to Labour laws, which do not require the Parliament’s approval. It intends to change the limit by a notification and two months’ time for consultations. This would bring in an additional 50 lakh workers under EPFO’s schemes.

Tell me more: The EPFO’s apex decision making body, the Central Board of Trustees, had decided to reduce the threshold from 20 to 10 workers in 2008 but hasn’t been implemented it so far.

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