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, June 17, 2016: Tax on sugar exports, Amazon decreases commission rates…

20%

What is it? The tax imposed by the Indian government on sugar exports.

Why is it important? This move, which comes after sugar prices increased from Rs 30 per kg to Rs 40 a kg in six months, is expected to boost domestic supplies. Due to drought in major sugar-growing areas, India’s sugar production is estimated to decline to 25 million tonnes in 2015-16 from 28.3 million tonnes in 2014-15.

Tell me more: Of the 366 sugar mills in the country, only about 60% were operating as on March 31.

 

34.05%

What is it? Percentage of women in rural areas who were open to living with their daughters in old age, according to a 2011-12 survey.

Why is it important? This was just 24.6% as per the 2004-05 survey, reflecting the changing norm of relying only on their sons in old age. People living in the urban areas also show a similar trend: it’s now 38.94% from 28.9% in 2004-05.

Tell me more: In terms of receiving financial support from daughters in old age, the trend is similar: 41.45% of women in rural areas (versus 30.48% per 2004-05 survey) and 44.75% of women in urban areas (versus 32.87% per 2004-05 survey) were okay with the idea, as per the 2011-12 survey.

 

$24 million

What is it? The amount New-York based company Andela has raised, led by the Chan Zuckerberg initiative (CZI).

Why is it important? This is CZI’s first private-sector investment and it is leading a financing round for the first time since Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan launched their charitable foundation last December. The initiative drew criticism as it was incorporated as a limited liability company, which is not governed by the rules for a non-profit organisation.

Tell me more: Andela trains software coders in Kenya and Nigeria to help them get jobs at large technology firms. Others who participated in the funding include: GV (formerly, Google Ventures), Spark Capital, Omidyar Network, Learn Capital and CRE Ventures.

 

3.5%

What is it? The new commission rate sellers of mobile devices and tablets will pay Amazon India effective today, down from about 5.5% earlier.

Why is it important? The move could help sellers to offer products at a lower cost by bypassing foreign direct investment rules that do not allow online marketplaces to influence product prices. This is in contrast to its rival Flipkart which recently decided to increase seller commissions by 5-6% from June 20, even as it struggles to raise funds.  

Tell me more: Amazon India has reduced the commission rates for sellers on certain categories including desktops, laptops, electronic devices, movies and educational software. This comes after Amazon reportedly increased its commission rates up to 9% on various categories a couple of months ago.

 

17,540

What is it? The number of Pakistani citizens whose visas were rejected by the Indian government between January 1 to May 31 this year.

Why is it important? This is around 50% of those who applied for visa to visit India, which is significantly higher than the rejection rate of 22.2% in 2015 and 17% in 2014. This is reportedly due to increased security concerns after the attack on the Pathankot Air Force base by Pakistani terrorists in January this year.

Tell me more: The Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan has written a letter to the Union Home Secretary asking for the reasons behind the high rejection rates.

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News in numbers, Apr 21, 2016: India’s poverty rate, unethical means to meet financial targets…

$5-6

What is it? The amount of tax India’s environment minister wants developed countries to levy per tonne of coal production.

Why is it important? It could help mobilise $100 billion a year until 2020 to help developing countries such as India to tackle climate change. This is as per the Paris agreement signed last December.

Tell me more: India increased taxes on coal mining in February to $6 per tonne from $1 a tonne to limit its consumption. The country, which claims to levy the highest tax on coal mining, wants to double its coal output in another four years.

<=Rs 38

What is it? The amount on which nearly half of the Indian population (47%) lived on, in 2011-12, as per data by Global Consumption and Income Project.

Why is it important? Indicates India may have more poor people than official estimates suggest. The official poverty rate is 22%, that is, the percentage of population with less than Rs 27 per day in rural areas and Rs 33 per day in urban areas in 2011-12.

Tell me more: With $1.9 (or roughly, Rs 29) per day as the poverty line, which is closer to the official numbers, the poverty rate works out to be 28%, higher than the official estimates. No matter which poverty line one adopts, poverty rates have declined over years. The moot question: by how much.

5,134 tonnes

What is it? The quantity of gold held in Bank of England gold vaults under the streets of London stretching across 300,000 square feet.

Why is it important? These hold over 80% of the 6,256 tonnes of gold stored in London, which in turn, is a fifth of the total gold held by governments in the city. Investors turn to gold, one of the most traded assets, which is considered a safe haven during times of financial uncertainty.

Tell me more: These vaults still need a bunch of keys to be accessed with minimal dependence on technology for security measures, which some believe is easier to be compromised.

> 2,000

What is it? The reported number of courses that India’s own MOOCs (massive open online courses) platform will have.

Why is it important? It’s widely accepted that MOOCs will play a major role higher education globally, and India’s online education initiative – Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) – could potentially bring advanced courses relevant to India in local languages to millions of students of all ages.

Tell me more: Others such as Coursera and edX offer such free online courses from various universities across the world, though some of them charge for receiving verified certificates upon completion of the courses. Only 8.15% of Indians are graduates. It was estimated that India would have 402 million internet users by last December to overtake US and become the second largest internet user base in the world.  These online courses would be reportedly backed by patents and each faculty member is likely to be paid Rs 1 lakh per course.

70%

What is it? The share of Indian executives who feel at least one unethical conduct is justified to meet financial targets, according to an Ernst & Young survey.

Why is it important? This is much higher than the numbers recorded in other regions. Indian executives are most likely to bend or flout rules on every single unethical conduct than their counterparts to achieve targets. For instance, 30% of Indian executives would book revenues earlier than they should be, compared to 7% globally, 9% in emerging markets and 4% in developed markets.

Tell me more: According to a KPMG-CII 2014 report, corruption was cited as the major obstacle in doing business in India.

 

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News in numbers, Nov 10, 2015: OECD’s India GDP forecast, global warming impact on India…

 

7.2%

What is it? The growth estimate for the Indian economy in the current financial year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based economic organization

Why is it important? This has remain unchanged from its September forecast. However, OECD has said despite having relatively better growth prospects, the delay in passing key structural reforms and the rising bad loans are the main impediments. It remains to be seen if the Parliament would pass key bills such as the GST Bill, Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008 the Coal Regulatory Authority Bill, 2013 and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 as the BJP needs to rely on the Congress in the Rajya Sabha for its support to push through these bills.

Tell me more: OECD estimates for India’s economic growth is 7.3% in 2016-17 and 7.4% in 2017-18.

 

Rs 40,000 crore

What is it? The size of two contracts the Indian Railways has awarded to US-based General Electric Company (GE), and French multinational Alstom for setting up diesel and electric locomotive factories in Bihar. Only the first project was officially announced on Monday.

Why is it important? The first big foreign direct investments in the railways sector in India. This would bolster indigenous production backed by the latest technology, help the Indian Railways improve its infrastructure and provide employment opportunities by giving rise to ancillary industries. Under the agreement, GE and Alstom would supply 1,000 diesel locomotives and 800 electric locomotives in 10 years. Railways had 5,633 diesel and 4,568 electric locomotives at the end of March 2014.

Tell me more: Though both the projects were approved in 2007 by the then Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav but were mired in controversy and bureaucratic red tape. The Indian Railways (26% stake) and the foreign companies (74% stake) would form joint venture companies to construct and run the diesel and electric locomotive factories.

 

Rs 31.2

What is it? The central and excise duties’ components in the retail price of a litre of petrol at Rs 60.7 in Delhi. This is Rs 6.45 higher than the cost of producing a litre of petrol at the refineries based on the average cost of gasoline and the foreign exchange rate in the second half of October.

Why is it important? Shows the relative inflexibility of taxes as crude prices move up and down. To protect tax revenue as oil prices dropped sharply, government moved away from ad-valorem (tax as percentage of price) to a tax per litre. This means customers will not fully benefit from fall in oil prices. Both central and state governments are expected to earn around Rs 80,000 crore by taxing petroleum products this fiscal.

Tell me more: Central government hiked excise duty for the fifth time in a year. The previous four hikes were made between November 2014 and January 2015 and resulted in additional revenue of Rs 20,000 crore for the government in the 2014-15.

 

8 billion

What is it? The value of the order for 75 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft placed by Jet Airways at list price, though aircraft manufacturers usually sell aircraft below the list price.

Why is it important? This is the largest ever aircraft deal for the Naresh Goyal-founded airlines and large orders usually get a good discount. This deal is seen to be good for Jet Airways in terms of upping its game in the fiercely competitive industry, though the delivery of the aircraft would begin from mid-2018. The new aircraft is said to be fuel efficient, which uses 20% less fuel than the first Next-Generation 737s and has the lowest operating costs in its class at 8% per seat less than its nearest competitor, according to Boeing. This is significant because jet fuel accounts for 45-55% of an airline’s revenue in India.

Tell me more: Jet Airways currently has 115 aircraft with an average age of 6.04 years. The second biggest airline (in terms of passengers carried) posted its biggest standalone quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2015-16 for the first time in nearly nine years.

 

55 million

What is it? Number of people in India who would be endangered if the global temperature rises by 4°C, according to a report by Climate Central, a US-based research organisation. This is about 4.4% of India’s current population.

Why is it important? Carbon emissions would cause warming, which in turn would lead to rise in sea levels that could submerge land, causing danger to the inhabitants. Though India is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, the government says its historical cumulative emission is below 3% currently. All the countries, especially the advanced economies have to keep up their commitments of keeping the earth’s average temperature from rising beyond 2°C, a widely accepted benchmark for preventing further damage due to global warming.

Tell me more: A 4°C rise in temperature could submerge land inhabited by 470-760 million people. However, if countries are able to contain carbon emissions resulting in 2°C warming, then the number of people who could be affected could be brought down to 130 million.

 

 

 

 

 

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