The largest drug bust

1,500 kg

What is it? The quantity of narcotics seized by the Indian Coast Guard from a merchant vessel off Gujarat on Saturday.

Why is it important? Valued at Rs 3,500 crore, this is the largest single haul of narcotics till date, according to the Defence department. The total quantity of various drugs seized more than threefold from 102,115 kg in 2015 to 350,836 kg in 2016 while the number of people arrested in such cases increased by around 20% from 32,559 in 2015 to 38,929 last year, according to the Narcotics Control Bureau.

Tell me more: The Indian Coast Guard ‘Samudra Pavak’ intercepted the merchant vessel on Saturday noon, which was brought to Porbandar on Sunday morning. A joint investigation by the Indian Coast Guard, Intelligence Bureau, police, Customs department, Indian Navy and other agencies is underway.

 

2

What is it? The number of supersonic B-1 bombers the US flew over South Korea on Sunday.

Why is it important? This was done as a show of force in response to North Korea, which conducted its latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday, escalating tensions and threatening regional stability. North Korea’s latest missile launch reportedly appears to have the ability to hit American mainland, which experts say, show that the country has progressed rapidly in its missile programme. It has conducted 12 missile tests since February and its first ICBM test on July 4.

Tell me more: China, which is North Korea’s most important ally, urged North Korea to abide by the UN Security Council resolutions but US President Donald Trump expressed his disappointment in China failing to use its economic clout to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

 

Rs 65,000 crore

What is it? The estimated value of BSNL’s one-third of prime land holdings.

Why is it important? The book value of the 15,000-odd land and building assets held by the company was Rs 975 crore, the estimation that was arrived ‘decades ago’. The recent valuation exercise was initiated in April this year as part of company’s business revival programmes, which could help the company monetise its assets by the commercial utilisation of its holdings. BSNL along with Air India and SAIL accounted for over half of the total losses incurred by the top 10 loss-making public sector companies in the country.

Tell me more: The public sector company has, however, narrowed its losses over the years: from Rs 7,019 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 8,234 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 3,880 crore in 2015-16.

 

755

What is it? The number of American diplomats expelled by Russia on Sunday.

Why is it important? This is the largest expulsion of diplomats from any country. The expulsion follows after the US congress approved sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea and also for allegedly interfering in US Presidential elections held last year.

Tell me more: Moscow had insisted US reduce staff at its embassies and consulates in Russia to 450, mirroring the strength of Russia’s staff in the US.

 

<10%

What is it? The Union power ministry has asked states to reduce electricity losses to below 10% in six months.

Why is it important? Capping electricity loss at 10% has the potential to transform the financial conditions of many state-run utilities. In June this year, the all-India average of power loss (both theft and technical) was 23%. Government data shows some 200 towns face loss in the range of 40-90%. Such circumstances make the target an ambitious one, given the timeline.

Tell me more: The government’s Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (Uday) straightening operational and bill collection efficiency have helped state-run power discoms cut their financial losses. But the target of less than 10% of power loss in six months can only be attained by the simultaneous implementation of Uday for pilferage and theft and the Integrated Power Development System (IPDS) for technical upgrades to avoid faults.

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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.

 

34%

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.

~30%

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.

 

10

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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