News in numbers, Dec 4, 2015: Hike in Delhi MLAs’ salaries, rivals join hands against Uber…

15 years


What is it? The cut-off age for commercial trucks above which they would be banned from Delhi roads effective April 2016.


Why is it important? It will help cut Delhi’s rising pollution. But this alone might not be sufficient. A 2014 study by the World Health Organization said Delhi is the most polluted city globally. A report filed in the Supreme Court last year said outdoor pollution is the fifth biggest killer in India.


Tell me more: A couple of recent measures by the Delhi government to combat this problem include monthly car-free days in some areas and levying of a “green” tax to encourage commercial vehicles that enter the city to take alternative routes.




What is it? The raise in salaries of Delhi legislators  and Ministers (to Rs 210,000 from Rs 88,000 a month), as per a bill passed by Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government. It has been sent to central government for approval.


Why is it important? If approved, Delhi’s MLAs will get more than MPs (members of Parliament) at Rs 140,000 per month and surpass Himachal Pradesh legislators, the highest paid at Rs 125,000 per month. Those in favour of hike argue MLAs will be less prone to corruption, and attract better and honest talent into politics. Singapore cites the high salaries of the members of its parliament as a reason for its clean and efficient government.


Tell me more: Opposition parties including the BJP and Congress have opposed the hike. While BJP taunted the Aam Aadmi Party (literal translation: Common Man’s Party) by calling it ‘Khas Aadmi Party’ (literal translation: Special Man’s Party), Congress said that the party is misusing public funds to give extra perks to their legislators.




What is it? Number of children under five years of age who die due to foodborne diseases every year, according to World Health Organization’s (WHO) estimates.


Why is it important? Though children under five years of age make up just 9% of the world’s population, they account for nearly a third (30%) of deaths that occur from eating contaminated food every year. This is the first ever attempt to estimate the number of global deaths due to foodborne diseases by the WHO.


Tell me more: As many as 420,000 people die as a result of foodborne diseases annually and one out of every ten fall ill from contaminated food. Diarrhoeal diseases account for over half of the deaths due to foodborne diseases.




What is it? Number of taxi-hailing apps (that is, Ola from India, Didi Kuaidi from China, US-based Lyft and Malaysia’s GrabTaxi) that have entered into an agreement where passengers would be able to use services of all these companies using one app globally.


Why is it important? It’s a counter to Uber’s expansion into newer countries. The California-based taxi app is present in 67 countries. By joining hands they can put up a tougher fight. Uber is already struggling with regulatory and competitive challenges in a few markets.


Tell me more: An example under the agreement would be: Ola customers can use the same app to book a Didi Kuaidi cab when they travel to China or the services of Lyft when they go to the US, instead of opting for Uber’s services.


0.5 million


What is it? Number of tweets posted related to Chennai rains, rescue, relief operations, within 24 hours (as of Thursday morning).


Why is it important? Social Media platforms Twitter and Facebook have been a major way of communicating, coordinating relief efforts to help people in Chennai as it battles the worst-ever rains in nearly a 100 years. This, especially at a time when all telephone lines and networks are jammed and calls are not going through.

Tell me more: The social media sites were flooded with requests asking for stranded people to be rescued, help for pregnant women going into labour, elderly people stuck without food, medicines or people requiring urgent treatment for some health problems

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Does a 20% cut in healthcare spending hurt India?

This piece originally appeared on


The government slashed its 2014-15 budgetary allocation for health by about 20%, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed health ministry officials.

Although that’s a significant cutback in allocation for a country with poor health indicators, it remains to be seen if its effect on the ground will be felt proportionately, because actual health spending in the past three years actually fell short of budgetary allocation—overall and in each of the four departments under which health governance in India is organized at the top.

Yet, given that India is a low-income country and has an abysmal healthcare system, the case remains for higher public spending on health, accompanied by full utilization of allocations and better outcomes.

Although health budgets are under-utilized at the overall level…




…as well as in each of the four health departments…










…there remains a case for higher public spending in health, and better outcomes







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