Mission: Eliminate Tuberculosis



What is it? The number of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel killed after Maoists blew up their mine-protected vehicle at Sukma in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This is reportedly a revenge attack after a joint operation by the police of Telangana and Chhattisgarh resulted in the deaths of 10 suspected Maoists on March 2. Over 1,900 security personnel have been killed in Maoist violence between 2005 and 2018 (up to March 11).

Tell me more: In March and April last year, Maoists had killed 12 and 25 CRPF men in ambush attacks, which are counted among the biggest in the last few years.



What is it? The number of leaders of opposition parties that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had invited for dinner at her residence on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This comes at a time when Congress has been losing a string of elections, the latest being in the northeast region (Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland). The meet is likely to be an attempt at stitching an alliance to defeat the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) led by BJP, which now covers 71% of India’s population in 20 states, in the 2019 General Elections.

Tell me more: Those who have not been invited include the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party, which pulled out its ministers in the central government but continues to be part of the NDA alliance.



What is it? The percent by which the Indian government has cut Monsanto’s royalties on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This could trigger another row similar to the one in 2016 when the government had cut royalties that local firms pay Monsanto for its genetically (Bt) modified seeds by 70% and the latter had threatened to quit India. Monsanto says its royalties currently account for less than 0.5% of the cultivation cost, which would be further reduced due to the latest order.

Tell me more: The government also reduced the prices of GM cotton seeds by 7.5% to Rs 740 for a packet of 450 gms to help farmers whose crops have been affected by pest infestations.


Rs5,000 crore

What is it? The amount of pension liabilities under-reported by the Indian Railways during 2016-17.

Why is it important? This artificially boosted the operating ratio – the percentage of working expenses to traffic earnings – to 96.5%, as compared to 99.54%. Had the true amount of pension liabilities were accounted, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India – the national auditor- said the pension fund would show a negative balance, with no surplus available to service debt fund.

Tell me more: Operating ratio is an indicator of operational efficiency. A lower ratio is needed to generate surplus to buy new assets or have adequate funds for safety operations. At 99.5%, the operating ratio is the lowest since 2000-01.



What is it? The year by which India is planning to eliminate Tuberculosis (TB), five years ahead of the global target.

Why is it important? India has the highest number of TB infection and TB death rates. 28 million new cases were detected in 2016, with 400,000 deaths arising out of TB infection. The number of TB deaths is 2.6 times the number of people killed from road accidents. Advancing of target would save that many lives each year.

Tell me more: The World Health Organisation’s ‘End TB Strategy’ aims to reduce TB deaths and new cases by 80% and 90% respectively by 2030. TB is one of the top 10 causes of deaths, and 1.7 million people died worldwide in 2016.


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How the latest 78-member NDA cabinet compares with the last UPA cabinet

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Following last week’s expansion, the 78-member cabinet of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has crossed the 71 that the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government signed off with.

The makeup of the NDA’s newest cabinet differs in several respects from that of the UPA’s last: while it draws less from the elected pool, it is younger, assigns more responsibilities to women and junior ministers, and draws from more states.

Women: NDA

While both cabinets have an identical percentage of women, the NDA has assigned them greater responsibility. It is also drawing from a larger pool of parties (three versus one for the UPA).




Elected by the people: UPA

The UPA cabinet had more ministers from the Lok Sabha (who are directly elected, unlike members of the Rajya Sabha, who are either elected by legislators or nominated). In the subset of those leading ministries, the percentage fell for both cabinets, but the UPA still did better.




Younger in age: NDA

Half the ministers in both cabinets are older than the 60 years at which central government employees retire. Between the two, the NDA is slightly younger.




Educational qualifications: NDA

The NDA has a greater percentage of ministers in the cabinet who either studied till school or are graduates. But the UPA had a greater share of ministers with post-graduate or higher degrees.




Geographical coverage

While the NDA cabinet draws ministers from more states than the UPA did, it also shows greater concentration at the top. Interestingly, the list of the top six states of both cabinets has only three common entries: UP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.




Crorepati ministers: NDA

The NDA has a higher percentage of ministers with assets above Rs 1 crore. However, the median value of assets of its council of ministers is lower than that of the UPA.




Portfolio responsibilities

The larger cabinet size of the NDA is because of more ministers of state, who report to a cabinet minister and are usually tasked with a specific responsibility in that ministry. At the senior cabinet-rank level, the NDA has fewer ministers holding multiple portfolios. At the junior MoS level, NDA ministers holding multiple portfolios number two-and-a-half times those in the UPA cabinet.




Data sources:, Lok Sabha website, Rajya Sabha website.

Note: Composition and data for UPA cabinet as of April 2014, a month before it left office.


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Why India’s rural employment guarantee scheme is on the decline

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The government’s flagship rural employment guarantee scheme is on the decline. On almost every key metric, the scheme drafted under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)—which promises 100 days of employment a year to every rural household that demands it and mandates payments of wages within 15 days—is showing sharply lower numbers in 2014-15.

The fall is more perceptible in states ruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) than the ones ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The big picture

Be it the amount of work done or the speed of payment, the numbers are down compared with the last two years.


The declining demand

Demand for work has consistently dropped under the Narendra Modi government, which some opposition leaders attribute to intentional Total expenses (in Rs crore) delays in payments to states by the centre.



The declining supply

Compared with earlier years, a smaller percentage worked for more than 60 days a year and a higher percentage for up to 40 days.




The states and political parties

The drop in work, in general, has been sharper for the states led by the UPA constituents. They are also facing longer delays in payments.


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