A One-Stop Hub For Public Transport

Indians would soon be able to catch several modes of public transport to their destination from one single station, technically called Intermodal stations. These stations hold a promise of decongesting Indian cities, which often get clogged due to overwhelming number of private vehicles on the roads. In US, cities like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Orlando have experienced benefits of intermodal stations firsthand. Closer home, it may do us some good, too.



What is it? The number of Indian cities in which intermodal railway stations are being planned. This would mean integration of various modes of transportation, including rail, bus, inland waterways, auto rickshaws, taxis and private vehicles.

Why is it important? This move aims to reduce congestion and vehicular pollution. It counts as benefits higher footfalls in intermodal stations (than disaggregated transport terminals), improved experience of passengers who are likely to spend less time and money to transit between terminals, and shared infrastructure resulting in lower investment and land requirements. The governments of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala are making efforts to set up seamless transportation networks in some key hubs in their states.

Tell me more: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has conducted pre-feasibility studies to set up intermodal stations in Nagpur and Varanasi as part of the pilot projects. The project will be implemented by a special purpose vehicle set up by the ministry of road transport and highways (through the NHAI), the ministry of railways and the respective state governments.



$38.8 billion

What is it? The market capitalisation on Monday of Delta Airlines, in which Warren Buffett-controlled Berkshire Hathaway owned 7.4% as of December 2017. Of the four airlines in which Berkshire holds a stake, Delta is the most valued.

Why is it important? On Monday, in an interview to CNBC, Buffett said “he wouldn’t rule out owning an entire airline” with the $116 billion Berkshire has in cash. Till 2016, Buffett never invested in an airline, seeing it as a capital-destructive business that often fell victim to competitive zeal. Powered by low oil prices, airlines are currently in the midst of a good profitable run.

Tell me more: Besides Delta, Berkshire holds stakes in Southwest Airlines (market capitalisation of $35 billion on Monday), American Airlines Group ($26.2 billion) and United Continental Holdings ($20.5 billion).


Rs 119 crore

What is it? The amount Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) had set aside as liabilities for the months of November and December, and offered to deposit in the Consumer Safeguard Fund, after it could not pass on the November GST (goods and services tax) rate cuts to its customers on its existing stocks.

Why is it important? The Directorate General of Safeguards has asked HUL to explain the math behind this sum, besides asking it to submit documents to show how it arrived at these figures for both the months. Other companies are also being tracked in similar cases. Last month, the government had served notices to Lifestyle India and Hardcastle Restaurants (which operates McDonald’s branded restaurants in west and south India), among others, for not passing on GST tax benefits to customers.

Tell me more: In November, the government had brought 178 items from the 28% tax bracket to 18%. The government said it had received 169 consumer complaints against suppliers or goods and services for not passing on the benefits of the reduced tax rates or input tax credit.



What is it? The number of days by which there has been a delay in the repatriation of the mortal remains of Indian actor Sridevi from Dubai to Mumbai. She died late on Saturday.

Why is it important? According to a tweet by Dubai Police on Monday evening, the actress died due to “drowning in her hotel apartment’s bathtub following loss of consciousness”, which is different from the earlier account of a cardiac arrest being the cause of her death. However, it is unclear what caused her to lose consciousness. The local police further added that it has transferred the case to the Dubai Public Prosecution to carry out regular legal procedures that are followed in such cases.

Tell me more: Various reports have raised questions about the circumstances surrounding the 54-year-old actor’s sudden death and the repatriation of Sridevi’s mortal remains is likely to happen today.



What is it? The number of days in a year, in a single city, over which a new format for Davis Cup—the pinnacle of men’s team tennis—is proposed to be played, beginning 2019. On Monday, investment group Kosmos signed a 25-year, $3 billion partnership with the International Tennis Federation, effectively signaling the end of this team competition as we know it.

Why is it important? At present, the Davis Cup world group unravels across four weekends in February, July, September and November. This format, which has existed since 1900, has progressively been criticised for scattered spectator attention, and the reluctance of top players to commit whole-heartedly. The new 18-team, starting in 2019, is structured like a world cup and aims to compress the tournament in a week.

Tell me more: Footballer Gerard Pique is the founder of Kosmos, and several top players have come out in support of the new format.


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A costly waiver

Rs 30,500 crore

What is it? The amount Maharashtra government was set to waive off in farm loans, according to its chief minister last week.

Why is it important? The government has now said it would waive off all farm loans, in response to farmers’ unrest.  The final amount is yet to be confirmed, but the amount the government was willing to waive off represents over 98% of the state’s planned capital expenditure of Rs 31,006 crore. The promise of the waiver of all outstanding loan payments saw farmers end their strike of over a week.

Tell me more: The strike had seen destruction of farm and dairy produce, leading to a rise in prices in the state.


17.79 million-tonne

What is it? India’s fuel consumption in May, 2017.

Why is it important? The country’s fuel demand rose 5.4%, the most in the last six months. It had suffered a setback in January-March, when demand fell following demonetisation. The pickup began last month.

Tell me more: Diesel, which comprises 40% of the sales, rose 8% to 7.5 million-tonne, while petrol 15% to 2.4 million-tonne, in May, 2017 over last year.



What is it? The number of days of listing time for initial public offerings (IPOs), the markets regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is considering.

Why is it important? It would be less than the present norm of six days taken to list a company on the stock exchanges from the end of bidding in an IPO. The reduction aims to cut the time for which investors’ money is locked in, a move Sebi had been mulling for a few years.

Tell me more: In 2015, the applications supported by blocked amount (Asba), a mandatory service for retail investors, was introduced cutting down listing times. It made banks debit the investment only after the stock allotment. By January, 2016, the time gap came down to six days from the earlier 12 days.



What is it? The number of items for which GST (Goods and Services Tax) Council has reduced tax rates.

Why is it important? The council was facing demands to reduce tax rates for 133 goods and services, and it’s an indicator of intense pressure it is facing as the government prepares to roll out GST from 1st July. The council also relaxed rules for more number of small and medium businesses – by increasing the the upper limit for the ‘composition scheme’ to Rs 75 lakh. Composition scheme exempts small businesses with a certain turnover from GST, and lets some of them pay GST at a concessional rate.

Tell me more: The items with reduced rates include some cinema tickets, insulin, instant food mixes and printers. GST council will meet again to clear the remaining issues – including e-way bills and lotteries – on June 18th.


$2.68 million

What is it? The amount an anonymous bidder will donate to a San Francisco charity to have lunch with billionaire Warren Buffett.

Why is it important? The bid amount is down from $3.46 million in 2016, also from an anonymous donor. Auctioned on ebay, Power Lunch with Warren Buffett has been garnering over a million dollars every year in the last ten years. The annual auctions began in 2000.

Tell me more: Glide, the charity, helps the homeless, homeless women and drug users  in San Francisco. Buffett has raised over 25 million for Glide in the 18 auctions so far.

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News in Numbers, May 17, 2016: Buffett’s stake in Apple, RBS to shut down India operations…


What is it? The increase in wholesale price inflation (WPI) in April against -0.85% in March.

Why is it important? It increased after 17 months of deceleration. Retail inflation also went up to 5.39% in April from 4.83% in March, bringing back worries about its persistence. This could dampen hopes of interest rate cuts by Reserve Bank in June.

Tell me more: The WPI’s increase was mainly due to an increase in prices of food and manufactured items. Wholesale food prices rose 4.23% on a year-on-year basis due to a sharp increase in the prices of pulses and potato. Prices of manufactured items rose 0.71% last month year-on-year.



What is it? The minimum share of apprentices profitable public sector units must have as a percentage of their total workforce with the maximum being 10%.

Why is it important? This will help Indian government’s Skills India programme (launched last year), which has a target of skilling 40.2 crore workers by 2022. India, which has the world’s largest youth population, is estimated to require 120 million more workers by 2022 and their skilling is imperative for economic growth.

Tell me more: The estimated share of India’s workforce that undergoes formal training (2.3%) compares very poorly with that in other countries – 68% in the UK, 75% in Germany, 52% in the US, 80% in Japan and 96% in South Korea.


9.81 million

What is it? The number of shares investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has in Apple (as of March 31) valued at $1.07 billion.

Why is it important? This is Berkshire Hathaway’s second investment in a technology company – after IBM. Buffett buys companies with strong cash flows, decent dividends and a good management – and had avoided investments in high-growth tech firms because their future is harder to predict. His investment in Apple is an indication that the iPhone maker is transitioning/has moved from being a high-growth star to a low-growth but stable company.

Tell me more: Apple’s shares rose 3.7% to $93.88 on Monday after Berkshire’s announcement. The value of Berkshire Hathaway’s holding in the firm has dropped to $921 million since March 31.



What is it? The number of retail branches Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will shut down in India.

Why is it important? With this, RBS will wind up all its banking operations in India – as part of its global restructuring plans to reduce its presence from 38 countries to 13. Around 400650 employees are set to lose their jobs. The UK bank, which sold off its offshore loan book in India to UAE-based National Bank of Abu Dhabi and private banking business to Sanctum Wealth Management, failed to find any buyers for the rest of its India assets.

Tell me more: The bank will retain its back-office operations, which supports its global businesses and employs over 10,000 people.



What is it? The percentage of children who attended a government primary school in 2014, down from 72.6% in 2007-08, according to an analysis by data journalism platform, IndiaSpend based on an NSSO survey.

Why is it important? Indicates an increasing preference for private schools and underlines the concerns about quality of education in government schools. Despite this and the fact that India has spent nearly Rs 5.9 lakh crore on primary education in the last 10 years, there has been a decline in learning outcomes, according to NGO Pratham’s 2014 report.

Tell me more: The data also confirms a popular perception that a higher percentage of children in urban areas prefer private schools over the government ones. Less than a third of children attended government primary schools in urban areas compared to 72.3% in rural areas in 2014.

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