An Impending ‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’


What is it? The estimated number of people that have fled their homes in south-western Syria since the military launched an assault on the rebel-held areas a few weeks ago.

Why is it important? This figure has grown by more than five times from an estimated 50,000 six days ago. Last week, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights had asked all sides to end the escalating conflict in Daraa or it could result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Those fears are now compounded as the refugees have taken shelter near the Israeli and Jordanian borders and both the countries have refused to allow them in.

Tell me more: The Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, has regained control of the country’s biggest cities but large parts are still under control of rebel groups and the Kurdish-led SDF alliance. A peaceful uprising against Assad’s rule seven years ago blew up into a full civil war and has claimed the lives of over 350,000 people.


What is it? The number of people that could lose their jobs due to US President Donald Trump’s plan to ban spouses of high-skill visa holders from working, according to a study.

Why is it important?A recent study says that as a result, this would result in social isolation of spouses, increase domestic tensions and strain the family’s financial resources. This could affect the visa holder’s satisfaction levels, posing risks to them in continuing their posting in the US. In addition to indirect costs, the cost of expatriate assignments range from $250,000 to $1 million.

Tell me more:The Trump administration is planning to reverse the 2015 rule that permits spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US. The US has issued employment authorisation documents to over 71,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders, of which more than 90% are Indians.

Rs 7,900 crore

What is it? The amount Volkswagen said it will invest in India between 2019 and 2021.

Why is it important? The group has set a target of achieving a market share of 5% of the Indian passenger vehicles market by 2025. India leapfrogged Germany recently to become the world’s fourth biggest auto market and is expected to go up to the third position by 2020, according to major automakers.

Tell me more:Under its ‘India 2.0’ project, group firm Skoda Auto is setting up an engineering design and development centre in Pune, in addition to improving capacities at its two plants, which is expected to create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.


What is it?The number of months it took for transactions under the unified payments interface (UPI) to double to 200 million.

Why is it important?UPI is a payments system launched by the National Payments Corporation of India, the umbrella organisation for retail payments in the country. It facilitates instant fund transfer between two bank accounts on a mobile platform without requiring any detail of the beneficiary’s bank account.In June 2018, the number of UPI transactions stood at 246 million, amounting to Rs 40,834 crore. This is a brisk 30% increase in volume terms and 22% in value terms over May 2018.

Tell me more: UPI was launched in August 2016 with 21 participating banks. As of June 2018, this number had increased to 110 banks.


What is it?The goal deficit that Belgium clawed back from to win their round of 16 match against unfancied Japan in the 2018 football world cup on Monday.

Why is it important?With 21 minutes to go for full-time, Belgium trailed Japan by 2 goals in an open match. However, Belgium struck thrice, including Nacer Chadli in the 4thminute of added time in regulation to become the first team since 1970 to come back from two goals down in a world cup knockout match. This is Belgium’s second appearance in the quarter-finals and its best finish was a semi-final appearance in 1986.

Tell me more: In another match played yesterday, Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 to enter the quarter-finals.

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The Slow Pace Of FDI


What is it? The number of people lynched to death in Maharashtra’s Dhule district on Sunday by some villagers who suspected them to be part of a gang of child lifters.

Why is it important? This is the latest reported case in which victims have been attacked based on Whatsapp posts that have claimed that a group of child kidnappers was active in the area. Two people in Chennai were thrashed by locals on similar suspicions, though they were rescued and rushed to the hospital. Last week, two people were killed in separate incidents in Tripura, and two friends were killed in Assam earlier last month.

Tell me more:In the Maharashtra case, the police has detained 15 villagers.

$44.85 billion

What is it? The foreign direct investment (FDI) received by India in 2017-18.

Why is it important?FDI inflows to India grew by 3% in 2017-18 from a year ago, which is the lowest growth rate in five years. Before this, growth stood at 9% in 2016-17, 29% in 2015-16, 27% in 2014-15 and 8% in 2013-14. The slippage in growth comes even as India has made efforts to improve ease of doing business and moved into the top 100 in 2017, a jump of 30 places. Mauritius, Singapore and Netherlands were the top three FDI sources for India in 2017-18.

Tell me more:For this year’s World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings, India has reportedly targeted 90 measures, including simpler registration of new companies.


What is it?The number of VIPs that have sent requests for the creation of new zones or divisions in their constituencies that are under consideration by the Railway Board.

Why is it important? The cost of infrastructure to create a new zone is Rs 205 crore, while that for a new division would be around Rs 29 crore, excluding other costs such as creation/upgradation of posts, transfer and posting. Several committees have made a case against the creation of new zones, saying they are not financially/operationally feasible. For instance, the Rakesh Mohan Committee in its 2001 report had said that the “scheme for creation of new zones was a patently political one”.

Tell me more: Those who have made demands for such new zones/divisions include Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.


What is it?The percentage of road accidents on the Greater Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway that were caused by speeding, an RTI response has revealed.

Why is it important? Since its inauguration in August 2012, the expressway has seen 4,956 accidents, killing 718 and injuring 7,671. Of these accidents, 1,161 were the result of speeding, 595 tyre bursts and 235 fog. The high numbers underscore how targeted policy and monitoring measures can reduce what are essentially avoidable accidents and fatalities.

Tell me more: In 2015, traffic accident deaths accounted for 177,423 (or 43%) of 413,357 deaths due to un-natural accidents. And road accidents accounted for 84% of total traffic accident deaths.


What is it? Shots on goal by Spain in their Round of 16 match against Russia on Sunday evening.

Why is it important?In spite of utterly dominating the match with 74% possession, Spain could score only once in 120 minutes of regulation and extra time. By comparison, a Russia in lockdown mode directed only one shot towards Spain goal, and it scored. In the penalty shootout that ensued, Russia beat Spain. In another match yesterday, Croatia beat Denmark, also in a nervy penalty battle, firmly announcing the arrival of this unforgiving format.

Tell me more: England play their Round of 16 today against Colombia. England have lost all three penalty shootouts in world cup football: in 1990, 1998 and 2006.

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Indians Bite Into Swiss Cheese, Again

Rs 7,000 crore

What is it?The approximate amount parked by Indians in Swiss banks in 2017.

Why is it important?This is an increase of 50.2% from that in 2016, the first such rise after a decline for three straight years. The rate of increase of over 50% is the highest since the 56% recorded in 2004. These figures come at a time when the Indian government has been taking steps to eliminate black money, one of the key poll promises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Tell me more: In 2016, Indian money in Swiss banks had fallen by 45%, the biggest-ever decline, to Rs 4,500 crore, the lowest ever since such data was first made public in 1987.


What is it? Iran’s share in India’s crude import by volumes in 2017-18.

Why is it important? India has asked refiners to prepare for a drastic reduction (or zero) in Iranian oil imports from November, indicating that India is reacting positively to the United States, which is pushing India, China and other allies to halt Iranian imports. Although India, which is the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, has said it would follow only sanctions by the United Nations, it will reportedly be forced to take action to protect its exposure to the US financial system.

Tell me more: Oil analysts have said that it is not possible for OPEC(Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) producers to fully supply the market once Iranian exports are curbed.

Rs 69.09

What is it? The value of rupee against the US dollar in intraday trade on Thursday.

Why is it important? This is the lowest value of Indian rupee ever against the US dollar due to a host of factors including a stronger dollar, higher oil prices, a wider current account deficit and foreign portfolio outflows. However, this will have little impact on India’s sovereign ratings as it is among the least vulnerable nations to tightening of external financing conditions because of its low reliance on external capital flows.

Tell me more: The Indian currency has been the worst performer in Asia, weakening about 8% so far this year against the US dollar.


What is it? The number of mutual fund houses in India that have gone public so far.

Why is it important? HDFC Mutual Fund is now poised to become the second to go public, after Reliance Nippon Life AMC, which listed in November 2017; the Reliance stock is down 13%over its issue price. On Tuesday, HDFC Mutual Fund secured approval from the capital market regulator for an initial public offering.

Tell me more:With Rs 300,548 crore in assets under management as of March 2018, HDFC Mutual Fund is the second-largest mutual fund in India, after ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund.


What is it?The number of fairplay points accumulated by Japan in Group H of the 2018 world cup, against -6 for Senegal.

Why is it important?For this first time in the world cup, fairplay points were used to decide which team would advance to the knockout stage: Japan went through at the expense of Senegal. Following the final round of matches in Group H, both Japan and Senegal were tied on six parameters and were separated only by fairplay points.

Tell me more:Japan accumulated four player bookings in the three group matches, while Senegal had six. As a result, no African side qualified for the Round of 16.

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