What is it? The level to which the Indian rupee fell against the US dollar on Thursday in intraday trade.
Why is it important? This was a record low and it closed at 68.75 a dollar, the lowest since August 2013 when India was caught in its worst currency crisis in over two decades. The US dollar seems to be attractive on the hopes that President-elect Donald Trump will go for an expansionary fiscal policy that would lead to higher inflation and interest rates. Though the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) intervened in the market to prop up the rupee, analyst reports suggest that it may be preserving forex reserves and will use it prudently in the backdrop of global investors’ aversion to risks and higher chances of a rate hike in the US.
Tell me more: The Indian rupee was not alone in its fall. The currencies of other emerging markets also took a hit. For instance, the Philippines peso fell to a nearly eight-year low, while the Turkish lira touched its lowest on Thursday.
What is it? The estimated cost of implementing the withdrawal of old currency notes (of Rs500 and Rs1,000) and replacing them with new ones, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
Why is it important? This would be about 25.6-32% of the total unaccounted cash that the government hopes to collect—Rs 4-5 trillion (as reportedly conveyed by it to the Supreme Court). The move by the government has attracted both praise and criticism and this is one way to determine if the cost and effort was worth the exercise. The enterprise sector is estimated to lose Rs61,500 crore or about half the total estimated transaction cost.
Tell me more: Banks are estimated to bear a cost of Rs31,140 crore during the 50-day window period until 30 December, while the cost to households would be Rs15,000 crore (to stand in queues to exchange old notes with new ones). The government and the RBI are estimated to bear a cost of Rs16,800 crore.
What is it? The tax to be reportedly levied on unaccounted deposits in banks above a certain limit, as decided at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Thursday night.
Why is it important? This would require amendments to the Income Tax Act, 1961, which the government plans to bring in during the current session of Parliament, according to sources. The tax rate is likely to be higher than the 45% tax and penalty charged on unaccounted wealth declared under the one-time Income Declaration Scheme that closed on 30 September. However, this rate is less than the tax plus 200% penalty that the government had earlier said it would levy on deposited cash if it doesn’t match the person’s income tax returns.
Tell me more: The government announced on Thursday that over-the-counter exchange of denotified notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 at banks and post offices will not be allowed from Friday and that one may only deposit old notes at banks.
What is it? The number of people who have been allegedly murdered (51) and committed suicide (5), among those who sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act since it was introduced in 2005, according to data compiled by an NGO.
Why is it important? This points to the fact that the Act in its current form does not have any provisions to ensure the safety of those who seek information using this law. Also, this highlights that one of the provisions of this Act under section 4(2), which requires the authorities to voluntarily disclose information so that the public need not go seeking it, is not followed effectively. There have been 311 instances of attacks or harassment of people who have asked for information under this Act. Maharashtra and Gujarat top the list in terms of alleged murders and suicides in this case.
Tell me more: The information commissioners could be empowered to work with other authorities such as the police, courts and human rights commissions to protect RTI users from any harm, as per a suggestion by Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator at CHRI. The organisation has put together this data for the period between 12 October 2005 and 17 October 2016. As many as 17.5 million RTI applications have been filed in these 11 years.
What is it? The amount Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in the US elections, has raised so far from a crowdfunding effort to initiate recounts in three states—Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Why is it important? President-elect Donald Trump won in these states by a narrow margin—0.3% in Michigan, 1.2% in Pennsylvania and 0.7% in Wisconsin—and there have been reports that results in these states may have been manipulated or hacked. These three states account for 46 electoral votes and if on recount, the results are overturned, then Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton can emerge victorious. Trump got 290 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 232 on last count.
Tell me more: The amount raised by Stein so far roughly covers the filing fees ($2.2 million) and attorney’s fees of another $2-3 million. Including the cost of statewide recount observers, the total costs are likely to come up to $6-7 million. Stein’s crowdfunding campaign aims to raise $4.5 million for the recounting process.
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