What is it? The number of Indian construction workers kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq whose deaths were confirmed by the Indian government on Tuesday.
Why is it important? Since their disappearance in 2014, India had maintained that they were alive. Minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj said the government needed concrete evidence and made the announcement based on DNA test results. She came under fire for having conveyed this news in Parliament first without informing the kin of the deceased. However, Swaraj maintained she had followed protocol.
Tell me more: Harjit Masih, the only one who managed to flee from IS captivity, had claimed that all the other 39 workers were shot dead by the militants. He was arrested last year on charges, including human trafficking and cheating, after families of nine of the missing men filed a complaint against him.
What is it? India’s projected economic growth rate in 2018-19, according to investment bank Goldman Sachs. It is a downgrade from its earlier forecast of 8%.
Why is it important? It says the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud, along with other smaller bank frauds, could hamper credit growth in a country where state-run lenders account for nearly two-thirds of banking assets. With mounting bad debts, the central bank has banned all debt recast plans, which means higher provisioning, lower profitability and the need for increased capital. This raises questions if the government’s recent $32-billion, two-year recapitalisation plan is enough.
Tell me more: Gross non-performing assets of all Indian banks stood at Rs8,40,958 crore at the end of December 2017.
10.8 million hectares
What is it? The estimated area under cotton cultivation in the 2018-19 crop year, down 12% from 12.26 million hectares in the current year.
Why is it important? The downward revision is mainly due to pink bollworm infestation, which affect crop yields, forcing farmers to opt for other crops. This could affect India’s cotton exports, which has recently gathered pace due to lower prices, and could increase international cotton prices. Farmers are being advised to use hybrid cotton seeds instead of genetically-modified Bt cotton as pink bollworm has become resistant to the latter.
Tell me more: The Cotton Association of India has lowered the cotton production estimate for 2017-18 to 362 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) from 367 lakh bales estimated last month.
What is it? The erosion in market value of Facebook in the last two days, after it was revealed that a data analytics firm had harvested data of 50 million users to direct political campaigns, including that for US President Donald Trump.
Why is it important? The fallout continued to build on Tuesday, even as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg maintained a silence. A Parliamentary committee in the UK issued summons to Zuckerberg over the issue of user consent in sharing data. The board of Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm in question, suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect pending a full, independent investigation.
Tell me more: Cambridge Analytica is in talks with the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress for a possible collaboration in the 2019 elections.
What is it? The duration of a hearing over video conference on whether the two-match disciplinary ban on South African fast bowler Kagiso Rabada should be overturned.
Why is it important? At the end of the six hours, ICC’s code of conduct appeal commissioner Michael Heron reduced the censure, paving the way for Rabada to keep playing in the ongoing four-match series against Australia. With 15 wickets at an average of 16.80 in the first two tests, Rabada is the leading wicket-taker in this series, and his availability is a lift for South Africa.
Tell me more: The compelling series is locked 1-1, with the third test beginning in Cape Town on Thursday.
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