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Wednesday | 17 April, 2024

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Data Point: The last quarter and a recap of 2023

Looking at the best data podcasts and videos presented by The Hindu Data Team

The year 2023 had many major events taking place - the war on Gaza, the ethnic clashes in Manipur, the historic suspension of 146 MPs from Parliament, the successful launch of Chandrayaan-3, and Novak Djokovic winning three Grand Slams, having 24 Grand Slams in his naming and going past Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 titles were few of the news events that were covered by the Hindu Data team.

While the three quarterly reviews of 2023 discussed all the important data stories of each quarter, this newsletter will cover the last quarter between October and December. The newsletter will also look at the Data Points that were taken further through videos and podcasts.

The last quarter

Economy

Indian Railways’ recent shift from Sleeper or Second-Class coaches to AC coaches has inconvenienced many travellers, leading to incidents of overcrowding in reserved compartments. Data shows there is a significant rise in AC seat shares in Central, Northern, and Western Railways, coupled with a notable decline in Second Class shares. However, data from the Railways show how poor revenue generation has compelled it to rely on extra-budgetary resources like LIC funds and market borrowings for capital expenditure, justifying the decision

Governance and Policy

In November, five States — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram — went for State Assembly elections. Amid the election campaigns and the verbal wrestling matches among political leaders, we looked at how most of these States fared compared to others in economic and socio-political indicators. For instance, Madhya Pradesh lags in most indicators compared to other States, while Rajasthan has made significant progress in many aspects, except for women’s empowerment. Despite Telangana’s economic advancements, it struggles to improve its poor Human Development Index (HDI) due to limited progress in social indicators. Although Chhattisgarh has shown relative progress, it still falls behind most States, except in the percentage of people covered under health insurance.

Politics

In the current winter session of Parliament, a record-breaking 100 Lok Sabha MPs and 46 Rajya Sabha MPs were suspended, primarily due to the Opposition’s demand for a statement from the Home Minister regarding the security breach in Parliament. While the government accused the Opposition of necessarily disrupting the proceedings of the Houses, data from the past two decades show that most interruptions in Parliament occurred during the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) when the BJP was the principal Opposition party. Over 50% of the available sitting hours were lost in interruptions then. But, despite the disruption, the UPA-II government in the 15th Lok Sabha passed 179 bills. The NDA-led 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019) passed 180 Bills. Furthermore, in a worrisome trend, the current government has taken to passing Bills with less than an hour of discussion. 

India and the World

The war between Gaza and Israel from October 7, 2023, resulted in a death toll of close to 22,000 by the end of 2023. The airstrikes and violence have destroyed neighbourhoods and led to injuries and displacement. Various published Data Points show how Israel has controlled the economy, trade, and mobility of the Palestinians for decades. For instance, Gaza has been under Israeli blockade since 2007 and except for the Rafah entrance, Israel controls all points and has imposed air, land, and sea restrictions since 2007. These restrictions and the violence between Israel and Gaza have adversely affected the performance of Gaza and the West Bank in several socio-economic indicators.

.A rise in the number of illegal immigrants from India into the U.S. prompted the Data team to take a closer look. Data shows that close to 1 lakh illegal Indian migrants entered the border just in 2023. This is just a recent trend that extends back to 2019 because a decade ago, only a little over 1,500 Indian illegal migrants were stopped by the U.S. border authorities.

Environment and Climate Change

2023 was not a good year for the environment with respect to climate change. In September, global temperatures hit a record high of 16.38°C, 0.93°C higher than the 1991-2020 average. From January to September, the global surface air temperature was 0.52°C above the 1991-2020 average and 0.05°C higher than the same period in 2016, the warmest year.

The warmest decade on record also ended with several severe extreme environmental events. The Food and Agriculture Organization reported a fourfold increase in the frequency of extreme events over the past 50 years. 

In India, half of the population residing in 344 districts currently faces high or very high health vulnerability due to prolonged summers, erratic weather, and rising sea levels caused by climate change. Data showed how accountable health systems decreased the vulnerability of people while increasing their adaptive capacities.

Data Point Podcasts

In February, the Assam government came down on child marriages, prompting debate among activists. They stressed that limited access to education for women remains a core issue. National Family Health Survey data indicates that higher education, rather than wealth, plays a pivotal role in delaying women’s marriages. Disparities in marital age are also evident between rural and urban, as well as Dalit and upper-caste women. A discussion with Dr. Mary E John, Former Professor, Senior Fellow, at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies and Dr.Rajni Palriwala, Former Professor of Sociology, at DU, resulted in a Data Point podcast that explores the influence of wealth, education, and caste on a woman’s marital age.

Surveys show that with respect to CCTV camera coverage, Indian cities rank among the top. For instance, Delhi and Chennai now have more cameras per square mile than cities in China. Data shows that while the number of CCTV cameras per square mile was found most extensively in Delhi and Chennai, the number of CCTV cameras per 1,000 people was highest in Indore and Hyderabad. However, this has not resulted in a decrease in crime rates. This data translated into a Data Point podcast that discusses the pros, the cons and where we draw the line between surveillance and public safety with lawyer and policy researcher Anushka Jain and Srinivas Kodal, researcher on digitisation and hacktivist.

The Indian National Congress achieved a comfortable win in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections. Through a data podcast, The Hindu Data team discussed the trends seen in this election and the lead-up to the Congress’ victory in the State.  

In 2023, the debate over the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for MBBS and BDS intensified across India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The tragic death of a Chennai-based medical aspirant and his father’s subsequent suicide reignited the discussion. The data team conducted interviews with doctors and medical students to explore the relevance of NEET and other medical industry issues, resulting in the “Vital Signs” podcast series.

In the first episode of the series, medical professionals and students across categories explained how while they believed that a common entrance examination for medical seats is a necessity, the coaching industry skewed it in favour of urban and richer students, due to its unaffordability. The second episode focused on debunking the notion that  “rural students will naturally serve in rural areas”. We consulted professionals from the medical field to understand the challenges preventing doctors from serving in rural settings and potential solutions .The third episode discusses how instead of the Centre, the State governments must make more decisions on such examinations since they best understand the medical needs of their respective States. The final episode’s focus was on the increasing commercialisation of the medical profession, where doctors were tempted to look at it more like a business, rather than a vocation.

When Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy stated that young Indians must strive to work for 70 hours a week, it prompted criticism from many.  A comparison with other countries showed how increased working hours do not necessarily translate to increased productivity. A discussion with Arjun Nagarajan, Chief Economist, Sundaram Asset Management Company Ltd. and Anamitra Roy Chowdhury, Assistant Professor, Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, JNU resulted in a data podcast where they talked about the merits and drawbacks of extended work hours and the realities of such a commitment. 

Data Point Videos

Pakistan is in an economic crisis. The inflation in the country has led to massive spikes in the price of every day. Data shows that there was also a dip in foreign exchange reserves with the State Bank of Pakistan. This in turn has resulted in thousands of containers with essential food items, raw materials and medical equipment being held up at ports due to a shortage of dollars. This Data Point video analyses how the recent economic crisis appears to be worse than what has been seen in the recent past and what led to it.

Some of the richest MLAs are from Karnataka. As the State went to elections on May 2023, data was utilised to look at the crorepati MLAs in the country and the political parties they belonged to. This expanded into a Data Point video to look at how much India’s MLAs are worth in declared assets, the regional differences between these MLAs and the States they represent, and how their assets have grown over the years. 

On August 23, Chandrayaan-3 landed on the moon safely, a historic event for India, especially since data shows that over 40% of moon missions have failed. If we consider only those missions which involved a robotic lander (a spacecraft performing a controlled landing on the lunar surface), the failure rate sharply increases to over 60%. Through a Data Point video, the data team along with Vasudevan Mukunth, The Hindu’s Deputy Science Editor, looked at how successful past moon missions have been, to assess the odds stacked against Chandrayaan-3.

In September 2023, a conflict broke out between India and Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that agents of the Indian government were involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, in Surrey. India called the allegations “absurd” and “motivated”. In 2020, India declared Nijjar, the head of the Khalistani Tiger Force, a terrorist and accused Canada of providing a haven for people who support the Khalistani cause. Data looked at the long history of migration and dependence between the two countries, which translated into a Data Point video

A Data Point video contextualised the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Through data, the video analyses the economic history of the two. 

The two Data stories on why the Indian Railways decided to introduce more AC coaches due to its financial challenges and how it affects the common public, resulted in a video that delves into Railways’ finances and whether the current plan of action will work.

Cyclone Michaung struck Chennai on December 3 and 4, causing severe flooding in the city. The cyclone then made landfall in Andhra Pradesh on December 5, reminiscent of the destructive 2015 monsoon floods. Data shows how the rains in 2023 differed from those of the other years.  For instance, the city neither received heavy downpours in a short time like 2021, nor did it have many gaps like in 2020. Instead, it recorded numerous bursts of rain over a longer period, with only brief intervals. The in-depth analysis of the floods inspired a Data video which looks into the rainfall patterns and dam management in 2023, compared with 2021, 2020 and 2015. 

Thank you for reading this week’s edition of the Data Point newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Please send your feedback to rebecca.varghese@thehindu.co.in

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