Essential Facts (Prelims): 29 & 30 January, 2019


Category: Indian Economy

  • 11 of the 20 public sector banks in the country are under the RBI’s PCA framework. It
  • Under the PCA framework, the RBI has specified certain regulatory trigger points in terms of three parameters — capital to risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR), net non-performing assets (NPA) and Return on Assets (RoA), for initiation of certain structured and discretionary actions in respect of commercial banks hitting such trigger points.
  • Currently, banks having negative RoA for certain consecutive years are brought under PCA framework
  • The main objective of PCA is to alert the banking regulator (RBI) about a bank heading for trouble.
  • It helps RBI take corrective measures to restore financial health of a bank.


Category: General Science

  • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — mainly cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer — continue to be the top killers in the South-East Asia Region.
  • The four ‘major’ NCDs are caused, to a large extent, by four modifiable behavioural risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity and harmful use of alcohol.
  • The NCDs disproportionately affect the poor, impoverish families, and place a growing burden on health care systems.
  • Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people.


Category: General Science

  • In a significant find in the global spread of multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria, scientists have found a “superbug” gene — first detected in over a decade back — in one of the last “pristine” places on Earth that is some 12,870 km away.
  • Soil samples taken in Svalbard — a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole — have now confirmed the spread of blaNDM-1 (called New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1) into the High Arctic.
  • Carried in the gut of animals and people, the new research said that blaNDM-1 was found in Arctic soils that were likely spread through the faecal matter of birds, other wildlife and human visitors to the area.

GM chickens

Category: Science &  Technology

  • Genetically modified chickens that produce human proteins in their eggs can offer a cost-effective method of manufacturing drugs widely used for treating cancer and other diseases.
  • High quantities of the proteins can be recovered from each egg using a simple purification system and there are no adverse effects on the chickens themselves, which lay eggs as normal.
  • Eggs are already used for growing viruses that are used as vaccines, such as the flu jab.
  • This new approach is different because the therapeutic proteins are encoded in the chicken’s DNA and produced as part of the egg white.


Category: Miscellaneous

  • A lone duck named Trevor that lived on the tiny Pacific island nation of Niue has died.
  • One of the world’s biggest coral islands, Niue does not have natural ponds or wetlands.


Category : Environment

  • There are 139 Indian cities that breach air pollution standards but are not included in the Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  • The NCAP was launched by the government earlier this month and is a ₹300 crore initiative to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

Suman Kumari

Category: Miscellaneous

  • Suman Kumari is Pakistan’s first Hindu woman judge.
  • The country’s first judge from the Hindu community was Justice Rana Bhagwandas.

Golden langur

Category: Biodiversity

  • Assam announced the success of the Golden Langur Conservation Breeding Programme in the State.
  • In April 2018, the zoo authorities shifted a pair of golden langurs — Bolin and Lovely — from the display enclosure to the isolated site.
  • The golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) is currently endangered.
  • Apart from a small area in north-western Assam, small populations are found in Bhutan and Tripura.

Price support scheme

Category: Indian Economy

  • The Centre has procured 52.83 lakh tonnes of pulses and oilseeds so far under the price support scheme (PSS).
  • The PSS is operationalised on the State governments’ request when the prices fall below the minimum support price (MSP).
  • The procurement is undertaken by nodal agencies such as Nafed at the MSP.
  • Only fair average quality commodities are purchased.

Elephant Survey

Category : Biodiversity

  • First captive elephant survey is in: 2,454 is official count
  • 58 per cent of all captive elephants is concentrated in two states: 905 in Assam and 518 in Kerala.


Category: Education, International Institutions

  • India ends PISA boycott, signs pact with OECD.
  • PISA — introduced in 2000 by OECD — tests the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.
  • The test is conducted every three years.
  • India stayed away from PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries.
  • The then government had blamed “out of context” questions for the poor show in 2009.
  • The country, subsequently, chose to not participate in the 2012 and 2015 cycle


Gist of Editorials: Alliances and Strategic Autonomy (Indian Express) | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)

[ 1000 words reduced to 150 ]

“Non-alignment”  is a special attribute of Indian foreign policy.

The present situation of NAM

  • More than a hundred countries are members of the NAM.
  • Triennial NAM summits are held.
  • Nations’ belief in NAM has declined significantly..
  • India has certainly moved away NAM in practice.

India’s trouble with Alliances

Indian is troubled by the question of alliances and autonomy when it comes to dealing with China and the US.

What do Alliances actually mean?

  • Alliances are not a kind of bondage.
  • They are arrangement to cope with a common threat.
  • As the threat breaks down, so does the alliance.

Present situation of International Alliances

  • Few countries in the world today are members of alliances.
  • These few alliances are undergoing stress.
  • US is questioning the costs and benefits of these alliances.
  • Turkey and South Korea, both treaty allies of the US, hardly share American perceptions on the regional threats.


India should  focus on its interests and the best means to secure them including partnerships and coalitions.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 28 January, 2019


Category: Environment & Ecology

  • In a first, scientists have detected the presence of microplastics in groundwater in the U.S.
  • Microplastics are already known to contaminate the world’s surface waters, yet scientists have only just begun to explore their presence in groundwater systems.
  • Plastic in the environment breaks down into microscopic particles that can end up in the guts and gills of marine life, exposing the animals to chemicals in the plastic.
  • As the plastics break down, they act like sponges that soak up contaminants and microbes and can ultimately work their way into our food supply.


Category : Science & Technology

  • Scientists have long known what causes sickle-cell disease and its devastating effects: a single mutation in one errant gene.
  • At the moment, the only remedy for sickle-cell disease is a dangerous and expensive bone marrow transplant, an option rarely used.
  • Now it has been found that an effective gene therapy using stem cells from bone marrow can treat
  • The stem cells are genetically modified, and then infused back into the patient’s bloodstream.
  • The goal is for the modified cells to take up residence in the bone marrow and form healthy red blood cells.
  • This would be the first genetic cure of a common genetic disease.
  • In sickle-cell disease, blood cells stuffed with haemoglobin are distorted into sickle shapes.
  • The misshapen cells get stuck in blood vessels, causing strokes, organ damage and episodes of agonizing pain — called crises — as muscles are starved of oxygen.
  • Children usually return to normal between crises, but teenagers and adults may suffer chronic pain.

Vande Bharat

Category : Miscellaneous

  • The Indian Railways has named the indigenously manufactured superfast Train 18 as ‘Vande Bharat Express’.
  • It will ply from the national capital to Varanasi.

 Input Tax Credit

Category: Indian Economy

  • Input credit means at the time of paying tax on output, you can reduce the tax you have already paid on inputs.
  • Say, you are a manufacturer – tax payable on output (FINAL PRODUCT) is Rs 450 tax paid on input (PURCHASES) is Rs 300 You can claim INPUT CREDIT of Rs 300 and you only need to deposit Rs 150 in taxes.


Category: Miscellaneous

Malaysia has been stripped of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships for threatening to refuse to allow Israeli athletes to take part.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 26 & 27 January, 2019


Category: Miscellaneous

  • Greek lawmakers ratified an agreement to end a nearly three decade-long dispute over neighbouring Macedonia’s name.
  • The country will be renamed North Macedonia.
  • It is on the path to NATO membership.
  • Under the deal, Macedonia changes its name to North Macedonia and Greece will drop its objections to the country joining NATO and eventually the European Union.

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Category: Social sector

  • Under the UDAN scheme, the government aims to connect unserved and under-served airports.
  • On the routes selected under the scheme, a fixed number of seats are sold at fares, for which a cap is decided by the government.
  • Airlines bid for routes with VGF they require to meet the costs and this funding is contributed by the civil aviation ministry and respective state governments. Upon technical qualification, the airline with the lowest VGF bid is selected to operate on the route with a three-year exclusivity.

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 SBM Bank

Category: Indian Economy

SBM( State Bank Mauritius )Bank (India)Ltd becomes first foreign bank to set up wholly owned subsidiary in India.


Category: Indian Economy

  • In 2011, 268 million were surviving on less than $1.90 a day.
  • $1.90 a day is the World Bank measure for extreme poverty.
  • Poverty estimates are derived from household consumption data. According to the World Data Lab, which monitors global poverty using advanced statistical models, less than 50 million Indians may be living on less than $1.90 a day now.


Category: Social sector

  • Health and wellness centres — which will cater to people’s primary healthcare needs — is a leg of the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
  • These centres will provide comprehensive healthcare, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  • These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna is the secondary and tertiary care arm of Ayushman Bharat.
  • The National Health Policy aims to double the government spend on health from the existing 1.15% of GDP to 2.5% by 2.


Editorial Simplified: A tragedy that was long in the making | GS – III

Relevance: GS Paper III

Why has this issue cropped up?

The efforts to reach the 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine in the East Jaintia hills of Meghalaya since December 13 continue.

Issues with illegal coal mining in Meghalaya

  • The Meghalaya government has no idea what happens inside these rat-hole mines, which are barely 2 ft wide, since mining is a private activity.
  • Despite the National Green Tribunal ban of April 2014, mining continues in the State.

Was the recent disaster managed well?

  • The district administration assumed the miners to be dead on the very day of the tragedy.
  • The socio-economic profile also worked against them. They were the poorest of the poor who took a huge risk to enter a mine and dig for coal without any safety gear.
  • When a mine is flooded, the immediate response is to stop further flow of water into it. This requires a hydrologist. In this case, a hydrologist arrived only two weeks after the disaster. So did the divers from the Indian Navy and the 100 HP water pumps.So did the geologists from Hyderabad.
  • All these delays happened because there was no one person or agency to coordinate the rescue mission. This shows the kind of disaster preparedness we have in our country.

Questions that arise

There are many questions that arise with respect to rat-hole mining of coal.

  • One, why does the state allow this archaic mining system, which has complete disregard for human life and safety?
  • And two, why is Meghalaya exempted from national mining laws?
  • Rat-hole mining, which started in the 1980s, has poisoned three rivers in the Jaintia hills: the Myntdu, Lunar and Lukha.
  • These rivers have very high acidic levels. pH of the water and sulphate and iron concentrations indicate significant deterioration of the rivers.
  • Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines was a major cause for water pollution.
  • Acid mine drainage has rendered even agricultural land non-productive.

Arguments given for coal mining

  • The coal mine owners say that rat-hole mining should continue because no other form of mining is viable.
  • They claim that coal mining provides livelihoods for many.
  • The other troubling factor is that coal mine owners are insisting that since Meghalaya is a State under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, national mining laws should be exempted here.

 The scale of the coal mining problem

  • The scale of the problem is clear in this one fact: there are 3,923 coal mines in one district with a geographical area of 2126 sq. km.
  • Coal mine owners have left thousands of abandoned mines as human graves. The State does not insist that they reclaim and afforest those mines.
  • In 40 years of mining and profiteering, the mine owners have till date not constructed a single hospital or even a school. There is complete disregard for corporate social responsibility because the mines are privately owned by the tribals.

 What people of Meghalaya want?

  • The tribes of Meghalaya are divided on the issue of rat-hole mining.
  • Those who care for the environment and for a future for their children and grandchildren have been clamouring for an end to the practice of rat-hole mining and reckless limestone mining.
  • On the other hand, the mining elite have mobilised forces to demonise environmental activists. A community of just over a million is now fragmented.

 Should Meghalaya be exempted of national laws?

The Sixth Schedule was enacted to protect the community rights of tribals from any form of exploitation of their land and resources. How can it now be used as an instrument to protect an activity that is a private enterprise, that is inhuman, and that violates Article 21 of the Constitution?


 The  Central government and the highest court of the land  should not allow this to carry on in one part of the country when strict laws are applied elsewhere.