Essential Facts (Prelims): 25, 26 and 27 December, 2018

Ultima Thule

  • It is the most distant planetary object ever studied.
  • It is a frozen relic of the early solar system.
  • It is named after a mythical island.
  • It is believed to be about 100 times tinier than Pluto.
  • It lies in the Kuiper Belt.
  • The unmanned spaceship New Horizons is poised to past Ultima Thule at a distance of just 3,500 km.

Kuiper Belt

  • It is a vast cosmic disc left over from the days when planets first formed.
  • Astronomers sometimes call it the “attic” of the solar system.
  • The Kuiper Belt begins some 4.8 billion km beyond the Sun, past the orbit of Neptune.

Acoustic tweezers

  • Scientists have successfully used sound waves to levitate and manipulate multiple objects simultaneously for the first time, using the system to “sew” a thread into a piece of fabric.
  • The system could be used to acoustically stitch up internal injuries or deliver drugs to target organs.
  • Sound exerts a small acoustic force and by turning up the volume of ultrasonic waves, too high pitched for humans to hear, scientists create a sound field strong enough to move small objects.
  • Acoustic tweezers have similar capabilities to optical tweezers, the 2018 Nobel prize winner, which uses lasers to trap and transport micro-particles.
  • However, acoustic tweezers have the edge over optical systems when it comes to operating within human tissue.
  • Lasers only travel through transparent media, making them tricky to use for applications within biological tissue. On the other hand, ultrasound is routinely used in pregnancy scans and kidney stone treatment as it can safely and non-invasively penetrate biological tissue.
  • Another advantage is that acoustic devices are 1,00,000 times more power efficient than optical systems.

Andaman islands

  • The government has decided to rename three islands in Andaman & Nicobar —
  • Ross Island as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island,
  • Neil Island as Shahid Dweep and
  • Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep.


  • Commercial banks, under the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), are sitting on a pile of cash as they don’t have too many options to lend, even as the banking system is scrambling for liquidity.
  • There are 11 public sector banks under the PCA, enjoying 25% market share among commercial banks.
  • As a result, banks’ have huge amounts of daily excess cash leading to statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) much higher than the RBI mandated 19.5%.
  • SLR is the minimum amount of liabilities that a bank must invest in government securities.

Lazy Banking

  • Investments in government bonds is the most risk-free avenue to park funds which, in banking parlance, is known as ‘lazy banking.’


  • The RCEP members will meet for the 25th round of negotiations in February in Indonesia.
  • RCEP members want India to eliminate or significantly cut customs duties on maximum number of goods that it traded on.


  • As against the government mandate of minimum 25% procurement from MSEs by CPSUs.

Hybrid seeds

  • In a major breakthrough in agriculture, scientists in the US have discovered a way to make hybrid rice plants replicate through cloned seeds.
  • This technology can produce progeny through seeds which are exact replicas or clones of the mother plant, which means that we can propagate high-yielding, disease-resistant and drought-resistant hybrid crops without losing these traits or properties through successive generations.
  • While hybrid seeds have high yield, tolerance to climatic changes and are disease resistant, unlike other crops their seeds don’t produce plants with same quality and traits. As such the farmers, every year, have to purchase such seeds from the open market.
  • The discovery will help to the farmers across the world, especially in the developing countries, to sow hybrid rice varieties, which they have so far resisted because of high costs.
  • Hybrid seeds are very expensive and thus hybrid crops are underutilised in developing countries. Earlier, these expensive hybrid seeds needed to be purchased each year from commercial seed companies and farmers in developing countries couldn’t afford them.
  • This technology will enable farmers to plant seeds from their own hybrid crops, every sowing season.


  • Avengard is a Russian hypersonic missile.
  • The missile could fly at 20 times the speed of sound and manoeuvre up and down, meaning that it could breach defence systems.

Bimal Jalan

  • Bimal Jalan is to head six-member panel on RBI’s economic capital framework Committee.
  • The terms of reference of the committee would be to review status, need and justification of various provisions, reserves and buffers presently provided for by the RBI.
  • The committee will also review best practices followed by the central banks globally in making assessment and provisions for risks, to which central bank balance sheets are subjected.
  • The panel would also suggest an adequate level of risk provisioning that the RBI needs to maintain, and to determine whether it is holding provisions, reserves and buffers in surplus or deficit of the required level.
  • The committee would also propose a suitable profit distribution policy.


  • Beginning February 1, e-commerce companies would be barred from selling products sourced from firms in which they have stake in or control over.
  • 100% FDI under automatic route is permitted in marketplace model of e-commerce.
  • FDI is not permitted in inventory-based model of e-commerce.
  • The inventory-based model of e-commerce is when the inventory of goods and services is owned by the e-commerce entity and sold to consumers directly.
  • The marketplace model is when an e-commerce company simply provides an information technology platform in order to act as a facilitator between the buyer and the seller.
  • E-commerce entity providing a marketplace will not exercise ownership or control over goods purported to be sold. Such an ownership or control over the inventory will render the business into inventory-based model.
  • Inventory of a vendor will be deemed to be controlled by e-commerce marketplace entity if more than 25% of purchases of such vendor are from the marketplace entity or its group companies.

Minimum wages

  • The Code on Wages, Bill, 2017 will provide for minimum wage applicable to all employments covering organised as well as unorganised sectors.
  • The first among the four labour codes proposed by the government, the Code on Wages will amalgamate the the four central labour laws relating to wages:
    • The Payment of Wages Act, 1936,
    • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948,
    • The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and
    • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Train 18

  • Train 18 is an indigenously developed semi-high speed train.
  • It officially became the first train in India to cruise at a sustained speed of 180kmph, making it the fastest train in the country.
  • The chief commissioner of railway safety (CCRS) has given the goahead for the train to run at a maximum speed of 160kmph with certain conditions paving the way for its commercial operation.
  • The conditions include providing “sturdy fencing” all along the track to avoid mishaps.
  • It has laid down 21 conditions railways must comply with to run at maximum speed of up to 160kmph.
  • The clearance from CCRS is a pre-requisite for any train with new technology to start service.

International Whaling Commission

  • The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is an international body set up in 1946 to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  • In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling. Currently, Japan, Russia, and a number of other nations oppose this moratorium.
  • The IWC allows non-zero whaling quotas for aboriginal subsistence and also member nations may issue ‘Scientific Permits’ to their citizens.
  • The Commission also encourages, co-ordinates and funds whale research.
  • In 2018, IWC members gathered in Florianopolis, Brazil, where they discussed and rejected a proposal by Japan to renew commercial whaling.
  • Through the “Florianopolis Declaration”, it was concluded that the purpose of the IWC is the conservation of whales and that they would now safeguard the marine mammals in perpetuity and would allow the recovery of all whale populations to pre-industrial whaling levels.

Delta Ranking

  • NITI Aayog is to realease Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP).
  • The ranking will measure the incremental progress made by districts between June 1, 2018 and October 31, 2018.
  • The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure through key performance indicators.
  • The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
  • The rankings, for the first time, will also factor in inputs from household survey conducted by NITI Aayog’s knowledge partners, namely, TATA Trusts and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
  • The Aspirational District Programme was launched by the Prime Minister on January 5, 2018. It aims to rapidly transform the districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas and have emerged as pockets of under-development, thereby posing a challenge to ensure balanced regional development.
  • The first Delta ranking for the Aspirational Districts was released in June 2018. It ranked the Aspirational Districts on improved performance across five developmental areas on the basis of self-reported data.


  • National Investment & Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs) are one of the important instruments of National Manufacturing Policy, 2011.
  • NIMZs are envisaged as large areas of developed land with the requisite eco-system for promoting world class manufacturing activity.
  • So far, three NIMZs namely Prakasam (Andhra Pradesh), Sangareddy (Telangana) and Kalinganagar (Odisha) have been accorded final approval and 13 NIMZs have been accorded in-principle approval.
  • Besides these, eight Investment Regions along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project have also been declared as NIMZs.
  • The main objective of Special Economic Zones is promotion of exports, while NIMZs are based on the principle of industrial growth in partnership with States and focuses on manufacturing growth and employment generation.
  • NIMZs are different from SEZs in terms of size, level of infrastructure planning, governance structures related to regulatory procedures, and exit policies.

Neid Scheme

  • North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 covers eligible industrial units in the manufacturing and service sectors Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim to promote industrialization and boost employment and income generation.
  • The Scheme is valid from 2017 to 2022.
  • The Scheme does not envisage sanction of projects, rather, eligible units are registered after following due process.
  • To date, one industrial unit in district Kamrup, Assam has been granted registration under NEIDS, 2017.
  • The total approved outlay of NEIDS is Rs. 3000 crore.

Electoral Bonds

  • The State Bank of India (SBI), in the VII Phase of sale of Electoral Bonds, has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its 29 Authorized Branches.
  • Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue and no payment shall be made to any payee Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period.
  • The Electoral Bond deposited by an eligible Political Party in its account shall be credited on the same day.
  • Electoral Bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
  • A person being an individual can buy Electoral Bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last General Election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
  • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.

Indian Railways

  • Approximately more than 97% of the Railways requirement is met from indigenous sources.

National Highways

  • The total length of National Highways (NHs) has been enhanced to about 1,31,326 km at present.


  • The World Bank is assisting construction and upgradation of road works under Rural Roads Projects (RRP) under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).
  • The tentative coverage under the project is around 11,000 Km

National Waterways

  • Out of the 111 National Waterways (NWs) declared under the National Waterways Act, 2016, 13 NWs are operational for shipping and navigation and cargo/passenger vessels are moving on them.

Khelo India

  • The revamped Khelo India Scheme was launched with a view to achieving the twin objectives of mass participation and promotion of excellence in sports.
  • Under the Khelo India the identified sports talents will be given the option to join SAI National Sports Academies, State Sports Academies or Sports Academies established by private sector.
  • Grants-in-aid will be provided for establishment, operation and maintenance of sports academies in respect of identified disciplines to Sports Authority of India, State Governments or to private sector or sports person under Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode for facilitating and supplementing Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) programme (for 8 years).
  • The best academies might be at National, Regional or State level, both in public and private sector.
  • A system would be developed for rating of academics to facilitate selection of appropriate academics for support.
  • At least one academy for Para Athletes will be supported.