Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 12 & 13 , 2019


World Oil Demand Report

Category: International

  • India’s oil demand will rise at the fastest pace globally this year and the next, even as its economic expansion has slowed down.
  • This was revealed in OPEC’s ‘World Oil Demand’ report.
  • It said India’s oil demand is projected to rise by 3.21% in 2019. In 2020, it will further rise by 3.36%. This outpaces China’s oil demand growth of 2.73% in 2019 and 2.37% in 2020.
  • China, however, is the world’s second-biggest oil consumer in 2019, behind only the U.S.

Boreas is the largest flying animal of all time

Category: Sc/tech

  • Scientists unveiled a new species of pterosaur, the plane-sized reptiles that lorded over primeval skies above T-rex, Triceratops and other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.
  • With a wingspan of 10 m and weighing 250 kg, Cryodrakon boreas rivals another pterosaur as the largest flying animal of all time.
  • Its remains were first discovered more than 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada, yet elicited scant excitement because of the misclassification. But a closer look at the fossil remains left no doubt that a new species had been discovered.
  • Like other winged reptiles living at the same time, about 77 million years ago, C. boreas was carnivorous and probably fed on lizards, small mammals and even baby dinosaurs.

Fedor

Category: Sc/tech

  • It’s mission over for a robot called Fedor that Russia blasted to the International Space Station, the developers admitting he could not replace astronauts on space walks.
  • Fedor, or Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, was built to assist space station astronauts.
  • The silvery anthropomorphic robot cannot fulfil its assigned task to replace human astronauts on long and risky space walks.
  • Fedor turned out to have a design that does not work well in space — standing 180 cm tall, its long legs were not needed on space walks.

Valley’s apple growers welcome govt.’s scheme

Category: Agricultue

  • J & K Government announced market intervention scheme to buy crop worth ₹8,000 crore directly from the farmers in Kashmir.
  • The decision of the Union government to revoke J&K’s special status resulted in a communication blockade, affecting the traders’ ability to tie up with wholesale buyers outside or line up with transport companies.
  • Kashmir produces 75% of the total apple crop in the country at 20 lakh metric tonnes.
  • The government’s market intervention, the first of its kind in J&K, will allow the apples produce to be bought from the doorsteps of the orchardists.

NATGRID wants to link social media accounts to central database

Category: Security

  • The ambitious National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) project wants to link social media accounts to the huge database of records related to immigration entry and exit, banking and telephone details among others.
  • The project, initially started in 2009 with a budget of ₹2,800 crore, is an online database for collating scattered pieces of information and putting them on one platform.
  • At least 10 central agencies like Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and others will have access to the data on a secured platform.
  • The proposal has received resistance from the intelligence agencies, whose officials fear that linking the social media accounts to sensitive government data could expose the system to “trojan attacks.”
  • NATGRID links intelligence and investigation agencies. The 10 user agencies will be linked independently with certain databases that would be procured from 21 providing organisations and include telecom, tax records, bank, immigration, etc. to enable the generation of intelligence inputs.

Water found in atmosphere of habitable exoplanet

Category: Sc/tech

  • Water has been discovered for the first time in the atmosphere of an exoplanet with earth-like temperatures that could support life as we know it.
  • Eight times the mass of earth and twice as big, K2-18b orbits in its star’s “habitable zone” at a distance — neither too far nor too close — where water can exist in liquid form.
  • Of the more than 4,000 exoplanets detected to date, this is the first known to combine a rocky surface and an atmosphere with water.
  • Most exoplanets with atmospheres are giant balls of gas, and the handful of rocky planets for which data is available seem to have no atmosphere at all.
  • Discovered in 2015, K2-18b is one of hundreds of so-called “super-earths” — planets with less than ten times the mass of ours — spotted by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.
  • They found the unmistakable signature of water vapour. Exactly how much remains uncertain, but computer modelling suggested concentrations between 0.1 and 50 %. By comparison, the percentage of water vapour in earth’s atmosphere varies between 0.2% above the poles, and up to 4% in the tropics.
  • K2-18b orbits a red dwarf star about 110 light years distant — a million billion kilometres — in the Leo constellation of the Milky Way.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 10 & 11 , 2019


Tamil Nadu ranks lowest in coverage of iodised salt

Category: GS 2 (Health)

  • Tamil Nadu has the lowest consumption of iodised salt despite being the third biggest producer of salt in the country, according to a first-of-its-kind national survey to measure the coverage of iodised salt.
  • The study shows that 76.3% of Indian households consumed adequately iodised salt, which is salt with at least 15 parts per million of iodine.
  • The survey was conducted by Nutrition International in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Indian Coalition for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD).
  • The survey tested the iodine content in samples of cooking salt from households to estimate the coverage of iodised salt.
  • Iodine is a vital micro-nutrient for optimal mental and physical development of human beings.
  • Deficiency of iodine can result in a range of disabilities and disorders such as goitre, hypothyroidism, cretinism, abortion, still births, mental retardation and psychomotor defects.
  • Children born in iodine deficient areas may have up to 13.5 IQ points less than those born in iodine sufficient areas.
  • Rajasthan, which is the second largest producer of salt, also figured among the five worst covered States.
  • Gujarat produces 71% of salt in the country, followed by Rajasthan at 17% and Tamil Nadu at 11%. The rest of the country accounts for a mere 1% of salt produced.
  • India made fortification of salt with iodine mandatory for direct human consumption in 1992. This was relaxed in 2000 and then reimposed in 2005. In 2011, the SC, too, mandated universal iodisation for the control of iodine deficiencies.
  • 13 out of 36 States have already achieved Universal Salt Iodisation.

India to restore more degraded land

Category: Geography

  • India has raised by 10% the area of degraded land that the country has agreed to restore by 2030.
  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation. About 29%, or about 96.4 million hectares, of its land is considered degraded.
  • This January, India became part of the “Bonn Challenge”, a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • At the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge and pledged to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

Registration of steel and iron imports, a must

Category: Economy

  • In a bid to clamp down on the dumping of iron and steel imports, and also the over-and under-invoicing of these products, the government has removed these items from the ‘free’ category and has made it mandatory for importers to apply in advance for a registration of their import.
  • The new system will come into effect from November 1. This comes at a time when India has been at the receiving end of large amounts of steel dumping due to the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.
  • The import of 284 item lines under the steel and iron category has been re-designated from ‘free’ to ‘free subject to compulsory registration under Steel Import Monitoring System’.
  • This Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS) will require the importer to submit advance information on an online portal for the import of the items mentioned in the notification and obtain an automatic registration number.
  • This number can be obtained by paying a minimum fee of ₹500 and maximum of ₹1 lakh, depending on the value of the imports.
  • Indian imports of steel and iron had contracted 31% in 2016-17, the financial year before U.S. imposed higher import duties on steel.

Two new species of ginger discovered in Nagaland

Category: Ecology

  • Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have discovered two new species of Zingiber, commonly referred to as ginger, in Nagaland.
  • While Zingiber perenense has been discovered from the Peren district of Nagaland, Zingiber dimapurense was found in the Dimapur district of the State.
  • Of the two species, Zingiber dimapurense is taller in size, with leafy shoots measuring 90-120 cm high, whereas the leafy shoots of Zingiber perenense reach up to 70 cm in height.

Kashmir apples to escape lockdown via Central route

Category: Agriculture

  • Kashmir’s famed apple is battling to get exported outside the State this year.
  • Kashmir produced 20 lakh metric tonnes of apple in 2018, contributing 73% to the total apple production in the country.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 08 & 09 , 2019


Merged PSBs must cut stake in insurers

Category: Economy

  • After the merger of 10 public sector banks (PSBs) into four, two of them will hold over 15% stake in two different insurance companies, individually.
  • According to insurance regulations, a bank cannot hold more than 15% stake in more than one insurance company.
  • Having more than 15% stake in an insurance company gives the status of the promoter to the entity.
  • One entity cannot be a promoter of two insurance companies.So, the banks have to completely exit one insurance company or cut stake to 15%.

₹100 lakh-crore infra projects

Category: Economy

  • The government has constituted a high-level task force to identify infrastructure projects for ₹100 lakh-crore worth investment to be made by 2024-25 as India aims to become a $5-trillion economy.
  • This would include greenfield and brownfield projects costing above ₹100 crore each.
  • The task force will comprise secretaries from different Ministries, senior officials and the NITI Aayog CEO.
  • It will identify technically feasible and financially/economically viable infrastructure projects that can be initiated in 2019-20.
  • To achieve the target of scaling India’s GDP to $5 trillion by 2024-25, the country needs to spend about $1.4 trillion (₹100 lakh crore) from the fiscal 2019-20 to 2024-25 on infrastructure.
  • In the past decade (fiscal 2008-17), India invested about $1.1 trillion in infrastructure.
  • Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech, had said that ₹100 lakh crore would be invested in infrastructure over the next five years. These will include social and economic infrastructure projects.

3D-printed cookies

Category: Sc/tech

  • Scientists have used 3D-printing to make automobile parts and prosthetics before but now 3D-printing food is becoming a reality.
  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT), Thanjavur, have printed a nutritious snack using millets, green gram, fried gram and ajwain seeds.
  • Taking just five to seven minutes to print, followed by a microwave drying process, this technology may help in customising food according to the individuals’ nutritional requirements.
  • Earlier this year, the team had earlier made egg yolk and egg white into a printable form.
  • Though this may not be a solution to any food crisis or help altering the food manufacturing process, it may prepare ourselves for the future.
  • Perhaps one day this method may help print food at the International Space Station or any such environment.
  • Instead of increasing the shelf life, printing food when and where needed can be a better option.

Black spots

Category: Governance

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued new guidelines to State governments for identifying accident ‘black spots’ on national highways and rectifying them.
  • A black spot is defined as a stretch not more than 500m in length where five accidents have taken place or where ten fatalities have happened in the last three years.
  • Recently, Minister for Road Transport and Highways said the government had prepared a ₹14,000-crore plan to identify black spots.
  • The Ministry has reached out to the World Bank for funds after approval from the Ministry of Finance.

Automatic Identification System (AIS)

Category: Sc/tech

  • There has been a huge increase in Chinese deep-sea fishing trawlers in the southern Indian Ocean far from the Chinese coast which has raised concerns.
  • The trawlers were, however, not in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but beyond.
  • Occurrences are recordings of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) aboard trawlers and ships recorded when they are activated. So a trawler can be recorded multiple times based on its AIS signature.
  • The maritime movements in the region are tracked at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurugram, which is the single-point centre interlinking all the coastal radar chains and other inputs along the coastline.
  • The AIS information comprises name, MMSI number, position, course, speed, last port visited, destination and so on. This information can be picked up through various AIS sensors including coastal AIS chains and satellite based receivers.
  • To address this, the National Maritime Domain Awareness initiative aims to integrate fishing, ports, customs so that the database is available to everyone. Currently, the States have their databases.
  • There has been a national effort to install AIS systems on ships under 20m for which a pilot study has been carried out.
  • AIS works through satellite and the ISRO has already delivered 1000 transponders for trails in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 06 & 07 , 2019


Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index

Category: Environment

  • Karnataka has been given the first rank in the State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index (SARAL).
  • This index encourages each State to assess the initiatives taken so far, and what it can do to improve its solar rooftop ecosystem.
  • The index captures five key aspects — robustness of policy framework, implementation environment, investment climate, consumer experience and business ecosystem.

New CBI unit to help investigators share info

Category: Polity

  • Centralised Technology Vertical (CTV) would be set up under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to facilitate real-time information sharing with investigators across the country.
  • India has the second largest users of Internet in the world..

WHO SE Asia Region plans to banish measles, rubella by 2023

Category: Science/tech

  • Member-countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia Region have resolved to eliminate highly infectious childhood killer diseases measles and rubella by 2023.
  • A resolution to eliminate the diseases was adopted at the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in Delhi.
  • Measles is particularly dangerous for the poor, as it attacks malnourished children and those with reduced immunity. It can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia, while rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) causes irreversible birth defects.
  • Measles elimination and rubella control has been a regional flagship priority since 2014.
  • Bhutan, North Korea, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have eliminated measles. Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have controlled rubella.

Institute of Eminence tag for five

Category: Education

  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has awarded the status of Institute of Eminence to IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharagpur, Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University and University of Hyderabad..
  • Four private universities — Vellore Institute of Technology, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Jamia Hamdard and Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology — were issued Letters of Intent to grant them the status.
  • Each university will be required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry, laying out its plan to achieve the objective of becoming a world-class institution.
  • The public institutions on the list will then be eligible for a government grant of ₹1,000 crore.
  • These institutions will not be subject to UGC inspections, and are free to set their own courses and curriculum, fee structure and merit-based admission systems. They will have complete academic, administrative and financial autonomy.

Opposition questions aid to Russia

Category: International

  • The Opposition on Friday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of a $1-billion (₹7,167 crore) line of credit (LOC) to Russia for the development of the Russian Far East.
  • This is the first time India has extended an LOC to another developing country (so far, such assistance has gone only to least developed countries).
  • The External Affairs Ministry said the decision was based on a number of reasons, including the fact that there were large Chinese, Japanese and Korean investments in the region. “The Indian line of credit will attract more Indian businesses to the Russian Far East,” said a Ministry note in response to The Hindu’s queries. It said that trade resulting from the line of credit would contribute to the target set by both countries of achieving $30 billion of annual bilateral trade by 2025, which at present is less than $11 billion.

Decline in cotton yarn exports worries mills

Categoy: Economy

  • The continuing decline in cotton yarn exports from April this year has left textile mills worried.
  • Exports to China, Korea and Bangladesh are down.
  • Cotton yarn exports are at a five-year low.
  • India’s share in global textile and clothing exports has also seen a downfall.
  • While India was the second largest exporter of textile and clothing in 2014-2017, it has come down to the fifth position now.
  • The space vacated by China in textile and clothing products has been largely consumed by Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan and other least developed countries.
  • While Indian yarn incurs 3.5% to 4% duty in China, the levy is nil for yarn exported to China from Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 04 & 05 , 2019


Cabinet approves higher procurement price for ethanol

Category: Economy

  • The Union Cabinet approved a higher procurement price for ethanol purchased by oil marketing companies for the ethanol blended petrol (EBP) programme, which will come into effect from December 1 for a period of one year.
  • According to the new decision, the price of ethanol from C-heavy molasses and B-heavy molasses will be increased.
  • The oil marketing companies will also pay the Goods and Services Tax and transportation tax associated with the ethanol supply — a provision that existed in the previous plan as well.
  • Increased ethanol blending in petrol has many benefits including reduction in import dependency, support to agricultural sector, more environmental friendly fuel, lesser pollution and additional income to farmers.

₹4,557 crore one-time infusion into IDBI Bank

Category: GS 3 ( Economy)

  • The Cabinet approved a one-time capital infusion of ₹4,557 crore into IDBI Bank in a bid to help the bank return to profitability.
  • The Life Insurance Corporation of India, which owns a 51% stake in the bank, will infuse another ₹4,743 crore in IDBI.
  • The infusion is expected to help IDBI raise further capital on its own and come out of the Reserve Bank of India’s Prompt Corrective Action framework next year.
  • The infusion will be through recapitalisation bonds.
  • The government will infuse the capital into the bank and the bank will buy the recapitalisation bonds from the government on the same day, with no impact on liquidity or the current year’s Budget.

PSBs must have ₹10 lakh crore business to appoint CGMs

Category: Economy

  • The Finance Ministry has decided to fix a cut-off mark in terms of total business of public sector banks (PSBs) to create the position of chief general managers (CGMs).
  • PSBs will now have the position of CGM which was thus far available only to the State Bank of India.
  • PSBs having a total business of ₹10 lakh crore will be eligible to have CGM posts in Scale VIII.
  • A bank can appoint a maximum of one CGM for four general managers (GMs),.

India among top 10 nations in gold reserves

Category: Economy

  • India has pipped the Netherlands to move into the list of top ten countries in terms of total gold reserves.
  • India is at the 10th spot.
  • According to the World Gold Council, India has gold reserves totalling 618.2 tonnes, which is marginally higher than the Netherlands’ reserves of 612.5 tonnes.
  • Interestingly, in terms of individual countries, India actually ranks ninth since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) occupies the third position after the U.S. and Germany.
  • India’s entry into the list of top ten countries comes at a time when the quantum of monthly purchases is the lowest in over three years.
  • India’s gold reserves have grown substantially in the past couple of decades from 357.8 tonnes in the first quarter of 2000 to the current 618.2 tonnes.

External benchmark-based lending must: RBI

Category: Economy

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made it mandatory for all banks to link floating rate loans — to retail customers and loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) — to an external benchmark.
  • The move is aimed at faster transmission of monetary policy rates.
  • Banks have been reluctant to cut interest rates despite the RBI lowering the repo rate by 110 basis points (bps).
  • The norms for external benchmark linking of interest rates was scheduled to be operational from April 1, but was deferred.
  • At present, interest rates on loans are linked to a bank’s marginal cost of fund-based interest rate (MCLR).
  • Banks can choose from one of the four external benchmarks — repo rate, three-month treasury bill yield, six-month treasury bill yield or any other benchmark interest rate published by Financial Benchmarks India Private Ltd.

Vienna crowned ‘most liveable city’

Category: International

  • Austria’s capital has retained its ranking as the world’s most liveable city, according to an annual report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
  • Vienna once again came ahead of Melbourne — which had held the top ranking for seven years until losing it to Vienna in 2018.
  • Each year, the EIU gives 140 cities scores out of 100 on a range of factors such as living standards, crime, transport infrastructure, access to education and healthcare, as well as political and economic stability.
  • Europe claimed eight of the top 20 spots, with cities in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada making up the rest.
  • However, the City of Light, Paris, dropped six places to 25th due to the anti-government “yellow vest” protests.
  • For the first time, the index noted the effects of climate change on liveability, with New Delhi plunging in the rankings to 118th (a drop of six ranks) due to “poor air quality, undesirable average temperatures and inadequate water provision.
  • The least liveable cities were Karachi, Tripoli, Dhaka, Lagos and, at the very bottom, Damascus.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 02 & 03 , 2019


The oldest parasite DNA

Category: Sc/tech

  • The oldest parasite DNA ever recorded has been found in the ancient, desiccated faeces of a puma.
  • Radiocarbon dating revealed that the coprolite and thus the parasitic roundworm eggs preserved inside dated back to between 16,570 and 17,000 years ago, towards the end of the last Ice Age.

Bright plumes on Jupiter

Category: Sc/tech

  • Coordinated observations of Jupiter in early 2017 by six ground-based telescopes and Hubble allowed astronomers to study the evolution of bright plumes and connect them with cloud movements deep in the planet.
  • The plumes create disturbances in the belts and even change their colour.

India faces higher mortality from cardiovascular diseases

Category: sc/tech

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death across the world, but there are significant variations between rich and poor nations.
  • While in high-income countries, deaths from cancer are twice that of CVD, in low-income countries, including India, deaths from cardiac disease were three times that of cancer.
  • Additionally, indoor or household air pollution has been identified as a key cause of CVD,.

Aadhaar system for NRIs

Category: Governance

  • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has said its systems will be ready within three months to issue Aadhaar cards to NRIs with Indian passports without the mandatory 180- day waiting period, as announced in the Budget.
  • The UIDAI has made operational two more Aadhaar Seva Kendras (ASKs) in Bhopal and Chennai after the fourth centre in Hisar was launched recently.

Category 5 hurricane

Category: Geography

  • Powerful winds are what define a hurricane, so they are named and classified based on how hard their winds are blowing.
  • To qualify as a hurricane, a storm must have sustained winds of 74 mph or more.
  • Category 1, 74 to 95 mph.
  • Category 2, 96 to 110 mph.
  • Category 3, 111 to 129 mph.
  • Category 4, 130 to 156 mph.
  • Category 5. Above 156 mph.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – September 01 , 2019


Odisha mulls scheme to detect jumbo herds

Category: Environment

  • With rising incidents of wild elephants straying into human habitation and causing damage, the Odisha government is contemplating a Gaja Bandhu, friend of elephant, scheme to involve local people in detecting jumbo herds in their locality.
  • Gaja Bandhu scheme will involve locals residing close to forest areas in tracking elephant movements. It is necessary as existing staff involved in tracking are found to be inadequate.

10 public sector banks to be merged

Category: Economy

  • In what comes as the second wave of the government’s efforts to revive the economy, govt. announced a slew of banking reform measures, including merger of 10 public sector banks into four entities.
  • This would take the number of banks in the country from 27 in 2017 to 12,.
  • These bank mergers, and the ones already carried out, will lead to the creation of big banks with an enhanced capacity to give credit.
  • These big banks would also be able to compete globally and increase their operational efficiency by reducing their cost of lending.
  • The banks that are being merged with each other run the same or very similar platforms, and so there will be no disruption in their activities.
  • The largest of the mergers announced is that of Punjab National Bank with Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank.
  • The amalgamated entity — to be called Punjab National Bank — will become the second-largest public sector bank in India, after the State Bank of India.
  • It will also become the second-largest bank in India in terms of its branch network.

GDP growth down to 6-year low

Category: Economy

  • India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate slowed to a six-year low of 5% in the first quarter of the 2019-20 financial year,led by a dramatic slowdown in the manufacturing sector.
  • The last time the GDP grew slower was in the fourth quarter (January to March) of the financial year 2012-13.
  • The growth of Gross Value Added (GVA) stood at 4.9% in the first quarter of the financial year 2019-20, also the slowest in six years.
  • The manufacturing sector grew at an anaemic two-year low of 0.6% in the first quarter of 2019-20, down from 12.1% in the same quarter of the previous year.
  • The agriculture sector also saw a dramatic slowdown in growth to 2% from 5.1% over the same period.

PNB gets lion’s share of recapitalisation

Category: Economy

  • Punjab National Bank, which will now be merged with Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank, will receive the highest share of the capital infusion of about ₹16,000 crore.
  • Punjab National Bank will, post-merger, become the second-largest bank in the country, after State Bank of India.
  • The amalgamated Union Bank of India will become the fifth-largest bank.
  • Bank of Baroda, which had earlier been merged with Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank will be the third-largest bank in India.
  • Canara Bank, to be merged with Syndicate Bank, will be the fourth-largest bank in India, post-merger.
  • The govt had announced the ₹70,000 crore recapitalisation package for public sector banks in the Budget, and had said that given the stronger financials of the banking sector, this amount would be used as growth capital and to increase credit outflow.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – August 29 & 30 , 2019


Chandrayaan-2 nears Moon

Category: Sc/tech

  • Chandrayaan-2 narrowed its distance from the Moon after a manoeuvre.
  • A total of five manoeuvres are planned to gradually make the lunar craft’s oval orbit circular.
  • It now goes around the Moon in a 179 km x 1,412 km orbit – shifting about 3,000 km closer to its target at the far end of the oval.
  • It is due to reach the desired circular orbit after two more orbit reducing operations — on August 30 and September 1
  • Launched on July 22 from Sriharikota, Chandrayaan-2 has been in lunar orbits since August 20. It is due to land on Moon in the early hours of September 7.

Forex gains, OMOs aid RBI’s record surplus

Category: Economy

  • Large scale open market operations (OMO) conducted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and higher earnings from foreign exchange operations helped boost the central bank’s surplus to record levels in 2018-19.
  • The RBI posted a surplus of ₹1.23 lakh crore in 2018-19 compared to ₹50,004 crore in 2017-18 and ₹30,663 crore in 2016-17.
  • The central bank approved the transfer of ₹1.76 lakh crore to the government, which includes the surplus of ₹1.23 lakh crore and excess provisions of ₹52,637 crore identified as per the revised Economic Capital Framework.
  • The RBI infused massive liquidity by buying back government securities. Holding cash does not yield any return but when invested in securities, interest income is earned.

Star tortoise, otters get higher protection at CITES

Category: Environment

  • India’s proposal to upgrade the protection of star tortoises (Geochelone elegans), the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) and small-clawed otters (Anoyx cinereus) in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on Wild Fauna and Flora) have been approved.
  • These species have been listed under Appendix I of CITES and will now enjoy the highest degree of protection as there will be a complete international ban enforced on their trade.
  • The upgradation was approved at the Conference of the Parties (COP18) held at Geneva.
  • Appendix I of CITES lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research.
  • TRAFFIC is an international wildlife trade monitoring network.
  • 90% of trade of star tortoises occurs as part of the international pet market. The species is categorized as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and a decline greater than 30% was predicted by 2025 if the exploitation continued or expanded.
  • In case of the small-clawed otter and smooth-coated otter, which are traded for their fur in the international market, numbers are also declining due to habitat loss.

Starhopper

Category: Sc/tech

  • SpaceX test-launched an early prototype of the company’s Mars rocket.
  • The prototype is dubbed Starhopper.

GI tag for T.N.’s Dindigul lock, Kandangi saree

Category: Art & culture

  • Two iconic, but dying products from Tamil Nadu — the Dindigul lock and the Kandangi saree — were given the Geographical Indication tag.
  • Both these products were losing their sheen in the market, and the GI tag would help them get some recognition.
  • Kandangi saree is manually made using a winding machine, loom, shuttle and bobbin.
  • The famous Dindigul locks are known throughout the world for their superior quality and durability.

₹47,436 crore released for afforestation

Category: Environment

  • The Union Environment Ministry transferred ₹47,436 crore to 27 States for afforestation.
  • These are long-pending dues part of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF), a ₹54,000 crore tranche that has been collected for nearly a decade as environmental compensation from industry, which has razed forest land for its business plans.
  • The amount to be paid by industry depends on the economic value of the goods and services that the razed forest would have provided. These include timber, bamboo, firewood, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water recharge, and seed dispersal.
  • Industrialists pay this money and this is eventually transferred to the States concerned to carry out afforestation.
  • Only a fraction of this corpus had actually been disbursed to States, due to the lack of a legal framework and instances of States using it for non-forestry purposes.
  • The CAF Act 2016, which came into being more than a decade since it was devised, established an independent authority — the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority — to execute the fund. However, it was not until last August that the rules governing the management of the fund were finalised.
  • Odisha, the top recipient of funds, got nearly ₹6,000 crore followed by Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh with ₹5,791 crore and ₹5,196 crore respectively. Kerala got the least with ₹81.59 crore.

Digital media firms say FDI norms are ‘restrictive’

Category: Economy

  • Companies operating news portals expressed disappointment with the government’s new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy capping the investment in digital media at 26%.
  • Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal announced that the Cabinet had cleared FDI up to 26% under the “government route” for digital media companies that upload or stream news and current affairs.
  • This is a departure from the existing policy, as until now only the print media and news broadcast television companies in India have had FDI caps of 26% and 49%, respectively.

UN warns of rising seas, storm surges

Category: Environment

  • The same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilising Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel, warns a draft UN report obtained by AFP.
  • Destructive changes already set in motion could see a steady decline in fish stocks, a hundred-fold or more increase in the damages caused by superstorms, and hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising seas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “special report” on oceans and Earth’s frozen zones, known as the cryosphere.
  • The scientific assessment is the fourth such tome from the UN in less than a year, with others focused on a 1.5-Celsius cap on global warming, the state of biodiversity, and how to manage forests and the global food system.

How the RBI ended 2018-19 with an over ₹1.23 lakh-crore surplus

Category: Economy

  • Ever since the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced a jaw-dropping surplus of ₹1,23,414 crore for 2018-19 (July-June accounting year), the question that has been uppermost on everyone’s mind is: how did the central bank post such a massive surplus?
  • In the immediate two preceding years, 2017-18 and 2016-17, the surpluses were only ₹50,004 crore and ₹30,663 crore respectively.
  • The RBI Annual Report for 2018-19provides the answers. There are two basic reasons for the impressive surge.
  • First, a huge ₹28,998 crore gain from foreign exchange transactions thanks mainly to a change in accounting policy. Until last year, when the RBI sold dollars in the market (to support the rupee), the gain or loss was calculated based on the previous Friday’s market value of the dollar. This policy was changed this year to reflect the historical acquisition cost of the dollar.
  • The second reason for the higher surplus is a leap in interest income which was higher by ₹32,966 crore compared to 2017-18. The RBI conducted several rounds of open market operations (OMO) last year to infuse liquidity leading to a 57% jump in its holding of government bonds.

Skull found in Ethiopia yields clues on how humans evolved

Category: Sc/tech

  • Scientists have announced the landmark discovery in Ethiopia of a nearly complete skull of an early human ancestor that lived 3.8 million years ago, a species boasting an intriguing mixture of ape-like and human-like characteristics.
  • The fossil dubbed MRD, which provides insight into a pivotal period for the evolutionary lineage that eventually led to modern humans, belongs to the species Australopithecus anamensis, which first appeared roughly 4.2 million years ago.
  • This species is considered the direct ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis, the species best known from the famous partial skeleton nicknamed ‘Lucy’ unearthed in 1974, about 56 km from the site in the Afar region of Ethiopia where the MRD skull was found in 2016. Lucy dates from about 3.2 million years ago.
  • MRD and Lucy together stand as watershed fossils for illuminating early human ancestors.
  • Until now, the only Australopithecus anamensis cranial remains were isolated jaw fragments and teeth, making it difficult to fully understand the species. The skull is critical for learning about a species’ diet, brain size and facial appearance.
  • MRD’s species, which was bipedal but may also have been able to move around in trees, was much smaller than modern humans.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – August 27 & 28 , 2019


RBI showers ₹1.76 lakh crore bonanza on government

Category: Economy

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided to transfer ₹1.76 lakh crore to the Centre which is likely to address the precarious fiscal situation of the government to a great extent.
  • The ₹1.76 lakh crore includes the central bank’s 2018-19 surplus of ₹1.23 lakh crore and ₹52,637 crore of excess provisions identified as per the revised Economic Capital Framework adopted at the board meeting.
  • The RBI said that as financial resilience was within the desired range, the entire 2018-19 net income of ₹1.23 lakh crore had been transferred.
  • The RBI had formed a committee, chaired by former Governor Bimal Jalan, to review its economic capital framework and suggest the quantum of excess provision to be transferred to the government.
  • The committee was formed after a demand from the government for more money. The RBI Board has accepted all the recommendations of the Jalan committee.
  • The panel recommended a clear distinction between the two components of economic capital – realized equity and revaluation balances.
  • It was recommended that realized equity could be used for meeting all risks/ losses as they were primarily built up from retained earnings, while revaluation balances could be reckoned only as risk buffers against market risks as they represented unrealized valuation gains and hence were not distributable.
  • The committee also recognised that RBI’s provisioning for monetary, financial and external stability risks is the country’s savings for a ‘rainy day’, (a monetary or financial stability crisis), which has been consciously maintained with the RBI in view of its role as the Monetary Authority and the Lender of Last Resort.
  • The ‘Surplus Distribution Policy’, as recommended by the committee, says only if realized equity is above its requirement, the entire net income will be transferable to the government.

PM highlights war on single-use plastic

Category: Environment

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address at a G7 session on environment here , highlighted India’s large-scale efforts towards eliminating single-use plastic, conserving water, harnessing solar energy and protecting the flora and fauna for a sustainable future.
  • Modi is attending the G7 summit in the French town of Biarritz on a special invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.
  • Modi said India would achieve most of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate change goals set for 2030 in a year and a half.
  • As many as 195 nations took part in the 21st session of the COP21 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris from November 30 to December 12, 2015.
  • The nations negotiated and adopted the Paris Agreement in which India made four commitments, including reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% below 2005 levels by 2030, under its Nationally Determined Contributions. T
  • The country pledged that 40% of its power capacity would be based on non-fossil sources and the country would create an additional “carbon sink” of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Rupee breaches 72-a-dollar mark

Category: Economy

  • The rupee crashed about 59 paisa to hit 72.25 intraday after some major currencies, including the Chinese yuan, suddenly weakened against the dollar.
  • The rupee’s depreciation came despite the surge in domestic equities after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced several measures to boost the slowing economy.
  • The rupee had come under pressure in recent times due to both domestic and global factors.
  • The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China has impacted emerging market currencies and the rupee was no exception.
  • Domestically, weaker growth and slower direct tax collection have been causes for concern for currency market participants.
  • The rupee continues to watch Chinese currency movements and the broader dollar bias which, at this juncture, points towards further rupee weakness owing to a weak global environment.

India’s child well-being index

Category: Welfare

  • Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Puducherry topped the charts in the child well-being index, a tool designed to measure and track children’s well-being comprehensively.
  • Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh featured at the bottom of the list.
  • The report is an attempt to look at how India fairs on child well-being using a composite child well-being index.
  • The dimensions of the index include healthy individual development, positive relationships and protective contexts.
  • The report highlights the multi-dimensional approach towards measuring child well-being — going beyond mere income poverty.

5 mn hectares of land set to be rejuvenated

Category: Environment

  • India had committed to rejuvenate 50 lakh hectares (5 million) of degraded land between 2021 and 2030.
  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation. A
  • bout 29% or about 96.4 million hectares are considered degraded.
  • This January, India became part of the “Bonn Challenge”, a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • At the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge and pledged to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.
  • Schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Health Card Scheme, Soil Health Management Scheme and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana are seen as prongs to tackle this land degradation.
  • India for the first time will be hosting the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) from September 2 to 13.
  • Land everywhere was bearing the brunt of severe climate change already which would lead to extreme food insecurity if steps weren’t taken.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – August 25 & 26, 2019


Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs)

Category: Economy

  • Anything alternate to traditional form of investments gets categorized as alternative investments.
  • Generally, investments in stocks or bonds or fixed deposits or real estates are considered as traditional investments.
  • In India, alternative investment funds (AIFs) refer to any privately pooled investment fund, (whether from Indian or foreign sources), which are otherwise not coming under the jurisdiction of any regulatory agency in India.
  • Thus, the definition of AIFs includes venture Capital Fund, hedge funds, private equity funds, commodity funds, Debt Funds, infrastructure funds, etc.,while, it excludes Mutual funds.

Clouded leopards

Category: Ecology

  • Named after the cloud-shaped patterns on its skin, these medium-sized cats are typical rain-forest dwellers but can also be found in the drier forests of Southeast Asia.
  • In India, the Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram was chosen as the study site. Dampa has been much in the news lately as one of the tiger reserves where tigers were estimated to be zero as part of the latest all India tiger estimation exercise.
  • An interesting find was that Dampa had one of the highest population densities of clouded leopards.
  • In 2018, India added clouded leopards to its Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species to aid more research and strengthen conservation efforts.
  • It was also noted that when the closed-canopy forest cover declined by just 35%, the clouded leopard detection dropped by 25%. This shows that clouded leopard presence was positively associated with forest cover and rain, suggesting that deforestation and reduction in rainfall patterns as a result of climate change may negatively influence clouded leopard distributions.

CSIR to certify air quality monitoring instruments

Category: Environment

  • The Union Environment Ministry has tasked the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) with certifying air quality monitoring instruments.
  • This is in anticipation of a rising demand by States — against the backdrop of the National Clean Air Campaign — for low cost air quality monitoring instruments that can monitor levels of nitrous oxides, ozone and particulate matter.
  • The Centre in January launched a programme to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

IMF report flags several delays in India’s data reporting

Category: International

  • According to the IMF’s “Annual Observance Report of the Special Data Dissemination Standard for 2018”, India failed to comply with multiple requirements prescribed in the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) — a practice mandatory for all IMF members — whereas comparable economies comprising the BRICS grouping of Brazil, China, South Africa and Russia have maintained a near impeccable record in the same period.
  • The IMF launched the SDDS initiative in 1996 to guide members to enhance data transparency and help financial market participants with adequate information to assess the economic situations of individual countries. India subscribed to the SDDS in 1996.
  • The yearly observance report for each member country lists the compliances and deviations from the SDDS under each data category for that year.
  • There are over 20 data categories which IMF considers for this report to capture a nation’s economic health including national accounts (GDP, GNI), production indices, employment, and Central government operations.
  • The report lists three types of deviations from the SDDS. The first deals with delays in data dissemination. The second occurs when member countries do not list a data category in their Advance Release Calendars (ARC) despite the category being mandated by the SDDS. The third deviation occurs when data is not disseminated at all for a particular period.
  • An “X” entry reflects “data not being disseminated”. In 2018, in at least nine data categories, India has not disseminated data. None of the other BRICS countries’ reports records missing data for the period.