Essential Facts (Prelims): 15th January 2019

Essential Facts for Prelims – CSE 2019. Daily Compilation of Important Factual Information from Relevant News Sources for Civil Services Prelims Exam (UPSC)

Desalination plants

  • Desalination plants harm environment.
  • Desalination plants worldwide produce bigger-than-expected flows of highly salty waste water and toxic chemicals that are damaging the environment.
  • About 55% of the brine is produced in desalination plants processing seawater in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
  • The hyper-salty water is mostly pumped into the sea.
  • Brine is water comprising about 5% salt. By contrast, global sea water is about 3.5% salt
  • Brine often includes toxins such as chlorine and copper used in desalination.
  • Brine can cut levels of oxygen in seawater near desalination plants with profound impacts on shellfish, crabs and other creatures on the seabed.


  • Restrictions under prompt corrective action are imposed when a bank breaches certain risk thresholds with respect to
    • capital adequacy ratio,
    • net non-performing asset ratio,
    • return of assets and
    • leverage ratio.
  • Under the PCA framework, there are 11 public sector banks which have a 20% share in the loan market.
  • Government wants at least a few banks to come out of curbs so that lending can get a boost.


  • The Board for Financial Supervision (BFS) comes under Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • It has been entrusted by the central bank board to review the performance of the banks under PCA.
  • BFS is chaired by the RBI Governor and includes the four deputy governors and a few other board members.

Vienna convention

  • The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was established in196.
  • It is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries.
  • It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country.
  • This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity.
  • Its articles are considered a cornerstone of modern international relations.

Global Housing Technology Challenge

  • To solve housing crunch, govt kicks off int’l challenge New Delhi: The Centre on Monday kicked off a global challenge for builders and research organisations to come out with new technologies to reduce construction period of houses from years to months.
  • The primary aim is to select the most cost-effective technology to speed up construction of affordable housing to meet the target of building nearly 1.2 crore houses by 2022.

Global economy

  • India will likely be a larger economy than the US by 2030, while China will top the list.
  • Seven of the top 10 economies in the world by 2030 are likely to be from current emerging markets based on purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates and nominal GDP.
  • Most multilateral agencies see growth in India accelerating as China moderates..
  • The combined US, Japan and euro-area GDP share of world GDP (based on market exchange rates) fell to 46% in 2018 from 51% in 2010, and is expected to slide further to 40% by 2030.

Assam Accord

  • It was formulated in 1985.
  • It fixed the cut-off date for migrants from Bangladesh to March 24,1971.

Retail inflation

Retail inflation is  measured by the consumer price index.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 14th January 2019



  • India and the U.S. reviewed the progress on finalising two key agreements during the 2+2 meeting.
  • The agreements are the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), a foundational agreement.
  • The third foundational agreement is Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.
  • The ISA is particularly essential as the Indian industry looks for a greater role in defence manufacturing. It allows sharing of classified information from the U.S. government and American companies with the Indian private sector, which is so far limited to the Indian government and the defence public sector undertakings.


  • National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) was created out of cess on coal at ₹400 per tonne to provide financial support to clean energy initiatives.
  • Inter-Ministerial Group chaired by the Finance Secretary was constituted to approve the project/schemes eligible for financing under NCEF.
  • Out of India’s total installed capacity of about 345 GW of power, gas-based capacity is about 25 GW or 7.2% of the total. However, its share in terms of generation is only 3.8% as 14,305 MW of gas-based capacity is stranded due to non-availability of domestic gas and unaffordability of imported gas. The consequence is that a large amount of assets in this sector have turned ‘non-performing’ or ‘unproductive’.

The Cow

  • On June 17, the ATLAS survey’s twin telescopes in Hawaii found a spectacularly bright anomaly 200 million light years away in the Hercules constellation.
  • Dubbed AT2018 or “The Cow,” the object quickly flared up, then vanished almost as quickly.
  • Scientists now speculate that the telescopes captured the exact moment a star collapsed to form a compact object, such as a black hole or neutron star.

Far side of moon

  • China’s Chang’e-4 probe has successfully transmitted back images from the far side (also known as the dark side) of the Moon.
  • Chang’e-4 is the first probe ever to land on that side.
  • Over billions of years, Earth’s gravitational pull has brought the Moon’s spin into sync with its orbit.
  • It takes exactly 28 days for the Moon to complete one rotation, and the same time to make one orbit around Earth. This leads to a phenomenon called “tidal locking”.
  • With the Moon’s rotation and orbit keeping it forever in step with the Earth, only one part of it is visible from this planet at any time. The unseen part is the “far side of the Moon”.
  • Although it is also called the “dark side of the Moon” this is actually a misnomer. Viewed from Earth, half the Moon is sunlit at any time; and during a new moon, the near side is dark while it is the far side that is fully lit. The far side of the moon is also lighter in colour.
  • All previous Moon landings, manned and unmanned, have been on the near side. This has been primarily because the Moon would have blocked radio communication between its far side and Earth.
  • To work around this problem, the Chinese mission has used a “relay satellite”, called Queqaio (Magpie Bridge). It is in orbit around a strategically selected point, called L2. Signals between the far side and Earth are transmitted via the relay satellite.
  • While Chang’e-4 is the first spacecraft to actually land on the far side, its images of that side are not the first. In 1959, the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 clicked a number of photographs of the far side, from over 60,000 km away.
  • Chang’e-4 landed on January 3 in the Von Kármán Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon. The SPA Basin (2,500 km wide, 13 m deep) and the Von Kármán Crater (180 km) are both large impact craters.
  • Chang’e-4 landed at an altitude of minus 6,000 m.
  • A study of the Moon’s craters will seek to establish their compositions and ages, a history of collisions between Earth and the Moon, and various other aspects of the early Solar System.

Clean Air Programme

  • Last week, the Centre launched across the country — a Rs 300-crore National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  • It proposes a “tentative national target” of 20%-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
  • NCAP will be rolled out in 102 cities that are considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • The government has stressed that NCAP is a scheme, not a “legally binding” document with any specified penal action against erring cities.

Essential Facts (Prelims): 13th January 2019


Solar plasma

  • Plasma particles from the solar wind make their way into the Moon’s night side, filling up the wake region, long thought to be devoid of plasma particles.
  • This has significance in understanding bodies like the Moon which do not have global magnetic fields.
  • Plasma environment of the Moon is generated mainly by its interaction with the solar plasma wind flowing towards it from the Sun.
  • This plasma wind consists of charged particles such as protons and is partly absorbed by the side of the Moon facing the sun.
  • The rest of the solar plasma wind incident on the Moon flows around it, but leaves a wake (a void) on the side not facing the sun (the night-side of the Moon).
  • Earlier, it was believed that this wake was devoid of any particles. But recent Moon missions such as Chandrayaan-1, Kaguya, Chang’e-1 and Artemis have found evidence of refilling of near lunar wake (heights of 100 km to 200 km above the lunar surface on the night side) with solar wind protons.
  • Unlike the Earth, the Moon has no global magnetic field originating from a magnetized core. It has weak crustal fields that are too small to shield it globally from charged solar plasma particles incident on it.
  • At some regions the crustal fields are quite strong and these are known as magnetic anomalies. The plasma particles scatter off these anomalous crustal fields.
  • The interaction between the Moon and the solar plasma is a topic of interest now because understanding it can help us study any celestial body which has no atmosphere or global magnetic field, such as asteroids and some planetary satellites.


  • Scientists have repurposed the gene-editing tool CRISPR to study which genes are targeted by particular antibiotics, providing clues on how to improve existing antibiotics or develop new ones.
  • Resistance to current antibiotics by disease-causing pathogens is a global problem. The technique, known as Mobile-CRISPRi, allows scientists to screen for antibiotic function in a wide range of pathogenic bacteria.

Wandering pole

  • Rapid shifts in the Earth’s north magnetic pole are forcing researchers to make an unprecedented early update to a model that helps navigation by ships, planes and submarines in the Arctic.
  • The wandering pole is driven by unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth. It’s moving at about 50 km (30 miles) a year. It didn’t move much between 1900 and 1980 but it’s really accelerated in the past 40 years.
  • Scientists must periodically update the World Magnetic Model to map this process, and the most recent version — produced in 2015 — was intended to last until 2020.
  • However, the magnetic field has been changing so quickly and erratically that researchers realised drastic steps were needed.
  • The changes are essential as the system is used by aircraft, ships and even smartphones.


  • Ladakh is set to host the world’s largest single-location solar photo-voltaic plant.
  • The Ladakh project will be located at Hanle-Khaldo in Nyoma, a strategically important area 254km from Leh.

Legacy person

A legacy person is someone who figures in a set of pre-1971 documents such as the 1951 NRC and voters’ lists up to 1971, who an applicant can trace his or her lineage to.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 12th January 2019



  • ‘Gaganyaan’ would send a manned mission to space by 2022.
  • The Human Space Flight Centre [based in Bengaluru] will carry out all activities related to the human programme. Under it will function the Gaganyaan Project.
  • Gananyaan wil be launched aboard the GSLV-MkIII.

Industrial growth

  • Industrial output growth dropped to a 17-month low of 0.5% in November.
  • The drop is on account of contraction in manufacturing sector.
  • Factory output is measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
  • The manufacturing sector constitutes 77.63% of the index.

Ocean heating

  • Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change.
  • A new analysis found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a UN panel estimated five years ago.
  • About 93% of excess heat — trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels — accumulates in the world’s oceans.
  • A key factor in the more accurate measurement of ocean heating is an ocean monitoring fleet called Argo, which includes nearly 4,000 floating robots that “drift throughout the world’s oceans to measure its temperature, pH, salinity and other bits of information,”.

Bhartiya Shiksha Board (BSB)

  • It will be the country’s first national school board for Vedic education.
  • It will be a fully-funded autonomous body under the HRD Ministry.
  • Apart from affiliating traditional pathshalas, BSB will also be assigned the responsibility of evolving new kinds of schools that offer a blend of Vedic and modern education.


  • Mauritius, the favourite hotspot of foreign investors to route their investments to India, has witnessed a 70 per cent decline in foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • Singapore which overtook Mauritius has turned out to be the preferred country for routing FDI with a 78 per cent jump in investments.
  • FDI equity flows routed through Mauritius declined sharply reflecting the impact of the amended DTAA (double tax avoidance agreement).
  • After the DTAA amendment, India gets taxation rights on capital gains arising from alienation of shares acquired on or after April 1, 2017, in a company resident in India with effect from financial year 2017-18.
  • Japan came third in the FDI chart .
  • FDI inflows since 2000 has been routed through Mauritius and Singapore which enjoyed special status under the DTAA signed with India in 1982 and 1994, respectively.
  • The DTAA provided for a capital gains tax exemption to resident entities of these countries on transfer of Indian securities. These agreements were amended in 2016 with the purpose of source-based taxation of capital gains on shares, preventing round tripping of funds, curbing revenue loss and preventing double non-taxation.
  • In 2017-18, Mauritius was the top source of FDI into India with $13.41 billion investments followed by Singapore.


  • Having committed $3.03 billion in loans to India in 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) plans to scale up its lending to $4 billion annually.
  • ADB committed the highest ever annual lending to India in 2018.
  • The bank’s lending commitment included $557 million in loans for the private sector.


  • Among all the Gulf nations, the largest outflow of Indian workers in 2018 was to UAE, with about 1 lakh (or 35%) of the total workers being granted emigration clearances.
  • It was followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with 65,000-odd and 52,000-odd workers headed to these countries.
  • In 2017, Saudi Arabia had relinquished its position as being the most attractive destination among Gulf countries for Indian workers. the Nitaqat scheme for protection of local workers — the decline in expat workers, including from India is attributed to this scheme and the economic conditions.
  • Qatar stands out by being the only country in the Gulf region, where the number of workers shows an increase in 2018 as compared to the previous year.
  • there are an estimated 6 to 7.50 lakh Indian migrant workers in Qatar, constituting the largest expatriate community and nearly double the number of native Qataris.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 10th January 2019

Composition Scheme

  • Currently, the Composition Scheme allows small manufacturers and traders, with an annual turnover of less than ₹1 crore, to file quarterly returns and pay GST at nominal rates.
  • These traders, however, cannot avail input tax credits or deal in items exempt from GST.


  • The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) decision to allow card payment providers to offer tokenisation services will ensure the safety of digital transactions and reduce chances of fraud.
  • Tokenisation involves a process in which a unique token masks sensitive card details like card and CVV number.
  • The token is used to perform card transactions in contactless mode at Point Of Sale (POS) terminals, Quick Response (QR) code payments, etc.
  • Tokenisation is expected to increase digital transactions in India.

Gold scheme

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made some changes in the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) .
  • Apart from individual and joint depositors, the scheme could now be availed by charitable institutions, the Central government, the State government or any other entity owned by the Central government or the State government.


  • India’s GDP is expected to grow at 7.3% in the fiscal year 2018-19, and 7.5% in the following two years, the World Bank has forecast, attributing it to an upswing in consumption and investment.
  • The bank said India will continue to be the fastest growing major economy in the world.
  • China’s economic growth is projected to slow down to 6.2% each in 2019 and 2020 and 6% in 2021.

Private consumption

  • Domestic private consumption, that accounts for a major portion of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), is expected to develop into a $6 trillion growth opportunity. Currently it is at $1.5 trillion.
  • That would make India the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, says a latest study by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

How the potential will be realised?

  • The potential would only materialise if business and policy-makers pursue an inclusive approach towards the economic and consumption growth.
  • Second, India will have to manage socio-economic inclusion of rural India as, by 2030, 40% of Indians will be urban residents.
  • Finally, business and policy-makers will have to take the initiative on improving health and liveability for India’s citizens.

Mona Lisa Effect

  • In science, the “Mona Lisa Effect” refers to the impression that the eyes of the person portrayed in an image seem to follow viewers as they move.
  • Researchers have demonstrated that this effect does not occur with the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Thirsty landscaping

  • Bangkok is fighting floods with ‘thirsty landscaping.
  • Parks are designed as places not only as a green space in the middle of the congested city but also as a place that could also retain large amounts of water, reducing monsoon flooding around urban areas.
  • Parks and “green roofs” planted with vegetation soak up rain during the annual monsoon and help dense urban centres like Bangkok adapt to climate change.


  • Sikkim will be the first state to roll out Universal Basic Income (UBI) and has started the process to introduce the unconditional direct cash transfer scheme.

10% quota Bill

  • It is 124th Amendment Bill.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 7th, 8th and 9th January 2019


  • Government’s dependence on tax revenue has steadily increased, with tax revenue making up a little more than 70% of its total receipts in 2018-19, up from 65% in 2014-15.
  • Correspondingly, the share of revenue from non-tax sources (such as dividends from PSUs and the RBI) and capital receipts (such as disinvestment proceeds) has been declining.
  • The government cannot take the risk of increasing tax rates, whether direct or indirect, for fear of a backlash from the public. So, the only option it has to boost tax revenues is to increase the tax base and stop evasion.
  • The expansion of the GST taxpayer base, improving the return filings compliance and using the large amount of data available to detect tax evasion would become the cornerstone of the government’s measures to enhance tax revenues.
  • The other trend the government would be banking on is that increased economic activity and a higher GDP growth rate will boost consumption and hence, indirect tax collections, other analysts say.
  • The indirect tax rate is fixed, so if there is price inflation, then the government receives a tax on that as well because product prices go up and so the tax component also goes up.
  • When the GDP grows, consumption also grows, and so more indirect taxes are received.
  • An increasing proportion of its indirect tax collections are coming from a single source — oil.
  • PSU dividends as a proportion of non-tax revenue have been growing over the years, from 16% in 2014-15 to 21.4% in 2018-19.


  • There are around 2.2 lakhs Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in the country.
  • These include 1,43,844 ATMs of public sector banks, 59,645 ATMs of private banks and 18,003 of foreign banks, payments banks, small finance banks and White Label ATMs.
  • White Label ATMs are owned and operated by non-bank entities.

Dark matter

  • In a first, scientists have found evidence that the mysterious dark matter — believed to make up most of the mass of the universe — can be heated up and moved around, as a result of star formation in galaxies.
  • This effect is known as ‘dark matter heating’.
  • Scientists found that galaxies that stopped forming stars long ago had higher dark matter densities at their centres than those that are still forming stars today. This supports the theory that the older galaxies had less dark matter heating.


  • After cultivating lettuce in space three years ago, crew members aboard the International Space Station could be growing beans in 2021.
  • The food grown in space could be crucial to sustain the crew in future deep space missions.
  • The longest stays at the International Space Station have been six months, while people travelling to Mars will need to be prepared to stay in space for at least a year.
  • The beans would be placed in a centrifuge to sprout and grow in the space station. The centrifuge would be rotated to create different amounts of gravity.

Citizenship Bill

  • The Bill paves the way to grant citizenship to six religious minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014.

Gas hydrates

  • Methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) can exist as gas hydrates at temperatures and pressures seen in interstellar atmosphere.
  • Gas hydrates are formed when a gas such as methane gets trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules forming crystalline solids.
  • In terrestrial conditions, gas hydrates are formed naturally under the sea bed and glaciers under high pressure, low temperature conditions.
  • Methane hydrate is a potential source of natural gas.
  • The methane and CO2 hydrates were produced in the lab at very low pressures.
  • The carbon dioxide hydrate produced in the lab raises the possibility of sequestering or storing carbon dioxide as hydrates by taking advantage of ice existing in environmental conditions favourable for hydrate formation.
  • CO2 hydrate is thermodynamically more stable than methane hydrate. So if methane hydrate has remained stable for millions of years under the sea bed, it would be possible to sequester gaseous CO2 as solid hydrate under the sea bed.

DNA technology Bill

  • The Lok Sabha passed a bill that allows regulated use of DNA technology to establish the identity of certain defined categories of persons, including offenders, suspects, and undertrials.
  • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill allows the use of the technology to establish the identity of persons in matters of crime, parentage dispute, emigration or immigration and transplantation of human organs.
  • The Bill provides for establishment of national and regional DNA data banks and each data will maintain the indices, including crime scene index, suspects’ or undertrials’ index and offenders’ index.


  • The Reserve of India (RBI) has allowed all card payment networks to offer tokenisation service.
  • Tokenisation involves a process in which a unique token masks sensitive card details.
  • The token is then used to perform card transactions in contact-less mode at Point Of Sale (POS) terminals, Quick Response (QR) code payments, etc.

HD 21749b

  • NASA’s latest planet-hunting probe has discovered a new world outside our solar system.
  • This is the third new planet confirmed by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) since its launch last year.
  • The planet is named HD 21749b.
  • It’s the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright.
  • We know a lot about atmospheres of hot planets, but because it’s very hard to find small planets that orbit farther from their stars, and are therefore cooler, we haven’t been able to learn much about these smaller, cooler planets.

Credit Guarantee Fund

  • The Government is planning to set up a Credit Guarantee Fund (CGF) for encouraging start-up companies with a view to providing funding facilities in the country.

Sittwe Port

  • Infrastructure at Sittwe Port in Myanmar, constructed with India’s assistance, is ready for operation.
  • The construction of Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project.
  • Its objective is to create a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe port as well as to North-Eastern part of India via Myanmar..

National Bamboo Mission

  • The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) was approved in April, 2018 for implementation till the end of 14th Finance Commission i.e. 2019-20.
  • The scheme aims to inter-alia supplement farm income of farmers with focus on the development of complete value chain of bamboo sector linking growers with industry.
  • The scheme is being implemented in non-forest Government land, farmers field in States where it has social, commercial and economical advantage.

Interest Subvention

  • With a view to ensuring availability of agriculture credit at a reasonable cost/at a reduced rate of 7% per annum to farmers, the Government of India, is implementing an interest subvention scheme of 2% for short term crop loans up to Rs.3.00 lakh.
  • The scheme is implemented through public sector banks and private sector banks {reimbursement through Reserve Bank of India (RBI)}, Regional Rural Banks and Cooperatives {reimbursement through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)}.
  • Currently, besides 2% interest subvention, the farmers, on prompt repayment of crop loans on or before the due date, are also provided 3% additional interest subvention.
  • Thus, in case of prompt payee farmers the short term crop loans are provided at an effective interest rate of 4% per annum.
  • The benefit of interest subvention is extended for a period of up to six months (post-harvest) to small and marginal farmers having KCC on loan against negotiable warehouse receipts with the purpose of preventing distress sale of produce.

National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA)

  • The National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) has been constituted under Section 171 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 to ensure that the reduction in rate of tax or the benefit of input tax credit is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 4th, 5th and 6th January 2019


  • A Chinese space probe, Chang’e-4 , touched down on the far side of the moon.
  • The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate as it orbits our planet, so most of the far side — or “dark side” — is never visible to us.
  • Previous spacecrafts have seen the far side, but none has landed on it..
  • The probe, which has a lander and a rover, touched down at a targeted area near the moon’s south pole in the Von Karman Crater.


  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limted (HAL) is mandated to produce the Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

LS Speaker

  • Lok Sabha Speaker suspended 21 members of the Lower House for four days for creating a ruckus in the House.
  • The action was taken under Rule 374 A of the Lok Sabha, meaning they cannot attend the remaining days of the session.


  • India’s maiden human spaceflight programme is named ‘Gaganyaan’.

Yellow vest

  • “Yellow vest” is an anti-government demonstration in France.

Capital requirements

  • Indian banks are required to maintain a minimum capital to risk weighted asset ratio (CRAR) at 9%, against the global Basel-III requirement of 8%.
  • On top of that, they have to keep a capital conservation buffer that is supposed to climb to 2.5% by March 2019.

Ultima Thule

  • Ultima Thule, an icy celestial body, is shaped like a giant snowman.
  • It was formed when two spheres, or “lobes,” slowly gravitated towards each other until they stuck together.
  • The New Horizons spacecraft on Tuesday flew past Ultima Thule, which was discovered via telescope in 2014
  • Ultima Thule’s surface reflects very low light as the sun’s rays are 1,600 times fainter there than on the earth.
  • The body completes its own rotation in about 15 hours.
  • NASA dubbed the larger lobe Ultima, and the other, which is about three times smaller, Thule.
  • Some 4.5 billion years ago a cloud of frozen pebbles began to join forces, gradually forming two bodies — Ultima and Thule.
  • Slowing turning, they eventually touched at each other at an “extremely slow speed” — maybe just one to a few kilometres per hour. The lobes are really just “resting on each other.

Open defecation

  • Swachh Bharat Mission aims to eliminate open defecation across the country by October 2, 2019.
  • According to the Mission, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are already open defecation free or ODF states.
  • Bihar has achieved 98.97% coverage of toilets for every household, while Uttar Pradesh has achieved 100%, according to government data, although the state has yet to be declared ODF.

Yutu 2

  • China has named the lunar rover, successfully deployed to carry out a string of experiments on the unexplored far side of the moon, as ‘Yutu 2’.
  • The rover’s touchdown is part of China Chang’e-4 lunar probe.
  • China’s lunar probe is part of its ‘Made in China-2025’ project, which focuses on advanced technology, including space applications.
  • It follows the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System — China’s homegrown Global Positioning System that started worldwide service last month.


  • China is moving forward with plans to build a research base on the moon.
  • It is also said to be considering mining there for helium-3, a rare substance on earth that can be used as a fuel in nuclear fusion power generation.


  • Vijay Mallya became the first person to be declared a fugitive economic offender by the special court hearing cases under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA).
  • The FEOA allows for declaring a person as an offender after an arrest warrant has been issued against the individual and the value of offences exceeds ₹100 crore.
  • Another condition for declaring a person a fugitive economic offender (FEO) is when the individual refuses to return to the country to face prosecution.
  • As per the new law, a special FEOA court can order the confiscation of a FEO’s properties, including those which are benami, and the proceeds of crime in and outside India. Once properties are confiscated, the Union government has the right over them, and it can dispose them after 90 days.


  • A quaint fossilised leaf is one of the most recent finds throwing light on India’s past.
  • The leaf fossil is the first of Dioscorea yams from Asia and hints at a Gondwanan origin to these plants.
  • Dioscorea is a kind of yam that grows as a herbaceous vine in the humid tropics of India and other countries.
  • The fossil was named Dioscorea eocenicus: the first ever Dioscorea fossil recorded from Asia.
  • Currently, species of Dioscorea in India are found in the humid, tropical forests of the country. Based on this, the team infer that such tropical forests must have flourished in this part of Rajasthan during early Eocene.
  • As the Indian subcontinent broke away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland many millions of years ago and drifted towards the Equator, the resulting tropical weather created lush tropical forests here. As the landmass moved further north and away from the equator, dry vegetation replaced these forests.

Bhoomi Rashi

  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has recently launched the Bhoomi Rashi portal..
  • The purpose of the portal is to fully digitize and automate the entire process of land acquisition.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 1st, 2nd and 3rd January 2019


  • The entire State of Nagaland has been declared ‘disturbed area’ for six more months under the AFSPA.
  • AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without any prior notice.
  • The AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for several decades. It has not been withdrawn even after a framework agreement was signed in 2015, between NSCN-IM and government.


  • The 125-year-old Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra, and two Mughal-era monuments in Agra — Haveli of Agha Khan and Hathi Khana — are among the six monuments declared protected and of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2018.
  • The ancient Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district; the Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir; and the Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand, are the three other monuments that have been listed.
  • In 2016 and 2017, no new monument was included in the list of sites of national importance.
  • The last monument to be included in the list, in 2015, was the Vishnu Temple in Nadavayal in Kerala’s Wayanad district.
  • There were 3,686 centrally protected monuments/sites under the ASI in the country; the number has now increased to 3,693.
  • Uttar Pradesh (745 monuments/sites), Karnataka (506) and Tamil Nadu (413) have the highest number of ASI-maintained sites.


  • Analysis of the balance sheets of the central banks of 10 comparable economies shows that the RBI’s reserves as a percentage of its balance sheet is among the highest.
  • However, the bulk of these reserves are notional and thus their value can only be unlocked when the underlying assets are sold. This makes transferring the excess reserves to the government all the more difficult.
  • RBI’s reserves IS about ₹10.5 lakh crore which forms 26.2% its balance sheet.
  • Only two central banks — those of South Africa and Russia — have a reserve ratio higher than this.
  • The other two BRICS nations, China and Brazil, have reserve ratios of 1.7% and 0.2%, respectively.

Ultima Thule

  • A NASA spaceship, New Horizons, is zooming toward the farthest, and quite possibly the oldest, cosmic body ever photographed by humankind, a tiny, distant world called Ultima Thule 6.4 billion kilometres away.
  • The mysterious object is in a dark and frigid region of space known as the Kuiper Belt.
  • Real-time video of the actual flyby is impossible, since it takes more than six hours for a signal sent from Earth to reach the spaceship and another six hours for the response to arrive.
  • It was discovered in 2014 with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, and is believed to be 20-30 km in size.
  • Scientists decided to study it with New Horizons after the spaceship, which launched in 2006, completed its main mission of flying by Pluto in 2015.

Cinereous vulture

  • It is usually during the winter that a distinctly dark large bird – the Cinereous vulture, with a blacked-tipped pink beak – migrates from the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia to warmer places, including India.
  • While earlier records of this migratory bird have revealed that it comes to northern parts of India up to Rajasthan, bird watchers and researchers were baffled to find it in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.

Project Trinitea

  • Recognising the rising importance of small tea growers (STG) in the supply chain, tea estates in North India are testing a project called ‘Trinitea,’
  • The project aims at providing support to the STG at the farm and market level such as customised farm management, access to real time information on climate, soil and markets, etc.
  • A MoU was signed between the Indian Tea Association (ITA) the apex body of North Indian tea producers and Solidaridad for jointly implementing this project.
  • Solidaridad is a network which works to promote sustainable production of 13 commodities across nine regions globally.
  • The STG sector’s share in total Indian tea crop has been rising steadily and now constitutes 47% of the total production.

Olive ridleys

  • The average lifespan of the turtle is 50.
  • The conservation status of the animal is ‘vulnerable’ according to the IUCN.
  • The breeding season normally commences in January.
  • The prime reason for the rise in the deaths is the absence of the ‘Turtle Excluder Device’ in fishing operations.


  • The RBI has appointed an eight-member expert committee headed by former SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha to comprehensively review and propose long-term solutions for revival of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector.
  • The MSME sector has been facing stress due to the demonetisation exercise and implementation of GST.

National Health Authority

  • Govt cleared the constitution of a National Health Authority (NHA) through an executive order, thus taking the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) out of the ambit of the Ministry of Health.
  • The ministry’s role will now be limited to acting as the nodal ministry for NHA in parliamentary matters, like the presentation of annual reports.
  • The Cabinet also approved a proposal to upgrade the post of the NHA CEO to that of a Secretary to the Government of India with full financial powers.
  • Till now, all funds released by the National Health Agency, which is implementing the PM-JAY, were done through the Ministry of Health.
  • The NHA’s governing board will be chaired by the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, while its members will include NITI Aayog CEO and NHA CEO.
  • The proposal envisages statutory backing for NHA eventually. Till then, it will be an adjunct office of the ministry — like the department of health research — with complete functional autonomy.
  • A part of the overarching Ayushman Bharat scheme, it is currently administered by the National Health Agency, which is a registered society under the Ministry of Health. While the ministry is not responsible for the day-to-day running of the scheme, it does have a say in policy matters.
  • Now, the NHA will be responsible for its operational guidelines, fixing the ceiling of premium amounts, and developing mechanisms for strategic purchase of healthcare from the private sector.

Tax-to-GDP ratio

  • The direct tax-to-GDP ratio of 5.98 per cent achieved during 2017-18 fiscal is the best in the last 10 years.
  • It was 5.57 per cent in 2016-17 and 5.47 per cent in 2015-16.
  • There is a constant growth in direct tax-GDP ratio over last three years.
  • The number of individuals filing return of income has also increased by about 65 per cent during this period from 3.31 crore in 2013-14 to 5.44 crore in 2017-18.

Idu Mishmis

  • As conservationists and wildlife authorities grapple with the issue of man-animal conflict around sanctuaries and nature reserves, a tribal community in Arunachal Pradesh is championing a unique ‘brotherhood’ they say helps save the tiger.
  • The Idu Mishmi community in Arunachal’s Dibang Valley considers tigers to be “big brothers” and holds that killing the big cat amounts to “homicide”. This, they believe is a “unique conservation strategy”, which helps the big cat population to thrive in the area.
  • The report notes the presence of tigers at 3,630 metres – the highest in the eastern Himalayas — and says the Mishmi hills have more tigers than the designated tiger reserves of the north-eastern state.
  • This has prompted the government to propose that the 4, Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary (DWS) be declared a tiger reserve.

Idu Mishmis

Space diplomacy

  • As part of New Delhi’s space diplomacy, a tool the foreign ministry has been trying to wield as part of its neighbourhood-first policy to counter China’s influence in the region, India will set up five large ground stations and more than 500 small terminals in five neighbouring countries — Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  • These stations and terminals will help put in place applications ranging from television broadcasting to telephony and internet, disaster management and tele-medicine.
  • Isro meanwhile can use these ground stations to communicate with its own satellites.
  • The first of the five ground stations is coming up in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.

Bank Merger

  • The Union Cabinet approved the merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda (BoB).
  • This merger will create the country’s second largest public-sector lender after SBI.
  • The amalgamation will be the first-ever three-way consolidation of banks in India.

Samwad with Students

  • As part of the enhanced outreach programme of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) was launched in Bengaluru.
  • Through the SwS initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India to capture their scientific temperament.
  • The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.

Agri Export Zones

  • The concept of Agri Export Zone (AEZ) was introduced in 2001 to take a comprehensive look at a particular produce/product located in a contiguous area for the purpose of developing and sourcing the raw materials, their processing/packaging, leading to final exports.
  • The concept hinged primarily on convergence of existing Central and State Government schemes to take care of financial interventions required at various stages of value chain, partnership among various stakeholders viz. Central Government, State Government, farmer, processor, exporter etc.; and focus on targeted products and areas to identify required policy interventions.
  • In 2004, an review conducted by Department of Commerce concluded that the notified AEZs had not been able to achieve the intended objectives.
  • It was decided that there will be no creation of new AEZs, unless there were strong and compelling reasons. No new AEZs have been set up after 2004.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 30th and 31st December, 2018


  • It is a scheme of West Bengal that provides for complaint boxes in schools to combat trafficking. Girls can report harassment faced by them or their friends.


  • ISRO will try out a unique experiment to re-control and rework the fourth and last stage of the PSLV-C44 rocket after it completes its job in space.
  • C-44 is slated to carry the 150/200-kg special purpose Microsat-R to a low-Earth polar orbit.
  • Stage 4 or PS4 takes the satellite to the last lap of desired height (anywhere between 400 km and 700 km.) Job done, it floats there for several years as space junk.
  • The trial with the expired fourth rocket stage would easily be the first of its kind by any space agency. It would show PS4 as a unique cost-saving test bed for new technologies.
  • Stage 4 of the PSLV rocket usually goes into orbit as debris once the satellite is released. ISRO wants to see if it can use it as a low-cost experimental platform for students working in space-related areas.

EGRL – winds

  • Equatorial Geophysical Research Laboratory (EGRL) helps study the winds at heights between 70 km and 100 km above the Earth.
  • It is located in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu.
  • The facility has been continuously monitoring the Earth’s near-space environment for over 25 years now.
  • Tirunelveli is in close proximity to both the geomagnetic and geographic equator.
  • When winds blow, electric currents are expected to be produced in the electrically charged upper layers of the atmosphere across the geomagnetic field.
  • Over Tirunelveli and the adjoining regions, where the geomagnetic field is horizontal the current flowing primarily in the east–west direction would be enhanced. Scientists call this current ‘Equatorial Electrojet’ and probing this helps scientists understand the Sun–Earth connection.

EGRL – secondary cosmic rays

  • Another major experimental facility recently set up at EGRL is meant to monitor secondary cosmic rays.
  • When the cosmic rays — from supernovae, colliding galaxies and spinning black holes — enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they lose their energies through collisions with our atmospheric molecules and produce a cascade of subatomic particles known as secondary cosmic rays.

Stations at Antarctica

  • Indian stations in Antarctica, namely, Maitri and Bharati. The importance of monitoring the geomagnetic field over Antarctica is that it is the polar region where the magnetic fluxes are dense and where the Sun’s particle effects are first felt on Earth.
  • Whenever the Sun’s activity becomes violent — for example, during a solar flare or during episodes of coronal mass ejections — the Earth’s magnetic field would readily encounter energetic particles.
  • A chain of events takes place in the Earth’s electromagnetic environment following a solar event resulting in electrical currents at high altitudes and heating of the upper layers of the atmosphere over Antarctica.
  • Such intense overhead currents are responsible for ground-induced currents that can create havoc for the underground telecommunication lines and electrical power grids.
  • Antarctic continent is free from local or regional lightning activity. The Indian Antarctic stations are thus ideal sites to monitor global fluctuations in lightning activity.
  • Monitoring the electromagnetic signatures simultaneously from Indian continental landmass and the Antarctic enables the scientists to understand the hidden teleconnections between the polar and equatorial regions.
  • Moreover, such studies throw light on space weather, a scientific and technological domain affecting the very many man-made satellites orbiting the Earth and the instruments on board used for a variety of purposes.


  • Helium – the second most abundant element in the universe – is hard to come by on Earth in its gaseous state, because it is so light that it can escape easily.
  • But one of the places where it is found is in volcanic lava plumes, such as seen in Iceland and Hawaii, originating from the Earth’s mantle.
  • This is ancient helium from when the Earth was formed. It is believed to be trapped in compounds deep within the earth. However, the nature of these compounds have so far remained a mystery.
  • Now a group of researchers has come up with a striking possibility that the mantle helium must exist as the compound FeO2He which is stable and solid under the pressure and temperature conditions prevailing at those depths.

Katarniaghat sanctuary

  • It is located in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve


  • It is a mobile app used for surveillance and patrolling of tiger-populated areas.
  • It is built by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India.
  • It allows patrol teams to keep a better tab on suspicious activity while also mapping their own patrolling, location, routes and timings for better accountability.

Andaman islands

  • The Ross Island was renamed Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep, the Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep and the Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep.

Shadow banks

  • Non-banking financial companies(NBFCs) are also referred to as shadow banks.
  • There are around 10,000 NBFCs registered with the RBI.
  • There are only 108 deposit-taking NBFCs.


  • Kashmir stag or hangul is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It is an endangered species.
  • There has been a recent discovery that the animal, long thought to be confined to the Dachigam National Park, has begun using an old migratory route.
  • The Dachigam National Park is considered the last undisturbed home of the hangul.
  • Hangul is a sub-species of the European red deer. But unlike its European cousin, its coat is not red, but dark grey and dark brown.
  • The animal was classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The hangul is known to favour ridges facing south, and which receive maximum sunlight, as resting places.

Basmati rice

  • India is the largest exporter of Basmati rice, which is one of the major varieties of aromatic or scented rice.
  • The major export destination for basmati Rice are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Yemen Republic, USA, and UK.
  • The Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), an autonomous organisation under the administrative control of Department of Commerce, has been mandated with the export promotion of Basmati rice.
  • APEDA has been able to register Basmati Rice as a Geographical Indication (GI) in 2016.

Kala Utsav

  • The Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD launched the national level Kala Utsav in the year 2015, to promote arts in education, by nurturing and showcasing the artistic talent of school students, in the country.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 28 and 29 December, 2018

River Dolphins

  • River Dolphins go missing in Sunderbans as water salinity rises.
  • Because of its unique body shape, it becomes difficult for the dolphin to remain submerged in waters with high salinity.
  • According to her, freshwater flow to the Sunderbans is crucial for the subsistence of these species.
  • The rise in sea level, triggered by climate change, is one of the reasons for the increase in salinity of waters of rivers and channels.

Tourist spots

  • Soon, tourists visiting Amer Fort (Rajasthan), Kaziranga (Assam), Colva Beach (Goa), Kumarakom (Kerala) and Mahabodhi temple (Bihar) will be able to avail themselves of an audio guide through a mobile application.

Adopt a Heritage

  • “Adopt a Heritage” programme allows public and private sector companies to operate, maintain and develop amenities at heritage sites.

Fiscal deficit

  • Fiscal deficit touches 115% of target PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI India’s fiscal deficit touched 114.8% of the full-year target of ₹6.24 lakh crore at the end of November on account of lower revenue collection, showed government data.
  • The fiscal deficit stood at ₹7.16 lakh crore during April-November of the current financial year. At the end of November 2017, the deficit was 112%of the Budget Estimate (BE).
  • The government has budgeted to cut the fiscal deficit to 3.3% of GDP in 2018-19, from 3.53% in the previous financial year.


  • Gaganyaan programme will send three Indian astronauts to space for up to seven days by 2022 at a cost of ₹10,000 crore.

Abusive talk

  • Use of abusive language against a person who shortly went on to take his own life will not amount to abetment of suicide, the Supreme Court has held.

Coastal regions

  • The govt approved the CRZ Notification 2018, aimed at streamlining of Coastal Regulation Zone clearances.
  • According to the new notification, only such projects which are located in CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 nautical miles seaward) will require the necessary clearance from the Union Ministry.
  • The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II (the areas that have been developed up to or close to the shoreline) and III (areas that are relatively undisturbed) have been delegated to the State level.
  • The new notification also relaxed the No Development Zone (NDZ) criteria. Densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2,161 per square kilometre, falling under CRZ-III A, now have NDZ of 50 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) as against 200 metres stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011.
  • For islands close to the mainland coast and for all backwater islands in the mainland, the new norms stipulate an NDZ of 20 metres.
  • The notification also permits temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. in beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in NDZ of the CRZ-III areas.
  • Also, in order to address pollution in coastal areas, setting up of treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ—I B area subject to necessary safeguards.
  • Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.
  • The Shailesh Nayank Committee held wide ranging consultations with State Governments and other stakeholders and submitted its recommendations in 2015.

Bill on Indian medicine

  • Govt has approved the draft National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2018.
  • The draft Bill will enable the constitution of a National Commission with four autonomous boards for the purpose of conducting overall education in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Sowarigpa.
  • To assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions, the Bill proposes an entrance and an exit exam that all graduates need to clear to get practising licenses.


  • India will support Bhutan’s development needs by providing ₹4,500 crores.
  • India provided ₹4,500 crore for the 11th five year plan that lasted between 2013 and 2018.
  • ISRO is moving ahead with plans to set up a ground station in Bhutan that will help in telemedicine, disaster relief and climate trends.
  • Mangdechhu hydro power project in Bhutan would be completed soon with Indian collaboration.


  • Manbij is a strategic city in Syria close to the Turkish border where Kurdis forces have been deployed since 2016 and where U.S.-led coalition forces are also stationed.


  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has published its annual ‘Trends and Progress of Banking in 2017-18’ report.


  • The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion issued a clarification to the existing rules pertaining to Foreign Direct Investment in e-commerce companies.
  • The main features of the clarification include the provision that vendors that have any stake owned by an e-commerce company cannot sell their products on that e-commerce company’s portal.
  • Another provision says any vendor who purchases 25% or more of its inventory from an e-commerce group company will be considered to be controlled by that e-commerce company, and thereby barred from selling on its portal.
  • The third major provision says the e-commerce firm will not be allowed to influence the price of a product sold on its portal by giving incentives to particular vendors.
  • E-commerce companies can operate under two different models in India.
  • The first is the marketplace model where the e-commerce firm simply acts as a platform that connects buyers and sellers. FDI is allowed in e-commerce companies in this model.
  • The second model is inventory-based where the inventory of goods sold on the portal is owned or controlled by the e-commerce company. FDI is not allowed under this model.
  • What has been happening is that large e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Flipkart, while not owning inventory themselves, have been providing a platform for their group companies such as CloudTail and WS Retail respectively. Some see this as skewing the playing field, especially if these vendors enjoyed special incentives from the e-commerce firm, over others. These controlled or owned vendors may then be able to offer discounts to customers that competitors may not be able to match.
  • The thrust of the DIPP policy is directed at protecting small vendors on e-commerce websites. It seeks to ensure small players selling on the portals are not discriminated against in favour of vendors in which e-commerce companies have a stake.

Greenhouse gas

  • India’s total greenhouse gas emissions grew by more than 22 per cent between 2010 and 2014, reaching a level of 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2014.
  • The Cabinet cleared a climate change action report that India, like every other country, has to submit to the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change every two years. Called the biennial update report, or BUR, the submission contains the national greenhouse gas inventory among other information.
  • India had submitted its first BUR in 2016, reporting its emissions data till the year 2010. This time it has submitted data till 2014.
  • The submission shows that the energy sector, which includes electricity generation, transport and other fuel combustion activities, increased its contribution to India’s total emissions between 2010 and 2014.
  • India is already the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, though way behind lead polluters China and the US.
  • The submission also shows that carbon dioxide absorption, through forests and croplands, had gone up.
  • India has committed itself to substantially increase its forest cover, promising to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.
  • As part of its Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDC), India has also promised to ensure that at least 40 per cent of its electricity generation in 2030 would happen from non-fossil fuel sources, and that its emissions intensity, or emissions per unit of GDP, would reduce by at least 33 to 35 per cent by the year 2030 from 2005 levels.

59-minute scheme

  • In a big rush to provide credit to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), the state-owned banks have sanctioned loans worth over Rs 14,000 crore under the 59-minutes scheme launched by the government only last month.
  • The government launched the 59 minute online loan portal along with a series of other measures to boost fund flow to the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) in November.
  • The measures included providing GST-registered MSMEs access to cheaper credit by way of an interest subsidy on fresh loans, and mandating state-owned companies to procure at least 25 per cent of their product requirements from smaller firms, among others.
  • MSMEs that were registered on the GST platform were to be given two per cent interest subsidy on fresh loans, while a portal was started to provide sanction on loan up to Rs 1 crore within 59 minutes.
  • The portal assesses the creditworthiness of the applicant through data analysis of GST returns, tax returns and bank account statements.


  • The government decided to list six central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) on the stock exchanges and permitted KIOCL to come out with a follow-on public offer.
  • The Centre’s decision to list these companies comes in the backdrop of the government struggling to meet this year’s fiscal deficit target of Rs 80,000 crore.
  • The listing of the CPSEs on exchanges would unlock their value and encourage investor participation.