Essential Facts (Prelims)

Essential Facts (Prelims): 17 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 17 December, 2018


  • It is a military communication satellite.
  • Although all Indian communication satellites offer capacity to the armed forces, GSAT-7A will be the first one built primarily for the IAF.
  • About 70% of it would be for the Air Force and the rest for the needs of the Army.
  • The satellite using Ku band will enable superior real time aircraft-to-aircraft communication; and between planes that are in flight and their commanders on the ground.
  • It would enhance by many times the coverage now provided by ground communication systems such as radars and stations of the Army.
  • Out-of-sight and remote areas where ground infrastructure and signals are difficult would get into the critical information loop.

Tiger deaths

  • India recorded 95 tiger deaths in 2018, 41 outside reserves.
  • Of them, 14 occurred in Maharashtra, which accounted for over 34% of all deaths outside tiger reserves in the country.
  • A total of 19 tiger deaths were recorded in Maharashtra in 2018, so deaths outside tiger reserves comprise more than 70% of all tiger deaths in the State.
  • The NTCA maintains the official database of tiger mortality in the country,.
  • Maharashtra is home to 190 tigers, but more than a third of its tigers, or about 74 of them, live outside tiger reserves in the State.

Information Fusion Centre (IFC)

  • The Navy will formally inaugurate the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean. .
  • The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.


  • India has signed the ascension agreement to the Trans Regional Maritime Network (T-RMN) which facilitates information exchange on the movement of commercial traffic on the high seas.
  • The multilateral construct comprises of 30 countries and is steered by Italy.
  • The information is available primarily through the Automatic Identification System (AIS) fitted on merchant ships with more than 300 gross registered tonnage as mandated by the International Maritime Organisation.
  • The AIS information comprises name, MMSI number, position, course, speed, last port visited, destination and so on.
  • Such multilateral agreements are necessitated due to the large traffic in the Indian Ocean which cannot be entirely monitored by any one nation.


  • It is a camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
  • It has captured the image of the InSight lander, which recently touched down on the Red Planet.
  • This is not the first time HiRISE has photographed a Mars lander.
    Nikshay Poshan Yojana
  • It is a direct benefit transfer scheme for TB patients.
  • It was rolled out in April’18.


  • Male employees of the Maharashtra government are now entitled to childcare leave in case their spouses are bedridden or incapacitated due to mental health problems and are unable to take care of the children.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 15th and 16th December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 15th and 16th December, 2018

Kanchenjunga Landscape

  • The governments of India, Nepal and Bhutan are considering having a joint task force for allowing free movement of wildlife across the Kanchenjunga Landscape.
  • Kanchenjunga Landscape is a trans-boundary region spread across Nepal, India and Bhutan.
  • The landscape stretches along the southern side of Mount Kanchenjunga and covers an area of 25,080 sq km spread across parts of eastern Nepal (21%), Sikkim and West Bengal (56%) and western and southwestern parts of Bhutan (23%).
  • 1,118 sq km of riverine grassland and tree cover were lost in the landscape between 2000 and 2010. Around 74% of the area was converted into rangeland and 26% to agricultural land.
  • Other than seven million people, the Kanchenjunga Landscape is also home to 169 species of mammals and 713 species of birds.
  • Between 1986 and 2015, as many as 425 people were killed by elephants.

Jnanpith Award

  • Amitav Ghosh, has been honoured with this year’s Jnanpith Award.
  • The award is given to an author for “outstanding contribution towards literature”.
  • Ghosh is the first Indian writer in English to have been chosen for this honour.

Smart Cities

  • The Smart City Mission is developing a platform for cities, industry and researchers to share Smart City data with each other that could be monetised in the future, similar to the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) for bank accounts and digital payments.
  • The India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) could create new revenue sources and will have payment gateways which will form the foundations for a data marketplace.
  • For example, streetlight timers can be connected with traffic density patterns to optimise power consumption.

Fiscal deficit

  • Indian economy is moving towards an ideal fiscal deficit level of around three per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
  • However, it still has an overhang of high public debt.
  • India has a public debt close to 70 per cent of GDP.

NITI Aayog

  • NITI Aayog is organising the Third Edition of the Women Transforming India Awards 2018.
  • The Women Transforming India Awards were instituted to recognise and celebrate stories of exemplary women from across India.
  • This year’s theme is “Women and Entrepreneurship”.

ECO Niwas Samhita

  • Giving a further fillip to India’s energy conservation efforts, Ministry of Power has launched the ECO Niwas Samhita 2018,an Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings (ECBC-R).
  • The implementation of this Code will give a fillip to energy efficiency in residential sector.
  • ECBC for commercial buildings was already in place.
  • BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency) is a statutory body under Ministry of Power.
  • India has committed to reduction of 33-35% GHG emission by 2030 as part of the document submitted to UNFCCC.

Buffer Zone

  • The Supreme Court has directed the state government to put in place a 10km eco-sensitive buffer around the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary that is spread over 16.9 sq km.
  • All national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are required to have a buffer around them known as eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) where activities are regulated.
  • SC directed the environment and forests ministry to declare a 10km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as ESZs at the earliest.
  • Until November, the Centre had issued notifications for ESZs around 289 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across India.

Infant formula

  • Consumption of milk formula (breast milk substitutes) is not just resulting in poor nutrition in infants and younger children, it is now also being linked to a detrimental impact on the environment.
  • Industrially-manufactured breast milk substitutes generate toxic greenhouse gases (GHG) including methane and nitrous oxide during production, transport and sales.
  • Milk formula is a combination of many industrially manufactured ingredients such as milk powder, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and micronutrients.
  • Methane emanating from dairy herd is one of the most potent forms of greenhouse gases and is a key element in the global greenhouse emissions.
  • Breastfeeding is more environmentally sustainable as breast milk is a renewable source of food and is delivered without pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste. In comparison, milk formula needs energy for manufacturing, material for packaging, fuel for transport and resources for daily preparation and use.

Climate change

  • Seeking to end the deadlock on critical issues, the European Union (EU) and 27 countries have decided to raise emission reduction targets by 2020.
  • In answer to environmentalists who wanted current big polluters like China and India to do the same, the two countries have cited their lower per capita emission and huge developmental needs.
  • UN climate conference (COP24) is being held at Katowice, Poland.
  • In 2017, China was the highest emitter of CO2, while India was at the 4th position with 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emission.


  • India’s first private unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturing facility, and the first outside Israel to manufacture the Hermes 900 medium-altitude long distance endurance UAV, took off in Hyderabad.


  • Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 13 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 13 December, 2018


  • The NSG was raised in 1986 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Operation Blue Star.
  • The force, which is trained to operate as an elite urban anti-terrorist and anti-hijack force, doesn’t have a cadre of its own or direct recruitment and is instead dependent on personnel sent on deputation from the army and the central armed police forces.


  • The Indian Navy joined a select group of naval forces in the world when it inducted its first non-tethered Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) system .
  • The DSRV is used to rescue crew members from submarines stranded under water in the high seas.
  • The DSRV can be operated at a depth of 650 metres and can rescue 14 people at a time.
  • The DSRV can also be transported by air, enabling it to conduct rescue operations across the globe.


  • SEBI has allowed mutual fund (MF) houses to segregate bad assets — known as side pocketing in industry parlance — in their debt and money market schemes.
  • The regulator has also expanded the universe of companies for whom the Offer For Sale (OFS) mechanism is available.
  • Shareholders of any company with a market capitalisation of over ₹1,000 crore would be able to use the OFS mechanism instead of the current limit of the top 200 companies.


  • There are about 23 billion chickens on Earth at any given time, at least 10 times more than any other bird.
  • The second most numerous bird on the planet, at an estimated population of 1.5 billion, is a small creature called the red-billed quelea, sometimes known in its home of sub-Saharan Africa as a feathered locust.
  • The combined mass of those 23 billion chickens is greater than that of all the other birds on Earth.


  • Japan selected the Chinese character for ‘disaster’ as its ‘defining symbol’ for 2018, a year that saw the country hit by deadly floods, earthquakes and storms.

J-K Governor rule

  • Jammu and Kashmir is likely to come under President’s rule on after 28 years with Governor set to recommend Centre’s rule in his report to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Unlike other states, the process of imposing President’s rule in J&K is more nuanced where the Governor rules for the first six months.
  • The ratification has to be done by both Houses of Parliament within two months of imposition of President’s rule. Once approved by both the Houses, the President’s rule is valid for six months.
  • The President’s rule has not been imposed every time Governor’s rule was invoked in the past, with either elections being held within six months or political parties coming together to stake claim to form government.
  • The President’s rule was earlier imposed in 1990 and lasted more than six years due to the sudden rise in terrorism and breakdown of law and order in the Valley.
  • It was first imposed in 1986.

Dam Safety Bill

  • The Bill provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning.
  • There are over 5,200 large dams in the country and about 450 are under construction. There are also thousands of medium and small dams whose safety remains a matter of concern due to lack of legal and institutional safeguards.

Manned mission

  • It is proposed to undertake manned mission to space before 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence.
  • The manned mission will be accomplished using ISRO’s launch vehicle GSLV MkIII.
  • The manned mission will launch Indian astronauts from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota into an approximately 400 Km Low Earth Orbit. The maximum mission planned is of 7 days duration.


  • A Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘Support to State Extension Programmes for Extension Reforms’ popularly known as ATMA Scheme is being implemented in 676 districts of 29 states & 3 UTs of the country, including all the districts of Maharashtra & Jharkhand.
  • The scheme promotes decentralized and farmer-friendly extension system in the country.
  • Under the Scheme, Grants-in-aid is released to the State Governments {In the ratio of 60:40 (Centre:State) to General States, 90:10 for North-Eastern & 3 Himalayan States and 100% for UTs}.

Crop Production

  • Govt fixes target for the production of foodgrains in the country annually.
  • The target for the production of foodgrains has been fixed at 290.25 million tonnes for the 2018-19.
  • The production of foodgrains in the country has been estimated at 284.83 million tonnes 2017-18, which is a record.


  • Government fixes Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) of 22 mandated agricultural crops and Fair & Remunerative Price (FRP) for Sugarcane on the basis of recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP), after considering the views of State Governments and Central Ministries/Departments concerned and other relevant factors.
  • In addition, MSP for Toria and De-Husked coconut is also fixed on the basis of MSPs of Rapeseed/Mustard and Copra respectively.
  • The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced the pre-determined principle to keep MSPs at levels of one and half times the cost of production for all mandated crops.
  • Region specific parameters are kept in view by the CACP while recommending MSP for agricultural crops.
  • Since the cost of production varies in different States on account of differences in levels of irrigation, resource endowment, farm mechanization, land holding size etc., CACP uses all-India weighted average cost of production while making its recommendations and recommends uniform MSP which is applicable to all states.
  • As per the existing arrangements, procurement is made of the crops for which MSPs are announced through Central and State agencies.
  • In so far as cereals/nutri cereals are concerned, they are procured through FCI and decentralized procurement system mainly for distribution under the public distribution system (PDS), for welfare schemes and buffer stocking for food security.
  • Government implements Price Support Scheme (PSS) for procurement of oilseeds, pulses and cotton through Central Nodal Agencies at MSP declared by the Government.
  • A new Umbrella Scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan’ (PM-AASHA) has been announced by the government. The scheme consists of three sub-schemes i.e. Price Support Scheme (PSS), Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS) and Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPSS) on a pilot basis.
  • The payments to the farmers are made through Real Time Gross settlement (RTGS)/ National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT) and account payee cheque by the procuring agencies. However, if producer/farmers gets better price in comparison to MSP, they are free to sell their produce in open market.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 12 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 12 December, 2018

Partners’ Forum

  • Fourth Partners’ Forum is being held at New Delhi.
  • India, in association with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), is hosting Partners’ Forum to improve the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
  • Partners’ Forum is a global health partnership launched in 2005 to accelerate efforts to reduce child and maternal mortality, improve adolescent, child, newborn and maternal health.
  • This partnership is an alliance of more than 1,000 plus members, across 10 constituencies in 92 countries.
  • This is the second time India is hosting the Partners’ Forum.
  • PMNCH’s mission is to support the global health community to work successfully towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the health related SDGs.

Vision of a New India

  • The Ministry of Commerce & Industry is creating a plan to bolster India’s march towards becoming a USD 5 trillion economy before 2025.
  • The focused plans will be on boosting services sector contribution to USD 3 trillion, manufacturing to USD 1 trillion and Agriculture to USD 1 trillion.
  • The Ministry has created a corpus of USD 1 billion to boost 12 champion sectors in services.
  • The share of India’s services sector in global services exports was 3.3% in 2015 compared to 3.1% in 2014. Based on this initiative, a goal of 4.2 % has been envisaged for 2022.
  • The share of services in Gross Value Added (GVA) was about 53% for India in 2015-16 (61 % including construction services). A goal of achieving a share of services in GVA of 60 % (67% including construction services) has also been envisaged by the year 2022.
  • The Commerce Ministry has formulated India’s first ever Agricultural Export Policy with a focused plan to boost India’s agricultural exports to USD 60 billion by 2022.

Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • The Supreme Court directed the Union Environment Ministry to declare 10 km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country as ‘eco-sensitive zones’.
  • The parks and sanctuaries are the
    • Pobitora sanctuary in Assam;
    • Hemis and Kishtewar national parks, Changthang, Hokersar,
    • Trikuta sanctuaries in Jammu and Kashmir;
    • Jogimatti, Thimlapura and Yadahalli Chinkara sanctuaries in Karnataka;
    • Deolgaon Rehekuri and Thane Creek Flamingo sanctuaries and the Malvan marine sanctuary in Maharashtra;
    • Siroi National Park and Khongjaingamba Ching sanctuary in Manipur;
    • Baghmara Pitcher Plant sanctuary in Meghalaya;
    • Fakim and Puliebadze and Rangapahar sanctuaries in Nagaland;
    • Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar bird sanctuary and Pilibhit sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh and
    • the Jorepokhri sanctuary in West Bengal.


  • OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 19 km of the asteroid Bennu some 2.25 million km from the earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules — part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life — embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.
  • The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to earth for study, was launched in 2016.
  • Bennu orbits the Sun at roughly the same distance as the earth.
  • OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.9 km from Bennu.
  • The spacecraft will later fly back to the earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen in September 2023.

Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action

Dozens of top fashion industry firms have pledged at the UN climate talks to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.


India is the third largest consumer of crude oil


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 11 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 11 December, 2018


  • The Kaiga nuclear power plant in Karnataka has created a world record for the longest uninterrupted operation of 941 days, breaking the earlier record of 940 days by the Heysham plant in the United Kingdom.
  • The Kaiga Generating Station (KGS-1) which surpassed the record is a Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).
  • It is an indigenously-built PHWR run by domestic fuel (uranium).


  • Of the 110 anti-TB Fixed Dose Combinations (FDCs) available in India, only 32 (less than 30%) have been approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), the country’s drug regulator.
  • An FDC or combination product is a formulation with more than one active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) in a fixed ratio of doses formulated into a single dosage form.


  • A global coalition set up to fight epidemics is investing up to $8.4 million to develop a synthetic vaccine system that could be tailor-made to fight multiple pathogens such as flu, Ebola, Marburg and Rabies.
  • The deal is aimed at progressing a “vaccine platform”, which uses synthetic self-amplifying RNA (saRNA).
  • The idea behind the saRNA approach is to harness the body’s own cell machinery to make an antigen — in other words a foreign substance that induces an immune response — rather than injecting the antigen itself directly into the body.

Climate change

  • The US and Saudi Arabia rank last when it comes to curbing climate change among the 56 nations accounting for 90 per cent of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2 accounts for 80 per cent of global warming.
  • Sweden and Morocco scored highest in the annual ranking.
  • In determining a score, the Climate Change Performance Index looked at each country’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building up renewable energy such as wind and solar, energy use, and its climate policies.
  • India’s ranking, 11, improved due to a rapid installation of solar energy, a low per capita carbon footprint, and relatively aggressive targets for reducing emissions.

Cope India

  • ‘Cope India 2018’ is a joint exercise between the U.S. and Indian Air Force.
  • It is being held in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 9 and 10 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 9 and 10 December, 2018


  • A study has found that talcum powder is harmful to the lungs when inhaled during breathing and could possibly cause ovarian cancer when used by women in the genital area.
  • Talc or talcum is a clay mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate.
  • Talc finds wide use including in cosmetics, paints, ceramics.


  • Sunspots follow a cyclic pattern of growing in number and disappearing in approximately 11 years, known as the sunspot cycle or the Sun’s activity cycle.
  • We are currently in the 24th sunspot cycle since the observation of this cycle began, in 1755.
  • There have even been speculations that the Sun may be heading towards a period of prolonged low activity – what solar physicists describe as a ‘Maunder-like minimum’.
  • The Maunder minimum refers to a period from 1645 to 1715 where observers reported minimal sunspot activity — the number of sunspots reduced by a factor of nearly 1,000, over a period of 28 years. During this and other such periods of low activity, some parts of Europe and North America experienced lower-than-average temperatures.
  • While the connection between the Maunder minimum and the climate on earth is still debated, it gives another reason to watch the sunspots.


  • Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is the most dangerous form of TB and occurs when the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium infects tissues in the central nervous system.
  • The disease, which disproportionately affects young children and HIV-infected individuals, is extremely difficult to treat because antimicrobials such as the first-line drug rifampin cannot adequately penetrate the blood-brain barrier that protects the nervous system.


  • India to retain top position in remittances with USD 80 billion: World Bank- The New Indian Express
  • Representational image of Indian workers in the Gulf. (Photo | File/Reuters) By PTI WASHINGTON:
  • India will retain its position as the world’s top recipient of remittances this year with its diaspora sending a whopping USD 80 billion back home, the World Bank said.
  • India is followed by China (USD 67 billion), Mexico and the Philippines (USD 34 billion each) and Egypt (USD 26 billion).
  • With this, India has retained its top spot on remittances, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief.
  • Over the last three years, India has registered a significant flow of remittances from USD 62.7 billion in 2016 to USD 65.3 billion 2017.
  • In 2017, remittances constituted 2.7 per cent of India’s GDP.
  • Global remittances are expected to grow 3.7 per cent to USD 715 billion in 2019.
  • Reducing remittance flows to three per cent by 2030 is a global target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.7.
  • The average cost of remitting in South Asia was the lowest at 5.4 per cent, while Sub-Saharan Africa continued to have the highest at 9 per cent.


  • Now that GSAT-11, the third and latest Internet-boosting communication satellite, is up in space, ISRO says it is in the process of readying a ₹150-200-crore ground infrastructure across cities to use it.
  • A Ka-band hub or gateway each is being set up in Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Ranchi to deliver high-speed broadband services via the giant satellite.
  • Along with its older HTS mates — GSAT-19, GSAT 20 (planned) and GSAT-29 — it forms an Indian quartet of high-throughput satellites (HTSs).
  • Each of them has a different space location over India and must have its own ground systems.
  • The ground systems are being put up by external agencies chosen through competitive bidding. They will also be operated and maintained by them for five to seven years.


  • Bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study.
  • Bioplastics are derived from renewable sources such as maize, wheat and sugarcane.
  • An increased consumption of bioplastics in the following years is likely to generate increased greenhouse gas emissions from cropland expansion on a global scale.
  • Plastics are usually made from petroleum, with the associated impacts in terms of fossil fuel depletion but also climate change.
  • It is estimated that by 2050, plastics could already be responsible for 15% of the global CO2 emissions.
  • Bioplastics, on the other hand, are in principle climate-neutral since they are based on renewable raw materials such as maize, wheat and sugarcane.
  • These plants get the CO2 that they need from the air through their leaves, researchers said. Producing bioplastics therefore consumes CO2, which compensates for the amount that is later released at end-of-life. Overall, their net greenhouse gas balance is assumed to be zero. Bioplastics are thus often consumed as an environmentally friendly alternative.
  • However, at least with the current level of technology, this issue is probably not as clear as often assumed.
  • The production of bioplastics in large amounts would change land use globally. This could potentially lead to an increase in the conversion of forest areas to arable land. However, forests absorb considerably more CO2 than maize or sugar cane annually, if only because of their larger biomass.

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, t proposes citizenship to six persecuted minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before 2014.


Karmapa is the head of one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism.


In a first-of-its-kind exercise code-named CROSS BOW-18, the Indian Air Force conducted combined guided weapons firing of Surface-to-Air Missiles.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 8 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 8 December, 2018


  • 160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council is currently underway in Rome.
  • FAO has approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.
  • Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets together termed as nutri-cereals.
  • The MSP of Jowar, Bajra and Ragi has been increased in 2018-19.
  • Through the Department of Food and Public Distribution, State Governments are allowed to procure jowar, bajra, maize and ragi from farmers at MSP.
  • FAO has also approved India’s membership to the Executive Board of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for 2020 and 2021.


  • With the aim of standardising facilities across homestays and bread & breakfasts in the country, the Tourism Ministry has issued new guidelines to such establishments.
  • Properties where their owners or promoters physically reside will be designated as homestay establishments, while those where only an agent or operator resides will be designated as bed & breakfast.
  • These guidelines will constitute the Common National Standards. Each State and Union Territory will be free to build upon them to suit their requirements, while keeping the core tenets intact.
  • The properties will be categorised as silver and gold on the basis of the facilities they offer..

Institutes of eminence

  • The Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) identified 19 more contenders for the status of Institutions of Eminence (IoE).
  • With this, the total number of universities and institutes recommended by EEC for the eminence tag has gone up to 30, of which six — three public and three private — have been officially announced by the government.
  • The Union Cabinet had approved UGC’s ‘Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities Regulations 2017’, in August 2017.
  • The regulations are aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class institutions, since the country has little representation in the international ranking of educational institutions.
  • The private IoEs can also come up as greenfield ventures, provided the sponsoring organisation submits a convincing perspective plan for 15 years.
  • The IoEs are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to other higher education institutions. For instance, they will be free to decide their fee for domestic and foreign students, and have a flexible course duration and structure.
  • The 10 government institutions, in addition to autonomy, will also get Rs 1,000 crore each from the HRD Ministry to achieve world-class status.
  • The government will offer no financial assistance to the private institutions.

Fugitive Economic Offender

  • The FEO Act, meant to prevent loan defaulters from fleeing the country to evade legal action, came into existence in 2016.
  • A fugitive economic offender is a person who has a warrant of arrest under a scheduled offence but has fled the country to evade prosecution.

Current Account Deficit

  • Current account deficit (CA) widened to 2.9% of GDP for the July-September quarter due to higher trade deficit.
  • The deficit widened due to sharp rise in oil prices.


  • Goa has been declared as the permanent venue for the Annual Global Venture Capital Summit.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 7 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 7 December, 2018

Inland Waterways

  • Kolkata-Patna is India’s new IWT origin-destination pair for containerised cargo movement on the National Waterway-1.
  • The Ministry of Shipping is developing NW-1 (River Ganga) under Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) from Haldia to Varanasi (1390 Km) with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.
  • The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 DWT.

Freight village

  • The Ministry of Shipping has approved the development of a freight village in Varanasi adjoining the Inland Waterways Terminal on River Ganga.
  • The Varanasi freight village will be developed by the Inland Waterways Authority of India .
  • It will serve as a cargo hub, and a centre for aggregation and value addition. It will also provide support to stimulate development of a professional logistics industry in Varanasi.
  • A freight village is a designated area where facilities for various modes of transportation, distribution of goods and other logistics are available in a synchronized manner on a large scale.
  • The main function of freight villages is management and utilization of various modes of transport, synergizing them and decongesting the existing mode of transportation.
  • Freight villages are basically cargo aggregators which offer various logistic choices to a shipper/ cargo owner; i.e. choice of rail-road; rail-waterway; road-waterway. The choice is based on the optimal/ lowest logistic cost that can be derived by the shipper/ cargo owner.
  • Delivery and coordination of various freight related activities under one roof ensures ease of doing business and makes it possible to realize high truck capacity due to which economic efficiency and activity of the enterprises on site can be improved
  • Varanasi has found to be a suitable site for the freight village. The city is located strategically and is a focal point in the logistics chain of Eastern Transport Corridor of India where the National Waterways-1, Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC), National Highway-7 and National Highway-2 pass through.


  • Exercise Hand-in-Hand is conducted annually as part of military diplomacy and interaction between armies of India and China.
  • The joint exercise for the year 2018 will be conducted from 10 to 23 December 2018 at Chengdu, China.

Agri export

  • Gov approved the Agriculture Export Policy, aimed at increasing India’s exports to $60 billion by 2022 from the current $37 billion.
  • The objectives of the policy are, apart from doubling farmers’ income, to diversify the export basket and destinations, and to boost high-value and value-added exports, with a focus on perishables.
  • Export curbs include the imposition of minimum export price, quantitative limit on shipment, export duty and an outright ban.
  • The government had imposed a ban on exports of wheat in 2007 and on non-basmati rice in 2008 before lifting it in 2011.
  • It has resorted to curbs on onion exports almost every year and periodically slapped restriction on cotton and sugar exports as well.
  • A ban on exports of key pulses and oilseeds was in effect for a long time.

Air Pollution

  • 26% of global premature death and disease burden by air pollution occurs in India.
  • India, with 18% of the world’s population, has a disproportionately high 26% of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution.
  • Moreover, one in eight deaths in India was attributable to air pollution in India in 2017, making it a leading risk factor for death.
  • 12.4 lakh deaths in India in 2017 were due to air pollution, which included 6.7 lakh deaths due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution and 4.8 lakh deaths due to household air pollution. Over half of the deaths due to air pollution were in persons less than 70 years of age.
  • Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), attributable to air pollution in India in 2017 for major non-communicable diseases were at least as high as those attributable to tobacco use.

COP 24

  • Nearly 200 countries are taking part in COP24, or the Katowice Climate Change Conference, that began earlier this week as the UN’s follow-up to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.


  • Current Account Deficit ( CAD) is the difference between the inflow and outflow of foreign currency.
  • Being a major oil importer, rising oil prices meant for India more foreign exchange leaving the country.
  • But some of this pressure has eased with oil prices falling over the last two months and the rupee strengthening against the dollar.
  • The CAD was 1.9% of GDP in the financial year 2017-18 and 0.6% in the year before that. It stood at 2.4% in the first quarter of this financial year.

Crude import bill

  • India has signed an agreement with Iran to pay for crude oil it imports from the Persian Gulf nation in rupees.
  • Indian refiners will make rupee payments in a UCO Bank account of the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC). Half of these funds would be earmarked for settling payments for exports of Indian goods to Iran.
  • Under US sanctions, India can export foodgrains, medicines and medical devices to Iran. India had won the exemption after it agreed to cut imports and escrow payments.
  • Under the 180-day exemption, India is allowed to import a maximum of 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil.
  • India is the second biggest purchaser of Iranian oil after China. Iran is its third largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10 per cent of total needs.
  • Prior to this, India paid its third largest oil supplier in euros using European banking channels. These channels got blocked from November.
  • Iranian oil is a lucrative buy for refiners as Iran provides 60 days of credit for purchases, terms not available from suppliers of substitute crudes — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria and the US.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 6 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 6 December, 2018


  • Soon, the government will amend the Aadhaar Act to give all citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and the data.
  • This follows the Supreme Court judgment in September when it had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification.
  • The Supreme Court had also declared that seeking to link Aadhar with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional.
  • The court had also struck down Section 33(2), which allowed disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below Joint Secretary.

Carbon emission

  • Global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018.
  • India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017.
  • The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use.
  • This week, representatives from more than 190 countries have begun discussions at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, on ways to equitably cut carbon emissions.
  • Second year in a row CO2 emissions have now risen for a second year after three years of little to no growth from 2014 to 2016.
  • The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third.
  • China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total.
  • Emissions in the U.S. account for 15% of the global total.
  • Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.
  • Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018 from last year, it still remains below its historical high in 2013.

Witness protection

  • The Supreme Court has put in place a witness protection regime in the country, noting that one of the main reasons for witnesses turning hostile was that they were not given security by the State.
  • Under it, witness protection may be as simple as providing a police escort to the witness up to the courtroom or, in more complex cases involving an organised criminal group, taking extraordinary measures such as offering temporary residence in a safe house, giving a new identity, and relocation to an undisclosed place.


  • India’s first six-tonne-class advanced communication satellite GSAT-11, was put into orbit from the European spaceport in Guiana in South America.
  • Its mission is to enable high-speed satellite-based Internet services to users in rural and remote areas and to businesses down home over the next 15 years.
  • It is the heaviest ever satellite to be built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It weighs 5,854 kg.


  • Centre may bring back curbs in Andamans.
  • To develop tourism, the RAP regime, in place since 1963, was lifted around August this year from 29 islands, including the North Sentinel.
  • Though the regime was withdrawn, a tourist is required to take permission from the Forest Department and the local administration as it is protected under two other Acts.


  • In a bid to bring in more transparency to loan pricing mechanism, particularly for small borrowers, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to link the floating interest rate on retail loans and loans extended to micro and small businesses to external benchmarks.
  • At present, these loans are linked with marginal cost of funds based lending rate, which is an internal benchmark of a bank.
  • The RBI said the lending rate on such loans should be linked to one of the four benchmarks —
    • Reserve Bank of India policy repo rate,
    • Government of India 91-day treasury bill yield,
    • Government of India 182-day treasury bill yield or
    • Any other benchmark market interest rate produced by the Financial Benchmarks India Private Ltd.
  • The move is expected to end the practice of lowering interest to only new customers to attract more business while the existing customers continue to pay higher rate.

Sahitya Akademi Award

Tamil writer S. Ramakrishnan has won the Sahitya Akademi Award for 2018 for his novel Sancharam, which captures the lives of nagaswaram players in karisal bhoomi – the arid land – of Tamil Nadu.


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Essential Facts (Prelims): 5 December, 2018

Essential Facts (Prelims): 5 December, 2018

Swachhta Doots

  • About 3 lakh postmen and GraminDakSevaks of the Department have been declared as “Ambassadors of cleanliness”.
  • As “SwachhtaDoots” they have spread the message of cleanliness, zero tolerance to open defecation and use of plastic among the masses.

Climate change

  • At Katowice, Poland, countries have gathered to agree upon a ‘Rule Book’ to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015.
  • The Paris Agreement commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2C beyond pre-industrial levels.
  • In 2019, developed countries are expected to make available $100 billion annually to developing countries, according to a 2010 agreement in Cancun.
  • Most of the total climate finance has flowed into mitigation (a reference to preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted).


  • India is expected to commission a major hydropower project in Bhutan in the coming weeks.
  • The project is 750 megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project.
  • The Mangdechhu project was bagged by the Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL).


  • SEBI has recommended allowing unlisted Indian companies to directly list their shares on overseas exchanges in at least 10 countries.
  • It also suggested allowing unlisted companies from such countries to list their shares on Indian bourses.
  • This is a major shift from the current regulatory regime that does not allow unlisted Indian companies to have a direct overseas equity listing.
  • Such listing would only be possible after changes in two key laws — FEMA and Companies Act.
  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) can amend FEMA while and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) can amend the Companies Act.


  • Scientists have discovered a cache over 100 new exoplanets using data from NASA’s Kepler Space telescope as well as ground-based observatories.
  • Exoplanets revolve around stars other than the sun.
  • If a planet crosses in front of its parent star, then the observed brightness of the star drops by a small amount. The Kepler Space Telescope detected many exoplanets using this method

Extreme weather

  • Extreme weather events killed over 70,000 people in India, 5.2 lakh across world in 20 years.
  • Just in 2017 alone, 2,736 people in India died in extreme weather events like floods, excessive rain or cyclones, the report by Germanwatch, an independent development organisation, said.
  • In the last twenty years, India accounted for the second highest number of these casualties after Myanmar, topped only by Puerto Rico.
  • Deaths caused by natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanoes are not included in the data because these are not caused by climate change.
  • The report put India 14th on the list of countries at maximum risk to climate change.


  • OPEC, a cartel of 15 countries that produce about 45% of the world’s oil and contain over 80% of its “proven” reserves.
  • OPEC was founded in 1960 by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela. Qatar joined in 1961.

Why has Qatar left OPEC?

  • Qatar wanted to focus on its gas industry rather than on oil, in which it was in any case a small player.
  • Qatar’s riches are due to its natural gas reserves, and it is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
  • Qatar is one of India’s oldest LNG suppliers. But LNG pricing is not in OPEC’s domain, so Qatar’s decision is unlikely to impact India.


  • Cataract surgery has emerged the procedure for which the highest number of claims have been made under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
  • Cataract refers to a clouding of the lens of the eye causing gradual loss of vision. It is common in old age but can also be triggered by injuries to the eye.
  • Diabetes, of which India has a very high burden (approximately 6.92 crore) is also known to hasten cataract formation.


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