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Current Affairs : 14 November 2018



NATION

SC refuses to stay Sabarimala ruling
  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear in open court review petitions against its majority judgment which lifted a ban on women aged between 10 and 50 years from undertaking the pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
  • The review petitions will be heard by an “appropriate Bench” in open court on January 22, next year.
  • The Review Bench of five judges, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, however, refused to stay the majority judgment by a Constitution Bench on September 28. 
  • The majority judgment had declared the exclusion, solely based on the menstrual status of women, to be a smear on individual dignity. It said the bar amounted to “treating women as the children of a lesser God”.
  • The refusal to stay the judgment would mean that worshippers, both men and women of all ages, can still undertake the pilgrimage when the temple re-opens on November 16.
  • The pilgrimage season would end on January 20 after the Makaravilakku festival.
  • Advocate G. Prakash, who represents the Kerala government in the issue, said the Bench has only taken a prima facie decision to hear the review petitions in open court. 
Govt. asks Twitter to help track accounts
  • The Centre has asked microblogging site Twitter to furnish telephone numbers and other identifiable sources that could help track suspicious accounts, as asked for by law enforcement agencies, a senior Home Ministry official said.
  • Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba pulled up Twitter representatives for being slow to act on the government’s requests to take down content and accounts that incite communal violence.
  • Twitter representatives told the Ministry officials that allowing only verified accounts would hit free speech.
All set for launch of GSAT-29
  • Countdown for the launch of GSLV-MkIII-D2/GSAT-29 began at 2.50 p.m. on Tuesday at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. 
  • GSAT-29 will improve Internet-based communication in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeastern States.
New index to check ease of doing agri-business
  • States may soon start receiving extra funding for the Agriculture Ministry’s flagship schemes on the basis of their performance in encouraging agri-business, especially with regard to marketing, land and governance reforms.
  • The Centre expects to roll out a new Ease of Doing Agri-Business Index early next year, which will rank the States on the basis of such reforms, as well as their investment in agriculture, increased productivity, reduction of input costs, and risk mitigation measures. 
  • NITI Aayog already brings out a Agricultural Marketing and Farm Friendly Reforms Index, rating States on their implementation of such reforms. 
  • The proposed index has a wider ambit, but the focus is still on reforms, with marketing reforms (25%) and governance and land reforms (20%) carrying almost half of the weight of the parameters in its scoring system.
Uttar Pradesh Cabinet nod for Faizabad name change
  • The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved a proposal to change the name of Faizabad district to Ayodhya, a week after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath made the announcement on the eve of Deepavali.
  • Along with the district, Faizabad division has also been renamed Ayodhya. The districts of Ambedkar Nagar, Barabanki, Amethi, Faizabad (now Ayodhya) and Sultanpur comprise the administrative division and the contours will remain the same.
  • The district headquarter, however, won’t change and will remain Faizabad.
  • The government note on the name change said the proposal of the district magistrate was “justified” on the basis of “facts” that Ayodhya had been the capital of the legendary “Ishvaku dynasty” and the birthplace of Lord Ram. 
  • The State Cabinet also changed the name of Allahabad Division to Prayagraj Division, weeks after changing the name of the district.
NSCN-K faction open to Naga peace talks
  • A breakaway group of the outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) said that the outfit was keen on pursuing the Naga peace process.
  • The group led by Khango Konyak, an Indian Naga who was the chairman of the NSCN-K, in a statement said the decision followed an appeal by the Centre and the people of Nagaland.
  • Hounded out of the NSCN-K’s camp in Myanmar’s Sagaing division, Mr. Konyak and his followers had crossed over to Nagaland almost a month ago.
  • They had been staying in a village in Mon district of the State with the knowledge of the security forces. 
  • Its rival group, the Isak Muivah faction of the NSCN (NSCN-IM), entered into a similar ceasefire deal in 1997.
  • The NSCN-K walked out of its 14-year-old ceasefire in March 2015 when its founder, S.S. Khaplang, was the chairman.
WORLD

U.K., EU agree on Brexit agreement draft
  • The British Cabinet is set to have a crucial meeting on Wednesday, after U.K. and EU negotiators agreed on the text of a draft withdrawal agreement in Brussels on Tuesday.
  • A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed that a Cabinet meeting is due to take place to decide the next steps, following discussions in Brussels.  
  • The development will put the spotlight firmly on the internal battles within the U.K. government over the terms under which Britain will leave the EU.
  • Among the biggest obstacles in reaching agreement has been the length of time over which the Irish backstop — to prevent the development of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — would apply. 
  • However, many obstacles remain: there are questions around whether the terms in the document will be agreed on by individual EU member states and by a majority within the U.K. Parliament.
Amazon chooses 2 locations for ‘second headquarters’
  • Amazon, the online retailing giant, officially announced on Tuesday that it will split its “second headquarters” between New York City and a DC suburb in Northern Virginia.
  • There was tough competition between State and local governments to house Amazon’s ‘HQ2’. The company had narrowed its list down to 16 areas in January this year, and splitting the second headquarters could ease up pressure on housing and infrastructure for the locations as well as increase the company’s access to the tens of thousands of workers, including engineers and specialists.
  • The number of new H-1B visas approved for technology companies like Amazon increased in fiscal year 2017, while the total numbers dropped for the top seven Indian IT firms, over fiscal years 2015-2017, as per the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan research organisation. Amazon got 2,515 new approved H-1B initial petitions in 2015, topping the list of U.S. tech giants.
ECONOMY

After IL&FS, SEBI tightens norms for raters
  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened the disclosure norms for credit rating agencies (CRAs) that will now have to take into account various factors, including asset-liability mismatch, liquid investments, cash flows and capital infusion from parent or group entities while performing any rating action.
  • In a circular issued on Tuesday, the capital markets regulator enhanced the quantum of disclosures by introducing additional norms that are largely based on the learnings from the IL&FS episode, which has affected the overall liquidity scenario, especially in the non-banking financial company (NBFC) segment.
  • Based on the learnings from the IL&FS episode, the regulator has also made it mandatory for rating agencies to disclose full list of subsidiaries or group companies if such entities form part of the consolidated ratings.
  • SEBI also mandated CRAs to include a specific section on “liquidity” to highlight parameters like cash balances for servicing maturing debt obligation.