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Current Affairs: 26 November 2018


Employee has right to resign, says Supreme Court
  • To resign is a right of an employee and he cannot be forced to continue, the Supreme Court has said.
  • An employee cannot be compelled to serve in case he is not willing “until and unless there is some stipulation in the rules or in the terms of appointment or disciplinary proceedings is pending or contemplated which is sought to be avoided by resigning from the services.”
  • A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran made the observations while allowing the appeal of a former Air India engineer, who was refused his dues by the Central government carrier.
  • Sanjay Jain served in Air India for the stipulated minimum five-year period before he resigned and served his 30-day notice.
  • Air India said it had refused to accept his resignation and asked him to re-join duty.
  • Setting aside the High Court’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Jain had “rightly terminated the relationship by serving the requisite notice for his resignation.”
Cruise to Bangladesh likely from March
  • Buoyed by the successful trial of cargo movement to Bangladesh via the inland waterways protocol route, India is now preparing to exploit the path for the purpose of tourism, an official said.
  • A trans-boundary river cruise operation is expected to commence from Kolkata in March next year through Sunderbans to Bangladesh and then to connect the northeastern destinations by private operators, a senior official said.
  • Both sides also agreed to allow private operators to run cruise to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
  • Mr. Reddy said night navigation facility has been installed up to the Indian border while Bangladesh is expected to do the same.
  • He said India has agreed to fund up to 80% of the dredging cost in some identified stretches within Bangladesh in the Indo-Bangla protocol route to make it navigable.
  • Regularly, 15-20 barges carrying fly ash are now heading to Bangladesh and navigation up to the Indian border is smooth, he said.
RIMES terms Titli cyclone ‘rarest of rare’
  • The Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) for Africa and Asia, a 45-nation international organisation on disaster warning, has termed ‘Titli’, the severe cyclonic storm that devastated Odisha in October, as ‘rarest cyclone’.
  • “More than 200 years of cyclone track history in the Odisha coast reveals that the Titli cyclone is the rarest of rare in terms of its characteristics such as recurvature after landfall and retaining its destructive potential after landfall and recurvature away from the coastal areas for more than two days,” says RIMES in its latest report.
  • The UN-registered organisation said: “Considering the history of cyclone tracks, no synthetic track projection captures the Titli type of cyclones. The forecast information available lacks actionable early warning information such as no indication of occurrence of secondary hazards, including landslides far away from the coasts.”
  • Earlier, India Meteorological Department had called the formation of Titli as a ‘rarest of rare’ occurrence. The severe cyclone had changed its path after landfall.
  • According to RIMES, the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority faced challenges in anticipating and managing Titli's impact due to lack of impact-based actionable early warning information and prior experience not only in India but also elsewhere.
  • The international body said: “The State government actions linked to the cyclone-risk management are also heavily focused on the coastal areas where cyclones cross at their peak intensities. Therefore, coastal areas now have been largely well managed through evacuations and other protocols, leading to zero casualties in these areas.”
  • The RIMES has recommended that a detailed risk assessment has to be carried out for Odisha to understand the risks in the light of the Titli devastation.
HIV infected children likely to suffer cognitive impairment: study
  • Children infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have to endure a significant adverse impact on their neurodevelopment and cognitive functioning, a new study has revealed.
  • Analyzing resting state functional MRIs, the study, published recently in the online journal NeuroImage Clinical, reveals that HIV-infected children have lower neuropsychological test scores thus reflecting reduced memory span, attention deficit and decreased visual-motor coordination among other conditions.
  • “Decline of mental processes has been commonly observed in HIV infected adults. The common condition we see in adult patients is dementia, which broadly refers to a decline in memory or thinking skills and encephalopathy, a condition that affects the structure or function of the brain. This new study asserts similar impact on HIV infected children”, said neurologist Dr Ravindra Garg from Lucknow’s King George Medical University, one of the investigators of the study.
  • The researchers assessed 26 perinatally HIV infected children being treated under the National AIDS Control Programme in eastern Uttar Pradesh and 20 non-infected children from the same region. The mean age of the children was 10 years.
  • “We carried out resting state Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of all children and generated maps of Amplitude of Low Frequency Fluctuations (ALFF), a neuroimaging method to gauge spontaneous fluctuations and Functional Connectivity (FC) that analyses brain networks”, explained Dr Rakesh Gupta, a neuro-radiology expert from Fortis, adding that the findings were co-related with neuropsychological assessment scores.
  • The study concluded that all HIV infected children had lower neuropsychological test scores as compared to the control group.
  • The HIV infected children in the study were also found to have significantly decreased Amplitude of Low Frequency Fluctuations (ALFF) and Functional connectivity (FC) in multiple brain regions that are related to cognition. Such reduction suggests altered brain functional activity, the study said. 
  • Dr Haris, an expert in translational imaging, said the findings will facilitate early detection of structural and functional brain changes, allowing appropriate treatment and therapies to improve functional activities in children with immunity disorders.
  • HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and is known to affect almost every organ in the human body.
  • Nearly 60,000 children in India are currently taking Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) for HIV. Doctors treating these children commonly observe slackened physical as well as mental growth.
  • “The virus is present in patient’s bloodstream and thus gets lodged in every part of the body. It affects the brain, heart, kidney, liver etc., leaving the patient extremely immuno-compromised,” said paediatrician Dr. Yashwant Gabhale who heads civic-run Sion Hospital’s paediatric ART centre in Mumbai.
  • “The key to achieving overall growth in HIV infected children is a good diet, 100% medicine compliance and regular physical activity. This ensures that their viral load is low and CD-4 (immune cells) count is high. However, a large majority of children fail to achieve this,” said Dr Gabhale, adding that larger studies with bigger sample size will reflect the ground realities more coherently.
  • Doctors say such studies highlight the need for a holistic approach to HIV programmes. The emphasis should not only be on medication, but also nutritional, psychological and neurodevelopmental support.
U.S. readied special teams for Mumbai
  • The then George Bush administration had mobilised special forces to neutralise Pakistan-based LeT terrorists holding people hostage in hotels during the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, a former White House official has revealed.
  • But, before the Indian authorities gave the necessary clearances and the special forces could take off for Mumbai, Indian commandos had already completed their job, said Anish Goel, who was part of the White House’s 26/11 crisis management group.
PMO refuses to give black money details
  • The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has refused to disclose the quantum of black money brought back from abroad, citing a provision of the Right to Information Act that bars disclosure of information that may impede investigation and prosecution of offenders.
  • Its response came on an October 16 order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC), asking the PMO to provide details within 15 days.
  • The PMO said a special investigation team had already been formed and its investigation was under way. As such, disclosures at this juncture might impede investigation and hence would attract the provision of exemption under Section 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act, it said in response to the application filed by whistle-blower bureaucrat Sanjiv Chaturvedi. Such investigations came under intelligence and security organisations excluded from the ambit of the RTI Act, the PMO said.

EU leaders back May’s Brexit deal
  • A year and a half of negotiations on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU came to an end formally on Sunday, as leaders of the 27 EU nations agreed to the terms of the controversial agreement at a summit in Brussels.
  • The approval comes after Britain and Spain reached agreement on the status of Gibraltar, removing a last-minute dispute that threatened to jeopardise the deal. However, it is far from the end of the battle for Britain’s Conservative government, which faces stiff opposition within its own ranks and from other political parties, who could vote down the deal as it passes through the parliamentary approval process.
  • Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, announced that the EU 27 leaders had endorsed the withdrawal agreement and the non-binding political declaration of future relations between the EU and the U.K. “
  • However, uncertainty returned as Spain expressed its concerns about the inclusion of Gibraltar in the withdrawal agreement and threatened to exert its veto unless there were assurances that the territory would be the subject of separate bilateral negotiations between Spain and the U.K.
  • A compromise has since been reached – which Spain has touted as a concession by Britain (a suggestion Britain has in turn rebutted), which resulted in the Spanish government withdrawing its opposition.
  • However, the significant developments in Brussels will now put the spotlight firmly back on Westminster, and the government’s ability to persuade Parliament to approve the deal later this year. 
  • However, parliamentary opponents show no sign of backing down, calling for the removal of the controversial “backstop” mechanism to ensure there isn’t a danger of a hard border developing in Northern Ireland.
  • Speaking in Brussels, however, Ms. May insisted that the deal was the “best one” available to the U.K., and urged parliamentarians to back the deal and avoid any move that would “open the door to yet more division and uncertainty.”

Cotton production estimated to decline
  • Cotton production this season might be less than that seen last year. According to provisional estimates made by the Cotton Advisory Board, which met on November 22, the production from October 2018 to September 2019 is estimated to be 361 lakh bales as against 370 lakh bales last season.
  • While the total area under cotton for last year was 124.29 lakh hectares, it was 122.38 lakh hectares for this season. The average yield (kg per hectare) has also reduced from 506.07 to 501.47.
  • Cotton demand by textile mills, including small-scale units, might be slightly higher this year at 305 lakh bales from 303 lakh bales last year.
  • However, crop estimates are provisional and can change in the coming months. With a better domestic market, the performance of textile mills has improved after March. So, cotton demand by the mills is projected to be higher. It is likely to be a comfortable year for both farmers and the industry, he said.
GST gives textiles a leg up
  • A year after implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the system is getting streamlined for the intended purpose of achieving the objective of ‘One nation one tax’. In the excise regime, multiple tax systems had increased administrative costs for manufacturers and distributors. With GST in place, the compliance burden has eased.
  • GST brought in developments and changed the way businesses conducted themselves.
  • It is commendable on the part of the GST Council to arrive at decisions on a consistent basis, despite differences of opinion among various sectors and political parties.
  • The textile sector is one of the oldest and largest in the country and a major contributor to the development of the economy. The industry employs both skilled and unskilled manpower and contributes over 10% of the total annual exports of the country, which is likely to increase under the GST regime.
  • Many from the textile industry have stated that the overall tax burden has come down for the sector to 18% from 20% and that the new system has also increased transparency in the sector, which provides employment to 45 million people.
  • A majority of the Indian industry functions in the unorganised sector or the composition scheme, creating a gap in the flow of input tax credit (ITC). If a registered taxpayer procures the input from taxpayers under the composition scheme or the unorganised sector, ITC will not be allowed for him.
  • With the implementation of GST, the input credit system has smoothly shifted the balance towards the organised sector. By subsuming different taxes such as entry tax, luxury tax and octroi, the costs for manufacturers will be reduced in the textile industry.
  • For textile mills, the import cost of the latest technology to manufacture textile goods is expensive because the excise duty paid for the same was not allowed in ITC. Under GST, ITC is available for all the tax paid on capital goods.
  • The process of claiming ITC is simplified in GST, which allows the textile sector to be competitive in the export market.
  • Expectations are high on three counts. First, yarn now attracts 5% GST and the machinery to manufacture yarn attracts 18%. This is uneven. Yarn manufacturers will be left with a huge input credit which they won’t be able to utilise.
  • There is no provision under GST to get such accumulated credit as refund for capital goods. This will contribute to dead investment for the textile industry over several years.
  • Second, a foreign manufacturing company is now permitted to set up a unit without any investment from the domestic market, bring in 100% of their share, and repatriate profit to their countries. This has made the domestic textile machinery manufacturing companies to compete in an unfavourable environment.
  • Finally, a simplified procedure is needed in the e-way bill legislation to ease transportation of goods by minimising documentation, physical verification and the like.

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