1)Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill:
Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 (Bill) whose aim is to regulate ART banks and clinics, allow safe and ethical practice of arts and protect women and children from exploitation.
- The Bill was introduced to supplement the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 (SRB)
- Fifteen years in the making, the ART Bill is unsatisfactory and fails to respond to the needs of the 27 million infertile Indian couples.
What is ART?
ART might be an option for women who:
- Cannot conceive naturally
- Cannot carry pregnancy to term
- Have genetic disorders
- Have partners with abnormal sperm
- ART is used to treat infertility
- It includes fertility treatments that handle both a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm
- The embryos are then put back in the women’s body
- In vitro fertilization is the most common and effective type of ART
- ART procedure sometimes use donor eggs, Donor sperm or previously frozen embryos
- It may also involve surrogate carrier
Concerns regarding the bill:
The first concern is who can access ART.
- The Bill allows for a married heterosexual couple and a woman above the age of marriage to use arts.
- It excludes single men, cohabiting heterosexual couples and LGBTQI individuals and couples from accessing arts.
- This violates Article 14 of the Constitution and the right to privacy jurisprudence of Puttaswamy, where the Supreme Court held that “the sanctity of marriage, the liberty of procreation, the choice of a family life and the dignity of being” concerned all individuals irrespective of their social status and were aspects of privacy.
- Unlike the SRB, there is no prohibition on foreign citizens accessing arts.
- Foreigners can access ART but not Indian citizens in loving relationships.
- This is an illogical result which fails to reflect the true spirit of the Constitution.
- The ART Bill does not do what it says on the label.
- It does little to protect the egg donor.
- Harvesting of eggs is an invasive process which, if performed incorrectly, can result in death.
- The Bill requires an egg donor’s written consent but does not provide for her counselling or the ability to withdraw her consent before or during the procedure (unlike for commissioning parties).
- She receives no compensation or reimbursement of expenses for loss of salary, time and effort.
- Failing to pay for bodily services constitutes unfree labour, which is prohibited by Article 23 of the Constitution.
- The commissioning parties only need to obtain an insurance policy in her name for medical complications or death
- No amount or duration is specified.
- The egg donor’s interests are subordinated in a Bill proposed in her name.
- The Bill restricts egg donation to a married woman with a child (at least three years old).
- Even here, egg donation as an altruistic act is possible only once a woman has fulfilled her duties to the patriarchal institution of marriage.
- Children born from ART do not have the right to know their parentage, which is crucial to their best interests and protected under previous drafts.
- The Bill requires pre-implantation genetic testing and where the embryo suffers from “pre-existing, heritable, life-threatening or genetic diseases”, it can be donated for research with the commissioning parties’ permission.
- These disorders need specification or the Bill risks promoting an impermissible programme of eugenics.
Areas Overlapping between arts and Surrogacy under the Bill?
- Core ART processes are left undefined; several of these are defined in the SRB but not the Bill.
- Definitions of commissioning “couple”, “infertility”, “ART clinics” and “banks” need to be synchronised between the Bills.
- A single woman cannot commission surrogacy but can access ART.
- The Bill designates surrogacy boards under the SRB to function as advisory bodies for ART, which is desirable.
- However, both Bills set up multiple bodies for registration which will result in duplication or worse, lack of regulation (e.g. Surrogacy clinic is not required to report surrogacy to National Registry).
- Also, the same offending behaviors under both Bills are punished differently + punishments under the SRB are greater.
- Offences under the Bill are bailable but not under the SRB.
- Finally, records have to be maintained for 10 years under the Bill but for 25 years under the SRB.
- The same actions taken by a surrogacy clinic and ART clinic (likely to be the same entity) attract varied regulation.
- Where gamete donation is not compensated, how will ART Banks be economically viable? Perhaps clinics are allowed to operate banks and subsidise them through ART services?
- Further, the Bill’s prohibition on the sale, transfer, or use of gametes and embryos is poorly worded and will confuse foreign and domestic parents relying on donated gametes.
- The Bill requires clinics and banks to maintain a grievance cell but these will be one-sided.
- Clinics must instead have ethics committees.
- Mandated counselling services should also be independent of the clinic.
- The SRB and the Bill impose high sentences (8-12 years) and hefty fines.
- The poor enforcement of the PCPNDT Act, 1994, demonstrates that enhanced punishments do not secure compliance — lawyers and judges also lack medical expertise.
- Patients already sue fertility clinics in consumer redressal fora, which is preferable to criminal courts.
- Unusually, the Bill requires all bodies to be bound by the directions of central and state governments in the national interest, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality — being broadly phrased, it undermines their independence.
2) Ecosystem services:
Context: The Energy and Resources Institute TERI, studied the annual economic value of ecosystem services provided by the Delhi Zoo works out to be rupees 422 crore the study was commissioned by the central zoo authority
- These are direct and indirect contributions of the ecosystems to humankind’s well-being
- Ecosystem services can be categorised into four types
- Products obtained from Eco System such as food, fresh water, fibre, genetic resources and medicine
- Benefits obtained from regulation of ecosystem processes such as food prevention, climate regulation, water purification and pollination
- Non-material benefits obtained from ecosystems examples- nutrient cycling, soil formation
- Non-material benefits that people were obtained from ecosystems such as spiritual enrichment, intellectual development, recreational activities and aesthetic values
Central zoo authority
- It is a statutory body established under the Wildlife Protection 1972
- Nodal ministry- Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
- Objective to regulate Zoos across the country and to lay down guidelines under which animals may be transferred among zoos across the country nationally and internationally
- It is chaired by the union environment minister with 10 members and member secretary
The Energy and Resources Institute- TERI
- Is a nonprofit research institution
- Established in 1974
- Aim is to focus on formulating local and National level Strategies for shaping Global Solutions to critical issues
- Functions it conducts research work in fields of energy, environment and sustainable development
- Key focus lies in promoting Clean Energy, water management, pollution management, sustainable agriculture and climate resilience
3) Nobel in Literature:
American poet Louise Gluck won the 2020 Nobel Literature Prize on October 8, an unexpected choice known for themes of childhood and family life that draw inspiration from myths and classical motifs.
- Prof. Gluck, 77, was honoured “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal,” the Academy said.
- Prof. Gluck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for her collection “The Wild Iris” and the National Book Award for her latest collection, “Faithful and Virtuous Night”, in 2014.
- She is fourth woman to win the Nobel Literature Prize in past decade, and only 16th since Nobel prizes were first awarded in 1901
4) Afghan Ceasefire:
In a sign of India’s increased engagement with the ongoing Intra-Afghan Dialogue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a meeting with Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah, who is here on a 5-day visit.
- During the talks, Mr. Abdullah briefed the Prime Minister on the deliberations in Doha between the Afghan government and civil society representatives with Taliban representatives.
- “Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s commitment towards sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and welcomed efforts towards a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
- India’s support to the people of Afghanistan “achieving a dignified durable and sustainable peace”.
- Afghan Government expressed gratitude for the $3billion aid India has disbursed for projects across Afghanistan since 2001.
- India-Pakistan tensions would affect his mission for “regional consensus” for the IAN (Intra Afghan Negotiations), but Afghans would pursue their own “national interest”.
- “We need better relations with all countries. It is not our policy to decide the policies that other countries pursue towards each other, but we believe that peace in Afghanistan is in everyone’s interest
- India would support any peace agreement that was agreeable to the people of Afghanistan.
- While the delegation from Kabul has been hopeful of a declaration of a permanent ceasefire with the beginning of talks last month, the Taliban has refused to agree to one thus far.
- According to US agency SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction), civilian casualties in Afghanistan had increased nearly 60% between April-June 2020 over the previous quarter, despite the U.S.-Taliban accord being signed in February.
More engagement with Kabul
- Mr. Jaishankar addressed the inauguration of the Intra-Afghan talks, and sent a team to Doha, the first time an Indian official has addressed a gathering that includes the Taliban.
- India has significant role to play in advising and counselling unity and creating a common platform that represents the aspirations of new Afghanistan.
- Preserving unity is key to any negotiation and likely outcomes,” former Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha
5) World Bank widens GDP Contraction:
The World Bank expects India’s economy to contract by 9.6% in 2020-21, revising its earlier estimate in June that output will shrink by just 3.2% amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This revision reflects ‘the impact of the national lockdown and the income shock experienced by households and firms’
- In its South Asia Economic Focus report released on Thursday, the Bank reckoned there will be a rebound to 5.4% growth in 2021-22, but largely due to base effects and hinging on assumptions that the pandemic-related restrictions are completely lifted by 2022.
- India’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 23.9% in the first quarter of this year and official estimates for the second quarter are expected at end-November.
- The Bank mooted continuation of critical reforms to reverse the sudden and steep impacts of COVID-19.
- Monetary policy has been deployed aggressively and fiscal resources have been channelled to public health and social protection, but additional counter-cyclical measures will be needed, within a revised medium-term fiscal framework.
- Despite measures to shield vulnerable households and firms, the trajectory of poverty reduction has slowed, if not reversed,” the Bank said on India.
- Significant disruptions to jobs likely boosted the poverty rate, with 2020 rates back to levels in 2016.
- Policy interventions have preserved the normal functioning of financial markets thus far.
- However, the demand slowdown could lead to rising loan delinquencies and risk aversion.
6) Debt mutual funds:
Context: Webinar on debt mutual funds held
A mutual fund is a company that pools money from money investors and invests the money in security such as stocks, bonds and short term debt
- The combined Holdings of the mutual fund are known as its portfolio
- A debt fund is an investment pool such as mutual fund or exchange traded fund, in which the core holdings comprise fixed income Investments
- A debt fund may invest in short term or long term bonds, securitized products, money market instruments or floating rate debt.
- Debt funds are Mutual Funds that invest in fixed income securities like bonds and treasury bills, gilt fund monthly income plans, short term plans, liquid funds and fixed maturity plans Investment options in debt funds
- Apart from these categories debt funds include various funds investing in short term, medium term and long term bonds
- Debt funds are preferred by individuals who are not willing to invest in a highly volatile equity market.
- A debt fund provides a stead but low income relative to equity. It is comparatively less volatile
7) Gyan Circle Ventures:
Context: The Union Minister for Education has inaugurated the Gyan Circle Ventures on October 8, 2020.
- It is a meity funded Technology Business Incubator (TBI) developed by the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Andhra Pradesh.
- Gyan Circle Ventures has been approved by the Ministry of Information Technology (meity).
- It functions as a Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE 2.0) incubation center.
- These incubator would hold the institutions’ entrepreneurial spirit by utilizing its intellectual capital.
- It would also encourage the young minds to engage in using emerging technologies including the Artificial Intelligence (AI), Block-chain, Cyber Physical Systems (CPS), Cyber Security, Internet of Things (iot) and Robotics.
- These, ‘Gyan Circle ventures’ have the potential to infuse entrepreneurship in young minds.
- It would also encourage them to become successful innovators.
- The Gyan Circle Ventures would also serve as a hub for innovation and startups by providing support in the form of investments, infrastructure and mentoring.
Technology Business Incubator (TBI)
- The TBI will have an Advisory Committee.
- It would comprise of leading industrialists, entrepreneurs and technical experts.
- The TBI would enable incubates to hold expert mentors and networks from academia as well as the industry.
- The incubator would serve as a catalyst for advancing the society-conscious entrepreneurship and would encourage job creation.
Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE 2.0)
- TIDE 2.0 scheme was launched to promote the tech entrepreneurship by providing the financial and technical support to incubators who are engaged in supporting startups.
- These startups are primarily engaged in using technologies such as iot, AI, Block-chain, Robotics etc.
- This Scheme would be implemented by empowering 51 incubators and handholding around 2000 tech start-ups in a period of 5 years.
- The financial support for startups will be provided to Facilitate IPR filings.
Meity Startup Hub (MSH)
- The MSH would be setup under TIDE 2.0.
- It will ensure linkage in the TIDE centres, theme based incubation centres and Centre of Excellences on emerging technologies.