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Here are the topics covered for 17th October 2023:
GS-1: Surrogacy regulation in India
GS-2: Freedom of speech, India and U.K. discuss Indo-Pacific and trade
GS-3: Himalayan Region needs its own EIA
Facts for Prelims: Setu Bandhan Scheme, IMF
Surrogacy regulation in India
- A Bench of SC questioned why only a widow or a divorcee aged between 35 and 45 could avail of the procedure under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021.
- Surrogacy in India is regulated by the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021, which only allows altruistic surrogacy and excludes unmarried women from availing of the procedure.
Surrogacy regulation in India and around the World:
Features of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021
- Only altruistic surrogacy is allowed. where the surrogate is not paid any monetary compensation for her services.
- The surrogate must be an Indian citizen, aged between 21 and 35 years, and have her own child.
- The intended parents must be an Indian married couple, aged between 23 and 50 years, and have been married for at least five years.
- The intended couple must not have any living child (biological, adopted or surrogate).
- The surrogate and the intended parents must obtain a certificate of eligibility and essentiality from the appropriate authority before commencing the surrogacy process.
- A National Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy Board has been established to oversee the implementation of the Act and to regulate surrogacy clinics.
Surrogacy rules around the world
- United States: Surrogacy is legal in all 50 states, but the laws vary from state to state. Some states allow both altruistic and commercial surrogacy, while others only allow altruistic surrogacy.
- United Kingdom: Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but it is only allowed for altruistic purposes. Commercial surrogacy is illegal.
- Canada: Surrogacy is legal in Canada, but it is only allowed for altruistic purposes. Commercial surrogacy is illegal.
- Australia: Surrogacy is legal in all Australian states and territories, but the laws vary from state to state. Some states allow both altruistic and commercial surrogacy, while others only allow altruistic surrogacy.
- A petition submitted by a 44-year-old unmarried woman, contested Section 2(1)(s) of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act.
- This section excludes women from accessing surrogacy services and further requires single women (widows or divorcees) to use their own eggs for the procedure, effectively preventing them from utilizing donor gametes.
- The petitioner contended that these restrictions are irrational, unlawful, discriminatory, and in violation of her fundamental rights under Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution.
- The Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 and the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act, 2021 collectively establish a comprehensive framework for regulating surrogacy in India. These laws prohibit commercial surrogacy, where surrogate mothers receive financial compensation beyond necessary medical expenses.
- The ongoing legal challenge and the High Court’s probing questions highlight the need to reevaluate India’s surrogacy regulations.
- The court’s consideration of the petitioner’s arguments and the fundamental rights at stake suggests that amendments may be necessary to ensure a more inclusive and fair approach to surrogacy.
- The issue of whether age and genetic restrictions are reasonable in today’s diverse societal landscape is a matter that requires thorough examination.
- The outcome of this legal battle could potentially lead to changes in surrogacy laws in India, with broader implications for individuals who seek surrogacy as a means to expand their families.
Freedom of speech
- Media organizations called for the President of India’s intervention to safeguard constitutionally granted freedoms of speech, the right to practice one’s occupation and livelihood. Journalists held a day-long protest at the Press Club of India to highlight the increasing attacks on media freedom.
- In a letter addressed to the President, these organizations emphasized the unprecedented challenges faced by independent media in India. The letter stated that draconian laws are increasingly being used against journalists, creating precarious working conditions and threatening media freedom.
- One notable incident this month involved the arrest of Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of the news portal NewsClick, and Amit Chakravarty, the head of its human resource department, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
- The letter from the Press Club of India and other media bodies expressed concern that these laws do not recognize the vital role played by independent press as the voice of diverse citizens.
- These laws empower authorities to seize essential equipment like phones, laptops, and hard disks, which are the livelihood source for many journalists. Additionally, these laws frequently do not provide for bail, making incarceration the norm.
- The letter highlighted the importance of a free media for a thriving democracy. Independent media has played a crucial role in bringing pressing issues to light, representing the concerns of ordinary citizens. It emphasized that for democracy to progress, free media is essential.
- They expressed support for victimized journalists, writers, intellectuals, satirists, and comedians who have fearlessly expressed their views.
- They criticized the misuse of State power under the BJP-led Central government and expressed concern about creating fear among the journalist community. This, they argued, is a threat to democracy and hinders people’s access to authentic information from various media sources, including social media.
The Indian Himalayan Region needs its own EIA
- The recent environmental disasters in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), including the Teesta dam breach in Sikkim and floods/landslides in Himachal Pradesh, underscore the detrimental impact of our current development model on the region’s ecology.
- Despite an understanding of the fragility of the IHR, there is scant acknowledgement of its need for a different set of environmental standards and clearances
Understanding the EIA
- EIA, defined by UNEP, evaluates the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a project before implementation.
- It includes comparing project alternatives, predicting environmental consequences, and proposing mitigation strategies.
- Success hinges on comprehensive and reliable data.
Historical Context of EIA in India
- EIA in India began in 1976-77, focusing on river valley projects’ environmental aspects.
- Initially, environmental clearance was an administrative decision, later formalized under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986.
Challenges in the Current EIA Framework
- The existing framework employs uniform threshold limits for project categories nationwide, including ecologically sensitive areas like the IHR.
- Despite recognizing the IHR’s vulnerabilities and ecological importance, it receives no unique consideration.
- Some industries are restricted due to state policies, but many follow the same thresholds as other regions.
- The graded approach used in India’s regulatory system considers habitat sensitivity but doesn’t grant the IHR its deserved special consideration.
- The Himalayas are prone to extreme weather, seismic activity, and climate change, yet no unique environmental standards are established for the IHR.
Addressing the IHR’s Environmental Needs
- Adapt the EIA process for the IHR at all stages to align with its ecological requirements.
- Include clauses in the notification’s general conditions pertaining to the IHR, mountainous regions, or specific characteristics that enhance the project proponent’s responsibility.
- Implement a national-level regulator for impartial project appraisal and monitoring, as suggested by the Supreme Court in 2011.
- Explore tools like strategic environmental assessment to consider cumulative development impacts in specific areas.
- Adapting the EIA process to cater to the ecological sensitivities and vulnerabilities of the Indian Himalayan Region is crucial.
- A tailored EIA framework, incorporating differentiated risk management, specific environmental standards, and a national-level regulator, is necessary to ensure the region’s sustainable development and ecological preservation.
India and U.K. discuss Indo-Pacific and trade
- India and the United Kingdom reiterated their commitment to maritime freedom during the inaugural “2+2” Foreign and Defence Dialogue on October 16. The discussion gained significance due to ongoing talks for a Free Trade Agreement.
Key Discussion Points:
- The two nations explored opportunities for collaboration in trade, investment, defence, emerging technologies, civil aviation, healthcare, energy, culture, and strengthening people-to-people connections.
- Officials exchanged assessments on recent international developments, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Counterterrorism, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and maritime security were among the ideas discussed.
- The Indian delegation, Joint Secretary Europe-West, Ministry of External Affairs, and Joint Secretary International Cooperation, Ministry of Defence.
- The U.K. delegation was co-chaired by Ben Mellor, India Director, Indian Ocean Directorate, FCDO, and Lt. General Rob Magowan, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Finance and Military Capability, Ministry of Defence.
Progress and Conclusion:
- Overall, the expressed satisfaction signifies that India and the United Kingdom are making progress in strengthening their bilateral relationship across various dimensions, with a particular emphasis on political, economic, defence, and cultural cooperation.
- while also extending their collaborative efforts to regional and multilateral platforms. This mutual commitment to progress reflects a desire for deeper and more effective cooperation between the two nations.
Facts for Prelims:
Setu Bandhan Scheme
- The Setu Bandhan Scheme is a program launched by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in 2021-22 to facilitate the construction of bridges on State Roads, replacing existing level crossings to enhance road safety.
- The scheme is centrally sponsored, with the Central Government providing 100% funding. State Governments are responsible for project identification and implementation.
- The scheme has been well-received by State Governments, and a number of projects have been sanctioned. For example, in 2022-23, the Central Government sanctioned 7 bridge projects worth Rs 118.50 Crores in Arunachal Pradesh under the scheme.
- The Setu Bandhan Scheme is a significant step towards improving road safety and connectivity in India. The scheme is expected to have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people across the country.
International Monetary Fund
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a global organization established in 1945 following the Bretton Woods conference.
- Its core mission is to foster worldwide economic growth, ensure financial stability, stimulate international trade, and alleviate poverty.
- The IMF has two main goals:
- To promote global economic growth and financial stability.
- To encourage international trade and reduce poverty.
- The IMF achieves its goals by providing loans to countries that are experiencing financial difficulties, by offering technical assistance and training to governments, and by conducting research on the global economy.
- The IMF also publishes reports on the global economy, such as the World Economic Outlook and the Global Financial Stability Report. These reports provide valuable insights into the state of the global economy and the risks that could lie ahead.