Daily Current Affairs: 2nd December 2021

Topics covered

  1. Dam Safety bill
  2. Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
  3. Code of Ethics for Digital Platforms
  4. Facts for Prelims
  5. Places in News

1 . Dam Safety Bill

Context : Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who introduced The Dam Safety Bill, 2019 in the House

Need of Dam Safety Law

  • Introducing the bill in the Lok Sabha in August 2019, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had said that some 40 dams have collapsed in India since Independence. 
  • One of the worst disasters took place in Gujarat in 1979 when the Machhu dam collapsed resulting in the loss of thousands of lives.  
  • Following the disaster, several states and public sector undertakings (PSUs) that own dams in the country set up their own dam safety organisations (DSOs), and have taken up measures for ensuring dam safety in their respective jurisdictions.
  • Some 18 states and five dam-owning organisations — National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, Bhakra Beas Management Board, Damodar Valley Corporation, Kerala State Electricity Board and Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam — have created their own DSOs.
  • In the absence of a central law, however, the safety regulations vary from state to state. 

How is Centre legislating on water, a subject under the state list?

  • Though water is under the state list, the Centre has brought the legislation under Article 246 of the Constitution read with Entry 56 and Entry 97 Of List I in the Union list.
  • Article 246 empowers Parliament to legislate on any matter enumerated in List I of the Union list in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Entry 56 allows Parliament to make laws on the regulation of inter-state rivers and river valleys if it declares such regulation to be expedient in public interest. Entry 97 allows Parliament to legislate on any other matter not enumerated in List II or List III including any tax not mentioned in either of those Lists.

What will the dam safety bill do? 

  • The bill provides for “surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of the specified dam for prevention of dam failure related disaster” and also makes provision for “institutional mechanisms to ensure their safe functioning”.
  • There will be four layers of monitoring — two at the central level and two at the state level — to ensure dam safety. 
  • A National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) will be set up at the central level, which will be headed by CWC chairman, and include 10 representatives of central government not below the rank of joint secretary, nominated by the Centre, and seven representatives of state government. 
  • A National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) shall also be established within a period of 60 days, which will implement policy, guidelines and standards evolved by NCDS. Any decision taken by the NDSA shall be binding upon all the parties.
  • At the state level, each state government shall establish a State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO), which shall be constituted within a period of 180 days. 
  • The SDSO shall keep perpetual surveillance, carry out inspections and monitor the operation and maintenance of specified dams falling under their jurisdiction. States will also have to constitute a State Committee on Dam Safety.
  • The bill will cover all dams constructed before or after the commencement of this Act, which are above 15 metres in height, measured from the lowest portion of the general foundation area to the top of the dam, or between 10 metres and 15 metres in height and satisfies at least one of the following: The length of the crest is not less than 500 m, the capacity of the reservoir formed by the dam is not less than 1 MCM (million cubic metre), the maximum flood discharge dealt with by the dam is not less than 2,000 cumec (cubic metre per second), or the dam has specially difficult foundation problems or the dam is of unusual design.  
  • The bill provides for stringent penalties in case of violations. If anybody is found obstructing any officer or employee of the central government or the state government or person authorised by National Committee or Authority or the state committee or the SDSO in discharge of functions under this Act, or refuses to comply with any direction given by them, shall face a maximum of two years jail, or a fine, or both.
  • Action will also be taken if the offence is committed by a government or government official, company or corporate, officials of the company. 

2 . Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020

Context: The Lok Sabha passed the the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020, that proposes the establishment of a national registry and registration authority for all clinics and medical professionals serving in the field of IVF.

About the Bill

  • The Bill seeks to provide for the regulation of Assisted Reproductive Technology services in the country. 

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART):

  • The Bill defines ART to include all techniques that seek to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm or the oocyte (immature egg cell) outside the human body and transferring the gamete or the embryo into the reproductive system of a woman. 
  • Examples of ART services include gamete (sperm or oocyte) donation, in-vitro-fertilisation (fertilising an egg in the lab), and gestational surrogacy (the child is not biologically related to surrogate mother). 
  • ART services will be provided through:
    • ART clinics, which offer ART related treatments and procedures, and
    • ART banks, which store and supply gametes.

Regulation of ART clinics and banks:

  • The Bill provides that every ART clinic and bank must be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India. 
  • The National Registry will be established under the Bill and will act as a central database with details of all ART clinics and banks in the country. 
  • State governments will appoint registration authorities for facilitating the registration process.  Clinics and banks will be registered only if they adhere to certain standards (specialised manpower, physical infrastructure, and diagnostic facilities). 
  • The registration will be valid for five years and can be renewed for a further five years.  Registration may be cancelled or suspended if the entity contravenes the provisions of the Bill. 

Conditions for gamete donation and supply

  • Screening of gamete donors, collection and storage of semen, and provision of oocyte donor can only be done by a registered ART bank. 
  • A bank can obtain semen from males between 21 and 55 years of age, and oocytes from females between 23 and 35 years of age
  • An oocyte donor should be an ever-married woman having at least one alive child of her own (minimum three years of age). 
  • The woman can donate oocyte only once in her life and not more than seven oocytes can be retrieved from her. 
  • A bank cannot supply gamete of a single donor to more than one commissioning couple (couple seeking services).

Conditions for offering ART services:

  • ART procedures can only be carried out with the written informed consent of both the party seeking ART services as well as the donor. 
  • The party seeking ART services will be required to provide insurance coverage in the favour of the oocyte donor (for any loss, damage, or death of the donor). 
  • A clinic is prohibited from offering to provide a child of pre-determined sex. 
  • The Bill also requires checking for genetic diseases before the embryo implantation.

Rights of a child born through ART

  • A child born through ART will be deemed to be a biological child of the commissioning couple and will be entitled to the rights and privileges available to a natural child of the commissioning couple. 
  • A donor will not have any parental rights over the child.

National and State Boards: 

  • The Bill provides that the National and State Boards for Surrogacy constituted under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 will act as the National and State Board respectively for the regulation of ART services. 
  • Key powers and functions of the National Board include:
    • advising the central government on ART related policy matters,
    • reviewing and monitoring the implementation of the Bill,
    • formulating code of conduct and standards for ART clinics and banks, and
    • overseeing various bodies to be constituted under the Bill. 
  • The State Boards will coordinate enforcement of the policies and guidelines for ART as per the recommendations, policies, and regulations of the National Board.

Offences and penalties

  • Offences under the Bill include:
    • abandoning, or exploiting children born through ART,
    • selling, purchasing, trading, or importing human embryos or gametes,
    • using intermediates to obtain donors,
    • exploiting commissioning couple, woman, or the gamete donor in any form, and
    • transferring the human embryo into a male or an animal. 
  • These offences will be punishable with a fine between five and ten lakh rupees for the first contravention. 
  • For subsequent contraventions, these offences will be punishable with imprisonment for a term between eight and 12 years, and a fine between 10 and 20 lakh rupees. 
  • Any clinic or bank advertising or offering sex-selective ART will be punishable with imprisonment between five and ten years, or fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, or both. 
  • No court will take cognisance of offences under the Bill, except on a complaint made by the National or State Board or any officer authorised by the Boards. 

3 . Code of Ethics for Digital

Context : Parliamentary panel asked the Government to ensure a code of ethics is followed in the digital media space while preserving the right to freedom of expression.

About the Report

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology in its presented the 27th report on ‘Ethical Standards in Media Coverage’,
  • Report calls upon the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) “to ensure that adequate consultations take place with all stakeholders” and that monitoring of digital media may be exercised while fully preserving the right to freedom of expression.

Details of the Report

  • The panel observed that social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter, have placed journalism in the hands of the citizens. Citizens use their personal recording devices including cellphones to capture events and post them on the Internet, it noted.
  • The panel also considered the issue of unregulated content made available through online and OTT (over the top) platforms “which had hitherto escaped any architecture of regulation”.
  • During the COVID pandemic, more and more people have resorted to these platforms due to closure of cinema halls. The committee is conscious that the information and content portrayed on such platforms can impact viewers, including minor children. “At the same time, the committee acknowledges that OTT platforms offer freedom to the individual user to decide what to watch, a freedom that should not be abridged by the heavy hand of Government,” the panel
  • Referring to the latest ‘The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’ notified in February this year, the panel said it hoped that the new rules and guidelines would go a “long way in ensuring transparency and accountability for social media platforms with a robust oversight mechanism by the government.”
  • It also hoped that the MIB along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology will work in tandem to ensure that the code for ethics is followed by digital media also.
  • The report said that any regulation must have checks and balances to ensure that it is neither misused nor violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

4 . Fact for Prelims

e-Shram portal 

  • Ministry of Labour & Employment has developed eSHRAM portal for creating a National Database of Unorganized Workers (NDUW), which will be seeded with Aadhaar.
  • It will have details of name, occupation, address,  educational qualification, skill types and family details etc. for optimum realization of their employability and extend the benefits of the social security schemes to them.
  • It is the first-ever national database of unorganised workers including migrant workers, construction workers, gig and platform workers, etc.

G20 ‘Troika’

  • A “Troika”, consists of the country that holds the Presidency, its predecessor and its successor
  • India recently  joined the G20 ‘Troika’.
  • With this move, India has started the procedure for taking over the G20 presidency next year.
  • The Troika countries are currently Italy, Indonesia and India.
  • India will assume the G20 presidency on December 1, 2022 from Indonesia, and will convene the G20 Leaders’ Summit for the first time in India in 2023.
  • Italy hosted the G20 summit during October 30-31 

5 . Places in News

Peechi-Vazhany wildlife division

  • Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary headquartered in Peechi, Thrissur District of Kerala, India.
  • The sanctuary was established in 1958 consisting of Palappilli- Nelliyampathi forests including the area of Chimmony Wildlife sanctuary
  • It is the second oldest sanctuary in Kerala.
  • Recently a butterfly survey was coducted at the Peechi-Vazhani wildlife division and has recorded a remarkable increase in the species’ numbers. Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in India, and Grass Jewel, the smallest, were found during the survey. Buddha Peacock, the State butterfly of Kerala, was also recorded.

Nahargarh wildlife fort and sanctuary

  • It is located about 12 km from Jaipur, Rajasthan
  • The sanctuary covers an area of 720 hectares, enclosing the famous Nahargarh Fort on the Jaipur-Delhi highway.
  • The sanctuary has been named Nahar, because it falls under Nahar Village (Nahad village).
  • The Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 285 species of birds, Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers, sloth bear, hyenas, panthers, deer, crocodiles etc.
  • Nahargarh Fort was made by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II as a defence mechanism for the Jaipur city. 

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