Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Surrogacy Act
- Accessible India Campaign
- Regulations on Fishing / Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
- State of Environment Report 2022
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Surrogacy Act
Context : A female filed a petition in Delhi High Court, along with another male petitioner, to question why marital status, age or gender should be the criteria for prohibiting someone from commissioning a surrogacy.
Issue stated in the Petition
- Under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 a married couple can opt for surrogacy only on medical grounds.
- The law defines a couple as a married Indian “man and woman” and prescribes an age band of 23 to 50 for the woman and 26 to 55 for the man to opt for surrogacy.
- The couple should not have a child of their own. Though the law allows a single woman to choose surrogacy, she has to be a widow or a divorcee between the age of 35 and 45. Single men are not eligible.
- The woman petitioner, who does not want to be identified, and Delhi-based lawyer Karan Balraj Mehta, who is single, have challenged in the court the surrogacy law and the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act, 2021 which provides a regulatory framework for surrogacy.
- They have also challenged the ban on commercial surrogacy. Last week, the court sought a response from the Centre to their petition.
About Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021
- The Act defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an intending couple with the intention to hand over the child after the birth to the intending couple.
Regulation of surrogacy
- The Act prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy.
- Altruistic surrogacy involves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy.
- Commercial surrogacy includes surrogacy or its related procedures undertaken for a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) exceeding the basic medical expenses and insurance coverage.
Purposes for which surrogacy is permitted
- Surrogacy is permitted when it is:
- for intending couples who suffer from proven infertility
- not for commercial purposes
- not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation
- for any condition or disease specified through regulations.
Eligibility criteria for intending couple
- The intending couple should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.
- A certificate of essentiality will be issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions:
- a certificate of proven infertility of one or both members of the intending couple from a District Medical Board;
- an order of parentage and custody of the surrogate child passed by a Magistrate’s court; and )
- insurance coverage for a period of 16 months covering postpartum delivery complications for the surrogate.
- The certificate of eligibility to the intending couple is issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions:
- the couple being Indian citizens and married for at least five years;
- between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband);
- they do not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate); this would not include a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness;
- other conditions that may be specified by regulations.
Eligibility criteria for surrogate mother
- To obtain a certificate of eligibility from the appropriate authority, the surrogate mother has to be:
- a close relative of the intending couple;
- a married woman having a child of her own;
- 25 to 35 years old;
- a surrogate only once in her lifetime; and
- possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy.
- Further, the surrogate mother cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy.
- The central and state governments shall appoint one or more appropriate authorities within 90 days of the Bill becoming an Act.
- The functions of the appropriate authority include;
- granting, suspending or cancelling registration of surrogacy clinics;
- enforcing standards for surrogacy clinics;
- investigating and taking action against breach of the provisions of the Bill;
- recommending modifications to the rules and regulations.
Registration of surrogacy clinics
- Surrogacy clinics cannot undertake surrogacy related procedures unless they are registered by the appropriate authority.
- Clinics must apply for registration within a period of 60 days from the date of appointment of the appropriate authority.
National and State Surrogacy Boards
- The central and the state governments shall constitute the National Surrogacy Board (NSB) and the State Surrogacy Boards (SSB), respectively.
- Functions of the NSB include,
- advising the central government on policy matters relating to surrogacy;
- laying down the code of conduct of surrogacy clinics; and
- supervising the functioning of SSBs.
Parentage and abortion of surrogate child
- A child born out of a surrogacy procedure will be deemed to be the biological child of the intending couple.
- An abortion of the surrogate child requires the written consent of the surrogate mother and the authorisation of the appropriate authority.
- This authorisation must be compliant with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
- Further, the surrogate mother will have an option to withdraw from surrogacy before the embryo is implanted in her womb.
Offences and penalties
- The offences under the Bill include:
- undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy
- exploiting the surrogate mother
- abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child
- selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy.
- The penalty for such offences is imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
- The act specifies a range of offences and penalties for other contraventions of the provisions of the act.
2 . Accessible India Campaign
Context : With its deadline of June 2022 almost up, the status of targets under the Accessible India Campaign (AIC) is likely to be discussed during a meeting of the Central Advisory Board on Disability later this month, according to Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry sources. A Board was likely to assess the progress made by the States so far and the possibility of an extension, an official of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) said.
About Accessible India Campaign
- The campaign, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 3, 2015, aimed at making a proportion of government buildings, transport and websites accessible for persons with disabilities (PwD) by deadlines in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
- The main objective of the campaign is to make public spaces friendly for persons with disabilities. The campaign is also called Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan.
- The scheme was launched by Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
- The initiative is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India signed in 2007.
- The scheme was also launched under Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. Under the act, the scheme comes under the jurisdiction of sections 44, 45 and 46 that provides equal opportunities and protection of rights in transport sector to those who are physically challenged.
- Apart from public buses, the Accessible India Campaign, was aimed at making government buildings, airports, railway stations and government websites accessible to persons with disabilities.
Targets of the campaign
- The campaign aims at making at least 50% of government owned buildings as disabled-friendly. It was aimed at doing in three phases.
- In phase 1, the campaign focused on making international airports disabled-friendly by 2016.
- In phase 2, it aimed at making 25% of public transport vehicles disabled-friendly by 2018.
- In phase 3, it aimed at making 50% of government buildings disabled-friendly.
- However, the deadline was extended to March 2020 and then again to June 2022.
3 . Regulations on Fishing / Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
Context : As the Quad grouping looks to track and address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Indo-Pacific, an ambitious effort to install the satellite-based Vehicle Monitoring System (VMS) for small fishing vessels (less than 20 metres) across the country’s coastline is still to be rolled out. Despite pilot studies being conducted, the project, conceived in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, remains stuck, government officials say.
About Vehicle Monitoring System (VMS) for small fishing vessels
- Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) is a general term to describe systems that are used in commercial fishing to allow environmental and fisheries regulatory organizations to track and monitor the activities of fishing vessels.
- They are a key part of monitoring control and surveillance (MCS) programs at national and international levels. VMS may be used to monitor vessels in the territorial waters of a country or a subdivision of a country, or in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that extend 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) from the coasts of many countries.
- VMS systems are used to improve the management and sustainability of the marine environment, through ensuring proper fishing practices and the prevention of illegal fishing, and thus protect and enhance the livelihoods of fishermen.
- e Automatic Identification System (AIS) is for bigger ships, which was made compulsory for all vessels above 20 metres after 26/11 by the National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS).
- For smaller fishing vessels, VMS, which is slightly different from AIS, is used. AIS is a broadcast mode which anyone can receive while VMS is a proprietary system and one can’t receive unless the data is given. In terms of functioning VMS has a transponder which relays data via a satellite.
Reasons for delay in implementation
- Tracking of our small fishing vessels is something pending since 26/11, but it has been stuck primarily due to two reasons,
- Fishermen don’t want to get tagged as they do not want any of their illegal activities recorded and they are sceptical that others will get to know of where there is good catch.
- Second is that fishing is a State subject and there are local politics involved. There is no legislation to force fishermen to install the transponders and efforts by the Ministry of Fisheries to table the Indian Marine Fisheries Bill, 2021 which covers this has repeatedly been delayed due to the opposition from the States and fishermen.
Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA)
- The Quad grouping, comprising India, Australia, Japan and the U.S., announced at the Tokyo summit last month an ambitious Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative to track “dark shipping” and to build a “faster, wider, and more accurate maritime picture of near-real-time activities in partners’ waters” integrating three critical regions in the Indo-Pacific — the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- The IPMDA is designed to work with regional partners to respond to humanitarian and natural disasters, and combat illegal fishing.
- This initiative will transform the ability of partners in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region to fully monitor the waters on their shores, and, in turn, uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific.
- It will offer a near-real-time, integrated, and cost-effective maritime domain awareness picture. This common operating picture will integrate three critical regions — the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region — in the Indo-Pacific.
- The benefits of this picture are vast: it will allow tracking of “dark shipping” and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea, as well as improve partners’ ability to respond to climate and humanitarian events and to protect their fisheries, which are vital to many Indo-Pacific economies.
- Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a broad term that captures a wide variety of fishing activity.
- IUU fishing is found in all types and dimensions of fisheries; it occurs both on the high seas and in areas within national jurisdiction. It concerns all aspects and stages of the capture and utilisation of fish, and it may sometimes be associated with organized crime.
- Reference to broad activities classified as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are included in the IPOA-IUU as follows:
- Illegal fishing:
- conducted by national or foreign vessels in waters under the jurisdiction of a State, without the permission of that State, or in contravention of its laws and regulations;
- conducted by vessels flying the flag of States that are parties to a relevant regional fisheries management organisation but operate in contravention of the conservation and management measures adopted by that organisation and by which the States are bound, or relevant provisions of the applicable international law; or
- in violation of national laws or international obligations, including those undertaken by cooperating States to a relevant regional fisheries management organization.
- Unreported fishing:
- which have not been reported, or have been misreported, to the relevant national authority, in contravention of national laws and regulations; or
- are undertaken in the area of competence of a relevant regional fisheries management organisation which have not been reported or have been misreported, in contravention of the reporting procedures of that organisation.
- Unregulated fishing:
- in the area of application of a relevant regional fisheries management organization that are conducted by vessels without nationality, or by those flying the flag of a State not party to that organization, or by a fishing entity, in a manner that is not consistent with or contravenes the conservation and management measures of that organization; or
- in areas or for fish stocks in relation to which there are no applicable conservation or management measures and where such fishing activities are conducted in a manner inconsistent with State responsibilities for the conservation of living marine resources under international law.
Main regulations globally on IUU fishing
- There are two main regulations globally on IUU fishing — the Cape Town Agreement (CTA) and the Agreement on Ports State Measures (PSMA) — and India is, so far, not a signatory to both agreements.
4 . State of Environment Report, 2022
Context : Three of every four river monitoring stations in India posted alarming levels of heavy toxic metals such as lead, iron, nickel, cadmium, arsenic, chromium and copper.
About the Report
- State of Environment Report, 2022 is the work of environmental NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
- The report is an annual compendium of environment-development data and is derived from public sources.
- In about a fourth of the stations, which are spread across 117 rivers and tributaries, high levels of two or more toxic metals were reported.
- Of the 33 monitoring stations in the Ganga, 10 had high levels of contaminants. The river, which is the focus of the Centre’s Namami Gange mission, has high levels of lead, iron, nickel, cadmium and arsenic, according to the
- India has 764 river quality monitoring stations across 28 States. Of these, the Central Water Commission tested water samples from 688 stations for heavy metals between August 2018 and December 2020.
- Of the 588 water quality stations monitored for pollution, total coliform and biochemical oxygen demand was high in 239 and 88 stations across 21 States — an indicator of poor wastewater treatment from industry, agriculture and domestic households.
- India dumps 72% of its sewage without treatment. Ten States do not treat their sewage at all, as per the Central Pollution Control Board.
- Over a third of India’s coastline that is spread across 6,907 km saw some degree of erosion between 1990 and 2018. West Bengal is the worst hit with over 60% of its shoreline under erosion. The reasons for coastal erosion include increase in frequency of cyclones and sea level rise and activities such as construction of harbours, beach mining and building of dams.
- While the global average of the Ocean Health Index, a measure that looks at how sustainably humans are exploiting ocean resources, has improved between 2012 and 2021, India’s score in the index has declined over the same period,
- India’s total forest cover has registered a little over a 0.5% increase between 2017 and 2021 though most of the increase has taken place in the open forest category, which includes commercial plantations. This has happened at the cost of moderately dense forest, which is normally the area closest to human habitations. At the same time, very dense forests, which absorb maximum carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, occupy just 3% of total forest cover.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- The emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.
- Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
- Its diet consists primarily of fish, but also includes crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. While hunting, the species can remain submerged around 20 minutes.
- It has several adaptations to facilitate this, including an unusually structured haemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels, solid bones to reduce barotrauma, and the ability to reduce its metabolism and shut down non-essential organ functions.
- The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, emperor penguins trek 50–120 km (31–75 mi) over the ice to breeding colonies which can contain up to several thousand individuals. The female lays a single egg, which is incubated for just over two months by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony. The lifespan is typically 20 years in the wild, although observations suggest that some individuals may live to 50 years of age.
- In 2012 the emperor penguin was uplisted from a species of least concern to near threatened by the IUCN.
Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties
- A mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.
- A mutual legal assistance request is commonly used to formally interrogate a suspect in a criminal case, when the suspect resides in a foreign country.
- eVTOL is one of the newer technologies and developments in the aerospace industry.
- An electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft is the one that uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically.
- Most eVTOLs also use what is called as distributed electric propulsion technology which means integrating a complex propulsion system with the airframe. There are multiple motors for various functions; to increase efficiency; and to also ensure safety.
- This technology has grown on account of successes in electric propulsion based on progress in motor, battery, fuel cell and electronic controller technologies and also fuelled by the need for new vehicle technology that ensures urban air mobility (UAM).
- There are an estimated 250 eVTOL concepts or more being fine-tuned to bring alive the concept of UAM. Some of these include the use of multi-rotors, fixed-wing and tilt-wing concepts backed by sensors, cameras and even radar. The key word here is “autonomous connectivity”. Some of these are in various test phases. There are also others undergoing test flights so as to be certified for use.
- In short, eVTOLs have been likened to “a third wave in an aerial revolution”; the first being the advent of commercial flying, and the second, the age of helicopters.