9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 6, 2019

Lok Sabha passes Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019. The bill aims to regulate the practice and process of surrogacy in India.
  2. The objectives of the bill are to: a) ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, b) prohibit commercial surrogacy and c) allow ethical altruistic surrogacy to the needy infertile Indian couples on fulfilment of conditions.
  3. It defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an eligible couple and agrees to hand over the child to them after the birth.
  4. It allows altruistic surrogacy. Altruistic surrogacy involves an arrangement where the couple does not pay the surrogate mother any compensation other than the medical and insurance expenses related to the pregnancy.
  5. The bill prohibits commercial surrogacy which includes compensation (in cash or kind) paid to the surrogate mother, which exceeds the reasonable medical expenses associated with the pregnancy.
  6. The bill mentions that the couple intending to commission a surrogacy arrangement must be a close relative of the surrogate mother. The surrogate mother has to married with a child of her own, in the age bracket of 25 to 35 years old, and should not have been a surrogate mother before.
  7. Further, the couple should be Indian citizens who have been married for at least five years and are in the age group of 23-50 years (female partner) and 26-55 years (male partner). They also need secure a medical certificate stating that either or both partners are infertile
  8. The couple also should not have any surviving child (whether biological, adopted or surrogate), except if the surviving child is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from a fatal illness.
  9. The bill states any child born out of a surrogacy procedure shall be the biological child of the intending couple. Also, the child will be entitled to all rights and privileges that are available to a natural child
  10. The Bill proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories.

Lok Sabha passes transgender protection Bill

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019.
  2. The Bill aims at the social, economic and educational empowerment of transgender persons.
  3. Under the bill, transgender persons are defined as those “whose gender does not match the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-men or trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons having socio-cultural identities”
  4. According to the bill, a person would have the right to choose to be identified as a man, woman or transgender, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy.
  5. It also requires transgender persons to go through a district magistrate and district screening committee to get certified as a transperson.
  6. It also states that the government, through an insurance scheme, will cover medical expenses for sex reassignment surgery, hormonal therapy, laser therapy or any such health related expenses of transgender persons
  7. The Bill prohibits any person or establishment from discriminating against a transgender person in any way.
  8. It has also proposed establishing a National Council for Transgender persons. The Council would advise the central government on related policies and legislation and also act as a centre for grievance redressal.

Moon, Mercury may contain more water ice than thought

  1. According to a new analysis of data from NASA’s LRO and MESSENGER spacecraft, Earth’s Moon and Mercury (the closest planet to Sun) may contain significantly more water ice than previously thought
  2. The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of Moon and Mercury. The poles of Mercury and the Moon are among the coldest places in the solar system.
  3. Unlike Earth, the spin axes of Mercury and the Moon are oriented such that, in their polar regions, the Sun never rises high above the horizon.
  4. Consequently, polar topographic depressions, such as impact craters (formed when meteoroids or comets impact the surface) remain permanently shadowed
  5. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft which orbits the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit.
  6. MESSENGER – the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft is NASA robotic spacecraft that orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015. It is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

Bills against lynching, honour killing passed

  1. The Rajasthan Assembly has passed Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, and the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019.
  2. Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019 defines lynching as an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation and ethnicity.
  3. It provides for life imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh to convicts in cases of mob lynching involving the victim’s death.
  4. It also provides for appointment of a nodal officer of the rank of Inspector-General of Police to prevent lynchings and establishment of relief camps in safe zones for the victims.
  5. The Supreme Court in 2018 in the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India had recommended the central government to enact a legislation to create a separate offence for lynching
  6. The Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019 provides for death penalty or life sentence and fine up to ₹5 lakh for killing a couple or either of them in the name of family honour.

Article 371

  1. Article 371 of the Indian Constitution grants some temporary, transition and special provisions to some states in India.
  2. Article 371 provides special powers to the governors of Gujarat and Maharashtra to create independent development boards in regions such as Vidarbha, Marathwada, Kutch etc.
  3. Article 371 (A) states that laws enacted by Parliament will not apply to Nagaland in respect to religious or social practices of the Nagas, its customary laws, and procedures, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary laws and ownership and transfer of land and its resources. The Central laws in relation to these matters can apply only if the Legislative Council agrees to it by passing a resolution.
  4. Article 371 (B) provides that to give autonomy and voice to tribes, the President can provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of Legislative Assembly of the state consisting of members elected from the tribal areas of Assam. Article 371 (C) is for Manipur. It is similar to that of 371 (B)
  5. Article 371 (D) and (E) provides for special provisions for Andhra Pradesh. It states that the President can provide equal opportunities for the local populace in public education and employment.
  6. Articles 371 (F), talk about special provisions with respect to Sikkim. It states that that the Legislative Assembly shall consist of not less than 30 members. In order to reflect the diversity of different groups in Sikkim, seats in the assembly are provided to people of these different sections. Article 371 (G) for Mizoram is similar to that of Article 371 (A) for Nagaland
  7. 371 (H) talks about special provisions for Arunachal Pradesh. Its states that the governor has special powers on the state’s law and order situation and can overrule the chief minister’s decision on the basis of this provision.
  8. Article 371 (I) deals with special provisions for Goa. Article 371 (J) grants special status to six backward districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka region

Government unveils draft e-com norms

  1. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has introduced the draft e-commerce guidelines for consumer protection.
  2. The proposed rules are aimed at curbing the sale of counterfeit goods, streamlining returns and refunds and delineating the liabilities of sellers and online marketplaces.
  3. The rules provides that every e-commerce entity needs to publish the name and contact details of the grievance officer on their website along with the mechanism by which users can lodge their complaints.
  4. The rules mandates that e-commerce companies needs to ensure that the data collection,storage and usage comply with provisions of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act,2008.
  5. The rules also reiterates that e-commerce entities will not be allowed to influence prices of products sold on their websites directly or indirectly, which has already been a part of FDI rules for e-commerce.
  6. The guidelines also put the onus on marketplaces to do their own due diligence when customers complain about receiving counterfeit products, and they may need to take down such listings.
  7. The rules proposed to make it mandatory for firms to display terms of contract with the seller relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty ,delivery,mode of payments and grievance redressal mechanism to enable consumers to make informed decisions.

Mohali gets first 3-D traffic signal

  1. Mohali traffic police have launched the 3-D Smart Traffic Signal.The launch of the 3-D technique is first of its kind in the country.
  2. The wireless system called ‘Intelights’ has been installed at the traffic signals.It will regulate with a smart bird’s eye view wireless sensor system.
  3. The system proposes a 360-degree solution to curb the rising problem of traffic congestion.One of the major reasons for traffic congestion is the inefficient working of traffic signal timers installed at intersections. 
  4. Presently,the timers of traffic lights display a preset value which leads to waste of time.
  5. To tackle this issue,the system proposes an Intelligent Traffic Timer Control which uses dynamic signal control technology to adjust the timers of red,yellow and green lights according to the traffic density at an intersection. 
  6. The system also uses existing CCTV cameras to gather live traffic video feed and automatically evaluates the traffic density using Artificial Intelligence and sets the signal timers accordingly.

Union HRD Minister inaugurates TechEx – a technology exhibition

  1. Union Human Resource Development Minister has inaugurated theTechEx – technology exhibition at IIT Delhi. 
  2. TechEx was organized to demonstrate products and prototypes developed under the two flagship schemes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD) namely IMPRINT and UAY.
  3. IMPacting Research,INnovation and Technology(IMPRINT) scheme is a pan-IIT and IISc joint collaboration.The scheme was launched in 2015.
  4. The scheme aims to provide solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges by translating knowledge into viable technology in 10 selected technology domains.The projects are funded jointly by MHRD and the participating Ministry in the ratio of 50:50.
  5. The 10 selected domains are (a)health care (b)energy (c)sustainable habitat (d)nano-technology hardware (e)water resources and river systems (f)advanced materials (g)Information and Communication Technology (h)manufacturing (I)security and defence and (j) environmental science and climate change.
  6. Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) was launched in 2015.The scheme aims to promote innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the industry and thereby improves the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing.
  7. UAY projects are funded jointly by MHRD,participating Ministries and the Industry in the ratio of 50:25:25.

KABIL set up to ensure supply of critical Minerals to Indian domestic market

  1. A joint venture company Khanij Bidesh India limited(KABIL) has been set up with the participation of three Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).
  2. These CPSEs are National Aluminium Company Ltd.(NALCO), Hindustan Copper Ltd.(HCL) and Mineral Exploration Company Ltd. (MECL). 
  3. The objective of the company is to ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to Indian domestic market.
  4. The company would also ensure mineral security of the nation as it would help in realizing the overall objective of import substitution.
  5. The KABIL would also carry out identification, acquisition, exploration, development, mining and processing of strategic minerals overseas for commercial use and meeting country’s requirement of these minerals.
  6. The company will also help in building partnerships with other mineral rich countries like Australia and those in Africa and South America, where Indian expertise in exploration and mineral processing will be mutually beneficial bringing about new economic opportunities.

United States designates China a “currency manipulator”

  1. The US has officially designated China as a currency manipulator.This decision was taken after China’s central bank allowed the yuan to weaken in retaliation for new US tariffs.
  2. A weaker yuan makes Chinese exports more competitive or cheaper to buy with foreign currencies.
  3. The US Treasury department defines currency manipulation as when countries deliberately influence the exchange rate between their currency and the US dollar to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade.
  4. The US has said that it will now engage with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.
  5. It’s the first time that the US has labeled a country a manipulator since the 1990s when China was also the target.Officially,the designation requires the US government to seek negotiations with the government accused of manipulation.
  6. However,the US and China have been locked in a trade war since 2018 that has spilled into areas such as technology and now currency.

Bill for more Supreme Court judges gets Lok Sabha nod

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill,2019.
  2. The bill seeks to increase the number of Supreme Court judges in the country’s apex court from the present 30 to 33.
  3. This bill was introduced after Chief Justice of India had written to Prime Minister to increase the number of judges in the top court.
  4. CJI had written that due to paucity of judges,the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law were not being formed.
  5. The strength of the Supreme Court is fixed by law made by the Parliament as per Article 124(1) of the Constitution of India.Therefore, the strength can be increased by way of parliamentary legislation.
  6. The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act,1956 originally provided for a maximum of 11 judges.The act was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges strength from 25 to 30 excluding the CJI.

To ensure authenticity, APIs of drugs may soon get track-and-trace codes

  1. Drugs Technical Advisory Board(DTAB) has recommended to the government to make it mandatory for companies to include codes to track-and-trace APIs to ensure authenticity of drugs manufactured in India.
  2. This move will potentially be the first step by the government to pinpoint the origin and movement of drugs manufactured here and ensure their authenticity.
  3. Active pharmaceutical ingredients or APIs can be defined as the chemicals used to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs.
  4. The active ingredient(AI) is the substance or substances that are biologically active within the drug and is the specific component responsible for the desired effect it has on the individual taking it.
  5. India is currently dependent on China for imports of APIs to make certain essential medicines with around 75% of these ingredients imported from the country in 2016-17.
  6. DTAB is highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs in the country.It was constituted as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940.It is part of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization(CDSCO) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

After J&K bifurcation, hill parties want Darjeeling to be Union territory

  1. The Centre has revoked provisions of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.It has also proposed bifurcation of the state into two Union territories Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  2. This has led to the demand from Darjeeling which has asked for a separate Union territory with a legislature.
  3. Darjeeling is a picturesque hill town and the area is ethnically dominated by Gorkhas.The place is also inhabited by the Lepchas,Sherpas,Bhutias among others.
  4. Several political parties have over the years promised the people of the hills a separate state and implementation of the sixth schedule which grants more autonomy to a region.
  5. The demand for a separate state was first made in the 1980s with the Gorkha National Liberation Front(GNLF) launching a violent agitation in 1986.
  6. The movement culminated in the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 following the intervention of the then Prime minister and West Bengal chief minister.
  7. The separate statehood demand gained momentum yet again in 2007 after the formation of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha(GJM) under the leadership of Bimal Gurung.
  8. However,after the ruling government changed in West Bengal,the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration(GTA) was formed.But peace was short-lived in the area as GTA led an agitation in support of the statehood demand accusing the West Bengal government of trying to wipe out Gorkha identity.

Govt set to frame rules for ride-hailing firms

  1. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has created a new category of cab aggregators by addressing some of these issues. 
  2. The bill recognizes and defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or marketplaces which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation.
  3. The central government will soon meet all stakeholders in the industry and frame a broad set of rules on aggregators.
  4. The rules will govern taxi aggregators such as Uber and Ola.It will address issues such as types of permissible vehicles and safety of women passengers.
  5. The rules will also clarify whether such vehicles will be owned by the driver or the aggregator and specify their liabilities.
  6. The rules may cover surge pricing which kicks in at times of high demand or low cab availability.Aggregators may find it difficult to raise prices exorbitantly through surcharges during peak hours or in times of adversity such as a transport strike or heavy rain.
  7. The rules will also clarify whether the aggregator or the driver will be held responsible in case of an accident,crime or any other incident during the ride.

J&K loses its special status, divided into two UTs

  1. President of India has promulgated the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order,2019. 
  2. The order effectively abrogates the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under the provision of Article 370 whereby provisions of the Constitution which were applicable to other states were not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
  3. The Presidential Order has extended all provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir.This order will also supersede the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order,1954.
  4. Further,Article 35A also ceases to exist on effective abrogation of special status.The reason being that this was inserted through a presidential proclamation of 1954 drawing powers from Article 370. 
  5. A separate Bill called the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 was also introduced to bifurcate the State into two separate union territories of Jammu and Kashmir(with legislature) and Ladakh (without legislature).
  6. Article 370 is a temporary provision granting special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
  7. Article 370 specifies that a) except for Defence,Foreign Affairs,Finance and Communications the Indian Parliament needs the State Government’s concurrence for applying all other laws b) the residuary powers belong to the Legislature of the State and c) No preventive detention law made in India extends to Jammu & Kashmir.
  8. Article 35-A was incorporated in the Constitution in 1954 through Presidential order.It gives the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a complete freedom to decide,who are all ‘Permanent Residents’ of the State.
  9. Article 35-A provides them(a) special rights and privileges in public sector jobs (b) acquisition of property in the State and (c)scholarships as well as public aid and welfare.

U.K. joins U.S. to ensure safety of vessels in Gulf

  1. The UK will join a US-led taskforce to protect merchant ships travelling in the Gulf.
  2. This move comes amid growing tensions between the two countries and Iran over the shipping route in the Strait of Hormuz.
  3. This decision was taken after Iran had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.UK has accused Iran for an act of state piracy.
  4. However,Iranian officials had said that the oil tanker was seized in response to Britain’s role in seizing an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.
  5. The tensions in the gulf region had started after US has re-imposed and latterly tightened its own sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from a 2015 Iran nuclear deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities.
  6. However,the UK has said that it’s decision to join the US-led mission will not change its commitment to the Iran nuclear deal and that the UK government was working to de-escalate the situation in the Gulf.
  7. The Strait of Hormuz is a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond.It has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades.

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar to visit China ahead of Modi-Xi summit

  1. India’s External Affairs Minister will be visiting China ahead of the second informal summit between Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President in India in October,2019.
  2. The minister will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
  3. The foreign minister will also co-chair the second meeting of the India-China High Level Mechanism(HLM) on cultural and people to people exchanges.
  4. The HLM was established during the first informal summit in Wuhan in April 2018.
  5. HLM aims to reflect the desire on both sides to build greater synergies in the people-to-people ties between the two countries through enhanced exchanges in areas such as tourism, art, films, media, culture and sports.
  6. The first informal summit between India and China was held in April last year in Wuhan,China after bilateral ties came under severe strain following a Doklam standoff.
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