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9 PM for Mains examination
- Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
- Violence and justice for women
- CAG audit- Improvement in disaster management
- Redesign policy for private investment
- CRISPR-Cas9: life sciences into new epoch
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1. Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Context: Recently, the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 was introduced in the lok sabha by the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
What are its objectives?
- It was introduced to supplement the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 which awaits consideration by the Rajya Sabha.
- The main objectives of the bill are (1) to regulate ART banks and clinics, (2) allow safe and ethical practice of ARTs and (3) protect women and children from exploitation.
What are the concerns associated with the bill?
Concerns on 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 is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution and the right to privacy enshrined in Puttaswamy case.
- It also violates supreme court directive in Navtej Johar case where the court insisted the state to take positive steps for equal protection for same-sex couples.
- It also fails to reflect the true spirit of the Constitution as there is no prohibition on foreign citizens accessing ART while Indian citizens in loving relationships cannot.
No holistic protection for the Egg donor
- Harvesting of eggs, if performed incorrectly, can result in death.
- The Bill fails to provide for the counselling of egg donor or the ability to withdraw her consent before or during the procedure.
- Fails to pay for bodily services as there is no compensation or reimbursement are provided for the expenses on loss of salary, time and effort.
- Only an insurance policy needs to be obtained by the commissioning parties in her name for medical complications or death; no amount or duration is specified.
- Unfree labour is prohibited by Article 23 of the Constitution.
Embryo donation for research purposes
- The Bill requires pre-implantation genetic testing to identify whether the embryo is healthy or diseased.
- If the embryo obtained suffers from pre-existing, heritable, life-threatening or genetic diseases, the embryo can be donated for research with the commissioning parties’ permission.
- This provision of donating embryo with the commissioning parties’ permission can promote an unregulated programme of eugenics.
Inconsistencies between Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill (SRB) and Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 (ART).
- There is considerable overlap between both sectors, Yet the Bills do not work in common. For example, While Core ART processes are left undefined in ART bill, few of these are defined in the SRB.
- A single woman cannot commission surrogacy but can access ART.
- Both the Bills speak on setting 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 behaviours are punished differently under both Bills. For example, punishments under the SRB are greater than ART.
- Finally, the ART bill stipulates to maintain records for 10 years while under SRB it is for 25 years.
Other concerns associated with the bill
- The SRB and the Bill impose high sentences (8-12 years) and hefty fines. However, the poor enforcement of the PCPNDT Act, 1994, demonstrates that enhanced punishments do not secure compliance.
- Gamete shortage is likely as the gamete donation is not compensated.
- 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 fails to provide ethics committee in clinics rather it requires clinics and banks to maintain a grievance cell.
The Bill must be thoroughly reviewed before passage as it raises several constitutional, medico-legal, ethical and regulatory concerns, affecting millions.
2. Violence and justice for women
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-2- Polity
Context: Crime against women needs a more firm response after the brutal murder of a young Dalit woman in Hathras.
What are the problems related to crime against women?
- Quick justice missing: National Crime Records Bureau statistics show that in 2019, 1,62,741 cases were pending for trial with an increase of about 17,000 from 2017.
- Rate of conviction: 18,333 cases were disposed of, out of which 5,822 resulted in conviction and 45,536 cases were pending for investigation. The rate of conviction is about 27 per cent.
- In 2017, 331 cases were of rape, gang rape and murder but didn’t make it to the headlines.
- Many cases are not reported in this country because of various reasons:
- victim shaming
- Concern about law enforcement
- fear of revenges
- Rape is a social stigma and the legal procedures are very lengthy, costly, and time intensive.
What are the issues with fast track dispensation of justice?
- Poor implementation on setting up of fast track courts, irregularities and shortages in both creation of infrastructure and staff as well as funds.
- Poor or no availability of forensic labs.
- Limited number of police personnel: Investigation becomes difficult with such a large number of cases given and the same police personnel will serve these courts as well.
- There is no examination of what is needed to ensure proper and timely investigation of rape cases and the same investigation and judicial procedures will apply in these courts.
- Delays in dispensation of justice were said to have contributed to the Hyderabad Police shooting down four accused last year.
What is the way forward?
- Delayed matters should be brought to a lawful end quickly.
- There is need for clear allotting of fast track procedures for investigation and trial which include the presence of witnesses, examination of police personnel, issues of fixing dates/adjournments/cross-examination etc.
- Social reform is necessary and we have to collectively strengthen all the ways in which the position of women in society can be improved.
- In majority of the cases, the victim is attacked by known persons and in India, the position is made worse when the victim belongs to the SC/ST group, like in the Hathras case.
- Ability to identify more serious cases: Where witnesses are available, conviction appears likely. Such cases, possibly 30-40 per cent of the cases, should be especially fast tracked.
- The ministries of home and law and justice should monitor, through a special template, on a weekly basis, the cases which have been prioritised.
- The chief ministers of states, chief justices of high courts, chief secretary, DG Police should be given the feedback so that they can take steps, or issue instructions, to advance investigation/trials.
- The Chief Justice could head a committee in the state to review regularly. This will take some of their time but will send a strong message to all concerned.
3. CAG audit- Improvement in disaster management
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Context- The Public Account Committee (PAC) directed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to conduct a special audit into purchase of COVID-19 equipment.
What are the directions given by PAC?
Former Congress Minister and PAC chairman H.K. Patil has chaired a meeting of the panel and instructed the CAG to constitute a special team of its employees to get the audit.
- The State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to conduct a special audit into the purchase of COVID-19 equipment within 15 days.
- The panel has also asked the CAG to conduct audit of expenditure incurred by the State government under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The government had used the SDRF amount for purchase of equipment in various districts of the State.
Why there is need to conduct a special audit?
Political allegation- The congress has alleged a scam to the tune of ₹2000 crore were siphoned off to purchase inferior quality of personal protective equipment kits, sanitizers, ventilator , masks and other equipment at prices higher than those prevailing in the market.
Efficiency – A beneficiary survey will become part of the audit process to bring out efficacy of service delivery and the availability and quality of drugs.
However, emergency procurement to save lives and reduce sufferings are a chance to confuse rules and procedures in procurement.
What is the objective of CAG auditing?
- Improvement in disaster management-
- Audit recommendations can contribute improvement in various aspects of disaster preparedness, management and mitigation.
- It will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedure and governance.
- The audit will focus on expense tracking and achievement of outputs and outcome, in qualitative and quantitative terms.
- The audit objectives may include the procurement of equipment and drugs for CGHS wellness centers and polyclinic, laboratories and hospitals.
- Public assurance– The audit will provide assurance to people’s representatives, tax payers and public at large that government resources are being used prudentially, economically efficiently and effectively as per law and regulation.
With corruption likely in pandemic management, the CAG’s audit can ensure checks and balance in the health sector. There is a substantial need of improvement in disaster management and preparedness. The internal audit must also ensure compliance with applicable procedures even in disaster related disbursements and procurement process and provide valuable inputs to the external audit conducted by the CAG.
4.Redesign policy for private investment
Source- The Indian Express
Syllabus – GS 3- Investment models.
Context- Partnerships with various stakeholders in the private sector is required for sustainable infrastructure creation in India
What is PPP investment model?
Public Private Partnership is a cooperative arrangement between public and private sectors. The PPP model displays three essential characteristics:
- Long term contractual arrangement.
- A significant level of responsibility and risk that is transferred from public to private sector.
- Contractual arrangements are built around performance based outcomes.
What are the challenges on ramping up private investments in infrastructure?
- Policy reforms– Refreshing institutions and policies for channeling financing.
- Stable ecosystem– Providing a stable, durable, and empowering ecosystem for private players to partner with government entities in the task of infrastructure-creation.
What are the recommendations of Vijay Kelkar Committee on Revisiting and Revitalizing PPP Model?
Vijay Kelkar Committee Finance Minister in the Union Budget 2015-16 announced that the PPP mode of infrastructure development has to be revisited and revitalized. Committee had put out a timely, practical, and balanced report on overhauling the PPP ecosystem.
Key recommendations of the committee–
- Contracts need to focus more on service delivery instead of fiscal benefits.
- Better identification and allocation of risks between stakeholders.
- Prudent utilization of viability gap funds where user charges cannot guarantee a robust revenue stream.
- Improved fiscal reporting practices and careful monitoring of performance.
- Report also included governance reform, institutional redesign, and capacity-building.
How government can redesign the PPP model?
- Redesign ecosystem–
- Overhaul the culture and attitude towards the conjoining of government entities and private partners for creating specific pieces of infrastructure.
- Plug and play– There needs to be an approach of give and take, instead of government interlocutors trying to adopt a purely transactional approach without adequate focus on outcomes.
- Minimizing risk– Passing on uncertain elements in a project like the land acquisition risk to the private partner.
- Incentives– The private partners also need to be incentivized to focus on project outcomes, with guard-rails in place to discourage rent-seeking behaviour.
- Regulatory front-
- Secure legislation– Promulgate a PPP legislation which can provide a robust legal ecosystem and procedural comfort to the various actors and stakeholders.
- Revenue flow assurance- The key to a successful PPP is to provide stable revenue flow assurances and a settled ecosystem to investors over long periods by means of policy stability, assurances possibly secured by law.
- Government partners in PPP arrangements need to ensure that open-ended arrangements that might entail unforeseeable risk are minimized for the private investor, including aspects such as land availability and community acceptance.
In a post COVID era, a focus area for public policy has to be the creation of a modern-day, sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Government needs to design a fresh approach and create a stable policy environment that provides comfort and incentives to private investors.
5. CRISPR-Cas9: life sciences into new epoch
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus- GS 3-Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Context- The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology.
What is CRISPR-Cas9?
It is a Gene editing technique which is short for “Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9”.
- The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool has two components — a short RNA (Ribonucleic acid) sequence that can bind to a specific target of the DNA and the Cas9 enzyme which acts like a molecular scissor to cut the DNA.
- To edit a gene of interest, the short RNA sequence (gRNA) that perfectly matches with the DNA sequence that has to be edited is introduced.
- Once it binds to the DNA, the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA (like scissors) at the targeted location where the RNA sequence is bound. Once the DNA is cut, the natural DNA repair mechanism is utilized to add or remove genetic material or make changes to the DNA.
What is the role of gene-editing technology?
In healthcare– The technology has enabled scientist to edit human DNA in a dish and early stage clinical trial are ben attempted to use the tool to treat a few diseases, including inherited disorders/diseases and some type of cancer.
- It is being tried out in agriculture primarily to increase plant yield, quality, disease resistance, herbicide resistance and domestication of wild species.
- The potential to edit genes using this method has been used to create a large number of crop varieties with improves agronomic performance.
Is it legal to use Gene editing technique?
- There is a general consensus in the scientific communities that the CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing technique should not be used clinically in embryos.
- There is also consensus that gene editing can be potentially used only to prevent serious genetic disorders that have no alternative treatment.
- In the absence of any clinical trial data as well as consensus to use this tool to prevent HIV infection, performing it on babies as a form of medical intervention is unethical.
This CRISPR technology is indeed a path-breaking technology, to alter genes in order to tackle a number of conventional and unconventional problems, especially in the health sector. However, experiments and tests to validate its use must be subjected to appropriate scrutiny by the regulators, and their use must be controlled to prevent commercial misuse.
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