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6th December Current Affairs

Uttarakhand’s Char Dham Act

(GS-II: Government Policies and issues arising out of it)

In News:

Uttarakhand government has announced the withdrawal of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act. The decision will lead to the abolition of Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board, which has been facing protests from priests and other stakeholders of four shrines and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Environmental Concerns About the Project:

The project may destroy about 690 hectares of forests with 55,000 trees and evacuate an estimated 20 million cubic metres of soil.

Ruthless harvesting or uprooting of vegetation in the widening of roads can prove to be perilous for the biodiversity and regional ecology.

What is Chardham Project?

The project comprises improvement as well as the development of 889 km length of national highways.

The project will connect Badrinath Dham, Kedarnath Dham, Gangotri, Yamunotri, and part of the route leading to Kailash Mansarovar yatra.

Role in National Security:

This project can act as the strategic feeder roads which connect the India-China border with the Army camps in Dehradun and Meerut where missile bases and heavy machinery are located.

Supreme Court views on the project:

Supreme Court (SC), in November 2020, had spoken of the need to balance national security concerns with environmental issues in the context of the Army’s request to expand the CharDham Project (CDP) roads leading to the Indo-China border.

How is Hong Kong administered?

(GS-II: Effects of policies of other countries on India)

In News:

Hong Kong authorities are pursuing new laws to tighten the city-state’s grip on public discourse critical of its Beijing-aligned government.

Need for:

Residents are resorting to self-censorship and many feel that their city’s progressive identity may have been permanently lost.

How is Hong Kong ruled?

It is ruled under One Country Two Systems approach.

As per the policy, the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions, both former colonies, can have different economic and political systems from that of mainland China, while being part of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese control on July 1, 1997, and Macau’s sovereignty was transferred on December 20, 1999.

The regions would have their own currencies, economic and legal systems, but defence and diplomacy would be decided by Beijing.

Their mini-Constitutions would remain valid for 50 years — till 2047 for Hong Kong and 2049 for Macau. It is unclear what will happen after this term.

Chinese law in Hong Kong to respond to foreign sanctions:

The law is proposed to be introduced through Hong Kong legislation rather than Beijing legislation, by adding it to an annex of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.

What’s the law all about?

Beijing adopted a law in June under which individuals or entities involved in making or implementing discriminatory measures against Chinese citizens or entities could be put on a Chinese government anti-sanctions list.

Under China’s law, such individuals could then be denied entry into China or be expelled.

Their assets in China may be seized or frozen. They could also be restricted from doing business with entities or people in China.

Why was such a law introduced?

The law comes as the United States and European Union step up pressure on China over trade, technology, Hong Kong and the far western region of Xinjiang.

Concerns and issues associated with the law:

Critics have warned that Hong Kong’s adoption of the law could undermine its reputation as a global financial hub.

How are MPs’ questions allowed, disallowed?

(GS-II: Functioning of the Parliament)

In News:

Over the last few sessions, MPs mainly from the Opposition have often alleged their questions have been disallowed in the Parliament.

Some of the questions that were disallowed include:

Whether NRIs were harassed at airports and sent back.

Whether the Chinese have crossed the LAC in Ladakh.

Reasons cited by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats for disallowing include lack of time and national security.

MPs’ right to question:

In both Houses, elected members enjoy the right to seek information from various ministries and departments in the form of starred questions, unstarred questions, short notice questions and questions to private members.

How are questions admitted?

Usually, MPs’ questions form a long list, which then go through a rigorous process of clearance.

The admissibility of questions in Rajya Sabha is governed by Rules 47-50 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States.

Once a question that fulfils the conditions of admissibility is received, the Secretariat sends it to the ministry concerned. Once the facts are received from the ministry, the question is further examined for admissibility.

A final list of questions is circulated to ministers, on the basis of which they frame their answers.

What are starred, unstarred and other categories of questions?

STARRED QUESTION: The member desires an oral answer from the minister. Such a question is distinguished by the MP with an asterisk. The answer can also be followed by supplementary questions from members.

UNSTARRED QUESTION: The MP seeks a written answer, which is deemed to be laid on the table of the House by the concerned minister.

SHORT NOTICE QUESTION: These are on an urgent matter of public importance, and an oral answer is sought. A notice of less than 10 days is prescribed as the minimum period for asking such a question.

QUESTION TO PRIVATE MEMBER: A question can be addressed to a private member under Rule 40 of Lok Sabha’s Rules of Procedure, or under Rule 48 of Rajya Sabha’s Rules, provided that the question deals with a subject relating to some Bill, resolution or other matter for which that member is responsible.

What kind of questions can be asked?

In Rajya Sabha, among various norms, the question “shall be pointed, specific and confined to one issue only; it shall not bring in any name or statement not strictly necessary to make the question intelligible; if it contains a statement the member shall make himself responsible for the accuracy of the statement; it shall not contain arguments, inferences, ironical expressions, imputations, epithets or defamatory statements”.

In Lok Sabha, questions that are not admitted include: those that are repetitive or have been answered previously; and matters that are pending for judgment before any court of law or under consideration before a Parliamentary Committee.

What’s in ART, Surrogacy Bills?

(GS-I: Women related issues)

In News:

Lok Sabha recently passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020, which makes provisions for the safe and ethical practice of assisted reproductive technology (ART) services in the country.

Overview and key features of the Bill:

It would lead to the creation of a national board to lay down and implement a code of conduct for people working at IVF clinics.

Determines the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory, diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by ART clinics and banks.

The bill intends to make genetic testing of the embryo mandatory before implantation for the benefit of the child born through ART.

It also seeks to streamline the cryo-preservation processes for sperm, oocytes and embryos.

It also proposes to constitute a national registry and registration authority to maintain a central database and assist the national board in its functioning.

The bill proposes stringent punishment for those “practising sex selection, sale of human embryos or gametes and running agencies/rackets/organisations for such unlawful practices.

Need for a legislation in this regard:

The need to regulate the ART services is to protect the affected women and children from exploitation. Registration with the ICMR is a voluntary exercise at the moment because of which many clinics don’t take the trouble and prefer opacity while offering infertility treatment.

Significance:

The major benefit of the act would be regulation of the assisted reproductive technology services in the country. Consequently, infertile couples will be more ensured and confident of the ethical practices in ART clinics.

What is ART? Why it is in demand?

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), as commonly understood, comprises procedures such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), intra-uterine insemination (IUI), oocyte and sperm donation, cryopreservation and includes surrogacy as well.

Social stigma of being childless and lengthy adoption processes have increased the demand for ART in India. It is thus not surprising that the ART industry is expected to grow by a compounded annual growth rate of 10%.

Surrogacy vs ART in India:

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill relates to surrogacy, an infertility treatment, where a third person, a woman, is the surrogate mother. In ART, treatments can be availed by the commissioning couple themselves and it is not always necessary that a third person is involved.

Surrogacy is allowed for only Indian married couples. ART procedures are open to married couples, live-in partners, single women, and also foreigners.

A 2015 notification prohibits commissioning of surrogacy in India by foreigners or OCI or PIO cardholders, but NRIs holding Indian citizenship can avail surrogacy. Foreigners can visit India under medical tourism to avail ART services.