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7th June Current Affairs

The debates around the Surrogacy Act

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

In News:

Petitioners in the Delhi High Court questioned why marital status, age, or gender were the criteria for being allowed to commission or not commission surrogacy in India.

What’s the issue?

Under the provisions of the Surrogacy Act, a petitioner, who is married, was denied a chance at commissioning surrogacy.

As per the Surrogacy Act, a married couple can opt for surrogacy only on medical grounds.

The law says the couple should not have a child of their own.

Overview of the Surrogacy Act, 2021:

It came into effect in January this year.

It allows ‘altruistic surrogacy’ — wherein only the medical expenses and insurance coverage is provided by the couple to the surrogate mother during pregnancy.

Creates a national board to lay down and implement a code of conduct for people working at IVF clinics.

It 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.

Eligibility conditions to make use of the services of a surrogate mother:

Any couple that has ‘proven infertility’.

The couple should be Indian citizens who have been married for at least five years.

The female must be between 23 to 50 years and the male, 26 to 55 years.

They cannot have any surviving children (biological, adopted or surrogate); However, this would not include a ‘child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness.’

Who can be a surrogate mother?

Only a close relative of the couple can be a surrogate mother, one who is able to provide a medical fitness certificate. She should have been married, with a child of her own, and must be between 25 and 35 years, but can be a surrogate mother only once.

Need for a Surrogacy Act in India:

India has emerged as a hub for infertility treatment. This attracted many underprivileged women to rent their wombs in exchange for money. However, unscrupulous middle men started exploiting such women. This called for a proper regulation.

National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (NARCL)

(GS-II: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)

In News:

The National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (NARCL), set up to take over large bad loans of more than ₹500 crore from banks, will pick up the first set of such non-performing assets (NPAs) in July.

What is NARCL?

Setting up of NARCL, the proposed bad bank for taking over stressed assets of lenders, was announced in the Budget for 2021-22.

The plan is to create a bad bank to house bad loans of ₹500 crore and above, in a structure that will contain an asset reconstruction company (ARC) and an asset management company (AMC) to manage and recover dud assets.

The new entity is being created in collaboration with both public and private sector banks.

Majority-owned by state-owned banks, the NARCL will be assisted by the India Debt Resolution Company Ltd (IDRCL), in turn majority-owned by private banks, in resolution process in the form of a Principal-Agent basis.

How is NARCL different from existing ARCs? How can it operate differently?

The proposed bad bank will have a public sector character since the idea is mooted by the government and majority ownership is likely to rest with state-owned banks.

At present, ARCs typically seek a steep discount on loans. With the proposed bad bank being set up, the valuation issue is unlikely to come up since this is a government initiative.

The government-backed ARC will have deep pockets to buy out big accounts and thus free up banks from carrying these accounts on their books.

What is an Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC)?

It is a specialized financial institution that buys the Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) from banks and financial institutions so that they can clean up their balance sheets. This helps banks to concentrate on normal banking activities.

The asset reconstruction companies or ARCs are registered under the RBI.

Legal Basis:

The Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002 provides the legal basis for the setting up of ARCs in India.

Capital Needs for ARCs:

As per amendment made in the SARFAESI Act in 2016, an ARC should have a minimum net owned fund of Rs. 2 crores. The RBI raised this amount to Rs. 100 crores in 2017.

The ARCs also have to maintain a capital adequacy ratio of 15% of its risk weighted assets.

Need for:

The total stress in the banking system would be in excess of Rs 15 lakh crore. The banks burdened with stressed assets and limited capital will find it difficult to manage the NPAs. There is also limited capital that the government can provide. This is where the bad bank model would step in and help both the government and banks.

Sant Kabirdas

(GS-I: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times)

In News:

President Ram Nath Kovind recently inaugurated the Sant Kabir Academy and Research Centre under Swadesh Darshan Yojana at Maghar (Uttar Pradesh).

About Kabir:

Sant Kabir Das was a very renowned saint, poet and social reformer of India who lived during the 15th century. His esteemed works and poems describe the greatness and oneness of the Supreme Being.

He was a proponent of the Bhakti Movement.

He did not believe in any religious discrimination and readily accepted all the religions.

A religious community known as ‘Kabir Panth’ was founded by him and the members of this forum are referred to as ‘Kabir Panthis’.

Swami Ramananda influence: Kabir Das’ ideologies were greatly influenced by Vaishnava saint Swami Ramananda who accepted Kabir as his disciple.

Nirguni tradition:

One school within the Bhakti movement was the Nirguni tradition and Sant Kabir was a prominent member of it. In this tradition, God was understood to be a universal and formless being.

His famous literary works:

Bijak, Sakhi Granth, Kabir Granthawali and Anurag Sagar.

His verses are found in Sikhism’s scripture Guru Granth Sahib.

The major part of his work was collected by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev.

The hallmark of Sant Kabirdas’ work consists of his two line couplets, popularly known as ‘Kabir Ke Dohe’.

Against caste:

Kabir’s revolt against the caste system also sought to do away with the complex rituals and ceremonies performed by the Brahmins.

He, like the other prominent saints of his time, argued that it was only through bhakti, intense love or devotion to God could one attain salvation.

He sought to eradicate caste distinctions and attempted to create an egalitarian society.

Cauvery Water Management Authority (CMA)

(GS-II: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)

In News:

The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) will take up the Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir-cum-Drinking Water Project of the Karnataka government for discussion at its upcoming meeting.

Details:

The “acceptance” of the CWMA would be a “prerequisite” for consideration of the detailed project report by the Advisory Committee of the Ministry.

What is Mekedatu Project?

It is a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project over Mekedatu.

It is aimed at solving the drinking water problems of Bengaluru.

This project was also touted as one that could generate hydroelectricity to meet the power demand in the state.

Why does Tamil Nadu object?

The state contended that “the proposed reservoir would affect the natural flows of the river Cauvery.

It argued that Cauvery was already a deficit basin and the construction of the project, or any other project “would drastically affect the lower riparian State in getting their due share of waters.

The total annual quantum prescribed by the Supreme Court for Tamil Nadu is 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) in a year. Of this, 80 tmc ft is estimated to be coming from the “uncontrolled catchments” below Kabini and KRS. The Mekedatu project will interfere with the flow of this portion of the State’s due.

About CWMA:

It has been created as per the Cauvery Management Scheme earlier framed by Centre and approved by Supreme Court.

Composition and Powers of CMA:

The authority will comprise a chairman, a secretary and eight members.

Out of the eight members, two will be full time, while two will be part time members from centre’s side.

Rest four will be part time members from states.

Functions:

The funmain mandate of the CMA will be to secure implementation and compliance of the Supreme Court’s order in relation to “storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters”.

CMA will also advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency.

It will do so by promoting use of micro-irrigation, change in cropping patterns, improved farm practices and development of command areas.

The CMA will also prepare an annual report covering its activities during the preceding year.

Role of Central Government:

The central government will provide help in implementation of the modified award in case of any of the state /UT parties (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Puducherry) do not cooperate in implementing the decision or direction of the tribunal. Initially, centre will contribute Rs. 2 crore for the functioning of the authority.