10th October Current Affairs

1.Graded Response Action Plan

News: The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) has directed Delhi and neighbouring States to implement air pollution control measures under very poor and severe category air quality of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) from 15th October 2020.

About Graded Response Action Plan:

  • In 2014, when a study by the WHO found that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, panic spread in the Centre and the state government.
  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government and experts.
  • The result was a plan that institutionalized measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates. GRAP works only as an emergency measure.
  • The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas).
  • At the head of the table is the EPCA, mandated by the Supreme Court. Before the imposition of any measures, EPCA holds a meeting with representatives from all NCR states, and a call is taken on which actions has to be made applicable in which town.

Why the problem of Air Pollution intensifies in Winter in Delhi?

  • Apart from the other pollution which are due to overpopulation, vehicular emissions and industries, following are the factors that make winter pollution severe:
  • Stubble Burning: It is a traditional practice in Punjab and Haryana to clean off the rice chaff to prepare the fields for winter sowing.
  • Shifting of Jet Stream: The southward shift of subtropical jet stream happens causing a westward wind pattern in the northern part of India and thus spread of pollutants.
  • Stagnant Lower Level Winds: As the winter season sets in, dust particles and pollutants in the air become unable to move. Due to stagnant lower level winds, pollutants get locked in the air and affect weather conditions, resulting in

Environment Pollution Control Authority

  • It was notified in 1998 under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. EPCA is a Supreme Court mandated body tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region.

2.Concerns with ART Regulation Bill

News: Recently, the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 has been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The bill aims to regulate ART banks and clinics, allow the safe and ethical practice of ARTs and protect women and children from exploitation.

What is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?

  • ART is used to treat infertility. It includes fertility treatments that handle both a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm. It works by removing eggs from a woman’s body and mixing them with sperm to make embryos. The embryos are then put back in the woman’s body.
  • In Vitro fertilization(IVF) is the most common and effective type of ART. ART procedures sometimes use donor eggs, donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos. It may also involve a surrogate carrier.

Is this bill supplementary to another bill?

  • It was introduced to supplement the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, (SRB) 2019, which aims to prohibit commercial surrogacy in India. The Bill designates surrogacy boards under the SRB to function as advisory bodies for ART.

Concerns with the Bill

Access to ART

  • The Bill allows for a married heterosexual couples 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 violates Article 14of the Constitution and the right to privacy jurisprudence of Puttaswamy, where the Supreme Court held that “the liberty of procreation, the choice of a family life” concerned all individuals irrespective of their social status and were aspects of privacy.
  • In Navtej Johar case, Justice Chandrachud exhorted the state to take positive steps for equal protection for same-sex couples. Unlike the SRB, there is no prohibition on foreign citizens accessing ARTs.
  • Foreigners can access ART but not Indian citizens in loving relationships. This fails to reflect the true spirit of the Constitution.

Protection of donor

  • The ART Bill does little to protect the egg donor. Harvesting of eggs is an invasive process which, if performed incorrectly, can result in death. The Bill requires an egg donor’s written consent but does not provide for her counselling or the ability to withdraw her consent before or during the procedure.
  • She receives no compensation or reimbursement of expenses for loss of salary, time and effort. Failing to pay for bodily services constitutes unfree labour, which is prohibited by Article 23 of the Constitution.
  • The commissioning parties only need to obtain an insurance policy in her name for medical complications or death; no amount or duration is specified. The egg donor’s interests are subordinated in a Bill proposed in her name. The Bill restricts egg donation to a married woman with a child (at least three years old).

Threat of eugenics

  • The Bill requires pre-implantation genetic testing. If the embryo suffers from “pre-existing, heritable, life-threatening or genetic diseases”, it can be donated for research with the commissioning parties’ permission. These disorders need specification or the Bill risks promoting an impermissible programme of eugenics.

Overlap with Surrogacy Regulation

  • There is considerable overlap between ART and SRB sectors. Yet the Bills do not work in tandem. Core ART processes are left undefined; several of these are defined in the SRB.
  • Definitions of commissioning “couple”, “infertility”, “ART clinics” and “banks” need to be synchronised between the Bills. A single woman cannot commission surrogacy but can access ART. The Bill designates surrogacy boards under the SRB to function as advisory bodies for ART, which is desirable.
  • However, both Bills set up multiple bodies for registration which will result in duplication or lack of regulation (e.g. surrogacy clinic is not required to report surrogacy to National Registry).
  • Also, the same offending behaviours under both Bills are punished differently + punishments under the SRB are greater. Offences under the Bill are bailable but not under the SRB.
  • Finally, records have to be maintained for 10 years under the Bill but for 25 years under the SRB.
  • The same actions taken by a surrogacy clinic and ART clinic attract varied regulation.

Other concerns

  • Children born from ART do not have the right to know their parentage, which is crucial to their best interests and protected under previous drafts.
  • There is no distinction between ART banks and ART clinics, given that gamete donation is not compensated, economically viability of ART Banks raises a question.
  • In previous drafts, gametes could not be gifted between known friends and relatives if this is not changed, gamete shortage is likely.
  • 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.
  • Unusually, the Bill requires all bodies to be bound by the directions of central and state governments in the national interest, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality — being broadly phrased, it undermines their independence.

Way Forward

  • Prior versions of the Bill regulated research using embryos, which must be brought back and definitions of commissioning “couple”, “infertility”, “ART clinics” and “banks” need to be synchronised between the Bill and the SRB.
  • All ART bodies should be bound by the directions of central and state governments in the national interest, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality. All the constitutional, medico-legal, ethical and regulatory concerns raised by the Bill must be thoroughly reviewed before affecting millions.

3.TRPs and Its Manipulation

News: Recently, the Mumbai Police has claimed about a scam about the manipulation of TRPs (Target Rating Points) by some TV channels by rigging the devices used by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India.

Target Rating Points:

  • In simple terms, anyone who watches television for more than a minute is considered a viewer. The TRP or Target Rating Point is the metric used by the marketing and advertising agencies to evaluate this viewership. In India, the TRP is recorded by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) using Bar-O-Meters that are installed in televisions in selected households.
  • As on date, the BARC has installed these meters in 44,000 households across the country. Audio watermarks are embedded in video content prior to broadcast.
  • These watermarks are not audible to the human ear, but can easily be detected and decoded using dedicated hardware and software. As viewing details are recorded by the Bar-O-Meters, so are the watermarks.

How it is calculated?

  • BARC has installed Bar-O-meters in over 45,000 empanelled households. These record viewing details as well as audio watermarks of content. Audio watermarks are embedded in video content prior to broadcast. These watermarks are not audible to the human ear, but can easily be detected and decoded using dedicated hardware and software.
  • The households are chosen by an annual Establishment Survey which is a large-scale face-to-face survey of a sample of approximately 3 lakh households from the target population.
  • The panel chosen to capture TRPs must be representative of the country’s population, and the methodology must be economically viable for the industry.
  • These households are classified into 12 categories under the New Consumer Classification System (NCCS) adopted by BARC in 2015, based on the education level of the main wage earner and the ownership of consumer durables from a list of 11 items ranging from a power connection to a car.
  • While watching a show, members of the household register their presence by pressing their separate viewer ID This captures the duration for which the channel was watched and by whom and provides data on viewership habits across age and socio-economic groups.

Significance of TRPs:

  • On the basis of audience measurement data, ratings are assigned to various programmes on television.
  • Television ratings in turn influence programmes produced for the viewers.
  • Better ratings would promote a programme while poor ratings will discourage a programme.
  • Incorrect ratings will lead to production of programmes which may not be really popular while good programmes may be left out. Besides, TRPs are the main currency for advertisers to decide which channel to advertise on by calculating the cost-per-rating-point (CPRP).

Loopholes within:

  • If broadcasters can find the households where devices are installed, they can either bribe them to watch their channels, or ask cable operators or multi-system operators to ensure their channel is available as the “landing page” when the TV is switched on.

What is BARC?

  • It is an industry body created in 2010 which is jointly owned by advertisers, ad agencies, and broadcasting companies, represented by The Indian Society of Advertisers, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the Advertising Agencies Association of India.
  • I&B Ministry notified the Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India on January 10, 2014 and registered BARC in July 2015 under these guidelines, to carry out television ratings in India.

4.Role of CAG in Crisis

News: With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic, the role of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has come into prominence.

Pandemic and Corruption:

  • Allegations of siphoning off of funds to purchase the inferior quality at prices higher than those prevailing in the market are made. The opportunity to indulge in corruption exists in disaster management.
  • Emergency procurement to save lives and reduce sufferings are a chance to obfuscate rules and procedures and can happen in all three tiers of governance.

Role of the CAG in this period:

  • If all the major purchases by governments are audited by the CAG, there can be substantial improvement in disaster management. It will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedures and governance.
  • The CAG has issued an order creating a new vertical — health, welfare and rural development, restructuring the office of the Director General of Audit, Central Expenditure.
  • It is necessary that the CAG undertakes performance audits of COVID-19 related procurements, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and Employee State Insurance (ESI) hospitals.
  • beneficiary survey will become part of the audit process to bring out efficacy of service delivery and the availability and quality of drugs. Audit recommendations can contribute improvements in various aspects of disaster preparedness, management and mitigation.

Significance of report:

  • The statutory responsibility of CAG includes appraising disaster preparedness, ensuring that management, mitigation operations, procedures are complied with, and proper internal controls are in place.
  • Ensuring that there are proper records, documentation, authentic, accurate, reliable and complete information and data. Providing assurance to people’s representatives, tax payers and the public at large that government resources are being used prudentially as per the law and regulations and safeguarded.
  • Providing assurance that risks are assessed, identified and minimised with established disaster management process and procedures.
  • Offering assurance that resources are being used economically efficiently and effectively for achieving the planned objectives and that benefits have gone to the targeted beneficiaries.

Conclusion

  • All public entities management must be accountable and ensure that resources are managed properly and used in compliance with laws and regulations; programmes are achieving their objectives; and services are being provided efficiently, effectively, and economically.