PRS Monthly Policy Review: Highlights Of February 2020 Report: Part II

Cabinet approves Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020

The Union Cabinet approved the introduction of the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020.The Bill seeks to regulate assisted reproductive technology services in the country. Assistive reproductive technology (ART) means all techniques that attempt to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm (the oocyte) outside the human body and transferring the gamete (the embryo) into the reproductive tract of a woman. This includes invitro fertilisation, intrauterine insemination, and gestational surrogacy.

Adhoc Committee on the issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children submits report

The Adhoc Committee of the Rajya Sabha (Chair: Mr. Jairam Ramesh) constituted to study the issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society, submitted its report. Key recommendations of the Committee include:

Definitions: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 defines child pornography as any visual depiction (such as photographs or videos) of sexually explicit conduct involving a child. The Committee recommended that the definition of child pornography should be expanded to also include written material and audio recordings. Further, it recommended that ‘sexually explicit’ should be defined in the Act.

Grooming is the process of building a relationship with a child to facilitate sexual contact with the minor. The Committee recommended that grooming should be defined and considered a form of sexual harassment in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Exceptions for possessing child pornography

The Committee recommended that minors should not be prosecuted for possessing or exchanging indecent pictures of themselves under certain conditions. Further, it recommended exceptions for possession of child pornography in the case of:

  • reporting it to authorities,
  • investigation.

Responsibilities of intermediaries

The Committee recommended that responsibilities of intermediaries (such as internet service providers and search engines) should be clearly outlined. These responsibilities include:

  • reporting and removing child sexual abuse material, and
  • reporting identities of persons accessing child porn.

Social Media

The Committee recommended measures that social media sites may take to protect minors. These include:

  • age restrictions, and
  • banning of users posting content related to child exploitation.

Awareness:

The Committee recommended that awareness campaigns should be initiated by the centre on issues such as:

  • early signs of child abuse
  • (ii) cyber bullying

Authorities

The Committee recommended that the National Commission on Protection of Child Rights should deal with issues related to child pornography. Further, State Commissions on Protection of Child Rights should be constituted in each state.

Cabinet approves constitution of the 22nd Law Commission for three years

The Union Cabinet approved the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission of India for a period of three years. It will consist of:

  • Chairperson,
  • Four members,
  • Secretaries of the Legislative Department and the Department of Legal Affairs, as ex-officio members, and
  • up to five part-time members

The Commission’s responsibilities will include:

  • identifying laws which are no longer relevant,
  • recommending laws which are necessary to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy,
  • giving its views on subjects referred to it by the government, and
  • revising central laws of general importance to simplify them
Cabinet approves revised guidelines for central crop insurance schemes

The Union Cabinet approved revised guidelines for central crop insurance schemes, namely the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme, with the aim of addressing the existing implementation challenges.

The crop insurance schemes provide insurance coverage to farmers for crop failure due to various risks such as calamities, adverse weather conditions, pest attacks, and other yield and postharvest losses. Following are the key changes proposed under the revised guidelines:

Voluntary enrolment: Both the schemes have been made voluntary for all farmers. Earlier, they were mandatory for farmers who have taken crop loans (loanee farmers).

Flexibility to select insurance cover: States have been given the flexibility to select additional risk covers, such as midseason adversity, prevented sowing, postharvest losses, and localised calamity, under both the schemes. In case of PMFBY, states can also offer specific single-risk insurance covers with or without opting for the base cover. Earlier, PMFBY did not allow states to add any risk other than the ones specified.

Limit on centre’s premium subsidy: Under the schemes, farmers are required to pay insurance premium, which is a certain percentage of the sum insured (2% for Kharif crops, 1.5% for Rabi crops, and 5% for commercial and horticultural crops). Rest of the premium amount is equally paid by the central and state government in the form of premium subsidy, with no limit applicable. Under the revised guidelines, the premium subsidy payable by the central government will not be higher than:

  • 25% of the sum insured for irrigated areas, and
  • 30% of the sum insured for unirrigated areas. For this purpose, districts with more than 50% area under irrigation will be considered as irrigated districts or areas.

Increase in centre’s share for the northeastern states: Under the two schemes, premium subsidy is equally shared by the central and state government. For northeastern states, the central government will provide 90% of the subsidy, with remaining 10% coming from the state government.

Delay by states: States will not be allowed to implement the schemes in subsequent seasons in case they considerably delay the release of premium subsidy to insurance companies beyond a prescribed time limit.

Second advance estimates of production of crops released for the year 2019-20

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare released the second advance estimates of production of foodgrains and commercial crops for the year 2019-20. Following are some of the highlights:

  • Foodgrain production in the year 2019-20 is estimated to increase by 2.4% as compared to 2018-19. The increase is largely due to a 2.2% growth in the production of cereals. Rice and wheat production are estimated to increase by 0.8% and 2.5%, respectively.
  • In 2019-20, the production of coarse cereals is estimated to increase by 5.1%, and that of pulses is estimated to increase by 4.3%.
  • The production of oilseeds is estimated to increase by 8.5% in 2019-20. While soyabean production is estimated to increase by 2.7%, groundnut production is estimated to see a much higher increase of 22.6%.
  • The production of cotton is estimated to increase by 24.4% in 2019-20. Sugarcane production is estimated to decrease by 12.7% to 354 million tonnes in 2019-20.
Cabinet approves Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) Phase-II

The Union Cabinet approved the Phase II of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) [SBM (G)]. The programme will focus on Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus, which includes ODF sustainability and solid and liquid waste management. It will be implemented by states as per the operational guidelines issued to them by the central government. Phase-II will be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1,40,881 crore. Of this, Rs 52,497 crore will be allocated from the budget of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

The remaining amount will be generated from funds under MGNREGS and other revenue generation models for solid and liquid waste management. Under the program, incentive of Rs 12,000 for construction of individual household toilet to eligible households will continue. Financial assistance to gram panchayats for construction of community managed sanitary complex at village level will be increased from two lakh rupees to three lakh rupees, per complex.

Cabinet approves creation of National Technical Textiles Mission

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, approved the National Technical Textiles Mission. 38 Technical textiles are textiles manufactured for technical performance and functional properties rather than aesthetic characteristics. They have applications in areas such as railway tracks and bullet proof jackets. The Mission will be implemented over a period of four years, from 2020-21 to 2023-24 with a total outlay of Rs 1480 crore.

Key components of the Mission include:

Research: The Mission will promote research into the development of: (i) fibres such as, carbon fibre and nylon fibre, and (ii) textiles such as, geo-textiles and biodegradable textiles. This component will have an outlay of Rs 1,000 crore.

Promotion and market development: Indian technical textiles consist of approximately 6% (USD 16 billion) of the USD 250 billion global technical textiles market. The Mission aims to increase the domestic market size to USD 40-50 billion by 2024 through market development and investment promotion.

Export: The current annual value of exports of technical textiles is approximately Rs 14,000 crore. The Mission aims to increase the annual value of exports to Rs 20,000 crore by 2021-22, and ensure a 10% average growth in exports per year up to 2023-24. Further, an Export Promotion Council for technical textiles will be set up for effective coordination and promotion activities relating to exports.

Education: The Mission also aims to promote technical education in higher engineering in areas related to technical textiles and its application.

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