Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC -24th February 2024

1.Center amends surrogacy rules, allows couples to use donor gametes 

  • The Union government has modified the Surrogacy (Regulation) Rules, 2022 and notified that both gametes need not come from a married couple in case they are certified as suffering from a medical condition. As per the latest amendment, the couple can have a child born through surrogacy but must have at least one gamete from the intending couple. 
  • Also, single women (widow or divorcee) undergoing surrogacy must use self-eggs and donor sperm to avail surrogacy procedures, the notification has said. 
  • The latest amendment comes after the Supreme Court asked why the Centre was not taking a decision on the matter. The Union Health Ministry has now amended the earlier rules that stated that couples undergoing surrogacy must have both gametes from the intending couple. 
  • Form 2 (Consent of the Surrogate Mother and Agreement for Surrogacy) of the Surrogacy Rules read with Rule 7 was amended on March 14, 2023, to stipulate that donor eggs could not be used for gestational surrogacy of an intending couple. This has now been amended by a notification of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
  • The District Medical Board can certify that either husband or wife constituting the intending couple suffers from a medical condition necessitating the use of donor gamete, the surrogacy using donor gamete is allowed subject to the condition.
  • "Single women [widow or divorcee] undergoing surrogacy must use self- eggs and donor sperm to avail surrogacy procedures," the notification read. 
  • The Supreme Court last year received petitions from women across the country after it allowed a woman with a rare congenital disorder to avail surrogacy with a donor egg. The Centre had in March 2023 issued a notification banning donor gametes for couples intending to undergo surrogacy. 
  • The Supreme Court, in January, asked the Centre why it was not deciding for many women rushing to the top court with grievances. The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor-General Aishwarya Bhati, said last month that the government was reconsidering the amendment brought in surrogacy law last year. Several pleas were filed in the top court following the amendment made in Rule 7 on surrogacy on March 14, 2023. In December last year, the Supreme Court questioned the purpose of previous rules and said, "The very purpose of surrogacy would get defeated by such rules." 
  • Nitiz Murdia, managing director of fertility clinic, Indira-IVF, explained that surrogacy is the practice wherein a woman agrees to carry a fetus and give birth to a baby for someone else without having any parental rights on the child. "The latest amendment is a testament to the same that protects the fundamental rights of patients," he added. 

2.Will surrogacy by a single woman affect child's legitimacy: SC 

  • The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government whether a single woman intending to be a mother through surrogacy will affect the legitimacy of the child. 
  • "If there is no marriage and children are born, which is the law that gives them legitimacy. Which is the law that gives legitimacy to children born outside a formal marriage, be it a void or voidable marriage? There must be a ceremony of marriage, is it not? Please enlighten us," Justice B.V. Nagarathna asked Additional Solicitor-General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre. 
  • The court was examining the question of single and unmarried women becoming mothers through surrogacy. 
  • Ms. Bhati responded that the concept of an "illegitimate child" did not exist anymore. "The whole concept is gone following decisions of the Supreme Court. There are no 'illegitimate children' anymore," she said. Ms. Bhati explained there were four ways of "birth of a child". The natural birth, birth through Assisted Repro- ductive Technology (ART), adoption, and surrogacy, she submitted. 
  • She said the intention behind making the surrogacy regime stringent was to prevent the exploitation of women and to safeguard the welfare of the child. 
  • Ms. Bhati submitted that for single women, adoption was permissible, even ART. "It is her own body. She is not using somebody else's body," the law officer noted. Ms. Bhati said she would make detailed submissions in this regard. 
  • The court listed the matter on March 15. 

3.Caller's legal name must be displayed on phone screen, recommends TRAI 

  • Indian telecom users should know the legal name of anyone calling them, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended on Friday. The regulator recommended that Calling Name Presentation (CNAP), where phones display a caller's identity based on their KYC registration data, be implemented on Indian telecom networks. The recommendation will now be considered by the Department of Telecommunications, which had sought TRAI's inputs on the matter. 
  • The idea was floated by TRAI in a consultation paper last year which will allow subscribers to essentially see the name registered for every number that calls them, if they opt for such a service. 
  • The recommendations do not include a provision for telecom users to opt out of being identified when they call someone else, merely suggesting that the Department of Telecommunications exclude "witnesses/sensitive persons" pursuant to a court order. 
  • "Telephone consumers, at various fora, have raised a concern that in absence of the calling party name presentation facility, they prefer not to attend calls from unknown telephone numbers, as most of such calls are unsolicited commercial communications (UCCs) from unregistered telemarketers," TRAI said in the consultation paper. "As a result, even genuine telephone calls go unanswered," it noted. 
  • The privacy trade-offs that such a recommendation would entail were underscored by a few respondents to TRAI's consultation. This proposal could harm Indian users' informational privacy, the Inter-M net Freedom Foundation said in a statement, warning that it would also "not give [users] control over whether or not their name is displayed to the recipient when they make a call. Moreover, it can potentially lead to the caller's name being used for malicious purposes, such as identity theft or spamming." Reliance Jio in its submission to TRAI said "From Data Privacy aspect... the name of the telecom consumer is his personal data and under the prevalent jurisprudence on the subject.” 

4.The NB8 visit to India focuses on cooperation and trust

  • Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, cooperation with global partners has become more important than ever before. In this year's Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, we, the eight Nordic-Baltic countries, are participating in it together as representatives of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation, the NB8. Our message is clear: in times of turmoil and conflict, the world needs more trust, dialogue and cooperation. Let us join forces to protect and defend peace and stability, to oppose aggression, to maintain a rules-based world order, and to strengthen a world economy based on free trade, sustainability and long-term partnerships. 
  • We represent the governments of eight countries of the north: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. We are linked geographically, and we share deep historical, social, economic and cultural ties. Our advanced economies are outward-looking, innovation-driven, complementary and fully integrated into the world's largest single market area, the European Common Market. Taken together, the size of the Nordic-Baltic economies would qualify not only for the G-20 but also the G-10.3 
  • Our countries share a commitment to democracy and human rights. We are all champions of an international order based on multilateralism and international law. It is in this spirit that we pursue a very productive and deeply valued cooperation with India which is a key country with a long-standing democratic tradition and with which we share many core values. We also have long-term and ever-closer ties with India and the Indo-Pacific region in common. 
  • The Nordic-Baltic cooperation with India spans fields as diverse as innovation, green transition, maritime, health, intellectual property rights, new technologies, space cooperation and artificial intelligence, student exchanges, culture and tourisın. Trade and investment figures between our region and India are steadily increasing. India and the Nordic Baltic countries are coming together in pursuit of common goals. 
  • In a time of geopolitical shifts, the security of the Nordic-Baltic region and the Indo-Pacific is Interlinked. Today, it is more essential than ever to work together to uphold international law, and to build capacity to tackle both traditional and non-traditional security threats, be it in India's neighborhood or in our own. 
  • We recognise India's increasingly Important role in international politics. India has taken on Important global responsibilities. Indian leadership, as illustrated not least through the successfully concluded G-20 presidency, Is Increasingly Important for global security and a more interconnected world, challenges are shared and require us to work together. In recent years, we have all experienced global health, climate-related and geopolitical shocks that have caused significant strain to our peoples, the international system and indeed on our common planet. We see an urgent need to get back to a more positive agenda for global cooperation. This is an ambition that we share with India, and one where our enhanced cooperation can make a difference. 
  • The impact of the war against Ukraine Today, the global agenda for progress is seriously hampered by Russia's illegal and full-scale war against Ukraine. Russia is trying to destroy and dominate a democratic neighboring country and alter borders using illegal force. It is an attack on international law and on the fundamental principles of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. Upholding these principles that are enshrined in the United Nations Charter, be it in Europe, the Indo-Pacific or elsewhere, and ensuring accountability for the crimes committed, is paramount. 
  • The war affects global food and energy security, supply chains, macro financial stability, Inflation and growth. Indeed, the Rossias blockade of Ukrainian ports is especially pernicious, given the substantial global humanitarları needs. For this reason, it is most welcome that Ukraine has pushed through the Russian blockade and resumed food exports that are so critical for the world at large, not least for the countries and people in need. 
  • Two years on, it is clear that Russia has totally underestimated Ukraine as well as the support and determination of the international community. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has presented an ambitious peace formula for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, based on international law and the UN Charter. The peace formula, which has received broad International support, includes issues of global concern such as energy and food security, environmental consequences and justice. We fully support Ukraine's diplomatic efforts for peace and welcome the increasing number of countries and international organizations taking part in the peace formula meetings-most recently in Davos, Switzerland in January, where there were 83 participants. 
  • Our visit represents the first joint high-level NH8 delegation outside Europe. We have chosen India as our first destination, for many good reasons. Building on our strong commitment to the multilateral system, we want to increase dialogue and cooperation on the issues that dominate India's and other global partners' agendas. 
  • We are honored to participate as a region in this year's Raisina Dialogue and to be able to deepen our partnership and cooperation with India. Our message to the world continues to be partnership, trust and cooperation. A partnership for development and health; a partnership for green transition and digitalisation; and a partnership for peace and stability. 

5.Haryana govt. presents tax-free budget, announces waiver of interest, penalty on crop loans 

  • The Haryana government on Friday presented a taxfree State budget for the 2024-25 financial year with an outlay of 1,89,876.61 crore, an increase of 11.37% in comparison to the previous year, with a focus on agriculture and farmers. 
  • Chief Minister Manohar Lal, who also holds the portfolio of Finance, presenting the budget during the ongoing Assembly session, announced to waive interest and penalty on crop loans and said that no new taxes are proposed in this year's budget.
  • The budget outlay comprises 1,34,456.36 стоге as revenue expenditure and 55,420.25 crore as capital expenditure, which is 70.81% and 29.19% of the total budget, respectively. The Public Sector Enterprises will also spend an amount on creating capital infrastructure amounting to 18,119.24 crore in 2024-25. Therefore, in total, the capital expenditure for the year 2024-25 would be 63,539.49 crore, according to the budget proposal. 
  • The government has to measures for of the farmers which agriculture production has % in 2023-24, highest in the Chief Minister to waive inter Pointing State gave various benefits as a result of natural growth at 8.1 amongst the country, the announced est and loans. penalty on crop
  • The announcement has come amid the ongoing stand-off between the Centre and farmers over their demands for a legal guarantee for purchasing crops at a Minimum Sup-port Price (MSP) and farm loan waiver. Farmers have been camping in Punjab after being stopped from entering Haryana since February 13. 
  • Mr. Lal said the firm commitment of the government to boost investment in agriculture, rural development, health, education, welfare and infrastructure for socio-economic growth of the State is reflected in higher budgetary allocation for these sectors for 2024-25. 
  • Rural housing scheme Mr. Lal said on the lines of the Mukhyamantri Shehri Awas Yojana, he proposes to launch the Mukhyamantri Gramin Awas Yojana for those beneficiaries who were to be allotted plots under the Mahatma Gandhi Gramin Basti Yojana but have not been given possession of plots in the last fifteen years. 

6.Govt Speeds Up Electricity And Rooftop Installation 

  • The Indian government has recently approved crucial amendments to the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020, aimed at streamlining processes, ensuring faster new electricity connections, promoting transparency, and facilitating the installation of rooftop solar systems. 
  • These amendments mark a significant step towards consumer empowerment and the nation’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The revised norms reduce the time frame for obtaining new electricity connections, bringing it down to three days in metropolitan areas, seven days in municipal areas, and 15 days in rural areas. 

7.Govt Unveils 4 Transformative Portals For Modernizing Media 

  • Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur launched four portals aimed at fostering a more conducive business environment, enhancing transparency in government communication, and providing easy access to authentic government videos. 
  • The four portals launched are: Press Sewa Portal, Transparent Empanelment Media Planning and eBilling System, NaViGate Bharat Portal and National Register for LCOs. 

8.12,000-13,000 Kilometers Of Highway Construction Targeted For FY24: Road Secy 

  • Anurag Jain, Secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), provided insights into the highway construction progress for the financial year 2023-24 (FY24) 
  • Despite challenges such as extended monsoons and a stricter review process, significant strides have been made in capacity augmentation and widening existing highways. 
  • An estimated 12,000-13,000 kilometers of highway construction is targeted for FY24. Expectation of substantial construction activity in the last quarter, aiming for 4,500-5,000 km between February and March 2024. 

9.India’s First Gati Shakti Research Chair Established At IIM Shillong 

  • The Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways (MoPSW) has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong to establish the first ‘Gati Shakti Research Chair’ in India. 
  • This initiative aims to enhance academic research in multimodal logistics, particularly focusing on the North-East region.
  • It will provide students with avenues to excel in logistics-related fields through skill development and career opportunities. 

10.NTPC Renewable Energy Ltd. 

  • NTPC-REL Inaugurates First Solar Project In Rajasthan 
  • NTPC Renewable Energy Ltd. inaugurates its inaugural solar project in Chhattargarh, Rajasthan, with a capacity of 70 MW, marking a significant milestone in India’s renewable energy sector. 
  • This project contributes to NTPC Group’s total installed capacity, which now stands at 73,958 MW, further solidifying its position as a key player in the country’s energy landscape. International News 

11.Shahbaz Sharif will be the new Prime Minister of Pakistan 

  • The two major political groups in Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), have decided to share power. This means that Shehbaz Sharif will again become the Prime Minister and Asif Ali Zardari will be the President. 72- 2 year-old Sharif is the younger brother of three-time former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. 
  • The announcement comes after nearly two weeks of political deadlock in the country following the February 8, 2024 elections, which resulted in a hung assembly, with no party securing the 133 seats required for a simple majority out of the 265 seats in the Pakistan National Assembly. PTI-backed independent candidates won more than 90 seats in the National Assembly in the general election on 8 February 2024. PML-N won 75 seats while PPP stood third with 54 seats. Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has 17 seats. 
  • However, the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have agreed to a power-sharing deal to form a new coalition government, which could effectively end former Prime Minister Imran Khan's chances of returning to power. 
  • The new government in Pakistan is facing challenges in dealing with the country's economic crisis and security issues. In 2023, Pakistan was saved from a default when the International Monetary Fund provided a short-term loan of $3 billion. Then there are terrorismrelated challenges that have reemerged following the return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2021. 

12.Dubai launches 5-year multiple entry visa for Indian tourists 

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates has implemented a five-year multiple entry visa system for Indian tourists. Its objective is to promote economic cooperation and encourage tourism and business relations. 
  • The DET said that through this initiative, tourists can avail multiple entries and exits, thereby providing operational flexibility for business activities, leisure travel and seamless connectivity. 
  • According to Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism-DET, this visa will be issued in two to five working days and will allow a stay in Dubai for 90 days. This visa can also be extended for a period of 90 days. 
  • But the duration of this visa cannot exceed 180 days in a year. Through this initiative, tourists can avail multiple entry and exit facilities. This visa also provides operational convenience for business, leisure travel and seamless connectivity. 
  • Dubai received 2.46 million tourist arrivals from India between January and December 2023, according to the latest data from the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). This represents a significant increase from 1.84 million tourists in 2022. 
  • According to Dubai Economy and Tourism Department, there has been an increase in the number of Indian tourists in Dubai.

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