- ‘Woman having child through surrogacy entitled to maternity leave’
- TRAI recommends PPP model for Bharat Net project
- ‘Trans-Pacific pact may impact exports’: Commerce Minister
- Nod for Defence Park at Ottappalam
Science & Technology
- U.K. grants first licence for genetic modification of embryos
‘Woman having child through surrogacy entitled to maternity leave’
The Bombay High Court has directed the Central Railway (CR) to grant three months’ maternity leave to its employee who became a mother by using a surrogate.
- The court ruled that a mother enjoys the same benefits of maternity leave as any other working woman under the Child Adoption Leave and Rules.
- There is nothing in the rules that disentitles maternity leave to a woman who has attained motherhood through surrogacy procedure.
- The court upholds that a woman cannot be discriminated as far as the maternity benefits are concerned, only on the ground that she has obtained the baby through surrogacy.
TRAI recommends PPP model for Bharat Net project
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended public private partnership (PPP) model for the roll out of the Bharat Net project which has been marred by delays.
Reasons for delays:
Rural broadband provision is prone to market failures as well as government failures. It is evident by the slow implementation of National Optical Fibre Network or NOFN.
TRAI recommends that the use of a PPP-based model to expand broadband coverage is the only other viable option.
- According to TRAI, a PPP model that aligns private incentives with long-term service delivery in the vein of the Build-Own-Operate Transfer / Build-Operate-Transfer models of implementation should be the preferred means of implementation.
- The regulator has also suggested that contract period should be of 25 years, which can be further extended in block of 10, 20 or 30 years.
- TRAI has suggested that central and state government should become minority partner of the concessionaire with 26 per cent stake as it can lower the perceived risks and cost of obtaining private finances for the project.
- TRAI has suggested that the concessionaire’s should be handed over task of deployment and implementation of the optical fibre cable and other network infrastructure as well as operating the network during the period of contract. Concessionaires shall be entitled to proceeds of revenue from dark fibre and/or bandwidth.
- The task of rolling out broadband network should be given to a concessionaire selected through reverse bidding.
- The funding should be done to bridge the loss incurred due to higher operational expenses and lower commercial accruals.
The UPA Government had approved Rs. 20,000 crore for laying optical fibre network in 2011. However, it missed all the deadlines. The new NDA Government re-examined the project status with a deadline of 2016 end. A committee set up by the DoT proposed increasing the scope and scale of the project at an estimated cost of over Rs.70,000 crore and extending the deadline to December 2017.
About Bharat Net Project:
- Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband by 2017, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme.
- The project, which was to be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund, aims to provide broadband connectivity to over 2 lakh gram panchayats (GPs).
- It aimed to leverage the existing fibre optical network of Central utilities — BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid — and laying incremental fibre wherever necessary to bridge the connectivity gap between panchayats and blocks.
- It proposes broadband connectivity to households under village panchayats and even to government institutions at district level.
At present, a special purpose vehicle, Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), under the telecom ministry is handling the roll out of optical fibre network. The project is being executed by BSNL, Railtel and Power Grid.
[Ref: Hindu, IE]
‘Trans-Pacific pact may impact exports’: Commerce Minister
Commerce Minister has recently expressed concerns over the mega-regional free trade pact led by the U.S. and including 11 other Asia-Pacific countries, also called as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
What is the issue?
- TPP —which has set very high standards for the international trading regime is likely to indirectly impact India’s exports in several industrial sectors such as textiles, plastics, leather, clothing, cotton and yarn.
- Besides the country’s regime on investment, labour standards, intellectual property rights (IPR), government procurement and State-owned enterprises (SOE) are also expected to affect through TPP.
- Challenges posed by the TPP could be similar to those experienced by India post the 1991 economic liberalisation.
The TPP agreement (which India is not a part of) was reached in October 2015 and the member countries have two years to ratify the pact.
- The investor-State dispute settlement mechanism adopted by the TPP was also a concern from India’s point of view.
- Some of the TPP standards were higher than that of the WTO norms, including on IPR and possible ever-greening of patents, which could hurt India’s pharma sector.
- The operations and the production methods of India’s public sector units (or SOEs) could also be constrained due to the TPP.
- Several Indian export sectors such as cotton and yarn could be affected as trade may be diverted to the TPP region due to its benefits of low or nil duties.
- And hence this would prompt Indian companies to invest in the TPP-region countries and start producing from there.
Commerce Minister views that:
- The External Affairs Ministry would soon do a study in the context of TPP and inform the government what the priorities should be in terms of policy-making in the next six months.
- In the meantime, the Indian government will have to consider improving the country’s standards in areas such as labour laws by holding stakeholder consultations.
- India is considering engaging with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries to ensure that it did not miss out on the emerging trade dynamics.
- India would also have to focus on improving its trade with African countries.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries concerning a variety of matters of economic policy, which was reached in October 2015 after 7 years of negotiations.
- The Trans-Pacific Partnership is headed by the US and includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
- The agreement covers 40% of the world’s economy.
- It would set new terms for trade and business investment among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
- It would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade.
- It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.
The United States government has considered the TPP as the companion agreement to the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a broadly similar agreement between the United States and the European Union.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]
Nod for Defence Park at Ottappalam
Union government’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has given its final approval to the proposal of Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Kinfra) to set up India’s first Defence Industrial Park at Ottappalam.
- The Rs. 231 crore park will be established with the help of Central and State governments.
- The park to be established as part of ‘Make in India, Make in Kerala’ project will have modern common infrastructure facilities aimed at attracting component manufacturers in the defence industry.
The Union government has agreed to bring the park under the Modified Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme (MIIUS).
Advantages from the Defence Park:
- It is estimated that the defence components manufacturing sector has demand estimated at $700 million a year from India and other countries having friendly relationship with it. In India, there is a 15 per cent gap between demand and supply.
- The Defence park can bridge the gap apart from providing the country an opportunity in defence-related export of products from small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Why Ottappalam was selected for the Defence Park?
- Ottappalam was selected for the Defence Park keeping in view its strategic location as far as connectivity was concerned.
- Apart from common facilities such as dedicated power and water supply, the park will have a research and development centre.
Science & Technology
U.K. grants first licence for genetic modification of embryos
Britain has granted its first licence to genetically modify human embryos for research into infertility and why miscarriages happen, in a move likely to raise ethical concerns.
- The decision makes Britain one of the first countries in the world to grant this type of authorisation for experimentation on human embryos, although similar research has been carried out in China.
- Critics have warned about the potential of “designer babies” as they have opined that with all embryos used in research, it is illegal to transfer them to a woman for treatment. But several researchers were in favour of the decision.
- The company which has received licence is planning to modify the embryos using a technique known as CRISPR-Cas9.
- CRISPR-Cas9 allows scientists to insert, remove and correct DNA within a cell.
- The company plans to find the genes at play in the first few days of fertilisation when an embryo develops a coating of cells that later become the placenta.
- According to the company, the embryos will not become children as they must be destroyed within 14 days and can only be used for basic research.
- The embryos to be used in the research are ones that would have been destroyed, donated by couples receiving In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment who do not need them.