Mains Marathon

Mains Marathon-Reference material- August 29-Current Affairs

Reference material for the current affairs portion of Mains Marathon for August 23 – August 27 will be provided shortly.

1. Critically analyze how Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 will the total disregard for the rights of the surrogate mother and child. Also highlight the criticism against ban on commercial surrogacy.

The process of surrogacy entails the use of one woman’s uterus to implant and carry the embryo of a child – as well as to deliver the baby – for another individual or couple. The woman who carries the child is referred to as a surrogate mother.

Problems faced by surrogates:-

  • There have been instances where surrogates have died as a result of complications during pregnancy and due to unavailability of good post natal care.
  • Contracts mostly are structured where surrogates assume all medical, financial and psychological risks.
  • There are instances where babies are born with disabilities or an unplanned twins being abandoned by the intended parents.
  • There are examples of multiple embryos being implanted in the surrogate’s womb, to ensure high chances of success.
  • In many cases children born through surrogacy have been refused to accept by a foreign couple due to the controversial status of surrogacy in their country.

Some Examples:-

In 2008, Manji, a Japanese baby girl born through a commercial surrogacy arrangement in a Gujarat IVF clinic. Baby’s return was complicated due to divorce of couple and the ambiguous status of surrogacy in Japan.

One case happened in 2009 when Balaz twins of German couple, born through commercial surrogacy in India were refused to accept by Germany because surrogacy is subject to prosecution in Germany

How  Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 will be helpful

  • Bill has put a complete ban on commercial surrogacy, as commercialization had made it run like a business, where even exploitation was being done to maximize the profit.
  • A woman can become a surrogate mother only for altruistic purpose and under no circumstances she will be paid for it, although payment can be made towards medical expenses. Removing money will make surrogacy more respectable function.
  • The child born through surrogacy will have all the rights of a biological child.
  • Bill has proposed to regulate the surrogacy in India and has limited the surrogacy to couples:-
  • Who cannot naturally have children.
  • Have a lack of other assisted reproductive technology options.
  • Are keen to have a biological child.
  • And can find a surrogate mother among their relatives.
  • These regulations will ensure that only genuine surrogacy needs will be fulfilled and surrogacy in relations will reduce the scope of exploitation.
  • Age limit of couple and time limit of marriage will ensure that the claiming couple is mature and strong enough to take care of children.
  • It also bans unmarried people, live-in couples and homosexuals from opting for altruistic surrogacy, as due to illegality of these relations, they are not deemed fit to take care of a child.
  • Bill has also banned the foreign couples from having commercial surrogacy in India.
  • Abandoning the surrogate child, exploitation of surrogate mother, selling/import of human embryo have all been categorised as violations that are punishable by a jail term of at least 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.

Criticisms against commercial surrogacy:-

  • With no financial mechanism in place, present surrogates will be pushed out without any income in their hands.
  • There are still chances that the hidden financial deals may take place in the altruistic surrogacy too.
  • Many underground alternatives will arise due to illegality,
  • Blanket ban on foreign nationals for surrogacy will harm medical tourism in the country.
  • Instead of putting ban on commercial surrogacy government should come up with measure that can save surrogates from harassment.


2. Pakistan, by waging a constant propaganda battle against India on the waters issue, risks undermining the Indus treaty. Substantiate.

The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank in 1960.

Provisions of the treaty:-

  • Control over the three “eastern” rivers: the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, was given to India
  • While the water of three “western” rivers: the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum was given to Pakistan.
  • Since western rivers flow through India first, the treaty allowed India to use them for irrigation, transport and power generation.
  • The agreement set up a commission to adjudicate any future disputes arising over the allocation of waters.
  • In cases of disagreement, a neutral expert is called in for mediation and arbitration.

How India followed Treaty’s provisions:-

  • In Asia, the vast majority of the 57 transnational river basins have no water-sharing arrangement or any other cooperative mechanism.
  • While India has water-sharing treaties with both the countries located downstream to it, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • While another Asian power China is not having a single water-sharing arrangement with any co-riparian state.
  • 80.52 per cent of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system is reserved for Pakistan, which is 90 times greater volume of water than Mexico’s share under a 1944 pact with the U.S.
  • It is the only water agreement in the world which seeks to compel an upriver state to defer to the interests of a downstream state.
  • India has followed the terms of treaty even though water is J&K’s main natural resource and essential for economic development.

How Pakistan used the treaty:-

  • Although Run-of-the-river projects are permitted by the Indus treaty, but  Pakistan wants no Indian works on the three “western rivers” and seeks international arbitration by invoking the treaty’s dispute-settlement provisions repeatedly.
  • By aiming to deny J&K the limited benefits permissible under the treaty, Pakistan wishes to further its strategy to foment discontent and violence there.
  • In 2010 while Pakistan went for arbitration proceedings to suspend the works of India’s Kishanganga project, it ramped up construction of its own three-times-larger, Chinese-aided hydropower plant on the same river.
  • Allowing China to build mega dams such as the 7,000-megawatt Bunji Dam and the 4,500-megawatt Bhasha Damon the same river has made the issue more complex.

Options with India

  • India has the option to dissolve the treaty altogether as International Court of Justice has upheld the principle that a treaty may be dissolved by reason of a fundamental change of circumstances.
  • India can withdraw from the treaty according to Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, against the use of state-reared terrorist groups.
  • While there is no enforcement mechanism in international law, India is not bound to follow the treaty.


3. What is lean protein? Discuss the benefits of eating more plant proteins than animal proteins.

Lean protein foods are rich in protein and limited in less healthy nutrients, such as saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Some sources of lean protein also contain beneficial plant chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

The white meat from chicken and turkey and dark meat without the skin are good choices for lean protein. Fish provides lean protein together with omega-3 fatty acids that lower cholesterol and inhibit inflammation.

Benefits of plant proteins over animal proteins:-

  • Plant protein foods include soy products such as soybeans, tofu, soy bean curd, and natto that are exceptional sources of high quality protein.
  • Plant protein help reduction of unhealthy fatty acids often found in animal protein food sources.
  • Some plant-based foods like quinoa, buckwheat, soy, chia and hempseed have all of the protein types, which makes them a good alternate source to animal protein.
  • Animal protein is typically also much higher in compounds that contribute to cardiovascular disease, such as saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Over-consuming animal protein puts a strain on our bodies, particularly our liver, which has a low tolerance for processing uric acid, a by-product of digesting animal protein.
  • Even lean protein from animals has additional hormones and antibiotics, as well as bacteria, parasites and carcinogens.
  • Animal protein is a “complete protein” but due to complex structure of these proteins, this significantly slows down digestion, and forces body to work harder on breaking down protein.
  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce are rich in ready to use, easily absorbed amino acids.
  • Meat requires cooking prior to consumption, but as cooking protein is widely known to denature it, and up to 50% of the protein value is thought to be lost in this process. While all vegetable-sourced proteins don’t require heat processing in order to be safely consumed.
  • Arachidonic acid is a pro-inflammatory fatty acid found in varying concentrations in all meats, can cause inflammation in body. Fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds contain high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids that promote rejuvenation and soothe, rather than aggravate, inflammatory conditions.

Hence plant protein is a better source of protein over animal protein.


4. Critically analyze the effectiveness of using Below Poverty Line (BPL) censuses for the purpose of poverty alleviation. Suggest some policy measure to bring effectiveness in poverty alleviation.

Below Poverty Line(BPL) criterion has been used since decades in India to identify the population requires special government attention to alleviate poverty from India.

Although this criterion has been successful to some extent, it has been criticized for various reasons,

Criticisms against BPL as measure of poverty

  • There is too much time gap between the surveys for measuring BP lines.
  • Data collected from these surveys are conflicting and unreliable, hence it is not an accurate formula for poverty alleviation.
  • There are many instances of ineligible people taking the benefits meant for poor people due to faulty criterion and mismanagement of these surveys.
  • Measuring correct poverty line is not easy due to dynamic nature of poverty. Poor households may move out of poverty and the non-poor may become poor over a period of time.
  • It does not take into account the people who are marginally above the poverty line and in need of government help for fulfilling daily needs.
  • BPL criterion does not differentiate between the included people, whereas the people at the bottom of poverty line should be subject to special attention of government policies.
  • Poverty line is well below standard poverty line measured by international organisations.

While BPL criterion also has helped 

  • By using BPL criterion our country has been able to reduce the poverty to the figure of 12.5% in 2015 (World Bank’s estimates of 2015) from more than 50%.
  • BPL criterion has provided the country with the tool to target the poverty in the absence of other effective measures.
  • BPL criterion have been used in various schemes and plans like PDS, poverty alleviation schemes, health insurance scheme for unorganised workers, which have helped India a lot in improving the standard of living of it’s poor population.

Way ahead

  • To address the poverty we must focus on providing employment opportunity to most of the population.
  • Dividing social safety net policies into three categories:-

First, provision of back-up manual work at below market wages to those who are able to work

Second, provision of insurance against catastrophic events such as health-care emergencies or crop failure that push people into poverty

Third is provision of cash support to people who are no longer able to work.

  • MGNREGA offers an excellent model for employment programmes in rural areas, which could be expanded to urban areas.
  • Old age and disability pension schemes need to provide a greater level of benefits and offer easier access.
  • Comprehensive and more effective measuring tools like Social Economic and Caste census should be used for identifying poor.
  • Encouraging MSME’s to divert the disguised unemployed population of rural areas to more beneficial and productive works.
  • Encouraging growth of more labour intensive sectors like manufacturing through effective implementation of programs like Make in India, Skill India etc.


5. What are Natural gas hydrates? Discuss their importance and availability in India with special reference to recent discovery in Indian Ocean.

Gas hydrates are crystalline form of methane and water, and exist in shallow sediments of outer continental margins. They are envisaged as a viable major energy resource for future.

By nature, Gas hydrates are mostly methane (CH4). Methane gas hydrate is most stable at the seafloor at water depths which is below about 500 meters.

The amount of gas within the world’s gas hydrate accumulations is estimated to greatly exceed the volume of all known conventional gas resources.

Availability in India

  • Gas hydrate resources in India are estimated at 1,894 trillion cubic meters
  • Deposits occur in Western, Eastern and Andaman offshore areas
  • Two promising sites of 100 km x 100 km in the Krishna‐Godavari (KG) and the Mahanadi basins have been identified and surveyed.
  • Recently large reserves of highly enriched accumulations of natural gas hydrate an icy form of the fuel are discovered in the Bay of Bengal.


  • They occur in abundance in the outer continental margins and permafrost regions.
  • According to some surveys, gas hydrate deposits along ocean margins are estimated to exceed known petroleum reserves by about a factor of three.
  • Huge energy potential of gas hydrates can be used as a viable major energy resource of future.
  • If India produces only 10% from this gigantic treasure, it can meet India’s overwhelming energy requirement for about 100 years.
  • India will not have to depend on other countries for energy resources and would be able to save billions of hard earned rupees.
  • It will save much more revenue to invest on infrastructure or other programs for social benefit.
  • India’s popular initiatives like Make in India will be requiring cheaper and constant supply of electricity for industrial promotion which gas hydrate source may fulfill.
  • If technology for it’s safe exploitation is developed, It will facilitate environmental protection by reducing methane leakage/escape from continental shelf by extracting it beforehand.
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