In an unprecedented move, the BJP-led government has conveniently diluted the proposed Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (ART) that sought to restrict ART services in India. Drafted in 2007 by the then Congress government, the proposed bill, which underwent enormous discussions till 2015, has now been narrowed down and will deal with the issues related to “surrogacy” only. The draft bill, now titled Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, is under discussion by a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Union health minister J.P. Nadda. Sources disclosed that the GoM was formed last week at the behest of PM Narendra Modi after the draft was discussed in the Cabinet meeting. Interestingly, the GOM who met on Thursday for the first time did not include women and child development minister as its member.
Even as sources confirmed that the proposed bill is in final stages and may be tabled in the ongoing session, health experts believe that dealing in surrogacy in isolation and in separation with other important issues like ART clinics, gammet donation, sperm donation, IVF practices (which had been earlier the part of broad ART bill) will serve no purpose. Earlier the ART bill has surrogacy as one of the parts of the bill.
“The proposed bill requires a public consultation and inter ministerial consultation, I don’t think the government has done its home work well. There have been consultations on the draft ART but not on the newly proposed surrogacy bill. All this is done haphazardly. The half baked bill will just be an eye wash,” said a health activist on condition of anonymity.
According to the highly-placed sources, things are on track and since the GoM has suggested some “minor” changes in the proposed bill, the final draft may be ready soon for the approval and may be tabled during the ongoing session of Parliament. They also claimed that India is not doing anything different than the other countries dealing with fertility issues.
Citing that surrogacy has been the most “contentious” issue in the country, sources said “There is a need to regulate surrogacy for the time being and that’s why it was decided to separate it from the earlier proposed ART bill so as to get going. Even the other countries have done it this way. The other related issues are fine and there is no worry on those issues. But regulation of surrogacy is the need of the hour”.
However, government sources also claimed that a lot of discussion have already happened at all levels . “The proposed bill has been discussed between the ministries. The broad contours remain the same as suggested earlier in the ART bill. The GoM has given few minor suggestions in the rules and regulations which will be incorporated. Though just a week is left in this session but we are still hopeful of introducing it”.
Other than the health minister, the committee consists of Minister of Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal among others.