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The Indo-Pacific journey
Foreign policy changes in Joe Biden’s administration
GST levy on mobility aids
9 PM for Preliminary examination
Syllabus- GS 1 – Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Context – The Supreme Court has laid down the guidelines for payment of maintenance in matrimonial cases.
What are the impacts of early marriage?
- Health issues – Girls are married off early and bear children long before they should. This triggers a state of poor maternal health and is one of the root causes of high levels of child stunting and wasting in India.
- Dependency – Since girl brides are not able to complete their education, they remain dependent and underpowered which acts as a big hurdle towards achieving gender equality.
- There is also the possibility of a marriage not working out for varied reasons, leaving the girl or young woman in extreme distress because often she is not financially independent.
What did the Court say?
As per the Supreme Court guidelines-
- Deserted wives and children are entitled to alimony/maintenance from the husbands from the date they apply for it in a court of law.
- A violation would lead to punishments such as civil detention and even attachment of the property of the latter.
- The plea of the husband that he does not possess any source of income ipso facto does not absolve him of his moral duty to maintain his wife, if he is able-bodied and has educational qualifications, the court declared.
- Both the applicant wife and the respondent-husband have to disclose their assets and liabilities in a maintenance case.
- Other factors such as “spiraling inflation rates and high costs of living” should be considered, but the wife should receive alimony which fit the standard of life she was used to in the matrimonial home.
- Overlapping jurisdiction under different enactment– Husband doesn’t have to pay maintenance in each of the proceedings under different Maintenance laws.
- The Court also added how an “order or decree of maintenance” may be enforced under various laws and Section 128 of the CrPC.
Why such a judgment?
- Usually, maintenance cases have to be settled in 60 days, but they take years, in reality, owing to legal loopholes.
- The top court said women deserted by husbands are left in dire straits, often reduced to destitution, for lack of means to sustain themselves and their children.
- Despite a plethora of maintenance laws, women were left empty-handed for years, struggling to make ends meet after a bad marriage.
What are the other laws where women can make a claim for alimony in India?
- Maintenance under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
- Child maintenance under section 125 CrPC.
- Maintenance under Section 26 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
- Protection of Women from the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Maintenance laws have been enacted as a measure of social justice to provide recourse to dependent wives and children for their financial support, so as to prevent them from falling into destitution and vagrancy.
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-2- International Relations
Context: The Indo-Pacific region is crucial in Indian foreign policy.
Where do we geographically place the Indo-Pacific?
- India has used ‘indo-pacific’ in joint statements with a series of partner countries, including the United States, Australia, France, Indonesia, Japan, and of course the United Kingdom.
- The Ministry has recently set up an Indo-Pacific Division as well as an Oceania Division, and placed them under the same Additional Secretary level officer. This is a sign of India’s commitment to this critical geography.
- For India, the Indo-Pacific is that vast maritime space stretching from the western coast of North America to the eastern shores of Africa.
- India’s great religious traditions, such as Buddhism, spread far and wide in the Indo-Pacific. Some of the oldest and most impressive Hindu temples are found in Vietnam, remnants of the Cham kingdom.
- A thousand years ago India’s greatest coastal empire, the Cholas, sent maritime expeditions and trading ships as far east as Sumatra, ancient China, and Abbasid empire in what is today Iraq.
- Sea-borne trade with Africa and with the Gulf states have been constants of Indian economic life.
How has India strived to utilise the geo-strategic potential of Indo-Pacific?
- The Indo-Pacific ocean system carries an estimated 65 per cent of world trade and contributes 60 per cent of global GDP. Ninety per cent of India’s international trade travels on its waters.
- India’s Indo-Pacific strategy was spoken by Prime Minister in a speech in Singapore in 2018 as the SAGAR doctrine (Security and Growth for All in the Region)
- India plans to support the building of a rules-based regional architecture resting on seven pillars. These are:
- Maritime security
- Maritime ecology
- Maritime resources
- Capacity building and resource sharing
- Disaster risk reduction and management
- Science, technology and academic cooperation
- Trade connectivity and maritime transport
- We have wanted to strengthen security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific by becoming a net security provider.
- For instance, in peacekeeping efforts or anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden .
- In the past six years, India has provided coastal surveillance radar systems to Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- All of these countries also use Indian patrol boats, as do Mozambique and Tanzania.
- Defence training programmes have increased.
- Mobile training teams have been deputed to 11 countries from Vietnam to South Africa, as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar in our immediate neighbourhood.
- The Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region has enhanced maritime domain awareness among partner countries.
- HADR missions in the Indo-Pacific in recent years have included Operation Rahat in Yemen in 2015; when India rescued and evacuated 6,710 persons, including 1,947 citizens of over 40 other countries.
- The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), co-founded by India and the United Kingdom in 2019. CDRI is key to India’s regional and global commitment to taking on climate change.
- India has also promoted and contributed to infrastructure, connectivity, economic projects and supply chains in the region, always prioritising the needs of the host community and the ethic of equity, environmental sustainability and social viability.
- International partnerships: India has created partnerships and mechanisms with countries the opportunities, concerns and stakes of which intersect with ours.
- Networks such as Quad, with India, the United States, Japan and Australia as participants, and the India-Japan-US, India-France-Australia and India-Indonesia-Australia trilateral arrangements offer cases in point.
- UK’ has characteristic wisdom and prodigious institutional memory, we hope too that the UK’s strategy will approximate India’s own and long-standing Indo-Pacific vision.
Source: The Hindu
GS2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
Context: Expected foreign policy changes that Joe Biden will bring to India-U.S. relations if he wins the presidential elections.
What are the changes expected?
On Afghan policy:
- In September 2009, Joseph Biden who was the then vice president of Obama’s administration was tasked with building an alternative plan to Afghanistan, to present to U.S. Generals who were pushing for influx of up to 400,000 troops to win the war in Afghanistan.
- Biden suggested that, the U.S. need not send more troops, instead it needed to pull out, and focus on a five-point agenda for what he called “Counter-terrorism Plus”.
On Relation with Pakistan:
- Biden will favour a policy of engagement with Pakistan in order to deal with the Taliban.
- Also, Biden Pakistan relation is expected to be in good will as Pakistan has accorded him with one of its highest civilian honours, the Hilal-e-Pakistan.
On U.S. policy with India:
- Biden and Mr. Trump foreign policy may not differ as much. For example, both favoured exiting troops from the Afghan base. For India, this would mean the continuity over the U.S. policy with India, during Biden’s tenure.
- It is also likely that Mr. Biden will build on the military foundational agreements with India, strengthen military cooperation and push the sale of U.S. military hardware
On Indo Pacific:
- Though Mr. Trump owned the Indo-Pacific policy, the policy owes its origins to the Obama-Biden administration that first focused on “Asia-Pacific” in order to build a coalition to counter Chinese inroads in the region.
On India – US Trade:
- Its more unlikely that Biden will try to restore India’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status for exporters, but he might push for signing up a mini-trade deal with India which has been in talks for long.
On visas to Indians:
- Biden understands the value of Indian immigrants to the U.S., and the importance of India’s outsourcing industry to the U.S. He has already assured Indian-Americans in this front.
On Civil rights and democracy:
- It will be one of the frictional areas in India- US relation given India’s pending review by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
- Also, his co-associates have been particularly vocal in several issues against Indian administration. For example, Jammu-Kashmir issue, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, communal and caste-based violence, actions against non-governmental organisations and media freedoms.
Mr. Biden’s foreign policy owes much significance considering Mr. Trump’s pull-out from the multilateral world order, including the World Health Organisation, UNESCO, Human Rights Council, agreements such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Accord. He is also expected to take concrete measures to strengthen the rules-based international order
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States
Context: The GST levy on mobility aids places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to lead a dignified life
- Recently, in Nipun Malhotra vs. Union of India case the Supreme Court of India heard brief arguments on the constitutional validity of the levy of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on mobility aids used by disabled citizens.
- According to the petitioner, the tax imposed on the products such as wheelchairs, tricycles for the disabled, braille paper and braille watches was discriminatory.
- But the Court adjourned the case stating that its power to review the decision of imposing tax was constrained by the principle of separation of powers.
- it suggested that the GST council (the governing body) is responsible for determining which products are taxed, and at what rate and its decisions are final.
- However, until the advent of the GST, mobility aids were almost entirely immune from indirect taxes.
- In virtually every State, exemptions were granted on the payment of value-added-tax on such goods. The GST did away altogether with this exemption.
Why should the Supreme court review the legitimacy of the taxes levied?
- Protecting the Fundamental rights: Taxes have a direct bearing on society. The nature and rate of tax imposed on a product have direct consequences on a person’s freedom and on a person’s right to be treated with equal care and concern.
- Promotes inequality: The tax places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to access the most basic goods, to lead lives with dignity.
- To Validate the legitimacy: When the GST Council reject the petitioner’s plea, it would be irrational of the Court not to test the legitimacy of the levy.
- International Precedence: The top courts in Canada and Colombia have recently came up to examine whether or not an imposition of a tax violates a fundamental right.
- Does not affect separation of powers: Taxing laws are very much similar to ordinary laws where judiciary has the power of judicial review and it doesn’t obstruct legislative and executive competence.
What were the reasons provided by government to impose GST on mobility aids?
- According to the government, relieving mobility aids from taxation, will disincentivise domestic manufacturers.
- In the absence of a levy of GST on the final product, the manufacturer will be burdened with input taxes. Since it cannot claim any credit for those taxes paid.
- So, the prices of the final product would have to be higher, otherwise the manufacturer will be placed in a relative position of disadvantage to foreign makers.
- The 5% concessional GST rate will result in a win-win situation for both the users of such devices, the disabled persons, as well as the domestic manufacturers of such goods.
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Why the arguments given by government is not satisfactory?
- First, many other essential products are exempted from GST.For example, in July 2018, following a sustained campaign, the levy imposed on female personal hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) was removed.
- Second, the Parliament has other ways to ensure that domestic manufacturers, for example, it can exempt firms from paying taxes on inputs on the condition that such inputs will be used to manufacture mobility aids.
Taxation, is just a tool intended to augment general welfare. The GST Council can learn from the good practices of Canada and Australia and grant a complete exemption on the levy imposed on mobility aids.