6TH NOVEMBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. SC Guidelines of Matrimonial cases

News: The Supreme Court has laid down uniform and comprehensive guidelines for family courts, magistrates and lower courts to follow while hearing the applications filed by women seeking maintenance from their estranged husbands’.

Background:

  • 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.

Supreme Court Guidelines:

  • Deserted wives and children are entitled to alimony/maintenance from their husbands from the date they apply for it in a court of law. A violation would lead to punishment, 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.
  • Both the applicant wife and the respondent husband have to disclose their assets and liabilities in a maintenance case. Any earlier case filed or pending under any other law should also be revealed in court.
  • The expenses of the children, including their education, basic needs and other vocational activities, should be factored in by courts while calculating the alimony.
  • Other factors such as “spiralling inflation rates and high costs of living” should be considered, but the wife should receive an alimony which fit the standard of life she was used to in the matrimonial home.

Covering expenses

  • The expenses of the children, including their education, basic needs and other vocational activities, should be factored in by courts while calculating the alimony.
  • Education expenses of the children must be normally borne by the father. If the wife is working and earning sufficiently, the expenses may be shared proportionately between the parties.

Permanent alimony

  • The court opined it would not be equitable to order a husband to pay his wife permanent alimony for the rest of her life, considering the fact that in contemporary society marriages do not last for a reasonable length of time. Anyway, the court said, the duration of marriage should be accounted for while determining the permanent alimony.

2. Miya Museum and Char-chaporis

News: A proposed “Miya museum” reflecting the “culture and heritage of the people living in char-chaporis” has stirred up a controversy in Assam.

Adaptation:

  • The museum has been proposed in the Kalakshetra, which is a cultural complex in Guwahati named after neo-Vaishnavite reformer Srimanta Sankardev, and which was set up as part of Clause 6 (“… to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”) of the Assam Accord, signed at the culmination of the Assam Agitation.

Miyas:

  • The ‘Miya’ community comprises descendants of Muslim migrants from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to Assam. They came to be referred to as ‘Miyas’, often in a derogatory manner.
  • The community migrated in several waves — starting with the British annexation of Assam in 1826, and continuing into Partition and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

Char-Chaporis:

  • A char is a floating island while chaporis are low-lying flood-prone riverbanks. They are used interchangeably as they keep changing shapes — a char can become a chapori, or vice versa, depending on the push and pull of the Brahmaputra.
  • Prone to floods and erosion, these areas are marked by low development indices. While Bengali-origin Muslims primarily occupy these islands, other communities such as Misings, Deoris, Kocharis, Nepalis also live here. In the popular imagination, however, chars have become synonymous to the Bengali-speaking Muslims of dubious nationality.

3. India-UAE Relations

News: Recently, the eighth meeting of the India-UAE High-Level Joint Task Force on Investments has been virtually hosted by India in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

Details:

  • The Joint Task Force was created in 2012as a crucial forum for further deepening the economic ties between the UAE and India.
  • The mechanism has assumed greater importance as the two countries signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership(CSP) Agreement in January 2017 and the Joint Task Force is an integral component of it.
  • The focus areas underlined in the CSP were economy with emphasis on a two-way flow of investments, counter-terror cooperation and defence ties. India has signed CSPs with the UK, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia.
  • At the meeting, both sides reviewed the existing UAE Plus and the Fast Track Mechanism created in 2018.
  • UAE Plus is a special and dedicated desk constituted under Invest India with Arabic speaking officials to help facilitate investments.
  • The Fast Track Mechanism aims to resolve any challenges experienced by UAE investors in India.

Where we can improve relations with UAE?

  • Explore ways to facilitate investments in key Indian and UAE sectors with potential for economic growth, and to maintain their dialogue and further build on the considerable achievements of the Joint Task Force.
  • Encourage investment and cooperation in areas of mutual interest with the purpose to stimulate economic activities in the post-Covid-19 times.
  • Address specific barriers to trade, like anti-dumping duties, tariffs and regulatory restrictions between the two countries with an aim to further strengthen the trade and economic ties and to coordinate efforts and promote mutual cooperation.
  • Continue the work between respective civil aviation authorities to ensure speedy normalisation of air transport operations for their mutual benefit.
  • Development and operation of UAE-based funds to invest in India, in the light of the Foreign Portfolio Investor Regulations 2019 by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
  • India agreed to look into these issues with the objective of facilitating further direct investments of UAE-based funds and seeking mutually beneficial solutions in that regard.
  • Focus on opportunities for cooperation and potential investments in key sectors in India including the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, mobility and logistics, food and agriculture, energy and utilities and others.

India-UAE Relations

  • India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) enjoy strong bonds of friendship based on age-old cultural, religious and economic ties between the two nations.
  • The relationship flourished after the accession of H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and subsequently with the creation of the UAE Federation in 1971.

Political:

  • In August 2019,UAE awarded ZAYED Medal, their highest civilian award, to the Prime Minister of India for consolidating the long-standing friendship and joint strategic cooperation between the two nations.
  • Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the UAE in August 2015marked the beginning of a new and comprehensive and strategic partnership.
  • The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi visited India in February 2016and had wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

Commercial:

  • India-UAE trade was around USD 59 billion making UAE, India’s third-largest trading partner for the year 2019-20 after China and the USA. The UAE is the second-largest export destination of India with an amount of over USD 29 billion for the year 2019-20. For the UAE, India is the second-largest trading partner for the year 2019 with an amount of around USD 41.43 billion for non-oil trade.
  • India’s Major Exports: Food items, Machinery, Gems and Jewellery, Textiles, Engineering and Machinery Products, Chemicals, etc.
  • India’s Major Import: Crude Oil, Petroleum and Petroleum Products, Precious Metals, Minerals, Chemicals, Wood and Wood Products.

Cultural:

  • The two nations share historical ties and have maintained regular cultural exchanges both at official and popular levels. They signed a Cultural Agreement in 1975 and the embassies continue to organise various cultural activities on their own as well as by collaborating with other cultural organisations.

Indian Community:

  • The UAE is home to the Indian expatriate community of more than 2.6 million, the largest expatriate community in the UAE, which has played a major role in the economic development of the UAE.
  • Recently, India has asked the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which also includes UAE, to facilitate the return of Indians who want to resume work with the relaxing of Covid-19-related restrictions.

Recent Developmental Events in the UAE

  • In March 2019, the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was held in Abu Dhabi where India was invited as a guest of honour.
  • The UAE hosted the event and had strongly defended the decision to invite India despite Pakistan’s strong objection and threat to boycott the event.
  • In February 2020,the UAE issued an operating licence for the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant, paving the way for it to start production in 2020. In July 2020, the UAE launched a Mars probe named Amal (Hope) from Japan, marking the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.
  • In September 2020,the UAE signed the Abraham Accord with Israel and Bahrain, which is the first Arab-Israeli peace deal in 26 years.

4. Weakening financial capacity of states

Context: The financial health of the States has been declining in the last several years. The article explains the reasons and its implications for the States.

Role of States in development

  • State governments drive a majority of the country’s development programmes. Greater numbers of people depend on these programmes for their livelihood, development, welfare and security.
  • States need resources to deliver these responsibilities and aspirations.

Why states are at risk?

Reduced devolution:

  • Finance Commissions recommend the share of States in the taxes raised by the Union government and recommendations are normally adhered to.
  • The year 2014-15 commenced with a shock: actual devolution was 14% less than the Finance Commission’s projection. Between 2014-15 and 2019-20, the States got ₹7,97,549 crore less than what was projected by the Finance Commission.

Divisible pool:

  • Various cesses and surcharges levied by the Union government are retained fully by it, they do not go into the divisible pool. This allows the Centre to raise revenues, yet not share them with the States.
  • Hence, the Union government imposes or increases cesses and surcharges instead of taxes wherever possible and, in some cases, even replaces taxes with cesses and surcharges.
  • As a result, the States lose out on their share. Between 2014-15 and 2019-20, cesses and surcharges soared from 9.3% to 15% of the gross tax revenue of the Union government.
  • This systematic rise ensures that the revenue that is fully retained by the Union government increases at the cost of the revenue that is shared with the States. This government has exploited this route to reduce the size of the divisible pool.

GST shortfall

  • Shortfalls have been persistent and growing from the inception of GST. Compensations have been paid from the GST cess revenue. GST cesses are levied on luxury or sin goods on top of the GST.
  • GST compensation will end with 2021-22. But cesses will continue.
  • With the abnormal exception of this year, the years ahead will generate similar or more cess revenue.
  • Hence, many States have been insisting outside and inside the GST Council that the Union government should borrow this year’s GST shortfall in full and release it to the States.
  • The Union government will not have to pay a rupee of this debt or interest. The entire loan can be repaid out of the assured cess revenue that will continue to accrue beyond 2022.
  • Of the nearly ₹3 lakh crore GST shortfall to the States, the Centre will only compensate ₹1.8 lakh crore.
  • The States will not get the remaining₹1.2 lakh crore this year. In fact, it flies against the need of the hour to revive the economy. Governments ought to spend money this year to stimulate demand.

Declining grants from the Centre

  • Central grants are also likely to drop significantly this year. For instance,₹31,570 crore was allocated as annual grants to Karnataka. Actual grants may be down to ₹17,372 crore.

Implications:

  • To overcome such extreme blows to their finances and discharge their welfare and development responsibilities, the States are now forced to resort to colossal borrowings.
  • Repayment burden will overwhelm State budgets for several years.
  • The fall in funds for development and welfare programmes will adversely impact the livelihoods of crores of Indians. The economic growth potential cannot be fully realised.
  • Adverse consequences will be felt in per capita income, human resource development and poverty.

Conclusion

  • States are at the forefront of development and generation of opportunities and growth. Strong States lead to a stronger India. The systematic weakening of States serves neither federalism nor national interest.