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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has told the media to “refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit” and, instead, use only the Constitutional term, ‘Scheduled Caste’.
- Dalit rights groups have opposed the I&B ministry’s order, asserting that the term holds political significance and a sense of identity.
- It is opined that the advisory must be withdrawn as there is no reason to tell the media how to do their job, even if it is phrased in the form of voluntary advice.
- The debate over the appropriateness of using the term ‘Dalit’ to refer to members of the Scheduled Castes is far from new.
- A decade ago, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes disfavoured the use of ‘Dalit’, which it felt was unconstitutional.
- This is because belonging to a ‘Scheduled Caste’ is a legal status conferred on members of castes named in a list notified by the President under Article 341 of the Constitution. And arguably must be used in official documents and communications.
Evolution of the term ‘Dalit’:
- The term ‘Dalit’ has evolved over a period of time and has come to symbolise different things in different contexts — self-respect, assertion, solidarity and opposition to caste oppression.
- In the past, Dalits were referred to as ‘untouchables’, but the official term during British rule was ‘depressed classes’.
- Mahatma Gandhi sought to remove the stigma of ‘pollution’ by using the term ‘Harijans’, or ‘children of god’. In course of time, the community rejected this title as patronising and hypocritical.
- It was only some decades ago that they began to refer to themselves as Dalits.
- ‘Dalit’ literally means ‘downtrodden’ or ‘broken’, but it is a word suggestive with meaning, reflecting the struggle of a community to reassert its identity and lay claim to the rights that were denied to them for centuries.
- Though the advisory has been issued in compliance with a direction from the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court. The advisory from the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry is unnecessary, intrusive and issued with little application of the mind.
- The reading of the court’s order shows it only wanted the Centre “to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take a suitable decision upon it”.
- The I&B Ministry’s advisory is confusing as it uses the words “for all official transactions, matters”, though the media’s references to the community are usually beyond official contexts.
- Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale, who has been associated with the Dalit Panther movement in Maharashtra which popularised the use of the term as a political identity, said the word ‘Dalit’ “denotes a sense of pride”.
Arguably, ‘Scheduled Caste’ is the appropriate way to refer to this class of people in official communications and documents. However, it is strange to oppose the use of the term ‘Dalit’ in the media and in non-official contexts — a nomenclature chosen and used by the community itself. Doing so lends itself to the charge that there is an attempt to deny the powerful and emotive meaning of the word Dalit. ‘Dalit’ must be recognised as an expression of self-empowerment.
With the much delayed 2+2 dialogue to take place in New Delhi on the 6th of September, there are high expectations in terms of likely signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, addressing the structural issues such as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) etc.
What is CAATSA?
- CAATSA is a punitive act signed reluctantly by President Donald Trump in August 2017 and forced his administration to impose sanctions on any country carrying out significant defence and energy trade with sanctioned entities in North Korea, Iran and Russia.
- The Senate and House Armed Services Committee in a joint conference report to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)-2019 provided a modified waiver to section 231 of CAATSA.
- As pointed out by a media release by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the proposed modified waiver requires presidential certifications designed to protect US alliances, military operations, and sensitive technology.
- This is an act by the Congress, thus the President of the United States of America doesn’t have too much of authority over it. Thus, if the President of the United States wanted to give some waivers to some countries, or to some entities, then the possibilities were very limited.
What does the Presidential waiver state?
The “modified waiver authority”, or amendment to Section 231 of CAATSA proposed by Congress, allows the President to waive sanctions in certain circumstances, for six months at a time, as long as he certifies that it is in the U.S.’s national security interests and does not “endanger” ongoing operations.
India’s three-fold case for the waiver:
- No weapons India bought would be used against the U.S.
- The U.S., which wants to partner with India in the Indo-Pacific, would hamper India’s military abilities by applying the sanctions or denying the country crucial technology.
- India has significantly reduced its dependence on Russian military hardware while increasing defence purchases from the U.S., and it would be unfair if the U.S. rewarded the effort with punitive measures.
- India had made it clear that it would go ahead with the S-400 Triumf missile system deal with Russia even as U.S. sanctions loom large.
- Earlier, when U.S. officials expressed concern over the S-400 sale, they had assured India that a way would be found by the Trump administration to shield friends and allies from sanctions. However, recent statements show a change in tone.
- Randall Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said in a sharp remark in Washington that he “can’t guarantee a waiver will be used for future purchases.” He said that there was an “impression that we are going to completely protect the India relationship, insulate India from any fallout from this legislation no matter what they do. I would say that is a bit misleading. We would still have very significant concerns if India pursued major new platforms and systems [from Russia].” He also added: “Russia is not a country you want to have a strategic partnership [with].”
- The U.S.’s change in tone and expectations directly impinge on India’s core national interests and interfere in its policymaking.
- Several officials have stressed this point on different occasions.
- While making the decision to purchase the S-400 air defence systems in July, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said, “We have made it clear that CAATSA is a U.S. law and not a UN law.” Asked if the law applied to India, she said, “Of course it does not.”
- There are practical considerations — the Indian military is heavily reliant on Russian equipment in many areas.
- Given the specific requirements of the military, the services will continue to choose Russian equipment, although they are also now diversifying their inventory.
- Several U.S. officials and experts have suggested that India should procure alternatives from the U.S. Speaking at the NATO summit in July.
- While Mr. Trump made a good pitch to export more U.S. weapons, selecting a military platform, especially something as complex as air defence systems, is not an isolated effort; military equipment cannot just be procured ad hoc. India has its own due diligence to follow regarding what suits it best and what it needs the most. The best product may not always be what is needed. The product that gives the best value for money and performs well under Indian conditions is what is procured.
- While the U.S. may expect India to do more for the support rendered by it at various levels, India’s defence cooperation doesn’t fall in that ambit.
- The India-U.S. relationship has moved past the stage of the usual rhetoric of praising “large democracies”. Given that India is a rising power looking for a greater say on the global stage, the U.S. should be sensitive to its core interests.
- The onus is on the U.S. to find a way out on CAATSA if it is really serious about taking forward the strategic partnership.
- Given that the 2+2 format involves talks at the highest levels, it is an opportunity for India and the U.S. to address the issue now and prevent it from escalating further.
- The debate between the Centre and the Kerala government on the offer and acceptance of foreign aid following the floods has drawn attention away from the core question at stake—one of fiscal federalism
- The goods and services tax (GST) has increased the centralization of fiscal powers, limiting the autonomy of states to raise their own revenue for public expenditure
- The interplay of the fledgling GST regime with the role and responsibilities of the Centre and states under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, (DMA) has led to an uncharted situation
Fiscal domain of states
- Public health, roads, bridges and ferries, inland waterways, agriculture and land are state subjects, under List II of the Constitution
- The Kerala government has sought to impose a cess of 10% to finance the rebuilding of the state following the devastation caused by floods
- In terms of Article 279A of the Constitution, the GST Council is the forum for approving any new state tax on account of a natural calamity or disaster
Need for more finance devolution
- Given that the taxation powers (and consequently, budgets) of states are significantly constrained on account of GST, it is incumbent on the Centre to share the states’ burdens in times of crisis
- Previously, states received 60% of all indirect taxes, while the Centre received 40%. This has now changed to a 50-50 division, even though the Centre forgoes cesses
- The GST is believed to increase state revenue in the long term, but, at the moment, several states, including Kerala, have reported a significant reduction in tax revenues under the new tax regime
- State governments have increased expenditure responsibilities (on account of the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana scheme, pay revisions and farm loan waivers)—more so in times of crises
- Without an adequate share of taxes, they are pushed to borrow more, hardly a sustainable source of financing public expenditure
Ignorance of state demands as well as DMA
- The DMA, which predates the GST Act, expands the role of the Centre in disaster management, but this has not resulted in adequate budgetary apportionment for states
- The prime minister is the ex-officio chairperson of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and secretaries of the concerned central government ministries and departments are members of the National Executive Committee (NEC)
- The NEC is responsible for formulating the national plan, which the central government is to finance by making “adequate provisions”
- Despite the statutory role of the Centre under the DMA, it places primary responsibility for disaster management on the states
Post-disaster mitigation has no specific funds
- The state disaster response fund (SDRF) is the primary means available to the states of financing disaster relief and response
- As per the operational guidelines for the national disaster response fund (NDRF), the fund is intended only to provide immediate relief to disaster victims
- Neither the NDRF nor the SDRF can be used for restoration or reconstruction in the aftermath of a disaster
- These expenses are to be met from normal budgetary heads or plan funds
Inadequate resources available for mitigation
- The Centre contributes 75% of the SDRF for general category states and 90% to special category states
- The total budgeted expenditure for the entire country for 2018-19 was ₹12,500 crore
- Assocham estimates the loss suffered by Kerala alone, at ₹15,000-20,000 crore
- By concentrating taxing power, the 122nd amendment to the Constitution has tilted the balance of federal powers towards the Centre
- It is not unreasonable for states to expect that the Centre will extend financial support during disasters
- The Centre must step in with additional disaster relief to prevent excessive borrowing by the state and the makings of another disaster
The Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out a petition seeking a ban on the Malayalam novel Meesha (Moustache), written by S. Hareesh, as it was perceived to be ‘derogatory’ to temple-going Hindu women.
The court said the creativity and imagination of an author cannot be held hostage to the vagaries of subjective perceptions, whims or fancies of individuals.
‘Committed to liberty’
The court said it would safeguard the free flow of ideas in a democracy by quoting Voltaire’s “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
The court said the judiciary should remain committed to keeping the flag of liberty flying high. “We live not in a totalitarian regime but in a democratic nation, which permits free exchange of ideas and liberty,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, who authored the judgment, observed.
The judgment said, “A writer should have free play with words, like a painter has it with colours. The passion of imagination cannot be directed.”
It is for the reader to read a creative work with a mature spirit, catholicity of approach, objective tolerance and a sense of acceptability founded on reality, it said.
The Chief Justice, along with Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, wrote that creative voices cannot be allowed to slip into “intellectual cowardice.”
The petitioner, N. Radhakrishnan, calling himself a “proud Hindu”, alleged that the book contained “offending parts”, which insult Brahmin priests and amounts to a “casteist/racist slur”.
He contended that dialogues between certain characters in the book demeaned womanhood and treated women as “sex objects”.
The petitioner said continued publication of the book would trigger violence and create a Charlie Hebdo kind of situation.
He wanted a gag on publications which threatened gender balance and pluralism, and sought either the Supreme Court or the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to frame guidelines against such “such insensitive, incriminating and defamatory articles”.
Chief Justice Misra said, “One may have a grave dislike towards a particular manner of expression but that would not warrant issue of a mandamus from the court to ban the book or the publication.”
The court held that the language used in the dialogue cannot remotely be thought of as obscene. The concept of defamation does not arise. Nurturing the idea that it is derogatory and hurtful to the temple-going is baseless.
- The Supreme Court ordered that minor survivors of rape or sexual assault will get compensation on par with women victims.
- The apex court extended the National Legal Services Authority’s (NALSA) compensation scheme for women rape and sexual assault survivors to minor children.
- A three-judge Bench directed that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act should disburse compensation to minor victims of sex abuse as per the NALSA’s ‘Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/Other Crimes-2018’.
- The NALSA scheme would be made applicable to minor victims from October 2 until the Centre frames compensation guidelines under the POCSO.
Details of the Compensation Plan
- The NALSA scheme provides a uniform payment of ₹ 5 lakh to a maximum ₹ 10 lakh for “loss of life” and to gang rape survivors in any part of the country.
- Similarly, in case of rape and unnatural sexual assault, the victim would get a minimum of ₹4 lakh and maximum of ₹ 7 lakh as compensation.
- Among other categories, if a victim suffers the loss of foetus, that is, by miscarriage as a result of assault or loss fertility, the NALSA scheme offers a compensation of ₹ 2 lakh to 3 lakh.
- The scheme provides a victim of acid attacks, in case of disfigurement of face, would get a minimum compensation of ₹ 7 lakh, while the upper limit would be ₹ 8 lakh.
- In acid attack cases, if the injury was more than 50%, a minimum compensation of ₹ 5 lakh would be given, while the maximum would be ₹ 8 lakh.
- The compensation for sex abuse survivors should be a source of financial solace for victims of sex crimes and acid attacks during court trial.
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- Justice Dipak Misra, the Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Judge, Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
- In every State, State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
- In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 received the President’s assent on 19th June 2012 and was notified in the Gazette of India on 20th June, 2012.
- The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography. It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
- The Act also casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process. Thus, the police personnel receiving a report of sexual abuse of a child are given the responsibility of making urgent arrangements for the care and protection of the child, such as obtaining emergency medical treatment for the child and placing the child in a shelter home, and bringing the matter in front of the CWC, should the need arise.
- The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system. It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible.
- Hence, the child may have a parent or other trusted person present at the time of testifying and can call for assistance from an interpreter, special educator, or other professional while giving evidence. Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
- The Act also provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences. This casts a legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence; if he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months’ imprisonment and/ or a fine.
- India and the United States are in a deadlock over contentious trade issues.
- This comes after the Trump administration sought a formal commitment of additional purchases of $10 billion annually for the next three years, as part of a trade agreement under negotiation.
- has a surplus of $23 billion in trade with America, and the U.S. wants to wipe that off by forcing more imports by New Delhi, as part of a proposed trade agreement.
Reviewing the GSP status for India
- The USTR had launched a review of India’s GSP status, which allows preferential treatment to certain number of specified goods from beneficiary countries.
- Earlier signals from the USTR suggested there could be a resolution by India, rationalizing the trade margin over medical devices, and for India by reducing the steel and aluminum tariffs.
- But the draft agreement prepared by the USTR sought concessions from India on Compulsory Registration Order that governs standards in telecom equipment, American exports of boric acid, pork, poultry and dairy.
Overt expectations by US
- American interlocutors took Indian officials by surprise last month with a draft agreement that committed additional imports by India, in civilian aircraft and natural gas.
- With talks in stalemate, the U.S is proceeding with its review of India’s GSP status and India is moving ahead with retaliatory tariffs.
- Postponed twice, India’s retaliatory tariffs are now set to come into force on September 18.
- Meanwhile, there is a shadow of uncertainty over the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) that was announced for the last week of October.
- India was expecting to negotiate general market access issues at the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), but the USTR wanted all of them resolved at earliest.
Fight for Market Access
- The US must understand that there are different ways of addressing the trade deficit.
- With the US restarting oil and natural gas exports Indian imports in these sectors have been going up.
- In the first six months of this year, US exports to India have gone up by 28% compared to last year.
- The US should not be hasty. There has been a decrease in the deficit last year by about 5% or about $1.5 Bn because India imports gas and oil from the United States.
- According to ballpark figures, this calendar year we are likely to import up to US $2.5 billion in oil and gas. This must be acknowledged by the US.
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