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Insights Daily Current Events – 22 and 24 August 2015

Insights Daily Current Events – 22 and 24 August 2015

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Gujarat HC stays compulsory voting in local polls

The Gujarat High Court has stayed the state government’s notification making voting compulsory in the local civic bodies and panchayat polls scheduled to be held later this year.

What has the Court said?

The court noted that the ‘right to vote’ provided in the Constitution also provided the right to refrain from voting and it could not be made a “duty to vote” for the citizens.

Background:

  • The court acted on a petition that challenged Gujarat Local Authorities (Amendment) Act 2009.
  • The petition stated that the right to vote cannot be termed as the duty by the state and, therefore, the provision of compulsory voting Act is violative of the fundamental rights given to the citizens under the Indian Constitution.

About the Gujarat Local Authorities (Amendment) ordinance:

  • The Gujarat government had recently issued a notification on the Gujarat Local Authorities (Amendment) Act 2009, which makes voting in the local polls mandatory and those who fail to exercise their franchise would face a penalty of Rs 100.
  • The act was first passed in 2009 and was rejected by the then Gujarat governor. This had forced the government to pass it again.
  • The government says that the purpose of this act is to bring the citizens to the centre stage of politics and to increase the voting percentage.
  • However, this move was seen as unconstitutional and impractical measure.

Gujarat does not figure in record books for a high voter turnout. It’s highest ever turnout in a national election was 66.4% last year, when the BJP had won all 26 seats. Municipal elections have seen even lower interest, with the figure not crossing 60% since 1995.

Sources: The Hindu.

PM for space station in a Pacific Islands country

Pushing for deeper cooperation with 14 nations of strategically-located Pacific region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced a number of initiatives, including setting up of a space station in any of the countries and developing capacities in disaster management.

  • These initiatives were announced during the 2nd Summit of Forum for India-Pacific Island Conference (FIPIC) held in Jaipur.
  • PM also reached out to the Pacific Island Countries to support India’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
  • PM assured the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) that India stands shoulder to shoulder with them for a dedicated seat for SIDS (Small Island Developing States) in an expanded and reformed UN Security Council in both categories.
  • Rich in seabed resources, the Pacific Island Countries (PIC) are keen to partner with India in the area of exploration of minerals. China, which has made staggering investment in the region, is also eyeing to be a part of the venture.
  • The PICs are also eager to give tourism a fillip using the Hindi film industry.
  • PM also announced that India will establish at least one information technology laboratory in each Pacific Island country that will not only improve local IT infrastructure, but also enable the countries in fulfilling our commitment to provide tele-medicine and tele-education to the people.

About the Forum for India-Pacific Island Conference (FIPIC):

  • It is a multinational grouping developed in 2014 for cooperation between India and 14 Pacific Islands nations which include Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
  • Some of the countries have oil and gas reserves.
  • All Head of state/head of government of the above countries met in Suva, Fiji in November 2014 for the first time where the annual summit was conceptualised.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

SAARC moots participatory management of forest resources

Faced with depletion of forest resources due to over exploitation and destructive harvesting, eight member-countries of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) have decided to join hands to promote community-based sustainable management of Non-wood Forest Produce (NWFP).

  • A three-day meeting of the SAARC Expert Group on Community-based Sustainable Management of NWFP and Income Generation for Communities was recently held at the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI).
  • The meeting also mooted the establishment of legal, fiscal and market mechanisms to ensure sustainability of NWFP harvesting with community participation.
  • Delegates from the eight member-nations, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attended the meeting.
  • They also resolved to set up a comprehensive policy framework to legalise the collection, processing and certification of the products and to facilitate value addition.
  • The meeting also came to a general consensus on establishing a real-time market intelligence and monitoring system for high value forest produce.
  • To curb over exploitation, the expert group mooted steps to entrust local communities with the proprietorship of these resources.

About non-wood forest products (NWFP):

  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines NWFP as being “goods of biological origin other than wood derived from forests, other wooded land and trees outside forests”.
  • NWFP may be gathered from the wild, or produced in forest plantations, agroforestry schemes and from trees outside forests.
  • Examples of NWFP include products used as food and food additives (edible nuts, mushrooms, fruits, herbs, spices and condiments, aromatic plants, game), fibres (used in construction, furniture, clothing or utensiles), resins, gums, and plant and animal products used for medicinal, cosmetic or cultural purposes.
  • Several million households world-wide depend heavily on NWFP for subsistence and/or income. Some 80% of the population of the developing world use NWFP for health and nutritional needs. Women from poor households are generally those who rely more on NWFP for household use and income.
  • NWFP have also attracted considerable global interests in recent years due to the increasing recognition of their contribution to environmental objectives, including the conservation of biological diversity.

Sources: The Hindu, FAO.

Mahadayi dispute: Karnataka to seek out-of-court settlement

Leaders of all parties in Karnataka have resolved to seek PM’s intervention for an out-of-court settlement of the Mahadayi inter-State water dispute.

Background:

  • Several places in north Karnataka are witnessing protests by public and various organisations demanding that the Kalasa-Banduri canal project be taken up, over which the state has locked horns with neighbouring Goa.
  • The Kalasa-Banduri Nala (diversion) project, which will utilise 7.56 TMC ft of water from the inter-state Mahadayi River, is being undertaken by Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and the districts of Belagavi and Gadag.
  • It involves building barrages across Kalasa and Banduri, tributaries of Mahadayi River, to divert 7.56 TMC of water to the Malaprabha River which supplies the drinking water needs of the region.

Sources: The Hindu, NDTV.