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NRIs want to vote, but through postal ballot

Friday March 04, 2011 03:32:36 PM, Arun Kumar, IANS

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Washington: Indians in America have welcomed the Election Commission's move to permit non-resident Indians to vote back home, but feel it would be a tough call to go to India just to vote.

Instead NRIs should be allowed to vote by postal ballot, electronically or at Indian missions abroad. They could also be given separate representation in the Indian parliament, community leaders told IANS.

"We very much welcome this," said Thomas Abraham, Founder President, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) International recalling, "We have been campaigning on this since 2000."

"On the other hand, it will be extremely difficult for 10 million or more Indian citizens to travel to India during the election time to vote in their constituencies," he said.

"With the advancement of technology, it would be easier to have electronic voting and the government should consider implementing this process," said Abraham who is also the founder president of the national Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA).

"An effective way for overseas voters to actively participate in the democratic process would be to have representation for overseas Indian citizens in the parliament," he said suggesting a constitutional amendment to provide for five Lok Sabha seats for ten million Indian citizens living outside India.

As a beginning, a couple NRIs should be nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India, he said adding, "If India is aspiring for progress, such opportunities have to be provided to Indian citizens living outside India as full participants for India's development."

George Abraham, General Secretary of Indian National Overseas Congress, USA described the Election Commission's move as "a significant step in getting the NRIs voices heard for the first time through the ballot boxes."

"However, it would be impractical for most of the NRIs to travel to India for the sole purpose of participating in an election," he said.

Abraham hoped that NRIs soon will have the opportunity to cast the ballots on an absentee basis through the postal system as in many western nations.

"Anyway, we consider the government's move as an encouraging first step as it showed that NRIs are beginning to get counted in significant decision making process in India," he said applauding the Manmohan Singh Government "for this very important decision."

"This is certainly a welcome step for all NRIs," Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, who works as a dentist in Marland, told IANS.

"This will give an opportunity to many in the diaspora to participate in the democratic process of India and shape the destiny of the nation," he said. "Indians all across the world have watched the developments occurring in India and yet they feel that inspirational political leadership has not emerged concurrently."

"Indians abroad yearn for new, honest and dynamic leaders to rise in the Indian political horizon and this exercise of vote will certainly have positive impact," said Rajwant Singh. "This will be their direct engagement in shaping the future of India to their liking."

Washington based Ramesh Annamreddy, President and CEO of Sneha Media, which runs a Telugu TV channel targeted at the Indian diaspora, also called it "a welcome initiative as a first step towards NRI voting rights."

"But it is very unfortunate that people need to be physically present to cast their vote," he said pointing to travel expenses involved. "NRIs need a better system to cast their votes by mail or at the respective Indian consulates in the country they are living."



(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

 

 

 

 

 

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