Voting rights for the non-resident Indians

April 27, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Voting rights for the non-resident IndiansIndia, April 23, 2013: Parliamentary election in the offing, different issues are doing the round. A very important issue that goes unnoticed is the electoral role of NRIs, especially in this era when the world has become a global village. Grand country like India has more than twenty million NRIs spread around the globe. In the countries around Persian Gulf (GCC) alone, there are more than five million Indians working.

With this advanced electric technology today, we are performing most of our jobs over internet; registering, checking status, purchasing, banking and so on, from one corner of the world to another. One of the latest inventions in the use of this technology is online voting. Estonia became the first nation to hold legally binding general elections over the Internet for the municipal elections in 2005. The electronic voting system withstood the test of reality and was declared a success by Estonian election officials.

The State of Gujarat is the first state in having implemented Internet voting in public elections in India. The first online election was successfully carried out in September 2010, and since then, the online voting system has been used for Municipal Corporation / Municipality Elections. During Gandhinagar’s Municipal Corporation elections, 77.16% of registered e-voters cast their vote electronically-either from home or from e-voting booths.

Scytl is a Spain based internet voting solution firm that has recently started India operations. It has been specially designed for public elections, carrying out all kinds of electoral processes (elections, referendums, surveys, citizen consultations, etc.), ensuring the highest levels of security in terms of voter privacy, vote integrity and transparency. The solution supports multiple languages and can be used remotely from any place connected to Internet or from supervised locations (polling stations).

The online voting project implemented by Scytl in the Indian State of Gujarat has received the 2013 National award for e-Governance under the category “Excellence in Government Process Re-engineering”.

With online voting being successfully experimented in Gujarat and Indian Government certifying the performance of Scytl, why such a strong number of NRIs should be devoid of the statutory right of voting?

Reaching out to the Indian diaspora at the 8th edition of “Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas”, in January 2010, the prime minister assured NRIs of voting rights by the next general elections in 2014. The lower house of parliament passed the Representation of the People [Amendment] Bill 2010 in August, allowing overseas Indians to vote with a constraint. They would be required to register in India only during times specified by the election commission, and would have to travel again to cast their vote, an option many could not afford.

Organizations advocating NRIs right to vote have pleaded before the election commission to make amendments and allow NRIs to register throughout the year and to register at the embassy or online instead of registering in India.

Three years have passed since the assurance given by the Prime Minister, of NRIs voting right. It is high time we check with the government of the initiative taken so far in this direction using RTI. In case of any negligence on their part, we may start signature campaigns on social network sites and build a pressure group, to amend laws accordingly.

– Asif Moazzam is a Lecturer at King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia.

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