Since a very long time, the NRIs have been deprived of their voting rights in India. Though they are the citizens of India and have every right to chose their government or representative, the unavailability of proxy voting has made them stay away from voting.
NRIs who stay away from India most of the time miss their chance to cast their vote as they cannot travel to India in the right time. This has caused a major hindrance to those who live outside India and would want to contribute in some way for the country’s development.
When the Modi government came to power in 2014, PM Modi had made it a point to give voting Provisions for NRI community which will allow them to vote through proxy means. However, there was not much initiative taken by the government which had made the NRI community disappointed.It was only in August 2018, the central government passed a bill in Lok Sabha to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters.
Moving the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2017 for consideration and passage, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said the provision would help non-resident Indians (NRIs) to participate in the electoral process. The Bill, which was passed by a voice vote in the Lower House, proposes that overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, could now appoint a proxy voter to cast their votes.
As of now, overseas Indians were free to cast their votes in the constituencies where they were registered. The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which till now was only available to service personnel. Responding to various objections expressed by members regarding proxy voting, the Minister said “let us trust the NRIs about proxies.”
The ministry of External Affairs had estimated that there were around 3.1 crore Indians living in different countries across the world. Prasad said that the country needed to respect and recognise the achievements of NRIs who have done well in different spheres of life across the globe. While framing the rules, the government will ensure that system of proxy voting is not misused by anyone, he said, adding “proxy is not a dirty word. It is a legal word…a defined word.”
On the issue of allowing migrant workers to vote without having to travel to their place of residence, Prasad said it was “work in progress…our sympathies are with them…they should be given the right to vote.”
However, after the bill was passed in Lok Sabha, the government has not made an effort to pass it in Rajya Sabha which has again disappointed the NRIs. With the 2019 elections approaching, the NRI community have expressed their intention to be part of electoral process and cast their vote to elect the right government.
A campaign was also started by few groups which demanded the NRI voting provision few days back. It is a great loss to the country when 3 crore educated people are deprived of voting rights.
The issue must be taken up by the government and made sure the bill is passed in RS and make provisions for voting before 2019 elections.