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Denying NRIs option to vote from abroad fails democratic principles: Indian expats

21 May 2024 Denying NRIs option to vote from abroad fails democratic principles: Indian expats

Muscat – India is currently witnessing the world’s biggest parliamentary election, unfolding in seven phases from April 19 to June 1. With a large Indian diaspora in Oman, the country’s expatriates feel left out of the exercise to choose their representatives for the parliament. 

The expats in Oman are calling upon the Indian government to make provisions for voting from outside the country so that they could also participate in the democratic process. 

Speaking on the issue, Lijoys John, General Manager of Al Fawah International, said that as a resident of Oman for the past 20 years, he has had a voter ID but has never been able to vote. “It would be convenient if the Embassy of India takes measures to organise voting for us. Every vote matters; it is important for us to have the opportunity too.”

Denying non-resident Indians (NRIs) the option to vote in their host countries is an infringement on their fundamental rights, felt Devika Baburaj, a charted accountant, living in Muscat.

“This denial undermines the democratic principles of equality and inclusivity.”

Over the years, several requests and petitions have been made to the Indian authorities in Oman and in India with the objective of getting the option to vote from abroad. 

Santhosh, the Kerala Wing Convener, said, “Social groups in Muscat like Kerala Wing, Malayalam Wing, Kairali Wing submitted a petition to the Supreme Court to enable NRIs to vote remotely (through ballots or online voting).”

The Election Commission of India and the government have been exploring options and are yet to provide any final decision. “Full implementation requires policy formulations to address all associated challenges,” he added.

The Indian Embassy in Oman, when contacted stated that Indians can vote only when they are present in the country as per the government policies and not abroad.

“If one is willing, he can travel to India to cast vote. Hosting polling at embassies is a daunting task. However, there have been proposals to the government, which are being looked into,” said an embassy official. 

Travelling is not always feasible, Vinod Raghavan, an advertising professional, said. “Travelling back to India solely for the voting purpose is impractical and costly and is the privilege of a few.”

With the advancements in technology, Raghavan said the government of India should provide an option to vote remotely. “This will ensure that NRIs have equal rights and opportunity to participate in the democratic process from abroad.”

Aswan Sathyam, a Muscat resident, added, “India is the largest democracy and we as NRIs feel left out during the voting process. 

“NRIs in the Gulf contribute immensely to the economy by remitting billions that helps in growth of our nation. We deserve the right to vote from our country of residence.”

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