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NRIs voting first time

NRIs voting first time
Highlights

General Elections 2014: NRIs Voting First Time. The coming elections will see Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) exercising their franchise for the first time. Following an amendment to the Representation of the People Act on August 31, 2010, Indian citizens living abroad have been given facility to enrol as voters.

  • Only one person from AP enrolled under NRI category
  • Organisations demand change of rules
  • Online or postal ballot recommended instead of physical presence

The coming elections will see Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) exercising their franchise for the first time. Following an amendment to the Representation of the People Act on August 31, 2010, Indian citizens living abroad have been given facility to enrol as voters.

The Election Commission has been accepting Form 6-A applications for NRI voter registration online for the last six months. However, only one person had enrolled from Andhra Pradesh so far. An NRI from Chirala constituency in Prakasam district is the first person to get a voter ID card under this category. The overall scenario in the country is not encouraging. A total of only 11,844 NRIs have enrolled thus far with Kerala accounting for 11,488 votes (97 per cent) followed by Punjab (138) and Tamil Nadu (112).

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs put the number of NRIs at more than one crore and the overseas Indian community (which includes NRIs and people of Indian origin but registered as citizens of other country) at 2.5 crore.

The rules prescribed by the Election Commission are not encouraging. An NRI is eligible to vote if he or she does not hold citizenship of any other country but they will have to travel to their constituency to cast vote. There are no options like postal ballot or online voting or even polling in the local Indian missions. A few organisations have been pitching for combination of Internet and postal ballot to enable overseas voters exercise their franchise. Meanwhile, Election Commission officials said there was a significant increase in the number of applications sent under NRI voters’ category. “At least 50-odd applications are under process. If all guidelines are fulfilled, NRI voters’ count in Andhra Pradesh is bound to increase when the updated list is released,” they said.

I returned from abroad two years back and fought for NRI voting rights during my stint with the People for Lok Satta organisation. The Election Commission should change rules and allow postal ballot facility for overseas electors. The NRIs are most informed, educated and they can cast ballots without being lured by money. Also, there will not be any problem of fake votes due to thorough screening process for the issue of voter ID cards. I feel NRI voters in some segments, especially like my constituency (Sanathnagar), could prove crucial to the overall election outcome.

- Hyma Praveen, Lok Satta contestant from Sanathnagar

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