Indians in Qatar welcome voting rights, but say clarifications are needed

March 18, 2011
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Indians living in Qatar have welcomed their government’s decision to grant voting rights to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), but expressed concerns over the logistics and the manner in which the right to vote would be exercised.

According to a report in the Qatar Tribune daily, many Indians felt the decision would allow them to participate in the democratic process, but were confused about some of its aspects.

Excerpts from their reactions:

VOTE AT ALL COSTS

Syed Anwar Jamal, Manager, Dandy Ice-cream

“The decision to grant voting rights to NRIs was long overdue. I am very happy with the Indian government’s decision and I have registered in the electoral rolls through the Indian embassy in Doha. I not bothered about how much I will have to pay to go to India to exercise my voting right. Whatever the cost, I do not want to miss our ‘biggest festival’ – the elections. India is one of the biggest democratic countries in the world and I am proud to be its citizen. I understand that it is not easy for an expatriate to go all the way to India to cast his vote, but it is a trouble worth taking. I urge all my countrymen to get their names enrolled on the electoral list.”

HOLD POLLING AT EMBASSIES

Rashid Khan, Media Coordinator, QEWC

“I hail the Indian government’s decision to grant voting rights to NRIs. The right to vote is a basic right which all Indians should have. However, I do not think the provisions of the current law are going to give the average NRI voter an easy opportunity to exercise his right. Had there been a provision for voting in the country of residence, it would have ensured much greater participation of voters. The majority of Indian voters, especially in the Gulf region, belong to the low-income group who cannot afford to go back to India just to vote. Besides, it will not be easy for workers to leave their workplace to go to their country to vote. Therefore, the Indian government should make provisions to have polling stations at its embassies around the world. In a hi-tech world, developing a database of voters’ details and their assembly and parliamentary constituencies is not a difficult job. The government should try to find ways to ensure greater participation of NRIs in the democratic process of the country.”

INDIAN EXPATS RECOGNISED

Joppachan Thekkekuttu, President of Indian Cultural & Arts Association

“The Congress-led government in India has fulfilled its promise to Indian expatriates. By granting voting rights, it has, in a way, recognised the importance of overseas Indians who have helped to boost their country’s economy from abroad. The voting right will offer NRIs an opportunity to take part in the democratic process of their country and give them a new identity. I am sure Indians living abroad will soon have a bigger role in government formation and policies.

Moreover, the Kerala wing of the Congress Party has agreed to have a seat for an overseas member in the state assembly in future.”

A WELCOME STEP

Annie Varghese, Vice President, Indian Cultural Centre

“The decision by the Indian government to grant voting rights to overseas Indians is a welcome step. It will provide an opportunity for overseas Indians to participate in government formation. Overseas Indians have been left out of the democratic process in their country for a very long time, but with this new notification we all will have a say in how the government is formed. However, there are some practical problems which must be addressed so that a majority of expatriates can take part in the electoral exercise.

The government can make arrangements for polling at various embassies where overseas Indians could cast their votes with fingerprint or thumb impressions and ‘Aadhar’ (unique identification card) which has been introduced by the government recently. This process will make India a democratic superpower.”

DEVELOP DATABASE OF OVERSEAS VOTERS

Naveen Jha, engineer

“I am happy that finally NRIs have got the right to vote. In the absence of voting rights, sometimes we felt that we were being neglected by our country. The Indian government’s decision is welcome, but I feel the procedure for casting the vote is a major hurdle for an average Indian expatriate. It will not be easy for everyone to go to India and vote. In my view, the best thing would have been to hold the polling in the country of residence. I also feel that embassies can develop a database of voters and their constituencies. In the absence of this provision, most voters will remain deprived of the opportunity to exercise their voting rights.”

MEANINGLESS DECISION

Zafar Iqbal, construction worker

“The new law giving the right to vote to NRIs is not meant for people like us. It is for those who can afford to go back to their constituency at the time of the elections. As far as we are concerned, we neither have the resources nor the freedom to go to India as and when we want. Hence, the law hardly means anything for us.

Had there been some provision for holding the polling in our country of residence, we would have been much happier. I think the Indian government must amend the law so that an average NRI can exercise his right to vote.

However, I am happy that the government has waived the fee for registration.”

AN HONOUR FOR NRIs

Aneesh Ashraf, office administrator

“Even though there are some practical hurdles in casting the vote, the step taken by the government must be appreciated by expatriates. Getting an opportunity to participate in the democratic process in India is in itself a great honour for millions of Indians living abroad. In a federal political structure, casting a vote through the electronic voting system or the traditional ballot boxes outside the country is a cumbersome task, but the government should devise ways to ensure maximum participation of overseas voters.”

AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY

Afsal Kunnel, graphic designer

“The decision to grant voting rights to expatriates is meaningless. I don’t think this move will ensure greater participation of overseas voters in the electoral process.

How many people will go to India to vote? Very few can afford to go all the way to India to just cast their vote. I think the decision is just a ploy to make overseas Indians happy. Unless the government takes some steps to ensure that the polling is held at embassies, this decision will mean nothing for Indians living abroad.”

VOTING FOR EXPATS A COSTLY AFFAIR

Jayakumar TS, businessman

“Granting expatriate Indians the right to vote has been one of the long-standing demands of the Indian community living abroad. I am happy this demand has been partly accepted and people like us can exercise our rights to vote. But I feel there are issues related to overseas voting rights which needs to be addressed by the government. I do not think everyone can afford a trip to India only for voting.

Since we a have many elections, starting from the national parliament to the panchayat-level (local councils), I do not think it is possible for anyone to vote in all of them.

It is important for the government to take necessary steps to make it easy for overseas Indians to cast their votes. The government should at least make arrangements for polling in countries where a substantial number of Indians work.”

MAKE POLLING PROCESS MORE EXPAT-FRIENDLY

Rajeev TS, engineer

“It is a good move on the part of the Indian government to include non-resident Indians in the electoral process. This will help overseas Indians to have a say in the governance of their country. They have been left out for long despite their significant contribution the country’s economy. Expatriates should take advantage of the decision and try to get their names enrolled in the electoral list.

Though there are some problems, I hope the Indian government will make the process simpler, smoother and more convenient for everyone, so that a majority of people can take part in the political process.”

SHEER CONFUSION

Subash Abraham, manager, Jet Travels

“The Indian government should have set clear guidelines before granting voting right to NRIs. Most people are not even aware that the government has granted them the opportunity. I think people must be given a chance to exercise their voting rights from their countries of residence. This happens in the case of countries in Europe and North America. The Indian embassies should be entrusted to carry out the electoral process.”

BOOST TO NRIs’ STATUS

Anoop Namboothiri, businessman

“The decision to grant voting rights to overseas Indians has been pending for a long time. Congress and its coalition partners have finally realised that the contribution of overseas Indians to the Indian economy is significant and they cannot be neglected any more. I am sure soon NRIs will have their representatives both in the Indian parliament and in the state assemblies. The voting right has enhanced the status of overseas Indians and we must thank the Indian government for this noble gesture.”

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/indians-in-qatar-welcome-voting-rights-but-say-clarifications-are-needed-1.778517

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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