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28-11-2010, As reported by TNN

The vote that counts?

The Non-resident Indian (NRI) — 11 million across the world — has waited years for the right to stand up and be counted in the democratic process of his country. On Thursday, the Indian government agreed to give NRIs the right to exercise their franchise but the announcement evoked mixed reactions with many NRIs unsure it would make any difference at all.

D L Kalhan, president of the London-based Indian Overseas Congress (IOC), said he was delighted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had kept his word. In January, the Prime Minister had publicly said he hoped NRIs would be able to vote in the next general elections, due in 2014. Kalhan says not being able to vote in India has long been a sore point for NRIs.

Till now, the Representation of the People’s Act, 1950, bars Indians who’ve lived abroad longer than six months from voting. The amended law will give NRIs the right to vote but it is hedged around with some conditions. For one, the government notification excludes Indians who’ve become foreign citizens. Second, eligible voters can exercise their franchise only if they’re present in the constituency on polling day. Many say, the amendment effectively gives voting rights only to Indians temporarily abroad for work or studies.

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