28-11-2010, As reported by TNN
The vote that counts?
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.