Friday, 8 January 2010

A Note to NRIs who want to Vote

Some NRIs want to vote in Indian elections and the government is going to make it possible for them to do so. (?@#)

On 8th January 2009, at the annual NRI extravaganza (which is partly tax-payer funded) the Prime Minister of India said:
"I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India......
......We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections”.

I have some problems with this.
  1. If a person does not live in India, how can that person participate in a process that decides who will govern me here in India? It seems unfair to me.

  2. An exercise of one’s franchise comes with consequences.
    * If a person is not living in the country, he/she does not have to bear the consequences of his/her vote.
    * If a person does not bear the consequences of his/her vote – why should they be given the privilege of a vote?
    Owning property in India does not bestow extra rights on a person under the representation of people’s act. In other words, a bank account or house does not entitle anybody in India to a vote.

  3. Voting is not an exercise in jingoism. Exercising one’s franchise is serious business. It’s about electing a representative who is responsible for delivering on governance. If somebody needs to find an armband that proves their ethnicity, they need to look elsewhere and not on a voter’s registration list.

  4. If you eat the cake – you won’t have it any more.
    An Indian has every right to settle in any country that will have him as a resident. One does not and should not lose his/her citizenship for that. They are also welcome to give up their citizenship.
    I have no issues even if someone was educated on government subsidies in premier institutions such as IIT or AIIMS and then took the first plane abroad. Good for them. They have every democratic right to pursue a path that they chose for themselves. We have enough and more people to make up for the folks who leave for greener pastures. Family and friends will miss NRIs. Not the country. Nobody is that indispensable.
    Indian democracy affects everyday life. Participation in Indian democracy is not about pressing a button once every five years.

  5. There is an entire ministry that is dedicated to the affairs of NRIs and Persons of Indian origin. This is, in my opinion, adequate representation. NRIs should do whatever is possible either individually or collectively to increase the scope, power, authority and efficiency of the Ministry of NRI affairs.
    Don't ask for a seat in parliament. If you want voting right, you will have to show up at the booth like the rest of us.
Here is my solution:

Why should an NRI be any different to a migrant worker within India? An NRI needs to treat an election-day like an other migrant worker in India

  •  They need to comply with all the provisions of the Representation of People’s act. (citizenship, qualification to vote, age etc)
  • They need to reach the constituency in which their names figures on the voting list. Or they need to pre-register their name on the Voter’s list with all required documentation.
  • On voting day - they need to walk into the appropriate polling booth and show the appropriate Identity card (none of which are green) and vote for a candidate of their choice. 


  1. NRI's play an important role in the geo-political landscape of the world.Some become ambassadors and some bring in revenue,foreign exchange into the country,some influence tourism,and some represent the country's various social and political bodies,some work in big corporates,and are a part of the decision making team to influence investment in India and the list goes on...

    IMHO, all NRI's contribute to the country in some way or the other.Therefore they should have some say on how their country is going be run and by who.

    In this electronic age,and flat-world syndrome,distance is immaterial,tracking progress of the country,region,state,locality or even your family can and is done real-time,albeit online.But NRI's are aware what is happening in the country.

    There are a lot NRI's who are eager to participate in the election process,if digital signatures,online authentication is made available and valid by the government of India.

    PAN,TIN ,IT and some of the govt services have already been made online to the general public with adequate security measures..then why not vote online?

    Physical presence by no means makes one a more dedicated is the mental presence that makes the man belong to the country...and country to the man.

  2. @Gyanban

    Thanks for the comments.

    I do not deny the fact that NRIs contribute to the country. 100% true.

    Their contribution in not a part of my argument. The contribution they make is of their own volition and can-not be treated as a barter to vote.

    A franchise is not an exercise in Bartering.

    A very large number of migrant labourers in India, face the same problem. Absentee ballots may be a good idea. If we do implement absentee ballots we have to differentiate between "absentees" and "permanently absent".

    PAN, TIN, BUS TICKETS and train tickets are all available on-line. Our voting system too unlike, most developed nations is automated through EVMs. I have no issues with technology - we should use it as much as we can.

    My principle argument remains - if you are not governed by Indian laws and you do not have live day-to-day with the consequences of your vote - you should not be voting.

    Completely agree with you that physical presence does not make you any more or less a countryman. May I also add that jingoism has nothing do with voter lists.

    My solution still holds - vote the way migrant labour votes in India. Turn-up at the voting booth.

  3. I think the vote counting and weight age needs to be reapportioned.

    For a Tier 1,A city metro,if a candidate secures 100 votes,to be eligible to win the contest,60% has to come online! 40% weight given to migrant labourers who need to visit the booth.the reverse logic can be applied for rural towns and villages.

    Imagine a world without election campaigning,or measured campaigns...saving so much money that is unnecessarily spent, commotion and pollution notwithstanding.

  4. @gyanban

    Are you saying that a proportion of votes must come from on-line voters? If you are going to use weightage - you also say that not all votes are equal. How is it a democracy then?

    In your scenario - a booth vote by a resident of LBS Nagar in Koramangala (Bangalore's largest slum) is less valuable than an online vote by a resident of Koramangala III block. Sounds a bit like the caste system.

    With Internet and computer penetration being so low in India....I do not think we should have on-line voting.

  5. I understand your opinion but I disagree that. NRI just by leaving India is not throwing away everything about India. Every NRI is eagerly waiting on the fence do their part with the same hope as residents. When you live abroad, your love for country increases and one would have broader mind to see the reality. And for many their loved ones still live in India and the people coming to power and their policies do affect them and it is a reason good enough to let them vote. I would like you to have a broader mindset to see NRI as people who live elsewhere with India at heart and promoting the idea of India in their respective sphere of influence. Atleast I do. Seeing NRI as outsiders is the idea of the past (socialist view). NRI is just like any other Indian just living elsewhere.

  6. @Madhu

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with almost everything that you say. I do not deny that every NRI (and Indian) shares all those emotions that you spoke about. I respect NRIs a great deal. Close friends and family are all NRI (as I too have been at one time in the distant past).

    My argument is not about whether or not NRIs are Indian citizens at heart. Of course they are! They are as Indian as anybody living in India.

    My argument is that -
    1) Voting is not an exercise is proving one's ethnic identity.
    2) If you are not governed by Indian laws, you should not be voting to decide who will govern me.
    3) It's not enough to have "India in your heart" in order to vote. You have to be living in the daily grind of Indian democracy in order to be able participate in the process of government formation.
    4) Voting is not about jingoism.

    Now to the part I don't understand.

    1) To clarify, I do not see NRIs as outsider.
    2) Labelling every pragmatic opinion as socialism is quiet naive.

  7. I endorse your view. And I am an NRI.
    Noted Scientist Satish Dhawan used to complain about NRIs lecturing on how to run our country while sitting abroad. Those like him who choose to stay back and serve the country are given lower priority.

  8. @Maald
    Thanks for the comment and the endosrsement.

    Like the rest of us living in India, NRIs too serve their country. My argument however, is also around the consequence of a vote.

    Thank you for the Satish Dhawan example I learnt something from that link.