20,000 army men in Pune being denied their right to vote

Ex-servicemen fight for serving jawans and officers' right to vote, say provisions should be made to allow exercise of franchise

Even after a Government Resolution (GR) was issued by the Election Commission in 1995, over 20,000 serving army men in the city still can not vote in any election. This issue is now being taken up by the India Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM) with the support of Justice For Jawan, an organisation run by ex-servicemen.

Leading the fight: Commander Ravi Pathak. Pic/Vivek Sabnis

Commander Ravi Pathak, head of IESM, said that the city has several institutes such as Southern Command and National Defence Academy (NDA), College of Military Engineering (CME), Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Bombay Engineering Group (BEG) and Signal Regiment and Infantry Brigade, which are places with valuable vote banks that should be utilised. "We will soon meet the city suburban commander and submit a memorandum to make provisions to allow serving officers to cast their votes. Our officers want to vote in the municipal, MLA and MP elections scheduled in the next two-three years," he added. 

Before that IESM and Justice For Jawan would be filing a RTI inquiry to ascertain the failure to implement the GR. According to Pathak, as per the GR issued by the Election Commission to the Army High Command, all army officers should be registered voters for the elections from their place of respective posting. Voting is a constitutional right given to each citizen of the country and members of the armed forces are deprived of this right since they are posted in different places. "Our first demand would be to make provisions for serving army men to vote in the upcoming municipal polls," he said.

Col Suresh Patil, managing trustee, Green Thumb Environmental Group, said, "It is not just the army officials, even their families cannot cast votes in the elections. If we calculate the number of serving army men and their families who do not have the right to vote, it will touch one lakh. If these voters are given a chance, we can change or dictate the public mandate for good and efficient candidates.

Lt Col Gaurav Sharma from the Grenadier regiment posted in Tawang said, "As a servicing army officer I want to cast my vote. I do not want to be a passive observer of our democratic system." Col Jayant Chitale (Retd), founder, Maharashtra Military Foundation, said, "I am aware of the GR but nobody has benefited till date. 

I think every army officer should be given the right to vote while serving the nation." Col Chitale had earlier contested in two elections for the city MP's post. "I will contest in the upcoming MP election if Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev tells me. Baba has currently asked me to write a book on how India shall become superpower, he added.

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