Govt grants voting rights to NRIs

Non-resident Indians have hailed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement that the government would allow them to vote and participate in the election process, a long-standing demand of the diaspora.

Inaugurating the annual diaspora conclave, the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, here Sunday, the prime minister said the government has issued notifications for registration of overseas electors under the Representation of People Act, 1950, to allow NRIs to vote in Indian elections.

"It was long overdue. I am very happy with the government's decision," said P.V. Pillai, a delegate from Dubai.

"I laud the government's decision to grant voting rights to non-resident Indians. Though we are a small part and we cannot change anything by voting, but still I strongly feel that right to vote is a basic right and it is a step in the right direction," said Vasu Chanchlani from Canada.

Hiro N. Shivdasani from Ivory Coast said, "I am very happy with the decision. The Indian government has finally fulfilled its promise to Indian expatriates. It will give us an opportunity to participate in government formation."

"I also request the government to allow dual citizenship. They should also do it soon," he said.

However, there were a few who had apprehensions about the process.

Rajeev K. Jain, a US-based entrepreneur, said that how the NRIs will exercise the power to vote is still undecided.

"The Indian government should provide us clear guidelines on voting rights. I think that the process is still not clear. I strongly feel that the government should make it transparent and corruption free, the voting should be allowed electronically or through internet," he said.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had said that the objective was to further increase engagements with diaspora.

"Our objective is to raise the level of engagement to go beyond mere investment related issues and address a broader agenda," he said in his address at the conclave Sunday.

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