The rights for NRIs to vote during national elections has been debated for ages and having worn its course, is finally being pushed for implementation. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hopes that the system would be in place by the next general elections in 2014. While the move has been met with common assent, there are several people who are questioning whether NRIs really deserve to have voting rights, the right to chose the ruling government.
The point of contention here is, when someone isn’t even staying in the country, why should they be able to sway election results. NRIs don’t face the issues that common resident Indians face on a day to day basis. They don’t have to suffer the power outages, water crisis, bad roads and poor infrastructure, corruption, riots and many such social illnesses that haunt the resident Indians. And NRIs don’t even pay tax! They are the ones who have left the country for the sake of a fatter paycheck. They are the deserters who would rather serve another country than stay in their own and face its problems head on. So why should it matter which political party the NRIs want to vote into power. Besides, they are barely aware of the political scenario in India and depend on skewed, second hand reports to for their opinions, so their voting judgement cannot be relied on anyway!
This is the general opinion of the people opposed to NRI voting rights. (NOT my opinion, so please don’t shoot me!)
Alright, we may agree that some of these points are true. In some cases ALL of them are true. However, a whole lot of the NRI community is seriously concerned about the state of affairs in India. Regardless of which country we may be residing in now, we may one day have to return to our homeland. We have several members of family who reside in India. We have investments in India. It is our homeland, just because we don’t LIVE in India does not make us NON-INDIANS.
Besides, a whole lot of resident Indians who have the voting right don’t use it! That’s the reason why voter turnout during general elections is so poor compared to developed countries. The middle class doesn’t turn out to vote and the rural votes are bought off, literally. Tax evasion is common place, which is why the government has to go on a massive campaign to encourage people to file taxes every year. NRIs don’t work in government departments, they are not the ones taking bribes. The government is chosen by resident Indians so the blame of choosing corrupt leaders falls on their shoulders. Resident Indians, it can be said, enjoy the so called ‘benefits’ of citizenship, have all the rights and still shy away from their duties. They are now being popularly described as RNIs, Resident Non-Indians, because though they live in India, they don’t fulfill their duties as an Indian. This is the case that NRIs build against RNIs.
Having heard both sides of the story and seeing that this blame game and accusation match can go on forever, we need to decide on what is best for the nation and its people. Like it or not, NRIs are also citizens of India and should be treated as equals to resident Indians. The political scene of the nation affects them too and they have a right to decide which party, according to them, would serve the nation better. There will always be people in both the resident as well as NRI groups who will not fulfill their duties as Indians but we cannot and should not deny this right to those who ARE true patriots and care for their country regardless of their residential status. There are plenty of religions and castes and states dividing our country, we do not need differences in rights based on residential status to take further toll on national unity.