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NRI Voting Rights - Do We Deserve It?

NRI Voting Rights - Do We Deserve It?

July 19, 2010

While they can vote on Indian reality shows, debate on NRIs voting in elections rages on.

NRIs have been able to vote for Indian reality shows like Indian Idol for a long time now. This year, even NRIs from the Middle East region could chose whom they want to listen to. It made me wonder when we would get to have a say in who rules the roost of our nation.

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.


  • RA Singh
    RA Singh
    28.02.11 02:09 PM
    By giving the voting right to NRI will make NRI more feel more connected with mother land. So voting right should be given to NRI.
  • NRI Voting Rights
    NRI Voting Rights
    18.10.10 09:34 AM
    Sign the absenetee nri voting rights petition to get rights. Otherwise it is not logically possible to all of you to travel to India on election day.
  • saswata nath
    saswata nath
    10.10.10 05:37 PM
    Rule no #1
    Born in India but working legally out side india have no voting right.
    Rule no#2
    Born in Bangaladesh and illegally work in India have voting right.
  • Prakash Srivatsan
    Prakash Srivatsan
    04.10.10 04:35 AM
    Who is an NRI?
    Someone who, by chance ended up moving out of India for the sake of making some extra money which he can send back “home” in India to his family so that they can make a decent living out of it.
    Someone who loves India as much as any ordinary resident of India and talks more good thing about his country to his foreign counterparts while debating hard when among other NRIs complaining on what’s happening back home.
    Someone who wishes his “home” land becomes a land of good life just as it is in the country where he is earning his money now.
    Someone who gets angrier looking at the plight of his countrymen at times of emergency/disasters.
    Someone who lavishly donates to emergency funds to help save suffering people of India when bhoodevi shakes a bit or when the waves decides to take a tour on the land along the coasts and killing breadwinners of poor families.
    Someone who sponsors an underprivileged child in India for access to quality educations through various charity programmes.
    Someone who is truly longing to get back at the next available chance (once his “home” is set right and everyone lives a comfortable life) that he can concentrate on public duties of his mother-land without any worry at the back of his mind).
    Someone who takes up a Green-card or residence in a different country where he is working only because he gets medical and other benefits like public-funding in education etc so that he can save more and send the money back to India / invest in India to generate employment locally.
    Last but never the least said, an NRI is someone who is unwanted in India by those who think just because he doesn’t live in India physically and contributing directly to the economy, is highly unpatriotic and ignorant of what an ordinary resident of India goes through back home.

    How true is the above notion? Any middle-class Indian who works abroad has his aged parents/siblings back in India who still experience long power cuts, mosquito bites, contaminated water, pollution and traffic etc all that is claimed off being experience by an ordinary resident. An NRI worries about his family back home as much as an Indian resident. He reads more political news and updates about his home country than a resident Indian does. While I have personally known a huge number of people who vote to a party in elections just because their “parents” said so and not really making his vote worth making a difference, most NRIs know what they want from these politicians and who does what when given power to rule. NRIs are in a better position to decide on the governance because they have seen both the sides of a coin. It is high time those hard-core anti-NRI advocates do some soul search and stop discriminating their own countrymen who are just taking temporary refuge elsewhere to help his little family back in India meet both the ends.
    WE WANT TO BE RECOGNISED AS INDIANS irrespective of where we live. When will an ordinary Indian resident realise that NRIs are not filthy rich just because they earn in dollars of pounds, but living a sub-middleclass life abroad so that his good old family back in India can live comfortably with a good lifestyle.
  • Afshan Mujawar
    Afshan Mujawar
    22.07.10 07:56 PM
    Melvin: Mr. Soon-To-Be-NRI!!:D LOL.. don't mind me.. My sense of humour doesn't humour me by taking permission before expression.

    Well, what you said is one side of the story (about people who have nothing to do with India). At the same time, I know their are thousands of Indians who work on foreign soil but still have their families back home, their parents, spouse, kids. Considering that what happens in India affects their family and ultimately them, I think they have a right to say who they want in power. Right?

    Plus, like I said, at the end of the day, a LOT of the NRIs return to India.. I'm sure they would want it to be a better place BEFORE they return. Even they don't 'experience' the bad road and all, at least they know about it.

    Also, since NRIs live abroad and in usually better governed countries, they know just how badly lacking India is in good governance. They are lesser swayed by trivial matters that politicians use to sway rural and sub-urban votes. So, in a way, their choice will be more based on governance than irrelevant things that, unfortunately, a whole lot of resident indians are biased about while voting.

    Just my penny's worth of thought.
  • Sesh
    20.07.10 04:55 PM
    There are good and bad to the NRI being able to vote. NRI is residing in all together a different place and does not necessarily get a first hand perspective of what needs to be changed in his/her country/state. So because of this very reason I dont really think NRI has a right to vote.

    But on the other hand he/she cannot be biased in anyone and can give their fair opinion which is the very root on which democracy stands. For this reason they can be considered to vote. I am not yet completely sure of which of the above weighs high.
  • Bhagwad Jal Park
    Bhagwad Jal Park
    20.07.10 03:54 AM
    I think it can be profitably argued that NRIs can get a perspective of India that very few Indians can precisely because they're isolated from things like roads etc.

    A nation has many needs. Infrastructure is just one of them. There are others such as good governance, and freedoms that a lot of people are willing to throw over for better economic development. I've heard people say that human rights abuses in Gujarat (not saying true or false here) are excusable because of the good development.

    As for second hand news, most NRIs get their news from the newspaper - the same way the rest of India does. I don't see how it's any better or any worse in that regard.

    By allowing NRIs to vote, the government will just allow a segment of Indians to get heard as to who they want guiding their country...
  • A Singh
    A Singh
    19.07.10 06:59 PM
    There's NRIs and then there are NRIs. My dad came to the UK decades ago and has no intention of returning to India. I think it's absurd that he should be eligible to vote.

    Maybe there's a case for people who are out of the country primarily of short term employment and hold an Indian passposrt. There could be a cut off time, where you lose your vote after a specified number of years outside of India.
  • Melvin Pereira
    Melvin Pereira
    19.07.10 06:00 PM
    I Do understand that there is a good case of having the NRI's vote and do their bit. But being an Indian in Dubai not yet and NRI mind you, I do believe that voting for a person residing outside the country only makes for good water cooler conversations. Nothing of a notable change can be bought about by the NRI's.

    Unless people go back and work in India to 'earn' their rights of voting back, they should not be allowed to do so. Neither do we pay taxes, nor are we affected by the bad roads. We only complain when we are in India, so why should we be allowed to vote ?

    IN any case, since its being implemented it should make all those NRI's happy.

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