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Scrutiny
  
An outrageous bill for NRIs
A ludicrous Bill for voting rights of Non Resident Indians is cleared by the Group of Ministers
22/07/2010

The Indian government’s pre-occupation with the wellbeing of NRIs is nothing new, rolling out red carpets to them in anticipation of their contribution towards our growth and prosperity. Historically, the investment of NRIs has been considered important for India – since the commencement of liberalization back in early 1990s – for psychological reasons surely (the goodwill it generates in overseas corporate investors who employ Indians or come across them in the normal course) but more for the actual money remittances by NRIs; according to Morgan Stanley, even two years back, NRI remittances were 260% of net FDI and 140% of portfolio investment into India. The figures are mammoth!

Therefore, it was quite surprising that for the past many years, NRIs were actually not allowed to either contest in national elections or even to vote. In its attempt to undo this queasy legislation, the government has drafted a bill through the Group of Ministers (GoM) to allow NRIs to vote. After four years of actually being drafted, the bill in its current form, called the Representation of People’s Bill, will be placed in the monsoon session of the Parliament. Will the new bill, if passed, allow NRIs to vote? Yes. But before one starts celebrating, the bad news is that the bill strangely enforces NRIs to be physically present in their own constituency back home to be able to cast their votes!

Clearly, after four years of dillydallying, this seems to be the most haphazard method of encouraging NRIs to vote. How does one expect 2.4 crore NRIs to fly back to India simply to vote? Overseas Indian Affairs Minister, Vayalar Ravi said, “There is no question of postal ballots because bogus voting will be a concern.” Why couldn’t the government then think of allowing NRIs to vote in their respective embassies? Is there a fear of educated voters finally voting?

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