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5m Indians in the Gulf can now vote in polls back home
January 13, 2015, 8:37 am

Keralite community expected to be first to use e-ballot this year

As India has decided to grant voting rights to about 10 million Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) across the globe, NRIs have become a powerful pressure group in Indian politics.

“All Indian expatriates, especially over five million Indians living in the Gulf, have become a pressure group. It is a big victory,” said Abu Dhabi- based Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, who fought a legal battle for this cause.

The Government of India told the Supreme Court of India on Monday that it had accepted a proposal to give voting rights for NRIs by e-postal ballot. The Election Commission of India had made this proposal to the court during the course of a legal proceeding initiated by Dr Vayalil and two others. The court asked the government to inform it about further steps taken to implement the e-ballot. The court posted the matter after eight weeks, asking the government to do the needful at the earliest.

Dr Vayalil was arguing for e-postal ballot as a viable option for NRI voting. The Election Commission said under the e-postal ballot system, blank postal ballots are transferred electronically to NRIs and returned by post. It can be employed after validation of the process and pilot implementation in one or two constituencies.

The commission further said the process can be scaled up for parliamentary elections, if found feasible, practicable and meeting the objectives of free and fair polls.

The e-ballot is expected to be implemented in the local body elections in the southern Indian state of Kerala in September 2015, said Dr Vayalil, 37, who is also from Kerala. There are around one million Keralites among the estimated 2.6 million Indians in the UAE, who constitute the largest expatriate community.

Of the five million Indians in the Gulf, more than 80 per cent are low and lower-middle income workers whose grievances are often neglected by Indian politicians.

“Their voice will be heard now,” said Dr Vayalil, managing director of VPS Healthcare that runs a chain of hospitals and clinics in the Gulf, India and Europe.

Indian expatriates welcomed the move. Abdul Kalam, 45, a businessman, said NRIs will be valued by all in India. Ameer Abdul Jabbar, 38, a videographer, said: “Now Indian expats will realise their power. No one can ignore us any more.”

K.V. Shamsuddin, Chairman of Pravasibandhu Welfare Trust, a non-profit organisation, said: “I wish all NRIs utilise this opportunity to be a part of the electoral process of India, which is the largest democratic country in the world.”

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