Indian expats in UAE lose hope as no postal ballots in sight

As of now, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in constituencies they are registered in

  
Sealed ballet boxes are seen inside the polling center during postal ballot voting ahead of Gujarat state assembly elections, in Ahmedabad, India December 4, 2017. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Sealed ballet boxes are seen inside the polling center during postal ballot voting ahead of Gujarat state assembly elections, in Ahmedabad, India December 4, 2017. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Amit Dave
 

Eligible overseas Indian voters will not get the facility of postal ballots in the five assembly elections to be held in March and April as the government wants the Election Commission (EC) to consult various stakeholders before the facility is rolled out.

Responding to a question on whether the facility of Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) would be extended to overseas voters in the assembly elections to West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora replied in the negative.

“As far as NRI voters are concerned, the commission (EC) had sent a very empathetic and very positive note to the law ministry over a month-and-a-half back over finding a way out for that. The law ministry referred it to the Ministry of External Affairs. I spoke to the foreign secretary also. They have responded in detail and they have said we should have a broad-spectrum meeting of the stakeholders,” Arora said. He said the meeting could take place within a month.

Arora was addressing a Press conference to announce the dates of elections to the five assemblies.

As of now, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in constituencies they are registered in.

Meanwhile, NRIs in the UAE said they have lost all hopes that the postal ballot will ever become a reality.

Arunkumar Moothat, an Abu Dhabi-based operations manager, said: “I have been waiting for the good news for a long time now. My friends are all disappointed. There seems to be some political agenda.”

He added: “Either the ruling party or the opposition, or maybe both, aren’t showing any interest in this regard. Once NRIs get voting rights, then solving our problems becomes a responsibility and a major headache. This may be the reason for this indefinite delay.”

Feroze Olasseri from Kozhikode district and a Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Management (QHSE) officer, said: “I feel like the NRI population is some second category of Indian citizenship. There are so many NRIs who have never voted in any election in their lives. I now harbour no hopes that the postal ballot will become a reality.”

He added: “If NRIs get to vote some political party, mostly which loses the election, will raise objections. So, we will never get our rights. This is deeply disappointing.”

A Mahendrababu, a project co-ordinator from Tamil Nadu, said: “It is our birthright to cast votes even through postal ballot, which is a norm followed in each country and gets implemented. You have embassies of different countries doing it successfully here in the UAE.”

Mahendrababu added: “The recent example is the conduct of the US election. The Indian government can take a leaf out of it. Avoiding Indian citizen living outside the country is political discrimination.”

The EC said it has been receiving several representations from the Indian diaspora residing abroad to facilitate voting through postal ballots since such overseas electors are not in a position to be present in their polling area as travelling to India for this purpose is a costly affair.

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