Should NRIs get voting rights?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have set the ball rolling for granting voting rights to Non Resident Indians.
“I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India,” Singh said at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet in New Delhi.
According to reports, the law ministry is working on amending the Representation of the People Act to include those living overseas as citizens.
While seeking the active involvement of NRIs with their home country is the aim of this move, yet for many, the very fact that they left the country to seek life elsewhere doesn’t seem to shore up their right to vote.
Is it fair to people who are living in the country itself?
It can be said that people who are residents have the maximum stake in who should rule the country.
Seeking a green card is the dream of many a middle-class Indian living abroad but should that be coupled with voting rights as well?
Moreover, it is not clear whether giving voting rights to NRIs will make them more involved with politics and other issues at home, as the PM intends.
The Indian middle class, after all, is known for not voting enthusiastically in elections.
They have occasionally been dubbed as ‘RNIs’ or ‘Resident Non Indians’ for living in gated communities and being cut off from the realities of the real India.
In defence of giving voting rights to NRIs it may even be said that such ‘RNIs’ don’t vote yet have full citizen rights.
If the change proposed by Manmohan Singh goes through it would definitely be in tandem with globalisation and the blurry notions of belonging and origin many have developed.
But would it be fair to those who live here and would it achieve its aims?