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Indian expats celebrate winning the right to vote

Dubai: Indian community leaders across the UAE describe their government's decision to allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to vote as "historic" and said the move would strengthen democracy and allow the diaspora to voice its issues more effectively.

But they said the decision needed more publicity — and that the government should ensure that people were able to vote from their countries of residence, rather than having to travel back to India to cast their ballot.

"It is a very significant decision and every Indian must vote," said K.V. Shamsudeen, chairman of Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust. "Of the 1.3 billion population that India has, more than 25 million live in different countries across the world, which highlights the importance of the diaspora. I feel it is a very good decision to give them a right to participate in the election process."

Immense benefit

"It is a historic moment, a great decision. We can now voice our issues much strongly and everyone should participate. It is an opportunity to strengthen our democracy.

"The NRI community will benefit immensely from getting voting rights as they would feel they are a part of the political system and are closer to their country," said Nissar Thalangara, general secretary of the Indian Association Sharjah.

Tasleem Karmali, a Dubai-based special educationist, said: "I remember when I lived in India and had such strong enthusiasm to vote, I would even encourage other people to go and cast their votes and proudly flaunt the ink mark after the voting.

"The feeling that I can be a part of that process makes me feel that I am closely connected to my homeland.

"Many of our children hardly visit India and parents always want them to be connected to their roots. I feel allowing NRIs to vote would also contribute to bringing the future generations closer to their roots."

Kamal Vachani, director of Al Maya Group, described similar feelings. "As an NRI I am very delighted and thankful to the government for this move.

"I have voted in general elections and have been missing the opportunity all these years. With this, I feel that even though I live away from my home land, I am more involved in whatever is happening in my country."

Jonia Mathew, honorary president of the Indian Ladies' Association, Abu Dhabi, who is also a board member of Abu Dhabi Indian School, said: "I would like to applaud the Indian government for fulfilling this promise, which was long overdue.

"This decision will go a long way in making the Indian diaspora spread across the globe feel important."

Good response

While the process and other details regarding the voting process are still awaited, expatriates emphasised that it is equally important to generate good response for voting.

"They should have something like voting centres so as to make it easier for the NRIs to vote. Although I am sure each one of us would like to cast our vote it may not be practical or feasible for all of us to travel back home," said Mathew.

Hassle free voting would ensure good response, said Shamsudeen. "We recently saw that the response to elections in Kerala was not very encouraging. Taking a cue from that, the process needs to be easy.

"Given the previous experience with state elections, I feel there should be a system that allows us to vote from here. Perhaps something like a biometric identification and online registration and voting. If the process is easy and smooth, the response would be good."


Regarding Indians who question whether voting would contribute toward resolving national issues like corruption, Vachani said: "Each person should exercise their right to vote as that is how they can contribute to improvements."

Shamsudeen added: "Not voting is not a solution. By doing so, we are clearing the way for the corrupt even more. Things will change gradually and we have witnessed how changes have happened in time due to efforts of people who are aware."

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