UN report recommends voting rights for internal migrants

UN report recommends voting rights for internal migrants

The Constitution of India recognises the right of free movement within the territory of the country as a fundamental right. However, those who migrate from their home-place lose most of the rights, including the right to vote.

A recent United Nations report on internal migrants has strongly recommended ensuring voting rights of internal migrants. The joint report released this week by Unesco and Unicef says that special provisions are needed to ensure the voting rights of internal migrants irrespective of their multi-locational residence.

“Overall processes of governance need to be democratised in order to include internal migrants in decision making processes and planning (e.g. development of master plans in cities) and promoting their representation in local bodies,” the report adds. 

The report has also suggested that “to guarantee migrants their right to vote, it needs to be ensured that regional harvest schedules do not overlap with election dates”. The report has vividly captured the circumstances and consequences of migration which land up a migrant in a situation where he is unable to exercise his one of the most important fundamental rights- the right to vote. It describes how migrants miss to vote at their home-places but face barriers in exercising this right at their current dwelling. 

They are caught up in a situation in which they belong neither to their native place nor to the place they have come in to earn their livelihood. “Due to seasonal migration, migrants often remain absent from their constituencies at the source during the time of elections. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents reported having missed voting in elections at least once because they were away from home in search of work,” the report has cited a study.

But, do all of them reconcile to the situation? The answer is “no”. According to the report, about “54 per cent of respondents claimed that they had returned to their home villages during elections with the intention of voting, of which 74 per cent returned specifically for elections of the panchayat .”

The report points out that due to their preoccupation with the harassment and threats to livelihood and shelter, they exercise limited political rights. 

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