Kerala expats to vote in local polls

Law to be amended to accommodate NRIs

The Kerala government on Wednesday decided to grant rights to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) from the state to cast vote in local-self government elections.

Announcing the Cabinet decision in Thiruvananthapuram, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said this would enable nearly three million NRIs from the state to participate in polls.

Chandy said the Kerala Panchayat and Nagarapalika Act would be amended soon to translate the decision into a reality. “The process will be completed before the next election to the local-self governments,” he added

He clarified that there were practical problems in providing the facility to cast vote at the countries where the NRIs work. “We are initiating this step considering the long-standing demand of various NRI organisations,” he added.

However, the announcement has not brought cheer to NRIs as it is not possible for a majority of the NRIs to arrive at their native places just to cast their votes in the local body elections. They were permitted to cast vote in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, but just a little over 200 NRIs from the state participated in voting.

Jyothikumar, a coordinator of various Malayali organisations in the Gulf region, said the present initiative would hardly provide any chance to the NRIs to cast vote as they cannot afford travel and spend on other expenses to merely participate in the voting.

To drive home his point, he cited the poor turnout of NRIs for the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. He argued that the problem can be tackled with the use of modern technology. “A voting system with an advanced software will enable an Indian citizen to participate in voting from any party of the globe. India, a major player in IT, can do this,” he added.

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