EC Plans Postal Ballot for NRIs: What About Our Migrant Workers?

Leaving out NRIs of Gulf countries from casting ballot paper vote is discriminatory, says Jagdeep Chhokar.

2 min read

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

The Election Commission of India (EC) has proposed an Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in eight non-Gulf countries, namely United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, and South Africa as per media reports. It is likely to kick-start as a pilot project in the 2021 State elections in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

But founding member of Association for Democratic Reforms Jagdeep Chhokar told The Quint that the EC’s decision to exclude Gulf countries is discriminatory.

“Why should NRIs living in Gulf countries be excluded? Conducting a pilot project in far-flung countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa, etc., seems very strange. It would be rather practical to conduct a pilot project in 1-2 countries, which are not very far from here.”
Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member, ADR

The EC has said that there are around 1 crore NRIs, of which 60 lakh are eligible to vote. Reportedly, the reason given by EC for excluding Gulf countries is that they are not democracies.

“This is a matter of opinion. I don’t think (being a non-democratic country) should be too much of an issue. A large number of NRIs in Gulf countries are not very rich people. They do menial jobs, such as drivers, mechanics, labourers, etc. Whereas, the NRIs in Western countries are far more well-off people.”
Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member, ADR

Chhokar also emphasised that before thinking about NRIs, EC should think about the huge number of Indian migrant workers who are unable to vote.

“The 2011 Census estimated that the number of migrant workers in India is 45.4 crores, of which 28.5 crore could be eligible to vote. So 38 percent of India’s population do not have any practical way of voting. The EC should first make arrangements for Migrant Resident Indians (MRIs), so that they can conveniently participate in the election process of the country, where they live, rather than giving preference to 60 lakh NRIs.
Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member, ADR

Chhokar also said that since "MRIs are diffused, poor, unorganised and have no say" and “NRIs are rich, organised and influential", it is not difficult to guess why the EC is not thinking about them.

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