By the people not for the people
January 13, 2010 2 Comments
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently announced that his Government is actively considering a proposal to award voting rights to NRI. He made the announcement in Pravasiya Bhartiya Divas abbreviated as PBD.
The reaction has been largely muted except of course the ubiquitous Bala sahib Thackeray. He may have just piped his nephew Raj to this because wouldn’t the Marathi pride be affected if the CM Gaddi is decided by someone outside Maharashtra ?
While I don’t subscribe to the reasons given by the senior Thackeray, I do have certain reservations about extending voting rights to NRIs.
In today’s flat world, I do believe that it is foolhardy to cling on to ‘misplaced nationalist sentiments’. What I mean by misplaced nationalist sentiments is to believe that one can continue to be an Indian even after acquiring the citizenship of another country. I dare say that a person can retain his ‘indian-ness’ but in true sense he cannot be an Indian unless he lives in the dirt, dust, heat of India.
I have often seen the Indians who have permanently settled abroad look down upon their country of origin. I don’t say that one cannot be critical of their own country but there is, in my view, a fine line between being critical and being dismissive. And by being so, they think that they are more naturalized in their adopted country, a classic case of being more loyal than the king.
Of course not all NRIs are like that. But it cannot be denied that a majority of NRIs are very proud of their decision to move out of India. While I have no complaints about their decision, I feel that it is not appropriate that they should also be given a say in Governance.
Election is the most important and infact the only tool available with a citizen of this country to script his own destiny. By electing a certain party, the citizens of this country entrust their lives to them. The elected party is responsible for Security to Sewage requirements of the citizens and in return can demand civic obedience, legal compliance and responsible conduct from it’s people. In other words, the Government provides rights and also demands obligations from it’s citizens.
Now, in the case of NRIs, the Government has no say over their rights and cannot demand the fulfillment of any obligation. If anything the Government has a responsibility to protect the estate of the NRIs in return for appropriate payment of taxes and levies. But in the matter of day-to-day governance issues, the NRIs don’t have any say because they don’t have any locus-standi.
The NRIs don’t have to experience the quality of governance nor do they have to put up with the idiosyncrasies of the Indian bureaucracy. I wonder why they should have any right to participate in the electoral process of their nation.
It is my firm belief that unless one has first-hand experience of the issues and problems of an area – be it a ward or a constituency or a state or a zone – he cannot make an informed electoral choice.
While the NRI votes may not go up for sale like some of the Indian votes, they may not make their choice based on what is best for the country. Their decision may be influenced by what is best for the NRIs in terms of say repatriation or tax benefits.
In my view it is quite inappropriate to vest any rights with the NRIs when we are not in any position to get any obligations fulfilled. Their only obligation I suppose is as an ambassador of the country wherever they live and work.
The preamble of Indian Constitution reads, paraphrasing, that India organizes itself into a republic By the People, Of the People and For the People.
The voting rights to NRIs, in my view, is not in line with the sentiments of the Indian constitution. It may be By the (erstwhile) people of the country but not quite For the People.