A majority of the 16 Non Resident Indian (NRI) voters in Jharkhand may not be able to exercise their franchise during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections; courtesy, the lack of convenient polling options.
While social media was recently abuzz with rumours about overseas voters getting to vote online for the elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has clarified that no online voting facility will be available for them.
Triveni Shankar Nand, a Geotechnical Expert working with an American multinational company in Dubai, had on March 11 submitted an online requisition to the ECI requesting it to send a postal ballot to the Indian Councilor General’s office in Dubai, so he can cast his vote. However, while the polls are knocking at the door, Nand is yet to get any reply from the ECI.
“I am a voter in Ranchi parliamentary constituency and I wanted to cast my vote through postal ballot. The fact that I am yet to get a reply from the ECI shows how serious they are about NRI voters,” said Nand.
Postal ballot, however, is only reserved for government officials and the armed forces as of now, sources from the Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer’s office said.
The first phase of polls in the state will begin on April 29. In Jharkhand, there are four NRI voters in Godda, two in Giridih, five in Bokaro, three in Ranchi and one each in Jamshedpur and Deoghar.
The Lok Sabha passed Representation of the People Amendment Bill 2017, which was targeted at providing proxy voting facility to NRI voters. However, the upper house did not pass this bill and it lapsed.
“The Rajya Sabha should have passed the bill and allowed proxy voting by NRIs. We too want to participate in the democratic exercise, but travelling all the way to India for casting your vote is quite a tedious and time-consuming task,” said Nand. An official from the CEO’s office in Ranchi said that as per the current rules, an NRI voter has to get registered as an overseas voter in his constituency and be physically present at the polling booth for casting his vote.
“We have postal ballot facility only for government employees living outside India. Others can check all details about their polling stations online, but they will have to physically be present here to cast their votes,” he said.
Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Vinay Choubey said that the provisions for NRI voters were decided by the ECI and the State cannot make its own provisions.
“All the 16 NRI voters will have to follow the guidelines set by the ECI,” he said.