An Extraordinary Step For An Ordinary Man

Nagender Chindam, an unassuming 34-year-old NRI whose petition in the Supreme Court could clear the decks for NRIs to vote during elections electronically. This landmark judgement could also come close to the recently concluded Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas.

According to an estimate of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, there are 8 million NRIs across the globe. The group Pravasi Bharat claims this could add up
to an average of 15,000 votes per MP, per constituency and, because in some cases MPs win by fairly narrow margins, the NRI vote could swing the results in as many as 50 constituencies.

Originally a Hyderabadi, this techie, who works in London says, “My campaign for a peaceful protest was inspired by the peaceful protests of Mahatma Gandhi. There are many like me who have joined this fight, including doctors, scientists, IT professionals and students. They are concerned about the nation and have every plan to be a part of its future."

"For any democracy voting is important. The future of the country depends on whom we elect, their policies. In January we took a bigger step. That was our last option. We’ve been struggling for two years. We started with writing petitions, collecting some signatures, creating online petitions, and then we demonstrated in London in front of the Indian high commission in Aug 2012. Some months later a bigger demonstration followed”. Chindam elaborates.
Recalling his fight for NRI voting, Nagender chindam adds “We were concerned about India even though we are living abroad. After the march we thought we’d receive a reply. Unfortunately we didn't get any reply from officials in India. Then we approached the Supreme Court of India in February 2013.  We have full faith in the justice system. We’ve been following all peaceful methods available in a democracy, and we have been following in the footsteps of the Mahatma. We are very small compared to Mahatma Gandhi but we have been trying to follow his methodology. So first we did demonstrations, then we did a march, then we approached justice, and the final step was to go for a fast.”

“So it’s basically some kind of bigger step. Three days staying hungry for a person like me who cannot live without rice for a couple of hours. So it was a kind of a daring decision. But fortunately, three days with the support of our members and all our supporters around the world and their messages, I was able to fast for three days, I was on water. And that sent some kind of strong signals on how much concerned we were about our nation even though we live abroad. Soon we got response from Dubai, Canada and other places." Finally the fight got wider and more and more people joined.

“While the government has been providing varied facilities to the Indian diaspora abroad and has thrown open its doors for NRIs to contribute to the economy, fact remains that if these voting rights are allowed, it will give a huge boost to the country on several fronts too,” said Mr Chindam. “But since the matter is sub judice, we can definitely say that the Apex Court has been very balanced and fair in its approach to our plea. We are hopeful for a positive outcome of our case.”

In the previous hearing, the SC had asked the Centre to make its stand clear on the Election Commission's proposal for allowing NRIs to cast their votes through proxy voting and e-ballots in polls in India. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu granted four weeks’ time to the government to respond to the proposal prepared by a 12-member committee led by Vinod Zutshi, Deputy Election Commissioner, for 'Exploring Feasibility of Alternative Options for Voting by Overseas Electors'.

In fact recent media reports have stated that the Government is set to accept the recommendations of a committee which has favoured voting for NRIs through electronic means. A committee comprising officials from the EC, Law Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs had taken the opinions from all sections before submitting a report to the apex court last year.     
In these times of intense political upheaval and surprises, like any Indian at home, NRIs too are to finally set to shape the destiny of India.

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