Sunday, January 2, 2011

Should NRI's have voting rights?

I read there are moves afoot to secure voting rights/methods for NRI's to participate in Indian elections. On the face of it its a very laudable initiative. Every citizen has a sacred right to vote that is inviolable. America affords its citizenry that right. However an Indian expatriate is mostly unlike an American expatriate.

Most westerners, especially Americans, do not leave their country in search of greener pastures. Most Indians who are expatriates leave India in search of better opportunities, especially economic opportunities. Amongst Indian NRI's the one's who emigrate to Western countries, especially US and UK are different from those who emigrate to Gulf. Those who emigrate to Gulf do so ONLY for economic progress and thanks to the immigrant unfriendly policies of those countries most NRI's eventually return once they meet certain financial security. Also the educational background of NRI emigrating to west and Gulf differs broadly. NRI's emigrating to US and UK also have career prospects in mind. Most NRI's in US and UK "CHOOSE" to settle down. That we seek permanent residency and citizenship in these alien lands in testimony to hose lands being good to us NRI's and most importantly we believe that our children can flourish here better than the land we left. Before nit pickers point out that some in US and UK do return back these days, I'd respectfully say, "yes but they are still a meager number, for every one who returns there are several in the queue wanting to come in".

I draw the distinction between NRI's for an important reason. Hereafter I shall mostly restrict my references to NRI's in US. If NRI's in US vote in Indian elections looking for parties or candidates who can change India or usher in policies that would help the Indian citizen in India enjoy at least a fraction of the privileges that we enjoy I'd be the first in line to support this. But what do I see amongst Indian NRI's here when it comes to discussing politics back home?

Most Tamil NRI's are DMK leaning (to DMK worshippers). I might be wrong but irrespective the point I am about to make cuts across party loyalties and across origins. How many many times have I heard "do not compare India and US, that is India, they have to do certain things to win there". The "certain things" can range from voter bribery to mindless freebies. I've heard these arguments from people who have emigrated to US long time ago and would never accept from a US congressman even a fraction of what they expect the Indian citizen to put up with from his/her MLA. If I were to point out how Mu.Ka's free electricity scheme for farmers is a total sham landing the state in a power crisis with lots of hardship for the poor the answers I get would range from "that's India" to "we don't care we want DMK to win in the next election". I've seen Gujarati's rooting for Modi. They would be apoplectic if a US governor sat back and watched a race riot. I am sick to my stomach when people rationalize Modi on the basis of administrative efficiency (what efficiency?). Nixon ended Vietnam War, went to China, declared War on Cancer yet all he is remembered for is Watergate. What is Watergate at the end of the day just some loose cannon aides trying to wire tap their democratic opponent. Wire tapping the opposition party is routine in India. Yet Nixon is not forgiven by Americans.

Lets take a larger philosophical outlook at why a citizen votes. We vote in order to have a government that we think we will usher in some changes that we would like to see. When such a government is voted as voter we ought to be there to experience what we voted into power. I could very well come to Tamil Nadu and vote in the coming elections, then I board a flight back to Newark condemning poor Tamilians to bear the consequence of my voting I'd be a "humbug". I am in a country where I expect my congressman and Senator to work well into Christmas eve. I am in a country where my expectations of my privileges, not even as a citizen but just as a resident of the country, is at a level way above what an Indian citizen can expect.

Mu.Ka as CM had the audacity to say "what is the use of studying". If a US Governor had said that he can kiss his re-election chances good bye. If we start discussing Jaya or Mayawati that would be reaching to unfathomable depths.

Does it matter if Tamil Nadu does not have good electricity supply? Yes, if you are poor it matters most. Imagine a poor pregnant woman delivering a child in a Government hospital that will not have a/c wards or generator supply. God help the mother and child. I heard from a pediatrician how she had to race to save a child, in her private clinic with generator, that was on incubator and needed an hour's extra supply of electricity. Just yesterday the government has announced that food inflation is at 14%. 14%. If that happened in US the Congress will be in turmoil editorials will skin alive our policy makers. At that level of inflation the impoverished millions cannot afford nutritious food and malnourishment rages in the slums.

Make no mistake that what I've said applies to Chinese as well. I've heard Chinese emigrants justify Chinese policies enjoying the fruits of America's freedoms. What is it with emigrants that they think their own erstwhile fellow countrymen deserve less that what they enjoy today?

Having left India by choice I've no right to tell the Indian what sort of government he should have especially if I were to say "you don't deserve better, this is what befits you". In fact NRI's voting in Indian elections is the greatest back stabbing that can be done to Indians especially when most NRI's do not desire anything better for the poor Indian except entrenchment of their own shop worn pet ideologies.

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