Why would not these two people be able to vote?
‘Don’t want to transfer vote as I may move again’
When Mosarrap Khan left for US to do his PhD in 2007, little did he realise he would voting in three general India — the Lok Sabha and 2014 and Bengal elections of 2011. Back India now and a professor of English and post-colonial theory at a private university in Punjab, Khan says he would have to skip voting in 2019, too for it will be difficult for him to travel to his home town of Kolkata, where is registered as a voter.
“When I left for New York, my plans were fluid. So, I didn’t know when and where I was going to return. It was in 2016 that I came back but have been at a loss as to what I should do to vote. I am reluctant to shift my voting registration to Punjab for I may not settle here for long. It would have been convenient if I could somehow vote from here. Indians in US are now allowed to why can’t those who are outside their home within the country?” asks he refers to a bill NRIs to register to vote by proxy that is pending clearance in Rajya Sabha. He says it be ‘impractical’ for him to leave in the middle of a college and fly back to Kolkata just to vote. “There are thousands of Kolkatans like me who are working in cities across the country. Not even 5% of them can travel back to vote. But why should they be denied the right? Our opinion also counts and we want to vote,” said Khan.
To make your vote mobile, support the petition at Talking about his colleagues and friends in Delhi and Punjab, he says, “Many of us in the teaching profession have our political commitments. And we have our views, too, which are often Bengal-centric. So, it makes sense to let us be a part of the polling process in Kolkata, where we come from. It’s easy to develop an online system or maybe have booths where people like me can vote for our home constituency,” Khan reasons.
But him and his colleagues’ votes aside, he believes it’s an even bigger loss for the state that millions of migrant workers are perhaps unable to vote. “In terms of numbers, they are a big chunk of the electors. I don’t think even half of them return to vote. But they should be voting for policies that affect their lives,” Khan said.
‘Only a long weekend will let me go home to vote’
Akshat Sharma felt a sense of pride when he was registered as voter some eight years back. But that has been replaced by a sort of vexation because he has till date “not been able to vote and the possibility of doing so this time too appears slim”.
A corporate manager with Nagpur Metro, Sharma has been residing in the city for three years. He hails from Jaipur and is registered as a voter in the Rajasthan capital. At the time of the 2014 elections he was in Bengaluru. “The connectivity by air isn’t that great and it is difficult to get reservations on trains. So, it is almost impossible to go back home for elections,” he says. “This time I’m hoping it’ll be a long weekend so that I can combine some leave and reach Jaipur in time to vote,” he says, adding that there are few train connections and the cost of flying to Jaipur from Nagpur is prohibitive as there are no direct flights.
Sharma gets homesick during elections when he hears family members share their experience of voting. “It is such an important duty in a democracy but I am being deprived of it as there is no way for me to vote from wherever I am residing,” he says.
Sharma agrees that the scale and size of Indian elections makes it a daunting task to have a system for people to vote from anywhere, but points out that technology and digitisation can make it possible. “The way in which we pay our bills, book our tickets and even write our exams have all changed drastically over the last five years. The Election Commission should now take cognisance of these lost votes and come up with a solution,” he says.
As someone who follows politics and current affairs quite keenly, Sharma says he would like to get involved in the process of electing governments. “We take pride in the fact that we can elect or oust governments. Our vote is a precious right which allows us to do that. Losing out on the opportunity to vote only because I can do it from nowhere else but where I am registered kind of curbs that right,” he says.