The Supreme Court sharply criticized the negligence of the Centre towards the procedures that allowed the expats the right to vote in elections in India.
The court said that the government’s style of functioning was not right. It seems three years isn’t enough for the Centre to answer whether it is the Representation of People Act or rules that required amendment in order to implement electronic voting. More time is needed it seems. Showing laxity by not deciding or implementing the measures as per the report submitted by the Election Commission in October 2014, is utterly deplorable and a denial of civil rights of the NRIs. The history of denial of basic rights of expatriates is as old as that of expatriation itself. The reason is because they come only in the periphery of the concept of a civil society that requires rights and legal protection. The NRIs are considered by the authorities and officials as mere mechanical beings who bring in foreign currency. Any expat is always destined to endure humiliating experiences at airports to government offices as well as other organisations because they are seen as people who make loads of undeserved money- a belief smeared with jealousy engraved in the minds of people. His apprehensions and woes are taken in with a tinge of mockery even by the society. The Supreme Court’s question has struck hard the attitude of neglect and unnecessary delaying of processes by different platforms starting from the village office to the Centre. True, this is certainly not the right manner of approach by the governments in power and the machinery towards the expatriates.
Analyzing any one of the policy decisions lately is alone sufficient to comprehend that the NRIs are denied of their civil rights. When the GST was being implemented, nobody even cared whether the rights of the expats were being violated. The facility of sending personal household items up to value of Rs 20, 000 via cargo from foreign countries has been cancelled from July 1. The NRIs will have to pay a 40 per cent tax including a GST of 28 per cent now onwards. The expat community has been awaiting the court’s response in the matter. Their apprehension over the latest changes in the banking sector also fell on deaf ears. When asked about the queries related to the banking accounts, the officials say that they haven’t received any orders regarding the same. It’s without any careful deliberation about the hardships faced by the expats in bringing the bodies of the deceased back to the country or fear of repercussions that an officer mercilessly resorted to implement a rule passed by the Centre. All these are different reflections of the same temperament. It’s the ultimate consequence of the narrow mentality that the NRIs aren’t citizens with equal rights but mechanical beings to produce foreign money. The airline companies charge according to the weight of the coffin of the deceased even today before allowing them to set off on their last journey. It’s when even the countries poorer than India charge nothing for the final journey of the expats that our country continue the shameful approaches towards them.
The NRIs aren’t those who abandoned their homeland for greener pastures. They are the scapegoats of a system that failed to create opportunities and means of livelihood for its citizens. It’s high time to put an end to approaches that question their self-respect instead of extending empathy and understanding. There are NRI outfits for all political parties as well as religious and social organisations. They should be entitled to all the rights of citizenship while still an expat and above all, given allowances for playing a substantial role in the nation’s development process, in their old age. Law amendments and new legislatures would be needed for the progress of the expat community. Let the Supreme Court’s verdict inspire to pave way for the required groundwork and demonstrations.