Major move to involve diaspora
The Cabinet has finally cleared the option of voting by proxy, superseding the current inept scenario of having to fly in on the day of voting to one's constituency to cast vote. Considering that as high as 70 per cent of the 20 odd million Indians in the Gulf countries do not come home more than once in two years, this path was indeed a prickly one and the coincidental presence of a few resulted in about ten thousand NRIs casting their vote across the nation which had hardly constituted a vote bank. The relationship between the mother country and the great Indian Diaspora has been ambivalent at best. With 30 million and counting Indians living in foreign lands, one would think there would be more realistic relationships by now. While there is a high quotient of patriotic fervour it is not always translated into fiscal investment and that is where the rub lies. Efforts to improve the relationship have been made with the appearance of every new government but they soon fade away and the spasm of hope that maybe this time around there will be tangible changes is usually stillborn as the NRIs have mockingly called themselves Not Required Indians. However, some visible and immediate window dressing will be vital to get this issue to fly. The first genuine step has been to activate the right of franchise not in the clumsy fashion it is now but in a more evolved and genuine manner. There was no reason why Indians with domestic passports should be denied the right of franchise as now there is a genuine vote bank. This constitutional premise would, ipso facto, emphasise the sense of Indianness and reduce the political isolation that NRIs are bound to feel when called upon to rally around but not given the courtesy that should complement it.
By that very token the next imperative is to upgrade the concept of an NRI cell within certain central ministries and convert it into a proper and vibrant ministry with, at least, a minister of state commanding a council of representatives. For years there has been an unheeded call to elect or appoint, through the president, two members of Parliament who are NRIs. Since this cannot be done without a franchise and there are some very real logistics problems to voting for individuals around the world, the appointment could be done from distinguished NRIs who are now back in India. That would suffice until a system evolves for democratic elections. The Indian government must clean up the ground clutter in a seven point programme, including clearing up the credibility of the NRI brigade, sending out teams of technocratic and business experts to establish a genuine and durable rapport, reducing the red-tapism, giving NRIs real time frameworks for NOCs and clearances, eliminating middlemen and brokers when dealing with NRIs and offering them long-term business investments that pay dividends comparable to the international markets.