Jaipur: Fulfilling a long-standing demand of its diaspora, India on Sunday said it would allow NRIs to vote and participate in the election process.
"Pursuant to the law that was enacted to enable Non-resident Indians to vote in our national elections, the government has issued notifications for registration of overseas electors under the Representation of People Act, 1950," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
"This constitutes the first major step to enable Indian residents abroad to participate in our election process," the prime minister said while addressing the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas diaspora meet here.
He said the diaspora plays an important role in the growth and development of the country. The government recognises it, and was committed to address their concerns and fulfil their demands.
"The government and people of India recognise and value the important role being played by Indian communities living abroad. We believe that Indian diaspora has much more to contribute to the building of modern India," the prime minister said.
"We propose to facilitate, encourage and promote this engagement. Over the past year, we have taken a number of steps towards this end," he added, as he formally inaugurated the 10th annual diaspora meet, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said NRIs would be able to exercise their franchise in upcoming elections.
"Indian nationals living abroad can now exercise their franchise in India at the time o f the elections," Ravi said.
Now those NRIs who have registered with the embassies of their respective countries of stay, would be eligible to vote in the upcoming assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. Polls will take place in these countries between Jan 28 and March 3.
Ravi said objective of the government was to further increase engagements with diaspora. "Our objective is to raise the level of engagement to go beyond mere investment related issues and address a broader agenda."
"We believe that this will provide the vast majority of you the opportunity to benefit from as well as contribute - each in your own way - to India`s development story," the minister said.
Later talking to media person, Ravi said this year`s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is the largest congregation of Indian diaspora.
He said almost 1,900 delegates from around 60 countries were participating in the three-day event.