Free Press Journal

Indian expats in Saudi Arabia demand online voting rights


Dubai: Expatriate Indians in Saudi Arabia have demanded that the Indian authorities facilitate online voting for them through biometric system in the general elections due next month.

Although non-resident Indians (NRIs) have been permitted to register online and granted the right to vote in the elections, the registered voters can only exercise their franchise by being present in their respective constituencies in India.

However, millions of NRIs continue to demand online voting rights as most consider it impractical to travel and spend money just for  voting.

Zubair Siddique, a resident of Jeddah, a coast city in western Saudi Arabia, regrets not being able to participate in the elections for the last 15 years.

“I am never able to travel back home due to my hectic work schedule. I was hoping that the government would at least consider online voting this year,” Arab News quoted Siddique as saying Wednesday.

At 2.8 million, Indians account for the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia.

At least 65 percent of expatriate Indians in that Gulf nation come from the south Indian state of Kerala. The state boasts of near-full literacy and hence, awareness of general affairs among its expatriate community is broad.

Faiz Ahmed Kidawi, India’s consul-general in the Saudi city of Jeddah, welcomed the idea of online voting.

But he is of the view that such a facility should only be implemented after a proper system and precautions are put in place by the Indian government.

Ahmed Naseem, an Indian expatriate based in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, observed that several countries have implemented online voting and that India was still lagging behind.

Naseem wondered why the government was not able to solve the NRI voting issue, despite spending huge amounts of money on the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, annual conclave of the Indian diaspora to keep overseas Indians connected to their home country.

“Several NRIs are under the mistaken impression that the Election Commission does not consider them fit to vote for their constituencies since they are away from the country and as such, lack knowledge about prevailing political systems,” he added.