DUBAI // Indian expatriates can begin registering on the voting roll in their home constituencies, the Indian consulate announced yesterday. But they still cannot vote unless they go back to India to do so.
Previously, the names of Indians living and working overseas for more than six months, known as non-resident Indians (NRIs), were struck off the country's voters' list.
NRIs from states including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Pondicherry will be the first to be granted official sanction to cast ballots in upcoming state elections.
India's Election Commission is expected to announce the schedule for Tamil Nadu and West Bengal this week and for the remaining three territories later this month.
Those who are older than 18 and eligible to vote can download a registration form from the Election Commission of India's website, along with the address of the registration officers for their constituencies, the consulate said.
Postal applications must include a passport copy attested by the Consulate General of India in Dubai, or by the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi.
A substantial number of the 1.7 million NRIs who have lived in the UAE for decades have been overlooked in the process and say that technically they have been free to vote all along since their names have not yet been struck off the voters' roll. But they say it is impractical to make a trip home specifically for the elections. Few can spare the time or money.
The community has repeatedly described the federal decision as ineffective since it does not include a provision for absentee ballots. Prospective voters must be present at the polling station.
"The process should have been made easier," said Abdul Naseer, the president of the Kerala Youth and Cultural Club. "Most people will not go back just to vote because state elections are not crucial like national elections."
The form-6A for registration can be downloaded from the website http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/nri/nri.asp.