The country is gearing up for the Lok Sabha Election 2019, conducted in 13 states across India. One of the states that will go for polls today is my home state West Bengal. Hailing from Siliguri with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism honours (not a very well-paying career choice in my hometown), I left Siliguri four years ago to turn towards the city of dreams, Mumbai for a better career. The decision did give me a career boost, some money to survive and the ability and confidence to undoubtedly call myself independent. However, today while I am sitting in BKC, one of the biggest commercial hubs of the country, elections are in full swing in my hometown Siliguri. Without getting to cast my vote, I wonder about my role and those of millions of others, living away from their constituencies, in the government-forming process of India. Google has dedicated its doodle to help the people of India on how to vote in the Indian General Election 2019 which contains detailed instructions of who can vote and how can one vote. However, for us who know very well about the functionalities are stuck helpless. How To Vote #India? Google Answers with Informative Doodle Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
I live away from home because I want to earn well for me and my family. But it does bother me that I have to build my career at the price of being able to vote for my country. Darjeeling Lok Sabha Constituency in West Bengal: Candidates, Current MP, Polling Date And Election Results 2019.
We cast our votes in person at an assigned polling station near our registered address, what about people like me? I know I am not the only one. There are limited solutions to the problem and obstacles are many. For one, travel fares become exorbitant. Travelling in the train will take over two days and airfare will leave me with terrible cash crunch by the end of the month.
It's not impossible, but it sure is inconvenient. People working in other states know what I am talking about. According to a study by an economist at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, India has around 100 million temporary internal migrants. Moreover, he says as many as three out of every 10 Indians have moved away from their homes usually in search of better jobs.
While three may not seem like a significant number, its impact on voter turnout is enormous. Not only is highly expensive and inconvenient, but the feeling of not able to vote is also guilty-inducing and heart-breaking to be real. India's 814 million-strong electorate is also facing a significant impact because of internal migrants not being able to vote.
What is the solution?
While the agony is completely understood, the problem demands a practical approach. Members of the armed forces, those on election duty, some displaced communities, senior government ministers and Indian diplomats outside the country can vote by post or through a proxy, but the people who do not fall into the category or are unable to change their location on their voter ID cards are helpless.
Moreover, the people working or studying in places outside the country are in a worse situation as they can't be physically present at the polling station near their registered address.
Before the last General Elections in 2014, the Supreme Court had asked the Election Commission to study the possibility of enabling non-resident citizens to vote at Indian missions abroad. However, it wasn't possible then. Making arrangements for people not staying in their registered address to vote online can be an option the Election commission should consider. With digitisation, slowly taking over India, why is the EC not working towards it?
I have voted just once for the Lok Sabha election since I turned 18, and I am missing out on my second opportunity. It makes me feel guilty about commenting on any issue related to the country that I feel strongly about because I am unable to do play my role as a voter. If not this time, let's hope that during the next elections, millions like me who are working away from their hometowns do get to play our part in the election process of our country.