NEW DELHI: The government has introduced a bill to extend voting rights to Indian citizens who are residing overseas on account of employment or education, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.
The voting rights, however, will be extended only to Indian nationals and not to persons of Indian origin who are citizens of other nations, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said in a written reply.
The decision to table the landmark bill and give non-resident Indians (NRIs) a sense of belonging, was taken by a meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month.
The new provision will amplify the definition of Indians ordinarily resident in the country in the Representation of the People Act, and allow them to enrol themselves to exercise their voting rights, official sources said.
They can cast their votes in parliamentary and assembly elections when they are in their constituencies and also participate in the democratic process of nation building as citizens of India, the officials added.
Manmohan Singh had promised voting rights to NRIs at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas – the annual conclave that links the country with its 25 million diaspora in 110 countries – in Hyderabad in January.
He said some of the "urgent concerns" of overseas Indians and professionals will be addressed by his government, adding the demand for voting rights for certain categories of NRIs had a "convincing political basis".