Connect with us

World News

What the Gulf’s Indians want from their election at home

DUBAI: For the first time this year, Mukesh Kalvaniya will not be able to vote in India’s general election, which starts on Wednesday. That’s because he moved to the UAE from his hometown in Rajasthan three years ago, joining millions of Indians in the Gulf who cannot cast a ballot outside of their country. “I am…

What the Gulf’s Indians want from their election at home

DUBAI: For the first time this year, Mukesh Kalvaniya will not be able to vote in India’s general election, which starts on Wednesday. That’s because he moved to the UAE from his hometown in Rajasthan three years ago, joining millions of Indians in the Gulf who cannot cast a ballot outside of their country.

“I am feeling frustrated that my vote would be wasted,” said the 43-year-old mason, who is working on a private construction project in Dubai. “My country is going to have one of the most crucial elections of recent history. I want the right person (to) be elected from my hometown. If I want the right people to rule my country, then I should also vote.”

The election in the world’s largest democracy will begin on April 11, with voting at one million polling stations across India. About 900 million people, almost triple the entire population of the US, are eligible to vote, including as many as 84.3 million youths for the first time.

However, there is no system for about 8.5 million Indians, the largest non-resident Indian (NRI) population in the world, to vote online or designate a proxy vote, as there is for many expats from other countries who work in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“We have been reduced to becoming passive watchers. We have no choice but to bear the consequences of the decisions others make,” said Kalvaniya.

Shankar Ram, a 20-year-old mechanic in Riyadh, is also regretting that he won’t be able to cast his first vote. “I just turned 20 last month. I wanted to go home and cast a vote. But I won’t get holidays in my probation period,” said Ram, who joined his new job three months ago.

Ram said that he hears a lot of Indians in Riyadh complaining about their country and its system. “If you have a problem, then find a solution. Criticism won’t give you the solution. As an Indian, this is our responsibility to make our country a better place whether we live there or work outside.”

Like many other overseas Indians, Ram said that he was expecting the government to arrange a way for them to vote, but it didn’t happen. “My vote is important for my country,” he said. “I hope my government also realizes that soon.”

However, many Indians will vote while they are visiting their homes during the election. “I will be in India on vacation when my city goes to the polls,” said Umaid Khan, a cyber-security professional in Dubai. “Instead of getting carried away by the frenzy created by politicians and the media, I will cast my vote based on the qualifications and background of the candidate.”

Khan, who has been based in Dubai for 16 years, believes that the election in India will decide the country’s future. He said that in recent years there has been a disturbing spike in hate crimes in India because of religious extremism. “I want my government to take severe action against intolerance irrespective of the community they belong to,” he said.

Khan said that it was shameful that India has the world’s highest number of malnourished children, despite being one of the world’s largest economies. “Issues such as education, health care, infrastructure, corruption, pollution, ease of doing business, safety and security etc. get submerged when political parties build the narrative based on religions, castes and regional biases.”

According to Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of Al-Dobowi Group and head of Sikh Gurudwara in Dubai, millions of Indians living in the Gulf want a “clean government” that can address real issues on the ground. “Most non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in the Gulf closely follow what is happening in India. They follow every single action and step taken by the politicians,” he said.

“We need to uplift the weaker sections of the society. We need the per-capita income to go up so that all Indians become prosperous. Each one of them should have shelter, food and good health.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voters in the lead-up to the election. (AFP)

Kandhari described the present electoral landscape in India as very messy. “The ruling party and the opposition are by hook and crook trying to woo the voters just to be in power. None of them mean anything they say,” he said.

If Kandhari is to be believed, NRIs in the Gulf are not pleased with the situation back home, especially with the country’s politicians. “All of them have skeletons in their cupboards. They really do not mean to do good for the country. The motive itself is very selfish,” he said.

Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman of the Dubai-based Danube Group, is more hopeful. He said that elections in India are a celebration of the world’s largest democracy.

According to Sajan, most NRIs are long-term investors, and their investment goals and objectives are directed toward creating a future for their children through education and retirement planning. “Hence, such schemes will definitely boost investment by us in the economy of India,” he said, adding that the government should focus more on the rural economy to provide people outside cities with a better future.

Entrepreneur Rehan Khan, who is based in Dubai, said voters must act smartly to send a message to politicians. “Most politicians come from the most uneducated backgrounds, and they take the public for granted,” he said. “Unfortunately, the whole atmosphere this time is so polarized that people are looking at issues only through the prism of religion.”

He said politicians should focus less on religion and talk only about development. “Only then the country can move ahead. We may be one of the biggest democracies for sure, but we are not the most mature yet.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

code

World News

India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

PORAC, Philippines: Rescuers found more bodies overnight in the rubble of a supermarket that crashed down in a powerful earthquake that damaged buildings and an airport in the northern Philippines, raising the death toll to 11, officials said Tuesday.The bodies of four victims were pulled from Chuzon Supermarket and three other villagers died due to…

India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

PORAC, Philippines: Rescuers found more bodies overnight in the rubble of a supermarket that crashed down in a powerful earthquake that damaged buildings and an airport in the northern Philippines, raising the death toll to 11, officials said Tuesday.The bodies of four victims were pulled from Chuzon Supermarket and three other villagers died due to collapsed house walls, said Mayor Condralito dela Cruz of Porac town in Pampanga province, north of Manila.An Associated Press photographer saw seven people, including at least one dead, being pulled out by rescuers from the pile of concrete, twisted metal and wood overnight. Red Cross volunteers, army troops, police and villagers used four cranes, crow bars and sniffer dogs to look for the missing, some of whom were still yelling for help Monday night.Authorities inserted a large orange tube into the rubble to blow in oxygen in the hope of helping people still pinned there to breathe. On Tuesday morning, rescuers pulled out a man alive, sparking cheers and applause.“We’re all very happy, many clapped their hands in relief because we’re still finding survivors after several hours,” Porac Councilor Maynard Lapid told The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, adding another victim was expected to be pulled out alive soon.Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said at least 10 people died in her province, including those who perished in hard-hit Porac town. The 6.1-magnitude quake damaged many houses, concrete roads, bridges, Roman Catholic churches and an international airport terminal at Clark Freeport, a former American air base, in Pampanga. Another child died in nearby Zambales province, officials said.At least 24 people remained missing in the rice-growing agricultural region, mostly in the rubble of the collapsed supermarket in Porac, while 81 others were injured, according to the government’s disaster-response agency.The four-story building housing the supermarket crashed down when the quake shook Pampanga as well as several other provinces and the capital, Manila, on the main northern island of Luzon. The quake was caused by movement in a local fault at a depth of 12 kilometers (8 miles) near the northwestern town of Castillejos in Zambales province, said Renato Solidum, who heads the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.More than 400 aftershocks have been recorded, mostly unfelt.The US Geological Survey’s preliminary estimate is that more than 49 million people were exposed to some shaking from the earthquake, with more than 14 million people likely to feel moderate shaking or more.Clark airport was closed temporarily because of damaged check-in counters, ceilings and parts of the departure area, airport official Jaime Melo said, adding that seven people were slightly injured and more than 100 flights were canceled.In Manila, thousands of office workers dashed out of buildings in panic, some wearing hard hats, and residents ran out of houses as the ground shook. Many described the ground movement like sea waves.One of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, the Philippines has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it lies on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active arc of volcanos and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990. 

Continue Reading

World News

Sri Lanka military gets special powers after deadly bombings

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president gave the military sweeping police powers starting Tuesday in the wake of the Easter bombings that killed nearly 300 people, while officials disclosed that intelligence agencies had warned weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed.The suicide bombings struck three…

Sri Lanka military gets special powers after deadly bombings

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president gave the military sweeping police powers starting Tuesday in the wake of the Easter bombings that killed nearly 300 people, while officials disclosed that intelligence agencies had warned weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed.The suicide bombings struck three churches and three luxury hotels Sunday in the island nation’s deadliest violence since a devastating civil war ended in 2009. The government shut down some social media, armed security forces patrolled the largely deserted, central streets in the capital of Colombo, and a curfew went into effect.The military was given a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects — powers that were used during the civil war but withdrawn when it ended.Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to act against those responsible.Adding to the tension, three unexploded bombs blew up Monday inside a van parked near one of the stricken churches as police were trying to defuse them, sending pedestrians fleeing in panic. No injuries were reported. Dozens of detonators were discovered near Colombo’s main bus depot, but officials declined to say whether they were linked to the attacks.The government blocked access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after the blasts, creating confusion and doing little to reassure residents and visitors that the danger had passed.A nationwide state of emergency was scheduled to begin at midnight Monday (0630 GMT; 2:30 p.m. EDT) the president’s office said, following the attacks that killed at least 290 people, with more than 500 wounded, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. The three stricken hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by tourists, and dozens of foreigners were among the dead.Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said 39 foreigners were killed, although the foreign ministry put out a different figure, saying the number of dead was 31.The US State Department confirmed that at least four Americans were among the dead and several others were seriously wounded, but it did not release any identities. The Sri Lankan government said other foreigners killed were from the UK, Bangladesh, China, India, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Australia.A national day of mourning was declared for Tuesday.International intelligence agencies had warned that the little-known group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, was planning attacks, but word apparently didn’t reach the prime minister’s office until after the massacre, exposing the continuing political turmoil in the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government.Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the intelligence agencies began issuing the warnings on April 4; the defense ministry wrote to the police chief with information that included the group’s name; and police wrote April 11 to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division.President Maithripala Sirisena, who was out of the country Sunday, had ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in October and dissolved the Cabinet. The Supreme Court later reversed his actions, but the prime minister has not been allowed into meetings of the Security Council since October, which meant he and his government were in the dark about the intelligence.It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken after the threats. Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses, but did not identify any of the suicide bombers, whose bodies were recovered, or the two dozen other suspects taken into custody.All the bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links, Senaratne said.Also unclear was a motive. The history of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, a country of 21 million including large Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities, is rife with ethnic and sectarian conflict.In the civil war, the Tamil Tigers, a powerful rebel army known for using suicide bombers, was crushed by the government and had little history of targeting Christians. While anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the country recently, there is no history of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment.Two other government ministers also alluded to advance knowledge. Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted: “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.” He said his father had heard of a possible attack as well and had warned him not to enter popular churches.Mano Ganeshan, the minister for national integration, said his security officers had been warned by their division about the possibility that two suicide bombers would target politicians.Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said the attacks could have been thwarted.“We placed our hands on our heads when we came to know that these deaths could have been avoided. Why this was not prevented?” he said.The coordinated blasts took place in the morning at St. Anthony’s and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo, as well as the two churches outside Colombo. They collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests, and leaving behind scenes of smoke, soot, blood, broken glass, screams and wailing alarms.A few hours later, two more blasts occurred just outside Colombo, one at a guesthouse where two people were killed, the other near an overpass, said Brig. Sumith Atapattu, a military spokesman.Also, three police officers were killed while searching a suspected safe house on the outskirts of Colombo when its occupants apparently detonated explosives to prevent arrest, authorities said.A pipe bomb with 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of explosives was found and defused late Sunday on a road to the international airport, said air force Group Capt. Gihan Seneviratne. It was powerful enough to have caused damage in a 400-meter (400-yard) radius, he said.A morgue worker in Negombo, outside Colombo, where St. Sebastian’s Church was targeted, said many bodies were hard to identify because of the blasts. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.Nilantha Lakmal, a 41-year-old businessman who took his family to St. Sebastian’s for Mass, said they all escaped unharmed, but he remained haunted by images of bodies being taken from the sanctuary.At the Shangri-La Hotel, one witness said “people were being dragged out” after the blast.“There was blood everywhere,” said Bhanuka Harischandra, 24, of Colombo, a founder of a tech marketing company who was going to the hotel for a meeting. “People didn’t know what was going on. It was panic mode.”The scale of the violence recalled the worst days of the civil war, when the Tamil Tigers, from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Sinhalese-dominated country. The Sinhalese are largely Buddhist. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Sri Lanka, off the southern tip of India, is about 70% Buddhist. In recent years, tensions have soared between hard-line Buddhist monks and Muslims.Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemned the church attacks, and Pope Francis expressed condolences at the end of his traditional Easter blessing in Rome. The United Nations’ most powerful body, the Security Council, also denounced the “heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks.”US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington that he spoke to the prime minister and offered assistance. Later, the FBI said it was helping with the investigation.“This is America’s fight, too,” he said. “We also stand with millions of Sri Lankans who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please. We take confidence in knowing that not even atrocities like this one will deter them from respecting religious freedom.”

Continue Reading

World News

Mexico breaks violence record in first quarter of 2019

COLOMBO: Bhanuka Harischandra was running a little late for his meeting Sunday.As a car carrying him pulled into the back entrance of the luxury Shangri-La Hotel in Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo, he realized something was wrong.People were telling him not to come in, it wasn’t safe. Still, the car pulled around to the front…

Mexico breaks violence record in first quarter of 2019

COLOMBO: Bhanuka Harischandra was running a little late for his meeting Sunday.As a car carrying him pulled into the back entrance of the luxury Shangri-La Hotel in Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo, he realized something was wrong.People were telling him not to come in, it wasn’t safe. Still, the car pulled around to the front of the hotel and Harischandra saw the aftermath of a bombing. People were being evacuated, others were being dragged. Blood and ambulances were everywhere.“It was panic mode,” Harischandra, a 24-year-old founder of a tech marketing company, said by telephone later in the day. “I didn’t process it for a while.”He decided to go to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, where he thought it would be safe. But just after he was dropped at the luxury hotel and about to enter the building, he heard another bomb go off.Now he was being evacuated. Soot and ash fell on his white sweat shirt.His car had left, so he hailed a motorized rickshaw and went to meet friends at a coffee shop. They contacted other friends, trying to make sure everyone they knew was safe.It was too soon to think about what it might mean.Over the course of the day, eight bombs exploded at churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 200 people. The Easter Sunday violence was the deadliest the South Asian island country has seen since a bloody civil war ended a decade ago.Many Sri Lankans remember well the terror of the 26-year war. But not Harischandra, who was just a teenager when it officially ended. Toward the end, the conflict was not in Colombo. Growing up, he was mostly aware of his parents’ anxiety about safety, not of actual fighting.Now their anxiety is back.“For them, it’s a bit of a different situation,” he said. “They’re afraid this might start racial violence.”On Sunday night, he was with his family, observing a curfew. He said there was “a lot of tension” in the air, but he was also hoping that the worst might be over: It had been a few hours since the last blast.Harischandra was heartened by the fact that his social media feed was flooded with photos of the lines of people waiting to give blood. Lines so long “you can’t see the end.”

Continue Reading