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.”
Britain’s Hunt: Iran one year away from nuclear bomb
BRUSSELS: The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran’s breaches as significant and do not intend for now to trigger the pact’s dispute mechanism, preferring more diplomacy to ease the crisis, the EU foreign policy chief said on Monday.She spoke at the end of an European Union foreign ministers meeting after…
BRUSSELS: The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran’s breaches as significant and do not intend for now to trigger the pact’s dispute mechanism, preferring more diplomacy to ease the crisis, the EU foreign policy chief said on Monday.She spoke at the end of an European Union foreign ministers meeting after Britain said there was only a “small window” of time to salvage the deal, while Iran warned it would ramp up uranium enrichment if the EU failed to do more to that end.US-Iranian tensions have escalated since US President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its atomic program in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.The EU ministers drew no conclusions on what action should next be taken to head off a feared US-Iranian conflict. But by suggesting that Iran’s non-compliance was not significant, it could anger the United States, which last week warned it would intensify sanctions on Iran over its breaches, and it did prompt an immediate outcry from Israel, Iran’s regional arch-enemy.“For the time being, none of the parties to the agreement has signalled their intention to invoke this article,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels, referring to a mechanism to punish non-compliance.“(It) means that none of them for the moment, for the time being with the current data we have had in particular from the (UN nuclear watchdog) IAEA, (consider Iran’s) non-compliance…to be significant non-compliance.”IAEA inspectors last week confirmed Iran is now enriching uranium to 4.5 percent fissile purity, above the 3.67 percent limit set by its deal, the second breach in as many weeks after Tehran exceeded limits on its stock of low enriched uranium.The level at which Iran is now refining uranium is still well below the 20 percent purity of enrichment Iran reached before the deal, and the 90 percent needed to yield bomb-grade nuclear fuel. Low-enriched uranium provides fuel for civilian power plants.British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier in the day that Iran remained “a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb.” He told reporters in Brussels: “There is still some closing, but small window to keep the deal alive.”Under the terms of the deal, if any party believes another is not upholding their commitments they can refer the issue to a Joint Commission comprising Iran, Russia, China, the three European powers, and the European Union.This activates a dispute mechanism that could eventually end with a restoration of global, UN sanctions against Iran. Mogherini said a joint commission meeting was possible, although when and at what level had yet to be decided.She indicated that for now the EU would focus on diplomatic efforts to save the nuclear deal, which signatories in 2015 touted as essential to ward off the risk of a wider Middle East war jeopardizing global energy supplies.“The deal is not in good health, but it’s still alive. We hope and we invite Iran to reverse these steps and go back to full compliance with the agreement,” Mogherini, adding that they were all reversible.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the EU’s response on Monday, saying it recalled failed diplomacy with Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War Two.“(It) reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.“Then, too, there were those who stuck their head in the sand and did not see the approaching danger,” said Netanyahu, who has often cast Iran’s nuclear projects as a mortal menace to Israel and the wider world. Iran denies seeking a nuclear bomb.The Brussels gathering had been called to flesh out ways of convincing Iran and the United States to reduce tensions and start a dialogue amid fears the 2015 deal is close to collapse.Fears of direct US-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone, and a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.In reaction to the reimposition of tough US sanctions, which have notably targeted Iran’s vital oil revenue stream, Tehran has cut some of its nuclear commitments under the deal.That led the European parties to the pact, France, Britain and Germany, to warn Tehran not to shred the deal’s terms.Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom suggested the Europeans would leave the door open for diplomacy but that Tehran should exercise restraint.“It improves their chances of having a good discussion with the EU and other partners in the JCPOA (Iran deal),” she told reporters. “We encourage them to use all diplomatic means and create new diplomatic channels …to de-escalate the tense situation. We have to use every opportunity to keep the deal.”The Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy agency said Tehran would return to the situation before the nuclear deal unless European countries fulfilled their obligations.“These actions are not taken out of stubbornness but to give diplomacy a chance,” agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.“And if the Europeans and America don’t want to fulfil their commitments we will create a balance in this deal by reducing commitments and return the situation to four years ago.”Iran says the European countries must do more to guarantee it the trade and investment dividends it was due to receive in return for UN-monitored limits to its nuclear capacity under the deal.
Hong Kong police demand better protection ahead of more protests
BRUSSELS: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that there was still time to save the Iran nuclear deal and that despite the United States being Britain’s closest ally it disagreed on how to handle the Iran crisis.“Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some closing,…
BRUSSELS: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that there was still time to save the Iran nuclear deal and that despite the United States being Britain’s closest ally it disagreed on how to handle the Iran crisis.“Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some closing, but small window to keep the deal alive,” Hunt told reporters on arrival for a foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.The Brussels meeting will seek to flesh out how to convince Iran and the United States to reduce tensions and initiate a dialogue amid fears that the 2015 deal is close to collapse.US-Iranian tensions have worsened since US President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its atomic program in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.In reaction to the re-imposition of tough US sanctions, which have notably targeted Iran’s main oil revenue stream, Tehran has scaled back on some of its nuclear commitments under the deal, leading the European parties to the pact, France, Britain and Germany, to warn it about not fully complying with the terms.The three powers, who are party to the deal alongside Russia and China, have sought to defuse the tensions, which culminated in a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.
Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade
Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade PARIS: French police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from the Champs Elysees avenue on Sunday, a few hours after President Emmanuel Macron had presided over the Bastille Day military parade alongside other European leaders.The boulevard in central Paris was reopened…
Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade
PARIS: French police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from the Champs Elysees avenue on Sunday, a few hours after President Emmanuel Macron had presided over the Bastille Day military parade alongside other European leaders.The boulevard in central Paris was reopened to traffic as soon as the parade finished but a few hundred protesters from the grassroots ‘yellow vests’ movement tried to occupy it.France’s BFM television showed images of police firing tear gas to disperse the protesters, some hooded, who tried to block the road with metal barricades, dustbins and other debris.Several loud bangs could be heard. Protesters hurled objects at the police, booed and set a bin on fire.Earlier, a French police source and a court source said some 152 ‘yellow vest’ protesters and their leaders had been detained near the Champs Elysees as they tried to stage a protest.