Tomorrow (April 11) the world's biggest democratic exercise begins in India. A total of 911 million eligible voters including 84.3 million new voters will decide the new government for the country. A total of 900 million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballot, with a staggering 84.3 million first time voters. Voting will be held in seven phases across India from April 11 April until May 19, and the final results will be announced on May 23.
In a month the people of India will know if the cake belongs to Prime Minister Modi or the Congress Party will get a taste of it.
Closer home Indian expats are tired of the mud-slinging that has in the past months led the way to the election days. The citizens of India living in the UAE have spoken. And all they want is a better India, where infrastructure is not a challenge, education is meted out to every citizen, the youth are empowered with opportunities and jobs, quality healthcare is accessible to one and all in the country. A key aspiration of the non-resident-Indians (NRIs) of UAE is that they want the new government to foster and improve religious tolerance which is at an all-time low in the country right now. Addressing pollution in the country are among other dreams and aspirations. As well, issues pertaining to taxation, capital gains, real estate, agriculture, land purchase are being called upon by expats to be re-visited by the government. Basically they are calling for an unbiased outlook from the government without any discriminations towards NRIs and Persons of Indian (PoI) origin.
It is indeed heartening to see the outpour of patriotism from the expats, take a look at what else they had to say.
Sundaram Padmanabhan, head of wealth management and liabilities for Oman-based bank
First of all I would like to commend the progress India has made so far. We still have challenges and as a citizen, I would definitely like to see them met in the best possible way. The education system needs to be re-looked at completely. Whether it is the curriculum offered in schools, limited access to poor children or the archaic admission policies into schools and colleges. There is an urgent need for re-vamp in all respects. Create more jobs for the youth in India so they don’t have to look elsewhere. Foster and improve religious tolerance which is at an all-time low in the country right now. This will help everyone to focus on development and create harmony, a better image of the country globally.
Create a condusive environment for non-resident-Indians (NRIs) to come back home so they can contribute to the growth of the economy. NRIs should be given the confidence to invest in India. There should be more scope of expansion and diversification of the existing businesses in the country that mainly hover around education, health-care and hospitality.
lnvolve NRIs in the law making process as they can give a better insight into the problems they face globally.
The working conditions of the lower strata outside India needs massive improvement and the government needs to work very closely with Indian Embassies and consulates to ensure the quality of life for these workers is not compromised. There is a need for special incentives for the billions of dollars that is remitted every year into the country. We also want the government to look at property laws and regulations around sale, TDS and capital gains tax. Leverage the relationship to repatriate economic offenders faster to instill confidence in the banking system and the tax payers.
Anoop Bhargava, a finance professional based in Dubai.
As an NRI I am truly proud of the plurastic character of our democracy where freedom of expression, choice and universal suffrage is enshrined in the constitution. As 911 million people vote for the 17th Lok Sabha, I ask the new government to rapidly progress key initiatives in order to deliver greater good for the people of the nation. Improve infrastructure which is creaking under the weight of rapid urbanisation. We need to invest in modernisation of cities towns and industrial hubs to attract investment and talent. Address pollution wherein our particulate matter (PM) 2.5 count is the highest in the world and four Indian cities have been listed in top ten most polluted places in the world. We are dying a slow death every day let’s do something about it.
With regards to growth and employment, we need to grow our GDP at eight per cent per annum to absorb 10 million people joining the workforce every year. However, we have more engineers and graduates who are unable to get commensurate employment and need to be provided domestic opportunities to prevent a brain drain. The new government needs to encourage higher private sector investment to stimulate growth and higher employment. Women security is a key issue in India. There is an immediate need to create a safe and secure environment for women in our country and I propose a capital punishment for rape.
As far as education is concerned goes, reservation is never the panacea for all evils, rather we need to bring about change in primary education and invest in education for all segments of society. From a healthcare perspective, we need to address infant mortality and lack of basic medical care urgently which plagues most of India. Let us create and deliver health care services across the country so that no Indian is bereft of basic care. Water management is a big issue. We have hundreds of rivers but no technology to clean and harness water for drinking and electricity generation. The new government must allocate a budget to invest in utilising our water resources for the greater good of the country.
Dr Sameer H Shaikh, 47 years, orthodontist
As Indians, we have aspirations, dreams, wants and needs. And what is wrong with that? Just as Swaraj is my birthright, so is having a dream and vision for my country. Shallow politicians with hollow promises have ruled the roost for too long. Our next elected government must deliver or be held culpable. Economic growth, social change, infrastructure upgradation, access to education for every citizen, having secular tolerance are some dreams I have for my country. I also want the new government to have a focus on a neutral foreign policy. Accountability and transparency are the urgently required in the entire governance. These have to be delivered without compromise. Giving more teeth to the Right to Information Act and compulsory enforcement of Lokayukta would be two other steps in the right direction. Removing the power of elected governments on arbitrary transfer of bureaucracy is a matter of urgency. A bureaucrat must be in the post for a minimum period of three years to be effective. Complete independence of the Armed Forces, Judiciary, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), The Central Bureau of Investigation CBI, and Lokayukta are a must.All politicians promise a lot before elections but have not delivered. We need a government who delivers.
Kevin Dsouza, marketing professional for a Dubai firm
Being an NRI, there are a few things that concern us immediately. One of them being the low return-on-investment (ROI) since a majority of our income is sent back home. We have seen deposit rates falling. The growth rate has slowed due to inflation and the government needs to look at this immediately. The new government should focus on economic development and appeasement of low income workers and farmers. We have recently seen politicians use this as a bait to lure the poor to blindly vote for them by making false promises such as loan wavers etc. This definitely does more harm than good. It encourage the poor to take loans on the assumption the government will take care of the interest. The brunt of it is eventually faced by the common man. Taxes on mutual funds is another thing that affects us NRIs, the RBI should be given enough freedom to exercise their right to make it flexible for us.
Arun Kumar, general manager at a private company in Dubai
Being the largest democracy, the Indian elections in 2019 is expected to cost nearly $7 billion. As an NRI, and more importantly an Indian, I hope the elections would be free and fair for obvious reasons. The one element that I am however concerned about is this may not be the most inclusive election. I would like to see some of the extreme views that have suddenly become more prevalent in India die down so the normal Indian can live in peace and prosperity. The negativity around, you are either with us or against us to build walls is something that was always prevalent in India. However, this time keeping in line with other countries where we see this rearing its ugly head in some countries like Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and the United States, India seems to be jumping on the bandwagon with unadulterated fervor.
As an Indian, I would like to see the following segments given special attention to especially the farmers, women, the girl child, the illiterate, and the homeless. They have all been a marginalized lot for too long with some of them being treated as vote banks. Rampant corruption is something that troubles me as an Indian when I travel and listen to how other countries view us. Indians must demonstrate their patriotism and vote on the lines of what is right for the country now. As Mark Twain said, “True patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”
Venkat Sarma , a Risk Management Professional
One of the things I would like from the newly elected government is for them to consider implementing dual citizenship. Issues pertaining to taxation, capital gains, real estate, agriculture, land purchase need to be re-visited and they should not discriminate against NRI’s and Persons of Indian (PoI) origin. Currently they are favouring Indian residents. NRI’s must have the facility of e-ballot so they can exercise their vote. There has to be a fast track method set up to deal with issues pertaining to overseas Indians. This can be done by setting up counters at various Indian Embassies and consulates.
My vision for India - a corruption free pluralistic vibrant democracy which focuses on equitable growth across cities and villages and across different strata of people. Some urgent imperatives for the government should be clean air, primary and secondary education and elimination of illiteracy and guaranteed quality medical treatment for all citizens. Urban public transport infrastructure of a good standard needs to be set up in at least top 25 cities in the country. On a final note, the government should consider making the rupee fully convertible.
Sethu Ramaswamy, 52, Regional Head of Process and Governance
Elections in India is a great opportunity for people to express their hopes and aspirations for the country and themselves. I hope the process is held fair and in a transparent and peaceful manner. The country needs a stable and non-corrupt government. I hope people keep that in mind as they vote and not be swayed by local considerations as this is a national election.
As for me, I hope the new government will have a laser sharp focus on equitable economic growth. Both ‘equitable ‘ and ‘growth’ are important for India today. This would require social development, infra development and the right business environment. Equitable economic for the next 20 years will automatically solve most of our issues and help our country realise its potential.
Sadaf Khurshid, lecturer at a university
My aspirations for the government is that they must think positive not only in building foreign relations but also strengthening the bond of unity amongst the citizens. I foremost want the government to help in providing employment and job opportunities to the many unemployed in my country. I expect things to get better in female to male work ratio. I hope there will be stronger laws to fast-track court proceedings for people who commit heinous crimes like rapes. It is my dream to see more number of schools so a seat is promised to every child who wants to study. Clean drinking water and electricity are not accessible in villages and I want to see this changed. The disparity between societies must reduce. I hope we are able to elect the new government based on progress that the country can make
Ajay Shukla, independent education entrepreuner based in Dubai
What are my hopes and aspirations from the upcoming Lok Sabha elections? Well my expectations are both from the political system and the citizens of India. Time and again the Indian electorate has voted for development, social justice, equitable opportunities for citizens and they tend to forget this when they come to power. So let this be a reminder to any political party that comes to power that there are core issues on which they will be judged not only this but every other election. They must live up to their promises.
Secondly my message goes out to the citizens. I want to tell them that is not just a festival of democracy where people come to vote and celebrate and then they go and drown themselves in daily drudgery again. It is about citizenry on a daily basis, holding systems and institutions accountable every single day. Vote for a party or a manifesto that promises social justice, jobs and opportunities for youth, upliftment of women, better system of accountability for all institutions, farmers, smaller and medium enterprises. That is what you should be voting for. Remember it is your responsibility to hold institutions accountable on a daily basis. We have to make sure we raise our voice as and when it is necessary.
Dr. Sana Khurshid, anaesthesiologist
Elections are part of our democracy. People are getting a chance to select their government for the next five years, so there is a huge responsibility on their part to vote for the right party and for the right reasons. I would like to stress the need to look at the health sector in particular. Stringent rules must be set to ensure every government and private hospital offers better facilities in both government and private hospitals. More seats should be allocated for students doing post-graduation in medicine. There is a lot of load on resident doctors which has to be decreased if more doctors are recruited. This will benefit both patients as well as doctors. Also more funds should be invested to provide equipments in the hospitals.
Parul Sikka , marketing professional for a Dubai-based firm
My expectation from the new leadership is that they must put to action all that they promise before elections. Take a hard stance on law and order, there should be swift and strong punishment for crime. Start at the very top. Why should a politician who has criminal cases against him be allowed to contest elections is my question? My dream is to see our soldiers who protect our country and fight wars for us to be taken care really well. We have to elevate their upkeep and modernise our armed forces through technology. Make military service compulsory. If you can’t make it compulsory incentivise people who are part of our military service. When youngsters are looking for jobs, this will teach the younger generation, patriotism, tolerance and discipline.
Rakesh, a blue collar worker who belongs to the city of Lucknow in India
I am very happy the way my country has progressed so far. I hope this continues. I would like the new government to look at the interest of blue collar workers in the UAE. There are several issues pertaining to our growth