Monday, January 19, 2009

FAQs: Petition for Absnetee Voting in Indian Elections

These are some FAQs to answer questions about the absentee voting petition.
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1. What is a Petition? How are they delivered?

A petition is a request to change some thing, most commonly made to a government official or public entity, usually signed by numerous individuals. A petition may be oral rather than written, and in this era may be transmitted via the Internet. (wiki)

Petitions facilitate grassroots democracy through collective assertion of common demands made to the government. Petitions posted online provide the most effective means to carry the vox populi to the government irrespective of the spatial boundaries that exist between people. Online petitions also help in reaching a wider base and makes use of networking that exists predominantly in this digital age for its transmission.

Petitions can be delivered to the concerned authorities either through electronic means or a hard copy by post or in person. For the current petition, we plan to use both the means.

2. Are petitions effective? Does it work for India?

Petitions deliver results to varying degree depending on the how well it is written, the numerical strength and the reach of petition, and most importantly the issue it addresses.
There are numerous examples of successful petitions toady. Some examples could be found here wiki and e-legislative action) .

Some cases specific to India:
Mid day Meals: Peoples Union for Civil Liberties petitioned the government for 'Child's Right to Food' by successfully filing a Public Interest Litigation. The eventual result of the petition was that the Supreme Court of India ordered the Government of India (GOI) to implement Mid-Day meals programs throughout all the public schools.

Save Tiger: Few years ago a petition to save the tigers from extinction received world wide attention. It appeared in several blogs and news papers. Several NGOs actively took up the issue. The result of this public pressure was what led to setting up of Project Tiger by GOI ( ). Thanks to this initiative, the tiger population is already showing signs of revival.

Gay Rights: Naz foundation has recently filed a petition to Amending Article 377 which currently criminalizes homosexual relationship. They filed in PIL in Delhi High Court, which recommended government to decriminalize homosexual and protect the gay rights.

3. How many signatures do you need?

The more the better. The objective is to have as many willing individual as possible who would not only affix their affirmation to their petition electronically but also help in spreading the word. For this petition, we are targeting a modest 10000 signatures.

4. What are our objectives and how do we plan to achieve it?
As stated in the petition, we want the government to ensure that every citizen of India above the legal age limit has the right to vote, irrespective of where he/she physically lives and/or works.
We plan to achieve this by gathering support through petition signatures from as many Indian netizens as we possibly could reach. We have sought support from various NRI organizations and Indian groups, and organizations working on electoral reforms and grass root democracy in India.
We plan to involve electronic (blogs, YouTube) and print media (Times of India, The Hindu, Indian Express) for our support. We are exploring possibility of filing PIL through an Indian organization. We plan to personally submit the final petition Indian embassy at Houston and Washington DC.

5. Why are YOU important?

If you are an NRI- An Indian diaspora that is estimated to be over 20 million. With a substantial proportion of these being non residents currently holding Indian citizenship, they become the unspoken voice of India. The diaspora spread encompasses Indians who are working abroad, studying in universities or they could be part of UN peacekeeping missions or at the very least tourists or visitors in a foreign country. They make significant contributions to the Indian society through business, commerce and socio-cultural ties. Remittance by Indians residing abroad contributes more than $25 billion to India's GDP annually. They have the right to participate in Indian democratic system and their voice should be heard through voting. The existing systems provide no means to exercise their right.

Migrant workers and Laborers: (Includes migrating software engineers, business executives) India has a very young and highly mobile population. Indian railways alone carry 18 million people every day including the polling day. With the liberalization and globalization having set in, jobs are no longer local. People constantly are shifting jobs and are relocating to cities away from their home town ever more rapidly. Exclusion of large section of eligible voters due to transitory travel or temporary shift in residence during the polling day is untenable.

6. Will my voice be heard?

Yes it will be. Do not worry that you are just one person and just by you signing/ not signing this petition will not make a difference. Just realize all it takes is one person to start the revolution. Do your part and do not worry about the fruits of your action. Through all means possible, we will make sure the petition reaches the concerned politicians who legislate and government officials who frame policies on electoral process.

7. What do I need to do?

First of all we all must have a "Yes, We can" attitude. So please read and sign the petition. You can multiply/amplify your voice by spreading the word among your friends, colleagues and organizations you are part of. Urge them to sign and spread the word. This is the way networks work. Networks can spread exponentially provided each node acts as a transmitting agent.Also Join us in orkut and facebook.

Together we can and we will be agents of Change! Remember bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. Let us say, voting is my birth right and I shall definitely have it!

Voters without borders!

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