NEW DELHI: Raising concern that not many government employees posted abroad are able to cast their votes, the Election Commission on Wednesday said that the ministry of external affairs should act proactively in enlisting its employees serving abroad as service voters.
Moreover, the poll panel has also approached the law ministry to amend the Representation of the People Act to make it gender-neutral asking it to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in the provision in the R P Act.
Addressing a seminar, Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti told the representative of the MEA on enrolling service voters that ‘yours is an easier job, but the response is very poor, because hardly anybody is able to vote’.
The CEC also referred to his interaction with embassy officials in Romania and the meetings with mission staff in Washington DC and New York had revealed that not many MEA employees posted abroad have been able to cast their vote in elections here.
Joti said that enrolling 30 lakh people as service voters should not be a difficult task when the country is following digital India.
He said that with the use of latest information, communication and technology (ICT) tools, the Commission was able to remove one crore ‘errors’ from electoral rolls, clean up 35 lakh ‘duplicate’ entries and issue voter I-cards to 99 per cent of the total Indian electorate.
Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, representatives from the home and the external affairs ministries, besides officers from the armed forces and central armed police forces were present.
Secretary (East) in the MEA Preeti Saran said in her career as Indian Foreign Service office spanning 35 years, she has been able to vote only once. She said a record number of officers in 183 Indian missions abroad have been appointed to enrol Indian employees as service voters.
Deputy EC Sandeep Saxena said that out of 29 lakh people eligible to be enlisted as service voters, 14.5 lakh have been enrolled this year.
Saxena said that there have been demands to make the provision gender neutral. Since the change entails amendments in law, the law ministry will move the union cabinet for approval. After getting the nod, the amendment bill will be taken to Parliament for approval.
Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the Centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.
Similarly, the wife of a service voter, if she is residing with him, is also entitled to be enrolled as a service voter in the constituency specified by that person.