Indian Diaspora Current Affairs

Qatar to become first Arab state to offer permanent residency to some non-citizens

Qatar’s Cabinet has approved a draft law making permanent residency available to some non-citizens. It marks a partial shift from Qatar’s heavy reliance on its longstanding visa-sponsorship system.

With this the energy-rich Qatar becomes first Gulf Arab state to make permanent residency available to some non-citizens.

Key Facts

Under the new law, residency permits will be granted to children of Qatari women married to foreigners. Moreover it will be also granted to people who offered valuable services to the country and those with special skills. The residency permit will give holders similar rights as Qataris in terms of property ownership and run some businesses without needing a Qatari partner. It will also entitle them free state education and healthcare services. The interior ministry of Qatar will establish committee to review requests of granting permanent residency ID in line with the provisions of the law.

Background

Gulf Arab countries have a high number of expatriate workers but do not allow naturalization of foreigners except in rare cases and under strict conditions. Qatar which is world’s wealthiest country per capita has population of 2.7 million including some 300,000 citizens. Qatar’s native population is far surpassed by foreigners, so the energy-rich Arab state is reluctant to extend residency rights out of concern for the demographic balance.

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Union Cabinet clears proxy voting for NRIs

The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to extend proxy voting to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas Indians. Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.

To make proxy voting for NRIs a reality, government is going to introduce bill to amend the Representation of People Act.

Key Facts

This decision will enable nearly 16 million NRIs to cast vote their in Indian elections (assembly and Lok Sabha elections) by appointing proxies residing in their constituencies. Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter. Government (Election Commission) will frame suitable rules and guidelines to make this move effective soon.

Need for Proxy Voting

Currently, Indian voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies where they are registered. This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered themselves as voters (maximum from Kerala). Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise during the elections.

Expert committee Recommendation

An expert committee in the Election Commission of India (ECI) working on the issue in 2015 had forwarded the legal framework to the Union Law ministry to amend electoral laws to allow overseas Indians use proxy voting.

Comment

According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age. By granting them proxy voting rights, NRIs will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections. Moreover, this decision will also enable NRIS and overseas Indian to considerably sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.

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