India’s diaspora may get online ballot

Updated 08 April 2014
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India’s diaspora may get online ballot

India’s elections authority has assured the country’s highest court to explore possibility of introducing online voting facility for its diaspora during the ongoing elections, a lawyer said Monday.
The assurance came before the bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Vikramajit Sen hearing a petition moved by a prominent NRI or nonresident Indian against the exclusion of a large section of citizens from elections in the world’s largest democracy.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) also informed the Supreme Court that it was planning to set up a panel to study absentee voting system.
“The ECI assured the court that the government and the lawmakers are totally in favor of allowing the diaspora to vote and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had made an assurance to parliament in this regard,” said Haris Beeran, one of the petitioner’s counsels.
The Gujarat state of Narendra Modi, the frontrunner for the premier, had introduced the e-voting system in the 2010 civic polls, allowing all citizens to vote from the comforts of their homes or abroad but the response was poor.
However, the petitioner says it would be a huge hit in politically-charged states like Kerala where every third house has a member working in the Gulf.
One of the groups working among them chartered a flight from Dubai both this time and during the 2011 assembly polls.
The ECI’s website says there are 11,844 enrollments so far and 11,448 of them are from Kerala whose diaspora population is estimated to be more than two million in the Gulf alone pumping billions rupees every year into its economy.
Punjab has 138 NRI voters followed by Tamil Nadu (112), Pondicherry (56), Goa (27), Delhi and Maharashtra (13 each), Gujarat (7), Madhya Pradesh (6) and West Bengal (5) while half of the states drew a blank.
“This is a historic day for us. We are just a step away from enjoying the right to exercise our franchise,” said Dubai-based Dr. Shamseer VP, a recipient of highest civilian honor for the diaspora, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, who moved the court with the plea last month. “The court was wondering why it took so long to reach the court”.
As per the official data, 10,037,761 Indians live abroad and they are entitled to register online and vote only if they were present in their constituencies at the time of elections.
They were also allowed to register online and send their documents for verification by post to be able to vote here. But most of them abstain as they were not sure of voting due to the restrictions.


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.