No absentee voting for Indian diaspora this time

Updated 12 April 2014

No absentee voting for Indian diaspora this time

India’s supreme court Friday ruled that absentee voting was not possible for the diaspora during the ongoing elections.
The court accepted the Election Commission’s argument that it was not possible for a review as the staggered elections were already in progress and an amendment was required in the election law, lawyers appearing for the petitioner said.
The petitioner, Shamseer V.P., a UAE-based entrepreneur, moved the court demanding e-vote or postal ballot.
The apex court bench of K.S. Radhakrishnan and Vikramajit Sen observed that a detailed hearing was required on the subject and that the possibility of allowing absentee ballot for resident Indians should be considered.
The court had on Monday enquired whether it could be possible to allow the registered voters to cast e-vote or postal ballot before the end of the last phase of polling on May 14.
The Election Commission’s attorney told the court that e-vote was under the consideration of the panel formed to study the issue, both legal and technical.
Despite providing the online registration option for the diaspora as voters this time, the election authorities received less than 14,000 valid applications, 12,653 of them from the southern state of Kerala where every third household has a member working abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The court, which began the hearing on the petition last month, termed disenfranchisement of more than 10 million citizens living abroad as “a serious matter of concern” and wondered why it took so long to reach the court.
“This is a good beginning and going by the positive comments made by the court, we are just one step away from having the right to exercise our franchise established,” said Shamseer.
As per 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. A pro-government group chartered a flight for 147 registered voters from the UAE this week and a few have managed to travel to vote on their own.
According to Shamseer, the court appeared to have been convinced that e-voting allowing expatriate to cast their vote from the comforts of their home using a high security password was easier and effective as a foolproof system was already in place.
While welcoming the court move, Kerala’s Congress-led government announced that it would explore the possibility of allowing e-voting in the civic polls next year.


11 million North Koreans are undernourished: UN investigator

Quintana said collective farming and the failure to allow farmers to benefit from individual plots of land is further exacerbating food insecurity. (AFP)
Updated 29 min 40 sec ago

11 million North Koreans are undernourished: UN investigator

  • The resumption of Mt Kumgang tours has been repeatedly mentioned as a possibility by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in recent years

UNITED NATIONS: Food insecurity in North Korea “is at an alarming level,” with nearly half the population — 11 million people — undernourished, the UN independent investigator on human rights in the country said Tuesday.
Tomas Ojea Quintana told the General Assembly’s human rights committee that 140,000 children are estimated to be suffering from “undernutrition,” including 30,000 who “face an increased risk of death.”
Quintana said the government, which has primary responsibility for ensuring access to food, “is violating its human rights obligations due to its failing economic and agricultural policies.”
In addition, he said, “climate conditions, infertile land, natural disasters and the negative impact of sanctions have contributed to further food insecurity.”
More broadly, Quintana said he has seen no improvement in North Korea’s human rights situation during his three years as special rapporteur.
“The country’s economic resources are being diverted away from the essential needs of the people,” he said. “Pervasive discrimination in the public distribution system means that ordinary citizens, especially farmers and people in rural areas, have not been receiving any rations.”
Quintana said collective farming and the failure to allow farmers to benefit from individual plots of land is further exacerbating food insecurity.
“At the same time, the government has failed to put in place conditions where people can securely engage in trade and exchange in marketplaces without facing criminalization, extortion and other forms of abuse,” he said. Nonetheless, he added, the vast majority of North Koreans “are now engaged in such market activity for their survival.”
Ironically, he said, the government’s failure to regulate nascent market activity is creating increasing inequality based on wealth, “where only those with money have access to basic rights such as education, health care, freedom of movement and adequate housing.”
Quintana said severe restrictions on basic freedoms continue to be widespread, including surveillance and close monitoring of civilians.
“North Korean people continue to live in the entrenched fear of being sent to a political prison camp,” called a kwanliso, he said.
“If you are considered to be a spy of the hostile countries or a traitor, when in reality you are simply exercising your basic human rights, you can be suddenly taken by agents of the Ministry of State Security to a kwanliso and never be seen again,” Quintana said. “Suspects’ families are never informed of the decisions or of the whereabouts of their relatives.”
On the issue of North Koreans who have fled to China, Quintana said in the past six months he has received information from family members living in South Korea of an increasing number of these escapees being detained in China.
He said any North Korean who escapes should not be forcibly returned because there are substantial grounds they would be tortured or subjected to other human rights violations.
“I appreciate the government of China’s increased engagement with me on this concern, and I hope that this will lead to greater compliance with international standards,” he said.
Quintana said North Korea has accepted 132 recommendations from other UN member states, including one “to grant immediate, free and unimpeded access to international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including prisoners.” He said this could lead to the first international access to places of detention, “and could therefore be an opportunity to improve prison conditions.”