Thanks to Shamsheer, NRIs to be allowed voting

The move will not only benefit large number of expats from Kerala, but the entire Indian Diaspora across the globe

By Shafeeq Hudavi,

Kozhikode (Kerala): His FaceBook cover page reads: “It has been a somewhat long journey and to be honest it has not been easy. We took up the matter just like we approach a critical corporate project.” #NRIVotingRights

This is in reference to what could be termed as a land mark judgment in the history of the toiling Indian Diaspora. The Supreme Court on January 12 directed the Centre to allow Non- Resident Indians (NRIs) to cast their votes in Indian elections.

Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil
Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil


If things go as expected, the long pending NRI voting right will be implemented soon and the NRIs – approximately over 10 millions – will emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics in their respective constituencies. This will make a huge impact in states such as Kerala, which has about 40 lakh people living abroad and possibly may be able to vote in the next election.

The man behind this is Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, an expat entrepreneur in UAE, who describes himself as “a man with deep conviction that by hard work and selfless service it is possible to make a difference in our world.” He is now joyous as his long battle has finally born fruit.

“I am truly overwhelmed by the support I have received. Words can’t do justice to my feelings right now,” he had written on his FaceBook page on the day of the Supreme Court directive. “We did it India! We did it NRIs! We are proud citizens with equal rights of the largest democracy of the world.”

Shamsheer, 38, was born and brought up at Chalappuram, one of the localities on the city outskirts. This Kerala native studied at Silver Hills High School and the Malabar Christian High School here. His father Hashim PK and mother Mariyu Barackool ensured a sound education for their ward.

He completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Science (MBBS) from Kasturba Medical College and received his Doctor of Medicine (MD) Degree from Sri Ramchandra Medical College.

Eight years ago, he migrated to UAE. He lives with his wife, three sons and a daughter at Abu Dhabi. First, he had started a hospital there. Now, the young entreprenuer runs as many as 13 medical institutions across GCC countries extending life care support to thousands of people in addition to the philanthropist activities taken up by him.

When contacted him, Shamsheer was busy at the World Economic Forum (WEF) held at Davos in Switzerland, where he held meetings with Indian Ministers and UNO officials seeking better privileges and consideration for the Indian Diaspora.

“There are about 10 million Indian citizens – from across 543 Lok Sabha constituencies – residing and working abroad. This estimated figure says an average 18,000 votes per constituency may get polled from foreign countries during the general and assembly elections. These votes can definitely play a crucial role in any given seat,” Shamsheer says.

Shamsheer decided to take up measures to materialise the NRI vote right after he was conferred with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest recognition for NRIs by India in 2014. Shamseer was selected for the award for health care services and philanthropic activities taken up for the welfare and charity of the NRIs.

Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil attending a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, held in Gandhinagar
Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil attending a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, held in Gandhinagar

“I was drawn to the idea of implementing NRI vote right as I thought it would bring a facelift for the NRIs and a change in their status in the biggest democratic country,” he says.

The idea, why he pursued NRI voting right, he said is that “it will develop the expat community as one of the major vote banks in the country and in turn mean an active community, which can intervene in the policy making.”

Though remarkable revenue is generated by NRIs to the annual income of the country, the Indian Diaspora is left pleading for a better approach from the governments. “Now, when the NRI vote right materialises, the politicians and the governments will not be able to turn a blind eye towards their woes,” Shamsheer adds.
Spending huge amounts from his pocket, Shamsheer constituted a team to assess and study about the possibilities of materialising the vote right. The team conducted studies about the technical and legal aspects and held meetings with senior advocates and officials of the Election Commission. Finally, in October, 2014, Shamsheer filed the public interest litigation (PIL) at the Supreme Court seeking to enact the NRI vote rights.

The move is set to make a major impact in the democratic and economic scenario of the country, Shamsheer says and adds, NRIs would be inclined to invest in the country and will lend support to various projects envisioned by the government such as the Prime Minister’s ‘Make In India’ campaign.

Successful entrepreneur that he is, Shamsheer has been recognized by the UAE government, Indian government, industry & trade associations. His long list of awards and achievements include listed in ‘100 Most Powerful Indians in the Gulf by Arabian Business Magazine in 2012 and ‘Top 100 Indian Leaders in the UAE’ by Forbes Magazine in 2013.

The NRI vote, by way of e-ballot or through proxy, will need a change in current laws. Keeping his fingers crossed, Shamsheer, like other millions of expatriates, is keenly awaiting for the NRI vote right to become a reality.

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