Voting right for soldiers: Army formations give positive response to NGO’s appeal

An appeal by a city-based activist group on soldiers' voting rights invoked positive reactions from various formations of the Indian Army, all advocating that a soldier should exercise the basic democratic right of casting his vote.

The organisation, Justice for Jawans, had sent about 2,000 letters to various formation commanders, services chiefs asking them to implement the already existing system of postal ballot/proxy voting for soldiers in their respective formations. Interestingly, the letters posted in October last year have invited encouraging response.

"I wish to appraise you that Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) records have undertaken the task of inclusion of names of serving soldiers in the electoral rolls of their respective constituencies. The process involves filing up of form 2A by the individuals and thereafter forward the same to the concerned electoral office for inclusion in the electoral roll. Till date, a total of 145 forms have been despatched to various electoral offices. The submission of the balance forms is being expedited," says a letter from the Directorate General of Ordnance Branch.

The organisation has highlighted in its appeal that the Army, IAF and Navy personnel do not exercise their voting right despite having a mechanism in place. It may be noted that service personnel can cast their votes by using postal ballot or proxy voting wherein they can authorise one of their family members to cast vote on their behalf. In 2009, the election commission had reportedly issued a directive that a military personnel could be enrolled as a general voter at the place of their posting if they fulfilled the eligibility criteria required for voting.

"It has been highlighted that it is desirable that no member of the Armed Forces should remain unregistered as a voter and that all service personnel including those posted in far flung areas are made aware under their preferred category. A proactive approach is to be adopted to achieve this, with commanders playing a vital role in educating the troops about the importance of adult franchise and the options available to the soldiers for voting. Deliberations/ discussions are on with Election Commission of India coordinated by the MoD on issues such as timely disposal of postal ballot papers during elections to facilitate the process of voting by service personnel. Director General (MP&PS) also met CEC on November 15 to discuss the issues," says a letter from Additional Directorate General Personnel Services.

Reply from one of the Corps says that efforts are being made to ensure that maximum number of servicemen are enrolled in the electoral roll as another formation. "Every cantonment can have a separate voting booth for soldiers," the reply suggests. Some of the most important replies include those from the Army HQ, the National Defence College (NDC), Delhi and one from the Directorate General of Medical Services (Army) (DGMS) which refers to issuance of necessary instructions to all the Common (Medical) regarding registration of service personnel as service voters.

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