Brig Khushal Thakur (retd), a Vishisht Seva Medal recepient, a Kargil War veteran and convener of the Himachal unit of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement has sought direct voting rights for the serving soldiers.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, he said: "India has a strength of 1.2 million (1.2 crore) standing army; 60,000 strong navy; and 1,25,000 strong air force. After direct voting rights, these soldiers will be able to participate in strengthening the democratic process by exercising their votes at the place of their postings, and fulfil the constitutional obligations in coming parliamentary and state assembly elections as authorised both by the Constitution of India and the Election Commission (EC) of India."
Brig Thakur lamented the age-old practice of providing postal ballot papers to the soldiers as "ineffective", which deprived them of the opportunity to participate in the electoral process. "Not casting a vote amounts to disrespect to the very spirit of democracy and disregard for the nation building," he added.
"The military appears to have been very slow in discharging their constitutional responsibilities effectively in the absence of the direct voting rights. The absence of this right can also be attributed to the lack of awareness on the part of the military," said Brig Thakur.
"What many do not know is that the EC has authorised every soldier serving for six months at a stretch or more in any part of India to vote in the Parliamentary or assembly elections (of the state he is serving in) as well as in the municipality elections covering the place of the soldiers' current posting," he added.
"All it requires is a little efforts on the the part of military commanders across India to ensure that every eligible soldier under their command has been registered," said Brig Thakur.
Elaborating on the process of registration in the electoral roll, he it simply required filling of the Form 6 and sending a electoral lists to the civil authorities for necessary registration as voters.
He further said, "The armed forces is said to have 68 military stations and cantonments across the country. This meant that the soldiers and ex-servicemen together can influence the results of many Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats across the nation, and force the politicians to look after the common interests of military and soldiers, besides fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities."
"Though there is a fear that this noble process may be sabotaged by the vested interests of a few," said the Kargil War veteran.