There are around 130 Tibetan Settlements and communities located in different parts of India, Nepal and Bhutan, in addition to those in the West. Many Tibetans depend on farming an acre of dry land per head provided by the Government of India for their livelihood. As the population in exile increased and Tibetans set out to seek means to supplement their meager agricultural income or otherwise better means of livelihood, many took to setting up makeshift roadside seasonal, mainly winter markets in towns and cities across India to retail hosiery and other clothing products. As a result, many scattered Tibetan communities came into being. Also, the resettlement projects in Canada, Switzerland and the USA spurred the movement of a fair number of Tibetans to Western countries where living conditions were much better. Today, among the over 150,000 Tibetans in exile, about 1, 30,000 live in different parts of India, Nepal and Bhutan; rest live in the West.
The largest concentration of Tibetans outside Tibet is in South India. A Settlement Officer usually appointed by the Central Tibetan Administration, administers each settlement. Some of the Settlements have their own elected Settlement Officers and efforts are on to urge the public to elect their own administrators. Of the 47 large Settlements, 37 have elected Local Assemblies. The Settlement Officer is accountable to the Local Assembly and the Local Assembly to the people. A Settlement constitutes a cluster of camps or villages. Each camp has a camp leader who keeps in touch with the Settlement Officers, thus forming a sort of democratic pyramid.
The bigger settlements have cooperative societies to assist them economically. The people elect the Board of Directors in the Cooperative Society, members of the Local Tibetan Freedom Movement Sub-committee, members of the Local Assembly and take part in the election of the members of the Parliament-in-exile and the Kalong Tripa.
The elections of the Parliament-in-Exile, or the Kalon Tripa, are held on a single day all over the world. The far flung locations of the settlements, with some of them lacking in basic communication facilities, make the election process a daunting task. During the election of Parliament-in-Exile and Kalon Tripa, two additional Election Commissioners are appointed to assist the fulltime Chief Election Commissioner. Members of Local Election Committees are elected by the local people while the returning officers and the elections staff are appointed by the Chief Election Commissioner.
Since the community in exile has no political parties, people can elect any of the candidates from their respective provinces which they think are eligible for the Parliament. Thus, lists of the candidates are drawn up in sequence by the numbers of minimum votes they obtained from their provinces in the primary election. Subject to withdrawals, if any, remaining eligible candidates are shortlisted for the final poll by the Tibetan Election Commission.