Rage against the voting machine

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao has even written a book opposing EVMs.

Mumbai: The Election Commission of India (EC) has been in the eye of a storm of late with several netas and tech gurus questioning the veracity of the much-touted electronic voting machines (EVM). No sooner were the BMC polls results announced on February 23, 2017 than independent candidate Shrikant Shirsat claimed that the EVMs in his polling booth was tampered since he did not get a single vote — not even his own vote. However, the EC verified the issue and termed his claims as baseless. Mr Shirsat is not the sole ‘EVM basher’ or ‘hackathon’ claimer. There are scores like him from different political parties.

EVMs manufactured in 1989-90 were used on experimental basis for the first time in 16 Assembly constituencies in the states of Madhya Pradesh (five), Rajasthan (five) and NCT of Delhi (six) at the General Elections to the respective Legislative Assemblies held in November 1998. However, their credibility has always been at stake.

Terming the whole controversy ‘hollow’, former Maharashtra election commissioner Nand Lal endorsed the use of the EVMs. “No allegations have been proved so far against the EVMs. The EC had posed an open challenge to all political parties to prove hacking or tampering of the machines, but no party could prove it. The EVM is not connected to outside instruments hence hacking is impossible,” Mr Nand Lal said.

He added that the machines were introduced to prevent booth capturing, bogus and forceful voting. “The machine can be captured only if presiding officer and all polling agents are in connivance. But its highly impossible as the agents belong to different parties,” Mr Lal said.

Some strongly support the good ol’ ballot paper system. Professor Hemantkumar Shah from the Gujarat University said, “The mismatch between votes polled as per the information given by EC on election day and votes counted in the EVMs at the time of vote counting was quite evident at many constituencies in Gujarat during the recent polls.”

Mr Shah added that when the BJP was in the Opposition, it had raised the issue of EVM hacking. G.V.L. Narasimha Rao has even written a book opposing EVMs. BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy had filed a petition challenging the use of EVMs in the Supreme Court in October 2013. Now, the Congress too wants to have ballot paper system back. The BSP and SP to made EVM hacking claims after the UP Assembly elections results. Former bureaucrat Nand Kumar said the EVMs will continue. “So what if other countries are still going with paper ballot, there are many countries which have adopted EVMs. In fact, the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) was introduced to dispel any doubt about EVMs. They are excellent machines that help in saving time and prevent manipulation,” he said.

The issue is pending before the Supreme Court, which recently observed, “Technically, we agree that any technology can be tampered with... the EVM itself was introduced to stop larger evils like booth capturing. This is a work in progress”.

Sure, EVM is a work in progress and the way forward may not be to junk it, but the EC will definitely have to take few measures to ensure that any attempt to tamper with the machines is prevented or detected on time.

The EVM story

  • EVM software is developed by engineers in BEL (defence ministry PSU) and ECIL (atomic energy ministry’s PSU)
  • A select group of two to three engineers design the source code.
  • EVMs used in India by the EC are stand-alone machines.
  • The EC claims that Indian EVMs cannot be hacked.
  • EVMs have been used in 107 elections to state Legislative Assemblies since 2000.
  • EVMs were used in the general elections held in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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