Hyderabad: The sensitivity to weather conditions and light of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines has once again surfaced as the panchayat elections are fast approaching.
It may be recalled that the sensitivity of VVPATs delayed the poll result in certain Assembly constituencies during the recently concluded elections. For the panchayat elections these machines will be carried to remote areas which sometimes experience extreme weather conditions.
Those on election duty claim that the VVPATs cannot bear the high heat of summer. They have stopped working when exposed to sunlight and heat. They said that for smooth conduct of elections, the state election commission will have to use air conditioners at most polling stations.
During the recently concluded polls, VVPAT snags were reported from several constituencies, both urban and rural. As many as 1,444 VVPATs were replaced. Officials on poll duty said that several times the machines malfunctioned when exposed to bright lights in polling stations and a slight increase in temperature. Polling stations in rural and urban areas had to be like dark rooms because of this.
In the upcoming panchayat polls, VVPATs will have to be conveyed to remote villages where there is no connectivity and replacing a malfunctioning machine would be a herculean task.
Telangana will have panchayat elections in 12,751 villages in March when it can get very hot and humid. The Lok Sabha polls will be held in mid-summer and whether VVPATs can work under these conditions is a million dollar question.
But the chief electoral officer of Telangana, Rajat Kumar, brushes aside these apprehensions of polling staff. He said that VVPATs have been tested in all extreme conditions in the country. He said since the VVPAT has a light sensor it should not be directly exposed to sunlight. He also said that the Election Commission will take all preventive measures pertaining to VVPATs during the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections. He said the EC would conduct root cause analysis in such cases to improve (functioning) in future.
However, technical expert from the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) said that failure of contrast sensors and failure of length sensor were the two major technical reasons for malfunctioning of VVPAT machines. Other factors responsible may include first-time use by polling staff, extreme heat, placement of VVPAT under direct light and mishandling during use....