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Despite ECI’s penchant for them, EVMs would be gone in two years

 

Those who have served the Election Commission of India as ex-commissioners and in various other capacities swear by these voting machines. A bevy of ex-chief election commissioners stood proudly a few weeks ago on a national television channel to receive an award for using the wonder machines! If voting machine is all that the ECI has to showcase as its achievement in the service of the nation, they clearly don’t deserve it.

I appeared on a TV 9 prime time show a couple of weeks ago along with Mr. K.J. Rao, formerly Adviser in the Election Commission of India. K.J. Rao is an official of unquestioned integrity and is credited for conducting the cleanest ever elections in the violence prone Bihar. When it comes to debating EVMs, even people like him become extremely touchy and make bizarre statements. On the TV programme, he said that the EVMs designed by the ECIL and BEL are so sophisticated and modern that no country in the world is able to make similar machines.

We must be either extremely naïve or stupid to believe such statements. Indian EVMs are extremely simple in design compared to the voting machines used globally. “India’s EVMs use an extremely simple design with small software TCB, yet we find that this makes physically tampering with the devices relatively easy,” says the research paper prepared by Hari Prasad, Alex Halderman and Rop Gonggrijp – the team that exposed the vulnerabilities of EVMs recently.

I don’t know if the statements made by ECI officials that our EVMs are the ‘best’ in the world, are ‘perfect’, ‘tamper-proof’ etc. are out of sheer ignorance or are deliberate lies being passed off as cardinal truths to fool gullible masses who otherwise have abundant faith in the independence of the Election Commission as an institution. Regretfully, I am inclined to believe the latter is true. All these atrocious claims have now been proven to be false with the evidence presented by the scientific research.

EVMs to exit in two years

Staking too much on the electronic voting machines would only cause serious problems for the ECI’s image, which has already taken a beating. If the EVMs face extinction now, it is thanks to the ECI’s obstinate, pretentious, patently silly and shifting stand on the EVMs for the past 10 months. 

When these EVMs (in their present opaque form) would be gone soon, the ECI would have to balme itself for totally mishandling the issue. It is going to be no longer than two years to get rid of these voting machines. That is the maximum time I would give these voting machines. their continuation is simply untenable. (Gopalaswamy may be disappointed as he is giving them a 20 year timeframe.) Those cheering EVMs with all their pitfalls, take this from me. The next round of parliamentary elections will not be conducted on these voting machines in their present form.

Why officials love EVMs?

Officialdom loves electronic voting machines (EVMs) for many reasons. I have spoken to scores of serving senior officials who have conducted elections as returning officers, observers, chief electoral officers etc. They are greatly enamoured of EVMs.

There are only a few ex-officials who share our healthy skepticism about EVMs. Retired IAS officials like Omesh Saigal, EAS Sarma and Devasahayam etc. are clearly a minority. They are in fact leading the crusade for election transparency.

The chief reason for the babus’ admiration for EVMs is that you can never dispute what machine dishes out as results. Any thing that helps officials to avoid answering questions is welcomed by them. (That is why they hate Right to Information, RTI) As the voting is electronic, without any physical record of vote, no voter can question the officials whether his/ her vote was recorded properly and no candidate can question the results displayed in an electronic count. What more can they ask for?

Use of EVMs has signaled the end of counting related disputes and is a relief to the officials engaged in election duty. Officials recall how they had to contend with disputes regarding ‘invalid’ votes in the traditional paper ballot regime. Counting also took much longer.

Besides the ECI, it is one section that would deeply rue discontinuation of EVMs. After all, their accountability and drudgery would increase if the EVMs go.

Scams galore

 Most officials and experts say that officials cannot be managed to manipulate EVMs. It cannot be done in large numbers and without detection, says Prof. P.V.Indiresan, chairman of the ECI’s expert committee. Admittedly, it is a difficult task. But I have a counter question to ask: how have so many scams happened in this country? There are stamp paper scam, securities scams, fodder scam, urea scam, UTI scam etc. etc.

Have all these scams happened without the connivance of officials? Why should we believe that the same officials won’t indulge in election fraud? This is the sort of fraud – it cannot be established – that anybody would love to partake in. 

If the ECI does not wake up to this reality, it would have a lot of explaining to do later.

I can be reached at  nrao@indianEVM.com

This entry was posted on Monday, May 24th, 2010 at 5:13 AM and is filed under COUNTDOWN. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Despite ECI’s penchant for them, EVMs would be gone in two years”

  1. vinnie Says:

    It’s strange these so called beauracrats who got selected through toughest competetive examination in the world also are falling in the trap of the most corrupted political class in the world.