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Huge difference in EVM purchase figures between ministry, EC: RTI replies

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EVM VVPAT

Mumbai, Oct 1 (IANS) Figures given by the Union Law Ministry and the Election Commission of India (ECI) on purchase of electronic voting machines (EVMs) from public sector manufacturers have thrown up glaring differences, according to replies received under the right to information (RTI) law.

The discrepancies are now part of a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Bombay High Court.

According to an RTI reply given by the Law Ministry on November 1, 2017, to Mumbai activist Manoranjan Roy, 13,95,306 balloting units (BUs) and 9,30,716 control units (CUs) of EVMs were purchased, totalling to 23,26,022 pieces.

Just a month later, on December 11, 2017, ECI’s RTI reply said that it had received a total of 38,82,386 pieces from the two public sector undertakings which manufacture EVMs. Bharat Electricals Ltd (BEL), Bengaluru, supplied 10,05,662 BUs and 9,28,049 CUs, totalling 19,33,711 pieces, while Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), Hyderabad, supplied 10,14,644 BUs and 9,34,031 CUs — a total of 19,48,675 pieces.

This total from the two companies — 38,82,386 pieces — is higher by 15,56,364 pieces from the figure of 23,26,022 pieces cited by the Union Law Ministry — barely a month earlier.

The ECI had issued two different Letters of Intent (LoI) to BEL and ECIL for supplying large quantities of EVMs. On August 2, 2016, it ordered 5,50,000 BUs and 5,45,000 CUs, totalling 10,95,000 pieces — half the order went to BEL and the rest to ECIL.

Again, on March 3, 2017, the ECI issued LoIs to the two companies for supplying a total of 4,10,000 BUs and 3,14,000 CUs, totalling 7,24,000 pieces, for the year 2017-2018. Accordingly, BEL supplied 2,05,000 BUs and 1,57,000 CUs (total: 3,62,000 piece), while ECIL supplied 2,17,653 BUs and 35,858 CUs (total: 2,71,653).

Compared to the LoIs issued, the final figure supplied fell short by 90,347 pieces, the exact status of which is not clear, said Roy.

Surprisingly, despite having a large number of new EVMs in stock, the ECI said on September 25 that it will henceforth deploy only voter verifiable paper audit trail machines, or VVPATs, for all future parliamentary and assembly elections in the country.

“In order to meet the requirement of 100 per cent VVPATs for all polling stations for the upcoming Lok Sabha Election in 2019, the EC placed an order of 17.45 lakh VVPATs to BEL and ECIL. Till date, 9.45 lakh units have been produced by them. Both PSUs have assured the Commission that the remaining VVPAT units (eight lakh) will be manufactured and supplied to the various States/UTs comfortably before end of Nov 2018,” the ECI said in a statement.

In its reply, the Union Law Ministry had said that between 1989-2010, the ECI had received a total of 16,10,430 EVMs, and from 2010-2017, the ECI had received 18,05,182 BUs and 11,82,367 CUs.

However, the ECIL said in an RTI reply on June 29, 2017, that between 1989-2010, it supplied 8,09,806 BUs and 8,09,806 CUs to ECI, plus 10,000 VVPATs in 2014-2015.

In 2004-2005, it had delivered 91,050 BUs and 91,050 CUs to various State Election Commissions (SECs), and between 2014-2017, it delivered 1,09,075 BUs and 2,94,337 CUs to the SECs.

“What is the reason behind such huge differences in the figures given by the Union Law Ministry and ECI? Since the ministry would rely on data provided by the ECI, it is the latter which must clarify on the issue,” Roy said.

These RTI documents form part of a voluminous PIL filed by Roy, raising crucial questions on how EVMs were delivered “by post” and “by hand”, and other relevant issues.

Filed in March this year, the PIL will come up for further hearing on October 3. It is being argued by a team of lawyers including counsel S.P. Chaudhari, P. Pawar and Santosh Saroj, instructed by Pawar & Company.

At the last hearing on September 19, a division bench of Justice S.S. Kemkar and Justice S.V. Kotwal had served notices to the ECI, Union Home Ministry, IT Department, Maharashtra Government, ECIL and BEL to respond.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])

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Obituary – MoS Railway Angadi will be remembered for warm gesture, smile

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Suresh Angadi,

New Delhi, Sep 23 : Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi, who passed away on Wednesday evening at a hospital here where he was being treated for Covid-19 will always be known for a big smile and warm gestures by his colleagues and friends.

Angadi was made the Minister of State for Railways in May last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after his appointment as MoS for Railways, he knew that he has to meet the expectations of PM Modi to improve the train services.

During the inaugural run of second Vande Bharat Express train between New Delhi to Katra on October 4 last year, just two months after the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, he travelled in train with media persons to give a message that the government is standing with the people of J&K for the overall development of the region.

There were around 80 media persons along including the camerapersons to cover the inaugural run of the Vande Bharat Express.

During the trip, Angadi kept on interacting with the media about the plans of the Railway Ministry to bring development in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He gave interviews for four consecutive hours without any break and assured that he answered all the tough questions posed to him.

Speaking to IANS on the same trip, Angadi had said, the Indian Railways, which has witnessed delays in completion of several important projects, was aiming to finish all of them by 2022, on the occasion of 75th Independence Day.

He had also said that the national transporter sees the option of allowing private operators to run trains as an opportunity to provide world class services.

Angadi had said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that all the pending projects and works be completed by 2022. We are focusing on completing pending works, like doubling and tripling of tracks, electrification, installation of CCTVs and signalling system upgrade.”

“New projects will be taken up only after completing them,” Angadi said.

He also favoured giving trains to private operators, and cited the example of private TV channels and said, “The entry of private players will generate more jobs and investment opportunities. In the long run, a lot of development will follow due to the competition.”

In countries like China trains run at 400 kmph. But in India trains were not running even at 160 kmph, he said.

“To compete with the world, we have to opt for investment from many sources. When a private company or people comes and invests in railways, it will create opportunities to develop economy,” he had said.

The railways had last year proposed to corporatise Rae Bareli Modern Rail Coach factory in UP.

On opposition of the Congress and other parties to corporatisation and privatisation of railways’ manufacturing units, the Minister said, “The Congress never thought about development. It has always opposed development.”

“We have not got to think of the Congress, but development and competition, and let the economy grow and create employment opportunities,” Angadi said.

Citing examples, he had said, the national highways remained undeveloped till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took it up and today even foreign countries were appreciating them.

Angadi in the railway ministry was also known as one of the most punctual minister. He always came to the ministry on time and ensured that the press briefing started on time.

Angadi represented Belagavi constituency of Karnataka in Lok Sabha.

He first won from the seat in 2004 and remained undefeated from the seat till 2019.

He was also known as a media man, who always remained responsive to the queries of media even late in night.

Following the news of gis death, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Deeply anguished at the unfortunate demise of Suresh Angadiji. He was like my brother. Words fall short to describe his commitment and dedication towards the people. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this hour of need. Om Shanti.”

Angadi Angadi admitted at AIIMS on September 11 after testing positive for Covid-19. He breathed his last on Wednesday evening.

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It was all about being ruthless: MI skipper Rohit Sharma

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Rohit Sharma

Abu Dhabi, Sep 24 : Rohit Sharma, on Wednesday, returned to his usual, elegant self with a masterful innings to lead Mumbai Indians to a 49-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Rohit scored 80 off 54 as MI scored 195/5. In reply, KKR managed to score 146/9.

Interestingly, this marked MI’s first ever victory in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having lost all of their matches in 2014 when a part of the group stage was played in the UAE.

“It was only two players from the 2014 squad. It was all about how we executed our plans today, we never let it go. We were in good position throughout the game but it was all about being ruthless, getting as many (runs) as possible. We knew the wicket was good and dew was coming down,” said Rohit in the post-match presentation ceremony in which he was declared Player of the Match.

As the KKR bowlers fumbled with their line and length and gave Rohit short deliveries, the MI captain replied with his trade mark pull shots to deposit the ball over the boundary.

“I back myself to play (the pull shots), love playing it and practiced it quite a bit. Pretty glad it came out well, they were all good (laughs), can’t pick one. I haven’t played a lot of cricket in the last six months time and was looking to spend some time in the middle; it didn’t come out well in the first innings but glad to have done it tonight,” he said.

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Changing alliances set the tone for Bihar Polls

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

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Patna, Sep 23 : Political parties in Bihar are busy chalking out strategies for the Assembly elections which are likely to be held in October-November this year though the Election Commission (EC) has not yet announced the poll dates.

In many cases, parties which were friends during the last elections will now be seen as opponents while foes in the last polls have joined hands.

In the last assembly elections, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) fought against each other but in this election they are together in the NDA-fold.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is likely to remain in the NDA this time as well but the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) which was with the NDA during the last elections has severed ties with it. Former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s party RLSP is now part of the Opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) for the forthcoming election.

However, the RLSP and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are said to be upset as the seat-sharing formula in the Grand Alliance has not yet been decided.

Former MP Pappu Yadav has also announced to contest this year’s election through the Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik). Yadav has not yet aligned with any opposition party.

The BJP is enthused with the JDU coming back to the NDA. The importance of the Bihar elections for the BJP can be gauged from the fact that its National President J.P. Nadda has already reached Patna and is busy reviewing preparations for the polls.

The Left which contested the last elections alone is likely to join the Grand Alliance this time. There have been several rounds of talks between the Left and the RJD on contesting the elections together.

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari said the Opposition grand alliance should expand its outreach. Negotiations were on with many other parties, he added. Asked about the resentment over the seat-sharing formula, he said candidates who could guarantee a win were being selected.

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

In the last Bihar assembly elections, the JDU, the RJD and the Congress had contested together under the Grand Alliance and formed the government with absolute majority. Later, however the JDU broke away from the alliance and formed the government in Bihar by joining hands with the BJP.

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