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EVMs, a threat to Democracy

Opposition leader Boko said, “Since independence, Botswana has received international acclaim for holding free and fair elections and other democratic credentials. We cannot afford to negate such an impeccable record through an unnecessary use of EVMs. 

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EVM VVPAT

The Opposition in India has not only opposed the use of  Electronic voting machines in elections but in Botswana as well, the credibility of EVMs is in question as the main opposition party, Botswana Congress party has moved court against its government’s move to amend laws that enabled the use of the voting machines.

Skepticism about electronic voting methods is not limited to India. Diamond-rich Botswana is currently witnessing intense political debates over the use of electronic voting machines ( EVMs) imported from India. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has proposed to use the EVMs with the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) to conduct its 2019 general elections.Botswana has 57 constituencies and around 6,000 polling stations.

The leader of Opposition in Parliament and President of Botswana National Front (BNF), Duma Boko, has warned the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) not to create chaos or destroy the peace and tranquillity of the country.

Botswana Opposition argued that Opposition parties in India have repeatedly voiced their concerns to the Election Commission of India over the alleged tampering on the EVMs during polls and demanded reintroduction of paper ballots in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh  Yadav called for elections using paper ballots. As faulty EVMs and VVPATs marred bypolls to Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur assembly seats, Akhilesh called it a “dangerous trend for democracy”.

Botswana government and its election commission have even requested ECI’s experts to hold a demonstration of the EVM and VVPAT before a court to dispel doubts over the machines.

Doubts about digital voting methods are so widespread that almost all developed countries have preferred to use analog methods of franchise enumeration instead. In the US and Western Europe, more states have been opting out of electronic voting systems and returned to paper ballots due to concerns over the technical glitches. In Europe, only France, Belgium and Estonia allow votes to be cast digitally. Many American states and European countries have refused to use EVMs after finding that electronic votes or the software on machines can be easily hacked into and manipulated.

 Congress leader and lawyer P Chidambaram said that both the hardware and software of the EVMs were “vulnerable” and could be tampered with. Hence, a paper trail was necessary for accuracy, he said.

After spending close to $75 million on its EVMs, Ireland found them to be so insecure they literally scrapped them.

 In 2006 Dutch TV aired a documentary showing how easy it was to hack the EVMs that were about to be used in their general election. The machines were subsequently withdrawn and the Netherlands went back to paper ballots.

The US Election Assistance Commission Chairman Tom Hicks has stated that the “primary reasons” paper ballots are used in most states are “security and voter preference”.

Another argument put forward by politicians is that paper ballots have been “accurately modelled from decades of polling and analysis”.

 BCP is a member of Botswana’s opposition bloc, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Members of UDC include Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP).

Duma Boko said that “Since independence, Botswana has received international acclaim for holding free and fair elections and other democratic credentials. We cannot afford to negate such an impeccable record through an unnecessary use of EVMs.”

The government should consider holding a referendum so that Batswana exercise their democratic right to vote on the proposed political reform.

Both Botswana government and Bharat Technologies officials insist that the machines cannot be hacked. Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe counters such assertion by pointing to research evidence from the University of Michigan in the United States which not only hacked into the Indian EVMs but also wrote a paper dispelling the idea of the infallibility of those machines.

“A pressure group in the Netherlands has demonstrated that it is possible to hack the machines within five minutes, from a distance of 40 meters, without being detected by those supervising the operations of the machines. Also, new heat technology/infrared exists with which those with the know-how can identify how votes are being cast in real time, in breach of ballot secrecy obligations,” Gaolathe said.

New York Times article ‘The Myth of the Hacker-Proof Voting Machine’ also provides startling revelations backed by technical findings and expert interviews that EVMs can be hacked due to data leakage and various other methods.EVMs can be hacked using smartphones able to connect to the voting machines wireless network which is used to tally votes. Another Professor J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan had said that a homemade device allowed them to change the results on an EVM by sending it wireless messages from a mobile phone.

Blog: By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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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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Herd immunity an impractical strategy, study finds

They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60.

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Boost immunity

Achieving herd immunity to COVID-19 is an impractical public health strategy, according to a new model developed by University of Georgia scientists. The study recently appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Controlling COVID-19 has presented public health policymakers with a conundrum:

How to prevent overwhelming their health care infrastructure, while avoiding major societal disruption? Debate has revolved around two proposed strategies. One school of thought aims for “suppression,” eliminating transmission in communities through drastic social distancing measures, while another strategy is “mitigation,” aiming to achieve herd immunity by permitting the infection of a sufficiently large proportion of the population while not exceeding health care capacity.

“The herd immunity concept is tantalizing because it spells the end of the threat of COVID-19,” said Toby Brett, a postdoctoral associate at the Odum School of Ecology and the study’s lead author. “However, because this approach aims to avoid disease elimination, it would need a constant adjustment of lockdown measures to ensure enough—but not too many—people are being infected at a particular point in time. Because of these challenges, the herd immunity strategy is actually more like attempting to walk a barely visible tightrope.”

This study carried out by Brett and Pejman Rohani at the University of Georgia’s Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, investigates the suppression and mitigation approaches for controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

While recent studies have explored the impacts of both suppression and mitigation strategies in several countries, Brett and Rohani sought to determine if and how countries could achieve herd immunity without overburdening the health care system, and to define the control efforts that would be required to do so.

Pejman Rohani teaching a class. Credit: Photo taken by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA in 2019
They developed an age-stratified disease transmission model to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the United Kingdom, with spread controlled by the self-isolation of symptomatic individuals and various levels of social distancing.

Their simulations found that in the absence of any control measures, the U.K. would experience as many as 410,000 deaths related to COVID-19, with 350,000 of those being from individuals aged 60-plus.

They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60.

If self-isolation engagement is high (defined as at least 70% reduction in transmission), suppression can be achieved in two months regardless of social distancing measures, and potentially sooner should school, work and social gathering places close.

When examining strategies that seek to build herd immunity through mitigation, their model found that if social distancing is maintained at a fixed level, hospital capacity would need to greatly increase to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. To instead achieve herd immunity given currently available hospital resources, the U.K. would need to adjust levels of social distancing in real time to ensure that the number of sick individuals is equal to, but not beyond, hospital capacity. If the virus spreads too quickly, hospitals will be overwhelmed, but if it spreads too slowly, the epidemic will be suppressed without achieving herd immunity.

Brett and Rohani further noted that much is unknown about the nature, duration and effectiveness of COVID-19 immunity, and that their model assumes perfect long-lasting immunity. They cautioned that if immunity is not perfect, and there is a significant chance of reinfection, achieving herd immunity through widespread exposure is very unlikely.

“We recognize there remains much for us to learn about COVID-19 transmission and immunity, but believe that such modeling can be invaluable in so-called ‘situational analyses,'” said Rohani. “Models allow stakeholders to think through the consequences of alternative courses of action.”

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Bihar Man Carves Out 3-km-long Canal In 30 Years To Irrigate Parched Fields

A man from Bihar’s Kothilawa village has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals.

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Longi Bhuiyan

A man from Bihar’s Kothilawa village of Gaya dug out a canal 3-kilometre long canal single-handedly. This canal carved out by Laungi Bhuiyan will direct rainwater from the hills nearby to the fields within his village. This will help in irrigating the farms and will be beneficial for the entire village.

Laungi Bhuiyan took nearly 30 years to carve this canal single-handedly. He dug out the canal after he noticed that during the rainy season, water falling from the mountains would flow into the river. Bhuiyan found a way to utilise the water. He planned to save the water coming from the mountain by taking the initiative alone and carving out the canal in Kothilawa village in Gaya, Bihar.

Talking about the canal, Lungi Bhuiyan said, “It took me 30 years to dig this canal which takes the water to a pond in the village. For the last 30 years, I would go to the nearby jungle to tend my cattle and dig out the canal. No one joined me in this endeavour… Villagers are going to cities to earn a livelihood but I decided to stay back.”

The Kothilawa village in Lahthua area of Gaya in Bihar is surrounded by a dense forest as well as mountains. Moreover, it is 80 kilometres away from the Gaya district and is known to be a refuge for Maoists. The people of Kothilawa earn their living by farming as well as animal husbandry. This canal made by Bhuiyan will benefit the farmers as well as the animals which means that all villagers will benefit from his work. The villagers took this opportunity to praise his efforts and hard work.

“He has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals and to irrigate the fields as well. He is not doing it for his own benefit but for the entire area,” said Patti Manjhi a local from Kothilawa.

“A lot of people will benefit here. People are now getting to know him because of his work,” said Ram Vilas Singh, a teacher from Kothilawa village in Bihar’s Gaya while praising the man for his efforts which will benefit the villagers.

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