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PIL on EVM: Bombay HC issues notices to EC, Centre, Maharashtra

In recent RTI queries raised by Roy, it had been revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.

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Election Commission

Mumbai, Sep 19 (IANS) In a significant development, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered issuing of notices to the Election Commission of India (EC), Maharashtra State Election Commission (M-SEC) and two public sector makers of electronic voting machines (EVM) and others in a public interest litigation filed by an RTI activist.

The directions were given by Justice S.S. Kemkar and Justice S.V. Kotwal when the PIL filed by activist Manoranjan S. Roy came up for admission.

Others being served notices are the Union Home Ministry, IT Department and Maharashtra Government. The two EVM manufacturers are Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. and Bharat Electronics Ltd. The matter is expected to come up for further hearing after two weeks, according to the lawyer for Roy, P. Pawar of Pawar & Co.

The petitioner, among other things, had highlighted the manner in which a large number of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) were being ordered by the EC and various SECs and that there were huge contradictions in the figures of orders and supplies made by the two manufacturers.

In recent RTI queries raised by Roy, it had been revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.

BEL said it had despatched 820 balloting units (BUs) of the machines in bulk packaging, and on two occasions in April (2017) it sent 245 (VVPAT) machines ‘By Hand’, to certain recipients and destinations, according to the RTI replies given to Roy.

Roy told IANS that on both the occasions, BEL did not state to whom the consignments of BUs were ‘posted’ or from where the entire lot of the ‘hand-delivered’ VVPATs originated and whether they were received safely by the intended recipients.

Roy said that for the entire lot of 820 BUs sent through India Posts, there are only nine Docket Nos. assigned for the total consignment, which comprises two boxes with 50 BUs each and one box each with 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110 and 210 BUs.

“This is misleading as each box has a specific size depending on the dimensions of the BUs. The BEL’s reply shows the entire consignment was posted in only nine boxes, though the Indian Posts does not accept — nor is equipped to handle — such huge parcels,” Roy said.

BEL said on April 6 and April 10, 2017, that it delivered VVPATs in three parcels — 65, 70 and 110, respectively — ‘By Hand’ and ‘urgent delivery’ to avoid the regular logistics route.

In March this year, Pawar & Company had filed Roy’s PIL, seeking detailed investigations into the delivery of EVMs and a ban on deploying EVMs/VVPATs till the outcome of the probe.

As the country prepares for the 2019 general elections, several instances of “indiscriminate” orders and deliveries of EVMs have emerged in RTI responses, Roy said.

Between 1989-1990 to 2015-2016, BEL supplied 125,149 EVMs to Karnataka, 169,975 to Bihar, 159,900 to Uttar Pradesh, 140,500 to Tamil Nadu, 87,325 to Andhra Pradesh, 50,850 to Gujarat, 50,050 to Rajasthan, 23,000 to Jharkhand, 10,000 to Delhi, 3,000 to Manipur and 2,000 to Sikkim.

Inexplicably, BEL also supplied 500 EVMs to Chandigarh, which is the only city to get its own machines. Elsewhere, the EVMs go to the respective states from where they are distributed. Roy demanded that BEL — and the Election Commission of India — must explain why Chandigarh got this differential treatment.

According to information received by Roy, in 2013-2014, BEL supplied the highest number of VVPATs — 2,455 — to Karnataka, followed by 2,275 to Bihar, 2,140 to Gujarat, 1,500 to Mizoram, 1,475 to Tamil Nadu, 130 to Delhi and 25 to EC.

The other EVM supplier ECIL, Hyderabad, said in response to RTI queries that in 2014-2015 it had supplied 10,000 VVPATs to the Commission (EC).

Significantly, ECIL earlier said it had not supplied a single EVM to any state between 2006-2007 till 2013-2014.

In another communication under RTI, ECIL stated that in 2004-2005 it had supplied 91,050 BUs and 91,050 Control Units (CUs) and from 2014 to 2017 it had sent out 294,337 BUs and 109,075 CUs.

“So where are all these huge number of machines now? The ECIL and EC must clarify,” Roy said.

Kerala State Election Commission (KSEC) said in response to RTI queries that in 2015 it had ordered 128,154 EVMs, comprising 9,753 boxes of BUs and 3,125 boxes of CUs. Each box has an average capacity of holding 10 BUs or CUs, depending on the model.

Roy said that there was inadequate accounting of EVMs at various stages, raising questions about the sanctity of the machines on which the Indian democracy was so dependent.

Also, there were no proper records of the EVMs that were actually deployed for elections, the details of defective/defunct machines, the different types of models acquired and used and the type of software-hardware used, he added.

Further, in view of the latest statement by the EC that EVMs used in recent Delhi University elections were supplied by manufacturers directly and were ‘distinctly different’ than those supplied to the Commission, detailed accounting of the machines is required, Roy told IANS.

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

Election

‘Operation Shakti’ in the vanguard of Congress march to LS polls

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New Delhi, Jan 21 : To understand what was at the core of Operation Shakti, IANS caught up with its centrifuge Praveen Chakravarty to understand what the Congress was attempting for the BJP had them on the run till recently.

As he says, “I was quite sanguine initially on this whole metamorphosis but when I saw the Congress President calling a worker by name and talking to him and the response that he was getting, I realised that the wisdom of the crowds could not be faulted, involve the people in everything which is the real offshoot of true democracy or peoplecracy.

“That is how 30,000 people were surveyed in Delhi to find out who should be Congress President for Delhi.

“In fact every candidate was selected in the three north and middle India states using this interface, including the Chief Ministers. The template being ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’, a seminal book by James Surowiecki, New Yorker business columnist with boundless erudition explores the simple idea of large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant and better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions and even predicting the future.

“Data is available, my experience and expertise as a political scientist helped and one found over a six month period that data is pure gold and that is what one needed to plug and play into.”

Apparently, the Congress President is an extraordinary believer in the objectivity of data and the primacy of this being the gold standard to crack the election code.

Chakravarty, a former Goldman Sachs Wall Street banker — who worked with Nandan Nilekani in the past in UIDAI and then in Manmohan Singh’s PMO — the Wharton-educated data scientist known as ‘Chucky’ says, “We have learned a lot from these state elections — what worked, what didn’t — and have started transposing this learning for the Lok Sabha elections.

“Plans are now afoot to craft our campaign accordingly, this is work in progress and it it will be done after collecting ground zero feedback from multiple locations.

“It will be ground up in terms of choice of candidate, mediums of communication, issues at hand, the whole ball of wax. All my output goes directly to the Congress President only. He then gives direction on the way forward.”

The battle of 2019 will be fought across 2,00,000 polling booths and the issues will vary from place to place.

For instance in the state elections, just to give a flavour, the Congress found that landless farmers and youth were livid over in DeMo in Bhopal. Upper caste wanted reservation somewhere else etc.

Chucky studied at BITS Pilani and worked with IBM in Japan and at Microsoft on Windows 95 and did his Masters from Wharton before plunging into the high jinks world of investment banking only to move back to India in 2005.

His belief is that there is no general election in India, it is a sum of parts as 29 states go to the polls at the same time.

As he added, “National election is a myth. Our approach is to attack each state differently for every state has myriad problems. Our incessant surveys and people inputs have shown us that Notebandi resulted in a scarcity of jobs, it transcended across class, gender, economic strata. It’s overnight announcement in that it became law as of midnight November 8, broke the back of the people in this country.”

The Congress is buoyant on its Gabbar Singh Tax stratagem which it claims has worked. They will take on an incumbent in Narendra Modi but a defiant Prime Minister whose people connect skills are unquestionable. Somewhere in this convoluted narrative, the Congress is expected to focus on the economy for it reckons that the economy is resembling a shipwreck.

At the vanguard of the Congress electioneering campaign will be “scarcity of jobs, pricing erosion for farmers, ever-lowering demand for MSMES, another casualty of ‘notebandi’, which will bring the focus back on the economy and how it is hurting people of all hues”.

Chucky also confirmed that another imperative was the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which worked consistently with the voter as the GOP tried to pinpoint areas of economic weakness which included the emasculation of the venerable institution.

The Congress morale is upbeat as if it has been given an adrenaline shot, winning helps and three states are like ‘sone pe suhaga’. New elements have been introduced in the Congress campaign, there is freshness in its approach in the main people connect.

The BJP won 62 out of 65 LS seats in the 2014 general elections in Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh. Empirical data from these state polls reveals that they have lost 50 of these if LS polls were to take place today. Of course, state polls, by polls and general hustings are fought on different issues.

In parallel with the general elections, three important states will go to the polls — Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and possibly Jammu and Kashmir.

Immediately after the national polls, Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand will go to polls.

The Congress won 206 seats in the 2009 polls to romp home as the single largest party, but by December 2013, after various state polls, the total had been reduced to 106 if one was to collate assembly poll data.

So, if the Congress ended up with 44 in May 2014, it was no surprise, for the erosion was rapid and severe. Not a similar litmus test awaits the BJP besieged by incumbency.

(The first part of the story was carried on Sunday by IANS)

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Congress, opposition doing negative politics over EVMs sensing defeat in 2019 elections: BJP

His remarks came soon after a person named Syed Suja, who claimed that he was part of the team which designed EVMs in India.

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New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Accusing the Congress and other opposition parties of indulging in ‘negative politics’ over the electreonic voting machines (EVMs), the BJP on Monday hit out at them, saying that sensing defeat in the coming elections, they have started spreading such rumours.

“There are a few powers behind the hacking, which has hacked the brain of Congress and Congress is working with that mindset,” Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters here.

His remarks came soon after a person named Syed Suja, who claimed that he was part of the team which designed EVMs in India.

Defending the EVMs, Naqvi said the Election Commission (EC) has number of times asked the political parties to approach it and give evidence over the issue of hacking EVMs. “But they never approached the Commission,” Naqvi said.

“Before elections they (opposition) have started blaming EVMs as they have realised their defeat in the coming elections. They have realised the mood of the people and nation ahead of elections,” he said.

“Congress and a few of its friends are doing negative politics over EVMs,” he alleged.

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EC rejects claims of EVMs rigging in 2014, says its examining legal action

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Election Commission

New Delhi, Jan 21 : The Election Commission on Monday firmly rejected claims by a US-based self-claimed cyber expert Syed Shuja that the 2014 elections were rigged, saying it was examining legal action over the “motivated slugfest”.

Soon after Shuja claimed that the 2014 elections were rigged, the Election Commission in statement said, “It has come to the notice of Election Commission that an event claiming to demonstrate EVMs used by EC can be tampered with, has been organised in London.”

“Whereas, ECI has been wary of becoming a party to this motivated slugfest, ECI firmly stands by the empirical facts about foolproof nature of ECI EVMs deployed in elections in India,” it said.

The Commission said that it needs to be reiterated that these EVMs are manufactured in Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) under very strict supervisory and security conditions.

“And there are rigorous Standard Operating Procedures meticulously observed at all stages under the supervision of a Committee of eminent technical experts constituted way back in 2010,” it said.

“It is being separately examined as to what legal action can and should be taken in the matter,” the Commission added.

IANS

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