Archive for August, 2010

The EVM Stings: Police arrest a whistle blower.

22 August 2010
Sting Operations by media have come to be recognized as legitimate tools to expose graft or abuse of power as otherwise it would be well nigh impossible to break the protective walls that Governments & politicians routinely build around themselves avowedly in “public interest’ but in fact to shield its anti-people projects from becoming public knowledge. Directly Recorded Electronic Voting system such as the one adopted by our Election Commission has aroused suspicion in many individuals here & abroad, and has not therefore been universalized wherever elections are held despite obvious advantages. For one, speed and accuracy are the obvious ones, but there are others like economy, ease and environment. Grounds for suspicions are really singular. Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) hold the people’s mandate in intangible digital form that doesn’t permit verification through direct observation unlike say paper ballots. Since governments, corporations, and political parties are known to cheat on people, how to trust that the EVMs are not rigged – stealthily & inscrutably, and thereby stealing the people’s mandate.
Election commission of India (ECI) has staked its prestige & clean image behind the EVMs manufactured by Bharat Electronic Ltd (BEL) and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), both public sector companies. ECI says that EVMs are absolutely tamper proof (completely infallible) and beyond a pale of reproach. This is the premise that Hari K Prasad of Hyderabad set out to test in knowledge of the ECI. The premise failed the scrutiny he along with J Alex Halderman & Rop Gonggrijp put the EVM through. The various ways in which EVMs could be tampered to cheat the people’s verdict are shown in the absorbing video below (click here). But that is not the real story here. To carry out his tests, Hari needed a set of EVM, i.e. Voting Pad and Supervisory Pad. Hari and his fellow researchers obtained the necessary EVMs, carried out their tests, and produced afore said video demonstration. Enter the police in the picture who want to investigate how the EVMs came into the possession of Hari & company. Apparently he asked the ECI to provide one, but that request was turned down. Maharashtra Police called on Hari in the first week of August 2010 in Hyderabad and recorded his statement as to how he came to possess the EVMs that they used in their demonstration. This may be described as a legit police enquiry if the manufacture, supply and use of EVMs are a monopoly & controlled activities that are legally permissible only for ECI or people authorized by it. But on 21st August Maharashtra Police took him into custody and have presumably brought him to Mumbai for further investigations. This certainly smacks of highhandedness and suppression of right to know and right to inform. If even ECI is involved in this act of police, then it is definitely reprehensible and a blow to its credibility of ensuring free, fair and transparent elections since it can’t be free, fair and transparent about its EVMs.
ECI could very well claim that by “controlling the access” to EVMs it is in fact ensuring their infallibility. But the real point is that where hands of ordinary citizens cannot reach or reach under threat to their liberty or life, the hands of Government would reach freely with impunity and unhindered. By its own admission ECI has a permanent of staff of only 300, and is a dynamic organization that grows to millions of hands to meet the onerous demands of conducting a mammoth electoral exercise involving hundreds of millions of voters and shrinks back to its diminutive size once it is over. What it doesn’t say however is that such waxing and waning of election commission is made possible by the “hands” made available by the Government (of India). Can 300 permanent staff, all presumably infallible themselves, keep away these “hands” from mischief? This is where the crucial difference between EVMs and Paper Ballot becomes obvious.
In order to have any transparency in elections, you need to have votes on paper. Computers can be programmed to count votes honestly, but since nobody can watch them, they might just as easily be programmed to count dishonestly. How is the voter supposed to tell the difference? – Gonggrijp”.
ECI should thank Hari & Associates for bringing out the fallibility of EVMs rather than be party to his incarceration.