Monday, August 03, 2009

Orissa to prove EVMs ‘can be tampered’

BHUBANESWAR, 2 AUG: Orissa may create history if a group of NGOs and technocrats (in photograph) can establish before the Election Commission of India that Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) can be tampered with.
“An incident at Nimasahi polling booth in Cuttack, where a re-poll had to be ordered, which inspired us to dig deep into whether the EVM is tamper-proof and take the issue up with the Supreme Court and ECI,” said technocrat Mr Hari K Prasad.
Today, Mr Prasad, MD of Netindia, Mr VV Rao, vice-president of Jana Chaitanya Vedika, Andhra Pradesh, and others joined hands to demonstrate in front of a jam packed audience how the EVMs can be hacked into.
They had done a similar exercise earlier in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
They staged two mock polls involving the public on an EVM developed by Mr Prasad and his team, as the ones used by the ECI were not made available. The first poll drew a result as per the voting that had taken place while the second, tampered, gave a victory to the predetermined candidate.
The entire audience, which included several Opposition party leaders, former bureaucrats and even a former judge of the High Court, were astounded at the results of the mock poll.
There were loud cheers, slogan shouting and demands for a repeat drill. Mr Prasad had a tough time answering the barrage of questions that were thrown to him but he asserted that the EVMs used in the 2009 elections were vulnerable and that he has accepted the challenge to demonstrate before the ECI.
At least 13.78 lakh EVMs were used in the 2009 Parliamentary elections and of these only 4.48 lakh were new upgraded ones while 9.30 lakh were old machines. The new ones had been upgraded on the basis of recommendations made by a Professor Indiresan Committee instituted by the ECI.
The new upgraded machines were used in Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep, besides a few major states like Bihar, Chhattisgar, Goa, Gujarat, UP and West Bengal.
States such as Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu had the old machines, informed the team. A Trojan can be introduced and can be activated at any stage, they said, noting that even a voter or a officer involved in the process can activate the Trojan to rig the machine.
Strange things have happened in many states including Orissa and a lot of complaints, allegations and cases have been lodged, observed the NGO and technocrat team.
“We are taking the issue up at a national level. We are not opposed to the use of EVMs but we want them to be the pride of India and therefore tamper-proof," said Mr Prasad and Mr Rao.
They suggested the introduction of better checks ~ a slip can come out just like in the ATMs and each voter can, after pressing the button on the EVM, take the slip and use it as a ballot paper. This is being done in many countries, they said. The second suggestion is to have a check tool provided to polling agents ~ they can inset the tool and check whether the machine is functioning properly. Dispelling the notion that the Supreme Court had rejected their PIL, they said the apex court had directed them to demonstrate before the ECI and get back to them only if they faced any other difficulty. “Election watch organisations, activists, the media and NGOs need to monitor each step of this debate,” said Mr Prasad. “The ECI has invited us to Delhi to demonstrate the possible manipulation of their machines and we welcome their initiative. We insist upon being allowed to completely test the machine and do a full technical audit ~ from the origin of procurement till the declaration of results ~ to prove our stance. It cant be just ‘come press the button and show us’. Our process has to be scanned," the group said.Former chief secretary Mr Sudhansu Mishra, former judge of Orissa High Court Mr Choudhury Pratap Mishra and several political leaders belonging to the Left, Congress, BJP and SP were present and put questions to the team.
(The Statesman)