Why hasn’t ECI answered simple scientific questions about EVMs rejected by the West

Like Pulwama attack, there are many conspiracy theories doing rounds regarding EVMs. Like Pulwama, there are many pertinent questions the govt machinery should answer about EVMs

Gauhar Raza

Conspiracy theories, propagated about any event, are always at a disadvantage for many reasons and therefore, the tag itself invokes distrust. But they spread like wildfire despite, being blocked by the official media channels. First of all, more often than not, those who are not in power propagate these theories, so there is no official sanctity. Secondly, those who propagate and believe in them do not have wherewithal to conclusively prove the theory. Thirdly, the official version of explanation reaches intended public first and the related conspiracy theory lags behind it, therefore it is considered as an afterthought. Fourthly, those in power refuse to investigate the matter based on the conspiracy theory. And finally, most conspiracy theories are treated as conspiracy against the powerful.

However, a conspiracy theory divides people into three categories. There are people who do not believe in it and support official version of sequence of events. There are always some who believe in it, as soon as a conspiracy theory starts taking roots. But in case it has been circulated widely, the majority of people stop believing in official version. To begin with, the biggest success of a conspiracy theory, is that it creates mistrust, and as the number of believers enlarges, irrespective of official version, it becomes a social force. Let me make it clear that a conspiracy theory, which has no material basis, cannot be propagated. It is always based on big loopholes in official version, bigger the holes, more credible is theory.

For example, the recent events at Pulwama, first shocked the people as they accepted the official version. The anger was so intense and widespread that they completely neglected the inconsistencies. However, gradually people started asking logical questions, the most important was, how did 350 Kg of RDX reach the terrorists, without detection? Soon they also realised that the security forces had asked for airlifting, why were they not granted permission, that too when the Home Ministry was informed of a likely terrorist attack? The other two important questions were added to the list, who told the terrorist that only one bus was not armoured and how come the terrorist drove his car on the wrong side and no one was alarmed or checked him? We know that in Kashmir, wherever you go, there are checkpoints after every a few metres.

I personally presume that these questions were valid and logical and therefore they found way among large sections of Indian population, this seriously punctured euphoria of nationalism. Various conspiracy theories took birth, which were rooted in the mistrust that was based on lies that the people in position and power had spread during the last five years. The mistrust was rampant.

Similarly, in the beginning, people of India had trusted EVMs. It was a technology that made the entire election process quite simple. The Election Commission of India, gifted it to the people, like a magic box, which solved most of the problems, especially booth capturing was pushed into oblivion. The operation was simple, punch a button and your vote is cast, punch another one and it gives you election results. Everyone was awestruck by the technological marvel.

But soon people started raising legal, technological and operational questions. I am one who is pro-technology, but have always opposed introduction of EVMs in our electoral system. I have added some of my own doubts, to the list of questions, which many others have raised. Based on these serious doubts and their own experience, people are fast losing trust on EVMs. The official response of Election Commission of India, has not changed in the last more than twenty years, in fact it has transformed itself from defender of democratic, free and fair election to a deaf defender of EVM.

Let me ask a set of questions, which have not been answered. The ECI, has repeatedly, taken pride in saying that our machines are hard wired and unconnected therefore they are safe. These machines cannot be accessed through and any outside device. Ok, then how come so many people, including a team of Michigan university experts have shown that Indian EVM can be hacked? The answer is simple, the machines that were hacked had been modified, these were not the same as our machines. Ok, then officially, give a few original machines to experts and let them rip it apart, study each component and then show you how it can be tampered. The answer is no, we are guarding them closely, otherwise someone may clone them. So there is a danger that if an EVM falls into wrong hands, the hackers can clone it. You are guarding them, but what about RTI, which shows that about 20 lakh machines are unaccounted for, so anyone who wanted to clone them must have done so by now! Any way the commission insists that anyone who claims that the machine can be hacked must come to their office in Delhi, and demonstrate it without opening the EVM. As someone had said, it is like saying you must come to my office and tell me how much money I have, but I will not let you open my purse. This is the way EVM remains safe.

But why the developed countries are not using EVMs for elections, and those who had introduced them have reverted back to ballot? By the way, USA is the latest one, where a Committee On The Future Of Voting: Accessible, Reliable, Verifiable Technology, in its recent report recommended that all future elections must be held with ballot and EVMs are completely abandoned (Read Securing the Vote, Protecting American Democracy (2018).

The committee has noted ‘Unfortunately, our current system is vulnerable to internal and external threats. ----It is difficult to secure the electronic systems used in voting even now.’ Our election commission’s response is prompt. Those machine were connected to internet, therefore they have gone to Jurassic era and are doomed to conduct their elections based on ballot papers, which should be counted manually.

Granted that our machines are magical and most safe electronic equipment on planet earth. Let us ask two more questions, why haven’t these developed countries, with a history of stable democracy, come to us and bought our machines instead of going back to Jurassic era of ballot papers? Why is it that we have been able to sell our EVMs, only to those countries where democracy was fragile and trampled upon repeatedly, by despot rulers? The answer could be that developed world is envious- remember they did not purchase our Vedic Vimans or internet or cosmetic technologies, or even test tube babies, instead they developed these technologies on their own!

Remember, we are buying our CPU chips from Japan and USA, who are envious of our Vedic science and technology. The simple question is, are we saying that those who give us ROMs and chips, have no capability to develop a safe tamperproof EVM, or even copy our machines? Instead, they have decided to go back to Jurassic era. No, the simple answer is they value their democracy more than we do. The committee in conclusion has clearly stated the ‘Representative democracy only works if all eligible citizens can participate in elections, have their ballots accurately cast, counted, and tabulated, and be confident that their ballots have been accurately cast, counted, and tabulated.’

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Published: 22 May 2019, 6:04 PM