Indian Government’s decision to allot around ₹10,000 crores ($1.49 billion) to the Election Commission (EC) to procure new Voter Verifiable Paper Audited Trail (VVPAT) ballot machines is a success story of Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s long battle against the doubtful Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). The Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 20 took this big decision to dump the old EVM’s purchased from 2000 to 2005.
India’s usage of EVM’s with dumb manipulative redundant technology was doubted many times due to the controversial election results it threw up. These doubtful machines, which were proven to be manipulate-able were used from the mid-90s. During these times, most of the countries started abandoning these controversial machines and even those that invented and manufacturing these machines.
One advantage of implementation of EVMs was the stoppage of booth capturing, a recurring instance for decades. On the contrary, the EVMs were not fool proof. There is no record for the cast of votes and one can’t check to whom the voter cast his/ her vote.
After the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, widespread doubts on the genuineness of these machines came into the public domain. But the winners always discarded this as losers’ conspiracy theory and the EC was adamant on using this EVMs with redundant technology. As usual, Congress termed this too as Swamy’s routine conspiracy theory.
By the end of 2009, Subramanian Swamy started a widespread campaign against these machines and started demonstrating how the EVMs could be easily manipulated. The EC even registered police complaints for hacking against the technocrats who helped Swamy show how the EVMs could be hacked to produce “desired” results. The EC was not amused and even accused a technocrat of theft! Swamy and veteran technocrat S Kalyanaraman came out with a book on the illegality of EVMs.
The Election Commission started facing the heat when Swamy took up the matter before the Supreme Court. EC initially resisted this, saying that printers were not available across the country. During the arguments, Judges even rebuked Ashok Desai, counsel for EC, for saying that printers are not available across India. Till reserving Judgment in mid 2013, the EC and the Government vehemently objected to attaching of VVPAT machines which produces a paper slip as soon as the voter cast his vote on the voting unit. VVPAT was intended to serve two things:
- The Voter could see a print out of his vote fall into a separate box and
- In close contests, the printed slips could be used for recounting.
In the old EVMs there were no records for votes cast and the recounting process consisted of re-running the counting process, which produced the same result. We have seen how P Chidambaram won Lok Sabha election in 2009. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa alleged that by canvassing the counting officials, voting machines were manipulated by Chidambaram. She went on further to allege that Chidambaram bribed them to change the terminals of the machines and reversed the votes cast for her candidate.
At last in October 2013, Justice P Sathasivam ordered for VVPAT enabled new EVMs. But the UPA Government delayed the process and even slowed funding to the EC to buy new paper slip producing EVMs (VVPAT). For the past three years, the reticent EC was introducing these new machines at a slow pace and at select constituencies.
With the Modi Government’s massive funding, EC can purchase error-free and non-manipulate-able machines. 550,000 Ballot Units (BUs) and 545,000 Control Units (CUs) during 2016-17, at a tentative cost of ₹77007 ($1147) and ₹93007 ($1385) respectively per unit from M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd and M/s Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. and an allocation of ₹25 crores ($3.72 million) for R&D efforts with the specific purpose of significant reduction in the cost of individual units, with a view to bringing down the overall cost of procurements in the future.
“It was also decided that the procurement plan for BUs and CUs for the years 2017-18 and 2018-19 would be considered subsequently. Similarly, the procurement plan for Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail Units (VVPAT) for the years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 would be considered subsequently.
This would facilitate phasing out obsolete Electronic Voting Machines procured during the years 2000-2005, enabling Election Commission to replenish the stock, with view to meeting the requirement of conducting General Elections to Lok Sabha and some of the State Assemblies due in the year 2019,” said the government statement on the Cabinet decision.
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 67.15 Rupees.
2. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
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