Democracy will be at peril in India as long as EVMs are in use. In spite of proof of unreliability of the EVMs given by experts from around the world and the use of ballot papers in all scientifically advanced countries, the Indian Government continues to turn a deaf ear to the case against the EVMs. This casts aspersions on the genuineness of the government in respecting the very basis of democracy. This also shows that the government is bent on winning future elections (too) by misusing the EVMs. Already the way the Home Minister Mr P.Chidambaram won the elections has raised suspicions about probable tampering of the EVMs.
The Government seems to have no inclination to safeguard the voter's right at the polling booth. Additionally the government under Sonia has no respect for the election system in Tamilnadu. Tamilnadu has been sold out to Karunanidhi like G2 Spectrum. There is no segment of Tamilnadu that has not been bought by Karunanidhi. Unless Sonia cuts off the alliance with Karunanidhi, his dubious ways can not be checked. I really wonder if there is any democracy in Tamilnadu. Not a long way to say the same about India if EVMs are not banned.
Article on how the spreadsheets showing election results were seen in ECI website, 13 days before the announcement of poll results. Read http://government.wikia.com/wiki/Review_the_2009_Lok_Sabha_Election_Process:_Promises_and_Reality
Should our tryst with EVMs end?
A. Surya Prakash
Senior Fellow, VIF, May 2010
Many Indians, who are now used to electronic voting, are surprised to note that voters in the United Kingdom, who recently exercised their franchise in the parliamentary election, had to stamp their preference on ballot papers.They wonder why an advanced nation like the UK prefers this staid old method of voting when a nation like India has switched to electronic voting many years ago.But the UK is not the only western democracy to prefer the paper ballot to an Electronic Voting machines (EVM).Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and a majority of the states in the USA have either banned the use of EVMs or imposed stringent safeguards for their use.
The rejection of EVMs by these nations is prompted by concerns about the integrity of the election process when these machines are deployed. The inability of election authorities to convince courts and public opinion that these machines are tamper-proof has led governments to fall back on paper ballots. A notable instance is that of Germany, where, after much deliberation, the Federal Constitutional Court, banned the use of EVMs.
Given these developments in other countries, leaders of 13 political parties in India have recently written to the Election Commission (EC) and sought an all-party meeting to discuss whether EVMs are vulnerable to manipulation. This demand for a proper review of the deployment of EVMs came about after a group of international experts raised serious concerns about the credibility of the electoral process in India which is now wholly dependent on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). These experts, who had traveled to India some months ago, laid their hands on an EVM used in the country and demonstrated the ways in which these machines could be hacked. This demonstration, which is now available on u-tube shows the vulnerability of EVMs and the easy ways in which electronic engineers can replace chips or alter programs to manipulate election results. Mr.Rop Gonggrijp, a computer hacker from Netherlands who hacked a machine on a live television show and became instrumental in the banning EVMs in his country, Dr.Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science, University of Michigan and an authority on electronic voting security and Mr.Hari K.Prasad, a noted "hactivist" from Hyderabad, who conducted the demonstration in front of a video camera have
also put together a research paper on the unreliability of voting machines.
These experts have demonstrated two ways in which the machine can be manipulated. In the first instance, they replace a small electronic component with another which is programmed to steal votes from other candidates and add them to the count of a particular candidate. This manoeuvre is carried out via a signal from a mobile phone.
In the second instance a pocket-sized electronic device is used to change the votes stored in the EVM after polling is over and before the counting of votes.
According to Mr.Gonggrijp and Dr.Halderman, EVMs can be tampered with either at the manufacturing stage or when they are stored in state capitals for deployment in elections or at the polling booths. They are convinced that Indian EVMs are no different from those that were deployed in Netherlands, Germany or Ireland, before they were discarded in those countries. One of the ways to rig an election is to introduce a Trojan in the display section of the control unit. This chip would give "fixed" results on the EVM screen. In other words, whatever the voters' preference, the control unit would display numbers as per the hacker's plan. Mr.Gonggrijp is a prominent campaigner for election transparency and verifiability and his technical opinion appears to have clinched the issue against electronic voting in Germany as well. "When the vote count happens inside a machine and there is no way in which the result can be cross-checked, the election ceases to be transparent" he says. The lack of transparency appears to be the Achilles heel of electronic voting. Nobody knows what goes on inside those machines.
Dr.Till Jaeger, the attorney who argued against the use of EVMs before the German Federal Constitutional Court leading to the court order banning EVMs in Germany was another expert who was in India recently to share his views on the legal and constitutional issues that crop up when EVMs are used. The German Constitutional Court, he said, had held the deployment of machines as unconstitutional. It said the Constitution emphasizes the public nature of elections "and requires all essential steps of an election to be open to public scrutiny".
While all these experts are categorical in their rejection of electronic voting devices, EVMs enjoy a great deal of credibility and public trust in India. This is so because the campaign about the unreliability of these machines is yet to get off the ground. However, politicians of various hues appear to be wary of these machines and have even accused rivals of "manipulating" them, albeit without a shred of evidence to establish mischief.
These concerns have now come to the fore following the demonstration to prove the "hackability" of these machines. Leaders of 13 political parties have written to the Election Commission on April 24, 2010 and sought an all-party meeting to discuss the efficacy of EVMs. They have said that EVMs have been banned by many democracies as storing voting data only electronically is considered non-transparent, unsafe, unreliable and prone to manipulations. "The gold standard throughout the world today is that there must be a verifiable physical record of voting for all concerned to repose confidence in the election results". The leaders said there were fears of the possibility of tampering with the software embedded in the machine and "some experts have demonstrated how such tampering can be done". Among the signatories to this letter are leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Community Party of India, Telugu Desam, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and the AIADMK.
This move by political parties comes after unsuccessful attempts by some citizens to get the Electon Commission to have an open mind in regard to EVMs. Citizens like Mr.Hari Prasad have been demanding that the Election Commission (EC) offer opportunities for persons like him to demonstrate the vulnerability of EVMs. According to him, the commission initially went along with the idea but developed cold feet and abruptly stopped one such exercise by him and his colleagues last September.
Two other Indians who have plunged into this campaign are Dr.Subramanian Swamy, whose petition against EVMs is currently before the Delhi High Court and Mr.G.V.L.Narasimha Rao, noted election analyst and author of Democracy at Risk – Can We Trust Our Electronic Voting Machines?. This book outlines the story of EVMs in India, Europe and the USA and describes how the non-response of the EC to questions raised by Mr.Gonggrijp and Mr.Hariprasad has contributed in no small measure to the growing concern in political parties about the reliability of voting machines.
After talking to experts, Rao lists eight situations in which EVMs can be rigged. The EC has sought to counter these arguments by saying that the Indian EVMs are standalone machines which are not part of any network. Therefore, any surmise based on operating system based EVMs would be completely erroneous. These arguments have been countered by Dr.Ulrich Wiesner, a physicist and software engineer, who was the petitioner before the Constitutional Court in Germany. In a statement that is part of the rejoinder affidavit filed by Dr.Swamy in the Delhi High Court, Dr.Wiesner has said that EVMs in Netherlands, Germany and Ireland were also standalone machines with no connection to the internet. He says "it is common sense that someone who has sufficient access to open the machines and replace the software or hardware can implement virtually any functionality ……that would not be spotted by tests".
Given these developments and the body of evidence produced by experts, it is now up to the Election Commission to respond to the doubts that are raised in regard to the efficacy of EVMs. Since the Election Commission is a public body, it will have to function in a transparent manner and satisfactorily answer the questions raised by these citizens, experts and political leaders so that all stake holders retain their confidence in the democratic process.
Is the Nation in a coma?
A few days ago I was in a panel discussion on mergers and acquisitions in Frankfurt, Germany, organised by Euroforum and The Handelsblatt, one of the most prestigious newspapers in German-speaking Europe.
The other panellists were senior officials of two of the largest carmakers and two top insurance companies — all German multinationals operating in India.
The panel discussion was moderated by a professor from the esteemed European Business School. The hall had an audience that exceeded a hundred well-known European CEOs. I was the only Indian.
After the panel discussion, the floor was open for questions. That was when my “moment of truth” turned into an hour of shame, embarrassment — when the participants fired questions and made remarks on their experiences with the evil of corruption in India.
The awkwardness and humiliation I went through reminded of The Moment of Truth, the popular Anglo-American game. The more questions I answered truthfully, the more the questions get tougher. Tougher here means more embarrassing.
Questions ranged from “Is your nation in a coma?”, the corruption in judiciary, the possible impeachment of a judge, the 2G scam and to the money parked illegally in tax havens.
It is a fact that the problem of corruption in India has assumed enormous and embarrassing proportions in recent years, although it has been with us for decades. The questions and the debate that followed in the panel discussion was indicative of the European disquiet. At the end of the Q&A session, I surmised Europeans perceive India to be at one of those junctures where tripping over the precipice cannot be ruled out.
Let me substantiate this further with what the European media has to say in recent days.
In a popular prime-time television discussion in Germany, the panellist, a member of the German Parliament quoting a blog said: “If all the scams of the last five years are added up, they are likely to rival and exceed the British colonial loot of India of about a trillion dollars.”
One German business daily which wrote an editorial on India said: “India is becoming a Banana Republic instead of being an economic superpower. To get the cut motion designated out, assurances are made to political allays. Special treatment is promised at the expense of the people. So, Ms Mayawati who is Chief Minister of the most densely inhabited state, is calmed when an intelligence agency probe is scrapped. The multi-million dollars fodder scam by another former chief minister wielding enormous power is put in cold storage. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairs over this kind of unparalleled loot.”
An article in a French newspaper titled “Playing the Game, Indian Style” wrote: “Investigations into the shadowy financial deals of the Indian cricket league have revealed a web of transactions across tax havens like Switzerland, the Virgin Islands, Mauritius and Cyprus.” In the same article, the name of one Hassan Ali of Pune is mentioned as operating with his wife a one-billion-dollar illegal Swiss account with “sanction of the Indian regime”.
A third story narrated in the damaging article is that of the former chief minister of Jharkhand, Madhu Koda, who was reported to have funds in various tax havens that were partly used to buy mines in Liberia. “Unfortunately, the Indian public do not know the status of that enquiry,” the article concluded.
“In the nastiest business scam in Indian records (Satyam) the government adroitly covered up the political aspects of the swindle — predominantly involving real estate,” wrote an Austrian newspaper. “If the Indian Prime Minister knows nothing about these scandals, he is ignorant of ground realities and does not deserve to be Prime Minister. If he does, is he a collaborator in crime?”
The Telegraph of the UK reported the 2G scam saying: “Naturally, India's elephantine legal system will ensure culpability, is delayed.”
Blinded by wealth
This seems true. In the European mind, caricature of a typical Indian encompasses qualities of falsification, telling lies, being fraudulent, dishonest, corrupt, arrogant, boastful, speaking loudly and bothering others in public places or, while travelling, swindling when the slightest of opportunity arises and spreading rumours about others. The list is truly incessant.
My father, who is 81 years old, is utterly frustrated, shocked and disgruntled with whatever is happening and said in a recent discussion that our country's motto should truly be Asatyameva Jayete.
Europeans believe that Indian leaders in politics and business are so blissfully blinded by the new, sometimes ill-gotten, wealth and deceit that they are living in defiance, insolence and denial to comprehend that the day will come, sooner than later, when the have-nots would hit the streets.
In a way, it seems to have already started with the monstrous and grotesque acts of the Maoists. And, when that rot occurs, not one political turncoat will escape being lynched.
The drumbeats for these rebellions are going to get louder and louder as our leaders refuse to listen to the voices of the people. Eventually, it will lead to a revolution that will spill to streets across the whole of India, I fear.
Perhaps we are the architects of our own misfortune. It is our sab chalta hai (everything goes) attitude that has allowed people to mislead us with impunity. No wonder Aesop said. “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office.”
(The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org.)