Democracy at Risk ! Can we trust our Electronic Voting Machines?17/07/2010 01:10:04 Book Review by S. Karthik Ramnarayan
Author - Shri.G.V.L. Narasimha Rao
Electronic Voting Machines (shortly called EVMs) have become an intrinsic part of Indian elections. However lay public have least understanding and awareness on EVMs and thus their associated risks. This book is written with an objective of filling this information and awareness gap. It has been dedicated to the Citizens of India who deserve a fully transparent and verifiable electoral system.
The author of the book is a leading survey researcher, election analyst and political commentator whose columns and articles have appeared in leading dailies. He has been amazingly investigative to make this book truly a ‘Shocking exposé of the Election Commission’s failure to assure the integrity of India’s electronic voting system’. He is also the only author of a book on ‘Indian EVMs’. With this distinction, the book has rightly earned - a foreword by Shri. L.K. Advani (Chairman of BJP), message of Shri. N. Chandrababu Naidu (techno savvy politician) and Prof. David Dill, Stanford University.
The book is divided into 16 Chapters with each uncovering untold facts on ‘Indian EVMs’. The reader is first introduced to the scenario wherein EVMs make their advent into elections in U.S. and Western Europe as an alternative to Paper Ballots and how they draw criticisms from many quarters for not meeting minimal standards of system integrity, transparency, verifiability and accountability in case of disputes. The author mentions the case of countries like Germany, Holland, Ireland who abandon EVMs and go back to paper ballots & U.S. whose 32 out of 50 states pass legislation making it mandatory to have verifiable physical record of every single vote cast.
Parallel runs the sad story on how the Election Commission of India (ECI) has been publicly spreading ‘Big Lies’ that Indian EVMs cannot be tampered while experts worldwide feel otherwise. Not many readers would know that Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL) who are the ‘manufacturers’ of ECI-EVMs outsource the crucial task of fusing the “secret” source code (program for counting poll results) onto microchips used in EVMs to foreign companies. The author questions the motive behind the actions of these 100% Govt. owned PSUs when they could have done the job themselves! One is lost for words to note how the ECI, its expert committee headed by Prof. P.V. Indiresan, BEL and ECIL all remain admittedly unconfirmed on the originality of the hence ‘fused’ source code and also the supplied microchips before and after the ECI puts the EVMs to use in elections!
The reply given under RTI by the ECI to Sri. V.V. Rao in Page 33 reads, “Out of 13.78 lakh EVMs, 9.30 lakh EVMs were old machines and 4.48 lakh EVMs were new machines…. Upgraded EVMs were used in all the Parliamentary Constituencies of Arunachal Pradesh. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep.” Mentioning the vulnerabilities of Old EVMs the author fires a series of questions related to the choice of states where they were employed. These have failed to elicit any response from the ECI till date. Also mentioned are instances where the ECI shows no regard to its own expert committee recommendations and goes ahead in conducting polls.
The author in his inimitable style gives a lively run up to the 2009 General Elections with many expecting a hung parliament. Chapter 4 vividly describes the case studies of abnormal functioning of some EVMs during polls. May 16th shocks one and all, thus going against the normally foretelling Exit Polls! Political parties start expressing their fears over the use of EVMs. The reader is advised to see these in the light of how some parties were approached by “Electronic Fixers” demanding hefty sums to fix elections in their desired constituencies portrayed as a thriller in Chapter 5!
Later explained is the paradox of how the ECI has been in blocking every effort of public spirited individuals and Indian IT experts in demonstrating the vulnerability of its own EVMs. Whether use of EVMs is constitutionally valid? Are the 2004 & 2009 Lok Sabha Polls legal? More to add, the book offers solutions to the problem of ‘Indian EVMs’. Though the matter of ‘Indian EVMs’ is pending at court, one hopes for a landmark judgment delivered as was the case in other successful democracies. This book is a journey in itself and should be an invaluable possession for all those who cherish and stand by democracy. It will be remembered forever as a unique book which triggered a nationwide debate and the one which led to healthy reforms in Indian elections. Contact:
New Delhi 110 029
Phone: +91 91 9873300800 (Sagar Baria)
Price: Rs. 295 -/- (Soft Copy of the book is available at http://indianevm.com)