The Curious Case Of Missing EVMs
Amidst the hue and cry surrounding the tampering of (EVMs) and the question surrounding its authenticity, 20 lakh voting machines have gone missing.
The credibility and the authenticity of the Electronic Voting Machines have been questioned multiple times during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by various opposition leaders. Popular leaders include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party who have been vocal about their displeasure on the responses of the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the subject.
Recently, 21 opposition leaders jointly appealed to the apex court seeking a review of its April 8th order that directed the Election Commission (EC) to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with the EVMs to at least five polling booths per assembly segment. The order came in response to the appeal of 21 opposition leaders’ that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) slips of 50% EVMs be matched. Their appeal was dismissed and termed ‘ not feasible’ due to infrastructural difficulties and the huge requirement of manpower it would entail.
In an revealtory article published by The Frontline, an RTI finding based on a Public Interest Petition (PIL) filed in the Bombay high Court provides starling numbers about EVMs that claimed to have been supplied by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), but never reached the ECI.
The PIL filed on March 27, 2018, by Manoranjan Roy, a right to information (RTI) activist in Mumbai was about the processes involved in the procurement, storage and deployment of EVMs and VVPATs by the ECI and State Election Commissions (SECs).
Below are some of the startling figures from the RTI findings:
The shortfall, recorded in the chart below, based on the year-wise break-up of the order-supply chart of BEL. The data was arrived at by comparing the BEL’s supply and the ECI’s acknowledgment of the machines.
*Numbers in negative indicate an excess of Machines received by ECI which BEL did not supply that year.
The disparity can also be seen with regard to the payment received by BEL and the amount accorded by the ECI.
As reported by Frontline, transactions between the ECI and BEL for the 10-year period from 2006-07 to 2016-17 show that the ECI’s “actual expenditure” on EVMs is Rs.536 crores. However, BEL’s RTI reply dated September 20, 2017, claims it received a payment of Rs.652 crores from the ECI for the same period. That is an excess payment of Rs.116.55 crore.
When the ECI was asked about the missing machines in an RTI query on July 21, 2017, it replied that it had not sold any EVMs as scrap.The EVMs procured in 1989-90 were said to have been destroyed by the manufacturers themselves. However, the ECI said that the process of destroying old or outdated or irreparable EVMs was still under consideration for the machines between 2000 and 2005 .
While questions like what exactly happened to these machines and why was excess amount paid to BEL, Roy has further raised many more questions and they all remain unanswered. The PIL has been shuttling across in the Bombay high court since September 19, 2018 with no clarity to the petitioner. Now, Roy’s lawyers have decided to appeal to the Supreme Court in a special leave petition which the Apex court is yet to take up.
EVMs, VVPATs found in Bihar hotel
In another case on Monday, two units of EVMs and VVPATs were recovered from a hotel in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur.
Sector magistrate Avdesh Kumar invited trouble for himself when he got down from his car at a hotel with the voting equipment, after the officer’s driver excused himself to cast his vote at a nearby polling booth.
Originally he was given the responsibility of 4 EVMs in Muzaffarpur which were backup machines that would replace any machine that malfunctioned in the area in the 5th phase of Lok Sabha Elections on Monday.
He was travelling from a polling booth in Muzaffarpur and was left with 2 balloting units, 1 control unit and 2 VVPATs when he got down from the car at the hotel.
The news of a polling officer carrying voting machines reached party agents at the booth and immediately incited alarm. The local Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), Kundan Kumar soon reached the venue and seized the EVMs and VVPATs.
A show cause notice has been issued to the officer concerned and a departmental investigation is now pending against him.