RTI Reveals Contradictory Number Of EVMs Supplied By Companies & Received By Election Commission
Official replies from the Election Commission to Right to Information (RTI) queries have raised concerning questions regarding the indiscriminate acquisition of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), insecure transportation of the machines and mismatch in numbers from producers and buyers.
RTI activist Manoranjan S Roy from Mumbai who pursued the matter for more than a year said the RTI responses may have severe repercussions on the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country, as reported by Firstpost.
EVMs have been used in India since 1989. They have three parts, Balloting Unit (BU), Control Unit (CU) and the recently introduced Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). These are manufactured only in two places – Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) in Bangalore and Electronics Corp of India Ltd (ECIL) in Hyderabad.
“Extremely grave” discrepancies
Roy termed the situation as extremely grave and demanded that the EVM manufacturing companies and the poll panel should be able to explain these discrepancies as it “affects the very foundation of the Indian democracy and its election system”.
Roy’s RTI queries revealed that from 1989-90 till May 15, 2017, the Election Commission (EC) procured a total of 1,005,662 BUs and 928,049 CUs from BEL, plus another 1,014,644 BUs and 934,031 CUs from ECIL, as reported by Firstpost.
An RTI query to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice showed that the government received intimation of purchase of 1,395,306 BUs and 930,716 CUs in 2016-17.
BEL said that in between 2010 to 2017, they have supplied 125,000 CUs and 190,000 BUs to EC. ECIL said it provided 222,925 BUs and 211,875 CUs to EC from 2010 to 2017, and another 497,348 BUs and 307,030 CUs for the same period, as reported by Firstpost.
According to Roy, the data on the number of EVMs received by the EC and the number of EVMs supplied by BEL and ECIL have discrepancies. They differ in thousands and sometimes in lakhs. So, the question raised is “where is the excess number of EVMs going and what is being done with them.”
Roy says all this “indicates something very suspicious is going on between these organisations”. There are major discrepancies when it came to payments too. Against the EC’s “actual expenditure” of Rs 5,360,175,485 (spent) on EVMs, the BEL RTI reply said it received from EC a payment of Rs 6,525,644,000 — a difference (excess) of Rs 116.55 crore.
“In many instances, the transportation details are at complete variance with the purported capacity of the trucks vis-à-vis the EVM dimensions and the carrying load of the containers that are disclosed,” Roy said.
The Logical Indian take
Free and fair elections are central to a democracy. Any tampering with elections, where people’s votes are misused and/or not counted, is only an illusion of the system of government. When the EVM tampering issue was raised by AAP, many elections saw the usage of VVPAT in the machines. However, VVPAT ensures fairness only in the last stage of elections. The Election Commission, as an autonomous body, should be rid of any governmental interference. But recent RTI replies make a shocking revelation of the manner in which elections in India are conducted. An independent probe and audit of BEL and ECIl need to be conducted to cleanse our elections from the source itself.