Nearly 3,550 VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) in Gujarat have been found defective in the First Level Checks conducted by the Electoral Commission, the highest being in the Jamnagar (26%) and in the Devbhoomi Dwarka and Patan districts. VVPATs are being used in the 182 assembly seats in Gujarat for the first time ever.
A senior official told The Indian Express that the faulty VVPATs were shown to have malfunctioning sensors, broken parts. Close to 5245 Control Units (from a total of 62666 units) and 2907 Ballot Units (from 75000 units) have also been noted to be defective, apart from the VVPATs and have been returned. The Control Units were ridden with “clock-errors” and some were broken.
“The FLCs are a rigorous process to check if the machines are fit to be used during the polling day,” said BB Swain, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), to media persons. “The defective pieces will be sent back to the factory. There are some with minor defects and can be repaired.”
Earlier this year, the issues arose with the VVPAT machines in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh that allegedly kept giving out only BJP tokens. A committee was set up by the Electoral Commission to investigate this matter, yet the machines were deemed to be functioning fine, and the errors that arose were apparently due to data not being removed from the machine from the previous tests.
Cumulatively, 70,182 VVPATs are to be used in the upcoming Gujarat polls in December, of which nearly 46,000 are new devices being brought in from BEL (Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore) and ECIL (electronics Corporation of India, Hyderabad). The rest are being procured from close to 11 states, namely Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka.
The Electoral Commission has now requested for an additional 4,150 VVPATs to replace the faulty ones, and to also keep some as a reserve.
Model Code of Conduct Violations
The Electoral Commission has also received several complaints of violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). MCC is a set of guidelines put down by the EC to modulate the conduct of political parties and candidates during elections. It is done to oversee fair practices in electoral settings such as the speeches, election manifestos, processions and general conduct. It came into force during the 2014 electoral process.
“These complaints are all under investigation and cannot be discussed right now. No major complaints have been received so far,” Swain said.
Of the 56,406 licensed weapon owners in Gujarat, 24,268 arms have been deposited to the authorities and 227 licenses nullified as a precautionary measure. The EC has also removed close to 1.79 lakh posters, banners and slogans written on walls in support of parties, as reported until 31 October 2017.
“We have stepped up vigil; our flying squads are active in the fields. More than 500 senior officials involved in poll duty have been trained after the announcement of the schedule for the Assembly polls,” Swain told media persons in Gandhinagar. As of October 31, the political posters, hoardings and banners from public and private properties in all districts have been removed.