सीधे मुख्य सामग्री पर जाएं

BEL refuses to disclose EVM, VVPAT info under RTI after demanding fees


By Venkatesh Nayak*
Readers may remember the bold declaration that the Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions made about the NDA-III Government’s commitment to transparency while replying to the debate on the Bill to amend The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) in the Lok Sabha. On 22/07/2019 the Minister said:
“Now, coming straight to RTI, as far as RTI is concerned, let me first make it clear this Government has been absolutely committed, as in other wings of governance, to ensure full transparency and full accountability” (click here for the full text of the uncorrected debate of the day and scroll down to page 369 of the text/or page 128 of the pdf file for this part of the Minister’s statement).
Sadly, this governance philosophy does not seem to have percolated downwards beyond the corridors of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with which the Union Minister is associated.
In June, 2019 I had sought detailed information about Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Voter Verified Paper Trail (VVPAT) Units and Symbol Loading Units (SLUs), from Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL) by filing identical requests under the RTI Act.
BEL, a Navaratna Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) under the Union Ministry of Defence, initially agreed to supply some information and demanded Rs. 1,434/- as additional fees. However, a month later, BEL revised its earlier reply and claimed that it did not hold most of the information and rejected one of the queries stating that disclosure would endanger the life of its Engineers and returned the Bank Draft that I sent them as fee payment.
Earlier, ECIL uploaded some of this information on the RTI Online Facility but rejected access to some crucial bits of information sought in my RTI application. I have not received a formal reply from the ECIL’s under its Central Public Information Officer’s signature, via email or in hard copy till date.
These RTI replies when compared with the ECI’s claims about the maximum capacity of VVPAT Units to print votes cast through EVMs and contrasted against the Polling Station Level voter turnout data as compared with the number of voters registered on the Electoral Rolls (all of these are public documents), throws open more disturbing questions about the entire electoral process.

The Background

The April-May 2019 General Elections returned the National Democratic Alliance Government to power with a thumping majority. Dissatisfied with the scanty information about the manner in which polls were conducted across the country, several private citizens and mediapersons have used the RTI Act to seek information about voter turnout data mismatch, complaints about EVMs malfunctioning, complaints about mismatch of EVMs and VVPAT printouts, movement of EVMs and VVPATs to the electoral constituencies from the manufacturing companies and details of action taken on complaints received against high profile politicians for violating the Model Code of Conduct. Many of these requests have been turned down by the relevant public authorities.

The RTI Intervention

After closely scrutinising some of the information and statistics published by the ECI, on 17th June, 2019, I decided to file two identical RTI applications seeking the following information from BEL and ECIL. Neither these companies nor the ECI have placed this information in the public domain:

BEL’s RTI Replies

The CPIO of BEL sent a fee intimation letter for INR 1,434/- for a total of 717 pages after almost a month had passed since the submission of my RTI application. He agreed to supply most of the information but denied access to the VVPAT patent application filed with the Office of the Controller General of Patents by citing Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act. Then I waited for more than a month for this information thinking that the delay might be because of the time taken to copy 700+ pages of records. After 40 days had lapsed, on 28/08/2019 I filed a first appeal under Section 19(1) of the RTI Act challenging the non-supply of information.
Believe it or not, the CPIO who was silent until then, sent a reply returning the Bank Draft and claimed that BEL did not have most of the information sought which he had agreed to supply in his first reply.

ECIL’s RTI Reply

Although ECIL’s CPIO had disposed of my RTI application earlier, in August, 2019, I decided to wait for the BEL CPIO’s reply before going public with these RTI interventions. ECIL’s CPIO merely uploaded some text on the RTI Online Facility without any signature (I am still waiting for a hard copy of this reply or a scanned copy by email) which states as follows:
What is problematic with these RTI replies?
BEL’s CPIO had initially agreed to supply information about the number of EVMs (Control and Ballot Units) and VVPATs manufactured by the company, and the thermal paper rolls used in the VVPATs all of which were sent to the districts for use during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He had also agreed to supply the list of Engineers who took part in and coordinated and supervised the preparation of these machines for the elections. He had physically counted the number of pages relatable to each RTI query and demanded fees accordingly.
In his revised reply, however, he states that BEL does not hold most of the requested information. So which papers did he count before sending the first reply? Only one of these replies, not both, can be true. Perhaps the latest reply is an afterthought arising out of pressure exerted- probably by an external agency against making this information public. I hope the identity of this external agency is revealed during the appeal proceedings in the coming months.
What do these replies reveal when compared with ECI’s Manuals?
The total number of votes cast in an Assembly or Parliamentary constituency is recorded on Form 20 (called Final Result Sheet) by its Presiding Officer and submitted to the ECI. This Form 20 information for every constituency is uploaded on ECI’s website for the Lok Sabha elections and State Assembly Elections up to 2018. However, similar data is not available for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections on the ECI’s website. Any interested person is now compelled to visit the websites of the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of every State/UT, separately, to access this information.
Even here, there is no uniformity. While many CEOs have uploaded Part 1 of Form 20 which contains Polling Station-wise data of the number of votes cast (for example see Delhi CEO’s website), a few have published only Part 2 of Form 20 which contains aggregate data for each Assembly segment of the Parliamentary Constituency (for example see Bihar CEO’s website). It is Polling-Station-wise data that throws up some crucial questions when compared with the ECI’s claims and the RTI replies of BEL and ECIL.
Can randomisation of EVM/VVPATs be a credible a basis for the non-tamperability claim?
Two-stage randomisation of EVMs and VVPATs, once before their allotment to each constituency and next before sending them to each Polling Station, is one of the two pillars on which the ECI, the manufacturing companies and technical experts rest their arguments for the non-tamperability of these machines. If the capacities of the VVPATs produced by BEL and ECIL vary, can there ever be a true randomisation, given the lack of uniformity in the number of voters registered for each Polling Station? This is a seminal question that the ECI as the owner of the EVMs and VVPATs must answer urgently.

Conclusion

I would like to end this piece with a caveat. I am not alleging any wrongdoing by any authority through this research and analysis. All that I am pointing out is that the ECI and the manufacturing companies are reluctant to place detailed information about the working of EVMs and VVPATs beyond what they decide that the citizenry must know. This is just not acceptable.
Click HERE for more details.

*Programme Head, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

टिप्पणियाँ

ट्रेंडिंग

हिंदी आलोचना जैसे पिछड़ चुके अनुशासन की जगह हिंदी वैचारिकी का विकास जरूरी

- प्रमोद रंजन*   भारतीय राजनीति में सांप्रदायिक व प्रतिक्रियावादी ताकतों को सत्ता तक पहुंचाने में हिंदी पट्टी का सबसे बड़ा योगदान है। इसका मुख्य कारण हिंदी-पट्टी में कार्यरत समाजवादी व जनपक्षधर हिरावल दस्ते का विचारहीन, अनैतिक और  प्रतिक्रियावादी होते जाना है। अगर हम उपरोक्त बातों को स्वीकार करते हैं, तो कुछ रोचक निष्कर्ष निकलते हैं। हिंदी-जनता और उसके हिरावल दस्ते को विचारहीन और प्रतिक्रियावादी बनने से रोकने की मुख्य ज़िम्मेदारी किसकी थी?

ગુજરાતના સ્થાપના દિવસે યાદ કરીએ ભારતના વિશ્વપ્રસિદ્ધ ગુજરાતી પુરાતત્વવિદ્ ને

- ગૌરાંગ જાની*  આજે કોઈ ગુજરાતી એ કલ્પના પણ ન કરી શકે કે વર્ષ ૧૮૩૯ માં જૂનાગઢમાં જન્મેલા એક ગુજરાતી વિશ્વ પ્રસિદ્ધ બની શકે! પણ આપણે એ ગુજરાતીને કદાચ વિસરી ગયા છીએ જેમણે ગિરનારના અશોક શિલાલેખને દોઢસો વર્ષ પૂર્વે ઉકેલી આપ્યો.આ વિદ્વાન એટલે ભગવાનલાલ ઈન્દ્રજી. ૭ નવેમ્બર, ૧૮૩૯ ના દિવસે જૂનાગઢના પ્રશ્નોરા નાગર બ્રાહ્મણ પરિવારમાં તેમનો જન્મ થયો હતો. જૂનાગઢના એ સમયે અંગ્રેજી શિક્ષણની સગવડ ન હોવાને કારણે તેમને અંગ્રેજી ભાષાનું જ્ઞાન ન હતું પણ પાછળથી તેમણે ખપ પૂરતું અંગ્રેજી જાણી લીધું હતું.

Under Modi, democracy is regressing and economy is also growing slowly

By Avyaan Sharma*   India is "the largest democracy in the world", but now its democracy is regressing and its economy is also growing slowly. What has PM Modi's ten years in power brought us? Unemployment remains high. Joblessness is particularly high among India's youth - with those aged 15 to 29 making up a staggering 83% of all unemployed people in India, according to the "India Employment Report 2024", published last month by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD). The BJP-led government did not provide jobs to two crore youth in a year as was promised by Modi in the run up to the 2014 general elections.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

ભારતમાં જિસસ ક્રાઈસ્ટના દર્શન, ખ્રિસ્તી ધર્મના આગમનને કારણે સમાજ વ્યવસ્થામાં પરિવર્તન

- ઉત્તમ પરમાર  મારી કિશોર અવસ્થામાં કેટલાક ચિત્રો અને મૂર્તિઓએ હૃદયમાં એવું સ્થાન જમાવ્યું છે કે આજદિન પર્યંત  ઉત્તરોઉત્તર વિકસતું જ રહ્યું છે. પ્રેમ કરુણાના મૂર્તિમંત અવતાર  જિસસ ક્રાઈસ્ટને વધુસ્તંભે ચઢાવેલી મૂર્તિ  મારી કોઈપણ ધર્મ વિશેની સમજ નહોતી ત્યારથી મારા હૃદયમાં સ્થાપિત થયેલી છે. મારા ઘરની દિવાલ પર વધસ્તંભે ચઢેલા જીસસની પ્રતિમા જોઈને કોઈ મને પૂછી બેસતું કે તું ક્રિશ્ચન છે?

रैंकिंग: अधिकांश भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिरा, इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी

- प्रमोद रंजन*  अप्रैल, 2024 में भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों की अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर उच्च रैंकिंग की चर्चा रही। मीडिया ने इसका उत्सव मनाया। लेकिन स्थिति इसके विपरीत है। वैश्विक विश्वविद्यालय रैंकिग में अच्छा स्थान मिलने की खबरें, कुछ संस्थानों को इक्का-दुक्का विषयों में मिले रैंक के आधार पर चुनिंदा ढंग से प्रकाशित की गईं थीं। वास्तविकता यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में हमारे अधिकांश विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिर गया है। इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी रही है।

नोएडा में मैन्युअल स्कैवेंजर्स की मौत: परिवारों को मुआवजा नहीं, प्राधिकरण ने एफआईआर नहीं की

- अरुण खोटे, संजीव कुमार*  गत एक सप्ताह में, उत्तर प्रदेश में सीवर/सेप्टि क टैंक सफाई कर्मियों की सफाई के दौरान सेप्टिक टैंक में मौत। 2 मई, 2024 को, लखनऊ के वज़ीरगजं क्षेत्र में एक सेवर लाइन की सफाई करते समय शोब्रान यादव, 56, और उनके पत्रु सशुील यादव, 28, घटुन से हुई मौत। एक और घटना 3 मई 2024 को नोएडा, सेक्टर 26 में एक घर में सेप्टि क टैंक को सफाई करते समय दो सफाई कर्मचर्मारी नूनी मडंल, 36 और कोकन मडंल जिसे तपन मडंल के नाम से जानते हैं, की मौत हो गई। ये सफाई कर्मचर्मारी बंगाल के मालदा जिले के निवासी थे और नोएडा सेक्टर 9 में रहते थे। कोकन मडंल अपनी पत्नी अनीता मडंल के साथ रहते थे। इनके तीन स्कूल जाने वाले बच्चे हैं जो बंगाल में रहते हैं। नूनी मडंल अपनी पत्नी लिलिका मडंल और अपने पत्रु सजुान के साथ किराए पर झग्गी में रहते थे। वे दैनिक मजदरूी और सफाई कर्मचर्मारी के रूप में काम करते थे।

प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने कुछ परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली: प्रमुख प्रस्थापनायें

- राणा सिंह   भारत में परजीवियों का एक विशाल समूह है जो बोलता है कि “सब कुछ माया है”,  लेकिन व्यवहार में यह समूह सारी जिंदगी इसी “माया” के पीछे पागल रहता है।  प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने इन परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली थी।

बिहार के ऐतिहासिक विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय के खंडहरों की परिक्रमा का रोमांचक अवसर

- सुमन्त शरण  कुछ दिन पहले एक सुदूर ग्रामीण अंचल (पीरपैंती)  से तकरीबन डेढ़-दो घंटे की दूरी पर अवस्थित ऐतिहासिक बौद्ध विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय (के अवशेषों) की परिक्रमा का अवसर मिला। विक्रमशीला विश्वविद्यालय की स्थापना पाल वंश के राजा धर्मपाल ने की थी। 8वीं शताब्दी से 12वीं शताब्दी के अंत तक यह विश्वविद्यालय भारत के प्रमुख शिक्षा केंद्रों में से एक हुआ करता था। कहा जाता है कि यह अपने कुछेक अत्यंत अनूठे नवाचार के चलते उस समय नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय का सबसे बड़ा प्रतिस्पर्धी था। हालांकि, मान्यता यह भी है कि अल्प अवधि के लिए दोनों विश्वविद्यालय के बीच शिक्षण एवं प्रबंधन के क्षेत्रों में घनिष्ठ पारस्परिक संबंध एवं शिक्षकों के आदान-प्रदान का सिलसिला भी रहा था। यह विश्वविद्यालय तंत्रशास्त्र की पढ़ाई के लिए सबसे ज्यादा विख्यात था। इस विषय का एक सबसे विख्यात छात्र अतीसा दीपनकरा था, जो बाद में तिब्बत जाकर बौद्ध हो गया। इसके प्रथम कुलपति ज्ञान अतिस थे।