Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts

Friday 31 May 2024

Can We Manipulate EVMs to Change the Outcome of Elections?

The integrity of electronic voting machines (EVMs) has been a topic of intense debate and scrutiny. Madhav Deshpande, a respected EVM expert, has sparked significant concern by asserting that while EVMs cannot be hacked due to their lack of internet connectivity, they are vulnerable to manipulation. Deshpande, a former CEO of Tulip Software and a consultant to the Obama administration, provided both a diagnosis of the problem and practical solutions in a detailed interview with Karan Thapar.

Understanding the Vulnerabilities:
EVMs, which include the ballot unit, control unit, and the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine, were first introduced in India in the early 2000s. Deshpande explained that these machines are “under-designed” and rely on outdated technology that has not been updated to incorporate advancements made since their inception. This has resulted in systemic weaknesses that could potentially allow for tampering.

Key Points of Manipulation:
1. VVPAT Configuration:
The VVPAT machine, which provides a paper trail of votes cast, is placed between the ballot unit and the control unit. This configuration can be exploited to alter the recorded vote. If the connection between these units is interfered with, it could lead to discrepancies between the votes cast and the votes recorded.
2. Control Unit Vulnerabilities:
The control unit, which tallies the votes, can theoretically be replaced or pre-loaded with votes. Since any control unit can work with any ballot unit, this opens the door to substitution of the control unit either before or after voting to manipulate the results.

Proposed Solutions:
Deshpande suggested simple and cost-effective remedies to safeguard against these vulnerabilities:
Effective Pairing: Ensuring that each ballot unit and control unit are paired with a unique serial cable to prevent substitution.
Geolocation Tracking: Attaching a GPS device to the EVMs (without integrating it electronically) to track their movements and ensure they do not go astray.

Case Studies and Allegations:
1. Kerala Mock Poll Incident:
During a mock poll in Kasargod, allegations were made that EVMs registered extra votes in favour of the BJP. Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul attributed this to a ‘procedural mistake’. However, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to investigate these claims, which the Commission dismissed.
2. Supreme Court Involvement:
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) filed a petition before the Supreme Court in 2023, advocating for cross-verification of EVM votes with VVPAT slips to ensure election integrity. Despite evidence of discrepancies in the 2019 elections, the Supreme Court took five years to address the issue, raising concerns about the oversight and accountability of the Election Commission.

Data-Driven Proof of Manipulation:
Evidential data from the 2019 Lok Sabha elections highlighted significant discrepancies between the number of votes polled and those counted across several constituencies:

Kancheepuram: EC data reported 12,14,086 votes polled but 12,32,417 votes counted, a surplus of 18,331 votes.
Dharmapuri: 11,94,440 votes polled versus 12,12,311 counted, a surplus of 17,871 votes.
Sriperumbudur: 13,88,666 votes polled against 14,03,178 counted, a surplus of 14,512 votes.
Mathura: 10,88,206 votes polled versus 10,98,112 counted, a surplus of 9,906 votes.

These discrepancies underline the necessity for robust mechanisms to ensure the accuracy and transparency of the electoral process.

Expert Opinions and Public Sentiment:
Retired IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam has been a vocal critic of the current EVM system, advocating for a return to ballot papers which he deems the “gold standard of electoral democracy.” Devasahayam argues that the lack of end-to-end verifiability in the current system undermines voter confidence. Public opinion mirrors this sentiment, with a pre-poll survey by The Hindu and CSDS-Lokniti revealing that 50% of respondents distrusted EVMs.

Technological and Security Concerns:
One of the core issues with EVMs is their reliance on outdated technology. Deshpande and other experts have emphasized the need for regular technological upgrades to ensure security. While earlier concerns about ballot paper systems included booth capturing and ballot stuffing, modern advancements in surveillance and communication technology could mitigate these risks. However, electronic manipulation remains a significant concern due to the potential for remote interference.

International Perspective:
Globally, many democracies that experimented with electronic voting have reverted to paper ballots. This shift underscores the importance of verifiable and transparent voting processes. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have moved back to paper ballots after facing challenges with electronic systems.

The possibility of EVM manipulation, though not hacking, poses a substantial threat to the integrity of democratic elections. Madhav Deshpande’s insights provide a clear path for safeguarding EVMs against tampering through straightforward and affordable solutions. With elections approaching, it is imperative for the Election Commission to act swiftly to implement these measures and restore public trust in the electoral process. Failure to address these vulnerabilities could lead to widespread doubts about the legitimacy of election outcomes, undermining the foundation of democracy itself.

Deshpande, M. (2024). Interview with Karan Thapar. YouTube Video.
Warrier, S. (2024). EVMs: Are They Really Reliable? Interview with M.G. Devasahayam. Retrieved from
The Quint. (2019). Lok Sabha Election Results 2019: Mismatch in Votes Polled and Counted in EVM on Multiple Seats. The Quint.
The Hindu and CSDS-Lokniti. (2024). Pre-poll Survey. The Hindu.
Association for Democratic Reforms. (2023). Petition for Cross-Verification of EVM Votes with VVPAT Slips. ADR India.

Friday 1 March 2024

India's Growth Story: A Tale of Contradictions and Missed Opportunities

India’s much-touted 8.4% GDP growth paints a deceptive picture of economic progress. Beneath the surface lies a deeply troubling reality: a government whose urban-centric policies are pushing India's vast rural population further into poverty, exacerbating inequality, and fuelling dangerous social polarisation.

A Tale of Two Indias

The government's focus on urban development and manufacturing is evident in its latest budget. Food subsidies have been slashed by 3.3%, fertiliser subsidies have seen reductions, and capital expenditure remains essentially unchanged. This approach, framed as fiscal prudence, represents a dangerous gamble. It sacrifices the well-being of rural communities in the hope that manufacturing gains will somehow offset the pain.

This gamble is based on flawed logic. As former Planning Commission member Pronab Sen argues, investment alone cannot sustain growth. Healthy consumption is vital, yet India's consumption growth rate languishes around 3.5%. This starkly contrasts with the expected three-fold return for every rupee invested, calling into question the long-term sustainability of the current economic trajectory.

The Price of Progress

The government's relentless focus on urban development and manufacturing comes at a steep cost. Slashed food and fertiliser subsidies are a direct attack on the livelihoods of millions of farmers and agricultural workers. These cuts, coupled with stagnant capital expenditure, reveal a disturbing disregard for the backbone of the Indian economy – its rural sector. This misguided approach ignores the fundamental principle that healthy consumption is the lifeblood of sustainable growth. India's anaemic consumption growth rate underscores this failure. The divergence between GDP and GVA figures, driven by increased taxes and withdrawn subsidies, suggests the government is artificially inflating growth numbers to mask the economic hardship faced by ordinary Indians.

When Numbers Don't Add UpAdditional warning signs lie in the divergence between GDP and Gross Value Added (GVA) figures. The latter is a better indicator of the economy's productive capacity. This divergence, driven by increased taxes and withdrawn subsidies, suggests that growth may be artificially propped up, masking a grim reality for average citizens. The elephant in the room is India's obscene level of economic inequality.

The most glaring consequence of these policies is the obscene level of economic inequality. Recent reports indicate that India's top 10% hold over 57% of the country's total wealth, a shocking figure highlighting the chasm between the haves and have-nots. This concentration of wealth perpetuates a cycle where the rich get richer, and those at the bottom struggle to survive. Such disparity breeds resentment, instability, and increasingly, a dangerous trend of polarisation and racism within Indian society.

The Talent Exodus

The government's failure to create sufficient, well-paying jobs is driving India's most talented and skilled workers to seek opportunities abroad. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, over 13.6 million Indians reside outside the country. While precise state-level data is hard to come by, the overall trend is clear. India suffers from a significant "brain drain," with skilled professionals opting for better prospects in countries that value their contributions. This exodus represents a tremendous loss of human capital. It robs India of potential innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders who could play a crucial role in building a truly inclusive and prosperous future.

The Need for a New Approach

Government spending has fuelled some growth, but the upcoming push to reduce the fiscal deficit will likely slam the brakes on this avenue. Private consumption needs to compensate, yet it's hamstrung by income inequality and a lack of opportunity for the majority. Job creation is the key – good jobs that generate decent incomes, boosting spending power and fuelling a virtuous cycle.


The current government seems to lack a coherent strategy to capitalise on India's greatest asset: its massive, hardworking population. Instead of empowering domestic industries like textiles, where jobs could be plentiful, we see India losing ground to smaller competitors like Vietnam.


Time for a Reckoning

India's economic model is fundamentally broken. Instead of fostering broad-based development, the government seems intent on benefiting a privileged minority at the expense of the majority. This approach is not only morally reprehensible but also economically unsustainable.

India has the potential to be an economic powerhouse, but only if it harnesses the potential of its entire population. This requires a dramatic course correction:

  • Prioritise Rural Development: Invest in agriculture, rural infrastructure, and programs that empower communities and create opportunities at the local level.
  • Foster Inclusive Growth: Implement policies that promote equitable wealth distribution, progressive taxation, and robust social safety nets.
  • Stem the Brain Drain: Create an environment where skilled workers see a future for themselves in India. This means competitive salaries, opportunities for advancement, and a focus on innovation.
  • Combat Polarisation: Promote a culture of tolerance, inclusion, and respect for India's diverse communities. Hold accountable those who spread hatred and division.

India's impressive GDP growth is a hollow victory when vast numbers of its citizens are left behind. True progress will only be achieved when all Indians, regardless of background or origin, have a genuine chance to prosper.