oppn parties Should We Go Back To The 'Paper' Age?

News Snippets

  • Special DG (Training) in CRPF, S N Shrivastava, appointed special commissioner (law & order) in Delhi Police in order to quell the violence. He is also expected to take over as chief of Delhi police once Amulya Patnaik's term ends on February 29
  • Curfew and shoot at sight orders reportedly in force in some areas, but Delhi Police HQ does not issue a notice for the same
  • The Central government has pressed paramilitary forces to control the riots in Delhi
  • Mobs in Delhi target journalists, check them for religious identity and snatch equipment
  • 13 people deal until now in one of the worst spells of violence in Delhi
  • Violence in Delhi shows no signs of abating with fresh areas in the north-eastern part of the capital coming under its grip
  • Delhi High Court says DGCA was wrong in approving the flying ban on stand-up comic Kunal Kamra by airlines other than Indigo for his alleged misbehavior with TV anchor Arnab Goswami aboard an Indigo flight
  • The Bihar assembly passes a resolution to stick to the old NPR form, making it the first NDA state to do so
  • Arms deal for advanced helicopters, worth $3bn, signed with the US, but the trade deal remains elusive
  • Trump says he has a good equation with Pak PM Imran Khan and assures India that Pakistan is working to reduce cross border terrorism
  • Trump once again offers to mediate in the Kashmir issue
  • Trump says it is up to India to decide on the CAA
  • US President Donald Trump says PM Modi wants religious freedom for all
  • US President Donald Trump lands in Ahmedabad, received at the airport by Prime Minister Modi
  • US President Donald Trump to land in India today
Continuing violence in Delhi takes the sheen off the visit by US President Donald Trump
oppn parties
Should We Go Back To The 'Paper' Age?

By Linus Garg

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Linus tackles things head-on. He takes sides in his analysis and it fits excellently with our editorial policy. No 'maybe's' and 'allegedly' for him, only things in black and white.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora was accosted by journalists in Kolkata and asked whether there will be a return to paper ballots as demanded by several opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The CEC cited several Supreme Court decisions which categorically stated that paper ballots were our past and said that the commission had no plans to replace the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with paper ballots.

Even without any direction from the Supreme Court, it is a simple fact that a nation should always move ahead. The opposition parties want India to go back in time. Their reasons for the same are also not very convincing. They cite two main reasons for their demand for scrapping the EVMs. First, they say that developed countries like the UK and the US, where almost the entire population is literate, had used and discarded the technology and hence there is no reason why a country like India, where more than half the population is illiterate, should continue with it. Then, they say that since EVMs are prone to hacking, the results can be manipulated in favour of a particular party or candidate.

Before citing the example of the US and the UK, the opposition parties should have taken a look at their population. The US had only 33.72cr people and the UK only 6.6cr in 2018 whereas India’s population stood at 133.92cr in 2017. It is easy for them to conduct a paper ballot election given the small size of their population. In India, the paper ballot system was heavily rigged and suffered from a number of logistical problems. Booth capturing, forcibly stamping ballot papers and other criminal activity were rampant and that was the main reason why EVMs were developed and put into use. If we go back to that system, we would also encourage a return of all the criminal activities.

As for the allegation that EVMs can be hacked, yes, certainly they can be hacked. Any technology is prone to hacking but the question is: are the EVMs being hacked for gain by ruling parties as alleged by the opposition? The opposition parties have alleged that the landslide victory of the NDA in 2019 is mainly due to the fact that they hacked the EVMs. But this is not true and the opposition has not provided an iota of proof other than bringing some people to show how the machines can be hacked. The level of hacking operation alleged is not possible without the connivance of a huge number of people. Just one disgruntled whistleblower could have revealed all and the media snoops would have made it happen if there was any truth in the allegations.

The entire banking system in India has converted to core banking system connected on the internet. All bank branches are linked to the central server of the bank which in turn is linked to the servers of the RBI. The entire system is prone to hacking. So should we revert to the handwritten, bahi-khata system of accounting? Should we junk technology just because it is prone to hacking? Instead of suggesting checks and balances (the VVPAT being one) and making the system robust, the opposition parties want to return to paper ballots just on the assumption of hacking. Yet, they have not answered the main question: if the BJP wins by hacking EVMs, how did it lose in Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and almost lost in the prestigious Gujarat assembly polls? Given the increasing penetration of mobile phones, we should think of enabling mobile-based, password-protected (after voter verification through his details like Voter's ID number) voting system linked to the server of the Election Commission instead of going back to the ‘paper’ age.