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Private firms behind campaign against EVMs: Chawla

The Election Commission has dismissed claims that the electronic voting machines could be tampered with. File photo

The Election Commission has dismissed claims that the electronic voting machines could be tampered with. File photo  

Dismissing claims that the electronic voting machines could be tampered with, Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla on Saturday said that private manufacturers, who failed to sell their machines for use in polls, were behind the propaganda that EVMs were vulnerable.

“I would not like to name the private manufacturers. But one of them is behind the latest move,” Mr. Chawla said in reply to a question about a recent research by a professor of University of Michigan and his students on an EVM look-alike which could be wirelessly hacked for manipulating results.

Mr. Chawla said the machines used in the study were not originals.

“Look-alike machines have chips different from ours which are developed by two well-known Navaratna public sector companies. We have no doubt that our EVMs are cent per cent tamper-proof and foolproof,” he said.

He said the Election Commission had 1.3 million EVMs manufactured by two Navaratna companies.

“I have gone through all aspects and vouch that each one of them are cent per cent tamper-proof and are not vulnerable at all,” he said.

When the Election Commission invited experts to hack EVMs used in elections in the presence of the commission members, they failed to accept the challenge, the CEC said.

Asked why such machines were withdrawn in some countries, Mr. Chawla said they used privately manufactured machines off the shelves which could be hacked easily.

“Unlike them we keep the public sector manufactured EVMs under double lock and completely secure. There is accountability at every level,” Mr. Chawla said.

He said that several companies had approached the Election Commission asking it to lend the EVMs for research, but this was not agreed to. “How can we lend our machines to private parties?”

Mr. Chawla said that in 2001, different High Courts had rejected petitions against EVMs used by the Election Commission.

One of the High Courts had even ordered the petitioner to pay Rs. 5000 as cost while another rejected a petition when it learnt that what was being referred to was a look-alike model and not EVMs manufactured by BHEL or ECIL for use in polling booths, Mr. Chawla said.

The EVMs were dispatched to different places at random so the question of manipulating them in favour of a particular party or candidate did not arise, Mr. Chawla said.

He said there was also a foolproof system backed by government officials in place.

Returning officers come to know who would accompany EVMs and where they were destined for just prior to the polling day. “Is it possible to manipulate machines in these circumstances?” he asked.

He said that in the U.S. there were different systems, including touch-screen machines and there was no uniformity.

“It is a great achievement on our part to conduct elections maintaining uniformity with a vast electorate of 716 million voters, which is more than the entire population of Europe.”

He also said that over 80 per cent of the electorate have been provided with Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and the commission expected cent per cent coverage by next year.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 7:43:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Private-firms-behind-campaign-against-EVMs-Chawla/article16241200.ece

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