Will Hariprasad go down in history as an EVM thief or has he just set a precedent which could change the manner in which India votes in the future? The arrest of Hariprasad who showed on TV how an EVM could be hacked and also stolen out of a godown did not go down too well with the Election Commission of India which filed a complaint and had him arrested.
There has been an uproar over the arrest and several petitions demanding his release have been doing the rounds. G V L N Rao, President of the Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency & Accountability in Elections (VeTA) who is also the author of the book, “Democracy at Risk: Can we trust Electronic Voting Machines,” says that the action against Hariprasad has opened up the pandoras box. The Election Commission of India has lied to the people that the EVM is fool proof and no matter how they try and bully us, we will continue fighting to prove our point in the interest of the Indian democracy. In this interview with rediff.com, Rao says that he has gone umpteen number of times to the Election Commission of India to debate this issue, but we have always been denied. Let them chose a platform in public to debate the matter, we are ready provided they agree.
Your immediate concern must be about Hariprsad and his release. What are you doing about it?
The battle is now a legal one. We have put forth the best legal team to fight the matter and are exploring all other options to secure his release. What we understand is that this is nothing but EC sponspored police raj.
Has this arrest deterred all of you?
No it has not. In fact it has provoked us to prove that the machine can be tampered with. They have lied to the people and this is what made us challenge them in the first place. We have not started this fight only to prove that EVMs can be tampered with. Our fight is to ensure transparency in the democratic process.
You speak of paper documents when the world is trying to go paperless.
It is needed. This is an election and there has to be a fair process. We are not against technology. It is a machine after all and can be tampered with. Paper records are being used in other parts of the world to ensure that the election process is fair and transparent. Why cant the same be done in India?
What in your opinion has made the ECI react so sharply? According to you, you want to bring about transparency then why should the ECI have a problem?
The ECI has taken upon itself to prove to the world that this machine is the best thing on earth. Some courts have termed it as a jewel of India. Why is the ECI making this a prestige issue? It is not a machine that has been developed by them. The makers of the machine, BEL themselves have said that it is reliably fool proof. When the manufacturers themselves have made such a claim why is the ECI acting in this manner?
Have you made any attempt to meet someone from the ECI and debate the matter?
Several times. We have been denied any opportunity to make our point. If they are so sure then let them debate with us on a public platform. Let the media be present during such a debate. The fact is that the ECI never wanted a dialogue with us. Their claim that the machine is fool proof is bogus and that is why at every step to defend themselves they have blocked us.
Some say that the EVMs were rigged during the previous elections? Isn’t that a bogus claim. Why didn’t the Congress rig it to attain a majority in Parliament What about Karnataka where they lost. Also in the case of the recent by-polls even the TRS was proved wrong.
No body is alleging that the elections were rigged. We are just saying it can be tampered with. It may have been rigged in one or two places, but no one knows and we don’t want to make any such allegations either. Since it is a machine and can be tampered with, the system needs an overhaul. Remember an election can never be fought on trust, it is always fought on proof.
What do you mean by fought on proof?
Let us face the fact that the ECI knows nothing about the EVMs. There are so many loop holes in this machine and an awareness regarding this is already existing. When matters are such, every losing candidate will have a doubt about the result. As a losing candidate how do I verify the result? The machine does not give any proof or allow me to detect a fraud.
Are you making a political point?
Not at all and we are not interested in making any political point. As I said our claim is not that the elections are rigged. We are saying in future let there be transparency. Alright, there is technology, but my point is why should it not evolve? Let us identify the flaws and rectify it. The ECI must realize that the EVM is a primitive device and should stop lying to the country that is is state of the art.
Do you think the ECI is on some ego trip?
It looks like. They are unable to accept that someone has finally proved them wrong. They have invested too much of their faith in this machine. The ECI has done a commendable job in other areas and let them take credit for that. Why are they clinging on to this? It is funny, but they appear to be acting like the vendors of the machine. The Hariprasad case has only shown their scientific intolerance.
Ethical hacking is one part of the issue and stealing an EVM is a whole other ball game. Do you approve of this?
We have proved how vulnerable the system is. The ECI themselves have claimed in the past that 80 machines have gone missing. Have they initiated an inquiry or harassed those people. Here we have shown to them in the open. They are harassing us. All they are interested in knowing is who has provided us with the machine. They claim to have their checks and balances in place. If that is so then why was it so easy to get a machine out? It has happened in Mumbai, a metropolitan city. Can you imagine what must be the case in smaller areas? They keep asking us for the name of the person who handed over the machine to us. Don’t they know who is in charge of the godown? Let us face it, all EVMs are insecure and the ECI does not want to accept it.
So, what is the next course of action?
The action by the ECI has increased our resolve to fight. All we were trying to do is to enter into a dialogue with them and make the election process fair. But they chose to go ahead and arm twist us. This is just not done.