Karnataka’s minister for information technology, biotechnology and tourism, Priyank Kharge, has written to the Election Commission requesting to conduct a hackathon challenge to test the machines for errors. His letter came just months before the state is scheduled to go for the crucial assembly polls.
In a letter posted on Twitter, Kharge wrote, “The large scale use of EVMs over the years has also led many to doubt the technology and possibilities of it being hacked or compromised technically to benefit candidates of choice.
“I would like to propose hosting an EVM challenge, jointly hosted by the government of Karnataka and the EC, inviting important stakeholders of the scientific community like technocrats, scientists, corporates, R&D institutes, startups and tinkerers and not just political parties to participate in the testing of EVM’s for errors.”
Wrote to the Election Commission for an EVM challenge that can be opened up for the scientific community rather than political parties. Also random verification of VVPATs would help to ensure clear doubts on EVMs. pic.twitter.com/7anzPbZj5C
— Priyank Kharge (@PriyankKharge) January 2, 2018
EVMs’ reliability has been a subject of scrutiny for many months, particularly after the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur last year.
In an expose, published by Janta Ka Reporter, it was revealed how the beneficiaries of the Rs 20,000 crore gas scam could be linked to the the American company that made microchips for Indian EVMs. Our report had also highlighted how the microchips were likely to be tampered with by the foreign manufacturers. (Watch the video below)
Kharge’s request comes after the state’s chief minister, Siddaramaiah, himself expressed doubts on the reliability of the EVMs while asking the Election Commission to return to ballot papers.
Speaking to media in Raichur in December last year, he had said, “Though it is an independent, constitutional body, they (Central government) have appointed those they want as the chief election commissioner. So what we are saying is, let’s go back to the old system. This is not just us, others — like Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh — have also raised this issue before the UP polls.”
Meanwhile, the EC said that it it will conduct a massive demonstration of at least 8,000 EVMs, expected to be used in the state for the assembly polls. Sanjiv Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer for Karnataka, was quoted by The Hindu, “The machines that will be used in Karnataka are an improvised version of the regular EVM. Similar machines were used in the recent Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls. There is no way they can be tampered with as the machine maintains a paper record of each vote cast through Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT).”
In the just concluded assembly polls in Gujarat, the EC had used the VVPAT machines, but the poll body refused to do a mandatory count of the paper slips with that of the EVMS. This despite the Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer, BB Swain’s claims that there were mismatch with the counting on EVMs and the paper slips.
As per the microchip manufacturer, Microchip Inc, their products are open to hacking, tampering and cloning. That, as per the manufacturer’s deposition in the US Court of Law, sharing of machine code (object code) is akin to sharing source code of a computer programme. The EC’s claims that the source code is protected is, therefore, also false.