Doubt on security: EC tries to allay EVM fears

Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party joint candidate from Ghazipur, Afzal Ansari, stages a protest outside the strongroom, alleging that the administration was trying to change EVMs, in Ghazipur, on May 20, 2019. PTI

A number of videos surfaced on social media on Tuesday, showing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) being stored in apparently unauthorised places and moved around without being escorted by securitymen in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar.

The videos fuelled speculation over the security of the EVMs, which were used to conduct the seven-phased polling for Lok Sabha elections as well as Assembly elections in four states. With the counting of votes scheduled to be held on Thursday, the poll panel swung tried to allay apprehensions over the security of “polled EVMs” stored in “strongrooms” along with Voter verifiable Paper Audit Trail devices (VVPATs) across the country.

The Election Commission dismissed the videos, stating that the EVMs being shown in the videos were the ones kept in reserve, and not used for polling.

S Y Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner, however, took to Twitter to point out that the guidelines required both the polled and unused reserve EVMs to be protected and escorted by armed security personnel round the clock and returned together after polling.

The Election Commission, however, sought to allay the concerns, saying “any case of lapse even in the handling of reserve EVMs” would be thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action taken against officers responsible.

It also set up an 'EVM Control Room' at its headquarters in Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi to monitor complaints relating to the machines. An official said that the control room would receive and examine complaints related to storage issues at strongrooms, security of strongrooms, permission to candidates to post their agents at strongrooms, CCTV monitoring, movement of EVMs and any other allegation related to the machines during counting.

A video from Chandauli in Uttar Pradesh showed EVMs being offloaded and stored inside a counting centre. The supporters of the Samajwadi Party filmed the video and can be heard asking officials why the machines were being brought in a day after polling. The local officials said that 35 reserve EVMs had been transported to the counting centre later than the other EVMs because of “logistical” difficulties. The Bahujan Samaj Party supporters staged a sit-in to protest attempts to take out a vehicle full of voting machines.

Similar allegations also came in from Domriyaganj, Jhansi, Mau and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, as well as from different places in Haryana, Punjab and Bihar.

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