Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI December 19 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 53 secs

Humra  Quraishi comments on the dissatisfaction of Indian voters with EVMs and explains how transparency can be achieved by the Election Commission simply by following directions of the Supreme Court orders.

There’s a strange sort of unease among the voters about the elections results emerging from EVMs. Last week, on 8 December 2023, M. G. Devasahayam, a former bureaucrat and now an activist and coordinator of the  Citizens Commission on Elections (CCE), sent to the  Election  Commission of India and the Election Commissioners a  memorandum, which is signed by  thousands of  voters. To quote Devasahayam on this:  “Electronically so far signed by over 6500 voters.  In addition, over 10,000 citizens have signed the Memorandum physically, which is being sent separately. This has been done with our limited resources clearly indicating the huge trust-deficit that exists on the conduct of free and fair elections by the Election Commission. We are sending this by email because ECI has sealed itself and is not accessible to ordinary citizens like us who constitute the Indian democratic republic.” 

Details of the demands mentioned in this memorandum are: “Ensure the integrity of voting and counting. The VVPAT system should be re-calibrated to be fully voter-verifiable. A voter should be able to get the VVPAT slip in her hand and cast it in a chip-free ballot box for the vote to be valid. These VVPAT slips should be fully counted first for all constituencies before the results are declared. For this purpose, VVPAT slips should be larger in size and must be printed in such a manner that they can be preserved for a minimum of five years. Subsequently, if need be, the results of the counting of VVPAT slips should be cross verified with the electronic tallies of the EVMs for every constituency before the results are declared. In case of any mismatch, the counting of the VVPAT slips should be treated as the final result as also laid down in Rule 56(d)(4)(b) of The Conduct of the Election (Amendment) Rules, 2013. Forms 17A (Register of electors) and Forms 17C (Account of votes recorded) must be tallied and be publicly disclosed at the end of polling on the polling day itself. Forms 17A and 17C should also be tallied with the manual count of VVPAT slips before the declaration of results.” 

In this memorandum there’s also focus on other crucial aspects including ‘integrity of  electoral  rolls - to prevent arbitrary deletions, the ECI must ensure that prior notice is issued to every voter whose name is proposed to be deleted. This has also been directed by the Supreme Court in its recent judgment dated 4-8-2023 in which it was stated “No deletion should be done without following due process of law as contained in the R P Act, 1950 and the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960. In all cases a notice must be issued to the elector and must be duly served on him. This is critical to ensure that no voter is left behind. The ECI should immediately implement a transparent and public system of Social Audit of Electoral Rolls. Voter’s lists must be publicly displayed in the most accessible manner and also made available on the ECI website in a searchable database. Citizens should be empowered to check their own information as well as that of bogus names and duplicates in their area.”

The focus in on yet another crucial aspect: The ECI must strongly advocate for transparency in political party funding and ensure that money-power does not sway elections and their outcome. It must oppose electoral bonds that provide for unlimited anonymous funding of political parties.

I’m not sure what impact all these suggestions or demands will have. Today, as  frustrations and disappointment are immense, who’s there  to listen to ordinary people and address their concerns? Most are just accepting whatever is being heaped on them.

I’ve also been in deep sorrow and pain as the news reached of the killing of the Palestinian poet-academic Dr Refaat Alareer. On the 6th of December 2023,  he and several members of his  family (his  brother, sister and three of her children) were killed in a targeted Israeli airstrike.

So, I’m ending this column with a Refaat Alareer verse, ‘I am You’:  

Look in the mirror:/The horror, the horror!/The butt of your M-16 on my cheekbone/The yellow patch it left/The bullet-shaped scar expanding/Like a swastika,/Snaking across my face,/The heartache flowing/Out of my eyes dripping/Out of my nostrils piercing/My ears flooding/The place./Like it did to you/70 years ago/Or so./I am just you.”

And  his  very  last verse was. ‘If  I  Must  Die’ - Spreading out across the globe  his words, his emotions,  his  sentiments…his  this verse translate into the different languages, they’re recited by hundreds and thousands in many, many lands:

If I must die,/you must live/to tell my story/to sell my things/to buy a piece of cloth/and some strings,/(make it white with a long tail)/so that a child,/somewhere in Gaza/while looking heaven in the eye/awaiting his dad who left in a blaze–/and bid no one farewell/not even to his flesh/not even to himself–/sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up/above/and/thinks for a moment an angel is there/bringing back love/If I must die/let it bring hope/let it be a tale.

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