R. K. Pillai**
India, one of the most vibrant democracies of the world and the land of colourful festivals, is at present immersed in a different festivity. The month-long festivity of franchise will reach its crescendo on 16th May when General Election results start pouring in on that day. For the first time our General Elections, the biggest exercise of its kind in the world, is being held in five phases. The mammoth process is of course a surprise for many countries and the world media is showing keen interest in our election process for its sheer size, systematic pattern and people’s involvement.
The men in uniform and other officials engaged in election duty is of course doing a commendable job. So too Electronic Voting Machines popularly known as EVMs. Like the 2004 General Elections, this time too the entire polling is being carried out using EVMs. This simple electronic device has transformed the entire election exercise of our country by either doing away or curtailing some of the inherent hassles of the election process.
EVMs were first put into use by the Election Commission in 1982 in Kerala for the bye-election in Paravur Assembly Constituency. This experimental use of EVMs were limited to 50 polling stations. From there it was indeed a great leap forward for the Election Commission. As many as 10.75 lakh EVMs were put into use during 2004 General Elections. The number has further gone up during the present elections.
As we know, apart from eliminating the possibility of invalid and doubtful votes, EVMs make counting of votes and results much faster. Nature lovers too have reasons to rejoice on the use of EVMs. Reduction in use of paper to a great extent is one advantage of this electronic device. Put together, during the General Elections in 1996 and 1999 as much as 16,500 metric tonnes of paper has been saved due to the use of EVMs. Noteworthy fall in printing cost of ballot papers is another plus point. Manufactured by two Central Government Undertakings, Bharath Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India, EVMs can be used even in the remotest areas having no electricity because the device runs on alkaline batteries. Operational simplicity and reliability make EVMs all the more acceptable. The standalone machine has no network connectivity and hence its programming cannot be interfered with or manipulated. The world recognizes the fact that the Indian democracy has inspired many nations especially those in our immediate neighbourhood. Bhutan has used EVMs made in India during their last elections.
As we salute the supreme sacrifice of the security personnel and the sense of belonging of tens of thousands of officials engaged in election duty across the length and breadth of the country let’s also say hats off to the simple electronic device, EVM. Needless to say that EVMs are of paramount importance in further taking our vibrant democracy from strengthen to strength.
*Media & Communications Officer, PIB, Thiruvananthapuram