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Mains Marathon

Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – April 17


  1. Do you think that EVMs are vulnerable? What are the concerns relating to the use of EVMs?(GS 2)

The Hindu | Live Mint

No:-

  • The Madras High Court also categorically ruled out any question of tampering of the EVMs.
    •  It said that EVMs cannot be compared to personal computers.
    • The programming in computers, as suggested, has no bearing with the EVMs.  The computer would have inherent limitations having connections through Internet and by their very design, they may allow the alteration of the programme but the EVMs are independent units and the programme in EVM is entirely a different system.
  • The data or technique brought in use in EVM in India were not subject to piracy as nobody knows anything about the contents of any type or has any unauthorized or free access to EVM.
  • The machine is electronically protected to prevent any tampering/manipulation. The programme (software) used in these machines is burnt into a One Time Programmable (OTP)/Masked chip so that it cannot be altered or tampered with.
  • Further these machines are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system. Therefore, there is no possibility of its data corruption.
  • The software of EVMs is developed in-house by a selected group of Engineers in BEL (Defense Ministry PSU) and ECIL (Atomic Energy Ministry’s PSU) independently from each other.
    •  A select software development group of 2-3 engineers designs the source code and this work is not sub-contracted.
  • After completion of software design, testing and evaluation of the software is carried out by an independent testing group as per the software requirements specifications (SRS). This ensures that the software has really been written as per the requirements laid down for its intended use only.
  • Source code is never handed over to anyone outside the software group of PSUs.
  • Bulk production clearance by PSU is given to micro controller manufacturer only after successful completion of this verification.
  • The source code for the EVM is stored under controlled conditions at all times. Checks and balances are in place to ensure that it is accessible to authorized personnel only.
  • During production in the factory, functional testing is done by production group as per the laid down Quality plan and performance test procedures.
  • The software is so designed that it allows a voter to cast the vote only once. The vote can be recorded by an elector from the ballot unit only after the Presiding Officer enables the ballot on the Control Unit. The machine does not receive any signal from outside at any time.
  • Samples of EVMs from production batches are regularly checked for functionality by Quality Assurance Group, which is an independent unit within the PSUs.
  • Certain additional features were introduced in 2006 in ECI-EVMs such as dynamic coding between Ballot Unit (BU) and Control Unit (CU), installation of real time clock, installation of full display system and date and time stamping of every key-pressing in EVM.
  • Technical Evaluation Committee in 2006 has concluded that any tempering of CU by coded signals by wireless or outside or Bluetooth or WiFi is ruled out as CU does not have high frequency receiver and data decoder.
  • Most of the systems used in other countries are Computer based with internet connectivity. Hence, these could be vulnerable to hacking. The ECI-EVMs cannot be compared with those EVMs.
  • As stated above, the software in the ECI-EVM chip is one time programmable (OTP) and burnt into the chip at the time of manufacture. Nothing can be written on the chip after manufacture. Thus the ECI-EVMs are fundamentally different from the voting machines and processes adopted in various foreign countries.
  • On the poll day, a mock poll by casting at least 50 votes is conducted at every polling station in the presence of the representatives of the candidates/polling agents with their signature and a mock-poll certificate to that effect is obtained from every Presiding Officer.
  • It`s easy to see the utility of the machine— it eliminates invalid votes, ends booth capturing, and makes counting easier and faster. It is tamper-proof, error-free and easy to operate

Yes:-

  • EVM Software Isn’t Safe
    • The electronic voting machines are safe and secure only if the source code used in the EVMs is genuine.
    • The EVM manufacturers, the BEL and ECIL have shared the ‘top secret’ EVM software program with two foreign companies, Microchip (USA) and Renesas (Japan) to copy it onto microcontrollers used in EVMs.
  • Each EVM contains two EEPROMs inside the Control Unit in which the voting data is stored. They are completely unsecured and the data inside EEPROMs can be manipulated from an external source. It is very easy to read (data from) the EEPROMs and manipulate them.
  • The EVM has no means for the voter to verify that his/her votes have been tallied properly.
  • The EVM has no  means outside of the memories of the voting machines themselves to audit or recount  the votes.
  • Secure storage of cast votes: The votes that are cast using the electronic voting machines, are stored in a safe storage or space in the computer machine memory.  The time gap between election and the counting of votes is a risk to possible hacking and manipulation.
  • Several countries in the world rejected Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) because they are difficult to secure, easily subject to manipulation and open to large scale fraud and pose a serious threat for free, fair and transparent elections in democratic societies.
  • EVMs  are allowed in most states of the US only with a paper back up. Indian EVMs do not produce a paper trail, which is  a major drawback .
  • Potential dangers of “vote fraud” and more importantly, lack of transparency and verifiability associated with them prompted ban or restrictions of their use.
  • Developed nations like the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Singapore have so far stuck to voting on paper ballots, owing to their simplicity, verifiability and voter confidence in the system.

What Can Be Done ?

  • A Voter Verified Paper Ballot (VVPB) Provides An Auditable Way To Assure Voters That Their Ballots Will Be Available To Be Ocounted. Without VVPB There Is No Way To Independently Audit The Election Results.
  • Use two machines produced by different manufacturers to records votes.
  • Expose the software behind EVMs to public scrutiny. Having the software closely examined by independent experts would make it easier to close technical loopholes that hackers can exploit.
  • Booth monitoring: Strict monitoring of the activities inside the polling booth is important to eliminate human elements responsible for frauid and corruption

  1. An independent judiciary is of critical importance in a political democracy, for it provides checks and balances vis-à-vis the executive and the legislature. Critically examine.(GS 2)

LiveMint

Background:-

  • Judicial Independence or Independence of Judiciary refers to an environment where judges are free to make decisions or pass judgment without any pressure from the government or other powerful entities.
  • Independence of Judiciary means that the judiciary as an organ of the government should be free from influence and control of the other two organs i.e., the executive and the legislature of government.

Why independent judiciary is important?

  • Judicial independence plays an important role in maintaining the democratic set-up of any country.
  • An impartial and independent judicial system alone can protect the rights of the citizens against the arbitrary powers of the executive or legislature.
  • Freedom from the influence and control of the executive is of crucial importance. It is important for individual freedom that the judges give their verdict without fear or favor.
  • It refers to an environment where the judge can pass impartial judgment.
  • Protection of fundamental fights(FR):
    • The FR are framed against state and judiciary is the guardian of citizen’s Fundamental Rights (article 32).
  • Protection of Minorities: The constitution prevents tyranny of Majority and judiciary ensures it .For instance the cases like Babri masjid Judgement, NEET judgement, Shah Bhano judgement, Mandal case etc
  • There have been instances last year when the states were reeling under drought but measures was not taken by the governments and judiciary had to step in to acknowledge the water crisis.
  • Independent judiciary also helps in settling federal disputes.

Why is it not?

  • While many of the judgements ensured thriving democracy in India, some cases like recent National Highway Liquor outlet judgement, NJAC judgement etc may be treated as Judicial overreach.
  • Judiciary has been criticised for overstepping into executive orders like making it mandatory to stand for national anthem in theatres.
  • Judiciary is involving itself in matters related to administration and financial matters of the state

Suggestions:-

  • There is a need to bring reforms in judiciary by making the system transparent,passing the judicial accountability bill ,appointments through NJAC etc.

Therefore, Maintaining checks and balances between the different organs of constitution is necessary for political democracy, if it’s not abided it may lead to supremacy of one authority in turn hurting the basic foundations of constitution, hence maintaining an independent and integrated judiciary is essential.


  1. Citizens have the right to access the Internet to gain information, wisdom and knowledge and their right cannot be curtailed unless it encroaches into the boundary of illegality. Comment.(GS 2)

The Hindu

In light of digital revolution curbing information online is a violation of fundamental right but necessary checks need to be ensured tas that doesn’t encroach legality.

No:-

  • Internet has opened a new era of possibilities and opportunities to people and has been a major source of information to every age group.
  • Knowing about e-commerce offers can result in access to low-cost goods and save time
  • Knowing about governments activities and link with government through Twitter like platforms.
  • Curtailing right to access internet has wide reaching consequences and now can even put the daily life activities at halt for eg.banking, ticket booking

Yes:

  • Child pornographic content cannot be allowed
  • Information related to terrorist activities shouldn’t be accessible
  • Anti-national campaigning or related activities cannot be allowed
  • Cyber bullying of women
  • Violation of laws. Ex: Access to information related to foeticide.

To avoid misuse a cyber law can be brought in by the government and necessary precautions are needed but banning altogether is not a very welcome stand.


 

 

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