India has manufactured 1.3 million electronic voting machines (EVM) in a bid to make the electoral process of this vast democracy speedier and counting of votes more accurate. And it is tamper proof, both mechanically and electronically, says the Election Commission.
"The Bangalore-based M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd and the Hyderabad-headquartered M/s Electronics Corp of India Ltd have been authorised to manufacture and supply EVMs to us," said an official of the Election Commission while replying to a query submitted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
In response to the query from Harikumar P of Kerala, the commission's information officer SR Kar also gave assurances about the integrated safety measures of the voting machines.
"The machine is both mechanically and electronically protected to prevent any tampering, manipulation or alternation of the programme code and polled data," Kar said.
Each EVM costs around Rs. 8,000.
According to Kar, the returning officer seals the machine before polling. A thread seal for the door of 'candidate set' compartment and separate seal for power pack compartment are implemented.
It also includes a green paper and a thread seal for the result section, another for the bottom compartment and an outer paper seal for the result compartment.
The micro controller used in the EVM has a one-time programme read only memory (OTPROM). Programme codes permanently fused in OPTROM and once written and fused cannot be read back or cannot be altered by anybody including the manufacturer, Kar added.
The PCB (printed circuit board) consists of micro-controller integrated circuit device with the main programme codes permanently fused into the device manufactured.
EVMs have been a contentious issue in some countries, with a debate over their suitability even in the US.
Even when some countries have critiqued the Indian EVMs for not having a verifiable "paper trail" (paper-based cross-checking mechanism) and a lack of public verifiability of its source code, others have appreciated the simplicity of design of the machines unlike their more complex counterparts elsewhere.
In India, the cost of the 1989-90 models of EVM (excluding battery) was Rs. 4,900 per machine (ex-factory price), transportation and transit-insurance extra.
EVMs supplied in 2000-01 cost Rs. 8,670 without batteries including excise, sales tax and freight.
Expected cost of EVM for the current supply (in 2006-07) is Rs.8,670 each excluding excise, sales tax and freight.
Of the 1.3 million deployed, a little over two-dozen faced problems, Kar said.
"The EVMs returned due to technical defect are replaced by the manufacturer. The number of EVMs abandoned are very few," he said.
Though there is no special handbook by the Election Commission regarding maintenance and usage of EVMs, a 43-page test report of the PV Indiresan Committee is the only document that has analysed the issue in India.
Techies discussing this issue on the India-GII network in cyberspace, however, have voiced some concerns about the prices nearly doubling in a decade.