EC’s decision on reserve EVMs in Madhya Pradesh raises questions
The district returning officers have been asked to send the reserve unused EVMs/VVPATs to the designated State Central Warehouse the day after elections – Election Day and plus one.
The decision of the Election Commission asking district returning officers to send all the reserve, unused and training and awareness EVMs/VVPAT from each district to Bhopal has been red-flagged by officials who say it will create massive problems for district administration as they will have to depute extra forces to bring the machines to Bhopal.
This is the first time that such a policy is being implemented. Earlier, the unused reserve EVMs were stored at the district headquarters in a separate building, but in the same premises where the used EVMs were stored.
Now, the district returning officers have been asked to send the reserve unused EVMs/VVPATs to the designated State Central Warehouse the day after elections – Election Day and plus one.
Sagar Division Congress spokesperson Virendra Gour said if unused reserve EVMs are kept in the district headquarters any irregularity can be easily caught. But who will track them if they are sent to Bhopal where thousands of other EVMs are also going to come at the same time.
“We have demanded that the EVMs should be kept under our eyes at the district headquarters,” Gour said, adding that the EC should stick to the old policy.
Outlining the likely problems, an official involved in the election process who did not want to be named said, “Usually polling continues till 6 pm and afterward used machine are locked, collected, loaded and sent to a strong room which continues till early hours of the next day. Now at the same time, we will have to collect the unused reserve EVMs sent them to Bhopal which will be cumbersome for us.”
Damoh Collector and district returning officer Neeraj Singh said that the EC’s order will be followed and he has not received any objection from political parties in this regard.
Sources said that this decision was taken because of the problems faced during the Assembly elections and EVMs/VVPATs reaching respective district headquarters and Bhopal days after polls ended leading to allegations that the EVMs/VVPATs had been manipulated. For example, in Khurai, Sagar district, the EVMs reached the strong room 48 hours after elections ended and the returning officer was sacked.
Chief election officer V L Kantha Rao said transporting them won’t be an issue. “There is adequate security personnel to escort them to Bhopal,” he said.
CEO Rao said the EC ordered the centralised storage of unused reserved EVMs/VVPATs because it would be easier to transport EVMs if required in another place. “This policy won’t have an impact in Madhya Pradesh where elections are in the last four phases, therefore, the possibility of EVMs going from the state to other places is minimum, but in places where elections are in the early phases there is a possibility that they could be used in other states.”