Election Commission of India is an institution that makes India proud. However, not everything EC does seems to be making National Human Rights Council happy. Focus of the recent spat has been the radically new design of Electronic Voting Machines proposed by EC.
Bogus voting remains a long standing problem in India. EC has been able to control it to some extent by indelible inks and voter ids. However, the malpractice doesn’t seem to recede. It is interesting to note that Indian democracy is at the forefront of technology adoption in the world. Buoyed by success of EVMs, EC had asked for prototypes that may effectively curb the menace.
Various companies came forward with proposal in the year 2013. The winning idea was based on biometrics. The voter was supposed to press his thumb on a fingerprint scanner. Only if the finger print was found unique, voting process proceeded. The design didn’t stop there. In order to find offenders, it also locked up the thumb of mischief-makers. Only when an FIR number was logged against it, it released the thumb. EC was reportedly so happy with this “stop the menace and hold the goon” solution that it was ready for poll process to be interrupted by such cases.
When NHRC learned about the solution, it was very upset. “Come on! ‘anguThaa chhaap’ is the identity of a common man! How can you lock national identity up?” said one of the members of NHRC. Yet another member was even more upset: “Such an EVM would be fundamentally wrong from human rights point of view. Every offender has human rights, the victims may not! This new design turns this fundamental premise on its head.”
As it stands, radically brilliant ideas like this in India remain stuck between thumbs up, down and stuck.