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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 16-17, April 20, April 27, 2024

Findings of ADR & National Election Watch / Prison Conditons | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 20 April 2024, by Humra Quraishi


18 April 2024
Humra Quraishi

I read and re-read news reports focusing on the latest findings of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch: A total of 250 candidates in the fray for the second phase of the Lok Sabha election have criminal cases against them, according to an analysis conducted by the ADR and National Election Watch, of self-sworn affidavits of the contestants. The analysis was carried out on 1,192 of the 1,198 candidates contesting in the second phase of the election.

Absolutely shocking findings : three facing murder charges, twenty-four have attempt to murder charges against them, twenty-five candidates have declared cases related to crimes against women and one of them faces rape charges under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).Twenty-one candidates are linked to cases of hate speeches. It also showed that 52 per cent of the 87 seats scheduled to go to polls in the second of the seven-phase elections are ’red alert’ constituencies - Red alert’ constituencies are those where three or more candidates have declared criminal cases in their affidavits.

Needless to say that with level of criminality sinking in the politicians who’d be contesting, there’s little hope for the very survival of structures - human or otherwise!


Also, have you wondered why in the midst of the ongoing political frenzy and electioneering there’s no mention of the betterment of jails and with that of the conditions of those jailed. Why don’t the political lot focus on the jailed and the jails?

Don’t overlook the fact that in these recent months there have been news reports of prisoners getting infected with serious infectious ailments whilst jailed. Also, relays to over-crowded jail cells came up, with reports of prisoners attacking each other, or trying to break free from the over-stuffed cells. And not to be overlooked the fact that when released, prisoners do talk of the tough-trying-turbulent times they been through. Last month prisoner Mukhtar Ansari’s immediate family accused the authorities of poisoning Ansari …causing his death in that jailed condition.

Also, stands out the fact that a large percentage of those imprisoned in the country are under-trials, so technically innocent, yet so many years of their lives are wasted, as they sit languishing in jails. Such a waste of those precious years, of precious human lives.

There are so many dismal and dark realities…dark enough to make one sit up and introspect and question and query. Several other basic factors to the prisoners keep hitting: Can they cry out for open-jails, where they can perhaps experience some level of free movement of their limbs, in a less stressed out environment and atmosphere?


General Secretary, Socialist Party (India), Sandeep Pandey, has come out with this statement: “ I’ve taken a stand that during this election when I go to vote on 20 May at my polling booth in Springdale School in Indira Nagar I’ll demand a ballot paper. If is not provided to me then I’ll simply walk out without voting. I’ve informed the Election Commissioners through an e-mail and handed over a letter to District Magistrate, Lucknow, who is my returning officer. This is not boycott of election. I would certainly very happily vote for the INDIA Alliance candidate if I were given a ballot paper…My friends are saying this is unwise step as it’ll take away the INDIA alliance votes. But I believe that number of people who’ll participate in this Satyagrah will be smaller than the difference between the winning candidate and the runners up, implying that our action will not affect the final result in that constituency. However, what may happen is if a significant number of citizens decide to participate in the Satyagrah from many constituencies, the Election Commission of India may be forced to think of, if not removing the EVM-VVPAT completely, at least providing the option of ballot paper to people like me who have no trust in the EVM-VVPAT system.”

 He goes on to state: “ A number of well wishers are advising me not to do this but I see no other way of making the Election Commission of India come out of its reticence and apathy and take a decision in favour of ballot paper. If anybody can suggest me a more effective way of taking this struggle forward I’ll be happy to reconsider my stand…There is a hope from the court. If the Supreme Court can show the determination it has in the case of electoral bonds and can instruct the ECI to conduct polls through ballot papers or at least provide the option of ballot paper to those asking for it, our problem will be solved.”

He goes on to detail: “ A Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and New Jersey trained engineer Rahul Mehta, who also runs a political party by the name of Right to Recall Party, has designed a machine where he demonstrates how the black glass, introduced in 2017, hides the way in which votes are stolen by EVM and VVPAT combine. A voter when casts her vote will be able to see the symbol in VVPAT to which she has voted. But while every vote to the preferred symbol is printed as a separate slip inside VVPAT, for consecutive votes to any other symbol only the first vote is printed, shown to the remaining consecutive voters by light bulb which goes on for 7 seconds inside the VVPAT for each voter and rest of the votes are printed as the preferred symbol. This is how the machine has been programmed. To make the preferred symbol win the election by stealing votes from other candidates…Now Rahul Mehta is not claiming that this is what actually happens in the EVM-PPVATs used by the Election Commission of India but he is just demonstrating a possibility of how votes can be stolen if somebody decides to do that. Neither is he claiming that this is being done everywhere. But if the ruling party wants, with the help of sympathetic computer programmers, systems managers and officials, it can manipulate the machines in some constituencies, especially where it fears losing by small margins…There are a range of voices against EVM and proposed alternatives. Right now only five booths in an assembly constituency, which has roughly 300 booths, are randomly chosen to tally the figures from EVM and VVPAT. Some people demand the 100% counting of VVPATs should be done and tallied with EVM figures. However, Rahul Mehta’s contraption shows that votes can be manipulated in both the EVM and VVPAT and can perfectly tally without revealing that votes were stolen from candidates who stand opposite to the preferred party candidate. Some others suggest that VVPAT slips should be handed over to the voter who then should deposit it in a box which has no electronic chip and these slips should be counted. Now, if we’re going to count slips printed by VVPATs collected in an ordinary box, we might as well count the ballot papers after they have been stamped by the voter and deposited in a ballot box. What is the need to keep the EVM-VVPAT between the voter and the paper slips/ballot paper? EVM-VVPAT really becomes redundant in this case serving no purpose like efficiency or quick results for which it was brought in, in the first place. It’ll be there merely as a show piece just to make us feel good that we’re using modern technology. Mahatma Gandhi’s views on automobiles apply here very well. He said transportation is a human need, not its rapidity. Why can’t we spend some extra time and effort but ensure that the elections are free and fair?” 

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