Mudda speakers divided; while some feel motherboard-tinkering to rig elections impossible, others say older process a safer bet; but should conspiracy theories form the basis of a costly changeover by the state?
The Election Commission has held several meetings on how to improve the polling experience in the country. Among other things, use of EVMs, paper ballots and domestic migrant voting have been discussed. APN’s popular debate show, Mudda, took up the issue on Monday. Anchorperson Akshay Singh Gaur spoke to BJP’s Rajesh Jha, Congress’ Umashanker Pandey, RJD’s Balwant Kumar, former IAS officer Baba Hardev Singh and APN consultant Govind Pant Raju.
“It’s important to go in for reforms in the election process so that polls are conducted in a truly fair and non-partisan manner,” Hardev Singh said.
Pandey opined ballot paper voting seemed a better solution. “EVMs have inherent problems. In 2017, the EC conducted a show to prove that EVMs are tamper-proof, but could not convince the Congress.”
The BJP is all for simultaneous polls, as it would bypass all problems associated with multiple elections, like extra expenditure, more chances of rigging and disturbance to students, Jha said.
Balwant Kumar said:”RJD is against EVMs, as these are vulnerable to fraud. The Netherlands has gone back to paper ballot and in the US too, it is being used more and more.”
Akshay then asked if paper ballots don’t lead to booth capturing.
Raju said: “The EC had thrown an open challenge to all parties to prove that there has been EVM hacking. Why didn’t the parties go ahead and do so? We have already been witness to booth-capturing in the past. I don’t think that ballot papers are the way out. Whatever the issues are with EVMs, we can resolve them.”
Pandey said:”When ballot paper voting was used in the past, paramilitary forces were not deployed. In today’s scenario, there are enough paramilitary forces that can be put on duty. CCTV cameras can also be installed at polling stations.”
Hardev Singh said: “We have to ensure free and fair polls. EVM hacking is not easy. There might be a small margin for technical glitches. These are just rumours spread by parties to apply pressure and misguide people.”
“We have reason to believe that EVMs are not tamper-proof. They can be programmed to orchestrate desired results,” Pandey said.
Balwant Kumar said: “Software experts can easily tamper with the motherboard. With enhanced security and CCTV cameras, I am sure ballot paper voting will prove to be the right option.”
Raju then said that motherboard-tinkering was not an easy thing to do. “But political parties only look after their own interests when making such insinuations,” he added.
Hardev Singh said:”The local administration has to be on alert to prevent malpractices. But usually, by the time the local administration swings into action, the deed is already done.”
Balwant Kumar said: “In modern times, there are many ways parties influence voters. Fake news on social media and paid news are just two of them. So various factors come in the way of conducting a free and fair election.”
—Compiled by Niti Singh Bhandari
“Too much politics happening over corona in Delhi”
The Delhi chief minister’s decision was irresponsible, so it was overturned by the Lt Governor. Delhi belongs to everyone and such discrimination as Kejriwal proposed will not work. People know Kejriwal more for his wrong decisions than for any good work done by him
Even as Covid-19 cases in the country have crossed over 2.5 lakh, a petty spat has erupted over the issue of hospital beds. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriewal said non-Delhi residents will not be able to access Delhi government healthcare for Covid-19, and Lt Governor Anil Baijal overruled the decision and ordered Delhi government hospitals to treat all patients. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with BJP’s Anand Sahu, Congress’s Ajay Arora, AAP’s Vanshraj Dubey, political expert Niranjan Poddar and APN Editor Ajay Kaul.
Sahu said: “The Delhi chief minister’s decision was irresponsible, so it was overturned by the Lt Governor. Delhi belongs to everyone and such discrimination as Kejriwal proposed will not work. People know Kejriwal more for his wrong decisions than for any good work done by him.”
Vanshraj Dubey: “It was an expert team that had advised the Delhi CM in view of the likelihood of cases rising in the capital. Kejriwal has not taken any decision against the Centre’s orders.”
Arora said: “We are fighting a pandemic, the biggest battle-ever. These people are not bothered about Covid, they are looking at their vote-banks. They only want to enjoy power. BJP and AAP have turned Delhi into a football match, and the common man is getting ignored.”
Poddar said: “People get to see everything, and this petty politics has upset the people. All people want is safety and that their livelihoods and health should remain protected. Covid is spreading more in urban areas and not so much in rural areas. Delhi has around 2 crore people and therefore the number of Covid positive patients are rising. I don’t see anything wrong in Kejriwal’s decision to protect facilities for the people of Delhi. Politics is happening over Covid.”
Kaul said: “Discrimination of any kind is not good at all. Will a patient get his Aadhaar card, or should he look for relief when he comes to hospital?”
Dubey said: “Healthcare is free for the people of Delhi. In case there’s a serious case, the CM had already said he/she will not be denied government healthcare. Private hospitals are getting into black marketing of hospital beds.”
Kaul said: “Then Kejriwal should have made it all clear.”
Dubey said: “See if Delhi people do not get healthcare in Delhi, will they run to Ghaziabad? And will the UP government take such patients?”
Sahu said: “People will drive out AAP from Delhi.”
Arora said: “I agree with Kaul that the issue is why should people get discriminated for treatment. What if the child is a Delhi resident and parents are from Bihar? How will such a child get treatment for his patents in Delhi? Too much politics is happening over corona in Delhi.”
Dubey said: “See if patients want to take treatment in Delhi, there is nothing wrong in that. We have not challenged the Lt Governor’s decision. Problems arise when beds are scarce. Delhi will have its own budget, just like Haryana and UP also have.”
Poddar said: “Delhi has Delhi government hospitals, private hospitals and central government hospitals. Right now, inter-state traffic is limited. There are central government hospitals also where people can reach for healthcare. I am of the opinion there is nothing wrong in Delhi saving its facilities for its own people. Ambulances know where to take people.”
“Economy should be opened only gradually”
Economy will repair itself in time. But once lives are lost, they will not come back. Labour has gone back, so what good will we achieve by unlocking?”
On the one hand, coronavirus cases are rising and on the other, the country is now on unclock mode. After 75 days, temples, restaurants and malls have opened at various places. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with medical experts Dr Rahul Bharadwaj, Dr Yash Gulati, Dr AK Shukla and Dr Ankit Kumar Sinha, economist Dr Ashok Kaithal and APN Editor, Ajay Kaul.
Bharadwaj said: “Every day, corona cases are rising. We shall soon overtake the US. We need to ensure strict discipline at containment zones. What’s the rationale behind opening of temples and gurudwaras? Economy will repair itself in time. But once lives are lost, they will not come back. Labour has gone back, so what good will we achieve by unlocking?”
Dr Kaithal said: “We have not seen the desired result of the lockdown. Once lives are saved, economy will be saved. World economy is in bad shape, and can be opened only gradually, and slowly. Economy will be revived only after the manufacturing sector is opened.”
Dr Sinha said: “We have unlocked when the cases are rising. Over 50 to 70 percent patients are unable to access healthcare. We cannot stop corona. The government is more concerned about concealing the correct picture.”
Kaul said: “Economic activity has to be resumed. By having a further lockdown, corona will vanish. Till when can we suspend economic activity? Lockdown was supposed to put infrastructure in place, like PPEs, masks, hospital beds and so on. Opening of religious places is irrelevant, as that will not impact economy. Healthcare has failed India. Private hospitals are admitting patients selectively.”
Dr Bhargava said: “Lockdown was meant to ensure that the facilities match the demand, that we had enough beds and ventilators for the patients, because in the eventuality of an outburst, we cannot match the kind of healthcare strength that is needed. Lockdown was meant to flatten the curve. Corona is a pandemic. See, cancer patients will die if we do not have sufficient beds. Why was testing stopped in private labs? Did we visualize this kind of life that we will leave our old to die? Is this what we want? Where will middle-class people go?”
Dr Gulati said: “We are a poor country, and it’s important to focus our economy now. Corona cases are bound to rise. Luckily, our mortality rate is controlled. We cannot be left to die of hunger.”
Dr Kaithal said: “Cases are going up and the situation is frightening. We should revive the economy only gradually. Social distancing should be strictly enforced. Purchasing power of people needs to go up.”
Dr Sinha said: “I agree that we need to look into the economy now, but we should also focus on testing and contact tracing.”
Kaul said: “Lockdown was meant to strengthen the infrastructure. AIIMS chief Dr Guleria had said that in June cases are expected to peak, then why were we not prepared for that?”
Dr Shukla said: “It’s a respiratory virus. All will be affected in some way or the other. Use of masks and hand hygiene is important. It’s good that the economy has been opened but we must not take the precautionary measures lightly.”
“We need to focus on survival and revival”
The government has approved the road map for implementing the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), farmer and street vendor package that was announced earlier as part of the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus to restart the economy. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with economic experts Mukesh Mohan Gupta and Ajay Prakash, and UP Industrial Development Minister Satish Mahana.
Gupta said: “Challenges are being faced by all sectors, the reason being the global coronavirus pandemic. The new definition of MSME has broadened its scope. Moody’s has downgraded India’s rating, but that’s the same story with many other countries. In the US, there is unprecedented rioting happening, so that;’s no better. Manufacturing has been impacted here, so the rating will go down.”
Mahana said: “The Rs 20 lakh crore package is geared to instill confidence among the labour and industry stakeholders. See, the world is in the grip of an economic crisis, but PM Modi has been taking decisive steps. Unlock 1 will help to revive economic activities, and for that the consumer has to come in the market. No one can say how long Coronavirus will last. Under MNREGA, help has been reached out to the vulnerable sections… the effort is to go in for strong handholding. We have to focus on survival and revival. You just can’t look at industry for revival, agriculture also needs to be boosted, cash inflow has to be looked into. We are mapping the skills of the labour, and helping in matchmaking skills with needs. We will not leave any stone unturned in the interest of industry and the workers. Modi has been forward-looking and transparent, there is no room for corruption. We are looking at the opportunity behind the challenge. US is in the grip of a crisis. But a dialogue has been started with other countries. “Advantage UP” is being looked into in the fields of milk production, surface water, infrastructure, etc. We are focusing on Advantage UP and UP will be preferred state for investing in the country with ease of doing business. See, we are in a strong position, but the economic crisis is being faced globally, so how can we talk about our country alone? We have to focus on how to get out of the crisis.”
Prakash said: “India has huge numbers, but with no earning, demand has been low. We have been told 80 percent units have started work, but they are on 25 percent capacity. We are unable to utilize the capacity to the fullest because labour is away.”
Gupta said: “When sick, we can’t run, so how can we expect our economy to be normal. Demand is low, rating will be down. Cases are going up.”
Prakash said: “The Five Is pointed out by the PM– Intent, Inclusion, Investment, Infrastructure and Innovation are very important. Only the top 1 percent has been getting richer, now we need to broaden the base.”
Gupta said: “We need to think of local products to remain healthy.”
Prakash said: “We have the opportunity, but we need to act fast, we need labour reforms, tax systems, satisfaction has to be provided to the foreign investor. The desire is there to attract foreign investment but we have not been as fast as we should have been. At first, we need to get labour back, and restore the supply chain and value system, and check out competitor countries like Korea and some other south east Asian countries, we need to strengthen the base.”