If you show up the people in government in a way that threatens their very existence in government, then you can be assured that those people in government will waste no time in fixing you real good. Hari Prasad and his colleagues showed that electronic voting machines are not tamper-proof. This should come as no surprise. Nothing in the universe is tamper-proof (including the universe according to those who insist that their On True God™ frequently fixes the universe to suit their moods.) So what’s all the fuss about?
First the facts, or whatever goes for facts as reported by the media. Hari Prasad, et al, claimed that EVMs can be compromised. Here’s a short video.
The Indian election authorities claim that the EVMs are tamper-proof. That’s as stupid a claim as any made by government officials. It is impossible to make anything perfectly safe. It cannot even be theoretically done, leave alone achieve it in practice. In the face of all contrary evidence, if someone keeps insisting that EVMs are not vulnerable, the implications are fairly serious. Here are four conjectures.
First, these people are not too clued into reality. They don’t know how the world works. These people are in positions of responsibility and power. That’s not a good thing.
Second, these people are not that stupid and know that EVMs are vulnerable to tampering. But they think that the people are stupid and gullible, and therefore they can lie to the people with impunity.
I don’t doubt the stupidity and gullibility of the average voter. Still, officials should not lie. Simple ethics and basic morality demands that they tell the truth as they know it.
Third, they know that EVMs are not fool-proof but they know that there are sufficient checks and balances in place that it does not materially affect the outcomes of elections. If that is so, perhaps they should honestly make that case to the people. But perhaps they hold the people in such contempt that they believe that the people will not be able to appreciate this simple argument.
Fourth, perhaps the officials want the EVMs to be NOT tamper-proof. They want backdoors and traps built into them so that when needed, the officials can fix election.
How would the officials behave if the last conjecture is true?
A. 100% Safe. They will loudly proclaim at every instance that the EVMs are 100 percent safe. Check.
B. Secrecy. They will insist that the EVMs’ software code cannot be made public. Check.
C. Silence. They will try to gag anyone who shows conclusively that the EVMs are not 100 percent safe. Check.
D. Off to the gulag. They will arrest anyone who steps out of line. Check.
If the officials really wanted to have a good tamper-resistant EVM, how would they behave?
A. They will tell people that nothing is 100 percent tamper-proof.
B. They will make the source code of the software open to public scrutiny.
C. They will seek out people who can point out the points of failure.
D. They will move quickly to fix any problems found in the EVMs.
I had been following the EVM controversy for a while but it was just a side-show for me. It is only after Hari Prasad got arrested that I started realizing that there is much more to this than meets the eye.
If the current government has planned to rig the elections using those EVMs, then it cannot afford people like Hari Prasad going about blowing the whistle. If EVMs are not used, it will be hard for the government to rig elections — they will have to go the old fashioned way of employing thugs to capture booths and ballot boxes.
Mind you, it is not that the government does not have sufficient money to pay thugs and that there are not enough thugs to do the government’s bidding. The Congress is a past master of the game. Who knows how many elections they have rigged before. I don’t.
Anyway, times have changed. It is a modern world of internets, and mobile phones, and electronic books, and mp3 players, and facebooks and linkedins, and tweets and blogs, and what have you. It’s a digital world out there. You have to keep up with the times.
You can no longer take a chance with booth capturing and fixing the voter registration lists. EVMs are the perfect (alright, not the perfect but pretty close to being perfect) way to rig elections. A few clicks of the mouse, a few well-kept secret trapdoors in the code, and voilà, you have won yourself the right to rule the people and steal from the public.
Paranoid? Moi? Perish the thought.
But wait a minute. Why are they arresting a guy for borrowing an EVM? They did not bother to arrest anyone when the theft was in thousands of crores (equivalent to billions of dollars). So why now.
The answer is simple. It is now because the billions of dollars stolen help those in the government. After all they are the government. But one single EMV in the hands of the competent can throw a spanner in the whole rotten works. That you cannot have.
“String up the bastard,” is what the powers that be cry.
Additional links: (post script)
1. Indian EVM.