No illegal transporting of EVMs in Punjab: Electoral Office

Chandigarh, May 21: There has been no illegal transportation of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in Punjab, officials here said on Tuesday.

Refuting reports on social media about the transportation of EVMs in Phagwara town, a senior electoral officer told IANS that all the EVMs used during Sunday's voting in the state have been stored safely as per the guidelines of the Election Commission of India.

He said all arrangements have been made, including foolproof security, to conduct the counting of ballots at designated centres on May 23.

Punjab voters voted to elect all their 13 Lok Sabha MPs on May 19.

Row over EVMs:

A major controversy erupted on Tuesday after allegations that EVMs were being changed in the Election Commission's strong rooms in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but the poll body asserted that the charges were "baseless" and "frivolous".

The charges of manipulations surfaced after some videos went viral, purportedly showing EVMs being transported in open trucks. There were claims that these trucks were transporting EVMs to the EC strong rooms in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

One video was claimed to be of Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, with EVMs being seen off-loaded and purportedly placed inside a room. The clip shows some people, apparently supporters of Samajwadi Party, questioning it.

Dismissing the allegations of manipulation as "baseless" and "frivolous", the Election Commission, in a statement, said the voting machines are stored in proper security and protocol in the presence of candidates of the political parties.

"Certain complaints of alleged movement of EVMs, purportedly to replace the polled EVMs in the strong rooms, have been doing the rounds in sections of media. Election Commission of India would like to emphatically and unambiguously clarify that all such reports and allegations are absolutely false, and factually incorrect. The visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls," the EC said.

"The aspersions in clips being used in media merely pertain to the storage or movement of reserve unused EVMs. However any case of lapse even in handling of reserve EVMs is thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action taken against the officers responsible. An EVM Control Room 011-23052123 will also be functioning at Nirvachan Sadan for handling any EVM related complaints till the completion of counting. This will become operative from 11 a.m. on May 22," the Commission added.

Sharing information about Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh, the Commission said there was an issue regarding "having watch on polled EVM strong room by the candidates", which was resolved by conveying the EC instructions.

About charges regarding Chandauli, the EC denied that the EVMs were being changed and said the allegations by some people were "frivolous". It said the "EVMs were in proper security and protocol".

It said additional unused EVMs from Sakaldiha assembly segment of Chandauli were brought to Naveen Mandi Sthal and they were meant to be stored in a different room at the place.

"Thirty five additional unused EVMs were kept at the Sakaldiha tehsil. These couldn't be transported on Sunday and were brought from Sakaldiha on Monday to be stored in a different place," District Election Officer Navneet Singh Chahal said.

Regarding Domariaganj, the EC said the EVMs were in "proper security and protocol". "Agitation was unnecessary. They were convinced by DM (District Magistrate) and SP (Superintendent of Police). The matter is resolved."

On issues raised in Jhansi, the EC said the EVMs are "stored in proper security and protocol in the presence of political parties and candidates".

It said that all the cases, the EVMS and VVPATs used in polls were sealed properly in front of the candidates and stored in places with CCTV cameras installed, guarded by central armed police force personnel, while one representative - at one time - of each candidate could keep an eye.

"The allegations are baseless," the EC added.

On the counting day, the EC said, the strong rooms are opened in the presence of the candidates and agents and observer under videography.

Before the counting of EVMs commences, the Commission said, the counting agents are shown the address tags, seals and serial number of the EVMs to satisfy themselves about the genuineness and authenticity of the machines used in the actual polls.

IANS

(Photo Courtesy: Google Image)