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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

27-April-2024

1. ROBUST AND TRANSPARENT

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the article discusses a recent decision by the Supreme Court regarding Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips.

 

Context:
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling on the demands for 100 percent verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips and the rejection of pleas to revert to the paper ballot system underscored its confidence in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
  • The Court conducted a thorough review of the administrative and technical safeguards of EVMs and found them to be simple, secure, and user-friendly.
  • It highlighted the inclusion of VVPAT slips in the verification process as reinforcing the principle of vote verifiability.
  • Moreover, the Court’s reasoning against reverting to paper ballots was grounded in the prevention of issues like booth capturing, which EVMs effectively mitigate by limiting the rate of vote casting.

Critique Against EVMs:

  • The critique against EVMs, as highlighted in the courtroom and by opposition leaders, lacks factual consistency and evidence.
  • The narrative appears to be politically motivated, aimed at undermining the credibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration rather than addressing genuine concerns about the electoral process.
  • The inconsistency of opposition parties’ stance on EVMs, depending on their electoral fortunes, raises questions about the sincerity of their criticism.
  • For instance, parties like the Indian National Congress (INC) raised objections to EVMs only after experiencing electoral setbacks post-2014.

Patterns of Opposition Strategy:

  • A pattern emerges where the opposition’s skepticism towards EVMs seems to serve as a cover for their electoral failures.
  • This selective skepticism transforms into a concerted strategy to discredit the electoral process, particularly as they anticipate unfavorable outcomes in upcoming elections.
  • By casting doubt on EVMs, the opposition aims to preemptively dispute election results, thereby eroding public trust in the electoral process.

Implications and Recommendations:

  • The Supreme Court’s timely decision to uphold the reliability of EVMs, supplemented by VVPATs, counters the opposition’s narrative and reinforces the integrity of the electoral process.
  • However, it calls for genuine introspection from the opposition to shift focus from baseless narratives to addressing real issues faced by the electorate.
  • Moreover, the opposition’s tendency to litigate political battles in the Supreme Court detracts from constructive engagement with democratic processes.
  • Instead, they should prioritize addressing electoral concerns through political channels.

Conclusion:

  • The conclusion highlights the significance of EVMs in facilitating free and fair elections and commends the Election Commission of India (ECI) for its diligent efforts.
  • It emphasizes the importance of upholding the integrity of the electoral process and encourages all stakeholders to work towards fostering public trust and participation in democracy.
About Electronic Voting Machine VVPAT

About:

  • EVM is a device used to record votes electronically. They were first used in the Paravur Assembly Constituency of Kerala in the year 1982.
  • Since 1998, the Election Commission has increasingly used EMVs instead of ballot boxes.
  • In 2003, all state elections and by-elections were held using EVMs.
  • Encouraged by this, in 2004, the Commission took a historic decision to use only EVMs for the Lok Sabha elections.
  • Development:
  • It has been devised and designed by the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) of the Election Commission in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings: Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bangalore (under Ministry of Defence) and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad (under Department of Atomic Energy).
  • Functionality: It has two parts: a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit connected by a cable.
  • The Control Unit stays with the polling officer, while the Balloting Unit is in the voting booth.
  • The voter has to simply press the blue button on the Ballot Unit against the candidate and symbol of his choice and the vote is recorded.

Key Features:

  • An EVM being used by ECI can record a maximum of 2,000 votes.
  • They do not require electricity. They run on an ordinary battery assembled by
  • Bharat Electronics Limited/Electronics Corporation of India Limited.
  • The microchip used in EVMs is a one-time programmable/masked chip, which can neither be read nor overwritten.
  • Furthermore, the EVMs are stand-alone machines and there is no operating system used in these machines.

Benefits:

  • Accuracy: EVMs eliminate the occurrence of ‘Invalid Votes’ seen frequently with paper ballots, ensuring a more accurate reflection of voter choice and reducing complaints and legal disputes.
  • Efficiency: EVMs streamline the voting process, making it faster and more efficient. They eliminate the need for manual counting, reducing the time required to declare election results.
  • Transparency: EVMs enhance transparency in the electoral process by providing a clear and verifiable record of votes cast. With features like VVPAT, voters can verify that their votes are recorded accurately.
  • Cost-effectiveness: EVMs offer cost savings in terms of paper, printing, transportation, and storage, as they eliminate the need for millions of printed ballot papers for each election cycle.

Concerns:

  • Lack of Transparency: Some critics argue that the inner workings of EVMs are not sufficiently transparent, leading to doubts about the accuracy and fairness of the voting process.
  • Reliability: Questions have been raised about the reliability of EVMs, including the possibility of technical malfunctions or errors that could affect the outcome of an election.
  • Trust Issues: Despite security measures, there is still a lack of trust among some political parties and voters regarding the reliability and authenticity of EVMs, leading to calls for additional safeguards or alternative voting methods.

What is VVPAT?

About:

  • Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached with the EVM that allow the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
  • It was introduced in the bye-election of the Noksen Assembly Constituency of Nagaland in 2013.
  • In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, VVPATs were used in all the constituencies.
  • Functionality:
  • When a vote is cast, a slip is printed containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate and remains exposed through a transparent window for 7 seconds.
  • Thereafter, the printed slip automatically gets cut and falls in the sealed drop box of the VVPAT.
  • The machines can be accessed by polling officers only.

Related Supreme Court Ruling:

  • In a 2013 Subramanian Swamy V/s ECI case, the Supreme Court emphasised the necessity of implementing VVPAT in elections conducted through EVMs.
  • Presently, the M3 Model of ECI-EVM and VVPAT are used.

 

PYQ: In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018)
Practice Question:  Critically analyze the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips, highlighting its implications for the integrity of the Indian electoral process. (250 words/15 m)

 

2. Amir Garib

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Inclusive Growth This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the article provides insights into the historical context and evolution of wealth redistribution policies in India, shedding light on socio-economic issues such as income inequality, land reforms, and economic policies.
 
Context:
  • In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the concept of “wealth redistribution” was widely accepted in India.
  • This period saw the emergence of cultural representations like the 1974 Hindi movie “Amir Garib,” where the protagonist, played by Dev Anand, portrayed a masked vigilante redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor.
  • The prevalence of such narratives reflected the socio-economic conditions of the time, characterized by high levels of inequality and concentration of wealth in a few hands.
Socio-Economic Landscape:
  • At the time of Independence, India was marked by significant wealth disparities, with a large portion of wealth held in the form of land.
  • Land reforms were seen as crucial in addressing this inequality, leading to measures such as the abolition of the zamindari system and the imposition of land ceilings.
  • Despite efforts to redistribute land to tillers, the implementation of these reforms faced challenges due to a lack of political will and administrative inefficiencies.
Political Acceptance of Redistribution Policies:
  • During this period, there was broad political consensus on implementing measures aimed at redistributing wealth and addressing inequality.
  • Legislation such as land reforms, nationalization of industries, and progressive taxation enjoyed widespread acceptance, with minimal political resistance.
  • The Swatantra Party emerged as a lone voice opposing these measures but failed to garner significant support from the business class.
Shift in Economic Policies:
  • Over time, there has been a shift in economic policies, marked by the removal of estate duty and the implementation of economic reforms in 1991.
  • Businessmen are now celebrated as wealth creators, reflecting a change in popular attitudes towards wealth accumulation and entrepreneurship.
Changing Economic Landscape:
  • The economic landscape has witnessed significant changes, with wealth becoming increasingly financialized and dispersed among a larger section of society.
  • The rise of financial instruments like bank deposits, mutual funds, and shareholdings has contributed to a more widespread distribution of wealth.
  • However, income and wealth inequality have also risen, with the top percentile capturing a growing share of national income and wealth.
Political Implications and Policy Shifts:
  • The changing socio-economic dynamics have led to a reevaluation of traditional approaches to wealth redistribution.
  • Policies focusing on job creation, education, skill development, and progressive taxation are seen as more viable alternatives to radical redistribution.
  • The withdrawal of the 2014 land acquisition act amendments and the 2016 demonetization are indicative of a shift away from expropriatory measures towards more nuanced policy interventions.
Conclusion:
  • The historical evolution of wealth redistribution in India reflects broader socio-economic transformations and shifting political ideologies.
  • While the concept of redistributive policies enjoyed widespread acceptance in the past, changing economic realities and political dynamics have necessitated a reevaluation of traditional approaches to addressing income and wealth inequality.
Causes of Increasing Inequality Despite High Economic Growth in India
Wealth Accumulation:
  • Concentration of Wealth: Concentration of wealth in the hands of a few can perpetuate inequality over generations, as the wealthy can pass on advantages to their descendants.
  • Inadequate Land Reforms: Inadequate land reforms can result in a significant portion of the population remaining landless or having insufficient land, making them vulnerable to poverty and economic instability.
  • Crony Capitalism: Corrupt practices and favouritism can result in wealth accumulation among a select group, contributing to inequality.
  • Lack of Inclusive Growth Policies:
  • Skewed Distribution of Economic Gains: Economic growth may disproportionately benefit certain sectors or income groups, leading to an uneven distribution of wealth.
  • Regressive Taxation Policies: Tax systems that favour the wealthy or lack progressivity can contribute to income inequality.
  • Lack of Social Safety Nets: Inadequate social safety nets and welfare programs may leave vulnerable populations without sufficient support, widening the wealth gap.
  • Inadequate Labour Policies:
  • Financialization of the Economy: An emphasis on financial markets and speculation over productive investments can lead to wealth concentration in the financial sector.
  • Wage gaps: Wage gaps between skilled and unskilled workers can contribute to income inequality. Informal labour markets with lower wages and fewer benefits can widen the income divide.
  • No Minimum Wages: Weak labour market policies, including insufficient minimum wage regulations and limited collective bargaining rights, can contribute to income disparities.
  • Social Exclusion:
  • Caste Discrimination: Social exclusion based on caste played a significant role in increasing inequality in India by marginalizing certain groups and limiting their access to opportunities, resources, and benefits.
  • Gender Inequality: Discrimination based on gender can lead to unequal access to employment opportunities and wage disparities.
  • Lack of Access to Education: Unequal access to quality education limited opportunities for upward mobility, reinforcing existing disparities.
  • Technological Deprivation: Automation and technological advancements lead to job displacement and wage stagnation for certain groups, exacerbating income inequality.
 
Practice Question:  Critically analyze the evolution of wealth redistribution policies in India from the 1950s to the present, considering their socio-economic impact and political implications. Suggest policy interventions to promote equitable economic growth and social justice in India. (250 words/15 m)

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