The contradictions between the buyer and suppliers of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in India have been laid bare in replies to right to information queries.
But even in year-wise details, replies given by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the two public sector suppliers -- Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) Hyderabad and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Bengaluru -- have thrown up inexplicable discrepancies.
According to Mumbai-based activist Manoranjan S. Roy, whose efforts through RTI queries have shown the serious mismatches, this points to a rot which may run deeper than expected.
On the overall figures from 1989-1990 till 2014-2015, the ECI says it had received 1,005,662 EVMs from BEL, but BEL said it has supplied 1,969,932 -- a difference of 964,270 machines. In the year-wise breakdown of figures, the ECI and BEL end up contradicting each other, says Roy, who has now moved the Bombay High Court seeking a probe into the whole affair.
"For instance, in 2003-2004, BEL said it supplied 193,475 EVMs to EC, which said it received only 167,850 -- a shortfall of 25,625. The following year, the ECI said it received 36,395 EVMs, but BEL supplied only 2070," Roy said.
Just in one year -- in 2008-2009 -- the shortfall in supply to ECI from BEL was a 962,000 EVMs. In 2010-2011 the variation was 13,490 EVMs but in 2013-2014, ECI received an excess of 51,713 EVMs against the BEL's supply of 139,725. One of the worst years of mismatch was 2014-2015, when BEL supplied 62,183 EVMs but ECI received none.
Ditto is the scenario with ECIL, which supplied 1,944,593 EVMs to ECI between 1989-1990 to 2016-2017 but ECI said it received 1,014,644 -- a gaping shortfall of 929,949. A similar mismatch rules the year-wise numbers with ECIL.
"In 2003-2004, ECIL said it supplied 303,878 EVMs to EC, which said it received only 168,195. In 2008-2009, the ECI said it received 78,000 EVMs, but ECIL figures say it supplied 816,000 EVMs," Roy said.
In 2013-2014, the ECI received 191,438 EVMs, but ECIL had supplied none. The situation, however, reversed in the next three years -- 2014-2015 to 2016-2017 -- when ECI said it received zero machines, but ECIL figures stated 173,962, 120,103 and 272 EVMs were supplied, respectively.
As mentioned in earlier reports, the ECI said it had incurred a total expenditure of Rs 536.02 crore on acquiring EVMs from BEL which says it received Rs 652.56 crore. The ECI expenditure on acquiring EVMs from ECIL are not available.
Curiously, ECIL said it had not supplied a single EVM to any state between 2006-2007 till 2013-2014.
Nevertheless, ECIL -- through ECI -- recovered an amount of Rs 50.64 crore from Maharashtra government between March-October 2012.
"The question is why such huge discrepancies in the EVMs figures received by ECI from the two companies? Where have the excess machines supplied by BEL and ECIL actually gone?" Roy asked. Same goes for the discrepancy in the money spent.
Even on the question of destroying old EVMs, there is lack of clarity. On July 21, 2017, the ECI said that it had not sold any EVMs as scrap. The EVMs procured in 1989-1990 were said to have been destroyed by
the manufacturers themselves.
The ECI said that the process of destroying (old/outdated/irreparable) EVMs received by ECI between 2000-2005, "is still under consideration", thus implying that all machines are still under its possession.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)