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    Current Affairs 8th December 2017 - Important Points

    · Marriage Bill with same-sex passed by - Australian parliament

    · International Civil Aviation Day observed globally on - 7th December 2017

    Marriage Bill with same-sex passed by - Australian parliament

    To allow the same-sex marriage, the Australian Parliament voted for same-sex marriage bill with maximum votes, following a bitter and divisive talk settled by the government polling voters in a much-criticised ballot survey that powerfully endorsed the alteration.
    With this acceptance of the bill, the definition of marriage has from simply between a man and a woman to “a joining of 2 people” excluding all others. The same sex marriage will be a legal right for its residents.
    The bill proceeded with a majority that wasn’t challenged, however, 5-members submitted their opposition to the bill.
    It is noteworthy to know that the Senate had passed the same bill last week with 43 votes in favour and 12 votes in against. After royal consent and other regulations, the law will expect to come into existence in about a month, with the 1st weddings supposed about a month later.

    Freedom of speech
    The same-sex marriage bill will safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay-marriage challengers were all refused, though those matters may be considered later.
    The government has formed a committee to study how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay-wedding is a reality in Australia.
    The same-sex marriage bill facilitates religious organizations like churches and others to boycott gay marriage without disturbing Australian anti-discrimination laws.

    Gay marriage

    · Australia began a national postal survey in November which required an amendment to the marriage definition.

    · 62% of Australian voters who took part in the government-commissioned postal voting, approved this marriage .

    · However, the United Nations Human Rights Committee had took the ballot survey “an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll.”

    International Civil Aviation Day observed globally on - 7th December 2017

    International Civil Aviation Day was celebrated on 7th December 2017 with the topic ‘Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind’.
    The moto behind the day is to help generate and fortify worldwide awareness of the significance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of States and of the important role of the International Civil Aviation Organization in supporting States to cooperate and understand a truly global quick transit network at the service of all humanity.

    Key Highlights

    · The present theme was nominated by the International Civil Aviation Organization council for a period of 4 years from 2015 to 2018.

    · Every 5 years, coinciding with ICAO anniversaries like 2014, 2019, 2024 and 2029, the ICAO Council initiates a special anniversary topic for International Civil Aviation Day.

    · However, between these anniversary years, the Council spokespersons select a single topic for the all 4-year intervening period.

    · The campaign spotlight ICAO’s efforts to help States in implementing ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.

    · The focus of the work is to support ensure that SARP execution is better harmonized globally so that all states have entry to the significant socio-economic benefits of secure and reliable air transport and can address protection, security and emissions-related matters.

    Did you know?

    · In 1944, members from 54 countries meet in Chicago, USA and signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also famously known as the ‘Chicago Convention’.

    · The International Civil Aviation Day was formed in 1994 as a part of ICAO's 50th anniversary movements.

    · In 1996, the UN General Assembly officially identified 7 December as International Civil Aviation Day in the UN system.

    GST opens up a lot of data for policymaking


    The Chief Statistician of India speaks of the economy, the meaning of the new series of GDP data, and the need to wait for the impact of demonetisation to unfold.

    What has been the impact of restocking on the growth of the manufacturing sector in Q2?

    During the period just before the GST was launched and the Q1 estimates, firms were clearing inventory because of the issues involved with the tax treatment of goods produced prior to the GST rollout and selling products manufactured pre-GST in the post-GST regime.

    The only statistical evidence that is available is in the company filings which were made available for Q1. There, the change in stock figures was sharply negative. In manufacturing companies, the change in stocks figure is negative for Q2 as well.

    Most companies draw down their inventories during the festive season and maintain an inventory balance in the slack season, partly to smooth production out.

    Factory output recorded a sharp rebound in August to touch a nine-month-high growth of 4.3 per cent during the month against a downward revised 0.9 per cent growth recorded in July, according to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

    The surge in industrial production in August was led by the 3.1 per cent expansion in the manufacturing sector, primarily as restocking of manufactured items picked up steam after the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and prior to the festive season.

    While the impact of post-GST restocking may have started to fade, inventory building prior to the festive season is likely to have bolstered manufacturing growth.

    What more can be done to capture data of the informal sector?

    The informal sector is defined as that part of the economy where the establishment does not maintain regular accounts. It is informal because it is not subject to most of the traditional ways in which you can capture data.

    The informal sector consists of all unincorporated private enterprises owned by individuals or households engaged in the sale and production of goods and services operated on a proprietary or partnership basis and with less than 10 total workers.

    GST will certainly capture a lot more monthly data. Formally, if you look at the GST form, every producer of a good or service makes his payment and also gives some details about the production which is subject to tax. From that, conclusions can be drawn.

    But, even with GST, you are not going to get the informal sector in that sense because the entities who will be filing this regular monthly return will be the larger companies, not the informal sector.

    Insofar as the smaller companies are concerned, some things will be possible with the data from the composition scheme data, but it won’t be as granular as you get in the non-composition scheme GST data.

    But for the informal sector, the principle source of data is through establishment surveys. Regular establishment surveys, as recommended by the taskforce under [Arvind] Panagariya, will help here.

    Composition scheme under GST:

    Goods and Services Tax has brought in a new regime of business compliance in India. Large organizations have the requisite resources and expertise to address these requirements. On the flip side, many start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) may struggle to comply with these provisions. To resolve such scenarios, the government has introduced Composition Scheme under GST. When opting for the Composition Scheme under GST, a taxpayer will be required to file summarized returns on a quarterly basis, instead of three monthly returns (as applicable for normal businesses).

    During 23rd GST Council Meeting, threshold for composition scheme has been increased to 1.5 Cr.

    Does GST opens up more data for policymaking?

    GST opens up a lot.

    § In addition to aggregates, we will also get data on inter-State transactions which were previously not available.

    § This will give us a much better picture of a spatial spread of economic activity.

    § Earlier it was assumed that when manufacturing has picked up, it has picked up uniformly all over India. What GST will allow us to do is get a spatial perspective on this.

    § We may well find that the pickup has taken place in X band of States and not in Y band. That sort of information will be very useful to the policy establishment when they start looking at GST data more closely.

    With more than three quarters worth of data, can you now estimate the effect of demonetisation?

    To quantify what demonetisation did or did not do, we would need to do a proper exercise where we would have a counterfactual compared to the post-demonetisation exercise. Statistically, that will not happen for some time because it will need long enough time series to generate counterfactuals and do the comparison.

    It is important to note that all that demonetisation constituted was less than a two quarter period in which there was a currency squeeze. By and large, large entities did not show much of an impact, as revealed in corporate filings.

    Then everybody said that this will be taking place in the informal sector. Not because there was any data for it, but because there must be an effect, and if it’s not in the formal sector, it must be in the informal sector. Fair enough. But the problem is that the informal sector is certainly cash dependent but it is also relationship dependent.

    The demonetisation effect has been overblown insofar as the negative effect is concerned on account of neglect of this channel of credit. Further, the demonetisation story is more complicated than just the cash change story. There is a larger narrative hidden behind it in trying to promote digital transactions. What those impacts are going to be, we are still trying to see. What you do see is that the trajectory of digital transactions has changed.

    Since the release of the new series of GDP data, the government has received criticism regarding the back series of the data sets using the new computation methods. By when can we expect this to be released?

    The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) gave us a much bigger picture of the corporate structure.

    The earlier data that we had about the corporate structure is what we had from the listed companies.

    The problem we face is of using the longer series of data on listed companies and deriving a growth pattern for the full corporate structure from it. This is analytically a challenging exercise.

    GST is going to give us a database about the economy which is qualitatively very different from anything we had in the past. It will give us, for example, a transactional relationship across the country which we did not have earlier. We will be able to build it into our GDP compilations and improve its quality enormously. But for somebody who asks for a back series on this methodology, the answer is not going to be easy.

    This is something that it is important to recognise. When you modernise a statistical system and bring in new ways of capturing data which did not exist in the past, not simply updates of the old data, the problem of backward projection is much more difficult. This is something that time-series economists will have to live with.

    How worried should one be about the Centre’s fiscal deficit numbers?

    Recent CGA report says that the fiscal deficit is 96% of the total. Many economist, jumped to all sorts of conclusions which may not be true in totality.

    Because, Government preponed the Budget calendar to allow government expenditure to start from April 1. There is enough evidence to suggest that that did happen. The Q1 government expenditure compared to last year was much better.

    Therefore one would expect that by the end of Q2, the average government expenditure level would be higher than what it was last year.

    Many expenditure management committees have pointed out that the earlier tendency of delayed bunching expenditure in the last quarter is very bad for both the quality of expenditure and fiscal management.

    There were a number of recommendations about how the government should better manage its expenditure so as tominimise the amount of expenditure that takes place in the last quarter and last month.

    One consequence of this is that, during the year, the fiscal deficit is going to rise because the revenue profile has not changed due to this manipulation of budget dates.

    The government has made some efforts to push the revenue profile back by changing the advance tax rules but those effects will be small. By and large, the revenue profile would remain the same as last year but the expenditure profile has changed, so the logical implication is that the fiscal deficit will rise at this stage.

    This country will be the new Member of Wassenaar Arrangement - India

    • India festival recognized by UNESCO as India’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – Kumbh Mela

    • This country recently passed same-sex marriage bill - Australia

    • Armed Forces Flag Day is celebrated every year in India on - 7 December

    • Person of the Year 2017 as per the Time magazine - The Silence Breakers

    • BR Ambedkar International Centre was recently launched in - New Delhi

    • This country will host the 46th Congress of the International Hockey Federation - India

    • Person who resigned as National Sports Observer over con􀃓ict of Interest issue following the resignation of Mary Kom - Sushil Kumar

    • US President Donald Trump recognised this place as the capital of Israel - Jerusalem

    • This person will head the 3-member committee constituted by the National Commission on Minorities to give minority status to Hindus in 8 states - George Kurien

    Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

    Kumbh Mela


    The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO has inscribed ´KumbhMela´ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 12th session being held at Jeju, South Korea.

    This inscription is the third in two years following the inscriptions of ´Yoga´ and ´Nouroz´ in December.

    About Kumbh Mela:

    Kumbh Mela is the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth. The festival, held in Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik, represents a syncretic set of rituals related to worship and ritual cleansing in holy rivers in India. As a religious festival, the tolerance and inclusiveness that Kumbh Mela demonstrates are especially valuable for the contemporary world.

    What is intangible cultural heritage?

    The UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage, adopted in 2003, defines intangible cultural heritage as the practices, representations, expressions as well as knowledge and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage.

    Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

    Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill 2017


    The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 (FRDI Bill), was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2017. The bill is presently under consideration of the Joint Committee of Parliament. The Joint Committee is consulting all the stakeholders on the provisions of the FRDI Bill. The committee is now set to invite the RBI governor Urjit Patel to brief the members. It is noteworthy that the bill was opposed by the bank unions who have also requested the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to withdraw this legislation.

    About the FRDI Bill:

    The Bill would provide for a comprehensive resolution framework for specified financial sector entities to deal with bankruptcy situation in banks, insurance companies and financial sector entities.

    § The Bill when enacted, will pave the way for setting up of the Resolution Corporation. It will also result in the repealing of the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961 to transfer the deposit insurance powers and responsibilities to the Resolution Corporation.

    § The Resolution Corporation would protect the stability and resilience of the financial system; protecting the consumers of covered obligations up to a reasonable limit; and protecting public funds, to the extent possible.

    § It would lead to repeal or amendment of resolution-related provisions in sectoral Acts as listed in Schedules of the Bill. The proposed Bill complements the Code by providing a resolution framework for the financial sector.

    Merits of Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017:

    § The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 seeks to give comfort to the consumers of financial service providers in financial distress. It also aims to inculcate discipline among financial service providers in the event of financial crises by limiting the use of public money to bail out distressed entities.

    § It would help in maintaining financial stability in the economy by ensuring adequate preventive measures, while at the same time providing the necessary instruments for dealing with an event of crisis.

    § The Bill aims to strengthen and streamline the current framework of deposit insurance for the benefit of a large number of retail depositors.

    § The Bill seeks to decrease the time and costs involved in resolving distressed financial entities.

    Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

    Universal social security payments


    Labour ministry’s proposal for universal social security payments is facing resistance from other government sections because such a programme would raise overall wage costs.

    What’s the concern?

    Central ministries and the states have increasingly been hiring contract workers to save on costs as minimum wages are not mandatory in such cases. However, a social security programme would require the employers of contract workers to help pay for it.

    India’s total workforce stands at 450 million, out of which a little over 10% is in the organised sector, enjoying social security of some sort.

    Contract workers in the country:

    The government appoints contract workers in three categories. First, for work of a routine nature such as housekeeping, maintenance and data entry that’s bundled and entrusted to staffing agencies. Second, contractual appointments for select posts, particularly those that need high professional skills. The third category comprises retired government employees whose skills and expertise acquired during their tenure in government are found useful.

    According to Seventh Pay Commission data, the union government is one of the biggest users of temporary staff or contract employees, including scheme workers, and spends around Rs 300 crore a year on their wages. The scheme workers refer to the six million who are employed in flagship social sector programmes.

    ‘Draft code on Social Security and Welfare’:

    The Centre, in March 2017, proposed a labour code on social security which will provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country, including self-employed and agricultural workers.

    § According to the code, even households employing domestic help will also have contribute towards schemes including provident fund and gratuity for the worker. Factories employing even a single worker will have to contribute towards social security benefits, as per the proposal.

    § Every working person in the country will be covered under the social security code whether she belongs to the organised sector or the unorganised sector. For the first time, cover to agricultural workers is being provided along with self-employed people. The target is to provide social security benefits to 45 crore workers.

    § The proposed code seeks to cover “any factory, any mine, any plantation, any shop, charitable organisations” and all establishments or households employing casual, part-time, fixed-term, informal, apprentice, domestic and home-based workers. All such establishments or factories will be liable to pay compensation if they fail to contribute towards the social security schemes of the workers.

    § The total contribution to be made by employers towards Employees’ Provident Fund and Employees’ State Insurance Scheme is proposed to be capped at 30% of the workers’ income. At present, employers contribute 31.5% of the workers’ income towards these schemes.

    § According to the proposed code, self-employed workers will contribute 20% of their monthly income towards provident fund, pension and other related schemes. Self-employed workers will also include “a person who takes land on share cropping or any other form of rent, and tills the same using his own or family members’ labour.”

    § All the entities – whether factories or households – will have to register their workers through an Aadhaar-based registration system, according to another proposal, and self-employer workers will be required to register themselves.

    § A National Social Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, has been proposed to streamline and make policy on social security schemes related to all the Ministries. Other members would include: Finance Minister, Labour Minister, Health and Family Welfare Minister along with employer and employees’ representatives.

    Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

    Wassenaar Arrangement

    wassenaar arrangement


    In a significant development, elite export control regime Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) has decided to admit India as its new member, which is expected to raise New Delhi’s stature in the field of non-proliferation besides helping it acquire critical technologies. The decision was taken at the recently held plenary meeting of the grouping in Vienna.

    About Wassenaar arrangement:

    The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, commonly known as the Wassenaar Arrangement, is a multilateral export control regime established to ensure regional and international security and stability promoting transparency in transfer of arms and dual-use goods and technologies.

    What do the participating nations do? The participating nations make sure that the export of ammunition does not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities undermining regional security. In order to achieve the aim of stable defence deals, the participatory nations apply export controls to all items listed in the List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies and the Munitions List.

    How will this membership help India?

    § India’s entry into the export control regime would enhance its credentials in the field of non-proliferation despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

    § The WA membership is also expected to build up a strong case for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

    § Further, since India has low reserves of uranium required for its civil nuclear energy programmes, the country entry to the Export Control regimes will help secure the supply of nuclear fuel more easily.

    Money laundering..

    Benami Act


    The Income-Tax Department is scrutinizing all unexplained credits and investments in personal as well as corporate income-tax filings and is looking to invoke the Benami Act in many cases. Unexplained credits, in the books of a company or bank accounts of individuals, have so far been treated as black money, attracting a higher tax of up to 80%.

    About the Benami Act:

    The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, designed to curb black money and passed by parliament in August, came into effect on November 1, 2016. The new law amends the 1988 Benami Transactions Act.

    Highlights of the Act:

    § The law provides for up to seven years’ imprisonment and fine for those indulging in such transactions.

    § The law prohibits recovery of the property held benami from benamdar by the real owner. As per the Act, properties held benami are liable for confiscation by the government, without payment of compensation.

    § An appellate mechanism has been provided under the act, in the form of an adjudicating authority and appellate tribunal. According to the government, the four authorities who will conduct inquiries or investigations are the Initiating Officer, Approving Authority, Administrator and Adjudicating Authority.

    What is benami transaction?

    A benami transaction is one where a property is held by one person and the amount for it is paid by another person. Therefore, in a benami transaction, the name of the person who paid the money is not mentioned. Directly or indirectly, the benami transaction is done to benefit the one who pays.

    Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

    Border Protection Grid (BPG)


    The Union Home Minister recently highlighted the importance of having Border Protection Grid (BPG) in the country. The concept was highlighted during the recently held meeting of the Chief Ministers of the Indo-Bangladesh Border (IBB) States, in Kolkata.

    About BPG:

    What is it?

    Border Protection Grid (BPG) is a multi-pronged and foolproof mechanism to secure border. The grid will comprise of various elements namely physical barriers, non-physical barriers, surveillance system, Intelligence agencies, State Police, BSF and other State and Central agencies.

    Supervision: BPG will be supervised by a State level Standing Committee under the Chairmanship of respective Chief Secretaries.

    Need for BPG:

    Border security is important to facilitate legitimate trade and commerce between the countries. India has friendly relations with Bangladesh and there is a need to facilitate genuine trade and legitimate cross-border movement of people while curbing radicalization, illegal migration, and smuggling of cattle, fake Indian currency notes and drugs etc. BPG will ensure greater help for the States in the overall border security.

    Secure borders are also necessary to prevent entry of illegal migrants some of whom have links with extremist groups for furthering anti-national activities with ulterior motives and posing threat to internal security.


    The Indo-Bangladesh Border covering 5 states of India including Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and West Bengal is 4096 km long. So far in 3006 km border security infrastructure of fence, roads, floodlights and border out posts (BOPs) are in place and works in the remaining 1090 km are yet to be started. Out of this, 684 km will be secured with fence and the related infrastructure, and the balance 406 km with the non-physical barriers. Although bulk of the infrastructure is in place or under construction, construction in some parts is yet to commence mainly due to land acquisition issues.

    Facts for Prelims:

    SAICON 2017:

    What is it?

    It is the First International Conference on Sports Medicine and Sports Sciences. It is being held in New Delhi. Organized by Sports Authority of India, the 3-day conference is being attended by about 1000 national and international delegates.

    It aims to promote scientific temperament in the country and inspire students, researchers and educationists alike to take up sports science and research to the next level.

    Time person of the year 2017:

    Time has chosen its 2017 Person of the Year: the Silence Breakers, the women and men who have come forward to shed light on sexual

    harassment and abuse in America. “The Silence Breakers” is the vanguard of a global movement by millions of women to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse.

    Is there a case for a relook at EVMs?


    The issue of credibility of EVMs has become quite complicated with different parties raising serious objections about the functioning of the machines.

    The controversy surrounding the electronic voting machine (EVM) tampering was reignited after the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party raised the issue with the Election Commission.

    Some leaders have gone to the extent of saying that the machines are being tampered with in order to favour the ruling party.

    An open challenge was given by EC to prove allegations of EVM tampering.

    However, in the recent local elections in U.P, Not only has the reliability of the machines been questioned, so has the credibility of the EC.

    What is an EVM and how exactly does it work?

    EVMs or electronic voting machines provide the voter with a button for each choice which is connected by a cable to an electronic ballot box.

    An EVM consists of two units–control unit and balloting unit–and these two are connected by a five-meter cable. When a voter presses a button against the candidate he/she wishes to vote for, the machine locks itself.

    This EVM can be opened only with a new ballot number. This way, EVMs ensure that one person gets to vote only once.

    When were EVMs first used in elections?

    The use of EVM started back in 1982 Kerala Assembly elections. Prior to this only ballot papers and ballot boxes were allowed.

    Production and Design

    There are only two Indian PSUs (Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL), Electronics Corporation of Indian Limited (ECIL)) that manufacture EVM machines. The secret source code is only accessible to a few engineers. Engineers who are in the factory have no clue about the constituency wise deployment of the machine.

    Why is India using EVMs?

    Holding free, fair, and fast elections is a cornerstone of democracy and is guaranteed by the Constitution. Introduction of EVMs by due process of consultation and constitutional amendment in the 1980s and ’90s was a step in the right direction to further strengthen the democratic process in India, which is by far the largest democracy in the world with more than 800 million voters.

    Using EVMs means doing away with paper ballots, and in turn, saving millions of trees from being cut.

    § It makes the entire process of voting simpler-a click on the button and your vote is registered.

    § EVMs, in the long-run, have turned out to be cost-effective as well.

    § These machines don’t require electricity and run on batteries.

    § At the same time, the EVMs are lighter and portable compared to the huge ballot boxes.

    § And most importantly, EVMs have made the vote-counting process much faster, delivering results in hours as against manual counting of votes which could take days.

    VVPAT comes into the picture

    After concerns were raised on whether EVMs are tamper-proof, the Election Commission appointed a committee to look into the possibility of linking the EVMs to a paper trail machine to show voters a slip with the party symbol for which they have voted. As a result, voters can immediately check if their vote is cast for the person/party of their choice.

    The Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) was first used in 2013 in Nagaland’s Noksen Assembly constituency.

    Questions are raised on EVMs, Yet again

    The EC has steadfastly maintained that the machines are perfect and that the software has been examined and re-examined by international experts.

    On the other, some IIT-trained engineers have shown how the machines can actually be manipulated by remote devices, or by inserting pre-programmed chips, or by selectively tampering with only 20% of them to secure a simple majority. So, only a few constituencies will have those “chosen” machines and that would be enough to tilt the balance in favour of the ruling party.

    The EC says these allegations are outrageous because the whole system and process have been shown to detractors and the matter is settled.

    Yet it appears far from settled. In the recent local elections in U.P., the BJP won more in places where there were machines without the concomitant paper trail, and non-BJP parties won more where there were only ballot papers. Not only has the reliability of the machines been questioned, so has the credibility of the EC.

    It is for the first time in India’s electoral history that the EC has been suspected of bias in favour of a ruling party.

    Arguments that are in favour of Paper Ballot

    Following arguments question the EVM system and support Paper ballot.

    § We invariably come across reports of malfunctioning EVMs.

    § The only way an EVM can be tampered with is by physically opening it up and replacing the chipset inside it. The chipset used is non-reprogrammable and data is ‘burnt’ into the device. So, today it is possible to replace the chip if we have access to EVMs

    § On the VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) front too, there are reports of malfunctioning. Also, as per the rules, paper ballots and VVPAT machines are not counted until the Returning Officer asks for it.

    § The outcome of the recent Uttar Pradesh civic polls suggests that tampering could be happening.

    § Oldest democracy, US, still uses paper ballot system for the presidential elections as Americans feel safer in using paper ballots as compared to electronic voting machines.

    However, there are problems of paper ballot.

    § Transporting them and guarding them is a problem.

    § Ballot boxes can be captured.

    Arguments in support of significance of EVMs

    § EVMs led to a significant decline in electoral fraud, particularly in politically sensitive States as rigging elections became extremely expensive.

    § Research has shown a link between luminosity and growth rate, suggesting that EVMs contribute to development.

    § EVMs empowered those from the weaker sections of society who were victims of political or electoral violence. In particular, women, lower castes, and those less educated were more likely to participate in the electoral process when EVMs were used.

    § EVMs made the electoral process more competitive.

    § There has been a significant decline in the incidence of re-election, and winning margins have reduced dramatically.

    However, this does not imply that we lower our guards. The very idea of democracy is based on trust and belief in the fairness of the electoral process where the losing party lives to fight another day. Any erosion of this trust and belief would be an irreversible process with an uncertain outcome.

    What is the Way forward?

    The competitive electoral process checks the self-interest of political leaders in their quest for power.

    Our institutions, the EC, and the courts also share the responsibility to check the powers of popularly elected leaders to ensure that democracy does not become a mobocracy.

    Even though many arguments favour introduction of EVMs was a step in the right direction, it is not the final destination. If EVMs are manipulated, all the votes could be captured with a greater degree of sophistication to favour one party. Tampering with EVMs would make booth capturing much easier. Besides, time and again the Election Commission (EC) has said that the machines cannot be hacked into as they are designed in such a manner so as to make that impossible.

    To overcome the dangers of manipulation, we must remain sceptical and accept the reality that the EVM issue is not simple. The fact that the issue is complicated necessitates a measure of caution in its application.



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