Chennai: Workers readying the EVMs for R K Nagar constituency bypolls, in Chennai on Wednesday. PTI Photo by R Senthil Kumar (PTI4_5_2017_000249B)

The #KhabarLive investigation reveals private engineers were engaged from a non-empanelled company by the EVM manufacturer ECIL. Why did Election Commission of India (EC) allow it because it makes EVM-VVPAT prone to tampering and manipulation?

#KhabarLive had earlier debunked the Election Commission of India’s (EC) claim that no private company was engaged to provide engineers in handling Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and VVPAT – an RTI reply by Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), a manufacturer of EVMs, revealed that a Mumbai-based private company M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited supplied consulting engineers who were handling EVMs during the elections.

Further investigation about the private company and ECIL has revealed that M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited is not an approved vendor with ECIL.

The ECIL has uploaded on its website a list of approved corporate vendors empanelled with them since 2015. The list has five manpower suppliers, which does not include M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited. Why did the ECIL engage consulting engineers of a private company, which is not empanelled with them, for such a sensitive work, i.e., handling EVMs and VVPATs during the elections?

Secondly, the ECIL in its RTI reply has said that “M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited is the only manpower supplier” but ECIL’s website reveals that it does have other private manpower suppliers – so why is the ECIL being misleading?

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#KhabarLive also found out that private consulting engineers provided by M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited were not on the payroll of ECIL but of the private company. But the EC on different platforms and also to its former boss, SY Qureshi, has said that only engineers of ECIL who are on their payroll are deployed for first-level checking. Why is the EC, like the ECIL, misleading the people?

We have also accessed 159 relieving letters given by M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited to the consulting engineers after their contracts were over. The letters say:

“This is to verify that x-person has been working with us, as a Junior Consultant from xx to xx date. During the period he was working on our project at Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), and was found sincere and hardworking. We wish him the very best.”

To confirm whether these consulting engineers were engaged on election duty by the ECIL, we contacted a few of them.

One of the junior consultants said that he had worked for M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited and drew salary from them. He also said that he was hired under a one-year contract in 2018 and sent on ECIL’s project. He received a brief training with ECIL on handling and checking EVMs and VVPAT and after that he was assigned to handle the same in various elections.

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Another junior consultant told #KhabarLive that 99% of the engineers engaged in elections are on contract. He also said that contractual engineers do the field work of testing the EVMs and VVPATs while the role of the permanent engineers of the ECIL is supervisory – for instance, deploying contractual engineers in different polling stations.

We wrote to M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited to get their response on questions including: Since when are they engaged in supplying consultant engineers to ECIL?

What is the role of the consultant engineers?

In how many state and Lok Sabha elections has ECIL engaged their engineers?

After chasing them for over a month, we received a one-line reply.

“The answers of below questions will get from ECIL. Please contact ECIL office.”

We also wrote emails and made several calls to ECIL and EC. But till date ECIL has maintained complete silence, while EC, in response to our first article, said that no private engineers were employed by ECIL in Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and four Assembly elections held the same year. The EC has remained silent on the fresh revelations.

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In an interview to #KhabarLive , the Former Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat had said: “EVMs can’t be hacked… The only thing is that if the machine gets out of our administrative security regime, then anything may happen, and that can happen to anyone.”

Isn’t allowing private consultant engineers full access to the EVMs from the beginning till the end of the elections not a security breach?

According to experts, engaging private players in the election duty is dangerous because they don’t have accountability and cannot be traced if any mishaps occur.

Moreover, the argument that ECIL cannot keep so many engineers on permanent payroll because it could be expensive is also bogus. Experts ask then how does EC carry out elections because that too requires a lot of manpower.

Secondly, if there is nothing wrong in engaging private consultants, why are ECIL and EC not accepting it?

We will update the article as and when we get responses from EC and ECIL. #KhabarLive