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India polls powered by unhackable electronic voting machines

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Technology is at the forefront of clean elections in India.

Not many know that a small portable electronic device made in India by Indians is at the heart of conducting free and fair elections taking place in the country.

More than a million units of these special calculator-like foolproof Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs are being used. In addition, the use of digital cameras, videotaping of speeches and the use of wireless networks are all helping in the conduct of elections.

Nifty deployment of technology is helping in the smooth conduct of elections in the world’s largest democracy. Officials tasked to conduct the mammoth polls can be seen carrying EVMs on boats and even on the backs of elephants in far off remote polling booths.

Not many countries can boast of using electronic voting. According to data from the US-based non-profit National Democratic Institute, a total of 14 countries now use remote internet voting for binding political elections’, adding that the number is actually declining. Some countries that have dabbled with electronic voting include Brazil, Germany, Venezuela, Canada, Belgium, Australia, UK, European Union and France.

Even the world’s oldest democracy the US still often resorts to paper ballots. Recall the fracas that was created in 2000 when former Vice President Al Gore lost his presidential challenge to George W Bush all thanks to what was called the “hanging chads” as the US had used paper ballots.

India is voting big time in what is being described as the world’s biggest dance of democracy. In a country of 1.2 billion people about 814 million voters – more than the combined population of the US and the European Union – are eligible to cast their ballot. Today, paper ballots are passé in India.

How EVMs work

The Indian electronic voting machine is a stand-alone battery powered robust white coloured device very similar in performance to a very basic calculator. It is the size of standard key board but a little thicker.

Uniquely, the Indian voting machine is not networked or linked to the internet and is considered one of the finest innovations in modern India. Hacking it is almost impossible.

“EVM have become the leitmotif of the world’s largest democratic exercise and it gets smarter with each avatar,” VS Sampath, the head of India’s independent electoral watchdog the Election Commission of India (ECI), said.

The voting machines are not the only high technology equipment being used widely in this long drawn out election which ends only on May 12. Digital cameras, videography of the election campaigning is playing a huge role, every election rally is videotaped by the Election Commission. If hate speeches are made the watchdog takes strong disciplinary action.

Interestingly, for the first time using the wide availability of internet on mobile phones or GPRS, the polling as it takes place is beamed back as a live feed to the Election Commission so that it can remotely keep a watch on the process. Also, live streaming video of “sensitive” polling stations is available for the public to view on the website of the election, this may help up clean up the election process. The live streaming is done such that the secrecy of the ballot is not violated.

A whopping 1.4 million individual electronic voting machines will be used in 930,000 polling stations spread across the country. Since large parts of the country still do not have assured supply of electricity the machines are powered using batteries.

The voting data is recorded on a simple chip which has a small and simple software that is burnt onto the chip itself and each vote as it is cast is recorded directly on the chip. The machines are so robust that unless the chips themselves get destroyed, the data can be recovered even if the batteries die out or even if the power is accidentally cut off.

The machine itself consists of a control unit and a balloting unit connected using a long cable. The balloting unit is kept secluded so that the secrecy of the ballot is maintained. Several layers of seals ensure that the machines are not tampered with in any manner.

There is a double randomisation process which makes it impossible for any person to know which machine will be used in what constituency, this is done to safeguard that machines are not pre-programed to cast ballots in favour of a particular candidate.

“The randomisation process has been very successful and has effectively demonstrated the transparency and fairness of the electoral process,” Kishore Kanyal, an election official, said.

An electronic engineer from the US once suggested that he could tamper with the machines using a specially designed blue tooth enabled display unit, but in several open public demonstrations at the office of the ECI no one has been able to hack the EVMs. Even the Supreme Court of India heard a bunch of petitions challenging the robustness of machines, but it finally ruled that the EVMs were reliable and secure.

On counting day, the machines are removed from the strong room where they are kept under twenty four hour security and the votes polled are displayed sequentially in the presence of the observers of candidates and results declared in a matter of hours, modern communications technology is helping matters.

This year for the first time the electoral watchdog has ensured that a special button called “NOTA” or “none of the above” is available on each machine.

Feature: Choosing none of the above

The last time paper ballot was used it required about 8,000 tons of paper just to print the ballots which is the equivalent of cutting down about 120,000 full grown trees, so in a way the EVMs are greener and can be used repeatedly.

Technology is definitely aiding elections, Sampath said

“By and large use of muscle power has been controlled in India’s election process,” he said.

~ Pallava Bagla

Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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