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Lok Sabha elections: EVM ‘tampering’ reports abuzz

Fomer Prez ‘concerned’; ECI says all claims ‘false, factually incorrect’

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New Delhi, May 21: Two days before the results of Lok Sabha Election, several videos of EVMs being stored and moved from one unauthorised storage house to another surfaced on Twitter.
A number of videos have made rounds on social media since Monday night, allegedly showing EVMs being transported without any security.
While some machines are seen stored at local shops, others are seen stacked in the boot of private vehicles.
The most widely circulated video is said to be from Chandauli, in UP where a group of men can be seen unloading EVMs from a vehicle and stacking them up inside a shop.
Similar videos have surfaced from Ghazipur, Domariaganj, and Jhansi. Videos for suspicions transport of EVMs have also emerged from parts of Punjab and Bihar too.
In Jhansi, for instance, the officials claimed that the EVMS being transported were reserve machines. But they had no answer why the movement of EVM was not informed to candidates. And why reserve EVMs were transported in private vehicles a day after election?
Another video was shared by an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) worker, who alleged that the video was shot in Punjab and two EVMs and a VVPAT machine were found lying in a car. She even levelled allegations against BJP.
The situation took an interesting turn when former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his concern at these allegations – described by him as tampering of voters’ verdict – and said the “onus of ensuring institutional integrity” lies with the Election Commission.
“The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of the EC is the responsibility of the Commission,” Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement.
“There can be no room for speculation that challenge the very basis of our democracy. People’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt,” said the former president. “A firm believer in our institutions, it is my considered opinion that it is the ‘workmen’ who decide how the institutional ‘tools’ perform,” he added.
Former Chief Election Commissioner Dr S.Y Qureshi too questioned the ECI’s delay in responding to the allegations.
“Why is EC not clarifying what the facts are? Speed is extremely important,” Qureshi tweeted.
Later, the Election Commission clarified that EVMs are “safe in sealed strong rooms under security, CCTV coverage, and surveillance of candidates.”
It however failed to address how stand-by EVMs were transported in violation of the rules, which say that all polled and reserve EVMs should be guarded by armed police at all times and even reserve EVMs should be returned at the same time when the polled EVMs are returned at the receipt centre.
“Certain complaints of alleged movement of EVMs, purportedly to replace the polled EVMs in the strongrooms, have been doing the rounds in sections of media. Election Commission of India would like to emphatically and unambiguously clarify that all such reports and allegations are absolutely false, and factually incorrect. The visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls,” the ECI said in a statement.
The allegations come at a time when a number of political parties including TMC, AAP, and others have raised concerns over EVM tampering.

Oppn demands verification of VVPAT slips
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, May 21: Leaders of as many as 22 opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday and demanded verification of VVPAT slips of randomly-selected polling stations before the counting of the votes polled in the just-concluded Lok Sabha election begins on May 23.
They also demanded that if any discrepancy is found during VVPAT verification, 100 per cent counting of the paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that particular Assembly segment should be done and compared with the electronic voting machine (EVM) results.
“We told the EC that the VVPAT machines should be counted first and if there is any discrepancy, then all of them in that segment should be counted,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters here after meeting EC officials.
Azad’s party colleague Abhishek Singhvi said despite requests to the EC since months, the poll body has now said it will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
“We are asking the EC to respect the mandate of people. It cannot be manipulated,” Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) N Chandrababu Naidu told reporters.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Satish Chandra Mishra alleged that “there is large-scale bungling relating to EVMs in Uttar Pradesh. We demand deployment of central forces”.
The opposition parties also raised concerns over the transportation of EVMs ahead of counting of votes and urged the EC to probe the issue.
The opposition parties are seeking transparency and fairness in the counting of votes and respecting the mandate of the people of the country.

 
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Defunct street lights? Don’t expect SMC to fix them

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Srinagar, Jun 17: Srinagar plunges into darkness soon after sunset as most of the street lights in the capital city are defunct.

This being so since Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claims it is incapable to deal with the issue.

In absence of this basic facility, the city residents face a lot of inconvenience moving out of their homes to the markets or masjids during the evening and early morning hours.

 

Cases of burglary and dog-bites have been reported from many secluded areas where residents complain of either having defunct or no street lights.

People living in many of these poorly-lit areas feel scared to venture out of their homes in late hours.

“I prefer not to leave my home after Isha namaz. Dogs chase passersby since there is no street light in this colony,” said Bashir Ahmed, 60, a resident of Illahibagh.

SMC claims it has installed more than 40,000 street lights across the city. However, majority of them remain dysfunctional due to lack of an established electric division and less technical manpower in the corporation.

Executive Engineer SMC, Qazi Imtiyaz who looks after the Mechanical division, said: “We have nothing. Zero manpower to look after the technical faults of street lights. There is no electric division in our corporation.”

SMC Commissioner, Khursheed Ahmad Sanai said: “SMC lacks an established electric division as well as skilled staff to mend defunct street lights in Srinagar. But we are constantly making up to illuminate more areas through whatever little staff is available to us.”

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RKFC signs top English striker

More signings to follow; Club on track to become India’s football powerhouse

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Jun 17: J&K’s premier football club, Real Kashmir FC, has signed an experienced striker from England to play for the team in the upcoming season.

Announcing on RKFC’s official Twitter handle, the club management wrote: “RKFC is delighted to announce the signing of Kallum Higginbotham from Dunfermline Athletic, Scotland. Kallum is an experienced striker who has played at the highest level in the UK. Kallum has played for top teams such as Huddersfield Town, Kilmarnock, and Motherwell.”

Former Kilmarnock frontman, Kallum, who’s originally from Salford, England, will join the club in the third week of July, club sources told The Kashmir Monitor.

 

With Rangers legend David Robertson training the team, Kallum will be the second European player to play for RKFC after the coach’s son Mason.

The club finished third in the I-League last season in their first campaign in the top flight.

Terming it as an important signing, club’s co-owner, Sandeep Chattoo said: “Today’s signing of Kallum shows our intent that we mean business. We will leave no stone unturned to make RKFC a powerhouse of football not just in India but Asia. In coming days we will unveil more top signings. As a co-owner, I want to tell the fans that we will do whatever we can to play top class breathtaking football next season. RKFC is not just a football team. It’s the heartbeat of the state. For me personally it’s a project. We have just completed phase one. Lot more to follow.”

Head Coach David Robertson had a similar viewpoint on Kallum’s inclusion in the club: “Signing player of Kallum’s experience and quality is a huge statement and shows continued ambition of Real Kashmir. He will give us an extra edge upfront and can also play in various roles within the team. Our team is shaping up nicely and we are all eager and excited for the start of the new campaign.”

President J&K Football Association, Zameer Thakur congratulated the team on the signing.

“We welcome this signing and hope that RKFC will not just maintain but improve its last season’s performance in the upcoming one,” he told The Kashmir Monitor. 

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Overall nuclear arms decline but India, Pak, China expanding arsenal

Press Trust of India

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Stockholm, Jun 17: The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published Monday said.

At the start of 2019, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to estimates in a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

That represents a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to the start of 2018.

 

But at the same time all nuclear weapon-possessing countries are modernising these arms ¬– and China, India and Pakistan are also increasing the size of their arsenals.

“The world is seeing fewer but newer weapons,” Shannon Kile, director of the SIPRI Nuclear Arms Control Programme and one of the report’s authors, told AFP.

The drop in recent years can mainly be attributed to the US and Russia, whose combined arsenals still make up more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

This is in part due to the countries fulfilling their obligations under the New START treaty — which puts a cap on the number of deployed warheads and was signed by the US and Russia in 2010 — as well as getting rid of obsolete warheads from the Cold War era.

The START treaty is however due to expire in 2021, which Kile said was worrying since there are currently “no serious discussions underway about extending it”.

Next year the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — considered the cornerstone of the world’s nuclear order — turns 50.

The number of nuclear arms has been drastically reduced since a peak in the mid-1980s when there were some 70,000 nuclear warheads in the world.

While Kile said progress should not be underestimated, he also noted a number of worrying trends, such as the build-up of nuclear arms on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, and the danger of a conventional conflict escalating to a nuclear one.

There is also a more general trend towards an “increased salience” of nuclear weapons, where changing strategic doctrines, particularly in the US, are giving nuclear weapons an expanded role in both military operations and national security dialogue, Kile said.

“I think the trend is moving away from where we were five years ago, where the world’s nuclear weapons were being marginalised,” Kile said.

Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently urged nuclear powers to “get serious” about disarmament and warned there was a “very real risk” that decades of work on international arms control could collapse following the US pullout of the Iran nuclear deal, which he said sent the wrong signal to North Korea.

Global disarmament efforts also suffered a blow when the United States announced in February it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, prompting Russia to say it would also suspend its participation.

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