Video Editor: Vishal Kumar
The Election Commission of India has always maintained that no private company or outsourcing in any form is involved in the election process. But The Quint’s investigation has found this to not be true.
An RTI in The Quint’s possession shows that the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), a PSU that manufactures EVMs and VVPAT machines, engaged private engineers as “consultants” and that these private engineers have worked with the Election Commission in Assembly Elections since 2017 and even in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Their job was extremely sensitive – to check and maintain EVMs and VVPATs, starting from First level Checking (FLC) right up till and including the Counting Day, which means they had easy access to EVMs through the course of the elections.
ECIL engaged these private engineers for the Election Commission from a Mumbai-based private company called M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited.
When we checked with the Election Commission, the body’s reply was,“No private company was engaged to provide engineers by BEL & ECIL.”
Clearly, the Election Commission is hiding information and misleading the public. Why?
An RTI about engaging private engineers was filed with ECIL in the context of the 2017 Uttarakhand Assembly Elections by a lawyer named Amit Ahluwalia.
The Mystery ‘Consultant’ Firm
ECIL’s RTI reply said, “ECIL is engaging skilled and semi skilled ‘Consultants’ through a single authorised manpower supply agency, M/s T&M Services Consulting Private Limited.”
ECIL confirmed that close to 50 private consulting engineers were used to check EVMs during the 2017 Uttarakhand Assembly elections, and that only eight regular employees of ECIL were involved.
We spoke to some of the ‘consultant’ engineers, and some even confirmed to The Quint that they had been deputed for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections… once again to handle EVMs and VVPAT up until and including the Counting Day.
It’s remarkable that part of the private consulting engineers’ job was to upload key details like party symbols and candidates’ names on the EVMs and VVPAT, for which they had access to these machines for 15 days before polling.
- Were these engineers vetted by the Election Commission? We don't know!
- The company, T&M Services Consulting, which provided these engineers – was it vetted by the Election Commission, at least? We don't know that either!
- What we do know and can say is that the entire election process might have been compromised!
Free & Fair Elections Compromised?
The Quint has found out that about this matter, the Election Commission hasn't just misled the public, but even one of its own former bosses!
Former Chief Election Commissioner Dr SY Quraishi has told The Quint that in 2017, he heard allegations that the sensitive task of handling EVMs was being outsourced during Assembly elections in 2017. On reaching out to the EC, Quraishi says he was assured by EC officials that only in-house engineers had checked EVMs and VVPAT during those elections.
Quraishi had even tweeted about it in November 2017, going as far as to even attach the guidelines EC had shared with him, which said:
“Only engineers of BEL/ECIL, who are on their payroll, are deployed for FLC (First Level Checking) of elections.”
And yet, ECIL’s RTI reply concedes that they did use private engineers during the Uttarakhand state elections – something the Election Commission continues to deny!
We ask: Why this contradiction?
How can the EC not know whether ECIL is engaging a private company for engineers or not? In national interest, in their role as guarantors of free and fair elections, they have to know. And they are obliged to tell you, the voter, as well!
ECIL and T&M Services Consulting have not yet responded to our queries. We will update this story when they do.